Showing posts with label Florida. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Florida. Show all posts

27 June 2021

Blue Light Special


Back in the summer of 1980,Miami was an open town. The Cocaine Cowboys were riding high with cash, guns, killings and lots of product. Enterprising pilots, flying under the radar, clandestinely dropped parcels of cocaine and bundles of marijuana into the swamps to be recovered by ground crews. Mother ships loaded with marijuana out of Colombian ports ran the high seas headed north. Dealers used grocery sacks to take their money to the bank. Get in a wreck with a van load of marijuana on the Interstate? Walk away, there will be another load. Homicide cops responding to killings of major league dealers found large quantities of money. Temptation set in. After all, the owner of all that cash wasn't alive to complain about his loss. But, when those big payouts went dry, some entrepreneur cops decided to make their own killings. And, guess who did the homicide investigations on those deceased dealers? It could be an exciting time...... if you lived.

That summer, I caught a special and got loaned out to our office in Miami for a few months. Twelve of us agents from various offices across the U.S. were temporarily assigned to the same task force to replace the group of local agents who were being relocated further south to conduct surveillance on clandestine landing strips known to be on several islands in the Caribbean.


Part of our duties were to partner with U.S. Customs out of the port of Miami in order to intercept smugglers along the Florida coast at midnight as they tried running in from the Bahama banks. We hunted in wolf packs with go-fast boats and a Customs tug boat which operated a radar set. Whenever the tug's First Mate got a speeding blip on his radar screen, he radioed the information to the appropriate go-fast boats and the chase was on. At the time, Customs used a flashing blue Kojak light to signify their presence. Some smugglers then idled their engines and trusted to their hidden compartments to get them through. Others goosed their engines and ran for it.

Meanwhile, on the Gulf side of Florida a few enterprising redneck entrepreneurs who didn't have the cash nor connections to purchase large quantities of controlled substances on their own came up with the bright idea of acquiring their own flashing blue lights. This situation made for confusion and adrenaline, not to mention what you might call a touch of modern day piracy conducted under a false flag.

With all of this fodder for a short story, I couldn't resist when Mystery Weekly Magazine put out a submission call for humorous stories to publish in its Die Laughing anthology. My story, "Blue Light Special," was accepted earlier this month, the e-contract has been signed, PayPal has delivered the payment and now I'm somewhat patiently waiting to have the anthology in hand.

Yes, you may sleep easy in your beds at night. Worse thought-out plots of nefarious action have occurred on the high seas in the dark of night. So, pleasant reading to you and yours, and have a few laughs while you're at it.

PS ~415 stories were submitted to the anthology, 44 were accepted. A hearty congratulations to SleuthSayers Rob Lopresti and Bob Mangeot for making the cut.

02 May 2021

Certifiable — Florida-Arizona News


Popcorn time. I’ve been following the ersatz election audit in Phoenix. Viewing it from a computer wizardry background, I bring to the table a few observations and opinions.

not a genuine ballot
possibly not a genuine Arizona ballot

Recounting the Recounted Recount

After recounts and audits, people ask why yet another? The political goal isn’t to overturn the election, but to cast doubt upon it in a tantrum by politicians who didn’t get their own way.

Thus it has come to pass, a minuscule Florida computer assistance company has carved an outsized rôle for itself in a vain (either meaning of the adjective) attempt to smear the Arizona election. Cyber Ninjas, which sounds disturbingly like a Saturday morning cartoon show, claims to have between “2 and 10” employees. I’d hazard if it employed anywhere near six or eight, or even four or five, it would say so.

Nothing is wrong with small computer consulting companies. I headed one. Our client base comprised Fortune 500 firms, governments, and large foreign concerns. Previous to May’s events, Cyber Ninjas largely seems to advise customers to take backups, install anti-virus software, and don’t click on random download buttons, a ‘Geek Squad’ without Best Buy.

Who?

Douglas Jay Logan, the owner of Cyber Ninjas (I’m learning that’s a damn awkward company name to type), involves himself in Q•Anon-inspired politics, even devising a ‘Stop the Steal’ white paper of discredited talking points.

He’s probably a nice guy, indeed, he supports charitable ministries in Haiti. We share that much in common, helping Haitians.

But I don’t know Doug Logan. No one I’ve asked professionally seems to know his company, not Florida election people, not security experts, and certainly not within my sphere, computer forensics and fraud. It simply means he’s not a household name outside of vocal conspiracy theorists. Until now.

What?

The pubic face of a company is its opening web page. It shapes the impression it wants the public to have. Sometimes it reveals more than it intends. They make a big deal about web security and design. And they do it confusedly… their ‘about’ page is their home page.

I can say with certainty computer experts Cyber Ninjas aren’t very computer experty. Set aside the peculiar stock photos and peer at paragraphs 1 and 3 of their home page. Notice those odd characters? “we’ve” and “Ninjaâ„¢”?

Paragraph 1 with errors

Although their page HTML has been improved since I first viewed it, they still haven’t sorted out UniCode encoding. Best guess for the first error– they meant “we’ve”. I have no clue what they meant for the second unless it was “Ninja©” or “Ninja™”. Simple, junior-level errors like that don’t give me warm, secure feelings. But, let’s move on.

Paragraph 3 with errors

Man versus Machine

To be clear, I too have criticized voting machines, but with diametrically opposed conclusions. Logan’s approach is all about secrecy and sorcery. He’s refused in court to reveal his ‘trade secrets’, which computer people likely agree means he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

When it comes to the public, transparency counts. I advocate voting machines should employ ‘open source’ programming. Open Source means it’s open to anyone to be viewed and studied. Nothing in it is proprietary or secret. That’s the only way citizens can feel assured their votes are fairly counted.

hacker in winter ninja gear
genuine Cyber Ninja™
complete with winter gloves,
woollies, and balaclava toque

Mr. Logan… not so concerned. He wants a closed shop, closed source, and, if he had his way, a closed audit. As it is, he and his backers have fought to keep the recount out of the public eye. That’s understandable if, as many surmise, he doesn’t know how to run a recount. He apparently hadn’t read the Elections Procedures Manual.

