Category: politics


I received an email from Planned Parenthood today telling me about Florida Senate Bill 444, which is a bill that would require the Florida Department of Health to have a contract with Florida Pregnancy Care Network, Inc, a network of what many care calling Crisis Pregnancy Centers in Florida. The goal of these places is to “encourage childbirth.” This bill would effectively make it the state government’s role to facilitate the encouragement of childbirth (and therefore, the discouragement of abortion). To combat this, Planned Parenthood has asked all Florida residents to contact the Florida Senate Health Policy Committee, who will be voting on this on Tuesday, November 7, 2017. The members, and their contact, are as follows:

Chair: Sen. Dana D. Young (850) 487-5018
Vice Chair: Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (850) 487-5028
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (850) 487-5027
Sen. Dorothy L. Hukill (850) 487-5014
Sen. Travis Hutson (850) 487-5007
Sen. Bill Montford (850) 487-5003

I was able to contact Senator Dana Young’s Office via phone, but when i contacted Senator Kathleen Passidomo’s Office, they asked me to submit my opposition via their online contact form. I wrote a letter, quickly, to express my opposition. It can be found below. Please feel free to borrow from it.

 

Senator Passidomo,

I am contacting as a resident of the State of Florida to express my opposition to the SB 444. As the Co-Chair of the Florida Senate Health Policy Committee, I would expect you to want to encourage the health and success of your constituents. A well educated person knows that health comes in many forms, not just physical. The Senate Bill 444 threatens the mental, physical, social, and financial health of all of Florida’s residents.

 

I am primarily concerned with the fact that this bill requires the Health Department to have a contract with Florida Pregnancy Care Network, Inc. I do not believe it is in the best interest of Florida’s population to force a government contract with a group that is unwilling to provide the appropriate information. As much as I would love for the world to be filled with more amazing people, refusing to provide or acknowledge pregnancy termination services will negatively affect overall public health.

 

As Co-Chair of the Health Policy Committee, I hope I do not need to remind you that access to accurate, thorough information on all aspects of pregnancy, including ways to terminate, has positive benefits on public health. This is particularly true in more low income and rural areas, where overall access to healthcare in general is lacking. Florida has many areas like this.

 

I do not believe it is appropriate for the State Health department to “contract with the network for the management and delivery of pregnancy support services to eligible clients.” This wording effectively makes it the Health Department’s responsibility to provide this specific information, while not providing other information. It could, potentially, cut off the department from working with other groups and providing effective community healthcare. At best, it is ambiguously worded, at worst it is a formal and direct proclamation that the health department does not care about providing comprehensive health care services, be they clinical, educational, or otherwise, to the residents of the state.

 

Thank you for choosing not to support this bill. Doing so would be a betrayal of the state and its residents.

 

Sincerely,

Sean Conklin

Palm Beach County

Boynton Beach

After sending this letter to her, i decided to look a little more into Florida Pregnancy Care Network, Inc. What I found – or did not find – was unnerving. I could find an address, but no other contact information. No website, so name to associate with it. Searching for the name on google provides you with a location and a website for Florida Pregnancy Support Services. This may be the same group, though nowhere on the webpage can i find the phrase Florida Pregnancy Care Network, Inc. I wish is aw this before, because this is a huge red flag. This information needs to be public so constituents can know who their government can potentially be trusting with their health care.

Take a stand against this ridiculousness and contact these Senators!

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I’m Here for Us

To my LGBT+ Brothers, Sisters, and other Siblings,

 

I feel your pain. I feel your anguish. I feel what you are feeling, though you may not know it. I am not as open or expressive in my queerness as you may be, but I feel it. I feel the fear. I feel the panic. I feel the uncertainty. I feel that lack of feeling – that numbness that makes you unable to move or act. I feel that feeling of helplessness. I feel that desperation where you seek desperately for a way to fix this – you seek for a way to make this somehow less frightening, less dreadful, and less terrible. I know you are seeking a way to come to terms with this – and better yet to fight against this – because I too am feeling it. I am fortunate to be surrounded by loving supportive people. If you are not, I am sorry. I am here for you. I am here for us.

