Monumental Case For Context

When it comes to Confederate statues and monuments, we all agree on something: History is not to be destroyed. And if he were still around to weigh in, George Santayana would surely agree. Something about remembering the past–at the risk of repeating it.

And context, as always, matters.

We can acknowledge history without honoring it. Some things belong in the public square, some in a museum. Common sense and common decency, even if not common enough, should dictate.

Visit Berlin, for example, and see how modern Germany has handled the Holocaust. There are museums and there are high-profile public reminders. The message is the same: “This is what we as an unconscionably culpable society allowed to happen. Never again.” It is as moving as it is necessary.

However, statuary harkening back to the Confederacy–“Gone With the Wind” and apocryphal  family histories notwithstanding–is inherently inappropriate for America’s public places. There’s a reason why so many of them were erected during the height of Jim Crow. There are no publicly-acceptable rationales for referencing a cause steeped in racism. This isn’t cathartic, Holocaustesque therapy. This is a visceral affront to African-Americans.

Too bad these controversial Confederate monuments haven’t had inscriptions that contained more truth than allegiance to a revisionist “cause.”  Maybe something like: “This memorial ‘commemorates,’ as it were, the South’s treasonous war of secession from the United States and the concomitant effort to retain a way of life that relied on a slave-labor economy. The maintenance of such an economy was also dependent on a conscience-free rationale that defined non-white slaves as inferior human beings.”

Had that been the case, the truth may have set us free of all this angst and political posturing we still experience today.

Trumpster Diving

* Steve Bannon is no longer a White House staffer. This pleases White House insiders not named Gorka or Miller. Some say he’s been “unleashed”–so, head’s up Republican establishment, as well as Jared and Ivanka. But actual presidential influence–a phone call away–could still remain, especially as Breitbart News, an axis of economic nationalism and alt-right racism, refortifies. Bannon is now its executive chairman. Word is, Breitbart is serious about a TV version. As David Axelrod, former adviser to President Barack Obama, has noted, “If Bannon and Breitbart are spinning him up, Trump may dial him up on a regular basis. That may give him leverage.”

Leverage without “Javanka” and the generals listening in. Just Sebastian and Stephen.

* Trump, it has been announced, will be skipping the annual Kennedy Center Honors arts awards this year. It would have been a “political distraction,” disingenuously explained White House press harlot Sarah Huckabee Sanders. How noble. Actually, it would have resulted in a boycott by the honorees–and even more embarrassing press for Trump .

* First it was the business councils that baled. Then the artists committee. Now it’s scientists and local officials disbanding their climate policy panel. Pretty soon it will be official: “Input” is only welcomed from the “basket of deplorables” and certain GOP cowards.

* No one, obviously, should applaud what that Missouri state senator said about Trump, even though we understand where the rhetoric is coming from. For the record, Democratic Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal–in a Facebook post–expressed hope for a presidential assassination. She has since apologized. She took back the appalling reference, but she couldn’t take back context.

Doesn’t her disturbing–but not as shocking as it should be–post speak alarming volumes about where we now are as a country, as a culture and as a society?

*It’s beyond exasperating to read frequent analysis for Trump’s election that centers on the Democratic Party as effectively leaderless and message-challenged. As in no single galvanizing candidate and no single, all encompassing, rally-round message to rouse the grass roots and gin up the vote.

Not that we don’t get that overview. In normal times, it makes sense. It’s Political Campaigning 101. The Dems never found their A-game.

But in this case, it’s an absolutely unacceptable rationale for what happened. It means this electorate–notably including working class, white voters who had felt taken for granted–actually found this manifestly unethical, uninformed, narcissistic, vulgar, faux-populist lout to be an acceptable alternative to what the Dems were offering.

The most serious threat to democracy is not Donald Trump. It’s an easily duped electorate.

More Musings

*You get to a certain point in your life, and you prefer that time would slow down, as in delaying any more ravages. Mortality, no longer the abstraction of youth, flat out beckons. We ponder; enjoy it while you have it. Right now. Savor the moment. But then comes hurricane season. Hurry the hell up and get through October.

* I love creative names for businesses. Four favorites: Edifice Wrecks, Plant Parenthood, The Sod Father, The Mattress Firm.

