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The World According To Carl Hiaasen

Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen joins us on Florida life and politics, from Marco Rubio to Trayvon Martin.

Novelist and Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen (Tim Chapman)

Novelist and Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen (Tim Chapman)

Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen writes funny and wise on Florida and the whole country.  Very funny in his novels – “Bad Monkey,” “Skinny Dip,” “Sick Puppy” and more.  Wise and wiseacre in his columns.  On “stand your ground,” Trayvon Martin, Jeb Bush, A-Rod, immigrants and Florida natives.  Florida wonder and Florida weirdness.  He wants a special prison for tourists in Florida – which sooner or later is most of the country.  He’s watching Gitmo.  He’s thinking about guns and gators and the Koch brothers and you.  This hour On Point:  Florida columnist, humorist Carl Hiaasen.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guest

Carl Hiaasen, best-selling novelist and award-winning columnist for The Miami Herald. His new collection of columns is “Dance of the Reptiles: Rampaging Tourists, Marauding Pythons, Larcenous Legislators, Crazed Celebrities, and Tar-Balled Beaches.”

From Tom’s Reading List

Miami Herald: The story A-Rod would love to tell — “As I’ve said all along, I’m totally innocent. I don’t use performance-enhancing drugs, period. And I would never, ever put a strange-looking lozenge under my tongue before a big game. Anybody who knows me will tell you that I’m terrified of lozenges.

Los Angeles Times: Speaker John Boehner tells Leno he favors Jeb Bush in 2016 — “Asked what he thought of the upcoming presidential race in 2016, Boehner said, ‘I’m not endorsing anybody. But Jeb Bush is my friend and, frankly, I think he’d make a great president.’”

National Review: We Need School Choice Now – “Choice is bringing long-overdue innovation into an antiquated education model, particularly with digital technology. There are blended-learning schools, which mix computer labs with traditional classroom time. There are virtual classes and full-time virtual schools that give all students, no matter their addresses, access to quality curriculum and teachers. Home educators have endless options in selecting high-quality online courses.”

Read An Excerpt Of “Dance of the Reptiles” By Carl Hiaasen

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  • stephenreal

    White men killing people of color in Florida has a long and troubled history that goes back centuries. Pretty sick stuff. Execution style murders of the most heinous kind.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    Stand your ground law means that who ever lives gets to decide that the other person was at fault.

    • Jeff

      As long as the forensics back up your story.

    • Yar

      As long as the person standing is white!

      • Jeff

        Er…you mean white-Hispanic…the new media terminology…should be fun to see DMX fight Zimmerman though.

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Define ‘Hispanic’, please?

          • Jeff

            Use a dictionary…I’m not going to define something that the government sends a survey out for

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            There is no definition for ‘Hispanic’ that means anything to how someone looks.

            In fact ‘race’ is a social construct.

            Look it up …

          • FrankensteinDragon

            Hispanic is a culture like latino/a. Among Hispanic people are many skin pigments from various “Latin” cultures.

            The bottom line is crazy guy had a gun and fearful, he used it inappropriately. He belongs behind bars for life. Anyone who takes a life should be in jail. not selling art.

            If the justice system doesn’t work. well, then, i hope the people “stand their ground” and punish zimemrman. There should have been rioting in the streets.

            No witnesses. a boy was killed. Zimmerman should be jail–a dark hole. the fact that we set him free reflects our criminal minds.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    What about the water supply, and the flooding and the coastal erosion?

  • acerplatanoides

    “Florida man…” link to a summary of off key news… all from florida. Only florida.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/floridaman

  • Linda Deuell

    The Trayvon Martin tragedy makes me so incensed. I just can’t believe that the grown adult man that followed a 17 year old youth was not seen as harassing him. Mr. Zimmerman was guilty as soon as he followed the kid when he had not right to interfere with someone else’s life and then he shot him and was not held accountable?? I just don’t understand how there is any justice and it is really scary that it happened in a state in the United States. Is there any movement in Florida to change this law?

