Letters from the Issue of April 18, 2002

Is the only good fish a dead fish?

Hooked: I Killed a Hammerhead

But I was young and foolish and under the spell of Mark the Shark: I was glad to see Mike Clary finally bringing to the public the issue of killing South Florida's sailfish and sharks ("Hooked on Death," April 11). Many years ago ignorance led me and some friends into the world of "monster fishing" with Mark "the Shark" Quartiano, the charter captain mentioned in the story who is based at the Biscayne Bay Marriott marina. I must say the article brought back terrible memories of that February day.

It wasn't just the killing of a 200-pound hammerhead or the pressure to purchase the mount that led me to wonder about this charter captain's integrity. I was surprised when all my pictures came back from the photo lab overexposed. I was told by the technician that someone had opened the camera, allowing light inside and thus causing the overexposure.

Now, I'm not insinuating anything, but I will say that our captain was nice enough to volunteer to take photographs of us. Three weeks later, with only memories of our trip, I received in the mail a nice packet of photographs with the boat's logo. They could have been mine if I would send cash, check, or credit card. I wonder if that happened to customers Robert De Niro and Will Smith.

I very much enjoyed reading "Hooked on Death" but I fear it did more to promote guys like Mark the Shark than they deserve. On top of being a disgrace to the fishing community, they go way beyond the limits of business ethics. The story also may have tainted South Florida's fishing community to outsiders. Most charter captains in Miami are very environmentally conscious and practice strict catch-and-release methods.

By the way, in case you were wondering, we never heard back about the mount, and I took the liberty of making copies of those nice, expensive photographs. Then I returned the originals.

Edsel Gonzalez

Miami

Hooked: Institutionalized Death

After years of hard work they've finally perfected their killing machines: It's about time somebody had the guts to publicize the slaughter of game fish. As a Miami native and avid fisherman I have watched in disbelief as the charter and commercial fleets have worked vigorously to eradicate our billfish and shark populations. All the while the regulatory bureaucracy has averted its eyes or lined its pockets with kickbacks from the industry. There is no place and no excuse for this unrelenting, self-interested waste in South Florida or any other port of call.

Charter captains like Stan Saffan and especially Mark Quartiano cannot be allowed to continue in this manner. Because of their success thus far, there are no longer "plenty of fish in the sea." Thanks to New Times for this timely article. Let's hope it starts the ball rolling in the right direction.

Randy K. Lay

Oakland Park

Hooked: Skipper, Do You or Don't You?

Be sure to get an answer before leaving the dock: I am an avid fisherman and wholeheartedly believe in the catch-and-release of sailfish. The charter captains will never stop killing fish, and Gray Taxidermy will never stop courting the charter captains. Education of the general public and our visiting tourists is the key to catch-and-release.

Visitors need to know they should ask a captain what his standards are regarding catch-and-release. If the captain believes in killing billfish, the tourist should find one who doesn't. Customers are always right, and they need to have this discussion and make this decision before they leave the dock.

It takes articles like "Hooked on Death" to keep the issue alive.

Stephanie Gordon

Coral Gables

Hooked: The Angler's Education

First lesson covers bloodthirsty troglodytes: Thanks to New Times for having the conviction to print "Hooked on Death." Educating the fishing public is our best defense against these dinosaurs and their outdated views on respect for our natural resources.

Troy E. Taylor

Boynton Beach

Hooked: Thanks for Making Me Puke

Free weekly excels in revolting nausea: I remember reading an article in New Times a few years back about the shady towing practices in Miami Beach. It was at this time I came to the conclusion that New Times is easily the best local news source in town. This week's article about the revolting fishing practices in Miami further illustrates what a great job New Times's writers are doing.

Mike Clary did an admirable job of exposing the disturbing practices of Miami's fishing industry. The idea of hanging these splendid fish on a wall to display as a trophy is sickening, and while I don't completely support the catch-and-release policy some have adopted (I can't imagine that the fish much enjoy it), at least some in the fishing industry are showing an interest in conservation.

On a side note, let me congratulate Celeste Fraser Delgado, Tony Green, and the rest of the New Times music section staff. Their articles are a great way of keeping abreast of the local music scene, and they provide real insight into music that may otherwise be overlooked. Thanks for helping me plan my weekends.

Joel Yanovich

Miami

How the Cuba Embargo Changed My Life

I went from dumb to smart and Republican to Democrat: Kirk Nielsen's enlightening article "Heretics in the House" (April 11) provided excellent and detailed coverage of the conference "The Time Is Now to Reassess U.S. Policy Toward Cuba," which took place March 28.