Artful Bricks

What I liked about “The Art of the Brick” in downtown Tampa transcends obvious creativity, ingenuity and whimsy. It is its broad appeal. Amid the 100 pieces of art made of Lego bricks by artist Nathan Sawaya there’s literally something for everybody–whether it’s an homage to the Mona Lisa, David and The Thinker, a shout out to Manet, Monet and Van Gogh or an ultra cool, 20-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. Or maybe, it’s just the interactive build space at the end, which is a fun, creative place for young–and much older–kids to build their own Lego projects.  The Vinik Family Foundation, which sponsors the exhibit, covers the cost, which means free entry for all visitors. To date, there have been more than 100,000 since late June.

Not unlike last year’s Vinik-sponsored “Beach Tampa” exhibit at Amalie Arena–or the Children’s Gasparilla Parade–“The Art of the Brick” looks like Tampa racially and ethnically. At a time when we need venues and opportunities to come together as a community, the Vinik Foundation has stepped up–again–in a meaningful way.

Firearm Warning

“Bullets are like the angry email you hit send on before thinking more calmly about–they can’t be recalled. I don’t have or carry a weapon precisely because I worry I’d use it.” No, these aren’t the words of some liberal advocating gun control, if not Second Amendment repeal. They were spoken by retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Sports Shorts

* The Rays, as we know, have been using the Atlanta Braves as a model of sorts for a new baseball stadium. That was underscored in the spring when Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan and county CFO Bonnie Wise visited with Braves’ executives in suburban Atlanta. We also know that what Hillsborough County is modeling is financing–not site.

The Braves are Exhibit A for public-private partnership. Cobb County borrowed about two thirds, or nearly $400 million, while the Braves anted up around $230 million. As for site, the Rays and Hillsborough County want an urban-core location, the Braves notably departed Atlanta for Cobb County.

One interesting, even ironic, variable about a potential Channelside-Ybor City area site for the Rays is the lack of public input from Jeff Vinik. He’s the master developer of the Amalie Arena area that has ripple effects all over. It’s all, in effect, part of the same logistical synergy. Perhaps a stadium is more conflict than complement for Water Street Tampa.

* The main issue with HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” which can be entertaining as it goes behind the scenes and personalizes professional football, is that it is yet another reminder that the NFL is as much show business as it is football.

* So, Kevin Durant of the NBA-champion Golden State Warriors, says he won’t join teammates in a White House visit. Here’s a way around any awkwardness that can inevitably result from such visitations. The White House should set a precedent right now that it only invites athletes representing their country–such as Olympians–and not over-exposed pro athletes representing their franchises and, in many cases, their marketable brands.

* The Americans retained the Solheim Cup, the biennial competition that pits U.S. women golfers against their European counterparts. Once again, a key American contributor was Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome.


* “We are very much confused. Therefore, we think that now the American government has moved from ‘strategic patience’ to ‘strategic confusion.'”–Moon Jung In, policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae In.

* “There’s no military solution (to North Korea’s military threats), forget it.”–Steve Bannon, in his controversial interview with American Prospect magazine.

* “All my life I’ve heard that decision are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”–President Donald Trump in his Afghanistan strategy.

* “The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over. … That presidency is over.”–Steve Bannon.

* “We cannot pretend that the ugly bigotry unleashed in the streets of Charlottesville, Va., has nothing to do with the election of Donald Trump.”–Michael Eric Dyson, author of “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America.”

* “The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced.”–Donald Trump on the issue of confederate statue and monument removal.

* “What about the ‘alt-left’? Do they have any semblance of guilt?”–Donald Trump.

* “Think before you speak.”–Advice to Trump from Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer, the woman killed in Charlottesville.

* “Our allies around the world are stunned and our enemies celebrate.”–Mitt Romney, on impact of Trump’s words and actions.

* “Trump hasn’t been exercising the duties of his office. He’s been excising them, one by one. The moral forfeiture of the past week was the capper.”–Frank Bruni, New York Times.

* “Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions.”–Excerpt from the letter from the members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, announcing their resignations.

* “These executives cannot live with customers thinking they are in cahoots with someone who supports white supremacists or neo-Nazis.”–Goldman Sachs board member Bill George on why CEOs are publicly condemning Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville.

* “Six months into the new administration, the movement to “Make America Great Again” appears to be little more than a re-mastering of Jim Crow Culture’s  greatest hits: Negrophobia, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and Ku Kluxism.”–Ray Arsenault, professor of Southern History at USF St. Petersburg.

