Last Thursday, the TPO board members voted to forgo extending the beleaguered Metrorail to South Dade, and instead approve plans to build a Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT) along the busway, a 20-plus mile stretch of pavement that currently runs several bus routes from the Dadeland South terminal to different points in the southernmost parts of the County.
The question of Metrorail extension has been dangled over the heads of Dade County’s transit-challenged population for decades now, like a chunk of raw meat over a starving circus cat. This last instance of kabuki theater comes on the heels of massive and continuous cuts to bus routes all over the city and the roll out of the new, privately owned “Miami Trolleys”, and the by-now infamous campaign promises of Carlos Gimenez, who led the charge for BRT – beginning just months after hoodwinking the electorate with glossy re-election posters proclaiming “More Rail”.
However, if we look more closely, we can see that neither Gimenez nor any of the “Rail, but” crowd who have been promoting the ‘idea’ of rail while leaving themselves enough space to backtrack at a moment’s notice were never really planning on giving residents of Miami-Dade another mile of rail. The airport extension only got built because former Mayor Alex Penelas left the project fully funded before leaving office and – most importantly – it would ostensibly serve the interests of the tourist industry; a concept, which has so far proven wrong. But, the fate of Metrorail expansion to South Dade had been decided years ago when they ripped up the existing train tracks, which ran all along what is now the Busway.
Fast-Track to Nowhere
The special session three days ago, once again leaned on the people’s well-known desire to see Metrorail extended. In yet another sham hearing with a few pro-rail voices peppered throughout, the final pro-BRT majority had been determined long before. Among the most disappointing pro-BRT votes was that of newly elected County Commissioner Eileen Higgins, who herself ran what is possibly the most pro-transit campaign of any aspiring Commish in the history of the County. The few minutes allotted to each Commissioner during the session saw Higgins offer a justification of her upcoming vote, citing her “luxurious” experience with BRT in Mexico City – a massive metropolis with a public transit system that surpasses that of New York’s and many other world class systems.
Commission Chairman, Esteban Bovo Jr.’s hypocrisy was in full display from the beginning. When fellow TPO board member and pro-rail, Coral Gables Commissioner, Vince Lago was defending his motion to re-open the “reasonable opportunity to be heard” in favor of the community, Bovo interrupted Lago in typical fashion and warned his colleague over “grandstanding”. Bovo’s admonishment was completely uncalled for and drew a quizzical look from Lago, whose motion was nevertheless adopted by Bovo, but only allowed 2 minutes for public comment, lest the individual had spoken at the first session, in which case they got only 1 minute to speak. Bovo, himself, would conclude the day’s proceedings with a grandstanding, 8-minute speech about being for rail despite voting against it seconds later.
The entrenched, American Dream ideology of several board members was also expressed during the short meeting, with Commissioners Joe Martinez and Javier Souto doubling down on last century’s car-equals-freedom paradigm. Martinez even went as far as to disparage public transit users entirely, implying they’re not worth spending any real money on. Souto, who – incredibly – was just reinstalled for yet another term in office, ran down his decades on the dole as if it was some kind of virtue and proclaimed to know more than anyone else. His pitch as elder statesman should convince us that we don’t need rail, apparently.
Only TPO Executive Director, Aileen Bouclé and Commissioner Moss offered some kind of practical opposition to the pro-BRT item on the table, calling into question the 35,000-rider threshold proposed in the BRT plan to “convert” the system to rail once the aforementioned rider density is reached. Citing Commissioner Moss’ numbers regarding rider densities in other cities around the country, far lower than 35,000, Bouclé suggested an amendment be considered to change the South Dade BRT plan’s language from an arbitrary rider-threshold number to a contingency designed around a national average of rail rider density. After some lip service from Bovo and others, Bouclé’s logical request was quickly swept under the rug and ignored.
Finally, Miami’s new Mayor, Francis X. Suarez, stated his opposition over the fact that the full BRT project study had only been submitted Monday afternoon, and nobody – including him – had read more than a few snippets, much less the entire 1,200-page document. No matter, according to the TPO board majority. The vote was fast-tracked to take place by 1pm, thanks in part, to the deliciously ironic pleas of TPO board-member Carlos Hernandez, who begged the board to move quickly on the item because of his long and arduous 4-hour commute to-and-from the County seat.
Just minutes after one o’clock, the Metrorail was struck down again and BRT was passed as the preferred option for South Dade, despite the overwhelming and repeated support for rail by both the residents of South Dade, and the rest of the county. Meanwhile, Gimenez will move forward with his plan for an 836 extension along the edge of the Everglades, costing about as much as the rail extension would have, and multiplying the threat to our already stressed eco-system, to boot.
The Old Switcharoo
Before lunch had even arrived, Bovo posted a victory tweet announcing the TPO’s passing of South Dade’s BRT project. The wording of his post should raise red flags, as he immediately starts changing the terminology, referring to it as “enhanced premium transportation alternatives”. We should be wary about what actually comes of this BRT project we still know little about, except for a couple of expensive animated renderings they were already playing on MDT’s digital signage screens BEFORE the vote.
In addition to Bovo’s slick tweet, the County Mayor, himself belied the entire premise of converting BRT to rail in the future right after the meeting, when Herald beat reporter, Doug Hanks asked him if Metrorail would ever be expanded in Miami-Dade:
After the vote, I asked @MayorGimenez if he thought Metrorail would ever be expanded in Miami-Dade. His answer: "Metrorail? It's very difficult. Because it's very expensive." Did say commuter rail on Brightline tracks was likely, and maybe light rail elsewhere.
It’s unlikely we’ve seen the end of “Metrorail vs (bacon)” scam. We may have even been privy to the set up for the next farcical battle in Miami politics involving this evergreen issue, with Mayor Suarez’ inconsequential no-vote on Thursday. Carlos Gimenez has recently stated his desire to remain in public office and challenge Suarez for city Mayor in 2022. Transit will still be a major – and probably bigger – problem in Miami by then, so if Gimenez and Suarez do square off in six years, you can be sure they’ll try to use Metrorail as a political tactic again. We can’t allow that.
The TPO’s decision over BRT vs Rail underscores the County’s continued failure to properly address, manage or otherwise offer functional public transit solutions to the people of Miami-Dade. Transit director, Alice Bravo has shown herself to be unequal to the task. Now, she will oversee the implementation of BRT for South Dade, but no one who has used Miami-Dade Transit lately can seriously expect any kind of practical improvement.
As a long-time user of MDT, I can’t be optimistic. As many others, I know the reality on the ground. The county is so far behind where it should be on transit, that it will take a complete 180-degree shift in priorities and a basic level of honesty from our political class, that – like my bus and trust in County government – is simply not there now.
In Miami, one of the most popular phrases used by our political class is the ever present “American Dream”; the go-to euphemism for social mobility and odd rebuttal to the residents’ continued demands for better public transit.
