Sports Shorts

  • Imagine if you’re the Glazer family and your most disappointing sports franchise is not the underperforming Bucs. It’s what happens when you also own the disappointing—but internationally iconic–Manchester United soccer club of Great Britain.
  • Speaking of the Bucs, quarterback Jameis Winston’s chances for success are all about decision-making—on, and no less importantly, off the field.
  • How weird would it be that the year the Rays win eight of nine games against the defending World Series champion Red Sox at Fenway, is a year the team doesn’t make the playoffs. Could happen.

Quoteworthy

  • “Russia is solely responsible for the treaty’s demise.”—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on the end of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Force Treaty signed by the U.S. and the Soviet Union in 1987.
  • “With the end of the INF Treaty, a bit of security in Europe is being lost.”—German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
  • “China’s position is very clear that if the U.S. wishes to talk, then we will talk. If they want to fight, then we will fight.”—Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador to the United Nations.
  • “(Kim Jong Un) will do the right thing because he is far too smart not to, and he does not want to disappoint his friend, President Trump.”—President Donald Trump, on his friendly relationship with Kim—in the context of North Korea’s recent missile tests.
  • “Trump has the opportunity to be the president who, like Harry Truman, redirected U.S. foreign policy for a generation.”—Paleoconservative political commentator Patrick J. Buchanan.
  • “Hate has no place in our country, and we’re going to take care of it.”—Donald Trump.
  • “(President Donald Trump’s) demagoguery has made skillful use of an old American tradition: employing differences of race to make people forget huge differences of wealth. It’s exactly what Southern plantation owners did when they got non-slave-owning whites to join them in fighting for the Confederacy.”—Adam Hochschild, the Nation.
  • “It’s not the beginning of a long series of rate cuts. What we are seeing is that it is appropriate to adjust policy to a somewhat more accommodative stance over time.”—Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, in announcing the reduction of the benchmark interest rate–by a quarter-point—for the first time in more than a decade.
  • “We want to see a surge in reshoring and new manufacturing jobs, but the Administration’s policies have fallen short of getting us there.” Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.
  • “Republicans will never do anything on gun control. Never.”—David Jolly, former Republican Florida congressman.
  • “The overall trend of glacier retreat around the world is due to both warming air and warming oceans. They’re getting eaten away at both ends.”—University of Oregon oceanographer David Sutherland.
  • “The real third rail of health-care reform—whether we’re talking about single-payer, a public option or anything else—is the question no one seems to be asking: Will you require doctors to make less money?”—Catherine Rampell, Washington Post.
  • “With the Juuls, kids are able to get a much higher dose of nicotine—and dose matters.”—Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.
  • “It’s going to be a mosh pit for the next 30 years. The question is how we operate collaboratively when we have a mix of self-driving and manually driven vehicles.”—Gregory Winfree, director of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and a former assistant secretary of transportation during the Obama Administration.
  • “Homelessness is a big issue throughout the country and in Florida, and they are at higher risk to spread hepatitis A around.”—Dr. Eugene Schiff, director for liver diseases at the University of Miami School of Medicine. To date, Florida has had more than 2,000 hepatitis A cases since the beginning of the year. It had 548 all of last year.
  • “The Sunshine Skyway bridge is the flagship bridge for the Tampa Bay area and the state of Florida.”—Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Kris Carson, in announcing that FDOT is in the process of installing some 1,800 colored LED Light fixtures on the bridge. The project will cost an estimated $15 million, with the funding coming from tolls. All other major Florida bridges are lit—and when new ones are built lighting is included.
  • “Now we face rebuilding our reserves. We must be prepared to weather another recession, if anything comes our way.”—Mayor Jane Castor in underscoring a key priority in her first budget ($1.04 billion) presentation to City Council. At 23 percent, the “rainy day” fund is well above what’s needed to protect Tampa’s credit rating.
  • “I’m thrilled that Mosaic has stepped up to the plate.”—Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp, in response to Mosaic Fertilizer offering to donate land for a ferry terminal on part of its Big Bend Mosaic Terminal site.

Coats Leaving, Mueller Departing

  • No surprise that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats will soon be leaving his position. The surprise is that he has lasted this long. His input was routinely ignored by Donald Trump when it came to Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. The frayed White House relationship had become a public, personal affront and departmentally demoralizing across the 17 intelligence agencies Coats oversaw–let alone all of those obvious implications for national security.

Coats was also an ongoing reminder to this narcissistic president that the implications of Russian interference on his behalf undermined his election validity even more than losing the popular vote did. Few things perturb this president like a vanity hit.

