Rubiozone Update

* Some fortnights are better than others.

If karma matters, Marco Rubio’s “next generation” presidential candidacy won’t survive his oxymoronic approach to Cuba.

He’s already on the record for being “prepared to change strategies toward Cuba.” In other words, the would-be avatar of generational change would, from “Day One” begin to roll back the measures of detente between the U.S. and Cuba initiated by the Obama administration.

In effect, his millennial take would return the U.S. to a Cold War mentality. Anyone nostalgic for  the foreign policy of John Foster Dulles?

Of course, if karma always mattered, “American exceptionalism” would have already interceded and Rubio would be nothing more than a notorious, disingenuously glib, right-wing Miami bartender.

*Rubio’s defense of government subsidies for the sugar industry, is beyond, well, defense. This answer proves it. Eliminating the subsidies, said Rubio, would leave this country “at the mercy of a foreign country for food security.”

Employing awful hyperbole and being on the rhetorical side of corporate welfare are not winners. And being called out by anti-tax standard-bearer Grover Norquist has been well noted.

* Almost on cue, the U.S. and Cuba signed a memorandum in Havana to work out details of, among other things, a marine preservation and sanctuary accord. Also included: an agreement that would clear the way for American companies to provide the latest blow-out preventers and other pollution controls to limit oil spills and contain any slicks before they could impact Florida.  Cuba expects to resume its search for oil by 2017.

Such accords–impacting the ecosystem we share and need–would be imperiled on a certain “Day One.”

Chamber’s Cautious Statement

The last time the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce was in the news was over an understandably critical letter to Gov. Rick Scott from Chamber president Bob Rohrlack. Scott had appointed right-wing, political flamethrower Sam Rashid–of “taxpayer, subsidized slut” infamy–to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. The chamber’s board, in cover-your-ass mode, rebuked Rohrlack and sent an apology to Scott.

Now the chamber’s board is weighing in on the issue of a transit referendum. But blunt and direct–and even to the point–it is not. Perhaps it’s overcompensating with a letter by committee.

The chamber released a statement that Rohrlack said was in support of a sales tax transportation referendum on the 2016 ballot. Yet the statement never actually referenced Go Hillsborough or a half-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects. It did, however, note that it would “support a referendum that includes measureable transportation outcomes, including mobility options and additional funding sources.”

Close enough.

Foreign Fodder

* Turkey, as we know, is a member of NATO. Has been since 1952. Its location and military wherewithal dictate as much. Its air force is formidable and its active military personnel is second only to the U.S. at 600,000.

But Turkey, as we also know, has long yearned to be admitted into the European Community. Obviously, it hasn’t happened. We were reminded recently why that won’t change.

At a Turkey-Greece soccer game in Istanbul, fans booed during the moment of silence for the Paris victims of ISIS. They then added to the desecration with an “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” ) chant.

No, that doesn’t represent all–or even most–Turks, but it was the sort of symbolic reminder that assures Turkey is not a good EC fit.

* After 30 years, Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted of spying for Israel, has been released. Parole requirements preclude his leaving the U.S. without government permission for five years. Pollard has expressed his desire to renounce his American citizenship and move to Israel, where he’s seen by some as a hero.

His defenders contend his punishment was too severe for helping a close U.S. ally. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated his release. But there is an ironic bottom line: Imagine, being jailed as a traitor who engaged in massive espionage with an “ally.”

Sports Shorts

* When it comes to St. Petersburg and the Rays, maybe the best approach is that of City Council Chairman Charlie Gerdes. He says the sooner the city lets the Rays look elsewhere, the sooner the Rays will see for themselves that St. Pete is the best location.

No, I don’t agree with his reasoning, but if that rationale can carry the day, the better off everybody will be. And that includes would-be developers eying the Tropicana Field acreage for scenarios that don’t include baseball.

* Because I live here, I hope the teams based here do well–from USF and UT to the Rays, Bolts and Bucs. But the Bucs are a challenge to watch. That’s because it’s the National Football League. That’s because network cameras and preening players find each other after every play.

Regardless of context, there’s always something to self-congratulate, someone to denigrate. Football as lounge act.

* Ronda Rousey lost the other night and it warranted a (sports) page-one, above-the-fold piece in the Tampa Bay Times. Twitter had gone crazy with the news that the icon of mixed martial arts had been defeated. Not unlike Serena Williams, she was bigger than her sport, it was noted. A mixed media marvel. Lady Gaga and Donald Trump even chimed in. It was THAT huge.

My reaction: Who? What? I was reminded yet again that I can still be a pop-culture alien.

I mean how slow a news day was it that this was page-one stuff? Moreover, isn’t mixed martial arts, which features punching and kicking, what used to be called a street fight or an ugly brawl? Often of the drunken variety. Now it’s a sport with millions of fans and a billion Google results.

Hell, I had a problem rooting for the rags-to-riches Hillary Swank in “Million Dollar Baby.” Something about, “You go, girl, kick her ass” that seemed more off-putting exercise than inspirational, Horatio Alger tale.

