Blake Dowling, Author at Florida Politics

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com or at www.aegisbiztech.com

Blake Dowling: Another day, another Facebook breach

Friday evening, I met with a crew from WCTV/CBS in Tallahassee; we talked Facebook.

They wanted some info ASAP as to news of the latest Facebook breach breaking that day, offering to meet me wherever I was. That happened to be a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters at the local bowling alley.

Hold my beer: Team Lucky Strikes (our company bowling team) is making the evening news.

The segment by Katie and her WCTV crew was great; the most intriguing part of this story will most likely break down the road.

More on that in a bit.

First off … what happened?

Last Tuesday, Facebook discovered a vulnerability, where unknown cyber-assailants gained access to 50 million FB accounts.

The following day, the company reported it to law enforcement; by Thursday, Facebook said the vulnerability was no longer an issue.

This specific exposure had to do with bugs in the “view as” feature which allows users to see their profile as someone else might.

Bug No. 1 had a video upload feature in the “view as” section. Bug No. 2 was involved with the auto log-in function and access tokens that allow you not to have to log in every time you visit the site.

So, what’s going on? What was taken? Who did it? All that is not yet known, which is why (as I said earlier) it will be a while before the cyber-dust settles on this one.

Note the bowling alley carpet; very awesome and perfect for any room.

With Cambridge Analytica, Facebook (and a third party), it took a while before the whole story came out. If this was the work of an amateur hacker (or digital prankster) maybe nothing will come up down the road.

However, if this was the work of a nation state who knows what went down? We may not find out until November. Are they looking to mess (or mettle) with the elections?

Or will there be something else more devious next year?

We have seen so much negative press on Facebook, perhaps we are becoming immune to the severity of breaches — there have been so many. To counter people not taking breaches seriously, I offer a conversation from my day yesterday.

A staffer at a statewide Florida association told me about an email she got that said they know her password and that if she does not give them a set amount in bitcoin they will post her browsing history online and expose the adult sites that she visits.

If you have ever received an email like this, it is bogus, with the exception of the criminal who wrote the email actually having an old password in the email.

Where did they get that password? A LinkedIn breach? Equifax? Who knows, but eventually info from all these breaches makes it to the dark web — and hackers.

The bottom line: Don’t use the same password for different sites, social media, financial etc. Use complex passwords; change them every 30 days. This goes for Facebook as well.

This story is most likely just the beginning, so stay tuned for more in 2019.

Now you may return to all things college football, Brett Kavanaugh, and Andrew Gillum versus Ron DeSantis.

Have a great day.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Aegis bowling team, the Lucky Strikes.
Big Brothers Big Sisters board of directors and friends.

Blake Dowling: An expensive lesson in ransomware wreaking havoc

Imagine you’re Joe-Bob-Sally Democrat politician; you are ready to surf the “blue wave” (and avoid the red tide) that may (or may not) be on its way and … Oops.

Your entire campaign just got rocked by an IT disaster.

It wasn’t Russian’s hacking or faulty hardware. It was another example of ransomware wreaking havoc in the process.

In this case, cybercriminals brought a big box of digital chaos to the state of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

So far, it’s unclear if this attack came from weak infrastructure (air conditioning with a mobile app control but without a password is just one example) or through a socially engineered email campaign.

Nevertheless, the attack came through, locking up every file in the system, along with a request for 28 bitcoins (about $30K) for the encryption key to get the files back.

They said “no, thank you” to being held hostage and built everything back from scratch.

And for their effort? A whopping $700,000 bill from Microsoft.

Just a helpful tip, if you want to pay the most money for a job, hire Microsoft. Who does that? The government, I guess.

Most people would simply hire a regional/local technology company that specializes in this type of engagement. Just a thought. Would you hire Mercedes-Benz to get a nail out of your tire?

While our elected officials are pushing legislation to help stop these threats, it’s really easy to get in this business. And tracking down the perps? Not so easy.

