Friday, October 24, 2014

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Millionaire populist Philip Levine is 'so happy' he's Miami Beach mayor!

Miami Beach Mayor Philip 
Levine's official portrait. 
(Click here to enlarge.)
There's an interview with Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the October/November 2014 issue of Worth magazine.

If you've never heard of Worth, that's okay, I haven't either.

According to its website, it's a magazine that "addresses the relevant financial, legal and lifestyle issues unique to high net-worth individuals." (That definitely leaves me out.)

Levine is getting ready to mark one year in office. But in that year, he's never given an in-depth interview to the Miami Herald, a newspaper he despises. On the other hand Levine has no problem asking the Herald to print his op-ed pieces. He likes getting his message out minus the annoyance of a reporter asking a lot of pesky questions, so the Herald's op-ed page is perfect for him. In other words, he's a hypocrite.

Levine also likes to reach his constituents on platforms that he can control completely: Facebook, Twitter, etc. Leave a comment he doesn't like and you get blocked.

So when Worth magazine contacted him for an interview, Levine was more than happy to cooperate. Because, as you'll see below, there weren't that many tough questions.

But aside from that, the interview is both intriguing and revealing. Levine opens up to writer Richard Bradley in a way he hasn't with the Herald or any South Florida reporters.

(In response to one question, Levine says that while campaigning door-to-door early last year, he got "thrown out of many buildings," presumably for trespassing.)

Below are some of the Bradley's questions and Levine's answers...along with some analysis by yours truly, in blue.
Introduction: Five years ago, Worth profiled Miami Beach businessman Philip Levine, who had stumbled into a job giving talks to cruise ship tourists and parlayed that into a company called Onboard Media, which created content—everything from magazines to in-cabin TV programming—for cruise lines. In 2000, Levine sold Onboard to Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy for a reported nine-figure sum. He lived well, invested in some real estate and acquired a reputation for dating models. The question our profile asked: What would Philip Levine do for his second act?

It took a while, but last year we finally found out: Levine ran for mayor of Miami Beach. Decrying the incompetence and cronyism of local government, Levine, who had never run for political office before, spent $2 million in his quest to govern a city of 90,000. In November 2013 he won with just over 50 percent of the vote.

Actually, he squeaked by with 50.48% of the votes cast...hardly a mandate. 
Worth: So if the business is fun and profitable, why run for mayor?

Levine: I just always thought it’d be something I’d like to do when the time was right for me. And then, of course, I have a tremendous friendship with former President Clinton. Being around him and around world leaders, and seeing all the good that he’s done with the Clinton Global Initiative, everything else that he’s done in his life….
Name dropper.
Worth: What I was really driving at was the personal life aspect of running for office. You’re a single guy with a reputation for dating beautiful women. Did that give you pause?

Levine: I’m not married, so for me, it’s not an issue. I don’t have a criminal record. I’ve got a great credit history.
A mayor who dates beautiful models, who is not a criminal, and who has a great credit history. What's not to like?
Worth: Other than Clinton, were any politicians a model for you?

Levine: [Former New York mayor] Michael Bloomberg. If I could be 10 percent as good as him, I’d be very happy. He’ll go down, in my opinion, as one of the greatest American mayors.
Name dropping again. But he forgot to mention Winston Churchill, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. 
Worth: Who were your opponents?

Levine: I was running against a gay Hispanic commissioner named Michael Góngora, who was my main opponent. A comedian named Steve Berke. And an Israeli gentleman who’s very unique.
A prominent Miami Beach resident emailed me this observation: "I HATE to be politically correct but his description of Michael Gongora is...offensive to me. Would he have said 'a black commissioner?' Or 'a white commissioner?' Come on."
Worth: Was there a watershed moment for you in making the decision?

Levine: I was so sick and tired of seeing people run for office or people in office who have two characteristics. Number one, they’ve never been successful at anything in their lives. Number two, they want to run for office to help themselves. These are both horrible characteristics.
Interesting. So if we're to believe Levine, he spent $2 million of his own money to get a job that pays $10,000 a year...and he doesn't want to help himself? He wants nothing in return? Really?

Also, Levine recently hosted a reunion of former Miami Beach mayors. According to Levine, they all ran for office because they'd "never been successful at anything in their lives and wanted to help themselves."

Oct. 8, 2014: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine hosts a group
of former Miami Beach mayors who, according to him, had "never been successful at anything in their lives," until they ran for office.
(Click image to enlarge.)

Worth: How long does it take to knock on 6,000 doors?

