“THE YEAR OF DANGEROUS DAYS” – Review By Marshall Frank

“THE YEAR OF DANGEROUS DAYS”
Riots, Refugees and Cocaine in Miami, 1980
By Nicolas Griffin

This is a powerful read for people, especially law enforcement personnel, judges, prosecutors, and prison staff who survived Miami in the era of boundless crime, 1979-1980. Penned by a first-class Miami writer, Nicholas Griffin brings the reader into the most difficult era in law enforcement history when Dade County became the murder capital of the nation for four consecutive years.

Published 2020 by Simon & Shuster

This book includes a graphic account of:

  • The overwhelming infestation of drugs and traffickers
  • Police corruption
  • Deploying investigative units with only half the personnel available.
  • The Arthur McDuffie Case in which multiple cops, after a long chase, took turns beating a man to death for speeding.
  • A trial that rendered a “Not Guilty” verdict, sparking the worst race riots in Florida history, with eighteen innocents brutally murdered, and many more injured.
  • The impact on South Florida from the Mariel Boatlift 1980 which, over a four-month period, brought 125,000 refugees, many unidentified, to the Miami area from jails, hospitals, psyche wards, crippled, insane, or infirmed. And, yes, drug smugglers.
  • That also impacted the Medical Examiner’s office whose daily dead body count nearly doubled, requiring a refrigerator truck to handle the overflow.
    For weeks and months, bodies were floating up everywhere, in canals, cars, trucks.

Yours truly is mentioned in a number of incidents and scenes. I feel honored to have been of assistance to the author. We also interviewed many other Miami-Dade cops who worked, along with others, around the clock on these cases. This includes my good friends, most notably Frank Wesolowski, Al Singleton, Raul Diaz and Lonnie Lawrence. A full list is mentioned in the book.

Nicholas Griffin is a first-class interviewer, and I’ve known many. Also mentioned are numerous other officials from various agencies in South Florida

The book is available via Amazon or at bookstores everywhere.

It’s a very good read.

Cuban people sense an opening for freedom; the U.S. cannot let them down

I’ll not forget my rookie year as a new cop for Dade County in 1960.

Until then, I had never met a Spanish-speaking person. The populations of Miami and Miami Beach were lily-white.

Schools were not integrated and neighborhoods were divided by race. Spanish-speaking folks were a novelty.

With Miami situated in southeast Florida, residents were mostly immigrants from New York and other northern states.

While Americans followed the war taking place in the mountainous Cuban terrain, many were happy to see crooked Fulgencio Batista toppled from power while a rugged, charismatic revolutionary leader emerged from the hills to assume the seat of leadership. His name: Fidel Castro. Cubans, and many Americans, were happy to see a new government take control of the Island nation. So what if he said he was “socialist.”

After Castro took full control over the new government, he unveiled his alliance with the Soviet Union and announced that he was a die-hard communist.

The stranglehold was now in place. Cities and towns in Cuba were “cleansed” of people who stood in the way of a one-party rule government. Thousands of dissidents disappeared. Families were pulled apart. Schools became propaganda strongholds for students. Thousands more frantically risked their lives rafting over ocean currents to America, many of whom never reached the shores. Everyone was stripped of their possessions.

The Cuban people no longer owned their homes or their businesses. There was no such thing as freedom of speech or the right to assemble or control of their future. Within 20 years, some 1.5 million Cubans managed to resettle in America and build new lives for themselves and their families.

In 1961, while in uniform, I had just attended a court session in Miami when I spotted a middle-aged man wearing a Cubavera shirt, selling bananas on Flagler Street at the intersection. Curiously, I approached and said, “Sir. Can I ask a question?”

He looked at my uniform. “About what?”

“Can I ask what you did when you lived in Cuba?”

Proudly, he puffed out his chest and replied in broken English, “I was vice president of a bank.”

“You have a family?” I asked.

“Si, a wife and two daughters.”

He went on to explain that they were living in a two-bedroom apartment with two other families. With furrowed eyebrows he looked at me strongly. With his finger pointing to the sky, he declared they were proud people and would not take welfare.

That was a lesson.

As years passed, I developed a closeness to the Cuban people who assimilated and worked hard to support their families. Many became teachers, business owners, military, entertainers and even police officers. Some of the best cops I ever knew were of Cuban heritage. I came to enjoy their music, their food, their humor, and die-hard honesty.

