Cuban Bottom Line

We can protest and rally and rhetorically stand with the Cuban people, but that’s not enough. What is called for is the overturning of Trump policies toward Cuba–including restrictions on trade, travel and remittances to Cubans–that had undone what President Obama did to normalize relations. In short, rescind the Trump Administration designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. And it would help if we changed our delusional, Cold War-induced United Nations vote on the embargo.

And speaking of the embargo, the Administration should engage with–even this–Congress in efforts to finally overturn a policy that has been a blatant, counterproductive failure for nearly 60 years. One that cut off Cuba’s access to financing and imports. The ensuing national conversation–although heated and replete with the usual illogical ideology, retribution and posturing–would still underscore the hypocritical reality that while the U.S. has normal relations with corrupt, authoritarian Saudi Arabia and communist Vietnam, we can’t find a way to get along with Cuba, a neighboring communist country with dire needs.

It’s hardly incidental that as vice president Joe Biden oversaw a policy that in 2015 restored full diplomatic relations with Cuba. And he, to be sure, knows that yet another political diversion is problematic, given his challenging agendas. But he also knows what’s right–from humanitarian as well as geopolitical perspectives–and what would ultimately benefit both post-Castro Cuba and post-Trump America.

Dem Notes

  • “It’s up to all of us to protect that right (to vote). This is a test of our time.”—President Joe Biden.
  • No signs yet that liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, the Court’s oldest justice, plans to step down. Breyer is under pressure to retire so President Biden can name a successor while the Democrats still retain a narrow Senate majority.
  • “It’s absolutely imperative if democracy is to survive that we do everything that we can to say, ‘Yes, we hear your pain and we are going to respond to your needs.’ That’s really what this is about.”—Sen. Bernie Sanders.
  • “If Democrats bungle the bloodshed in Cuba, they will forfeit Cuban-American voters forever—and they will deserve it.”—Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald.

COVID Bits

  • Driven by the delta variant, lagging vaccine rates and holiday gatherings, the number of new COVID cases per day doubled over the last three weeks.
  • COVID context: The virus continues to kill people faster than guns, car crashes and influenza combined.
  • “This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”—CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
  • According to the State Department, there’s a backlog of 1.5 million passport applications. The wait time for renewing or applying could be as much as 18 weeks.
  • Los Angeles County, the nation’s largest, has restored an indoor mask mandate—even for those who have been vaccinated.
  • Consensus: Most vaccinated Americans are unlikely to need COVID-19 booster shots for months—or even a year.
  • According to the American Psychology Association’s annual stress survey, 42 percent of the population gained unwanted weight—averaging 29 lbs.—during the pandemic.
  • Airbnb upside: As the country adjusts to post-lockdown status, many travelers are choosing to stay in rented homes rather than hotels as a way of maintaining a safer bubble.
  • According to White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients, nearly one in five of the nation’s new COVID-19 infections is from Florida.
  • Florida is third in the nation in new COVID cases per capita—trailing only Arkansas and Missouri, according to the CDC.
  • The U.S. has been experiencing COVID outbreaks tied to summer camps in a number of states, including Florida.
  • According to Dr. Peggy Duggan, TGH’s executive vice president and chief medical officer, nearly 90 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients have not been vaccinated.
  • “There should be more mandates (at the local level to crush the COVID spread).”—Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Florida

  • “The one thing that communist regimes fear the most is the truth.”—That was Gov. Ron DeSantis. And while DeSantis is no avatar of veracity, what he says is true. But other regimes, non-Communist ones, have been known to fear the truth as well–as DeSantis and his pathologically-lying mentor know.
  • DeSantis traveled to the Texas-Mexico border and was briefed on security issues. He also upped his profile among Republicans looking to regain the White House in 2024.
  • Florida’s new civics curriculum has been approved by the State Board of Education. Gov. DeSantis is pleased, which is cause for concern. “We’re going to teach our kids about the evil of things like communism and socialism,” declared DeSantis. So much for historic racism and political harlotry. Or maybe he’s just nostalgic for the Cold War era and the secondary teaching of “Americanism vs. Communism.”
  • “(Socialist Democrats) would rather blame America than admit that the ideology they support has caused devastation, death and squalor for the people of Cuba.”—Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
  • “A new lifestyle is evolving in Florida and with it, a new habitat, the condominium.” That’s what Florida Trend magazine declared in 1970. Condo “paradise” was dawning. Much more than luster, however, has been lost over the years. 
  • Twenty-five years ago, Florida produced more than 200 million boxes of oranges. The most recent season, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, produced 52.8 million boxes.

