Car Thefts: Domestic Terrorism

When it comes to the alarming incidence of teen car thefts, we know that well-intentioned leaders such as U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and State Sen. Darryl Rouson are on the case for more youth programs. We also know that state legislators have tightened the law for the worst offenders, and that the Department of Juvenile Justice is rethinking its detention center operations.

Well and good, if inadequate for the here and now. We also need to acknowledge several overlapping bottom lines.

* There are a number of people in a position to make a theoretical difference in young lives, but none are more important than the adults at home. What good does it do to have more recreational activities if the operative question remains: “What else is there to do at 3 a.m.?”

* Even more to the point, joy-riding punks in speeding cars with no lights is an obvious public safety menace. It’s de facto domestic terrorism for all other drivers. This can’t be part of “the new normal.”

* Stupid enablers: How do you not lock your car and pocket your keys? It’s your property–and now you’ve jeopardized innocent lives because of what could play out.

* It’s been reported that St. Petersburg Police Chief Tony Holloway is planning to visit the Juvenile Detention Center to talk to “the kids.” Good idea. But what took so long? Pinellas County leads, as it were, the state in arrested car thieves. As a black police chief, Holloway is uniquely positioned for come-to-Jesus meetings with juvenile offenders, most of whom are black, some of whom will become road kill.

* “Black Lives Matter“: Any interest yet?

Drink Up

A shout out to Tampa and Hillsborough County for getting pragmatically creative about using reclaimed water–highly treated wastewater–to supplement the drinking water supply. It’s done in other places. But there would be added costs, and there are skeptics.

One suggestion: Ditch the “Tampa Augmentation Project” label. Too bureaucratically boring. And by all means, avoid all “toilet-to-tap” references, which are accurate and alliterative, but a bit too literal and visceral. How about “Go with the Flow”?

Trumpster Diving

* Interesting–and perversely nostalgic–to see Henry Kissinger visiting the other day with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. The elephant-in-the-room inquisitor had to be whispering: “BTW, Henry, how good does Nixon look these days?”

* It was a new low even for the fabulist-in-chief. “With all of the fake news coming out of NBC and the networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their license?” he questioned–and not rhetorically. It certainly prompts a non-rhetorical response along the lines of: “With all of the media scapegoating, retaliation and would-be coercion coming out of the Oval Orifice, at what point is it appropriate to charge constitutional lawyers with a First Amendment-meddling case?”

* No, it’s not exactly a groundswell, but the “I” word is now fair game for political speculation. Democratic Congressman Al Green of Texas recently introduced articles of impeachment against the president. It was followed up by high-profile comments by Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee who indicated the subject has been broached in Republican circles.

“I have one Republican that has said he is looking at it, he’s considering it,” said Cohen. “I have other Republicans–just like Bob Corker suggested–who have told me on a constant basis that they know this man is not balanced, he is not capable of continuing to lead us.”

Speaking of Corker, he ratcheted up the speculation when he spoke alarmingly about Trump’s penchant for in-your-face insults and nuclear bluster. “We could be heading toward World War III with the kind of comments he’s making,” said Corker.

* Doesn’t it speak volumes about what we’ve devolved into when Trump Administration loyalists, Beltway insiders, the national media and the public at large are still engrossed over the president likely being called a “moron” by his secretary of state? T Rex, to be sure, hasn’t denied it.

This is, of course, beyond personal for Trump. No leader, let alone the narcissist-in-chief, wants to be publicly ridiculed. In this case, by the man who favors the Paris climate deal, the Iran nuclear pact and diplomatic channels to North Korea. It’s what prudently sane secretaries of state do.

But much more important than presidential pique is that this is also existential. We’re all imperiled when someone moronically unfit has access to the nuclear codes.

* How much more doubling down does Trump have to do to his minority, deplorable base? This just in: Kathleen Hartnett White, the author of “Fossil Fuels: The Moral Case” has been brought in to chair the Council on Environmental Quality. She really has. White is a carbon dioxide supplicant who has close ties to Rick Perry, the energy secretary who once advocated the Department of Energy’s elimination. No, you can’t make this stuff up.

