New Normal Notoriety

* A Pasco County high school student posted a request for “a guy who could kill someone” on his Instagram account. “No joke, I need him eliminated as soon as possible.” He later said it was, indeed, a joke. Sheriff Chris Nocco wasn’t amused. “It doesn’t matter what the intent was,” he stressed. “When you do it and post it on social media, the crime is committed.”

* A 21-year old male walked into a Springfield, Mo., Walmart wearing body armor and carrying a loaded weapon. He was, he explained, merely testing his right to bear arms.    

Sports Shorts

* Despite a job relocation to Anaheim, Joe Maddon is no less committed to his Tampa ties, including “Thanksmas,” his Tampa restaurant Ava, and his Bayshore Boulevard home and Gasparilla Party. He’s also no less optimistic that baseball can ultimately succeed here with a modern Rays stadium on the Tampa side of Tampa Bay. “The Trop is not a major-league facility; it has nice air-conditioning,” says Maddon. “You’ve got to put the ballpark on the Tampa side, close to the population. … The right ballpark in the right location with real baseball fans, which I think exist here, you’ll find the folks to show up.”

* At the mid-season point, there is only one undefeated team in the NFL–and it’s not the New England Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champions. Surprisingly, it’s the San Francisco 49ers, who were 4-12 last year and haven’t had a winning season since 2013. A key factor is general manager John Lynch. Yes, THAT John Lynch, the popular, former Buccaneer All-Pro and Hall of Fame candidate, who’s now half way through his 6-year contract.

Quoteworthy

* “This is not about competing Republican versus Democratic visions of American foreign policy. This is about whether our foreign policy should be made in the national interest or in the personal political interests of the president.”–Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J.

* “Democrats KNOW they can’t beat @realDonaldTrump so they seek to remove him through an ILLEGAL COUP!”–Recent tweet of Kayleigh McEnany, national press secretary for the Trump re-election campaign.

* “Every member should support the American people hearing the facts for themselves. That is what this vote is about. It’s about the truth. And what is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy.”–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the resolution for the impeachment procedure.

* “People say to me, ‘If you’re critical of the president, you’re hurting the party.’ No I’m not–I’m laying out a path for the party post the president.”–Sen. Mitt Romney.

* “Corrupt politicians, Pelosi and Schiff, are trying to take down the Republican Party. It will never happen. We will take back the House!”–Donald Trump.

* “We need to stand up and be counted. This is probably not the time for anonymity.”–“Primary Colors” author Joe Klein.

* “America’s national security is paramount. … Trump put his personal political interests above America’s national security interests, and he must be held accountable. No one is above the law. The American people deserve to know the full story.”–Florida Congresswoman Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, on her vote in support of the presidential impeachment inquiry.

* “(Impeachment) received a powerful push forward when the House voted Thursday for a new, public phase in the inquiry. This means among other things that the Democrats think they have the goods. They wouldn’t go live unless they did.”–Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.

* “We’re going to see a lot of attempts to demean and cast doubt on the religious faith of presidential candidates, because of the Christian right’s primary conflict of interest: Donald Trump. The same president who spews racism from the most powerful position in the world and has bragged about being a sexual predator is also the adopted sweetheart of self-proclaimed Christian evangelicals.”–Connie Schultz, Creators Syndicate.

* “I believe people should be able to see for themselves what politicians they may or may not vote for are saying and judge their character for themselves.”–Mark Zuckerberg.

* “The law hasn’t been written yet–yet–that holds carriers of user-generated internet content responsible for the user-generated content they carry, just like movie studios, television networks and book, magazine and newspaper publishers.”–Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter who won an Academy Award for “The Social Network.”

* “The bases are controlling both parties.”–U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

* “You just want to tell these Republicans that at some point you are going to have to face the facts. You can decide that it is not impeachable behavior, or it will draw the country through a process we shouldn’t go through. But to defend the president and to support him for re-election when you know what you know is just beyond the pale.”–Jeff Flake, former Republican senator from Arizona.

* “To be clear, the decision will be made by the market telling us where we should focus. We will continue to maintain print if consumers are asking for it, and the economics make sense. Our goal is to hold as steady as we can on print while focusing on transforming our digital business.”–Gannett CEO Paul Bascobert.

* “Democrats don’t have to go through Florida to win the presidency, but Republicans do. Republicans can’t lost Florida, so everything’s on the table. The governor is essential in raising the funds you need in a presidential election year.”–Al Cardenas, former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, on Gov. Ron DeSantis stepping in to head up state party financing in support of Donald Trump.

