COVID Bits

* Sputnik V: The Russian COVID-19 vaccine that countries are now lining up for after the Lancet medical journal showed that it protects against the virus about as well as U.S. and European shots—and far more effectively than Chinese rivals.

* The number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered has now surpassed the number of confirmed cases. Recent update: 107.3 million doses and 104.5 million confirmed cases.

* As of Monday, 94,500 people have been vaccinated in Hillsborough County. Miami-Dade leads the state with approximately 200,000 vaccinations. Overall, more than 2 million people in Florida have received the vaccine.

* According to the fitness research firm ClubIntel, 72 percent of fitness clubs are now offering on- demand and livestream group workouts. That’s up from 25 percent in 2019.

* NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that all 32 NFL stadiums will become mass vaccination centers.

* “This isn’t how we should be celebrating the Super Bowl. It’s not safe or smart. It’s stupid. We’re going to take a very close look at this, and it may end up costing someone a lot more than 50 cent.”–St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, on the crowded, mostly maskless private party in a hangar at Albert Whitted Airport last Friday that featured rapper 50 Cent.

Trumpster Diving

* Alas, Trump isn’t testifying at his Senate impeachment trial. An unhinged narcissist under oath would have been right in the wheelhouse of the prosecution.

* Trump lawyers have characterized the impeachment trial as “political theater.” That would be ironically–and perversely–fitting after four years of the Oval Office version of theater of the absurd. Apologies to Eugene Ionesco.

* Impeachment bottom line: Without Trump, there is no election lie, no insurrection and no loss of life or America’s democratic credibility.

* No, Trump doesn’t deserve to get security briefings. It’s a gesture borne of tradition and respect—and a way of preparing an ex-president if their advice is solicited or if they are representing the incumbent administration abroad. But Trump doesn’t do tradition and hasn’t exactly earned respect. The chances are better that Steve Bannon or Paul Manafort could represent the U.S. abroad than Trump. Plus Trump, who previously represented an existential threat with access to nuclear codes, is arguably still unhinged, still blatantly self-serving and still entangled with foreign entities over business entanglements.

President Biden is correct is not signing off to such sensitive briefings. “What value is giving him an intelligence briefing?” rhetorically asked Biden. “What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?” Indeed, we don’t need any more low-caliber Trump bullets to dodge.

* Boca Raton-based Smartmaster USA, the voting technology company, is suing Fox News, three of its hosts and two former Trump lawyers (Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell) for $2.7 billion for conspiring to spread false claims that Smartmaster helped “steal” the U.S. presidential election. Accountability still matters.

* House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s facade of responsibility while unable to get off Republican script is an eerie, ironic reminder that he shares the same name as the male lead in “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Only that Kevin McCarthy was more credible.

* “Racism, misogyny, xenophobia and anti-Semitism have absolutely zero room in the Republican Party.” That’s from a commentary piece co-authored by Jeb Bush Jr. and MacKay Jimeson, the president of Ember Global Advisors. Upshot: Imagine actually needing to say that? But that’s what GOP racists, misogynists, xenophobes and anti-Semites need to hear from those who still say they miss “the party of Lincoln.

* “More than anything, this might have been the most surprising thing about Trump’s tenure: his ability to turn one of America’s two political parties into a cult of personality organized around a repeatedly bankrupt New York real estate developer.”–Susan B. Glasser, the New Yorker.

* The cost to the federal government resulting from Trump’s election-fraud claims is estimated at more than $500 million—from National Guard deployments to legal fees.

* It won’t be trumpeted by Trumpsters—let alone erstwhile Tea Partiers—but the national debt climbed nearly $7.8 trillion during Trump’s term.

* “As someone who believed in self-reliance, not the crowd, (Barry Goldwater) would have opposed today’s Republican litmus test, which seems to hold that loyalty to Trump is what matters over loyalty to country.”–CC Goldwater, granddaughter of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater and producer of HBO’s “Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater.”

* “I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true.”–That was Trump acolyte Marjorie Taylor Greene trying her passive-voice best to defuse criticism of her heinous touts and tweets about QAnon. In other words: “I’m not evil—just stupid and gullible.” Maybe her Georgia constituents don’t care. So be it. The rest of the country—and her party—should be outraged and alarmed.