  • ToyYoda

    Hello. Please ask your guest the following questions:

    1. I noticed that I run into more people small business owners in Florida than other states I’ve lived in. They others who make a living doing odd jobs. Is this something peculiar to Florida? For example, I’ve met people who own massage parlors business, pool cleaning businesses, etc. And I met a dog trainer who trains dogs for Miami celebrities. Also, I met poker dealers who deal in high stakes private poker tournaments. Am I imagining things? Is Florida just a great state to do anything you want?

    2. Also, The Economist recently did an article statistically analyzing the news of the Bizarre, and a statistically significant amount of news stories come from Florida. Why?

    • CindyS

      #2 – Been in Florida since I was a year old. As my brother (who left for college and never came back) likes to say, people run away to Florida and the sun bakes their brains.

  • MarkVII88

    I just spent a week in Florida vacationing up north of Daytona. We had a rental car on which we put over 650mi and during our drives, I was struck by how frequently drivers in Florida change their speed while on the highway. If the posted limit is 70, they’ll go 75, then slow to 72, back up to 75, down to 68…..Has nobody in Florida heard of cruise control?

  • Bruce94

    Having lived for 32 years on the Gulf Coast and vacationed/camped with my family many times in that area known as “the poor man’s Riviera,” I have some appreciation for today’s topic and what Hiaassen has captured. Having experienced some of the idiosyncratic and extreme elements of the culture there and in southeast Louisiana AND having endured the hardship of living in “hurricane alley,” for me FL and LA now fall into the category of great places to visit, but not very desirable to live.

    If my direct experience and observation were not enough to convince me of the above conclusion about the FL and LA coastlines (as places to visit rather than live), my read of the book, “The Orchid Thief,” comes to mind. It also contains many ironic insights into the history and society of a place that the author has laid out here.

  • Margaret

    My kids loved “Scat”, “Flush” and “Hoot” but now we have started the adult books and I am a fan. Luckily, there are plenty to accommodate binge reading. The character “Skink” is becoming a favorite right up there with Kilgore Trout.

  • Hunter

    Moved to Sarasota about 2 years ago and can agree that things are VERY different here than the rest of the country (not always in good ways). However, I have met some great people here and as long as you’re willing to be flexible in dealing with varying driving speeds, bug sizes, and gun toting old people, it’s a great place to be!

  • Ia

    I was born and raised in FL and cannot emphasize how much I adore Carl’s work. Yes, FL is a nutty place, but where isn’t? FL just seems to be better at promoting their weirdness. I currently live in the south Pacific and see a lot of similar nutty behavior, but in a very different cultural context. I love FL and I love Carl’s work, it helps keep government honest. Carl is a master of turning crazy into entertaining, keep it up Carl!

  • Shaun Mills

    Hi Tom,

    I love your program.

    I’m writing to ask you to address the various and sundry misconceptions about the Treyvon Martin / George Zimmerman case that are now effectively universal in the mainstream media. A few came up in your interview with Carl Hiaasen, and I was disappointed when you didn’t call him on them.

    I started listening to your program in the first place when I was flipping through various NPR program streams last year, craving balanced insight on the Zimmerman case. Your program had been one of the very few that I felt was being moderated without political prejudgement and with true intellectual honesty (e.g., you consistently called your guests on some of their “talking points” and you were quick shut them down when they tried to digress into fundamentally unrelated (“boot-strapped”) political issues).

