Florida

The Bright Futures scholarships are still under legislative scrutiny and moving through committee makeovers. The core controversy: Too many Republicans want college aid to reflect a hierarchy of degrees. As in, those that don’t lead directly to a good job, as defined by the legislature, would get less money. A business degree leading to a career as a hedge-fund manager, for example, would merit more than, say, someone with a philosophy degree pursuing truth or a sociology degree wanting to help society’s under-served. Let’s not forget what a university is—and isn’t. At its best, it’s still a community of teachers and scholars and students embracing critical thinking, creatively searching for truth and pursuing ideals and ideas. What it is not is a trade school.

Media Matters

* “Republiqan legislators.” G.B. Trudeau, Doonesbury.

* It’s all too familiar to see politicians, when asked a “yes” or “no” question, respond with only a pivot to their agenda. One that often begins with “Look, …” or “Here’s the deal” or “At the end of the day.” Perhaps President Biden should have been more equivocal–or diplomatic–when asked in an ABC interview if he thought Vladimir Putin was a “killer.” His candid response: “I do.” Not that Putin isn’t an authoritarian with blood on his hands, and no, Putin is no longer a U.S. presidential handler, but the “killer” candor just provides fodder for an America-loathing adversary to disengage—except for more cyber attacks. We need to talk to our adversaries, whether it’s Putin or Kim Jong Un. No free passes or love letters—but candor shy of counterproductive, international insult.

* Add “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” to national media criticizing Florida for its spring break, beach-partying scenes.

Trumpster Diving

* France First.” The slogan for France’s Vichy government during WWII.

* “Trumpism isn’t just about him. It’s a whole way of being in the world. It’s about secrecy, domination, trickery and fraud.”–NYU historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat.

* “The language and tactics of Trump’s election suddenly seemed to offer something new to a lot of people who had been on the fringes of politics, not just in America but around the world.”–Anne Applebaum, author of “Twilight of Democracy.”

* DeFacebook? A Trump spokesperson says the former president will be re-entering the social media space with his own platform in a couple of months. His need to “re-enter,” of course, is as a result of his suspension from Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites for his role in inciting the Jan. 6, deadly attack on the Capitol.

* “No more money for RINOS. They do nothing but hurt the Republican Party and our great voting base—they will never lead us to GREATNESS!”–Donald Trump.

Sports Shorts

* As the NHL’s trade deadline approaches, there is the usual speculation about what teams might do to facilitate a playoff run or to rebuild with prospects. The Lightning aren’t part of the rumor-mongering. They’re looking forward to getting back the offensive wizardry of one of their own, the rehabbing Nikita Kucherov, to bolster their playoff run in defense of the Stanley Cup.

* NCAA tournament’s worst fear: A (men’s) team, Virginia Commonwealth (VCU), had to drop out mere hours before its opener against Oregon because of virus protocols.

Quoteworthy

* “Today we see a more assertive Russia, more brutal forms of terrorism, sophisticated cyber-attacks and a shifting balance of global power with China’s rise. So it is more important than ever to have friends and allies. … Neither America nor Europe can face global challenges alone. Together we can.”–NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

* “The status of women is the status of democracy.”--VP Kamala Harris in a virtual speech to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

* “Our Republican colleagues—they say no to the vote, and they show up at the ribbon-cuttings or presentations.”–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

* “This chaos would not open up an express lane to liberal change. … The Senate would be more like a 100-car pileup. Nothing moving.”–Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in warningDemocrats not to do away with the filibuster rule.

* “(Cancel culture’s) a trope used by the right—and now cynically appropriated by some on the left—to resist accountability for wrongdoing.”–Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

* “We’re about to have a boom. And if we do have a boom, it will have absolutely nothing to do with this $1.9 trillion (relief package).”–Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

* “When you create a system that incentivizes people to come across, and they are released, that immediately sends a message to Central America that if you come across, you can stay.”–Texas Democratic Rep. Vincente Gonzalez.

