Letters to the Editor
The Missing Mayor's Buttered Bread
He may be a snake in the grass, but he's our snake in the grass: I read Jim DeFede's slanted article concerning Mayor Alex Penelas ("The Dead-End Kid," November 16). While I can understand those who feel the mayor is a political snake in the grass, I would expect more from a political writer like Mr. DeFede.
DeFede writes about Penelas's lack of support for Al Gore: "Penelas supporters argue there really was nothing the mayor could have done to aid Gore, because Cuban Americans were still seething over the raid." That says it all.
Gore is viewed as Clinton's man, and Cuban Americans tend to hate Clinton these days. Penelas needs his Cuban-American base. If he ever attempted to run for office outside Miami, you would see that now infamous press conference popping up everywhere in campaign ads for his opponent. Alex knows where his bread is buttered. As long as he only has to campaign in South Florida, he will win elections.
Eventually the Democrats will need a Cuban American to support them in South Florida. They will call on Penelas because, frankly, they have no one else. Penelas may help if it suits him, or he may not.
The Missing Mayor's Snappish Sibling
Enough is enough is enough already: Please let my mother rest in peace!
In "The Dead-End Kid," Jim DeFede once again mentioned her. Cut it out!
DeFede is correct that my mother installed great ambition in her sons. After all, she came to this country, as do most immigrants, to make a better life for her progeny. Politics, however, was the last thing she wanted for any of us. My father was a revolutionary in Cuba. The trials she suffered as a wife and mother left no doubt in her mind that politics was the last thing she wanted for her children. But when she was convinced this was what Alex wanted, she became his biggest supporter.
It serves no purpose to mention her, except for the obvious touch of drama. But it does hurt those of us still trying to cope with her sudden and untimely passing. So please stop.
The Missing Mayor's Maturity
That presidential spanking was pointless: Alex Penelas's disaffection with the Democratic Party is also the disaffection of the Cuban-American community. I believe he is just interpreting the feelings of this community toward the Democrats. If I may speak for this community, of which I am a member, it was not the Elian issue itself that turned the hearts of this community but the raw violence, racism, and isolation we felt. Were the Democrats trying to build bridges toward this community after Elian?
According to Jim DeFede, President Clinton spanked the mayor, and the mayor reacted like a petulant child. Well, Mr. DeFede is wrong. Neither Mayor Penelas nor we in this community are children. We are mature adults who know how and where to use our votes. And my community and Mr. Penelas have spoken loud and clear.
I do believe the majority of Cuban Americans want Mr. Penelas to leave the Democratic Party and take 300,000-plus Cuban-American votes with him wherever he goes. I am very proud that this community went out in force to vote and shaped the outcome of the presidential election. As for the Democrats, I believe they are now feeling the sense of disenfranchisement and isolation Mr. Penelas and my community suffered. What goes around, comes around.
via the Internet
The Missing Mayor's Inept Chronicler
Columnist finally crawls out from under rock: I found Mr. DeFede's whining bleat about Alex Penelas rather funny. The fact that Mr. DeFede can't understand why Mayor Penelas would abandon a very lame Democratic nominee who is a known liar is a reflection on the lack of Mr. DeFede's values. One has to wonder where he has been the last eight years. Maybe under a rock?
Mr. DeFede writes: "Instead Penelas abandoned Gore months ago and then jettisoned the Democratic Party after he won re-election in September. Under different circumstances that type of selfish arrogance might have gone unnoticed in the commotion of a national election. But with the presidency of the United States now being determined by a handful of votes in South Florida, Penelas's absence in the concluding weeks of the presidential campaign takes on colossal significance."
The part here I like is Mr. DeFede's use of the phrase "selfish arrogance." That sort of thing is to be expected when a columnist looks at the facts and realizes that even a politico has more in the way of values and intelligence than the writer. So thanks for running "The Dead-End Kid." It's always entertaining and educational to find out just how shallow and inept some newspaper columnists are.
