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?

Don’t Say Gay

April 26, 2022

a.k.a. Parental Rights in Education

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed House Bill 1557 “Parental Rights in Education” a.k.a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ which prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

DeSantis stated, “Parents’ rights have been increasingly under assault around the nation, but in Florida we stand up for the rights of parents and the fundamental role they play in the education of their children.”

Former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo further said, “Parents should get to decide what their children are taught, not the government or teachers unions.”

And, I absolutely agree. Public schools are available to everyone, and public schools are a compromise between cost and value. For those who have unlimited resources and who want a custom experience for their children, there are a variety of private schools to choose from. And, home schooling is an option for some.

Typical governance of public schools is through an elected school board comprised of residents in the District who take an oath to represent all who are stakeholders in the District.

Thus, parents have a strong voice in deciding what and how their children are taught. Parents can get actively involved in who is running for school board, and to support candidates who most closely mirror their personal values.

Take a look at this school board Oath of Office from Illinois:

“I, (name of member or successful candidate), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of member of the Board of Education (or Board of School Directors) of (name of school district), in accordance with the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Illinois, and the laws of the State of Illinois, to the best of my ability.

“I further swear (or affirm) that:

“I shall respect taxpayer interests by serving as a faithful protector of the school district’s assets;

“I shall encourage and respect the free expression of opinion by my fellow board members and others who seek a hearing before the board, while respecting the privacy of students and employees;

“I shall recognize that a board member has no legal authority as an individual and that decisions can be made only by a majority vote at a public board meeting;

“I shall abide by majority decisions of the board, while retaining the right to seek changes in such decisions through ethical and constructive channels;

“As part of the Board of Education (or Board of School Directors, as the case may be), I shall accept the responsibility for my role in the equitable and quality education of every student in the school district;

“I shall foster with the board extensive participation of the community, formulate goals, define outcomes, and set the course for (name of school district);

“I shall assist in establishing a structure and an environment designed to ensure all students have the opportunity to attain their maximum potential through a sound organizational framework;

“I shall strive to ensure a continuous assessment of student achievement and all conditions affecting the education of our children, in compliance with State law;

“I shall serve as education’s key advocate on behalf of students and our community’s school (or schools) to advance the vision for (name of school district); and

“I shall strive to work together with the district superintendent to lead the school district toward fulfilling the vision the board has created, fostering excellence for every student in the areas of academic skills, knowledge, citizenship, and personal development.”

For those parents who desire a more hands-on role in how their children are educated, there are a number of additional options: (1) regular and active participation in PTA; (2) regular and active participation in parent teacher events, including parent/teacher night and parent/teacher conferences; (3) active and regular daily involvement in children’s homework and assignments; (4) regular and active involvement in after school activities, including sports, band, debate, theater, etc.

As to the quote from Mike Pompeo, it must be taken in context to Pompeo’s personal history and beliefs:

Pompeo is affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, where he has served as a local church deacon, and taught Sunday school. In talks before church groups, Pompeo has said that Christians needed to “know that Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world” and that “politics is a never-ending struggle… until the Rapture.”

Until the Rapture.

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.

Republican Leadership 2022

The lock-step renouncement today of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson by all 11 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee shows us that Dixiecrats still are a major factor in American politics.

Back in the day, they were called “Dixiecrats” – a tribute to their roots as southern Democrats elected to represent the lingering base of southern confederate-centric white voters, still visibly angry that the North had claimed victory in the Civil War.

Whatever political party they associated with, Dixiecrats were White Segregationists, pure and simple.

The term “Dixiecrat” dates to the 1948 States’ Rights Democratic Party, when a breakaway group of Southern Democrats objected to a civil rights agenda in the Democratic platform at the party’s national convention.

Immediately following the national Democratic convention in 1948, the Dixiecrats organized and held their own convention. They garnered significant support from 13 Southern states, hell-bent on gaining control over 127 electoral votes, thus potentially throwing the election to the House where they could use their power to force the major parties to abandon any civil rights intentions.

Back then, Dixiecrats were powerful men — frequently featured in prominent media stories and widely quoted.  Most of them ruthlessly used their offices and esteemed titles to spread racial fear and thwart the aspirations of black Americans.

Strom Thurmond, then governor of South Carolina, was the leader of the 1948 Dixiecrats. Thurmond was elected to the Senate in 1954, and he became a Republican in 1964 reflecting a metamorphosis in political party platforms across the U.S.

Today in 2022, the party affiliation of current Dixiecrats remains consistent with Strom Thurmond’s conversion almost 60 years ago. Each of them identifies and runs as a Republican.

Although they are no longer called ‘Dixiecrats’, their staunch commitment to Confederate values, particularly focused on White Supremacy, has never been stronger.

History does repeat itself, and not necessarily verbatim. One time, it may be blue, another time red, or maybe green.

The most important lesson we can learn from history centers on the theme, “Those who are unable or unwilling to study and learn from history are most likely to become victims of a new iteration of horrible outcomes orchestrated by bad actors who adapt and/or emulate bad behaviors from the past.”

Sarah Palin announces run for Congress

We currently have an excess supply of Wombats, Obstructionists, and probable Seditionists serving in Congress.

Some of these characters include: Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia; Jim Jordan of Ohio; Lauren Boebert of Colorado; Matt Gaetz of Florida; Madison Cawthorne of North Carolina; Louie Gohmert of Texas; Paul Gosar of Arizona; and several more.