* “The past 12 months have been Tampa Bay’s time to shine as a destination for visitors from across the country and around the world.”–Visit Tampa Bay President and CEO Santiago Corrada, on data showing that Hillsborough County’s tourism tax hit a record $35.4 million during the recent fiscal year–topping last year’s record by nearly $1.5 million.

* “Economic development is evolving, and economic development organizations have to evolve with it.”–Craig Richard, CEO of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council, formerly known as the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.

* “The single most important, overarching issue facing our community today.”–Mayor Jane Castor, in reference to transit priorities.

* “The most Democratic of Republicans.”–How Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister describes his politics.

* “With Jane Castor, you have a lot more dialogue happening than you had with Mayor Buckhorn.”–Tampa City Council Chairman LuisViera.

* “We are helping each other out. We’re figuring out this synergistic way that we help each other to grow.”–Florida Aquarium president and CEO Roger Germann, on the Aquarium’s collaboration with Sparkman Wharf at Water Street Tampa.

* “We’re much more aware of how we police.”–Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan, on the steep decline in racially-skewed stops and citations for bicycle violations.

Anonymous Impact

* At some point we’re going to know who “Anonymous” is. And it won’t span more than a generation as with “Deep Throat’s” Mark Felt. Word will get out. Times are vastly different, and the stakes much higher. De-Trumping America–and the rest of the planet–means that much.

Certain CIA insiders and journalists already know. But when there’s  a published book, “A Warning,” it’s no longer Whistleblowing 101. The author, with access to the most influential media forums, has to personally step up, speak out and eliminate unfavorable anonymity connotations advanced by Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Sean Hannity & Co. And that hopefully will propel the intelligence community and all patriotic elected officials to make it clear that they have his or her back because they have America’s back.

And then the floodgates open.

* Left unsaid, but blatantly implied, with the presidential announcement and accompanying White House Situation Room photo announcing the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: “Take that, Obama.”

Speaking of al-Bagdadi, he died by detonating his suicide vest while being chased into a tunnel by American special ops soldiers. In so doing, he didn’t just kill himself; he also killed three of his children. That’s doubling down on a definition of evil.

BTW, the U.S. bounty on the head of al-Bagdadi was $25 million. Wonder if it will be reallocated to U.S. troop support–or to “The Wall”?

* “Human scum.” That’s how the occupant of the Oval Orifice recently described the “Never Trumpers.” After such vulgar vilification, you have to wonder if such demonized GOPsters, affronted by white nationalism, angry populism and chaotic foreign policy, might consider an alternate party as the best way to express presidential outrage and patriotic concern.

* “Afghanistan is a safe place by comparison.”–That was the aforementioned occupant comparing Afghanistan to Chicago.

* “I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny–fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.” Too bad that wasn’t Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell or Matt Gaetz. But it was a Republican: Sen. Margaret Chase Smith in 1950 speaking out against the onerous implications of McCarthyism.

* It was more than another day at the orifice. Just when we thought the antics and stunts that pass for Washington partisan politics couldn’t get any more absurd, embarrassing or worrisome, we get the charge of the alt-right brigade. House Republicans, determined to undermine and divert attention from Trump’s Ukrainian shakedown, stormed into a secure room where an impeachment inquiry was being held. Some had electronic devices, a major security violation.

With Trump sycophant congressman Matt Gaetz, R-Panhandle, as point man and Florida Rep. Ross Spano of Dover tagging along, more than three dozen GOPster storm troopers pushed past the Capitol police and entered–and effectively occupied–the room. Chaos ensued in the disingenuous name of transparency. As if Republicans were not among the House members hearing classified depositions. As if this were not a familiar closed-door tactic to ensure that future deposed witnesses weren’t privy to what these witnesses were saying in the preliminary stages. There’s plenty of precedent–as well as common sense.

Call it a sham and a total disgrace.  Also call it another historical metaphor for the age of Trump.  

* “I’m glad they did it.” That was White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham’s Fox News response to Republicans storming that aforementioned secure room. “It’s about time that somebody made a very bold stand, which is, I guess, a sit-in, which is what they did. And it was great.”

Grisham also took her fealty act to a Washington Examiner political conference, where she took on former White House Chief-of-Staff John Kelly. “I worked with John Kelly,” she said, “and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great president.”

With responses like these, it’s obvious why she prefers cherry-picked forums to WH press conferences. Remember those?

* “Mark Esperanto.” That’s how Trump referenced Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in a recent tweet about Syria. But to be fair, that’s still pretty close.

