Opinions Archives - Florida Politics

Blake Dowling: 2018 is coming, time to tighten up voter tech

Only in the world of politics can an election take place with both sides claiming they got the W.

In college football, it’s simple; you win or you lose — unless you are a Tennessee fan, then you get to be a “champion of life.”

I am sure Tennessee Coach Butch Jones meant well when he muttered those words last year, but come on man.

Back to politics. The special election (Karen Handel versus Jon Ossoff) in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District this week had everyone chattering.

Democrats say it was a close race in the heart of a deep-red district, meaning great things for 2018.

Republicans say they won even though they were outspent 5-1.

Regardless of your position, the Republican Party did “Handel” the competition. (Nice name, Karen; campaign slogans are endless.)

If I were her campaign manager, we would fire up crowds with the Black Crowes’ “Hard to Handle” blasted before every event.

However, one thing unheard (for once) is technology interfering with the election. Apparently, Russia doesn’t care about what goes on in Georgia.

A ZDNet headline this week said this: “198 million Americans hit by ‘largest ever’ voter records leak.”

Which is interesting because the potential exposure was discovered by a security expert and locked down before the information was leaked or stolen.

Was this a fake news headline, pure clickbait?

Here’s what went down. A company named Deep Root Analytics tracks voter information — not just names and addresses, but how the voter feels about issues — compiled using specific social engineering software (see my next column in INFLUENCE Magazine for a trip down that rabbit hole).

Deep Root had a terabyte of data sitting on an Amazon server that was potentially easy to breach. That was bad. On the bright side, it was good that the breach was discovered by a white-hat hacker before that info spilled.

Keep in mind, however, in states like Ohio you can already access every voter (names, addresses, etc.) in the state without needing to hack anything. So, another massive leak was avoided (maybe).

Our voter tech is behind, as is everything else we are plugging into the internet without giving it much thought.

This is called the “Internet of Things.”

For example, on the homefront: “Good news, Mrs. Wife! I can control our air conditioning through my iPhone!”

Is it password protected? No? FAIL.

You just created another vulnerability making both you and your data a big target. We, as Americans, regardless of political opinion or party affiliation, must band together to put a massive defensive strategy in place to keep the really bad guys out when 2018 rolls around.

Old voting machines … exposed servers in the cloud … external hard drives with unencrypted data … using free Wi-Fi without passwords … ransomware … threats are everywhere and we must “Handel” this situation with care.

HAHAHA!

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His heroes are Bill Murray and Megan Fox and can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Florida Man thoughts on Georgia’s special election

Florida Man Steve Schale

Pretty close to exactly 12 years ago, I took the reins of the political operation of the Florida House Democratic Caucus. During my three years there, we picked up nine Republican districts, including two swing seat Special Elections, including a special in a ruby-red type district like Georgia 06.

We made the decision to play in this race for one after passing on a few other specials. Why? We had exactly the right candidate — and we had exactly the right GOP opponent.

It was in late 2007, and GOP State Representative Bob Allen had just resigned, the details of which I will leave to The Google. His district, in Brevard County, wasn’t exactly home team territory, but like GA 06, had one or two markers that at least piqued my attention.

The Republicans had a four-way primary, and in the process nominated arguably the worst possible candidate. one the Orlando Sentinel called “woefully unprepared” who “lacks even the basic knowledge of how Florida’s tax structure or its school system works.”

Needless to say, that ad wrote itself.

On the other side, we had basically the unicorn candidate, a well-regarded City Commissioner from the district’s population center, Tony Sasso. Sasso was a pure progressive on environmental issues, which gave him base bona fides, but was libertarian on enough issues to win over some right-leaning swing voters, and reasonable enough as a Commissioner to give moderate voters comfort. He was a well-liked known commodity.

Even with this perfect storm — the perfect candidate on our side, the perfect opponent, and the perfect setup for the race (again, you can Google it), we had to claw our way to a very narrow win.