    In any case, the points I’d love for you to address on your program are these:

    1. It was established in the trial that George Zimmerman contends he saw Martin as suspicious because he appeared to be “casing” houses for possible later burglary, not (as your guest seemed to suggest) because he was a randomly-selected black youth. In Zimmerman’s 911 recording, he depicts, point by point, the types of suspicious behavior his Neighborhood Watch guidelines had instructed him to be on the lookout for. One might fairly allege that his choice of words were a clever fabrication in an attempt to mislead the police, or that the guidelines themselves were flawed; but the allegation that his choice to single out Martin could be somehow be construed as random (as your guest suggested) or prejudicially-motivated (as is so frequently implied in the media) finds no basis in the evidence presented at the trial. The suggestion your guest made that, “Zimmerman shouldn’t have been out following an unarmed teenager who was simply walking home”, I feel, should have been questioned by you.

    2. It was established in the trial, at least during the non-jury “side-bar” sessions, that George Zimmerman’s neighborhood had previously experienced a frightening burglary during which the residents were still in the home. By relating this experience, the Defense would seem to have been attempting to imply a motivation for Zimmerman’s actions with regard to Martin. In this earlier case, Zimmerman had also witnessed the suspects casing the house a few nights previously. The Defense suggested that he chose not to confront those suspects at that time out of an abundance of caution. Although it was not part of anyone’s direct testimony, the Defense’s implications were clear: Zimmerman felt guilty for allowing his neighbor and her child to be victimized because of his own failure to take heroic action when he had had the chance. He had been asked by 911 officers not to follow the suspects, and he had obeyed. As a result, a nightmarish near-tragedy occurred.

    3. It is consistently glossed over in all media outlets that I consume that the housing complex where George Zimmerman and Treyvon Martin were living is a highly diverse neighborhood. Nearly 20% of its residents are black. The repeated contention that Zimmerman might have singled Martin out for his race is absurd enough to be insulting to me. One in every five residents is black! If race were what attracted his attention, he would never have been able to leave his complex each night without making a call to the police. He lived side-by-side with his black neighbors without any previous issues. It’s telling that when their neighbors were interviewed (as also came out in the trial), they overwhelmingly reported Zimmerman as a good and trustworthy neighbor; be these residents black, white, hispanic, or other. It is also telling, I feel, that these same residents didn’t recognize the name “Treyvon Martin” at all. The implication in virtually all of the media that I consume is that Zimmerman reacted to Martin because he, at least unconsciously, did not approve of a black person having entered his precious “gated community”. But, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

    4. It is frequently suggested in the media that I consume that Zimmerman had some connection to Right-leaning political interests, “gun culture”, or some other latently racist ideologies. These allegations are rarely made directly, but they are often implied through the use of veiled, suggestive, or weighted language. This too is demonstrably inaccurate, based on the testimony provided during the trial. In fact, Zimmerman can be proven to have participated in a civic protest in favor of a mistreated black citizen against the police department that had allegedly mistreated him. This known activism on his part is consistently over-looked or glossed over.

    5. It is frequently suggested in the media I consume that Zimmerman was a “wannabe cop”, but this too is not borne out any facts presented at the trial. It is admittedly difficult to cipher a defendant’s inner thoughts, especially when they aren’t allowed to testify for themselves; but it is quite telling that the Prosecution could not present a single witness who could testify that Zimmerman ever reported a wish to do anything in law enforcement that did not involve sitting at a desk. The Defense, on the other hand, trotted out witness after witness stating that Zimmerman expressed his wish to work on the legal side of law enforcement, and not to do direct policing.

    6. Your guest also repeated the commonly-heard theme that Martin had been on his way home with candy in his pocket; suggesting, by implication, that he was just an innocent child. In fact, as stated during testimony, the candy was intended for his younger house-mate. If Martin did, in fact, see himself as a child, the candy is no evidence of it. The frequency of the repetition of this proven-false suggestion borders on propaganda. There was absolutely no evidence presented at trial to support the contention that Martin saw himself as a child. On the contrary, the evidence supports a self-image of a independent and violently defiant youth. At least it supports this view far more strongly than it supports child-like innocence.

