Dear Governor Rick Scott

February 21, 2018

I’ve been calling Florida my second home for 40 years, and I was finally able to move here permanently in January 2017. Florida has some fabulous positive attributes. Firearm regulations are not on that list. It is my belief that Florida currently has some very weak controls over gun acquisition, gun possession, gun ownership and the sale of ammunition and accessories.

Florida’s gun control regulations absolutely made sense in 1960 when the total population was about 5 Million, and the state was highly rural and agrarian.

Today, we have some 21 Million residents, highly concentrated in high density urban MSAs, with an economy highly dependent on tourism.

A number of academic studies have forecast a very high correlation between tourism and perceived public safety risks.  Areas with a reputation for a high risk of crime or violence against residents and visitors are shunned by visitors.

I’m a dues paying member of the NRA and a gun owner; I think the 2nd Amendment is a good thing, and I’ve read it dozens of times. I’m not sure exactly what the folks who wrote it were trying to say, and they are all now deceased so we can’t ask them in person.

Florida has been the location of several recent massacres involving young people wielding AR-15 weapons.

A massacre in Orlando in June 2016 involving a demented 29 year-old man wielding an AR-15 resulted in the death of 50 people (including the shooter) and physical and mental wounding of many others.

Nothing was done at the state or federal level following that atrocity because, as some said, “the Second Amendment didn’t kill anybody.”

On February 14, 2018 a young man named “Cruz” stormed a high school in Parkland, FL with an AR-15 rifle. He killed 17 and wounded many more.

In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer following the Parkland massacre, you said, “Everything’s on the table, all right? I’m going to look at every way that we can make sure our kids are safe.”

Some political operatives have focused their diversions on mental health issues, yet Federal law already bars people who have been adjudicated mentally ill or committed to institutions from buying firearms.

Until the State of Florida takes action to update our gun control regulations to recognize we are no longer a rural and agrarian state, and that we are now economically focused on tourism – both domestically and internationally – we as residents are at physical risk from demented individuals wielding assault weapons, and we as taxpayers are at economic risk for dramatic revenue losses from tourists who make decisions to avoid Florida due to perceived public safety risks.

It is incumbent on you and the elected members of the Florida legislature to enact legislation which will make sure that powerful assault weapons, high capacity magazines, bump stocks, suppressors, armor piercing bullets and other military grade accessories can’t be sold, owned or used by any civilians – including teenagers – who wish to live in our 21st Century Florida civil society.

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Florida, the Gunshine State

February 17, 2018

I’ve been calling Florida my second home for 40 years, and I was finally able to move here permanently in January 2017.  Florida has some fabulous positive attributes.  Firearm regulations are not on that list.

I’m a dues paying member of the NRA and a gun owner.  I think the 2nd Amendment is a good thing, and I’ve read it dozens of times.  I’m not sure exactly what the folks who wrote it were trying to say, and they are all now deceased so we can’t ask them in person.

Florida has been the location of several recent massacres involving young people wielding AR-15 weapons.  On February 14, 2018 a young man named “Cruz” stormed a high school in Parkland, FL with an AR-15 rifle.  He killed 17 and wounded many more.

Florida seems to have some ‘fast and loose’ controls over gun acquisition, gun possession, gun ownership and the sale of ammunition and accessories.

Florida State Senator Dennis Baxley, a Republican who wrote the Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ law in 2005 and is a major gun-rights backer, doubts any proposals aimed to restrict or control guns will gain traction. “I don’t see any interest here on that,” said Mr. Baxley, who represents parts of Sumter, Marion and Lake Counties. “We’re pretty comfortable that freedom works.”

The FBI confirmed that someone close to Cruz called an FBI tip line on Jan. 5 with information about Cruz’s desire to kill people, erratic behavior, disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.

On February 16, 2018, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel confirmed that the Broward Sheriff’s Office received “20 calls for service over the last few years” regarding Cruz.

After the Orlando massacre in June 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott— where the killer also used a military-style semiautomatic rifle — said that “the Second Amendment didn’t kill anybody.”

Following the February 2018 Parkland school massacre, Mr. Scott told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer,  “Everything’s on the table, all right? I’m going to look at every way that we can make sure our kids are safe.”