For those of you who know me well, you know my basic political sandbox: Candidates matter. There were probably 25,000 other Democrats in that state House seat that would have lost, and with all respect to my friend Tony, we probably would have lost had the GOP just nominated a decent candidate.

So, what does this have to do with GA 06?

Keep in mind, over 70 Republicans in Congress come from seats better than this one, meaning GA 06 is the kind of place where everything has to be perfect. In fact, there is only one Democratic Member of Congress in a seat more Republican than Georgia 06, and not a single Republican in one similar for the other side.

For Florida readers, here are two markers: At R+8, GA 06 is more Republican than Dennis Ross and Mike Bilirakis‘ district, and more Republican than Ted Deutch‘s seat is Democratic. In terms of partisan voting, it is about equally partisan as Debbie Wasserman Schultz‘s seat. In other words, to win, literally everything has to be perfect — and even then, it’s often not enough.

And it wasn’t.

Taking nothing away from the campaign — I knew a lot of really smart people who did good work, and for the good of the cause, I think the party had to make some kind of an effort there (30 million was well beyond the point of diminishing returns), the basic matchup was uphill. Jon Ossoff, while an impressive young man, started out hardly more than a generic Democrat. The first time I spoke to one of my very smart Atlanta friends about Ossoff, she peppered her praise with a fair number of “but” to describe his weaknesses. Back when I was a candidate recruiter, I went out of my way to walk away from candidates whose qualities had to be modified by the word “but,” especially in seats like this.

Karen Handel, on paper, was a proven commodity. Take ideology and everything else off the test, and she wins the bio test. I don’t know if a more proven candidate, either some kind of prominent business leader, or prior elected, would have done better, but my gut says the odds are pretty decent. I was definitely in the camp that our best shot here was in the big primary.

Even in districts like this, the road to 45-47 percent, with enough money and a good enough candidate, can be smooth. But the road from there to 50+1 can be like climbing Everest without oxygen — sure it can be done, but it requires a really amazing climber and a fair amount of luck. Gwen Graham getting over the top in Florida 02 in 2014 (R+5 seat) when several others had come just short is a good example of this.

I don’t think Democrats should get too down on this one, or Republicans get too excited. Districts like this show that the map in 2018 is likely to be fairly broad. Take away the money spent in the seat, and I think most Dems would rightfully feel very good about it. As we saw in South Carolina tonight, there are a lot of places that are more interesting than they normally are.

Which gets back to the lesson. One of the biggest forgotten lessons of 2006 is the importance of recruitment. My side will never have the money to go toe-to-toe with Republicans everywhere. We have to have the “better” candidate in a lot of places to win, particularly due to gerrymandering that means we have to win more seats on GOP turf than they do on ours. At the Congressional level, the DCCC in 2006 fielded a rock-star slate of candidates. At the legislative cycle, in a year when we picked up seven GOP-held seats and held two Democratic open seats, we had the “better” candidate in almost every instance. We also recruited broadly, trying to find the best candidates we could in as many plausible seats as possible, to compete broadly, to give ourselves lots of options — and when the wave happened, the map blew wide-open. Had we not put the work in on the recruitment side — occasionally in places where a Democratic candidate had already filed, at best we would have gone plus 2 or 3, even with the wave.

At the same time, if we had more money, our +7 year might have been +10 or more.

Ossoff clearly has a bright future and would have won in a lot of places last night. But in many ways, his was a candidacy created from whole cloth, and funding and turnout operations alone won’t get just anyone across the line — especially somewhere like GA08. Even in this hyperpartisan environment, campaigns aren’t simply plug-and-play operations — they are choices.

When folks ask me what the national and state party should be doing, my answer is simple: Two things, recruit high-quality candidates and register voters.

And if Democrats expect to have success in November 2018, that is the work that must be done between now and then.

Ali P. Gordon: Is it time to level the playing field for college athletes?

