Pick a torch, America.

by Joey deVilla on August 12, 2017

Click the image to see it at full size.

I took Manu “Trekonomics” Saadia’s tweet (shown below) and turned it into a single graphic that’s easy to share. Spread it far and wide, folks.

Need some context?

Unite the Right, the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, explained

Photo by Robert King. Click to see the source.

Charlottesville: far-right crowd with torches encircles counter-protest group


Photo by Andy Campbell. Click to see the source.

Photo by Andy Campbell. Click to see the source.

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When Taylor Teepell applied for the job of Director of the Division of Community Development, a position within the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), he did so despite not having had any experience with the two things that department oversees: economic development or land planning.

He didn’t even fill out most of the application form, including these key parts:

Click the education and certification section of Teepell’s application form to see its emptiness at full size.

Click the work experience section of Teepell’s application form to see its emptiness at full size.

Want to see his full application? It’s a public record, and the Miami Herald posted it online.

If you’ve ever had to deal with the DEO (I have, for what they call “re-employment benefits”), you know how particular they are about their forms, and how they insist on getting as much information out of you as possible. It’s very unlike them to accept a form this empty, even if Teepell did attach his resume at the end.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, and in a story that at least some of you will find depressingly familiar, he landed the job over Julie Dennis, who’d already been working at the DEO for five years and was considerably more qualified for the job:

When Teepell got the job, he was elevated over Julie Dennis, who was then named “executive staff director” and served as his top deputy. In contrast to Teepell, Dennis had a decade of community planning experience and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning.

In comparison, Teepell has a B.A. in Marketing. He could probably get a Ph.D. in self-marketing.

How much does the job pay? When he started in February 2016, the starting salary was $110,000, and when he left in May, he’d been given a raise, bringing it up to nearly $117,000.

An excerpt from the Chick tract It’s Who You Know.

As you can see from Teepell’s LinkedIn profile, he’s since moved on to become finance director of the New Republican Super PAC, which is chaired by Florida governor, rabid Republican and apparent human/python hybrid Rick Scott, and is hitching itself unashamedly to Donald Trump.

If you’d like to find out how he got the DEO job, the Miami Herald explains, and as you might suspect, it’s because of the people he knows: Rick Scott and Bobby Jindal.

By way of comparison…

…here’s a summary of the effort I put into landing my new job.

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Typo of the day

by Joey deVilla on August 9, 2017

This headline appeared in the Kennebec Journal (which serves Kennebec County, Maine).

I seriously doubt that Il Donalduce has any ties to the furry community, never mind the ability to rally them to take on North Korea.

Read more here: Maine Newspaper Typos Trump’s North Korea Threat

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Eileen deVilla takes on Toronto’s opioid crisis

by Joey deVilla on August 9, 2017

That’s Eileen on the left, and Toronto Board of Health Chair Joe Mihevc on the right.

Next to my sister Eileen, I’m a bit of a slacker. Case in point: her work as Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health in addressing the opioid crisis. Her approach is a sensible one: treat drug addiction and use as a health issue rather than a criminal one.

If you’s like to know more about what she’s doing to address the crisis, this interview on CBC Radio is a great start (it’s 8 minutes, 37 seconds long). She’s doing a fantastic job of what I consider to be the family tradition of taking complex subjects and explaining them well to a lay audience.

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No matter where you stand on the firing of James Damore — whom I prefer to refer to as “the manifestbro” — you should take away this valuable lesson:

If you write a document that becomes such a public relations nightmare that it requires the CEO to cut short a family vacation to deal with the mess, update your resume.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

Google’s Go Gopher, dropped into the increasingly zeitgeist-y “this is fine” comic.

Also worth checking out: 25 years later, Neal Stephenson’s statement about male techies rings true, as evidenced by the “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” doc

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If you want to get better at handling social situations and want to be entertained at the same time, take a look at Charlie Houpert’s Charisma on Command YouTube channel, where he says his goal is to help you become “your most confident, charismatic self”. He does breakdowns of techniques used by influential people, from politicians Barack Obama and Donald Trump (while not a fan of Trump, he made a $1000 bet that Orange Julius Caesar would win the election based on his messaging), to fighters Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee, to actors Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Lawrence, and Will Smith, and even supernerds Neil deGrasse Tyson and Hank and John Green, the Vlogbrothers.