In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts decrees, “Sentence first, verdict afterwards.” Most would have deemed it wise not to advertise the results of the recount before you’re hired. Sure, it helped win the no-bid contract, but it doesn’t make fair-minded people feel secure.

Capitol Stormer? Daily Stormer? No Problem

This attitude trickled down amongst the tabulators, which include Q•Anon conspiracists, Oath Keepers, and Anthony Kern, the latter who participated in the January 6 Washington DC insurrection. When a reporter noticed Kern’s presence, the reporter– not the Washington rioter– was ejected.

That has been a big theme of the recount– ban journalists. The initial reporter allowed in– because she registered as an observer and not a journalist– was banned for noticing workers on the floor were using black and blue pens, a huge verboten no-no around ballots.

Inspection at 365 nanometres

Another questionable bit of gear has been ultra-violet lamps. I speculated they might attempt to prove ballots were chemically altered, but mystified election experts point out UV light damages ballots. Others speculate the alternative light might be used to dazzle the public with ☆woo-woo☆ science.

Besides pens and far spectrum lamps, recounters are given something else– discretion. They are authorized to gauge intent, to interpret ambiguity, and personally judge whether or not ballots are illegal. Those, says the Secretary of State, would be discarded.

According to election officials, this should never be allowed. Ballots should be held to standards and not guessed at. Divination is not an option.

And yet…

Have you been following the recount? What is your opinion?

18 April 2021

Florida News: Dirty Tricks


Further to the Matt Gaetz investigation…

Florida's gerrymandered 5th Congressional District
The ultra-thin district (at one time three discontiguous plots) stretches more than 200 miles (>320km).

Florida remains the seat of breathtaking corruption. I don’t even have room to discuss Florida’s legislature passing a bill requiring students to assess professors’ political beliefs and providing for teachers to be secretly recorded at any time. We’re uncertain of persistent rumors Tallahassee will be renaming our state capital the Kremlin.

We at SleuthSayers work to avoid politics, but when it’s unavoidable, we strive to be fair. Registered as an independent, I aspire to equal opportunity offensiveness, but I’m afraid America may lose a grand, old party, which even the opposition doesn’t wish to happen. To mitigate controversy, I’ll be referring to political parties as the Eloi and Morlock, and you can decide which is which.

Thanks to a halt in ballot counting of the infamous hanging chads, Florida never learned whether Bush or Gore won the 2000 election. Two years later, Sarasota County reportedly failed to record 20 000 votes. The county Supervisor of Elections explained it this way: Twenty-thousand people came in to vote, but chose not to.

On that foundation, let’s visit 2010’s gubernatorial election.

Fool You Once

Four main candidates emerged in 2010. The Eloi backed a woman, Alex Sink. The Morlocks had three. The Morlock Party was irritated at Charlie Crist (who was sidelined and forced to run as an independent Morlock) and officially backed Bill McCollum. One other candidate inserted himself into the Morlock primary, Rick Scott, who’d engineered the largest Medicare/Medicaid fraud in history, triggering a fine of $1.7-billion. That’s $1 700 000 000 for the fine alone. That should have ended his candidacy.

Naturally, Florida elected the fraudster. Millions of ill-gotten gains won the election.

That’s sealed history. What isn’t as well known is what happened to Alex Sink and her beautifully designed web site, SinkForCongress2014.com, which included a subdomain begging for donations, contribute.SinkForCongress2014.com. It had a problem. It wasn’t her web site, it belonged to the other party. Donations to her were diverted to the Morlock Party and used to fund Alex Sink’s defeat.

Turns out this isn’t illegal.

Fool You Twice

So what skullduggery might top that bit of cleverness? Fake candidates. No, I’m not talking fake voters or fake ballots, but sham candidates.

You can think of them as ghosts in the political machine. Morlock Party operatives ran sham Eloi candidates in an effort to split votes between the faux candidate and the real one. It worked in at least three elections. In one district, the true Eloi candidate would have won by 6000 votes but lost by 32, thanks to a fake candidate, Jestine Iannotti. She abruptly moved to Sweden where she can’t be extradited.

Again, these dirty tricks aren’t illegal, but dirty money is. Political manipulators have gone to great lengths to hide money, much which remains unaccounted for. When the false candidate stunt was pulled in 2012, donations were traced to lobbyists, consultants, attorneys, fake donors and secret donors.

Fool

A fourth Florida attempt ended in failure for Matt Gaetz. An extremely shady former legislator and lobbyist Chris Dorworth has separated from his Orlando firm, Ballard Partners, after his involvement was revealed.

Meanwhile, Gaetz seems to have left his girlfriend at home with her crayons and coloring book, and hopped a ganja flight to the Bahamas, courtesy of Orlando marijuana majordomo and hand surgeon Jason Pirozzolo. There they enjoyed presumably grown-up prostitutes.

Gaetz attempted to get his generous friend Pirozzolo nominated for Florida Surgeon General. When that fell through, Governor Ron DeSantis appointed Pirozzolo to another lucrative position on the board of the Greater Orlando Airport Authority.

Investigations continue. Please remember, all parties are considered innocent until the rotten miscreants are proven guilty.

Thanks to Darlene, Sharon, Cate, Eve, and Thrush for contributions to this series.)

14 April 2021

The Busted Flush


Penguin/Random House has reissued John D. MacDonald’s twenty-one Travis McGee novels in nicely-packaged trade paper, with tasteful cover art and a preface by Lee Child.

I might prefer some of the more lurid original jackets, not quite so restrained, but I admire the enterprise. Some of MacDonald’s books, Slam the Big Door, or One Monday We Killed Them All, even The Last One Left, have been in and out of print, over the years; McGee has never fallen out of favor.

I don’t think it’s any secret that MacDonald was reluctant to do a series character. It was Knox Burger, at Fawcett Gold Medal, who convinced him. MacDonald was getting along just fine, by all accounts, knocking out a couple or even three novels a year, and then McGee moved the goalposts. It took half a dozen books, but Travis McGee turned John D. MacDonald into a brand name.

