The China Syndrome

* It’s not consolation enough, but what happened at the Moffitt Cancer Center is not unique to Moffitt. It’s part of a manifest international pattern: China continues to play out its authoritarian, hybrid, loopholier-than-thou brand of capitalism. From Maoist command economy to one that pragmatically reconciles billionaires and a gambling mecca with communist governance. Rather than the old communist-capitalist standoffs, modern China wants to beat capitalists at their own game and then some–using whatever expedient means necessary, ethics and legalities be damned. 

Media Matters

* R.I. P., Newseum.

Sad, but hardly surprising, to see that Washington’s Newseum, a private museum dedicated toexploring modern history through the eyes of journalists, has closed. It was always a challenge from its recession-era 2008 debut as a private institution–and the Pennsylvania Avenue real estate was too prime. But the timing couldn’t be worse. In the epoch of social media manipulation and mainstream media demonization as “fake news” and “enemy of the people,” the need for highlighting journalism as an indispensible bulwark of democratic society has never been more acute. 

* CNN’s Sunday “State of the Union” featured the identically surnamed Republican senator from Louisiana, John Kennedy, and the Democratic representative from Massachusetts, Joe Kennedy III. Too bad they don’t have more in common.

* “I talk to millions of people every day. I just like it when they can’t talk back.”–The late disc jockey/radio personality Don Imus.

* Remember when movies were escape? And has there ever been a more compelling time for doing just that? But “Bombshell” is not escape; it’s a reminder of what we’re trying to escape from. And Foxy anchors are not exactly “Me Too” avatars. And then there’s “The Hidden Life.” Anything with a Nazi theme and group think can’t help but carry contemporary overtones. But both are worth seeing, if not sanctuaries from you know what.

* Speaking of movies, “The Two Popes,” regardless of your religion, is also worth catching. It’s  dialogue centric, which means it would also play well as a play. As opposed to “The Irishman,” which could have addressed its editing issues by eliminating tedious dialogue among mobsters.  

Sports Shorts

* Sports is an integral part of our society, our culture and our economy. It’s also part of our value system, which can be sobering. To wit: The minimum–MINIMUM–salary of NFL players is $495,000. And that’s the lowest–LOWEST–among the major sports. MLB: $555,000; NBA: $582,000; NHL: $650,000. And, BTW, the annual salary for POTUS is $400,000.

*We’re all aware of the Rays continuing status as a franchise that struggles with attendance. Such that it foments ongoing speculation about its status in this market. Last year it ranked 31st in attendance out of 32 franchises. The Bucs, on the other hand, have seen the focus on underperformance on the playing field, inconsistency in front office player assessment and Jameis Winston for all the obvious reasons. However, attendance has also become an issue. Increasingly so. This season, the Bucs ranked 30th in the league in attendance. But they have a first-class facility in the right part of the market in a sport that is an American media magnet–and are not going anywhere except, hopefully, upward toward playoff eligibility for the first time in more than a decade. Hopefully.

* A pick-six in overtime to end this roller coaster season and maybe Winston’s Buccaneer career. Perversely appropriate.

* Aren’t the New England Patriots too good to be so conniving? Or maybe having a Trump-supporting owner with a fondness for the wrong day spas speaks volumes.


* “The will of the Chinese government and the Chinese people to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests is as firm as a rock. We will never allow any external forces to interfere in Hong Kong and Macau affairs.”–Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

* “China unfairly uses the American research and expertise it obtains for its own economic and military gain.”–Excerpt from the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs report on Chinese threats to U.S. Research.

* “I hope Japan and other nations in the world make an effort toward the maintenance of the agreement.”–Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, referencing the multi-nation nuclear agreement the U.S. withdrew from during Rouhani’s recent meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

* “During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process.”–Rep. Barry Laudermilk, R-Ga.

* “Why should crazy Nancy Pelosi be allowed to impeach the president of the United States?”–President Donald Trump.

* “I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing. I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting president must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country.”–Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, in defending her controversial “present” vote on impeachment.

* “If he’d take it, yes.”–Joe Biden’s response to a question about whether, if nominated and elected, he would nominate Barack Obama to the Supreme Court.

* “The disregard for expertise in the federal government is worse than it’s ever been. It’s pervasive.”–Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.