    7. On the other hand, certain evidence, that was only presented in a side-bar, suggests a far more troubling portrait of Trayvon Martin. Though dismissed by the judge for laughably non-evidentiary technical reasons, the content of Martin’s cell phone is chilling. It’s content suggests not only that he was interested in the criminal lifestyle in general, and acquiring a gun for himself in particular, it is also evident that he was a frequent participant in street fights and other violence. In fact, his own (alleged) texts describe the exact “ground-and-pound” technique being used on him that he would later use on Zimmerman. Martin’s chilling (alleged) texts that describe his reaction to this experience included a statement to the effect of “I will never let another opponent get the jump on me this way again.” This evidence was rejected because, according to the Prosecution, “those texts could have been sent by anyone.” This despite expert testimony that the texts matched Martin’s established diction, and despite the fact that an alternative user would have had to have known three different passwords of Martin’s to get access to the ap to send them.

    When the trial ended with an acquittal, I reacted as the defense attorneys did in their post-trial press conference. “See? Undeniably innocent. There should never should even have been a trial!” And then the next several months of media coverage ensued. I’ve been waiting for the truth to come out, and it’s just not happening.

    Tom, please do not simply take my word that these common-place media refrains are mischaracterizations. Please examine the trial testimony for yourself. I listened to every minute of the trial from the beginning to the end (my work allows me that freedom). I was shocked at the failure of the media to characterize its testimony accurately. To say the least, it shakes my faith in media accuracy in general.

    Again, it was your refreshingly balanced handling of the circus of zealots on both sides of the Zimmerman case that drew me into becoming one of your loyal listeners in the first place. I sort of wish I had listened to Hiaasen’s interview live so that I could have called you with these concerns on the air–but I’m sure it would have been too much of a distraction.

    In any case, I am glad that that interview mentioned the Zimmerman case in the way that it did because it has given me both the motivation and a context to draft these remarks to you. If there is any NPR journalist who has the fortitude of character and intellectual honesty to confront the media character assassination that has been inflicted on George Zimmerman, I believe it is you.

    Again, please, don’t take my word for this. Look into it. Watch the trial on YouTube. I would love it if you could devote an entire show to media assassinations of this kind, featuring the Zimmerman’s case; but just your being willing to occasionally call a guest properly to account when they repeat one of these known mischaracterizations would be a source of tremendous relief to me as a loyal listener.

    I thank you very much either way.

    Good luck & continued success!

    –Shaun Mills.

    • FrankensteinDragon

      We need to think holistically in America. Zimmy had a powerful defense–NRA and red state nuts. His defense was well scripted and manufactured. All racists assume a black man is casing a joint when he is just walking. i see it all the time in my neighborhood–listening to the BS that comes from my neighbors. A strange white man in my neighborhood is never questioned. The police are called immediately when a black man is seen. And many racists in neighborhoods that see increasing numbers of black people move in feel they have much to fear. They do not. But they live in a bubble of fear–a delusional world.

      If there is any truth in what you say, in what his corrupt defense had to say–the fact remains–guns should not be legal. All civilized nations on earth forbid private ownership of guns. Only in the Americas is it worshiped in cult-like fashion. And ironically–states torn by American wars of imperialism. The NRA and gun worship is part of internal imperialism. It goes hand in hand. Create far and chaos and violence–and the plebs will be easily controlled with police state tactics.

      Unfortunately, we seldom look at the big picture in America.

      • Shaun Mills

        I don’t contest your political sentiment, but George Zimmerman is a living human being, not a political proposition. My argument is that he had not, according to any evidence produced by Prosecution, spoke nor acted prior to his arrest in ways that would comport with the image of a racist hatemonger that the popular media has constructed around him. Please note that I’m not saying that the Defense *defeated* some Prosecution evidence that might have demonstrated this, I’m saying the Prosecution never *presented* any such evidence. This view of Zimmerman originated first in the media circus in wake of the first reports of the incident, and (my argument is) it has persisted despite an utter lack of evidence to support it during the trial.