* The federal budget deficit: It’s now $984 billion, up more than 25 percent in the last year. It’s also up nearly 50 percent since Trump came into office.  Next year it’s projected to pass $1 trillion.  Remember when deficits were a Republican priority, if not obsession–and the inspiration for the Tea Party? Those were the days.

* “Lock him up!” That was part of the World Series crowd response upon seeing Donald Trump on an in-stadium video screen after the third inning of Game 5. Timing, of course, is everything. The Nats home crowd, dejected at seeing their team fall behind again for the third straight game, had a chance to vent. It was also a graphic reminder that a Washington World Series crowd is not to be confused with a Wheeling, WV rally.

* “Lincoln was a Republican, people forget that, we need to start bringing that up (because) the Democratic policies have let African-Americans down and taken them for granted.” That’s what Trump said in his recent speech at Benedict College, a historically black college in Columbia, S.C. Then he reprised an African-American-friendly line from his 2016 campaign: “What the hell do you have to lose?” Watch for cropped photos and selective optics to show up later in the campaign as part of the hypocritical Trump outreach to black voters.

But more context is required, however, for the invitation-only, Benedict event. Trump spoke to an audience of about 300, of which fewer than 10 were students. The attendees were mostly guests and allies of Trump, an audience not given to criticism of “white nationalism” and all its deadly dangerous, societal ripples.

* Guess what turns 10 yrs. old next year? The Affordable Care Act. Somehow it’s made it through a decade of imperfection, infighting, and partisan targeting as socialistic, eponymous “Obamacare.”

Dem Notes

* It can’t be encouraging to Dems that there is still some sentiment about a possible Hillary Clinton candidacy. It’s a frustrating function of a party that–minus a silver bullet candidate–could splinter over its nomination process. It should also be concerning that speculation regarding a Tulsi Gabbard third-party run is making the rounds. And it’s a still a given that hard-core progressives supporting Elizabeth Warren and, especially, Bernie Sanders might not be all in with a more moderate nominee. And what if the ticket doesn’t have a candidate of color? Will the we-still-miss-Barack black vote decline again? It was a difference maker in the swing- state cities of Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia last time.

The message to Democrats: No (more) unforced errors. The Trump base–for all of its White House and Fox News bully pulpits, is still outnumbered.

* It hardly helps the Joe Biden campaign, which has been off message more than on with inconsistent debate performances and the Hunter Biden embarrassment, that it no longer opposes–let alone denounces–Super PACs. “To speak to the middle class, we need to reject the Super PAC system,” said Biden in the spring. But that all changed when the campaign’s fund-raising, a barometer of viability and popularity, fell notably behind his leading rivals.

Book It, Zuck

Facebook, as we’ve been noticing, has been a key factor in imperiling democracy. Just ask Vlad Putin. Mark Zuckerberg keeps trying to perfume the free speech pig as if he weren’t monetizing misinformation while benignly enabling millions to share vacation photos and look-at-me moments. False speech, free speech? Ask the Winklevoss Brothers. And while Facebook has ramped up efforts to rein in hoaxes and hate speech, it still permits partisan political ads that are hardly avatars of veracity.

But this just in. Facebook News. It’s a new section of its mobile app that is dedicated to news content. It involves a mix of respected publications–including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal–as well as digital-only outlets such as BuzzFeed and Business Insider. And Breitbart. When Steve Bannon is a player, it’s still Zucked up.

Sports Shorts

* Rays vice president Chaim Bloom has been with the team for 15 years and is a key reason why the Rays made the 2019 post-season with MLB’s lowest payroll. Now he’s been hired by the Red Sox, a franchise with a payroll that is nearly four times that of the Rays. The upshot is this: The Rays have succeeded because with far less money than the competition, they have had to be smarter. But then, alas, those with far more money can ultimately buy the smartest people. It’s a function of a system that has no salary cap, thus forcing teams to, in effect, play by different rules. If the Rays, for example, sign a free agent who disappoints, it’s brutally bottom-line costly. If the Red Sox, Yankees or Dodgers, for example, sign an expensive free-agent bust, it’s, well, the cost of doing business.

* “I will be buying an AR-15 tomorrow, because if you impeach MY PRESIDENT this way, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER CIVIL WAR!!!” This is not some despicable tweet from some stereotypically despicable Trumpster. No, this was from MLB umpire Rob Drake, whose “apology” was a blatant effort to save his job. It’s also another scary reminder of all that the “new normal” entails.

