News Off Key

| September 1, 2016

From Happy Days to Olympic Praise

Mote Marine Jumps the Shark?

It was the ‘Fonz’ water skiing over a floating tank of sharks in an episode of Happy Days that gave us the popular expression ‘jumping the shark’ for any effort to gin up interest in an event (or TV sitcom?) having trouble generating such excitement on its own.

But surely, Sarasota’s respected Mote Marine Laboratory – with its exemplary reputation as a marine research facility specializing in sharks – would never ‘jump the shark’ in the interest of protecting them? Would it? Well, you might say screening the movie “Jaws” as part of its “Shark Week” festivities argues otherwise. After all, how do you dispel all those popular misconceptions about sharks by screening the very film that created most of them in the first place?

Of course, Mote responded in local media reports by saying the movie is a great teaching tool for illustrating just how wrong we have it when it comes to these magnificent creatures.

Well, maybe so…but I wonder how many fans of the Spielberg blockbuster in attendance for the Shark Week screening stuck around for that part of the presentation…(and how soon they made it back into the water).

Could Possible Restrictions on Downtown Events be part of a Larger Plan?

The Sarasota City Commission recently approved public hearings slated for this fall on proposed rules to curb the size and scope of downtown events, especially those that require the closure of more than five city blocks. But in an age of conspiracy theories run amok, conspiracy buffs might see this as a backdoor plan to solve the city’s continuing homeless problem. How so, you ask? Well, by making Sarasota so boring even the homeless wont want to stick around.

Blue Lives Matter?

According to Heather MacDonald writing in The Washington Post, “…a police officer’s chance of getting killed by a black assailant is 18.5 times higher than the chance of an unarmed black getting killed by a cop.” MacDonald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Pre Labor Day Drama at Sarasota Herald Tribune

In a stunning reversal of long standing newspaper industry trends, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) reports that newsroom employees at the Sarasota Herald Tribune took steps to unionize last week, “just weeks after journalists at a sister publication, the Lakeland Ledger, officially became the first newspaper in modern Florida history to form a newsroom union.”

The effort may lack the drama of Norma Rae holding up a union sign on the mill floor, but it is nonetheless a noteworthy response from a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning news team that organizers say has lost 16 employees since Gatehouse Media purchased the paper in early 2015.

According to the CJR report, leaders of the effort are quick to say they are not dissatisfied with local management, but rather that “Gatehouse was not supportive of the “impact journalism” the paper has become known for,” adding that they want a seat at the table when future changes are discussed.”

“We have had a good relationship with local management,” veteran columnist Tom Lyons said in a press release to announce the move. “We prize the relationship, and we have especially valued the leadership of our executive editor, Bill Church.”

Organizers denied a connection to a recently announced employee buyout offer from Gatehouse according to the CJR story.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law Exempts Would Be Killer?

A Sumter County man is in hot water with Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC) for allegedly shooting an alligator he said was threatening a miniature horse on his property. Robert Blanton, 74, said he heard a commotion in his pasture where his horses were grazing and went to investigate. What he found was a nine-foot gator that appeared ready to attack one of his horses. So Blanton pulled out his revolver and dispatched the gator…or so he thought. When his son went over to check on the supposedly expired gator it suddenly lunged at him, biting him on the leg.
Another couple of shots dispatched the gator for good. But when word of the gator shooting reached the FWC they did some dispatching of their own, sending officers to Blanton’s homestead to arrest him for illegally shooting an alligator. Seems Florida’s stand your ground laws exempts cold-blooded reptiles.

Final tally: one Blanton in the ER, one under arrest, one gator dead and one Florida Agency with a serious self-inflicted PR wound.

Clinton and Trump Made for One Another?

Conventional wisdom holds that Trump is the perfect candidate for Hillary to matchup against, given her recent credibility problems related to her use of a personal email server during her time as Secretary of State. But it works both ways. Trump would likely be an even longer shot than he already is if he were facing a less ethically challenged opponent than Clinton.

Polls have Trump losing as this is written by anywhere from eight to 15 percentage points. But I was talking with an old friend who has worked for a polling firm that often does polling research for the Democratic Party and I asked him if he thought the polls this time around were as reliable as they’ve been in the past. He wouldn’t comment on the record, given confidentiality agreements, but suffice to say there are concerns in the industry about polling accuracy this time around. It’s not just that less folks have traditional landlines that in the past provided a reliably representative cross-section of the electorate for pollsters, but also the idea that many voters who might vote for Trump in the end are reluctant to admit so now.

But I have a theory of my own that I think could skew things in Trump’s favor. If there are a large number of undecided voters in the last week before the election, they might just be drawn to Trump by the political equivalent of the TV season finale cliffhanger he has created. Will he build the wall? Will Mexico pay for it? Will Nancy Pelosi’s head explode if he’s elected? Americans want to know!

It might not be the most reasonable way to choose the leader of the free world, but given the confluence of unconventional circumstances this time around, it just could happen…

Disgraceful Treatment of Veterans

According to a report by WFLA’s Steve Andrews, The Average Veterans Administration appeal for benefits takes longer than America’s involvement in WW II.

Celebrating the Olympics

On the occasion of his 70th birthday in 2011, George Will made the following observation: “To be 70 is to understand that time cannot wither, nor custom stale, the simple pleasure of trying to do things well, or witnessing others do them.” I was reminded of this quote while watching the Olympics last month, and witnessing so many young (and even some not so young) athletes work so hard to achieve so much on the field of play. Despite the distractions of scandal, be it the scalping of tickets by an IOC official, or lying by athletes to cover up embarrassing personal behavior, not to mention wars, terrorism and natural disasters, the Olympics prove to us every four years that sacrifice and hard work are indeed rewarded. And that when we work together as a team (think here of the American gymnastics team) the sky really is the limit.

 

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Category: Columns, News

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