In the year 2000 I ran for state representative from District 117, and in 2001 I took a shot at a seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission from District 6, both times as a Republican. Although I did not win my elections, I did gain insight and experience in the process. Among other things, I realized that more than half the Republicans I met are leaning toward lifting the Cuba embargo -- at least privately.

After 43 years of the same rhetoric, no real progress for establishing democracy in Cuba has been made. The worst part is that many of these Republican voters and elected officials fear giving their opinion publicly because polls indicate a majority of Cuban-American exiles do not want to lift the embargo. Therefore the exile radio stations and press make it very difficult for Cuban Americans to offer a truthful opinion. After all, some of them have re-election campaigns to consider. So they opt for the easy road and pander to pro-embargo sentiments in their speeches and on the radio. If they don't they will be chastised, called communists, and ostracized by the self-appointed, so-called real Cuban patriots. These types of exiles have learned plenty from the Cuban dictator they claim to hate so much. I am sure they would love to censor all press related to the anti-embargo theory.

It is appalling and disgraceful that U.S. Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen would state that members of the Cuban Committee for Democracy are agents of Fidel Castro, particularly when they attack real patriots like Alfredo Duran, my uncle and president of the committee, who put his life on the line for the liberation of Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion, when he was apprehended and imprisoned. Moreover, Mr. Duran had all his family property and assets confiscated by the communist regime.

He is not an agent of Fidel Castro and he does not have any vested financial interest in Cuba. In fact he cares so much about human rights and establishing democracy in Cuba that he considers the vicious attacks by his fellow exiles to be a minor sacrifice. Mr. Duran and members of his organization show true leadership and courage. They should be commended, not maligned and slandered.

Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen have accomplished one thing politically: They have made a lucrative career for themselves by pandering to and exploiting Cuban-American and Latin-American elderly voters. But voters need to know that the issue of the embargo has nothing to do with party affiliation. Republican and Democratic elected officials alike make promises to overthrow Castro. The reality is that they have failed. I suggest they become more open-minded and understand that maintaining the embargo goes against the essence of true democracy.

I have recently become a Democrat because I believe that Democrats have delivered most of the benefits the immigrant population is receiving. But at the age of eighteen I registered as a Republican hoping they would help overthrow the dictatorship in Cuba. That was my mistake. Lack of experience led me astray as a voter, but now I see with more clarity.

I hope others like me will listen to the Alfredo Durans in this community, those who have proven true leadership by exhibiting patriotism with class, decorum, and respect for our country, the United States of America. They are voices of reason amid the demagoguery so prevalent in South Florida. Kudos to Alfredo Duran and the Cuban Committee for Democracy, for it is they who have begun to pave the way for others to voice their honest assessment.

Ana Alliegro

Miami

Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lehtinen Condemn Embargo!

Cuban lawmakers shaken by visit to island, vow reform, U.S. engagement: I doubt that U.S. Rep. William Delahunt's advice to Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- "It's time for Ileana and Lincoln to go to Cuba" -- would do anything to change their minds. Going to Cuba certainly didn't change the mind of South Florida's other proponent of the Cuba embargo, Rep. Peter Deutsch, whose trip, from the U.S. perspective, could hardly have been more embarrassing. I doubt either Ileana or Lincoln could top it.

If you'll recall, back in February 2000 Deutsch (D-Pembroke Pines) donned a Florida Marlins baseball cap, left his congressional I.D. behind, and hopped a tourist flight from Cancun to Havana for two days of clandestine meetings with dissidents. The congressman -- who has voted not to allow tourist travel and sales of food and medicine to Cuba -- brought with him hypertension medicine, vitamins for dissidents, and a bra for a female cancer patient. Displaying a keen sense of statesmanship, Deutsch also brought leaflets of a smiling Elian Gonzalez, "because he had heard that Cubans see only unhappy pictures of the child in Miami."

In a scene that borrows heavily from 007 (or was it The Spy Who Shagged Me?), the Miami Herald described how he visited dissidents. "Rather than make appointments in advance, Deutsch said he used freelance taxis and had drivers drop him off a block or more from the dissidents' home. Then he would arrive, unannounced, after walking the wrong way up a one-way street."

