Today on Context Florida: Open primaries, Mac Stipanovich, Hurricane Wilma & Key West and EULAs

Today on Context Florida:

Voters will still have plenty of choices without resorting to open primaries, says Bob Sparks. Advocates for open primaries say it is not fair for Republicans and Democrats to exclusively choose their own party’s nominees. They believe the Socialist Party or the Libertarian Party, for example, should be able to help decide the nominees of the major parties. They also want those who register with No Party Affiliation (NPA) to participate. It must be made clear that these individuals are not permitted to participate because of choices they made. They chose to register within a different party or chose not to participate in party politics at all. There is nothing wrong with that. The solution here is simple. If having a voice in determining a party’s nominee is that important, then register with that party.

Mary Jo Melone notes that reporters call what Mac Stipanovich did in his stay-home-or-vote-for-Hillary column a case of burying the lede. In this case, the lede was buried so deep, it was good as underwater. Your party has built its strength partly on people who favor the Bible over the Constitution, Melone adds, so here’s a bit from Proverbs. “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” And here’s a piece of advice. If you are heading to the convention this summer, Mac, you’d do well to leave the banners and balloons at home. Bring a coat. The forecast calls for it to be mighty chilly in Cleveland.

Linda Cunningham says we should blame Hurricane Wilma for the rarely seen Key West neighbor who is illegally renting his cottage by the week to rowdy folks from Minnesota and other points coldly north. Wilma shook the market. First, she scared the wits out of potential homebuyers who said no way were they going to buy in Key West. That pushed listing prices down. Then she scared loosely attached homeowners who decided to fix, sell and get the heck out of town. And, that opened the market to off-island buyers in search of great deals and investment properties. Wilma was no speed bump; instead, she was a catalyst for continuing real estate price escalation.

Michele Grant warns us of how important it is to read an End-User License Agreement (EULA) before you agree to its terms. EULAs vary from vendor to vendor, but you should always assume the worst in them — namely, that you are agreeing to some version of the following: “The company will never, ever be liable for the catastrophic, uninsured loss or global republication of your private data, which we may very likely cause.” Then adjust your data-sharing practices appropriately, Grant adds, including making that choice not to buy the software or service. But even better, simply never, ever trust an online cloud system as the sole backup for your property.

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Today on Context Florida: Picking our presidents, our half-right campaign, Time’s 100 Most Influential and online buying patterns

Today on Context Florida:

Now that Donald Trump is nearing the number of delegates necessary to assure him the Republican Party nomination and super delegates all but guarantee Hillary Clinton the Democratic nod, the 2016 presidential race is set. Are you excited about the choice? Steven Kurlander bets you are not. “Annoyed” is more like it. It’s a sure bet the next person you ask is not happy either. While many Americans are distressed about the choice, Kurlander says they also should be asking whether the process for picking our presidents needs to be fixed.

The 2016 presidential election cycle thus far has been a study in frustrated attempts to analyze and understand a larger shift among the voting public. We saw it a year ago, says A.G. Gancarski, when the conventional wisdom saw Jeb Bush emerging on the Republican Party side to take on Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. “Not another Bush/Clinton race” was the common complaint. People were worried about a choice between two political dynasties. In the end, that seeming inevitability was proven, Gancarski adds, as so much has been this campaign season, half-right.

Some people are born to greatness; others achieve it on their own; still others have it thrust upon them by fate. The rest of us just sit on the curb and cheer as the Big Boys and Girls march by to Valhalla, Cooperstown or wherever great folks go. That’s Bob Driver’s customary reaction each year when Time magazine publishes its list of “The 100 Most Influential People” in the world. Driver always hopes his name and picture will be included, but it never happens. He is left to wallow in insignificance. Which, of course, is preferable over other fates such as being a failed presidential contender.

Blake Dowling discusses how retailers use your online data to determine what to charge for a product. The servers at retailers are stirring up this data and crunching it into analytics that they can use to identify and predict your buying patterns as a consumer. They are also sizing up your browser and device type as well as how much time you spend online and many other factors. By finding out what you buy and for how much, the online retailers can spit out a price to you that may be higher than it is to someone else. It sounds almost ridiculous, but it is happening and it is legal.