        What Zimmerman represents politically is not my interest. My only concern is the vast discrepancy between what was presented as evidence during trial and what was subsequently reported (or ignored) by the media–and has since been repeated over and over despite a dearth of actual supporting evidence. Again, I’m not asking Tom to take my word for this, I’m simply asking that he examine the trial testimony and decide for himself. Whatever one’s political position on the issues raised during the case, if Zimmerman the man and Zimmerman the trial have been as grossly misrepresented by the media as it appears to me, this should be a concern for everyone.

      • Shaun Mills

        Hello again, FrankensteinDragon,

        Please forgive me, but after re-reading your post, I feel I must more directly refute a few of your points here.

        You state, “Zimmy had a powerful defense–NRA and red state nuts.”

        Could you point me at your evidence of this? I couldn’t find any. Furthermore, George Zimmerman is currently many tens of thousands of dollars in debt (hence his resent money-making shenanigans). If the NRA financed his defense, why did the trial end up bankrupting him?

        You state, “his defense was well scripted and manufactured.”

        This is manifestly untrue. Zimmerman was video taped being interviewed by the police immediately after Martin’s death, having waved his right to council. The narrative his lawyers presented in his trial tracked exactly with the content of that tape (which was shown in its entirety during the trial). No lawyer helped him during that interview; therefore, by definition, the foundations of his defense were neither scripted nor manufactured by any lawyer or legal team.

        You state, ” All racists assume a black man is casing a joint when he is just walking. i see it all the time in my neighborhood…. The police are called immediately when a black man is seen.”

        Be that as it may in your neighborhood, but 1 in every 5 residents in Zimmerman’s neighborhood were black. Black men on the sidewalks were quite a common sight. Zimmerman would have seen many black youths fitting Martin’s general description every day. And yet he only singled out Martin, and he only followed Martin. The Prosecution were unable to adequately explain why Zimmerman might choose to target Martin rather than anyone else. But the Defense team’s explanation was quite effective, I felt.

        Please understand that I am not stating Martin WAS actually behaving suspiciously (I wasn’t there, so I can’t make that claim), but the Defense’s explanation comports with the evidence presented at the trial–and the Prosecution’s “evidence” consisted entirely of polemic rhetoric and rather blatantly racialized innuendo.

        But please don’t take my word for this. Please just watch the trial.

        And, again, I’m sorry if my words or attitude have caused any offense. That was certainly not my intention.

    • jefe68

      You sure spent a lot of time filling up a lot of space with a lot of bunk. The bottom line, Zimmerman shot an unarmed kid for no reason other than he took the law into his own hands. The problem here, and the problem with your biased argument, is that Treyvon Martin is dead and can’t defend himself.

      • Shaun Mills

        Yes, I know. I’m sorry for the length. I meant to send this only to Tom, but he has no listeners’ inbox other than these forums.

        But can you factually refute any of the points that I’ve raised? If so, please do. And please point me at your sources.

        Thanks!

        • jefe68

          What I read in your comment was a lot of conjecture about both Zimmerman and Martin. Interesting that you try to paint Martin as a thug and Zimmerman a decent guy and yet his recent history with the law as well as the past, paints a very different picture of Zimmerman. Especially when it comes to violence, guns and loosing his temper.

          • Shaun Mills

            Well, nobody’s perfect. I’m not saying Zimmerman was best guy ever–although the gun charges against him were dropped and / or recanted. And it is also worth noting that none of his brushes with law, past or current, have ever had a racial component. Furthermore, the content of Martin’s phone *is* damning. The Prosecution’s only argument was that the content somehow wasn’t his; but that defies common sense.

            That said, however, I’m really not concerned about redeeming Zimmerman himself. After all, he may enter a school yard tomorrow with an AK47 or something. You never know. That’s really not the point I’m hoping to make with all of this. I’m concerned with media and their role in promulgating a demonstrably false narrative about a very important series of national events. Anyone with an internet connection can see what I’m talking about. Simply watch the trial and then choose your favorite news outlet. You will easily detect the logical fallacies, unfounded presumptions, and reporting biases I am describing.