A Credit to Himself and the School System He Serves
And trolling for hookers has nothing to do with it: I was interviewed by Rebecca Wakefield for her article about Norman Lindeblad, former director of the school district's Office of Professional Standards, who was arrested on charges of soliciting prostitution ("Still Employed After All Those Leers," November 9). Afterward I did some research and found a school-board rule regarding the responsibilities and duties of permanent personnel. It begins as follows:
"All persons employed by the School Board of Miami-Dade County, Florida, are representatives of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. As such they are expected to conduct themselves, both in their employment and in the community, in a manner that will reflect credit upon themselves and the school system." (Emphasis added; school board rule 6Gx13-4A-1.21.)
What's missing in Mr. Lindeblad's case? Obviously clear-cut negative consequences are missing if the salary decrease associated with his new job won't take effect until July 2001. And meanwhile, as reported, Mr. Lindeblad received a salary increase.
Those who make the rules need to be ready, willing, and able to enforce them now -- not July 2001, like some delayed payment plan advertised by a local furniture company.
Dreams of School District Accountability
Be prepared to sleep for a long, long time: As an attorney, and as a favor to a friend in the school system, I looked into several allegations of abusive conduct by a security guard at one of Miami-Dade's junior high schools. After being told by teachers and counselors at the school that they had witnessed the abuse by the security guard on young students, I immediately contacted Norman Lindeblad.
I advised him of the situation and informed him that I could deliver to him signed affidavits from the teachers by the end of the day. Mr. Lindeblad, as the head of the Office of Professional Standards, wanted nothing to do with the matter and began screaming for no apparent reason. I suggested that the security guard be suspended with pay until the matter was fully resolved. Mr. Lindeblad actually had the nerve to tell me that "no one tells him how to do his job." Real ego! He showed no emotion about the complaints but began screaming when he thought someone was telling him how to "do his job."
Luckily the guard was forced to resign (without Mr. Lindeblad's help). A few months passed and then I read that Mr. Lindeblad was caught on Biscayne Boulevard allegedly soliciting an undercover cop posing as a prostitute. His arrest for solicitation, and my experience with him, demonstrates that he is in no position to be involved in the education of our children.
Having been involved in the protracted legal dispute against Demetrio J. Perez, who attempted to run for the District 7 school-board seat by claiming to have lived in a shed, I can't say I am surprised to hear about another sad turn involving the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Perhaps eventually we will clean up our schools and place some accountability in our elected board members and administrators. Unfortunately it seems we will still have to wait.
Just who is on drugs here? After reading Brett Sokol's "Raver Madness" ("Kulchur," November 9), I have to ask: Who funds organizations like the Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community and people like Coalition communications director Bernie Diaz to open their mouths and spew lies? If cough syrup contained MDA, it would be the most popular over-the-counter medication in history!
These people must be on drugs themselves because there is no way an intelligent human could come up with such "facts" unless he was hallucinating. Misinformation is the main reason for society's negative view of the rave community, not to mention the rave community's role as a scapegoat for America's failed war on drugs.
If more people supported groups like DanceSafe there would be fewer drug-related injuries at raves, and therefore less for the media to exaggerate.
What you should know about your child's chronic cough: Bernie Diaz of the Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community is quoted as saying, among other banalities, that Robitussin cough syrup contains the illicit drug MDA. This is incorrect. The true active ingredient in Robitussin is DXM, dextromethorphan. Saying that Robitussin contains MDA could actually prompt teens to increase their abuse of cough syrup, as MDA is believed to be a more "desirable" substance -- at least in the world of illicit drugs.
Let's please ask the Miami Coalition not to lead us into hell with their well-intentioned lies.
Ghamal de la Guardia
What Your Child Should Know about Risk
One dead raver is one too many: "Raver Madness" was very informative, especially to a "square" like me. I'd never heard of the Harm-Reduction Conference or of DanceSafe, but I'm very happy to know that there are concerned citizens out there willing to do more than just preach abstention to young people in our communities.
As we all know, young people -- and people in general -- are going to do exactly what they want to do, when they want to do it, and worry about the consequences later. While this is not the most responsible attitude, people do make mistakes and everyone grows up in his or her own time. But this does not mean we should simply let people die from their youthful misadventures. We as a community want to encourage our young people to begin thinking about their actions and realizing the risks they are taking.
