Thursday, November 29, 2012

President Obama is coming for your guns. No, really, this time he's serious!

The other day Fox News hottie Anna Kooiman interviewed a New Jersey gun shop owner who attributed a recent spike in gun sales to Hurricane Sandy and Barack Obama's re-election.

(The best part of Kooiman's report is the sound of gunfire obliterating every other word of her stand up. Personally, I think Fox News should use this device more often.)

And while the reporter doesn't follow up on the gun shop owner's thinly-veiled claim that Obama's re-election might be a threat to Americans' second amendment rights, the implication is unmistakable.  But, isn't this something we've heard before?

Anna Kooiman, fox news, Anna Kooiman hot, Anna Kooiman guns

Cat does a TV weather report walk-on

The folks at Univision's West Miami-Dade headquarters have always looked out for the cats that live in the network's parking lot.  (My first cat was given to me by a Univision receptionist.)

And, as they explain on their YouTube page, "sometimes [the cats] make it into the studio."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Herald and the Marlins Ballpark, a response‏ from the Miami Herald's Andres Viglucci

What follows is an email I received tonight - which I'm posting unedited - from Miami Herald staff writer Andres Viglucci....which I'm assuming he sent in response to posts on my blog like this and this.

Viglucci also sent the mail to two other Miami bloggers.

Full disclosure: I've known Andres for almost 30 years, dating back to when he was a young Associated Press staffer in the Miami bureau and I was a freelance photographer there.

Thanks for the email, Andres. I wish more of your colleagues would take the time to write when they disagree with me. By the way, did you also send this to New Times...or should I do that? Love ya, man!
Guys, c'mon.

You want to take on The Miami Herald for its Marlins ballpark coverage, we're fair game. But do it fairly then. Which of course you don't.

I'm getting really tired of your grievously reductive assessment of the newspaper's handling of the stadium issue, which seems to focus almost exclusively on the edit board and a sports columnist or two. Fine as far as that goes. But surely you know better. There's a lot more to this than you all let on, but then that would spoil your tidy black-and-white storyline.

Andres Viglucci
The sometimes implied, sometimes explicit claim that the reporting staff was in the bag or disengaged or whatnot is absolute, one-sided horseshit. And I've just gone through dozens of clips in our archive (yes. it's publicly available) going back several years because I am royally pissed off on behalf of my hardworking colleagues in the newsroom.

The reason everyone knows the Marlins deal was not a favorable one for the public, down to the decimal point, is through extensive in-depth reporting and analysis done before the contract was approved, and afterwards, too, by Chuck Rabin, Jack Dolan, Adam Beasley, Matt Haggman and others who laid bare the financials, the questionable assumptions and claims and their consequences in excruciating detail.

Not to mention numerous columns by Fred Grimm (who took the Herald edit board to task, in print, in early 2009: "Magical thinking was not just confined to county commissioners or Marlins fans. The Miami Herald's editorial page seemed to ignore the hard work of its own reporters to embrace the dream.'') and sports columnist and consistent stadium skeptic Linda Robertson (OK, she's my wife), and assists by others (including, not patting myself on the back since my contribution was minor, me, who wrote a long time ago that the stadium would do absolutely nothing for economic development in that neighborhood).

Be glad to provide you chapter and verse if you're all too far up your own asses to look it up.

So to write that our reporters somehow dropped the ball when the truth is the exact opposite is unjustifiable, not to say unfair to the beat people who did loads of original reporting -- matched by one else in this town, by the way -- by going through hundreds of pages of contractual crap, financial statements and so on to dig up facts, talking to experts, confronting bureaucrats and politicos, etc etc., i.e., doing their damn jobs.

So, do yours, too, dear bloggers, if you're going to claim some blogging mantle of all-knowing superiority.

And please note that I write this as someone who considers at least one of you a friend, reads you all regularly and to a great degree respects what you do. Except when you fuck up. Which you've done here.

Cheers to all,

Andres Viglucci
The Miami Herald

Facebook Law for Idiots

I hope none of you fell for that stupid Facebook hoax that was making the rounds yesterday.

But, if you did, here are some helpful tips to help you avoid making a fool of yourself in front of the entire world next time around.

Monday, November 26, 2012

And now, it's time for another installment of....

To: Aminda "Mindy" Marques, Executive Editor, Miami Herald
Rick Hirsch, Managing Editor, Miami Herald
From: Bill, Random Pixels

Hi guys!

Hope you all had a restful and enjoyable Thanksgiving.

The reason I'm writing is to ask about Sunday's page one story on the hunt for the "Man-eating Croc."

Did you guys hire a headline writer from the National Enquirer? Because that was my first thought when I saw it. Either that or someone wrote the headline as a place-holder and then forgot to change it before the paper went to press.
Or maybe you guys got punk'd!

I couldn't believe it myself when I first saw it. I hope you don't mind, but I put together a little parody and posted it on my blog. (You know me and my sense of humor.)

But some aren't laughing. Someone - and I suspect it may be someone from the fifth floor - left this comment on my post:
[When] I saw that piece in the paper this morning and then the photo on the website, I thought, 'THAT'S the man-eating croc?' It speaks volumes about what's left of the Herald - not the sensationalism but the sheer fact that no one at any level in what's left of the newsroom said, 'Wait a minute. Let's not run THAT photo - not if the story is taking THIS approach.'

It's profoundly saddening and embarrassing to see the Herald do what it did today (and far too often) while its circulation craters as other newspapers pass it by with better and smarter...everything and, consequently, less loss of readership.
Oh, and just today, the American Copy Editors Society blog singled out the headline for a special mention.

By the way, I thought I'd mention that while your people were scaring the hell out of the readers with that headline, a couple of other papers in Florida actually had some journalism on their front pages yesterday.