I love college sports. I’ve got the Knights, Yellow Jackets, Tar Heels, Hoyas, Maroon Tigers — you name it. If I can catch a game, I will.

My brother-in-law, who’s from New England, recently schooled me about lacrosse, so now on top of college football, basketball, baseball and volleyball, I’m hooked on that, too. And if it’s any indication of my level of fanaticism, I got married on a Sunday in the fall so I could still watch college football on the Saturday before.

But it seems like the playing field is a little unfair when it comes to student-athletes who can’t profit from what they do in college, unlike other students who can use their engineering skills to get jobs, their marketing abilities to work at companies promoting products, their management skills to set up their own companies.

This issue has been around for years. The latest case involves a football player, a marketing major, who was told by the association that oversees college athletics that he risks his amateur status by receiving advertisement payments for a YouTube channel that uses his name and image.

There’s something amazing about seeing people competing for not only the win, but perhaps also a chance to participate at the next level. Experiences learned through competition – such as leadership, effective communication and the capacity to work in team-oriented environments – are also key. Intense preparation, strategy, focus, and random luck are all things with which we can relate.

It’s easy to see that student-athletes pour a lot of effort into their craft. They love their sports and their fans. I often wonder, however, do these students get full value for sharing their talents? Is limiting their financial support to tuition, room, board and a stipend fair?

I’ve never participated in college sports, and before I provide a stream of consciousness about something of which I am admittedly not an expert, consider the other students.

College students come in all manner of shapes, sizes and colors. When the next incoming class hits campus this fall, they will do so with varied levels of academic preparation, degree-seeking goals and financial needs. They’ve successfully been admitted to their respective universities with the goal of improving their own lives.

Some students will finance or pay their way through school, while some of the bright ones will get full academic scholarships. The very brightest have earned supplemental scholarships that will come to them as stipends.

Once in school, the fully funded students typically need only keep a B average and make satisfactory progress toward graduation to retain their support in place. These requirements are generally attainable given their skill set.

These top-end students usually have intellectual appetites that cannot be satiated by classwork alone. They participate in club activities, volunteer for community service, travel abroad, undertake creative efforts, and so on. If they wanted, they could even further develop their skills by starting a successful company, becoming a research assistant in a lab, hosting a blog or YouTube channel, or have some other side gig. All of these could lead to extra money. As long as the GPA is minimally a B average, they can fully capitalize on their current market value.

It is rewarding to see students with newly developed skill sets preparing themselves for the next level. Experiences learned through extracurricular activities help to develop leadership skills, effective communication and the capacity to work in team-oriented environments. Intense preparation, strategy and focus are what make students successful.

It’s easy to see that top-end academic students pour a lot of effort into building their bodies of work. They love their craft. I expect these students will reap the benefits of the value for their talents, but I have yet to see one of my engineering students sell his or her autograph for money, which they can do without being penalized.

Imagine that you, your relative or friend were a student highly regarded in art, architecture, marketing or cybersecurity. What level of vitriol would you have toward a system that placed restrictions on you or their ability to apply those skills for profit while still in school? So although they may occupy the identical campus setting, exceptionally gifted student-athletes and academic students are seemingly subject to starkly different systems facilitating distinct fiscal outcomes.

Arguments against why student-athletes are not allowed to reap the full monetary benefits during or after the application of their skill set seem circular and duplicitous compared to the free markets that exists for the skills of academic students. Universities need to be given more freedom to devise systems that are more equitable for all of their students.

There are a lot of sides on this issue that have been debated for years, and any satisfactory solution will probably be complex. But just consider: As your favorite college team takes the field or court, are the players getting reasonable market value for their time and energy?

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UCF Forum columnist Ali P. Gordon is an associate professor in UCF’s Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. He can be reached at ali@ucf.edu.

 

Breaking down the results of the Georgia special election

The last month has been filled with media coverage of yesterday’s special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. One would think this was the most significant race in the history of Congress. Why has this race dominated the media, while another special election in neighboring South Carolina has received almost no attention?