A Better Life?
Cars, according to County Commission Chairman Esteban Bovo, are part of the so-called American Dream. For the people who move to Miami from all over the world, toll-roads, expressways and bumper-to-bumper traffic on Bird Road is the fulfillment of a yearning they carry over from their respective Latin American ‘shit holes’. Buses and trains? That’s just a bad dream.
While Bovo pays lip service to the transit-challenged population, engaging in visible marketing bus adventures, the pervasive mentality among his ilk – who otherwise never step foot in a bus – is decidedly anti-public transit.
Just a few days ago, Bovo put out this telling tweet:
Using the @IRideMDT app made the experience good. I use Metrorail often, however the bus doesn’t work for me since I have my son in camp and meetings all over town. https://t.co/jyExnaWlla
Perhaps the commissioner is unaware that most people in Miami have children, too, and taking “meetings all over town” is about as feasible on a Miami-Dade bus as getting to a 9-to-5 on time. Perhaps the bus “doesn’t work” for him because it doesn’t work for anybody.
El Sueño Cubano
With few exceptions, wherever you look on the County Seat dais, instead of representatives we find agents of developer interests masquerading as elected officials, who carry a chip on their shoulder about a boogey man in another country altogether. It’s almost as if these guys have been making policy in Miami for the last 30 years just to ‘stick it’ to Castro, and show him how capitalist capitalism can be. To them, public transit is an expression of socialism, it seems. The car, on the other hand, embodies the ‘free market’ ethos they ostensibly champion, while rigging the game for their developer friends in back room deals.
The Mayor, who staked his entire re-election campaign on public transit, has invoked the so-called American Dream to excuse one of the most unbelievable about faces in recent memory, comparable only to George Bush’s “Read my lips. No new taxes.” Giménez even had the audacity, after circulating campaign materials with the words “More Rail Lines” directly above his pepper shade comb over, to dismiss rail as “19th century technology”, shortly before taking a publicly-funded trip to China with a 15-people entourage. The two-week sojourn was billed as a fact-finding mission for innovative transit solutions; a laughable premise, which never seemed to produce any kind of official – or unofficial- report of their observations. The only notable fact to come out of the Asian vacation was the Mayor’s absolute silence about the tragedy of the collapsed FIU pedestrian bridge. Despite having direct family connections to the company, which designed the ill-fated structure, not a single word came from Beijing or wherever in the Middle Kingdom Carlos Giménez happened to be at the time.
It’s also not a trivial matter that the Mayor traveled to a communist country to conduct business, and everyone who lives in Miami should get the joke. As a member of the world’s leading anti-communist exile community, Carlos Giménez and the rest of the Cuban-born gang who presides over the vast majority of local government seats have made a living backing a five-decade old economic embargo on ‘la patria’, and condemning everything left of your right hand’s pinky finger.
Cars Killed the Dream
The irony is that the automobile itself is to blame for the demise of the so-called American dream.
For close to a century, the American working class managed to gain benefits and increase wages, while reducing the number of hours they had to put in each day. This, in turn, resulted in the creation of the biggest middle class in modern history. The automobile was a big part of that process, spurring growth and entrepreneurship.
The federal highway system and urban roadway development gave rise to the car-based, American lifestyle characterized by suburban sprawl, malls and the big box store. It was an ode to prosperity as each generation bequeathed a higher standard of living to the next. This was the American Dream, and for a few decades it actually worked.
As Dr. Richard Wolff from the New School so clearly lays out in this lecture from 2009, the 1970’s was the beginning of the end. Since then, corporate profits have consistently soared while wages have stagnated, remaining at virtually the same level. The rise of productivity coupled with flat lining wages allowed corporations to acquire massive wealth, while the workforce they employed had no choice but to turn to credit cards to bridge the gap between income and their desire to continue to living the American Dream.
General Motors, was among the first companies to take advantage of the American working class’ new plight, and decided to go into the mortgage lending business, expanding the scope of their original car loan business, GMAC. The General Motors Acceptance Corporation kick-started what would become the credit card/debt boom in the United States. The automobile, in particular, would be used as the asset, which underpinned the burgeoning credit-based economy. Linchpin of the small loan industry, cars have been used to both issue loans and secure credit lines using the vehicle as collateral.
Television is riddled with car commercials, that flash financing and leasing terms on the screen. Every movie and TV series, almost without exception, promotes the idea of car ownership as a status symbol, rite of passage and the key to all your dreams come true, especially as it relates to sexual prowess. Anyone who knows the history of the diamond trade and how DeBeers manipulated public perception through movies and stealthy advertising techniques to literally create a market out of thin air, knows this is not an accident.
The unpolished truth is that cars are little more than debt traps. Gateway credit drugs designed to hook people on a lifetime of interest payments and modern-day indentured servitude. The literal American nightmare.
The children and grandchildren of the ‘exilio’ have heard the stories of dispossession and betrayal. If “El Sueño Americano” makes a cameo, it carries with it a certain melancholy, double entendre that reveals the real dream of their redemptive return to the island. This place called Miami is really just a way-station. It was never part of the plan. Smart or otherwise.
If the past keeps informing our actions in the present, then we are simply sowing the seeds for history to repeat itself. At some point, you have to let go. Miami is ready to move on. Francis X. Suárez is the first Miami-born Mayor the city has ever had. His father, County Commissioner Xavier Suárez, is one of the few voices in the County who seems resolutely against building more toll roads and regularly advocates for better transit solutions, though he, too, has been known to indulge in the occasional fawning over personal internal combustion engines.
The Columbus High alum, Francis Suárez, has hitched his wagon to Beckham’s soccer stadium as the first major project of his era. The wisdom of this move is yet to be seen, but the city’s very recent history with sports stadiums does not augur a good outcome. A serious lack of transparency in the process and the young leader’s full-on support of the massive development is concerning, to say the least. Hopefully, as the first native mayor, he will identify as a resident of this city first and foremost, understanding that Miami is not Havana 2.0 anymore.
Miami needs leadership that sees the city as more than a tourist trap or a preferred destination for asset flight of Latin American grifters. It’s time for the people of this community to stand up and demand a public transit system on par with the enormous potential of this beautiful place. The cost of neglecting transit for decades is already manifesting, and will ultimately inflict a terrible toll on the future of Miami if nothing is done to stop the irresponsible, short-sighted and tone-deaf approaches we have endured for years.
Our commissioners and representatives keep dreaming about America. But, this is our bed and we’re the ones laying in it. It’s time to wake up.
MIAMI, FL – Grant Stern’s Only in Miami radio show (880 The Biz Radio) held a Transit Town Hall yesterday evening in Wynwood’s popular venue, Shots.
Florida Rep. Kionne McGhee (D) spoke eloquently about the pressing issues facing residents of Miami on transit as part of a panel, which also included Transit Alliance co-founder, Marta Viciedo, Miami-Dade Commission candidate for District 6, Maryin Vargas, and Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Esteban Bovo chiming in remotely over the phone.
