Sports Shorts

* When kicker Roberto Aguayo was cut, his departure (and subsequent waiver signing by the Chicago Bears) left a lot of disappointment and second-guessing in its wake. What the Bucs paid in moving up to draft him with a number two pick last year will linger on. GM Jason Licht will always have a legacy asterisk. But the Bucs weren’t about to throw good money after bad and jeopardize a promising season with a crap-shoot kicking game. And, oh yeah, you know “Hard Knocks” was disappointed too. You knew they had been hoping to milk the kicker competition for a few more melodramatic weeks. But at least they had access to the awkward exit when Dirk Koetter and Licht broke the news to Aguayo.

* More than Vols-Gators. We now know that the University of Tennessee’s visit to Gainesville on Saturday, Sept. 16, may not be the only headline-gathering, boisterous-crowd event scheduled that week. That Tuesday, Sept. 12, could possibly feature white supremacist activist Richard Spencer speaking at an on-campus event. Spencer–yes, that Richard Spencer–was in the news last week for his role, and that of his supporters, in the violent protests in Charlottesville, Va.

Spencer would be speaking at an event organized by the National Policy Institute, an organization–not affiliated with UF–that is dedicated to the “heritage, identity and future of people of European descent in the U.S. and around the world.”

UF President Kent Fuchs says he finds such a presence on UF’s campus to be “deeply disturbing.” He also explained that legally UF could not discriminate against the NPI in considering its request.

Too bad obvious public safety concerns and common sense can’t carry the day.

Quoteworthy

* “North Korea better get their act together, or they are going to be in trouble like few nations have ever been in trouble.” –President Donald Trump.

* “Things will happen to them like they never thought possible, okay?”–Donald Trump.

* “I don’t have any concern about inflaming anything. All the inflaming here is coming from this crazy guy in North Korea.”–Sen. Marco Rubio.

* “When you get close to the point of a fight, the one who is stronger and wiser should be the first to step back from the brink.”–Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

* “I don’t see a military solution, and I don’t think it’s called for. I think escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer.”–German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

* “Let her speak for Germany.”–Donald Trump.

* “There’s a lot of theater to this whole thing.”–Bob Carlin, former Northeast Asia chief for the State Department’s intelligence arm.

* “Now we have a president who reacts to braggadocio with an attempt to top it on his own side. He’s out there is territory he thinks is familiar, which is meeting exaggerated statement with exaggerated statement, convincing the other side that we’re tough, you’re going to fold.”–Retired Adm. Dennis C. Blair, former head of the U.S. Pacific Command and director of national intelligence.

* “Trump is a democratically elected strongman, and Kim is a fratricidal despot, but they both live in bizarro fantasy worlds where lying and cheating is the norm.”–Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

* “If China helps us (with North Korea), I (would) feel a lot differently toward trade.”–Donald Trump.

* “We’re only six months into the experiment with Trump. Some experiments are ended early for ethical reasons.”–Al Gore.

* “If there is one consistent thread through Mr. Trump’s political career, it is his overt connection to white resentment and white nationalism.”–Carol Anderson, Emory University professor and author of “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide.”

* “I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in America today right at the door step of the White House and the people around the president.”–Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer.

* “I would urge the president to dissuade these (white nationalist) groups that he’s their friend.”–Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

* “They shouldn’t be claimed as part of a base. Call it for what it is–it’s evil. It’s white nationalism.”–Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado.

* “Investors may be a little more cautious in treating the dollar as safe haven.”–Jeremy Cook, chief economist at World First, on how volatility in Washington is making the dollar less appealing on the financial markets.

* “Country, president, self.”–Outtakes from a pep talk to White House staffers by Chief of Staff John Kelly reminding them of their priorities.

* “As chaotic and dysfunctional as (the Trump White House) looks from the outside, from my experience with Sarah Palin, I know what’s known and discussed publicly is usually just the tip of the iceberg. … Only Donald Trump’s White House could make the Bush years look like the golden age of presidential history.”–Nicolle Wallace, political analyst and anchor for MSNBC and a former Republican communications strategist who worked for George W. Bush, John McCain and Sarah Palin.

* “The left is coming for us.”–Adam Putnam, at a Republican Party state gathering in Orlando.

