Opinions Archives - Page 6 of 250 - Florida Politics

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.


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.” 🙂

Carol Bowen: Florida construction marketplace healthier thanks to new legislation

The Associated Builders and Contractors and our 2,500 members are pleased to report that new legislation will now strengthen competition and reduce abusive litigation in Florida’s multibillion commercial and public construction markets.

We also want to thank Gov. Rick Scott for his support of these two pro-business, pro-consumer bills.

With the help of Rep. Jayer Williamson and Sen. Keith Perry, ABC successfully landed House Bill 599 (Public Works Projects), which will promote a more open, honest and competitive bid process for public construction projects where state dollars represent 50 percent or more of the funding. Prior to this bill, local governments could establish arbitrary pre-bid mandates on contractors telling them who they must hire, where they must train and what benefit packages they must offer if they want to bid a job with that entity. For many small businesses, these mandates made it unaffordable to bid on many public projects.

For many small businesses, these mandates made it unaffordable to bid on many public projects.

Increasing competition will benefit Florida taxpayers as well.

With the support of Rep. Tom Leek and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, ABC also brought home House Bill 377 (Limitations on Actions other than for the Recovery of Real Property), which helps clarify when and how Florida’s 10-year statute of repose begins to run on a completed project. The statute of repose defines the period in which an owner can sue for alleged construction defects. Previously, some owners and their attorneys delayed (or shorted) making final payment for construction in an effort lengthen the repose period well beyond the 10 years the Legislature had envisioned.

This created open-ended liability, which cost the system millions of dollars in abusive lawsuits.

House Bill 377 now defines “completion of the contract,” which acknowledges that there are two parties to a deal — the owner and the contractor — and that both have a say in when the 10-year period may begin to run.


Carol Bowen, J.D., is the Associated Builders and Contractors’ deputy chief lobbyist and vice president of government affairs. For more information about upcoming legislation, contact Carol at cbowen@abceastflorida.com.

Darryl Paulson: Will Donald Trump be dumped? Part III — Impeachment

The first article in this series looked at the possibility of removing Donald Trump through the 25th Amendment and it concluded there was virtually no chance of that happening. The next article looked at the Constitutional Convention and the debate over whether or not impeachment should be part of the constitution. It also looked at the process that Congress created, as well as the three attempts to impeach and remove presidents.

This article examines whether or not there is a likelihood that President Trump will be impeached. If so, what would be the grounds for impeachment and what is the likelihood of impeaching and removing the president?

If President Trump is impeached, the most likely grounds for impeachment would be obstruction of justice, which was the primary ground for impeaching President Richard Nixon. The charge was that Nixon “obstructed and impeded the administration of justice.”

Just as Nixon fired Special Watergate Prosecutor Archibald Cox, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey and the FBI were investigating the ties of fired National Security Adviser to the Russians, as well as Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

During private conversations between the president and Comey, Trump asked Comey if he could drop the investigation of Flynn. Is this impeachable? It depends on whether Trump was politely asking Comey to drop the investigation, or was he ordering him to drop the investigation. A polite request is not impeachable; a command may well be impeachable.

A second major allegation against Trump is that he has used his office to financially benefit his businesses. After becoming president, membership fees at the Mar-a-Lago resort were doubled to $200,000. Trump was spent many weekends at the resort. Are the increased fees an attempt to profit from his position as president?

Rates at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, just several blocks from the White House, have increased substantially since Trump won the election. The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution prohibits the president from profiting from his position as president.

A third possible charge might be that Trump did not “faithfully execute” his duties as president. Trump’s giving Russian officials intelligence information in the Oval Office put the lives of intelligence agents in jeopardy according to many defense department and intelligence officials.

Another possible charge is the intimidation of potential witnesses. After asking Director Comey to halt the investigation of Michael Flynn in a private conversation in the Oval Office, Trump then threatened Comey by saying, “He better hope there are no tapes of that meeting.”