Did you guys happen to see the Palm Beach Post story yesterday on how the Republican Party of Florida conspired to suppress voter turnout?

And did you catch the excellent story in the Tampa Bay Times on Florida's vanishing springs?

Both are examples of top-notch journalism.

You guys at the Herald should try doing some of that again. Like you used to do many years ago.

And leave the tabloid stories to the Star and the National Enquirer.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Miami Herald tries its hand at tabloid headline writing

Did you see the front page of today's Miami Herald?

Click to enlarge.
(Image via The Newseum)

That's right! We're all in danger of being eaten by Man-eating Nile crocodiles! And there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

The Herald's Curtis Morgan reports that South Florida wildlife biologist Joe Wasilewski recently caught a four-foot long Nile crocodile at the Redland Fruit & Spice Park in South Miami-Dade.

But wildlife officials believe there is still at least one Nile crocodile still living in the wild.

Morgan writes that the beast is "infamous for its appetite for humans and savage attacks on wildebeest and other large animals along African rivers and watering holes."

Morgan also says that "U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the unusual step of authorizing a state shoot-to-kill" order for the man-eater.

At this point you're probably asking, "What does this killer croc look like? I'd like to know so I can protect my family." Unfortunately, Morgan's story doesn't offer any tips on how to do that.

But the paper did run this photo.

Joe Wasilewski with the Nile crocodile he captured.

Man-eater? That thing looks like it would have trouble devouring a large order of Chicken McNuggets.

But according to one expert, "It's disturbing that a very large animal that can and does attack and kill people in its native range somehow got in [South Florida's] canal system."

That's the opinion of FWC Everglades Region Biologist Dennis Giardina. But, he didn't tell that to the Herald. His quote was part of a less sensational story that ran on the front page of the Key West Citizen last Wednesday.

Why did the Herald choose to go with such an alarmist headline? Page views. Right now, the story of the "man-eatng croc" is the most-viewed story on the paper's website.

And while the Herald's page one headline is the most sensational I've ever seen in the paper, it didn't go far enough in my opinion.

Here's what today's front page would have looked like had it been up to me.

Click here to enlarge image.

Florida's Vanishing Springs

Craig Pittman covers Florida's environment for the Tampa Bay Times.

On his Facebook page he offers up this tongue-in-cheek description of what he does for a living: "Any job where you get paid to go out and ride around in a boat every now and then is a good job in my book."

But, in this morning's Times, Pittman tackles a very serious subject: Florida's Vanishing Springs.
Deep beneath the ground we stand on, below the strip malls and the condos and the lush green of the golf courses, runs a river of water that makes life in Florida possible. The underground aquifer rushes through Swiss cheese caverns, its hidden flow bubbling up to the surface in Florida’s estimated 1,000 springs -- the greatest concentration of springs on Earth.

A century ago Florida’s gin-clear springs drew presidents and millionaires and tourists galore who sought to cure their ailments by bathing in the healing cascades. Now the springs tell the story of a hidden sickness, one that lies deep within the earth.

• The water in many springs no longer boils up like a fountain, the way they have for centuries. The flow has slowed. In some places it has even stopped or begun flowing backward.

• The water that does come out is polluted by nitrates.

• The pollution fuels the growth of toxic algae blooms, which are taking over springs and the rivers they feed and putting human health at risk.

• Finally, the fresh water coming out of many springs is showing signs of a growing saltiness, according to a study by the Florida Geological Survey.

All of it — particularly the saltiness — is a dark omen for the future of the state's water supply.

"It's the very same water we drink that's coming out of the springs," said Doug Stamm, author of the book Florida's Springs. "When they start to deteriorate, that's the water we drink deteriorating too."
Read the rest of Pittman's story by clicking here and read other articles in the series here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Isn't it time Miami named a street after Sam Cooke?

We've all seen the signs on Miami-Dade county's streets. They're everywhere.

I'm talking about the South Florida streets and avenues that, in addition to having a numerical designation, are also named after a person. To bureaucrats and politicians they're known as "street co-designations."

There are the obvious ones: a street and a causeway are named after two early Miami pioneers: Henry Flagler and Julia Tuttle.

Some streets are named after personalities who have left some kind of mark on South Florida. A stretch of NW 10th Ave. starting at 14th Street is called Bob Hope Road. Miami Beach's 41st Street is also called Arthur Godfrey Road; named after the 50s radio personality who broadcast his show from Miami Beach during the winter months.

Others are named after business leaders, police officers who have died in the line of duty, politicians and sports figures. Scores of avenues and streets are named after various Cuban patriots.

And some are hard to figure... a two-block stretch of Bird Road is called Bob Arbetter's Way, named for the late owner of a hot dog stand.

But if you think you have to die before they name a street after you, think again. A 72-block stretch of NW 12th Ave. is named after Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle.

But naming a street after someone who's still alive can be dangerous.

A section of SW 132nd Avenue was once named for  a Cuban-American developer who later did time in federal prison for running a massive drug-smuggling operation.

After that debacle, a few embarrassed county commissioners proposed an ordinance that would have limited the naming of streets to those who had been dead for at least five years. The proposal was quickly shot down. (There's still a boat ramp on Miami Beach named after former Florida State Representative Barry Kutun who pled guilty to having sex with an underage girl.)

Earlier this month I requested a list of co-designated street names from the county's public works department. A few days later, a public works official sent me a 50-page list of streets and their co-designations. According to the list, almost 800 streets in Miami-Dade County are named after someone or something.

But, as far as I can tell, there's not a street in Miami named after Sam Cooke. And that's a shame.

Sam Cooke, of course, was an R&B, gospel and pop singer and songwriter who died in 1964.

