Letters

DeFede: Tomorrow's Rich and Powerful Corporate Pig? God Bless My .357 Magnum
Jim DeFede seems to be like an ostrich with his head in the ground regarding Micky Arison ("Why's Everybody Always Pickin' on Me?" July 4). First, why pick on Micky Arison and Carnival Cruise Lines? We've sailed on almost every cruise line and they all hire foreign staff. They also have many American employees on each ship, as well as thousands in their offices, and create thousands more jobs for Americans through travel agents, suppliers, people who manufacture the supplies, and so on.

As for the service staff earning small salaries and depending on tips, doesn't every waiter, busboy, maid, and porter in the U.S. have the same pay plan? The ones who earn small salaries by our standards still make five times what they would earn in their own countries -- plus free room and board, the opportunity to travel (which they couldn't otherwise afford), and still they're able to send money home to their families. They aren't locked up on the ship, and 90 percent of them renew their contracts to remain on-board.

As for most ships being registered in foreign countries, Mr. DeFede should be criticizing our government's bureaucracy. Instead of U.S. bureaucrats charging a fair price to register the ships and collect millions of dollars, they have highly inflated registration prices and collect nothing.

Lastly, Mr. DeFede has called Mr. Arison a "greedy corporate pig." Mr. DeFede should be ashamed. Mr. Arison's father Ted started with an old, dilapidated ship, and then with the help of his son grew it into the largest, most profitable cruise company in the world. Isn't this the American dream, and doesn't everyone in our country have the ability to succeed with hard work, intelligence, and diligence?

I do not know the Arisons, but I, being involved with many charities, know how charitable that family has been to a multitude of worthwhile causes. Maybe Mr. DeFede should, instead of writing one-sided, prejudicial stories, dedicate his writing to projects that help people in our country to better themselves. He may one day be famous, too, and possibly own a large publishing company.

Herschel G. Levy
South Miami

I would like to thank Ray Martinez and New Times for reporting on one part of my long struggle to restore a better quality of life to my neighborhood ("To Protect and Unnerve," June 27). Quite often New Times is willing to give a forum to those who can't get the established media to give them a real "tell it like it is" opportunity to discuss issues that are vital to our community. That's what makes the publication interesting, and that's what makes it a regular "must read" for all of us who want a more livable South Florida.

I would like to comment on a few aspects of Mr. Martinez's article. First, for my own protection (and others'), I would like to clarify and correct the New Times accounts of incidents in which I was forced to use a firearm to defend myself.

In the first incident, the very large "disheveled man," in addition to trying to kick out the driver's side window of a slowing vehicle, had also attempted to jump onto the hood of a fast-moving car, almost diverting it into the service station where I was attempting to buy gas. This man had displayed behavior which clearly threatened the lives of others (including his own) before I even considered use of a firearm.

I was on foot trying to get 911 telephoning help from within the station when the subject approached and verbally threatened me. He then diverted his path and followed toward me as I retreated to my car. Not having a clear or timely path of escape because of my handicap, I grabbed my gun from an unzipped bag in my front seat and pointed it at him.

I ordered him to stop moving and put his hands up. Had he done that, there would have never been a shot fired. Instead, as several witnesses can attest, he backed me 150 feet down the length of the station, repeatedly threatening to kill me, before I fired a warning shot. Subsequent shots were intentionally fired low to disable rather than kill this still-charging man.

In the few moments before the second incident, I was not following slowly behind the subjects. I did want to see if they resembled the three people who had just been reported casing cars, but in this county, following closely and slowly behind anyone on foot in the dark is a very bad idea -- and especially if you want to see their faces. When the incident occurred, I was at normal speed trying to give the subjects a wide berth, with the intention of going on several blocks, turning around, and repassing them as they faced me.

When they blocked my vehicle and put a gun to me, I strongly believed that I had been set up for a hit. My auto is widely known to various young hoodlums, and that sudden convergence led me to believe I would surely be killed; I waited for the bullet. When the movement of my dog diverted their attention a second, I exited the vehicle firing. Only some weeks later, after investigation revealed other similar incidents in the vicinity, did I conclude that these teenagers perhaps were only trying to hijack my car (no great comfort you may be sure.)

Unfortunately, the plastic permit card you may be carrying around as a handgun owner only gives you permission to carry a concealed weapon. It does not give you permission (or tell you how) to use it! It is very important for each citizen to note that currently you can only use deadly force when you are in fear for your life, or when the life of another is definitely at risk.

As I found out the hard way, the phrase "in fear for your life" is a very subjective one. If a citizen (or law enforcement officer) shoots a weapon at a person, that action most likely will be given the closest scrutiny. The governing phrase "in fear for your life" will be subject to wide interpretation, quite often by police and prosecutorial personnel who were not at the scene.

