The behavior of FBI Director James Comey, which seems to have had an effect on the recent election, has been described as a low point in the history of that esteemed organization. Hardly. Does no one remember J. Edgar Hoover? Maybe not. Recently, in a conversation with a young college grad (not a deplorable), the name Grace Kelly came up. The young person had no idea who she was.
Hoover, of course, was the legendary founder of the FBI and its director for more than 35 years. An iconic figure in his lifetime, it has since been revealed that he abused his office in a number of ways, including keeping blackmail material on people—even presidents. To put the recent bad publicity in perspective, it has also become known that his FBI participated in one of the most disgraceful episodes of the 20th century—the cover-up of the murder of President John F. Kennedy.
Hoover decided almost immediately after the murder that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone. His bureau did the investigative work for the Warren Commission, which merely interviewed witnesses sent to it by the bureau, and relied on the information supplied by FBI. Those witnesses and details were screened by the FBI to exclude the considerable body of evidence pointing to a conspiracy, in which Oswald’s role was to take the hit, literally, for the crime. The Warren Commission ignored some FBI information, which contradicted that conclusion.
None of this was known in 1965, of course. When the Warren Commission issued its report, very few doubted it. But over the years, up to this day, researchers with access to slowly declassified information have convinced most of the country that there was a conspiracy. If the awful crime did not involve our own government, then surely the cover-up did.
We now know that Oswald was hardly a lone nut as the Warren Commission termed him. In the words of the late Pennsylvania Sen. Richard Schweiker, who reopened the investigation into the assassination in the 1970s, Oswald had “the fingerprints of intelligence all over him.” Gaeton Fonzi, a partner in Gold Coast magazine at the time, was hired to look into possible Oswald’s connections to the anti-Castro movement in Florida.
Fonzi spent five years on the government payroll and concluded that even the second investigation was rigged. He exposed the charade in his book, The Last Investigation, which first appeared in Gold Coast as two long articles in 1970. Upon his death four years ago, The New York Times called Fonzi's book one of the best on the assassination. Fonzi, and other investigators following up on his pioneering work, found evidence that Oswald had both CIA and FBI connections, and the latter must have been known to J. Edgar Hoover at the time of the assassination. He also probably knew that Jack Ruby, the man who murdered Oswald in the days after JFK’s death, had organized crime connections, and he also should have known that Ruby was part of the CIA’s anti-Castro war—smuggling weapons to anti-Castro groups. It is all pretty damning stuff.
We all know this now, on the 53rd anniversary of the crime, but Hoover surely knew it then—and chose to conceal it. Its recent embarrassment may not be the FBI's finest hour, but it is a long way from its worst.
Us: Mr. President-elect, you have been elected for a week now. When are you going to build the wall?
President-elect: What wall?
Us: The wall to keep the "Mexican rapists" out.
President-elect: I never said anything about a wall. I never said Mexicans were rapists.
Us: You said it 3,000 times a day for the last year.
Us: And what about getting all the illegal immigrants out of the country?
President-elect: I never said anything about immigrants. I want to bring people together. Didn’t you hear my acceptance speech?
Us: The one where you gushed over "crooked Hillary?"
President-elect: Why do you call that great American public servant crooked? I never said she was crooked.
Us: We got 1,000 messages a day from your campaign using that exact phrase.
President-elect: I was misquoted. I never said that.
Us: These were emails.
President-elect: I was mis-emailed.
Us: You also said the president wasn’t born in this country.
President-elect: WRONG. I have nothing but respect for the great job he has done. Didn’t you see my visit with him on television?
Us: And you didn’t say a word about him being a Muslim.
President-elect: I never said he was anything but a good Irish Catholic boy who got too much sun. Listen, you media people are all liars.
Us: That’s another thing. When you thought you were losing you called the media liars.
President-elect: WRONG. I never called anybody liars.
Us: You just did 10 seconds ago.
President-elect: No I didn’t. You media people are all liars. Except for the liars at Fox News. They are nice to me.
Us: And I guess you deny making fun of the disabled?
President-elect: I never did that. I would never mock a handicapped person. That was made up by the lying media.
Us: When are you going to revoke Obamacare?