Others have raised concerns about Trump’s attacks on the judiciary, violating the establishment of religion clause by his Muslim travel ban, and his attacks on the press for being the “enemy of the people.”

If Trump is impeached, his supporters would contend that it was nothing more than a Democratic Party attempt to subvert the will of the people as expressed in the 2016 election results. The idea of a “constitutional coup” overturning the election results is a powerful argument.

The likelihood of impeachment depends on many factors. The more serious the offense, the more likely the president will be impeached. Anything considered to be a “high crime or misdemeanor” raises the chance for impeachment.

A second factor is the president’s popularity. A popular president is far less likely to be impeached. This is a problem area for Trump. He assumed office with historically low approval ratings and they have continued to plummet. His current approval rate is only 36 percent.

A third factor is the president’s relationship with Congress. Trump has won few Democratic friends, but he has also alienated many Republicans. Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank, contends that only 50 to 100 House Republicans are true Trump supporters. “The balance sees him as somewhere between a deep and dangerous embarrassment and a threat to the Constitution.”

A final factor impacting impeachment is the party control of Congress. Republicans control both the House and Senate. Even if the House votes to impeach, which is not likely at this point, it would still require two-thirds of the Senate to remove Trump. This means that 19 of the 52 Republican senators would have to join all 48 Democrats in order to get the necessary two-thirds vote.

How likely is it that 19 Republicans will vote to remove the president? Based on prior history, the chance is zero. How many senators of the president’s party have voted to remove their president? None!

If Democrats win control of the House in 2018, the odds for impeachment dramatically change. It would then be surprising if Trump is not impeached.

In the end, what is most likely is that Republicans will denounce Trump’s behavior, much like Sen. Joe Lieberman denounced Bill Clinton‘s disgusting conduct in the Monica Lewinsky affair?

While denouncing Trump’s conduct, most Republicans will likely justify his behavior by saying he is a newcomer to politics and is unaware of the rules of the game.

At best, Trump critics can hope that Trump will follow the Nixon option. After constant criticism of his character and behavior, Trump will resign rather than face four years of humiliation and frustration.

Then again, Trump has said he has never prayed for forgiveness of his mistakes, so don’t hold your breath waiting for him to see the light.


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Joe Henderson: Unity? It’s hard to find in aftermath of Washington shootings

I woke this morning to a strange and troubling email. It was unsigned, and from an address I don’t recognize, but the message came through clearly.

Under the heading of “James T. Hodgkinson” — the shooter Wednesday in Washington — it read, in all caps: “I THINK JAMES IS A HERO. THE REPUBLICANS HATE POOR PEOPLE.”


Despite an eloquent speech by House Speaker Paul Ryan and calls for calm and unity, there is a lot of blame going around following the attack by Hodgkinson that left five people wounded, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and two Capitol Police officers.

First though, let’s be clear: Hodgkinson is not a hero. He was a twisted, deranged, would-be murderer. Anyone who suggests otherwise is wrong.

But we could have done without the incendiary garbage from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who said on Fox News that the shooting was “part of a pattern. You’ve had an increasing intensity of hostility on the left.”

Breitbart.com shoveled more coal on the fire. Columnist James Delingpole, in a piece that appeared under the headline “Alexandria shootings show the left’s toxic hatred has gone too far …” took the opportunity to turn a tragedy into a full-throated rejection of anyone with a differing viewpoint.

“I don’t expect the liberal-left to change anytime soon. They’re angry, they’re frustrated and — thanks to the malign influence of everything from left-wing college professors to the poisonous liberal media — they’re on a downward spiral of cry-bully destruction which I believe can only get worse,” he wrote.

There is much, much more if you care to scroll through the internet. Just type a few search words into Google, but you may need a shower later. Much of it was pure crap, and it came from both sides.

In blaming the left, many conservatives conveniently forget that the images of a hanged Barack Obama and the racial slurs directed toward him speak to a culture where anything was fair game.