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Today on Context Florida: Florida House rankings, hostile to science, Big Education, Tax Credit Scholarships and all things crafty

Today on Context Florida:

Steve Schale offers his state House rankings for May. As you will see, of the 10 races he profiles, there is only one in the Democratic column. One other caveat, however. These rankings are how Schale sees these races today, and much can (and will) change. He is pretty sure if we checked with a group of Republican and Democratic strategists, you’d find consensus that the map will be fought on the Republican Party side this year. Seats are ranked in order of their likelihood to flip from one party to the other, with 10 being the least likely, to 1 being the most likely.

You’d think that a state where they launch rockets into space, a state which houses the world’s most powerful superconducting magnets, a state with several perfectly good universities, would embrace science. Or at least not be so thoroughly hostile to it. But this is Rick Scott’s Florida, says Diane Roberts, where there’s still legislative resistance to teaching evolution (“just a theory!”), the Agency for Healthcare Administration doesn’t understand how doctors determine pregnancy, and climate change is the impending disaster that Dares Not Speak Its Name.

Big Education is a liberal money machine, writes Lloyd Brown. Liberal politicians throw money at the schools, ignoring accountability for the funds, and most of the money goes to teachers. Teacher unions get a cut of that money, and millions of union dollars go to funding political campaigns for liberal politicians. The cycle continues, as it did for decades before school choice came upon the scene.

Jon East argues that the Florida Tax Credit Scholarships benefit 78,000 of Florida’s poorest schoolchildren. The landscape of public education has shifted dramatically in the past generation, as students and their parents choose from all manner of learning options — science and arts-focused schools, career academies, open enrollment, lab schools, magnet schools, International Baccalaureate, gifted academies, charter schools, home education. Last year, more than 1.5 million — or 43 percent of all — pre-K-12 students attended schools they chose. More to the point, 488,000 of those students chose privately operated schools. Of the five programs serving them — charter, McKay, Gardiner, pre-K and tax-credit scholarships — four of them are funded directly from the treasury. The teacher union has sued the only one that isn’t.

Yolanda Hood confesses her addiction to all things colorful, crafty and office supply. She believes there is a reason that she is this way. Hood grew up grew up in a large and loving extended family. None of them had very much money, definitely not money for the whimsical — like felt-covered pencils in a rainbow of colors with a beautiful pointed eraser on top. There you go. That was the fifth-grade fad.

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Today on Context Florida: Greg Evers, loving Hispanics, demagogues and the ‘real America’

Today on Context Florida:

Peter Schorsch asks: How many times can Department of Corrections officials tick off Greg Evers before they’re really in for it? Last week at a news conference, Evers dropped the bomb that Corrections Secretary Julie Jones and one of her top aides had “lied” to him about the closing of a Broward County prisoner re-entry program. (Evers didn’t name Jones, but a department spokesman confirmed that’s who he had spoken with.) The question now is: When does the re-entry program mess get on Gov. Rick Scott‘s radar? And what will he do about it?

Donald Trump wants the Hispanic vote so badly he can taste it, says Jac VerSteeg. On May 5, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee tweeted a picture of himself celebrating Cinco de Mayo by digging into a huge, meat-filled taco bowl. “I love Hispanics,” Trump tweeted. Presumably in a Twilight Zone, “It’s a cookbook!” kind of way. Our advice to Trump: Beware of Hispanic kitchen staff in your various hotel and casino restaurants studying tracts titled “To Serve Trump.”

Darryl Paulson examines why democracies tend to create demagogues. The drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution did not trust unfettered democracy. The Founders wanted self-government, but they wanted a government where minorities would be heard and protected from the excesses of the majority. Demagogues realize that hatred is a powerful tool in organizing support and creating a mass movement. Stereotyping is linked with hatred to create an “us” versus “them” dynamic. Just as the Nazis stereotyped the Jews, the Klan did the same with blacks. Now, Donald Trump, the GOP presumptive presidential nominee, has stereotyped his enemies. As the Founders feared, democracy has created someone toxic to the American political system. Paulson hopes Americans are wise enough wise enough to recognize Trump’s tactics and strong enough to defeat him in November.