So, you're probably asking, why should we name a street in Miami after Sam Cooke? What did he do to deserve a "co-designated" street name?

Click to enlarge.
Well, on a Saturday night in January,1963, Sam Cooke showed up at the Harlem Square Club at N.W. 2nd Ave. and 10th Street in Overtown to record an RCA album tentatively titled "One Night Stand."

Cooke performed several shows and left town. Neither of Miami's two daily  newspapers made any mention of his appearance.

And, for some reason, the tapes recorded that night sat untouched in a vault in New York City for 22 years, until an album - "Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963" - was finally released in 1985.

Why did it take 22 years for RCA to release the album?

In 1985, shortly after the album became available in music stores, Miami Herald reporter John Dorschner went looking for some answers.

In a masterful and memorable July 21, 1985 Tropic Magazine piece Dorschner wrote:
The reason why the album was so long in being released, said [Allen Klein, Sam Cooke's manager,] was that RCA had always wanted Sam to be another Nat King Cole, and the company had him crooning little ballads like "Mona Lisa" and "Hey, There." Right after his first hit single, Cooke had tried to play to white audiences, performing in the Copa, the big New York nightclub. The audience hated it. The critics hated it. Sam Cooke hated it.

From then on, said Klein, even as the hit singles kept piling up, Sam Cooke stuck to the Chitlin Circuit, performing in front of the people who liked him when he was just being himself.

And that's what you hear on the Harlem Square tapes - Sam Cooke being Sam Cooke. But back in the '60s, RCA couldn't stand it. Several months after Cooke's Miami appearance, he was once again booked into the Copa, doing a controlled, top-40, white kind of show. The Copa tapes became a live album; the Miami tapes went to the vault.
Today, the album that was forgotten for 22 years, is considered by some to be one of the greatest live R&B albums ever recorded. Rolling Stone magazine included it in a list of the "500 Greatest Albums of all Time."

In 2005, an reviewer wrote:
Here he was, IS, soulful, GRITTY, sweatin up a storm, steppin' out of his "Eisenhower" threads, crooning, RASPING his way through songs, HIS songs. Talkin', testifying, workin' the crowd, laughing; joking around like he was the greatest ENTERTAINER that ever was.
But Sam is the whole package. And while you feel like you are there, it's not enough, you WISH that you were there. His voice here is silk and satin mixed with grown-up grit. Those wonderful, sweet G-rated hits now have a new ingredient, and it's a knowing R-rated attitude, no profanity, just a healthy sexual swagger permeating songs not only of the heart and mind, but of the body and soul as well. One of the greatest live albums ever recorded and a true portrait of the artist as a grown-up man.

On January 12, 2013, it will be 50 years since Sam Cooke made music history and recorded one of the "greatest albums of all time" ...right there on NW 2nd Ave. in Overtown. 

And that, it seems to me, is all the reason we need to name a street after him.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How the Miami Herald aided Jeffrey Loria in The Fleecing of Miami

The Miami Herald ♥s the Marlins' Stadium.
(Click image to enlarge.)

"Sports are an important part of a major city's quality of life. You don't need to be a baseball fan to see the good in a new stadium ensuring the Marlins' long-term future here." -Miami Herald sportswriter Greg Cote, March 24, 2009.

"Make no mistake: The stadium in Little Havana will be an asset that serves to unite this community with a team that will be here for a long time. That is not in dispute by this editorial board." -Miami Herald editorial, July 12, 2009.


"Step in, baseball. Step into this mess called the Miami Marlins, because we need help. Save us from Jeffrey Loria. Save us from an owner who has somehow managed to make this a foundering, fragile franchise whose fans feel furious and betrayed despite a $515 million new ballpark." So wrote Miami Herald sportswriter Greg Cote in Thursday's column.

One can almost see Cote's jaw tightening as he angrily pounded out those words on his computer; his coffee cup vibrating violently with each keystroke.

But if Cote wants someone to blame, someone to get angry with, all he has to do is stand up from his desk in the newsroom and look out over the vast expanse of empty desks in the direction of his paper's editorial board offices.

And, while he's at it, Cote might also want to man up and shoulder some of the blame himself. He's a founding member of the Miami Herald's Pro-Stadium Cheerleading Squad.

In a July 9, 2008 column, Cote criticized stadium critic Norman Braman for filing a lawsuit to stop the county from going forward with a plan to build the ballpark:
And here are the Marlins, after 11 years of trying, through three ownership groups and several evolutions of county and city commissions, finally on the cusp of breaking ground on a ballpark all its own.

Only to have the whole grand package jeopardized by one guy's nuisance suit.

This continues Braman's dubious track record of suing over how local government spends money.
[. . .]
A Marlins fan should support a new , 37,000-seat retractable dome stadium (even if not thrilled about the OB site in Little Havana), but even nonfans should appreciate the benefit of how a thriving big-league sports team can knit a community.
[. . .]
So let's get out of the courtroom and into the future, shall we?

Let's swat this silly trial that sits on our ambition like a mosquito.

Let's get to building a better Miami.

And, Eye on Miami writes today, "The Herald might come clean with readers: its publishers and top executives were the big boosters for a new Marlin's stadium in downtown Miami in the early 2000s."

Indeed. After the stadium was approved and under construction, Herald editorial writers were still working overtime, trying to convince readers that the new stadium was just what Miami needed.

In a July 17, 2011 Herald editorial, published when the stadium was about two-thirds complete, one writer waxed poetic with this drivel: "When the sun hits the silver dome just right it can look like a gigantic spaceship hovering over Miami. [...] From the pool that will be dug behind the left field wall for fans to splash around in to plazas on the east and the west, which will be open for neighborhood use daily, the stadium captures the imagination. With time, it may just capture residents’ hearts."

