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"Catastrophe Exposure" is Getting a Lot of Exposure

Ron DeSantis probably doesn't want too many people to know this, but he just signed a new law that brings sweeping regulation and oversight — two words to which Republicans are known to be allergic — to Florida's insurance industry. Yes, you read that right. Florida insurance carriers are used to having their own way in Tallahassee, which has allowed them to get away with an assortment of consumer-hostile practices over the years, including restrictions on the right of policyholders to sue over claims. But thanks to a March exposé in The Washington Post — the same journal I was bashing just two weeks ago — even dimwit Florida legislators had to sit up and take notice. Too many Floridians were furious, and it wasn't about drag queens or wokeness or banning books their kids can't read anyway. It was about Hurricane Ian having destroyed their homes, and their insurance carriers having chiseled them on the claim payments. This was a clear call from real people in rea
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Blackmail for Fun and Profit

Once in a while, I like to use this space to indulge in some idle speculation, taking a few what-ifs and seeing where they lead. I tend to do this in response to some stimulus, some ping to my brain. Which is just what Keith Olbermann provided in one of his podcasts last week. He was talking about Jeff Bezos’ upcoming wedding to Lauren Sanchez, the woman with whom Bezos had been having the affair that ultimately ended his marriage. You'll recall that in 2019, Trump operators had a heavy hand in that breakup, having attempted to blackmail Bezos into coercing The Washington Post, which he owns, into covering Trump more obsequiously. It's rare to see such an instance of high-level blackmail surface in public, and we only know about it because Bezos didn't bite. He outed himself, he went public about the whole affair, thereby ending his marriage, which was apparently on the ropes anyway. An unusually happy postscript to this otherwise routine multi-bill

The Mainstream Media Continues to Disappoint

The awkward term "both-siderism" has, at long last, stepped into the limelight, thanks to the graceful gravitas of CNN icon Christiane Amanpour (full disclosure: our dog used to play with her dog). In one brilliant commencement address , to the Columbia School of Journalism, she dope-slapped her own profession and, indeed, her own boss, both of whom richly deserved it. That takes guts, not to mention a reputation for integrity. Both of which she has in abundance. What she said about the "both sides" problem in journalism is nothing new. But to those of us who've been screaming about it for years, it's refreshing to hear it denounced by a mainstream journalist of her stature, in a venue that serves as an incubator of mainstream journalism. While she declined to mention names, there was no doubt about the targets of her irritation. CNN and its chairman, Chris Licht, were still licking their wounds from their treacherous but buffoonish

The Benighted States of America

It's hard to escape the feeling that the country is coming apart at the seams, and that the seams are literally the borders between the states. It used to be, when we talked of red states and blue states, we were basically talking about electorates, and how they voted. Now we're talking about deep cultural divides that are, on the red side, wholly artificial — they're being imposed from above, with little or no popular support. Republicans with veto-proof majorities in their state legislatures are writing harsh new rules for living in their states, more-or-less inviting anyone who's not happy about it to leave.   At this point, one can't even call it sabotage — these legislators are no longer operating in secret. They're openly dismantling the laws and institutions of their states, with very little idea — let alone care — about what to do once everything is dismantled. They have no interest in the well-being of their constituents, only in the venality of the

The Definition of Defamation is Up in the Air

Underlying all the recent commotion surrounding Fox, Tucker Carlson, and the mess they've created for themselves, there's an important legal issue that has flown largely under the radar, but may soon be ready for its closeup. It's a First Amendment issue concerning the meaning of defamation, and the standard that must be met to prove it. The constitutionality of the existing standard was expected to be tested in the Fox-Dominion case, had that case come to trial. But since that didn't happen, I figured it would go back to the back burner. But then, last week, Ron DeSantis had it blow up in his face , giving the whole issue new momentum, and from a surprising direction. His own people took him down. DeSantis had talked his pet legislature into launching an outrageous assault on freedom of the press, eviscerating existing libel laws, and making it easier for public figures — like, say, DeSantis himself— to sue for defamation. One can just imagine DeSantis cackling

A Great Time to Kick Fox When They're Down

Here's a fun fact: If you have basic cable TV service, chances are you're paying roughly two dollars a month for your access to Fox News. Whether you ever watch it or not. And Fox wants a raise. They want to break the three-dollar barrier. They're in negotiations right now with three of the major cable companies — mine, for sure, and probably yours — over what they call 'carriage fees,' and what we call extortion. Consider : The dirty secret about Fox News is that it is one of the only commercial TV channels that doesn’t need a single advertisement to be profitable, if not the only one. In fact, Fox could have zero dollars in ad revenue and still have at least a 35% profit margin. This is the result of carriage fees and the guaranteed revenue they provide Fox. One dollar more per subscriber would add around a billion dollars to Fox's bottom line. In the past, they've always managed to strong-arm the cable companies into raising these fees, but this

Fox Settled, and We Need to Get Over It

It was a beautiful fantasy. Tucker in tears. Hannity smirkless. Ingraham gagging on her mea culpa , which we all wanted to hear set to music. The mere thought of Rupert Murdoch withering under oath had us all aswoon. No question, the trial would have been a hoot. But hey, Fox settled. They took the hit. So now that we're past our reflexive indignation, let's take a moment to savor just how big a hit they took, and to understand that the hits will keep on coming for quite some time. There is little upside here for Fox. Yes, they live to fight another day — which was always going to happen, no matter what. Yes, they save themselves the humiliation of seeing Murdoch and Bartiromo grilled on a spit in open court — which would have been fun, but not especially helpful. And yes, there's this icky feeling that the settlement money is being shrugged off as petty cash — which it most certainly is not. But any way you look at it, Fox has a lot of bad road ahead. They're b