Opinions Archives - Page 6 of 302 - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Polls show strong voter support for Amendment 4

Florida remains divided on many political issues, but there seems to be strong bipartisan agreement about the issue of restoring voting rights for convicted felons, formally known as Amendment 4.

As Florida Politics reported, a recent poll showed 74 percent support for the constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that would strike down voting prohibitions for felons who have completed their sentences and parole or probation requirements. Those convicted of murder or sexual offenses would continue to be banned.

It needs 60 percent to pass.

That bipartisan support I mentioned — 79 percent of independents and 88 percent of Democrats are in support, and even a majority of Republicans (59 percent) said they’re in favor.

Boiled down, this means the people of Florida had to go this route of a grassroots push for a constitutional amendment because Republican-controlled Tallahassee wouldn’t budge — fairness be damned.

Florida is one of only three states — Iowa and Kentucky are the other two — to automatically and permanently bar felons from voting even after their sentences are complete. They can apply to the state for a restoration of rights, but not until five years after their release. Most of the time, the answer is no — and there is a backlog in the thousands of cases waiting to be heard.

Amendment 4, if passed, would restore rights to an estimated 1.5 million people in Florida.

Did we mention that maybe it’s the right thing to do?

When Charlie Crist was Governor, he restored the rights of thousands of nonviolent felons. That changed when Rick Scott took over. That’s when the legislative equivalent of Bob’s Barricades was placed in front of felons to keep them from taking that next step into society and the voting booth.

In a withering decision in February, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker overturned Scott’s policy, saying “disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s Governor has absolute veto authority. No standards guide the panel. Its members alone must be satisfied that these citizens deserve restoration.

“Until that moment (if it ever comes), these citizens cannot legally vote for presidents, governors, senators, representatives, mayors, or school-board members. These citizens are subject to the consequences of bills, actions, programs, and policies that their elected leaders enact and enforce.”

Naturally, Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi fought the decision out of respect for “the victims.” Funny, Bondi wasn’t so concerned about “the victims” of Trump University’s money scam while she was receiving a $25,000 campaign check, but are we surprised?

I’m not.

When a person is convicted of a felony in Florida, they already will face a lifetime of obstacles that will remind them daily that society has judged them to be failures. Getting a decent job with a felony on your record can be a problem. That means supporting yourself or a family will be an ongoing struggle.

Yes, they shouldn’t have committed the crime.

But let’s say a felon is sentenced to five years for robbery and serves that time. Society considers the debt paid, but Florida is like a loan shark who just keeps piling up that debt until it becomes unsustainable on the individual.

Politicians then like to say they’re “tough on crime” but what they really are is hardhearted and shortsighted. A person who feels more invested in society — and voting can be a big part of that — is less likely to fall back into trouble.

I wouldn’t expect the lawmakers we have now to embrace that idea, though. It’s easier to demonize and tag people who made a serious mistake with a scarlet “F” for the remainder of their days. That’s why sometimes voters have to take the law into their own hands with things like Amendment 4.

This is one of those times.

Joe Henderson: Winner in Florida U.S. Senate debate? Status quo in runaway

Let us sum up the essence of the Florida U.S. Senate debate Tuesday between Bill Nelson and Rick Scott for the seat Nelson currently holds:

Blah, blah, and furthermore, blah.

Nelson believes Scott is a lying slimeball whose policies have savaged public education, health care, and the environment. We already knew that.

Scott believes Nelson is a do-nothing, accomplish-nothing political hack who exists to raise taxes because it’s fun to do so. Yep, knew that too.

OK, Florida … choose your candidate.

Did anyone learn anything about the hour Nelson and Scott spent telling a statewide Telemundo audience that the other is a horrible person and electing them would mean the end of life as we know it?

I doubt it.

Neither man is an orator of great renown.

Neither man has what anyone would call a charismatic personality.

Both men have been around long enough that we know where they’re coming from, so let’s cut the bull, shall we?

Scott is running on his record of job creation after two terms as Florida’s Governor. He is also running a campaign that shifts the blame for all the problems that environmental problems that cropped up during his reign (see Tide, Red) on Nelson because Washington didn’t act to keep dead fish from populating Florida’s shores.

After absorbing Scott’s attacks that blamed him for everything wrong on Planet Earth, perhaps even including the Tampa Bay Bucs 48-10 loss at Chicago, Nelson whipped out the white glove and said, “We would call that a whopper because it’s totally disjointed from the truth.”