In Michigan Public Act 95 of 2018, it’s a crime to possess such software. So how does find this type of tool? Go on the dark web, buy a tool like AKBuilder and soon you ready to begin sending out emails embedded with nastiness.

You have now become a criminal.

Once someone clicks on one of your emails and pays the ransom (which you split with the software creator), that’s how it works.

In the Sunshine State, we are not immune to this type of threat. I recently took a call from an attorney who was getting a weird email from the Florida Bar, asking if I could look.

I found it was completely bogus, but it also contained malicious content. There was a whirlwind of calls and scrambling as the attack was smart.

All the email said was your membership is past due, and it was made to look as if it was from the Florida Bar — just click here to make a payment.

Some clicked. Many did not.

When anyone asks for personal info, money, birthday, etc. the first thought should be DO NOT CLICK!

Always have someone call and verify. Banks, Microsoft, and the like never ask for personal info via email.

This concludes today’s cybersecurity lesson.

As the Facebook sage continues, there is going to be a lot of focus on the upcoming elections and worrying, all of which are valid.

In fact, there was more drama in the Facebook camp this as the Instagram founders quit on the job, as well as hundreds of additional sites removed that had ties to nation-states that do not play nice with others. But Facebook insists that they have everything under control.

We shall see.

Perhaps, we have better security protocols in our great state, or maybe we are just lucky since whenever I look for instances of cyber-mischief in Florida, most searches spit out something I wrote previously.

If you have read this far, contact your security expert ASAP to make sure you have your security protocols locked down. And change your password every month to something like “Fl@ridaP@litcsRoolz!”

A strong password is your front line of defense.

Thanks for reading, enjoy the Fall and be safe out there.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at Dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Blake Dowling: Social media shows the great (and ugly) of society, politics

This week, Tallahassee ABC affiliate WTXL27 stopped by the office to chat on one of my favorite topics — social media posts, specifically video content.

If I were to critique my own social media use, one might say I post too much. However, I try and stick to a once daily max for most platforms (Twitter being the exception).

I think one post a day is entirely reasonable.

In fact, I am merely trying to share things that were intended to be shared: columns, branding my company and (of course) very important pictures from our football tailgate.

Speaking of football, did you know if you asked Siri yesterday morning who is the worst team in college football, she said the Florida State Seminoles?

Very strange, as I think they are only last in FBS schools’ average points per game (5) they are not actually last in the rankings. Who knows where Siri gets her info.

The race for worst team in the state is on with the Seminoles currently in the lead, but that could change fast as the Hurricanes, Gators or Knights could catch up at any time.

We will see if Willie Wonka and the Warchant Factory can turn it around.

My chat with ABC started with kids and irresponsible online behavior, before moving to some more responsible use of video, and then corporations, celebrities and, of course, politicians.

We began the conversation with a local story about a man with a gun and some local youths. As of this writing, the man with the gun is still on the loose.

The youths were using video to defend themselves, documenting a situation where someone pulled a gun on them, and good for them, in other cases, people are using video very poorly. For example, this security guard was fired after his employer found this ridiculous video online.

Really? Paul Flart?

Meanwhile, a Florida Taco Bell refused service to a guest because she didn’t speak Spanish. The guest could have driven off and never said a thing.

Instead, they filmed the entire encounter to document what they were dealing with and shared it.

So, by way of the video, the story speaks for itself.

The woman did have a great sense of humor about it: “Isn’t Quesadilla, in Spanish, Quesadilla?”

Well isn’t it?

Politicians love their videos too. And not just pricey TV spots, but online content that gets a fine-tuned message out to the public.

Check out Brian Kemp for Georgia Governor; he combines his beliefs with some humor in this clip:

In Florida, Andrew Gillum’s team produced a more serious message about family and his childhood experiences.

I also chatted with Steve from ABC about the fact that instead all-day handful of news outlets, we now have literally millions. Everyone with a phone is a reporter and might have a story or (in the context of this article) video.

According to The New York Times … “People are broadening their definitions of what political leaders can look like,” said Teddy Goff, a co-founder of the agency Precision Strategies, a Democratic consulting firm, and President Barack Obama’s former digital director.

