Gasparilla Time

Once again we are reminded that we are among the few cities lucky enough to have a big signature parade. In fact, it’s a doubleheader. We just had 6-figure crowds lining Bayshore to watch the Children’s Gasparilla. It’s the largest kids’ event in the U.S. It has a sponsor, Chick-fil-A, and ranges from a bicycle safety rodeo and marching bands to an air invasion and fireworks. More than 100 floats and 50 krewes take part. It’s nothing like the children’s parade used to be: a couple of floats and a handful of parent-monitoring tykes on trikes.

One other thing. This is “Seas the Day” Tampa at its best. It even looks like Tampa–black, brown and white–and sounds like Tampa–English and Spanish–as Tampa bead-bearing kids ride in wagons or on their fathers’ shoulders. It’s an alcohol free celebration of Tampa.

Then there’s the big one, the Gasparilla Pirate Fest this Saturday. Only problem: It’s not alcohol free and thus no longer Tampa at its best. While Tampa police have done a laudable job in reining in some of the worst behaviors, a rite of pissage still prevails for too many who begin drinking before noon.

Maybe we don’t need a doubleheader.

Dem Notes

* “We’re true partners, the three of us.”–President Joe Biden in reference to Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the North American Leaders Summit in Mexico City.

* Sturm und drang alert: “Now that Democrats no longer have one-party rule in Washington, oversight and accountability are coming.” That was Republican Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee. In other words, they’ll be accountable for putting Hunter Biden back in the news cycle.

* Given the GOP’s control of the House, grass roots commitments, efforts at voter suppression and hardcore Trump fealty, Dems can hardly afford unforced errors. But here we are: President Joe Biden’s White House document security, Hunter Biden’s lap top and coattail-riding in Ukraine, Andrew Gillum’s frought character, Hillary Clinton’s emails and connection to Anthony the Weinermobile. Rick Scott still probably appreciates Alex Sink’s phone call during their gubernatorial debate. Dems have enough issues with party unity, a less-than-stellar bench and continued GOP efforts to make voting more problematic. Unforced errors should be unacceptable.

* “I think Cuba is weaponizing immigration to get Biden to cede on sanctions.”–Orlando Gutierrez, head of the Cuban Resistance Assembly in Miami.


* Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-NY, has introduced a bill requiring federal office candidates to provide details of their education, employment and military service UNDER OATH. Torres, no surprise, calls it the SANTOS Act. It literally stands for “Stop Another Non-Truthful Office Seeker” Act. Makes you wonder if legislative staffs include an acronym specialist.

* MAGA”: Making America Grifter Attractive.

* If we keep finding ourselves saying “That’s not who we are,” then maybe that’s who we are.

* Remember when “You’re looking great!” didn’t mean “for your age”?

* One redeeming thing about egotists: They don’t talk about other people.

* Doodie Calls”–Port-a-let signage before Gasparilla.

Media Matters

* Doonesbury” deserves—more than ever—to get off the comics page and on to the editorial page. No way does partisan political satire deserve context with “Pickles,” “Rubes,” “Zits” and “Blondie.”

* More from Prince Harry: Spare me.

* “Perhaps lack of thinking and intellectual depth in our politics is caused by instruments and websites that do the thinking for us. Where have all the intellectuals gone?”–Cal Thomas, Tribune Content Agency.

* “There’s something very seductive about being a television star.”–Donald Trump.

* Less secular sorts may disagree, but Tarpon Springs’ annual big-splash Epiphany celebration deserves something less than mega media attention, including Tampa Bay Times’ page one, above-the-fold coverage. If, indeed, there were a journalistic dawning, would that be an epiphany?


* The Tampa Bay metro area has increased by more than 14 percent over the last decade.

* “Vibrant, downtown Tampa.” Remember when that was an oxymoron?

* “Now there’s no top leadership in the Legislature out of Tampa Bay.”–Former state Senate President Tom Lee of Brandon.

* Nearly 200 firearms were stolen from unlocked vehicles in 2022. There’s carelessness—leaving your car unlocked—and then there’s societal enabling of violent street crimes.


* It was no shock that far-right former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro didn’t hang around for the inauguration of his successor (Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva), the one who had defeated him in a run-off. There then followed an assault on Brazil’s capital Brasilia by Bolsonaro supporters who claimed the election was not won legally. It was eerily similar to Washington’s Jan. 6 insurrection.

So where does a Western Hemisphere autocrat head to? Florida. Initially near Orlando. Beyond that? Trump always has room in his Guilded Elba for a fellow despot.

* There are now two black county GOP chairpersons: Hillsborough’s Dana Golen and Palm Beach’s Michael Bennett.

* From 2013-20, Florida universities received nearly $1 billion from Chinese entities.

* “We seek normalcy, not philosophic lunacy. We will never surrender to the woke mob.”–Gov. Ron Desantis, at his inauguration. The obvious takeaway: the self-serving context and definition of “normalcy” are not unlike those for “freedom.”

* DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE Act” takes acronyming to ridiculous depths as he has dubbed the law the “Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act. Well, we can go even lower. No butts about it. How about a gubernatorial acronym? Another Self Serving Hijacking Of Legal Expertise.