Castro’s plight was not a one-time event. Twenty years later, the Cuban economy was in dire straits. Multi-thousands were sick and injured, unable to work or contribute. Mental hospitals were beyond capacity. The elderly in Cuba were considered useless. Prisons were in overload. Too many people were taking, but not giving. The remedy? Get rid of everyone. What else?

Starting May 17, 1980, over four arduous months, more than 125,000 desperate human beings were granted exits from Cuba to reach America via rafts and rickety vessels from a port called Mariel. President Carter gave the OK as the infamous Mariel Boatlift conveyed desperate human beings to South Florida, devoid of possessions. Thousands died or disappeared. Miami became the murder capital of America for four years. Bodies surfaced everywhere, in waterways, the Everglades, in car trunks and garbage cans. The medical examiner needed a huge refrigerated truck to house the overflow of bodies.

The Cuban people have once again taken to the streets of Havana in protest as the government has failed to provide basic necessities.

Why rise up now, 61 years since Castro’s communist dictatorship began? Because the oppressed Cuban people sense an opening for the first time ever, daring to stand up against the regime, making demands.

Not for food. Not for medicine. Not for luxuries. But for the most precious commodity of all: freedom.

Perhaps that time has finally come.

I pray the American government will rise to the occasion.

 Marshall Frank is a retired police captain and author of 15 books.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

https://www.floridatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/07/23/cuban-people-sense-opening-freedom-u-s-cannot-let-them-down/8012420002/

THE TRUTH ABOUT ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION AT THE BORDER. OP-ED By M. Frank

Let’s be brutally honest, folks. The recent surge of thousands more immigrants swarming over the southern border illegally has nothing to do with helping immigrants with humane objectives. It’s all about politics. It’s all about gaining millions of votes in future elections, legal or illegal, tipping the scales, irreversibly, for one political party over another.

Numbers matter. Years ago, people went to the polls on election day, produced a voter ID, then voted. Contrary to years past, the architects of our voting systems have now made sure that anyone and everyone can declare themselves as eligible voters, even when they’re not.

Times have changed from elections of yore. According to Ballotpedia online, 15 states now require no proof of identity, including New York, California, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Sixteen more require some form of I.D., but no photo. Nineteen still require some ID, plus photo. It’s insane that a federal election can use different systems from state to state.

When driver’s licenses are provided to immigrants who entered the country illegally via the black market, it gives them wrongful access to the voting booths. It’s just a matter of time that Republicans will be irreversibly outnumbered.

I don’t believe that political overseers are awash with sympathy for immigrants that enter the country illegally. It’s all about the quest for power.

Today, there are multiple methods for casting votes, including the new mail-in system which seems to be convenient, while critics consider that as one more system that is fallible.

How many immigrants are living here now, having crossed illegally or overstaying their visas? The common answer is roughly 11 million. (The Center for Migration Studies said it was 10.7 million in 2017). However those figures have been a standard response for the last 15 years. Separate studies conducted in 2018 by M.I.T. and Yale concluded the number was closer to 22 million.

Truth is, we really don’t know. We do know that health care, public education and criminal conduct has always been a serious battle when those numbers explode, particularly for victims who are dependent on American tax dollars to survive. Law enforcement, schools and health providers are maxed out, barely able to keep up with constant demands. Add to that the impact of COVID-19 upon our workforces, job markets and the stresses upon health care.

Then there’s the sudden surge of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the past few months. Nearly 3,000 of those kids are under age 12.

Increases in criminal conduct are inevitable considering the numbers of immigrants who have no sources of income. How will they feed and care for themselves and their families?

Marshall Frank

With the addition of the new wall, and effective enforcement by the Trump administration, this problem was far more under control than the present day.

Unemployment figures are likely to spike considering the disastrous effect COVID-19 has had on the economy. Additionally, the thousands of current and projected jobs now defunct at the Keystone XL pipeline (according to PolitiFact.com). Then there are the farming and construction industries that will likely be hiring low-paid workers, keeping Americans searching for other jobs.

We certainly feel compassion for the law-abiding folks who simply wish to live in America. But we must also preserve the nation and its people from destruction from within. Once we assemble a flood of migrants from Central America, there is always South America, Africa and Asia in future decades.

The slippery slope awaits.

There are politicians who clearly support immigrants crossing illegally into America. It’s all about votes. Votes equal power.