Both the Georgia and South Carolina districts feature resignations by Republicans Congressmen who took positions in the Donald Trump administration. In Georgia, Tom Price resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services, while in South Carolina, Mick Mulvaney gave up his seat to become Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

One reason for the attention on the Georgia race may be that the seat was previously held by Newt Gingrich before Price took over, and it has been a Republican district since 1979. That hardly explains the attention on the Georgia district and the neglect of the South Carolina district.

Many viewed the election as a referendum on the Trump administration. Mitt Romney won the district by 23 percent in 2012; Trump won by only 1.5 percent in 2016. Many saw this as an opportunity for Democrats and a sign of Republican dissatisfaction with Trump as party leader.

The Democratic candidate in District 6 was Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old political activist who did not even live in the district. Although the Constitution does not require House candidates to live in the district where they run, not doing so is usually a fatal blow. Handel constantly reminded voters that Ossoff could not vote in the election because he did not reside there.

Ossoff raised over $25 million for his campaign, and his Republican opponent, Karen Handel, raised a similar amount making this the most expensive House race in congressional history. Conspicuously lacking was any discussion, especially by Democrats, of the corrupting influence of money in congressional campaigns.

The media focused great attention on Ossoff, but comparatively little focus on his Republican opponent Handel. We knew that Ossoff worked for a number of Democratic causes and candidates, and considered himself to be a progressive. Ossoff had the backing of the progressive establishment, including John Lewis, an icon in both congressional and civil rights history.

The lack of focus on Handel may be due to the fact Ossoff received 48 percent of the vote in the blanket primary, compared to only 20 percent for Handel. It should be remembered that Republican candidates collectively received 51 percent of the primary vote.

We also know that the Ossoff campaign had 12,000 volunteers, a number seldom reached by statewide candidates. He was clearly a political juggernaut, as his $25 million dollars in campaign funds demonstrated.

During the campaign, one of the candidates posted on their website that the country needs to “cut the wasteful spending. Reduce the deficit so the economy can keep growing.” The site also suggested that the minimum wage be adjusted “at a pace that allows employers to adapt their business plans.”

The above policy pronouncements sound like something from Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan or Handel. They were actually from Ossoff. Hardly progressive sentiments. Did Ossoff’s attempt to moderate his progressive views actually “turn off”  progressive voters?

Republican strategy was to tie Ossoff to Nancy Pelosi, a common strategy, but one that many felt was no longer effective.  One ad asked voters to “Say ‘No’ to Pelosi’s ‘Yes Man.’” Another ad called Ossoff a “rubber stamp for Pelosi’s failed agenda.”

Ossoff lead by as much as 7 points only a month ago and never trailed Handel until the day before the election when she led by a single point.  The polls indicated that Ossoff’s support came from voters from 18 to 64, where he lead by 8 to 15 points; Handel led among voters over 65 by a margin of 62 to 36.

Males supported Handel 52.6 to 45.7 percent while women supported Ossoff by almost exactly the same margin. White voters preferred Handel 55.8 to 43.2 percent while African-Americans favored Ossoff 88.7 to 9.4 percent for Handel.

Why did Handel win and what does it mean? There are several reasons why Handel won and Ossoff lost. Perhaps most damaging was the outsider label, which effectively damaged the Ossoff campaign. Not being able to vote for yourself in such an important campaign put Ossoff in a difficult position. Carpetbaggers in politics have seldom fared well.

Another part of the outsider problem was self-imposed by Ossoff. In an attempt to negate the outsider charge, Ossoff said he lived “a few blocks outside District 6. In fact, it was found that he lived 3.2 miles outside the district.

A final part of the outsider charge related to campaign contributions. Although Ossoff raised over $25 million, most of the contributions came from outside the district. He received fewer than 1,000 donations from District 6 residents, but got over 7,200 contributions from California residents.