* “Segregation is not all bad. Have you ever heard of a collision where the people in the back of the bus got hurt”–Dick Gregory, the pioneering black satirist, who died last Saturday.

* “Don’t waste time trying to talk Trump’s fans out of supporting him. Convince those who didn’t care enough to vote to get involved.”–Mark Cuban.

* “Resign.”–Al Gore’s advice to Donald Trump.

* “The seeds of many of the troubles that beset us today–alienation, resentment and cynicism; mistrust of our government and each other; breakdown of civil discourse and civic institutions–were sown during the Vietnam War.”–Filmmaker Ken Burns, whose latest documentary is ‘The Vietnam War,’ a 10-part series beginning next month on PBS.

* “We are not the gate-crashers of today’s Democratic Party. We are not a wing of today’s Democratic Party. We are the heart and soul of today’s Democratic Party.”–Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

* “Everyone knows the partisan affiliation of the candidates, but it is illegal to conduct partisan local elections. Stop making both citizens and candidates pretend that local elections are nonpartisan.”–Darryl Paulson, former political science professor at USF St. Petersburg, who’s an advocate for Florida law being changed to allow partisan city elections.

* “It is my goal to make it harder for politicians to raise taxes on Florida families and businesses, and that can be achieved with an amendment to our state’s Constitution.”–Gov. Rick Scott, in announcing that he wants to require a new “supermajority” vote by the state legislature for tax hikes.

* “This achievement is a direct reflection of the collaborative efforts of our public and private sector leaders to make Tampa and Hillsborough county the most desirable place in the nation to build, relocate or expand a business.”–Craig Richard, CEO of Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., on news that Tampa Bay led the state in over-the-year job creation–with 40,800 jobs added since July 2016.

* “No one’s trying to erase history. History cannot be erased. But we need to get rid of monuments that are painful to the community.”–Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller.

* “The paradigm for stadium financing continues to include increased team participation.”–Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan.

* “The market has swung in our favor. We hope to have letters of intent very soon.”–LeRoy Moore, COO of the Tampa Housing Authority, indicating that a deal is close to bring a well-known grocer to its Encore project.

The “Dr. Strangelove” Sequel

You often hear references to “sausage” in the context of unedited journalism products–from news reporting to news analysis. Print and electronic. The same goes for lawmaking. The process can be messy. The finished product hopefully belies that reality.

Well, this column’s initial iteration, I must admit, was more for therapy than publication. It would give sausage a bad name. The language was crude in parts, reflecting my mood–a taut mix of exasperation, anger and fear. We are on the brink of something unconscionable. And it was eminently preventable. Worst-case scenarios now hang in the balance.

So I cleaned it up some, and the f-bombs–actually FY imperatives–have been defused. But in their stead, I’ve left inoffensive reminders of their prominent sausage placement. They’re still necessary.

Here goes.

“Fire and fury”/”locked and loaded” should be the last act of this disgracefully nightmarish Trump presidency. Not that we didn’t see it coming. At least Peter Sellers was darkly funny in “Dr. Strangelove.”

Personally, I say Flatulent Yak to all Trump voters and ongoing supporters.

That goes for those who needed a white-nativist, alt-Reich misogynist to channel because their lives were hapless, and Trump helped enable their societal scapegoating with his validating, racist dog whistles. As to careerist Republican cowards who took one for team GOPster instead of Team USA and made their Faustian deal: Fatuous Yeoman. You all enabled this incompetent menace to be the president of the United States. How do you even sleep at night?

And to those who didn’t vote at all for whatever reason, including the disingenuously false equivalence of two off-putting candidates: What the hell were you thinking? This wasn’t some “lesser of two evils” dilemma. This was evil vs. a flawed candidate. So, yeah, you’re part of this Trump diarrhea derby too. Falsetto Yawn.

Fundamentally, here’s the issue. Trump’s a manifestly obvious national and global threat of existential proportions–not just an impulsively unhinged, pathologically lying lout. Would that he were merely that. Why the hell would anyone want his undersized digits anywhere near the nuclear codes? Why do you think administration officials have been trying to placate journalists and reassure them that Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have a pact designed to ensure that one of them is always nearby to watch over Trump in case he goes, uh, ballistic?

