January 31, 2008

Broward School Board Betrays Us.

Imagine you're a thirteen year old girl.

Imagine that while you're one the bus, three boys jump on you and try to stick their tongues down your throat. Imagine the grab at your most private places. Imagine they rip open your shirt.

Imagine the bus driver looks in the rear-view mirror, then looks away.

Imagine that you're so humiliated you can't bring yourself to tell your parents.

Imagine the next day it happens again.

At least one Broward County girl doesn't have to imagine it; she actually went through this back in October.

Bus driver Harry Toussaint watched the whole thing, and did nothing. He didn't yell at the boys to stop, he didn't stop the bus, and he didn't stop the boys. He didn't report it. Why is that? Is it possible that he enjoyed watching a little girl being assaulted by three thugs? He still works for the Broward school system, although he's been "re-assigned to a job away from students."
"...the bus driver did not intervene. The tape shows two of the boys exchanging high-fives as they got off the bus... One is heard telling the driver to 'check back there, because I left somebody dead back there...' ''
- Miami Herald, Jan 31 2008
The School Board suspended the boys for 2 of the 3 days. One of them was suspended for five days. Number 3? Who knows? From the school's record so far, maybe they gave him a certificate.

All three of them are back at school, where they can intimidate their victim further, on a daily basis.

The girl's mother has received restraining orders against the boys; the most recent issued last month. It bars the boys from coming within 500 feet of the boys.

The School Board, and the school's administration, have pretty much ignored the order.
''There is not a directive or information contained in the restraining
order to reassign either group -- either the victim or the perpetrator
-- to another site,''
- Miami Herald, Jan 31 2008
Who knew that you needed a court order to do the right thing? I though that was part of being a responsible adult. The fact is that the particulars of the order can only be met by moving the boys to another school; it doesn't matter that the order doesn't specify it when the only way you can meet its conditions is by doing it.

This girl sees her abusers every day; her mother now drives her to school every day. It took a lawyer's specific complaint to get one of the thugs out of the gymnasium during the victim's gym class.

Recently, one of these crass little shits sat down at across from his victim in the cafeteria; the assistant principal told the VICTIM to "eat quickly and move on."

The thing is, it's the person who has a court order keeping them away that should have been told to move on, and not with any delay. The assistant principal is either a dire idiot or an utter scumbag. Either way, this person has no business working in our schools.

That the court order didn't specify moving any of the parties involved is irrelevant; it specifically ordered that THE BOYS be kept 500 feet from THE VICTIM at all times. If the boys are within 500 feet of the girl at any time of the day - even if they are in another room - they are in contempt of the court order. Since we know that the incompetent school administration let the boys be in the same room with her on a regular basis, it can be demonstrated that they have ignored the court order.

The school in absolutely in contempt of court; and Superintendent Notter and the Administration should be held immediately accountable. The school's Principal and Assistant Principal should spend a night in a jail cell, along with Jim Notter. Throw 'em in the same cell.

Isn't that what they do to people who ignore court orders?

The Broward School Board, the administration of the victim's school, and Harry Toussaint have all betrayed the public trust and the welfare of our children. Toussaint should have been dismissed immediately, and both the principal and assistant principal should be dismissed with with prejudice.

And School superintendent Jim Notter? He "acknowledges there were missteps." Bully for you. But you weren't given your position of responsibility to "acknowledge missteps." You are there by our mandate to PREVENT those missteps, and to FIX those missteps.

It's past time for every employee who contributed to this mess stand up at a press conference and offer their most sincere apologies for utterly fucking up their jobs and screwing over the children they were supposed to protect. It's not enough to do it just to the victim tucked out of sight; these slimeballs should feel a small portion of the public humiliation they've heaped on this 13 year old girl.

And if you can't do that, get out of town. We don't need your kind of incompetence in the schools.

Frankly, I don't understand how Notter and these other school staffers can sleep at night. I guess when you're an utter scumbag, you don't have a conscience to let you know when you've abandoned any pretense of decency.

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January 27, 2008

Classic Headline!!

Every now and then, a copy editor manages to slip through a classic headline, and this is on the Christian Science Monitor Website:

This is a real story, and I hope she is quickly recovered, and that she is unharmed.