President-elect: I never said I would. I would never take insurance away from 20 million poor people. You media liars don’t understand when you want to win, you say one thing, but when you win, you have to be president of all the people. I learned that from Hillary’s Wall Street speeches.
Us: Do you still think the election was rigged?
President-elect: Only if I lost. I have great respect for our institutions. America is great. I just hope I don’t screw it up.
Us: With all due respect, you don’t sound like the same man who ran for office.
President-elect: Well, as a matter of fact, I’m not. I’m the guy who played him on "Saturday Night Live." I’ve been hired to fool you morons in the media. There’s nothing like steady work. Trust me.
Like all real Americans, we watch with interest those interviews with ordinary folk explaining why they are voting for whomever they favor. We take particular interest in those people who appear 30 or older who say they never voted before. Usually, they are for Trump. What does that tell you about their level of citizenship?
Actually, most people who say they are for Trump do not seem stupid. They may not have a college degree, but they speak pretty well and their concerns about the economy, foreign competition, etc. seem thoughtful. Nor do they seem like flaming racists. But you have to wonder why a number of those same people say they believe President Obama wasn’t born in this country, and that he is a Muslim.
We wish the interviewers in these situations would ask one more question. Where do these people get their information? Is it from Fox News, which has a well-earned reputation for a right wing GOP bias? And do they read a newspaper? We tend to doubt it, with newspaper circulation having dropped so precipitously. Even television evening news attracts far smaller audiences than in the days of Huntley-Brinkley and Walter Cronkite.
We wonder if these people are addicted to the internet, which is notoriously unreliable. Are these the kind of people who read that some American cities have adopted Sharia law, or that Target stores are owned by Muslims—and immediately forward that nonsense to all their friends?
You don’t have to be deplorable to do that. We have friends who are well-educated and highly successful, who don’t take the time to investigate such trash before they spread it on the internet.
It is ironic that the media are being savaged by Donald Trump at the same time that the traditional media have lost much of its influence? A test of that decline on a local level is coming up soon. Virtually every important newspaper in Florida has campaigned heavily against Amendment One on the ballot. It pretends to be supporting solar energy development, but in fact, is sponsored by the leading electric companies who want to control solar and prevent independent solar companies from enjoying the competitive benefits that they do in most states. It is a deceptive and shameful move, backed by $22 million in advertising.
The Sun-Sentinel and other South Florida papers have repeatedly and very visibly urged voters to vote against this amendment. Most recently, Sunday's Miami Herald had a major story (headline above), and Monday's Sun-Sentinel explained the disgraceful attempt to confuse voters. It is hard to believe that any voter who reads a major Florida newspaper regularly does not understand this deception by the power companies and will vote accordingly against the amendment. And yet newspaper readership has declined so much, and even though papers' digital versions are still widely read, there is a major difference in their formats. A newspaper can get attention with positioning and length of a story. That impact is largely lost on the internet.
Nov. 8 will be an interesting commentary on the state of the fourth estate in our state.
Headline from Miami Herald
Win or lose, Donald Trump has done the public a service by being probably the first candidate for the presidency, and perhaps any high office, to openly admit that bribery is good. He has boasted in his crude way that he gives liberally to candidates in order to buy influence. And circumstances in Florida pretty much proved it when it was revealed that his foundation donated $25,000 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, shortly before she declined to join a lawsuit brought against Trump University for defrauding students in Florida.
Trump can acknowledge his fondness for bribery because, under current campaign contribution rules, bribery is not a crime. It’s only a crime if you get caught on a recording saying, “I’ll accept your campaign contribution with the understanding that I’ll vote for anything you want me to.” Quid pro quo.
That doesn’t happen very often. But it apparently happened in Pennsylvania, where a former state treasurer and a massive campaign contributor were recently indicted. The treasurer was taking campaign contributions in return for allowing a financial company to be a “finder” for money managers to handle state funds. The finder contributed $3 million but got back several million a year from the favored findees. The details have not come out, but the papers reported that an undercover federal informant and tape recordings were involved. We discussed this case in the current issues of several of Gulfstream Media Group’s magazines. We wonder why, if they aren’t already doing it, the feds aren’t looking at the history of massive campaign contributions by Big Sugar (major sugar producers and related agricultural interests), which have had such a detrimental effect on the Everglades and major waterways on both sides of the state.