And no surprise that Coats’ replacement is likely to be Texas Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe, a proven Trump acolyte and staunch congressional loyalist who’s notably credential-challenged on security matters. Obviously Ratcliffe passed his casting call with his snarky questioning of special counsel Robert Mueller.

One upside: We will now hear much more from Coats about the challenges the U.S.—not just Donald Trump—faces. You know MSNBC and CNN are already on the case.

  • Alas, Trump—for all that he is not in terms of being presidential—is right in the wheel house of modern media. He was pop-culturally good at “The Apprentice,” which was a major, albeit embarrassing, stepping stone to his presidency. Alas, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, decorated marine war veteran, avatar of rectitude, and government careerist beyond reproach, was not made for 21st century media, where optics and sound-bite facility and flair matter much more than they should. That was painfully evident in his recent House testimony. Mueller looked the part of post-prime prosecutor put in a reluctant-witness role. Hardly a character flaw, but awful timing for those who wanted—and needed–a riveting, passionate, center-stage performance.

How ironic that Trump had wanted him canned.

  • We kept hearing references to Watergate, but there are obviously a number of differences, including the lack of an ultimate “smoking gun.” Another difference: Leon Jaworski was not a witness. And, no, Don McGahn will not be the next John Dean.
  • Three final takeaways from the Mueller investigation that will never go away: First, why did Russia want—to the degree that it attacked America’s electoral process—Trump to be president in the first place? Second, amid all the “I’m not going to comment on that” and “I’m going to pass on that” terseness, Mueller did deliver a statement that should resonate far into our vulnerable democracy’s future. In acknowledging that the Russians interfered in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” in the 2016 election, Mueller actually underscored the ominous reality. “It wasn’t a single attempt,” he stressed. “They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign.” If we don’t respond to that, it’s on us—not Mueller. And third, can anyone beyond the basket of deplorables truly conclude that there were not at least serious attempts at justice obstruction and witness tampering? And “attempting” is not exactly exculpatory, as was often noted. Remember Nixonian “plausible deniability”? It never seemed so credible.   
  • “The American people deserve more!” That was no less than Michael Cohen, penning one in from prison.
  • No one should be surprised—merely frustrated and worried—that the U.S. and key European allies, England and France, can’t agree on a united approach to Iran over the protection of ships passing through the Persian Gulf. It’s logical and counterproductive fallout from the Trump Administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Yes, poorly-informed, narcissistic, unhinged temperaments have consequences sooner or later.
  • “Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall.”—That was President Donald Trump celebrating over the Supreme Court’s (5-4) decision that helps clear the way for his Administration to tap billions of dollars in Pentagon funds to build sections of a border wall with Mexico.
  • “Wow! Another Big VICTORY on the Wall. Mexico’s Paying For It. Muchas Gracias, non-rapists!” That’s the White House celebration we will never hear.
  • Among Trump’s more enabling congressional henchmen is Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. Here’s what Meadows recently said about Trump’s racist-immigrant rants, including the infamous “go back” recommendation: “He’s not a racist. I probably talk to him more than anyone else, and I can tell you he is certainly not a racist.”

No wonder they get on so well. Here’s a classic Meadows quote from 2012—aimed at then-President Barack Obama. “We will send him back home to Kenya or wherever it is,” he exhorted a home-state rally.

  • Parallels between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump will be increasingly noted and satirized–including on “SNL” this fall. That will be just in time for Brexit to be dominating news cycles—as well as the countdown to the 2020 election-alternative-to-impeachment: Trexit.
  • If you don’t want to revisit Dwight Eisenhower warnings about a military industrial complex, then it would be prudent not to have a defense secretary, as in Mark Esper, who is only two years removed from being Raytheon’s top government lobbyist. 
  • “A disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” That’s how Donald Trump characterized the majority-black, Baltimore area district represented by Rep. Elijah Cummings, House Oversight & Reform Committee chairman.
  • “Better to have a few rats than to be one.” That was the editorial response from the Baltimore Sun.
  • “When the president’s on the phone, you want your friends to hear it, because it gets the heart racing. … The power of that is pretty amazing. But you have to use it wisely. You can overdo anything.”—That was Sen. Lindsey Graham on Trump’s penchant for frequently phoning up legislators. Speaking of overdoing, that apparently doesn’t apply to former rivals who have sold their sycophantic souls to become regular presidential golf partners.
  • “Seven indicted Trump aides must be kicking themselves. If POTUS is totally innocent, why did they all perjure themselves? These guys too dumb NOT to be in jail.” No, that wasn’t someone weighing in on MSNBC or CNN. That was Gary Trudeau, channeling Roland B. Hedley Jr. in his “Doonesbury” strip. Another reason to further ponder what this commentary is still doing on the comics page with “Beetle Bailey” and “Blondie.”
  • For the hell of it: Boss Tweet. Boldfinger. Darth Taxe Vader. King Leer. Demander-in-chief. Adolph Twitler. Benedict Donald.

