Sunday, February 27, 2011

Who's minding the store at the City of Miami?

OK, you can stop laughing now.

Actually, if you're a City of Miami resident, it's no laughing matter.

The city's financial situation is precarious.

But with all its problems, some of the city's employees are the highest paid public employees in the county.

That was pointed up this week when a Miami assistant fire chief was arrested and charged in an $11 million mortgage fraud case.

This morning, Channel 10's Michael Putney closed out his Sunday show with a question for those in charge of the purse strings in Miami.
Before we leave you this morning, a personal perspective about one glaring example of a government employee whose pay and benefits just don't add up. Well, they do for her. But not for taxpayers.

The employee in this case is Veldora Arthur. She's 45 and the highest ranking woman in the Miami Fire Department. This week she was charged with being a sham buyer in the purchase of a couple of luxury condos in Aventura. Her lawyer says she's the victim and she's pleaded not guilty.
Veldora Arthur
We'll let the courts decide her guilt or innocence.

My concern is Ms. Arthur's salary and benefits.

Now, she's been in the fire department for 25 years and evidently has done a good job so no one would deny her a good salary and generous benefits.

But how about a salary of $184,000 and a total benefits package of close to $300,000?

You heard that right. An assistant Miami fire chief gets nearly $300,000 a year? Unbelievable. No wonder the City of Miami is nearly broke.

Public employees deserve to make a decent salary and to reasonable retirement benefits [but] $300,000 a year is beyond reasonable. In fact, it's downright offensive.

And here's the kicker: assistant Chief Arthur, now under indictment, was in charge of the fire departments payroll.

Who's watching the store down there at the City of Miami?

The Miami Herald's Chuck Rabin reported the arrest of Arthur but the story was actually broken first by The Straw Buyer blog which wrote: "Consider for a moment who Ms. Arthur is within the City of Miami Fire Department. Oddly enough her responsibility is to oversee the financial matters of the Fire Department including payroll and procurement. Who exactly do we have behind the controls at the City of Miami? Ms. Arthur makes $184,336.44 as an assistant fire chief, in this day and age, is that not enough to get by on?"

If you've been paying attention, it should come as no surprise that Arthur is just one of many City of Miami employees who make outrageous salaries.

In May 2009, Biscayne Times reported that nearly 100 of the cash-strapped city's workers make more than $200,000 annually.

No one should be surprised that Arthur - who's in charge of the fire department's payroll - is also one of its highest earners. Hey, Miami didn't get the name "Banana Republic" just because it has a lot of fruit stands.

One question that needs to be answered is why the Miami Herald has ignored that aspect of the story. There's almost no mention of Arthur - the highest ranking black female in the fire department - in the archives of the Herald.

She is mentioned in one story in 1990. Arthur was a passenger in a car in which a fire department secretary died when it was hit by another car.

But there's also a back story.

Readers of The Straw Buyer's blog post make some interesting points in the comments section. "She was a failure as a firefighter On the floor less than a year. Faked an injury at the Woolworth fire and never again rode a truck. A disaster as executive assistant and promoted by her close friend to Chief," writes one reader.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Let's get ready to vote!

Today, a judge ruled against Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Alvarez, who was seeking to have his name removed from the March 15 recall ballot.

Yesterday Miami-Dade commissioner Natacha Seijas dropped her lawsuit to block the recall election against her.

(Seijas will have a chance to make her case against the recall this Sunday when she's scheduled to appear on Michael Putney's This Week in South Florida program at 11:30am on WPLG Channel 10.)

Early voting starts this Monday.

There's a list of hours and polling locations on the website of the Elections Department. Click here for the list.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past two years, you've already heard all the arguments for and against recalling the mayor.

Alvarez, now in his second term, was elected on a promise to reform county government.

Yet, like other politicians before him, he filled county hall ofices with his cronies and paid them fat salaries for doing nothing.

For instance, Alvarez hired his police department pal Denis Morales as his chief of staff and paid him a salary more than the governor of Florida makes.

Last November, Random Pixels obtained and posted a list of 3300 Miami-Dade county employees - more than 10% of the county workforce - who make more than $100,000 a year.

I've written plenty about Alvarez. You can read past posts here.

Miami New Times also builds a case against the mayor in this story from last October.

Also on the March 15 ballot with Alvarez will be commissioner Natacha Seijas.

Only voters in her Hialeah-Miami Lakes district can cast a vote on the recall question involving Seijas.

The case for recalling Seijas is just as strong as the one for recalling the mayor.

After 18 years in office, Seijas has become an arrogant, overbearing bully who apparently believes that she no longer has to answer to anyone, let alone her constituents.

She is a strong contender for the Most Repulsive and Odious Politician ever to hold office in Miami-Dade County.

One need only look at her on camera behavior over the past few weeks to see why term limits for county commissioners are needed now, more than ever.

Still not decided about Seijas?

Look at the argument CBS4 commentator Jim DeFede made back in Dec. 2006 when Seijas was also facing a recall. A recall that was unfortunately, voted down.

For something a little more recent, check out Seijas in this video from earlier this week.

