When I was growing up in Buffalo, we learned about current events from regulated media sources, including radio and television broadcasts.  These entities were regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an entity which was created by the federal Communications Act of 1934 which combined and organized federal regulation of telephone, telegraph, and radio communications.

One of the critical purposes of the Communications Act pertained to national security, law enforcement, and intelligence activities.

In my household, we also subscribed to morning and evening print newspapers which were privately owned, independently distributed by subscription only, yet still subject to some limited oversight and regulation by the FCC.

The Telecommunications Act of 1966 updated much of the Communications Act of 1934 to encompass technology changes to include broadcast television and cable stations which had not been subject to laws governing the public airwaves.

Today, the FCC regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

The FCC is an independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress which serves as the primary authority for U.S. communications law, regulation and technological innovation, and it continues to serve as a primary resource for national security, law enforcement, and intelligence activities.

No one could argue that technology has evolved exponentially since 1966, with digital technology transforming the business of news, including profound implications for information dissemination, publishing and operations.

The most dramatic impacts on operating models have been in production and distribution, transforming from a single product to a multi-products array of channels and formats, such as:

  • Desktop, tablet, mobile and watch sites/apps;
  • Channels, including on-platform owned products; and off-platform (email, Facebook, text); and
  • Third party, off-platform (Snapchat, Apple news, Yahoo) formats: Video, interactive graphics, messaging, podcasts, and many more.

This shift in distribution flows through to production, including the shift from a process geared around the “daily miracle” of a print newspaper to a 24/7 digital news cycle and the use of data & analytics to assess performance and make decisions on both content and delivery.

How can it be that the FCC has been unable to adapt to these rapidly evolving technology changes?  The FCC failed us by not identifying, encompassing and including new and emerging means of mass communication delivered on the internet, including such social media platforms as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Virtually all of the dangers the FCC was intended to protect us from have been incubated and nurtured on the internet, including: (a) promotion and amplification of conspiracy theories; (b) empowerment of fringe groups; (c) foreign influences into American politics; (d) infusion of false narratives into current events; and (f) cyber-attacks on electric-grid and other crucial infrastructure which have been confirmed in the US, the Middle East, Germany, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

Our national well-being depends not just on our confidence in our government but also on the integrity and reliability of private companies through which we lead our digital lives.

Recently, hundreds of armed, self-proclaimed militiamen converged on Gettysburg after a single Facebook page promoted the fake story that Antifa protesters planned to burn American flags there. Prior to the 2020 Presidential election, e-mails and videos which eventually were attributed to the Iranian government were sent to voters in Arizona, Florida, and Alaska, purporting to be from the Proud Boys urging recipients to “Vote for Trump or we will come after you.”

A physical wall along our southern border with Mexico is a great soundbite, but the 21st Century threats to our national security have little to do with migration of aggrieved and oppressed people who are clawing for survival and self-sufficiency.

The real threats to our national security are from conspiracy theorists; fringe groups; foreign influencers; religious extremists; the infusion of false narratives into current events; and cyber-attacks on infrastructure similar to those which have been confirmed in the US, the Middle East, Germany, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

Our Congress needs to shift its primary priorities toward critical strategic issues (i.e. regulatory oversight of national security issues), and to put less critical – but still important – issues into a secondary status.

Twitter currently has almost 400 Million users, about half of whom use the platform on a daily basis.

The announcement that Elon Musk will acquire Twitter is a wakeup call to our Congress.

This is no reflection on Elon Musk:  No doubt his intentions are honest and pure.  But:  What if the next entity which steps in to acquire a virtually independent and unregulated key strategic asset in our emerging 21st century communications infrastructure is a foreign entity, perhaps a foreign oligarch?

When will our elected officials draw a line between focusing on false narratives and trivia, and focusing in on critical national security issues?

Yes folks, it seems to be true. Ron has apparently changed his name to ‘Gaston’

Florida Governor DeSantis recently signed into law a “Parental Rights in Education” bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents. It was based on highly speculative and obscure ideas; it prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

In an ironic twist, it was reported that Gaston LeGume, the egotistical misogynist and racist villain from Disney’s Beauty and The Beast, recently assumed the identity of Florida Governor DeSantis.

No longer content merely to be the handsomest most admired man in town and everyone’s favorite guy, Gov. Ron “Gaston” DeSantis now seems to be on a quest to punish his creator – The Walt Disney Company — for gross intransigence.

Last week, DeSantis announced a move to take away Disney’s independent special district, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, created in 1966 as a Florida Special Taxing and Governance District.

