Archive for November, 2007

Turkey Soup is on!
November 22, 2007

I am not a real big fan of Turkey. Unless it is mesquite smoked with green chili dressing, the bird is nothing I really relish. But Turkey soup, that’s another story. I keep an eye on the Thanksgiving Turkey, watch it sliced, eaten, enjoyed. What I am waiting for is the moment when I say, “are we through with this?” That’s when I grab a big old stock pot, break down the bones, pour in several quarts of water, and anything I can find in the refrigerator that will flavor the soup. I have herbs that I grow in our backyard garden. I toss in a few of them, fire up the burner till there is a light boil then put it on low. The next day: Turkey Soup!

Next step, pull out all the bones, place the soup in the refrigerator, next day scrap off the fat that rises to the top of the stockpot.

My favorite is to serve the soup, especially if it has lots of meat, over a bed of rice with a slab of white cheese. The melted cheese really gives the soup and rice additional body. I prefer seasoning the final product with some La Victoria Green Taco Sauce. That’s real living and how I like my Thanksgiving Turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Dermer gone! The Beach won’t be the same!
November 21, 2007

I gotta tell ya I am going to miss Mayor David Dermer. A new Mayor was sworn in Wednesday. We wish her luck. Matty Bower is a true character but Dermer was one-of-a-kind. Dermer made it fun to cover Miami Beach Government. I am sure there are plenty of folks out there who are not unhappy that he’s termed out and out the door. I know that he could drive bureaucrats and politicos crazy and one tourism official I know would clinch his fists and pop neck veins when he heard Dermer’s name. I am not here to judge his tenure as Mayor, I’m not a political reporter, but when Dermer was on an issue it was intense. It was fun to watch him walk into a room. He’d size it up in a second, note who was there, and work the crowd like it was his last campaign. I always got a kick out of the picture he had outside his office. A shot of he and his father, young David sitting at his father’s desk on the phone. His father was Jay Dermer, Mayor Jay Dermer, Miami Beach’s youngest ever Mayor. Like father, like son, David grew into the chair and did very well. Always quick with a quip, he gave me a hard time one day during a press conference. Later he called to apologize. I really appreciated that, showed some class. Dermer was a non-stop event, always on the move, energy at all times, he could wear you out. I think we are going to miss that.

Joe Cool Custody Battle. Is it about the Money?
November 20, 2007

Members of the Branam family were in family court the other day. There is a battle among family members over the custody of Jake and Kelly Branam’s children. Jake and Kelly were on board the Joe Cool when apparently they and two crew members were murdered. Their bodies were never found. A murder trial in federal court for two suspects is on the horizon. Meanwhile the Branams are trying, with the help of a family court judge and a bevy of lawyers, to sort out the fate of the children. They are currently in the custody of their great grandfather who is apparently antagonizing other family member concerning visits. That aside a new wrinkle in the unfortunate and tragic family dispute reared its head.

The mother and aunt of Kelly Branam, Jake’s wife, brought into court a respected Miami probate attorney. Adrienne Promoff discussed the difficulty of the situation since there is no official pronouncement if the couple is living or dead. It does appear that the wife’s relatives are keeping a sharp out on the value of Jake Branam’s estate. Jake’s family, who live on Star Island, appears to have significant resources. The two children would be eventual heirs. Kelly’s mother Leanne Van LaarUttmark wants temporary custody of the children.

Leaving the courthouse Adrienne Promoff told the news media that, “We certainly will be looking at the assets.”

Miami Federal Court House Sick?
November 13, 2007

“Hank, it is really bad, I have nose bleeds and headaches,” a long time acquaintance I have in the Old Federal Courthouse told me. The Dye Building is sick I was told by the person who has toiled in the architecturally and historic building for years. “What I can’t understand is none of the TV stations or the newspapers have paid much attention to it.” My source went on saying that the new Federal Courthouse built on the old WTVJ site on Miami Avenue was plagued with problems and moving out was not coming soon enough.

