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Hillsborough County, FL – Fall 2020 Primaries and Elections

In researching candidates for elections, I have taken to posting links to the information I find on my website to help others. Note, I’m a registered Democrat only so I can vote in the Democrat primaries. I would prefer to be considered an Independent voter as I vote by the candidate, not by party. Here’s what I’ve found…

Update 07-27-2020: The Tampa Bay Times has put together a nice voter information guide that is pretty comprehensive. It doesn’t include links to candidates’ websites, but provides a fair amount of information. I’ve been wishing for something like this for a long time. I highly recommend it.

Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller

Tampa Bay Times article on the race. Tampa Bay Times on Stuart entering the race.

Kevin Beckner

Party: Democrat
Background Information: Hillsborough County Commissioner from 2008 to 2016; Executive Director of the Hillsborough County Civil Service Board (hears appeals of employee discipline and termination); CSB was abolished in 2019; BA in Criminal Justice from Indiana University; Indiana Law Enforcement Academy degree in 1990; (hypes his credentials by referencing a Harvard Leadership program that isn’t anything meaningful); financial planner by profession
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Twitter,
Endorsements: lots of labor unions,

Cindy Stuart

Party: Democrat
Background Information: Hillsborough County School Board member from District 3; has a degree in business from Florida International University; worked in insurance before running for the school board
Endorsements: outgoing clerk, Pat Frank (possibly because Beckner ran against him in an earlier campaign)
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Twitter, Facebook,

Tax Collector

Tampa Bay Times endorsed Nancy C. Millan. Tampa Bay Times article on April Griffin entering the race.

April Griffin

Party: Democrat
Background: Served on the Hillsborough County School Board for 3 terms; was chair of Hillsborough County School Board twice; BA in Organizational Studies from Eckerd College; Hillsborough County native; owns a software development company
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Nancy C. Millan

Party: Democrat
Background: Has worked for the tax collector’s office for decades (31 years), rising through the ranks; served on a number of boards, including the Board of Trinity School for Children from 2005-2008 (full disclosure – my son attended Trinity School for Children from about 2012 until 2020);
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Personal Commentary: I received a flyer for Nancy Millan that was riddled with typos. That lack of detail bothers me. Millan is also purchasing ads on Google’s search engine. The Tax Collector’s website, hillstax.org, does use Cloudfare to protect against DDOS attacks, though the settings for the protection wouldn’t let me access the website, so someone set it up wrong.

Board of County Commissioners District 3

Tampa Bay Times story on Rick Fernandez entering the race. Tampa Bay Times endorsed Thomas Scott.

Ricardo “Rick” Fernandez

Party: Democrat
Background: Hillsborough County native (born in District 3); Navy veteran; Lawyer and former Tampa Heights Civic Association president; currently a career coach and recruiter for law firms;
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: Twitter, LinkedIn

Gwen Myers

Party: Democrat
Background: Tampa native; graduate of FAMU; worked for Hillsborough County for 25 years; now retired; served on a variety of local boards (e.g., Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Council;
Endorsements: County Commissioner Pat Kemp among others
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Personal Commentary: Likes the color green. Platform seems to be focused on public transit.

Frank Reddick

Party: Democrat
Background: Hillsborough County native; graduated from Paine College in Augusta, GA; served on Tampa City Council for 8 years; President and CEO of Sickle Cell Association, served on lots of local boards
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website

Thomas Scott

Party: Democrat
Background: native of Macon, Georgia; graduate of UNF – degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology; has an MA in Biblical Studies from the Assembly of God Theological Seminary; Army veteran; moved to Tampa in 1980 to be a pastor (22nd Street Church of God); served as Hillsborough County Commissioner from 1996 to 2006; served on Tampa City Council from 2007 to 2011; was appointed by Rick Scott to the State of Florida Elections Commission in 2015
Endorsements: Chad Chronister – Hillsborough County Sheriff; Les Miller – Hillsborough County Commissioner District 3 (who he would be replacing); Tampa Bay Times
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Personal Commentary: He sent a flyer in the mail.

Sky U. White

Party: Democrat
Background: Hillsborough County native; nurse; community organizer; owns REVIVED magazine; served on a lot of boards
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Personal Commentary: Youngest candidate (per her website); most progressive candidate as well; probably the only candidate who would bring fresh ideas to the Hillsborough County Commission.

