Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fabi watch

Fabiola Santiago, the Miami Herald's most fraudulent columnist has outdone herself. (Even more so than the last time she outdid herself.)

Her Wednesday column is as incomprehensible and disjointed as anything she's ever written. She's crafted a rambling word salad that would make Sarah Palin green with envy.

It's so cryptic and meandering, I'm left wondering just how many hits of brown acid she took before writing it.

Some of the the highlights:
The squirrel who made himself at home on the branches of my Tree of Gold is sparring with the stray cat lounging below on the picnic table.


I instinctively close my eyes and step on visitor dog poop, which we all know is not the same thing as stepping on your own darling mutt’s excrement.


Now, where is that loathed New York Times op-ed writer when you need her? This is a perfect example of why Pamela Druckerman grew up in Miami thinking her life plan was to marry a plastic surgeon. Even libraries have to pass the glamour test. Maybe this is why when prodigal, third-generation daughter Druckerman returns to assess our evolution for the Big Apple, profundity still not her strong suit, she concludes: “There was a lot of pleasure in Miami, but not enough surprising interactions and ideas.”


Ah, the local noise, so much like the cranking sound of overpriced animal feeders at ZooMiami.

But there are bigger birds and louder squawking in Paradise — nothing as colorful and contentious as the beak-to-beak governor’s race.


Everyone knows that if you’re not Miley Cyrus, it’s not a good thing when the old rocker publication focuses on your tongue. Hats off to the candidates for playing their part to make “The Florida Farce” reach a new smoky audience. I value good writing more than sanity.

Who cares if/when I watch too much TV, I start to think of the fellow moaning in the Ponzi schemer campaign ad as part of the cast of Scandal?


Smoke, mirrors, and noise — the game of our times.

It’s a jungle out there.

Sing, little bird, sing.

Click here to read the complete column, if you dare.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Miami Herald bungles another major story

As this image from video shows, TV crews were on the scene 
within minutes of the mass shooting at The Spot nightclub, but 
it took the Miami Herald more than 8 hours to dispatch a reporter 
and photographer. 
(Click image to enlarge.)

I'm 100% certain that if you asked anyone who works at the Miami Herald if the paper is guilty of racism in its coverage of some communities, the answer would be a unanimous "absolutely not."

But there's mounting evidence that suggests otherwise.

This morning at about 1 a.m., an unknown gunman - or gunmen - opened fire into a crowd of people at a nightclub in Liberty City.

One witness thinks he heard as many as 100 shots.

At least 15 people were injured. Some of those hit by bullets were children. Why children were at a nightclub at one o'clock in the morning is something that investigators will hopefully be looking into in the days ahead.

From CBS Miami:
The incident took place at N.W. 7th avenue and 64th street.

When Miami police and rescue crews arrived at a club called The Spot around 1 a.m., they said they found chaos among the large throng of adults and teenagers gathered there. Rescuers found wounded people inside and outside the club, some too hurt to flee, Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll said.

He told The Associated Press that the first emergency crews arriving on the scene were warned to use caution “because there was still active shooting taking place in the area.”
Authorities said there were many young people at the site. At least three of those hurt were transferred to a pediatric unit.

“What was very surprising to the responders was that these were kids that were out at 1 o’clock in the morning in a club and this type of violence took place where a bunch of kids were gathering … it’s very disturbing to see that,” Carroll said.

But despite the seriousness and magnitude of the crime, a full seven and a half hours passed before the Miami Herald posted anything on the mayhem that had taken place.

A Herald reporter and photographer were finally sent to to the scene, arriving more than 8 hours after the shooting.

Last July 4 it took the Herald more than 10 hours to post anything on a holiday weekend boating crash that left four people dead. All because no one knew about the accident until the morning crew arrived.

I'm sure those in charge at the Herald would laugh if anyone suggested they send a reporter to cover a city commission meeting 8 hours after it started....or have a photographer arrive at a Dolphins game well into the 4th quarter. But for some unknown reason, those same bosses think nothing of waiting 7, 8, or 9 hours after a breaking news event has occurred before sending someone to cover it.

The Herald's complete lack of urgency in its response to last night's shooting shows that in the months since the bungled coverage of the boating crash, no one at the paper has shown any kind of leadership by making changes to the way major overnight breaking news is handled.


January 8, 2013: Checking up on the Miami Herald's "24/7 Information Specialists"


Several Herald insiders told me this morning that the paper has no coherent plan to cover major news that occurs overnight. "It's hit and miss," said one staffer who added, "but mostly miss."

But aside from no leadership, what explains the Herald's lethargic response to news that occurs in some Miami neighborhoods? Is it racism, or incompetence, or a little bit of both?

Imagine that the circumstances of last night's shooting were exactly the same, except that it took place at a party at an upscale Coral Gables restaurant instead of a sketchy nightclub on N.W. 7th Avenue.