McGhee has emerged as a vocal opponent of County Mayor Gimenez’ BRT proposal for South Dade, that was recently unveiled and looks to replace the original plans for a rail extension. The Representative for District 117 has demonstrated an ability to cut through the political noise, and express the overwhelming support for rail among the people of Miami.
eMerge Americas is a technological innovation conference that takes place in Miami, and bills itself as the “premiere technology event connecting Latin America, North America and Europe”, but should not be confused with the almost identically named political organization Emerge America, whose mission is to further the careers of Democratic women in government.
eMerge Americas was created by the Technology Foundation of the Americas, a non-profit organization founded by Manny Medina, whose company, Terremark, built the NAP facility in downtown Miami, one of the most important IXPs in the world. Medina sold Terremark in 2011 and became a full-time technology advocate, leading the conversation about transforming Miami into a global tech hub.
According to a 2014 piece from the Miami Herald, “The plan for eMerge Americas is that major information technology companies will showcase solutions in the areas of cloud computing, cyber security, big data, mobile applications, and social networking to leaders in the technology sector in the Americas.”
The first eMerge America conference in April of 2015 turned out to be a success. The five-thousand plus attendance surpassed the expectation of the organizers, despite this number being quite modest compared to any number of similar events in San Francisco every year, which can draw tens of thousands of people. Nevertheless, the focus of eMerge Americas to engage the Latin American tech sector is undoubtedly promising, and a natural fit for South Florida.
This year will be the third iteration of the burgeoning tech convention, and will feature some notable guests, like keynote speaker Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico and famous Twitter foil of current U.S. president, Donald Trump. Sophia, the AI robot created by Hanson Robotics, will also make an appearance.
The 2018 eMerge Americas conference will be held in Miami Beach’s revamped Convention Center on Monday, April 23 through Tuesday, April 24. For tickets and more information, visit the conference’s website.
Proponents of Miami-Dade Transit are fond of describing it as a world class system; a term that has garnered much derision among its regular social media critics (yours truly included). Indeed, it is no mystery that political and financial challenges plaguing Miami-Dade Transit have made it one of the worst public transportation systems in the nation, and many factors play a role in the complete disaster that is Miami’s public transportation. But, what really takes it over the top, and puts it in a class of its own is the pervasive rudeness, lack of compassion and disdain for MDT commuters by its public-facing staff, like bus drivers and third-party security guards.
While there are certainly exceptions of drivers and security guards working at MDT who approach their jobs with a courteous disposition, and show a willingness to help a lost passenger or answer a question, it is undeniable that many more take a much dimmer view of the people they serve, and refuse to even engage in the most basic forms of polite behavior.
Using Miami-Dade Transit, one often gets the impression that our patronage is resented by the people manning the buses and train stations. A distinct air of contempt is present in many of the day-to-day interactions people have with Miami-Dade Transit staff. A simple question like “When are you leaving?”, when a bus you’ve been waiting on for thirty minutes arrives, and the driver decides to take a break, will elicit a death-stare before you get an answer, if you get one at all.
The Chicken or the Egg
Frustration runs deep in everything related to Miami-Dade Transit. From broken promises to broken buses, from terrible traffic to ridiculous schedules, everybody’s pissed.
Are drivers and other MDT staff simply reacting to users lashing out at the system’s egregious inefficiencies or the other way around? In my personal opinion, formed after years of riding Miami’s buses and trains, there is a massive cultural component within MDT, that is to blame for most of the issues in the customer service department.
There’s no doubt, however, that angry and exasperated riders play a major role in exacerbating an already delicate situation, and contribute to deteriorating attitudes among those behind the wheel of MDT’s buses and others who deal with the public on their behalf.
Nevertheless, it is the Transit Department’s responsibility to make sure the system’s users feel welcomed and respected. A modicum of civility should be the minimum requirement for any person tasked with a job that serves the public in some way, and especially one that represents an entire city. Ideally, they would display a genuine desire to be helpful and informative.
Miami-Dade Transit users have a lot in common with the late and great comedian, Rodney Dangerfield. We get no respect. Mainly, this lack of regard for bus and train riders is expressed in an absence of effective environmental design and an embarrassing paucity of information when something goes wrong and passengers are stranded on Metromover or Metrorail tracks.
Departing from any of the three end-point terminals of the Metrorail, such as Dadeland South, Airport Station or Palmetto, can turn out to be a game of Black Jack (another of Rodney’s favorite things) should you want to get on the next train out, and there happens to be a train on both sides of the track. You won’t find a single piece of signage or hear any kind of announcement that will tell you which train to board. Your only recourse is to spot the elusive train conductor when he or she is on their way to the front or hope that only one of the trains has closed doors, allowing you to pick the other one by process of elimination. But, even then you might be wrong.
Similarly, distinguishing between the green and orange lines of the Metrorail can prove less than straightforward. Even though the recently installed screens on all Metrorail platforms purports to display the color of the incoming train, this information is not always accurate, and only a glimpse of the crooked paper sign taped to the conductor’s windshield can confirm it.
The scope of PA announcements on the Metrorail and Metromover are quite limited, as well, and live updates are so rare, you’d think the only microphone is set up in some janitor closet down a little-used hallway in one of MDT’s out-of-the-way facilities. Perhaps the one that leads to that bathroom no one wants to use because it only gets cleaned once a month.
Another way MDT shows a want of consideration for their customers are the neglected state of their facilities, including public restrooms, elevators and a dearth of waste bins in many stations, as well as the vehicles themselves.
The filth inside the trains and buses is appalling. Several train cars have large holes running along the side paneling and even a few on the floors of the cars. Mice have been caught peeking through by users’ camera phones. Buses don’t seem to get cleaned at all, beyond a cursory trash removal, and roaches are a common sight in the older models.
Toilet paper scarcity in Metrorail restrooms has been documented by freelance writer and journalist, Maria de Los Angeles, a.k.a., “Vice Queen Maria” in her scatological meditation during her adventures using Miami-Dade Transit.
Elevators in the various train and Metromover stations also serve to demonstrate MDT’s disregard for its users. The constant breakdowns can be attributed to the underlying political high jinks, that result in lack of funding for proper mechanical maintenance, but what about the rancid urine smell?
Low Hanging Fruit
Obviously, the problems facing Miami-Dade Transit as a result of municipal graft and other issues are very complicated. But, there’s no reason the current system cannot be improved at the most primary level, which is customer service and routine sanitation.
It might not fix the system’s underlying shortcomings, but it will make the road there more tolerable, and less likely to be littered with half-eaten apples like the one I nearly sat on the other day on my way home.