Natacha Seijas: The naked truth

BREAKING NEWS: The Miami Herald is reporting that a judge has ruled the March 15 recall vote against Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Alvarez can proceed. That means both Alvarez and Natacha Seijas will now have their political fates decided by the voters.

My Spanish is a little rusty, but from what I can gather from this video is the folks at America TeVe's "Ke Fuerte" decided the best way to help embattled Miami-Dade commissioner Natacha Seijas revamp her image would be to giver her a complete make-over. First they give her a nose job and then some fetching beach attire. After that it's all downhill.

You really don't need to know Spanish to enjoy the hi-jinx.

-via Riptide 2.0

The Random Pixels South American soccer match Trick Play o' the Day

Random Pixels is not a big sports fan.

And we're certainly not a fan of South American soccer.

But if this is what soccer is all about, we may start watching.

Warch as Chile's Bryan Carrasco grabs the arm of the opposing player and smacks himself in the face in an attempt to draw a foul. It worked.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The crack of the bat...

Click to enlarge.

My friend Joe S. spotted one of my photos on Sports Illustrated's website the other day.

Th editors at SI have decreed that a shot I took of late Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin and GM Lou Piniella back in 1988 to be a "Classic Spring Training Shot."

Here's the link.

The rhino and the hippo

Natacha Seijas and her Luca Brasi look-alike bodyguard
Luis De Los Santos. photo by Pedro Portal /El Nuevo Herald

Miami-Dade commissioner Natacha Seijas has borrowed a page from the playbook of Miami police chief Miguel Exposito.

Miami New Times staffer Frank Alvarado reports that Seijas was protected from reporters at a Tuesday courthouse hearing by 6 county police officers and a beefy Luca Brasi look-alike named Luis De Los Santos.

After the hearing, De Los Santos - apparently drawing inspiration from last week's antics by Miguel Exposito's "bodyguards" - pushed some female TV reporters outside the courthouse.

Writes Alvarado:
Outside the courthouse, things got a little ugly. De los Santos elbowed and pushed a couple of female TV reporters from GenTV, Univision and America Teve who peppered Seijas with requests for comment. He looked like a charging rhinoceros clearing a path for an insufferable hippopotamus.

As the horde rounded the corner toward Flagler Street, the county commissioner finally gave the media hens a sound bite -- but not before she slapped one microphone away from her face.
Meanwhile, Miami Herald columnist Daniel Shoer-Roth says that Seijas' public displays of arrogance aren't helping her much.
Her puerile reactions, during public scrutiny, could become the pick and shovel that dig her political grave.
Ya think?

Great video below of Seijas and De Los Santos interacting with members of the fourth estate Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Targeted advertising?

News item:
$600 million offer for Jackson could be “game changer”

In its proposal, Steward said it would promise to absorb any losses going forward. Jackson lost $244 million in fiscal 2009 and about $105 million in fiscal 2010. Steward calculated that the system is on a trajectory to lose about $200 million per year in the near future.
For Jackson Memorial Hospital nurses tired of reading about their employer's seemingly endless financial troubles, a possible answer could be found in an enticing ad on the Miami Herald's website today.

Click image to enlarge

Monday, February 21, 2011

Miami: a place like no other

I've been passing this sign on Biscayne Blvd. for months.

On Saturday I stopped and took a few shots.

And then - with the help of Photoshop - I added some commentary.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Random Pixels photo class

I can remember first reading about something called digital photography in 1970 when I was an amateur photographer in New York City. It would be 30 years before I got my first digital camera.

There are some positive things to be said about digital.

But let's focus on the negative for just a second.

With the advent of digital photography, everyone with the $400 to buy a digital camera suddenly became an expert photographer.

But all the expensive camera gear in the world won't let you take better pictures unless you actually take the time to learn.

I can walk around the streets of South Beach and spot the amateurs without any trouble.

They're the ones doing this.

But there's really no reason why someone can't become a proficient and skilled amateur without too much trouble.

There's all kinds of great information on how to take decent pictures on something called the Internet.

And then there's crap like this.

Rick at South Florida Daily Blog posted that video today calling it a "seemingly brilliant way to keep your camera steady while shooting."

Sure...keep your camera steady while looking like an absolute dork.

But how's this for an alternative? I found this video (below) in about 10 seconds in which professional photographer Joe McNally also shows you how to keep your camera steady. No strings attached!

After you watch the video, click here and and listen to Joe tell you about the most important piece of photo equipment in any photographer's bag.

Stuff we like

"Having Palin in [the White House] would be like a four year long white water rafting trip. It might kill us but if it doesn't we'll end up with a lot of crazy ass photos." -Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lunch at The Football

...that's the Football Sandwich Shop...home of "The Zonker."

My friend Larry called this morning to see if I wanted to go for breakfast.

We usually hit IHop but lately trying to get into the one in our neighborhood is an experience that's roughly similar to trying to get into a South Beach nightclub on a Saturday night. (When in hell did IHop become so popular anyway?)

Anyway, he suggested lunch at the Football Sandwich Shop instead. I was up for that since I haven't eaten there in years.