Media Matters

  • Niche reporting”: euphemism of Fox News for right-wing propaganda.
  • “Why is Fox News still broadcasting on the U.S. Armed Forces Network to our military around the globe?”—Robert Bruce Adolph, author of “Surviving the United Nations: The Unexpected Challenge.”
  • Speaking of Fox, Sean Hannity recently acknowledged that he had received a COVID-19 shot. “I do believe in science, and I believe in vaccinations,” he said. “You don’t need to talk to people on TV and radio that aren’t doctors.” Perhaps the Biden Administration should run that as a public service vax ad.

TikTok was the most-downloaded app globally in the first half of 2021.

Sports Shorts

  • Champa Bay update: For the first time a Tampa Bay championship team, the Bucs, has visited the White House. Timing is everything. Their host was not a spotlight-hogging, narcissist-in-chief.
  • The NFL’s Washington franchise, the erstwhile Redskins, still hasn’t settled on a new nickname. Definitely out: any kind of Native American name. Even the Washington Lobbyists would be an improvement. It definitely won’t be the Washington Vaxxers. Washington and the Indianapolis Colts are the only two (out of 32) NFL teams below the   50 percent vaccination rate.
  • Commissioner Rob Manfred has indicated that MLB will likely be dropping the pandemic-prompted rule changes that mandated 7-inning doubleheaders and starting extra innings with runners on second base. It’s also possible, indicated Manfred, that the designated hitter could be extended to the National League.

Just do it. It continues to make no sense that a key MLB provision only applies to one of two leagues.

  • “Out with an upper-body injury for the next couple of days.” That’s how Lightning General Manager Julien BriseBoise, using quintessential hockey-injury language, referred to the Stanley Cup being dinged during the recent celebration.
  • Should the U.S. women’s basketball team bring home Olympic gold, it will be the fifth–yes, fifth–Olympic gold medal for guards Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird.
  • When Italy became the soccer champions of Europe by defeating England in Euro 2021, the Italians and Europe did more than celebrate. They got derisively in the face of the Brits. Typical was this comment from Alessandra Moretti, a member of the European Parliament. “Go Italy. A united Europe beats the England of Brexit.”

Trumpster Diving

  • It’s sobering that none of the revelations in “I Alone Can Fix It” by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig are shocking—from Donald Trump’s COVID mishandling to his catalytic role in re-election chaos and insurrection. That includes the gut feelings of Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who, in uniform, had accompanied Trump—infamously—for his Bible photo-op after the violent clearing of Lafayette Square. He had sensed a “Reichstag moment” days before the Capitol riot. According to Milley, the U.S. under Trump was experiencing its own version of the late Weimar Republic—complete with modern “Brownshirts.” Too bad the general, who was a first-hand witness to an America imperiled by an unhinged demagogue with a cabinet of cowards, didn’t speak out when it mattered most.
  • “Old Crow.” That’s how Trump recently referenced Minority Leader Mitch McConnel. “Old Crow’s” response: “Actually, it’s quite an honor. Old Crow is Henry Clay’s favorite bourbon.” Whatever.
  • To date, none of the more than 500 defendants in the Capitol attack have been indicted for sedition—or treason. The main reason: legal complexity—not that it wasn’t, uh, sort of seditious.
  • “If you’re scared to tell the truth to people, I understand, but you need to find a different line of work.”—Republican Rep. Adam Kinsinger of Illinois, who has spoken out against the “Big Lie” that the presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump.
  • Steve Bannon, no surprise, has a different take on said “Big Lie.” It’s a GOPster litmus test, he asserts. “There will not be a Republican that wins a primary for 2022—not one—that doesn’t take the pledge to get to the bottom of Nov. 3,” predicted Bannon.
  • “Many of the people who hectored the Obama Administration about debt seemed to reveal a lot about their true motives by going quiet during the Trump years.”—Paul Krugman, New York Times.