* “The oath that I took to the Constitution compelled me to vote for impeachment, and it doesn’t bend to partisanship; it doesn’t bend to political pressure.”–Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaking largely for herself—not the Republican Party.

* However, more than two thirds of House GOPsters voted to keep Cheney in her leadership position as chair of their conference—despite her support for Trump’s impeachment. Is that a sign of spine-growing? It might have been had the vote not been by secret ballot.

* What do Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene have in common besides being off-putting, obstructive Georgia Republicans? Both actually look better in masks.

Tampa Bay

JoLo Update: It’s been well noted that Joe Lopano’s been on a decade-long, salary-raise roll since becoming TIA CEO in 2010. Now his new five-year deal includes a 7 percent raise and annual increases that will push his $509,000 salary to more than $660,000 by 2025. Bottom line: Lopano is well paid to do an important job that he does well. For societal context: The MLB minimum salary is $570,000. In the NFL, it’s $660,000.

Sports Shorts

* “Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on their #SuperBowl victory—a team whose season was a story of resilience, reinvention and grit.”–President Joe Biden.

* “The hardest thing is to build a culture where people believe.” That was Bruce Arians, whose Bucs kept the faith from 7-5 to eight straight wins and a Super Bowl championship rout.

* “Got to give Todd credit, he got us today.”–Kansas City coach Andy Reid’s shout-out to Bucs’ defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

* Let’s enjoy this Super Bowl high for as long as we can, because it won’t be as long as we want it to. We’ll soon see signs of a post-Super Bowl pandemic spike because of outsiders and local “Animal House” Covidiots. We’ll be hearing about how the Bucs will not be able to keep everybody because of free agency and salary-cap scenarios. We might even see a Tom Brady tweet that is a reminder that he might not have voted for Joe Biden. So, way to go, Bucs, you just doubled down on being another inspiration for “Champa!” Yeah. Moreover, 31-9!

* BTW, congrats to John Lynch for finally making it into the NFL’s Hall of Fame. A bruising, tough-guy safety, the former Buc was also a nice, classy person. You should be next, Ronde.

Quoteworthy

* “Had I been present at the creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better ordering of the universe.”–Alphonso X, King of Spain (1252-84)

* “The Mayflower, when she sailed from Plymouth, must have been entirely filled with lawyers.”–John Maynard Keynes.

* “If I could choose one American to whom I would entrust the nation’s fate in a crisis, it would be George Shultz.”–Henry Kissinger, on the former secretary of state, who earned respect for bipartisanship while working to ease Cold War and Middle East tensions. Shultz, who recently died at 100, also served as labor secretary and treasury secretary.

* “The middle ground, that fertile valley of real politics and reform, seems to be rapidly shrinking.”–Matt Purple, the American Conservative.

* “These newly fastidious Republicans—they opened the tent long ago to the villains, liars and conspiracists when they welcomed the ringmaster. … If they want to cleanse the Republican Party of the poisons that are rapidly killing it, they can vote to hold the man who first infected it with QAnon, ‘election fraud,’ and much more, accountable.”–Mona Charen, The Bulwark.

* “Don’t blame ‘both sides’ for ruining the elegant, strategic, productive political competition we’d like to see. One party is trying to move the chess pieces. The other side is trying to eat them.”–Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.

* “The party is (Trump’s). It doesn’t belong to anybody else.”–Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

* “Football—and sports in general—is the one place where the differences among Americans, red and blue, urban and rural, MAGA and #Resistance, give way to a kind of unity.”–Kate Cohen, author of “A Walk Down the Aisle: Notes on a Modern Wedding.”

* “The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.”–President Harry S. Truman.

* “It is certainly a defensible posture that in periods of economic distress Democrats are more concerned about jobs than Republicans.”–Michael Strain, economist at the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank.

* “I like a world in which someone can be sued when he posts threatening language. If someone libels you, you can sue him. Post about buying zip ties and invading the Capitol, and the FBI knocks on your door. This would put an immediate damper on today’s worst offenders.”–Andy Kessler, Wall Street Journal.

* “Poetry and language are often at the heartbeat of movements for change.”–National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman.

* “Surprisingly, we were little affected by the pandemic. … Believe it or not, we actually picked up a couple of months because there was very little traffic on the streets, and that helped in terms of our timeline … We’re pretty much opening exactly as the economy is going to be taking off again. … And we’re so fortunate to have (had) the Super Bowl to broadcast to the world what they’re missing by not doing business here.”–Jeff Vinik, on the status of Water Street Tampa.

