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9/30/2009

Columns > Happytown

Happytown

 

The fact that the health-care issue has lingered in the political spit-o-sphere so long that it no longer even resembles itself is enough to turn even the most jaded polemicist’s stomach. Are you sick of it yet? Well, then, you may have been among the 50 or so rabble-rousers in attendance Sept. 22 for the MoveOn.org “Big Insurance: Sick of It” rally outside U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s downtown Orlando office. The lunchtime event was but one of a smattering of national gatherings to bring some of that throbbing vitriol back to the pro-reform side, although in the case of this particular event, the screaming was hard to hear.

“They say they can’t turn their things down so that we can be heard,” one protester screamed over the buzz of hedge-trimmers. “WE CAN BE HEARD!” Barely.

By now all of Florida knows that thumb-twiddler Nelson isn’t very likely to climb outside his python-covered Chinese drywall to entertain the strained vocal stylings of the radical left, but that didn’t stop the mostly, er, mature crowd from making an effort. Some sang the woes of insurance claim denials for serious health conditions, some came to talk about transplant costs, some told harrowing tales of health care–inspired suicides and some were here from Germany (!). All agreed that the current bipartisan sculpting of the health-care reform package was suspect.

“If insurance companies say ‘yes’ to the plan, you have to forget the plan,” chimed another protester.

In the end, a small contingent representing the group entered the building with a signed petition that will never be read. At least not before we all die.

“There is a death panel!” yelled an angry participant. “You know who’s on it: the Republicans, the teabaggers and the insurance companies!”

Please make it stop.

In case you were wondering why you kept hearing that screeching 1996 modem feedback noise in your head Sept. 22, allow us to remind you that ever since 2006, that date has been designated OneWebDay, some sort of universal externalization of unity ripped from the screenplay pages of Tron (or worse, 1984) intended to humanize the infrastructural circuitry of broadband access and utilize it for social equality and economic development. Geek alert!

The Internet, it turns out, is shovel-ready.

“It’s no accident that there was $7.2 billion allocated for broadband in the stimulus bill,” OneWebDay executive director Nathaniel James blink-blooped in a press release. “Everyone understands that the Internet is the pathway to economic opportunity, from educational achievement to success on the job. Even finding and applying for a job requires online skills and access.”

The folks at Florida Public Interest Research Group are hip to this jive, pointing out such examples as a 2005 study that showed 100 percent in economic growth when broadband was expanded in Lake County, while at least 30 other unlucky counties in Florida offer dial-up Internet speeds of less that 7.68 kilobytes per second. (Compare that with 63.6 megabytes per second in Japan!) In effect, we all suffer for this bit of quantifiable intangibility, and it must be stopped, because nobody possesses a brain anymore, just an external hard drive.

We love ACORN. That’s right, we said it. When the shark cage was rattling over the last couple of weeks because of some stunt documentary film work by a Fox-fed pimp-and-ho costume party – this, dear nation, is how we live now – we cringed like everyone else at the grainy, black-and-white purse-cam footage of ACORN workers gone wild! Then we thought, did they stack warm naked bodies into a cheerleader pyramid for snapshot amusement? No, they did not. They were a few underpaid workers just trying to get through the dumb (false) realities of the situations handed them, burnt out just like we are on most Tuesday afternoons. Also, they were fired and no new underage refugee whorehouses were opened.

Naturally, Congress quickly snapped into action with a Republican bill that passed the House 345-75, thereby punishing ACORN and potentially yanking their scant funding (about $3.5 million a year). That’ll show ’em!

Not just them, though. Because the hastily worded legislation could be applied to “any organization” involved in shifty dealings, reports Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post, it opens the door for funding cuts to less obvious targets. Our very own U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson quickly set his mechanical wheels in motion and launched a Google spreadsheet where you, along with the fine folks at the Project on Government Oversight, can suggest other organizations that might have engaged in some kind of fraud worthy of nitpicking. (The URL for Grayson’s spreadsheet is ridiculously long, so we’ll just suggest that you access it by going on www.pogo.org and digging around for the link.) Among those already under scrutiny are Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, who together boast 20 fraud cases. Oops.

“The amount of money that ACORN has received in the past 20 years altogether is roughly equal to what the taxpayers paid to Halliburton each day during the war in Iraq,” Grayson told Salon radio.

And now it’s time for the Happytown™ good deed of the week, as required by the conditions of our parole. This week, we’re trying to help a traveling ventriloquist who has lost his dummies.

See, Peter Hefty treads what he calls the “rice and beans” circuit around the country with his hand up the backside of dolls named Hoodoo, Mushi and Justin. On Sept. 15, Hefty boarded a bus in Chicago, bound for Orlando. When he arrived here 3:30 a.m. Sept. 17 (oy vey, what a ride!) the case containing Hoodoo, Mushi and Justin was gone. Vanished. Poof. Either someone swiped it and started their own act, or someone took it by accident and didn’t know what the hell they had grabbed, or it just got lost in transit.

Hefty himself is no dummy. He didn’t put the whole dolls in the case under bus. “I had taken the heads and put them in a separate bag,” he says. “That way, if something happened at least I would have the heads.” (That only sounds like a Jeffrey Dahmer joke.)

So if you find a bag containing three small headless wooden bodies, Hefty would like you to give him a call at 407-415-1963 or e-mail him at peterhefty@yahoo.com. Otherwise, he’s going to have to continue his act with the hastily assembled sidekicks he’s built himself for local engagements, because the show must go on.

OK, so if you’ve really got nothing better to do at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2, why not waste 30 minutes of your life on a live chat session with some of your favorite people in the world: us? Former Orlando Weekly staff writer – and current news editor at Philadelphia’s City PaperJeffrey C. Billman and Orlando Weekly editor Bob Whitby will be discussing Billman’s award-winning 2008 story “Might Makes Right,” a scorching piece of journalism about abusive cops and lack of oversight at the Orlando Police Department. The chat will be hosted by the fine folks at the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, so just go to their site, www.aan.org, log on and follow along. Feel free to tell us how great we are or how much we suck. We can take it.

happytown@orlandoweekly.com
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