Perhaps there's a reason why the Miami Herald doesn't allow readers to access anything on its website that's more than three or four months old.

Because if they were able to go back 5 or 6 years, they'd be able to read Herald editorials that offer incontrovertible proof that the paper aided and abetted Jeffrey Loria and David Samson every step of the way in their Fleecing of Miami.

And while the editorial board was serving as a mouthpiece for Loria, their normally first-class investigative reporters never looked into anything regarding the deal. The city/county financing. The Marlins' true financial position. Nothing. Nada. They were out looking for Pulitzers elsewhere.


Miami Herald, Monday, March 28, 2005
OUR OPINION : Marlins' Stadium is a win for government, community, fans

In the realm of baseball- stadium deals, the plan to build a new home for the Marlins near downtown Miami is a good one for the city, county, state and fans, too. State Rep. Carlos López-Cantera, R-Miami, is pushing a bill seeking a $60 million sales-tax rebate from the state for the stadium . The bill, HB 1287, goes before the House Tourism Committee Tuesday and deserves a favorable report.

A paying tenant

It's easy to see why. Think of it this way: If you planned a house and found a tenant who agreed to lease terms covering half of the mortgage, would you build? Of course you would. But the county's and city's deal with the Marlins is even better. The Marlins agree to cover any cost overruns. Once the stadium is built, they will occupy it for only half the year, leaving the county free to use the stadium for other paying events.

In our example, that's like having the tenant to whom you're leasing agree to cover cost overruns on your house and, to boot, vacate the house for half a year, leaving you free to rent to others.

The $420 million stadium would be built near the Orange Bowl, an area ripe for redevelopment. The county would contribute $138 million from bed taxes, the city $28 million from tourist-development taxes and the Marlins $192 million, mostly in rent payments. A $32 million parking garage would be self-financed with parking fees. The tax rebate would cover a $30 million funding gap.

Critics says the government shouldn't build a stadium for millionaire baseball players and that no economic benefits will result from a new stadium . We beg to differ. Commerce builds community and creates jobs. That's obvious. Less obvious, however, is the way education, arts and sports build community. Do you doubt it?

A common bond

Think about teaching our kids a common cannon to which they refer for the rest of their lives in a democracy. Think about the power of everyone singing together to a Celia Cruz or Frank Sinatra. And think about the common bond created in this community around the Dolphins of old, the Marlins of World Series victories, or the Heat of Shaquille O'Neal.

It doesn't matter whether you're old or young, black, Hispanic or Anglo, whether you speak Creole, English, Portuguese or Spanish, you cannot fail to find a common bond with others when you experience these community events. They don't happen in a vacuum. And so we support creating performing arts centers and world class museums and, yes, a first-class baseball stadium.

And here's a Herald editorial from February, 2008:

Miami Herald, Wednesday, February 20, 2008

OUR OPINION : Baseball and South Florida belong together

The Florida Marlins , after nearly a decade of trying, are now on the verge of getting a stadium home of their own. The new deal would put the Marlins in a retractable-roof stadium at the Orange Bowl site. It would ensure that the team will stay in South Florida, change the name to the Miami Marlins and give the owners enough financial breathing room to invest in quality players. Many details remain to be ironed out but, all in all, this is a good deal for the team and for our community.

When they meet Thursday, both commissions should say yes to the deal. The Marlins and city and county leaders have worked hard over the past two months to hammer out a mutually satisfactory deal. No doubt they realized that this is the last shot to make Major League Baseball a permanent part of our community. This time, legislative approval isn't needed, so the deal can't be dashed at the last minute by state lawmakers.

Using tourist taxes

The deal rearranges the burden borne by the city, county and the Marlins , but when all the counting is done, all have some significant skin in the game. The county and the Marlins will bear most of the construction costs of the $525 million stadium . The county's $347 million share will come from tourist-tax dollars. The Marlins will use private financing and rent payments to the county to produce its $155 million share -- and it is on the hook for cost overruns not caused by the city or county. The city's $23 million contribution includes $10 million for demolition of the Orange Bowl. But the city also donates the land and pays $94 million for a parking garage.

Want more proof? Here's a Feb. 12, 2009 editorial.

Pay close attention to the pie-in-the-sky, Kumbaya in the third paragraph. It's a theme that popped up repeatedly in almost every Herald editorial plea for a new stadium over the years. Talk about delusional. (See also March 28, 2005 editorial above.)

Miami Herald, Thursday, February 12, 2009

OUR OPINION : City, county commissions should approve new home for Marlins

The conventional wisdom in our community is that it's a bad idea for the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County to help build a new baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins . It's a poor use of public funds. The timing is wrong. The financing doesn't work. The fan base is too small. There are better uses for the money. You get the picture.

Air all concerns

There are many good reasons behind each one of these objections -- but we believe that none of them, whether considered alone or collectively, should scuttle the deal. All these concerns and more should be thoroughly vetted at the city and county commission meetings on Friday. When the dust settles, we hope that both commissions say Yes to the project, not because we have drunk the stadium -or-bust Kool-Aid but because a viable baseball team in an environment that can draw fans and produce revenue for the team would be an asset that produces tangible and intangible benefits throughout South Florida.

Sports enliven and bring excitement to a community, as do museums, concerts, theaters and performance centers. Sports help to build and unify communities by bringing diverse groups, cultures and people together for a common goal, instilling pride when the team wins and stronger purpose when they don't.

The Marlins deal requires a huge outlay of public funds, mostly from bed taxes generated by visitors, at a time when the economy is suffering the worst contraction since the Great Depression. Picking the right moment for an investment is always a gamble. But the investment should be considered over the full 35-year term of the loan, not the cyclical up-and-down swings of the economy. Long-term return on Convention Development Tax dollars has averaged 5½ percent, enough to cover the estimated 4 percent average annual cost of money borrowed for the project, says County Manager George Burgess.