Before considering candidates for the various court benches, you should check out the Judicial Candidate Forum video and information hosted by the North Tampa Bar Association.

Circuit Judge, 13th Judicial Circuit Group 9

Tampa Bay Times endorsed John Schifino.

Kelly Ayers

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: BS in Journalism and Communication from University of Florida; law degree from Stetson; practicing law for 26 years; owns three law firms; visiting professor at USF; editor of Stetson Law Journal
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary: She misspelled Communication (she put an “s” on the end) – personal pet peeve;
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website,

John Schifino

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: father was a lawyer; lived in Tampa for a long time; on a number of boards;
Endorsements: Firefighter unions; Janet Cruz; Bob Buckhorn; Tampa Bay Times
Personal Commentary: Not much about his views on his website; sent a flyer
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website, Facebook, LinkedIn

Circuit Judge, 13th Judicial Circuit Group 19

Tampa Bay Times endorsed Michael J. Scionti.

Ashley Ivanov

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: from Charleston, SC; graduated from The George Washington University; probate and estate planning attorney; admitted to bar in Florida in 2015; founded her own firm in 2018; limited experience; clerked for the federal government; volunteers with her church in Brandon
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary:
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website

Michael J. Scionti

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: Tampa native; served as a state representative, army officer, US diplomat; originally elected in 2014;
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times
Personal Commentary: He has a Wikipedia page!
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website, Wikipedia

Circuit Judge, 13th Judicial Circuit Group 30

Tampa Bay Times recommends Helene Daniel.

Danny Alvarez

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: BA in Journalism from University of Florida; family is from Cuba; played sports in college and was in the ROTC; admitted to Florida Bar in 2008; Army infantry officer; worked for Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office since 2017 as a special projects manager and communications chief; motivational speaker
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary: I have never trusted anyone who calls themselves a “motivational speaker”. “His family escaped communist Cuba” – phrasing from his website strongly suggests very conservative views.
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website, Facebook, Instagram

Helene Daniel

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: born in France; admitted to Florida Bar in 1986; experience with family law, juvenile law, and insurance; AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbell
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times, La Gaceta
Personal Commentary: Loves her dogs
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn

Circuit Judge, 13th Judicial Circuit Group 31

Tampa Bay Times endorsed Greg Green.

Scott Bonavita

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: born in Glen Falls, NY; moved to Tampa at 9; Gaither High School graduate; played soccer; attended the University of Tampa to play soccer (full disclosure, I’m a professor at UT) then left to pursue a career with the Rowdies – only played one game for the Rowdies; BA in Psychology from USF; JD from St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami; former prosecutor; owned his own firm since 2012; handles business law; certified court mediator; emphasizes he is a single father; is also a personal trainer and teaches CrossFit
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary: really proud of his son
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website, Facebook, Instagram, Law Firm

Gary Dolgin

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: Florida native; lived in Tampa since he was 2; attended Emory University; law degree from University of Florida; admitted to Florida Bar in 1990; was an assistant state attorney and public defender; owned his own firm focusing on family law since 1993; board-certified in his field; author of a book on family law; volunteers regularly; member of Congregation Schaarai Zedek
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary: Seems like the most humble candidate.
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website,

Greg Green

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: Tampa native; played basketball and football at Chamberlain High; got his law degree in 1999; worked as an assistant state attorney; his current law practice focuses on divorce and child custody cases; volunteer flag football coach at Robinson High School; biblical counselor at the Crossing Church;
Endorsements: various firefighter unions; Tampa Bay Times
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website, Facebook

Circuit Judge, 13th Judicial Circuit Group 39

Tampa Bay Times endorsed Steven Scott Stephens.

Wendy Joy DePaul

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: graduated from FSU and Stetson University College of Law; admitted to the Florida Bar in 1997; has a CPA; managing partner of a law firm; practice is a mix of family law, bankruptcy, and foreclosure; provides free legal assistance to the poor; active with her congregation
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary: loves dogs
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website,

Steven Scott Stephens

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: incumbent – has been a judge for 15 years; was appointed in 2005 by Jeb Bush; has a PhD in business as well as advanced degrees in computer science and engineering; former faculty member at USF, UT, and Stetson University; published author on trial court and family law
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times
Personal Commentary: Who gives their kid the same first name as their last name?; He has ads on Google; Definitely playing up the fact that he is the incumbent.
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website;

County Court Judge Group 7

Tampa Bay Times endorsed Bill Yanger.