Charlie’s a big fan of the TV series Game of Thrones, and as a result, he’s used their characters as a studies in charisma and power dynamics in social situations. While you may be a bit leery of following the motivations of fictional TV characters written by screenwriters with dubious ideas, the examples that they provide and the lessons Charlie extracts from them make for good viewing and even better lessons. Here’s a roundup of the seven (so far) Charisma on Command videos based on Game of Thrones characters…

Why Tyrion can’t be killed

Key lesson: Influence is not about convincing people to want different things from what they already want. It’s about showing them that the way to get what they already want is by following you.

Why Tyrion will win the game of thrones

Key lesson: In situations where there’s a power dynamic, the person with the greater power is the one with the conviction that they have choices, and then…

  1. Controls when things occur
  2. Establishes who matters more
  3. Controls what is focused on
  4. Controls where the interaction happens

Why the Starks will always get betrayed

Key lessons: Good intentions are never enough for a leader. You also have to:

  1. Know what other people want, what motivates them, and what they (and not you) would do in a given situation.
  2. Motivate people by aligning their interests with yours.
  3. When giving instructions, explain not just what to do, but why.
  4. To get people to do things, explain the heaven if they do, and the hell if they don’t.

Game of Thrones: How power really works

Key lessons:frame is the set of all the unstated beliefs and assumptions that give context to a situation or interaction. Control the frame, and you control the situation or interaction.

  1. The key to convincing people of something is to bring them into your frame.
  2. Every insult is a frame game, and fighting the frame of an insult is a losing game. Turn the frame and take control.
  3. Whoever controls the options has the power. Move the frame so that you have more options. Everything that’s possible changes based on your creativity.

How Littlefinger controls the game of thrones

Key lessons: Don’t emulate Game of Thrones’ most Machiavellian still-living character, but do learn from his tricks and make sure no one pulls them on you:

  1. Instead of being pushy when trying to persuade someone, he plants the seed of the idea in his mark’s head. This leads them to come to the conclusion he wants on their own, making them feel in control and that they came to the decision themselves.
  2. He understands that people want to appear and feel in control even though they don’t really want to be in control. He tolerates slights and insults and avoids the usual trappings of power because he’d much rather focus on having control rather than the appearance of having control.
  3. To him, nothing is sacred, so honor, sentimentality, and morality are not obstacles to him. This has let him get his way for the past six seasons, but it will likely be his undoing this year.

How Tywin Lannister commands respect

Key lessons: Power doesn’t from telling people who have power, but by sub-communicating that fact. Lannister’s techniques are:

  1. Using loudness and silence effectively.
  2. Using stillness and moving calmly instead of flinching and twitching.
  3. Using relative position — speaking from a physically higher location — to establish who’s boss.
  4. Controlling when a conversation begins and ends.

3 surprising steps to influence anyone

Key lessons:

  1. Physically put yourself by their side.
  2. Get people to talk about things that they’re interested in and that they care about.
  3. Get people to open up by showing a little vulnerability.
  4. Show interest in people’s opinions.
  5. Practice active listening, get to know what makes people tick, and express empathy (and remember, empathy isn’t agreeing with someone, but seeing the world through their eyes).

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Peter Schorsch at Café con Tampa

by Joey deVilla on August 4, 2017

Café con Tampa is a weekly gathering where people interested in the issues that affect Tampa Bay and the world beyond meet to learn and share ideas with interesting, entertaining (and sometimes infuriating) guest speakers. It takes place every Friday between 8 and 9 a.m. in the wonderful setting of Oxford Exchange, a combination of restaurant, book store, gift shop, co-working space, design studio, event venue, and one of the best “third places” I’ve ever set foot in. It’s attended by an interesting audience that’s often a mix of movers and shakers from the worlds of arts, business, academia, and government, and put together by local hero Bill Carlson, President of the communciations agency Tucker/Hall. If you want to have interesting conversations with some of the area’s movers, shakers, and idea-makers (and enjoy Oxford Exchange’s delicious breakfast spread), you should attend!

Today’s speaker at Café con Tampa was Peter Schorsch, political consultant and political journalist, and publisher of SaintPetersblog and FloridaPolitics.com. I’m a regular reader of SaintPetersblog and an occasional reader of FloridaPolitics.com, and I also recall Schorsch’s name from that time he broke a Starbucks “pay it forward” line on the principle that it was a cynical marketing move on Starbucks’ part, and that participants were driven by guilt and the need to save face, rather than by a spirit of generosity. Since moving here, I’ve found Schorsch reliably informative and entertaining, so I made it a point to catch his presentation today.