This is a phenomenon that I’m guessing is particular to the time. Gold Medal was a paperback original imprint, like Ace, which put out SF titles in a double-novel format, two books back-to-back. It was the Republic Pictures of the publishing business. Paperbacks had come in big during the war, cheap editions for GI’s. Pocket Books was an early entry, and postwar, publishers realized they could expand the market to drugstores and newsstands, railroad stations and airports and hotel lobbies, and avail themselves of the impulse buyer. The books cost a quarter, in the 1950’s, and in ‘64, The Deep Blue Goodbye, MacDonald’s first McGee title, sold for forty cents. They were below the salt, mind you. The New York Times Book Review didn’t deign to acknowledge paperback originals; they were pulp, they were Poverty Row. And they were mostly generic, hardboiled noir and science fiction, women in prison or youth led astray.

Readers gobbled them up. Granted, our tastes might not have been that discriminating. I ran across The Deep Blue Goodbye at a PX newsstand when I was in the military – dating myself – and I grabbed every single book afterwards as soon as they came out.

The visceral appeal, for sure. The laid-back life, the long sunsets, ice clicking against a tall glass, the careless, carefree women. It was an adolescent fantasy. There was something darker, and more subversive. MacDonald was one of the first guys, along with Frank Herbert in Dune, to talk about the environment.

One of the constants in the McGee books (and in MacDonald’s later stand-alones, A Flash of Green and Condominium) is the greed and waste of accelerated development. No wonder that Carl Hiassen counts MacDonald as an influence.

And the deeper, yawning, reptilian darkness. The sexism was backward and Neanderthal; the environmentalism was forward-looking; the bad guys are psychopaths. McGee, by his own admission, is a throwback. If he weren’t, he wouldn’t be able to handle the bottom-feeders and predators that lurk, not on the periphery, but in plain sight.

Bad guys, in a McGee novel, aren’t ambiguous. They may be sly, or slippery, or possessed of a certain charm. Nor are they, necessarily, guys.

But there’s a clear line MacDonald draws: the luckless, the gullible, the innocent, don’t deserve to be shorn simply because they’re sheep. We protect the weakest, by reason of their very weakness.

Reading the books again, and not in order - the first one I picked up was The Scarlet Ruse. I’m struck by their economy. There’s no wasted motion.

Dutch Leonard says you should leave out the stuff the reader’s going to skip, and you don’t care about, either. You can see Leonard do it, and Hiassen, or Lee Child.

Stay with the essentials, spend your energy on the parts that matter.

In other words, if it holds your interest, it’ll show. If you’re going through the motions, you’ll bore yourself, and the reader.

The set-up for The Scarlet Ruse is relaxed but brisk. First, the rare stamps. We’re perhaps reminded of the Brasher Doubloon. “The only known vertical pair of the famous error in blue… The top stamp has one pulled perf and a slight gum disturbance.”

Then, the switcheroo. Who had access to the safe deposit box? Next, the whys and wherefores of the investor, who turns out to be mobbed up, a money launderer who’s skimming, and the stolen stamps, in demand and fungible, represent his getaway money.

For a hook, so far, so good. But this is just the bottom crust, not the filling. It isn’t the story MacDonald is interested in telling. The real story, once the broad brushstrokes are laid in, is about trusting the wrong people, and each relationship, McGee and Meyer, McGee and the damsel in distress, McGee and the heavy, for that matter, is dependent on good faith or bad.

The final trap, the ruse of the title, is in effect a pigeon drop.

The moral, as in every McGee story, is about ownership, and personal responsibility, whether the results work to your advantage or not. Once you set events in motion, you have to live with the consequences, and those consequences can be severe. McGee’s world isn’t Manichean, or absolute, and black and white are often blurred, but the choices tend to narrow toward the violent and final. You can argue this is characteristic of the genre – when you run out of ideas, Hammett tells us, have a guy come through the door with a gun - but here the violence isn’t lazy, it’s exhausting and inevitable.

He was very much of his time, let’s be honest. MacDonald and McGee flourished during the Cold War, but unlike the nihilism of Spillane and Mike Hammer, actual events don’t much impinge on McGee’s world.

There’s a sidelong look at the Markov assassination in The Green Ripper, ricin being the instrument of choice, but generally, what’s going on in the larger political atmosphere isn’t pertinent. What is, is a sense of growing malaise.

McGee seems lonelier as time passes, more isolated (excepting Meyer). The Green Ripper, actually, finds him completely out on a limb, with no support system whatsoever. Not that he isn’t the archetypal loner, in many ways, but he’s also embedded in a personal ecology, the marina, the houseboat, the culture of south Florida and the offshore islands.

This context is vital and specific. Taken without it, McGee is himself less specific. So, although contemporary events may not affect the characters directly, the place, the weather and the water, the color of the sky, the heat in the air, the pull of the tides, provides a canvas. Not as backdrop, but as a constant, the horizon line, the curve of the earth.

Do the books age well, does McGee have legs? I’m not the guy to ask. He’s a sentimental favorite. There are things that are awkward and squirmy – truth to tell, they were awkward and squirmy back when – and there are things that make you pump your fist and go, Pow! John MacDonald is as rock-solid a writer as they come. Is it pulp? Depends. It’s vigorous, and brassy, and hot to the touch. You don’t get much better.


04 April 2021

Florida News: Taxing Questions


Joel Greenberg
Joel Greenberg,
Tax Collector
© The Independent

You might be forgiven thinking Joel Greenberg a low-rent Jeffrey Epstein, possible purveyor of goods and services to the likes of his friend, Congressman Matt Gaetz. Greenberg was supposed to go on trial a couple of weeks ago, now rescheduled in two months (June). Long before he was arrested for numerous crimes, red flags arose.

Development of a Police State

More than county tax departments, Florida’s various Code Enforcement agencies may be the most despised bureaucracies in the Sunshine State. These are the people who fine homeowners $200 a day upon spotting a hole in a porch screen or charge $500 a day for painting one's house the wrong shade. These fines are as typical as they are capricious. Notice these penalties run ‘per day’. Code Enforcement has also charged citizens for hosting religious gatherings in their homes and flying American flags, both successfully challenged in the courts.

These ‘per day’ fines can easily exceed most criminal penalties, even mount beyond the value of the properties they target. One local man has racked up $1.9-million. But at least Code Enforcement can’t send violators to prison.

Whoops, wait. Yes, they can by criminalizing civil violations and misdemeanors. Seminole County resident Alan Davis believes Code Enforcement violates personal liberties, and he’s dedicated the better part of three decades hammering home his point… or hammering points into his home.