Nancy L. Jacobs

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: from Miami; University of Florida for undergraduate degree; JD from University of Miami; former Hillsborough prosecutor; owned her own firm since 1993 handing family law, criminal defense, and estates; provides free legal services on behalf of veterans, animal welfare groups, and youth organizations
Endorsements: a number of judges and attorneys
Personal Commentary: rescues dogs
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website, Facebook

Monique Scott

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: BA in Criminology and Psychology from USF; former Tampa police officer (left for health reasons) and public school teacher; worked as an assistant state attorney; accident attorney; volunteers with epilepsy groups; married to a chiropractor
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary:
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website, Franchi Law firm

Rickey “Rick” Silverman

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: from New York; grew up in a blue-collar family; first practiced in Miami then moved to Tampa (in 1995); wife has a PhD in Microbiology; top-rated traffic attorney;
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary:
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website,

Bill Yanger

Background: Admitted to Florida Bar in 1989; admitted to Texas bar in 1986; graduate of Jesuit High School; went to University of Florida for undergrad; South Texas College of Law for law degree; founder of Yanger Law Group; works on complex business litigation; former Chair of the Tampa Chamber of Commerce; Board of Fellows member at the University of Tampa (full disclosure, I am a professor at the University of Tampa); Presbyterian – goes to Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church
Endorsements: local firefighters unions, Tampa City Council members Guido Maniscalco, Charlie Miranda, and Luis Viera; Tampa Bay Times
Personal Commentary: He drives a truck, per his flyer he circulated (seems important to him).
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website, Facebook, Instagram

School Board Member District 1

The Tampa Bay Times recently announced their endorsements for School Board in Hillsborough County. Good Tampa Bay Times article with information on the candidates in this race.

Nadia Combs

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: BA in Social Studies Education and MA in Educational Leadership from USF; taught in Japan; taught in Hillsborough County Schools for 10 years; founded a company in 2005 as part of the Supplemental Education Services – provides free tutoring to students in Hillsborough County; opened Brighton Learning tutoring center in 2014
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times
Personal Commentary:
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Brighton Learning

Steve Cona

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: Tampa native; Bachelor’s from USF; CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter; on the Board of Trustees of Hillsborough Community College; platform is to improve Florida’s skilled labor force; incumbent
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary: Platform is three-fold: fiscal accountability, school security, and addressing maintenance problems in schools. Raised almost 10 times as much money as all the other candidates combined. Pretty telling that the Tampa Bay Times didn’t endorse him as the incumbent.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website,

Ben “Floridaman” Greene

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: No website. Not a lot of information about him.
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary: Appears to be running a protest campaign. Was thrown out of a School Board meeting. Here’s a video of him talking to the School Board.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites:

Bill Person

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: Retired educator in Hillsborough County; Vietnam War veteran
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary: Not much about him available.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: LinkedIn

School Board Member District 7

Tampa Bay Times article about the candidates in this race.

Lynn Gray

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: worked for over 20 years as a teacher in Tampa; incumbent on the school board; platform – healthier kids (healthier foods and recess); more support for students; improved literacy
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times
Personal Commentary:
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Sally A. Harris

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: South Tampa native; owner of Circle C Ranch Academy – early care and education company; focus is on safety, discipline, and management
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary: She seems to care more about policing the kids than educating them.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website

Jeffery Alex James Johnson

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: From Jacksonville, FL; has degrees from Warner University (private Christian university) and St. Thomas Christian University (fake online university with no accreditation) – the degrees are all highly suspect; runs a Girls Summit; works as a Senior Manager of Neighborhood Initiatives for United Way Suncoast
Endorsements: County Commissioner Les Miller; State Representatives Wengay Newton and Dianne Hart
Personal Commentary: If he isn’t knowledgeable enough to know that a doctorate from an online diploma mill with no accreditation isn’t a real degree, he has no business being on the school board. Website is filled with typos. (I try not to endorse candidates on this page, but I oppose this candidate.)
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Angela Schroden