Here are my annotated notes…

  • I have the best gig in Florida politics!
  • I get to take shots at every big name in the game from my comfortable vantage point in lovely St. Pete
  • I feel like a Robin Hood, taking money from Florida Power and and giving it to the readers
  • I’m more excited about my job right now than I’ve ever been!
  • I’m also proud of something I wrote recently, about Jack Latvala’s run for governor: “If there’s one mammal who has done more to bring dollars to north Pinellas’ economy than Winter the Dolphin, it’s state Senator Jack Latvala.”

Click the photo to see it at full size.

Click the photo to see it at full size.

  • “I am a walking conflict of interest,” since I report on political news and am consulted as a resource by politicians
  • I think SaintPetersblog’s coverage of St. Pete politics is second to none
  • We also help local political journalists — when the Tribune went down, we offered a lifeline
    • Some came aboard and stayed, some went, some still contributing
  • Our biggest recent political story was getting [Tampa Bay Lightning owner / local real estate magnate] Jeff Vinik on the record to say that he was one of the secret investors for the Tampa Bay Times
  • That goes to show that the Times, although it is pound-for-pound the best newspaper in the country, still faces the same conflicts of interest because of the money it accepts
  • The Weekly Planet and Creative Loafing once provided an alternative to the Tribune and Times, but now that role’s filled by St. Petersblog
  • You can’t dismiss me a just a blogger; I’m not always writing in my underwear. Well, maybe sometimes.
  • SaintPetersblog is a silly name, and Florida Politics is a much better one. Luckily, we were able to get the Floridapolitics.com domain when it went up for sale eBay. We got it for $18,000.
  • We’ve got great reporters like A.G. Gancarski and Scott Powers writing for us
  • We have the largest political reporting footprint in the state
  • We also have a magazine that’s pretty much the Teen Beat of Tallahassee; that is, it’s glossy photos of lobbyists. It may not be exciting to you, but the lobbyists are clamoring to be featured!
  • Our bread and butter is email — our Sunburn mailing list (SaintPetersblog’s daily political news summary)
    • Email may sound old-fashioned, but I think it’s the future of journalism

Click the photo to see it at full size.

  • 2018 will be busiest cycle ever for Florida politics
  • There are so many key races:
    • Governor
    • Agriculture Commissioner
    • CFO
    • Attorney General
  • There’s also the Constitution Revision Commission. [In 1968, Florida became the only state that allows for its state constitution to be revisited and changed through a regularly scheduled commission called the Constitution Revision Commission. They meet once every 20 years, and 2018 is the next such year, and they will review and approve proposals on constitutional topics that run the range fromgambling to education to redistricting to the courts, and the impact of those decisions will be felt for the next two decades.]
  • Many initiatives will be on the ballot, including:
  • Pay particular attention to the special elections: the people who win these often end up 8 years later in roles such as Speaker of the House
  • In 2018, the demographic changes that were predicted to help Florida Democrats will take their effect
  • The Democrats are recruiting better and better candidates, especially in South Florida
  • The Puerto Rico bankruptcy will also be a 2018 election issue
  • Orlando is a battleground unto itself
  • [Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives] Richard Corcoran got what he wanted last session and will go deeper into policy issues
    • You’re going to see him really make his move in the coming months
    • Over wine and cigars, he personally told me that he’s absolutely running for Governor
    • Any of the hemming and hawing you see will be just for show
    • By Easter, you’re going see his campaign signs on people’s yards
  • I’m excited to talk about Governor’s race! There are some good candidates out there.
    • There’s John Morgan, the “Hamlet of Hemp”, the 800 pound gorilla
    • [Bible-thumping yet bleeding-heart liberal businessman] Chris King: You’d be surprised — a lot of smart people around him, he has a great record in the private sector, and if you were to meet him in person and talk with him for a while, you would be thoroughly impressed by him

Click the photo to see it at full size.

  • I do love the Tampa Bay Times, but I also love beating up in them
  • My relationship with the Times is horribly acrimonious
  • Rick Baker told me: “They will not stop until they put you in jail.”
  • If you asked the Times who Public Enemy Number One is, I’m second after the Scientologists
  • I regret my bad relationship with them
  • When SaintPetersblog was just me, I had to set my hair on fire just to get attention, so I took shots at what I thought was the Times doing bad reporting
  • [Tampa Bay Times political editor] Adam Smith is like a cop itching for a fight — ready to put down the badge and go for it
  • Other local journalists see that we’re trying to help them and keep them employed
  • I like to say we run a halfway house for journalists
  • Outside of the Times, we maintain relationships with local journalists

Q&A

When you advise politicians, what company do you bill as?