It is too early to know for sure, but I am guessing senior voters turned out at very high rates, while younger voters supported Ossoff, but turned out at a far lower rate. We cannot forget that this was a Republican district and the results reflected typical voting patterns.

Democrats are clearly going to be demoralized after expecting to win this seat almost from the beginning. Ossoff did lead almost the entire campaign, but momentum is everything in politics.

A seven-point Ossoff advantage a month out from the election completely vanished by election day.

Neither party should read too much into the election results. A Handel victory is no more an endorsement of Trump than an Ossoff victory would have meant that Trump and the Republicans were doomed.

J. Dudley Goodlette, Wilson Bradshaw: Florida Gulf Coast University to launch entrepreneurship studies degree

Florida Gulf Coast University added an exciting program to our growing entrepreneurship portfolio last week with the approval of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship Studies.

This innovative degree program at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) is built on an interdisciplinary, campus-wide approach for entrepreneurship embedded across the curriculum, and will be available for our students starting in August with the fall semester. Housed in FGCU’s Lutgert College of Business yet available to all students across the University, the Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship Studies degree consists of 24 credits of entrepreneurship courses along with required coursework in economics, public speaking and statistics. Students add electives based on their interests and career aspirations, and also participate in experiential opportunities engaging with retired and active business owners and entrepreneurs.

Although dating back to the founding of America, the entrepreneurial spirit continues to flourish in robust fashion today. Entrepreneurs increasingly are seeking to bolster that shining great idea with foundational support and shared experiences that maximize the opportunity to be successful. FGCU students are no different, and the University has responded to this burgeoning interest by increasing the number of entrepreneurial course offerings, competitions and activities. During the past year, more than 900 students enrolled in entrepreneurship courses.

The interdisciplinary nature of FGCU’s entrepreneurship focus is uniquely designed to serve not only those students with immediate interest in becoming an entrepreneur, but also other students whose degrees will include this entrepreneurial component as an added benefit for emerging future opportunities. For example, a music major may work as a performing artist or an arts educator, yet later develop an entrepreneurial product or service that transforms the music industry.

Successful entrepreneurial programs already in place for our students include the FGCU Institute for Entrepreneurship; a multidisciplinary Entrepreneurship minor; the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program which offers tuition-free online and on-campus instruction in the nationally recognized Lean Startup method; and the Runway Program, a 12-week program held at our Emergent Technologies Institute (ETI) in which faculty and mentors guide and provide project seed funding on a competitive basis to students who want to be entrepreneurs. And, we help prepare young aspiring entrepreneurs through our CEO Academy, a one-week camp for high school juniors and seniors co-presented by the Lutgert College of Business and Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida.

By approving the Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship Studies degree program, the FGCU Board of Trustees connects it with one of four pillars of the University’s 2016-2021 Strategic Plan. This pillar includes an objective to “Launch an innovative interdisciplinary University-wide degree program that combines the core entrepreneurship framework within the Lutgert College of Business with distinct entrepreneurship concentration options in different programs, schools and colleges.”

Since opening our doors to students in 1997, Florida Gulf Coast University strategically has aligned its degree programs with regional and statewide employer demands in order to match student and workforce needs. As a part of this process, we routinely review FGCU’s degree offerings to determine their responsiveness, and add and discontinue programs as needed. During the past two and one-half years, the FGCU Board of Trustees has approved the elimination of 39 program majors on this basis, with the resulting opportunity to launch dynamic, in-demand programs like the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship Studies.

Florida Gulf Coast University continues to break important ground in Southwest Florida and the State of Florida. We can only imagine what future entrepreneurial success will launch from our campus.

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J. Dudley Goodlette is chair of the Florida Gulf Coast University Board of Trustees; Wilson Bradshaw is FGCU President.

Alice Ancona: International trade essential to Florida’s economy

As Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration consider the future of trade, the Florida Chamber of Commerce encourages leaders to consider the important role trade plays in Florida’s economy.