* “God, I hate that man.” Ever find yourself muttering those words about America’s unhinged charlatan-in chief? And then following up with: “God, I hate hating. I’m better than this.” More collateral damage.

Teachable Moment

The Florida School Boards Association held a training session recently to help Hillsborough and Pinellas board members improve their effectiveness by focusing most notably on listening and respect. Perhaps it should have been more remedial.

Two Hillsborough board members, April Griffin and Tamara Shamburger had an embarrassing exchange where acting out and some crude language upstaged the kumbaya optics. Good thing teachers and students weren’t there to witness the antics.

But the press was.

Dogged Approach

How enlightened. How progressive. How exploitative. Guests can now bring their dogs to hotels at Walt Disney World Resort. Actually to four of them–and they will charge between $50 and $75 per day for those canine guests.

Which reminds me of a management sign that puts this policy into context. “Dogs are welcome in this hotel. We never had a dog that smoked in bed and set fire to the blankets. We never had a dog that stole our towels and played the TV too loud or had a noisy fight with his traveling companion. We never had a dog that got drunk and broke up the furniture…So if your dog can vouch for you, you’re welcome too.”

Sports Shorts

* If the Cubs don’t defend their World Series championship, there will be no dearth of second guessers. It comes with the territory. But the reality should be obvious: This team is just not as good as last year’s. Specifically, the pitching, especially relief pitchers not named Wade Davis.  If anything, the Cubs deserve extra credit for having advanced this far in the post season.

* OK, the USA didn’t qualify for the World Cup for the first time in a generation. Ouch, even if soccer isn’t America’s favorite sport–or even close. But look who did make it: Iceland. Population: 335,000, comparable to Tampa’s. Close enough. We have an adopted team to root for. Go, Cubes.

* The USF Bulls are undefeated, ascendant and now ranked 16th in the nation. USF has–at 11– the longest winning streak in the country, and the national media is well aware that it has scored at least 30 points in 23 straight games. That’s almost unheard of.

What the Bulls haven’t yet done, however, is look impressive for an entire game. The starts have been sputtering, key catalyst Quinton Flowers’ numbers are down and discipline–as manifested by penalties–has been a frustrating issue.

But imagine if they do clean up the sloppy starts, display an offense that looks more like last year’s and reduce dumb penalties. The Bulls could still be special by season’s end. Just don’t look past anybody, starting with Tulane on Saturday in New Orleans. Go, Bulls.

* That was another ugly loss for the University of Florida last week, but it wasn’t, by far, the ugliest part of the Texas A&M defeat. It was those faux-alligator-skin jerseys worn by the home team. Being the “Gators” isn’t reason enough. Not nearly.

UF is part of a pattern–perhaps it’s generational plus Nike marketing–but more and more teams are rolling out unis seemingly more appropriate for NASCAR, trapeze artists or Jackson Pollock fanatics. Mere Day-Glo never looked so tame.

Quoteworthy

* “It is not up to any single country to terminate (the Iranian nuclear deal). We have a collective responsibility to protect a nuke deal that’s working.”–Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief.

* “The U.S. is more lonely than ever about the deal.”–Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

* “Ultimately, the best hope this is realistic may be a variant of what’s called a ‘freeze for a freeze,’ with North Korea halting its nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a reduction in sanctions and the U.S.-South Korean military exercises–as an interim step, preserving the long-term goal of denuclearization. Unfortunately, both sides resist this approach.”–Nicholas Kristof, New York Times.

* “The people have determined that Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic.”–Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia’s regional president.

* “They are hoping to hold on, and that the international community will get used to them as they did with Zimbabwe, Cuba and other countries.”–David Smilde, analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, referencing the government of Venezuela.

* “Having an ongoing, constructive relationship between the president and the prime minister is really important.”–Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

* “I don’t believe in undercutting people.”–President Donald Trump.

* “The war on coal is over.”–Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA.

