Sports Shorts

* Cy Young Award notwithstanding, don’t look for Blake Snell to be the face of the Rays. Not when you come across as arrogantly clueless when it comes to talking about baseball during a pandemic. “I gotta get my money,” said Snell on his snellzilla.com website, when he wasn’t pitching overpriced hoodies. “I’m not playing unless I get mine, okay?” For the record, his pro-rated money–in a truncated season without packed ballparks–would be about $3.5 million or half what a non-COVID season would have yielded. At a time when America–especially its 30 million unemployed, its grocery workers and its underpaid first responders–grapple with a global threat,  Snell is all about the Benjamins. He’s spoiled; he’s selfish; he’s no Kevin Kiermaier.

* This just in: According to Caesars Sportsbook, the Saints are favored by 6 1/2 points over the Bucs in the season opener in New Orleans. That has to be unfamiliar territory for Tom Brady.

* Brittany Lincicome, a Seminole High grad and a two-time major winner on the LPGA Tour, made the news cycle recently while her sport was shut down. Her caddie, Missy Pederson, tested positive  for COVID-19.

* Rock-climbing is now an Olympic sport. Yes, it’s trendy, but it’s also athletic. But here’s hoping we don’t soon see Cornhole in the Games.

Quoteworthy

* “The supreme quality for leadership is integrity.”–Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

* The development and execution of any plan that contemplates a time horizon longer than a couple of cable television news cycles must await a president other than Trump, who is the avatar of impulsive and reckless improvisation.”–Mac Stipanovich, long-time GOP strategist who now varies his voter registration with the election cycle.

* “Absolute chaotic disaster.”–How former President Barack Obama characterized the Trump Administration’s response to the pandemic.

* “Speaking truth about this dangerous president is not ‘classless.’ It is compulsory–for all of us, not least (Trump’s) predecessor.”–Ruth Marcus, Washington Post.

* “What makes Trump’s (Obama) attacks so egregious in contrast to his predecessors is how he simply concocts scandals out of thin air, cooking up conspiracies that have no relation to historical fact.”–Presidential historian Matthew  Dallek.

* “The panic caused by Obama’s presidency fueled Trump’s own electoral victory. Racism has been Trump’s alpha and omega.”–Jeet Heer, the Nation.

 * “Inconsistent and incoherent national response.”–That’s how the iconic medical journal ‘Lancet’ described the Trump-directed response of America to the novel coronavirus.

* “People complain: ‘Why isn’t Joe on TV more? He’s ceding the public arena to Trump!’ Yeah, how has Trump done having the public arena to himself?”–Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor and a longtime Biden supporter.

* “States that have adopted universal vote-by-mail have shown it can be done securely. They have very strong track records.”–Richard Hasen, law and political science professor at the University of California, Irvine and the author of “Election Meltdown”

* “I don’t want everybody to vote. As a matter of fact, our (Republican) leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”–Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation.

* “We are bailing out liberal politicians who cannot live within their means.”–Sen. Rick Scott, in arguing against Congress providing an additional round of stimulus funding.

* “As someone who experienced the 2008 budget cuts, I can tell you, it’s going to be painful. When you’re talking about billions in shortfalls, everything’s on the table.”–State Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, the House Democrats’ incoming co-minority leader.

* “If you have a team in an area where they just won’t let them operate, we’ll find a place for you here in the state of Florida.”–Gov. Ron DeSantis, in his message to professional sports teams.

* “The American people never signed up for a perpetual shelter in place.”–Gov. Ron DeSantis.

* “Vote by mail is really the way to go in 2020.”–Craig Latimer, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.

* “Just because we’re getting some green lights or even some yellow lights in terms of re-opening, that’s not a pass to just go out and act like we were pre-COVID.”–Dr. Craig Levoy, regional medical director for Bayfront Health Medical Group.

* “They are still interested, for sure.”–Developer Darryl Shaw, on whether the Rays still regard Ybor City as a possible stadium site. Shaw owns approximately 30 acres at the northeast corner of Adamo and Channelside Drives. 

Trump, Lincoln, FDR …

 “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

* President Donald Trump: “They always said … nobody got treated worse than (Abraham) Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse.”–Not yet.

* Imagine being in an FDR moment–and Trump is on the clock.

* Theme music: When Trump, sans mask, toured a Honeywell factory making masks, the noticeable–and notable–music playing in the background was a Guns N’ Roses version of “Live and Let Die.”

* Former President George W. Bush said what he should have said by calling for national unity during perilous times. “We are not partisan combatants,” stressed Bush on a three-minute Twitter video. “Let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat.”