“A political leader,” he added, “can be a 17-year-old from Parkland or a 28-year-old who was a bartender until last year.”

The internet and video content can share the greatness in our society like with Phil, the homeless man who needed a shave and his positive experiences with the Tallahassee Police Department. Or it shares the ugly, as in the case of the aforementioned man with a gun.

And, of course, Paul Flart.

It can also propel political messages like never before. This idea is not new, but we are seeing more depth than ever its use and how messages are crafted.

Cheers to Kemp and Gillum for their creativity with video content.

And regarding Mr. Flart: “C’mon on Man” (to quote ESPN).

Thank you to Steve and ABC27 for visiting Aegis, and thanks to Florida Politics for publishing this piece.

Have a good one, and thank you for reading.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Blake Dowling: It’s time for politics … and college football

As the glow of opening college football weekend wears off, and the tornado of Andrew Gillum versus Ron DeSantis begins, I read a very refreshing column this week from Skip Foster about non-biased reporting. Bottom line: If both sides of the coin are giving you heat, you must be playing it fair.

However, I did notice he did not mention Gillum’s opponent by name. Check it out, and thank you Skip for your insight.

Speaking of Gillum, there is a massive amount of “noise” (as they say in college football) surrounding his run for the Florida’s highest office. If you know Andrew personally, he is a nice guy. However, his incredible win could be overshadowed by the “noise” surrounding him if he is not careful.

There was more noise this week.

(Agent Whitesnake and lobbyist)

Speaking of “noise,” if you haven’t seen pics (or met) the FBI agents associated with most of this “noise,” who were rolling around North Florida, Vegas, and New York for over two years, hats off to Agent Whitesnake. This dude was way, way undercover.

 

In fact, we are still patiently waiting to see what exactly they uncovered.

One thing is for sure regardless of the FBI and Agent Whitesnake, there will be more college football this Saturday. The analogies and parallels between football, politics and business are always a spectacular topic. We need to “huddle up,” take a “timeout,” “coach up” the team, are just a sliver of the sports terms that we use in our professional lives.

Of course, there is also friendly banter among rivals when talk of football is afoot.

I saw a great tweet from Jimmy Patronis hazing Chris Dorworth over the epic Steve Spurrier Dos Equis ad that ran during the Nole collapse.

I had to weigh in with an old school Bobby Bowden Hardee’s clip comeback. Classic.

Nothing like friendly digital sparring with civilized sports fans. Jimmy must have enjoyed the Hardee’s clip as he liked the tweet.

Check out the 1986 gold here.

Does Hardee’s still even make the Big Deluxe? They lost me with their advertising somewhere in the past decade.

It’s Chick-fil-A fast foodies’ world, and they just let you live in it.

Anyway, opening football weekend in Florida held lots of surprises.

For all the Gators out there, calm down. You beat Charleston Southern. For Noles, start over … and Coach, you have to keep your head up in the postgame presser. That was sad.

And for THE U, it’s a long season, get back after it.

As for the parallels of football, it is certainly not limited to business and elections. Football can provide you with plenty of analogies for guidance in life. How to sacrifice. The importance of practice. Team work really does make the dream work. I love this quote from the Bear on that subject.

“If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you.” — Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Elections this November (and the games this fall) will both have winners and losers, highs and lows. Just as in our careers and lives. I think the most important lesson we can take from football is when you have a setback, make sure to get back up and keep fighting. Vince said it best …

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.” — Vince Lombardi.

That is all for today, if you made it this far, thank you for reading. Now go watch some football, your Saturday demands it.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and (slightly) enjoys college football and all things associated. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Blake Dowling: Primaries are over; time to buckle up

Tuesday’s primary elections are in the rear-view mirror.

So, what did we learn?

First, never count out the underdog. Our Mayor here in Tallahassee kept fighting the good fight all the way to the end … and got the W.