* “In the past, when we had an administration that was not very pro-environment, we could still just lay low and do our work. Now we feel like the E.P.A. is being run by the fossil fuel industry. It feels like a wholesale attack.”–Betsy Smith, a climate scientist who resigned from the E.P.A.

* “It’s a wonderful thing for science.”–U.S. astronaut Christina Koch, who recently broke the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, having spent 289 days in space aboard the International Space Station.

* “The guy is freaking evil.”–Navy SEAL Special Operator First Class Craig Miller, in describing Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher during the latter’s prosecution on war crimes charges. President Trump later pardoned Gallagher.

* “Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.”–Aldous Huxley.

* “In Tampa Bay alone, studies have shown more than $15 billion in real estate and 17,000 jobs are at risk due to rising seas and extreme weather threats. … (However), the positive momentum to address these challenges has never been greater. Sea level rise legislation is gaining political support from both Republicans and Democrats, as they recognize the economic threat of doing nothing. … What we are doing now is not for us, but to ensure our children, grandchildren and future generations can enjoy the beauty of our region for years to come.”–Former Pinellas County Commissioner–and likely 2021 St. Petersburg mayoral candidate–Janet Long.

* “The provision of high quality water to the entire Tampa Bay region is one of the most critical issues we will face moving into the future. In order to meet this growing demand for water we must explore all environmentally friendly and scientifically proven alternative sources, while focusing on conservation.”–Mayor Jane Castor.

* “I continue to be deeply impressed. The impact of USF’s achievements during the past 10 years is a key reason why the world’s top talent chooses to live and work in the Tampa Bay region.”–USF President Steve Currall, on what drew him to the USF presidency.

* “It’s complicated to build in Florida, and it’s particularly complicated to build in a growing urban city like Tampa. We respect that it’s complicated, but it should not necessarily be a mystery.”–Carole Post, Tampa’s incoming economic development officer, underscoring priorities such as transparency and the streamlining of rules and operations.

* “It smells as bad as it could possibly smell.” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, after the Bucs frustrating, 28-22 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons.  

The Silo Majority?

Iowa. Call it the “Hawkeye State.” Or the “Soybean State.” Or the “Silo State.” Or even the “Caucus State.” But, alas, we have to call it the first state to vote during primary season. That, along with the obsolete electoral college, has to change. The road to the White House shouldn’t be jumpstarted in the “Caucasian State.”

It’s simply not appropriate that a small, largely rural, demographically-skewed state with a quirky process that results in low turnout can have so much influence and impact on something so important as the U.S. presidency. The results of the Feb. 3 caucus will provide outsized momentum for the winner and could undermine candidacies that play better amid more diverse electorates, which is virtually all of them.

Trumpster Diving

* Trump wants a show trial (for “exoneration”). Of course he does–but on his terms, which includes subpoena defiance. Whether it was firing contestants on “The Apprentice” or descending a Trump Tower escalator–as Deus Ex Machina Man–it’s always been about the show and accompanying, Trump-lionizing optics. But, yes, he will have to accept that Chief Justice John Roberts–not Judge Judy–will be presiding.

* It’s likely that Trump, however full of bluster and buffoonery, is not just irate over impeachment–but embarrassed. Tantamount to a pathological narcissist’s worst nightmare. For all his name recognition and MAGA branding, his obit lead will reference America’s third presidential impeachment, and he knows it.

* “Monica Zelenskiy.” That’s how a number of Ukrainians are expressing their disapproval and frustration over the way their president is handling the relationship with President Trump.

* Speculation persists that Mike Pompeo might resign to run for the Senate from Kansas. That was ratcheted up recently when the well-regarded Stephen Biegun, the American special envoy for Korean nuclear affairs, was nominated to become deputy secretary of state. Biegun could ease into an acting role if Pompeo decides to move on. As for Pompeo, maybe he doesn’t like what he foresees from the upcoming election. Or maybe he doesn’t like being trolled by Rudy Giuliani, who still wants to be secretary of state. Or maybe he’s approaching an epiphany and is actually embarrassed by foreign-policy chaos and yearns to return to his West Point ideals.

* Not that long ago–in2008–on CNN Trump said of Nancy Pelosi:I like her a lot.” But he was “surprised” that she hadn’t pushed to impeach President George W. Bush for “lying about the Iraq war.” Impeachment, he said–as only he can phrase it–“would have been a wonderful thing.” And for the record, he thought–at least back then–that President Bill Clinton’s impeachment was “nonsense.”

* Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., says he will be playing a role in the Trump Administration after announcing that he won’t be running for re-election. Last year he was rumored to be a candidate for chief of staff. That could still be in play and incumbent Mick Mulvaney–of “get used to it” fame–knows it.

* It’s still shocking to hear Trump-opposition sentiment that seemingly dreads Vice President Mike Pence more than Trump. As in, “If we impeach and convict Trump, we get Pence for president! No!” Pence, to be clear, is a sycophantic opportunist, an evangelical hypocrite and made-to-order material for “Saturday Night Live.” But he is not an unhinged, immoral existential threat to the world around him. Moreover, he’s nobody the Republican Party, now cult leader-enamored, could rally around in the next election.

Silence Speaks Volumes

POLITIFACT’s choice for “Silence of the Year” is Hunter Biden. Well chosen. Here’s how he should have broken that silence, a break we’ll never see. “Upon reflection–and I should have reflected a helluva lot sooner–serving on that Burisma board was beyond inappropriate; it was blatantly self-serving. I was born on third base, thanks to my dad, and I kept thinking I had hit a triple. There’s ample precedent, as we all know.

“What I did by taking hefty compensation for doing little beyond lending my high-profile family name to a Ukrainian energy-company board was to insert myself into a geopolitical hotspot that put the United States and lot of people of earned authority and power in an awkward position, to say the least. Yeah, while I did nothing criminal, I regret the whole thing and now wish those who mattered most had said–in effect–‘WTF! The sheer ethics–and the political optics–are awful! You’re not THIS entitled.’

“And, yeah, one more thing. How ironic that I became Kid Pro Quo, the catalyst for Trump calling President Zelenskiy to get dirt on my dad. Absent that, there’s no formal impeachment. I shouldn’t be this important.

“And, oh yeah, one other thing. If my father is the nominee and the president brings this up in a debate, my dad will remind, as only he can, the electorate of the self-aggrandizing and influence peddling–including within the White House–that this president’s kids continue to traffic in.”

Faustian Deals

“Regardless of party, leader or political epoch, it’s always country and conscience first.” Would that this were the consensus definition of “American exceptionalism.”

But American politics–even, inexplicably, during this autocratic, pedagogic Trump reign–retains an identity that falls far short of anything remotely idealistic. The most recent Exhibit A: Former Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey. As a moderate Dem in a district that supported Trump in 2016, he just couldn’t vote for impeachment. But he surely could defend the indefensible. Now he’s a GOPster–with party and presidential fealty–and even has video of his Oval Office thank-you visit to help him in next year’s Republican primary campaign.

That should be indefensible. It’s not about “witch hunting” and “hate.” It’s about duty and a really, really serious oath of office. But, yes, you can hate a perverted process that you don’t enable.

And, BTW, for those GOPsters who see non-fealty to Trump as a career game-changer: So what? There’s always lobbying, media analysis, a book deal, ambulance-chasing or simply the respect and gratitude of patriotic Americans looking to prevent the American Devolution.

Dem Notes

* As we saw, some gloves, particularly those figuratively worn by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, came off at the last debate. Both went after Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is the Iowa frontrunner. Warren went after the “wine cave” fundraiser for rich people. Klobuchar made note of the fact that he had never won a statewide race. None of that was surprising since Buttigieg leads in Iowa polls, and the Iowa caucus is barely more than a month away. Klobuchar, in particular, has to do well in Iowa to remain viable.

* Former President Barack Obama, who’s trying not to tip any scales toward any candidate, recently said something that could cause some tipping. While overseas, he noted that women “indisputably” make better leaders. Most of the problems in the world, he said, come from “old people, mostly men, holding onto positions of power.” We’ll hear that line again.

* There was a lot of analysis that Joe Biden won–because he didn’t lose. Nobody came after him and there were no glaring gaffes. Some bars are a bit lower than others.

* Frankly, I’d give the nod to Klobuchar. Fewer candidates made for more time, and she took advantage of it. She can make policy points while injecting humor and zingers.

* Favorite Klobuchar line referencing her experience as well as Pete Buttigieg’s youth pitch: “59 is the new 37.”  

* Good bye and good riddance, Tulsi Gabbard. The erstwhile candidatevoted “present” during the impeachmentvote.Hardly helpful.But we will hear from her again, even if indirectly. She will surely be referenced by Trump during the upcoming campaign–from ads to a debate forum. “Even a Democratic candidate for president didn’t think I deserved impeachment.” Talk about unforced errors.