Liberals say that justifies images like Kathy Griffin holding up an image of President Trump’s severed head.

They are wrong.

People on the right, though, also forget about Sarah Palin’s infamous “crosshairs” map from 2011 that targeted Democratic members of Congress. One of them was Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. She nearly died after an assassination attempt.

Palin said it was just a way to whip up support for the upcoming election, that it was never, ever intended to spark actual violence. Griffin said her photo was just pushing the envelope of political commentary.

Both sides say they’re right in whatever they do or say because the other side is evil.

When historians judge this era, they might conclude it was the biggest down-the-middle split in America since the Civil War. It is a period of fear, hatred, distrust, dishonesty, and the unbending belief that anyone who thinks differently is the enemy. The only victory that seems to satisfy is one that leaves the opposition in shambles.

James T. Hodgkinson is just the latest symptom of the polarizing disease that is poisoning this nation and putting all our futures at risk.

He is not a hero. The Capitol Police officers who put themselves at risk during the rampage to save lives are heroes. People willing to reach out to the other side are heroes and work for the common good. We need all of them we can get.

Darryl Paulson: Will Donald Trump be dumped? Part II — The Constitutional debate

In my recent op-ed, I examined the possibility of removing President Donald Trump through the 25th Amendment. That amendment allows for the president to be removed if the vice president and a majority of the cabinet find the president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

This option is highly unlikely to succeed.

Impeachment is the more likely problem confronting Trump, although the chances of success are minimal at this time.

Impeachment and the Constitutional Convention.

On July 20, 1787, delegates at the Constitutional Convention raised the issue of impeachment of a sitting president. The debate was heated.

Charles Pinckney of South Carolina moved to strike impeachment from the Constitution. Pinckney contended that elections would hold the president accountable.

George Mason of Virginia asked, “Shall any man be above Justice?” Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania moved that the impeachable offenses be enumerated and defined.

James Madison of Virginia listed possible impeachable offenses. “He might lose his capacity after his appointment. He might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers.” Many Trump critics see him guilty of the last charge.

Pinckney and Rufus King of Massachusetts worried that impeachment would jeopardize the independence of the president. Eldridge Gerry of Massachusetts countered that “A good magistrate will not fear them (Congress). A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.”

The delegates at the Constitutional Convention gave the House the authority to bring articles of impeachment by majority vote. Impeachment, in contrast to the public perception, does not mean removal from office. It only means a majority of the House believes there are grounds for the Senate to hold hearings on whether or not to remove the president from office. General offenses included treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Presidential Impeachments.

Andrew Johnson, a Democrat who assumed the presidency after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, was bitterly distrusted by the Radical Republicans who dominated Congress. Johnson, a Tennessean, was viewed as too sympathetic to the South.

Johnson’s problems escalated after Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act in 1867, which required the president to get Senate approval before firing a cabinet officer. Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton without seeking Senate approval.

The House voted to impeach Johnson. After a three-month trial in the Senate, the Senate fell one vote short of the necessary two-thirds needed to remove the president. The vote was 35 to 19 in favor of removing Johnson, and seven Republicans voted to acquit.

Over a century later, President Richard Nixon, who won a landslide victory over Democrat George McGovern in 1972, fell victim to the Watergate scandal. The scandal involved the effort of members of the president’s re-election team to break into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex.

Although Nixon denied any knowledge of the break-in, it later became known that the president had tapes of all the conversations in the Oval Office. The House brought articles of impeachment against the president and the primary charge was obstructing justice.

During hearings by the Senate Watergate Committee, a number of Nixon aides gave damning testimony about the president’s involvement. After nine months, President Nixon became the first president to resign rather than face removal by the Senate. On Aug. 9, 1974, Nixon wrote that “I hereby resign the office of President of the United States.”

During the Bill Clinton administration, an investigation into Arkansas land dealings by the Clintons while he was governor, ultimately led to his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

During the Senate hearings on whether to remove the president, his attorneys argued that Clinton was the victim of a partisan attempt to remove him from office for having consensual sex with Lewinsky. However abhorrent his personal conduct, the issue was not an impeachable offense.