I say kudos to DanceSafe for testing those drugs and thereby promoting communication between the ravers and themselves -- people who can offer guidance and support instead of just passing judgment.
The messenger messed up the message: On behalf of the Miami Coalition, I formally request that significant portions of this letter, corrections in particular, be published in New Times as soon as possible in rebuttal of Mr. Sokol's slanted and often erroneous article.
As for corrections, Mr. Sokol first erred (his own notes notwithstanding) in his quotation of my comment on the effects of Robitussin cough syrup. I mentioned to the assembled that MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) not MDA, or Ecstasy on the club scene, was present in Robitussin via its derivative chemical compound, DXM (dextromethorphan). According to David Gauvin, Ph.D. and a Drug Enforcement Administration psychopharmacologist, when not consumed orally, DXM is often extracted from over-the-counter cough syrups like Robitussin for inclusion in Ecstasy tablets. Furthermore there is plenty of anecdotal evidence as to this abuse, which Mr. Sokol failed to question but did erroneously quote me as saying, "Oh, we've done studies." That quote is merely a fabrication of his imagination. Mr. Gauvin, however, has quoted the Marquis Field Test as evidence of Robitussin abuse.
As for Mr. Sokol's alleged and nonexistent Miami Herald conspiracy in sponsoring our event and having financial ties to our organization via Knight Ridder, it is a nonissue. We did purchase at public-service rates (as any not-for-profit can and does) ad space [in the Herald] featuring an open letter and advance information of our event. By policy the Herald attaches its logo as a cosponsor to these ads as part of its public-service commitment to all not-for-profits. Apparently Mr. Sokol failed to research that fact, which is a very common practice in media marketing, including broadcast.
The Herald factually covered and reported on our event in its October 29 edition. Where's the smoking gun here? I did not omit mention of this institutional policy as it had little or nothing to do with the event, its message, and its coverage. I would dare say that many if not most of the Herald's editorial staff and management are even aware that Knight Ridder is one of our many private-sector supporters.
Finally, with regard to our friends at DanceSafe and the Third Annual Harm Reduction Conference, we respect their views and their well-meaning attempts to reduce harm among youth. Yet their agenda contradicts their own platform. Their founder, Emanuel Sferios, was recently quoted on 60 Minutes II as saying, "If a pill tests positive for Ecstasy, that is no indication of purity. And even if it is pure, that's no indication of safety. No drug use is safe." Yet they "neither condemn nor condone the use of drugs, but provide people with information so they can make informed choices."
Well, friends at DanceSafe and New Times, which is it? It's not safe, or you can reduce the harm and it is safe? Their position is clearly contradictory. I suppose by that logic the harm-reduction crowd would prefer that young people chew tobacco and smoke cigarettes with filters and cut consumption from two packs to one per day? Or perhaps they would prefer checking handguns for trigger locks and cleanliness just prior to a gang war? Abstinence on this issue, not harm reduction, is clearly the best way to safeguard our families.
We at the Miami Coalition merely believe in utilizing clear, concise, and tested information to educate the public about the dangers of drug use, and then let their good common sense respectfully dictate their choices.
Bernie Diaz, director of communications
Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community
Brett Sokol replies: I'm sure Bernie Diaz believes his intentions are good, but scare tactics and misinformation, such as the statements Diaz now seems embarrassed to have uttered, aren't helping anyone. As for David Gauvin, if he truly believes hoards of drug dealers are somehow extracting DXM from bottles of Robitussin, his Ph.D. should be revoked.
Ballots Are Not Bullets
When cops and prosecutors quarrel, we all lose: If there was any doubt after reading Tristram Korten's "Friendly Fire" (October 26) that Alberto Milian was unfit to serve as State Attorney, his and PBA [Police Benevolent Association] president John Rivera's exiling from their post-election "celebration" a Herald reporter with whom they disagreed (under threat of arrest, no less) sealed the deal. After all, what's the real importance of constitutional freedoms like speech, press, and assembly anyway? But now that Katherine Fernandez Rundle has been re-empowered for another term, there is work to be done and deep, though perhaps mis- and ill-conceived, wounds to heal.