Does anyone think for one second that the Herald would wait 7 or 8 hours before sending a reporter and photographer to cover the story of someone firing 100 shots at diners inside Christy's Restaurant?

Last March I reported that the Herald had virtually given up on covering any kind of violent crime in one northwest Miami neighborhood.

It appears that those in charge plan to keep it that way.

By the way, the story of the club shooting was pushed aside on the Herald's website this afternoon for coverage of your beloved Miami Dolphins.

Because there's nothing more important than a football game.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

How career con man James Peter Sabatino fleeced Miami-Dade taxpayers for a quarter-million dollars...all while sitting in jail

James Peter Sabatino.
(Miami-Dade Corrections photo)

Here's a lesson for all you cub reporters out there: Always answer the phone...especially when a jail inmate is calling.

Miami Herald food editor Evan Benn recently took a call from Miami-Dade's Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. On the other end was James Peter Sabatino.

Sabatino, a career con man, has been cooling his heels in the lock-up after being arrested a year ago on a laundry list of charges ranging from having sex with a minor, to fraud and grand theft.

But all that time in stir apparently hasn't dulled Sabatino's senses when it comes to spotting an easy "mark."

In a story just posted on the Herald's website, Benn writes:
A lot of things are crooked about Jimmy Sabatino, but a lazy eye is no longer one of them.

The career con man — Sabatino, 37, has spent all but a few weeks of his adult life behind bars for running scams from Miami to London — claims his latest caper came at the expense of Miami-Dade County taxpayers.

Sabatino, while in Miami-Dade Corrections custody, underwent surgery Aug. 28 at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute to repair a lazy right eye that has plagued him since his youth.

“It’s not lazy no more,” Sabatino said in a phone call to the Miami Herald from Miami-Dade’s Turner Guilford Knight jail.

Sabatino, who is set to be sentenced Tuesday on theft and fraud charges from last year, recounts with amusement and disbelief how he talked his way into the operating room for what he considers a cosmetic procedure.

“I kept saying I was having these headaches, and how can we make them stop?” Sabatino said of his visits to the Corrections Health Services clinic. “Next thing I know, they approved the surgery.”

Evan Benn. 
So how does a food editor get a scoop like this?

Turns out that before being named the Herald's food editor earlier this year, Benn covered the story of Sabatino's arrest last September.

In an email today Benn told me that Sabatino called him from jail to let him know about his sentencing set for next Tuesday, and during the conversation he dropped the bombshell about the surgery.

"Too good of a story to pass up," Benn said, "I put out two food sections and wrote a 1A Sunday news story. Great week in Miami journalism!"

Click here to read Benn's complete story.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Jeff Klinkenberg, Florida's master storyteller, is retiring

Terrace Times, Feb. 6, 1960.
(Click to enlarge)
In the 1950s when Jeff Klinkenberg was growing up on N.E. 110th Terrace in Miami Shores, he thought one day he might like to be a baseball player. Or Davy Crockett, or an astronomer or a priest.

None of those panned out. Instead he became a newsman because that's what they called journalists back then.

He got an early start by putting out a chatty, hand-printed sheet called the "Terrace Times." Miami Shores was his beat.

In high school he wrote a column for the high school paper called "Klinky's Corner."

Miami News,
March 7, 1969.
(Click to enlarge)
Later he edited his college newspaper, eventually landing a job at the Miami News where sportswriter Al Levine saw some talent in the lad and took him under his wing.

Klink - as he's now known by his friends - covered high school sports and the outdoors for the afternoon paper.

In 1977, Klink left the News to join the St. Petersburg Times. (The paper is now called the Tampa Bay Times.)

At the Times Klink was assigned a familiar beat: Outdoors Florida.

But in 1986 he began writing about Florida. And for much of the past 28 years he's traveled virtually every Florida back road seeking out people who are the heart and soul of what he calls the "Real Florida."

Yesterday Klink stunned his friends and readers with this announcement on Facebook:
Click to enlarge.
"You're looking at the ad that ran when I started at the Times in 1977. As you know, these are tough days for newspapers, including the Times, so I accepted a buyout today. My last day as a full-timer will be Oct. 10. I'm 65, I'm on Medicare, I've got money in the bank and I'm married to the astonishing Susan King. So I'm going to do okay. If business arrangements can be worked out, I'll continue to write some Real Florida essays for the paper. If things don't work out, I'll be freelancing elsewhere. In the meantime, look on Facebook for further details. It's been a great run -- and I have to tell you this: Nobody has been blessed with so many wonderful colleagues and readers. You've provided the energy for what I've done for so long. I love you."

Ben Montgomery, one of Klink's colleagues at the Times, tweeted this: "Heart broken. Jeff Klinkenberg is retiring. Florida won't be the same. The Times won't be the same."

Craig Pittman, the Times' environmental writer said this of his colleague: "The Governor should declare him a Great Floridian. He's done more to educate the people in this state about their roots and their culture and their natural surroundings than just about anybody I know."

