Vigilante Justice Upheld

The truly shocking part about the Kyle Rittenhouse acquital is that it wasn’t a shock. We could see it coming because we’ve seen what has preceded it.

We are a country where guns outnumber Americans and open carry is increasingly seen as a Constitutional right. No help from the Supreme Court is now a given. We are a country where assault weapons in the hands of non-military, non-law enforcement individuals are seen as an extension of militia-era Second Amendment rights and are, unconscionably, a politically partisan issue. We are, seemingly, headed in a dystopian direction unless we refocus our societal compass on common sense and the common good.

Then add the moral and legal outlier that is stand-your-ground self defense. It should be beyond defending when a 17-year-old can illegally have possession of an assault weapon, travel across a state line, provoke confrontations, create danger, kill two people and be found not-guilty on five charges. Zero legal consequences. Not even reckless endangerment! Who other than George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, could really, truly feel that anything other than a miscarriage of justice occurred in that Kenosha courthouse? This was Exhibit A for standing your groundless morality to advance the legal cause of vigilante justice.

And this just in. Fox News is marketing an exclusive interview and upcoming documentary on Rittenhouse.

Dem Notes

* “The first to ask is the last to know.”–The response of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 81, to those inquiring about possible plans to leave Congress.

* President Joe Biden has renominated Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. It’s a critically important reappointment as monetary policy will be a key catalyst in reining in inflation for financial markets and the American public—and reining it in before the mid-term elections.

* “It’s not sustainable for our party to continue to tank in small-town America. We’ve got a branding problem as Democrats in way too many parts of our country.”–Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, who led the House Democratic campaign arm in 2020.

* Rep. Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House as well as the Influencer of the Senate when it comes to cajoling Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema on the social policy and climate change package.

* Former President Barack Obama’s Foundation has received a $100 million donation from Jeff Bezos. As part of the gift, Bezos asked for the Plaza at the (under construction) Obama Presidential Center in Chicago be named after the late civil rights icon John Lewis.

* “What is very pressing is the protection of voting rights and combating against gerrymandering. And I believe that if the Senate does not move on that, there’s no amount of material gains that we could deliver that will compensate.”–Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

COVID Bits

* Numerous countries in Europe are increasingly returning to remote-work mandates as the continent is hammered by a brutal fourth wave of the pandemic.

* Scientists acknowledge that those previously infected with COVID have some level of immunity—but that vaccines offer a more consistent level of protection. In short, natural immunity is hardly a one-size-fits-all scenario.

* The total number of Florida pandemic deaths now exceeds 61,000. Those over 65 make up 75 percent COVID deaths in the state.

* According to the World Health Organization, states should still maintain a positivity rate of 5 percent or less for at least two weeks before fully reopening. Florida’s rate was 2.5 percent in the past week. In Hillsborough County, the rate was 4.9 percent.

* Nearly 6.6 million Floridians ages 5 and up remain unvaccinated.

* In Hillsborough County, 62 percent of eligible residents 5 and up have been vaccinated.

* “I think with vaccines on board and a large proportion of the U.S. population being vaccinated, it’s a safer Thanksgiving than it was last year. But it certainly depends on where you’re going and who you’re going to be with.”–George Washington University epidemiology professor Amanda Castel.

Tampa Bay

* The Florida Department of Transportation received an $18 million RAISE (Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) grant from the Biden Administration for the Tampa Heights Mobility Corridor. The Corridor aims to make multimodal safety improvements focusing on creating a community asset that will connect downtown Tampa to the Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights neighborhoods and businesses. “We are connecting Tampa neighborhoods, decreasing vehicle traffic and improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists,” stated Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor.

* For the first time, USF leads the state of Florida in international student enrollment. As of fall 2020, USF had enrolled approximately 6,000 international students from more than 140 countries. USF now ranks 19th nationally among public universities.

* Downtown St. Petersburg’s office vacancy rate is now below 4 percent, the lowest it’s ever been.

Media Matters

* We recently caught the Oscar-buzz movie “Belfast” at Tampa Theatre. Attendees were spread out and masked. The movie, however captivating, does come with caveats. If you need hearing aids, do not forget them. Even still, the Irish accentcan be a challenge—even for a hard-core Mick.

* According to Netflix, more than 140 million people have streamed the dystopic “Squid Game” so far. Given the contentious times we’re living in, there surely has to be a better, non-dystopian way of escape. Surely.

Musings

* Can we get rid of the presidential tradition of “pardoning” turkeys before Thanksgiving? It’s unpresidentially silly—and likely doesn’t even amuse vegans.

* Dog parks: Can’t they just be for dogs to play or chase squirrels? Can’t they be sort of sanctuaries from all else that’s otherwise going on? The other day we were at Tampa’s Marti Park when a dog owner showed up wearing a “Let’s Go Brandon” T-shirt. There’s no escaping it. I came close to, uh, pointing that out.

* Some college football programs, such as Ohio State and Michigan, put attaboy stickers on the helmets of their players representing notable plays. But do they remove them when said players make bad plays?

Sports Shorts

* Decree to UF Gators: In the search for another head football coach, get it right this time. No Will Muschamps, Jim McElwains, Dan Mullens. And, yes, personality, not just credentials and recruiting wherewithal matters. For consolation context: It’s only football, even in grid-glory Florida. Much more concerning is having a Congressional subcommittee investigating the university over free speech and academic freedom concerns. Head’s up, Kent Fuchs, and your buyout would be a lot less than Mullen’s.