* “Tampa is proud of its strong military ties and the many opportunities for government contracts, especially with the Department of Defense.”–Mayor Jane Castor, referencing data showing that Hillsborough County ranked third in the state both in contracts awarded (about $2.1 billion spent) and gross pay for all military personnel in the area (about $858 million).

* “Clean, classy, elegant.”–Criteria for hiring dancers at Thee Dollhouse, according to the strip club’s ownership partner Warren Colazzo.

* “(Bruce Arians) is such a unique guy, and we have such a unique, strong bond. We get along well. We even argue well.”–Bucs General Manager Jason Licht.

Biden Agenda Priorities

Dem Notes

* As with daily press conferences, the White House COVID briefings are welcomed for their transparency, reassurance and professionalism. Nary a “Kung Flu” reference. No hydroxychloroquine or bleach endorsements. No scientific eye-rolling, no soap opera scenarios for Dr. Anthony Fauci—just science-based updates and candid outlooks. And let’s not ever forget the ultimate bottom line: no unnecessary loss of lives because of Trump-agenda confusion and mis-messaging.

* Bottom line Biden: “I support passing COVID relief with support from Republicans if we can get it. But the COVID relief has to pass.” Stay tuned because the Administration’s $1.9 trillion relief package is a lot more than Republicans want to sign on to. This was underscored when a group of 10 (of the more moderate GOPsters) signed a letter to Biden supporting a relief package that was less than one-third of Biden’s “American Rescue Plan.” The disagreements range from funding the $15 per hour minimum wage to extended unemployment benefits.

* “This is a first step to stop corporations from profiting off of incarceration.”–President Joe Biden, in issuing an order that directs the attorney general not to renew Justice Department contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities.

* “We can’t wait any longer. We see with our own eyes. … It is time to act.” President Biden, in signing executive orders to transform the country’s (heavily) fossil-fuel powered economy into a clean-burning one, pausing oil and gas leasing on federal land and targeting subsidies for those industries.

Trumpster Diving

* “The party has to stay neutral. I’m not telling anybody to run or not to run in 2024.”–RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. The upshot: She’s declining an opportunity to encourage Donald Trump to run for president in 2024.

* When Trump won the presidency, he didn’t carry his New York home precinct. In the November election, he did carry—with 62 percent of the vote–his new Florida home precinct that includes MAGA-Lago. In other words, the precinct that knew him best over the years, didn’t want a charlatan-grifter for president, but the MAGA-Lago crowd and assorted West Palm greed heads and sycophants have another take.

* “We have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other other members of Congress.”–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in underscoring that anxiety about security remains high in Congress—especially “when the enemy is within the House of Representatives.”

* “A waste of time. (This impeachment) isn’t about accountability … It’s about demands for vengeance from the radical left.” Yeah, that was this iteration of Marco Rubio. trying to distance himself from Trump impeachment and not offend the former president’s vengeful base. The same protean senator who has called out Trump for being a “con artist,” mocked him for promoting a “tough guy charade” and thinking the “nuclear triad” was a “rock band from the 1980s.”

* New Greene Deal: Doesn’t it speak odious volumes that there hasn’t even been a Republican censure yet of QAnon-nut case, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene? Granted, having worn a “Trump Won” mask to her oath-taking wasn’t that off-putting to a lot of GOPsters. But a history of racist, anti-Semitic comments; dismissive, school mass-shooting denials and insults; 9/11 hoax theories; and suggested support for threats to Nancy Pelosi and other Dems on social media should be well beyond the Congressional pale. (Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy even appointed Greene to the House Education and Labor Committee.) What’s it say for a democracy when representing the vilest elements of a constituency necessarily means misrepresenting everybody else? That’s beyond basic pandering. BTW, there is talk among some GOPsters that Greene could become a political dilemma for the party. Not an appalling, societal disgrace, mind you, but another-day-at-the-office political“dilemma.”

* We know there’s Republican backlash out Westover those pols, such as Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who can no longer pretend that Trump is anything other than an insurrection-stoking embarrassment. But there is also this: Nearly 5,000 Arizona voters dropped their GOP voter registration after the Capitol attack.

* Last Sunday marked the 156th anniversary of Congress passing the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery. Should we have foreseen the need for a “BLM” movement more than a century and a half later?