Andrew Gillum shrugged off a 2-year FBI investigation in his backyard, the highest crime rate in the state and fought a winning effort against a political giant. Pretty cool.

This is what makes American great. Congrats to Gillum.

We also saw President Donald Trump’s voice have bigtime influence, and I guess the jury reached a verdict on this ad … and it was genius (though several jurors thought it was ridiculous)

Congrats to Ron DeSantis for also fighting the good fight and getting the W.

It will be a great showdown between two very different leaders come November.

We also learned to not mail classified documents to the press if you have signed an NDA.

And what were the hackers up to yesterday? More on that later.

As we move into the next election cycle, some leaders think we should hack right back.

That’s right folks. It is exactly what Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is proposing, and (off topic), with a name like that, he has to run for President at some point.

Am I wrong?

Hacking has become a very overused term. Don’t get me wrong, there are serious cases of it. But when you have Sen. Bill Nelson say that our election systems were compromised, and then backs into the bushes (much like Homer Simpson) offering no proof, people really start getting panicky and crying WOLF/HACK when their printer doesn’t work.

The Feds spent a lot of money on new security protocols and services, as well as testing and training and from early reports, it looks as if the dollars were well spent. Details from Hillsborough County are here, and they look promising.

Nevertheless, there are those that say it’s too late for this year, buckle up for whatever is coming and get ready for 2020.

All scenarios are, in fact, true (minus what Nelson said, not sure what that was all about).

In reality, we do need to buckle up for anything that might be thrown at the November elections. There are people out there looking to disrupt our great nation’s electoral process. That’s a fact.

Listen to your IT experts, change those passwords, deploy features like geo-IP filtering on your security appliances which blocks all IP addresses outside the US. Period.

That will trim down a large volume of attacks.

Congrats to those who were victorious yesterday: Gillum, Scott, and the rest. Thank you to all of those with the courage to run for office and represent the people of Florida and the United States.

Sometimes, while sitting on the sidelines it is easy to forget what that effort does to those involved, as well as what that commitment looks like. Cheers to you.

Have a great weekend.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Blake Dowling: Elections are here. Who has class — and who doesn’t

Elections are upon us. Arguments are bound to spring up, especially in our highly charged 2018 world of politics.

We are presented with a good opportunity to see who has class — and who doesn’t.

The worst (in my opinion) are negative ads. It reminds me of an old quote about college football recruiting: You can either sell your school (and the program) or you can slam the opposition, not talking about how good you are, but how awful someone else is.

You see it all over, in fraternity-sorority rushing or in business. I would always rather see someone take the “we are the best” approach, versus the tactic of “someone else is a crook/awful, etc.”

Despite what I think some coaches say negative recruiting works. Sounds like old Jimbo might have engaged in the practice.

Consider this quote: “Recruiting is recruiting. People say and do things that sometimes they wish they probably didn’t do when it’s over with. That always happens.” — former FSU coach Jimbo Fisher.

So, to that end, I suppose you could make the argument that negative ads are effective.

Why don’t we check our good friends in the world of science? What do they think?

Donald Green, a political-science professor at Columbia (via Scientific American) says the results are inconclusive: “People were no less likely to turn out to the polls or to decide against voting for a candidate who was attacked in the ad.”

So much for science. Despite no real facts, the battle of the negative ads continued. You can read the full article here.

I can tell you one ad that will make you want to run for the storm shelter. Oh man, I could only watch a couple of seconds before pressing pause and looking for some wine.

This is from 2017. Dan Helmer versus Barbara Comstock for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District. Dan is a veteran (and I appreciate his service to our country), but if he could have discussed that only; instead, he produced this Top Gun-based rodeo of awfulness:

For the record, Dan lost. The Helmer Zone requested a flyby, but the pattern was full (as the movie says).

YEE HAH! Great Balls of Fire!

Back to Florida, as all eyes in our nation are looking to see what is happening with our elections.