* The Rays Kevin Cash is the first MLB manager to win back-to-back American League Manager of the Year Awards. It’s what should happen when you win–even when the financial odds are stacked against your franchise.

Trumpster Diving

* McCarthyism 2021: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy took partisan bitterness to new depths by delaying the $2 trillion social and environmental (“Build Back Better”) bill approval with an eight and a half hour presentation that gave diatribe a bad name. He railed on about the bill, the president and the Democrats, especially Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He accused the Speaker of “burning down the House on her way out the door.” BTW, McCarthy’s speech was the longest in House history.

Too bad McCarthy couldn’t have mustered such rage over, say, the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. But the viability and integrity of American democracy is not a priority of partisan political punks.

* Still doubling down, Trump endorsed Rep(rehensible) Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, the one who faced House censure for a violent, politically-partisan anime video directed against Rep. Alexandria Cortez-Ocasio and President Joe Biden.

* Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan recently visited New Hampshire, where he touted his “GOP 2.0” vision that is all about moving the Republican Party beyond Donald Trump. “We as Republicans have forgotten to remind people why we’re Republicans,” he said, and added that Trump’s insistence that he won in 2020 “disgusts” him. “It’s not what democracy is all about,” underscored Duncan, 46, “but it’s reality right now.” And, yes, he could be a long-shot candidate. That’s why those entertaining such hopes travel to New Hampshire.

* Doesn’t it speak volumes about Trump’s seditious lies about the 2020 presidential results, when even the dark and duplicitous Richard Nixon didn’t contest the problematic results of his 1960 election loss to John F. Kennedy. For the record, Nixon lost the popular vote 49.72 percent to 49.55 percent—amid some notorious vote-count scenarios in Illinois and Texas.

* According to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs poll, conducted two weeks after President Biden’s inauguration, two thirds of Republicans said Biden was not legitimately elected. And nothing has changed.

* “Thanks to Trump the (Republican) party lost anything resembling a coherent philosophy.”–Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.

* No Cruz control. “A tool of government (vaccination) propaganda.” That’s how Texas Sen. Ted Cruz characterized Big Bird. “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” That’s what, according to Cruz, Rep. Liz Cheney suffers from. And we’ll likely hear more of the same as 2024 approaches.

*Mea Culpa.” That’s the podcast of disbarred lawyer and former Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen, who recently finished his 3-year prison sentence for tax fraud, bank fraud, lying to Congress and violating campaign finance laws. He also has, unsurprisingly, another book coming out.

Quoteworthy

* “Tight margins in Congress do not bring out the best in pols.”–Maureen Dowd, NYT.

* “For many Americans, to be a conservative Republican is to be an evangelical Christian, regardless of whether they ever attend a Sunday service. … White evangelicalism has never been more politically unified than it is right now. In the 1970s, only 40 percent of white weekly churchgoing evangelicals identified as Republicans; in the most recent data, that number has risen to an all-time high of 70 percent.”–Ryan Burge, author of “20 Myths About Religion and Politics in America.”

* “It’s long been fashionable to denigrate the GOP as the party of old, white men. The demographic is still over represented among party office-holders, but that’s fast changing. … Women or racial minorities won 10 of the 15 state legislative seats Republicans captured from Democrats in November.”–Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Henry Olsen.

* “The larger context of the Republican Party’s attempt to gerrymander itself into a House majority is its successful effort to gerrymander itself into long-term control of state legislatures across the country.”–Jamelle Bouie, NYT.

* “I’m not responsible for rumors, and it’s bullsh*t.”–West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, on speculation that he plans to leave the Democratic Party.

* “This time I’m going to be more selective about who I work for.”–Former Trump lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen, who is now out of jail.

* “Biden was elected to restore a sense of ‘normalcy.’ But these are not normal times, and perhaps the reality is that a normal approach to politics in profoundly abnormal times is a formula for political disaster.”–Charlie Sykes, The Bulwark.

* “Being in the office makes sense. … It’s very important to get the younger employees in the office, collaborating and working hard. … This is where you’re going to create upward mobility. We’re going to be able to do a better job if we’re together. ”–Chris Merrill, co-founder of Harrison Street, a private real estate investment firm.

* “Facebook is not just any corporation. It reached trillion-dollar status in a single decade by applying the logic of surveillance capitalism—an economic system built on the secret extraction of and manipulation of human data—to its vision of connecting the entire world.”–Shoshana Zuboff, author of “Age of Surveillance Capitalism.”

* “If you’re in the position to sell a car, it’s a great time. You’re going to get top dollar for it.”–Matt Degen, Kelley Blue Book editor.

* “It’s just not possible to stop people from catching viruses. It’s a fool’s errand.”–Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo.

* “We’d love it if Tampa could evolve into a real critical mass center of blockchain development. This is a great place to live: I’ve said it for a number of years—why not us?”–Tampa Bay Lightning owner and innovation investor Jeff Vinik.

Happy 50th, TIA

This year Tampa International Airport is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It’s an appropriate time to reflect on the futuristic approach of TIA—from the hub-and-spoke terminal and tram system to biometric gate checks and air taxis.

But let’s not take for granted two consummate game-changers. TIA is presciently located in the urban hub of the Tampa Bay market—not some far-flung suburb. And it has long prioritized passengers over planes. Thank you and happy anniversary, TIA.