These are folks who were nominated by their Party and encouraged to run for public office; and who were then elected to represent their constituents in Congress.

These also are the same folks who live large in public media, seemingly hell-bent on destroying the foundations of the American political system and American political values.

We recently learned of the death of Don Young of Alaska, a highly respected and the longest-serving Republican in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives.

A special election to fill his vacant seat will be held August 16, and the winner of the special election will finish the remainder of Young’s term, which ends in January 2023.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has announced her intention to run for Congress to replace Don Young.

In her announcement, Palin said our nation “is at a tipping point,” and she spoke of the need to address “out-of-control inflation, empty shelves, and gas prices that are among the highest in the world.”

“I’m in this race to win it and join the fight for freedom alongside other patriots willing to sacrifice all to save our country,” Palin said.

Sarah certainly knows the right words to say; she only lacks the knowledge and abilities to deliver on whatever promises she intends to make.

We’ve seen enough of Sarah Palin’s wisdom, experience and character from her run as the VP candidate under John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

We certainly don’t need Sarah Palin in Congress to further degrade and destroy the foundations of our American political system and political values.

Florida Governor Signs Financial Literacy Bill

Here is a summary of the recent Florida Financial Literacy announcement as I understand it,

‘On March 22, 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1054, titled the Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act, which will require high school students to take a financial literacy course to receive a standard high school diploma.

The legislation will officially become a graduation requirement for students who enter high school in the 2023-24 school year, and will not affect students currently enrolled in high school.

“Financial literacy is an important life skill for a student to have,” said DeSantis. “Ensuring our students have the skills to manage their finances – and perhaps one day own a business – will pay dividends for our state. I am proud to sign this bill to support the future of Florida’s students and ultimately their families and communities.”

Students will be required to earn one-half credit in personal financial literacy and money management, including instruction on types of bank accounts, credit scores, taxes and managing debt.’

During my career in banking and financial services, I spent over 2 decades seeking solutions to our national intellectual deficit in the area of personal economic and financial literacy.

Much of what I learned relates to relevancy. Young people who grew up in a household where Amscot was the financial provider of choice won’t relate to traditional banks.  And, a young person with no job and no viable prospects for a future career which will generate a reliable income stream isn’t a good candidate for learning about bank accounts, credit scores, etc.

What I found in my practical research was that the very best solution to engaging students – probably beginning at middle school, and certainly at the high school level – involves thoughtful inclusion of economic concepts into the social studies curriculum.

Virtually everything in the history of mankind involves an economic component which can be carefully woven into the history itself.

The feudal system, which flourished in Europe until about 1500, continues to exist in the U.S. and other nations, disguised by new labels and promoted by clever marketing schemes.

Then, there was slavery. The underlying reason for the extraordinary prosperity of plantation owners in the southern U.S. states producing cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar wasn’t due to their intelligence: it was completely due to slave labor.

Today, we have the overarching issue of student debt. Those who have been educated and informed about ‘opportunity costs’ are (at least) inoculated against the commissioned charlatans who offer promises of obscene salaries for completion of certain certificate or degree programs — with no real supporting facts – “just sign on the dotted line and you will never regret it”.

Today, we have a financial sector (“Wall Street”) which extracts tremendous costs out of each and every financial transaction. For virtually no value-added, an investment bank transaction takes at least 25% off the top, providing immediate (and arguably excessive) financial rewards to certain economic pirates — analysts, associates and managing directors — while adding zero benefit to our overall economy.

The recent ‘Great Recession’ (2007 – 2009) was enabled by a broad contingent of economically illiterate consumers who were duped by an equally inept cohort of financially and economically illiterate brokers. The common theme:  A relatively small group of mathematical practitioners – economic pirates — who created theoretical models which proved to be defective in practice.

The current frenzy centered on Cryptocurrency is likely another economic trap conjured up by economic pirates.  The underground economy has been somewhat stifled by a 1969 decision of the U.S. Treasury to discontinue $500 and $1,000 bills. Can you just imagine an illicit $500,000 cash transaction conducted using $100 bills?  Laundered money, converted into cryptocurrency, is the perfect medium through which to consummate the transaction.  Drugs? Weapons? Real Estate? The sky is the limit.

Best I can tell, nothing in the Florida bill addresses the basic issues which American adults need to be aware of.  A good understanding of fundamental economic principles is the foundation of a comprehensive financial and economic education, and I don’t think those concepts are imbedded anywhere in this Florida legislation.

Is Sen. Hawley a danger to our democracy?

Josh Hawley, the junior senator from Missouri, was mostly unknown until he joined a few other newsworthy seditionists to attempt to deny certification of Joe Biden’s election on January 6, 2021.

Hawley became a poster boy for the cause, caught on camera fist-pumping outside the Capitol just prior to the insurrection. 

Sen. Josh Hawley at the Capitol, January 6, 2021

His re-election campaign now uses this photo to embellish a number of trinkets available on his website – for example, a coffee mug is available for just $20.00.

Hawley graduated from a private Jesuit high school where he was valedictorian; is a graduate of Stanford; and of Yale Law School where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal and also served as president of the Yale Federalist Society chapter. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2018, he held a number of positions, including a stint as an associate professor at the University of Missouri Law School, where he taught constitutional law.

But, please don’t be fooled by his pedigree, boyish good looks or his melodious baritone delivery.

Hawley clearly has a penchant for disloyalty and rebellious activities focused on undermining the workings of the United States government.

And, his recent performance interrogating Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has given new meaning to the phrase “badgering the witness.”

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!