It’s Ultra Music Festival time, and the kids are back with their short shorts, fishnet stockings and lollipops to let loose for a few days in Downtown Miami. We took some pictures as Ultramiami kicks off, and thousands descend on the Magic City for their annual EDM ritual.
They say the only sure things in life are death and taxes. But, in Miami, we might as well add late trains and buses to that tired phrase. And tired, we are. Tired of waiting for our city leaders to put aside blatant self-interest and crony-capitalist tendencies to finally do something about public transit here.
Declining ridership has been the result of people encountering a system so bad, many prefer to sit in I-95’s parking lot day after day than face Miami-Dade Transit’s interminable delays and breakdowns.
With bumper-to-bumper traffic becoming a regular occurrence, Miami residents are desperate for a functional transit system, that offers respite from an increasingly onerous daily commute. Despite this, Mayor Carlos Gimenez has decided to abandon the platform he ran on to get reelected, and sponsor yet another toll-road initiative, while floating pie-in-the-sky technologies for mass transit, that only serve to derail the conversation.
Unfortunately for us, the masters of illusion who run the Magic City have only made what amount to cosmetic changes to a decaying transit system, despite collecting billions from taxpayers, who are beginning to grasp that they’ve been taken for a ride of a completely different kind.
The incompetence runs deep, and decades of bad relations with the transit union only makes the situation that much worse for riders, who are the ones who ultimately pay the steepest price.
Off The Rails
County Mayor, Carlos Gimenez, and friends, rolled out the first of the new Metrorail cars a few months ago to much self-congratulatory fanfare. A big photo op party was held at the Airport Metrorail station, with beleaguered Transit director, Alice Bravo, and other municipal luminaries cutting ribbons and boarding the new Hitachi-manufactured 4-car train for a private inaugural ride.
The tone-deaf “leaders” chose a weekday morning to have their ceremony, disrupting travel times for actual commuters. Only four new cars were actually put into service. Not even enough to make one complete six-car train, as the original Metrorail once had (according to legend); but enough to hold a press conference and unveil a cheap plaque.
Since that banner day in December of last year, the gradual introduction of more new train cars, which had been scheduled for two new cars a month, has hit a troubling, if predictable, delay. Many of the spanking new train cars have already suffered similar mechanical malfunctions, that took the old trains decades to manifest, like doors that do not open and broken air conditioning causing them to be removed from service on several occasions.
Cynical Metrorail users have christened the new trains with mythological monickers like “Unicorn” and “Centaur” due to the improbability of actually riding one. But, even if they’re fortunate enough to catch an elusive, clean car with functioning A/C, their good luck is likely to be offset by having to cram against other riders like sardines in the packed train.
The Metrorail, of course, is far from the only problem in the Miami-Dade Transit ecosystem. Buses are an even worse proposition for anyone looking to use it.
Anyone who has sat (or likely stood) at a Miami-Dade bus stop with the intention of catching one, has invariably come across the fact that MDT buses do not keep their schedule. Not only are they late on the regular, many simply never show up. “Ghost buses” are an everyday affair in Miami, and can make an already long wait, a cruel and frustrating affair.
Hour-long wait times for buses in Miami is not only common, it is inevitable if you are a regular rider. The only exception is if you’re a tourist leaving the airport. Miami is very interested in getting you to your hotel as quickly as possible, so you can start spending your money in South Florida. But, if you plan on relying on public transportation for sight-seeing or getting around, you’re better off staying in, and calling for room service.
In spite of this, MDT is extending wait times for some of the most used routes and even cutting them altogether. The reason cited for these cuts is lack of funding, which is really just lack of political will by Gimenez and his sycophantic chorus of self-interested County commissioners.
Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, who literally chairs the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development subcommittee, has stated repeatedly that he would see to it that Miami-Dade County gets the necessary funds to expand and improve its mass transit system, but so far Mayor Gimenez has chosen to break campaign promises and is angling, again, to build more space-wasting asphalt toll-roads.
Next Stop: Conundrum
At this point, with such a disastrously inefficient transit system perpetually neglected by an entrenched political class, what is the way forward for a city in dire need of transit options?
The advent of Uber and other ride sharing services has provided some relief to the transit-dependent residents of Miami, but they are also a contributing factor to the increased congestion of our streets, and while these apps are good in a pinch, they are not a mass transit solution.
Likewise, the privately run and free Miami Trolley, is another play for tourists and not genuine option for moving across the city on a daily basis. These low-capacity, and torturously slow retro buses are further hampered by capricious drivers, who have no compunction about leaving their trollies, full of passengers, in the middle of a route to make a Taco Bell run. To make matters worse, Miami Trolley route frequencies are completely unpredictable.
The only positive transit stories with a semblance of efficiency occur within the various incorporated cities inside Miami-Dade County. Services like the Coral Gables Trolley, which has been efficiently operated for decades, works well for the “City Beautiful’s” downtown area. Miami Beach has also developed a good trolley system as of late, and in North Miami, the Haitian community took the initiative long ago with the jitneys.
Maybe it’s time to forget about letting the County have anything to do with transit, since their interests clearly lie elsewhere, and have shown no responsibility in terms of managing and maintaining the current system. Perhaps a more local approach is called for, with cities themselves receiving federal or County funds to develop their own transit systems and only centralizing the payment systems, to facilitate logistical issues like bus or rail transfers.
The bottom line is that Miami-Dade County has proven unequal to the task of running a mass public transit system, and that is unlikely to change in the near future or even a generation.
Several Counties in South Florida came together recently on a contingency plan in case of an unprecedented sea-level rise event. Mass evacuations are contemplated, and considerable resources have been allocated to prepare for this possibility.
If things don’t change, we can always look on the bright side. Our terrible transit system could drive millions out of Miami, making this end-of-the-world scenario less daunting.
Survivors will tell tales of magical vehicles that ran atop copper tracks high above the city. Instead of horned equines, with flowing white manes, that jump over rainbows, unicorns will become metaphors about lost mobility, and a new day will dawn as our descendants strive to reach their Valhalla.
The events that transpired in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day, may turn out to be germane to our ability to live as a free society.
In a time of engineered fear, and an infantilized populace, enslaved by emotional responses to events they can barely comprehend, we’re also able to count on a considerable minority of people, who have taken advantage of the advent of information technology to create its own, independent force for the alternative interpretation and propagation of information, which has seriously challenged the status quo.
Both of these groups are being targeted by purveyors of the party line. The former as the focus of manipulation, and the latter with the aim of destruction. The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has provided them with an opportunity to pursue both, simultaneously.
Rumbling painfully in the background are the agonizing death throes of the American Republic, whose overextended empire-for-hire has begun to eat its own children. Like Saturn, the mythical god of ancient Rome, the United States is cannibalizing its young, beginning its inexorable march into oblivion.
The Strawman’s Dilemma
Within hours of the massacre at Stoneman Douglas, the mainstream news media had gotten a jump on the “conspiracy theories” and claims of fake crisis actors that, by now, have commonly followed highly publicized mass shooting events like these.