Florida Politics

Longwood Republican David Simmons, the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, still believes in a no-sanctuary cities position for Florida, but he leavens that position with his plans for legislation that would give undocumented immigrantslegal permits to work and drive in Florida. It’s an effort to bring them “out of the shadows” and have them follow state laws. It matters because it would impact about 800,000undocumented immigrants living in this state. It also matters that in a 2020 election year, this could resonate with Florida’s Hispanic voters. Even if Sen. Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and Sunshine State suck-up to     Donald Trump, doesn’t exactly approve.

Tampa Bay Advisory

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and his agency have put out a YouTube video advising the public on how to spot a fake law enforcement officer. There are tips about uniforms and badges–and this salient piece of advice: “If you’re suspicious of an unmarked car pulling you over, turn on your hazard lights, reduce speed and keep driving until reaching a well-lit area. Then call 911.” But, yes, this is another sobering sign of the new normal.

Puerto Rican Reality

Now that the celebrations have subsided over Puerto Rico’s admirable, democratic   mobilization to rid themselves of an unpopular governor, sobering reality remains. Gubernatorial succession has morphed into constitutional chaos, and so much about the economy, crime, infrastructure, emigration and relationship with the U.S., including statehood scenarios, remains frustrating and unaddressed.

And ironically Puerto Rico’s only representative in Congress, Republican Jenniffer González-Colón, chairs “Latinos for Trump,” which supports the president’s re-election campaign.  And we know how less than expeditious this Administration has been to the island territory battered in disparate ways—from hurricane Irma to tax-break removal.

Puerto Rico and its 3.2 million residents—nominal American citizens–deserve better than just the removal of Ricardo Roselló.

Quoteworthy

  • “We are going to energize the country! We are going to get Brexit done.”—New British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
  • “If it leaves the European Union, Britain will become a middling provincial country, whose fortunes will be subject to the whims of others. Trump probably won’t care. Churchill would have been horrified.”—Ian Buruma, former Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights and Journalism at Bard College.
  • “This landmark agreement will put the coyotes and smugglers out of business.”—President Donald Trump, after a “Safe Third Country” agreement was signed with Guatemala. The agreement would require migrants who cross into Guatemala on their way to the U.S. to apply for protections in Guatemala instead of at the U.S. border.
  • “I think if you look at Amazon, although there are certain benefits to it, they’ve destroyed the retail industry across the United States, so there’s no question they’ve limited competition.”—Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
  • “No, I’m not trying to run out the clock. We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed—not one day sooner.”—Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressing impeachment priorities at her final weekly press conference before the House’s six-week summer recess.
  • “An impeachment could return Trump to power. The highchair king from Fifth Avenue would exult in his victimhood and energize his always-ready-to-be-aggrieved followers.”—Maureen Dowd, New York Times.
  • “The Democrats apparently are intent on fighting Trump on his own ground, challenging him to a duel in the one thing he’s actually pretty good at: Putting on a show.”—Kevin Williamson, the National Review.
  • “Most Democrats are more animated by the racism, the policy differences and the behavior than they are by the possibility of impeachment.”—Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.
  • “While a lot of work may have been done in the House, very little of it has become law. Nice bills that don’t become law become nothing.”—Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J.
  • “Our freedoms are under attack because the radical left will stop at nothing until socialism has spread from coast to coast.”—Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.
  • “The word ‘socialist,’ to Republicans at least, has evolved to mean anything the other side is for.”—Catherine Rampell, Washington Post.
  • “The debate that we are currently having in this campaign and all over this country has nothing to do with health care, but it has everything to do with the greed and profits of the health care industry.”—Sen. Bernie Sanders.
  • “Putting climate first is critical: History shows that if an issue is not the top priority of an Administration, it’s not likely to get done.”—Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democratic candidate for president.
  • “I’m not trying to restructure society. I’m just trying to take care of the issues that wake people up in the middle of the night.”—Sen. Kamala Harris.
  • “This is just the start of climate action in this Congress. Americans overwhelmingly support climate action, and we’re going to deliver.”—Congresswoman Kathy Castor, chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.
  • “There are no small government conservatives left in Washington. These big government Republicans are bankrupting us.”—Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and a former Republican congressman from Florida.
  • “AGI has the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity.”—Sam Altman, CEO of OpenA1, a start-up founded by Elon Musk that is intent on creating Artificial General Intelligence that rivals the human brain. Microsoft has announced that it is investing $1 billion in OpenA1.
  • “Turn-out helps me.”—John Morgan on why he likes the 2020 ballot chances of the initiative he’s backing for a $15 minimum wage.
  • “Education is just as important to us as enforcement is.”—Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Steve Gaskins, on why FHP troopers were told in June to issue written warnings through the end of the year to those caught texting while driving.
  • “I am extremely proud that Florida is the first and only state in the country to have all county election offices using the ALBERT sensor.”—Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee on the implementation of ALBERT network monitoring sensors that can detect and alert officials to cyber threats.
  • “This system empowers every teacher and every staff member to call for help.”—Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins, in announcing the school district’s “CrisisAlert” system that will provide about 27,000 district employees with hand-sized transponder ID badges that can send emergency messages to school resource officers and administrators.
  • “We can’t be called to account to address all of the ills that the Sierra Club believes is happening because of climate change. What we’re doing is substantially reducing the carbon dioxide that’s going to be coming from the facility.”—Larry Curtin, attorney representing Tampa Electric, on TECO’s move forward with its plan to convert part of its Big Bend Power Station to natural gas.
  • “The market here is not driven by flight capital or investment.”—Anthony Soloman, owner of the Ronto Group that is planning to build the 22-story Altura Bayshore condo.
  • “We cannot continue to fund transportation and other essential services from general revenue.”—Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill.
  • “You guys have a lot to look forward to.”—Chris Klauda, senior director of STR Inc., a tourism research firm, on the post-recession explosion of Tampa Bay tourism.