* “Many of our illegal immigrants (in some years, the majority of them) do not come into the country by walking over the border illegally. They come legally by land, air and sea, and then they don’t leave when they are supposed to.”–Kevin D. Williamson, the National Review.

* “The older I got, the clearer it became to me: Asian women are frequently reduced to objects by the Western male gaze.”–Christine Liwag Dixon, Washington Post.

* “I don’t believe in gradualism—or that whatever is to be done for the better should take forever to do.”–Rosa Parks.

* “Forget voter suppression. It’s time for some politician suppression.”–Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald.

* “Faculty across the board are nervous about their own students, whether or not their students will mobilize to call for their sanction or dismissal if they say the wrong thing.”–Princeton University political scientist Keith Whittington, chairman of the Academic Freedom Alliance and author of “Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech.”

* “Ensuring that the operating structure and control of Florida’s seaports remain with their respective local governments is essential to keeping this economic engine sailing.”–Doug Wheeler, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council.

* “We’re starting to see some of those traditional markets come back.”—Steve Hayes, president and CEO of Visit St. Pete-Clearwater.

Tribal America

A decade ago Mitch McConnell vowed to make President Barack Obama a “one-term president.” It embodied everything that’s repellent about our two-party, partisan politics. But at least they were both considered “parties.” Now the GOP is a tribe. Libertarians? Tea Partiers? How ideologically quaint. Rockefeller Republicans? How nostalgic.

No, this is about Donald Trump passing around the Kool Aid of animus that targets, scapegoats and demonizes. The other side isn’t the opposition; it’s the “enemy of the people.” Trump’s unhinged, uninformed, unethical, immoral, misogynistic ascent came amid the complementary perfect storm of Fox News, self-validating digital media and smoldering, white resentment. Demographics weren’t Democrats’ destiny; they were the impetus for over-reactive GOP game-changers. The issues–from race, immigration, liberal elites and voting to COVID mask-wearing, a cancel culture and an insurrection–were visceral. Racist George Wallace, it turns out, was ahead of his time. But at least he was disingenuously civil enough to call it states’ rights.

Should we have seen faux patriotism coming? We know about those Nazi-friendly, “America First” rallies at Madison Square Garden in the 1930s and a Confederate-Dixiecrat legacy. But look as recently as 2008. That’s when an embarrassingly inept, unprepared Sarah Palin was propped up for vice president. This wasn’t traditional ticket balancing. This was unconscionable, “hopey-changey” bar lowering. And then the election of an African-American president was more than the white-grievance crowd could handle. When you rationalize your life by looking down on others—and now the “others” have one of their own as president, you have nowhere to go but to a “birther” cult figure who sounds like the guy picking up the bar tab at last call. We’re not #AloneTogether. We’re #SeparatedByTribes.

Dem Notes

* Those stimulus checks don’t include a President Joe Biden signature. This is a reversal from checks sent out by the previous president. This is more about taking action than getting credit.

* “We’re going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first, but we’re then going to try to help the rest of the world.”–That was President Joe Biden on the prioritizing of vaccines.

* “By July Fourth, there’s a good chance you, your family and friends can gather in your backyard and have a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day.”–President Joe Biden.

* Competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be.”–Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the U.S. relationship with China.

* Although daily White House press briefings are back, still no sign of a Biden press conference.

* One of the two Democratic Georgia senators elected in January, African-American Raphael Warnock, will have to defend his seat next year. Rumor has it that some Republicans are trying to recruit black Georgia football icon Herschel Walker, a former Heisman Trophy winner, to reclaim that key Senate seat. Walker has a decades-long friendship with Donald Trump dating back to when Walker played for the New Jersey Generals of the USFL, owned by Trump, in the 1980s.

COVID Bits

#AloneTogether

* The $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill is approximately 10 percent of the U.S. economy.