Levine: It took me about seven months. I went through cans of suntan protection spray.
What in the hell is "suntan protection spray?"
Worth: You didn’t get a lot of union support during the campaign. Why not?

Levine: I knew I was getting no endorsements. What’s amazing about unions and media is, they love the status quo. The police union supported my opponent. The fire union supported my opponent. The AFL-CIO supported my opponent. The Miami Herald couldn’t have been more against me.

Worth: How do you explain that?

Levine: Failing businesses usually fail from the top. I used to laugh and say that when I started my new business, I made more money in my first year than the Miami Herald made in the last 10. But their editorial board was aggressively against me. They saw a rich guy.

Worth: You got Bill Clinton’s endorsement, though.

Levine: Two weeks before the election, President Clinton came down and did a press conference with me. The Herald was like, “Are you sure it’s President Clinton?” (Laughs.) These are fakakta companies.
There's a reason why I call Levine, Mayor Dickhead. He's earned the name. In three questions, he manages to diss the Miami Herald, not once, but twice. Good luck in getting the Herald to print your next cheesy, blowhard op-ed, Mayor Dickhead.
Worth: You’re taking on some forces that have more tangible structural power than the office of mayor here does.

Levine: Well, that’s the beauty of being a Bloomberg-esque type mayor.
You're name dropping again, Mayor Dickhead.
Worth: Policy goals aside, are you enjoying the job? Are you having fun?

Levine: I love every minute.

Worth: Every minute? There’s nothing about this that you don’t like?

Levine: I wake up every morning and I’m so happy I’m mayor.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine engages in a little 'hero self-worship'

In this rare, un-retouched photo, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine visits 
paratroopers on June 5, 1944, moments before the troops boarded 
transport planes bound for Normandy and the June 6 D-Day invasion. 
Photo courtesy of the Office of Miami 
Beach Mayor Philip Levine. (Click image to enlarge)

South Florida's most self-important and narcissistic politician, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, recently penned an op-ed piece for the Miami Herald that talked about his city's fight against sea level rise.

The reason I know this is because he's been endlessly promoting it on Facebook.

But Levine doesn't provide a link to the piece on the Herald's website.

Instead he posted the op-ed on a website he uses to communicate with his constituents.

A possible reason for not linking to the Herald may be that some unknown editor at the paper appears to have performed a little surgery on Levine's grandiloquent prose.

Perhaps channeling Mahatama Gandhi, Levine begins his piece in his usual modest style:
The truest measure of any society, or any person, is the willingness to protect a future they will never personally experience.

Call it what you will - caring for others, having a conscience, paying it forward - but this is precisely what defines and motivates the best in all of us. This is especially true when the cause is universal, the effects are close to home, and the outcome is uncertain.
So far, so good.

And then come these three lines:
Like America's "greatest generation," who, at a critical moment in time, stood together to defeat the terror of Nazi Germany.

Like President John F. Kennedy, who stared down Kruschev-like dictators banging shoes on tables to claim what was never theirs.

Like President Ronald Reagan, who inspired a nation to believe again after a prolonged time of doubt and despair.
No, you're not hallucinating. Philip Levine is actually comparing his city's fight against sea level rise with the fight against Nazi Germany.

However, it's unknown why those lines didn't make it in the paper. A bit much, even for the Herald? We'll never know.

But Levine saves the the best for last with these two paragraphs that did get in the paper:
[T]here's nothing I won't do, no place I won't go, to seek the answers to one of the greatest challenges society as we know it has ever confronted.

As Great Britain faced an impending invasion during World War II, Winston Churchill said, "We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Modesty is not one of Mayor 
Philip Levine's strong suits. 
(Click image to enlarge) 
In just 726 words, Levine manages to compare himself to "America's greatest generation," John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Winston Churchill.

Really, Mayor Levine? Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy?

You can't be serious.

I suggest you look up "megalomania" or "narcissistic personality disorder" in the dictionary and then seek out the services of a competent psychiatrist. You have some serious issues.

Previously: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is now a published author!

Philip Levine, Miami Beach's not-ready-for-primetime mayor, traveled to Washington DC this weekend and made a complete ass of himself

Sunday, October 19, 2014

'Where is the bottom?'

In 1981 the Miami Herald's daily circulation was somewhere around 421,000. Sunday circulation was near a half-million copies.

By 2008, the paper's daily circulation had slipped to about 240,000, and Sunday was 311,000.

In 2010 - according a page on the McClatchy Company's website that hasn't been updated in years - the Herald's daily circulation had fallen to 191,873 daily, and 263,612 Sunday....or less according to other numbers. 