“What happens in Florida will most likely happen nationwide,” says Al Cardenas on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Of course, there are the negative ads in our state where the public doesn’t know who paid for them. These are all over. If a group does not spend more than 50 percent of its money on political activities, they are not required to disclose their donors, according to POLITICO Florida, which references the group National Liberty Foundation.

And another example of an anonymous group comes from WFTV Orlando …

Dark money groups are on all sides of the political fence, raising unlimited dollars without having to disclose donors, making large contributions to a political committee — with said dark money group often the only donor — to run negative ads. And donors to the group remain unknown.

As the battle gets more heated, we will soon see who continues to throw mud and who does not.

And in the category of “what not to do,” just look at Brian in Tampa.

This week, Brian got into a heated Facebook dispute, which led him to shoot the man he was arguing with … in the buttocks.

Please, don’t be like Brian.

Personally, I enjoy coaches and politicians who talk about accomplishments over the failures of opponents, but that’s just me.

Buckle up; it’s happening now, and Florida has a front-row seat for all the action.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Blake Dowling: Elections and tech

I voted by mail this week. Done.

Neither Russians nor Scientologists, nor Canadians were able to influence or meddle with my selections.

What did those groups behind the headlines do to our electoral process? They created discord and a lack of faith in some areas — certainly one of their goals.

The last administration told the Russians to “cut it out” which they did not, and right now we have a very mixed message from the White House — I say mixed as the President and his team doesn’t always seem to be on the same page.

After last month’s Helsinki talks, the President said: “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

However, right now, the White House (via intelligence director Dan Coats) is saying about Russia: “We acknowledge the threat, it is real, it is continuing, and we’re doing everything we can to have a legitimate election.”

Meanwhile, this week in cyberland: Facebook said it uncovered a brand-new coordinated political influence campaign, designed to mislead its users and sow dissension among American voters ahead of congressional elections.

More than 9,500 posts from now-removed pages — including “Mindful Being” and “Aztlan Warriors” — were among those accounts listed.

“We think it’s inevitable that we will find evidence, and we will find other actors, whether these are from Russia, from other countries, or domestic actors that are looking to try and abuse the platform,” said Nathan Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity.

The Russians are not going to cut it out, and they clearly are involved in meddling in some way. So, what do we do?

Stay calm. Get out and vote, trust the process.

There will always be attempts at shenanigans, and with the internet of things, it is expected.

Hackers and Cyber Clowns across the globe are trying to steal, delete, break, disrupt … everything. From power grids to elections to the Sports Book at the Rio. This is not new, this is to be expected. Fear is not needed.

Here in Florida, our government is beefing up security across the state to make sure we are battle-ready.

Handed out will be $10.3 million, but not to Duval or Dade. Sorry guys. Funds will go to training and cybersecurity solutions to make sure all is well come November.

Also, people need to remember it is not just social media and hacking attempts that these folks are into. They engage in targeted call campaigns, staging protests, hiring actors, sending bogus mailers, etc.

Don’t be afraid to report any wrongdoings to the authorities.

So, overcome your voter anguish, get out and vote. Our Democracy will once again set the bar for the world.

And to anyone that stands in our way — they’d better cut it out.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Blake Dowling: The World-Wide Internets

The internet. The Final Frontier. To boldly post what no one has posted before.

These are the ramblings of me, on a never-ending mission to spread something you will find remotely helpful in your political, personal or business life.

Let’s talk about posting on Facebook. Do you post links from the press on a campaign or business page? In the past, you could post a link and yank the associated photo, changing it to something more crafted to your message or agenda.

This is no longer possible.

There have been those who have misused this feature, so the social media giant is trying to tighten things up.

For example, let’s say you post an article on Maxine Waters from CNN on your Facebook page, but replace her image that auto-populates from the article — changing it to Pee Wee Herman or Kathy Griffin.

You just might gain some new traffic with this clickbait-type tactic.

Long story short, Facebook doing everything they can to improve their cyber-integrity (to stop fake-news). So, while it is very annoying to me personally and professionally, this might actually do some good.

The official statement on the subject is here:

Speaking of Star Trek, the legendary character, Spock of Vulcan is back. Read here for more.