Police and prosecutors at odds makes for more than bad press. It makes for bad decisions. It forebodes serious violations of personal liberties. It threatens the smooth operation of the criminal justice system. And ultimately it undermines public confidence in the rule of law.
Throughout American history we have held steadfast to the ideal that how a humane criminal-justice system treats its outcasts speaks volumes about the type of people we are and the tenor of the society in which we choose to live. Simply, rights that do not belong to the worst of us cannot belong to the best.
It is understandable, though, that in the competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime, police officers do not appreciate such nuances. But that's not their job, technically. We are a legal culture based on myriad systems of checks and balances. Hence the prosecutor, particularly the chief prosecutor, is charged with the responsibility for far more than putting away criminals. That's the easy part. No less an authority than our nation's highest court has so spoken.
In the Supreme Court's highest ideals, Kathy Rundle, not Al Milian, is the "servant of the law," the one who ensures these uniquely democratic philosophies: to fairly prosecute guilty people and ensure that the innocent are exonerated.
Her opponent took a far different tack -- a self-proclaimed bully who fashions himself and his ideals above the law and who has already demonstrated a proclivity to abuse the limited power and privilege with which he was vested. When it comes to law enforcement, Mr. Milian was no defender of the constitution. And when it comes to being "tough on crime," people like him are intent on two things and two things alone: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. He offered no real solutions, no utterly lawful or practical ones, anyway. Of the two, Kathy Rundle is the true prosecutor and deserves the opportunity to continue to serve us.
Nevertheless, irrespective of right or wrong -- of the police union's desire to exact retribution for whatever cause, or Ms. Rundle's reciprocal reluctance to "make deals" -- the county's crime fighters must come together if not for their sake, then for ours. That many in our community defied logic to vote against Rundle as a protest in the still-tender wake of Elian is even more reason.
There may be no such thing as perfect justice. And truth is surely elusive at times, particularly when cops, lawyers, and politics lend a helping hand. But let there be no mistake: There was only one amber path down which to travel and seek community peace while preserving fundamental freedoms. The electorate correctly chose not to follow the bully. Their faith and good sense should be returned in kind.
H. Scott Fingerhut
Reverend Darby at the Pulpit
Prejudiced eyes will never see clearly: I've just read Juan Carlos Rodriguez's article about Rev. Tommie Watkins, the prospective African Methodist Episcopal minister who was not ordained because of his sexual orientation ("All God's Children Except Some," October 26). While I do appreciate the apparent intent of his article, I would make a notation and a suggestion.
I'd note that prospective clergy in the AME Church are admitted "on trial" at the annual conference. That means that they are "trying" the church and the church is "trying" them. That does not involve evaluating the genuine nature of their call to ministry but means helping them to prayerfully decide whether they are called to ministry in the AME Church and are willing to embrace the doctrines and positive law of the church.
I work with incoming clergy in my conference and have had the great joy of seeing them grow. I've seen some of them grow in other denominations because they realized for various theological and personal reasons that the AME Church was not for them. In those cases I've helped them to find new denominational homes and have rejoiced to see them placed where the Lord would hopefully have them to be.
In addition I'd make a suggestion as the director of public information for my Episcopal district and as the father of a budding journalist: Get your facts right. Mr. Rodriguez's article clearly reflects that he packed up his preconceived notions, went looking for trouble, and found it. He obviously spent no time whatsoever in finding out how the AME Church is structured and operates. Had he done so, his descriptions and terminology with regard to what he observed would have been more balanced and would not have shown his evident intent to condemn the church without finding out how it works. I know that to be the case because his description of the annual conference shows he simply sat and observed and did not seek to learn or practice journalistic balance and impartiality.
Mr. Rodriguez's capricious and arbitrary article is typical of those who view the black church through the tired and myopic eyes of their own prejudice. His cursory and demeaning portrayal of the AME Church, which simply served to justify the "newsworthiness" of his story, was insulting to me as a member of the church. I was also insulted that he portrayed Bishop John Hurst Adams as some kind of religious Neanderthal. I had the pleasure of serving under Bishop Adams for eight years and know him to be one of the more insightful, sensitive, and progressive bishops of our denomination. I do, however, understand why Mr. Rodriguez chose to use Bishop Adams's remarks to him as a prop for his argument. Bishop Adams can be refreshingly plain-spoken, and he does have a refreshingly low tolerance for arrogant and self-serving fools and bigots.