In Oct. 2010, Herald veteran Aminda Marques Gonzalez was named the paper's executive editor, succeeding Anders Gyllenhaal.
"I am thrilled to have Mindy take the helm of the newsroom at the Miami Herald, then publisher David Landsberg said. "She is an outstanding journalist with a deep personal connection to South Florida. She is uniquely qualified to lead us into the future." [Source]

However, according to a recently filed publisher's statement, [embedded below] the Herald's daily print circulation is now at about 86,000 copies, and Sunday is 157,000. (Last year's publisher's statement listed the daily circulation at a little more than 94,000 copies daily, and almost 174,000 Sunday.)

Put another way, in the four years since Marques Gonzalez took "the helm" at the paper, the Herald's daily circulation has dropped by more than 105,000 copies, and Sunday's loss is almost the same - about 106,000.

"Where is the bottom?" one former high-ranking Herald staffer asked in an email that's now making the rounds.

Miami Herald, Oct. 9, 2014, page 4A.
Click here to enlarge.

Earlier this year Marques Gonzalez told Ocean Drive Magazine: "A big percentage of our revenue now is digital; I think we’re at 20 percent."

So how is the Herald's website doing?

Quantcast counts 14M impressions per month and 4.7M unique visitors. That doesn't include their blogs.

And for all you data freaks, there's a wealth of information on Quantcast's website.

For instance, 39% of visits to come from people who are just passing through, but who account for almost 75% of the site's visitors on any given day.

So while the website numbers are nothing to sneeze at, Marques Gonzalez and company still have a way to go before the paper's digital revenues catch up with, or surpass print.

Is Marques Gonzalez up to the task? For an answer to that, look at her track record so far.

Or as one Herald insider told me in an email last April:
The executive editor actually boasted recently about 20 percent of the Herald's revenue coming from digital means. Think about that - after all of this time and effort, only 20 percent of our revenue is coming from the newspaper's only hope for the future, digital. And that's 20 percent of an overall revenue base that steadily diminishes as print circulation and advertising evaporate. That's hardly boast-worthy.

Anybody wanna buy some ads?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Random Pixels reader accuses Herald reporters of being 'lazy'

A little over four years ago, 23 Miami Herald journalists, alarmed at the growing trend of using tweets and anonymous reader comments in stories, complained to their colleagues in a rant posted on the paper's internal bulletin board.
But perhaps most disturbing, on Tuesday we allowed an anonymous poster, "unhappyatjackson," to suggest that one Jackson employee "needs to be fired" while another, Marvin O'Quinn, "needs to go to jail." When did the Herald decide it was appropriate to allow people to attack others ... perhaps libel them ... in print, and anonymously?

Fast forward four years.

Below is part of an email I received this morning from a long-time reader of this blog who took issue with a recent Herald story that included anonymous comments from the blog, exMiami...a blog that Miami New Times describes as a "mysterious real estate news site."

From the email:
I am horrified [that] professional journalists [at the Herald], are too lazy to do research or verify what's being put on the blog, [exMiami] and are quoting them as an authoritative source.

Last Sunday, for example, Andres Viglucci and Hannah Sampson had a page 1A piece in the paper about the proposed museum/office tower that Bruce Berkowitz wants to build on Biscayne Boulevard.

Too lazy to actually, like, go ask real people what they think about the design of the building, Viglucci/Sampson simply quoted from the comments section of exMiami.

From the story:

The Fairholme building’s unusual design and prominent location, though, seem sure to spur a lively public debate. When renderings were posted on the website recently, one commenter called it “awful” and another compared it to the Jawa Sandcrawler in Star Wars. But others embraced it just as forcefully: “YES YES YES! I love it!” went one fan. “Bravo!” went another.
So, according to our paper of record, anonymous commenters on an anonymous blog whose backers and motivation are unknown are THE SAME THING as real people standing in the public square having a "lively public debate."

This is terrible, very bad journalism. How does Viggluci know that these comments are being made by independently-minded people and not shills for a special interest related to the project? How does he even know it's more than one person making these posts?

FOOTNOTE: Andres Viglucci is one of the 23 Miami Herald reporters who, four years ago, signed the internal bulletin board post that decried the use of tweets and anonymous comments in the Herald's news stories.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

'Ladies and gentlemen, we have an extremely peculiar situation right now.'

One word sums up the beginning of tonight's gubernatorial debate....

Okay, maybe 18 words....

charlie crist, fan, rick scott, florida debate, #fangate