The public agreed and attacked Republicans for wasting time and money on trying to remove the president. Clinton is the only president to face impeachment and see his personal popularity rise. His approval rating climbed to over 70 percent, and the Senate fell far short of the two-thirds vote necessary to remove him from office.

Part III Forthcoming:  Will Trump be Dumped? Impeachment


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg specializing in Florida Politics and elections.

Joe Henderson: Only way to stop Alex Jones is to let him keep talking

Assuming NBC goes ahead Sunday night with the interview Megyn Kelly taped with the idiot Alex Jones, I will watch.

I also know a lot of people have vowed not to give the cretin Jones a minute of their time, and thus will be doing something else while that segment airs. I understand that. Condemnation has been swift and strong on Twitter, advertisers are pulling out, and NBC execs are pondering what to do. I suppose they could cancel the segment, in which case Kelly — the network’s highest-profile hire in recent years — would be rendered useless going forward.

That’s a corporate decision.

But consider this: Canceling the segment now would only feed into the paranoid legions who believe Jones’ evil theories that, among other things, the Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax and 9/11 actually was manufactured by the U.S. government.

No matter how hard Kelly might push him in the interview — and it’s important to remember we haven’t seen it — nothing will change the deluded minds who buy into Jones’ garbage. Declining to air it, after all, this will only elevate his status with those inclined to believe in the Big Media Conspiracy out to Silence The People.

Opponents say Jones doesn’t deserve a forum to spew his nutso theories.

Um, he has already it. His YouTube channel has more than 2 million subscribers. His radio nonsense is spewed over more than 60 channels. He got a big boost last year when then-candidate Donald Trump gave Jones pseudo-credibility by appearing on his radio show. As president, Trump is OK with granting media credentials to Jones’ fake news site, Infowars.

Killing the interview likely would actually increase Jones’ radio audience. But if Kelly handled this moment properly, it could have a positive impact. Some of those who voted for Trump last year out of an honest desire to shake things up in Washington might reconsider if they can see the type of person their vote endorsed. Take this, for instance. Just a couple of days ago, Jones said Trump should consider using the military against political opponents here.

Kelly tried to address the backlash with a statement that addressed some of the more detestable assertions Jones has made.

“I find Alex Jones’s suggestion that Sandy Hook was ‘a hoax’ as personally revolting as every other rational person does,” she said.

“It left me, and many other Americans, asking the very question that prompted this interview: How does Jones, who traffics in these outrageous conspiracy theories, have the respect of the president of the United States and a growing audience of millions?”

That’s really the point.

Much of what we see today in the conservative movement has its roots in talk radio, and Jones is the latest — and by far the most heinous — incarnation of that phenomenon.

So, stick him on national TV and let millions of people see him for what he is — a disease that is poisoning our nation’s dialogue. Hopefully, it might make some people actually think. The only way to stop him is to let him keep talking.

The op-ed Leslie Wimes apparently doesn’t want you to read

Leslie Wimes

Editor’s note: The op-ed below originally appeared on the award-winning blog, The Florida Squeeze. However, its editors took the op-ed down because it said it failed to meet that site’s editorial standards. 

“Although the tone of the piece was intended to be facetious and is based on what many believe to be reality, we were alerted to the possibility it could have been read to assert facts not in evidence impugning Ms. Wimes’ professional integrity, which the Squeeze has no reason to question,” the editors of The Florida Squeeze wrote. 

Regardless of what the editors of The Squeeze think of the op-ed AND WITHOUT the permission of the original author, I am publishing the op-ed in its entirety because, now, the piece in and of itself is newsworthy. The taking down of the op-ed has probably made the piece more interesting than if it had just stayed up.  Readers of The Florida Squeeze, Florida Politics, and all other political websites in Florida deserve to know what is at the core of the controversy. 

