Sports Shorts

* As we’ve seen, popular, long-time Buc defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was let go, and the high-profile, controversial Ndamukong Suh was signed to take his place. The media being the media had to ask, of course, if Suh were the “Real McCoy?” Indeed, is he that or just “A Tackle Named Suh?” Well, Johnny Cash would get it.

* Congrats to USF softball coach Ken Erickson for being named head coach of the 2020 United States Olympic team. He has coached the women’s national team for a decade–and is 52-4 as coach of Team USA in international play that includes two World Championships and a Pan American Games gold medal. The USF alum is the winningest coach (any sport) in school history. Go, USA. Go, Bulls.

* It’s been hard to watch any Stanley Cup play–for obvious reasons. Now it’s the Boston Bruins vs. the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup finals. I’ll continue not to watch, but I do have a preference: St. Louis. The Blues were in last place in early January before going on a tear. And while their 45 wins and 99 total points pale next to the Lightning’s regular-season 62 and 128, the Blues did beat the Bolts both times they played. Plus the Blues have never won a Cup. As for Boston, who last won the Cup in 2013, the Bolts beat them three out of four, they feature the game’s biggest punk in Brad Marchant and, well, they’re Boston.

* Amid the attention focused on state softball and baseball teams as the NCAA championships get underway, let’s not forget the University of Tampa, which qualified again for the Division II World Series in Cary, N.C. For the record, UT has won it seven times and prominent alums include Lou Piniella, Tino Martinez and Ozzie Timmons, current first-base coach of the Rays. Go, Spartans.

Quoteworthy

* “If you say ‘two state,’ it means one thing to the Israelis and one thing to the Palestinians, so we said let’s just not say it, let’s just work on the details of what it means.”–Jared Kushner, explaining why he has asked peace negotiators to no longer use the term “two states.”

* “China’s overriding foreign policy goal is to squeeze America out of East Asia and force it back to the Hawaiian Islands as its forward position in the Pacific.”–Robert W. Merry, the American Conservative.

* “We’re not going to war. Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation.”–Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

* “What I’m interested in more right now is what the administration’s strategy is–if they have one–to keep us out of war.”–Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

* “So of course the president gives sweeping declassification powers to an attorney general who has already shown that he has no problems selectively releasing information  in order to mislead the American public.”–Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

* “What good is a system of checks and balances if officials decline to use the tools that the framers crafted?”–Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.

* “Our subpoenas are not optional.”–House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-NY.

* “What the Mueller report disturbingly shows, with crystal clarity, is that today there is a cancer in the presidency: President Donald J. Trump. Congress now has the solemn constitutional duty to excise that cancer without delay.”–George Conway, prominent D.C. Trump critic–and husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.

* “Almost as troubling as whatever it is Trump is trying to hide: Why do all those supposed national security hawks in Trump’s party exhibit so little curiosity about the answers?”–Catherine Rampell, Washington Post.

* “I want to do infrastructure, I want to do it more than you. But we can’t do it under these circumstances.”–President Trump in emphasizing that the House investigations must end before talks on the nation’s infrastructure begin.

* “Global warming, a term though seemingly esoteric, could, as time passes, come to signify an environmental disaster second only to nuclear war.”–Sen. Joe Biden, 1987.

* “I don’t have a problem standing up to somebody who was working on Season 7 of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ when I was packing my bags for Afghanistan.”–Pete Buttigieg.

* “Nationalism is an abdication of liberalism. It is also the opposite of patriotism. To confuse nationalism with patriotism is to mistake contempt for love and fear for valor.”–Harvard history professor Jill LePore, the author of “These Truths: A History of the United States.”

* “Retrotopia.”–Term coined by Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman that means the glorification of an illusory past.

* “Whether purposefully or not, (Gov. DeSantis) is not letting people figure him out. No one knows what his next move is. Guess what? That makes him powerful.”–Democratic strategist and lobbyist Screven Watson.

* “Connecting central and South Florida will bring thousands of jobs today and by modernizing infrastructure, we will strengthen Florida’s economy for decades.”–Patrick Goddard, president of Virgin Trains USA, in announcing that Virgin Trains had officially begun construction on its $4 billion West Palm Beach-to-Orlando extension. Virgin Trains ultimately plans to build an Orlando-to-Tampa leg.

