Best Defense

Amid all efforts to combat interference in our democracy, there remains a constant—amid all the technological manipulation—that is far more fundamental. The best defense is an electorate that is involved, informed and motivated. The bar isn’t that high. If you’re not outsourcing your ideology, your values and your vote, and you’re not channeling a cult figure for validity, you’re doing your part.

Political Pivots

  • Gwen (“and the men”) Graham has an obvious demographic advantage. And it seems like Jeff Greene and Phil Levine might split a certain primary vote. Here’s some Graham advice for maintaining that presumptive, front-runner status: Prioritize what you will do for Florida. Let your surrogates underscore your gender and motherhood, how you are pragmatically Democratic and how you have a win over a Republican on your resume. And then don’t campaign with Bill Clinton.
  • So, Bernie Sanders has endorsed Andrew Gillum for governor. We get that. What we hope we don’t get is disappointed, Gillum voters becoming no-shows in the general if their Sanders-backed candidate doesn’t make it out of the primary. There’s precedent, as we well know, from 2016.
  • Interesting that one of the two minority “No” votes on the Clearwater City Council’s (3-2) vote to move ahead with a strong-mayor initiative was cast by the incumbent, less-than-strong mayor, George Cretekos.

Media Matters

  • As we’ve seen, Facebook has had a tumultuous year over fake news and misinformation on its platform. As we’ve also seen, it’s now much more active in policing that platform. It recently banned 32 accounts and pages for allegedly being involved in “unauthentic” and “coordinated” behavior. So, so long, “Aztlan Warriors, “Resisters” and more. Passive approval is no longer a given.

Sure, backlash over democratic meddling is a driver, but so also is this: Facebook stock recently took a massive hit.

In short, Facebook is now doing the right thing–whatever the motivation.

  • “Hamilton.” OK, so you haven’t seen it yet, and you’re already too late for the Straz option next year. But there could be a major consolation prize: You may still be able to see “Hamilton”–the way audiences saw it on Broadway–at a movie theater. Studios are currently bidding for the rights to show a recording of “Hamilton” made in 2016—with its original cast.
  • Say it ain’t so, Newseum. Up until recently, it had been selling “You are very fake news” T-shirts on its website. Surely, you can be dedicated to the importance of a free press and the First Amendment, and you can manifest an ironic sense of humor without further fueling the fires of media assaults that are both demeaning and dangerous. Surely.

Foreign Fodder

  • We recently learned that a Taliban surge resulted in the routing of the Islamic State in Northern Afghanistan. On balance, that is good, but rooting for the Taliban is still weird. Sort of like picking a favorite when the Red Sox and Yankees are playing.
  • Re: Denmark’s public “burqa ban,” where religious diversity and tolerance meets 21st century security concerns. Surely, Allah would understand.

Sports Shorts

  • Here’s an interesting—and ironic—perspective on the Rays unorthodox pitching “The Rays willingness to throw traditional baseball methodology out the window has made them one of the most compelling teams to watch.” That was Tyler Lauletta, speaking for the Business Insider. Obviously, he wasn’t speaking for the Rays hometown fans, who don’t find the Rays break with traditional starting pitching compelling enough to watch in person.
  • The other night on “ESPN Classics” I saw the 1990 Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas fight. Tyson was still a 42-1 favorite and still got knocked out. Later, while channel-surfing, I came across something on ESPN that was more reflective of our times: UFC—or Ultimate Fighting Championship. It’s an American mixed martial arts organization based in Las Vegas. It has 12 divisions and minimal rules. About as many, seemingly, as a bar room brawl. Being confined to a cage seemed appropriate. It also made old school boxing–including Mike Tyson’s pummeling by Buster Mathis–look downright civilized and like an actual “sport.”