Ouch. That hurts.

Do you bite your thumb, sir?

In this political climate though, the truth is whatever anyone chooses to believe, so what I would sum it up like this:

Status quo was the runaway winner in this debate.

If you liked what Scott has done for this state, you probably think he won.

If you think Nelson deserves a fourth term in the U.S. Senate, nothing happened Tuesday to change your mind.

It was boring.

It was safe.

It was repetitive.

It lacked substance.

I doubt this debate got anyone excited.

This was nothing but Talking Points 2.0.

Scott has been following an effective strategy throughout the campaign of attacking his opponent while not exactly saying what he would do if elected, other than his “promise” to go to “give ‘em hell” in Washington.

Yeah, like a freshman Senator, just one in a body of 100, would do anything except say, “How would you like me to vote on this, Sen. Mitch McConnell?”

But the reverse is true as well. Democrats are desperate for Nelson to hold on to his seat because they need every vote against President Trump, especially if Republicans continue to control the Senate after the midterms. Nelson won’t be that mythological “independent’ voice in Washington. He will be what he has been — reliably Democratic.

So, all of this back and forth is nothing but “R” versus “D” repetitive drivel.

This debate was characterized by many as nasty.

Shoot, folks … it was already nasty. It has been nasty for a long time.

We already know what they’re going to say. We knew it before either Scott or Nelson said it. Whichever man you like you like now, you will like in November. Nothing happened in this debate to change that.

The strong likelihood is that nothing is going to change, either.

They are what they are.

And what they are won’t excite anyone to do anything but what they were already going to do: vote against the other guy.

Thomas Kennedy: The most important election of your life

Every election it seems like we are told that it’s the most important election of our lifetime. We as voters hear this line so much, it’s become a bit of a cliche, something to shrug off as we head to the polls.

Taking that into account, I’m here to tell you that this is indeed, the most important election of your life. Especially if you live in Florida!

If you want to shrug this off, just think about what’s at stake.

Our waterways are currently a mess, largely thanks to Gov. Rick Scott, with toxic green algae and red tide making our beaches a health hazard to the public and killing marine wildlife.

Our minimum wage is currently at an abysmal $8.25.

Republicans in the state Legislature continue to reject Medicaid expansion, leaving around 660,000 Floridians who would qualify uninsured.

Public education is increasingly defunded as charter schools continue to raid taxpayer funds with the aid of Tallahassee lawmakers.

No meaningful action has been taken to prevent more senseless gun violence, even though the state has had fifty-one shootings since the tragedy at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.

Millions of Floridians are disenfranchised through various methods of voter suppression.

I could keep listing the many ways in which working-class families in Florida badly need a change of leadership in Tallahassee, but I think you get the point.

The historical implications of these midterm elections on everyday Floridians are huge. We have the opportunity to elect the first black governor in the history of the state in Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and pass Amendment 4, which would restore the vote to over 1.4 million Floridians who have served their time yet are currently disenfranchised due to prior felony convictions. People who have paid their debt to society should not be punished for a lifetime.

One out of five black citizens can’t vote because of this form of voter suppression and ensuring its passage would be a blow to the legacy of Jim Crow in the South.

That’s all without addressing what’s going at the federal level. Immigrant children are still being put in cages, in fact, hundreds of them have been moved under the cover of nighttime from detention centers to a tent city in what could accurately be described as a concentration camp in Tornillo, Texas.

The Kavanaugh hearings have been a national disgrace, with Republicans in Washington refusing to take seriously sexual assault allegations leveled against a man whose entire political career has been a war on women, and working-class people for that matter.

The Trump administration continues to be corrupt and lawless, with five presidential aides convicted of breaking the law.

Luckily there is a way for you to address all these injustices and hold accountable those who refuse to stand up for you and your loved ones.

You can vote.

In Florida, the voter registration deadline is Oct. 9. That means that you only have a few days to get it done if you are planning on voting. Once you do get registered, early voting across the state is Oct. 27 to Nov. 4, although you should check with your supervisor of elections office since they can provide additional early voting days if they choose to.

Election Day is Nov. 6. Get out there and make your voice heard.

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Thomas Kennedy is the Political Director for FLIC Votes and a communications fellow for the Center for Community Change Action. He tweets from @Tomaskenn.