Fans want comfort

Building a retractable-roof stadium will help eliminate the biggest factor contributing to poor attendance. More than any other team in the League, fans don't go to Marlins ' games when there is even a chance of rain. A modern, comfortable stadium would generate revenue streams (something the Marlins currently don't have much of), which, in turn, would be used to invest in quality players, said Marlins President David Samson.

A baseball team committed to staying in the city would complement South Florida's many attractions. It would be a positive step in our community's quest to better itself. The Marlins should win a green light on Friday. After all, the deal has been in the works for nearly a decade. Conventional wisdom has its place, but it shouldn't stop a dream whose time has come.
But not everything the Herald printed on its editorial pages was pro-stadium. On August 29, 2010 - a year and half after the county approved the stadium deal - the paper gave some space to stadium critic and automobile dealer, Norman Braman.

Miami Herald, Sunday, August 29, 2010

Surprise! The Florida Marlins are among the most profitable teams in baseball.

Incredibly, these profits were amassed when the Marlins were negotiating the 30-year, $2.4 billion stadium deal with the county and city, using public taxes (including a $35 million county loan to the privately-owned Marlins ), while allowing our befuddled mayors, managers and commissioners to believe the team was nearly destitute and would depart South Florida, leaving Miami without the status of a world class city.

They even led us to believe that the team received no revenue from baseball-related parking and concessions at the stadium Joe Robbie built without public funds. Yet the documents appear to show evidence the Marlins received about $6.5 million during those two years from those sources.

Throughout those negotiations, the Marlins flatly refused to disclose their finances to the county and city -- County Mayor Carlos Alvarez testified he never asked for them! -- and the court in my lawsuit refused to order discovery of this information. Who negotiates away $2.4 billion of public money (the amortized cost of the bonds issued by the county and city) without knowing the finances of your negotiating partner? Our local commissioners, managers and mayors who prevented the public from voting on this giveaway and who now may claim, reflexively, they were hoodwinked. (Only Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado was against this deal as a commissioner, along with four Miami-Dade commissioners who voted No.)

Still, incumbents are re-elected and re-elected and re-elected. Witness Tuesday's results, where only about 17 percent of the eligible voters turned out.

Caught red-handed, or should I say, green-palmed, Marlins President David Samson spins the reason why the Marlins spent so little to put a team on the field, from his former mantra of lack of fan support to, according to The Miami Herald, ensuring the survival of the ball club. That's pretty good survival -- $52 million in operating income and about $33 million net income in 2008-2009 (including $92 million in MLB revenue-sharing), to which net income probably should be added back $5.4 million in "Management Fees [to a] Related Party."

"Related"? You guessed it -- that would be the Double Play Company, the managing general partner of the Marlins , a company that belongs to team owner Jeffrey Loria.

What perhaps is most galling is that all of this occurred while the county and city were facing huge deficits, forcing them to cut government budgets and services, and reduce government workers' pay (except for some of the county mayor's staff who received an increase for "new duties"). Meanwhile, the real-estate market has endured about 100,000 foreclosures and property values have plummeted. The nation rolled into a recession, and the unemployment here has topped 13 percent. The Miami-Dade Commission now is considering a monumental property tax increase.

What was Loria doing? Probably laughing. According to news reports, Loria this year paid about $22 million for land and a home in Southampton, N.Y.

I believe that Samson and Loria are not even residents of Miami-Dade County and pay no property taxes here, and, while enjoying 100 percent of the new stadium revenue, will be reimbursed for any property taxes the new stadium pays.

At whom is Samson angry? The scoundrel(s) who released documents containing what MLB tries so hard to keep secret. He called it "a crime."

At whom should Miami-Dade taxpayers and baseball fans be angry? Yes, at the Marlins , but more so at our elected officials who voted for this unnecessary corporate welfare and were hoodwinked. Or were they?

-Norman Braman is owner of the Braman automobile dealerships. His lawsuit to stop public funds from being used to build the stadium without voter approval was unsuccessful.

Maybe it's wishful thinking, but perhaps one day in the not too distant future, there might be a full-blown, "Live at 6" perp walk starring Jeff Loria and David Samson.

And maybe, just maybe, the cops will bring a few extra sets of handcuffs and belly chains for some Miami Herald editorial board members.

The Random Pixels White House Photo of the day

"A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done." -Dwight D. Eisenhower

Barack Obama jokingly mimics U.S. Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney's "not impressed" look while greeting members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnastics teams in the Oval Office, Nov. 15, 2012. Steve Penny, USA Gymnastics President, and Savannah
Vinsant laugh at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

CNN: Obama imitates gymnast McKayla Maroney's 'not impressed' look

Friday, November 16, 2012

Celebrity photographer Brian Smith wants to share a few secrets with you

Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
From the book, Secrets of Great Portrait Photography, by Brian Smith.

(Click image to enlarge.)

A little over 20 years ago a Miami Herald photographer named Brian Smith agreed to let me assist him on some of his weekend freelance shoots.

At the paper, Brian was considered a master of location portrait lighting, so getting to tag along with him afforded me the opportunity to learn the basics and fundamentals of lighting set-ups.

Brian Smith.
Brian left the Herald in 1992. He's now considered one of the country's best editorial and celebrity photographers. Magazine art directors and photo editors hire Brian because they know he'll get "the shot."

Over the past 20 years Brian has photographed some of the world's most recognizable celebrities and powerful business leaders: People who are used to giving orders and not taking them.