Current President Donald J. Trump typically said what he should not have said. The narcissist-in-chief dismissed a predecessor’s unity call and focused on self-serving, skewed priorities–not the nation. Bush, said Trump, didn’t push for “putting partisanship aside” during his impeachment trial. “He was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest hoax in American history.”

Only this president would conflate impeachment and a pandemic. It’s part of the Trump plague.

* The White House has acknowledged that a Trump military valet has tested positive for the coronavirus. But Trump, who doesn’t do masks, remains negative. In fact, a WH spokesman confirmed that Trump also tested negative for integrity and empathy.

* Most people couldn’t tell you the name of the post-master general. (It’s Megan J. Brennan.) But that could soon change. That’s because the retiring Brennan is being replaced next month by Louis DeJoy, a political operative with no USPS experience. But he does have standing in the White House by virtue of being the national finance chairman for the Republican National Convention and a donor who has already coughed up more than $350,000 to the super PAC Trump Victory. The concern transcends the usual cronyism with Trump loyalists. Both Democrats and ethics watchdogs are worried that the USPS will be politicized–or weaponized–just as states mobilize their vote-by-mail efforts ahead of the November election.

* “I feel about vaccines like I feel about tests. This is going to go away without a vaccine. It’s going to go away, and we are not going to see it again, hopefully, after a period of time.” That was the science-deprecating, explainer-in-chief  reminding us in his own ironic, inimitable way that no, neither this virus nor this president are going away soon enough.

* William “Belly up to the Trump” Barr keeps reminding us that he is an attorney general who favors White House fealty over the law. He’s the president’s lawyer, not the public’s. His Department of Justice dropping all criminal charges against Michael  “The Fabulist” Flynn–in effect, throwing out a case after the defendant had already pleaded guilty–was a predictable extension of his Mueller Report misrepresentation from his first days on the job. No, we’re not nostalgic for Jeff Sessions, but we will be if there’s a second Trump term.  

* SCOTUS Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, was hospitalized recently. Yet another reminder of all that rides on Trump losing in November.

* The involvement of Americans–former Green Berets–in that slapdash, Venezuelan freedom-fighter plot to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro: beyond bizarre. It makes the Bay of Pigs seem almost like a well-oiled plan. Almost. It’s also a reminder that we shouldn’t equate patriots and mercenaries. And it’s a reminder of the political implications of a failed attack–and how it helps a dictator play the us-against-them, nationalist card. For what it’s worth, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. was not “directly involved.” Hardly an unequivocal denial.

COVID Bits

#AloneTogether

* The word “reopen” is a double-edged directive. While it’s intended to carefully ease up on the economic shutdown for certain businesses, that’s not the connotation heard by lots of eager patrons who hear what they want to hear. It’s re-OPEN! It’s time to celebrate, which is at odds with elbow-bumping your buddies and staying prudently distanced. It’s also at odds with a virus that is still circulating. The West Wing isn’t exactly safe, but a bistro is?

* The good news: Global greenhouse gas emissions are projected to plunge nearly 8 percent this year because of worldwide lockdowns and an “unprecedented” decline in the use of fossil fuels, according to the International Energy Agency. The reality: Will air-quality improvements be motivation enough to continue the trend (via green power and electric vehicles) in whatever becomes the post-COVID normal?

* Nursing homes, cruise ships and ICE immigration detention centers: the three biggest incubators for COVID-19 infection.

* “Right now many or possibly most carriers are asymptomatic, yet most businesses do not have the capacity to test customers for COVID-19, which they would want to do if the tests were available, which they aren’t.”–Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University.

* Masks: In a pandemic, they have to be seen as symbols of respect and responsibility–not as signs of big government overreach.

* With just five percent of the world’s population, the U.S. has nearly a third of the reported COVID-19 cases–as well as a globe-topping total of more than 80,000 deaths.

* The U.S. was a no-show last week at the teleconference of global leaders pledging contributions for a coronavirus vaccine.

* How ironic that two of the factors that likely mitigated COVID spread in Tampa Bay were urban sprawl and a car culture necessitated by a lack of mass transit that packs in commuters.

* How can those who channel an authoritarian protest the (pandemic-induced) lockdowns of government “tyranny”? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.

* “Beach Capacity Dashboard“: The online tool launched by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office that allows beachgoers to check crowd sizes at beaches and parking lots.

Dem Notes

* “I’ll take one for the team. I believe Ms. (Tara) Reade, and I’ll vote for Mr. Biden this fall. … Mr. Biden, and the Democrats he may carry with him into government, are likely to do more good for women and the nation than his competition, the worst president in the history of the republic.”–Linda Hirshman, the author of “Reckoning: The Epic Battle Against Sexual Abuse and Harassment.”