* The bottom line for Trump’s impeachment-defense team: Prominent attorneys with reputations to protect don’t want to be part of a word-parsing defense that, at its core, is an extension of farcical, false claims that Trump actually won re-election. So, maybe there’s still a chance we could see Pam Bondi.

* There have been four presidential impeachments in American history. Half of them are Trump’s.

COVID Bits

* President Biden announced U.S. plans to provide states with enough vaccine doses for 300 million Americans by the end of summer.

* To date, there is limited evidence of changes in disease severity from coronavirus variants. The exception, based on preliminary evidence, is the UK variant, which could be roughly 30 percent more lethal.

* According to the Commerce Department, the U.S. economy shrank 3.5 percent last year.

* Vaccination side effects are more likely with a second dose than a first.

* “(The vaccines) work spectacularly well, and none of the side effects are serious. From a public health point of view, it’s definitely worth it.”–Dr. Kami Kin, director of infectious diseases and internal medicine at the USF Medical School.

* To help prevent a Superspreader Bowl, masks are required—both by the city and the NFL–at all the Super Bowl events downtown.

* “The police department’s (Super Bowl) role is we’re going to be educating and reminding. We don’t want to be the mask police, so to speak. We will if we have to.”–Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan.

* According to the Florida Department of Health, vaccine spoilage amounts to approximately 0.2 percent of the number of vaccines that have been given to Floridians. The actual number: about 3,300 doses.

* White Floridians are about 2.5 times more likely to have received at least one vaccine dose as black residents. Non-Hispanic residents are nearly twice as likely as Hispanic people to have secured doses.

* More than a month into the vaccination effort, Florida has reportedly administered at least one dose to approximately 6.8 percent of its population. That ranks 10th highest per capita.

* As of Monday, 1.7 million people in Florida have been vaccinated.

Stadium Stand-Off

We keep hearing–and will continue to hear–about the “vision” for Tropicana Field redevelopment and a permanent new home for the Rays in St. Petersburg. We know those community-defining 86 acres are rife with potential. Seven developers have made proposals for a de facto gateway to downtown, with inclusions for retail, residential and green space, as well as a repurposing of Booker Creek and paying homage to what once was an African-American neighborhood. Tellingly, proposals came both with and without a stadium option. City Hall talks with the Rays, whose lease runs through 2027, are stalemated over development rights’ details–and there’s still the Tampa Bay/Montreal X-Rays scenario.

There’s also this. The Rays have had ample time across more than two decades to embed themselves into the city and the regional market. They’ve been to two World Series. They’ve become the baseball avatar of smart and successful. But attendance continues beyond problematic–at or near the bottom of MLB franchises every season. The issue is this unique market. In short, no meaningful mass transportation in an asymmetrical region with a bay that morphs into a transit gulf. We have few corporate headquarters, which greatly impacts season ticket sales. The closest market west of St. Petersburg is Corpus Christi. We have summer options—from sailing and fishing and golfing to getaways to North Carolina for those opting out of humidity and hurricane paranoia. We also have a substantial base of those with allegiances elsewhere. Who wouldn’t want to sit next to Red Sox and Yankee fans?

St. Pete can still work for the Rowdies at undersized Al Lang. But for major league baseball to succeed—given all the obstacles—it will take the best possible site beyond St. Pete. One located in the geographic and business hub. Location is the one variable that can still be addressed–and it’s the one that still matters most. How ironic that hockey is a sports anchor in Tampa Bay, while the Rays still tread attendance water.

Media Matters

* It’s worth checking out Martin Scorsese’s seven-episode, Netflix documentary, “Pretend It’s a City.” Its focus is the humorous curmudgeon, 70-year-old Fran Lebowitz. Her observational quips about life in New York—and rapid, rapier wit–are sardonically entertaining. But after the last episode, this much was also apparent. Lebowitz would be fun to run into at a party or while walking your dog. But, no, I wouldn’t want her for a next-door neighbor.

* “There’s no telling what the (Super Bowl) economic impact is going to be like. But I can promise you the media value will be phenomenal. And the social impact will last a long, long time after this game has come and gone.” That was Rob Higgins, Super Bowl Host Committee CEO and president. Super Bowl LV will be telecast to more than 100 countries.

* It’s official. Merriam-Webster has now added “Second Gentleman” to its website.