Gov. Gaston went on to say, “When Disney denounced Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” bill, they crossed the line. As a family-friendly business it should understand parents not wanting young children taught about gender identity in public schools.” <Gaston then publicly abdicated any and all personal rights of succession within the Disney Empire.>

The Walt Disney Company responded quickly. “We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country” they said. “It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights.”

Last seen in The Villages, Gov. Gaston DeSantis proclaimed, ‘I am The Governor. Any and all executive orders, proclamations, and rules I proclaim shall have the full force and effect of law. There is no place in a civil and just society for elementary math textbooks which indoctrinate elementary school students with concepts like race essentialism. Furthermore, although the Citizens United decision gives corporations and certain special interest groups the right to unlimited spending on most political issues, it does not give any rights to corporations to create a regional environment virtually free of crime, mosquitos, weeds, trash and potholes which attracts tourists from international destinations.’

DeSantis further stated, ‘It is patently clear that The Disney Company operates in a physical environment which is well above the Florida ‘status quo’, much of that due to The Reedy Creek Improvement District which owns its utilities; administers its planning and zoning; defines its building codes; employs the inspectors; and maintains its own fire department, roadways and highways. It even has the authority to levy taxes.’

Currently, Florida has term limits for some elected officials. The Governor is limited to two 4-year terms.

The Walt Disney Company has served as an important magnet for tourism and economic development in Florida since it opened in 1971, and it has no term limits.

Florida’s tourism industry suffered an estimated 60.5% drop in visitors as the coronavirus pandemic hit hard during the 2nd quarter of 2020, with international travel off more than 90%. Disney World has mostly recovered, trending back to 50 million tourists a year and generating more than 70,000 jobs directly, making it the biggest single-site employer in the U.S. The millions of tourists visiting Disney World not only spend money at the resort but also across the Orlando region and the entire state of Florida.

We can pause and pay our respects to Florida’s elected officials – including the Governor[i] – who lost millions in potential political contributions from Disney when the Company decided to cease making political contributions in Florida. <In fact, ‘pay to play’ is illegal for very good reasons.>

Gov. Ron ‘Gaston’ DeSantis and his cronies have devolved into the Boss Tweed era of Tammany Hall, and it’s time that we stop them in their tracks.

“No one’s slick as Gaston; No one’s quick as Gaston; No one’s neck’s as incredibly thick as Gaston; For there’s no man in town half as manly”….

Ron “Gaston” DeSantis is an uncouth and unprincipled bully who has no place in public office.

[i] Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. made four contributions to the Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC from May 2019 to March 2021 for a total of $106,809.38.

Yes, this is an amazing story, not quite at the top of what DeSantis is engaged in, but pretty close.

There is an old saying that, ‘there is nothing lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon wheel rut’ and DeSantis is jousting with fellow snake Texas Governor Abbott to see who will reach the bottom of the rut first.

You’ve got to hand it to DeSantis on his ability to generate national headlines, following the model perfected by P.T. Barnum in the 19th century: (1) ‘I don’t care what people say about me as long as they say something’ and, (2) ‘There ain’t no such thing as bad publicity’.

Let’s not forget some of the other Governors running in the 2022 Race to The Bottom.

In Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) recently signed a new law making it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion.  Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed laws banning transgender girls from high school sports; restricting the way schools teach about race and gender; and eliminating permit requirements for concealed carry.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) recently launched campaign advertisements which double down on Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ false statements about the 2020 election results.

Several other conservative incumbents who have used scorched earth strategies in their policies and practices – like it or not — now find themselves in the high visibility arena:  Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R); Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R); Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R); and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) all face primary challenges, fueled by more main-stream Republican contenders.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Kimmel probably did the best retort to the Florida math textbook situation.

He said, ‘The Florida Department of Education rejected dozens of math textbooks because they made reference to Critical Race Theory.  If you don’t know what Critical Race Theory is, don’t worry – neither does Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.’ And Kimmel’s monologue goes on from there…

[>>> Watch the Kimmel monologue here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QgdS-G8pi8

“The legacy of Mitch McConnell’s obdurate and unwavering positions will haunt us for many decades.”

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the federal mask mandate for airplanes and other modes of public transportation on April 18, 2022, writing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had exceeded its authority and failed to follow proper rulemaking procedures.

Her decision led to U.S. airlines and other transportation hubs to promptly drop their mask mandates.

Judge Mizelle sits on the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Florida. She was nominated by former President Donald Trump in September 2020 at age 33, and confirmed by a 49-to-41 Senate vote later that year.

She graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law in 2012; worked at the U.S. Department of Justice and in private practice, and served as a law clerk for several federal judges as well as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.  She belongs to the conservative Federalist Society, which advocates for an originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

Following her nomination as a Federal Judge, the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary said that a majority of the group had deemed that Mizelle did not meet the requisite minimum standard of experience necessary to perform the responsibilities required by the high office of a federal trial judge.”

Despite the ABA’s recommendation to McConnell and the Senate to reject Mizelle’s nomination, the U.S. Senate confirmed her nomination in November 2020 along partisan lines.

How did The Trump Organization refinance a Trump Tower mortgage with a $100 million loan?

The new loan is a refinancing of a commercial mortgage the Trump Organization took out on Trump Tower in 2012. That was a 10-year loan with an interest rate of 4.2% that came due this year, according to a financial disclosure filed by Trump.

The lender of the original mortgage loan was Ladder Capital, a New York firm where the son of Trump’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, is a senior executive.

The new loan was apparently consummated on February 15, 2022 with Axos Bank of California.

Axos Bank? ‘Never heard of them’, you say.

Axos is a small [$14 Billion] boutique west-coast Federal Savings & Loan, formerly known as Bank of Internet, USA.

Axos has been in the press recently because of apparent ties to World Business Lenders and allegedly predatory loans to small business owners at rates of up to 268% APR, evading state usury laws by evoking the Axos federal charter.

CEO Gregory Garrabrants is head of Axos Financial Inc., the holding company which owns Axos Bank.

In 2018, Garrabrants compensation was $34.5 Million, more than Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co. ($31 Million) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s David Solomon ($23 Million) raked in that year.

Federal Savings & Loan? Please don’t tell George Bailey about this!

Alvin Bragg:  You now are the District Attorney of Manhattan.

Did someone get to you?  Were there threats against your family?  Was there the promise of a payout that was just too rich to deny? Maybe some of each?

Donald J. Trump has gotten away with crimes in New York for decades. Witnesses, opposing counsel, judges get bought off, threatened or promised business will be sent their way later if they back off, disappear, and/or change their tune.

Donald J. Trump combined his exceptional skills in rhetoric and oratory with his propensity for self-dealing.  His narcissism is well documented.  His penchant for litigation is legendary.

It seems clear that Donald J. Trump deserves nothing less than a complete and thorough investigation of the veracity of his annual financial statements, and a thorough presentation to a grand jury which would provide the public with a complete and transparent look into allegations which have simmered for the past 3 decades, at least.

It’s no secret that — despite Trump’s historic focus on New York City real estate — none of the Money Center Banks have made a loan to Trump or a Trump affiliate for ages.  His creditors are Deutsche Bank and several non-bank syndicates.

Money Center Banks tend to be highly focused on the accuracy of financial statements and the creditworthiness of principals involved in any transaction.  Silence and lack of interest from Money Center Banks toward the Trump Organization should not be interpreted as modesty, indifference or ignorance.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence which most informed observers would interpret as aggressive intent by the Trump family and the Trump Organization to bamboozle taxing authorities and potential creditors through creative asset valuation techniques.

We – the public – are forced to sit on the sidelines confident that you – an elected District Attorney – will seek justice within the bounds of the law, serving the public interest while acting with integrity and balanced judgment to respect and protect the constitutional and legal rights of all persons, including suspects and defendants.

We believe your recent choice not to pursue charges is unfair to Mr. Trump, the Trump family, and the general public.  A definitive outcome of this case is both needed and required.

Sadism in Tallahassee

March 5, 2022

Elected Officials Running Amok

Today, Florida is the third most populous state in the U.S.:   21.5 Million and growing.

Florida has an elected, part-time legislature that seems to evoke the historic governance needs back when Florida had a post-WWII population of 2.5 Million.

How can it be that a particularly malignant cabal of ignorant, callous and wicked creatures was elected to state office in Florida in 2021?

Satan apparently had a mission for them:  Enact atrocious legislation to further torment Florida residents who are poor and/or downtrodden.

The Florida Legislature meets in session every year for sixty consecutive days. That’s it.

In contrast, Tennessee has a population of about 7 Million, with an elected legislature that meets for 90 session days over a two-year period.

Arkansas, with a population of 3 Million, closely mirrors the Florida model, except it has a much broader scope of representation per capita.

The Florida Legislature managed to propose and pass a number of specious bills during their 2022 Reign of Error.