Today I called Klink and we chatted for the better part of a half hour.

He told me that even though one part of his career was coming to an end he was grateful to have gotten his foot in the door on "the tail end of the Front Page era," but lately he was beginning to feel like the Florida panther he'd written about so many times: "Like the panther...I've watched my habitat [space in the paper] shrink."

I asked Klink what writers or journalists inspired him early on. Without hesitation he mentioned four: Eugene Patterson, a Pulitzer Prize winning editor at the Times who went on to become the paper's chairman and chief executive officer, New Yorker magazine writers John McPhee and Joseph Mitchell, and the Miami Herald's Al Burt.

After Burt died in 2008, Klink wrote: "I was a kid sportswriter at the now-out-of-print Miami News when Al began chronicling our state in his weekly column 'Around Florida.' I wanted to be Al Burt when I grew up.

"When I started writing about Florida in 1986, I religiously mailed Al my clips hoping for a pat on the head from the old master. He always was encouraging, sometimes about individual stories, but more often about the need for reporters to write about Florida culture as if it were worth writing about. I don't think there are many of us around following Al's lead."

I then asked him if he had any favorite stories. Again, without hesitation, he mentioned three - all pieces that were published earlier this year:
1) The last Martin of Gilchrist County: "A traveling day. Nathan Martin is going to town. He is going to have a meal with the woman he loves. He usually hates wearing a shirt, but Vida will tsk tsk if he shows up with chest bare. He also needs to decide what to do about footwear. He hates shoes even more than he hates wearing a shirt." 
2) My dad had an artist's soul, but a temper that left many scars: "A dad can leave another kind of imprint on his kids. When my dad lost his temper, which was seldom, he lost all control. I didn't get spanked; other kids got spanked. He beat me hard enough with a belt to leave welts, bruises and sometimes blood. I have spent years trying to understand the demon that possessed him in those moments."

3) The second coming of Billy the Kid: "Guy on the phone says to "Google 'Billy the Kid' Emerson. He's old now, but he was really famous once. He lives here." So I Google. An African-American piano player born in Tarpon Springs, Emerson ended up at Sun Records in Memphis. Elvis recorded one of his songs. Talk to Billy the Kid, implores the anonymous caller. What a story he must have to tell. In the summer of 2012 I call him. Billy the Kid Emerson says: "I NEVER EVER TALK ABOUT THOSE DAYS" — those days when he played the devil's music and knew Elvis. Now he listens only to spirituals. In fact, he's been writing a suite of religious hymns he calls his masterpiece. I suggest we do an interview at his house. "I'm not looking for glory,'' he says. "But thank you for your interest.'' Click."

Klink's last day at the Times is Oct. 10. But something tells me he's not quite ready to give up on the craft he's practiced so masterfully for the past four decades.

Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Your early afternoon time waster

True Facts About Marsupials.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Chris Poole of Tampa wins $25,000 for cat video

Via Tampa Bay Times:
A Tampa cat owner is $25,000 richer this week after his internet video captured the grand prize in "The Friskies"– the awards for the best Internet cat videos of the year.

Yes, you read that right. $25,000. (Note to self: Adopt cat. Film antics. Get rich.)

(Click here to see the other entries in the competition.)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A look back at the Gary Hart/Donna Rice scandal

Miami Herald, May 3, 1987.
"[Tom] Fiedler and his [Miami Herald] colleagues imagined themselves to be the only ones standing between America and another menacing, immoral president; reading it, you might think Hart had been caught bludgeoning a beautiful young woman to death, rather than taking her to dinner." Matt Bai - "How Gary Hart’s Downfall Forever Changed American Politics," New York Times Magazine, Sept, 21, 2014.


Spend any amount of time in any newsroom in Florida, and sooner or later you'll hear this phrase: "Every story has a Miami connection."

That was certainly the case on the first Sunday in May 1987 when the Miami Herald broke the story of presidential candidate Gary Hart's affair with a Miami model named Donna Rice.

In tomorrow's New York Times Magazine, veteran political reporter Matt Bai looks back at the scandal in a piece titled "How Gary Hart's Downfall Changed American Politics Forever."

Bai told me in an email this morning that after first writing about Hart in 2003, "His story ... haunted me for years after. I began to connect it in my mind to what was happening in our campaigns. And I decided to revisit it."

Dana Weems
But Bai's piece isn't just a rehash of something that happened 27 years ago.

Bai definitively reveals for the first time that it was a friend of Rice's, fellow model Dana Weems, who dropped a dime on Rice with a call to Herald political reporter Tom Fiedler.

From Bai's piece:
It was around 8 p.m. on Monday, April 27, 1987, when the phone rang on Tom Fiedler’s desk at the Miami Herald. A woman he did not know was on the line.
“You know, you said in the paper that there were rumors that Gary Hart is a womanizer,” she told him. “Those aren’t rumors.” And then a question: “How much do you guys pay for pictures?”
Dana Weems wasn’t especially hard to find, it turned out. A clothing designer who did some costume work on movies in the early 1990s, she sold funky raincoats and gowns on a website called Raincoatsetc.com, based in Hollywood, Fla. When she answered the phone after a couple of rings, I told her I was writing about Gary Hart and the events of 1987.