* According to the Florida Democratic Party, more than 535,000 calls have been made to enroll Florida Democrats in vote-by-mail since April 1. FlaDems organizers and volunteers have been calling voters across the state to encourage them to register to VBM and then PATCH them through to their local secretary of elections to sign up. It all helps.

Media Matters

* This Saturday at 8 p.m. former President Barack Obama will deliver a virtual commencement speech to the Class of 2020 that will be seen simultaneously on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. The one-hour event will also air on TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, Complex Networks, PeopleTV and other digital platforms. Only downside: We will miss Obama even more.

* STAY HOME of the Whopper: It’s a daunting news cycle for ad-dependent news organizations confronted with businesses canceling advertising or demanding that their ads run far removed from grim, COVID media coverage. Lots of luck. There is a notable exception: Burger King. Its message of contact-free food delivery and pickup can practically run as a complement to shutdown news. 

* The late Little Richard was big time back in the day. He helped introduce black R&B to white America and became a charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One quick takeaway: His popularity prompted deplorableand inferior “cover” efforts by white performers. Even my parents thought it was silly, if not embarrassing, to hear Pat Boone’s rendering of “Tutti Frutti.”

* “The virus just isn’t nearly as deadly as we thought it was, all of us, including on this show.”–Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Sports Shorts

* A new normal bonus: On Saturday night, it was the Fox Sports replay of the Lightning’s game-seven win over the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals, and on Monday it was the Rays game-seven win over the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. Both (2004 and 2008) are more than a decade old, but it helped a lot–not just virtually. Especially when the opposition is Philadelphia and Boston. And, BTW, we were there in person for the Bolts-Flyers game with day-of-game, standing-room-only tickets. The excitement after the game was palpable–and that was no virtual hug handed out by a celebrating Mayor Pam Iorio.

* “If this is rolled out in stages and reasonably, (if) we’re really paying attention to proper surveillance and we get the tests available, I think we can have fall sports.”–Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer.

Quoteworthy

* “The euro area is facing an economic contraction of a magnitude and speed that are unprecedented in peacetime.”–Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank.

* “At the heart of the tragedy is an uncomfortable truth: The Chinese Communist Party simply does not share the same interests and norms as the international community into which it has been so momentously and thoroughly integrated.”–Nicholas Eberstadt, the National Bureau of Asian Research.

* “The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful. Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode?”–Fintan O’Toole, The Irish Times.

* “Reopening the economy, which Republicans are so anxious to do, will get nowhere without rebuilding and expanding child care, especially in rural areas.”–Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post.

* “A country that showed the world how to defeat polio now promotes quack remedies involving household disinfectants from the presidential podium.”–Timothy Egan, New York Times.

* “A medical crisis created an economic crisis. But a political crisis can make the economic crisis much worse.”–Austan Goolsbee, professor of economics at the University of Chicago and former adviser to President Barack Obama.

* “Trump is creating a parallel, shadow government filled with like-minded loyalists, without transparency, democratic norms or public processes–a ‘deep state’ of its own.”–David Rohde, author of “In Deep: The FBI, the CIA and the Truth About America’s ‘Deep State.'”

* “Bill Barr’s America is not a place that anyone, including Trump voters, should want to go. It is a banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen.”–Donald Ayer, former deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush.

* “Trump’s base, like Nixon’s, consists of true believers. To them, Trump can never be worse than the system he rails against, the press he loves to hate or the Democrats that he insists are out to destroy America.”–Brian Klass, assistant professor of global politics at University College London.

* “Trump is too much of a fake tough guy to wear a mask, and Mike Pence is too much of a sycophant to the fake tough guy to wear a mask.”–Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

* “The Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis.”–Attorney General William Barr in an April 27 memo.

* “If we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?”–How “Mourning in America,” a political ad released by the Lincoln Project–a group of prominent former Republicans and never-Trump GOPsters–concludes.

* “Department stores have been struggling for a long time. Now, it’s a blood bath. How many will survive is unclear.”–Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners.

* We’re working along with the airlines so that when customers decide they want to travel, they can be sure that the most up-to-date technologies and standards are being used.”–TIA CEO Joe Lopano.

* “Opening at 25 percent capacity, our restaurants can’t be successful. We need to be at about 80 percent.”–Richard Gonzmart, president of Columbia Restaurant, which is not reopening right away.

* “I was born and raised in Tampa. I will not leave Tampa.”–That was Mayor Jane Castor’s response to speculation that she might have her eye on a gubernatorial run.