Despite the fact that the above incidents passed muster and I was not charged with any crime, I have a large legal bill I ran up trying to protect my rights and to recover weapons confiscated by Metro-Dade County. I also suffered many months of self-doubt brought on by various investigations and the conclusion by one group of police officers, who knew nothing about me, that "I was developing a violent personality." (In fact, I hadn't even slapped at another person more than a few times in 40 years.) If I really stated to Mr. Martinez that "I blew my stack" a few times, that only happened because I was scared silly by the outrageous criminal threats and acts of others.

You should be aware that you do have the right to protect yourself, but that "protection" should be viewed with a wide scope in mind. To protect yourself from legal harm (both civil and criminal), I would advise citizens to avoid confrontations if at all possible -- and especially if you are alone.

Firearms should be used only in life-threatening situations when there is not other choice. If you think that there is a good chance that you will have to use a gun, don't stop with the silly class required to get your permit. Take advanced classes -- even situational street-combat training -- if you can. And remember, in the urban environment, each bullet that misses its target may bring serious harm or even death to an innocent party.

Second, I would like to categorically deny all the accusations made in attorney Milton Hirsch's threatening letter. Following suspicious persons at a distance, on a few occasions, and at the request of others, or observing subjects you reasonably believe may be violating, have violated, or are about to violate the law does not constitute "stalking." Notifying and warning victims of subjects' self-confessed criminal tendencies, or seeking information about suspected criminal activities does not constitute "traducing."

Frighteningly, what Mr. Hirsch and his hooligan-supporting clients really want us to believe is that, to defend our property and lives, we law-abiding citizens are only permitted to call on a "law enforcement" and "criminal justice" system that long ago ceased to be able to protect us, and that we have no rights to defend ourselves with tactics which, while somewhat unconventional (and I'm sure very discomforting to criminals), are really perfectly legal. His letter indicates just how far the law breakers in our society will dare to go to get their way. Make no mistake about it, that letter is a direct threat to each and every one of us who are sick and tired of being pushed around by this undesirable element.

We will ask our local governments just one more time to protect us. If the government of New York City can cut its crime rate by 25 percent in two years, then surely it can be done here. We have mayoral and county commission races in progress. If our failed governments are to have any chance at all in justifying their reason for being, the campaign slogan of these races must address the real number-one issue (as it finally did with the economic one in the 1992 presidential campaign) -- it's the crime, stupid.

Lastly, I would like to say that it's a bit kicky and perhaps even occasionally useful to have a Wyatt Earp image, but that's not really what I'm all about. Strict law enforcement is very important, but it is only one aspect of our community's efforts to revitalize itself. As the thick file I gave Mr. Martinez will attest, my civic achievements, in addition to Crime Watch, include the rejuvenation of a small, faltering homeowner's association into one of the largest, most active, and most successful ones in the county.

We have brought about the replanting of hundreds of trees, made stunning improvements to a county park, worked closely with the business community to restore our hurricane-ravaged, Publix-anchored shopping plaza. We have cleaned up our streets from the blight of graffiti, trash, derelict autos, downed signs, broken lights, et cetera. And lastly, we have tried very hard to be very compassionate and understanding in a very diverse ethnic and cultural milieu -- to help those who are disabled, less fortunate, or in need -- getting them family counseling, cleaning up their properties, helping those who were cheated after Andrew, solving disputes with their neighbors.

Ours is a true heroes' tale about a very proud and courageous group of people -- my neighbors. It's a tale that begs to be told to, and emulated by, the world. Although I currently happen to be the focus of events, I am only one of the many heroes.

God bless New Times and Mr. Martinez for giving me a chance to speak out.
Robert M. Holley, Jr.
Miami

Todd Anthony's brilliant demolition of Eraser was spot on ("Delete When Necessary," June 27). I might add that those who deign to bestow the title "actor" on Conan the Culture Criminal insult the dedicated and often talented folk who work for years to master this great craft. It would be laughable if he didn't hold sway over so many.

And there's the rub. Obviously we have enough knuckleheads buying into this mediocre swill to keep the Teutonic gravy train rolling for a long time to come. That's scary.

Nicodemus Hammil
Miami Beach

When is Sean Rowe going to do a follow-up article on his buddy Ron McManmon ("Shark Bait," April 18), who apparently has mysteriously disappeared into celluloid oblivion. My guess is, if Ron's ex-partners were to actually do a shark rodeo, they would probably use Ron as bait -- that is, if anyone can find him.

So, Sean, how about some real investigative reporting? Three possible leads come to mind: (a) Ron ran away to join an order of Buddhist monks in Tibet, (b) he joined up with his old Special Forces unit deep undercover in Laos, or (c) he attempted the 100-foot free dive in search of the $100 bill and never returned.

Kent Bonde
Miami Shores

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