All bribery of public officials costs the taxpayers eventually, if only in the legal tab to put them in jail, but the situation in Pennsylvania, in which parties simply enriched themselves, seems petty compared to Florida, where tourism and water-related businesses on both side of the state are damaged, the Everglades are endangered and, eventually, the water supply of all South Florida may be threatened.
The campaign contributions ($8.5 million by one sugar company) ensure that no matter how loud the public outcry, the votes to buy the land south of Lake Okeechobee necessary to restore the natural flow of water south into the Glades never seem to be there. Even legislators who live in areas most severely damaged usually vote for Big Sugar over their own neighbors. Those same legislators usually win handily. Why? $8.5 million has a lot to do with it.
Joan E. Friedenberg of Boynton Beach, in a letter to The Palm Beach Post earlier this summer, supplies some details. Martin County (Stuart, Fort Pierce) has been most damaged by the disastrous algae blooms (seen above on a Treasure Coast waterway) caused by polluted water being pumped into the salt-water estuary in Stuart. Businesses and residents have been screaming, but reader Friedenberg points out that they don’t take their anger to the ballot box.
She points out that Gov. Rick Scott, accused of ties to Big Sugar, beat environmentally friendly Charlie Crist by 55 to 40 percent in Martin County. Pam Bondi, Scott’s lackey, won by 66 percent to 31 percent. Two influential state elected officials seen as friendly to sugar interests won with 63 percent and 74 percent support. Go figure. Can Martin County voters be so uninformed, or does $8.5 million set the political agenda?
Until the feds get involved, or Martin County voters wake up, let them eat algae.
Photo provided by Ecosphere.
It was the early 1970s. We were new in town, still trying to figure out which way the ocean was, but we had learned that Maggie Walker was a reliable source. She was assistant editor of Gold Coast magazine, and when she suggested a piece on a fellow who had a renewal plan for Fort Lauderdale’s downtown, we trusted her judgment.
Thus we learned about Stan Smoker, who had come to town in the 1950s, leaving behind a family business in Indiana. He took a job driving a truck for $40 a week, and went on to become a developer who saw the future of downtown Fort Lauderdale when the tallest building was about five stories high and Las Olas Boulevard was filled with gray windows of vacant stores. At the time, Commercial Boulevard, several miles to the north, was the center of entertainment.
The article included a double page rendering by the architectural firm of Gamble & Gilroy. It seemed absurdly optimistic, showing new tall office buildings and condos and featuring a new library and art museum. All expected to happen within a few years. It did not happen—not then. The economy took a downtown, and the city’s major department store, Burdines, even moved out to the new Galleria Mall. It was a time when Bill Farkas, the new downtown development director, built tennis courts to give the appearance that something was happening where old buildings had been razed.
Stan Smoker never lost faith in his concept, however. He had acquired land on both sides of the New River and on Las Olas, and eventually, his vision rose from the ground. He died this week, at age 94, having lived long enough to see his concept fulfilled even beyond his ambitious plan, and having his foresight memorialized in Smoker Park, along the south side of the New River, part of his original holdings.
Smoker’s optimism was his style. His son Ed, now a developer, told the Sun Sentinel his father wanted people to like him. They sure did, and he made friendship seem easy, with a happy personality that made you feel like the most important person in the world. Until the last year, when his health declined, he remained highly visible and little changed from the enthusiastic fellow of the 1970s.
Nowhere was that energy more apparent than when, a few years later, Maggie Walker again brought his name up in connection with his plan for developing Scotland Cay in the Bahamas. She went over to cover the story, along with photographer Bob Ruff. Her piece made it sound like a great place for a second home, free from commercial overkill. It featured a shot of Stan relaxing at one of the few homes on the island. You can feel his exuberance in the photo.
Again, his instincts were correct. Not only did he attract prominent Gold Coast people to invest in the island, he also sold to Europeans. Years later he credited the magazine for helping him put Scotland Cay on the map. It probably would have worked as well without the publicity, but appreciation was part of Stan Smoker’s engaging way.
For this Gold Coast pioneer, optimism was its own reward.