Miami Herald reporter, Alex Harris, was targeted by a hoaxer who created two phony screenshots, which seemed to originate from his Twitter account. Also making the rounds was a fake Miami Herald article, warning of “potentially catastrophic events” in the coming days, citing threats to a Miami-Dade Middle School.
Several McClatchy newspapers, the Herald’s parent company, as well as other national publications ran stories on the “attacks”, ascribing to them a specific motive: discrediting the mainstream news media.
The fake screenshots were circulated via Twitter and Snapchat, according to Tim Johnson, who penned the conspiracy-rebuttal for McClatchy DC. He quotes at least three individuals from news media and information circles, all of whom rail against what one called an “evolving system of misinformation”.
Despite their dire predictions about a “world of dense information pollution”, the particular examples of fakery, which provoked the article are fairly easy to spot for anyone familiar with Photoshop or a cursory grasp of search engines.
Many other examples of false claims regarding the incident at Stoneman Douglas, proliferated on social media days after the tragedy; all of which could be easily disproven with the slightest effort; a classic strawman.
The Harris screenshots prompted Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, to join the chorus of anti-fake news refrains from social media industry leaders, stating that his company was looking for a “scalable and objective” solution to the problem. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had already inserted himself in the proceedings, with a ‘flagging’ feature for Facebook user’s posts, which resulted in the unintended consequence of drawing even more attention to the untrustworthy content.
This is not a new problem. The mainstream news media has been fighting for the restoration of is credibility for many years now. In fact, their struggle can be traced directly back to the birth of the World Wide Web.
A Hero’s Legacy
In the summer of 1996, the San Jose Mercury News chose to publish a groundbreaking investigative series called Dark Alliance, as the lead story on their newly-revamped website. Gary Webb’s original three-part series, documenting a nefarious network of collusion between the Nicaraguan Contras, drug traffickers and the CIA, exposing links that reached to the highest levels of the United States government, became the first viral story of the Internet, attracting millions of hits.
The shell-shocked mainstream media would take months to start their own coverage, but instead of investigating the explosive allegations made by Webb, they went after the author himself in article after article, trying to discredit him. Despite never finding a single factual error, the San Jose Mercury News was forced to publicly distance itself from the journalist and the story due to pressure by his corporate-funded naysayers.
More than 20 years later, Webb’s work has not only been corroborated by a deluge of facts unearthed by the army of independent journalists he inadvertently created, but even the conclusions of the CIA’s own internal investigation eventually revealed, that the intelligence agencies involvement was greater than what Webb had disclosed.
All of this notwithstanding, the mainstream press buried any retractions, and continues to publish, as late as 2014, articles meant to disparage the now deceased investigative reporter. In addition to unleashing a real citizen journalist movement, Webb’s Dark Alliance series and the aftermath dealt a massive blow to the credibility of the mainstream media, which has never recovered.
The current campaign to discredit independent journalism with strawman social media posts and ivory tower arbiters of information is one of their latest, and most concerted efforts to regain control over the dissemination of content they enjoyed before the Webb fiasco.
The Parkland massacre has been riddled with dicey tidbits of patently false information. One such example was a video purporting to show David Hogg, one of the MSD students thrust into the limelight, as a high school graduate from California in a class of 2015. The claimant posted a picture and a video fragment of what was supposed to be Hogg’s senior yearbook picture in the Los Angeles area high school. The image and video postings, however, were clearly taken from a social media account of one of Hogg’s classmates, who had uploaded the original video of his first yearbook picture at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. The strawman account, which published the doctored images, was less than three days old.
In the Court of the Manchurian Prom Queen
On the morning of February 15, less than twenty-four hours after the massacre, a group of approximately 25 students met at the home of MSD senior, Cameron Kasky, and formed the so-called “Never Again” movement; a latter day breakfast club, which set its sights on gun law reform. The student group raised an astonishing 3.5 million dollars in the span of two days through a Go Fund Me campaign, that drew large infusions by several Hollywood celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, and intelligence-connected George Clooney.
CNN wasted no time in introducing the faces from the newly-minted teenage political action committee to every living room in America. While one of the members, Emma Gonzalez, would not make her big splash until a couple of days later at the inaugural “Never Again” rally in Ft. Lauderdale, David Hogg would get a head start on his career in TV journalism. Hogg would join CNN at the media staging area of the Stoneman Douglas crime scene to recite the scripted responses to the network’s questions, which oscillated predictably between emotional triggers and gun control, but never any actual investigation of facts.
David Hogg has been one of the most “attacked” figures in the ad-hoc student activist movement, with the mainstream media coming to his defense, and knocking down strawman arguments at every turn, virtually assuring at least a measure of skepticism about any negative stories, that might call his starring role into question.
Kevin Ralph Hogg, David’s father, is a former Comey appointee at the FBI. Special Agent, Hogg, was assigned to the Los Angeles International Airport Resident Agency during a mysterious incident in 2011, involving Nigerian national, Olajid O. Noibi, who managed to board a Virgin America flight from JFK airport to LAX without a valid boarding pass or ID. Despite the fact that the FBI had been tipped off by the plane’s Captain and an airport police dispatcher, after being spotted in flight, Noibi was not arrested when he arrived at LAX, and was only detained days later, when he attempted to board a Delta flight to Atlanta from L.A. using another invalid boarding pass. Noibi cleared TSA and made it to the flight’s boarding gate without a valid ticket, passport or identification. It was only as a result of the actions of a Delta Airlines employee, that Noibi was ultimately denied boarding and his belongings searched, revealing, fake ID’s and 10 boarding passes with different names in his possession.
Kevin Hogg interrogated Noibi and issued an affidavit to a Los Angeles court, which sentenced him to time served (five months) for a single stowaway charge. The blatant lapses in airport security and the Bureau’s own apparent indifference would suffer no scrutiny, however. Hogg would move on from the FBI a few years later and join the private sector with an Orlando, Florida-based company called Cubic Simulation Systems, which specializes in tactical training programs for police and military personnel.
Hogg heads up their Pompano, Florida offices. Among the services offered by the DOD contractor, are a software and visualization package called PRISim, which trains assault rifle users on simulated human targets. Another of the company’s offerings is called ASAULT (Advanced System Architecture for Urban Live Training), a comprehensive urban warfare training system, complete with cameras, speakers, smoke generators, ballistic laser mounts to track the accuracy of the marksmen trainees on their computer-based monitors, and other bodies. ASAULT was recently installed in a Homeland Security Training Center in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The name of the facility is pronounced “slay” for its acronym, SLEA, which stands for Suburban Law Enforcement Academy.