The “real America” is in Tampa, not Des Moines notes Linda Cunningham. As statistics guru Silver says in a recent post on his website, FiveThirtyEight, “that sense that the normal America is out there somewhere in a hamlet where they can’t pronounce “Acela” is misplaced. In fact, it’s not in a small town at all.” today’s real American communities are the complex, sprawling, highly diverse midsize regional metropolitan areas. Tampa is No. 2. New Haven is No. 1. They’re joined in the top 10 by Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Oklahoma City and a handful of others.

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Today on Context Florida: Mourning the Tampa Tribune, never Donald Trump and forgetting American history and values

Today on Context Florida:

Sports writer Gary Shelton, a veteran of the Tampa Bay Times, talks about his feeling of loss for the Tampa Tribune, a formal rival that shut down this week. When you look at your doorstep, a doorstep that may be emptier than yesterday, Shelton says to lift your cup for a newspaper that died young.

Martin Dyckman also reminisces about the Tampa Tribune and its fine journalists. He’s not sure which was the bigger shock — the hostile takeover of the Republican Party or the Tribune’s surrender to the Times. But it wasn’t really that much of a surprise, Dyckman says. For years, the only questions had been which paper would perish and when that would happen. That is what the Internet has wrought.

Veteran political operative John “Mac” Stipanovich pens an open letter to his fellow Republicans with a call to deny Donald Trump the presidency by not voting in the election at all – or voting for Hillary Clinton “if conscience permits.” A drop of a few percentage points in the Republican vote for Trump will be enough, which is why the pressure to conform, to toe the Party line, will be enormous. We cannot depend on our elected leaders to lead us. They, for the most part, will fold like cheap lawn chairs, cowed by fear and fueled by ambition.

Ed Moore believes young Americans need to learn about our country’s history and values. Seemingly, he says, we now live in an era where knowledge of our past is a thing of the past. Instead, we get caught up in the issues carried by E!, Access Hollywood and TMZ. When more of us know about Beyonce’s Lemonade! than the names of five former U.S. presidents or even one U.S. Senator from your home state, we have altered our priorities. Moore notes a change in what is important in a civil society and it is beginning to unravel the fabric that has bound us as a nation for over 200 years.

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Today on Context Florida: Donald Trump’s success, election tsunami, vice presidential picks and Harm Reduction

Today on Context Florida:

As the primary season continues and we near the GOP convention in July, one thing has become certain to Steven Kurlander. Whether the GOP likes it or not, Donald Trump will be the Republican presidential nominee. What’s not certain is whether Trump the GOP nominee, or if elected president, will build on his brilliant exploitation of dissatisfaction to seize a moment in history to rebuild the American political system. It’s quite popular among out-of-touch Republican conservatives to mischaracterize Trump’s success as destructive to the country. He’s being called the “anti-Republican” Republican.

Six months remain until Election Day Nov. 8. During this time, our beloved land and our frayed sensibilities will be assaulted by waves of political news, oratory, propaganda, lobbying, slogans, promises, distortions and outright lies. All of it is aimed at placing a solitary, vulnerable mortal into the most powerful and perhaps the loneliest job on earth. Political junkies will relish this pre-election tsunami. But many of our less-addictive creatures believe that life is more important than politics. Bob Driver offers tips on how to survive the election tsunami.

As we close out the presidential nomination phase, attention is now shifting to the selection of possible running mates for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. This will be the first important decision that the candidates must make as they enter the general election phase of the campaign. Darryl Paulson examines some of the criteria that have been used in selecting a vice president in the past. Vice presidents are sometimes selected to unite the party. Ronald Reagan selected George H. W. Bush in an attempt to unite the conservative and eastern establishment wings of the party. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts picked Lloyd Bentsen of Texas to try to unite the northern and southern wings of the Democratic Party. It failed.