From its discovery, Florida has been global. Much of what made Florida a destination and gateway in Florida’s early years, still holds true today. Florida’s current and future economy is tied to its ability to be a successful hub for international trade investment.

Florida’s geography, diversity and international linkages, combined with our state-of-the-art infrastructure, trade support networks, knowledge-based innovation ecosystem and highly skilled workforce, are assets that make Florida ripe for trade.

Today, if Florida were a country, it would be the 16th largest in the world by gross domestic product. Free and fair trade is essential to Florida’s global competitiveness, and policies that enhance competition in the global marketplace, reduce or eliminate trade and investment barriers will further grow Florida jobs.

In the coming days, a delegation of members from the Florida Chamber of Commerce will travel to Washington, D.C. to encourage Florida’s Congressional Delegation to support Florida job creators, and to work to ensure that trade continues to benefit the U.S. and Floridians.

With one out of four jobs in Florida tied to international trade, these will be important conversations and go a long way to helping secure Florida’s future.

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Alice Ancona serves as Director of International Strategy & Policy for the Florida Chamber International Trade and Investment Office.

 

Joe Henderson: Richard Corcoran did more than change Florida education, whipped teachers union too

Alex Sink made a point to Mitch Perry on FloridaPolitics.com that Democrats may finally have a cause to rally around in this state.

She referred to HB 7069 (or, as I like to call it, “The Let’s Bust The Teachers’ Union Act”) pushed through by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott. It is the biggest push yet by the Legislature to expand private charter schools with money from the public education budget.

“Do we care about public education in this state or not?” she told Perry. “Ninety percent of our kids go to public school, so 90 percent of our money plus should be supporting public schools.”

I won’t say Corcoran doesn’t care about public education. I won’t even say charter schools don’t have some benefit.

But I will say that if you peel back the layers of how we got here, the Republican victory dance is as much about the whipping they inflicted on the state’s largest teachers union, the Florida Education Association, as it was the expansion of charters.

This was Corcoran showing the union who is boss.

That was spelled out plainly last November when he began pushing his charter plan. When the union opposed it, Corcoran declared war.

As the Miami Herald reported, he called the union “downright evil” and accused it of trying to “destroy the lives of 100,000 children, mostly minority, and all of them poor.”

He called union leaders “disgusting” and “repugnant.” He called them “crazy people” who fight tooth and nail to protect the status quo at the expense of innovation.

FEA President Joanne McCall responded with a statement that read in part, “Legislation like this makes it clear that the real goal of some of our political leaders is not to provide a high-quality education to our children, it’s to dismantle public schools and profit off our students.”

HB 7069 is now law because Corcoran played his hand better than his opponents. Just because he won doesn’t make him right, though.

Unions like the FEA exist because teachers can’t trust Tallahassee to play fair. Lawmakers have used teachers as a political prop for decades, but it took on new life when Jeb Bush as governor pushed through “reforms” that have helped create the mess we have today.

That’s not saying local school districts don’t need reshaping because, folks, their house isn’t in order either. The large ones have layers of bureaucrats who are well paid for doing, well, I’m not exactly sure what. They also can be extremely condescending toward anyone who has new ideas. That’s a column for another day.

But the ones who seem forgotten in all this are those teachers on the front lines. It is their unfortunate fate to carry out the often-conflicting requirements put in place by lawmakers who don’t understand what teachers actually do.

Worse, they don’t respect teachers.

That brings us back to Alex Sink and what she said about this issue might finally rile Democrats enough to show up for the governor’s race next year. I guess we’ll find out.

But Republicans just fundamentally changed public education in Florida,  and it will be hard to undo. Clobbering the union in the process just made it sweeter for them.

Louisville can bring up Penn State when appealing NCAA penalties

For those who have the stomach to read the NCAA’s report on what happened with the Louisville men’s basketball program between 2010 and 2014, put your head on a swivel. One’s head will instinctively shake.