Mark Mileusnic: Three keys to world-class customer service

The beginning of October marks National Customer Service Week, which recognizes the important role that customer relationships play in virtually every industry. After all, customers are at the heart of every business’s success and their satisfaction must be a top priority.

Each year, the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) receives more than 500,000 phone calls and 60,000 emails into our call center from insurance agents and carriers around the nation who are looking to get information to complete their insurance transactions.

What we’ve learned is that achieving impressive results starts with great people. At NCCI, we pair our talented customer-focused team members — more than 100 employees based at our headquarters in Boca Raton — with technology and training in order to provide the very best customer service.

But it’s NCCI’s customers, and yours, who define what great service means to them.

To ensure that we’re delivering for our customers and addressing their needs, NCCI regularly collects anecdotal and numerical survey feedback to identify the specific performance attributes that translate into great customer service. Because of our focus and dedication to excellence, NCCI’s award-winning call center has earned satisfaction scores of 9.5 out of 10 in those customer surveys.

Our surveys have also identified three top attributes for success that are just as applicable to your company call center as they are to NCCI’s:

— Efficient, attentive service — Customers repeatedly identify responsiveness as one of their top priorities.

NCCI’s call center resolves approximately 75 percent of its calls without putting a customer on hold.

Just 11 seconds is the average wait time to speak with an NCCI specialist.

— Accomplishing the purpose of the call — Resolving a customer’s need on that first call not only makes for a happy customer, but also contributes to the overall efficiency of the call center, reducing the need for follow-up calls.

NCCI’s call center resolves 97 percent of its calls during the first phone call.

NCCI staff are focused on getting the right answer and achieving a successful outcome as opposed to moving on to the next call.

— Knowledgeable specialists — Customers expect the person they’re speaking with to know what they’re doing … and it’s all too obvious when this is not the case.

NCCI’s call center is located within its home office — this proximity creates a direct line of knowledge to subject-matter experts and facilitates growth and training opportunities for staff.

NCCI’s staff development includes six to eight weeks of initial training as well as ongoing development.

NCCI adds customer value by staying focused on these three attributes — and your company can too. When customers quickly get the answers they are looking for from a friendly and knowledgeable team, they are more likely to be satisfied with their experience and with the company they are doing business with.

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Mark Mileusnic is Chief Customer Operations Officer of the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).

Deborah Thompson: Elections have consequences, like boosting Tallahassee real estate

No matter your political beliefs or party registration, and regardless of who your favorite candidates are in this 2018 election season, you have an opportunity to be one of the biggest winners if you’re getting ready to put your home up for sale in the Tallahassee.

The reason is simple: we’re going to have a major turnover of top political figures in Florida’s statewide election for Governor, Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture and Chief Financial Officer. There will also be some new state legislators and staff hired to support their work. So, there will be a corresponding massive turnover of hundreds of key senior level employees in state government offices throughout the capital city.

It’s likely that many people will be recruited for important jobs from outside of Tallahassee — and when they’re set to move here to start work at the end of this year or early in 2019, they’ll need a place to live. For many, that could mean the purchase or long-term rental of a home.

This election-year real estate reality creates a special boost period to our local residential sales market — and a meaningful opportunity for homeowners who want to sell or rent their home to win in this election. But to earn that ‘victory,’ it’s smart to immediately undertake the kind of ‘campaign’ necessary to win.

Speak to a Realtor before you start preparing to sell your home. A Realtor can offer you helpful advice on preparing your home for sale as well as help determine the best sale price value of your home.

Consider having a pre-listing inspection to determine if repairs are necessary — and make the repairs, as appropriate. Curb appeal is so important for your home to go on the market and stand out. You want buyers to feel invited to come in — so they can imagine it as their home. Ask a friend to stand with you on the street outside your home, as if you are the buyers, and to share candid impressions from that angle and others about how your home looks.

Fresh mulch, edging, weeding, pruning and fresh flowers can work miracles for both front and backyards. Don’t forget to check your front door stain or paint as well as your exterior lights.

The interior of your home requires a very critical eye. Your home needs to be very clean. What’s the appearance of your light fixtures, blinds, baseboards, the space around light switch plates, cabinet fronts, etc.? Consider having a professional cleaning company come in to buff from top to bottom — because what it costs is well worth what it may save.