Mel Sembler and Joy Fishman have something in common. They both had children who abused drugs. The similarities end there. Mel’s children are all alive, thank goodness. Fishman’s son, Jonathan, died of a heroin overdose in 2006, after being dumped outside of an ER in Hialeah by the dealers who sold him his final shot. Her cause is a program called Harm Reduction. Harm Reduction is a broad category of public safety and health policy reforms that includes syringe exchange programs (like Florida’s recently passed bill allowing such a pilot program in Miami-Dade County), increased access to Naloxone, a miracle drug that can harmlessly and cheaply reverse an opiate overdose as it is happening, and drug maintenance programs, such as methadone.

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Today on Context Florida: Marks of progress, genitals, Mary McLeod Bethune and reforming education reform

Today on Context Florida:

Marks of progress, such as Gov. Rick Scott recently signing a bill removing John U. Lloyd’s name from the beach park and renaming it in honor of Von D. Mizell and Eula Johnson, gives Jac VerSteeg reason to hope in these days of regressionists like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, (aka Lucifer in the Flesh).

Conservatives used to be all about lower taxes and smaller government. These days, says Diane Roberts, they’re all about genitals: what you do with said genitals, with whom, and where you bare them to answer the Call of Nature. The city council of Oxford, Alabama, defying both “political correctness” and the English language, declared that decent folk have a right to “quite [sic] solicitude [sic]” without wondering if the person in the next stall has different plumbing. Otherwise, the restroom becomes a place of “increased venerability” [sic] with a lurking menace of “voyeurism, exhibitionism, molestation, and assault and battery.”

Now that the federal government has decided to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, William Mattox believes the state of Florida should find a good way to honor one of our own: Mary McLeod Bethune, the legendary educator who founded a school for African-American girls that grew into what is today Bethune-Cookman University. As some have suggested, it would be a fitting stroke of poetic justice for a statue of Bethune to replace Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. (The Florida Legislature passed a measure earlier this year calling for Smith’s replacement.) And while Mattox certainly doesn’t object to this idea, his hope is that Florida schoolchildren won’t have to travel to Washington, D.C. to see Dr. Bethune get her proper due.

John Meeks, Jr. calls for reforming education reform. In the mad dash to get federal funding for education reform, the accountability buzzword was bandied about as if simply replacing one system with another was going to magically transform public education into something better. Florida, a state that still refuses to accept Medicaid expansion funding, was one of the states that saw no problem with receiving the Race to the Top and the strings that were attached. It was all in the name of “reform” and “accountability.”

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Today on Context Florida: Testy Cabinet, John Kirtley, Bernie Sanders and kids at the theater

Today on Context Florida:

Peter Schorsch talks about the testy process of choosing a new state Insurance Commissioner. Among the four top statewide officials, no one walked away a winner from last week’s battle. Neither Gov. Rick Scott nor CFO Jeff Atwater got the candidate he wanted, with both settling on the third name Atwater threw out at Friday’s emergency Cabinet meeting, David Altmaier. Interestingly enough, the process was a design that Atwater himself, a former lawmaker and Senate president, once approved.

John Kirtley is at it again. The Tampa businessman who created Florida’s voucher school program is out spinning again for school “choice,” says Julie Delegal. Kirtley told a group gathered at the Florida State University Alumni Center that the lawsuit challenging the voucher program’s constitutionality could undo all the good that he says the program has accomplished. What progress is that again? Who knows, Delegal says. Tax Credit Scholarship (aka voucher) students can’t be directly compared to Florida’s public school children because the former group takes a different test — a test that doesn’t measure academic growth.

One of the things Catherine Durkin Robinson likes best about Bernie Sanders is how he won’t trade on what he believes in to become president. He’s not desperate, she says. Sanders holds fast to ideals he’s championed since the 1960s and is unapologetic about it. That’s his charm. And challenge. Unfortunately, that’s also one reason he won’t become our candidate.