* “They have modern buildings … and they are key players in Pentagon operations around the world, and thus extremely unlikely to be moved.”–Former Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi, explaining why MacDill Air Force Base is in good shape to weather the next round of base closings.

* “Our business community is behind (a transit fix). The political community is mixed and not there yet.”–Jeff Vinik.

* “Nothing is more urgent. If people can’t get off the roads to get in or out of the airport, that’s a critical problem.”–Al Illustrato, executive vice president of facilities and administration at TIA.

* “It’s time for us to rethink magnet altogether, and all schools altogether.”–Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins.

Trumpster Diving

* Is it too much to ask, even by the lying, “fake news” media, that the president of the United States at least act, well, somewhat presidential? To other heads of state as well as the Boy Scouts. And to anyone privy to disturbing, impulsive tweets–and that’s, of course, all of us. Could he at least not dishonor the office that transcends the individual occupant? The primaries are over, even if West Virginia will never act like it.

When Trump tells cops to “Please, don’t be too nice” to those they arrest, he was just channeling his inner open-mic-night temperament. Prudently protecting the head of someone entering a cop car who has just been arrested for, say, a heinously violent crime can seem ironically incongruous, even darkly humorous. But not coming from the president in front of an audience of police officers.

When Trump unpresidentially talks down to the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Australia, it can only hinder American prestige and, more importantly, influence. Those recently leaked transcripts provide unsurprising insight into his priorities and duplicity. Whether it was the wall or  refugees, Trump, it is now confirmed, wanted to save face from a campaign stoked in bumper-sticker rhetoric and whiskey promises to his gullible nativist  base.

* Frankly, if there’s anything that can bring bipartisanship to this polarized Congress, it’s Russia. The sanctions legislation was one sided and veto proof. And if Trump were to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller over Russian collusion and/or obstruction of justice, there are serious signs that this would ignite a congressional firestorm of Watergate proportions.

And speaking of Watergate, let’s not forget that the final push for Richard Nixon’s resignation was, indeed, a bipartisan effort.

* It has hardly gone unnoted that Mueller will be using multiple grand juries–common vehicles to subpoena witnesses and records–and has assembled an extremely formidable team of (16) attorneys. Mueller, a squeaky-clean, decorated war veteran and former F.B.I. chief, is highly thought of–as opposed to Trump–and has recruited some of the best and brightest. Arguably better and brighter than their counterparts. Game on.

* Another ripple effect from having Donald Trump as–it’s still oxymoronic to write–president: Political insiders are credibly discussing the actual possibility of Rick Scott running for president. WTF! And that, with a wink and nod to Sen. John McCain, doesn’t stand for “Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot.”

* We now know that Gen. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff,  reads the same book after every promotion. It’s C.S. Forester’s 1936 novel, “The General.” It’s a parable about the danger of patriotism and duty unaccompanied by critical thinking. Perhaps he could share it with the commander in chief, who hasn’t read a book since “Art of the Deal.” Or, perhaps, Kelly will expand his post-promotion list to include “Seven Days in May.”

*VP Michael Pence is saying all the right things about his sycophantic loyalty to the president, despite media speculation about viable GOP back-up plans for 2020. Interestingly, Pence has also formed the “Great American Committee.” That makes him the first sitting vice president to have his own political action committee. It also encourages the speculation he so publicly abhors.

St. Pete In The News

Two quick takeaways from what’s been happening in St. Petersburg.

* Mayor Rick Kriseman is behind former Mayor Rick Baker and needs a game changer while praying for the dodged bullet of a major storm. The Tampa Bay Times even recommended Baker. Ouch. Rick K’s best bet: Passionately play the Democratic Party card, even though this is technically (wink-nod) nonpartisan. Remind communities of impact and influence, notably gay and African-American, that you’ve always been on their side–and you’re not averse to condemning Trump values that too many Republicans have had to rhetorically tap dance around. Note the slippery style of Baker.

Remind them that you actually march in the Pride Parade; you don’t do a GOPster tap dance. Keep recycling that reminder in a multi-media appeal. And why not get your African-American Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin into Midtown to remind the black community that you can be trusted to do the right thing. Tomalin, a native of St. Pete (Boca Ciega High) is a player–not a token–and she could make a turn-out difference by extending Kriseman’s electoral reach.

