I’ll admit our judgments in the weekly game of Winners and Losers are subjective and never generate 100% agreement. After all, this is politics.
With that in mind, it seems like Democrats in Washington — and President Joe Biden in particular — are fumbling a marvelous opportunity given them by the protests in Cuba.
We call ’em as we see ’em.
That will impact the 2022 election, particularly in South Florida — once a Democratic stronghold. A headline in the Miami Herald put it this way: Flatfooted Democrats let Florida Republicans steal the spotlight on Cuba.
Harsh, but fair.
Álvaro López Miera, the head of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, also known as the Black Berets, “has played an integral role in the repression of ongoing protests in Cuba,” the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.
The Global Magnitsky Act allows the U.S. government to freeze assets in the United States that belong to the people targeted by the economic penalties.
“This is just the beginning — the United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people,” Biden said in a statement.
But meanwhile, Republicans are on the offensive about this issue. Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Marco Rubio, and U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar — along with local party leaders — raised their voices about this subject.
They’ve been on TV, issued statements, attended rallies, and — this is important — criticized Biden for his tepid response to this issue. They’ve framed it as an opportunity for the Cuban people to gain liberation from an oppressive government.
They are far ahead in the messaging battle.
Democrats, on the other hand, do not have a united message.
As the Herald noted, “While Republicans are in full stereo mode, Democrats are still mired in static and searching for their channel.”
They better find it soon.
Honorable mention: College football endorsements. Yep, it’s a whole new world in college sports. Now that athletes can profit from their NIL — name, image, and likeness — the rush is on to get the best deal they can.
American Top Team, a leading training site for Mixed Martial Arts training, offered each of the 90 scholarship football players at the University of Miami $500 a month to endorse the company.
The Gainesville Sun reported that more than 40 athletes at the University of Florida have NIL deals.
Former University of Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton, now at Florida State, and five FSU teammates recently were paid to sign autographs and pose for pictures at an appearance.
But all that pales in comparison to Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. Head coach Nick Saban said Young has nearly $1 million in endorsement deals already.
“Everything we’ve done in college football in the past is to be equal,” Saban said at the SEC media days. “Now, that’s not going to be the case.”
Oh, Alabama opens the season on Sept. 4 against Miami. We’ll see which team has the better deals then.
Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: FAMU students. Well, there’s a caveat to that. The real winners are students who get vaccinated.
Not only are they protected against a deadly disease, but their school will offer cash incentives to those who get their shots.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported that FAMU would use $1 million from the federal CARES money to give students who qualify the chance to win cash prizes, laptops and iPads, and gift cards.
COVID-19 infections are increasing among college-age students. Like other Florida colleges, FAMU doesn’t require vaccinations but strongly encourages them.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is still with us,” FAMU President Larry Robinson said. “We cannot be a FAMUly without each other. So, do it for yourself and do it for everyone else. Remember, we can’t be FAM without U being vaccinated.”
The biggest winner: DeSantis. The good news for Florida’s Governor — or, as Fox News calls him, America’s Governor — keeps on coming.
The war chest he is building for his 2022 reelection campaign keeps growing. And as Haley Brown of Florida Politics reported, 47% of his donations to his Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC come from out-of-state.
That’s indicative of his increasing national posture.
DeSantis finished second with 19% in a poll of New Hampshire Republicans about who they would prefer for their party’s presidential nominee in 2024. Former President Donald Trump, who has hinted at running again, was the overwhelming choice with 47%, but DeSantis more than doubled his next-closest competitor.
Interestingly, the same poll showed only 18% of independents and 1% of Democrats want Trump to run again.
But perhaps the biggest thing DeSantis has going right now among conservatives is his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Florida leads the nation in the number of new infections from the delta variant surge, DeSantis vowed not to enact new restrictions such as mask mandates or lockdowns.
It’s the modern-day equivalent of standing in the Emergency Room Door, but conservatives seem to love that swashbuckling approach.
Dishonorable mention: TECO customers. They could see a significant spike in their monthly bills if the Public Service Commission approves a request to increase customers’ bills from September through December.
Duke filed a similar proposal earlier in the month, but TECO’s proposal could cost its customers three times what Duke proposed.
According to TECO’s filing, residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month would see their monthly bills increase by $12.82. Duke’s increase is $4.28.
Both utilities blame increased prices for the natural gas they use to run their plants.
Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Wait, what? How can ice cream be a loser?
Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis believes that’s just the case after the company said it would not allow its products to be sold in the West Bank and parts of east Jerusalem. As Jason Delgado of Florida Politics reported, Patronis threatened legal action over the move.
In a letter to the company’s CEO, Patronis cited a Florida law prohibiting the state from investing in companies that discriminate against Israel.
Earlier in the week, Ben & Jerry’s announced it would stop selling ice cream to the West Bank and other contested areas in Jerusalem because of the Israeli occupation. The company said the occupation was “inconsistent with our values.”
“It is my belief that Ben & Jerry’s brazen refusal to do business in Israel will result in your placement on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List,” Patronis wrote.
The biggest loser: Santa Rosa County trees. Remember the scene in “My Cousin Vinny” where attorney Vincent LaGuardia Gambini grills a prosecution witness about whether he really got a good view of the murder defendants?
What are all those big things there, he asked?
Well, that might not be a problem anymore in Santa Rose County, where commissioners voted 4-1 for a wholesale assault on trees.
The Pensacola News-Journal reported that the decision overrides a zoning board recommendation to force developers of large subdivisions to keep at least 25% of the trees on those properties.
Mowing them down completely makes room for more new houses.
It prompted zoning board member Sam Mullins to resign.
“I’m not going to be on a zoning board that has commissioners that continuously go against the recommendations,” he said to what the News-Journal described as “raucous applause from the audience.”
Environmental writer Craig Pittman shared his opinion in the Florida Phoenix.
“Reading the story made me feel as if I’d just hopped in a Hot Tub Time Machine and blasted back to the days when developers could do anything they wanted, no matter what the consequences to everyone else,” he wrote. “Back in the Swinging-Ax Sixties, they could chop down anything in their path, drain wetlands with impunity, and even dump fill dirt in a bay to create land where none had existed.
“And never did they ever worry about providing new roads, sewers, and other infrastructure that’s needed to accommodate new growth. No sir, that bill went to the taxpayers at large.”