* “First, they accuse Trump of a collusion with Russia. Then it turns out there was no collusion, so this cannot be used as a basis for impeachment. Now they’ve come up with the idea he put pressure on Ukraine.”–Russian President Vladimir Putin.

* “The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.”–Mark Gaili, editor in chief of Christianity Today magazine.

* “Our founders, when they wrote the Constitution, they suspected that there could be a rogue president. I don’t think they suspected that we could have a rogue president and a rogue leader in the Senate at the same time.”–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

* “You have my undying support. Always.”–Ex-Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, during an Oval Office visit with President Trump. The previous day he defected from Democrats and voted against impeachment.

* “There is no joy in this for anyone. No decent-thinking American could take any joy out of this.” CBS reporter Dan Rather, responding to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, who pre-empted impeachment and resigned 45 years ago.

* “Trump knows that whatever the Constitution might say, today’s quisling Republican Party will have his back.”–Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.

* “If the president claims he is so innocent, then why doesn’t he have all the president’s men testify?”–Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

* “An alternative remedy is available, the 2020 election.”–Sen. Marco Rubio.

* “Russia, which has long wanted to prove that liberal democracy is a hypocritical sham, is the natural friend of the Trumpist Republican Party.”–Michelle Goldberg, New York Times.

* “Right and wrong are beyond the moral ken of the amoral majority in the House minority. They simply do not care what Trump does.”–Mac Stipanovich, chief of staff to former Florida Gov. Bob Martinez.

* “My work with President Trump and his administration is only beginning.”–North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, a top Trump ally on Capitol Hill, in announcing that he will not seek re-election.

* “The candidates need to point out that Mr. Trump is not fighting China on behalf of workers; he’s doing so for businesses that want a less costly path to set up and expand outsourcing.”–Jared Bernstein, who was the chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden.

* “I hear people saying, ‘I don’t want to hear the president speak because it unnerves me so much. But the good thing about anxiety is that it can have an activating and motivating part to it. I lead people to a discussion of, what can you do.”–Dr. Mary Alvord, a therapist and professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine.

* “Everybody’s got three lives: public life, private life and a secret life. Private life is by invitation only. Secret life is nobody’s business.”–Celebrity newspaperman and author Pete Hamill.

* “Month after month, we’ve been seeing pretty good numbers. It’s pretty healthy.”–Raymond James chief economist Scott Brown, after Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to a historic low of 3.1 percent in November. The unemployment rate in Tampa Bay: 2.7 percent.

* “Within the party, I don’t see anything other than full-blown support for the president.”–Hillsborough County Republican Party Chairman Jim Waurishuk.

* “Let me put it this way. I don’t support having the requirement that everyone (use) E-Verify. It’s putting an additional responsibility on non-government officials.”–Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, who is at odds with Gov. Ron DeSantis who wants all Florida businesses to use E-Verify to prevent undocumented immigrants from getting jobs in the state.

* “The idea that Amendment 4 would be available only to people who can afford it is unfair, it’s un-American and it’s unacceptable.”–Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, in announcing the creation of a process through which those newly-eligible to vote again can submit an application, learn how much they owe the court system and work to get their case in front of a judge.

* “The House Speaker says funding Visit Florida is a waste of money. It would be a bigger waste not to fund it.”–Troy Manthey, chairman of Visit Tampa Bay and president and CEO of Yacht Starship Dining Cruises.

* “This is not a bridge-burning Administration. This is a bridge-building Administration so far.”–Tampa City Council Chairman Luis Viera.

* “As a former MOSI board member I can tell you, I think it’s highly unlikely that MOSI will move to Water Street.”–Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan.

* “Let them explore it. It’s something new.”–Mayor Jane Castor, who favors the idea of the Rays splitting the season with Montreal if the team would move to Tampa.

* “The news (stories) coming out of Moffitt Cancer Center are of great concern and compel further investigation.”–Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva, in announcing that state Rep. Chris Sprowls, slated to succeed Oliva as Speaker, will investigate ties between China and Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute.

* “U.S. research institutions have been asleep in Beijing’s efforts for a long time because they think of themselves as practicing ‘open science’–rather than ‘strategic science,’ as the Chinese government does.”–Josh Rogin, Washington Post.