* “You can’t help but notice that there’s a boom going on in Tampa. Who would have thought it would have started with the Lightning? … It seems like every time you come, there’s something new.” That was the recent takeaway of visiting NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Quoteworthy

* “European governments have a very low regard for Trump anyway. They know that they need to work with the United States, but it confirms to them that Trump is incapable of thinking strategically, handing victory to the Russians in Syria.”–Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform.

* ” The most significant long-term, geopolitical threat facing America.”–How Sen. Ted Cruz characterized China.

* “This action will prevent the Castro regime from profiting from U.S. air travel and using the revenues to repress the Cuban people.”–Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on the Trump Administration’s banning of U.S. flights to all Cuban cities except Havana.

* “With Nancy Pelosi’s dressing-down of Trump at that White House meeting, her weekend trip abroad (to Jordan and Afghanistan) and her highly visible oversight of the impeachment process in the House, a first-time visitor to the capital might conclude that she is shaping events while Trump just thrashes around.”–Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.

* “You don’t hold up foreign aid that we had previously appropriated for a political initiative. Period.”–Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

* “I really try very hard to be super ethical and always legal. But I can’t publicly defend everything I do because I’m presumed guilty. If I did, my business and firm would be unable to have any clients.”–Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer.

* “If we are not the champions of the good and the right, then who will follow us? And if no one follows us–where will the world end up?”–Retired Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command.

* “The only person in the military Mr. Trump does not feel is ‘overrated’: That’s Colonel Sanders.”–Former Defense Secretary–and retired four-star Marine general–Jim Mattis.

* “Today’s Republican leaders, with the vehement support of their base, have threatened the autonomy of the federal and state judiciary, treated intelligence and law-enforcement agencies as instruments of the ‘deep state,’ attacked the press and pulled down the empire of science, reason and fact into the mire of ‘fake news.'”–James Traub, author of “What Was Liberalism? The Past, Present and Promise of a Nobel Ideal.”

* “We’ve had enough of Adam Schiff running this Soviet-style star chamber, because only in the Soviet Union would you have a process where they are trying to impeach a duly elected president in secret, behind closed doors.”–House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.

* “Next year’s election should be about Trump’s betrayal of his oath of office. Realistically, however, it also matters that the economy probably won’t be his friend.”–Paul Krugman, New York Times.

* “Take a colossally ignorant and incurious man in decline, have him divide his working hours between Fox News and golf, and then give him the nuke codes.”–Willamette University American History Professor Seth Cotlar.

* “(Facebook’s) algorithms favor the echo chamber, backing a user’s bias.”–Timothy Egan, New York Times.

* “This is positive news for both sides of Tampa Bay. … Reconstructing this interchange will be a boon to commerce and make life easier for residents and visitors. The future of St. Pete and Tampa has never been brighter.”–St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, on announced state plans for a $1.4 billion rebuild of the West Shore interchange.

* “This (Hillsborough) is no longer the county we turned red in 2000.”–Republican donor and political adviser Sam Rashid.

* “The most Democratic of Republicans.”–How Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister describes his politics.

* “This is just the first year of the 30-year tax. If you can imagine 30 years from now, it’s going to be like the Jetsons. It’s going to be wonderful.”–Jean Duncan, Tampa’s director of transportation, on Hillsborough County’s new transportation tax–provided the Florida Supreme Court permits it.

* “We’re much more aware of how we police.”–Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan, on the steep decline in racially-skewed stops and citations for bicycle violations.

Kurdistan Never Happened

* “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China or Napoleon Bonaparte.” President Trump’s inimitable response to critics who say his Syria withdrawal amounts to a betrayal of the Kurds while accommodating Russia and Iran.

* Too bad there is no Kurdistan. The U.S. could use a reliable, Middle East nation-state ally. The Kurds were actually promised a state after the Ottoman Empire collapsed in World War I. Obviously, it never happened. Wonder if Trump knows that?

* “Who Can Trust Trump’s America?” That’s the question asked on the cover of the latest issue of The Economist magazine.

* Trump’s foreign policy: sanctions and tariffs. Next question.

* We know that ambassadorships can be a reward for hefty political contributions. But it’s more likely to be Guinea-Bissau than Great Britain. Some assignments are too important–even for party political payback. Which brings us to Gordon Sondland, whose $1 million donation to Trump’s inaugural resulted in Sondland becoming America’s ambassador to the European Union. That would not have been for sale if Europe were still a Trump Administration priority. And speaking of priorities, there was Sondland, America’s representative to Brussels, working behind the scenes in Ukraine as Rudy Giuliani’s accomplice and enabler. No wonder State Department professionals are embarrassed and appalled about America’s international decision-makers and the accompanying, alarming ramifications.

* Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, acted more like Sean Spicer the other day with his flummoxed parsing of “quid pro quo.” But it did briefly divert attention from his imperious “get over it” directive to journalists. “Elections have consequences.” Then he did a  “clarification.” Professional spokespeople shouldn’t need instant, CYA mulligans. The next day, amid a walkback of Trump’s self-serving plan to host the next G-7 summit at his financially-struggling Doral resort, Mulvaney acknowledged that Trump still thinks of himself, emolument scenarios notwithstanding, as working in the “hospitality business.” Think Don Jr. and Eric didn’t already know that?

But, no, don’t look for Mulvaney on “Dancing With the Stars.”

* Trump continues to disparage former Defense Secretary James Mattis for being “overrated.” By whom? The one who nominated him? And, yes, Trump no longer refers to him as “Mad Dog,” which makes him sound like a tough guy who doesn’t respect a chaotic, isolationist, bone-spurs president.

* “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”–That’s William Taylor, acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, foregoing typical diplomatic rhetoric.

* Alas, Facebook’s fact-checking rules do not apply to political ads. As a result, candidates can spread misleading–or worse–claims. Basically, that means the Trump campaign can show ads that traditional TV networks have declined to air.

* Two-term Florida Republican Congressman Francis Rooney made news lately with his declaration that he was open to presidential impeachment. Good. So much rides on a constitutional reset and the removal of this existential threat. Then Rooney announces that he will be retiring at the end of his term. Not good. “The system we have now, which would probably disappoint our founders, is so oriented toward re-election, raising money. … Everybody is quaking in fear of being criticized by the president,” explained Rooney.

Sorry, Congressman, but as someone who sees what is happening to our democracy through a relatively non-partisan lens, you have to do more than further disappoint our founders. It’s not enough for you or Jeff Flake to publicly call out this president–and then walk away from doing more with your statewide and national forums because your gutsy stands will likely get you primaried in your (Fort Myers-Naples-Marco Island ) Trump-friendly district. It’s got to be country first, something our founders would emphatically endorse. 

* It goes without saying that this president is without precedent. George W. Bush, upon reflection, has never seemed so prudent and prepared.

But American fissures have broadened into serious societal fault lines before. Here’s a Henry Kissinger take on a previously combustible era a lot of us lived through. “Perhaps the most serious, surely the most hurtful, domino which fell as a result of the Vietnam War was the cohesion of American society.”

Only this time the cohesion-cratering context is a perfect storm. Start with an unfit, pathologically dangerous, authoritarian president who demonizes non-supplicant media; fuels the fires of white nationalism; emboldens adversaries that attack our electoral system; and ignorantly and arrogantly retreats from global commitments. One who gets along a lot better with Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un than Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkle. Then add an under-informed and under assault electorate that is easily manipulated by social media and cherry-picked talking heads. With 65 million followers, Trump has weaponized Twitter.

Some dominoes are easier to recover from than others.

Dem Notes

* Trump-benefiting, Russian meddling in the 2016 election–sowing division and peeling off key Democratic votes from Trump’s opponent–is a given everywhere outside the Oval Orifice.   That’s because Trump needed separation from Vlad Putin, his handler and Helsinki helper. He also needed vanity-driven distance from insinuations that his presidency might be less than electorally valid. That’s a familiar story line, but now we have an unexpected, updated 2020 variation of the Russian theme.

It’s being aired out by, yes, Hillary Clinton, who knows a thing or two about Russian interference and influence in American presidential elections. “I’m not making any predictions, but I think (the Russians) have got their eye on someone who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming HER to be the third-party candidate,” coyly noted Clinton. “SHE’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.” Clinton didn’t actually name that female candidate, but no one thought she was referring to Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar or even Marianne Williamson.

Which leaves: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who responded like someone who had just been targeted as a Putin enabler. “Thank you @ Hillary Clinton. You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain.” That’s not typically how a presidential candidate talks about the party’s most recent nominee. That can’t be helpful.

* Mayor Pete Buttigieg hit the media triad last Sunday with appearances on “Fox News Sunday” CNN’s “State of the Union” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

* “I am more than ready to assume the office of president of the United States. … To put it bluntly, I’m back.”–Sen. Bernie Sanders.

* “My son’s statement speaks for itself.”–Joe Biden’s Hunter statement that speaks volumes.

* “He has committed crimes in plain sight. As a former prosecutor, I know a confession when I see it”–Sen. Kamala Harris.