Many of his shoots are rigidly scheduled and leave no room for error. On most of his shoots, Brian goes in with a preconceived idea of the picture he wants. But getting pictures of people with over-sized and sometimes fragile egos involve challenges having nothing to do with lighting or the choice of a camera lens.

Many times, Brian has had to deal with harried assistants or pushy publicists, even before he gets to see his subject.

But, there are also the pleasant surprises. Richard Branson was easy..."a photographer's dream subject," says Brian. Actor Gene Hackman: "a true gentleman."

For a shoot with major league baseball's bad boy, Jose Canseco, Brian learned that when "your subject offers you a shot that's better than you'd planned for, take it."

Now, Brian has collected all those stories, and more, in a book that hit store shelves back in September.

In "Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous," Brian says he "set out to write the book I wish someone handed me when I was starting out."

This morning Brian told me that his book is more than a book about photography and lighting. It's also a book about "how to sell your ideas," he said.

(Despite his obvious success, Brian hasn't always had great luck selling his ideas. Assigned to shoot golfing great Jack Nicklaus, Brian says Nicklaus walked in and said, "Let's get this over with." And then, Brian writes, "He was gone in 60 seconds.")

Brian is going to be talking about his book this Sunday at the Miami Book Fair.

During our chat this morning Brian told me he'll be talking about how he made some of the shots in the book and what it's like to work with celebrities and powerful people.

And, he told me, "I realize that some in the audience will not be photographers, so I'll also spend some time talking about selling your ideas."

What: ‘Secrets of Great Portrait Photography’ by Brian Smith
When: Sunday, November 18 at Noon
Location: Batten, Room 2106, Building 2, Ground Floor Wolfson Campus, Miami Dade College

Click here for a map to Miami Book Fair.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Open letter to Miami Herald Publisher David Landsberg

Hi Dave (may I call you Dave?)

How 'bout them Marlins? Can you believe how Jeff Loria screwed us over? What a pr*ck!

Must be especially galling for you guys at One Herald Plaza. You went to bat for him and ran all those editorials in favor of a new taxpayer-funded stadium and he pays you back by pulling a sleazy stunt like this. You must be pissed.

Anyhoo, I read your email today. You know, the one you sent to the newsroom about how the Herald's going to start charging readers for access to online content?

It's about time. I was wondering when you guys were going to wise up and start getting paid for what you do. Even the lowliest Biscayne Blvd. hooker knows enough to charge for her services.

By the way, I loved that line in your email where you said "We have transformed our business to become 24/7 information specialists." I was like all ROTFLMAO when I read that, Dave!

The Herald's going to start providing "Information 24/7," Dave? Weekends, too? What's the launch date for that, Dave?

With all that out of the way, I thought I'd re-post a few suggestions (below) I made back in July when word first leaked out that the Herald would be erecting a paywall. I hope you'll take the time to read them and act upon them. Because if you don't, you won't be getting any of my money.



P.S.: Only 18 followers and ZERO tweets on Twitter, Dave? Really?


You can start by assigning real reporters to cover the news. I'm not about to pay to read semi-literate crap like this: "Betancourt was assaulted and stricken at the head, enough to crack the front and side of his skull and bruising the brain on the opposite side of the impact."

Re-design the website. What you have now is a complete disaster. And while you're at it, perhaps you can hire someone to come up with a site design that allows photographs to be displayed in a size that doesn't require viewing them with a magnifying glass.

Hire someone who knows how to cover Breaking News. This person obviously has no clue how it's get rid of her. And, I'd like to see more news about Liberty City and Miami Beach and less about Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Once you start covering Miami-Dade adequately instead of the current haphazard way it's done, then you can move on and fix the problems of the Caribbean's failed states.

Do away with, or completely revamp the current story comment system. I'm not about to pay my money to read a constant, never-ending stream of hate speech written by Internet trolls. You don't allow it in the pages of your paper, so why allow it online?

Priorities. Why is it that the paper that once employed Edna Buchanan no longer has a full-time, experienced reporter covering the cops? But that same paper still has a full-time dance critic?

And finally....

Miami Herald to launch paywall Dec. 18

Click image to enlarge.

Miami Herald publisher David Landsberg sent this email to the paper's staffers Wednesday afternoon.

During the past two years many newspapers around the country have introduced paid subscriptions for access to their websites and apps. Beginning December 18, The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald will do so as well, launching digital subscription packages.

Why are we doing this? The world of news and information keeps changing. Technological advances provide us with the convenience of mobile phones, tablets and social media channels. We have transformed our business to become 24/7 information specialists, with the ability to deliver breaking news through a variety of digital platforms in addition to our print newspapers. These changes have resulted in a new business model, whereby the cost of producing our news coverage is spread across the various channels we provide.

Under the new subscription program, users of our websites and apps will have access to a limited number of stories every month. When they reach their limit, they will be asked to subscribe to the new digital package or consider a print subscription that includes the digital package. This new Plus+ digital packages includes unlimited access to our websites, news alerts, digital newspaper/e-Editions and smartphone apps.

While this change represents a new direction for McClatchy and MHMC, it is the path many others in the industry have successfully taken. We are confident that this new model will allow us to provide information the way our readers want it, and help keep us a strong and dynamic media organization, now and in the future.

David Landsberg

Judging from the early comments on a story on the paper's website about the paywall, I'd say the Herald is in for an uphill battle in gaining reader acceptance.

From July 28: to have paywall by year's end

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The most scathing restaurant review you'll ever read

I've never understood the appeal of Guy Fieri, the host of the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."

The few times I watched the show it seemed to consist of shots of Fieri watching someone whip up a meal in a kitchen at a diner, drive-in or dive somewhere in America's heartland.