He’s mocked Code Enforcement, at one time planting a toilet in his yard and another time creating a giant buttocks sculpture. God love him. When ordered to remove junky items from his yard, he obliged and moved them to his roof.

Davis initially spent a year in Florida state prison where he became surprisingly popular. After serving that first term, he’s been back more than once, including a three year stretch for ‘felony littering’– on his own property.

So it’s understandable that as Code Enforcement flexed its muscles, the Florida Association of Code Enforcement (FACE) began to consider themselves junior police officers. They lobbied for the right to carry guns, wear badges, and be addressed like a professional cop. They won the right to be called ‘officer’ and they now wear heavy police-looking badges on their belts or on chains around their necks. However, they couldn’t explain why they needed sidearms whilst writing up unedged lawns and chipped paint.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

As police departments succumbed to increased militarization, local bureaucracies moved to become more police-like. In an attempt to make green eyeshades look cool, Seminole County’s newly elected tax collector purchased badges and guns for his department’s ‘officers’. The public hadn’t appreciated the enormous danger handing out driver, car, cat, and fishing licences, a high-risk job almost as hazardous as recording plat books.

After arming his tax collectors, Joel Greenburg considered his new position so ★policey★, he begged a traffic cop who pulled him over for ‘professional courtesy’ and to let him, a fellow officer off the hook.

But wait, there’s more. ‘Officer’ Greenburg stopped at least one woman in traffic by flashing his shiny, new gold badge, accusing her of speeding. Nothing came of her complaint once the lady realized Greenburg wasn’t the real deal. Professional courtesy, see.

Greenburg liked playing pretend in other ways. He directed his department to pay friends who pretended to work for him. He set up pretend companies to further syphon funds from taxpayers. He submitted false claims to receive pandemic relief. He pretended to be other people by stealing taxpayer identities and manufacturing IDs to facilitate trafficking young women.

You may have heard of Bit Coin and crypto-currency. Mr. Greenburg made arrangements to profit from it by setting up his own, money-making crypto-computer within Seminole County’s Tax Department. Crypto-coin is known for gobbling huge amounts of electricity, and he didn’t want that on his personal Duke Energy bill. Unfortunately Greenburg brought 15-watts of intelligence to a 20,000-watt problem. He miswired his server farm, causing it to set the tax office on fire, resulting in thousands of dollars in damage, which of course Mr. Greenburg didn’t pay for. Professional courtesy.

Despite mishaps, Mr. Greenburg liked computers or, more to the point, he liked certain, ah, web sites. One of his favorites was Seeking Arrangement, where “wealthy men and women find the odds in their favor.” Most of us would call that prostitution, but lest we misjudge, here are their words (punctuation added), and yes, that’s a trademark symbol in the first line:

Upgrade Your Relationships™ where beautiful, successful people fuel mutually beneficial relationships. Our Mission: Seeking Arrangement delivers a new way for relationships to form and grow. Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies or Mommas both get what they want, when they want it. We provide Relationships on Your Terms. Where Sugar Babies enjoy a life of luxury by being pampered with fine dinners, exotic trips and allowances. In turn, Sugar Daddies or Mommas find beautiful members to accompany them at all times. We want relationships to be balanced. We give our members a place for this to happen. (Seeking) Arrangement is where people are direct with one another and stop wasting time. It allows people to immediately define what they need and want in a relationship. Our profiles allow members to effortlessly state their expectations. This is what we like to call Relationships on Your Terms. No Strings Attached– Redefine the expectations of a perfect relationship. Ideal Relationships– Upfront and honest arrangements with someone who will cater to your needs. Be Pampered– Indulge in shopping sprees, expensive dinners, and exotic travel vacations. Date Experienced Men– Date real gentlemen who don't play games. Find a Mentor– Established Sugar Daddies offer valuable guidance for long-term stability.

OMG, it’s so beautiful it makes me teary. Of course by ‘relationship’ they mean ƒ—… Well, you know the word. If you can’t achieve love, romance, and sex, you buy it. I can feel empathy for that, but please, don’t call it a relationship.

Joel Greenburg presently faces between fourteen counts and as many as thirty-three. Even after indictment and his release on bail, he continued committing crimes and violations.

Roger Stone, Matt Gaetz, Joel Greenburg

Congressman having Congress

About here Greenburg’s buddy Matt Gaetz enters the picture. The tax collector seems to have been one of Gaetz’s few friends, which may have gone beyond a penchant for underage girls.

Greenburg’s indictment is well-understood, but our sleazy congressman’s story is still developing. We’ll leave it and the involvement of Roger Stone for another time.

And remember, all parties are considered innocent until the rotten miscreants are proven guilty.

Thanks to Darlene, Sharon, Cate, and Eve for contributions to this article.)

07 February 2021

Florida News – Cold-Blooded Edition


Florida postcard

While you’ve been social distancing and avoiding the coronavirus. Floridians have been going about their usual madness– alleged madness– it’s all alleged. I know you’ve been paying attention, so at the end, you’ll find a quiz to test your knowledge.

Capitol Rioters

Kissimmee, FL.  Police Officer Andrew Johnson reportedly got himself fired for racist and seditious remarks posted on Facebook supporting the Capitol riots. “Day one of the Revolutionary War!! Hang on, it’s only just begun. … Civil War is right around the corner. It’s coming.”

It’s not known if he’s any relation to Adam Johnson of Bradenton who stole the House Speaker’s lectern.

Casselberry, FL.  Commissioner and Vice Mayor Mark Busch is all about free speech after riling up a crowd prior to 6 January, telling them Vice President Mike Pence had “better do the right thing” or he'll face “pitchforks and torches” for failing to overturn a legitimate presidential election. Leading from the rear, the commission members exhibited less guts than our Kissimmee crowd. Casselberry couldn’t bring itself to reprimand Busch, who vowed to “continue the fight for freedom of speech,” like shouting, “Fire!”

Sanford, FL.  Claiming to still be investigating, Sanford FD has yet to acknowledge reporting to federal authorities the probable involvement of fireman Andy Williams.