I hope Mr. Rodriguez will take these comments to heart and let them help him as he grows as a journalist. Perhaps he can then objectively and impartially deal with both sides of controversial issues and avoid leaning on his obvious misconceptions about people of color to make a point about homophobia.
Rev. Joseph A. Darby
Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal Church
Charleston, South Carolina
Reverend Paris at the Pulpit
Know what you speak of before speaking harshly: Juan Carlos Rodriguez should get a copy of The Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and study it. There he will find the answer to his question, which will allow him to correct all the errors about the AME Church contained in his article.
Then he should read and study the first five books of the Bible. He will understand how and why God forbids the "practice" of homosexuality. He might also study the first chapter of Paul's epistle to the Romans. After he completes this, he will have walked a mile in my shoes. Then I would be interested in seeing his rewrite of the same article.
In other words, you must know God before you can criticize His law. Blessings.
Rev. Alton E. Paris
When Is a Sanctuary Not a Sanctuary?
Reverend Watkins, come on up to Arkansas: If a person is not welcomed in church, where is he welcomed? Thanks to Juan Carlos Rodriguez for writing a most interesting article about the AME Church and its beliefs. Hopefully this is a regional issue and not the thinking of the entire church.
I have been AME all my life and knew there were issues with which I did not readily agree, but I never thought for a second that the church would totally ignore someone, as they did Rev. Tommie Watkins. Richard Allen, its founder, would be ashamed of this action. Three years ago I left the AME Church because it does not honor its discipline, and I am glad I did.
I invite Rev. Tommie Watkins to come to Arkansas and my hometown. He would be very welcome. We are now nondenominational and proud of it.
Church with a Conscience
That wouldn't be AME, not yet anyhow: I found Bishop John Hurst Adams's views on sexuality distressing but not at all surprising. The AME Church, of which I am a member, has some way to go before it is in the position of being able to progress past the issues of sexual orientation.
The AME Church, however, did just find itself in the position of accepting a woman in its highest ecclesiastical ranks. So while I may not be happy with the decision to deny ordination to Rev. Tommie Watkins, I believe gays and lesbians must continue to push the church on this issue. The critique of our homosexual brothers and sisters calls the church back to her conscience.
Michael Joseph Brown
Candler School of Theology
McIntire: Out of the Darkness
Pain trumps embarrassment: Even though I am one of the few to support David Villano's article about Alex McIntire ("Admired in Life, Reviled in Death," October 19), I am confident in my decision. I have read the letters refuting the article, but the point is this: What you do in the dark will always come to the light. If Alex McIntire's admirers feel otherwise, they are simply biased. Just for a moment they should consider the pain and scars that Lisa Hamilton and her family will live with for the rest of their days, and not just the embarrassment the article has caused McIntire's family.
I had never before heard of Alex McIntire or Lisa Hamilton, so this story, from my point of view, was about a pedophile who hurt an innocent child and hoped to never get caught. Any remorse he suffered was well deserved. Any parent will agree that these dangerous people are one of our greatest fears when we entrust our children to schools and send them into the world.
May everyone realize that if you want to be respected in life and in death, you must first learn how to respect others.
McIntire: Better Public than Private
And better spoken than silent: I was really bothered by the scathing attacks New Times received regarding the article about Dr. Alexander McIntire. The parallel is the criminal justice system: It is better that ten guilty people go free than to convict one innocent person.
Build as many empires as you want. Add as many titles to your name as possible. What counts in the end, and what those close to a person seem to remember, is how he or she treats others.
I recommend that the whiners who wrote in to assail New Times do two things before they jump to any hasty conclusions: 1) Listen to the voices of the faint-of-heart. Most times what they've got to say speaks louder than a multitude of accolades. 2) Go home and read the First Amendment. The value of words is often taken for granted -- until it's your turn to speak.
