Enlightened Self-Interest

Among the more notable proposals once again facing the Sunshine State are two that need more blunt and candid context: Texting while driving and restoring rights to former felons. Whether via legislation or amendment.

First, making texting while driving a primary offense needs to happen. It’s the only way to get through to too many who turn unconscionably careless and witless behind the wheel. We need to say as a society: “This is going to cost you big time–from serious fines to insurance impact to license suspension and worse. You take a selfish, cavalier attitude about distracted driving–and we’re coming after you. Count on it. Nothing will distract us.”

Second, is the ultimate rationale. We’re all impacted.

This is not some legal abstraction; the rest of US are potential victims every time we get behind the wheel because of who else might literally be crossing our driving path. We are the constituency with skin and bones in this game. Let’s do this for US. Let’s promote this for the gut-level common good.

As for former felons having their civil rights restored, it’s just fair that after having paid (via prison and probation) a societal debt–unless it was a violent felony that can never been righted–these people automatically get another shot at full citizenry.

Second, is the ultimate rationale. We’re all impacted. It’s worth repeating.

Felons who have had their rights restored–including voting, jury serving and certain professional license holding–have noticeably lower rates of recidivism. That’s a formal way of saying a restored-rights, former felon is less likely to negatively impact all of us non former felons. In short, having more than a million long-term, second-class citizens can’t be in Florida’s best interest.

This is doing the right, smart thing for the right, smart, self-serving societal reasons. For us.

Trumpster Diving

* No, nothing shocks us anymore. If you have a shit-hole president with a shit-holier-than-thou cast of GOPster enablers, this is what you get. And this is who, in effect, speaks for the U.S. around the world. Maddeningly, embarrassingly disgusting.

* “Ballistic Missile Threat Inbound To Hawaii. Seek Immediate Shelter. This Is Not A Drill.” Imagine if Trump had seen that emergency alert on a Fox News crawl.

* Also imagine what the North Koreans–uncommonly quiet because of Olympic scenarios they hope will alter South Korean-U.S. cohesion–were thinking during that 38-minute period when no one knew this was a false alarm. What they might have begun to do in anticipation of how the U.S.–OK, Trump–would respond.

Sound Bite Bob

The successor to term-limited Mayor Bob Buckhorn will have an agenda that includes continued municipal momentum, budgetary challenges, community policing, CEO/cheerleader dynamics and more.

And it’s a given that next up will also have a tough rhetorical act to follow. Think: “Bring me his head,” a serial-killer reference, although it might have applied to local-government-intruding House Speaker Richard Corcoran as well.

Buckhorn’s recent response to CSX over the doubling of downtown “quiet zone” costs–to more than $7 million–is just the most recent example of vintage Buckhornian rhetoric. “It’s outrageous,” fumed the mayor. “We can’t afford it. … Folks who now have a complaint about the noise at 3 in the morning, we’ll give them CXS’s number.”

Media Matters

* A couple of thoughts after seeing Barack Obama as the initial guest on David Letterman’s new Netflix series “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.”

< Obama’s legacy could very well be: How depressingly disappointing that the election of the first non-white person as U.S. president wasn’t a game changer for the better. It stoked birtherism and whitewashed populism. For all those, this scribe included, who thought maybe now America would come to grips with where we fit in the world, how crushingly delusional. But Mitch McConnell had set the record straight within nanoseconds of Obama’s inauguration when he underscored that it was his party’s top priority to make Obama a “one-term president.”

< The juxtaposition of Obama–articulate, classy, well-informed, personable, humorous–with Trump could conceivably prove to be a motivating force for everyone not part of the deplorable basket to get involved enough to take back their country–while it’s still there for the taking back.

* If you only see one uber-publicized movie this awards season, make it “The Post.” No, it wasn’t cooed over critically like “Lady Bird” and “The Shape of Water,” but the takeaways are worth it.

We need, as a vulnerable democracy, to be reminded of the role and relevance of real, however imperfect, journalism. Never more than now, when mainstream media is routinely demonized by Donald Trump and all those who channel his communication pathologies.

After watching “The Post,” or “Spotlight” or “All The President’s Men,” you don’t just exit the theater. You leave with a renewed appreciation of what the First Amendment means and what is always at stake in a constitutional democracy. The truth must matter the most.

Environmental Dealing

So, Rick Scott cuts a ballyhooed deal with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to separate Florida from coastal, oil-drilling scenarios. Political expedience meets environmental conversion. Swing state loyalty meets senatorial ambition.

But let’s not forget that the Trump Administration’s overall coastal drilling policy remains a threat. Spills off of other Gulf states, lest we forget, have a rippling impact. No sighs of relief; it’s everybody’s environment–ecological and economic.

“For The Posse”

Interesting to see that a Morgan & Morgan attorney is representing the woman who was injured at that Jannus Live concert featuring Insane Clown Posse, the horrorcore hip-hop duo. And, no, it wasn’t the first time an Insane Clown Posse concert resulted in civil action. Somehow, I don’t see this case showing up as part of a “For-the-People” TV marketing strategy.