He had a pretty good job for a young guy. Roger Ailes was the producer of the popular "The Mike Douglas Show," at the time based in Philadelphia and a pioneer in the field of daytime TV talk shows. But the 28-year-old Ailes had not had a national reputation until he suddenly became the star of a best-selling book. Joe McGinniss, also in Philly at the time, had quit his job as the young featured columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer to follow the campaign of Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential race.
McGinniss was a liberal, but somehow he conned his way into Nixon's campaign, to which Ailes was the media adviser. Ailes had met Nixon through the Douglas show and bluntly told the future president that he did not understand the power of TV. Impressed, Nixon hired him. Joe McGinniss and Ailes hit it off, and the writer got a remarkable behind-the-scenes look at a very contrived made-for-TV campaign. A big part of the story was Ailes, who concealed nothing from the writer, including his often irreverent and highly amusing comments about his own candidate, and his cynical contempt for the intelligence of the American voter. Ailes designed a campaign in which Nixon avoided the legitimate press; instead, he appeared at mock town hall meetings filled with hand-picked supporters who asked questions which, while ostensibly sincere, were crafted for Nixon's prepared answers.
It all came out in the blockbuster book, "The Selling of a President – 1968," which made both McGinniss and Ailes familiar names, at least in political circles. The praise it earned Ailes as a political operator also hardened his conviction that news could be manipulated to present political propaganda as legitimate reporting. It was not a novel concept. The Nazis were pretty good at it decades earlier, but that was before TV. We know that McGinniss/Ailes story well. We wrote about both men during our days at Philadelphia magazine.
Ailes always seemed to have had a right wing bias; he thought liberals dominated the media, but for years, he was a hired gun. He worked a time for NBC and gave the ardently liberal Chris Matthews his first shot. But mostly, he consulted for Republicans, with notable success. He earned professional respect for helping Ronald Reagan conceal his growing senility and provided the grossly unfair racist ads, which propelled the first President Bush to the White House. But it was not until 1996, when he launched Fox News with Rupert Murdock's money, that his idea of a news organization devoted to conservative, mostly Republican values, became reality.
Twenty years later his success is obvious. Fox News is a leader in the news field. Until he recently got ousted for sexual harassment, Ailes made money Donald Trump would admire.
Roger Ailes’ concept has fulfilled his ambition of countering the liberal media bias with a "fair and balanced" network. He launched a corrupt propaganda machine with that patently dishonest slogan. To the surprise of almost all serious journalists, it worked. We wonder today how much 20 years of daily news distortion has molded U.S. public opinion to the extent that a Donald Trump, with all his crudeness, prejudice and ignorance of foreign affairs, can seduce such a large portion of the electorate.
Polls show he is most popular with white men without a college education. We feel certain most of that group are those who have given up newspapers, if they ever read them, and probably have little use for conventional NBC, CBS and ABC newscasts. But what surprises us is how many of our intelligent, college-educated friends also seem to prefer Fox's fair and balanced distortions of any story with political implications to the traditional news format established by such TV news icons as Edward R. Murrow, Huntley-Brinkley, Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid.
Die-hard Fox fans will point to MSNBC as the left-wing equivalent of Fox's right-wing filter. But there are differences. MSNBC does not deny its bias toward progressive opinion; it actually promotes it. But it also draws on NBC mainstream stars, such as Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams, to achieve a degree of balance. This week’s repeated harsh criticism by "Morning Joe" Scarborough about Hillary Clinton's (rare) Sunday interview on Fox regarding her email controversy is the kind of reverse form candor you rarely see on Fox.
Fox does present alternate views. It discovered that people fighting on camera pull better than undiluted propaganda. It also may be tired of being the butt of jokes by the real people in our business.
This rant appears after two weeks vacation in the North Carolina mountains, watching Fox every day, switching back and forth to other news channels for comparison. Some political stories are covered much alike, but the most important ones take on the Roger Ailes slant. One that stands out is the repeated economic refrain—the country is going to hell, and we need change. Growth is slow, wages stagnant. When people hear that day after day, they tend to start feeling sorry for themselves.
Fox does not mention that when President Obama took office, things were really scary. The stock market had collapsed. Sales signs dominated neighborhood lawns. The auto industry was in peril. Our magazine company sales dropped a full third in a matter of months. Executive salaries went down about as much. Now, friends, that was real trouble in River City.