Concurrently with his ‘everything on the table’ remark, Scott released a detailed statement essentially blaming the FBI for the Parkland school shooting, concluding with, “… the FBI failed to act… The FBI Director needs to resign.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also slammed the FBI, saying the agency “utterly failed the families of 17 innocent souls.  The fact that the FBI is investigating this failure is not enough,” Rubio said in a statement. “Both the House and Senate need to immediately initiate their own investigations into the FBI’s protocols for ensuring tips from the public about potential killers are followed through.”

This Scott/Rubio circus closely follows the Republican playbook which resulted in the firing of former FBI Director Comey in May 2017; and the continuing barrage of criticisms, innuendo and distractions which attempt to cast doubts on the reliability and/or veracity of the FBI and its current director, Christopher Wray.

Some political operatives have focused their diversions on mental health issues, yet Federal law already bars people who have been adjudicated mentally ill or committed to institutions from buying firearms.

In February 2017, at the request of a Republican Congress, President Trump signed an order to repeal restrictions on gun sales to an estimated 75,000 individuals who have been determined to be mentally deficient by certain Federal agencies.

And, despite their rhetoric, Florida state Republican leaders have not proposed expanding mental-health restrictions inside Florida.

Deflection is a powerful political tool because it can mask attention from other issues, such as making sure powerful assault weapons, high capacity magazines, bump stocks and armor piercing bullets can’t be bought by teenagers – or any civilians – who wish to live in a civil 21st Century society.

Walrus is back

February 17, 2018

Wow!  It’s been almost 3 years since I posted on WordPress, and ironically, that post (October 2015) was to encourage our Elected Officials to get tough on gun control and to pass meaningful gun control legislation in the wake of another school shooting.

My comments then got no results, other than to provide me with an opportunity to take out my frustrations in a civilized manner.

More to come on this and some other topics.

I am not a Roman Catholic, although I know many who are.

I wasn’t prepared for what Pope Francis had to say, nor how he chose to convey his message.

I am quite pleased to have observed and listened to most of the things Pope Francis subscribes to. No doubt that the Roman Catholic Church in America has lost a great deal of its luster over the past couple of decades for a variety of reasons.

I think if the American R.C. church (and many other religious institutions) can find a way to embrace some of the values this Pope advocates for; our country could come closer to healing.

Related to this observation, the John Boehner thing came as a bit of a surprise, and for a few moments, I was pleased.

Now that some of the background has been exposed, it seems that Boehner has tried very hard to create an environment where civil discussion and debate was at least possible.

It also seems clear that there is a vociferous contingent of ultra-conservative elected officials in D.C. who share a common thread: ‘Take no prisoners: it’s our way or the highway. We don’t negotiate or compromise, ever.’

I guess I knew before the Boehner announcement on 9/25 that there were at least a few elected characters in our Congress who are mean, rigid, callous and intractable.

I just never would have guessed that there were enough of these bigots and curmudgeons to create an environment toxic enough to drive John Boehner back to Ohio, for good.

I guess the Koch Brothers (and some others) are gaining some real traction from their ‘investments’.

Goes to show: You don’t personally need to wear the white hood if you can write enough checks to mobilize an army of fringe fundamentalists who are willing to align with your doctrine.

There are dozens – hundreds – of examples throughout history which support this theory, perhaps the most frightening of which is the rise of Nazism under the leadership of Adolph Hitler.

Perhaps the spirit of Pope Francis will engage and mobilize enough folks who seem to perpetually sit on the sidelines hoping that – magically or mysteriously – the right things will happen.

History tells us that the right things will only happen when people of good will mobilize in a positive way to stop the fringe fundamentalists from taking control of our economy, government and society.

Jessica Bakeman reports on politics and education policy in Capital New York’s Albany bureau. In a recent article focused on MaryEllen Elia, our recently appointed New York State Education Commissioner, Ms. Bakeman reflects on what may be a new strategy to fix the persistent problem of failing schools in pockets around the State.

In essence, Ms. Elia’s plan seems to rely on a “tough love” approach with district leaders and parents from the lowest performing NYS schools: ‘You have 2 years to fix these failing schools, or the state will do it for you’.  http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/07/8572658/elia-delivers-tough-message-leaders-struggling-schools

Unlike some observers, I strongly believe that the root cause of failing schools is not directly linked to teachers, administrators or common core.

The primary failure begins when we as a society allow virtually all of our lower-income children to be concentrated into just a few school districts — while continuing to operate dozens of boutique public school districts which serve children from predominantly upper income households.