(For the uninitiated, The Football is a 70's-era sub shop.)

Tucked between Little Haiti and El Portal, it's located at 8484 NE 2nd Avenue.

From the street it's not much to look at. It's in a hot pink building that looks like it might have been a gas station a long time ago. But for the past 37 years it's been a sandwich shop. After all those years they must be doing something right.

In 2007, Biscayne Times explained the The Football's beginnings:
Situated right off the Little River in Little Haiti, Football Sandwich Shop pays tribute to football (of course), old Hollywood, and New York-style subs. Owner Richard Hage decided 33 years ago to open his eatery after noticing a deficiency of restaurants that served good sandwiches. Coincidentally, the Miami Dolphins had just played the NFL’s first perfect season, giving Hage the perfect idea for his shop’s theme.

Today Hage, along with his son-in-law Doug Estes, run Football Sandwich Shop like a well-oiled machine, and still manage to call regulars by name. Their goal is to serve up your food fast, but without compromising quality.
Stepping inside The Football is like a trip back in time.

The decor can best be described as Early American Greasy Spoon.

There's a tiny dining room just inside the front door. Color scheme: Dolphin Aqua.

A sign over the portal says "Dan Marino Way." There are lots of black and white photos of Dolphin greats line the walls along with some Hollywood movie stars.

The kitchen is right behind the counter and even on a Saturday it hums with activity.

They take your order and scribble it on 3 x 5 scraps of computerized sales slips here.

Some hand printed signs on the wall remind you that complainers are not welcome. One sign warns that "The beatings will continue until morale improves." You get the picture.

Larry ordered the #69, The Zonker, ham, salami and provolone, $4.69.

I got the #22, The Mercury, turkey and cheese, $6.69. With lettuce, tomato, onions and oil...oh yum!

The verdict? This is a no-frills dining experience to be sure. But the sandwiches are served up by people who know that you came for the food and not the ambiance. Tasty and filling and you're on your way.

Maybe next time I'll try The Punter or The Kicker or maybe The Lineman or The Safety. There's even a sub called the Godfather, Genoa salami, roasted peppers and provolone cheese, $7.29.

We ate outside at the tiny tables. A few other customers sat at other tables. Larry told me that the place is much busier during the week.

My sub was a bit more than I could manage having just eaten breakfast a few hours earlier. I went inside and asked for a bag but one of the ladies insisted that she'd wrap it up for me.

So, if you're in the neighborhood and want a sub like they used to make back in the day, stop in.

Or you can order ahead and pick up your food at the drive-up window.

Football Sandwich Shop
8484 NE Second Ave

Friday, February 18, 2011

Stuff we like

My friend Ellie Brecher writes newspaper stories for the Miami Herald.

I've never gotten around to asking her her about her most memorable assignment.

The one every reporter talks about when someone asks them if they've ever written a story that's made a difference in people's lives...or one that's changed the course of history or helped topple a government.

Perhaps Ellie has written one of those. I don't know.

What I do know is the story she wrote today was not one of those. That kind of story will have to wait for another day.

Today, Ellie - a seasoned journalist who's seen it all - turned in a story about a skateboardin' dog.
He snorts like a pig, skates like a pro

In human-canine relationships, generally it’s people who have dogs.

But if you are Tillman, the world’s fastest skateboarding dog — you can look it up in the Guinness Book of World Records — you have people.

You have an agent, a personal assistant, a driver, a pedicurist, publicists, and a guy named Ron Davis, who picked you out of a litter of six English bulldog puppies and made you an Internet star — which was the last thing that the former construction project manager had in mind.
Read the rest of the story here.

And then watch the video by Jose Iglesias 40 or 50 times.

One of the good guys is gone

Miami police officer Angel Calzadilla and a Bahamian police official in a photograph taken in 2005

One of the nicest cops you probably never met has passed away.

Chuck Strouse at Miami New Times writes today: "Any reporter who ever covered cops in Miami knew Angel Calzadilla. And most of us liked the guy. A lot. Now he's gone...after a long illness."

I echo that sentiment Chuck.

Angel was a likable guy. How could you not like someone who always went out of his way to say hello and who always had a smile on his face, no matter what the situation was?

Angel treated everyone the same: with respect.

In my case, he always called me "Billy Cooke." No one calls me Billy, but I let Angel get away with it.

Tributes to Angel are just now starting to show up on a forum frequented by police officers.
Angel, you will be greatly missed. A man who always had a smile on his face a man who no matter who he was walking with or talking to would take the time to wave or shake your hand, A True Gentleman. My thoughts and Prayers to the Calzadilla Family. RIP
The Miami Police Dept. released this statement today:
It is with deep sadness and a profound sense of grief that the City of Miami Police Department announces the passing of one of our family members. Early this morning, Sergeant Angel Calzadilla succumbed to his illness and drifted into an eternal sleep. He was 48 years of age. Although Angel's stay here on earth seems just a fleeting moment in time, our loving memories of him as a husband, father, superb public servant, friend, and cop's cop will live in our hearts and minds forever.