I am here for you when you post your angry, sorrowful rant against those who voted against you. I am here for you when some idiot decides their opinion on your feelings is wanted or needed. I am here for you when all you want to do is vent and someone tells you to calm down – or worse – that you are wrong. I am here for you when someone tells you that your concerns have no merit. I am here for you when someone tells you that you are wrong about your assessment of the situation. I am here for you when someone erased your lived experience to replace it with their own.

I am here for you when you wonder if you are safe taking your significant other’s hand in public. I am here for you if you wonder if you are safe expressing your identity in public. I am here for you when you hear that random guy at work or school spouting hate. I am here for you when you get those remarks that you probably get regularly, only this time it feels a bit more personal. I am here for you when you feel threatened by the people who claim to love their countrymen. I am with you when you are not sure if it is worth it to go outside today. I am here for you when you are not sure it’s worth it to live.

I am here for you when the supreme court tries to invalidate your marriage. I am here for you when your parents force you into conversion therapy. I am here for you when you are sick but your doctor doesn’t accept you as a patient. I am here for you when you feel like nobody else is.

I am here for you when you just want to say that you are sad, and someone won’t let you. I am here for you when you just need a shoulder to cry on. I am here for you when you need a friend. I am here for you when you need an ally. I am here for you when you need a brother.

I am here for you when you are celebrating your triumphs. I am here for you when you tell the one you love that you love them. I’m here for you when you dance into the night, surrounded by friends and happiness. I am here for you when you lie down to sleep with a smile on your face.

 

I am here for you, forever and always. And I will fight for you. I will fight for us.

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Privilege is something that tends to be difficult for those who have it to understand. I never truly understood privilege, being a white, middle class, mostly-heterosexual male with a college education. However, after starting to use my bicycle as my primary means of transportation, I have learned that even the most privileged can be put in a position which educates them about privilege. I do not own a car, so I am literally forced to use my bicycle to go to work or the store or the beach or whatever else I am doing. However, even someone who decides to bike for a week or two will experience what I experience daily and can hopefully begin to understand privilege. Below is a list of ways in which cycling can teach you about privilege.

 

  1. When you are either in a bike lane, or in the road (in a share the road state/city/county/etc), and passing motorists honk or yell at you to get out of the road even though you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. You are just riding along, following the law, and you are being harassed by people who think you are doing something wrong. You are either told to get out of the way, go faster, or get on the sidewalk. People honk at you as if you are in their way. You then, inevitably, feel one of two things – guilt or rage. Guilt for inconveniencing someone, or rage that they are so misinformed that they believe you are doing something wrong.
  2. When you are in the road/bike lane, and people tell you to get on the sidewalk, but when you are on the sidewalk, people tell you to get in the street. There is no way you can ever act in a way that pleases everybody.
  3. When you are on a bike path or other pathway that crosses a street, and you slow down to allow a car to pass, but that car then slows down to let you pass, so you slow down further and the cycle continues until you both end up stopping, wasting everyone’s time. You get frustrated because if the person just kept doing what they were doing, neither of you would have been inconvenienced, but because the person was trying to be helpful, they screwed you both over. You then begin to resent any car that attempts to stop to let you pass, even though it is a kind act.
  4. When you attempt to cross a two lane road, and one lane stops and the other doesn’t. The stopped lane then realizes that you cannot cross and continues. You then feel guilty about them stopping in an attempt to be kind that ended up wasting their time, knowing that it’s possible that person may be less likely to stop the next time they see a cyclist waiting to cross.
  5. When you turn onto a road, or cross a road, and get honked at by a motorist who is nowhere near you and is completely unaffected by your actions. You then get frustrated because any time a car honks at you, it puts your life in danger.
  6. When you are riding up a road or in a bike lane and the vehicles around you act erratically and unpredictably, making you hyper vigilant about your actions and paranoid that you are doing something wrong. You get frustrated because you know they are behaving erratically because they expect you to behave erratically, but you are not doing anything wrong and their erratic behavior is what is most likely to cause you harm.
  7. When you do anything on the road and a motorist honks or yells at you, as if you were unaware that you were on a busy road, or that a vehicle was there. You know that you are significantly more aware of the road than they are and that if they just leave you alone, nothing bad will happen.
  8. When you are on a road and notice every little thing that motorists do wrong due to the fact that a small mistake by a motorist, like driving on the line or not signaling when turning or changing lanes, puts you in extreme danger, though they do not think anything of it.
  9. When you are on a path or sidewalk and a vehicle stopped at a light is stopped in the crosswalk, causing you to go around them often into active traffic. You get put in danger because a motorist could not follow simple road etiquette of stopping behind the line, or because a motorist is in such a rush that they think stopping 5 feet further will affect their travel time.
  10. When you are riding up a one lane road without a bike lane or sidewalk and motorists behind you are going slow and not passing you, even when it is safe to do so. You get frustrated because people are intentionally inconveniencing themselves because they think that going around you will somehow inconvenience you, but instead you feel like they are hovering and you feel trapped until they finally decide to turn or go around you.
  11. When you are riding in a bike lane and motorists are using it as a turning lane or a shoulder. You get frustrated because the lane is specifically designed for you and not motorists, but they still feel like they have the right to utilize it in whichever way they feel necessary.
  12. When motorists assert that because they pay taxes and registration fees for their cars and cyclists do not, that they bicycle should not be allowed on the road with them, when cyclists inevitably learn that roads are paid for by tolls, registration fees, and gas taxes a maximum of 71%, with a national average of about 50% (varied by state), and that most cyclists ALSO own a vehicle, and so have actually paid for the roads and are actually helping to preserve them by not using their vehicle.