Extensive research tells us that if we continue to follow this model, it will ensure that the achievement gap will continue to grow.

Whether accomplished through housing choice or school choice: economic, social and cultural integration at the K-12 level has been proven to be the best solution to close the achievement gap.

New York State allows and encourages public school districts to form around — and to exclusively serve — residents of villages, towns, neighborhoods and cities. The impact of this ‘home rule’ approach to public education has created de facto segregation which has produced more egregious and dangerous consequences than the issues debated in the Brown vs. Board of Education case which was decided in 1954 – 60+ years ago!

We can witness how “Separate and Unequal” has become the standard across New York State, very clearly corroborated by NYS Education Department statistics which prove that economic and racial segregation in housing translates directly to school inequality, which results in disparate student outcomes.

There really is no place for personal or private agendas on the part of our appointed and elected officials. Public officials are expected to set a positive example for all people, affirming that our elected leadership is fair, honest and forward thinking.

It may very well be that Commissioner Elia — appointed by the NYS Board of Regents — has been tasked with sweeping the truth under the rug, because she is not talking about the only viable solution, which is to reform NYS Education regulations, many of which date to the late 19th Century.

I can grasp the enlightened self-interest of homeowners in Pittsford, Scarsdale, Briarcliff Manor, Bronxville (or in dozens of other public school districts in NYS which serve students from upper income households) who want to fight for their autonomy to keep ‘those other children’ out of their schools.

These are the very same wealthy and politically active adults who wield undue influence over our elected officials in Albany.

With that said, I’m dubious that any meaningful reform can take place until the specter of political influence is removed from our public education system.

As far as we know, The Donald is a U.S. citizen, and thus protected by our Constitution, Bill of Rights and subsequent constitutional amendments.

So, The Walrus has no contest to his freedom to say what is on his mind, however…

As a public figure, The Donald ought to realize that what he says may be interpreted literally or figuratively.

Some of his recent comments directed toward Mexicans seem to have energized a group of fellows who are no longer able to fly their Confederate Flags as openly as before, and had been seeking some new causes to help rally the troops.

Mr. Trump has recently been quoted making alleged negative comments directed toward migrants from Mexico (and Central / South America) as a primary contributing cause and source for America’s multiple issues with drugs.

I’m not quite sure what The Donald was trying to tell us, but it is pretty clear that the propensity for U.S. citizens to use “recreational substances” – alcohol, marijuana, peyote and others – predates Mr. Trump.

Prior to 1913, about 40% of federal revenue was generated by taxes and fees on alcohol.

Passage of the 16th amendment in 1913 (which created the federal income tax) addressed the ‘tax issue’ dependency relative to alcohol, and thus paved the way toward Prohibition.

Subsequent to the 16th amendment, income taxes far surpassed liquor taxes, providing solid support for passage of the 18th Amendment – a.k.a. “Prohibition” – in 1919. It banned the ‘manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors’.

The 18th Amendment didn’t stop the manufacture, transportation or sale of booze — it just shifted the activities out of the mainstream economy to the underground economy, where there were plenty of domestic cartels (families, gangs, mobsters, etc.) ready, willing and able to step in and ensure that the supply chain wasn’t interrupted due to some foolish Constitutional Amendment.

At the time, most of these cartels were populated by first or second generation immigrants from Ireland and/or Italy.

As Al Capone is quoted from back in the day, “All I do is to supply a public demand … somebody had to throw some liquor on that thirst. Why not me?”

Since those peaceful days, direct descendants of the Hatfield and McCoy families have joined forces to make and distribute what some consider to be one of the finest of American products, “The Drink of The Devil” — carefully made in small batches in West Virginia, and fully taxed.

For decades, our elected officials have pushed marijuana (and some other goods and substances) out of the mainstream economy and into an off-the-grid cash economy where no taxes or fees are collected, and thus any and all costs associated with oversight, enforcement, etc. are fully borne by those of us who obey the law and do pay taxes. All of this, Despite the lessons we learned from prohibition!

I never thought I would find near 100% agreement with the Cato Institute on any subject, yet this paper pretty much says it all: http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-157.html

Today, many corporations have taken their manufacturing, packaging and more menial tasks “off shore”. Why wouldn’t the domestic marijuana and narcotic distribution cartels follow suit?