St. Augustine, FL.  Florida Capitol riot arrests include John Anderson of St. Augustine, Matthew Council of Tampa, and Michael Curzio of Marion County, geniuses all.

Katie, Disbar the Door

Tampa, FL.  You know that softcore trope of the good-looking police officer who handcuffs and strip-searches the arrestee whilst suggestively wielding a nightstick? No? Ahem, I don’t either, of course, but Andrew Spark, esq, wrote the script. Working in two different jails, he managed to film scenes for a porn flick. Bad attorney! Bad!

Sarasota, FL.  Two women pretending to be police officers live-streamed themselves screaming and swearing at detainees during fake traffic stops. Word has it attorney Andrew Spark (above) has volunteered his legal services for the two ladies.

Good Cop / Bad Cop

New Port Richey, FL.  A man leaving a bar mistook 911 for Uber and called the police for a Lyft, then swore at the poor 911 operator. A kind officer gave him a ride to a place with lots of bars.

World’s Worst Marksman

Orlando, FL.  Or perhaps he’s damn good if he was trying to miss after firing a hundred shots at his romantic rival. Count everyone lucky.

Lift and Separate

Miami, FL.  An annoying box marked ‘CENSORED’ makes it difficult to tell exactly what went down, but you be the judge.

cartoon trash bag
Hi! I'm Trashy.

Unbagged

Pompano Beach, FL.  Trashy, the animated rubbish bag, leaped off Saturday morning cartoons to torch evil garbage trucks… Okay, I made up Trashy, but a man dressed in garbage bags mysteriously set fire to a number of garbage trucks. If you or your trashy friends know anything, you may collect a $10,000 reward.

Bagged

Bradenton, FL.  One woman guaranteed her own stimulus check of sorts. It’s not clear how her man died, but she stuffed him in a trash bag inside a rubbish bin and collected his social security check. I’m thinking she got the bags from Trashy.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Tampa, FL.  An arsonist tried to torch a house. Instead, he set fire to himself. Ouch.

Lehigh Acres, FL.  A burglar executed himself climbing through a window. You may want to skip this one.

In the Name of Jesus

Orlando, FL.  Mention Florida in the same breath as evangelism, you can comfortably assume we’re talking scam. Drill down to ministries in Orlando, and you’ve hit a dead certainty. Now, along comes the Church of Florida, Aslan International Ministry, operated for and by the Edwards clan who, according to authorities, sucked approximately $9-million out of the federal coronavirus Paycheck Protection Program. Don’t worry, they weren’t spending it foolishly. They were using part of it to purchase a $3½-million house at Walt Disney World.

The Ugly Floridian

Pensacola, FL.  You can dress ’em up, but you can’t take ’em anywhere. Gloria Lancaster carved out a Florida Hall of Infame niche all to herself for chomping camel testicles… still part of a live camel, see, at a Louisiana truckstop. And there was this deaf dog and her husband Edmond and the camel is currently being treated with antibiotics and… It’s complicated.

Leave Them Balls Alone

Coral Coral, FL.  As you know, Albert the Alligator kept salesmen from the door for 25 years. He was a loyal pet that would come when a family member whistled. Treat animals with respect, man. This idiot in this episode has no clue how fast gators can turn.

lionfish

Snakey, Snakey

Miami, FL.  Less reprehensible than our reptilian politicians is our wildlife. Not long ago, Florida paid a bounty for lionfish, a colorful invader in Florida waters. Them’s good eatin’.

Now Florida is suggesting we snack on python meat. Mmm, tastes like chicken and they are plentiful.

Almond Joy

Tampa, FL.  Remember the scene in Jaws where Brody tells Quint, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat?” Erika Almond said something like that when a great white chomped on it.

The SleuthSayers Florida News Quiz

Take the pre-Superbowl Florida Madness Challenge. It’s easier than you think!

02 August 2020

Merciful Air Conditioning Appreciation Festival



steamy Florida writer man Leigh
Steamy Florida Man
I’m celebrating MACAF, Merciful Air Conditioning Appreciation Festival. Village lads luge ’cross frozen cobblestones on home-grown ice blocks. Hyperboreal maidens dance around The Great Icicle stalactite streaming ice-blue ribbons. Famed artists compete to carve the bestest ice sculpture before melting in the ƒ-ing Florida heat.

You guessed it. My air conditioning went out, in Florida, on a weekend (naturally), coinciding with a record heat wave, and my brain cells are dehydrating. Why, oh why always on weekends?

The original York A/C had passed its 40th birthday. While it would have happily celebrated its quinquagenary (I cheated and looked that word up), experts claimed its inefficiency was killing glaciers in Manitoba.

I desired a heat pump manufactured in North American, one that wouldn’t keel over milliseconds after the warranty expired. To be fair, LG claimed a unit in Nunavut was rumored to have lasted eleven years. Guinness disqualified it — it hadn’t been plugged in.
My salesman said, “I can offer you a Rheem…”
“No kidding, I saw the prices.”
“… or we can talk Ruud.”
“That was, wasn’t it.”
“You need the Atlas Kazoom Freezer-Kool Polar 3000, fully automatic, four barrel, thirteen stage, multilevel, max-filter, micro-fibre, zip-lock, four-on-the-floor, orthopædic super-traction, six-gigawatt, five-speed, 29 SEER, solar-ready, entertainment-prepped, streaming, IoT featuring Apple Siri, Google Home, Alexa alert, corona-virus secure, mercury-free, gluten-free, biometric, child-proof, NASA-approved, UL listed Intel Inside HVAC with the opt-in hyper-glow platinum-plated Coldplay thermostat…”
“Uh, I just want an air conditioner, you know, a heat pump.”
He gave me a pitying look for my failed foresight and lack of regard for his commission, just when he needed new golf clubs.

I opted for Lennox, still made in America’s heartland, boasting a 125 year history. The outside condenser’s dimensions astonished me, the size and price of a small apartment building. Micro-miniaturization doesn’t apply in the physics of air conditioning. Apparently the ‘SEER’ energy rating grows along with bulk, but at least my house’s interior has dropped below triple °F digits.

So now I’m celebrating Air Conditioning Festival where village dogs pull faux sleds and bark at heat thermals. The madness should fade as the temperature drops.