* “For the time being, I’m comfortable with where we are (on Europe flights), but we are looking at Latin America and the Caribbean markets, and Bogota is actually our top target.”–Kenneth Strickland, TIA’s director of research.

* “Our vision for Midtown is to create a unifying place for hospitality, living, working and shopping designed around four acres of common public spaces.”–Bill Haines, chairman of the Bromley Companies, master developer for the $500 million, mixed-use Midtown Tampa project under construction at I-275 south and N Dale Mabry Highway.  

Not As If We Weren’t Warned

Think back to 2015-16 and what Republican primary candidates, prominent GOPsters and certain right-wing media were saying about Donald Trump–and where we are now. There’s  political trash talk, of course, and then, eerily and ironically, there’s this: a prescient sampling.   

            > “(He’ll be) a chaos president.”–Jeb Bush.     

            > “A pathological liar.”–Ted Cruz.

            > “This guy is dangerously unhinged.”–Glenn Beck.

            > “A jackass.”–Lindsey Graham.

            > “There’s plenty of evidence that Mr. Trump is a con man.”–Mitt Romney.

            > “He’s not going to make America great; he’s going to make it orange.”–Marco Rubio.

            > “Defend conservatism against the cancer of Trumpism.”–Rick Perry.

            > “Since he has  changed his mind on amnesty, on health care and on abortion, I would just ask, ‘What are the principles by which he will govern?'”–Carly Fiorina.

Trumpster Diving

* So, Trump rolls out his (OK, Jared’s) “big, beautiful (immigration) plan” in a Rose Garden address. Yes, beefing up border security was prioritized, as was a much more merit-based immigration system. But, no, there was no mention of the DACA-immigrants status, nor did it reference what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living shadowy American lives.

But he did express hope in his speech that Democrats would join him in “putting politics aside” and passing “historic reforms.” Alas, the same speech had earlier referenced Dems as the party of “open borders, lower wages and, frankly, lawless chaos.” Nice inclusive touch.

* Some GOPster had to be first, and while this was no Barry Goldwater/Richard Nixon-come-to-Jesus moment, it was still worth noting that the first Republican congressman has now (openly) called for President Trump’s impeachment. Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian, actually read the 448-page report and subsequently took exception to Attorney General William Barr for having “deliberately misrepresented” the findings. “Contrary to Barr’s portrayal,” stated Amash, “Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment.”

But Amash is well known as a (rare) GOP outlier when it comes to publicly criticizing Trump. The president has already called him a “loser” and a “lightweight.” So, how about more prominent Republicans, who are known to be critical, if not belittling, of Trump in private? That means you, Senators Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell & Co. That means taking one for your country before it’s too late. And too late could happen before we get to early November, 2020.

* I was among those political junkies who tuned in to MSNBC’s recent, well-hyped “Hardball” show on location from Northeast Pennsylvania that featured a “Deciders” theme. As in, those voters who, having voted for Barack Obama twice, then went for Donald Trump last time. The site was near Wilkes-Barre in Luzerne County, now widely, if not notoriously or inexplicably, known for having boldly switched from Obama to Trump. It helped Trump upend projections by turning the Keystone state red. It had a town hall kind of vibe, as it provided a forum for local officials, union workers, business owners, everyday voters–and one notable ringer, DNC Chairman Tom Perez.

But I’m still waiting to understand why any Obama voter would vote for Trump. To go from the first African American president to the one who played the racist birther card against him. To go from classy to classless. To go from evolving to devolving.

I’ve heard the rationales. Often. Those who felt forgotten and wanted economic security. Those who preferred a “businessman” to another politician-in-chief. Those who needed a rationale for life not turning out better. Those who feared the undocumented in their midst. Those who wanted a more economically assertive America. Those who were tired of sending in the marines to problematic parts of the world.

In the abstract, they are all eminently understandable. My roots–along with Chris Mathews’–are not far from Wilkes-Barre: Philadelphia. Blue collars don’t get much bluer than a bus-driver family of seven living in an Archie Bunker row house in Northeast Philly. I get the populist pitch and appeal.