* Too bad that Black Lives Matter can’t go beyond its cop-killing niche of black lives selectively mattering and use its forum to help rein in the car-theft crime wave that too often involves black teens. Seemingly consequence-free “joyriding” has turned deadly for the teen thieves and imperiled the innocent.

CNN Connection

It has been well noted in media circles that Kayleigh McAnany is no longer at CNN, where she had carved out a niche as a pro-Trump contributor. Networks, as we know, like to offset criticism of their political leanings by having a token or two on board to symbiotically represent the other side. McAnany, an attractive, well-spoken, blonde conservative, certainly qualified. But now she will be making pro-Trump news videos, starting with the recent hosting of a segment on Trump’s Facebook page.

BTW, McAnany, 28, is a Tampa native and a graduate of the Academy of Holy Names. In previous incarnations, she interned for Adam Putnam and worked as a producer for Mike Huckabee’s TV show.

Pam Bondi must be proud.

Atlanta Reference

Chris Steinocher, CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, waxed bullish and blunt the other day about St. Pete. He also made a candid comparison with his birthplace city, Atlanta.

On the former: “St. Pete is a hot property, and we do not want to screw it up.” On the latter: “They screwed it up.” He meant, most notably, sprawl and traffic.

As someone who previously lived in the Atlanta area, I can attest to some other things. The city, which has long marketed itself as the “New South,” “the city that’s too busy to hate” and home to America’s most viable black middle class, has issues beyond insufferable gridlock. Put it this way, there’s a reason Atlanta notoriously cooks the books on crime and school testing.

And it’s hardly happenstance that the Atlanta Braves new stadium, Sun Trust Park, is in the suburbs–and not a synergistic part of the urban core.

Foreign Fodder

* Arguably more important than what the U.S. says or how it sanctions Nicolas Maduro about the devolving democracy of Venezuela is what others in South American say–and do. It’s, therefore, significant that the South American trade bloc Mercosur has moved to suspend Venezuela for failing to follow democratic norms. Your own continental peers know best.

Mercosur accounts for three quarters of South America’s economic activity. Its combined markets encompass more than 250 million people. It’s likened to the European Union–only four times larger in size. Mercosur’s member states are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Associate states are Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

* North Korea: It will take give-and-take. It always does, even with the quizzically provocative regime of Kim Jong-un. As the world’s pre-eminent nuclear power, with a major share of the world’s 15,000 nuclear weapons, the U.S. is big enough to make a concession without conceding any national security disadvantage.

As important as China is, the key leverage piece is really American troops along the Cold War, trip-wire border of North and South Korea and regular military exercises on the peninsula. To date, these have been off the negotiating table for the U.S., resulting in continued motivation for the North Koreans to keep pushing their nuclear envelope. At some point, this zero-sum scenario could literally go ballistic.

For North Korea, “final victory” means peninsula unification, not hitting Chicago with an ICBM. Maybe that should be the call of Koreans.

Sports Shorts

* Go Bulls: USF begins the 2017 football season ranked in the top 25 in the Coaches Preseason Poll. The Bulls are 21–and, for comparison, ranked higher than the likes of Notre Dame, Texas, Tennessee, (Willie Taggart’s) Oregon, Texas A&M, Nebraska, TCU and Michigan State.

* It’s been 29 years since Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, installed lights. But city regulations still limit the number of night games. No surprise, then, that the Cubs play more day games at home than any other MLB team. And now we find out–at least nationally–that Joe Maddon doesn’t like so many day games. He says it’s a disadvantage to his team. “Constantly having to get up and rush to the ballpark and not having a normal method during the course of the day, it does matter,” says Maddon.

It likely mattered a lot less last year, when Cubs’ pitching was a lot better than this year.

* It’s early August and that means NFL pre-season games are underway. The Bucs open tonight (Friday) at Cincinnati. BTW, the Bengals are 2-point favorites. BTW, this makes absolutely no sense. It’s an exhibition game, played largely by players who will likely not even make their respective teams. Point spreads? Does somebody actually bet on this stuff?

* Spot-on eulogy line by Lou Holtz at a memorial service for former Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian, who won two national championships. “A lot of people can be successful,” said Holtz, but it’s even more significant when “you help other people be successful.” Amen.