Sports Shorts

* Among the presumed Heisman Trophy contenders for next season: the University of Washington’s Michael Penix, an alumnus of Tampa Bay Tech.

* Why did Tom Brady unretire for the 2022 season? First, because he is Tom Brady. A GOAT can make that call and get GOAT money for an otherwise QB-challenged team. Second, he had won a Super Bowl here and came close enough the following season. Maybe there was more magic, even with all the roster chaos. Third, it’s never easy to leave center stage. Sure, he has his well-known brand, his lucrative investments, a rich broadcast-analyst contract awaiting, an ongoing podcast and an “80 for Brady” movie that has even enthralled Jane Fonda.

But life is different when you no longer have the ultimate center-stage forum for your talent. It can never be the same. Even iconic quarterbacks who no longer had their prime-time games–think Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath–couldn’t resist one final year, however humbling and embarassing.

But this we do know: Brady can still play—even at a position that increasingly focuses on mobility, hardly Brady’s strength. But he can only be Brady if he’s surrounded by enough talent to have a shot at next year’s Super Bowl. The Bucs, with their roster-and-draft tumult, are not that team.

* There are injuries, retirements, free-agent exits and draft decisions. It’s NFL parity. Don’t just cite the Bucs. Just ask the defending Super Bowl champion (5-12) LA Rams. BTW, for all the disappointments—and staff firings—the Bucs remain the only team in the NFC to reach the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.

Trumpster Diving

* Mike Pence, like so many self-serving pols, has a book out that keeps his name in the news before 2024. It’s an autobiography entitled, unsurprisingly, “So Help Me God.” Word is the title is actually a shortened version of the overly candid original: “So, Help Me God: I Want To Make Up For Having Enabled the Anti-Christ.”

* “If Donald Trump had been born black, he would have been Don King.”–Rev. Al Sharpton.

* “History isn’t kind to the man who holds Mussolini’s jacket.” That was Ted Cruz explaining why he didn’t endorse Trump at the 2016 GOP Convention.

* Trumpism without Trump: Ron DeSantis.

* Trump was known among his own staff as the “Leaker-in-Chief.”

* When Speaker of the House balloting embarrassingly goes into double digits, anything can happen—including the nomination of Donald Trump as Speaker by Florida’s reprehensible Rep. Matt Gaetz. a Trump acolyte.

* Speaking of the GOP outHouse fiasco, Speaker Kevin McCarthy will look at expunging Trump impeachments. Eventually we’ll see more signs of McCarthy concessions over his Speaker status. One thing that won’t change: a twice-impeached president is part of the historical record.

* Once in office, “Trump became the worst version of himself.”–Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen.

* If Roy Cohn were still alive, Trump has told insiders, he would still be president. Not all presidents evolve in office.

* Back in the day, Ronald Reagan rejected the backing of the John Birch Society in his first gubernatorial campaign. As noted, that was then.

* Calling black Republicans “props” is demeaning. It’s also true—as long as the GOP remains the party of george LINCOLN rockwell.


* “At our best, the American promise wins out. … But I don’t need to tell you that we’re not always at our best. We’re fallible. We fail and fall.”--President Joe Biden during a Sunday morning sermon at MLK’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

* “Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”–Albert Camus.

* “Think in slogans and speak in bullets.”–How George Orwell characterized Nazi leaders.

* “Every war ends in a diplomatic way. Every war ends as a result of the actions taken on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”–Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

* “More immigration is in our national interest. … We are suffering from a severe labor shortage.”–Mona Charen, The Bulwark.

* “We do not trust Mr. McCarthy with power.”–Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz.

* “No matter what the polls say now, DeSantis or any other GOP aspirant who enters the race against Trump will have a tough time. Hitting below the belt is what Trump does best. He is not bound by rules or decency.”–David Corn, Mother Jones.

* “Act with urgency to pay our bills on time and not cause additional chaos.”–What U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, called on Republicans to do.

* “(Former Brazilian President Jair) Bolsonaro should not be given refuge in Florida.”–U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

* “There are really no Democrats in Florida who have money or are motivated.”–Attorney John Morgan.

* “I never intended to run for mayor.”–Tampa City Councilman Bill Carlson.

* “This is the new crown jewel of that athletics district—that ultimately is going to have an even newer and bigger crown jewel soon.”–USF Board of Trustees Chairman Will Weatherford, at the formal opening of the $22 million Porter Family Indoor Performance Facility. The ultimate “crown jewel” would be an on-campus football stadium.

Monitoring Media

TV or not TV?

That should be a question we all ask ourselves–especially when it involves the “news” and all of its exigent priorities. “If it bleeds, it leads” is more than a cliché. Alas, it’s still, especially in an era of continuous news cycles and problematic profits, a motivational force–even more so with cell-phone footage access. Then, of course, there is the self-serving, party-over-country, typically disingenuous performance art known as politics. Mollify the masses. Get that ego elected. Take advantage of the outsized exposure.

Some of us seem inured or cynical to what keeps unfolding. Others appear to embody partisan animus.

The rest of us—for the sake of mental health and meaningful democracy—need to monitor our exposure to TV news coverage and commentary. It can have a visceral impact on our well being.

As a result—whether it’s Joy Reid or joyless Laura Ingraham—I’m not watching. Reliable reading will carry the day with the purpose of being informed—not inflamed.