The following shows my original heat pump, the new one, and the model the salesman tried to foist on me.

The Hypothermia Headliners

I needed to replace the Baby Bear original…

The Baby Bear A/C model
1978 Trash-a-Rainforest Pain-in-theTush model (T.A.R.P.I.T)

So I bought the Mama Bear…

The Mama Bear A/C model
The Woefully Inadequate Middlin’ Pump (W.I.M.P) model

Instead of the recommended Papa Bear…

The Papa Bear A/C model
Penumbra 6000, 3rd largest American Air Heat for Home, Hut, Hovel, House, Hotel, & Hamlet (AAHHHHHHH)

Hey, this is Florida!

19 July 2020

Florida… Oh No, Not Again!


Florida postcard
Florida’s bizarre politicians overshadow our usual weird news. But let’s take a stab at the strange.

Gator Cater

West Palm Beach, Florida.  No, I am NOT the guy who reads and sings to calm alligators not receiving their share of tourists. Everyone knows I can’t sing.

Marathon, Florida.  I also deny knowledge of the iguana that wrestled a guy and his bicycle to the ground. A spokesman for the bicycle said…

Tampa, Florida.  Nor do I have anything to do with neighbors preventing access to a landlocked bird sanctuary. (I have sympathy in this case. Orange County politicians turned over a county road to a private cattle company, preventing property owners access to their land.)

Head Honcho

St. Petersburg, Florida.  A jogger found a human head on a grassy knoll. Police confirm it is not that of Governor DeSantis, who is known for having lost his mind but not his head. Yet.

Softball Questioning

Jacksonville, Florida.  A hard-hitting woman batted eyelashes at her police detective boyfriend, who gave her a pass during a murder investigation. They made it beyond third base but not quite home when they were called out.

The Mother of All Gifts

Clearwater, Florida.  We missed reporting on Mother’s Day that a spitting, angry Pinellas County wife beat her husband for remembering and giving her flowers. Uh wait. I’m guessing she didn’t want flowers.

Clearwater, Florida.  Another woman attacked her man with a candy cane. And a brick. And a pen. Somehow after a brick and a yard-size candy cane, a pen doesn’t seem all that much.

Micanopy, Florida.  So her boyfriend, see, well, she was on her phone, actually, and her boyfriend, just sorta, kinda, tripped on air and fell on a knife, twisted it in maybe, and writhed and stabbed himself umpteen times or not and raccoons attacked… No flowers for her Mother’s Day.

Sanford, Florida.  Lest ye think it only women who’ve gone corona-mad, there’s the crazed man who stabbed a roommate then turned on police, screaming something about Satan and worms and… You see? Some normal Florida things still happen.

Deltona, Florida.  We mustn’t forget another man who attacked a roommate who’d kindly made him breakfast. Oh wait. The breakfast chef woke him at 5am. That’s like the middle of the night. Last time someone woke me at 5am, police found me sharpening my teeth.

coronavirus
Another Reason to Close the Bars

Indialantic, Florida.  She just spread the love or a message or coronavirus. Just because she kissed strangers without a mask, was that any reason to stop a sunny welcome?

Try as I might, I can’t seem to get away from COVID-19 stories.

Taking the Cure


Bradenton, Florida.  The Genesis II Church of Health and Healing continued selling their Miracle COVID Cure after a judge ordered them to stop selling industrial bleach for human consumption. This is the same chemical their leader wrote about to President Trump who subsequently claimed this wonderful detox would knock out the coronavirus in one minute. Side effects include heartburn, death…

Fort Myers, Florida.  That guy in Costco, you know, the dude who felt threatened by a 60-some year old lady who asked him to wear a mask… from Florida, of course. He’s a star insurance salesman; you’d think he’d want everyone to masque up.

Holly Hill, Florida.  The Costco guy wasn’t as nasty as the woman who spit into Walmart’s fruit and vegetable bins ruining $350 or so of foods. Because of the corona hoax, of course.

Homestead, Florida.  A couple wanted soooo bad to visit the Florida Keys, but those stupid Keys officials didn’t want to spread that hoaxy COVID and like all illegally tyrant-like keep non-residents out, which is soooo Naziish. Anyway, this freedom-loving couple took a teenager prisoner and forced her to drive through the checkpoint. They struck such a blow for freedom, not the terrified girl’s, of course, but theirs. Except they’re locked up.

Cadillac atop cars
Hernando, Florida.  Local drivers might not be as bad as Boston’s, but how do you drive backwards and park atop other cars? And we don’t even get snow?

Reedy Creek Control District, Florida.  One guy decided to self-quarantine in Walt Disney World. He shacked up on Discovery Island, Disney’s former zoo of sorts before Animal Kingdom.

Gainesville, Florida.  If you live in Florida and someone removes your testicles, you might be a politician. Or an adopted kitten. Who knew a stuffed dragon might not protect you?

Full Blown Politics

Tallahassee, Florida.  At the same time the White House blames poor coronavirus response on the media for too much coronavirus reporting, Florida’s governor blasts the media for too little reporting. Indeed, Governor DeSantis says the press reported nothing about COVID-19 until April, so he assumed all was okay. Which is weird, because like a kidnap hostage, I can hold up copies of the Orlando Sentinel and Miami Herald dated back in January. Doesn’t he know the Keys have been off limits to visitors since 22 March?

Grim Reaper on Florida beach
© Tampa Bay Times and Shorty Awards
Florida is famous for costumed characters and since February, the Grim Reaper has patrolled Florida’s beaches warning visitors about the virus. In March, that Grim Reaper, revealed as Daniel Uhfelder, Esq, sued the Governor’s office to require face masks. So apparently our Governor doesn’t check the news, he also pays no attention to lawsuits.

Earlier this month when I wrote about Florida landing the sad position of Nº 1 and setting new pandemic records every day, I hadn’t expected the Sunshine State to continue setting new records. As one observer put it, if Florida was a separate nation, it would rank among the worst countries on the planet for infections.

Governor DeSantis calls that ‘a blip’. Because, you know, the Black Plague was ‘a bump’ and reporters ‘a bleep’. Such ingrates! Florida has done soooo much to keep the numbers down. Like firing our heroine, Rebekah Jones, the state’s database administrator who revealed Florida’s government was grossly under-reporting cases. And sheriff offices complain that as infection hotspots soared, the state cut off critical information to police agencies including addresses of known outbreaks. And the state ordered medical examiners not to release autopsy data. Because no info, no problems.

