Santiago Portal: It's the national origin, stupid
Santiago Portal: It's the national origin, stupid
Jonathan Postal

Fear? No, Evil

The amount of research and study that has been brought to the subject of "the eternal battle between good and evil" in the 21st Century is truly amazing. It seems to overflow from the pages of university dissertations, newspapers, popular psychology books, and comic books with such spellbinding regularity that the subject can clearly be identified as an "idée fixe*" in the consciousness of the human population. This column attempts to highlight examples of this kind of scholarship on an ongoing basis, as they occur to The Bitch. Contributions are welcome. It is her hope that much humor and self-revelation will occur through these efforts.

*(Fr.) a fixed ideal; obsession.

Morning in the Subtropics
A new development in local presidential politics emerged last week on the sidewalk outside the Versailles restaurant in the photogenic persona of 62-year-old Santiago Portal, who is president and founder of the 11-week-old, virtually microscopic Peace Justice Progress Party. His picket sign read: "No Kerry. No Bush. A Cuban for President Now."

What's wrong with Bush? "Bush doesn't have any plan for governing," Portal complained. And what's wrong with the junior senator from Massachusetts? "The problem with Kerry is the same," he submitted.

But don't think that Portal, an adiabatic engineer who is trying to invent a motor powered by water and water pressure, is the rare exile who praises Fidel Castro. Like many Cuban Americans, the inventor was an early Castro supporter until el comandante's obsession with Marxist-Leninism took hold after the 1959 ouster of the Batista regime. Today he has a different issue with Fidel: "The problem with Castro is that Castro is an official of the government of the United States."

Portal says the PJP doesn't have a candidate yet but is currently accepting applications for that position. Candidates for candidate should familiarize themselves with the PJP platform. Among its 24 planks are:

1. Eliminate taxes paid by retirees.

2. A comprehensive insurance plan for everybody.

3. Minimum wage: $7 per hour.

4. Two weeks vacation for everybody.

5. A 50 percent discount in gas for owners of four-cylinder cars.

6. Prison without bail for negligent parents.

7. Total elimination of drug traffickers.

8. Eliminate the power of all child abusers.

9. Televised trials of corrupt police officers.

10. People who are not born in the United States can be president.

11. The White House should be in Miami.

12. Immediate naval and aerial blockage against the Castro-communist regime.

"This movement has shark's teeth," Portal warned.

Some political watchdogs might have missed Portal's manifesto unveiling while their attention was on a press conference inside Versailles. There, Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez said the Democratic Party is attracting many new, friendly Latin members. As evidence he noted that listeners respond to him differently when he does radio guest spots. "I used to get cremated. Not anymore," he assured. Then ubiquitous pollster Sergio Bendixen presented some new data that held both bad and good news for Democrats. "We're not going to get the Hispanic vote in Miami-Dade County," he declared. "But we're going to win enough of it for Kerry to win Florida."

Observing While Black
King Downing, the man in charge of the American Civil Liberties Union's national racial-profiling awareness campaign, came to Miami Beach for Memorial Day weekend to assess the city's tension level as police and mostly young, black revelers met in the streets amid allegations of hip-hop surveillance and hostility from cops toward partiers.

The 51-year-old Downing, who is African American, was promptly arrested.

"It's a perfectly ironic situation," says Downing's local attorney (and occasional Bitch tormentor), John De Leon. "He's one of the foremost profiling experts in the country."

Downing was on the phone with Terry Coble, president of the local ACLU chapter, when police arrested him early on the morning of Tuesday, June 1. Downing was observing an arrest on Ocean Drive, standing about 50 yards from the officers, talking on his cell phone and taking notes. "He was surrounded by a group of police and told to clear the area," DeLeon says. Coble, on the other end of the phone, heard Downing arguing with the police, saying, "I'm a reasonable distance away."

Downing says the officers threatened to break his wrist if he didn't comply with their orders. He was charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest without violence. But doesn't someone have to be doing something worth getting arrested for in order to resist arrest in the first place?

Police reports give a little context to the situation: Officers were called to Ocean Drive to break up a fight. Michael Zelaya of Pembroke Pines, who was involved in the fight, broke away from the group and ran from the police. In his unsuccessful escape attempt he forearmed a police officer, who was knocked off her bicycle and injured. Downing was watching police arrest Zelaya when the cops told him he was standing in the crime scene -- none of the police documentation says where Downing was standing.