“Oh, my God,” she said. There followed a long pause.

“Did you make that call to The Herald?” I asked her.

“Yeah,” Weems said with a sigh. “That was me.”
At the time Rice suspected it was Weems who made the call to the Herald, but Weems denied it.

In his piece, Bai also paints a picture of reporters and editors at the Herald who clearly thought the Hart scandal was Watergate Redux:
Donna Rice. (1984)
(Click to enlarge)
Eight days later, The Herald published a front-page reconstruction of the events leading up to and including that Saturday night. Written by McGee, Fiedler and Savage, the 7,000-plus-word article — Moby-Dick-like proportions by the standards of daily journalism — is remarkable reading. First, it’s striking how much The Herald’s account of its investigation consciously imitates, in its clinical voice and staccato cadence, Woodward and Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men.” (“McGee rushed toward a pay telephone a block away to call editors in Miami. It was 9:33 p.m.”) Clearly, the reporters and editors at The Herald thought themselves to be reconstructing a scandal of similar proportions, the kind of thing that would lead to Pulitzers and movie deals. The solemn tone of the piece suggests that Fiedler and his colleagues imagined themselves to be the only ones standing between America and another menacing, immoral president; reading it, you might think Hart had been caught bludgeoning a beautiful young woman to death, rather than taking her to dinner. [Emphasis mine.]

You can read Bai's complete New York Times piece by clicking here.


Matt Bai is the national political columnist for Yahoo News and the author of the book “All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid” due out Sept. 30.

Bai is also scheduled to appear at the Miami International Book Fair in November.


New York Times Magazine, May 3, 1987: Gary Hart, the Elusive Front-Runner

Miami Herald, May 3, 1987: Miami woman linked to Hart candidate denies any impropriety

Washington Post, May 4, 1987: Newspaper Stakeout Infuriates Hart

Miami Herald, May 10, 1987: The Gary Hart story: How it happened

NPR: Don't always believe what you remember

Friday, September 19, 2014

There's probably a perfectly logical explanation for this...

A police SUV crashed into a Dunkin Donuts in Winslow Township, New Jersey this morning.

Leave your punchlines in the comments section below.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Introducing.....The Mayor Philip Levine Silly Costume of the Day

When you're Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Halloween lasts 365 days a year.

Visit his Facebook page and you'll see him wearing all sorts of silly costumes...pretending to be something he isn't.

Here he is a few months ago pretending to be ... well, you know....

Today they had a dog-and-pony show over on West Avenue. The media was invited to inspect a new stormwater pumping station.

Levine showed up dressed as one of the Village People.

Last Memorial Day weekend Levine got all Coast Guard-y and pretended to drive a patrol boat.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Joel Hirschhorn is still opposed to cameras in the courtroom

Cameras in the courtroom
U.S. Supreme Court could kill the 'Florida experiment'

by Gene Miller
Miami Herald, Nov. 11, 1980

The case is Chandler vs Florida, and the last thing that lawyer [Joel] Hirschhorn wants to argue — at this late date - is innocence.

For now it is the camera that is on trial, not the client.

The crime began as a bizarre whodunit late one night in May 1977. John E. Sion, 22, a sickly junior college student, couldn't sleep.

"I have a digital clock, and when I woke up, it was 2:50 a.m." He lived with his mother on the 10th floor of a Miami Beach high rise. He owned a ham radio.

He picked up a book that night and turned on the radio. By chance it was set on Channel 3, 146.52 megahertz. "Some voices came on. I didn't pay much attention."

Two voices, male, spoke surreptitiously for possibly five minutes. "The numbers didn't work...I got it open anyway....the registers are empty."

Slowly, a thought dawned. "I think I tuned in some cat burglars." He fumbled around for a cassette. He found one on which he had taped "Police Story." He flipped it over and taped conversations for 7 minutes and 42 seconds.
Eventually, he mentioned the tape to a man who lived in the same high rise. He was Donald Froschneider, retired, a police buff, a sort of Jack Ruby character, a gentleman hard of hearing and in ailing health, in need of an oxygen tank, Valium, and smelling salts.

Froschneider meandered over to the Miami Beach Police Department. Casually, he gave the tape to a detective with the unlikely name of Lt. Jack Webb.

Some days later Sgt. Fred Morgan and Martio Mongeaugdo, of internal affairs, finally figured out exactly what they had. And it shocked them.

Not only had they a tape recording of a burglary, they recognized and identified the voices of the burglars: Two Miami Beach policemen — Noel Chandler and Robert Granger.
But solving the crime didn't come easily. "We didn't know what joint they'd hit," said Morgan. "We pulled all the sheets on burglaries and nothing fit."