Marshall Frank is a retired police captain from Miami-Dade County, author and frequent contributor. Visit marshallfrank.com.

www.marshallfrank.com

 

 

BERNIE THE BOOKIE: From The Heart of a Gangster

Marshall Frank

By Marshall Frank

Most people who are introduced to my history as a 30-year law enforcement officer in Miami-Dade, Florida, immediately draw a conclusion that I’m a tough guy.

Not true.

I hate guns. Hate fighting. I was terrible at sports. I’m reluctant to call anyone “Sir,” especially those who had not earned the moniker. My six-year nightmare in the U.S. Marine Corps (reserves and active duty) was an exercise in utter misery. Yet, I was able to fake through it.

When people hear that I authored fifteen published books (fiction and non-fiction) and had over one-thousand op-ed articles published in various newspapers, they draw a conclusion that I’m an intellectual.

But I never ever saw myself as an intellectual.

I do not read for recreation, nor anything I don’t want to read. As a kid, books were a bore. Adults accused me of having “ants in his pants.” I flunked high school English, two years in a row. I did not graduate because I rarely attended classes. My tenth-grade English teacher, a humble old woman, didn’t want to see me flunk so she offered me a special assignment to read any fiction book of my choice and write a report citing story-line, characters, plot and publishing details. A month later, the teacher reminded me that my paper was due the next day. Oy!

I had yet to write one word of the assignment. I had no book. With one day to go, I concocted the false title of a book (that never existed) and wrote a detailed story-line with people and places that never existed and character struggles that were totally fictional. I invented the title as I did the name of the publisher, and of course, the characters.

I got an A plus.

Forty years later, some scientific brainiac labelled a new-found psychological condition which replaced “ants in pants” and now called it, “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).”

I could not sit still. Neither could I concentrate on classroom learning if it didn’t stimulate. I dreaded boredom.

My mother insisted I learn music, so she bought me a violin. (half-size) She had been a classical pianist as a young girl, but now we were living in a small hotel room on Miami Beach amid the post-war world of thugs and gangsters. No room for a piano. My Italian-born teacher named Atillio Canonico, said I had talent. c. 1947

My mother was also an accomplished dancer. As a twice widowed mother in 1949, she needed a job and began working for a dance studio. As a bonus, I was awarded free lessons. Yes, I learned the art of ballet, tap and Paganini at a young age. My mother had good intentions, but the rough-tough kids in school thought otherwise. At age eleven, I became the repeated subject of a classical bullying campaign. Kids surrounded me in the school yard, chanted dirty names, kicked and punched my face, and took my violin, the case, and my leotard, throwing things in the woods, while I wept.

It was a nightmare.

I pleaded with my mother to let me quit dance school. But I had to continue violin. Apparently, I was lucky to be born with an amazing ear for music.

In 1955, mom remarried her third husband, another former New York gangster known as Bernie the Bookie. He was good to her and to me. What he did in his other life was no business of ours. I was the son he always wished he had. He loved telling me stories, about his friends, Bugsy and Meyer. He’d lay back in his bed, wearing only his underwear, puffing on a cigar despite the oxygen tank on the floor near his bed.

A few years later, at age 20, I knocked up a girl in the back seat of my Pontiac. She was gorgeous. Mom was irate, but we had to get married nevertheless. I needed a regular job, so I asked Bernie if he knew any place where I could play violin in restaurants or maybe, the Miami symphony. That’s when he smirked at me and said, “I’ll tell ya what, kid. You’re gonna be a cop.”

A pall of silence cloaked the room. I was stunned. Bernie smirked, puffing the cigar. He couldn’t get over the startled look on my face.

“Bernie, that’s impossible. I can’t be a cop. Are you kidding? I’ve had some trouble with the law.” (traffic)

“Fuhgettaboutit, kid. You’ll make a good cop. Good pay, good insurance, job security.”

I still had acne pimples. Being a police officer was inconceivable. “Bernie. They’ll never hire me.”

“Yeah they will.”

“How do you know?

Bernie chuckled, like all gangsters chuckle. “Heh. I got connections.”

The rest is history. Of thirty years on the job, sixteen were assigned to Homicide where I rose to the rank of captain. It was important that no one in the department ever knew I had family connections to hard corps mobsters. I worked closely with future Attorney General Janet Reno heading up a most tragic investigation of a black motorcyclist chased down for speeding in the night. When apprehended, the cyclist was beaten and killed by several out-of-control cops. I ended up as arresting officer of five officers. After their acquittal, the Miami riots exploded in May of 1980, leaving 18 innocent people dead.