We have been told that Leslie Wimes complained enough that she was able to get this piece taken down. We do not have confirmation of this from the editors at The Florida Squeeze. We will let their editorial message speak for itself; they did not think it meant the standards of their site. 

We, like the Florida Squeeze, invite Wimes to write her own op-ed for publishing here, although we’re pretty sure that if she has something to share, she knows how to get the word out.

So, as the saying goes, we’re gonna just leave this right here…

One of the best pieces of advice that I learned from old hands who have held high political office is that you should never assume that you know the motives behind the actions that people take without hard evidence.

This is especially true when your inclination is that those motives are nefarious.

Leslie Wimes is a name I came to know back in 2014, and her name has kept popping up in my efforts to stay current on what is happening in the body politic over the last several years. I have my own opinions about Ms. Wimes, but instead of overtly expressing my opinion(s) I am going to stick to the facts. I am going to lay out her actions.

I am also going to lay out the actions someone would take if they were a Republican plant who had as their main objective undermining Democrats here in Florida. In the end, we will see how her actions line up with what a Republican plant would do so that everyone can judge for themselves.

Leslie Wimes and I were actually on the same side of an election when I first heard her name back in 2014. She was supporting Sen. Nan Rich for Florida Governor, and I was the Data Consultant/Director for the campaign.

I will go to my grave espousing the fact that Sen. Rich would have made the best governor of those running had she been elected, and since the other two main candidates were the current and immediate past GOP Governor of Florida there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that she was the most liberal candidate. That being said, Sen. Rich was the candidate that Republicans most wanted to see face off against sitting Gov. Rick Scott in the General Election.

The GOP elite thought that Sen. Rich would have been much easier to beat than Charlie Crist, and while I disagree with that assessment I can say without equivocation that is what they thought. So, anyone working on behalf of GOP interests would have supported Sen. Rich back in 2014.

Surely among the top goals of Florida Republicans in 2016 was to retain a GOP US Senate seat in the state, elect a Republican President, and undermine the DNC Chair who also happened to be an elected official in South Florida.

Ms. Wimes’ support of Tim Canova and Pam Keith (initially) was among her most notable efforts in the 2016 election cycle. Canova and Keith are both intelligent, impressive, and passionate Democrats who had the ability to strengthen a weak Democratic bench in Florida. Another thing that they both have in common is that they ran for offices that they had little hope of winning, and did so in a way that was divisive.

Republicans who were paying attention were likely giddy at the notion of promising Democrats running in such races. It divided Democrats, ensured that these promising candidates weren’t added to the Democratic bench of elected officials, and had the possibility of disillusioning these candidates and their Democratic supporters.

Ms. Wimes also attacked Hillary Clinton during the General Election last year, which is one of many examples of Ms. Wimes questioning why Black voters overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party. It is a fact that Black voters are the voting bloc that has been the most loyal to the Democratic Party. Do you think that might mean that Machiavellian Republicans have near the top of their wish list either making inroads with Black voters or trying to make them disenchanted with the Democratic Party so that they don’t vote Democratic as much as they have done historically?  I certainly do.

Do you think that might mean that Machiavellian Republicans have near the top of their wish list either making inroads with Black voters or trying to make them disenchanted with the Democratic Party so that they don’t vote Democratic as much as they have done historically?  I certainly do.

Republicans would undoubtedly support such efforts, and any efforts of any plant that they may have, by giving said person a platform from which they can work from. It is noteworthy that Ms. Wimes did a media blitz espousing messages critical of Democrats to GOP-oriented outlets right before the 2016 General Election. Oh, have I mentioned yet that these articles that I keep referencing (which I will post a link to below) by Ms. Wimes are from the Republican-run website Sunshine State News?

The one stance that Ms. Wimes has taken this year that I have the most trouble wrapping my head around being taken by any reasonable Democrat is that Gov. Rick Scott “engages” the Black community more than Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson does.

