Whoring Out Over Cuba

Not that we needed another reminder, but when the ideologically clueless, politically prostituting  Donald Trump came to South Florida with Rick Scott, Marco Rubio and Mario Diaz-Balart in tow, you knew nothing good would result. Nothing good did.

The only consolation. It could have been worse.

The new policy directive by a president who wouldn’t know Fulgencio Batista from Arturo Fuente is a blatant nod to the hard-line, exile community that makes it more challenging to travel to Cuba. It also lessens U.S. influence. All in the hypocritical name of addressing cherry-picked human rights violations.

We’ve gone over the specifics all too often, so there’s no need to traffic in the obvious again about what the U.S. gets from normalizing relations with Cuba and why it makes sense to continue distancing ourselves from a Cold War policy that has been counterproductive for more than half a century.

The bottom line should be this: “Treat Cuba like a sovereign county.” That’s how Vicente Amor, vice president of ASC International USA, a Tampa travel company, put it. What a concept.

Trumpster Diving

* Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull went on a satiric riff at the expense of Donald Trump recently. Leaked video showed the Aussie PM spoofing Trump at the Australian Parliament’s annual Midwinter Ball in Canberra. Its give-and-take humor is similar to the fare served up at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the one that Trump didn’t have enough guts to show up at this year. And, BTW, it’s “Turnbull,” not “Trumbull,” as Sean Spicer keeps pronouncing it.

* Amid all the media-dominated details about Russia-related investigations and stalled legislation, it was easy to overlook a certain Trump Administration-supported House bill. Among other things, the so-called Financial Choice Act would lessen the powers of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and ease many of the regulations under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

True, the Wall Street-friendly bill has little chance of passing as is in the Senate, but it is a reminder of what you get from a billionaire, con-man “populist.”

* It was hardly unexpected that there might be some dissenters on the Golden State Warriors when it came to visiting the White House in celebration of their NBA championship. An audience with Donald Trump is hardly on most black hoopsters bucket list. So, maybe this would be the time to finally come to grips with this athletic atavism.

The White House, regardless of administration politics, is an appropriate forum to celebrate, say, Olympic victories or World Cups. That would be about athletes representing their country. A moment of national pride. We get it. This, however, is about millionaires representing franchises. Not nearly the same thing, even if Trump badly wants some inclusive photo optics.

Name Game Satire

As we know, Robert E. Lee Elementary School may be getting a new name. As we also know, we can make too big a deal out of appellation updates to reconcile history with contemporary connotations. Given that the Ybor City school often references itself as the “Lee Elementary Magnet School of World Studies and Technology” and that “Lee” is such a familiar, contextual-diverse name, why not just officially eliminate the “Robert E.” part?  Take it off the front of the Columbus Drive building and, by so doing, obviate the need of grads to have to reference that they went to a “what used to be called” school.

If the formal name is simply “Lee Elementary,” then everybody can ascribe whatever “Lee” identity they want. And not even be restricted by first, middle or surname designation.

*For example, for those still clinging to Southern heritage, it could, in effect, be “Lee Greenwood,” “Jerry Lee Lewis” or “Brenda Lee Elementary.”

* For literal old schoolers, it could be “Gypsy Rose Lee,” “Peggy Lee” or “Harper Lee Elementary.”

* For movie fans, it could be “Spike Lee,” “Bruce Lee” or “Ang Lee Elementary.”

And so on. What a rare opportunity to be all things to all people.

Testing Our Resolve

It’s progress, and we’ll take it. But we still need to recognize context.

Several local struggling schools showed encouraging improvement on state examinations. But there was also this: In language arts, just 6 percent of fifth-graders at Tampa’s B.T. Washington Elementary tested at their grade level, while at Potter Elementary it was 10 percent among fourth-graders.

The reasons are myriad, as we know all too well. But this is 2017–not 1954. Sobering.

Return Of The Native

Looks like Dick Greco may become a Tampa resident again. He and his wife, Linda McClintock,  recently bought a condo at the 24-story Virage on Bayshore Boulevard. Given the construction schedule, they could be back within two years.

Good. This is where the iconic, Tampa native belongs. And chances are the former four-time Tampa mayor wouldn’t disagree.

Shuttle Update

First the good news. The Downtowner shuttle rides are getting an upgrade. The Tampa Downtown Partnership is going to expand the free, app-based service by adding four electric–air-conditioned–Chevy Bolts to the dozen golf cart-like vehicles called GEMS already in service.

Now the other news take. This, alas, could qualify as mass transit around here.

Towering Presence

Developer Larry Feldman talks about Tampa’s Riverwalk promenade morphing into something akin to what has been happening along St. Petersburg’s Beach Drive. He calls it “Beach Driveification.” He also labels the way companies keep squeezing more employees into less work space as the “sardine-ization of America.” He talks like thatification.

Well, here’s one business affix that we never needed around here–and Feldman is in a position to underscore it: the “Trumpification” of Tampa. Later this summer he’ll be opening a sales office for his 53-story Riverfront Place project on South Ashley Drive. A site that was, yes, once designated for Trump Tower Tampa. Talk about an ironically dodged bullet. Construction should begin next year.