Less is more. Declutter and depersonalize — until it hurts. Don’t forget closets, cabinets and walls. Consider removing wallpaper and neutralize strong wall paint colors. Neutralizing doesn’t mean white walls. Fresh interior paint is a great way to give your home a fresh look.

Consult your Realtor or ask for a recommendation for a staging professional to help with furniture and accessory placement. If you are changing interior colors, a staging professional can be a great asset.

Depending on the needs, it can take several weeks to get your home ready. Don’t wait until the last minute to meet with your agent — and to begin your ‘campaign’ to win. You and your Realtor should work as ‘running mates’ to win the victory that matters most in this election: the sale of your home, at the best and right price.

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Deborah Thompson is a Certified Residential Specialist at Coldwell Banker Hartung & Noblin. She may be reached at deborahthompson.realtor@gmail.com.

Blake Dowling: An expensive lesson in ransomware wreaking havoc

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

Your entire campaign just got rocked by an IT disaster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You have now become a criminal.

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

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

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

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

Some clicked. Many did not.

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

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

This concludes today’s cybersecurity lesson.

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

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

We shall see.

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

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

A strong password is your front line of defense.

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

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

Anna Eskamani: Yes, I am a woman running for office, and yes, I curse

The Republican Party of Florida wants you to know that I curse.

So much so, that they’ve created television ads and sent three mailers into my district stating that I am “vulgar,” and that I am “everything wrong with politics today.” The mailer includes quotes from me at rallies and public events, where I spoke truth to power, and occasionally integrated words like “shit” and “damn” into my remarks for emphasis. Once at a public storytelling event I proclaimed “fuck the patriarchy” and at the 2017 Women’s March I said, “P*ssy Power” as I was reading it off an attendee’s sign.

Apparently, all of this is just too much for the Republican Party to handle, as the mailer reads: “Ask yourself, is this the example our leaders should be setting for our children?”, concluding, “Anna Eskamani: Extremely Partisan. Extremely Vulgar. Extremely Wrong for Central Florida.”

The irony is palpable, and the cognitive dissonance clear. The Party of Trump thinks I am vulgar? President Trump can grab women by the p*ssy, and use language that is demeaning towards women, people of color, immigrants, and the disabled. But when I reclaim terms that have historically been used to belittle women, than I am the one who is being vulgar?

Let’s be real: the Republican Party could care less about cursing. Party leaders only care because I’m a woman who curses, and they think that can be weaponized against me.

Despite achievements made by women in our country, we still face deep double standards in government, business, tech, sports, academics, and entertainment. Double standards are defined as a rule or principle that is unfairly applied in different ways to different people or groups. In the case of women, we are often evaluated against different harsher standards when compared to male counterparts. Examples exist in all fields, and especially in politics.

Recently I had my first ever debate with my Republican opponent. So far, it’s the only debate he has agreed to, and chances are since it was hosted by our local Chamber of Commerce, he assumed that this young woman of color and Democrat would not perform well in a business-focused space.

The attack mail calling me vulgar had begun that same week, and I knew it was an intentional effort to damage my character before I even walked into the room.

I was up till 6:00 a.m. preparing for this debate, crafting a thirty-page binder of policy notes, reviewing statistics, theories, and budget allocations. One double standard that women face — and especially women of color — is that you only get one chance to get it right. I knew this moment mattered, and refused to take it for granted.

With one hour of sleep, I walked into the debate and demonstrated a grasp of the issues, had the courage to hold my opponent accountable to his lies, and relayed a message of hope for our state that leaves no one behind.

Many had said I won the debate, and when the forum ended I felt like we had done our job in painting a brighter future for Florida. Later, when I looked at the Facebook live stream, and read the comments left by those watching, I could not help but notice people who oppose me comment on my “valley girl” voice, speak to my opponents lack of detailed responses as being his “strength”, and continue to call me “too vulgar” to support.

Later in the week, a former elected official would troll me on my personal Facebook page and say that he “observed me” at the debate, thought that I was “charming” but that I was “insincere, just playing to the audience.”

Tossing aside women you disagree with, commenting on superficial elements, and labeling them as liars is another double standard. Just ask President Trump and Brett Kavanaugh. They’re both very good at it.

Running for office takes being yourself. It takes remembering where you come from and who you are. It takes grit and grace. It takes asking for guidance, but also trusting your gut. The recent attacks that I have faced are insignificant when compared to the attacks faced by hardworking Florida families each and every day. These personal attacks mean nothing when I reflect upon the importance of protecting public education and our environment. In fact, it’s hard not to swear when I think about Florida politicians never expanding Medicaid, a decision that has left nearly 800,000 people in our state without access to health care.