Cubic Simulations Systems’ new Chairman, Bradley Feldman, whose firm has already scored at least one multimillion-dollar contract from the DOD for the procurement of services of Israeli Defense Forces, has close ties to the Israeli military industrial complex and is perfectly positioned to take advantage of his proximity, and special religious-cultural kinship with Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who heads the nation’s largest police department and its $730 million-dollar budget.
The dovetailing of Kevin Hogg’s background with the actual events of February 14th, 2018 in Parkland, Florida is not unique. Another parent also shares some odd, if circumstantially relevant links to the emerging details of the Valentine’s day massacre.
Jeffrey A. Kasky, Jr., father of the enterprising Cameron who ostensibly presided over the creation of the “Never Again” movement at his home is an attorney who, together with his own father, runs a for-profit adoption program called One World Adoptions, which works with impoverished young women all over the world to facilitate placement of children they cannot afford to raise, even before they miss their first period. Jeffrey Kasky is also the author of “The ABA Guide to Assisted Reproduction”; the Orwellian overtones of such a title are clear enough.
The accused, Nikolas Cruz, was adopted not once, but twice in his short life. The 19-year old purported gunman’s origins are as sketchy as the claims of him being a white nationalist; a bogus story planted deliberately in the media by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) hours after the incident at Stoneman Douglas.
Neither CNN or any of the other MSM networks would look into any of these things. Instead, they would continue round-the-clock coverage of the student-led movement. Indeed, CNN would go above and beyond, by literally creating platforms for the students. Just two days after the massacre, that they would organize a town hall at the BB&T center, home of the Florida Panthers. The event would take place the following Wednesday, and invitations were publicly sent to a number of political leaders. Among those who attended the discussion were Senator Marco Rubio, NRA representative Dana Loesch, and Sheriff Scott Israel, the former Broward SWAT director, who is personally leading the pro-gun control discourse.
Momentum is gathering steam, and Emma Gonzalez will soon lead the “Never Again” kids in a march in Washington D.C. in a few days. Curiously, the permit for that march is not held by the students, but by a controversial lobby group called Everytown for Gun Control.
Deep State Spillover
We are told that he “signs” about Nikolas de Jesus Cruz were there, but that all were ignored and his alleged rage was allowed to fester. A monster under the roof, said Mrs. Snead, the plus one in the marriage who took Cruz in weeks earlier after his adoptive mother passed away. Mr. Snead, coincidentally, also had a Military Intelligence background, with expertise in radio-frequency technology; the very technology that police claimed failed miserably on Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 in Parkland, Florida, and contributed to their delayed response.
Cruz’ guilt was treated as a matter of course by the media, who never raised any questions about how that conclusion was reached by law enforcement, despite several witness accounts raising serious doubts about the official narrative. One of the most salient examples is an interview with MSD senior, who related to a CNN reporter her belief that more than one shooter must have been active, and followed that statement with the explosive claim that the accused gunman, himself, walked out of the campus beside her.
This video and other witness accounts pointing to the likelihood of multiple shooters were quickly scrubbed from any coverage. Predictably, the media simply began to engage in their familiar pattern of character assassination, to paint a credible picture of incrimination to an emotionally rapt viewing audience.
The media’s talking points, as usual, centered on the outrage. The gory details of massacred children, the dereliction of duty by BSO officials (while simultaneously accepting their word about the events as gospel), and of course, the political hot button subject of gun control.
Cops apprehended Nikolas barely an hour after the massacre. BSO was tipped off to his whereabouts by Rabbi Hershy Bronstein, who spotted Cruz strolling casually by the Chai Chabad House. After the good Rabbi turned over the security cam footage to police, the cameras kept rolling as BSO deputies led a confused-looking Nikolas Cruz into the police cruiser, which would make a short stop at Broward Health North before continuing on to the precinct, with the suspect dressed in an emasculating hospital robe.
The Broward Sheriff, Scott Israel, wasted no time in putting politics front and center. The very next day, during a vigil attended by thousands of Parkland residents, Israel laid out the agenda:
“If you are an elected official and you want to keep things the way they are and not do things differently, if you want to keep the gun laws as they are now—you will not get re-elected in Broward County.”
A not too subtle endorsement of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the disgraced former DNC chair who was also in attendance, and is running to retain her seat as representative for Florida’s 23rd congressional district in the upcoming midterm elections. Wasserman-Schultz’ involvement in the federal probe of her former IT aide, Imran Awan, (not to mention the mysterious case of DNC staffer Seth Rich’s murder) has been conveniently shoved aside from the media spotlight thanks to the Stoneman Douglas tragedy.
The Awan probe threatens to ignite a political tinderbox surrounding recent global events, tied to Israel’s geopolitical machinations and the apartheid state’s sponsors in the U.S. government. One of them is Robert Wexler, a five-time U.S. Representative for Florida’s 19th district, hired Awan in 2004, flying him in from Pakistan. The Congressman resigned his seat in 2010 to become chairman of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Mideast Peace, which is a major source of funding for pro-Zionist politicians and State Department bureaucrats.
Wasserman’s infamous row with Capitol police in mid 2016, threatening law enforcement with “consequences” over the aide’s confiscated laptop, revealed just how compromised she is in what looks to be the real spy scandal of the century, involving the illegal surveillance of Congressional communications and the deep state’s covert operations to bring down all secular Arab states.
Is the Awan case at the heart of the unlikely installment of Donald Trump in the White House, the Mueller investigation, and the radical policy shifts being attempted by this administration? Are Wasserman-Schultz and Robert Wexler more invested in furthering Israeli interests, than those of the districts they represent? Or, are these actually the real interests of the people and corporations in these districts?
The State’s biggest contractor, GEO, is headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida in Wexler’s former district 19. Formerly known as Wackenhut, the company founded by former FBI agents, is a massive security firm that runs private prisons all over the world, and has been known to spy on American citizens on behalf of their customers, many of whom are in the oil and energy sectors. More recently, GEO has moved into Immigration and Customs enforcement, making them one of ICE’s biggest contractors.
The secrets of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Valentine’s Day massacre could be hidden in the upcoming midterm elections, as those left in the lurch after November, 2016, seek to regain control after being ousted by the interests behind the Trump presidency.
The Obama administration facilitated an unprecedented influx of the financial kleptocracy into government, as Goldman Sachs and other creditors set up shop in D.C. Hillary Clinton was slated to continue their agenda, but was clearly thwarted by the asset holders, like big oil, who seem to be thinking twice about handing everything over to the central planners or perhaps it was the central planners, themselves, who have given us Trump in anticipation of another bloodbath.
The signals are contradictory to those of us looking on from the outside. But, we can always look at the final outcome to discern the truth.
The last time we had a Valentine’s Day massacre was in 1929, when Al Capone slaughtered a few of his enemies in a Second City restaurant. A few months later, Montagu Norman’s Bank of England and the central banking cabal would redouble efforts to destroy the gold standard and plunge the world into a massive financial meltdown, in order to erect their debt-based game of musical chairs.