* ESPN analyst and Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter made news with some candid comments about white NFL receivers. He implied they were victims of racial stereotyping and that they don’t get enough credit “for their athleticism.”

Among those not needing Carter’s commentary: the New England Patriots.


* “We do not succumb to fear.”–President Barack Obama.

* “Our goal is not to deter or contain ISIS, but to defeat and destroy ISIS.”–Hillary Clinton.

* “Wealthy and powerful Muslim nations in the region can no longer sit on the sidelines and expect the United States–our young men and our taxpayers–to do their work for them.”–Bernie Sanders.

* “We partnered with Stalin in WWII. Is Vladimir Putin an untouchable? … If Putin wants to enlist in the war against IS (Islamic State), sign him up.”–Patrick Buchanan, Creators Syndicate.

* “We don’t need to be the world’s policemen, but we must restore our place as the leader and indispensible power of the free world.”–Jeb Bush.

* “America has a president whose wartime leadership is apparently inspired, not by Winston Churchill or Franklin Roosevelt, but by Rachel Maddow.”–Michael Gerson, Washington Post.

* “The Arab nation-states were not great. But the nation-state system did preserve a certain order.”–David Brooks, New York Times.

* “Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East.”–Former CIA agent Duane R. Clarridge, Ben Carson’s adviser on national security.

* “I’ve come to the realization that this is not my time.”–Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, in announcing that he was dropping out of the 2016 race for president.

* “Our tax code needs to go from 73,000 pages to about three pages.”–Carly Fiorina.

* “Germany has grown increasingly anxious and angry for some months. Reason might now decide to leave the room, replaced by the politics of fear. And where Germany goes, the rest of Europe will follow.”–Anna Sauerbrey, Der Tagesspiegel opinion-page editor.

* “We might as well take down the Statue of Liberty.”–Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., in response to a bill passed by the House that would enact stiff restrictions for Syrian and Iraqi refugees coming to American shores.

* “What the First Amendment does and what it should do is drive the government to use neutral criteria. You can use neutral criteria to identify terrorists. What it can’t do is engage in one-religion bashing. That won’t fly in any court.”–Marci Hamilton, Yeshiva University legal expert on religious liberty.

* “I understand people’s concern about security, but the U.S. vets refugees like no other immigrant group. It’s an 19-month process.”–Sam Sipes, CEO of Lutheran Services Florida.

* “This is something that we’ve seen coming. It’s been almost 10 years that migration from Mexico has really slowed down.”–Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research for the Pew Research Center, commenting on findings that during 2009-14 more Mexicans left than moved into the U.S.

*This is the first step in relieving the burden of U.S. travelers carrying cash when traveling to Cuba and another step in normalizing commercial relations between the two countries.”–Dave Seleski, president and CEO of Stonegate Bank, in announcing that Stonegate is now offering a debit MasterCard that U.S. travelers will be able to use at hotels, restaurants and other sites in Cuba.

* “Dec. 16 is a very, very live date for action, and frankly, given the stellar 271,000 jobs report since the October (Federal Reserve) meeting, we would be astounded if they don’t raise rates finally.”–Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York.

* “My partying days are behind me. My philanthropic days are ahead of me.”–Charlie Sheen, who recently acknowledged that he was HIV-positive.

* “It’s a great time to be living and working in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.”–Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, on news that the Florida jobless rate fell to 5.1 percent–a 7-year low–and the Tampa Bay unemployment rate had dropped to 4.8 percent.

* “Government should have little to no involvement in the recreational daily lives of Floridians.”–Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton, who filed a bill that would prohibit the state from treating fantasy sports companies as gambling operations.

* “It’s time that we accept federal funds and expand Medicaid. As a physician, I am asking Florida representatives to put patients over politics and do what is right for the state.”–Mona Mangat, St. Petersburg-based allergist/immunologist and the chair of Doctors for America.

* “What is normally a straight-A report card, we fail when it comes to transportation. It is our Achilles’ heel. It is what keeps us from becoming even more competitive than we already are.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

* “Just measuring arrests and citations–probably not the most accurate reflection of what an officer is doing.”–TPD Assistant Chief Mary O’Connor.

* “Total lack of good-faith bargaining is an unfair labor practice and a slap in the face to all of you. You deserve better and we will not give up until you are treated with respect.”–Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, director of the Hillsborough County Teachers Union, in a message to members.

* “Today’s vote denied us an opportunity to make significant improvements to the stormwater system that are desperately needed. If council has a better idea, I would listen to it, but I haven’t heard it.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn on city council’s 4-3 rejection of a new stormwater tax.

* “There’s only two areas in East Tampa where there’s a drainage problem. Why should they be assessed when they already live in a poor economic environment.”–City Council Chairman Frank Reddick, who represents East Tampa, on why he voted against the stormwater tax.

* “Tampa has a fantastic community of restaurants, and I am excited to be a part of it.”–Celebrity chef Marc Murphy, who recently opened the Grey Salt restaurant at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

* “It’s a great, young team. … You would not want to play them.”–Mike Aresco, American Athletic Conference commissioner, on USF’s resurgent football team.