I know all too well that more attacks by my opponent and Republican leadership are yet to come. Next will be my traffic citations plastered on mail, my past work at Planned Parenthood, and no doubt efforts to tie my cultural identity as an Iranian-American to terrorism. Each will be seen across our district, designed to hurt me and the movement we are building.

It won’t work. Our voters are too smart, our team too committed, and my track record too strong.

Because we are authentic to the members of our district we have inspired Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike to stand with us in demanding a collaborative and ethical approach to problem solving, one that celebrates diversity and operates free of special interests. Our campaign is less about winning an election and more about setting a new tone for the America we love, and fight for.

Yes, I am a woman who curses. But no, I am not what’s wrong with politics today. I am the sum of those around me, a facilitator for change, a challenger of the status quo, and someone who is damn ready to serve the great people of Florida State House District 47.

Anna V. Eskamani is an Orlando native and daughter of working class immigrants from Iran. She is pursuing a PhD at the University of Central Florida and is a first time candidate, running for Florida State House District 47. 

Joe Henderson: Who ‘won’ the SCOTUS hearing? Nobody

Politics is all about winning, and nowhere is that truer than the all-out war to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. That is why I am trying to find a winner after one of the most exhausting and extraordinary days anyone has experienced.

I. Just. Can’t.

Christine Blasey Ford was brave, believable, sympathetic, and forceful when she was asked how certain she was that Kavanaugh sexually attacked her more than 30 years ago when both were high school students.

Her answer, without hesitation: “100 percent.”

I believe her — and not because she came forward even after acknowledging in her opening statement that she was “terrified” to testify to the U.S. Senate committee that will recommend whether Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court should go forward.

There is no doubt she will look back on this experience as one of the worst periods of her life, and that pain showed throughout her testimony. She said she is haunted by Kavanaugh’s laughter after the encounter.

I think we all know how she would respond if someone suggested she “won” the day.

I admire the stand she took and the way she handled herself, but only she can say if it was worth the cost. Her life has been a living hell since she came forward — and will continue to be. That’s what this process does to people, and it’s disgusting.

What about the man she says committed that vile deed as a boy?

Kavanaugh’s anguish was clear during his combative and emotional opening statement. You would have to be a hell of an actor to fake that kind of pain. It was hard not to feel sympathy for him when he said he and his family have been “totally and permanently destroyed” by the resulting furor after Ford came forward. I have no doubt that it’s true.

A reputation, once lost, is hard to recover.

He thundered his innocence. He cried frequently. He choked up, knowing his carefully crafted reputation was unraveling before the entire nation. He was alternately combative and defiant, maybe figuring he had nothing to lose at this point.

No doubt many saw that as a man fighting an injustice being inflicted on him and his family.

But I’m also wondering what the reaction would have been if Ford had screamed at Senators and sobbed during her appearance, the way Kavanaugh did. Would she have been dismissed as too emotional and unhinged? Would that have cast doubt on the truthfulness of her testimony?

Even if Brett Kavanaugh ultimately is confirmed to SCOTUS — which I wouldn’t bet on and I doubt he truly believes will happen either — it won’t be a win. He’ll carry these scars for the rest of his life. What happened during testimony Thursday will be in the first sentence of his obituary.

And as far as the Senate?

Big losers.

Democrats embarrassed themselves while grilling Kavanaugh about stuff in his high school yearbook that appeared to be about barfing and flatulence. I would say it’s beneath the dignity of the Senate, except I don’t think there is any depth to which these politicians won’t sink.

I thought Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina might have tilted the scale a little bit in Kavanaugh’s favor with his blustering outburst defending the nominee from what he called a “sham” process.

“You’re looking for a fair process? You came to the wrong town at the wrong time, my friend,” Graham thundered, his face turning red, blood vessels bulging.

I might have been inclined to give Graham’s words more heed if minutes later he hadn’t brushed off a woman in the lobby who told him she had been raped. He told her to go to the cops, then got into an elevator. 

That is really what it comes down to – the attitude that many in the Party of Donald Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh, seem to have toward women and what they endure. They attack the victim. They dismiss. They smear.

Republican Senators, one by one, told Kavanaugh how much sympathy they felt for what he has endured.