Milledgeville, Georgia.  Above our border, Georgia’s Brian “Screw ’em” Kemp is posing a challenge to Florida’s Ron ‘Who Me?’ DeSantis for dumbest governor, but I’m afraid Georgia will have to settle for Miss Uncongeniality. Kemp is suing cities that require masks in public. Because no masks, no problems.

Oh God, the clowns! We’re all gonna die! But keep shaking your head and laughing.

05 July 2020

Florida Number 1 !


coronavirus
Few recognize the name François-Marie Arouet but probably know his pseudonym, Voltaire. An advocate for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state, he’s little known for writing one of the earliest detective stories and some of the first science fiction, truly a writer ahead of his time.

Voltaire is best known for a satire, Candide, in which “all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds.”

And here, in the best of all possible Floridas, we’re setting daily records! For, umm, coronavirus infections. We’re bigger than Texas! We’re bigger than California! We’re bigger than New York!

Florida! We’re number 1! We’re number 1! Er, wait…

COVID-19 coronavirus infections per day
COVID-19 coronavirus deaths per day

We recently broke 10 000 COVID-19 infections per day. Yesterday’s increment came in at 11 458 as the state approaches 200 000 cases and more than 3700 deaths.

Meanwhile the United States is quickly closing in on 3-million infections. It seemed only days ago we wondered if the nation’s death toll would hit 100 000, but already it’s 131 549 and growing. Once our infectious response teams led the world. Now third world nations shun us.

The US has 4¼% of the world’s population, but more than 25% of global infections… and deaths. Yet, in this best of all possible Candide worlds, 41½% of Americans think our government acted just peachy. Ironically, one of the organs the coronavirus attacks is the brain.

US world population versus infections

This is today’s take home message. I don’t give a damn what your politics are. I simply ask you to error on the side of caution and stay safe.

Additional Risk Factors
  • Age– the older you are, the more you’re at risk.
  • Sex– males are 6 times more likely to succumb than females.
  • Race– blacks are more susceptible than whites.
  • Blood– A and AB types pose a significantly higher risk.
How to Be Smarter than the BBC

If you can bear with the numbers a moment longer, the death rates bandied by news outlets, including the venerable BBC, are often in error. Their non-mathematicians typically divide the number of deaths by the number of cases– wrong! To get the correct number, simply divide deaths by the number of recovered patients. In other words,

COVID-19 Death Rates as of 4th July 2020
525 491 ÷ 5890052 = 0.0892 or 8.9% worldwide
131 549 ÷ 864 996 = 0.1520 or 15% nationwide

19 April 2020

Florida by the Numbers


Florida postcard
Thursday, a hundred rankled Orange County protestors and children converged on Orlando City Hall to demand an end to government stay-home oppression. They cried out against the horrors of forced unlabor. They sought to be loosed from the bonds of dictatorial rule and set free. And Mike Huckabee clamored in Florida courts to be unshackled from the Orwellian tyranny that required him to follow laws like ordinary, common citizens. He needed to be liberated from onerous beach-front activity restraints because… something.

When Michigan activists protested in drive-in Operation Gridlock, police noted that in their cars, citizens were inadvertently practicing safe, social distancing. Not so in Orlando, where unmasked citrus cankers breathed and sneezed and coughed at will. The numbers can’t be real: 2⅓-million cases globally, 33 383 in Canada, ¾-million in the US, 25½-thousand in Florida, 3000+ in Central Florida– apparently fake news, including 78 local deaths.

The last time I agreed with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer was, um, pretty much never, but damn, folks. We’re trying to save lives.

Central Floridians took matters a step further into the Twilight Zone. They contend Dr. Anthony Fauci is a lying, malevolent hoaxer who inexplicably holds the President’s ear, deliberately wreaking havoc at the Federal level. Fauci’s motives are, um, deep state, Obamacare-coddling, and a really nasty infection that afflicted Florida’s governor. Whatever, it demanded protesting.

By the Numbers

Politicians may choose to ignore the science, but it’s difficult to ignore the math. Updating as you read this, the count of cases and deaths are spooky.

Say, each coronavirus victim infects two other people, and those two each infect two others, etc. It doubles exponentially. (The reality is closer to 2½×, but 2× is scary enough and much easier to calculate.)

In an ancient tale from Persia (or India), a king agreed to pay the inventor of chess in rice, one grain on the 1st square of the chessboard, double that (two) on the 2nd square, double again (four) on the 3rd square, and so on for all sixty-four squares. Beginning with Square Zero (think Patient Zero) each square would contain:


results in…    
results in…    
results in…
0
1     22
4 194 304     44
17 592 186 044 416
1
2     23
8 388 608     45
35 184 372 088 832
2
4     24
16 777 216     46
70 368 744 177 664
3
8     25
33 554 432     47
140 737 488 355 328
4
16     26
67 108 864     48
281 474 976 710 656
5
32     27
134 217 728     49
562 949 953 421 312
6
64     28
268 435 456     50
1 125 899 906 842 624
7
128     29
536 870 912     51
2 251 799 813 685 248
8
256     30
1 073 741 824     52
4 503 599 627 370 496
9
512     31
2 147 483 648     53
9 007 199 254 740 992
10
1 024     32
4 294 967 296     54
18 014 398 509 481 984
11
2 048     33
8 589 934 592     55
36 028 797 018 963 968
12
4 096     34
17 179 869 184     56
72 057 594 037 927 936
13
8 192     35
34 359 738 368     57
144 115 188 075 855 872
14
16 384     36
68 719 476 736     58
288 230 376 151 711 744
15
32 768     37
137 438 953 472     59
576 460 752 303 423 488
16
65 536     38
274 877 906 944     60
1 152 921 504 606 846 976
17
131 072     39
549 755 813 888     61
2 305 843 009 213 693 952
18
262 144     40
1 099 511 627 776     62
4 611 686 018 427 387 904
19
524 288     41
2 199 023 255 552     63
9 223 372 036 854 775 808
20
1 048 576     42
4 398 046 511 104    

total:
21
2 097 152     43
8 796 093 022 208    
18 446 744 073 709 551 615

The total, my children, if your eyes haven’t glazed over, is 264-1, or 18 446 744 073 709 551 615, eighteen quintillion. Legends disagree whether the king made the maths wiz an economic advisor or executed the smartass.