Moonwalking To Odd Squad

  • The 50th anniversary of America putting a man on the moon: Do we proudly celebrate or soberly reflect? Fist-bump for “American Exceptionalism” or wax nostalgic for Plessy v. Ferguson? Fifty years ago, Americans had “the Right Stuff.” A half century later, we have an Oval Office occupant who embodies “the White Stuff.” Lunar joy to lunatic president.
  • At least President Donald Trump didn’t confuse Neil Armstrong and Michael Jackson over moonwalking.
  • Amid all the racial divisiveness that comes with the targeting of four feisty freshman congresswomen of color, where’s Ivanka Trump? Doesn’t her, uh, “portfolio,” include something about “women’s empowerment”? Or were we not ever to have taken that seriously?
  • Fake News Update: Donald Trump, it has been revealed—by Donald Trump–does not “have a racist bone” in his body. Not even a spur.
  • The calculated, disingenuous defense of Trump by spineless House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was a classic case of the all-too-familiar zero-sum misdirection ploy. He dismissed the House resolution rebuking Trump’s racist tweets as “all about politics.” For the record, he refused to condemn the president’s tweets as racist. He then proclaimed that the real issue was not about racism, but it was all about “Socialism vs. freedom.” Joe McCarthy would have liked the bumper-sticker pivot.
  • Trump transparency: So, the president has been intervening with Sweden on behalf of jailed black rapper A$AP Rocky. He’s even offered to personally vouch for his bail. It’s an obvious, diversionary gambit from all the pushback he’s taking over his racist tweets. It gives blatant hypocrisy a bad name. Too bad he listens to Kanye West and Kim Kardashian instead of those who genuinely care about race relations and condemn those who foment racism for their own self-serving agendas.
  • Who would have thought that George Wallace and Lester Maddox would still be this relevant in 2019 politics?
  • Speaking of the former, back in the day I caught a George Wallace rally inside a hangar at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport. A lot of Country & Western music, a lot of Washington establishment condemnation and a lot of “states’ rights” rhetoric. “States’ rights,” of course, was dog-whistle rhetoric for race—most notably, integration and school busing. Upon reflection and by today’s “lock her up,” “sh_thole countries” and “go back to where you came from” rhetoric, “states’ rights” dog-whistling never seemed so nuanced and civilized. As an outsider, I never felt threatened. Doubt if Jim Acosta can say the same thing these days.
  • “Our leadership in the world would soon be lost.”—That was President Ronald Reagan warning about what would happen if the U.S. were to shut its doors to newcomers.
  • Donald Trump, as we well know, is largely unread. Alas, a notable exception is the Autocrat’s Handbook. He’s likely underlined and written in the margins.
  • It’s too bad that “American Exceptionalism” isn’t synonymous with “Country First,” followed by party partisanship and self-serving political careers.