Quoteworthy

  • “Our job is now just not to forget.”—Gen. Austin S. Miller, who stepped down as the top American general in Afghanistan, speaking at a farewell ceremony in Kabul.
  • “We are not only partners and allies, but we are very close friends.”—German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who recently visited with President Joe Biden in Washington.
  • “The only way (for America) to respond is as if the Cuban people’s lives depend on us … because they do.”—Jordan Valdes, former senior adviser in the Obama Administration.
  • “Cuba Is Not Yours.”—What one group of Cuban demonstrators chanted outside the headquarters of the Communist Party of Cuba.
  • “The Cuban system has no resemblance to democratic socialism, because there is nothing remotely democratic about it.”—Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.
  • “Haiti’s problems cannot be solved by U.S. intervention. The United States no longer has the standing, the stomach or even the desire to impose its vision on Haiti.”—Amy Wilentz, the author of “The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier.”
  • “There is nothing like this other than the 1850s, when events led inevitably to the civil war.”—Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, on the Capitol siege—as quoted in “I Alone Can Fix It” by Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig.
  • “Tariffs are taxes on consumers. In some cases it seems to me what we did hurt American consumers, and the type of deal that the prior administration negotiated really didn’t address in many ways the fundamental problems we have with China.”—Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
  • “Will likely remain elevated in coming months” before “moderating.”—Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, on the state of inflation.
  • “Never be afraid of failure or loss. Use it.”—Christiane Amanpour, chief international anchor for CNN.
  • “The company (Facebook) has put growth and profits above all else, even when it was clear that misinformation and hate speech were circulating across the platform and that the company was violating the privacy of its users.”—The American Press Institute’s Susan Benkelman.
  • “We should be as proud of those who search for alternatives to war as we are of warriors.”—Michael D. Knox, author of “Ending U.S. Wars by Honoring Americans Who Work for Peace.”
  • “At a moment when we should be throwing everything we have into ensuring the planet remains habitable, billionaires are treating us to a (space) spectacle to distract us from their quest for continued capitalist accumulation and the disastrous effects it is already having.”—Paris Max, Jacobin.
  • “I call on Congress to act swiftly to provide a permanent solution, a path to citizenship that will grant these ‘Dreamers’ the legal status they deserve and make official what so many of them know in their hearts: They belong here, this is their home too.”—FDP Chairman Manny Diaz, in response to a federal judge blocking new DACA applications.
  • “Gov. DeSantis has ruled out COVID lockdowns and mask mandates. COVID vaccination will always be a free choice and never mandated.”—DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw.
  • “What I think explains high infection rates is that we have a governor who has not taken COVID seriously, from the very beginning. You know, he’s essentially right now treating it like a joke.”—Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
  • “Pets can become sick from Red Tide, so keep them away from those areas.”—The Florida Department of Health.
  • “The intensity of the past two years has put a strain on my health and my family.”—USF President Steve Currall, in announcing that he would be stepping down Aug. 2.
  • “The key thing for renters is this kind of rent growth isn’t sustainable long-term. It can’t grow at this pace for much longer.”—Brian Alford, director of Florida market analytics for CoStar Group, a real estate data company. Tampa Bay’s average asking rent rose 15.6 percent in the first half of this year.
  • “September is when we really start ratcheting up to normal activity.”—Straz Center president and CEO Judy Lisi.

“Our momentum is electric, and people want to move here so that they can be part of our success story too.”—Mayor Jane Castor.

Biden’s Eclectic Agenda

  • However persistent the partisanship and however awkward the optics, there should still be enough overall support for the U.S. exit from Afghanistan. In fact, polls show that large numbers of Americans in both parties support leaving Afghanistan. President Joe Biden put it into a context that even (no more “endless wars”) Trumpsters should agree with. “We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build,” stated Biden. “And it’s the right and responsibility of Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.”
  • “If the Russian government cannot or will not take action against (cyber) criminal actors residing in Russia, we will take action on our own.” That was White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who knows the president is under growing pressure to take some kind of public action. It’s also a given that cyber attacks originating in Russia, even if not directly linked to the Kremlin, can be halted by an authoritarian.

Speaking of, the advice of Russian chess grandmaster and political activist Garry Kasparov, could be instructive. “The only language that Putin understands is power, and his power is his money,” said Kasparov. “The U.S. should wipe out oligarchs’ accounts, one by one, until the message is delivered.” Stay tuned.

  • Yes, this president’s agenda is top heavy with domestic challenges ranging from insurrection fall-out, a MAGA mentality, filibuster governance, vaccination expedience and infrastructure needs to racial disparities, gun violence, voter suppression and border chaos. But foreign policy is increasingly in the cross hairs: from Russia and China to North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan to Central America, Cuba and Haiti. It helps that the commander in chief has foreign policy chops—from chairing the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee to two vice presidential terms with important international portfolios.
  • “Let me be clear: Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation.” President Biden, in signing an executive order targeting monopolies.
  • The DNC is making a $25 million infusion into efforts to combat new laws passed by Republican state lawmakers that restrict voting.
  • “(The economy) is booming so strongly that Republicans have pivoted from claiming (falsely) that we’re experiencing the worst job performance in decades to lauding the employment numbers and giving credit to … Trump’s 2017 tax cut.”—Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.
  • “Dear Sen. Manchin: You’ve not helped the Senate get things done; you’ve helped Mitch McConnell block the Senate from getting anything done. … Yes, you’re elected to serve the people of your state, but once you take the oath of office, your primary obligation is to do what’s best for the entire country.”—Bill Press, author of “Trump Must Go” and a former co-host of CNN’s “Cross Fire.”