How does this knowledge help a person understand privilege? Each example can be compared to real examples of minority groups who are struggling to be understood in the United States, and each example is one that, as a motorist, you never need to think about.

  1. The first example can be compared to affirmative action programs. Privileged people do not understand why these programs exist and believe that it is unfair to give minority groups their own special programs and treatments and believe they need to just fit in with the systems already in place.
  2. This can be applied to pretty much anything. Any time a minority group is doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing, someone of privilege tells them they are wrong and need to do something else.
  3. Many minorities understand their system and how it works in relation to the larger systems. Sometimes when someone of privilege attempts to be kind and assist a minority group, it actually just ends up inconveniencing both groups and nobody leaves happily. This also reinforces the idea that a minority group does not understand a particular system.
  4. Often times our systems are complicated, and though one part of a system may be willing to assist a minority group, it is only effective if every part of the system does it. Otherwise, it just leaves the part that did try to help feeling bitter and less likely to attempt to assist in the future, which creates systems that do not work with minorities.
  5. Minorities are often targeted by others for no reason and put into dangerous situations through no fault of their own.
  6. People react to their environments, and when minority groups (or any groups) are placed into an erratic, hostile environment, they are more likely to respond in an erratic and hostile manner.
  7. Minorities are often treated as if they are ignoring the majority or other groups, but minorities are often more aware of other groups than those groups are of themselves.
  8. The majority often holds minorities to a higher standard than they hold themselves and do not notice when they do the same bad thing they are calling out a minority for doing, and often identify certain things as wrong when they are actually correct.
  9. Majority groups often make decisions and do things without thinking of how it will affect other groups, and will often blame those other groups for not adjusting properly to said changes.
  10. Many minorities often feel coddled by the majority group, or worse, like they are having their every move watched, making them less likely to behave in an organic and natural manner.
  11. Often times the majority group will attempt to use programs and systems specifically designed for minority groups (or to take resources from that system), without understanding or caring about why the system is in place or how their interaction disrupts the system.
  12. Often times minorities are accused of not being as involved in the country as others, in terms of paying taxes, voting, or other civil duties, when this is simply untrue.

Why Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings, and other PC culture Encourage Freedom of Speech

 

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If you go to college, have a child who goes to college, know anyone in college, work at a college, live near a college, or watch the news, you will constantly hear people – generally older people and conservatives – decrying the concept of Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings, and general PC culture. These critics will claim that their freedom of speech is being denied to them. They will claim that college is about the sharing of different points of view and broadening the horizons of students. They will say that if people can’t deal with conflicting ideas and need to be “protected” from them, that they shouldn’t be in college to begin with. This, my friends, is bullshit. You may notice that lately, there have been a lot of conversations going on regarding this topic. Different schools have been “banning” or “speaking against” or “disavowing” these practices much more recently. Even the hit show “South Park” had an episode about safe spaces. Here is why they are all full of shit.