Somewhere at the top of any of these current distribution networks is a domestic descendent of one of the original “Capos” – carefully managing his supply chain, and working very hard to ensure that his lifestyle is such that he is above suspicion.

Dig a little deeper, my friends.

This story really has nothing to do with people from Latin America who grow, manufacture, package and/or ship ‘illegal substances’ to the U.S.

The real story is right here, and hiding in plain sight: Which of our neighbors has been blocking legalization and domestic control over the distribution and sale of marijuana?

These are the people who have the most to lose once marijuana becomes part of the regulated, taxed and mainstream economy.

Back in the day, our Founding Fathers envisioned citizens who were leaders stepping forward to run for public office. These would be people who had made their mark, people who had accomplishments under their belt.

And, these citizens from our past were offering their wisdom and experience to help our nation and its people navigate through new issues, unforeseen problems and/or changes in the physical and/or philosophical landscape.

That concept – drawing on the experience and wisdom of our fellow citizens who had already made their mark – was nothing new. History reveals many societies around the globe – as well as the majority of Native American societies – which recognized the value of wisdom and patience gained through experience.

History also reveals what can occur when the focus shifts away from experience, wisdom and proven leadership to a model which values charisma, eloquence and oratory over substance.

It seems clear as I read and listen to commentary and responses from various elected officials on the attributes of the recent Iran Nuclear Accord, leadership is a missing ingredient.

While the main negotiations were between the United States and Iran, the four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (Britain, China, France and Russia), are also parties to the deal, as is Germany.

This Accord is not a perfect solution. Very much like the U.S. Constitution, it was developed over a rather long period of time, and it represents a series of compromises which neither side of the discussion is fully pleased with.

Today (7/14/2015), a rather large number of US elected officials emerged from the shadows once an agreement had been reached. These elusive folks (Boehner, McConnell, Graham, Rubio and others) seemed to be conspicuously absent during the negotiations – where they may have contributed some positive ideas and energy to the discussions.

They waited in the bushes until the Accord was announced, and they then pounced on any and every facet of the agreement.

Leadership? Wisdom? Patience? Each attribute seems to be sadly missing from this attack group – individually and collectively.

These are folks who have made their entire careers in the political arena.

Other than Mitch McConnell who spent 5 weeks in the U.S. Army Reserve in the late 1960’s, and John Boehner who served 8 weeks in the U.S. Navy, I have been unable to find any examples of experience, wisdom or leadership among this group outside of appointed or elected political positions.

Yet, no one should or could question these fellows on their charisma, eloquence or oratory skills.

Donald Trump: Update

July 13, 2015

Reliable sources have told The Walrus that Donald Trump may be behind the recent prison escape of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a notorious Mexican drug lord.

Although Mr. Trump has been extensively cited for some derogatory remarks about undocumented Mexicans who have entered the United States, it is believed that his remarks were just a cover for his extensive work with several Central American drug cartels which help to stabilize and enhance cash flow for the Trump Organization.

Rumors that El Chapo is temporarily staying at a Trump property in Chicago could not be confirmed or denied.

More to come….

Donald Trump. ‘The Donald’. ‘You’re Fired!’

The list goes on and on.

Yet, the questions remain: (1) Who is The Real Donald Trump? And, (2) Where is he hiding?

I don’t have enough information to delve into Q1 (at this time).

I thought for sure I had the answer to Q2! It seemed to be a ‘gimme’ – he’s likely hiding somewhere in Donald J. Trump State Park! Summertime. Great weather. What a great place to ‘hide in plain sight!’

Driving north out of NYC on the Taconic State Parkway, you will see the sign announcing the DJT State Park just before mile-marker 16. The sign was erected in 2006 at the twilight of George Pataki’s final term as NYS Governor after The Donald donated some 436 acres of vacant land in the towns of Yorktown and Putnam Valley to the state of New York to be used as a park.

trump_state_park

Turns out that the Park never quite got started (or finished), quite similar to several other projects The Donald announced with great fanfare and plenty of publicity.

Unfortunately, the park didn’t exist in 2006, and it doesn’t exist now — unless you view 436 acres of inaccessible wildland inhabited by deer, squirrels, rabbits, snakes, coyotes and other brethren of the forest – as a park. (It has been said that The Donald is particularly fond of snakes.)