Trump could be the trigger man for Armageddon. As the editors of Scientific American have anxiously noted: “With the exception of the president, every link in the U.S. nuclear decision chain has protections against poor judgments, deliberate misuse or accidental deployment.” Helluvan exception. Kim Jong-un, frankly, is more calculated. Hell, so was Gen. Curtis “Bombs Away” LeMay, who found a stalwart John F. Kennedy between him and Cuban Missile Crisis mushroom clouds. Donald Trump 2017 is no JFK 1962.

And let’s not forget or forgive: Feckless Yokel, GOP primary voters, especially you hypocritical evangelicals who helped create dystopian momentum–from Charlottesville to Pyongyang. David Duke to Kim Jong-un. You didn’t see any of this coming? You were just religiously gullible and thought the right-to-strife Trump a better fit than Ted Cruz Control? Isn’t apocalypse part of your frame of reference? Who did you pray to for guidance? Mike Huckabee? Even Marco Rubio, Exhibit A of the Takes-One-To-Know-One School, recognized Trump for the narcissistic con man that he’s always been.

Sorry for the redundancy, but Freudian Yeti, Trump voters, for being part of the “Deliverance,” “Duck Dynasty” and Goldman Sachs crowds that helped elect him and do this to our country and our world. Moreover, lest I forget, Fetid Yahoo. We deserve better, even though you don’t.

In sum, Gen. Kelly–do something as Trump doubles down on dumb and dangerous–from Iran to Venezuela to North Korea. Don’t just be the semper fi version of Reince Preibus. Collude with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford–the one who was bumped from that national security meeting by Steve Bannon.

And recall the haunting words of former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, who said Trump was fanning the flames of war with his rhetoric. “I think it eliminates maneuver space for him, because it looks like brinksmanship to me,” said Mullen.

If it helps, remember that Italy didn’t arrest anyone for what happened to Benito Mussolini when he hung around too long right-side up. Enough of America will have your back. Channel your inner Brutus or maybe Burt Lancaster in “Seven Days in May.”

Impeachment and the 25th Amendment are too civilized and time-consuming. Time is no ally; we are imperiled now. Tarring, feathering and quartering–finalized by a goodbye coup-smooch from Chelsea Manning–would be fitting.

OK, I’m exaggerating for effect.

No I’m not.

Congressman Putnam

While Adam Putnam is the pre-race favorite to win the Republican nomination for governor, no one believes the process won’t have its ugly side. Think none of the oppo ads and robo calls won’t  reference the fact that when “Opie” was in Congress he was the protégé of Dennis Hastert, the House Speaker with the sexually sleazy past?

No, it wouldn’t be fair. Yes, it would be condemnable. So, watch for it–and then take a shower.

Foreign Affairs

* Guam, as we’ve been seeing, is the U.S. territory in North Korea’s most immediate nuclear cross hairs. One blatantly obvious factor in the nuclear drumbeat is the rhetorically and temperamentally unhinged Donald Trump. Locals are understandably worried. And how ironic that those 170,000 American territory residents can’t even vote for the president of the United States, the very person with access to the nuclear codes.

* On Monday (Aug. 21), the U.S. and South Korea will begin their annual military exercises that always antagonize North Korea. Should these be postponed, it would send a signal–to not only North Korea, but to China and others–that Donald Trump is big enough to back away from the brink, no longer channeling Gen. Curtis LeMay and ready to play a responsible diplomatic card–not a vintage Trump card.

* Another regrettable byproduct of Trump’s impulsive peril is his claim that he’s not ruling out “military” action in Venezuela. Just when Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, was coming down on Venezuela for its flagrant violation of Democratic norms, Trump gives Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro an opening to play the common-enemy, interventionist Yanqui card against the U.S. He knows that Trump is less popular in the region than he is.

No surprise that Bolivian President Evo Morales, a Maduro ally, jumped in right away. “Now the world knows that those who were against Maduro were only looking for a military intervention from the empire,” he said. Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia–and no buddy of Maduro’s–chipped in with: “Friends have to tell each other the truth. (Military intervention) shouldn’t even be considered.” Former Mexican President Vicente Fox minced no words. “Donald, get it together!” he urged. … “Venezuela needs a way out, but not through violence. Take a dive into history. You’re wrecking the U.S., don’t wreck the world.”

And this from David Smilde, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America: “This will undoubtedly galvanize (Maduro’s) coalition.”

How’s that for a North Korean diversion?