Enter here, some weeks later, Martin F. Dardis, chief investigator for the Dade County state attorney. Dardis is a smart cop, an explosive, Type-A personality. He was the cop who linked Richard Nixon's campaign money to the Cuban Watergate burglars.

Dardis walked the sleazy South Beach neighborhood trying to make geographical sense from the tape.

Suddenly he noticed a 9½-foot tall chain-link fence. A couple of links had been replaced. Why? He spotted a new padlock. What happened to the old one? He found it lying in the weeds, broken and discarded.

Dardis glanced westward. And he knew instantly. Picciolo Italian American Restaurant, 136 Collins Ave., had to be the place.

"Any burglaries there?" he asked.

Weeks before, Picciolo's headwaiter, Larry Smith, had locked up 10 doors at about 12:30 a.m. on May 23. The cook, Louis Page, found one back door ajar the next morning.

And owner Vincent Picciolo found three neat drill holes in a kitchen safe concreted into the floor. Missing, he calculated, was about $5,500 in cash.

Investigator Dardis checked out Chandler's off-duty employment at LaGorce Country Club. Not so incidentally, he heard about a $16,000 safejob there, too. Chandler was a club mechanic.

At the club, Dardis found a man who had seen two walkie-talkies in Chandler's car. The man remembered the Japanese manufacturer. Dardis traced the importer to Las Vegas, then ran down the Miami distributor.

Dardis confronted his two brawny suspects. "I'm not going to arrest a cop unless I can guarantee a conviction," he began.

"I wanted to know what else they'd pulled. They stonewalled me."

In the courtroom, defense attorney Hirschhorn, then 34, fiercely contested almost everything.

Some years ago Hirschhorn qualified as the finest pornography lawyer in Miami, defender of adult bookstores, champion of the First Amendment for films such as "The Devil in Miss Jones."

In recent years his practice has narrowed to big money drugs: cocaine, marijuana and Quaaludes, along with an occasional white-collar defendant.

For Chandler and Granger, he argued invasion of privacy on the incriminating tape. He tried to get it suppressed. For a pre-trial motion, Chandler testified.

"We were, you might say, playing a practical joke. We had a bet going as to whether or not anyone was listening to that particular frequency — and the best way to prove it would be to stage a burglary on the airways."

Chandler professed that he had purchased the walkie-talkies for deer hunting.

He didn't convince Circuit Judge Alan R. Schwartz. The tape became state's exhibit 1-BB.

Hirschhorn, long a ferocious opponent of cameras in the courtroom, had filed numerous protests even before the cameramen arrived.

During Florida vs Chandler, WPLG-TV televised 90 seconds on the trial one night; 65 seconds the next. WTVJ-TV Channel 4, using a pool arrangement, showed 80 seconds.

On Dec. 8, 1977, the jury convicted. The judge sentenced the two safe-cracker cops to seven years each for four felonies. They spent one night in jail before posting appeal bonds.

Hirschhorn petitioned the Supreme Court on Feb. 18, 1980. He labeled television "a blind rush to electronic justice."

"An electronic narcotic," he called it, "serving the public's attention to the sensational."

When the court granted the petition April 21, a congratulatory downpour drenched Hirschhorn in instant bar-celebrity status.

Legal heavies for the networks, public television, broadcasters, publishers, editors, reporters responded to Hirschhorn's assault. They argued the public's right, how public scrutiny fosters fairness, how television makes lawyers, witnesses and judges more conscientious.

Jim Smith
For Florida, Attorney General Jim Smith declared: "The defendants cannot defeat their convictions by arguing the hypothetical rights of hypothetical persons in hypothetical circumstances, absent a clear First Amendment claim."

Smith, 40, is political, a land-cattleman worth $8,033,762, an addicted jogger, and according to Hirschhorn, a perfect adversary for oral arguments on Wednesday. "Like taking candy from a baby," said Hirschhorn.

It will be Smith's first appearance before the court; Hirschhorn's too.

Hirschhorn denounced the media's so-called "surrogate" role to the public. "The real basis for the 'surrogate's' effort to override the accused's constitutional right, is economic competition. Next, the copy editors and typesetters will clamor to have their equipment in the courtroom. Perhaps the solution is to simply move the trial — lock, stock and barrel — to the television station or to the newspaper's plant," he said.

"The televised criminal trial rule is neither a social, nor economic experiment. It is, instead, an ill-advised experiment in 'living' jurisprudence, the effects of which, at best, are unknown, and at worst, disastrous.

"If, for any reason, the defendant were to be acquitted, his unwanted television notoriety will follow him to his grave," argued Hirschhorn.

He quoted an admirer: "As for Justice — she should remain blindfolded — not have one eye peeking at TV cameras."

Hirschhorn concedes, though, that for his clients, the safecracker cops, the case might be the wrong one to be argued before the Supreme Court.