* “It’s been my honor to serve the county for 30-plus years and 10 years as administrator.”–Mike Merrill, who is retiring next month as Hillsborough County administrator. The County Commissioners have named assistant county administrator Bonnie Wise to succeed Merrill.

* “While so much still remains uncertain, there is one thing of which you can be sure: USF will be unrelenting in our efforts to understand and combat this virus in service to our community. … Because of the deepening reciprocity between the university and the communities it serves, we will emerge stronger and more united than ever.”–USF President Steve Currall.

The Biden Dilemma

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

* Donald Trump knows he can’t count on re-election without the mega swing state of Florida. Although most polls have him slightly behind in the Sunshine State, he knows there’s an ACOLYTE at the end of the tunnel: Ron DeSantis.

* “I think we can actually surpass (economically) where we were. I feel it. I think sometimes what I feel is better than what I think, unfortunately or fortunately.” That was President Donald Trump, unfortunately.

* It had been a while–more than a year–since a White House spokesperson actually held a news conference. That’s what the latest (fourth for those still counting) WH spokesperson, Kayleigh McEnany, did last Friday. The Tampa native (alas) began problematically with a promise: “I will never lie to you, she underscored. “You have my word on that.”

She then undermined those words by noting that when it came to multiple charges of sexual harassment, assault and rape, her boss “always told the truth on these issues.” She also claimed that the upshot of the Mueller Report was “the complete and total exoneration of President Trump.”

Maybe self-serving revisionism isn’t a lie?

After that dubious debut–and given her de facto charge to misrepresent the prevaricator-in-chief–spokesperson credibility will continue to be a contradiction in terms. McEnany is simply next up as the official mouthpiece for a proven pathological liar who wants his brand defended at all costs, including, of course, veracity.

COVID Bits

#AloneTogether

* Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has tested positive for the coronavirus.

* That was a proactively smart–not just humane–move by City Hall to send nurse-inspectors to the largest construction sites to do spot checks and help keep workers healthy as well as employed. More than 50 construction sites are involved, accounting for nearly 12,000 workers in a $2 billion-a-year-Tampa industry. “We wanted to give clear guidance to large construction sites in ways that could help their workers and those they might interact with after their work was over,” explained Carole Post, Tampa’s administrator for development and economic activity. She said developers and contractors helped organize the program (and are paying for it), most notably Nick Haines, CEO for The Bromley Companies, the developer of Midtown Tampa, and Charlie Rollins, the Water Street Tampa head of development.

The city is working with Rasmussen College to bring in about 20 nurses, most from its faculty, to visit each of the sites two to three times a week to check everything from screening everyone on site and verifying portable hand-washing facilities to not allowing food trucks onto job sites.

Sending nurses to construction sites is really about enlightened self-interest. Those still working on projects that will move Tampa ahead–despite the pandemic–need help. Carelessness because of short cuts or habitual behavior could be deadly for vulnerable construction workers. This program helps thousands of workers–and prods builders to toe the line on on-site, worker safety like never before.  

But it’s also in the big-picture interest of Tampa. The economic stakes of revitalizing parts of Tampa speak for itself. Moreover, there is nothing more noticeable and psychologically impactful than a dramatically altered skyline suddenly devoid of construction cranes and edifice ambience. Some could see that as a chilling, post-COVID metaphor for what might lie ahead. That can’t be.

Occupational medicine is, indeed, a preventative–on more than one level.

* “No mask, no work, no service, no exception.” The policy instituted in Ohio by republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

* The U.S. Gross Domestic Product shrank at an annual rate of 4.8 percent in the first quarter. According to the Congressional Budget Office, GDP will plunge at a 40 percent annual rate during the second quarter.

* “Once you reopen, it’s difficult to have a time out. It creates a serious concern about people’s trust in their leadership. And if you’re incorrect, the consequences could be catastrophic.”–So, yes, the potential downsides to reopening too soon are scary, reminds Dr. Les Beitsch, Florida’s former Deputy Secretary of Health.

* New normal: There are fewer vehicles on the road, but more of those vehicles are speeding.

* The Trump Administration has barred Dr. Anthony Fauci, the coronavirus-response leader, from testifying before a congressional hearing this week. His input had been sought by the House Appropriations Committee subcommittee looking into America’s pandemic response.

* VP Mike Pence didn’t know there was a Mayo Clinic policy about wearing masks? Everyone else–physicians, nurses and a patient–were wearing masks but him? The media-priority optics, which are of paramount importance to the Administration, simply doubled down on cluelessness. Or maybe it was a less-than-nuanced Pence signal to unmasked, anti-lockdown protestors?