Murder in Coconut Grove
Defense attorneys for Anthony Lee, the man accused of gunning down Coconut Grove businessman and socialite José Calvo in Calvo's driveway in September 2003, say a ballistics report from the Miami-Dade Police Department crime lab bolsters their theory that Calvo's wife Denise was the killer, not Lee. Since the shooting, police have recovered only one gun fired in the incident: a .38-caliber Colt revolver Denise told police she emptied at Lee while he fled. A DNA analysis found Lee's blood in the stolen 1989 blue Honda Civic hatchback that served as his getaway car. But detectives have only one spent bullet in their possession. They got that from Denise's father, Michael Caligiuri, two months after the shooting. Caligiuri said he found the projectile on a windowsill inside the Calvos' garage. (The feds called Caligiuri a member of the Gambino crime family while he was a fugitive for nine years; he eventually served five years in prison for racketeering and cocaine possession with intent to distribute.)

MDPD forensic specialist Thomas Fadul concluded that the bullet could have been one of the six that Denise fired. But owing to damage -- "corrosion and erosion" -- he could not make a conclusive match to the .38 caliber Colt.

Unless detectives link Lee to a gun, it will be easy for his lawyers to raise the specter of reasonable doubt and continue pointing their fingers at Denise. "You have one bullet, probably fired by Denise's gun," submits Robert Barrar, one of Lee's attorneys. "You have no other bullets there. And if Anthony is firing shots at either Denise or the husband, you're going to find some physical evidence to back that up. There is none." Which means Lee's lawyers can still float the notion that the bullet that went into the back of José Calvo's head and out his right temple could have been the one that landed on the garage windowsill and could have been fired by his wife. The State Attorney's Office confirms the investigation into Denise Calvo's possible role in her husband's death is still open. Through her lawyers, Calvo has maintained her innocence.

Chambered, Tabled, Closed
Irrepressible, relentlessly self-promotional, unembarrassable Seth Gordon, when not lobbying vigorously on the right of the Bacardi liquor conglomerate to make undisclosed political cash gifts, spreads goodwill as president of the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce. Disgruntled chamber members tell The Bitch that Gordon recently orchestrated a sort of surprise impromptu election to install new chamber board members, disallowing absentee ballots with no warning. One new board member is Manny Alonso-Poch, whose Commodore Plaza-based Academy of Arts and Minds, now scheduled to open in August, has been plagued by code problems.

Klingon Cats
The Bitch thinks she may have discovered the real reason Merrett Stierheim often looks so cranky at Miami-Dade School Board functions -- and it's not from fretting over his muddled legacy or grinding his molars to a nub over Rudy Crew's big house. The problem is that late-night cat orgies have been keeping the soon-to-be-former superintendent awake all night. It seems that the south-of-Miami Village of Pinecrest, where Stierheim resides, is overrun with stray cats.

This according to an irate e-mail Stierheim's wife, Judy Cannon, sent to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez. Cannon berated Martinez for not supporting legislation to require cat owners to register their roving pets.

The unsupervised cats, Cannon complained, reproduce with abandon, having "orgies that sound like Klingon mating rituals" in her garden, and sometimes leaving dead kittens there as well.

Larry Buck, a Miami-Dade Police Department lieutenant, told The Bitch that while the county only requires dogs to be licensed, neither dogs nor cats are permitted to roam. "That would be in violation of the law for the pet owners," not the pets, Buck clarifies.

Cindy Hewitt, executive director of Miami's Cat Network, says Cannon's complaint is a common one: "People feel about stray cats kind of how they feel about landfills. They have to go somewhere but not in their back yard." She adds, "There's just nowhere for these animals to go."

People who want to find out about helping homeless cats can call the network at 305-255-3482.

The Little Strange Things
Here are some of the possibly edible by bonobos, so-called food items being distributed (shown actual size above) during the Design District's gallery and showroom walk, which took place this past Thursday: a medjool date wrapped in a piece of bacon, acquired, strangely, from a place that offers very expensive kitchenware, and what The Bitch believes to be the tiniest piece of cheese in the world.

(Some) Sounds of the Caribbean
Kevin "Ital-K" Smith, whose late-night weekend show Sounds of the Caribbean was ripped from WLRN's airwaves this past November, has quietly returned to the station's broadcast forum. Smith, a traffic director at WLRN-FM (91.3), is host to the weekend edition of the BBC World News and fills in as well on Clint O'Neil's Caribbean music program in O'Neil's absence. "I'm still working towards the reinstatement of my shows, the Sunday and Monday weekend edition of Sounds of the Caribbean," Smith tells The Bitch.

Another one of the few outlets in South Florida for Caribbean news and music, WAVS-AM (1170), was recently sold, raising the question as to whether the new owners will keep the Caribbean-centric programming intact. Rumors are circulating that another AM home for Caribbean programming, WSRF-AM (1580), is up for sale as well.


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