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: Tampa native; lives on Davis Islands; EdD from USF; literacy consultant and adjunct professor at USF in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies; volunteers at Hyde Park United Methodist Church and South Tampa Community Bible Study; worked in Hillsborough County Schools for 15 years
Endorsements: local teachers and principals
Personal Commentary:
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

 5,189 total views,  68 views today

Letter to the Editor: Government of the Corporations, by the Corporations, for the Corporations

While accepting “donations” for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from lobbyists, corporations, and special interests may technically be legal for Governor DeSantis, there is no question that is unethical. These are “bribes by another name.” And what they suggest is that our Governor is not the Governor of the people of Florida, but rather the Governor of Corporations based in Florida. Donald Trump has metaphorically set up a summer home in the “swamp” of corporate interests to personally enrich himself as President. Governor DeSantis is following his idol and has set up a metaphorical golf club in the swamp. Or, perhaps, by “draining the swamp” he really meant he was draining it right into his re-election coffers.

 196 total views

Letter to Stacy White, County Commissioner

Stacy White, Hillsborough County Commissioner, filed a lawsuit that is preventing Hillsborough County from improving its transportation infrastructure based on a ballot measure that was approved by 57% of voters in November 2018 (more about this here). Here’s the email I recently sent him:

Commissioner White,

I want to let you know that I’m really disappointed in you for filing the lawsuit that has held up improvements to our transportation system in Hillsborough County. I travel regularly for my work to conferences both in the US and around the world. In most major cities, when I arrive at the airport, I can easily hop on a train or subway and get to where I need to go.

I love Tampa’s airport. It’s my favorite airport perhaps in the world (though Zurich’s airport is pretty impressive as well). But I am appalled that we don’t have easy public transit from the airport to downtown Tampa. The transportation tax would have fixed that. And now, because of you, the entire process has been held up in stupid lawsuits.

I sit on the board of a professional organization that chooses where to hold conferences. One of the major factors in our decision-making process is public transit from the airport to the hotel. By not improving our transportation infrastructure, we are losing out on millions of dollars from such conferences every year. I hold you personally responsible for that.

I will be donating money to your opponent in the upcoming election to ensure you don’t have another term in office.

Sincerely,

Ryan Cragun
Hillsborough County Resident

(NOTE: You can submit your own letter here.)

 135 total views

Letter to the Editor: Ashley Moody’s mixed up priorities

I find it more than a little concerning that Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody wants to kill a petition drive to ban assault weapons (Ban Assault Weapons Now) but hasn’t said anything about the secretive effort to restrict constitutional amendments that is possibly being funded by utility companies in Florida. If Moody cared about Floridians and the law more than she did conservative politics and big donors, her actions would be exactly the opposite of what she is doing. She would be calling for the donors of the Keep Our Constitution Clean initiative to be revealed and would be encouraging reform to gun laws. Based on her actions, our chief law enforcement official in Florida is nothing more than a Republican team member defending corporate and Republican interests.

(NOTE: This is another letter I sent to the editor of the Tampa Bay Times that was not published.)

 116 total views

Wagging the Dog – Iran and the 2020 Election

(NOTE: I submitted this to the Tampa Bay Times as an opinion piece on 5/16/2019. They didn’t publish it.)

While no one can predict the future, it looks like we’re about to go to war with Iran so Donald Trump will be re-elected. Of course, skepticism is warranted, but a close reading of history suggests this may be intentional.

In 1964, the USS Maddox engaged in an exchange of munitions with several North Vietnamese torpedo boats. This incident happened because the USS Maddox entered the territorial waters of North Vietnam at the direction of US leaders. In essence, we provoked the North Vietnamese into attacking us. After this incident, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that gave President Lyndon Johnson the authorization to use conventional military force in Southeast Asia. Basically, we tricked North Vietnam into a confrontation in order to drum up support for a war – the Vietnam War.

The recently claimed acts of sabotage on ships in the Persian Gulf that have been blamed on Iran sound eerily familiar to the claims of North Vietnamese aggression. I’m certainly not suggesting we should trust Iran over US intelligence agencies, but Iran is denying involvement and explicitly claiming that this is an effort to provoke them. Remember: Our political leaders have lied before in order to convince the American people to support wars in the Middle East.