Evil Incarnate

We know that, ISIS and Vladimir Putin notwithstanding, North Korea is still the world’s existential trip wire. Kim Jong-unHinged prizes nuclear leverage over food for his people. Heinous priority would be an upgrade.

But the case of Otto Warmbier, 22, bespeaks of a new, depraved low. Imagine capital punishment, in effect, for treating a propaganda poster as a souvenir. Evil incarnate.

Sports Shorts

* Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred continues to sound upbeat when it comes to the Rays stadium saga. “Hats off to the governments in St. Pete and Tampa,” said Manfred. “They have given Stu Sternberg, the owner of the Rays, the ability to look on either side of the causeway to find the site that’s best for the team.”

We’ll take the optimistic tone, although it’s now old news. Meaningful progress beyond looking around Tampa Bay would be a real “hats off” occasion.

* Speedy new Bucs wide receiver DeSean Jackson is not your basic game breaker. He’s also a producer of the many-years-in-the-making biopic “All Eyez on Me” about the late Tupac Shakur. Los Angeles native Shakur was a rapper, hip-hop artist and activist whose songs typically revolved around violence and racism.

Jackson, who also was born in Los Angeles, acknowledged in a Tampa Bay Times interview his identification with Shakur. Not discussed with Jackson: The movie is actually narrated by Shakur from prison–where he had been serving time for a sexual assault conviction. Hardly a footnote.


* “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”–Edmund Burke.

* “Trump’s effort to impose his undeveloped and unexamined personal will on the world is causing foreign officials to lose confidence in the United States as an informed, engaged and credible ally.”–John Nichols, The Progressive.

* “Mr. Trump has genuine affection for strongmen like Mr. Putin (see also: Egypt, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia). His corresponding dislike for democratic and female leaders like Angela Merkel, who happen to be constrained by the rule of law, also seems sincere.”–Stephen Kotkin, Hoover Institution fellow and author of “Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941.”

* “The message the president is sending through his tweets is that he believes the rule of law doesn’t apply to him and that anyone who thinks otherwise will be fired.”–California Sen. Diane Feinstein, top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

* “It’s not enough just to call this administration out. … We need more Democrats in the Senate. … This next election is a make-or-break opportunity to stop Trump’s agenda and improve people’s lives.”–Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.

* “This daily Trump melodrama is worth it ONLY if he’s really going to build the wall, cut off Muslim refugees and deport illegals.”–Conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

* “I have people knocking down my door to talk to the presidential personnel office. There is a huge demand to join this administration.”–White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

* “When I was at the absolute lowest point of my professional life, he’s who I called.”–New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in noting that when the “Bridgegate” scandal broke, he called Christopher Wray to serve as his counsel. Wray is Donald Trump’s nominee for FBI director.

* “(Patriotism) means having the courage to re-examine your beliefs when data and science contradict them. It means having the courage to stand up to members of your own party when you believe they are wrong–or when their actions put our great American experiment at risk.”–Michael Bloomberg, former Republican mayor of New York City.

* “Rage and sanctimony always spread like a virus–and become stronger with each iteration.”–Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.

* “(Today’s partisans) have made anger into an industry–using it to run up the number of listeners, viewers and hits. … If words can inspire, then they can also incite or debase.”–Michael Gerson, Washington Post.

* “We can’t keep ignoring the fringe. We have to expose it.”–Charles J. Sykes, author of “How the Right Lost its Mind.”

* “An explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denial of climate change by somebody on the Koch brothers’ payroll.”–Former President Barack Obama.

* “I’m honored to be here with you today because, let’s face it, you accomplished something I never could.”–Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in his Harvard commencement address. The former Harvard student never graduated.

* “Songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read.”–Bob Dylan.

* “It’s a bad bill with some good stuff sprinkled in.”–Tim Harris, president of the Florida School Boards Association, on the massive education bill (HB 7069) signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

* “As a citizen I’m embarrassed about the performance of our Legislature over the last three or four years.”–State Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City.

* “I care more about the people of this state than I care about the governments of this state.”–Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

* “The biggest challenge we have facing the United States is without question Donald Trump. And quite honestly, he’s the biggest challenge facing the world as well.”–Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former congresswoman Gwen Graham.

* “Over the year, the Tampa area added more than 41,000 new jobs and led the state in job growth for several industries, which is great news.”–Gov. Rick Scott.

* “You can’t build your way out of congestion. You need to get cars off the road. We are going to cause a stranglehold here on transportation if we don’t start investing in ourselves.”–Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp.

* “I still can’t wrap my head around why we need these express toll lanes.”–Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco, on Tampa Bay Next interstate expansion.

* “If you’re talking about spending tens of millions on mass transit, I think you’re better off taking a big swing at this technology. It’s going to be a hit.”–Tampa Bay Rays owner Stu Sternberg, making the case for the Bay Area becoming an incubator for the driverless car industry.

* “I just want the youth to put the guns down.”–Antwan Jenrette, whose teen-aged son was shot and killed last weekend.

* “Markets like St. Pete and Tampa are running out of room. Let’s be honest, you’ve got to find creative ways to repurpose existing real estate.”–Mark Eilers, managing director of land services for Colliers International in Tampa.