Safe Spaces

Ironically, when these detractors complain about safe spaces, they are showing just how truly ignorant they are. Let me give a brief history of safe spaces. To begin, safe spaces are often associated with minority groups, either Gender and Sexual Minorities (Our LGBTQ+ friends) or Racial groups (Black, Latinx, Muslim, etc). Most of the complaints about safe spaces would center around the idea that they are excluding ideas that are different from theirs. They are blocking out things they do not like because it upsets them. This is far from the truth.

Before safe spaces, do you know how many open and honest conversations were held on college campuses about issues pertinent to the LGBT+ population? Very few. Either people were afraid to express their ideas and opinions, or their ideas and opinions were interrupted, disregarded, and overlooked by the rest of the group. These conversations were just not happening. Have you ever tried to go up to a group of people and tell them about how they were mistreating you? Did they respond very openly and receptively, or were they defensive and dismissive? I’m willing to bet (due to human nature) that it was the latter.

So someone thought up the concept of safe spaces. A place where people can go to have open honest discussions about their lives. They can discuss how they have been mistreated, or ways they are struggling. They can talk with people who understand and respect their struggle and get aid and assistance without worrying that one of those people is going to try to silence them or cause them harm simply for talking about their thoughts or experiences. They know that when they talk, someone is listening.

Safe spaces literally facilitate conversations that were never had on college campuses. It gave those people involved in the safe spaces the language and skills and confidence required to bring those conversations outside of that safe space and into the real world. Safe spaces have literally facilitated greater sharing of ideas on college campuses. It has told a group that their story is relevant, their story is important, and their story needs to be told.

The issue people often seem to have with safe spaces are that certain people are excluded. Straight people are excluded from LGBT+ safe spaces and White people from Black or Latinx spaces. In theory. However, most Safe spaces will allow for others to be in the conversation, so long as they do not act to diminish the power of that space. If a person truly wants to learn and be part of a larger conversation, they are invited to join. Sometimes, there are conversations that can only be had by people of the same identity. A straight person will not be able to identify with many things that a Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual person is discussing. A white person will not be able to identify with everything a Black, Latinx, or other person is discussing. Often Times, Gay men are excluded from Lesbian and Bisexual Groups and vice versa. Black groups do not always interact with Latinx groups. But that does not mean that they do not value those ideas and opinions. It simply means that this particular group needs a space where they can discuss the issues they have and create language and skills to help them better discuss it in the outside world.

Safe spaces allow for people to determine the best way to respond to a homophobic or racial slur. Safe spaces allow people to be on the same page so they are not sending inconsistent messages. Safe spaces allow people to vent frustrations without causing a public uproar. Safe spaces empower our students to lead social movements. It allows them to gather and collaborate and plan. It allows them to express their rights without fear of being disregarded.

Take, for instance, a young gay man who attends many meets at his local safe space. They have strong discussions and he feels confident with his viewpoint. He is in a class one day, and a discussion starts about something related to what he discussed in his safe space. He expresses his viewpoint and has many others who disagree. Because of his safe space, he now has the language and confidence to continue that conversation and introduce a new idea to the others.

Ideas cannot be contained. Information travels. People fear that safe spaces are cutting off communication and the spread of ideas, but they just do not. They facilitate the generation of new ideas and teach people how to spread them.

 

Trigger Warnings

Many people who argue against trigger warnings claim that they somehow fundamentally change conversations. They make people who “don’t want to deal with something” able to leave a conversation and not partake in it. They make it so that people do not learn to deal with their feelings and instead “coddle” and “comfort” students.

I disagree. Triggers warnings do not stifle conversation and coddle students. Trigger warnings allows students to prepare for a conversation. When a rape survivor is told that there will be a discussion of rape in a lecture, this allows them to emotionally prepare for it. This allows the person to think something along the lines of “Ok, we are going to talk about rape. I know I feel X way when rape is brought up, so I can now deal with those feelings and be part of this conversation.”