Today, unemployment is low. The stock market is at record levels. Warren Buffett, who is entitled to an opinion, says things are pretty good. You may even hear some of that on Fox, but you have to listen fast. It won't last long.
The big story in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer struck close to home, even from 1,300 miles away. Two financial guys are under investigation for enormous campaign contributions to various Treasurers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who control billions of dollars of state money to be invested with whatever investment firms the treasurer deems fit. In this case, the state treasurer saw fit to turn that money over to firms recommended by the two financial guys who had just sent $150,000 each (on the same day) to the treasurer's campaign chest. Before that treasurer left office, she received $475,000 in contributions from the two financiers.
This was back in 2000, but it was just the beginning of a pattern that went on for more than a decade involving various public officials. The financial guys are described as "finders," and their political contributions amounted to around $3 million over the years. The fees they received from the money managers who got contracts amounted to many millions more over the years, enabling the two men to enjoy satisfying lifestyles. We will not name the two financial guys; they have not been charged, and one of them is from our alma mater, which has never produced anything but saintly figures—unless you count a few sons of Mafiosos. The Inky (local parlance) revealed that an official already convicted has been wearing a wire for the feds for two years, taping conversations with one of the financial guys. If you are that guy, you really don't like to read that in the paper.
It is all part of a federal "pay to play" probe in Pennsylvania, which has earned a rep as one of the leading states for that kind of corruption. Florida was not ranked in that category, but given the climate of the last few years, we surely deserve consideration.
It appears that the feds are looking at the possibility of political contributions being considered criminal bribes. That should be welcome news on the Treasure Coast, where a movement is underway to have the authorities look into the massive contributions from Big Sugar, which have increasingly controlled state government and particularly influenced local legislators who ignore the people who elected them, with disastrous results for the environment.
The important difference between the contributions in Pennsylvania and those in Florida is their impact on the state. Pennsylvania involves facets of government most people never think of—and are hardly affected by the legal bribery. In Florida, the contributions have produced environmental damage, which directly affects thousands of people, seriously damaging the economy of beautiful counties on both sides of the state and creating a health hazard for those who live and work there. Compared to Florida, the Pennsylvania corruption seems almost trivial.
Our guess is that given the recent and totally predictable consequences of discharges from Lake Okeechobee, which the disaster named Gov. Rick Scott blames on the federal government rather than his own political hacks who have caused it, the feds have to take notice. Political corruption in Florida is worse than Pennsylvania. And if the feds are not on this case already, they should be.
The Champ was sitting up in bed, topless, a sheet up to his waist, eating some kind of cream pie. It was a hotel room in Las Vegas, and it was filled with people. Sort of an informal press conference. The Champ was scheduled to fight Floyd Patterson in a day or two. He looked at us and said, in a soft voice, “You want some of this pie? It’s really good. Don’t be shy. Have some.”
If that sounds like a strange scene, it was. This was a young man who was generally portrayed at the time as obnoxiously angry; who had just abandoned his “slave” name, Cassius Clay; who had been taunting his opponent as an Uncle Tom; who had recently been photographed, raving like a maniac, standing over a prone and supposedly unconscious Sonny Liston; who almost surely had taken a dive at a championship fight in Maine. And here he was in bed late in the morning, acting almost sweet and instantly likeable, seeming anything but the baddest dude on the planet.
We happened to be there that morning in November 1965, because we had just left a job as a columnist for The Delaware County Daily Times in Chester, Pennsylvania. We had gone to Philadelphia magazine, which was in the early stages of inventing the city/regional magazine. At the magazine, we followed up on a story that had begun in Chester. Liston was the heavyweight champion. He was an extraordinarily powerful puncher, but he was tainted by mob connections. Richly deserved, by the way. To clean up his act, his management contract had been taken over by the Nilon brothers, Bob and Jim, of Chester. They were in the business of providing concessions at major sports events, and very successfully. Their attorney was a young fellow named Garland Cherry who, for obvious reasons, went by the name Bill.
Bill Cherry, who died in 2010 after a long and distinguished career, was already a local legal star in the 1960s, having shown considerable independence in a suburban Philadelphia county, which was dominated by a corrupt Republican machine.