During his 22 years of dedicated service to the Miami Police Department, Angel performed honorably as a patrol officer and sergeant, hostage negotiator, Public Information Officer, and Senior Executive Assistant to the Chief of Police. He made a difference in the lives of many who were fortunate enough to have met him.

Survived by his wife, daughter, parents, brother and a host of other family members, Angel will remain in the hearts of his brothers and sisters in law enforcement and a community who loved him as one of their own. He leaves an indelible void!

Funeral arrangements will be forthcoming.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's time for Miguel Exposito to resign or be fired

Miami Police chief Miguel Exposito and his cadre of storm troopers.

Police officers everywhere have a difficult job. No one disputes that.

Quite simply, they put their lives on the line everyday to protect us.

They are the "thin blue line" between us and a criminal element intent on preying upon us.

We expect them to be everywhere.

Your wife has her purse snatched in broad daylight. Where were the police? someone will ask.

We see a couple of cops stopping for a cup of coffee and someone is sure to ask, why aren't they out doing their jobs?

And when crime runs rampant - as it has in some of Miami's tougher neighborhoods - we demand action. Now!

There are some among us who expect the police to wave a magic wand and sweep all the dangerous criminals off the streets overnight without firing a shot.

Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

In spite of seven deadly police-involved shootings in less than a year, I've been willing to give Miami police chief Miguel Exposito the benefit of the doubt.

The job he and his officers are tasked with is tough enough without someone second-guessing their actions.

Investigations take time. And besides, weren't all those people his officers shot, criminals?

Aha, if only the answers were that simple.

But today, Miguel Exposito crossed the line and sanctioned something that erases any remaining doubts about his judgment and fitness to lead.

At an awards ceremony for officers at Miami police headquarters, the chief dispatched his officers to stop Channel 10 reporter Glenna Milberg from asking him some questions following the event.

In a story aired today on Local 10, one can see Milberg follow the chief into a room with her wireless microphone.

One of Exposito's thugs blocks the cameraman from entering. But the mike picks up Milberg trying to talk to the chief and then we hear her gasp as one of Exposito's men attacks her, striking her in the sternum.

One of Exposito's goons blocks a Channel 10 cameraman from getting close to the chief

Tonight, in her report, Milberg aired shots of Miami police officers - including long-time PIO Delrish Moss - conferring and deciding how best to stop Milberg from getting to the chief.

It's especially troubling that Exposito would sanction this kind of action towards a journalist coming so soon after the same kind of behavior was aimed at journalists in Egypt.

It's at this point that some might ask: "Why is the chief running away and why are sworn police officers assaulting a 115-lb. mother of two?

Milnerg, in telling her story, was ready to give the chief the benefit of the doubt. I'm not.

It's time for Miguel Exposito to resign. And if he won't resign, the Miami city manager needs to fire him.

Click here to see Milberg's report and to hear her reaction when she's assaulted by one of Exposito's thugs.

One more reason to avoid TV news

A West Palm Beach TV station offers up more proof today that, more often than not, TV news is "news" produced by idiots for idiots.

"Sharks by the score are swimming off the South Florida coast" reads the headline on the station's website.

Note to TV news producers everywhere: Sharks swimming in the ocean? Not news. That's where sharks have lived for millions of years.

But if your news helicopter spots a herd of buffalo swimming offshore...well, that's news!

Or a really, really, big shark!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Affecting his "own little world"

Hurricane Katrina aftermath. Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

Les Stone is 50 years old and has been a photojournalist for exacrly half his life.

Les and I have many mutual friends but we've never met. And we've never talked until tonight.

Tonight, someone posted a link on Facebook to a vtdeo that features Les's life work.

I sat transfixed as Les's images came up on my computer screen - one by one - and I listened as Les talked about the past quarter century of shooting images in the world's hot spots for TIME and Newsweek and the New York Times.

After watching the video, I called Les at his home in upstate New York.

He just got back from Haiti yesterday...a country he's been to 70 or 80 times. He went down to cover the return of Jean Bertrand Aristide. Aristide didn't show up but if he does, Les will be there to document it.

We talked about photography and some mutual friends we have. We also talked about the state of photojournalism, a profession that has all but died.

Les can't remember the last magazine assignment he shot. Magazines rarely assign photographers to stories anymore.

Perhaps the answer to the reason the work has dried up can be found in an anecdote Les related from his just completed trip to Haiti.

On the one year anniversary of the earthquake, Les made his way to the demolished presidential palace in Port au-Prince. He looked around and suddenly realized that "there were 500 foreigners with digital cameras taking pictures."

"They had better equipment than I have," Les said.

Yeah, they might have better equipment Les...but they can't shoot pictures like this!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Politics...Miami Beach style

If you live in Miami Beach and you think life has been a little boring lately and you've been waiting for things to get interesting...your wait is over.

As the Herald reported back on January 26, Steve Berke, a "comedian and former reality show contestant [has] formally announced his bid to be Miami Beach mayor."

Berke will run against incumbent Matti Bower.

But if you're hoping that Berke's candidacy might inject a little humor Miami Beach's political scene, where campaigns have historically been ugly, think again.