* “It just takes away a piece of Americana, which is high school Friday night football. And that’s Big City, USA, and Small Town, USA. And that’s the way it should stay.”–Plant High head coach Robert Weiner, on the increasing trend of colleges playing on Friday nights.

Push To Hike Term Limits

While guns, refugees and tax cuts will grab a disproportionate amount of attention in the upcoming legislative session, here’s hoping that the issue of term limits is properly aired. Two lawmakers, a Republican and a Democrat, have proposed a bill that would extend Florida’s eight-year term limits on legislators to 12 years.

It should pass. To clarify: It likely won’t this time, but it should–on merit.

For many voters, a gut reaction to the bill sponsored by Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, and Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, would probably be disbelief. After all, the 1992 amendment creating those eight-year term limits–which was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court in 1995– was approved by an overwhelming 76.8 percent of voters.

And no wonder.

Who wouldn’t want “citizen” legislators instead of self-serving careerists from the rising political class? Who wouldn’t want a regular transfusion of new blood flowing into Tallahassee? Who wouldn’t want rascals thrown out? Eight is enough.

The reality, however, is this. Eight, quite arguably, isn’t enough for some–those doing the job. The process should be case by case and decided by, well, voters–not across-the-board, calendar-determined mandates. There are better ways of advancing an anti-incumbent agenda.

Twelve years is better than eight, but it’s not better than having voters determine limits at the ballot box.

Some recent history.

In 2000, when the Sunshine State term limits kicked in, the result was the highest number of freshman legislators since Florida’s first legislative session back in 1845. Those with institutional history and expertise were replaced by rookies trying not to hit the ground stumbling while canvassing the arena for future leadership roles. It created voids of policymaking experience and gave unadulterated ambition a bad name.

Since then, dozens of House and Senate members leave annually because of term limits. And what timing: Just as they gain seniority and issue-competence, it’s time to move on. And guess what complementary line of work beckons?

It’s all part of the law of unintended consequences. Legislator limits, for example, create a more powerful governor, legislative staffers and lobbyists. Surely, empowering unelected staffers and lobbyists could not have been a priority. Surely.

And aforementioned leadership races, notably for House speaker and Senate president, are sometimes completed before members have passed their first bill. First things first: Line up those pledges. “Flori-duh,” indeed.

The responsibility should be on voters. The onus is on them to be informed and involved. They should make the ultimate call on individual candidates.

As for the power of incumbency? The only way the rascals–even with name recognition and organizational advantages–stay in office is if the electorate fails to note whether the case for re-election has ever been made. Do they, for example, act the fool over Medicaid expansion money and redistricting? Do they have Marion Hammer on speed dial? Do they think Cuba belongs in a Cold War cocoon?

Let’s face it. The only way this element could stay in office is if virtually nobody but loyalists and vested interests votes. The only way the rascals can win is if this work in progress called American democracy devolves further into a lazy mockcracy.

No, you don’t cure what ails Tallahassee by pushing term limits from eight to 12 years. This should be seen as an intermediate step toward meaningful, participatory democracy where voters actually determine term limits.

Face-Saving Compromise

Who knows how the stormwater standoff  between Mayor Bob Buckhorn and City Council will play out, but here’s one possibility. The city re-submits its fee proposal with tweaks for proportionality and fairness. It’s called a compromise–aka a critical, face-saving ploy for a council with its share of neighborhood populists and power complexes over a strong mayor.

Google This

We all Google too much. It’s too easy. Having said that, put this name in your queue: Smedley Butler. Smedley alone would probably yield results.

Unless you are a historian with a Depression-era conspiracy niche, this name will likely not ring any relevant bells. But trust me, this will take you aback–not just back.

And who knows? Bernie Sanders might just bring this reference up later in the primary races–and you can nod knowingly while others furrow their brows, shrug their shoulders and look quizzically at each other.

I put this last so you wouldn’t start Googling before finishing the column.

Dick Cheney As Keynoter Speaks Volumes

The debate-dotted Republican campaign among presidential candidates has been a weird mix of Tea Party pandering, show business preening, Bush dynasty dying and Barack Obama scapegoating. Then throw in some John Kasich frustration as the token adult pragmatic.

Makes you wonder which “party” identity–from anti-government avengers and non-politician outsiders to next-generation “visionaries”–will the electorate likely see behind the eventual nominee?

Well, it hardly helped the GOPster identity cause last week when former Vice President Dick Cheney gave the keynote address at the fund-raising gala that preceded the Sunshine Summit in Orlando. He’s neither an iconoclast vilifying everything Washington nor the personification of the party of the future. More like the avatar of a demographically-challenged Party in presidential freefall.

If anything, Cheney was the embodiment of national arrogance and remains an ongoing symbol of the international quagmire that resulted from the Bush Administration’s duplicitous rationale for invading Iraq in 2003. The consequences of which, we’ve been tragically reminded, continue to ripple horrifically across the globe a dozen years later.

And he’s who the Republicans of 2016 call on to rally the Party troops?