Florida's "Amendent 1" a Loser (updated)

There's a problem with the way property taxes are calculated in Florida; it's completely, unequivocally UNFAIR.

And "Amendment 1" does not change that. It doesn't change that at all.

So what does it do? It not only perpetuates the inherent unfairness, it extends it.

Our tax laws are unfair because they create huge gaps between what one person is paying, and what a neighbor in an identical home is paying. Equal properties should result in equal taxes; everyone should be paying their fair share. But in Florida, long time homeowners are NOT paying their share. And so the burden goes onto their neighbors who came here more recently.

''I'm standing in my backyard right now looking in my neighbor's house, which is essentially the same,'' said [Stanley C.] Chamberlin, of North Palm Beach, last week. "My neighbor pays about $8,000 in taxes and I pay $23,000, and it's just not fair.''
- Miami Herald, January 27, 2008

This is a result of the so-called "Save Our Homes" initiative. This dismally stupid amendment limited the amount of value that a homestead property could increase on the tax rolls each year. The limit is defined as three percent OR a figure equal to the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less.

Now, I know that SEEMS like a good thing. And if you don't plan on living into the future, it is. But time passes, and property values in the REAL world increase. Or skyrocket.

You've owned your home for ten years. Your neighbor moved in five years ago, and he paid twice what you did, because housing cost do that. He pays a property tax based on that market value of twice your original purchase price; you're paying a fraction of that because SOH artificially reduces the value of your home for tax purposes.

So you own your home; NOW you want to move. The problem is that you've been paying a tax rate WAAAAAAY out of touch with the real world; even if you're downsizing, the price of home is way up; even if you find a house that is equal to your old home's assessed SOH value, the tax rate will be many times what you were paying on your old house. Suddenly, it's cheaper to stay in an oversized house.

Amendment 1 offers a band-aid, but doesn't really solve ANYTHING. What it does it let you take your SOH tax break with you - sort of. The Sun-Sentinel explains this:

"For example, if the owner of a $400,000 home, with an accumulated Save
Our Homes exemption of $300,000, moved to a house valued by the
property appraiser at $800,000, the new house would be assessed at
$500,000 for tax purposes. This would be retroactive to homes sold in
Someone buying the house for the first time would have to pay taxes based on the full value of $800,000.

But none of this addresses the taxes paid by non-residents; the snowbirds.

While homesteaders have had paltry increases based on a fictional 3% increase in property value, non-resident property owners have faced double digit increases every year. Someone has to pay for infrastructure, and it's not the people who LIVE here.

"Save Our Homes" is a classic case of "fuck you, I've got mine!" The so-called "amendment 1" simply increases how much the rest of us are being fucked.

Anyone who supports SAVE OUR HOMES or Amendment 1 is saying "FUCK YOU. I don't care about anyone other than myself. I got mine, FUCK YOU. I'm not paying for fire departments or police departments or hospitals or schools or anyone. I'm barely contributing to society at all. FUCK YOU."

At this point, it's time to offer the sensible alternative.

The PROBLEM with our property tax system is that it's based on VALUE, not SIZE. Value is not a set variable; it can be fiddled with. I can reduce my property's value by not painting it, or allowing it to crumble. Value can depend on things outside my control; or as they say, 'location, location, location!'

I say we scrap that system entirely. No more Fisher Island billionaires getting exemptions because they claim they've been "over valued." No more issues of leaving a big home for a small one but paying a lot more taxes.

Property tax should be based solely on the size of the property. It should use the land and the square footage of the building as the metrics to calculate the base tax rate. Everyone would be paying their fair share, and you would not have the disparity of taxation when you sell one house and move into another.

Amendment 1 does not solve any problems at all; it only expands a very bad system. Vote against it.

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January 26, 2008

I Stand Against Braman; It's the PRINCIPLE.

Norman Braman once again stands against actual progress that would drastically improve the quality of life for residents of Miami and Miami-Dade County.
"Principle is the most important factor in our lives.''
Norman Braman, Miami Herald, January 26, 2008
And he starts wielding his principles by LYING. He claimed that the moneys being used to fund the "mega-project" would be using property tax money intended to help the poor. But the TRUTH is that not one dollar is coming from property tax proceeds.