Now, back to the internet column … (I have some sort of cyber ADD going on, but I will try and keep the wheels on the road for the remainder of this piece).

Some might say Facebook is getting into the very delicate game of censorship vs free speech.

But those people would be wrong, as you must check the terms and conditions you agreed to when creating a page.

In essence, they can do whatever they want.

The days of Facebook and other social media used in politics are not over just because Cambridge Analytica went belly up and some Russians were indicted.

This month, we are seeing various groups use these platforms to steer policy. Two of them recently spent a lot of cash nationally — Judicial Crisis Network (formed in 2005 to support Bush judicial nominees) and Demand Justice (formed this year by Hillary and Barrack Campaign veterans).

The New York Times elaborates (in way too much detail) if you want to read more on them.

Granted, just like changing the editing link preview function, FB now regulates political ads with some new guidelines.

Just like a billboard, the ad must say PAID FOR BY someone in the ad. Guess what if you try and get around this, Facebook will yank your ads.

And just as I mentioned earlier — in regard to Terms of Service — they don’t owe you an explanation.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and state Sen. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland both had ads taken down, and they were not alone. Several state lawmakers were abruptly exposed to the new rules.

Facebook also wants to verify you are a U.S. Citizen, and they make public total spends by candidate, which is very cool (or shocking) to see. Danny McAuliffe with Florida Politics did a nice piece on this earlier in the summer on politicians here in Florida.

Thank you for reading, and keep the new rules in mind as they will affect all of us who use social media to push forward our various messages regarding The Process, our businesses … or cat pictures.

As we close, we bring you to an FBI alert about a letter that is going around saying they know about YOUR affair that you are having. Please report this to the FBI so they can catch those responsible.

Lastly, a sincere thank you to Tallahassee police officer Tony Carlson for helping a citizen in need, far beyond the call of duty.

Well done sir, we salute you.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Blake Dowling: A weekend of Alabama history and therapy animals

I visited Ozark, Alabama last weekend to attend a family reunion at my grandfather’s childhood home, the Holman House.

Holman House is a 15,000-square-foot historic landmark built by hand (with no electricity) in 1912 by a small team of local master craftsman.

A truly amazing feat, if you think about it.

The house sits directly across from the Dowling-Steagall House named after G.P. Dowling and U.S. Congressman Henry Steagall (the guy behind the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp).

Those Dowlings were a rowdy bunch, so I hear.

Anyway, during the weekend, there were lots of remarkable stories from the neighborhood told. Franklin Roosevelt once visited the Dowling House, and at one time it even served as a hospital.

From the imagery and stories of those days, one thing was prevalent — the animals.

In the days before tractors, mules served as the key component to agriculture and transportation. My family was in that business.

One family story (told by my relative Joe Adams, editor of the 100-year-old Ozark newspaper Southern Star) is that Mr. Holman told a client at the stable that he had a mule on sale, but with the disclaimer that he “didn’t look so good.”

Nevertheless, the client purchased the mule and moved on.

The next day, the client came back and said: “Mr. Holman, this mule is blind as a bat.”

 “I told you he didn’t look so good,” Holman replied simply. Zing.

It wasn’t just mules dominating the landscape to provide the people of our great nation with so much. Horses, dogs, cats, pigs, and chickens all had functions. From food and security to therapy.

I am sure the folks of Dale County did not think much about the therapy side of things, but animals can certainly be comforting to those in crisis.

Did you know that Florida passed several pieces of legislation in recent years to allow the use of therapy animals within our courts?

It began in 2011 with HB 251, and amended in 2014, then expanded again last year to further the use of therapy dogs in judicial settings. Through this program, therapy dogs have been a great resource (and friend) to young persons who find themselves in court.

The reasons they are there are most likely grim — abuse and the like. So, having a special friend like this is not only cool but a game changer.

I have an opportunity to meet some of these dogs and their human counterparts last week. To say the experience was powerful would be an understatement.