One knowledgeable source told me this afternoon that Berke is gearing up to run a well-financed "dirty" campaign.

"It's going to be nasty," my source told me.

One clue to just how nasty things might get can be found in the Herald's Jan. 26 story.

The paper says that one of Berke's advisors is 59 year-old Republican political consultant Roger Stone.

Roger Stone
In 2007, Stone made headlines in New York State after it was alleged that he "left a threatening telephone message at the office of [then] Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s father."

In reporting the allegations in 2007, the New York Times added this background on Stone:
Mr. Stone has been a controversial figure in state and national political circles for decades. He cut his political teeth as a teenager in the campaign of Richard M. Nixon, working for the Committee to Re-elect the President, and later was a partner of Lee Atwater, one of the highest-profile political consultants of the 1980s.

Aside from some notable political victories, Mr. Stone has left behind a trail of short-lived campaigns, feuds with former friends and clients, and, above all, rumors of dirty tricks. As he once put it in an interview, “if it rains, it was Stone.”

He oversaw Ronald Reagan’s campaign operations in New York but was on the outs in some Republican circles after backing the upstate billionaire Tom Golisano’s third-party bid against Gov. George E. Pataki in 2002. A dossier about Mr. Stone’s past exploits prepared by a former opponent and still circulating among New York Republicans runs to 74 pages.
Closer to home, the Times reported in the 2007 story:
During the Florida recount in 2000, George W. Bush’s campaign enlisted Mr. Stone and his wife, Nydia, who is of Cuban ancestry, to rally support among Cuban exiles in Miami, according to Jeffrey Toobin’s “Too Close to Call,” a book about the recount battle. Mr. Stone was also instrumental in organizing the so-called Brooks Brothers Riot, the book said, when hundreds of Republican activists stormed a county election office in Miami and demanded that workers there cease recounting presidential ballots.
Stone, who now lives in Miami, was asked by Toobin - for a 2008 New Yorker profile titled "The Dirty Trickster" - why he moved to Miami.

"Stone quoted a Somerset Maugham line," wrote Toobin: “It’s a sunny place for shady people. I fit right in.”

Another shady figure who's almost certain to play a role in Berke's campaign is Miami Beach strip club owner Leroy Griffith.

A Griffith/Berke alliance is seen by some as a perfect marriage.

Griffith, for years, has waged an unsuccessful campaign to get elected officials to change Miami Beach's law banning the sale of alcohol in clubs where total nudity is allowed. Berke says he'll campaign to bring back "glitz and glamour" to Miami Beach.

Some insiders expect Griffith to play a behind-the-scenes role; pumping cash into Berke's campaign.

Yep, this is going to be very interesting.

How interesting?

The answer can be found in the last few lines of Toobin's New Yorker piece: “Remember,” Stone said. “Politics is not about uniting people. It’s about dividing people. And getting your fifty-one per cent.” (Stone’s rule: “The only thing worse in politics than being wrong is being boring.”)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A fashion statement and completing the circle

Although disputed by some, the inner-city trend of wearing of saggy pants probably got its start in prisons and jails and was imported to the streets by ex-cons.

This week, that trend came full circle when an armed robber known as the 'Saggy Pants Robber' was sentenced to 26 years in prison.
The Fort Lauderdale stick-up man, whose droopy wardrobe earned him the nickname "Saggy Pants Robber" and whose hold-up spree ended after he was shot in the buttocks in 2009, will be trading his trousers for prison garb.

Luke Singletary, 21, was sentenced Thursday to 26 years in prison after pleading guilty to a host of armed robberies across Broward in 2009, according to information provided by the office of Wilfredo A, Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. When Singletary was nabbed that year, he was shot in the [ass] by Broward sheriff's deputies.

Michael Putney has a question for Mayor Carlos Alvarez

In case you missed it, Channel 10's Michael Putney ended his Sunday show today with a simple question for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez:
Before we leave you this morning, a personal perspective about the campaign to recall Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and his stated desire to keep his job through the end of his term next year.

This week the mayor told the Kendall Federation of Homeowners that he deserves to keep his job because the budget he proposed - with a tax hike for longtime homeowners - was the responsible thing to do. Okay, that's an argument worth considering.

But here's the main thing to consider: the mayor told the group he wants - and looks forward to - a recall election because that will provide a clear-cut decision on whether he should stay or go.

But if that's true, why did the mayor file a humongous lawsuit on Monday fighting his recall?

This big filing will take some time for the court to consider, and will just kick the can down the road delaying a decision and possibly pushing a recall election later than March 15th.

Mayor Alvarez is trying to have it both ways. He says he wants an election to let the people decide. But he files a lawsuit to stop the election.

So, which is it Mr. Mayor?

If you really want the people to decide and you want that election, then drop your lawsuit.

Who's in charge here, you or your lawyers?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Boxing hubris, punished!