It is a detailed account of strippers, prostitutes and teenagers all in the name of luring them to play basketball for the Louisville Cardinals and Coach Rick Pitino. The Committee on Infractions panel presented a meticulous case against those involved and why Pitino bears  responsibility, even if he was unaware of what was transpiring.

One of the penalties prescribed was forfeiting games over those four years, which includes their 2013 NCAA championship. This part should be, and must be, reversed.

To be sure, what happened over that four-year period is beyond reprehensible. Louisville admitted that one of Pitino’s staff members (identified by accuser Katina Powell as Andre McGee), arranged sexual trysts for teenage recruits, including four 17-year-olds and at least one who was only 16 at the time. Graduate assistant Brandon Williams was also implicated.

At least two players on the Louisville 2013 championship team roster were also involved. Those identified to ESPN by Powell and two of her daughters (who were among the “escorts”) were star player Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell.

They are now on probation, they lost scholarships and their recruiting practices are limited. The also made it difficult for McGee to get a job in college basketball for 10 years and Williams for one year.

For his part, Pitino is suspended for the first five games of the 2018 ACC schedule. Then NCAA accepted the school’s self-imposed post season ban in 2015-16.

All of these make sense. It is a little bit tougher when the committee ordered the school to give up its share of revenue earned from playing in the 2012-2015 NCAA Tournament. The justification? The participating members of the basketball team became “ineligible” because they received “impermissible benefits.”

This is the logic also used in forfeiting all wins over the period, including the 2013 championship. Impermissible benefits are usually reserved for cash under the table, cars, no-work jobs, etc. While such actions carried out with legal age young men may be morally wrong, it’s hard to keep a straight face in hearing sexual favors described as a benefit when determining eligibility.

“Not only was this unjust and over the top in its severity,” Pitino said at a news conference, “but I’ve lost a lot of faith in the NCAA.”

Why should anyone outside of the Cardinals’ fan base be worked up about this? Two words:

Jerry Sandusky.

Sandusky perpetrated horrific treatment of young boys while serving as an assistant coach to Joe Paterno at Penn State. Sandusky is rightfully in prison and the NCAA ruled Paterno and the university were negligent as the atrocities continued. According to court testimony, Paterno knew about Sandusky’s behavior.

The Committee on Infractions slapped PSU with a $60 million fine, cut scholarships, instituted a post-season ban and forced Penn State to vacate their wins from 1998-2011. They were also forced to return bowl game money.

But when Penn State and supporters fought back (rightly or wrongly), the vacated wins were restored by the NCAA in January, 2015.

Think about that. No wins are vacated following criminal behavior that ruined lives.

What Louisville did was wrong, repugnant and also qualifies as child abuse in some of the cases. But when compared to Penn State, they should have every reason to believe they will win on appeal to either the NCAA or in court.

Rick Kriseman: As a father, an obligation to support climate action

Like Dads across the country, this Father’s Day I’m looking forward to receiving some special attention from my two kids. But I’ll also be reflecting on my obligation as a father to protect my children from growing threats like climate change.

We don’t have the luxury of being in denial here in Florida, where rising sea levels are already imperiling coastal property and infrastructure. To turn a blind eye to escalating climate impacts is to say to our kids and grandkids that we really don’t care about their future.

That’s why when Donald Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, I joined mayors, governors, university and college leaders, businesses and investors from throughout the nation to declare that “We Are Still In.”

Here in St. Petersburg, we are going further.

Later this month, I will be attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting to share our city’s message that we are committed to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. More than 80 mayors from across the country have endorsed a goal of powering our cities with 100 percent clean and renewable energy. We know that the best way to slow fossil fuel-driven climate change is to repower our economies with clean, renewable sources like wind and solar. Here in the Sunshine State, that’s a no-brainer. Working toward 100 percent clean energy will help ensure that St. Pete remains a ‘city of opportunity where the sun shines on all who come to live, work and play.’”