I was eventually invited to testify before the U.S. Congress in 1980, about crime problems in the United States. I also headed Homicide during the Cocaine Cops investigations, and the arrests of many corrupt officers by federal authorities. Then came the Mariel Boat lift incursion of 125,000 desperate and/or handicapped Cubans fleeing the communist dictatorship headed by Fidel. Bodies were everywhere, every day; car trunks, beaches, Everglades, trash bins and death falls from tall buildings. Miami became the murder capital of the nation, for four years.

Bernie, nor the dirty cops on the job, ever asked me to compromise my position in any legal actions or police issues of any kinds. As far as the department was concerned, I was clean, one of the good guys.

He kept me clean. One day I was chatting with Bernie in his bedroom, as I watched him taking bets on the phone. (Using flash paper…that would vanish by one lit match if the cops raided)

The idea of a little extra money sounded good. “Hey Bernie,” I said. “I know the sporting world, let me make a couple bets on the horses and baseball.”

He turned suddenly sullen. With the cigar gripped in his fingers, he lasered his eyes directly at mine, and took a deep breath. “Let me tell ya something, kid. I do what I do, ’cause I don’t know nuttin’ else. You? You keep your nose clean, and never ask me that question again.”

In March of 1966, while my mother was suffering from brain tumors on the 6th floor of North Miami Hospital, Bernie was dying on the 3rd floor from heart failure. I stood by his bedside and helped him to raise his head, sipping ginger ale from a straw. When I put his glass back on the table, he offered me a blank stare, exhaling his final breath.

I never knew much about his sordid lifestyle from the other side. But I do know I would never have risen to my successes if he hadn’t guided my life.

Thanks, Bernie.

· “Marshall Frank has authored fifteen books, fiction and non-fiction, with more to come. He is probably the most natural crime story writer in the world today.”

— — Christopher Douglas, Author, Publisher, founder of Authorpaedia

An extension of this story is available in Frank’s book of memoirs, From Violins to Violence. Frank can be reached via his web site: www.marshallfrank.com

More details about Marshall Frank at: Marshall Frank — AUTHORPÆDIA

Marshall Frank retired as a 30-year police captain from Miami-Dade, mostly homicides. Author of 15 books. www.marshallfrank.com

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “MANK” – 7.0

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “MANK” – 7.0

 

In a word:  Boring

 

Different strokes for different folks, as they say.  Some people will love this movie, others will walk out at the halfway point.

     In a nutshell, the movie centers on the true-life misery, talent and wit of famed screenwriter, Herman J. Mankiewicz (aka Mank) who was also well known as an unabashed alcoholic.  Played by journeyman actor, Gary Oldman, the plot (if you call it that) centers on the Oldman character, in which he staggers and slurs from scene to scene among the Hollywood elite, including Orson Welles, who was to be the primary actor in the eventually released 1941 blockbuster, “Rosebud.” It would eventually become the signature role for Welles.

     First, the reader here must know that yours truly is in the minority among most reviews of this film, which frequently takes place in Mank’s bed passing out or recovering from a hangover. Matter of fact, there are hardly any scenes which depict Mank pecking on a typewriter, nor does he spend time dictating dialogue to his secretary, who does most of his typing.  That might beg the question; who really wrote the actual screenplay? (stay tuned, that’s coming)

     I was first impressed that the movie is deftly based in a late 1930’s backdrop, presented totally in black and white. That worked great for Schindler’s List, but it slowed down to a crawl in Mank.

      Scene by scene the viewer must discern the constant drone of dialogue, which could probably have been edited for brevity, and still keep the movie of interest.

     I’ve oft complimented Gary Oldman’s acting talents, which now cover a period of nearly 40 years, winning many awards, including an Oscar in 2018 for Darkest Hour, playing Winston Churchill. He now has another six movies in production or pending release.

     It should be noted that Mank did apparently complete the manuscript for Rosebud and eventually shared an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with Orson Welles.

     This is not a great movie for anyone with Attention Deficit Disorder, because the viewer will tend to wander (mentally). The acting is very good among the entire cast, as are many other aspects of the film, i.e. period and backdrop details, photography, etc.

     I give this film a 7.0 out of 10

Mank (2020) – IMDb