-thanks to Klink for sending me the video and the title of this post!

from the Huffington Post:
It's hard to have more swagger than Usman Ahmed. After getting introduced in his fight against Ashley Sexton in January of 2010, the British boxer showed off some of his incredible dance moves on his way to the ring. The fans got a kick out of the entrance, but the atmosphere changed once the match started. Less than two minutes into the fight, Sexton knocked Ahmed out with a brutal right hook. Ahmed's entrance turned out to be longer than the actual match.

The death of a once-great newspaper

UPDATE: The Herald finally gets around to posting a more complete story sometime after noon Friday.

I never thought I'd see the day when I'd have to rely on reports from a local TV station to get the details on a major story.

But that's apparently where the reporting staff at the Miami Herald gets their news. Why should I be any different?

Twelve hours following the seventh Miami police-involved fatal shooting in a year, the Herald was quoting a TV station's report on the incident.
A police traffic stop turned deadly for a man in Miami Thursday night, WSVN-Fox 7 reported.

According to the report Travis McNeil died after an officer shot him and his cousin Kareem Williams, who was in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital Friday morning.

Relatives told a WSVN reporter that the cousins were leaving Take One Cocktail Lounge, a nude-dancing bar at 333 Northeast 79th St. in Little River when police stopped them.

The shooting happened near Third Avenue and 75th Street about 11 p.m.

It's just one more sign that the Miami Herald is dying a slow and painful death.

And if all that weren't bad enough, the Herald posted a photo of the Take One Lounge to go with their story. The photo carried this caption:
On Friday morning, Take One Lounge, 333 NE 79th St., showed little evidence that a police involved shooting took place there Thursday night.
Note to Herald staff: The lack of evidence of a shooting at the Take One Lounge on NE 79th St. might explained by the fact that the shooting occurred FOUR BLOCKS AWAY AT 75TH STREET!!!

Also, as with many Herald stories, readers often do better research than the paper's reporters.

One enterprising Herald reader dug up Travis McNeil's rap sheet:
Case Filed Date Closed Date First Charge
F-01-019159 06/19/2001 09/07/2001 COKE/SELL/DEL/W/INT
F-09-018730 06/05/2009 07/10/2009 DWLS/HABITUAL
M-09-038765 07/01/2009 08/05/2009 GAMBLING
M-09-062076 10/16/2009 11/05/2009 CANNABIS/POSN/0-20
M-07-003133 01/17/2007 01/17/2007 TRES PROP/AFTER WARN
M-03-055603 11/06/2003 11/06/2003 TRESPASS
F-00-030490 09/20/2000 09/28/2000 CONT SUB/SELL/DEL
F-08-031204 08/26/2008 10/22/2008 DWLS/HABITUAL
M-06-008351 02/16/2006 05/09/2006 CANNABIS/POSN/0-20
F-02-002420 01/25/2002 02/14/2002 COCAINE/POSSESSION
F-03-019729 07/14/2003 08/14/2003 FLEE/ELUDE PO/HGH SP
B-04-044949 08/26/2004 08/26/2004 CANNABIS/POSN/0-20
F-05-015274 05/12/2005 06/02/2005 DWLS/HABITUAL
M-03-034467 07/18/2003 10/01/2003 TRESPASS
M-02-061040 01/07/2003 03/12/2003 TRESPASS
F-02-003613 02/06/2002 02/26/2002 COKE/SELL/DEL/W/INT
M-02-001102 01/10/2002 05/09/2002 LOITERING
M-01-003036 01/19/2001 05/23/2001 TRESPASS
M-05-011456 03/09/2005 07/07/2005 CANNABIS/POSN/0-20
F-06-001761-A 01/18/2006 07/19/2007 COCAINE/SELL/SCHOOL
M-03-025793 05/30/2003 06/27/2003 MARIJUANA/POSSESSION
F-02-007179 03/12/2002 03/06/2003 COKE/SELL/1000FT/CHR
M-04-002135 01/16/2004 06/22/2004 TRESPASS
M-04-002135 01/16/2004 06/22/2004 TRESPASS
M-04-002135 01/16/2004 06/22/2004 TRESPASS
F-07-009525 03/16/2007 07/19/2007 FLEE/ELUDE PO

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stuff we like

-thanks to Elyse Wanshel at Miami New Times for originally posting this video!

Elyse writes:
According to this YouTube video featured on The Winnipeg Humane Society's website, Canada's got one hardcore pussy problem. They've got so much pussy in fact - short hair, long hair, no hair, and even spotted (if that's your thing) - that if you buy one pussy from the WHS, you get five pussies free! It's pussy for all! A straight up Pussypalooza!

When I posted this on my Facebook page one of my friends commented, "Absolutely fantastic. Makes me want to go get a cat..."

And that, come to think of it, ain't a bad idea!

But you don't have to go to Winnepeg.

Why not check out some of the cats (or dogs) looking for homes right here in South Florida?

Humane Society of Greater Miami.

Miami-Dade Animal Services.

Humane Society of Broward County.

If you're undecided, watch the video again!

And if you do adopt a cat or dog, send me a picture and I'll post it here at Random Pixels.

Sun-Sentinel: all the news you can't use

I'm not sure what to make of this.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, it appears, has ventured into previously uncharted areas of Totally Useless LeBron James Trivia.

