Saturday, May 11, 2013

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider becoming a site fan on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

With Koch Brothers Latest Move, Extremists On Verge of Controlling I-4 Corridor Newspapers

The intrepid Matt Taibbi wrote yesterday about "the much-talked-about, much-dreaded potential sale of the Tribune newspaper group to the odious Koch brothers. As first reported in the Times a few weeks ago, the Kochs, after years of working through the media with relentless lobbying and messaging, are exploring the idea of skipping the middleman and becoming media themselves, with the acquisition of one of the biggest media groups in the country."

Taibbi continues:

The Tribune papers encompass eight major publications across the country, including the Los Angeles Times, the Allentown Daily Call, the Chicago Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel, the Baltimore Sun, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Hartford Courant, the Daily Press of Hampton Roads, Virginia, and Hoy, America's second-largest Spanish-language paper. . . .

It should go without saying that the sale of this still-potent media empire to the cash-addled Koch brothers duo – lifetime denizens of a sub-moronic rightist echo chamber where everything from Social Security to Medicare to unemployment benefits to the EPA are urgent threats to national security, and even child labor laws are evidence of an overly intrusive government – would be a disaster of epic proportions. One could argue that it would be on par with the Citizens United decision in its potential for causing popular opinion to be perverted and bent by concentrated financial interests. . . .

Conservative pundits have made no bones about their excitement at the prospect of doing an ethnic cleansing of the rolls of all these newspapers. One of the future affected, the Chicago Tribune's Cal Thomas – simultaneously one of the stupidest and most charmless columnists ever to keep a death-grip on a job at a major American daily for decades on end – gushed about how happy he will be when his office is finally rid of all the Bolshevik intellectuals he's been forced to share space with, and full up instead with unbiased folks like himself . . . .

"Who Can Stop the Koch Brothers From Buying the Tribune Papers? Unions Can, and Should".

Not apparent from Taibbi's story is that, if the neoconservative Orlando Sentinel falls into the clutches of the Koch Brothers, right-wing extremists will have essentially perfected their control of the major newspapers that dominate the politically critical I-4 Corridor. To be sure, the Sentinel has always been conservative, albeit courageously opposing dumping raw sewage into Florida's lakes and streams and the outright purchase of elected officials, and it on occasion has endorsed Democratic candidates for political office; these pretensions aside, the Sentinel is by and large a right-wing organ in the midst of a blue Orange County*.

Nevertheless, the Koch Brothers' Tribune/Orlando Sentinelpurchase will likely end even pretensions to neutrality in the future.

The Tampa Tribune and the Daytona Beach News Journal, the newspapers that book end the Corridor are out right-wing rags. On the other side of the Bay, the former Saint Petersburg Times, recently renamed the Tampa Bay Times, was once considered Florida's "liberal" newspaper, but in reality is only marginally different than the Trib or the News Journal on many major substantive issues, largely toeing the Chamber of Commerce line, for example, regularly attacking public employee fringe benefits, including defined benefit pension plans. Not surprisingly, and perhaps due to the proximity of the overtly right-wing Trib more than anything else, the Times is considered "liberal" or "progressive" by some.

That said, the Koch Brothers' acquisition of the Orlando Sentinel will be a setback to what little remains of bona fide, independent print journalism along Florida's I-4 Corridor**.

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*Orange County votes Dem in national elections; however, representation in Tallahassee skews Republican due to gerrymandering.

**The Sun-Sentinel in Broward County, is the other Florida newspaper the subject of the Koch brothers acquisition. The Sun Sentinel and the Orlando Sentinel are in many respects the same outlet (see the post below).

Rick Scott's "display of uninspired leadership"

The Orlando Sentinel's editorial board is unimpressed with Mr. Scott:

With the legislative session over and the dust of lawmakers departing Tallahassee barely settled, Gov. Rick Scott this week took to the campaign trail for a victory lap that was more a display of uninspired leadership than a cause for celebration.

Winning pay raises for teachers and eliminating the state sales tax on new manufacturing equipment are good things, but hardly the stuff of legends.

"Gov. Rick Scott fell short in session"*.