What about Ford, and what she has endured?

What about what the nation has endured, and how divided it will be after this?

Winners?

Find one. I sure can’t.

Emma Collum: With Brett Kavanagh, it’s time to end the ‘broken cycle’

Whenever a public figure faces charges of sexual assault, we follow the same broken cycle — an allegation is made, the accused person denies it, and the survivor is attacked. Then a chorus of voices amplified through cable news discounts the accusation and says, “even if it’s true, it’s not that bad.”

This is a familiar story for many women. It’s my story too.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has lodged a credible allegation of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Since coming forward, she has faced criticism and threats. She and her family have been forced into hiding. If she chooses to testify before the Judiciary Committee, she’ll face a level of scrutiny unlike anything we have seen since the Anita Hill debacle in 1991.

In college, I was the victim of a sexual assault that I have not discussed publicly until today. I did not report the assault because while I cannot speak for all victims, my experience has taught me that to be assaulted is to be traumatized. It is to be left with lingering feelings of doubt, grief, fear and rage. It is to revisit the tragedy over and over and to constantly question if you’re to blame. It is to go months and years with pain buried deep in your consciousness and then to have a certain smell or sound bring it flooding back as if you were reliving it. To be sure, it is something that you cannot understand unless you’ve experienced it.

For Dr. Ford to have experienced an assault at the hands of Judge Kavanaugh, to speak up, then to face smears and unwarranted retaliation from people making no effort to understand her ordeal is a national travesty.

Her decision to come forward could not possibly have been easy. Even I, who represented abused women in court and founded the Florida Women’s March, have struggled with whether to tell my story. But we need to speak up if we want to make change.

When 73 of 75 Republicans in the Florida House signed a letter supporting Kavanaugh, they asked us to ignore the very serious allegations leveled against him. Their letter ends with “Recognize the truth, unify the country, confirm Judge Kavanaugh …” Florida Republicans aren’t just calling for the country to unify around Kavanaugh. They’re calling for extreme partisans to unify against all allegations of sexual assault. They think that if they stand together, no woman can get in their way.

It’s time to prove them wrong. Women need to be heard. We need to be believed. Most of all, we need a seat at the table so that we can lead the charge against a toxic culture of permissiveness. The “Me Too” movement shined a light on the stories held secretly by so many of us. It slowly began to destigmatize a subject we urgently need to address. Any attempts to undermine the credible claims of women who come forward to speak their truths fly in the face of the advances we have made. I refuse to turn back the clock on our progress.

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Emma Collum is an attorney, activist and co-founder of the National Women’s March. She is also a Democratic candidate for Florida House District 83.

Jennifer Ng: Greyhound racing opponents use misinformation, out of context data

Political lobbying groups like Grey2K have long been using inaccurate information and statistics taken out of context to unjustly condemn the greyhound racing industry. They appeal to people’s emotions by only telling part of the story.

Twenty years ago, I was a naive college student who believed the sad story spun by the anti-racing extremists. Then, almost 12 years ago, I adopted my first ex-racing greyhound and started volunteering with my adoption group. I got to know some of the faces behind the greyhound racing community and began to see the more complete picture and the truth behind the industry. The majority of the folks who breed, raise, train, and take care of the greyhounds every day are just normal people — dog lovers who care deeply about the greyhounds in their charge.

The recent article by Tony Glover, published by the Miami Herald, is just another example of the way information is manipulated against greyhound racing. While attempting to validate his opinion about greyhound racing by using his position as a past director of the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, Glover fails to disclose that he is now a paid lobbyist for the Massachusetts-based Grey2K (one of the lobbying organizations behind the Yes on 13 campaign). He also fails to mention that the fiscal year with the “highest number of greyhound drug positives since 2003” happened to fall within the two years he ran the division that regulated greyhound racing in Florida.

Glover cites that, “Over the past 10 years, state records reflect 15 cases of greyhound abuse, 11 cases of neglect, 7 welfare-related cases and 47 vaccination violations.” To put these numbers into perspective, over the past 10 years, even using conservative estimates, over 50,000 greyhounds have raced in Florida. At any given time, there are around 8,000 racing greyhounds at the dozen tracks throughout the state. Over a ten-year period, 33 cases of abuse/neglect or welfare concerns is extremely low considering the total number of dogs in the care of racing kennels in Florida during that time. Any animal control officer would likely be quite pleased to have that few abuse/neglect cases in a dog population of 50,000 dogs.