Here’s the part I don’t get. Wherever you are on the political spectrum, wherever you are occupationally and economically, wherever you are on American “greatness,” you still have to do some due diligence and use your brain more than your gut. Especially on a game-changing, world-altering presidential election. And if you like the current, positive economic numbers and attribute it all to Trump, the bankruptcy avatar, then remember that a GNP boost has come at the cost of an exploding deficit, unsettling trade war scenarios, environmental degradation, reduced protections for workers and consumers and a flippant, anti-constitutional attitude. 

Were you more impressed with “The Apprentice” star widely known as an unethical, un-read, mercurial, narcissistic, pathologically lying sexist than the flawed candidacy of Hillary Clinton, who was at least well qualified to be president? Did it not make any difference that any vote that would enable a Trump presidency was a vote for an existential threat–nationally and globally? Did it not make any difference that you were voting to install an embarrassing charlatan in the White (Nationalist) House? This wasn’t Clinton vs. Kasich or Clinton vs. Romney or Clinton vs. Huntsman. This was closer to Clinton vs. Kid Rock. What the hell were you thinking? Please don’t do any more deciding, unless it’s to decide to make electoral amends.

*New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has given the upcoming presidential campaign something other than anti-de Blasio punch lines. His contribution–another Trump nickname: “Con Don.”

* It’s been well chronicled how Trump has evolved–or pragmatically pivoted–on certain issues since he became a serious presidential candidate. But there is certainly one notable constant: He’s always been pro-strife.

* Trump is driven by narcissistic drama, including the rhetoric of war and immigrant invasion, points out Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio. “It’s a game of revving up the excitement and making people afraid,” says D’Antonio, “and then backing off on the fear in order to declare that he’s resolved the situation.”

* “This season on SNL started in 2018, but it looks like it’s going to end somewhere back in the 1970s.”–SNL “Weekend Update” co-host Colin Jost.

* To those Dems who can’t abide a Joe Biden candidacy primarily because he’s, well, an unfashionably “old white guy,” remember all your hard-core values. If “Caucasian-male-septuagenarian” status is disqualifying, whatever happened to “ageism” as a capital societal sin typically condemned by true-blue progressives?

It’s not a crime against humanity for progressives to wax pragmatic for the ultimate just cause. Just make sure the candidate at the top of the ticket is best suited to take down the menace that is Donald Trump.

* Trump Tower Tampa. Talk about dodged bullets.

Environmentoll

Gov. Ron DeSantis calls himself a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican.” It’s a lot better than his previous label: a “Fox Green Room Donald Trump Republican.” And, indeed, he has vetoed a bill that would have prohibited cities from banning plastic drinking straws, is supportive of the Everglades Trust, is critical of Big Sugar and has hired a chief science officer. This, as we have seen, is not a Rick Scott sequel.

But he has also done something that Rick Scott would have approved of–and would have supported with some “jobs, jobs, jobs” rationale: the biggest state road project in decades. That’s the upshot of signing on to a massive new toll road through the state (from Polk County to Collier County) and extending two (Suncoast Parkway, Florida Turnpike) others. “I think we need new roads in Florida to get around,” explained DeSantis. “So, I’m supportive of infrastructure.”

In effect, DeSantis has really said, “Look, I’ve been a Teddy Roosevelt Republican on some things that have surprised both sides of the aisle. It’s not hard to look good when you follow Rick Scott, who even Republicans didn’t much lot. But I’m not going to go overboard–as if my only constituency were the Sierra Club and tree huggers.”

Alas, those who went to the mattresses for wetlands and wildlife corridors went unheeded. Their clout pales next to those of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, road builders and others with self-serving, vested interests. “Make Florida Sprawl Again” still resonates with the usual suspects. Or maybe it should be: “For Whom Florida Tolls.”

“Teddy Roosevelt is probably rolling in his grave right now that a comparison was ever made between him and Gov. DeSantis,” said Sierra Club Florida Conservation Chair Tim Martin. Maybe so, but maybe DeSantis also wants it both ways, not unlike Roosevelt in a way. TR’s legacy includes having created a Forestry Service, establishing several national parks and paving the way for the Antiquities Act and the National Park Services. He’s also, of course, remembered for his swaggering “thrill of the hunt,” which included a number of well-earned big-game, mounted trophies.

Quoteworthy

* “The cause of America is the cause of all mankind.”–Essayist Thomas Paine.