Does every person respond in such a way? No. Some people are not ready to engage with a particular topic. Allowing that person to leave that conversation before it starts is more conducive to that conversation. Nobody wants someone having a break down or freak out in the middle of a conversation. Nobody wants a veteran with PTSD screaming and running around at the sound of gunfire on a video. Nobody wants a person to have a strong emotional response to something and interrupt the conversation. Trigger warnings literally allow these people to figure out what their role in the conversation is going to be. Are they going to mention their experience, or are they going to be quiet? Are they going to be emotional or logical? Trigger warnings allow more effective lectures and conversations with fewer interruptions and more intellectual discussions.

“Politically Correct” Language

Probably the largest issue most people have is with language. They often find that trigger warnings and safe spaces lead to “PC Language” and contribute to “PC Culture.”  This is true. However, their idea of PC Culture is misinformed and incorrect. Firstly, politically correct means nothing. It’s a phrase that sounds right but has no meaning. We need to stop using and validating the term “Politically Correct” and just start saying “Correct.” Political things can be contested. Correct things cannot.

What people tend not to understand is how language shapes our cultures and our minds. Words carry meaning – much more meaning than a simple definition. Slurs and hate speech carry with them history and experience. Calling someone a fag isn’t just calling them gay. It’s calling them gay and saying that they are worthy of abuse, denigration, and hatred. Calling a Trans* person a “tranny” or a “trap” doesn’t just say they are trans, it says that they are a manipulative joke who is trying to dupe men into believing a lie. This type of language isn’t politically incorrect. It’s just incorrect.

And people do not realize how the words they chose express their own thoughts. People who know that you shouldn’t call gay people fags or black people niggers but chose to anyway are saying that they don’t care about how that language affects that group of people. And there is a common misconception that this language is problematic because it upsets individuals. That is not why that language is problematic. The language is problematic because it reinforces social systems that negatively affect that entire group. These words have negative connotations, and even if you do not fully know what they are, you know they are negative. You then associate those people with negativity and are more likely to identify their negative aspects than their positive ones.

There is a lot of sound psychology that goes into it, which I physically cannot teach people over a blog post. However, this correct language also facilitates conversations. It shows people that their thoughts, feelings, and opinions are valued, which makes them more likely to share ideas. It shows people that others are open to change and compromise, making them more likely to listen and share ideas.

There is so much more to it than just that though. People are not one dimensional. They have thoughts and feelings that they do not even understand to know about. A university’s responsibility is to educate all their students, so if a student is subject to language and ideas that make them feel unsafe, they are less likely to utilize the resources there. They are less likely to stay at the university. When they feel safe and supported, they stay and learn.

You do not support free speech and the free spread of ideas by alienating students who have different experiences than the average person.

 

When people fight against Safe Spaces, PC Culture, and Trigger Warnings, they are not thinking of others. They are not worried about the quality of an academic institution. They are simply thinking of themselves and the fact that they may need to actually think before the speak. They do not like that they are being called out for their less than honorable behaviors as it shatters their own self-image. Safe spaces, PC Language, and Trigger warnings force people to evaluate themselves and sometimes they do not like what they might learn, so they fight against it. They do not care that the language people use reinforced decades if not centuries of oppression, hatred and mistreatment. All they see is a bunch of millennials whining about their feelings. It’s simply not true.

Bernie or Bust?

I’m a hardcore Bernie sanders fan. I am all about what he’s about. I’m 100% for social programs to help the lower and middle class. I’m all about reigning in Wall Street corruption and reducing the power of the prison industrial complex. I’m a million percent for government funded college tuition. I understand that an economy cannot remain stable without regulation. I understand the need for police reform. I understand that corporate greed and trickle-down economics have failed the common American. Bernie Sanders is a force for great good in our country.

It is no mystery why millions of Americans are clamoring for Bernie Sanders. He’s relatable, sociable, and cares about the things the lower and middle class care about. He supports Black Lives Matter, he supports the decriminalization of marijuana and other drugs, and he supports ending our wars abroad. He really seems to care about the American people.