While visiting the Sun-Sentinel's website this morning, my eye was immediately drawn to a prominent headline informing me that a truce has been brokered between Lil Wayne and LeBron James.

MIAMI — LeBron James and Lil Wayne apparently are back on speaking terms.

At least that was the appearance at Tuesday night's Miami Heat-Indiana Pacers game at AmericanAirlines Arena.

In a Rolling Stone interview last month, the rap star expressed disappointment about not being greeted by James and teammate Dwyane Wade while he sat courtside at a Heat road game in New Orleans earlier this season.

"Come holla at me," the rap star was quoted in one of the less-profane portions of the interview. "At least come ask me why I'm not rooting for you."
The story, by the S-S's Ira Winderman, was posted on the paper's website yesterday at 1:58pm. Five minutes later, at 2:03pm, the item was picked up and posted to the Miami New Times blog, Riptide 2.0.

It's not surprising that New Times would deem this kind of stuff newsworthy. New Times is where I usually expect find all the latest news on Previously Incarcerated Rappers.

But why the Sun-Sentinel would consider this kind of crap worthy of any kind of coverage is bewildering.

The fact that the link is prominently displayed on its website almost 24 hours after the story first appeared, is beyond comprehension.

Look for more LeBron James scoops from the S-S in the weeks to come including a story that will reveal that James puts his pants on one leg at a time, usually his left leg first.

And the paper is still working to confirm that James prefers mint-flavored dental floss to regular.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Miami Herald still having fun with working on implementing new publishing system

This page showed up on the Miami Herald's website tonight. Looks like someone hit the "send" key again while testing the paper's new publishing system!

The paper is in the midst of switching to the CCI Newsgate system,which according to CCI's website "allows multiple newsrooms to exist within one NewsGate system.... The NewsGate data center will allow McClatchy staffs to review news budgets of sister papers and share all types of content dynamically."

No word yet on when the Herald plans to inform its readers that it's using the new system.

CCI's website has this quote from Terry Geiger, Director of Corporate Information Technology for The McClatchy Company: "As our news operations transform the way that they cover and deliver news to our readers we are looking to NewsGate to play a large part in that overall process. We believe that the NewsGate system gives our operations the technical platform and tool kit that they need to realize their vision for growth and efficiency."

"Efficiency" in this case will probably translate into more job cuts at the Herald.

One Random Pixels reader asks in an email: "will they now be publishing directly to digital first (or at least capable of doing digital directly)?"

Hey! You got me!

Perhaps someone at the Herald will enlighten all of us. Soon.

(More info on CCI Newsgate in the comments section of this blog post.)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The slow, painful death of a once majestic beast

Further evidence has surfaced today that print editions of newspapers - or parts at least - are slowly being phased out.

A friend - who is also a Sun-Sentinel subscriber - sent me this message: "Sun-Sentinel has discretely dropped delivery of its ON TV Sunday section to subscribers but prints tiny notices saying it will be restored if you sign up. Guess that means future Sunday content will be strictly on an as-needed basis. This doesn't portend well for other Sunday content, that's for sure. Like 'Do you want the Super Bowl covered?' And what's next? 'Like the comics? You'll have to pay extra.' This must be an attempt at interactive print media."

She's right. From the S-S website: "The ONTV listings section in the Sun Sentinel newspaper is now available only upon request for subscribers. To continue receiving ONTV, please e-mail or call 954-425-1031."

The Miami Herald, long ago, stopped automatically including the TV book with the Sunday paper. Instead it tells subscribers: "TV Book is not included in the subscription price. Please ask your agent to opt-in for an additional 50-cents per week."

Monday, February 07, 2011

Random Pixels Monday Night Country Music Marathon

Robert Earl Keen - Amarillo Highway

Jerry Lee Lewis - You Win Again (Live 1964)

Beer, Bait and Ammo - Kevin Fowler

Ray Price - Heartaches By the Number (original version 1959)

Why Can't He Be You? - Patsy Cline

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Random Pixels Sunday afternoon history quiz

Can you name three tyrannical political leaders, who reject calls for change and who steadfastly refuse to accept the will of their people to relinquish power?

Scroll down for the shocking answer!

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez files suit to block recall vote
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez filed suit in Circuit Court Friday seeking to block his March 15 recall election, alleging numerous petitions gathered to seek his ouster should be tossed out because of various technical flaws.

The suit asks the court to declare that not enough valid petitions were filed to warrant a recall election. It asks the judge to order the mayor's name be stricken from March 15 ballot.

On Dec. 21, Ruvin declared that 95,499 valid petitions were submitted to his office in support of holding an election to consider whether Alvarez should be recalled, far more than the 51,992 needed to trigger a recall.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Postcard from Dallas

My Facebook friend Jeff Weiss, a former Miami boy and Herald staff writer who now lives in Dallas and works at the paper there, posted this pic of his snowy backyard on his Facebook page today.