            Guests on news or panel shows are wholly entitled to try to use current events to further their particular agendas, but journalists should have a higher obligation to the truth than their guests. If we’re looking for an example of what good journalists should do, I don’t think we need to look much further than this forum’s guidelines: “WBUR reserves the right not to publicize rumors, allegations, conspiracy theories and other information which we know to be false or unsubstantiated.” When journalists encounter such attempts by a guest, he or she should at least try put a stop to it (as Tom, for instance, consistently and admirably does).

            Please let me give you a couple of examples (and BTW, these are easy to find, just pick your favorite news show):

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnaDPlh4tuU

            The guest is likely referring to the fact that one of Zimmerman’s neighbors was highly traumatized by a break-in into her house. I do not believe any photo of Martin was shown at that time or even on that day (though a photo of a “scary” Martin was certainly shown at some point during the trial). The reporter allowed the context of these images to go entirely unaddressed, leaving the viewer with the mistaken impression that the Defense presented them, one after the other, in immediate succession with prejudice as their sole purpose.

            Was prejudice used as a tool by the Defense during the trial? A case can certainly be made for that. But was prejudice the SOLE purpose of this aspect of the Defense’s testimony? Absolutely not. No unbiased person who watched the trial could come away with that impression. The reporter should have called this guest on this unfounded and inflammatory assertion and compelled him to engage based on the facts of the case.

            Another example:

            http://www.msnbc.com/jansing-and-co/watch/rep-gutierrez-calls-for-hearing-on-trayvon-martin-case-37543491638

            (Especially beginning at 2:07)

            This reporter could have pointed out that Zimmerman was the one who showed injuries on his body while Trayvon’s only injury was his gunshot wound, suggesting that it was Travyon who attacked Zimmerman. She could have pointed out that Zimmerman’s 911 recording indicates that Zimmerman was not attempting to confront Martin, only to keep an eye on him. The fact that Zimmerman’s nose, not Trayvon’s, was flattened supports this view. She should have called him on it.

            As in so many of these interviews, again and again, the guest’s assertions are pure innuendo–and they go entirely unquestioned by the journalist.

            I should also note that if you go to MSNBC’s comment shows, it is the journalists who make these unfounded assertions themselves. I used to love MSNBC. I still do love MSNBC. But I can’t say I know what to believe there anymore.

            Anyway, thanks for your patience, and sorry again for the lengths of these posts.

    • Shaun Mills

      BTW – A correction. I got my memory mixed up in #2. A home was broken into as I describe, but the suspects that Zimmerman saw turned out to be connected to a different break-in. These men were later followed by local contractors in the neighborhood, who pointed them out to the police. These men were arrested with stolen property on their persons. The final lesson implied for Zimmerman is the same, though: Had he followed them in the first place himself, a serious crime might have been prevented.

  • FrankensteinDragon

    everyone says they just had two drinks. he was drunk. he turned himself in-is that what i heard–then he feels remorse. but he even doubts there was shotgun–he was drunk and seeing red and feeling fear–of thugs. he should go to jail for murder for life. he took a life. guns should be illegal outside of controlled gun-ranges.

  • gslouch

    Florida is certainly not the only state privy to violence in our country, but it does seem to be more cognitively challenged than many states. Do they nurture idiots? And the man ordered pizza afterward. What a scary, scary story. If the ignorance of Florida laws frees this man, this country is truly in trouble!

  • Duras

    I’m pretty liberal, and I can say that Jeb Bush did do a decent job as governor. He do good in a lot of places, except education. He destroyed education in Florida. I won’t vote for him, and I won’t vote for Hilary.

    Bush vs. Clinton 2016 … change we can believe in, no more.

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