Recent interviews don't mention his statements about the use of property tax; I guess he realized that such a whopping lie wouldn't slip by. Hey, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe he didn't initially know how the project was being funded.

But he knows now.

The Orange Bowl Principle

His next 'principled' argument? $50 million of the money comes from bonds that were originally earmarked to renovate the Orange Bowl to keep the University of Miami's Hurricanes playing there. But the Hurricanes chose not to renew their lease: the renovation wasn't going to bring the Orange Bowl up to the specifications they now require. So what's Braman's principle here? Renovate the Orange Bowl anyway? Waste the $50 million on a project that accomplishes nothing?

You'd think that some citizen's group would be monitoring that money, and you'd be right. A Citizens Advisory committee was created to oversee the distribution of these funds. So what do they say?
''Fifty million dollars is going to be used for basically the same purpose. I didn't see that as a bad thing. In my mind, I saw this as the voters getting what they approved.'' Robin Reiter, chairperson, Citizens Advisory Committee

With the loss of the Orange Bowl's client, renovating it would have been, in Reiter's words, ''throwing away your money.''

It's ironic, because Braman is responsible for the decay of the Orange Bowl. His campaign to prevent the use of public funds in 1982 to renovate the stadium, already in decay. His "principles" moved the Dolphins to the far end of the county, and left the OB a decaying ruin.

Thanks, Norman.

The Community Redevelopment Agency Principle

Braman is also complaining that Omni CRA money is being used to pay down the construction debt of the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. The Arsht Center IS in the center of that district; and similar projects such as the Broward Center and Palm Beach's Kravis Center absolutely reinvigorated their neighborhoods.

How shocking! The county is actually using community redevelopment money to redevelop the community!

Of course, that frees up hotel bed tax dollars that had been going into the Arsht Center to be used to fund parts of the mega-project such as the Marlins Stadium. And it's the use of public money for the stadium that's his real beef.

The Quality of Life Principle

And let's not forget the last time Braman screwed the people of Miami-Dade County; the half cent sales tax that would have:
  • funded the Expressway system and removed tolls, drastically improving traffic flow at rush hour
  • Funded expansion of MetroRail, bringing the train line farther south and farther west, and extended operational hours, allowing people to forgo driving their cars and reducing traffic.
  • Funded expansion of the bus fleet, which would have resulted in more routes, increased bus frequency, and extended operational hours.
And what quality of life issue is Braman screwing you out of this time? The Port Tunnel, which would remove hundreds of trucks a day from downtown streets. This would ease traffic congestions and noise pollution on downtown streets. It's a scary thing, walking on sidewalks just inches from endless overloaded trucks rushing to the port to deliver their cargo.

Not all of us can afford one of your luxury cars, Norman. I'm sure that I wouldn't hear the rumble or smell the diesel ensconced in one of your expensive toys.

The "Principled" Guy

But let's not paint Braman as a villain; he does give money to charities; he's co-hosted Art Basel, and funded a breast cancer center. He was a leader in the No To Discrimination Committee. He's not evil. He's not even deranged. He's just wrong.

He sees his actions as fighting "government corruption;" and yet where was he during the Urban Redevelopment Boundary fiasco? What was he doing while housing money was being flushed down the toilet? Where does he stand on the Thief of Police, who has violated all kinds of principles during his tenure?

I'm not saying that the plan is not without flaws; no plan ever came out of Miami without flaws. Braman and I even have concurrency on many issues: I don't want to spend public money on a baseball stadium, I don't want to put museums in the park.

But I just have to question anyone who claims to be standing on "principle" and yet starts off by lying to me.

What's that about, Norman?

The Democracy Principle

Braman's official position is that he's against the project because it wasn't put before the voters. He states that we, the voters, should have had a say in how this project is put together, and how it's being paid for.

What he glossed over is that we DID have a say, and that we DO; in the case of the Orange Bowl bond issue, we voted that we, the voters, were in favor of spending money on a sports facility in Miami. As Ms. Reiter, responsible for the disbursement of that money, points out, the money is being used in a manner wholly consonant with the voters' will. And who approved the rest of the project? Our elected officials, the people we voted for to make exactly these kind of decisions.