Couple the above with the fact that incumbent Presidents do really well during wars (see here) and it now seems as though there is intentionality to what is happening. Whether or not this was devised by Donald Trump or his advisers is uncertain (I’d guess the later), but it appears to me as though we are headed to a direct confrontation with Iran and that we headed down this road as soon as we pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope Iran really is the aggressor and that the American public are not being manipulated into thinking a war with Iran is justified and that President Trump is the person to lead such a war. But history strongly suggests that we are being manipulated by an unpopular administration to enter a conflict with Iran. I doubt that the only motivation is to bolster Trump’s re-election, but that is a likely consequence if a war with Iran does begin.

We’re still fighting an unending war in Afghanistan, the same location that helped bankrupt the Soviet Union. We’re now threatening a war with Iran to what end? Will Iran be the boogie man that wins Trump re-election? I hope the American public and the American media are less gullible when the administration tries to manipulate us into a war this time.

 194 total views

Tampa Mayoral Election – 2019

I often rely on the Tampa Bay Times to provide useful information on local political elections. Their coverage is usually pretty good. But they don’t always cover every election or every candidate. And since I like to do my own research, I figured I’d start blogging about the elections.

Here’s what I’ve found on the Mayoral candidates. The election is March 5th, 2019.

Jane Castor

Campaign website

Job History:
Former Chief of Police of Tampa.

Unique Features:
Castor has been heavily criticized for a policing policy implemented while she was Chief of Police of stopping people on bicycles, as a disproportionate percentage of those people were black.

Tampa Bay Times officially endorsed Jane Castor for Mayor.

Harry Cohen

Campaign website

Job History:
Lawyer turned public servant. Worked as Chief Deputy Clerk of the Circuit Court of Hillsborough County from 2005-2011. Elected to Tampa City Council in 2011 and re-elected in 2015.

Unique Features:
The only candidate to put together a fairly detailed transportation plan for Tampa.

Dick “Dickie” Greco

Campaign website
Job History:
Unique Features:
Dickie Greco is the latest addition to the candidate pool, announcing his candidacy in early January. He is also the son of Dick Greco, who was mayor of Tampa multiple times.
Party Affiliation:
Democrat

Michael Anthony Hazard

Campaign website; Twitter;

Job History:
He’s a Tampa native. His family operates an online human resources and office supply company.

Unique Features:
Hazard is a convicted felon (for bad checks and forgery) who voted illegally in Florida twice (though, this was before the passage of Constitutional Amendment 4 in 2018 that restored the voting rights of felons, which made him eligible to run for Mayor).

Party Affiliation:
Democrat

LaVaughn King

Campaign website

Job History:

Unique Features:
King appears to be the only candidate who is flaunting his religiosity.

Topher Morrison

Campaign website

Job History:

Unique Features:

David Straz

Campaign website

Job History:
Comes from a wealthy family. His mother loaned him the money to buy his first bank.

Unique Features:
I found this quote from an article about a candidate forum interesting, “Straz advocated letting the private sector take the lead on the problem [affordable housing in Tampa] with help from willing banks and city and federal aid. He said he had hired an African-American staffer to “help me in the urban core.“” So, like Trump, put a black person in charge of poverty because blacks are, presumably, all poor?!? That strikes me as remarkably out of touch… And racist.

Mike Suarez

Campaign website; Twitter;

Job History:

Unique Features:

Ed Turanchik

Campaign website

Job History:

Unique Features:

Polling Information:

July 24th, 2018 – St. Pete Polls put Jane Castor at 41%, almost 30% ahead of the next closest candidate, David Straz, at 11%.

Debates and News Coverage:

October 3rd, 2018 – You can read about the first debate here.
December 11th, 2018 – Here’s the coverage from the Tampa Bay Times on the third debate/candidate forum. Candidate statements from that debate on youtube.
January 9th, 2019 – Fourth debate covered here.
January 15th, 2019 – Another candidate forum.


Campaign finance information for all of the candidates is available here.

Other Items on the Ballot

Tampa Charter Amendments

The Tampa Bay Times details the aims of each of the amendments to the Tampa City Charter here.

District 1

Joseph Citro
Alan Clendenin
David Loos
Craig A. Newman
Walter L. Smith II
Tampa Bay Times recommends Citro.

District 2

John Godwin
Charlie Miranda (no campaign website)
Joe Robinson

Tampa Bay Times recommends Miranda.