While eluding Cuban security forces, Representative Deutsch even found time to comment on visits he had made to other police states. Of a trip to Damascus, Syria, he said, "I made a judgment that [President Hafez Assad] can speak for a long time without going to the bathroom." When Lincoln Diaz-Balart was asked about Deutsch's trip, he replied, "Hopefully, there will finally be a United States congressman who will not come back either brainwashed ... or having had a pro-Castro agenda."

Deutsch would later tell the Sun-Sentinel: "I saw firsthand the repression.... I saw the fear of real people, the cab drivers and the waiters and the people walking in the street. Except for government officials, I had the feeling no one wanted to be there. There can be no compromise with this government ever."

Oh well, so much for Representative Delahunt's idea. While it might sound logical to simply have Ileana and Lincoln go to Cuba to see for themselves, Deutsch's trip clearly proves that you can lead these horses to water, but you can't get them to stop the demagoguery long enough to drink.

Scott Sutherland

Miami

Editor's note: Owing to a reporting error in "Heretics in the House," a principal sponsor of the "The Time Is Now" conference was misidentified. The Dante Fascell Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution is not affiliated with the University of Miami's Dante B. Fascell North-South Center. New Times regrets the error.

Pizzi's Honors

He's so good I'd call him from jail: Regarding Jim DeFede's "Pollution Solution, Part 2" (April 4), rock-mining and blasting opponent Michael Pizzi, who was left out of the meeting between County Manager Steve Shiver and the rock-mining industry, didn't mention that, in addition to being a member of the Miami Lakes Town Council, he is also a fighter for clean water, a fighter against unwise development, a protector of environmentally significant land, a fighter for the rights of Northwest Miami-Dade's residents and the area called West Miami Lakes, a fighter against landfills in neighborhoods, and a protector of historic Indian mounds.

Were I ever arrested, I would not hesitate to use my one phone call to contact this gentleman attorney.

Thanks for all your good works, Michael. Keep it up. Want to run for county mayor? You should!

Alan W. Rigerman, president

Palm Springs North Civic Association

Northwest Miami-Dade

How Do We Love the Winter Music Conference?

Let us count to ten first: Regarding New Times's Winter Music Conference supplement (March 21), I have a new name: WMC = Wasted Money Conference.

I'm a former disc jockey from an out-of-town radio station and now reside here. I can't tell you what a waste this conference thing was. I've attended this for five years now and I've seen the same DJs playing at the best clubs here (Little Louie Vega, David Morales, Armand van Helden, the Sneak), not to mention the outrageous prices to hear them spin for the one hour they do. None of this is any different from the last time I visited a club except that it's during the day and everyone is kissing butt to the DJ in hopes of being noticed. (Stupid.)

First was Ultra Fest, or shall I say Ultra Line, because all you didwas wait on line. Plus there were no barriers to organize a line. People who didn't have a ticket and were waiting to purchase one were crammed in with ticketholders, all waiting up to two hours in the 85-degree afternoon heat (it felt like 100 degrees). If you didn't just give up, as some $50 ticketholders did, once you finally got in you were thirsty and hungry and had no problem getting the food. But get this: Not one food vendor sold drinks. You had to wait on a separate line for that, which I did for about one hour for two five-dollar bottles of water.

Then at 8:00 p.m. there was supposed to be a WMC welcome reception for conference badgeholders. At 8:30 p.m. my wife and I left -- there was no welcome reception. Over at the Surfcomber, where the WMC was holding events, it was a bust. I shelled out $450 for my artist to perform in the new-artist showcase. I was told by WMC staff all the industry A&R people would be there, and they bugged me for weeks to enter. I also shelled out $25 for one of my DJs to enter a contest where (get this) all DJs were given eight minutes. Mine was given five minutes after the other six were so lousy and embarrassing to hear. Doesn't anyone listen to the tapes they were supposed to have submitted with their money?

All the "world-renowned DJs" who weren't even registered at the WMC were forcing the badgeholders to be at their events, shell out $35, and miss the panels at the convention center in order to try to talk to their favorite DJ. (Isn't that the reason I shelled out the bucks for the badge in the first place?)

I mean, most of the people who attend are trying to get their foot in the door and would like to submit their undiscovered talents to these people, not try to get through the door at Opium, crobar, or Spin. How sad.

I'm pleased to say that at least Nikki Beach was free. Thanks, Eric. You know, we should all look in the dictionary to see what the word "conference" means: talking, not clubbing or seeing what famous DJ can be a dick. As for the WMC staff, you guys really must get this thing more organized. Seventeen years, man. What a waste of money for DJs who have to buy records weekly.

Lee Gordon

Miami Beach

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