"It reduces the issue to its purest form," he declares, and most lawyers, as well as television viewers, agree that he is quite correct.


Thirty-four years after he argued against cameras before the Supreme Court, Hirschhorn still firmly believes that they have no place in courtrooms.

"I am unabashedly, wholeheartedly, and unreservedly against cameras when the defendant objects," Hirschhorn told me by phone today.


Lakeland Ledger, July 7, 1977: Cyclops in the Courtroom

Palm Beach Post, Jan. 27, 1981: U.S. Supreme Court ruling will allow cameras in court

Miami News, Jan. 27, 1981: Camera-in-court fight not quite over

New York Times Magazine, Feb. 15, 1981: Television's Day in Court

U.S Supreme Court: Chandler v. Florida, 449 U.S. 560 (1981)



Today is B.B. King's birthday...

Tribute via my friend Craig Pittman: "B.B. King, who turns 89 today, is renowned for his ability to express emotion with his guitar, Lucille. What most people don't realize is that he's a scientist too. In the first video he attempts to measure, to the most scientifically precise level possible, how blue you can get."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Never miss a Random Pixels update

I've now made it easier to get updates from Random Pixels. Instead of checking the blog numerous times a day, all you now have to do is sign up for email updates and you'll be notified when I post something new.

Just enter your email address in the box in the upper right hand corner - yeah, up there - and sign up.

Drop me a note and let me know how it works for you.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Convicted killer James Herard dared a judge to give him the death penalty...and then things got really bizarre

Convicted killer James Herard. 
(Click to enlarge.)

In 2008, James Herard barked like a dog during a court hearing.

In August 2011, Herard laughed at his victim just before a judge gave him nine life sentences. A month earlier he'd been convicted by a Palm Beach County jury on 19 charges, including attempted first-degree murder.

Last Friday Herard was back in a Broward County courtroom as his lawyers attempted to convince a judge to disregard a jury's recommendation that Herard get the death penalty for a 2008 murder.

"I'm actually hoping you give me the death penalty, because I know the Supreme Court won't allow me to die for something I didn't commit," Herard told the judge.

After Herard testified for about an hour, his attorneys started calling witnesses to vouch for their client's sterling character.

The only problem is that all his character witnesses were wearing handcuffs and shackles.

Local 10's Glenna Milberg has the story.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The way we were...The Boss plays the Orange Bowl

29 years ago this week, Bruce Springsteen played two sold-out concerts on Sept. 9th and 10th at the Orange Bowl.

Bruce Springsteen performs at the Orange Bowl on September 9, 1985.
(Photo by Kathy Willens/AP)

On Tuesday, Sept. 10, the Miami Herald's Carl Hiaasen offered up a list of do's and don'ts for those planning to attend Springsteen's second concert.


by Carl Hiaasen
Miami Herald, Sept. 10, 1985

Tonight is the final installment of Bruce Springsteen at the Orange Bowl, and another sell-out crowd is expected to hear the tough guitarist from Jersey play his workingman rock 'n' roll.

For many fans, this will be their first experience at a mega-concert in a sports stadium. Over the years a distinct rock-show etiquette has evolved, and for the uninitiated here is a guide.

1. Scalping. This is the amiably usurious act of finding desperate, drooling souls to buy your $17.50 tickets for $200. The pain of this transaction is lessened if you address the buyer as "brother" or "dude" and make a few penetrating remarks about Bruce's music.

2. Dress Code. For Springsteen, blue jeans mandatory -- and they have to be old, OK? Domestic, too -- none of this Paris designer dreck.

Afew of you might choose to partially disrobe late in the show, as is customary. Use good judgment in this endeavor. Some fans -- and you know who you are -- should never remove their clothes in public. Please don't spoil the concert for others.

3. Booing the Opening Act. This popular pastime can range from simple jeering to small-arms fire directed at the stage. Fortunately, Springsteen usually doesn't use an opening act, so try to control yourselves tonight and save the booing for the next Billy Idol concert.

4. Rushing the Stage. This happens regularly at stadium concerts because in the whole place only about 13 persons (all relatives of the city commissioners) are actually seated close enough to see the band. Everyone else might as well be watching an ant farm.

The traditional rushing of the stage by sweaty throngs takes place about two-thirds into the show. If you must participate, be polite and don't trample. This isn't a soccer match.

5. Stupidly Shouting Song Requests. Don't do this unless you really want to broadcast your idiocy. It's inevitable -- 80,000 screaming fans in the Orange Bowl and one guy in the upper deck is hollering, "Yo! Bruce! Do Pink Cadillac!" Like he can almost hear you.

6. Fist-Shaking. When Springsteen breaks into Born to Run, everyone around you will cheer wildly and raise their fists to the sky, punching in rhythm with the song. Fist-shaking is a seminal rock custom and it's important to try to keep time so you don't look like a complete putz. And, for God's sake, don't accidentally slug the guy in front of you. This is Miami, remember, Land of the Casual Uzi.