Sports Shorts

* After more than five seasons, veteran Lightning wing J.T. Brown is no longer a member of the Bolts. He was claimed off waivers by the Anaheim Ducks. Brown will be remembered in several ways. He was good, just not as good as hoped. He was the Bolts’ only African-American player. He was also the first player in the league to perform a silent racial protest during the national anthem. He raised a fist from the bench.

But he wasn’t done. He didn’t just raise the fist or kneel the knee. He literally got involved in police-community relations. He did ride-alongs with TPD officers to see patrol reality from their perspective. He also joined officers for trick-or-treating in Seminole Heights.

J.T. Brown was no star and ultimately came up short of expectations. But he showed social awareness, and he showed class. He was good for the Lightning and good for Tampa. Good luck, J.T.

* A lot of folks have an opinion on UCF’s perfect football season and whether the Knights were shortchanged by a system that precluded them from participating in  a national championship playoff. Here’s Bobby Bowden’s take: “If I were (UCF), I would be yelling just like them, celebrating an undefeated season and a national championship.”

* So I get this head’s up from my brother who still lives in Philly. He’s been told–by some geek-buddy-high school-football-archivist sort–that I actually hold a record at my alma mater, La Salle HS. It’s for the most TD catches in a decade, in this case the 1960s. It’s been verified. They can check stats and game films. I was blindsided. Back-in-the-day stuff. Who knew? But, well, kind of cool, I guess.

Then came an inevitable, O’Neillian punch line. The, uh, grand total was three. It was the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust era. We ran the ball all the time. But, yeah, it still counts.


* “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un.”–Donald Trump.

* “One cannot force one’s lifestyle on the future generations. The problem is that we want two generations after us to live the way we like them to.”–Iran President Hassan Rouhani.

* “Nationalism is a powerful current in Iranian life, and Mr. Trump is offering Ayatollah Khamenei the gift of a credible straw man–with alacrity, it seems,”–Laura Secor, author of “Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran.”

* “We should root for both the Iranian and Saudi youth movements to bury 1979. It would be a gift for Muslims the world over–and for the world at large, which has spent trillions of dollars countering the furies fueled by that pivotal year.”–Thomas Friedman, New York Times.

* As fearful as we are of thousands of Americans going down to Cuba and recreating the mass tourism model that destroyed much of the Caribbean, tourism has to be part of the solution.”–American marine biologist and Ocean Doctor founder David E. Guggenheim.

* “This is a system that is hackable and prone to human and technical error.”–Bruce G. Blair, nuclear security expert and research scholar at Princeton University, on America’s Emergency Notification System.

* “DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it. They just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our military.”–Donald Trump.

* “While unqualified people are marching in, qualified people are fleeing. … Just one year of Donald Trump has moved us a long way toward a government of the worst and dumbest. It’s a good thing the man at the top is, like, smart.”–Paul Krugman, New York Times.

* “The fact is that Americans already have all the data they need to judge Trump’s fitness. After all, do you really need a physicist to explain what will happen to you if you walk in front of a speeding train?”–Richard Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry and director of the psychopharmacology clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College.

* “Oprah: Sounder on economics than Bernie Sanders, understands Middle America better than Elizabeth Warren, less touchy-feely than Joe Biden, more pleasant than Andrew Cuomo, more charismatic than John Hickenlooper.”–Conservative commentator Bill Kristol.

* “We are in the age of celebrity and the next one will and can be anything–Nobel laureate, movie star, professional wrestler, talk-show host, charismatic corporate executive.”–Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.

* “Pay attention to undecided voters. Undecideds almost always break toward the challenger. It happened in 2016 to Trump. In midterms, they break away from the party holding the White House.”–Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report.

* “Whether Jeff Sessions likes cannabis is not the question. The people of California voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana for recreational use.”–Kevin de Leon, the California State Senate leader.

* “Dear (Interior) Secretary Zinke: California, like Florida, has hundreds of miles of beautiful coastline and a governor who wants to keep it that way. Or is that not enough for a blue state?”–California Rep. Adam Schiff.

* “Everybody who’s been fighting drilling for years is seeing Rick Scott in the period of a week change his tune on drilling and then emerge as the champion in a choreographed press conference.”–Frank Jackalone, the Sierra Club’s Florida chapter director.

* “Telemarketers with a cool title.”–Former Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy, on what it felt like to have to be consumed by fund-raising while a member of Congress.

* “I’m not left; I’m not right. I’m forward.”–Philip Levine, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former mayor of Miami Beach.

* “Having the president governing from our county in an area bordered by water on each side in a facility never built to offer the level of protection the president requires is a challenge.”–Palm Beach County Commissioner David Kerner.

* “We did in six weeks what we did last year in three months. Imagine what we could have done in three months.”–Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids & Families at the University of South Florida. Florida led all states with 1.75 million people signing up for the Affordable Care Act during the (Nov.1-Dec.15) open enrollment period.

* “So far, there’s no indication that this growth is slowing down any time soon. This record is significant and underscores the importance of Tampa International Airport’s master-planned projects and the need to build now and build smart.”–Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Chairman Robert Watkins, on TIA’s record 2017 passenger count of nearly 20 million and how that reinforces the ongoing expansion projects.

* “Unless we are willing to ask the public to tax themselves significantly in order to make it happen, then realistically, light rail is really not going to happen.”–St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.