A number of other workers confirm the concerns. A Daily Business Review article indicated that Chief Federal Judge Federico Moreno urged court personnel to visit their physicians if they feel they have problems.

The Courthouse problems surfaced when Judge Ted Klein passed away due to what Law.com described as a mysterious respiratory disease. Julie Kay who writes for the site has detailed what workers feel is an unusual amount of mold, contaminants and toxins, especially on the upper floor where the roof has leaked over the years.

A high profile plaintiff attorney is poking around the issue.

“Please do something for us,” my contact asked me. He was visibly upset.

The shutters are down!
November 12, 2007

I have been checking the water temperatures in the Atlantic and the Caribbean and looking at the calendar, it gets dark real early now because of the time change. Paneled windows put a gloom on the house. I know that Hurricane Season is not officially done till November 30th but I have declared it over at my house. All the shutters are now down off the east side of the house. I have started cycling out the hurricane food stored in the closet and with fingers crossed hoping that there are no surprises out there. I did start my generator as I do every month, put air in the tires and wheeled it into the back of the shed. We are looking at accordion shutters for a number of windows and hope to accomplish that over the winter. I also unpacked my travel bag and took my foul weather gear out of my SUV, aired it out and have it in the closet. Whew! We got lucky again! So did the insurance companies.

It is good to be King
November 11, 2007

Shut up, Spain’s king tells Chavez

Spain’s King Juan Carlos told Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to “shut up” as the Ibero-American summit drew to a close in Santiago, Chile.

The outburst came after Mr Chavez called former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar a “fascist”.

Mr Chavez then interrupted Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s calls for him to be more diplomatic, prompting the king’s outburst.

Latin American, Portuguese, Spanish and Andorran leaders were meeting in Chile.

It is good to be King!

It is good to be King
November 11, 2007

Spain’s king tells Venezuela’s Chavez to “shut up”

By Manuel Farias and Pav JordanSat Nov 10, 3:59 PM ET

Spain’s King Juan Carlos told Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Saturday to “shut up” during closing speeches by leaders from the Latin world that brought the Ibero-American summit to an acrimonious end.

“Why don’t you shut up?” the king shouted at Chavez, pointing a finger at the president when he tried to interrupt a speech by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Zapatero was in the middle of a speech at the summit of mostly leftist leaders from Latin America, Portugal, Spain and Andorra, and was criticizing Chavez for calling former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar a fascist.

It is good to be King.

Hard shot fired at Brigade 2506
November 9, 2007

The federal court law suit filed on behalf of former Cuban Air force General Rafael del Pino makes for interesting reading. The General made a daring 1987 escape out of Cuba flying a small plane and landing in South Florida. He has been a bit of a controversial figure since with some members of the exile community. The suit alleges that local radio and TV hosts, most who are associated with broadcast properties operated by the UniVision network have urged del Pino be executed, have given his address out on the air, have labeled him a traitor, have dubbed the plaintiff a undercover agent for the Castro regime. Also name in the suit the 2506 Brigade and several of the groups officials.

As a young fighter pilot in the Cuban Air force del Pino flew critical missions against the 2506 Brigade as they assaulted the Beach at Playa Giron (The Bay of Pigs). del Pino’s T-33 chopped up the aging B-26 bombers exile pilots were flying. It is now that many in the Brigade are critical of del Pino who has authored some opinion articles urging the possibility of negotiation with Raul Castro and also criticism of what he termed Miami’s right wing Cubans. Members of the Brigade went on a local TV show and got pretty tough with del Pino who had appeared on an earlier show and whose comments were inserted in the show via video tape.

And how does the suit describe the now aging members of the 2506 Brigade, del Pino’s one time foes and once again enemies:

“The original members of Brigade 2506 acted under patriotic loyalty to ring democracy to Cuba. Today, Brigade 2506 no longer represents the energetic modern Cuban community, but rather, Brigade 2506 predominately consists of old retired CIA supported self designated “Cuban Patriots” who actively pursue donations from “right wing” foundations so that they will enjoy a comfortable retirement. Brigade 2506’s current purpose is no more than an effort to seek publicity so that its member personally will not be forgotten, nor unsupported.”