7. Fighting. While head-bashing and eye-gouging might be routine at concerts by Ratt or Motley Crue, it is extremely bad form at a Springsteen show. His music is both hearty and intelligible, and his fans are expected to behave accordingly.

With one exception: If anyone standing near you should unleash one of those loud pneumatic boat horns, feel free to pummel them into dog meat.

8. Substance Abuse. Some concert fans will ingest industrial-strength drugs and show no effect, while others will giggle and dance in circles and perform ungainly butterfly imitations. Steer clear of these people because the next phase, after butterflies, is throwing up.

9. Bouncers. The men who guard the stage at rock concerts are best described as a cross between a cement mixer and a wolverine. If you insist on trying to climb on stage to go dancing in the dark with Bruce, be prepared to go home in a grocery bag.

10. Encores. Any rock musician worth his salt always gives two encores, and any experienced rock fan knows exactly what to do.

When Springsteen trots offstage, the lights will go off and everyone in the audience will chant for more and light a match. This is a vivid ritual, but it has drawbacks. Years ago I was at an Elton John concert, waiting for such an encore, when a young woman's hair actually caught fire.

If this happens, by all means forget the music and put out the flames.

Bruce, and his insurance company, would want it that way.

Monday, September 08, 2014

John Labonia's 'War on Happy'

We've all been around, or known someone like John LaBonia.

LaBonia is the general manager of WLRN, the school board-owned public radio and TV station.

For some time now, I've been hearing stories that LaBonia is, to put it mildly, a supremely miserable person who enjoys making other people miserable.

For years, a group of WLRN staffers would meet informally once a month - on their own time - to meditate. One station staffer not involved called it "The Meditation Group." The weekly meetings were the brainchild of now-retired WLRN staffer Meredith Porte.

A few months ago LaBonia told the group that they were no longer allowed to have their meetings in the WLRN building. No reason was given. But apparently six people getting together to silently meditate can be very distracting.

Now comes word that LaBonia not only hates meditation, but he also hates small, furry animals.

Last week, WLRN's office manager Margarette Adam sent this email to station staffers.
Dear All,

Effective immediately, Mr. LaBonia wants everyone to be in compliance with the attached MDCPS [Miami-Dade County Public Schools] policy.

Also, all supervisors need to make sure that there is no violation of the policy.

Thanks for your attention.

Margarette C. Adam
Office Manager
WLRN Channel 17 & 91.3 FM
172 NE 15 Street
Miami, FL 33132

The policy mentioned in the email is a Miami-Dade Schools policy prohibiting animals on school property.

Now in case you're thinking that hordes of dogs and cats were roaming the hallways of WLRN, you can relax...that wasn't the case.

The target of LaBonia's wrath was one cute, cuddly ball of fur named Daisy that WLRN staffers had come to accept as the station's mascot, "therapy dog," and Morning Edition co-host.

Daisy is an American Eskimo dog that belongs to WLRN's Morning Edition host Wanda Myles.

Station staffers tell me Myles has been bringing her dog to work for years.

Now, after all these years, LaBonia has decided the school board's policy has to be adhered to and that the dog must go.

This despite the fact that research shows that pets in the workplace can reduce stress.

Some years ago a TV station in Arkansas adopted a cat that had the run of the entire station.

"It's like this guy [LaBonia] is waging a war on happy, or anything else that makes us feel better about ourselves," one staffer told me.

I've reached out to Myles for comment but haven't heard back.

I've also called LaBonia for a comment but he hasn't returned my call.

If you're a regular WLRN supporter, AND a dog lover, you might want remind Mr. LaBonia of that fact....especially since one of those wonderful pledge drives is coming up soon.

You can reach him at jlabonia@wlrn.org or 305-995-2259.

Daisy doesn't have a voice in this, but you do. Let John LaBonia know how you feel about his "war on happy."

Friday, September 05, 2014

It's been exactly one week...

...since Victor Kendall, the CEO of Friends of WLRN, the fundraising arm of the school board-owned public radio and TV station was fired...but so far there's been nothing written in the Miami Herald about his mysterious dismissal.

Not. One. Word.

I wonder why?

<<<--- Maybe this explains why there's been no coverage of this important story in Miami's newspaper of record.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Miami Herald unveils a fool-proof plan to lure new advertisers

Here at Random Pixels we've been hearing persistent rumors that the Miami Herald has lost a major advertiser...or two.

So that might explain a photo on this morning's front page.

The photo was hard to miss...it took up a good-sized chunk of valuable page one real estate.

What isn't so clear is why the photo was there in the first place.

Let's zoom in for a closer look, shall we?

Part of the caption reads: "Pablo Chiozza, vice president of the LATAM Airlines Group in North America, tries out a seat -- complete with soothing lighting -- in the business class section of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Miami International Airport on Wednesday.