Quoteworthy

* “As the principal economic enablers of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development program, China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability.”–Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

* “We felt the readiness of our U.S. colleagues to continue dialogue. I think there’s no alternative to that.”–Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, after meeting with Secretary of State Tillerson.

* “‘America first’ does not mean America alone.”–Vice President Mike Pence, at the Adriatic Charter Summit in Montenegro.

* “This is just a tiny example of what’s coming for everyone that dares to oppose this totalitarian form of government. If they’re doing this to the chief prosecutor, imagine the helpless state all  Venezuelans live in.”–Luisa Ortega, the chief prosecutor who was ousted by Venezuela’s newly installed constitutional assembly.

* “…We firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated.”–Joint statement from the leaders of Germany, France and Italy.

* “Our interests in the end rest on our values. I am concerned because the country seems to be veering away from values that are so foundational for us.”–Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, in assessing what he has been seeing at the State Department.

* “Rexit.”–The term already coined for a possible Rex Tillerson resignation as secretary of state.

* “Look, I spoke to Putin, Merkel, Abe of Japan, to France today, and this was my most unpleasant call.”–Outtake from Donald Trump’s January telephone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

* “The special counsel is subject to the rules and regulations of the Department of Justice, and we don’t engage in fishing expeditions.”–Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

* “We have an empty majority, a party that can rule but cannot govern.”–Ross Douthat, New York Times.

* “If (supporting Trump) was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it.”–U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

* “Anyone in a position of responsibility in GOP politics is quickly losing patience with President Trump. The dysfunction is beyond strange–it’s dangerous.”–Republican strategist Alex Conant.

* “The stunning Senate rejection of repeal was also a pointed rejection of Trump’s health care hectoring. And a show of senatorial disdain for Trump craving a personal legislative ‘win’ on an issue about whose policy choices he knew nothing and cared less.”–Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post.

* “Only the fake news media and Trump enemies want me to stop using social media.”–Donald Trump.

* “I think he’s the most deplorable person I’ve ever met in my life.”–U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

* “This is the high-water mark of post-World War II, right-wing crazy, but this is not unique in American history. … (Donald Trump) is Huey Long with bad hair, he’s George Wallace with a jet.”–Republican strategist Mac Stipanovich.

* “In 26 years as a public servant, I’ve had a lot of tough issues. But the meanness, the anger, the hatred, the fighting, the discontent, on both sides, is unprecedented.”–Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist, on the contentious issue of Tampa’s Confederate monument.

* “Light rail should be one of our options. I don’t think it’s the solution to all of our problems, but I think it’s part of the solution.”–St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

* “Growing pains are difficult. St. Petersburg will become a big, cool city.”–Eastman Equity developer and relocated New Yorker Jonathan Daou.

Disciplining Trump

The terms “as of this writing” and “as we go to press” were never more applicable than they are now with the soap opera from hell that is the off-White House. Within a tweet cycle there can be multiple firings, hirings, promotions and career implosions. Corey, Sean, Reince, Mooch, thanks for playing. Sally Yates, James Comey, almost nice knowing you. Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, stuff happens. Steve and Kellyanne, still need dead enders and media harlots. Jared and Ivanka, check in with Gen. Kelly. Rudy and Chris, stay in touch. Jeff Sessions, who the hell knows.

All this, while the person in charge remains unprepared, unqualified and unhinged. Impeachment and 25th Amendment scenarios are openly discussed.

That said, here goes.

Retired four-star Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, the former Homeland Security secretary, means business. Discipline will be the theme. Seemingly, he will be appropriately empowered, and there will be an obvious chain of command with no links above him, just the chief narcissist.

A few takeaways before the unpresidential dust storm resumes.

First, this embarrassing excuse for an administration badly needs discipline. Only problem: Will Trump be amenable to it? He doesn’t do discipline. He has no impulse control. He runs the show, he tweets at all hours, he doesn’t read briefing books. He says what he wants, whether it’s the Boy Scouts or “Access Hollywood.” He’s still an unconscionably unpredictable brand.

Second, why, quite frankly, would somebody like Gen. Kelly want to work for somebody like Donald Trump? Hopefully, he’s the ultimate patriot. We know the caliber of people Trump tends to attract.

Third, if Gen. Kelly were doing such an outstanding job as Homeland Security secretary, why not leave him there helping insure the safety of the American people rather than being Trump’s Oval Office gatekeeper?