Braman's REAL beef is that he didn't have the opportunity to spend massive amounts of money to dissuade the mayor and the commissioners. He wants to do what he did in 1982 and 1999; he wants to persuade the voters to act against their best interests by selecting which facts to present to them while suppressing the core truths of the matter.

Braman supports Art Basel, but he also made sure that you have to stop to pay tolls during rush hour, wasting millions of gallons of fuel and costing you hours a week in commute time.

Braman built a cancer treatment center, but he also ensured that you need a car to get around Miami, at the same time guaranteeing you will sit in massive traffic while you attempt to do so.

Braman fights discrimination, but he also drove first the Dolphins and then the Hurricanes to the far end of the county, and allowed a hallowed sports complex to crumble before our eyes.

Remember this, and let YOUR principles lead you, not HIS.

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January 21, 2008

Clearwater Police Clearly Abusive

You pull into McD's for fries and a coffee. The cashier tells you to pull forward and wait; next thing you know, you're in handcuffs and on your way to jail.

It sounds farfetched, but this is just what happened to Jean Merola, a 75 year old grandmother.

According to WFTV, the police officer was behind Merola in line at the drive-through. When she didn't move after he honked his horn, the officer got out and demanded to see her license. When she refused, he pulled her out of her car and put her in handcuffs. She was then taken to the police station, photographed, fingerprinted, and booked. She was later released on her own recognizance.

Key facts:
She was on private property at the time.
She was instructed by an agent of the owner to park where she did.

What is it with the cops in that part of the state? Are they recruiting from some redneck goon squad? This is why people don't trust cops. This jackass should be booted ASAP.

And I hope that Merola sues the hell out of them.

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January 12, 2008

Wiensier Fights Back

Sorry for the gap in posts: I've been very busy at work, so the blogging has slipped.

News this week: Jeff Weinsier is suing the Miami-Dade School Board and the 3 cops who arrested him on false charges.

Weinsier was covering a story outside an area high school last year when police arrested him on a sidewalk in front of the school ON VIDEOTAPE. The cops maintained he was trespassing on school property, but the tape clearly shows that he wasn't on school property when he was arrested, or in the 20 minutes prior to the arrest.

As I predicted back in October, the charges were found to lack merit and were dropped:

"...due to the fact that the defendant was not on school property, it cannot be said that the defendant was trespassing. Since the defendant was not trespassing, anything that was found after he was arrested will be suppressed as a matter of law." - Assistant State Attorney Maggie Gerson

These three cops are the reason police do not get respect from teens; we expect law enforcement to lead by example, and these three jackasses have demonstrated that 1. they don't understand the laws they are paid to enforce, 2. they lack respect for the citizens they are paid to protect, and 3. they have no regard for the civil rights of that same citizenry.

I believe that there should be no settlement that does not include termination and de-certification of the three officers. Their presence in law enforcement degrades our legal system.

January 5, 2008

Now HERE's someone needing to be Tazed...

CNN reports that Bill O'Reilly got a little out of hand at a rally for Obama Barack. According to the report:
....O’Reilly tried to get Obama’s attention after a Nashua campaign event. He allegedly began yelling at Obama’s National Trip Director Marvin Nicholson to get out of the way.
When Andrew Myer was questioning Sen. Kerry last year, the cops grabbed him. And when he protested being manhandled, they used their tazer to shut him up. But not O'Reilly, who didn't stop with yelling and generally being obnoxious:

Nicholson told CNN O'Reilly grabbed him by the arm and started "pushing" him. Nicholson also said that when he asked O'Reilly to stop pushing him, the talk-show host responded that he was "low class."
Barack eventually came over, and O'Reilly got his few minutes to speak with him before the Secret service put him back in his place - behind the barricades.

What does O'Reilly have to say for himself?
"We're sorry we had to have that little confrontation," O'Reilly added, "but no one on this earth is going to block a shot on The O'Reilly Factor. It is not going to happen."
Now there's a guy who needs a good tazering; low-class person, first class jerk Bill O'Reilly.

Maybe next time. We can only hope.