Now that the music has stopped, and the United States is the world’s largest debtor nation, who will be left standing?
It’s unlikely that issues such as gun control and immigration will ever be resolved. These issues are ways to mobilize their respective bases, in order to put themselves in the position to act on behalf of the interests that they actually serve. One thing we can be sure of, they are not ours.
The area immediately surrounding Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is a very affluent, suburban enclave with fastidiously trimmed hedges and artificial bodies of water, typical of many developments in South Florida. Fake hills line the north and south sides of Holmberg Road, where the campus stands between Pine Island and Nob Hill Roads. The idyllic, if contrived, scenery works for a weekend stroll or the occasional outing with the kids along the bike path, that undulates beneath the imported trees.
Holmberg Rd, itself, is named after a marginally important figure who bought some land in the area a few decades ago. But once you move past the security kiosks, which guard the entrances to the multiple gated, million-dollar communities, the street names cease to have even this tenuous relation to the region’s history, and become a potpourri of posh-sounding words brainstormed in a real estate marketing firm by an underpaid graphic designer.
Distances are long and there are few community-oriented spaces, like parks, which have not been specifically included in the amenities section of the development’s marketing brochure. The wide boulevard is about the only place you’ll steal a glimpse of an actual person through their windshield.
In general, Parkland, Florida looks like a deliberately sterile environment where the risk-averse come to nest. Even the colors are heavily patrolled by zoning committees, which make sure the color palate remains strictly within a beige-taupe spectrum. Only the green leaves and perfectly mowed lawns are permitted to add contrast.
The American dream fulfilled, hidden behind the uncomfortable rumblings of volatile mortgage debt and the nightmarish undercurrent of American culture. This is Levittown of the 21st century. In the 1950s, school children were faced with the abstract prospect of nuclear annihilation, and trained to hide under their desks, at a time when the country was engaged in a nuclear arms race. Today, the threat faced by our children is far more concrete, but the drills equally absurd as the arsenals of individual Americans continues to swell.
Nearly seven decades since William Levitt held his first open house, nuclear weapons have proliferated, despite the lip service paid to détente. But, without the credible threat provided by the now defunct Cold War, nation-wide fear indoctrination loses potency. A heavily armed population is a good substitute, if it can be effectively vilified.
Walking around Parkland, Florida, one could easily imagine a narrative where a socially isolated, heavily medicated kid, with severe depression and a weak support system could suddenly snap, and take out his anger on fellow former classmates. The story has been inculcated into the American collective unconscious via Hollywood and repeated ad nauseam by the news media, itself.
In the end, whether it’s the “lone gunman” approach, eliciting marches for gun control or the “Mexican rapist” argument drawing calls to build a wall, the consensus points to the same pattern, which is recognizable in the last days of all empires: More security. More surveillance. More locks on the doors, and increasingly less, and less freedom.
Miami’s new Police Chief will have his hands full sorting through the criminal element inside his own department, as he is ushered in as Magic City’s top cop amid a spate of internal scandals.
Former assistant Police Chief, Jorge Colina, was sworn in a day after the Miami New Times published a new piece on the shameful exploits of Police Capt. Javier Ortiz, whose antics around the community, have resulted in dozens of lawsuits for misconduct, including incidents of cyberstalking, harassment, police brutality and fabricating arrest reports. The MPD veteran is seemingly proud of his Internal Affairs file, bragging about it on Facebook, and even going so far as to taunt the press about his untouchability.
Ortiz, who was promoted to Captain in October of last year, used to head the city’s Police Union; a post he relinquished in favor of his friend, and possibly more corrupt colleague, Sgt. Edward Lugo, who was caught running a criminal protection racket during an FBI sting in 2009. Ortiz didn’t go far, however, staying on as Vice President of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police.
Only a couple of months earlier, Officer Adrian Santos, was arrested and charged with cocaine possession after he was spotted snorting the white powder inside a Miami nightclub while off duty. Rodolfo Llanes, Colina’s former boss and predecessor, denounced the two-and-a-half year member of the force, who is appealing his termination. Santos’ lawyer filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming it was negligent in forwarding information on his investigative file, according to a report by the Miami Herald.
The very day that Colina took over as Chief, Officer Dermis Hernandez, was arrested while trying to board a flight to Costa Rica. Hernandez is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a Ponzi scheme he operated between 2011 and 2015, according to the FBI. The 12-year Miami Police veteran scammed fellow officers out of their pensions, promising a 20% return on investment in a company that ostensibly provided high-interest loans to property owners in Costa Rica. Hernandez was taken into custody at Hollywood-Ft. Lauderdale International Airport on Monday.
Despite the seemingly bad omens surrounding Colina’s appointment, it barely underscores an already familiar pattern of corruption. Colina will be the fifth Chief of Police Miami has had in the last nine years; an unprecedented turnover rate for the 1,200 plus strong force. His promotion was a decision made practically from the hip by new City Manager, Emilio T. Gonzalez, who named him Chief of Police after a single meeting. No search for candidates or application process was carried out.
Among the qualities that attracted Gonzalez to Colina was his desire to expand the department’s coordination with federal agencies, and just days after naming Colina, Emilio T. Gonzalez released a statement that emphasized the new Police Chief’s intention to use the latest technologies to “enhance efficiency, improve transparency and reduce overall crime”. In other words, this signifies the broad implementation of new and highly questionable law enforcement technologies, such as Sting Ray devices, facial recognition software and iris-scanners among other invasive tools, that are being rolled out to police precincts around the country.
Colina emerged elated from the meeting, sounding like a high school student who had just bonded with his counselor: “Man, I’m tripping out,” Colina said. “I met with the manager this morning and we had a long philosophical discussion.”
Given Gonzalez’ background and Colina’s own words, the philosophy in question was unlikely to revolve around community outreach. “There’s no reason why we can’t be one of the safest cities in the country,” Colina told the Miami Herald. “Reducing gun violence is the priority. I have no sympathy if you chose to use a firearm to commit a crime.”
The Cuban-born Gonzalez was George W. Bush’s Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and boasts a distinguished military career, during which he served with the Defense Intelligence Agency as a military attaché and at U.S. Southern Command, heading their Office of Special Assistants for the Commander in Chief. After 26 years in the armed forces, Gonzalez retired with the rank of Colonel.
Gonzalez is fresh off a four-year stint as Director of Miami International Airport; a position to which he was appointed by embattled county Mayor, Carlos Gimenez, whose embrace of Trump’s Sanctuary City ban has caused a rift among locals. The Mayor defended his decision by citing much needed federal dollars, but the move does more to reveal the entrenched interests of the Cuban-American lobby, which continues to have more sway than the city’s changing demographics suggest it should.