Now, please understand – The Walrus is all in favor of open space. In fact, if The Donald had donated this property to NYS as Open Space, I might have a somewhat more favorable impression of him and his character.

Trump had assembled this land in the early 1990’s with the expectation he would create one or more private golf clubs. His cost of acquisition was somewhere in the $2 Million range. After being rebuffed by several government entities on the potential negative environmental impacts of shoe-horning private golf facilities into wetlands, wildlands and woodlands, in 2002 Trump – with great fanfare – declared that he was “fed up with” governmental delays and overreach. He stopped the application process for the golf course; and began marketing the property as a potential site for luxury housing.

By 2006, it was apparently clear that the property was: (a) over-priced, or (b) not suitable for development, or (c) all of the above.

So, instead of selling the property, which he valued at $100 million, Trump decided to donate it to the state of New York to be used as a park.

The bad news: the cost of converting these 400+ acres of wilderness into a state park, maintaining it and staffing it was beyond the realm of comprehension.

In 2010, the state announced that it would close this and 57 other park and historic sites due to budget constraints. As they said from Albany, “Mr. Trump did not give an endowment to improve the park.”

Trump’s reaction was fast and furious: “If they’re going to close it, I’ll take the land back. This was very valuable property. I gave it away at the height of the market for the purposes of a park, and I always believed that once a park is there, it would always be a park.”

Meanwhile, we’ve determined that The Donald isn’t hiding in Donald J. Trump State Park, because there really is no such place which is accessible by motor vehicle, only on foot or by helicopter.

And, we’ve been able to determine that The Donald is not hiding at his daughter Ivanka’s estate.

Apparently The Donald’s quip on national television a few years back left some people feeling a bit squeamish: “… she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Yikes!

We’ll keep searching for The Real Donald and where he is hiding, so please feel welcome to send any tips or leads to The Walrus!

As the calendar moves forward toward an expected announcement from current NJ Governor Chris Christie on his candidacy as the potential GOP nominee for president in the 2016 election, stories about – and soundbites from – Christie abound.

With the radio tuned to news in the background, I listened to some of these stories and soundbites today.

I’m left feeling that Chris Christie has no moral compass. Christie is apparently willing and able to lie about almost anything and everything.

Here’s a soundbite from Christie’s appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, June 7, responding to recent comments from Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton who called out for significant expansion in voter access, calling out several prominent GOP leaders – including Christie – accusing them of purposefully limiting voter access in their states through policies such as voter identification requirements and limited early voting.

Said Christie: “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. In New Jersey, we have early voting available to people. I don’t want to expand it and increase the opportunities for fraud. Maybe that’s what Mrs. Clinton wants to do. I don’t know.”

Christie continued, “But the fact is: folks in New Jersey have plenty of an opportunity to vote. And maybe if she took some questions some places and learned some things, maybe she wouldn’t make such ridiculous statements,” he said.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/chris-christie-hillary-clinton-is-clueless-on-voter-fraud/

What Christie failed to note in his response is that it is more common in New Jersey (and many other states) for elected and appointed public officials to commit fraud then it is for a voter to commit fraud.

And, more alarming: Just 31% of eligible voters in New Jersey exercised their voting rights in the 2014 election. [http://www.electproject.org/2014g]. Seems to me that the real opportunity here is to address and/or eliminate existing obstacles or impediments to help increase voter participation, not creating more obstacles which have the probability of discouraging potential voters.

Chris Christie: You are both a phony and an opportunist, and it’s very sad that you were elected to a position of trust (Governor of New Jersey) and as such, (a) you have tremendous power over the infrastructure and inner workings of our 11th largest state, and (b) you have tremendous influence over the functionality and decisions of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the public authority which builds, operates, and maintains critical transportation and trade assets in the NY Metro area.

PANYNJ controls a network of aviation, rail, surface transportation and seaport facilities which annually move millions of people and transport cargo throughout the New York/New Jersey region.

We can only hope that the ongoing ‘Bridgegate’ investigation will soon expose your culpability in the ensuing mess that (at best) inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of bridge users on those days where access to the bridge was restricted; and (at worst) exacerbated economic losses well into the 100’s of millions of dollars through a ripple effect to commercial entities in the Tri-State region, and throughout the U.S.

I, for one, would be delighted to see you spend the next 8 years, or so, in the Big House, not any other house.