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January 2, 2008

New Year's Resolutions 2008. Seriously.

I've noticed a few of my fellow bloggers posting their resolutions for 2008. They take two basic approaches to this:
  1. I know that I will probably fail because I always have every single other time I've made this resolution, but I'm going to give it one more good try, again, and maybe this time I won't be such a pathetic worthless loser who can't keep their resolutions for longer than a day or two, and that one time I went a whole week.
  2. Fuck resolutions. They all suck and it's a pretentious thing to do. So here's my fucking resolution, fucktards.

I don't often make resolutions at New Years, any more than I wait until Sunday to speak with My Creator. I feel free to speak my piece with Him at will, and I make resolutions as I trip and fall in my daily life.

Taken in context, in this manner, you actually stand a chance of following through with your resolutions:

The morning after an opening night were the open bar lasted a few extra rounds, I might utter something along the lines of; "uuurrrrrrrrr.... I resolve never to do belly shots with English chorus girls." I've taken that a step further: NEVER try to match an Englishman drink per drink; they don't have livers. They can out-drink the Irish, I swear to god.

Testing an open 220 line with a screwdriver to see if it's live: "WHAP! Huh. I won't do THAT again!"

Checking spark plug wires while the motors running: "ZZZZZAAAPPPPP! FUCK!! Sonofa BITCH! Ga....da..... I won't do THAT again!"

Trying to load in the set piece that I let an assistant measure for me three times because I was worried about, but didn't measure myself: "GAHdammit. Never. Fucking. Again. GAHdammit." (See how I also used this occasion to address my Creator? "Waste not, want not.")

But this year, I'm a little unhinged, so I'm going to make a couple of official New Year's Resolutions. Just to break things up. I feel a need to blow out some cobwebs, and make some changes in my life. Maybe it will balance my karma, or cleanse my dao, or something.

  • I will no longer eat grapes for "good luck" in the New Year. I did it the last three years, and each year I've had noticeably WORSE years. I'm a WASP, and I will stick to WASP traditions of blessings and good fortune from here on out. That means champagne* from California and CheezWhiz. It was good enough for grandpa, it's good enough for me.
  • I resolve to stop downloading internet porn just as soon as I finish this last Limewire session.**
  • I resolve to ride my bicycle or use mass transit to do my grocery shopping, except in cases of extreme weather or some other emergency.
  • I resolve to change my guitar strings at least once a quarter, whether I believe they need it or not.
  • I resolve to buy every single one of my friends a bottle of their preferred distilled beverage before the end of this year. Except Tom, who's getting books and t-shirts, too.
  • I resolve to stop audibly muttering "flush that money away, loser; cha-ching!" every time I pass by someone putting a case of bottled water in their shopping cart.
  • I resolve to stop harrassing Jorge at Whole Foods about his irredeemable lack of concern about the health and welfare of people suffering from celiac disease and wheat allergies while I'm in the store.***

I have to say, I feel better about life and everything already. And see? These were all honest, heartfelt, and needful resolutions. The world will be a better place if I keep them, and my soul will be closer to karmic harmony.


* Don't bother commenting that "champagne is only from the Champagne region of France, everything else is sparkling wine." A blight destroyed all roots of all the French grapevines, so everything was grafted onto roots from NEW JERSEY in the early nineteenth century. So it's all US grappa as far as I'm concerned, so shut up and pass the Renault, Pierre.
** You're right, I didn't resolve to stop WATCHING internet porn. Or any other kind of porn. Wanna make something of it?
*** I will, however, continue to blog about it, and send emails to WFM corporate headquarters. I guess I'm doomed to be an asshole about some things.

January 1, 2008

King Mango on 2007: Andrew Meyer

Andrew Meyer's brutalization lives on. I wrote about it earlier, and now King Mango reminds us that yes, sometimes the police go too far.

Andrew eventually plead out, and I don't blame him. He'd a kid who wants to graduate college, and justice in that part of the state is neither blind, nor just. It's backwards, backwoods part of Florida, where cops can beat up suspects, and even kill children in their custody.

King Mango on 2007: Southwest Airlines

As much as I've complained about Spirit Airlines, King Mango reminds us that Southwest is far from perfect.