And then the camera would show him wolfing down the food right there in the kitchen like he was some truck driver who was double-parked outside. That's the entire show. At least that's what I remember. Annoying.

Lucky for me I no longer get the Food Network; so there's no chance I'll see Fieri on TV ever again. Not even by accident.

Today I learned that I'm not the only one who finds Fieri and his schtick annoying.

New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells has written a review of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square.

Wells' review reads like an open letter full of questions for Fieri. It's a brilliant, hilarious and scathing takedown.

Here are some of Wells' best lines:
•“Hey [Guy], did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?”

•“Has anyone ever told you that your high-wattage passion for no-collar American food makes you television’s answer to Calvin Trillin, if Mr. Trillin bleached his hair, drove a Camaro and drank Boozy Creamsicles?”

•“When you cruise around the country for your show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” rasping out slangy odes to the unfancy places where Americans like to get down and greasy, do you really mean it? Or is it all an act? Is that why the kind of cooking you celebrate on television is treated with so little respect at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar?”

•“When you hung that sign by the entrance that says, WELCOME TO FLAVOR TOWN!, were you just messing with our heads?”

•“And when we hear the words Donkey Sauce, which part of the donkey are we supposed to think about?”

•“Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?”

•“Oh, and we never got our Vegas fries; would you mind telling the kitchen that we don’t need them?”


Read Pete Wells entire review by clicking here.

TV News Gaffe of the Year

Somehow, this happened...

Denver TV station KMGH airs a Photoshopped image of the cover of Gen. David Petraeus' bio.  An image, by the way, that I couldn't find on Google.... but the station insists it had nothing to do with the Photoshopping. Yeah, riiiiggghtttt!

On its 5 p.m. newscast Monday, KMGH-TV showed a Photoshopped cover of Paula Broadwell’s book, which used the title “All Up In My Snatch.” The image went viral and KMGH’s website,, reported that news, and the fact that it was red-faced over its mistake.

When did Florida become the nation's 'Weird News Capital?'

There's no dispute...when it comes to weird news, Florida is the nation's "Weird News Capital."

There's so much strange sh*t going on in Flor-i-DUH, that some newspaper websites catalog it all on blogs that are updated daily.

But, here's my question: When did someone start noticing that Florida seemed to have more than its share of wacky news?

Maybe it all started in May of 1984 when the "Today Show" aired this interview with June O'Brien of "Boca Rattan" who claimed her toaster was possessed by Satan. How did she know?

Well, it spoke to her in a "very low voice" that "sounded like Eli Wallach," of course!

Best part of the clip comes at 0:54 when the interviewer asks June why she's kept a "possessed" toaster.

The website calls this "The Greatest Interview in Television History."

Can't argue with that.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Close encounters with some Key Deer

Click all images to enlarge.

Over the years I've driven down to Key West dozens of times. Always in a hurry, I'd never taken the time to stop and explore the numerous nooks and crannies off U.S. 1's beaten path.

Over the weekend, I had some time to briefly explore one of those nooks.

On Saturday, a friend and I drove through the National Key Deer Refuge at Big Pine Key.

It didn't take long before we were rewarded with glimpses of these docile and not-very-elusive wild animals.

There are signs everywhere that warn against feeding Key deer. But on our very first encounter with one of these diminutive creatures, we saw evidence that some are ignoring those warnings.

As we slowed and stopped to look at a buck on the side of the road, he looked up and then immediately made his way to our car like some kind of four-legged panhandler, craning his neck expectantly.

Like most of the deer on Big Pine Key, he lost his natural fear of humans long ago and now associates people in cars with just one thing: Food.

Here's a doe we saw feeding on the side of the road that made no attempt to approach our car.

If you've never taken the time to visit these little guys, I heartily recommend a trip. (By the way, Big Pine Key is also home to the No Name Pub, a Florida landmark.)

But remember, as cute as Key deer are, they're still wild animals and not pets. And, as with any wild animal, please resist any temptation to feed them.

Also, pay attention to your speed on roads in or near the Key Deer Refuge. In 2011, a record number of Key deer were killed after being struck by cars.

More info on Key deer at

Sunday, November 11, 2012

'Cuba's New Now' in National Geographic magazine

Men prepare pigs for roasting on a street in Havana.“I wake up thinking
about how I’m going to get food” is a line heard frequently
to describe the daily quest to put dinner on the table.
Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin
Click here for a slide show.

The November 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine features a cover story on Cuba.

Cuba’s New Now

After half a century under Fidel, Cubans feel a wary sense of possibility. But this time, don’t expect a revolution.

Eleven million people live in Cuba, less than the population of central Tokyo. It’s the biggest island in the Caribbean, and famously only 90 miles from United States territory, but Cuba still grips the international imagination mostly because the dueling narratives of its history are so exaggerated by myth. Either a ruthless revolutionary took power in 1959, seized American corporate property, forced out his country’s own professional classes, and silenced all opposition by creating a totalitarian police state (that’s the version audible to this day on Miami’s Radio Mambí, the broadcast voice of Florida’s most vehement anti-Castro community); or a brilliant revolutionary led the overthrow of a corrupt dictatorship, shook off the colonialism of foreign companies and the Mafia, brought literacy and health care and egalitarian values to a mobilized people, and created a university-educated bastion of socialism in spite of a half century of U.S. efforts to destroy it by prohibiting Americans from doing business with or spending tourist money in Cuba.