* “To stall the progress that Democrats and Republicans have been fostering in giving permanent relief to more than 800,000 DREAMers is sabotage.”–U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.

* “Any decision the president makes one day is likely to be completely reversed another, depending on which extremist adviser he is listening to.”–U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.

* “It’s easier to impeach than invoke the 25th Amendment.”–Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center.

* “These kinds of decisions have real-life consequences. It is not fair for our leaders to play games with people’s health and their health care.”–Stacey E. Stewart, president of the March of Dimes, in response to Donald Trump’s move to cut off federal payments to insurers.

* “I’ve got to stay, to take care of the Affordable Care Act, and that’s my fight, that’s my mission.”–U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the 77-year-old House Minority Leader.

* “(Steve) Bannon is wrong to think the problem with today’s GOP senators is that they’ve been unwilling to climb aboard the Trump train. Rather, it’s that there’s no train to climb aboard.”–Reihan Salam, Slate.

* “I am certainly a better senator today than I was five years ago simply because I’m more familiar with the process. … I’m at 58 in seniority. I came in at 99. … It also doesn’t hurt to have your party in the White House with a lot of people over there that I know.”–Sen. Marco Rubio.

* “The single biggest change I would make is gerrymandering. There’s only one election that matters. You’ve got to win a primary. You’ve got to go to the far left or the far right.”–Patrick Murphy, former Democratic congressman from Jupiter.

* “Gerrymandering used to be an art, but advanced computation has made it a science.”–Jordan Ellenberg, professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin.

* “I have never understood the conservative fetish for the Second Amendment. From a law-and-order standpoint, more guns means more murder.”–Bret Stephens, New York Times.

* “You can’t expect to program the car for everything you’re possibly going to see.”–Ron Medford, safety director of Waymo, formerly Google’s self-driving car project.

* “If Google and Facebook can’t operate with basic editorial standards, they shouldn’t be determining what is and what isn’t news. In the pursuit of profits, Silicon Valley has entered the business of journalism–and taken upon itself a social responsibility it seems unable to meet.”–Theodore Kupfer, National Review.

* “It’s bad taste to talk about ex-husbands and ex-wives.”–Jane Wyman, the first wife of former President Ronald Reagan.

* “The division’s ability to respond to disasters may be impaired.”–Report conclusion of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management auditors.

* “We are very balkanized in Florida. Whether or not we think we’re a region, the Feds think we are, Amazon thinks we are, potentially the Rays think we are. It’s time to put on the big people outfit … and act like a region.”–HART CEO Katherine Eagan.

* “I put stadiums where they have the greatest economic impact. So when you build a stadium away from an urban core, that’s a mistake. … You all have something that’s really wonderful that we all wish we had in places like L.A. It’s called water.”–Tim Leiweke, co-founder of Oak View Group, a stadium consultant and investment company. Leiweke was part of a panel put on by the USF Vinik Sport and Entertainment Management Program.

* “The right person at the right time for the partnership. I think the world of her.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn, on the upcoming retirement of Christine Burdick as president and CEO of the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

Trumpster Diving

* At one time, the president of this country was considered the guardian of stability. It came with the territory of the most important, powerful position in the world. Party affiliation notwithstanding. Now we have the Destabilizer-in-Chief. It worries the world, and it worries all Americans who care about America’s impact and what “calm before the storm” could possibly mean. Those it doesn’t worry? We know who they are and why they still applaud whatever spews from the Oval Orifice occupant.

* “A Russian sword of Damocles hangs over Trump’s head, and it’s suspended by a slowly unraveling thread. If it falls, his presidency is over.”–That’s the prophetic take of Allan J. Lichtman, American University history professor and author of “The Case for Impeachment.”

* Maybe impeachment will become a moot point. That could be one dark takeaway from some curious comments by Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Corker, a Trump campaign supporter, recently referred to Gens. John Kelly and James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as “the people that help separate our country from chaos.” It’s obvious who “chaos” is–and what the national and global implications are from a chaotic presidency.