Regarding the “vaccination violations,” how many pet owners have accidentally let their dog’s vaccines lapse? I fail to see how this is proof that greyhound racing is a “dirty game,” as Glover calls it. As a general practice veterinarian who also volunteers for an active greyhound adoption group, I can say that racing greyhounds are much more consistently vaccinated than the general pet population. It’s rare for us to get in a retired racer who is not current on vaccinations.

A Closer Look at the Drug Allegations

In Tony Glover’s (and other anti-racing) articles it is implied that greyhound racing has a big drug problem. A closer look at the numbers actually shows that greyhound racing is cleaner than most human sports as well as horse racing.

Glover also writes: “Hundreds of dogs tested positive for serious drugs over the past decade, including 70 positive results for cocaine metabolites.”

To provide a little more detail and put those numbers in context, there were 430 positive test results from 2007-2017 out of 440,586 samples analyzed — a frequency of less than 0.1 percent (that’s 1/10th of 1 percent). Over the same time frame, in horse racing, there were 1930 positive drug test results out of 170,993 samples analyzed, which is a little over 1 percent. While these numbers show that drugs are not a common problem in either industry, it is over 10 times more frequent in horse racing.

Taking a closer look at the individual drugs Glover mentioned, the positive tests for cocaine metabolites were almost all trace amounts that wouldn’t have come close to being considered positive by the standards of testing for humans or horse racing and wouldn’t have any effect on the dog.

In human and horse drug tests for cocaine and metabolites, there is a lower limit, or threshold, to account for environmental contamination and incidental contact. In greyhounds, there is no lower limit, so even trace amounts are reported as positives. The process used to drug test greyhounds is so sensitive that even 1 ng/mL can be detected, but in most human screening tests, anything below 150 ng/mL is not considered positive. The large majority of the 70 positive results over the past 10 years, mentioned by Glover, were below 30 ng/dl.

Then Glover states that: “The opioid crisis has sadly reached the dog track, with dogs testing positive for Oxycodone and Oxymorphone.” Looking at the actual numbers, 6 greyhounds have tested positive for oxycodone or oxymorphone over the past 10 years.

That’s 6 out of the 440,586 samples tested — hardly proof of an “opioid crisis.”

Glover also mentions “caffeine, Lidocaine, Novocaine, and an industrial solvent called DMSO floating in their blood.” A drug test can come up positive for caffeine from a dog simply stealing a lick of her trainer’s morning coffee. There were 10 greyhounds positive for lidocaine (again, out of 440,586 samples). And a review of the data shows NO positive results for novocaine; I’m not even sure it is something that is tested. DMSO is a topical anti-inflammatory that is used in both human and veterinary medicine to carry medications and liniment deeper into muscles and joints. To call it an “industrial solvent” is misleading.

The state’s drug testing program for racing greyhounds was found to be inadequate by a judge in court. To use this as an example of the racing industry trying to avoid responsibility, I wonder if Mr. Glover is also questioning the integrity of that judge? The draft legislation that Glover claims “would have legalized certain amounts of cocaine in a racing greyhound’s bloodstream” was simply to bring cocaine testing in greyhound racing up to the standards used in humans in horses. It would simply instate a threshold to eliminate insignificant, trace amounts that are likely due to environmental contamination or incidental exposure.

Glover’s comments about the “doping of female greyhounds with anabolic steroids” shows a serious lack of understanding of the sport he was supposed to be regulating. The use of anabolic steroids is an FDA-approved method of preventing heat cycles in dogs. The low doses used have been statistically shown to not enhance performance and is far from comparable to human athletes “doping” with anabolic steroids. Preventing heat cycles helps ensure order and safety within the racing kennels. Instead of being a treatment that “endangers the health of the animals” as Mr. Glover seems to think, because of the dog’s unique reproductive cycle, anabolic steroids are a safer method of estrus suppression than other hormonal therapies that can increase the risk of life-threatening uterine infections.

It’s past time for the anti-racing extremists to be called on their lies and misleading propaganda, which they have been using for years to malign the greyhound racing community.

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Jennifer Ng is a veterinarian in South Carolina. She adopted her first ex-racing greyhound in 2007, serves as a Greyhound adoption volunteer, and is the president of Greyhound Adopters for Racing.

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