District 3

John Dingfelder
Nicholas Glover
Stephen Lytle
Vibha “Ms. V” Shevade

Tampa Bay Times recommends Dingfelder.
This article provides some good background on each of the candidates.

District 6

Guido Maniscalco
Wendy Pepe

This article provides some good background on each of the candidates.

 291 total views,  1 views today

a vote against McCollum for Governor of Florida

Anyone looking for a reason not to vote for Bill McCollum for Governor of Florida? Look no further than an article in today’s St. Petersburg Times noting that, under his direction, the State Attorney General’s office spent over $100,000 on “expert” testimony to hire George Rekers, a homophobic hack who had already been discredited by other courts as having no scientific credibility whatsoever, to defend Florida’s law disallowing gay couples from adopting children.  Ergo, Bill McCollum throws taxpayer money away on hacks to defend religious ideology.

Oh, and George Rekers was recently outed as a closet homosexual – he hired a male prostitute for a 10-day European trip and was caught.  So sad…

 82 total views

the ticket of false hope :(

In case you missed it, President Obama came to my university, University of Tampa, last week.  He spoke mostly about the funding for high speed rail, but then took questions from the audience.

Faculty at my University were reserved a certain number of seats, we just had to ask for a ticket.  I asked for a ticket:

The Secret Service shut down a number of streets around my university and we were told that certain faculty parking lots would be blocked off.  So, I decided to ride my bike into work (takes about 20 minutes; I should do it more often, but I’m too lazy).  Anyway, there was a very long line to get into the gym where the Town Hall Meeting was to be held.  Since I had a ticket, I didn’t think getting in would be an issue.  Um, yeah, I was wrong.  Apparently some of the students at UT decided that, rather than wait in line the day before (there were not enough for all of them), they would simply photocopy tickets.  As a result, about 400 people were turned away from the event, despite having valid tickets.  I was one of them.

I ended up watching the meeting in one of the rooms on campus where they were broadcasting it live.  I guess it’s a good thing I went to see him when he was campaigning here in Tampa; now I don’t feel too bad for missing this event.

 97 total views

why no email campaign?

Sorry for another political post, but something just dawned on me.  I was walking through the lobby of one of the main buildings on campus and there was a student group giving away donuts if you would call your Representative, Senator or the Whitehouse and urge them to take action on the genocide in Darfur.  It’s a noble cause, and a free donut.  So, I called Representative Kathy Castor’s office and urged them to take action (then ate my donut).

On my way back to my office, I realized that I had not contacted my Representative or Senators about health care.  I also realized that I hadn’t seen any email campaigns to do so.  As healthcare is an issue that really bothers me, I decided I’d go ahead and email them myself.

If you’ve never done so, now would be a good time.  It’s also quite easy.  For your senators, go here:

http://senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Find the senators for your state and email them.  For your representative, go here:

https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

You can even use my email if you’d like:

Senator/Representative,

I’m writing to encourage you to do whatever you can to institute a government-run health insurance plan.  I’m proud to be American, but ashamed that we are the only developed country in the world that does not have some form of universal coverage for all of our citizens.  Instituting a government-run health insurance plan is the first step in making that happen.  Instituting a government-run health insurance plan will also substantially lower health care costs, which I think most people in the US would like to see.

As one of your constituents, I urge you to reflect the desires of the majority of Americans and institute substantial health care reform, including a government-run health insurance plan:
http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/03/05/poll-do-americans-want-government-health-care-reform/
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/poll-the-politics-of-health-care/

Sincerely,

It will take you five minutes to do this.  I’m not one for guilting people into action, but come on – 5 minutes!  Of course, it may take longer if you want to customize the message, but that’s up to you (you mean you don’t want a government-run plan?).  Plus, you’ll be cool; you can go around to all your friends and say, “I contacted my senators and representative today.  Did you?”  Come on!  Don’t you want to be cool?

 87 total views

You disagree with me? LAAA LAAA LAAA

As a social scientist I’m fully aware of the fact that people tend to listen to, observe, and even seek out media and information that support their existing beliefs (this is a subset of both confirmation bias and self-justification).  Along with this is the tendency of people to avoid, criticize, and even demean any media or information that disagrees with their existing beliefs.  The result of such behavior, of course, is extreme polarization and a reduced ability to see the perspectives of people with whom you disagree.  In layperson’s terms: Once you stop listening to people with different opinions, it becomes nearly impossible to accept the idea that they may have something worthwhile to say.