These animals are provided by the Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare Animal Therapy Program and they do not just function in courtrooms. Their programs are diverse and help so many in our great state.

The program began in 2005, and during 2017-2018, 150 teams have had over 35,000 patient interactions, logging 3,500 plus hours in over 50 facilities during 2017/2018.

Therapy animals help seniors, the young, and those in recovery or rehabilitation. The animals are not just dogs; there are miniature horses, cats, a bunny, a goat and even a therapy bird.

Animals in our world are part of our society and our lives. To those that have spent their careers in this kind of noble service, we salute you. And to those in south Alabama, thank you for the opportunity to come back home.

To anyone who says you can’t, they are wrong.

Between last week and this past weekend, I had an amazing visit with so many special people (and places) as well as a very memorable experience with some awesome animals.

Cheers to ya, Dale County and TMH.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and he spent his childhood in LA (lower Alabama). He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Stephanie Perkins, the organization’s program director said about the work they do: “We couldn’t be more thankful for each and every one of our volunteers. Each team embodies the therapeutic bond we strive for each patient to experience through visits and everyday interactions. We also love to see each pet and handler’s unique personalities shine through their service, as without their time and effort our program would not be possible.”

Blake Dowling: Happy Fourth of July

Our nation and our state are both the greatest in the land.

We have so many to thank for this, our armed forces, first responders, law-abiding citizens that vote, the media, government employees, athletes, the business community, even rock-n-rollers and anyone involved in The Process.

It might seem sometimes there are problems everywhere you look (like now), but as the saying goes we have more that binds us than that separates us.

But before we can thank the citizens, and today’s leaders, we must look to where it all began.

Let us look to the past, as it took a lot of guts, courage (and a little luck) for us to become the best nation on earth.

Toward the end of the Revolutionary War, the British had George Washington’s troops trapped in New York City, so it would appear.

However, Washington got his troops out of dodge, crossed the Delaware River and resupplied before taking the fight back to the Redcoats. Had the British been able to cut off Washington in Manhattan, the war could have been lost, the Declaration of Independence would have been nothing but evidence of treason — and there’s no telling what kind of history we’d be talking about today.

If you want to take a deep dive into this campaign, please go here.

Thomas Jefferson presented the first draft of the Declaration of Independence in the days before July 4, 1776. The full Congress debated and changed the document on July 2 and July 3. On July 4, the wording was ratified and ready to roll.

However, the final copy of the Declaration of Independence wasn’t officially finalized until two weeks later; it wasn’t signed until Aug. 2.

John Trumbull’s famous painting of Jefferson, John Hancock, John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Roger Sherman is, in fact, not showing the signing; they are presenting the draft on June 28, 1776.

Speaking of those times (1803), how great is the Capital One Louisiana Purchase ad? Gold.

Also, for those fans of history and politics in our state check out this piece detailing some stories of Floridians and the Declaration of Independence.

Back to present times if you are looking for the greatest displays of fireworks around our state check out the following and hopefully, you will get a nice display including a finale that features Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, or what about Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America?” Or straight from the Boss, “Born in the USA?” Or old school “This Land is Your Land?” Nice work Woody.

Bottom line any fire-work and music combo works for me.

You can check out where to watch the best fireworks in our state here.

Around the nation, the American Pyrotechnics Association (as they say there really is an association for everything) reports that over 14,000 large displays will be put on resulting in almost 25 million pounds of explosives being set off. That is serious business.

You could say the pyro business is really booming in the summer. (Insert cricket sound.)

It was John Adams who said in 1777 on the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence that the day is celebrated with “bells, bonfires and illuminations.” And so it has been.

Although the anniversary was celebrated each year, did you know that the Fourth of July did not become an official holiday until 1941?

Be safe as you head out to celebrate our Independence Day and enjoy all the freedoms that our great nation has to offer thanks to the courage and sacrifice of so many.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies in Tallahassee and tomorrow, he will be grilling everything in the Whole Foods meat case (from sausages to dry aged rib-eyes). Cheers.

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