* How ironic: Coronavirus-source China saw its economy grow 2.3 percent in 2020, while the economies of most countries, including the U.S., contracted. But, then, there’s nothing fair or equitable about a pandemic.

* The Dalai Lama has received his first shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

* Approximately 20 percent of Americans have had at least one vaccine dose.

* “The idea that kids rarely catch or transmit the virus was always dubious. But the emergence of the British variant, the so-called Kent strain that is set to become the dominant version of the virus in the U.S. by the end of March, has left this widely believed claim outdated and dangerous.”–Branko Marcetic, Jacobin.

* The University of California, Davis is offering students—capped at 2,000–$75 gift cards to be used for “staycations” as a way of motivating them to avoid non-essential travel during spring break.Sometimes public health guidance and common sense are just not incentive enough.

* “We project that high school students will very likely be able to be vaccinated by the fall term.”–Dr. Anthony Fauci.

* USF’s College of Public Health will host a series of Zoom sessions with Spanish-speaking faculty to discuss COVID-19 and share vaccine information with Spanish-speaking communities. Registration information is available on the College of Public Health’s Facebook page.

* In Miami Beach, fire department paramedics are delivering vaccines to homebound seniors.

* Gov. Ron DeSantis has waived fines imposed on those people or businesses who had violated COVID-19-related ordinances. In short, party on.

Media Matters

* “A deception.” That’s how freedom of the press was characterized by Vladimir Lenin. Those in 21st century agreement are not all Communists.

* We all get the problematic logistics that impact newspaper deadlines these days. But it still seems weird to not have a Sunday newspaper account of a Saturday night Lightning game played in downtown Tampa—not in some western time zone.

* “Proposals for regulating social media merit rigorous public scrutiny. But what recent events have demonstrated is that policymakers’ traditional hands-off posture is no longer defensible. … Because the economic incentives of companies in digital markets differ so sharply from those of older businesses, traditional anti-trust measures won’t curb those abuses.”–Robert H. Frank, Cornell University emeritus professor of economics.

Trumpster Diving

* This just in. Donald Trump has requested a mail-in ballot for a South Florida municipal election. So much for election-fraud claims—unless someone wants to take issue with that EKG signature

* So Sen. Rick Scott made a pilgrimage to MAGA-a-Lagoon. No surprise, as he had doubled down on his Trump fealty with strong support for overturning the 2020 election results to favor Trump’s voter-fraud claims. But now Scott, who’s quite familiar with fraud, leads–as it were–the establishment-friendly National Republican Senatorial Committee that prioritizes the re-election of GOPster incumbents. Can only wonder how the Trump-Scott chat went in regards to Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who’s on the ballot next year. She voted to convict Trump during his impeachment trial.

* “A united Republican Party—led by Trump or someone like him—is the greatest threat to freedom and democracy that America faces.”–Chris Vance, former chairman of the Washington state Republican Party.

* “Trump’s seizure of the Party’s leadership seemed a stunning achievement at first, but with time it seems more reasonable to ponder how he could possibly have failed. There were many pre-existing conditions, and Trump took advantage of them.”–Jelani Cobb, the New Yorker.

* How embarrassing that Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene hasn’t embarrassed all Republicans, especially Party leadership, for her odious, conspiracy-laced, performance politics that have included anti-Semitic and Islamophobic commentary.

* Speaking of embarrassments, we’ve been reminded again that the Capitol insurrection was watched by more than alarmed Americans. It was seen by the international community, including the autocratic likes of Vladimir Putin. The Russian authoritarian, whose government has interfered with American elections, was threading the disingenuous needle with his recent take on that Capitol siege. “Will all these internal controversies end there or not? rhetorically asked Putin with a likely smirk. “We do not know, but we want it to end, because we are interested in stable relations with all our main partners.” Sounds–intentionally–like a familiar American quote on unstable governments with third world issues and optics.

* Disappointing to read former Gov. Bob Martinez’s no comment in that Tampa Bay Times interview that asked his take on the Republican Party and former President Trump.