We will continue to support strong climate action and a transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity and health. After all, the facts on the ground (or in the oceans and atmosphere) haven’t changed. Just the politics.

I’m proud of the fact that St. Petersburg has been on the cutting edge of preparing for climate change. We were the first city in Florida to update our land-use plans to comply with the “Perils of Flood” state law, and we are upgrading our infrastructure at a rapid pace. But while we prepare our city to adapt to climate impacts such a rising ocean, more severe storms and heat waves, I’m more determined than ever to do everything I can to help bring about a rapid transition to a clean energy economy that gets to the root of the problem.

Moving quickly toward 100 percent clean, renewable energy will not only help slow climate change, it will improve our air quality, protect our kids’ health, strengthen our economy and create exciting opportunities for today’s workers, and those who have yet to enter the workforce. Solar jobs in Florida increased by 26 percent per year last year, but we’re still far behind where we can and should be. The sky is the limit. Clean, renewable energy produced right here in Florida means more money stays in our communities, rather than being sent to out of state fossil fuel corporations.

While Donald Trump is doing everything he can to keep us bound to 19th-century fossil fuels like coal, and all of its consequences, St. Petersburg and cities and states across the country are recommitting to a clean, healthy, prosperous, clean energy future. For every step backward by the Trump administration, we’ll take two steps forward.

Long after my service as mayor is done, my kids Jordan and Samuel will be living their lives with families of their own. As parents, our most important shared legacy will be the health of the world we are leaving them. Everything we do today to confront climate change with clean, renewable energy is a gift of hope and love to our kids.

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Rick Kriseman is Mayor of St. Petersburg.

Blake Dowling: WikiLeaks, Cherry Blossoms and Pandemics

WikiLeaks is at it again.

They are dropping new information (unverified) on the web about the Engineering Development Group.

Who are they? They are the CIA, specifically its elite hacking unit.

Not too cool for national security potentially but good to know if you care about your digital privacy, or if you are an enemy of the state with something to hide.

If you have never checked out the site, it is very interesting.

The part that grabbed me was the tools called Cherry Blossom. This tool allows the agency to monitor internet traffic by hijacking wireless routers; this has been going on for years.

To put it simply, the described the tool takes over the firmware of the router and turn it into a monitoring device. So, not only can you be tracked where you go online, but also (even worse) what you are doing, banking info, passwords, or reroute you to a malicious website and infect or steal from you.

Stay off public Wi-Fi setups for this and many other reasons. Only use secure and password protected networks. Your data is up for grabs as it is, you might as well not make it easy for folks to get at it.

Also, this month WikiStinks published info on another CIA project called Pandemic. Basically, this project deals with infecting a computer with malicious code and then spreading it to take over more and more machines. In high-tech lingo, Pandemic is a tool that runs as kernel shellcode that installs a file system filter driver. The driver is used to replace a file with a payload when a user on the local network accesses the file over SMB.

So, the cyber wars rage on with Russia, China, the US and even those wankers in North Korea on the battlefield. As a nation, we try and stay on the forefront to defend our weapons systems, power grids and everything else, but it’s tough.

As you can see, there are those that wish to expose this clandestine work to the world. It’s also a very gray space with a lot of room for interpretation.

The current administration in D.C. — as well as the last one — were all about the CIA, NSA and keeping the U.S. ahead of the cyber arms race. If we fall behind in this race, we may not know until it’s too late.

In the meantime, tune into Oliver Stone’s interview with Vladimir Putin, that is the face of the enemy, and we must remember it.

Keep your passwords complex, stay off the dark web, have a dedicated credit card for online purchases, use a firewall wall with geo-blocking capabilities (block all IP addresses from punk nations), keep your security software current (and your beer cold) and we will see what happens.

Enjoy your weekend.

___

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

P.S.: If the CIA reads this, I am on your side. Don’t tase me, bro. I did say “unverified.” 🙂

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