This was written in a piece attacking Democrats for not celebrating Black History Month posted at 6 a.m. on the second day of Black History Month.

For context, Gov. Rick Scott is widely expected to challenge U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for his seat next year. Winning that U.S. Senate seat is a top priority for Republicans this cycle. The fact that Gov. Scott has restored the voting rights to fewer people than any of his predecessors, and those 1.7 million Floridians who could get their rights restored skew very heavily toward minority communities, is one of many examples as to why Gov. Scott is no friend to the Black community. Ms. Wimes touting Republican Gov. Rick Scott in such a ridiculous way over a sitting Democratic U.S. Senator is curious.

Also curious is the fact that a candidate that Ms. Wimes has supported got encouragement to run in a Democratic Primary against U.S. Sen. Nelson earlier this year. Nelson is not the only Democratic leader in Florida that Ms. Wimes has gone after recently. Ms. Wimes has gone after new Florida Democratic Party (FDP) President Sally Boynton Brown just in the past week.

One constant complaint from Ms. Wimes is that the FDP and Democratic leaders meddle in party elections and primaries. Ms. Brown pulled out of an event because the person holding the event is a candidate in a contested Democratic primary for US Congress. Ms. Wimes railed against Ms. Brown in a display of sheer hypocrisy by Ms. Wimes. Ms. Brown even provided her phone number to Ms. Wimes and said that Ms. Wimes should be free to call with any questions she may have. Ms. Wimes continued her bizarre attack against Ms. Brown (posted below) in spite of Ms. Brown extending an olive branch.

What is telling about Ms. Wimes’ actions is not only what she does, but also what she doesn’t do.

I have nothing but love and admiration for someone like Susan Smith, even though we don’t always see eye to eye. If someone isn’t in line with Ms. Smith’s values, she isn’t afraid to say so regardless of who that may irritate.

The difference between a great Democrat like Susan Smith and Leslie Wimes is that Susan Smith dedicates her time and her money to numerous Democratic and liberal causes she believes in. There is no doubt that all of Susan Smith’s actions are geared toward making the Florida Democratic Party successful in a way that aligns with her vision for the party. Ms. Wimes has no such record. There has not been a single instance where Ms. Wimes has supported a Democratic nominee or institution in Florida except against other Democrats. I am not saying her record on such matters is light. It is literally nonexistent.

Ms. Wimes has no such record. There has not been a single instance where Ms. Wimes has supported a Democratic nominee or institution in Florida except against other Democrats. I am not saying her record on such matters is light.

It is literally nonexistent.

Here is what would be on my list of how to undermine Democrats as a Machiavellian Republican in Florida: ensure Democrats don’t build a bench by steering good candidates into races they can’t win and hope they get disillusioned when they lose, sow seeds of doubt and/or discontent into the most loyal Democratic voting bloc(s), and attack/try to undermine major Democratic institutions, elected officials and statewide candidates. The list is not mutually exclusive.

I would do all this while making sure that I never actually supported a Democrat over a Republican. If (s)he needed a platform from which to do all this, I would offer television and other media outlets like Sunshine State News to spread messaging beneficial to Republicans.

It is funny how this all seems to overlap perfectly with Ms. Wimes’ actions. Again, I am not saying that she is a GOP plant. Just because something walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and acts like a duck doesn’t mean that it isn’t a unicorn that lays golden eggs. I leave it to you to consider the facts and come to your own conclusion.

Ms. Wimes Sunshine State News article catalog: http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/taxonomy/term/307

Ms. Wimes’ odd Facebook response to Ms. Brown (I blacked out her phone number for privacy purposes):

Sean Phillippi

(Author’s Note: Please feel free to send any comments, suggestions, column ideas or hate mail to ThePhlipSideFL@gmail.com.)


Sean Phillippi is a Democratic strategist and consultant based in Broward County. He has worked for campaigns on the federal, state and local levels, including the Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Sean is the Managing Member of TLE Analytics LLC, the political data and consulting firm he founded in 2012.

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