* “The troika of tyranny.”–How national security adviser John Bolton characterizes Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba.

* “What the president hasn’t explained is how depriving quasi-failed states (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras) of assistance will help them do better by us.”–Bret Stephens, New York Times.

* “The administration’s decision to announce a tax on every product coming from China puts America’s entire economy at risk. No product category will be spared if this latest threat materializes. …Americans entire shopping cart will get more expensive.”–Excerpt from a statement issued by the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

* “Like the new NAFTA, any deal with China would have to get through Congress. … When the Trump Administration demanded that China change their laws immediately, China balked. Why would they change their laws for a negotiated agreement that Congress has not even seen?”–Alan Green, economics department chairman at Stetson University.

* “There’s no question that both the U.S. and China have benefited from a trading relationship over the last 25 years. And there’s also no question that things about that relationship need to change. I think the issue now is tit-for-tat tariffs aren’t going to work.”–Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett Packard CEO and 2016 Republican presidential candidate.

* “The American people have a right to know whether the president has violated the tax law or acted on conflicts of interest, and whether the IRS has adequately policed any such violations. But because Mr. Trump, unlike every other president since Richard Nixon, has refused to release his tax returns, only Congress has the authority to investigate these questions. The courts should enforce this right.”–NYU law professor Lily Batchelder, a former majority chief tax counsel for the Senate Finance Committee from 2010-14.

* “If Trump doesn’t want a war, he needs to make that clear–not just to the Iranians but to Bolton and Pompeo as well. … We already have a trade war. I fear Trump may stumble into a real one.”–Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.

* “If part of your brand is that you’re not going to get the U.S. into unnecessary wars, why in the world would you hire John Bolton?”–Former Obama adviser David Axelrod.

* “Say what you want about Trump, he is not stupid. He is a smart man with a deep understanding of what stupid people want.”–Satirist Andy Borowitz.

* “House Democrats holding Barr in contempt isn’t a ‘constitutional crisis’ and it’s not ‘oversight.’ It’s a show.”–Sen. Marco Rubio.

* “If the people who are referenced in the Mueller report won’t testify, then we need to hear from the author of the report.”–Florida Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch, a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

* “I think Nancy Pelosi has already missed the moment on this.”–David Jolly, Former Florida Congressman–and former Republican–on the U.S. House Speaker’s impeachment strategy.

* “Indulging in ideological purity is great until you actually want to solve the problem.”–Paul Bledsoe, strategic adviser at the Progressive Policy Institute.

* “Mark (Zuckerberg) may never have a boss, but he needs to have some check on his power. The American government needs to do two things: break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people.”–Chris Hughes, Facebook co-founder.

* “You just said to my daughter … ‘You don’t matter in the state of Alabama.'”–What Alabama Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton said to Republican legislators after Alabama passed the harshest anti-abortion bill in the U.S.

* “Whether purposefully or not, (DeSantis) is not letting people figure him out. No one knows what his next move is. Guess what? That makes him powerful.”–Democratic strategist and lobbyist Screven Watson.

* “For the time being, I’m comfortable with where we are (on Europe flights), but we are looking at Latin America and the Caribbean markets, and Bogota is actually our top target.”–Kenneth Strickland, TIA’s director of research.

* “Our vision for Midtown is to create a unifying place for hospitality, living, working and shopping designed around four acres of common public spaces.”–Bill Haines, chairman of the Bromley Companies, master developer for the $500 million, mixed-use Midtown Tampa project under construction at I-275 south N Dale Mabry Highway.

Trump, Bolton And Giuliani

* Absent relevant details and absent Robert Mueller, the Mueller report remains more Trump bombast than Democratic bombshell. Obviously Mueller, who has earned the respect of anyone who matters over his career of service, has to speak out to un-spin William Barr’s client-agenda. Fortunately, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, concurs–and then some. “(Mueller) will come at some point,” underscores the New York Democrat. “If necessary, we’ll subpoena him.” Hopefully, it won’t be necessary.

* John Bolton is like having Gen. Curtis “Bombs Away” LeMay back in the White House orbit. Only Donald Trump, who chose Bolton, is not John F. Kennedy, who inherited LeMay.

* North Korea’s recent launching of (short-range) ballistic missiles has reinforced the reality that negotiations between the Apprentice president and Kim Jong-un are not delivering results. Trump needs a fixer. Maybe Dennis Rodman is available.