You know they’ve all seen “Seven Days in May” by now. Who would Burt Lancaster have played?

* As we now know, no official record of Trump visitors to Mar-a-Lago should be expected. So says the Secret Service, which hasn’t always been this secretive. It says that it has no system to keep track of people who visit Trump in Florida. So there. The perceived rationale: Mar-a-Lago is merely the (oft-visited) “winter White House.” The other one, the one in Washington, does record visitors, and the public has an idea who–from key lobbyists to foreign agents–has had Oval Office access. It matters, if not to the Trump Administration and the selectively Secret Service.

* It’s beyond redundant to keep asking, but how does Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stay on? He lost the confidence of State Department officials below him by cutting staff by a third when he came in–without knowing anything. Then he lost the confidence of the one above, Trump, by comporting himself as an actual diplomat. He also has likely lost the confidence of his  international peers. Prospects look slim that T Rex will outlast the ‘moron.”

Speaking of, if nothing else, “President Trump” should be an oxymoron.

* Why would North Korea negotiate with the U.S. when it can see that Iranian negotiations have resulted in Trump trying to undermine and ultimately jettison the agreement that all the other signatories want to maintain. Can this version of the U.S. be trusted?

* It doesn’t get referenced like “The Art of the Deal,” but Trump’s ghost-written 2007 book, “Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life,” has lines that continue to resonate ironically a decade later. To wit: “When someone crosses you, my advice is get even. When people wrong you, go after those people because it is a good feeling and because other people will see you doing it. I love getting even.” Just ask the non-Sean Hannity media and Bob Corker.

* Trump, as we’ve seen, has outlandishly inserted himself into the NFL’s National Anthem–and more recently tax-break–issues. No surprise, frankly. Don’t forget he once wanted to insert himself into the exclusive brotherhood of NFL owners. Back in the 1980s he owned the New Jersey Generals of the defunct USFL. He hoped–and lobbied–for an eventual merger that never came close to happening. He didn’t get in the club. As with so much else, he never got over it.

*Vice President Mike Pence left the Colts-49ers game in Indianapolis shortly after some San Francisco players took a knee during the national anthem. We now know that he had been asked to leave by Trump if any players knelt–knowing full well that some 49ers players surely would. We also know that Pence’s pre-planned cameo–including flight and security entourage–was on the public dime. And you know he didn’t fly coach on Allegiant.

Gun Upshot

A recent New York Times survey on Americans’ attitudes on a number of gun-related issues underscored that most Americans are in favor of gun-control measures–ranging from universal background checks and mandatory licensing to the banning of guns on college campuses and workplaces.

The results, however, were neither surprising–nor consoling. For example, the survey found that 67 percent favored an assault weapons ban and 63 percent favored a high-capacity-magazine ban. Put another way, about a third of Americans–post Sandy Hook, Orlando and Las Vegas–still have no issue with assault weapons and high-capacity magazines being in the hands of those who are not cops or soldiers.

That’s more disturbing than enlightening.

City Council Rebuke

Say what you want about the progressive cities of San Francisco, Seattle or Portland, it was St. Petersburg, Florida that stepped up and cast a nationally-noted vote to limit contributions to political action committees. Say what you want about council idealism and naiveté, this 6-2 vote was, in effect, a well-needed rebuke to the game-changing Citizens United decision that removed restrictions on outside groups influencing elections. St. Petersburg has become a microcosm of what has to happen electorally before our democracy erodes any more. The local law will cap–at $5,000–what an individual can give to PACs involved in St.Pete elections. Moreover, it will also demand more transparency from donors.

We know that money talks. The St. Pete City Council just said that money, 2010 Supreme Court majority notwithstanding, is not speech.

This will take some time–and, yes, money–to play out in the court system. But somebody had to courageously take this principled stand for common sense for the common good. And here’s hoping all those activist organizations that preach how democracy desperately needs campaign finance reform will now step up and help underwrite whatever the Defend Our Democracy ordinance costs. We know what Citizens United has already cost us.