Democratic Doings

  • It’s been said, but not in a complimentary way, that Joe Biden has the appealing persona of a 1960s TV dad. There’s some charm to that, but Ward Cleaver for president can’t resonate.
  • Enough of the infighting over health care. Dems are on the correct side of the issue, whatever the labeling, whatever the rhetoric. So, instead of “Medicare for All,” which plays into Republican-speak about undefined “socialism,” just call it “Medicare Option For All.” As in, “If you can do even better, opt for it; we’ve got you covered.”
  • The whole “Trump vs. ‘The Squad’” fight should be seen for what it manifestly is: A racist president leading his loud, deplorable base in demonizing the Dems and trying to further fuel opposition party infighting. Advantage Trump campaign if the Dems don’t rally around the right cause in the right united way.

The Dems need to get smart about what to do about this existential threat to America. We don’t need a revolution; just the best strategy for removing Trump then pivoting to what’s best for Americans—from climate change, health care, humanitarian border security and living wages to infrastructure, free trade and international allies. Revolutions are best directed against the entrenched status quo, not against a perverted populist anomaly.

  • Odd Squad: Here’s hoping at some point we see a truly well-reasoned, well-strategized press conference by “The Squad” that puts the onus where it squarely belongs: on the racist, xenophobic, faux populist Trump presidency. A couple of suggestions, starting with having Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, 46, taking the lead. It should be well-scripted because nobody is immune from off-the-cuff remarks too easily turned into oppo-memes. To wit:

Fellow Americans. My progressive sisters and I come before you today to put into perspective what we as the Democratic Party stand for—and stand united against.

“We want secure borders and believe that goal is not incompatible with our humanitarian better angels. We want health care considered a right–not an ad hoc, emergency-room bail-out. We want serious, go-for-green, climate change legislation now—for all of us and all those generations yet to come. We want living wages for those not impacted by the tax-cut bill and those not swooning over stock buybacks, inroads on a budget deficit ratcheting up at an alarming rate, and a relationship with the world that is not at odds with our country’s best interests. It’s a formidable—but doable—agenda.

“And while too much limelight has been shed on myself and my congressional sisters, make no mistake, every congressional Democrat is behind this agenda. We have our differences on details and strategies—of course we do, and it’s part of democratic sausage-making–but ultimately we will funnel our priorities through our Speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi. We are not the face of this Democratic Party. We are part of this greater body politic that looks out for all Americans—regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. And we stand united against any devious attempt to divide us—and our country. The Democratic Party stands tall and proud that we will never waver in advocating for a just cause. And we will never back down to would-be racist intimidation. Never. It’s who we are—and who the other side isn’t.

“In his North Carolina campaign pep rally, President Trump said, as only he can say, that maybe I was ‘related to Elvis. Who knows?’ Well, for the record, I am not related to Elvis, but, frankly, his iconic song “Don’t Be Cruel” has never resonated more. Thank you, fellow Americans, and we now have work to do—to get us to post-Trump America.”

  • While “impeachment” may be a rallying cry for a number of Democrats, it’s hardly a pragmatic political tool right now. We saw the upshot of that recently with that ill-considered impeachment resolution introduced by Rep. Al Green, D-Texas. That Trump is “unfit to be president” and “unfit to represent American values” is more than manifest. But also obvious is that odious character flaws are hardly high crimes and misdemeanors.  No wonder it was shot down—including by a majority of Democrats. Trump then spiked the failed effort in his Twitter end zone. Hardly helpful. Impeachment should definitely be on the Dems’ agenda, but it’s about moving relentlessly forward on investigations of abuse of power and obstruction of justice—not about presidential propriety.
  • Don’t lose hope. The Democrat’s demographically-favorable coalition still outnumbers the Trump base. It’s a matter of getting the vote out—and no unforced errors. Recent history reminds us that it’s a formidable parlay, but the reality is that a re-elected Trump can’t happen without Democratic complicity.

Immigrant Context

No, it doesn’t compare to the repugnant, hateful, immigrant animus of today, but here’s a reminder—circa Gilded Age 1890s—that there’s been a lot of put-down precedent for where we are right now. Here’s a sobering, nativist rhyme from Worcester, Mass.

“The Irish and the Dutch, they don’t amount to much.

“For the Micks have their whiskey and the Germans guzzle their beer.

“And all we Americans wish they had never come here.”