Enter Barack Obama.  This Tuesday he plans to speak to the nation’s school children.  Thanks the polarizing efforts of Fox News’s scallywag blowhards, the parents of the nation’s school children are freaking out.  Now, turn the clocks back almost 20 years and George H.W. Bush (the dad) did the same thing.  I was in high school at that point.  Was there an uproar?  Did the parents of the nation’s school children freak out?  Were liberals running through streets demanding that their “socialist” children not listen to this god-fearing capitalist propagandist?  Um… No…

This raises two questions:

1) Should the President of the U.S. be allowed to talk to school children?

I’m pretty sure the Rush Limbaugh’s, Sean Hannity’s, and Glenn Beck’s have conveniently failed to mention the fact that Presidents of the US regularly visit schools and classrooms.  In fact, George W. Bush was reading a kid’s book to students in an elementary class when the September 11th terrorist attacks took place.  I wonder how many of the parents of those kids threw fits when they found out THE PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. was coming to visit their kids and talk to them?

While George Bush was President, I regularly used him as an example of someone with power.  I would tell my students that, if he were to suddenly walk into my classroom, regardless of how important I considered the topic of discussion at that moment, I would turn the floor over to him.  I’m not a fan of George Bush and I disagree with him politically on just about everything.  But because of his position (i.e. “status” in sociology), I would still listen to him and assume that what he had to say to my students would be worth hearing.

Additionally, I am a believer in listening to people who disagree with you precisely because it forces you to rethink what it is you believe (this is why we went to see Mitt Romney and John McCain speak during the election last year).  If you only ever listen to people who agree with you, you fall prey to groupthink.  And, your views are often ill-founded and not carefully developed.  In short, you think what you think not because it is a well-developed argument but because you’re afraid to think and have not considered thinking anything else.

So, the short answer to this question: Parents should be ecstatic that the President of the U.S. is taking time out of his schedule to talk to their children, regardless of his politics.  That he is doing so reflects the importance he puts on school.

2) What has changed to result in this type of a response?  While I’m not an expert on this particular social psychological phenomenon, my guess is that the media is playing a particularly large role in this.  While having a free and mostly unrestricted press (George Bush certainly didn’t give the press free reign in Iraq or Afghanistan during his wars there) is a hallmark of a liberal and open country, this also means the press can work to undermine the leadership of the country.  You would likely not find such criticism in the media in Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez has cracked down on the press.  So, I fully support the right of the media to say what they want regarding Barack Obama’s address to the nation’s school children.  I’d even die for their right to say what they are saying.

But I can’t help but see the media that is pushing this as remarkably hypocritical.  They demand the right to criticize the President and even try to get students to avoid listening to him give an innocuous speech about staying in school.  But if anyone were to criticize their right to say what they are saying, they would be up in arms about Constitutional Rights.  So, they support peoples’ rights to listen to them, but not to anyone who disagrees with them.  This is hypocrisy 101.

As for why this response now?  I think it does reflect both a growing divide in the U.S. between conservatives and progressives.  Luckily for those of us who are somewhat in touch with reality, it appears as though progressives are winning some of these battles.  The Republican Party is shrinking.  Religious fundamentalism is shrinking.  People are realizing that you can’t fight progress forever.  Doing so will ultimately doom your society.  So, my guess as to why this is happening now is because the religious right and conservatives in the U.S. are feeling increasingly marginalized (because they are), but they retain control over much of the media (most of the CEOs of media conglomerates are wealthy white men with vested interests in maintaining the status quo).  So, as wealthy white men lose a little bit of their power and control, they are fighting back, using the tools they have – the media and the unfailing loyalty of those who are too closed-minded to listen to anyone with whom they might possibly disagree.

Perhaps I’m being optimistic, but it seems like what we are hearing are the death throes of conservativism in the U.S.  It may be a long, loud, and painful death, but I’m hoping it is a death nonetheless.  That death may lead to the rise of Libertarians, but I’m guessing Libertarians wouldn’t run away from the opposition with their hands over their ears screaming at the top of their lungs so they can’t hear the opinions of those who disagree with them.

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