  • “None of your damn business!”
  • Well, you can do some research and it wouldn’t be too hard to connect the dots
  • One of those companies is Extensive Enterprises Media (see the super-fun fact below!)
  • Anybody can advertise with us
  • We’ve beaten up on our mentors
  • None of our reporters will ever say that we’ve told them to lean one way or another
  • People know where I stand, but I don’t tell my reporters where to stand
  • I do try to get reporters to cover the things that the other outlets aren’t covering
    • For example, we write about underdogs
    • I like being the one result you find when you Google for the early days of big names who were once considered to be long shots

How do you deal with the big problems of journalism today, such as the war on truth and clickbait?

  • I think your question is better put as “How do you deal with fake news?”
  • We don’t do stories like “Charlie Crist put his finger in a light socket, click here to see what happened next!” but wow, from the money and readership that those stories would generate, it’s tempting
  • We choose to write stories about Florida politics that other people don’t cover
  • I compare myself to a chef with a couple of 3- and 4-star restaurants, as opposed to someone with a big chain of fast food joints
    • I take pride in being smaller, and producing higher quality
    • Think of it as the difference between Mise en Place and McDonald’s

How do you think Trump will affect the 2018 elections in Florida?

  • Florida is not very impacted by Trump politics yet
  • However, it clearly a hotbed a Trump support:
  • It became clear from that poll that showed that he could beat Jeb in Florida
  • What I find interesting is Adam Putnam veering right to be like Trump and doing things that are uncharacteristic for his middle-of-the-road approach like embracing the NRA
    • He’s doing this because he doesn’t want to be “Jeb 2.0”
    • He’s capitalizing on his opponents calling him an NRA sellout by actually selling an #nrasellout t-shirt on his site
    • Not really that guy; for most of his career, he’s been reliably center-right
    • The lesson he learned from Trump is that authenticity sells, even if you’re full of shit
  • Let me state it right now: Adam Putnam will not be governor
  • We forget there’s a big senate race, but it will be boring:
    • You’ve got a Democrat in his 70s and [Florida Governor and human-python hybrid] Rick Scott, the most on-message politician to climb out of a test tube
    • They will run an uninteresting campaign that will largely be a referendum on the Trump administration

In a story that you’re publishing about a politician, do you disclose that you’re advising them?

  • Voters and readers are so interested in the information that the conflicts of interest aren’t as big a deal
  • Will the Times put “Jeff Vinik is our secret sugar daddy” at the bottom of every story they write about him?
  • I frame myself as a managing editor, my job is to take my reporters’ defense and fight for them

What do you do if someone were to approach you with a story?

  • It would have to be in our wheelhouse — Florida politics
  • We’d love to be the go-to source for a story
  • We’re faster — on smaller stories, we’re a little more “shoot first, ask questions later”

Do you think that in the age of Trump, we’ll see more Rick Scotts — more self-financed candidates?

  • Perhaps Francis Rooney in Naples…he’s been all sorts of things: multimillionaire, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, and ran for Congress
  • Trump is so unique, he’s an oyster scarred by the New York tabloids
  • Trump is a product of the times

How do you think transportation issues will play out in Florida politics?

  • We’re leading the way in the race to legalize autonomous cars
  • Look at all the stories about driverless cars and semis
  • The trend towards Uber is anti-rail
  • Rail as a concept is not attractive to voters; it’s a 19th-century concept
  • Even when people decide to go with rail transit, there are implementation issues:
    • Consider the rail system in St. Pete — the city is divided along racial lines, with most black people living south of Central Avenue
    • But the rail cuts off at Central Avenue and doesn’t go south, where the people who need it most actually live
    • If you say you’re going to put a rail spike in one spot, 7 people will disagree because they have their own idea about where it should go
  • Who will be the advocate for a rail initiative?

Super-fun fact about Extensive Enterprises

As soon as Schorsch uttered the phrase “Extensive Enterprises”, my first thought was: As in the fake business that acts as a front for Cobra from the ’80s G.I. Joe animated series? And yes, that is the case. When Schorsch stated this, I was the only one in the room who laughed and clapped. Café con Tampa needs more geeks!

He even mentioned the names of the Crimson Twins, Tomax and Xamot, the two psychically-linked mirror-image twins who are both high-level Cobra operatives…

and the co-CEOs of Extensive Enterprises:

Here’s a G.I. Joe clip featuring the twins in business mode…

…and here’s a clip that’s got everything, including businesses buying politicians, the twins’ psychic link, and just all-round terrible eighties cartoon scripting:

(I’ll stop now before I shame myself any further.)

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