We wrote about him and the Nilon brothers, first at the newspaper, later at the magazine. He liked our stuff, and invited us to be his guest at the fight in Las Vegas. Liston was no longer champion, but Bill Cherry had written an agreement to promote the first fights of the man who dethroned him—now known as Muhammad Ali. Thus, that brief morning glimpse of the Champ eating a cream pie for breakfast.
The scene seemed odd at the time, but only over the years has it made sense. Clay/Ali was two people. One was the brilliant self promoter—arrogant and entertaining—whose gifts in the ring backed up his bravado. The other was the man behind the mask, the fellow he would have been even if he had not been one of the most famous celebrities of his time.
We have been checking out comments from various sources since his death this month. He lived in Philadelphia for a time, and his presence there was heightened by his rivalry with Joe Frazier, who also lived there. Their three fights were classics. Ali also trained in Miami and always connected to his native Louisville. People who knew him in all those venues recall not so much the showman, but a man who was always approachable, and who genuinely liked people, especially children who idolized him.
Almost all who knew him outside the circus of boxing found him warm and affectionate—the young man eating cream pie in a hotel room. He was also a family man, aided by four wives. His daughters, as articulate as if they had grown up at fancy prep schools, show a warm and loving father.
The stories of his famous insults of opponents are now revealed as largely part of the game. A respected boxing writer says that fight in Las Vegas, where he allegedly tortured the former champ, Patterson, was part of the show. Ali later gave Patterson another fight, which Patterson did not deserve, because he heard Patterson had tax problems and needed the payday. And although he taunted Frazier and called him a “gorilla,” he showed up at his funeral in 2011, even though very sick himself. Officially, Parkinson’s disease was the culprit, but it is now agreed by those in the boxing arena, that he was the victim of too many blows to the head, a condition familiar in boxing that we used to call “punch drunk.”
Speaking of punchy, which is associated with memory loss, we did not stay in Vegas for the actual fight, and after 51 years we can’t remember why. It must have been a family matter. The Champ would understand.
Recent decisions by several South Florida governments are some of the most controversial cases of elected officials ignoring the concerns of residents in favor of developers.
It has been some time since any proposed development drew the opposition that the Bahia Mar redevelopment on Fort Lauderdale beach has. We can’t think of any project that was so opposed by residents that they amassed 1,200 signatures, and even called for a moratorium on new development until planners address the traffic problems.
Maybe you need to go back to the 1970s when Boca Raton, alarmed by the rapid high rise development to the south—mainly in Fort Lauderdale—led the voters to pass a density cap, stopped development cold for more than five years until the courts ruled the law unconstitutional. And this was a time when Fort Lauderdale development was just starting; the tall buildings in Broward were mostly confined to the beach. Fort Lauderdale’s downtown was stagnating, and its redevelopment efforts were so stymied that city planners installed tennis courts where old buildings had already been razed—just to give the impression something was happening.
Times change. Fort Lauderdale, and other parts of South Florida, have grown so much, so fast, that residents are resisting new development on the grounds that it is destroying its way of life in some of South Florida’s oldest, and most expensive neighborhoods. The Bahia Mar issue is unusual in that it is public land that is being slated for high rise development at a time when residents have had more than enough development. And these are not just any residents. They are people on the high priced Las Olas Isles, as well as other downtown neighborhoods, who find themselves choked with traffic heading to and from the beach. The four (of five) city commissioners who voted for the project are taking heat, none more so than Bruce Roberts.
Buddy Nevins, whose Broward Beat is one of the most influential blogs in the area, called former police chief Roberts a “pro-developer stooge” for asserting at a meeting last week that high density decreases traffic. His comments infuriated some residents in the City Hall audience who battle traffic daily, Nevins wrote. And the people who live here feel betrayed by elected officials who seem to be approving everything, no matter what the people who voted them in think.
If anything, the situation is worse in Palm Beach County, which still has considerable open land on its western perimeter. That is by design. Almost 20 years ago voters overwhelmingly approved an agricultural preserve for some of the state’s richest farming country, but recent decisions by county commissioners have begun chipping away, permitting development and setting a precedent for more land owners to sell for more growth. It also seems a betrayal to people who live in that low density area, who bought with the understanding that their rural lifestyle would be preserved.