"Chile-based LAN Airlines, a member of the LATAM group, held a show-and-tell session to show off the plane's larger windows, higher ceilings and other features."

So what's the "news" here? SHOCKER! There isn't any.

In the news biz, "show and tell" is another way of saying "dog and pony show." And "dog and pony shows" almost never produce anything remotely resembling news.

Could this be a sneaky way of enticing LAN Chile to buy some full page ads in the paper? Check back here for updates.

And in case you don't get the Herald delivered to your doorstep, they posted the very same photos on the website.

A Miami police officer got himself arrested this morning by Miami Beach cops on a crap-load of charges

Miami police officer Christopher Vital.
(Photo: NBC Miami)
In 2012, Miami police officer Christopher Vital received a "Community Policing Award" from his department for his work as a Neighborhood Resource Officer in Coconut Grove.

But lately, things have been spiraling out of control for Vital.

Last year he was arrested by Miami-Dade police after getting into a fight with someone while attending a Dolphins game at Sun Life Stadium. He was charged with disorderly intoxication, but the charges were dismissed after he entered a pre-trial diversion program.

This morning, Vital was arrested again...this time by Miami Beach police.

However, the charges he's facing this time around won't be so easy to beat.

Early Thursday morning Miami Beach cops chased Vital at speeds of 100 mph after he blew past police and fire vehicles that were on the scene of an accident on the MacArthur Causeway.

From the arrest form: 

Click images to enlarge. 

From CBS Miami:
A records check revealed Vital had a suspended license and the car had a tag seizure order.

When the officer searched the vehicle, the arrest affidavit said a plastic pill container with marijuana inside.

Also, police reported finding a black back pack in the back seat that contained several plastic bags of heroin and cocaine.

Stefanie Malvin.
An arrest affidavit revealed the passenger, Stefanie Malvin, possessed two small bags of cocaine and when she reportedly offered for officers to search her purse, they located another bag of cocaine.

She was also arrested and charged with possessing a controlled substance.

During the transport to a holding facility, officers stated in the arrest affidavit that Vital began hitting his head against the vehicle’s partition and said, “I’m going to blame you for the injuries on my head, I’m going to say you did this to me and I’m going to hunt you down, you and your family and I’m gonna have your job.”

The report also states Vital kicked the passenger side window out of the officer’s car.

After arriving at the holding facility, Vital reportedly said, “It doesn’t matter what you do to me, as soon as I get out I’m going to shoot myself.”

Your lunch hour time waster

Louis Armstrong, live in Australia, 1963:

"Now You Has Jazz."

"Mack the Knife."

"When the Saints Go Marching In."

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Turmoil at WLRN

Victor Kendall, the CEO of Friends of WLRN, the fundraising arm of the school board-owned radio and TV station WLRN, has been fired.

A school board source tells me that Kendall's firing was announced to the station's staff last Friday.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Kendall has been with Friends since June 2012.

From my source:
Victor Kendall
They're being very tight-lipped about it. No emails, no news releases - they don't want anything leaking out.

They did act rather quickly in pulling any fundraising spots off the air that were voiced by Kendall.

It's suspected that he didn't give school board the financial documents they requested 10-12 months ago. Didn't reach fundraising goals, mismanaged the money terribly, and was a bully in the workplace. It's been a long time coming.... And the school board is putting its foot down and moving entire Friends operations back into the WLRN building.

Also out at WLRN is Marlene Figueroa Ross, the station's Director of Strategic Communications, and station manager John Labonia's close confidant. A source tells me she resigned her position, making Labonia a very unhappy camper.

Stay tuned, as they say....

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Miami Beach Police Department reverses policy banning officers from working off-duty at nightclubs

Six weeks after prohibiting its officers from working off-duty at nightclubs, the Miami Beach Police Department has reversed the ban and is now allowing officers to work off-duty at some clubs.

Last Thursday Chief Daniel Oates issued a General Order outlining new policies regarding off duty work at nightclubs.

So far, the only clubs now using off duty officers are some select clubs along Ocean Drive - Wet Willie's, the Clevelander, and Mango's - and the Fontainebleau's LIV Nightclub.

A police spokesperson tells me that the department is in the process of allowing officers to once again work at Washington Avenue clubs.

Oates put the ban on off-duty work into effect last July after an anonymous caller alerted police that a Miami Beach police sergeant appeared to be intoxicated while working off-duty at Mango's Tropical Cafe.

Fraternal Order of Police president Al Bello told Random Pixels he welcomes the reversal of the ban. "We were experiencing increased calls for service along Ocean Drive that required officers to answer calls at clubs."

The new policy prohibits off-duty officers "from entering a nightclub unless law enforcement action is necessary," and also bans them from "from consuming meals or beverages inside the nightclub."

The biggest change, however, is that officers will now "be rotated to different locations during the off-duty shift at the discretion of the supervisor in charge." What this means is that one off-duty officer will no longer work an entire shift at any one nightclub.