I asked him when he thought he might get around to using that gas grill.
The real answer? Maybe as soon as tomorrow. It's a gas grill that doesn't care so much what's going on in the weather. I've cooked out there in ran and sleet and even some snow in the past. Now, I'll be eating *inside*, to be sure...You can certainly also say that in my SFla youth, I snickered when i saw photos like this. And now, sigh, I am one...1:-{)>
To cheer him up I sent this pic from my backyard today.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Internet hijinx at One Herald Plaza

Lately it seems like more than a few people at the Miami Herald are still grappling with the concept of Internet and how it works.

Back on January 14 someone took control of the Herald's Twitter feed and sent out this embarrassing Tweet.

This past Tuesday an editor decided to redact a paragraph about mandated furloughs at the paper from a story that had already been posted on the Herald's website. Whoever made that call apparently doesn't know that once something's on the Internet, it's there forever.

And now we've learned that a Herald staffer posted a bogus story today about cat pictures on the Internet - complete with a cheesy byline - to the paper's website that stayed live for 7 hours before anyone in the newsroom noticed.

Some readers thought the website had been hacked.

One source tells me the "story was definitely up by 915am and was pulled around 430/5pm when me and a few other people started posting about it on Facebook and Twitter."

The Herald's tech editor Bridget Carey stepped up and explained the goof on a Facebook page: "No one hacked the Herald. We're learning a new publishing system this week and someone who was in a training class accidentally hit the button to publish live to the site."

(Here's Google's cache of the page.)

Click to enlarge.

When weather geeks come unhinged

Weather geeks are different than you and me.

A little lightning, a thunder clap or two and they're peeing their pants.

Check out this video of the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore coming unglued the other day after "two–yes TWO–consecutive claps of thunder and lightning during a snowstorm" in Chicago.

But sometimes all it takes to rattle a weather geek is a little, tiny bug!

Miami Herald writer to join Washington Post

Random Pixels has learned that Miami Herald staff writer Robert Samuels is leaving the paper later this month to join the Washington Post.

Samuels, a features and enterprise reporter at the Herald, will cover the education beat for the Post.

Samuels joined the Herald in 2006. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.

Other recent big-name departures from the Herald include investigations editor Ronnie Greene, political reporter Beth Reinhard, and staffers Jen Lebovich and Nirvi Shah.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Stuff we like

Stephen Colbert gives Sean Hannity a history lesson.

Miami Herald gets some industry recognition for censorship

I'm sure if you asked anyone in charge at the Miami Herald if the paper favors censorship, the answer would be unanimous: "Absolutely not!"

And if you asked those same people if the Herald practices censorship, you'd get the same answer.

But what they say and what they do at the paper are two different matters.

Last night I posted a brief item on the fact that the Herald had apparently scrubbed some information about a new round of staff furloughs at the paper from a larger story posted on its website about the sale of land the Herald owns.

But as Jim Romenesko, who blogs about newspapers and the media for put it in an email to me, "Somebody there needs to learn about cached stories [on Google.]

Today, Romenesko shared the Herald's editorial trickery with a national audience of journalists in a post titled "Miami Herald decides it doesn’t want readers knowing about staff furloughs."

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

News from One Herald Plaza


Ibargüen named to AOL board
Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the Miami-based Knight Foundation, has been named to the board of directors of AOL, the online media company.

"AOL's focus on the delivery and sharing of news and information in communities meets an enormous need in a democracy. The range of their experiments in the field will provide knowledge about what actually will work in the digital age, what will be sustainable and profitable as we adapt to changing technology and customer needs and uses," Ibargüen said in a release.

Ibargüen, a former publisher of The Miami Herald, has been president and CEO of the Knight Foundation since 2005.
There are a few more paragraphs on the Herald's website, but the story - which has no byline - leaves out some facts.

Here's what the Herald didn't post.
Each year, AOL will pay Ibarguen a cash retainer of $100,000 and equity valued at $150,000. Ibarguen will serve on the board's audit and finance committee.
It gets better. According to this story, Ibargüen will "probably only have four meetings or so per year, which suggests he's getting paid $62,500 per meeting."

Meanwhile, over at the Herald, where Ibargüen once served as publisher, staffers learned Monday that they are being forced to take another unpaid one week furlough this year. It will be the fourth unpaid week off since March 2009.

News of the furloughs appeared briefly on the Herald's website Tuesday as part of this story but was deleted later in the day. Here's the missing paragraph:
The deal's end comes at a time when McClatchy is pressed for cash. The Herald announced Monday it would require workers to stay home for one week of unpaid furlough during the first half of 2011, and other McClatchy papers across the country recently announced another round of staff layoffs.
(Here's a Google cache of the page before the paragraph was deleted.)

Before Monday's announcement, the last round of furloughs at the Herald occurred in Sept. 2010 when the paper also eliminated 49 staff positions.

Less than six weeks after those positions were cut, Herald executive editor Anders Gyllenhaal was rewarded with a promotion.

In case you're wondering - Gary Pruitt, the CEO of McClatchy, the Herald's parent company - makes almost $1 million a year. Other compensation puts his salary somewhere near $3,753,229.

The rich get richer and Herald staffers continue to get screwed!