The frustration of those fighting unwanted development in both the Fort Lauderdale beach case and the Palm Beach County agricultural preserve is summed up nicely in this excerpt from a letter last week in the Palm Beach Post. Reader Tom Twyford wrote:
“It is obvious to me, and many others, that the general public has very little voice or influence in the development approval process until it is far too late.
By the time a concerned citizen gets his or her three minutes at the podium, the decisions have basically been made. Developers, and their team of lobbyists and lawyers, are already on a first-name basis with county and municipal leaders, and planning and zoning staff, who more often than not recommend approval of the proposed projects—or generally much of what the developer wants.”
That’s gentle criticism compared to some of those responding behind the shield of anonymity on the Internet. Words such as “fix,” “bribe” and “corruption” are used. We find it hard to believe that any Fort Lauderdale commissioner got enough in campaign contributions from the Bahia Mar developer to buy their vote; we are not so sure about Palm Beach County, which has had some nice scandals involving public officials and crooked real estate deals in recent years.
Move a few miles north and it is a different story, in a situation much more serious than the aforementioned events. Business on both sides of Lake Okeechobee, relating to fishing and tourism, is being destroyed by pollution from discharges from the lake, and angry people are starting to react. Up there, campaign contributions in massive amounts (in one case almost $1 million over several years to a powerful figure) are clearly influencing legislators to vote against the interests of their own neighbors. The money comes from Big Sugar, which, supported by Gov. Rick Scott, has been resisting efforts to sell land south of the lake to store and cleanse the water now being discharged to the east and west, where nature never meant it to flow. This is even after Scott’s puppets on the South Florida Water Management District ignored the intent of voter-approved Amendment One, designed to provide funds for the purpose of Big Sugar land, which scientists agree is the only way to stop the ruinous discharges.
Gold Coast reported last October that the situation is so critical that a prominent citizen (and ex-politician) drew a standing ovation after suggesting to a group in Stuart, which represented almost all business interests, such large campaign contributions should be considered criminal bribes. That, of course, would require some serious investigation, probably by the feds.
If elected leaders continue to ignore, and in the Lake Okeechobee matter, even pervert the will of the people, it may yet come to that. It might be good citizenship to spread that rumor. Just don’t say where you heard it.
The announcement Wednesday that the South Florida Ford Dealers have signed on as a title sponsor for the Fort Lauderdale Air Show is great news for local business people who have worked to revive the show for several years. An auto company being associated with an air show may seem an odd coupling, but not to aviation historians.
The fact is the name Ford has been associated with airplanes from almost the birth of aviation. After succeeding in mass-producing his Model T Fords, Henry Ford became fascinated with vehicles that fly. Ford built the first successful commercial aircraft. The Ford Trimotor appeared in 1926, and was purchased by numerous pioneer airlines and 199 copies were produced before production ended in 1933. Among them was Ford’s own airline, Ford Aviation Transport, an airfreight outfit that was the first to fly air mail.
The Trimotor wasn’t pretty. The third engine in the nose was ungainly, and its air-cooled radial engines had no cowlings. Later designs in the early 1930s, such as the Boeing 247 and the Douglas DC-2, made it look archaic. But it was a sturdy and reliable machine, which achieved many firsts, including Richard Byrd’s flight over the South Pole, and many of Pan American’s flights from Miami to South America. It managed to keep flying for commercial purposes into the 1960s. A handful survive today, used mostly on tourist operations—in which the airplane itself is the star of the tour.
By World War II Ford had stopped building its own planes, but it became a major manufacturer of engines and aircraft designed by other companies. Its Willow Run plant, outside Dearborn, Michigan, had a production line a mile long. It built thousands of the Consolidated B-24 bombers, which along with the Boeing B-17 became the primary weapons in the campaign to destroy Nazi Germany’s industry. Ford built other airplane parts as well, and by the war's end it had built thousands of complete aircraft, plus 57,851 airplane engines and more than 4,000 military gliders.
This was in addition to building tanks, trucks and smaller vehicles, including 278,000 of the famous Willys jeeps. Ford even had a plant in Germany, which the Germans commandeered to produce its own weapons. As the Allies swept across Western Europe, German employees ignored orders to destroy the plan in Cologne and it actually produced its first post-war truck on May 8, 1945—the date the war in Europe ended.
It is probably too late for next week's show, but don't be surprised if Ford brings back its relic as a supporting actor in future airshows.
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