The numbers, which start out relatively flat, soon zoom out of control. Relating to coronavirus, say the 10th generation victims infect a thousand more and the 12th another four thousand. The 20th level infects one million and the 30th one trillion. This is why it’s critical to disrupt the spread by masks, isolation, thorough cleansing, and sterilizing public places like Washington. But you knew that, right?

Please take care.

The Left Behind

Many are all atwitter about stimulus checks and several states have moved to protect landlords and tenants. In the rush to pass legislation, Congress and legislatures overlooked some citizens, including many college students and working teens. But here an Florida, another group in dire need has been forgotten. Sean Baker even made a movie about them starring Willem Dafoe.

Stay safe and read on…

19 January 2020

WalMart da Bomb!


Florida woman– yes, there is such a meme– almost set off a bomb in a Tampa WalMart. Of paramount concern, as evidenced by multiple headlines, she hadn’t paid for the goods used to MacGyver the bomb.

Details remain sketchy, but the incident might have come about something like the following
Walmart logo

Bang!

Emma’s day started with an explosion, not the good kind. She stared at her sad Toyota, its left front WalMart-brand tire blown out. Further under the car, a pool of Great Value oil gathered.

She slammed the car door. Signs out front advertised Great Value powdered peanut butter and Moochie the Slacker Sloth, endorsed by author Eve Fisher. Emma grabbed a shopping cart and ignored the WalMart greeter.

She whipped past Quest Diagnostics who’d collected blood and urine samples. Either they or the Great Value early pregnancy test kit were wrong, she wasn’t sure which. Maybe her craving for all things pickle was trying to give her a clue– pickle freeze pops, pickle chapped lip balm, even the pickle yodeler.

Emma stomped past the WalMart pharmacy. They’d refused to honor her medical marijuana card. When she loudly enquired about medical meth, they’d asked her to leave.

She continued, ignoring a woman in pajamas entering the in-store McDonalds. The WalMart eyeglasses shop looked fuzzy through her GV glasses. Money Services had cost her $1452 in a combined Nigerian prince and IRS scam.

Emma stopped at the salon to speak with her sister, Ella.

Ella said, “You need what?”

“Nail clippings, as many as you can get.”

“But… Is this another of your weird inventions?”

“Just do it. Sweep them up, whatever. Nails, real, artificial, I don’t care. Okay?”

Once upon a time, Emma had made the ideal WalMart customer. Where had it all gone wrong?

Chinese products, that’s what. No, even before that, her appearance on Shark Tank. She’d gone on the show to tout her latest invention, the Pooch Pouch, a hoodie sweatshirt with a built-in pocket for her puppy, Little Scabies.

Mr Wonderful himself, Kevin O’Leary, laughed his arse off.

Her ex-boyfriend had tried to warn her. Afterward, he must have heroically bitten his tongue.

Then what happened? The Kittyroo launched, an identical Chinese knockoff sold by WalMart. It wasn’t fair.

WalMart Chinese products drove her nuts. It wasn’t merely the lead paint on the toys, but nothing seemed to work right. Their melamine powdered milk could maybe kill you, but the ineffective garden insecticide couldn’t knock off a fire ant. The powders looked idential. Heck, they even tasted the same. When she added the insecticide to her now ex-boyfriend’s cereal, he merely burped and left for work.

She’d come to hate him. When she bought WalMart’s sexy Halloween mermaid skeleton costume, he stared at her weirdly. He’d had the same look when she’d given him a pink octopus mug.

Emma had tried to make her house a home. WalMart provided her biker gnomes and gangsta gnomes. She ordered the WalMart Golden Girls Chia Pets.

For the kitchen, she’d bought the Poop Emoji cake pan, bacon bowls for taco salads, and cock-flavored ramen noodles.

For her bathroom, she’d picked out Pain in the Butt Diaper Rash Cream, WalMart Christmas-themed toilet paper, and Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. Plus the ultimate bathroom book How to Poo on a Date.

Little Scabies fled when she presented her puppy with doggy nail polish and a Dinosaur Pet Costume. Her ex and even her sister Ella gazed at her strangely.

Well, she had a solution for him. She phoned and ask him to meet her in WalMart. He groaned but agreed to come.

She wheeled her cart with the wriggling wheel to Housewares. She selected the largest Mason jar she could find. In Home Improvement, she snapped up denatured alcohol and Chinese-manufactured paint thinner. She dumped the contents into the jar.

In Girls Fashion, she picked out pink shoestrings. From Outdoors Goods, she bought a giant box of matches. She returned to the WalMart Salon.

Her sister cautiously handed her a baggie of nails and clippings. Ella said, “I added clippings from pedicures. Is that okay?”

“Sure, peachy, wonderful,” Emma said.

Her phone beeped. Text message. From ex-boyfriend. “Parking now. Meet you Sporting Goods.”

Emma dashed to the back of the store. Under a suspended canoe, she knelt and added the nails to the solution. She draped a shoelace into the jar. After a moment, she felt it. The shoestring wasn’t soaking up the liquid. What the flip? Was it some kind of weird non-absorbent Chinese polyester?

Quickly, she undid one of her own laces. Yes! In moments, it was thoroughly doused. It would make the perfect wick.

In the distance, she saw her boyfriend arriving. She’d already selected a WalMart crematory jar, much cheaper than the sports fan coffin.

Calmly, Emma opened the WalMart-brand matches. She struck one.

Nothing.

She struck again. Nil.

And again. Nope.

She tried another match. Nada.

And another. Zilch.

She grasped a half dozen and stuck the strip.

One gave a little pizzle and snuffed out.

Weeping, she seized a handful and tried fruitlessly to ignite them.

Nothing, not even a poof.

Emma burst into tears as a security guard closed in.

“Ma’am? Did you pay for those goods?”

And that might be how a Florida woman almost set off a nail bomb in a Tampa store. Perhaps. Note that all of the above are genuine WalMart products.