There is more to read, but for sure, del Pino won’t be cocktailing anytime soon with members of the 2506 Brigade.

The suit, which has been assigned to a Federal judge, alleges that the actions of the Brigade members and the Radio and TV hosts quelled del Pino from exercising his right to free speech and he was verbally assaulted by the Brigade 2506 and its officers.

Florida Keys Snapshot of Real Estate Woes
November 9, 2007

I had a friend send me some real estate statistics that detail the slow down of real estate sales in South Florida. It is a snapshot of the home sales in the Upper Keys. The area includes Lower Metecumbe Key to Key Largo, the Northern end of the Keys. The news is not good. During the time frame from September of 2007 to September 2008 the number of home sales dropped 19%, the value of sales dropped 17%, and it took an average of 241 days to make a sale which is 26% more time as compared to a year earlier. The good news is the average sale price was 2% higher in the same period. Further down the island chain in the Middle Keys the total number of sales fell 25% and Key West was flat dropping a mere 0.5%. Keys Radio Host and mortgage broker Josh Mosner says the numbers are right on. He feels the crunch in his office. The figures were taken from the MLS Board Key Largo to Key West. Not a pretty picture in the Keys, but indicative of what is going on throughout South Florida. With the credit crunch, high taxes, insurance rates and the uncertainty of tax reform the South Florida Real Estate Market is in the crapper.

Atlas Shrugged and South Florida’s Middle Class
November 2, 2007

They said they were leaving and sure enough they did. All the window shades were up. I could see into my neighbor’s house. The rooms were bare. The kids toys were gone from the back yard, no car, no van, the white picket fence gate was ajar. Smokey the dog was nowhere to be seen nor heard.

My mind flashed to Ayn Rand’s classic 1950’s novel, Atlas Shrugged. The books plot line includes the world’s brightest minds, industrialists, scientists, entrepreneurs, philosophers, disappearing, simply vanishing as government imposed more taxes, more curbs on creativity and the ability of expand economically. The elite went away and the country went into economic doldrums.

In the case of my neighbors it is the disappearance of middle class professionals. It is something we are seeing more and more in South Florida. Ayn Rand, the sometimes described elitist, probably would have never written a novel about the middle class “worker bees” disappearing. Never the less it is a pretty good story.These folks are medical professionals. They held good jobs at high profile South Florida facilities. Active in their community they have three kids in elementary schools.

They had to get out.

Taxes, insurance, mortgage, unhappy with the local schools, gas and food prices soaring the list of issues plaguing this otherwise happy family of five.I was a bit taken back when they told us they had found new jobs, bought a new home, and had checked out several school options and were moving as soon as possible. The biggest shocker: their home sold in 22 days, a huge bit of luck in this slow real estate environment.They are, I guess, getting settled out west, a state a good distance away from South Florida.

Moving companies claim that they are hauling more people out of Florida than they are bringing in. I remember well during a Florida Keys hurricane evacuation talking to a guy who had a U-Haul trailer hitched to his pick up. “Hell, I am not evacuating, I am leaving town for good,” he told me. “Can’t find a house, don’t make enough money, car insurance is killing me.” That was three years ago, not much has changed. People are still leaving, not only to the Carolinas, Georgia, but now Tennessee, and Texas.

Eventually in Atlas Shrugged the nation’s greatest minds emerge from their self imposed exile as the government oppression collapsed from lack of economic and political leadership. The question is will my neighbors ever return? Will the thousands of other Floridians who have fled the Sunshine State return? I doubt it. Again they are not the economic elite but they are the professional middle class that makes the economic engine move. And who will replace them?Our neighbors were in the medical field. Check the classifieds and see how many medical sector jobs are available. Hospitals and clinics are begging for help.

Atlas Shrugged and they are leaving town.