Quoteworthy

  • “The real alternative to an American-led, rules-based international order isn’t successful bilateralism. It’s a Chinese-led order.”—James Dobbins, Rand Corp. senior fellow and former assistant secretary of state for Europe during the administration of President George H. W. Bush.
  • “We have not been taken for a ride.”—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in denying that the Trump Administration has been deceived by North Korea.
  • “This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further.”—President Donald Trump.
  • “The Russians want a weak America.”—Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C.
  • “Instead of apologizing for America, we’re standing up for America.”—Donald Trump at his Tampa rally.
  • “I appreciate your support, Mr. President. But I appreciate more the leadership you’re showing for our great country.”—Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, who’s been endorsed by Trump.
  • “Donald Trump is the president of his base.”—Journalist Carl Bernstein.
  • “You see the Nazi platform from the early 1930s … and you look at it compared to the DNC platform of today, you’re saying, ‘Man, those things are awfully similar to a point where it’s actually scary.”–Donald Trump Jr.
  • “If Democrats manage to retake the House in November, the first question on everyone’s lips will be ‘Now what?’ … The true action will be in the committee rooms, if Democrats are ready to do the work.”—Matt Ford, the New Republic.
  • “The globalist Koch brothers, who have become a total joke in real Republican circles, are against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade. I never sought their support because I don’t need their money or bad ideas.”—Donald Trump.
  • “(Trump’s) destroying the Republican Party for years to come.”–“Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough.
  • “Consumer spending, business investments are on a tear. … I think the president deserves a victory lap.”—White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.
  • “You might recall that when I was nominated by President Clinton, the vote was 96-3. It’s not that way anymore.”—Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
  • “The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”–A new entry in the Vatican’s universal catechism that now reflects Pope Francis’ total opposition to capital punishment.
  • “Most of Florida does not believe in Donald Trump. Most people are ashamed.”—Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene.
  • “It’s easy to change laws. It’s harder to change hearts.”—Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King.
  • “For now. I’m always one day away.”—Former Florida Congressman David Jolly’s response to MSNBC’s Brian Williams when asked if he were still staying in the Republican Party after attending the Trump rally in Tampa.
  • “Every day that passes, we are letting down the citizens of Florida who are put at risk by the unintended consequences of this statute.”–State Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, who is trying to mobilize support for a special session of the legislature to rework the “Stand Your Ground” law.
  • “They’re real estate developers.”—Bob McDonough, Tampa’s administrator for economic opportunity, in reference to Brightline, which is bidding to build a high-speed rail link between Orlando and Tampa.
  • “Our commitment has always been to provide the most enjoyable fan experience, and we feel that making Raymond James Stadium a smoke- and tobacco-free venue is a necessary part of that commitment.”—Tampa Sports Authority president/CEO Eric Hart.
  • “Being home to a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa validates USF’s growing national reputation.”—USF President Judy Genshaft.

Walled-Off No More

The dominoes keep falling.

For too long, the Hillsborough River was a neglected, seemingly disdained, asset. Think barges and waterfront wharves, warehouses and surface parking lots. What minarets? In the 1980s NCNB agreed to bring its state headquarters here if it could have a riverfront parcel near the Kennedy Boulevard Bridge. Deal. Then came the Performing Arts Center—and the belated acknowledgment that if you are fortunate enough to be a city with a river running through it, you should feel compelled to take advantage of it. Hell, look what San Antonio did with a creek.

It wasn’t easy, and it isn’t finished. But a lot of attitudinal and developmental-priority dominoes were starting to tumble. Now there are water taxis, paddle boats and dinner cruises instead of industrial barges—an apt metaphor for forward movement. A high-profile Riverwalk connects the urban-vibe bookends of the Tampa History Center area and the multi-faceted, repurposed Heights development. It’s a multi-mayor vision being realized. And with Julian Lane Park, the west bank is becoming more than the University of Tampa and an aesthetics-challenged Blake High School.

Now another domino, a more contemporary one, has fallen along the waterfront: Channelside Bay Plaza. Originally heralded and marketed as within walking distance of the arena, aquarium and convention center, it struggled from the day it opened in 2001. Rearranging commercial deck chairs never helped. The orientation was off: Much of the waterfront was walled off.

Until now. Strategic Property Partners, the Jeff Vinik-Cascade Investment development company, is morphing CBP into Sparkman Wharf. Its charge: to undo what was ignored in 2001. While there will be office lofts and retail, the visitor-magnet centerpiece will be a recreational lawn with shade trees that will be literally open to the waterfront. We’re talking dining garden, biergarten and a stage and LED screen that will carry, yes, Lightning games.

But, no, you can’t go to the movies there anymore. Anymore than you can go back to a time when the Hillsborough River was an unappreciated, neglected natural asset—not an urban destination.