Both narratives contain substantial truth, both at the same time. This is why Cuba fascinates and makes people’s heads hurt. The placebis exhausting in its complexity and paradoxes—Cubans are the first to tell you that—and the questions modern Cuba sets off in a visitor are big, serious, unwieldy. What is the definition of freedom? What do human beings need? What do they owe to each other? What do they want, beyond what they need? “We’ve all been the subjects of an experiment,” a 58-year-old university-educated woman who works in the arts told me thoughtfully one evening, chopping sweet peppers in her kitchen for supper. She lives in an airy place, with a fenced front lawn and a backyard patio, in a leafy part of Havana; the home has belonged to her family since before the Triunfo, the Triumph of the Revolution, as Cubans generally refer to the events of 1959. Her lightbulbs are compact fluorescents, the woman pointed out—one legacy of an ambitious national project a few years back, directing all Cubans to switch to lower watt fixtures in the interests of energy independence and the environment.

“They’d come to check,” she said. “They would break your old bulbs, in front of you, to make sure you didn’t sneak any back into your lamps.” She smiled and looked over her glasses at me to make sure I was listening closely enough. She has one child, a son a decade younger than Eduardo—gone now, having bailed out on Cuba and obtained a therapy credential in Spain. “The idea was marvelous, to change all the lightbulbs,” she said. “The problem is how they did it.”

Click here to read the complete story at

Friday, November 09, 2012

'President-elect' Romney's Website

Looks like Mitt Romney had everything ready to go...then he had to go and lose the damn election!


Mitt Romney’s Transition Website: Where ‘President-Elect’ Romney Lives On

Courtesy of Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire, curious voters still wondering how it would look to see “President-elect” in front of the Republican candidate’s name now have their chance. In the final weeks of his campaign Romney had been preparing a transition team, dubbed “The Readiness Project,” meant to help him prepare for the long list of accomplishments he had slated for Day One of his administration. At one point, Politico reported that the team was comprised of “more than 100 officials” getting prepped for the post-Barack Obama era.

CBS News: Romney "shellshocked" by loss

BOSTON, Mass. - Mitt Romney's campaign got its first hint something was wrong on the afternoon of Election Day, when state campaign workers on the ground began reporting huge turnout in areas favorable to President Obama: northeastern Ohio, northern Virginia, central Florida and Miami-Dade.

Then came the early exit polls that also were favorable to the president.

But it wasn't until the polls closed that concern turned into alarm. They expected North Carolina to be called early. It wasn't. They expected Pennsylvania to be up in the air all night; it went early for the President.

After Ohio went for Mr. Obama, it was over, but senior advisers say no one could process it.

"We went into the evening confident we had a good path to victory," said one senior adviser. "I don't think there was one person who saw this coming."

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The hypocrisy of Fox News

"When you've got the national liberal media working compulsively in your behalf, it is very difficult to break through the noise to the reality." -Fox News commentator Lou Dobbs

"The media didn’t hand [the election] to Obama; after all, the Number One cable news channel, Fox, is right-wing. The Number One newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, also has a right-wing editorial slant (and is owned by the same guy who owns Fox News). The Number One talk radio show is Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity is Number Two, and Glenn Beck is Number Three. When you control all the largest media outlets, it’s time to stop grousing about liberal media bias." -Paul Begala, Newsweek/Daily Beast columnist.

Did the "mainstream" media hand the election to Barack Obama?

Fox News likes to say it's the "number one news network in cable television."

A January 2012 Fox News press release proclaimed that Fox News "has now reigned over the cable news universe for an entire decade while continuing to outpace both CNN and MSNBC combined in total viewership, according to Nielsen Media Research."

"Reigning over the cable news universe,"  and claiming to have more viewers than the other two cable news networks combined sounds pretty damn mainstream to me.

Following Barack Obama's re-election, some Fox News commentators pointed to the "liberal media bias" of the mainstream media as one of the reasons for Obama's victory.

Fox claims that they dominate the cable news landscape and that they clobber the other cable channels in the ratings. So how can the "liberal media" with its much smaller audience control what a majority of Americans thinks? Doesn't make sense, does it?

If you consider yourself an intelligent adult and you're also a Fox News viewer, now might be a good time to ask yourself this question: "Why?"


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Election Day Winners and Losers

Winners: South Florida voters.....

By now, we've all heard about Gov. Rick Scott's sleazy, criminal and repeated, efforts to clear Florida's voter rolls of minorities and non-Republicans...and even active-duty service members

Scott compunded his contempt for voters by refusing to allow early voting on the Sunday before the election.

Take all that, and then throw in a long, complicated ballot, and South Floridians were greeted Tuesday with unprecedented long lines at the polls.

But, in the face of all those roadblocks, voters showed up in force. Some of you got lucky and were able to exercise your right in less than an hour. But many of you had to wait as long as 7 hours to vote.

So, all of you who put up with that crap, go ahead give yourself a big pat on the back. Drinks are on me!

Voters were in line at 4am to vote at precinct 797 at Miami-Dade Fire
Station # 56 at 16250 SW 72 Street. (Miami Herald photo by
Tim Chapman.)

Read more here:


Losers: Gov. Rick Scott, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the Miami Herald.....

Rick Scott: see above.

Carlos Gimenez: Perhaps CBS4's Jim DeFede said it best when he tweeted Sunday that Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez - Gov. Scott's South Florida Republican operative -  is "a bureaucrat, not a leader."

"Bureaucrats worry about procedures. Mayors worry about people," wrote DeFede.

Paging Norman Braman...perhaps it's time to mount another recall. Someone needs to lose their job over how things were mishandled on Sunday and yesterday. Maybe we should start at the top.

The Miami Herald: This one also comes to us from Jim DeFede's Twitter feed... "Big loser - besides GOP - was The Miami Herald and its pollster Mason-Dixon. They were wildly off on FLA polls."

Last night, one of my Facebook friend posted this: "I hope that whoever paid for that Mason-Dixon poll (Romney wins Florida by six points) that a certain newspaper highlighted this weekend hasn't mailed the check yet."