McIntire: Of Human Interest
His defenders were conned: I am disgusted by all the self-righteous letters New Times received regarding Alex McIntire. It seems this protective clan has promoted several recurring ideas: 1) McIntire was not a "public" person, 2) hence there was no "news value." 3) He was unable to "defend" himself, and 4) no "mystery" was solved. 5) Joe McCarthy is invoked: "Have you no shame?" 6) New Times is a yellow-journalistic bugaboo; it is the National Enquirer, the Star. 7) Most laughably, the story did not even rise to the level of a human-interest story, and besides it's all been said before (here Sophocles is invoked).
Apparently most of the leaders of this gang knew McIntire. One was a learned professor, another an ex-president of our favorite Darwinian organization, the "Mensa Collection." This genius suggested the victim, McIntire's stepdaughter, might have been angry playing second fiddle to McIntire. (Is a penis-envy charge also possible?)
To say that McIntire must be a "public" person to be newsworthy is to say that 99 percent of the human population is of no importance to journalism. To say that his story must be something never covered as far back as Sophocles is to reduce this pool to almost nothing. Every story involves the same things: greed, love, hate, courage, betrayal, and so on. To say that "Admired in Life, Reviled in Death" had no human-interest value is astonishing in itself.
To those who complained that no mystery was solved, I suggest Agatha Christie. To the rest of us with memory of this event, a lot of vital information was provided. The police hinted at something terrible, but left everyone hanging. Sounds like human interest with news value to me.What could explain this bizarre event?
Well, now we have a hint. When McIntire was seeking out ever more selective cliques within cliques within Mensa, he should have focused more on Joe McCarthy, who was a lying, drunken hypocrite condemning "un-American" values. McIntire, in a more private way, was showing off his knowledge of civilization while doing something that violates the very idea.
As to New Times being the Star, no less than Ted Koppel complimented the tabloids on some of their reporting during the O.J. trial. But that assumes New Times is now into celebrity worship and fashion coverage. Charging New Times with yellow journalism is as easy as McCarthy challenging patriotism.
Yes, it's unfortunate that the innocent family of Alex McIntire was subjected to this, but if that's the standard -- never hurt innocent friends and family under any circumstances -- almost all investigative reporting would be wiped out. Innocents are always involved.
The ruling-class Mensa clowns and the genteel professor types can be aghast at David Villano's article and at New Times for publishing it, but please answer this: Do you think McIntire, in all his intelligence, would feel so smart knowing he'd been exposed to the people he conned? And what about those defenders of his who were conned? This type of exposure threatens their image of themselves and their right to feel superior.
Let's not be faux Wilsonian by making the world safe for (intelligent?) child molesters.
A King on Earth and in Heaven
Adolph was great down here, and he'll be great up there: We want to thank Tristram Korten for covering the untimely and tragic death of Adolph King ("One Less Good Man," October 12). It is shameful that a prominent and important figure in the black community can pass on virtually unnoticed by the mainstream media. Many loyal customers and friends agree that such a death in the white or Hispanic community would have received the attention it deserved.
Adolph was a successful businessman, family man, and friend who not only meant a great deal to those who patronized the King's Stable, he meant the world to his family, friends, and even his employees. He provided us with jobs and genuine friendship. He gave his community a safe, decent, and professional place where mature blacks can gather, meet, dance, and unwind together. Adolph took a corner location and made it into a real neighborhood bar. He took his job seriously, he did it well, and we all miss him so very much.
He made the Stable a second home, not only for him but for all the regulars and occasional customers looking for a nice place to have an old-fashioned good time. While the King's Stable is open again for business, most of us still can't believe Adolph is gone. He put his mark on this place in a way no one can ever forget. His hard work paid off, and his vision of a great establishment was realized in his lifetime.
Now Adolph has moved on to his new home, and we know he is running things up there just like he ran things down here. We are consoled by the legacy he left us and in knowing that he is now in a better place. And every night we can almost hear him shouting from his new home the same thing he used to shout nightly from the home he made here: "God, I love this place!"
Reuben L. Tobler
Curtis M. Tillman
King's Stable employees
Erratum Owing to an editing error, artist Gary Fonseca was not credited for his Boy Scout art work in Freedom Rocks, reproduced in "Separate but Equal in Art" (November 16). New Times regrets the error.
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