Heather Gibson gives some tips on taking a child to the theater. She recently took her 2-year-old to a show. The reasons were twofold: First, Gibson had been working almost nonstop for months on the recent UCF Celebrates the Arts Festival. Second, she had reserved tickets to “We All Can Dance,” a kinderdrama for toddlers and their grownups. The event promised time to play, dance and make theater together, all things the two of them love to do. Exposure to the theater is at the top of the activity list for Gibson’s little guy, and it almost always trumps a nap.

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Today on Context Florida: Cabinet meeting drama, Carly Fiorina, David Jolly and reproductive freedom

Today on Context Florida:

Monday’s Cabinet meeting was nothing like any of the other meetings. It was dramatic, intense, awkward, and anticlimactic — all at the same time. After four interviews by candidates for the post of Insurance Commissioner, Gov. Rick Scott read from a prepared statement and moved to appoint Jeffrey Bragg—a man whose legal eligibility for the job continues to be murky, and who is reported to have misled investors in a private sector position. The silence was deafening, reports Peter Schorsch.

Darryl Paulson calls Ted Cruz’s choice of Carly Fiorina for VP an act of political desperation. On Wednesday, one week after losing all five primaries in the Northeast and one week prior to the “must win” Indiana primary, Cruz took the unusual step of selecting Fiorina as his running mate. Donald Trump has won 954 delegates and is only 283 delegates short of the 1,237 needed to win the Republican presidential nomination. Cruz has won 562 delegates and has no path to winning the nomination outright even if he sweeps all the remaining contests.

Congressman David Jolly is trying to separate himself from the field of candidates vying to succeed Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. This race seems to hardly register a blip on the political sonar. Despite this, Bob Sparks notes that Jolly took full advantage of multiple opportunities to get his name in front of millions.

Martin Dyckman points out that any law invading the privacy and liberties of American citizens should come into court facing a heavy burden of proof. Does it serve a compelling public interest? Is it the most reasonable — that is, the least restrictive — approach? That’s doubly true in Florida, whose state constitution contains an explicit right to privacy. That’s why the Florida Supreme Court did the right thing last week to put a hold on the Legislature’s latest mean-spirited and colossally hypocritical attack on the reproductive freedom of Florida women.

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Today on Context Florida: School inequity, the working disabled, boss phishing and political posturing

Today on Context Florida:

Julie Delegal discusses school inequity in Florida, which is getting serious scrutiny on several fronts. Now is the time to take a good look at whether the changes we’ve endured — mass privatization, real-dollar funding decreases, high-stakes testing, and loss of local school board authority — gets us closer to carrying out our constitutional duty to our children. Meanwhile, the Legislature has all but completed its power-grab from local school districts with a new, inter-district, open-enrollment scheme, and is sending public tax dollars to develop private real estate assets — in the form of charter schools.

Don’t look now, says Darryl Owens. A storm is coming. A perfect storm. And hundreds of thousands of capable wannabe workers could be lost. There is new research from the Florida Chamber Foundation revealing the shameful marginalization of employable Floridians with disabilities. The report found more than 700,000 of the 1.13 million Floridians between 16 and 65 with disabilities may yearn to work — yet find themselves sidelined. That should trouble all Floridians, warned Dr. Susanne Homant, president and CEO of The Able Trust, a Tallahassee-based public-private partnership that helps Floridians with disabilities secure worthy employment and partly funded the research.

Blake Dowling warns us of “boss phishing” and other new cyber scams. Boss phishing is when an organization receives an email pretending to be from the boss of a company asking accounting to send money ASAP to an account. All the training and information in the world may not help you when the threat comes knocking at your door. A lot of tech info references going to the cloud. It’s not just us law-abiding folks who are taking email and other business functions to the cloud. Criminals are flocking to the cloud as well.

Ed Moore asks if we have had enough yet. Are we tired of the political posturing, pettiness and pandering? More cannot help but think back to an earlier time, not far back in our history, but just far enough to where the public would have been aghast at what now is offered by those seeking to serve in the nation’s highest office. Specifically, he recalls the magic of John F. Kennedy and the words he uttered while running for president, imploring us to do more and be more. Kennedy touched the magic that lived within each of us.

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