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*As an aside, it is unfortunate to see the Orlando Sentinel's fellow Trib Company employees over at the Sun Sentinel - a purportedly independent editorial board - chime in with an essentially identical editorial this morning; they (claim to) write:

With the legislative session over and the dust of lawmakers departing Tallahassee barely settled, Gov. Rick Scott this week took to the campaign trail for a victory lap that was more a display of uninspired leadership than a cause for celebration.

Winning pay raises for teachers and eliminating the state sales tax on new manufacturing equipment are good things, but hardly the stuff of legends.

"Gov. Scott's underwhelming leadership during legislative session".

Two editorial boards, precisely the same editorial. Not cool.

HD 2

"As early voting in House District 2 wraps up and residents of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties gear up for Tuesday's GOP primary to replace the late Clay Ford, the candidate vying to become the Florida House's only black Republican says his campaign's internal polling has him leading by double digits." "Mike Hill Claims Double-Digit Lead in HD 2 Race to Replace Clay Ford".

Tuition hike veto?

"Will Gov. Scott veto tuition hike?".

"Fundraising process is likely to be more opaque than ever"

Aaron Deslatte: "With the 60-day lawmaking session complete, Florida legislators are wasting no time getting back to what they do the other 10 months of the year: raising copious amounts of cash from wealthy donors and companies."

And thanks to a campaign-finance bill Gov. Rick Scott signed last week, the campaign-fundraising process is likely to be more opaque than ever.
"Donor 'transparency' doesn't apply to state political parties".

"Health care system in need of reform"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "When Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater charges $49,370 for a joint replacement and Oak Hill Hospital in Brooksville charges $118,735 for the same procedure, something is out of whack. It turns out that the entire enterprise of hospital billing is largely a farce that is most unfair for those who may be able to afford health care the least. It's one more sign of how America's health care system is in need of reform. Without transparent prices, consumers' care is at the whim of whatever someone else decides they can afford." "Hospital pricing hurts uninsured most".

Session Summary

"2013 Session Summary: Health Care". See also "2013 Session Summary: Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture".

Weekly Roundup

"The Florida Current summarizes the 2013 legislative session as Democrats push Scott to call a special session for health care and environmental groups question whether the state can sell enough of its land to make the $70 million allocation for land acquisition to work." "Week in Review for May 10, 2013". See also "Weekly Roundup: Courts Get Busy as Lawmakers Leave".

"Less can be more"

Paul Flemming: "In Legislature, less can be more".

Budget blues

"Nine Things You May Not Have Known Were in the Budget".

RPOF robots shuffle in lockstep

"While Jeff Atwater, Pam Bondi and Adam Putnam have not drawn major Democratic opponents yet, these Florida Cabinet officials are getting a boost from the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF)." "RPOF Lines Up Early Behind Re-election of Cabinet".

"Jobless deserve better"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Jobless deserve better from state".

"Legislature pilfers money from counties that help the poor"

The Tampa Trib editors: "It is small comfort that the Florida Legislature swiped only $45 million of health care funds from Hillsborough and other urban counties, instead of the $245 million that it had originally intended to take."

The number may be lower, but the Legislature still pilfered money from counties that use local tax dollars to help the poor.

It is a dangerous precedent. You can be sure that there will be efforts in future sessions to increase the amount that is diverted to counties that contribute nothing to help treat the poor.

"A health care money grab".

Entrepreneurs in action

"Florida human-trafficking ring busted".

"The Florida PSC, long the lapdog of utilities"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "The enduring Tallahassee myth that nuclear power is always cheaper has cost Duke Energy customers billions of dollars with nothing to show for it. A new analysis of the long-term cost of the proposed nuclear plant in Levy County — the kind that ideally would have already been done by regulators — should finally change the conversation. The Florida Public Service Commission, long the lapdog of utilities, will soon have clear authority to halt advanced fees for a nuclear plant that will likely never be built. If commissioners don't take action, they do not deserve reappointment." "The high price of nuclear fantasies".

"Brilliant Political Strategy"?

Scott cheerleader Jeff Henderson for some reason thinks, "Rick Scott's victory lap showcasing his successful efforts to increase pay for teachers across the state probably was brilliant political strategy." "Rick Scott, Education Champion: Looks Like 'It's Working'".

A fine idea at the time

"Agency puzzled over windfall for springs".