Under Gimenez, Miami has solidified itself as the capital of income inequality, with a majority of residents slogging through low-paying jobs in the service economy in the third largest renters market in the country, while South American millionaires scoop up luxury condos. Meanwhile, David Beckham is about to raze parts of one of Miami’s poorest neighborhoods to build a stadium for his new MLS franchise and Amazon teases South Florida with more service jobs, that we’re invited to subsidize ourselves.
The risk for severe social unrest lies just beneath the surface, and a corrupt police force along with an insulated leadership, that chooses to stand with Trump’s anti-immigration policies, against the logical interests of most Miami residents – including Cubans of more recent extraction, is setting the stage for a confrontation down the line.
Exactly one century ago in 1917, British Naval Intelligence intercepted a telegram sent from the German Foreign Office to the President of Mexico, Venustiano Carranza. In the missive, Germany proposed an alliance with the burgeoning nation south of the Rio Grande if the United States choose to enter the war. The Germans also offered weapons and munitions to help Mexico regain its lost territories in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, hoping Carranza could be prodded into launching a suicidal offensive against its northern neighbor and draw resources away from the European theater. Known as the Zimmerman telegram, the explosive communiqué would thrust the United States into World War I and forever change the course of human history.
The story of how that telegram ended up in the hands of Sir Reginald Hall, Director of British Naval Intelligence, and eventually on Woodrow Wilson’s desk has enough intrigue to make for a great Hollywood spy thriller. Today, the transmission of messages is far less romantic, but far more advanced as billions, if not trillions, of encrypted communications are transmitted daily and relayed through a central nervous system of servers called Internet Exchange Points (IXPs). There are hundreds of Internet Exchange Points in cities around the world. Yet most of us wouldn’t even know that they exist or that every email, Facebook post, Snapchat or SMS we send from our phone or computer makes a split-second stop in these usually massive buildings before being re-routed to their ultimate destination.
Right in the heart of downtown Miami, less than a hundred yards away from American Airlines Arena stands “The Cube”, a 750,000 square foot concrete box that relays digital information from around the globe. The official name of the massive data center is Network Access Point of the Americas (NOTA) and serves as a pathway for digital traffic from 148 countries.
Had it not been for an unscrupulous Mexican counterfeiter, the United States Congress may have never voted to enter the “war to end all wars”. Happenstance was a crucial component of successful intelligence work up until late in the 20th century when analog forms of communication prevailed. In the digital age, however, luck is no longer an issue. Everyone can be spied on and the only thing left for Congress to vote on is whether or not to make it legal.
A Sea Change
NOTA is unique among Internet access points because it actually rents servers to public and private enterprises, making it an information-sharing hub. Terremark Worldwide, a consulting and real estate development firm founded by Cuban immigrant Manuel D. “Manny” Medina, built the data center in 2001. Medina’s background was not atypical in Miami. Fleeing the Castro regime, he came to Miami with his parents at the age of 13 and, like many children of post-revolution, first-wave Cuban immigrants, he attended and graduated college. Armed with a degree in accounting from Florida Atlantic University, he landed a job at the PriceWaterhouse Latin American division and while employed at the UK-based accounting giant, he developed important relationships with investors throughout Latin America, which would prove invaluable in the future.
By the time Castro hit Miami with a second-wave of Cubans via the Mariel Boatlift, the Magic City was booming and Manny Medina was about to make a killing. He quit PriceWaterhouse and incorporated Terremark in 1980. Soon, he was not only advising investors on real estate deals, but also contracting public infrastructure, telecommunications and technology projects around the world. His priorities shifted in the mid 90’s when the Internet burst on the scene and he decided to build his own data center.
With construction already underway in downtown Miami, Medina learned that a public-private, non-profit consortium had issued an RFP to build a Tier-1 NAP of the Americas in Miami. Terremark partnered with Telcordia Technologies, a by-product of the landmark antitrust case United States vs. AT&T, formed by the Regional Operating Companies of the Bell System and considered a major architect of the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure. Telcordia was sold to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in 1996, a company with deep ties to intelligence and government services.
Manny Medina, once again, found himself in the right place at the right time. He had worked his way here, no doubt; but his concrete-pouring savvy wasn’t a major consideration when the NAP of the Americas LLC consortium decided to award him the contract over Lockheed Martin and one other company from Silicon Valley. Telcordia’s previous experience engineering three NAPs and their technological knowhow would be the crucial factor. In a decade’s time, he would sell his stake in Terremark to Verizon Communications and pursue other ventures in cyber security and philanthropy.
Fiber Optic Dreams
In the late 1990’s, money flowed to the telecoms who raced to lay down fiber optic cable all around the South American continent. An oligopoly of companies was positioning itself to take advantage of the burgeoning digital bonanza. The colossal infrastructure project connected all the major points along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, through the Andes and elsewhere crossing land and sea, meeting on a relatively tiny 50-mile stretch of land between Miami and Boca Raton on the southern tip of the Florida peninsula.
This was to be the nadir of the booming telecom-carrier twin industries until it all came crashing down like the twin towers later that summer. The deluge of investment coupled with unbridled ambition and unrealistic expectations led to a string of catastrophic failures. One of the most notorious cases was the WorldCom accounting scandal, which resulted in the very public arrests of its CFO, John Sidgmore and controller, David Meyers, for claiming nearly 4 billion dollars in expenses as capital investment. The company would end up having to write off $50 billion in 2001.
According to Sir William James, the official biographer of Sir Reginald Hall, the Zimmerman telegram was obtained as a result of a convoluted tale that involved counterfeiting, betrayal and influence peddling.
The story goes that a Mexican print shop owner had discovered that one of his employees was counterfeiting money at work. The proprietor hid the printing plates he found and went to consult with a friend, the administrator of the Mexican telegraph office. Returning to work the following day, the employee discovered he had been found out and turned the tables on his boss, accusing him of being the true counterfeiter. The shop owner was promptly arrested and sentenced to death by firing squad. His friend appealed directly to Hall, who interceded successfully on his behalf with the Mexican government. As a token of appreciation, the administrator provided Britain’s Director of Naval Intelligence with a copy of the infamous telegram.
Writer & Editor
The NAP of the Americas consortium initially brought together 43 companies, but would soon expand to include many of the carriers who rolled back plans to have their own separate data centers. Today, the NAP is the largest of three data centers in South Florida, but the only one with the distinction of renting space to Uncle Sam. The facility has six floors, only four of which are built out. The second floor contains the heart of the operation, the so-called ‘peering room’, which is fitted with a dozen giant screens monitoring everything from the weather to the FBI’s most wanted list. The third floor is reserved for the U.S. government. Access to this area requires federal clearance and is restricted to U.S. citizens. It is one of the seven relay points for the Diplomatic Telecommunications Service, which supports U.S. diplomatic missions abroad.
Should the next dispatch that spurs the United States to war come from South America or Europe, chances are it will be patched through the NAP of the Americas. It may also be the case even if it comes from the President’s Twitter account.