However, he isn’t the only person aiming for the Democratic nomination. Hilary Clinton started this race with a strong lead over Bernie. Most people didn’t even know who Bernie was. Clinton maintains that lead, though the next two months or so will be the real game changers in that race. The thing is, many Bernie supporters are staunchly opposed to Clinton. Just check out Bernie Sander’s Dank Meme Stash for a plethora of Bernie on Clinton hate. Check out any Pro Hilary or Anti Bernie news article to see myriad comments of Bernie supporters bashing Clinton. Hell, check out pro Bernie articles for the same stuff.

I understand you want your preferred candidate to win the nomination, of course.  You should be like that in defense of your candidate. However, it reaches a dangerous area when you meet the “Bernie or Bust” crowd. These are people who refuse to vote for Clinton, even if she is the democratic nominee. They refuse to vote at all if Bernie isn’t nominated. These are the people who reject the logic that not voting for Clinton is essentially voting for the republican candidate. These are the people who think that voting for Clinton is the same as voting republican. These are the people that absolutely terrify me, and that make me have less and less respect for Bernie and his cause. If Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, part of me will blame these zealots for it.

Why? Well, it all began yesterday. I read this article about how Hilary is essentially a Republican. I would call Hilary a moderate Democrat, certainly not a republican, but that’s a matter of personal philosophy. The content wasn’t entirely the issue… except it was. Most of the things on that list were very accurate complaints about Hilary and her similarities to the Republican Party. There was one, however, that made me realize that the person who wrote the article didn’t have the full scope of the issue at hand.

“3) I don’t vote Republican because I’ve always supported gay people’s civil liberties and the Republicans who’ve barely come around to supporting gay marriage this decade are doing so only because the polling now supports it.”

This statement really frustrates me. Why does it frustrate me? Because it’s inaccurate. It is true that Hilary recently changed her opinion on same sex marriage. What’s incorrect is that republicans are also changing their opinions. Every single one of the republican candidates has on their agenda to reverse the Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage. Every. Single. One. So Hilary may have only recently come around to the idea, but she will not be actively trying to reverse it like Trump or Cruz would.

This shows me one thing: That these Bern or Bust people do not fully understand the magnitude of this election. They do not understand the importance of not allowing a republican candidate into office. They want universal healthcare and free college tuition? Well the GOP candidates want to repeal Obamacare and dismantle the department of Education, which will make insurance prices skyrocket and will certainly make it more difficult and expensive to attend college without federal funding to those schools through the Department of Education. Clinton doesn’t want to do that. The republicans want to “simplify” the tax code and remove the IRS, which would literally put millions of people out of jobs. Clinton may be a “status quo” candidate, but at least the current status is not as horrible as it would be with one of these republican nutjobs.

But that’s the issue. These Bern or Bust people just don’t get it. They just don’t understand the severe magnitude of the situation. I am terrified of a GOP presidency, because I do not want the government to be systematically dismantled by a power hungry fool. Bernie fans are all about their memes and their bashing of Hilary, and it’s quite immature.

We’ve all seen the iconic meme that has an issue as a headline, and an image of Bernie and his position under it, and a picture of Clinton and her position under it. These have been played off to emphasize Clinton’s lack of connection with the people she is trying to represent. But it is incredibly frustrating to me. She doesn’t need to be hip and young to be an effective president. She doesn’t need to agree with hipster college student on everything to be a good democratic candidate. This is an irresponsible and immature sentiment to hold about someone.

And finally, a president is only as effective as their congress. People complain that Obama hasn’t done enough of his promises, but that is due directly to opposition in the House and Senate from GOP lawmakers. Clinton is moderate, so it is easier for her to negotiate with GOP lawmakers. Bernie’s plans are door-in-the-face strategy. Do you really think the Senate will approve all of it? Definitely not. Not in a million years. They will either never see any sort of fruition, or be drastically altered.

But this is only one possibility. Voting gives you the power. You go to vote. You select your president. You select your representative. You select your senator. If you don’t show up, you don’t select anything. Someone else does. If Bernie isn’t selected as the nominee and these people remove themselves from the political process, then Bernie’s adventure would have been a waste. The things he made us realize about our society would be useless information.

So please, vote for Bernie in the primaries, and if he doesn’t get the nomination, please vote for Clinton. Pretty pretty please? Especially if that psychopath Cruz gets the GOP nomination.