One of the most egregious bills passed by the Florida Legislature in its 2022 session – known as CS/HB 5: “Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality” – is a clever ruse orchestrated by hard-core religious zealots which will primarily have adverse impact on socially and economically disadvantaged women, generally members of a protected class.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, so it seems clear he is aware of the focus Harvard Law has placed on Reproductive Rights.  Through his legal education, he has been exposed to a deep and intimate knowledge of Disparate Impact, the legal theory which helps to examine the effects of laws or practices which appear on the surface to be nondiscriminatory, but which have in practice a disproportionately negative effect on members of legally protected groups.

Certainly Gov. DeSantis is entitled to embrace his own personal values, beliefs and opinions.  But, he is not entitled to use his position as an elected official to impose his personal values on the people of Florida.

We would expect that if CS/HB 5 <or a similar bill> should come to him for approval, he would veto it.

Yet, as of this writing, media sources predict that Gov. DeSantis will sign the bill into law.

Ron DeSantis: ‘We are right, and they are wrong.’

Ron DeSantis is a bully, and he has proved to be an awful Governor.

DeSantis thrives on political theatre, and he specializes in public events which use inflammatory tactics to rally a base of confused, uninformed and/or angry voters.

Since taking office in January 2019, DeSantis has:

  • Signed a sweeping voter suppression bill into law, citing baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election.
  • Proposed a special police force to oversee state elections — the first of its kind in our nation — intended to protect Florida from nonexistent threats.
  • Opened pop-up COVID-19 vaccine sites in wealthy Florida neighborhoods where his donors live.
  • Let nearly a million COVID-19 tests expire.
  • Appointed a science and medical contrarian (Lodapo) as Florida’s Surgeon General.
  • Occluded Florida COVID-19 data by firing DOH scientist (Jones), then sending armed tactical police to raid her personal residence.
  • Actively promoted the use of monoclonal antibody treatments as an alternative to vaccine.
  • Consistently refutes FDA guidance creating confusion and putting Florida residents at increased risk from COVID.
  • Orchestrated a fundraising tour across America while the Delta variant sickened and killed Floridians.
  • Signed laws restricting abortion access (2020).
  • Supports an oppressive abortion bill (SB 146 and HB 5) like the one in Mississippi.
  • Urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • Refused to accept that climate change is an existential threat to our state.
  • Failed to prepare Florida’s coastal communities for rising sea levels and stronger hurricanes.
  • Ignored the “red tide” algae bloom that scares off tourists, risking the engine which supports 1.6 million jobs and contributes over $96.5 Billion to the Florida economy.
  • Actively and aggressively created tension in our public education system resulting in a mass exodus of teachers and staff from Florida schools beginning in spring 2020.
  • In 2021, he targeted eight large school districts for defying his order prohibiting schools from enforcing mask mandates, helping to create toxic conditions for school district superintendents. This led to highly politicized and public confrontations and an unusual exodus of qualified and experienced leadership.

This is Ron DeSantis. He currently is Public Enemy Number One in the State of Florida.

HB 5 will be presented in the Florida House ‘Professions & Public Health Subcommittee’ on January 19, 2022.

This proposed bill has a very clever title.

The real purpose of the bill is to codify into Florida law, “A physician may not perform a termination of pregnancy if the physician determines the gestational age of the fetus is more than 15 weeks.”

HB 5 is a direct affront on the rights of all women to make personal decisions relative to their own lives.

Whenever arbitrary restrictions are imposed on open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services, the actual outcomes have disproportionate adverse economic impact — and direct deprivation of human rights — on young women; low-income women; and women of color.

These are socially and economically disadvantaged women, almost always members of a protected class.

The great majority of published public opinions opposing open and unrestricted access to comprehensive reproductive health care over the past 4 decades – including both contraception and abortion – center on personal ethical, moral or religious values.

Nationally, the loudest voices opposing open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services come from a small minority of predominantly college educated white evangelical Christians.

When people bring their personal religious beliefs or values into any public debate, they risk imposing illegal, unwanted or restrictive religious practices and beliefs on others who have been granted the Constitutional right to pursue their own – perhaps significantly different – beliefs.

I am aware of no rational person who considers abortion to be a primary means of family planning or birth control. Abortion is a last resort, a means to be employed only when all other options have failed.

I’m hopeful that you will reach a conclusion similar to mine on this Bill:  Florida’s government should focus on supporting our residents and improving health care, not taking away their rights, especially rights that can materially impact their health, livelihoods, and futures.

I encourage you to join me in asking members of the Florida Legislature to carefully and objectively examine the broad implications of HB 5 prior to taking a position on the Bill.

During my college years, I was introduced to the writings of Franz Kafka; that may help explain my rather bizarre sense of humor.

Day by day, week by week: The behaviors of many of these elected officials devolves toward the bottom, the base, the nadir.