* So the Rudy Giuliani plan to go to Ukraine–to urge that government to investigate the origins of the Mueller report as well as the involvement of Joe Biden’s son in a Ukrainian oligarch-owned gas company–has been canceled because of bad optics. How inexplicably perceptive. But Giuliani certainly didn’t cancel the rationale for ironically wanting to go to a country–that’s deeply reliant on the U.S. for financial and military aid–in the first place. “We’re not meddling in an election,” Giuliani had disingenuously explained. “We’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do.”

And we are once again left to ponder: Who the hell scripts this guy? Eugene Ionesco? John Dean has never seemed so patriotically eloquent, honest and competent.

But Giuliani did at least accomplish something–just by working Hunter Biden into the conversation. If Biden Sr. were to be the Democratic nominee, Trump will have a push-back line beyond “sleepy, creepy Joe” to base-pleasingly divert the focus from Don Trump Jr.’s subpoena scenario.

* During his Panhandle rally, Trump reaffirmed, as only he can, that the border was, like, overrun with immigrants and was, like, dangerous and we have to do everything we can to “keep them out.” That sparked, unconscionably, a chant of: “Shoot ’em.” Trump shrugged, smiled and responded: “Only in the Panhandle.” Not exactly a “deplorable-basket” rebuke.

* “The president is almost self-impeaching.”–U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

* Speaking of the constitutional crisis, the Founding Fathers never indicated an advocacy for a system of bounced checks and imbalances.

*Whatever happens as a result of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s stonewalling on Trump’s tax returns, this much we do know. Fred Trump always made a lot of money, and Donald Trump always lost a lot of money. We’re also constantly reminded that those born on third base did not hit a triple.

Media Matters

* A dozen years in the making and three years in the writing. That’s what will have preceded Michael Cohen’s tell–more or less–all book. You know it’s coming. It’s also a good use of government-imposed down time. But, no, Cohen won’t morph from whore-out to hero. More like a huckster doing what everyone soiled by Trump fealty winds up doing.

* “Christchurch Call“: That’s the pledge that a number of governmental and tech-industry leaders took this week at a Paris summit aimed at curbing the dissemination of violent ideologies on the internet. The summit was led by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron. Participating countries ranged from the UK, Ireland and Canada to Norway, Senegal and Jordan. Not among the participants: President Donald Trump and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

* The Tampa Bay Times, as part of its “Florida Wonders” coverage, recently referenced the elegant-back-in-the-day Princess Martha hotel in St. Pete. It was where Babe Ruth signed a Yankees contract for $80,000 in 1930. That was $5,000 more than President Herbert Hoover made, it was noted. Not mentioned was Ruth’s response to the media’s inevitable question about a baseball player making more than the president of the United States. “I had a better year than he did,” deadpanned Ruth. Still a classic.

Gunshine State Update

For all the media attention about armed teachers, assault weapons, background checks, mental health scrutiny, “Stand Your Ground” and the NRA, the ultimate, underlying firearms issue is our gun culture. You can legally own, of course, and we have an amendment, although anchored in an 18th century militia context, that sanctions as much. Over the years, we’ve added concealed weapon permits such that now nearly 2 million Floridians can legally carry. Each month adds another 17,500 carriers.

So, it’s hardly as shocking as it should be when we read of a woman’s gun going off in a Land O’ Lakes Publix. It was in her purse, which she had knocked off the check-out counter. Her husband was shot in the foot. Then there was the construction worker on a residential roof in Riverview, who was killed when a fellow worker’s gun discharged when he slipped while stepping from his pickup truck. And we need no reminding about the three men who died when they were shot, respectively, in a movie theater, a playground and in front of a Circle A food store.

The bottom line is this: Why the hell are you taking your gun to Publix, to your construction job, to a movie, to a playground or to a convenience store? Because you can?

Fat Reality

I know I’m not the only one. The other day I opened a cup of Chobani Yogurt: low-fat vanilla with mixed berry. Only natural ingredients. One of my favorites. But upon opening it, it seemed like someone had already done some sampling. It was barely two thirds full. It’s not uncommon. I’m wondering if the well-marketed, lowered fat content is a result of, well, lowered content.