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6/9/2010

Columns > Happytown

Happytown

 

Sometimes we give Florida politics too much credit. The other night, while we were passing out in a personal apocalypse, the moving lips up on the glowing TV box started whispering a genius conspiracy into our eyes. What if these billionaire nobodies popping up onto our screens via millions in television ad buys – hello, Democratic Senate candidate Jeff Greene and Republican gubernatorial drill sergeant Rick Scott – were part of some brilliant strategy to stir up grassroots rebellions within the two major parties? That, dear readers, would be awesome.

Both megalomaniacal newcomers boast similar ads touting their scripted stances against “career politicians.” Both speak in that odd self-made man code (“I’m a businessman who created jobs” is not dissimilar to “I hate unions and welfare babies”). And both appear to think that they can pretty much buy their respective elections. By all appearances, they are diamond-encrusted robots sent from another planet to save us from the sweat-stained Get Out the Vote tendencies of typical party politics. Hooray!

But then our notions of nefarious populism were spilt with the glass of wine on our coffee table. First, Republican Scott goes and pulls a Feeney with a (sort of) apology ad about his role in a $1 billion Medicare fraud case involving his former chain of hospitals, saying that he has learned from his mistakes and that this kind of accountability would never come from any other career politician not named Tom Feeney. “Let’s get to work,” he blinks like nothing ever happened. Boo.

Now it’s whiny-voiced weirdo Greene who’s on the defensive. The self-described “Democrat” is – surprise! – not much of a Democrat after all, mostly because Democrats are rarely worth $2 billion. Where did that mattress stuffed with cash come from? The credit-default swaps that kneecapped Florida during the great housing bubble, of course. In fact, Greene has only been in Florida (on his most recent stretch) for two years – which, for our redneck audience, makes him a carpetbagger of the first order. The former California Republican – he lost a congressional primary bid in 1982 in Los Angeles – tossed $5,000 at eBay-lady Meg Whitman’s Republican gubernatorial campaign last year and has a long record of writing checks with the letter “(R)” somewhere on them, reports the Palm Beach Post.

His Senate primary opponent, Kendrick Meek, is obviously not very pleased at all with the sudden appearance of Greene and his green on the scene. Although Meek has a healthy $3.7 million in his coffers ($500 of that from Greene! What?), Greene poops $3.7 million twice a day. Then again, it’s hard to miss the pleasure with which one of Meek’s flacks rattles the campaign’s position on the Greene revelations. 

“Jeff Greene has contributed to prominent Republicans, ran for Congress as a conservative Republican from California who wrapped himself in the flag of Ronald Reagan, was a registered Republican or No Party Affiliation candidate for decades and just recently registered as a Democrat, has lived in Florida for just over two years and became a billionaire off the backs of middle class Floridians,” Meek spokesman Adam Sharon told NationalJournal.com. “That resume disqualifies Greene for running in the Democratic primary in Florida.” 

Nope, no conspiracy here. Just rich fools.  

Just when you thought Republicans couldn’t get any oilier, news emerges that one of our own – State Rep. Dean Cannon of Winter Park – talked the House into paying $200,000 of your gas money for a study belittling the risks of offshore oil drilling. Cannon, who’s next in line for House Speaker Larry Cretul’s post, has been the oil industry’s willing little grease monkey for years, pushing for drilling within 10 miles of Florida’s coast. The study by the Willis Group, an international risk management and insurance brokerage firm, says that big oil spills only happen once in 100 years, so why worry? Less than two weeks later, Deepwater Horizon blew.

To the Willis crew, a “big” spill is more than 1,000 barrels of crude. Even lowball estimates from BP say that Deepwater Horizon is spewing out that much in just five hours, and some figure that the real volume could be 10 times that. Cheer up, Dean: by your figures, now we’re all safe until at least the year 2110.

Even a spokesperson for Cretul, an Ocala Republican, shrugs off the Willis report as a “rush job,” while Cannon’s opponents say it’s flatly misleading. And Scott Maddox, Democratic candidate for agriculture commissioner, says Republicans should give taxpayers’ money back out of the campaign contributions they’ve gotten from the oil industry. A probably purple-faced Cannon told the Sentinel that the science in the report is sound, even if it got the wrong answer. ‘Scuse us, but we thought the point of doing a study was to get the right answer – or at least something close!

Just to make things fun, Willis threw out an estimate that the total cost of Deepwater Horizon could be “well in excess of US $1.2 billion.” Let’s hope their math skills have improved in the last few weeks.

A quick update from the justice desk: Hopefully you remember the horrifying tale of 30-year-old Joel Boner, the homeless gay man in Ocoee admittedly killed by nearby ATV-riding miscreant John Hawthorne, 19, last summer (see “An inauspicious death, Aug. 27, 2009). Well, in a hearing on June 2, Hawthorne’s attorney Charles Wilson Willits attempted to have the case thrown out in Justice Belvin Perry Jr.’s courtroom on the expected grounds of trespassing and self defense, because 15 stab wounds (seven to the back) screams self defense. 

Boner’s uncle Lon attended the hearing and reported back to us (in hilarious detail) that Willits spent the entire day filibustering the court with all kinds of sound and fury  before finally making his point.

“Overall, with the wizardry and incantations of disingenuous drivel and monologue on the issue of trespass, theft and who owns what, at 4:45 p.m. the issue of dismissal of all charges came up (total strategy by the WIZ! [Willits]),” Boner wrote in an e-mail. 

That meant another hearing would have to be scheduled, buying the Hawthorne family a couple more weeks to dredge up some “witnesses” to attest to the fact that even though lil’ John said he was “disgusted” by a gay man allegedly “touching” him, he really does like gay people. Yep, he likes ‘em enough to kill them. 

As SpongeBob SquarePants’ amorphous nemesis Plankton says: “That’s it, mister. You just lost your brain privileges.” And the same goes to Mr. Krabs-esque hoteliers Family Suites Resort, operators of Orlando’s Nickelodeon Suites Hotel. The literal slime merchants are suing Viacom, the empirical media conglomerate that owns Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central. Normally, that would make Family Suites Resort our official heroes, but the lawsuit seems to come down to simple math – a concept we’re simplistically familiar with. In a nut (clam?) shell, Family Suites has a contract with Viacom that says Viacom cannot lend their brand to any competing hotel chains within a 150-mile radius. Viacom made a branding deal with Marriott International for a “Nickelodeon Getaway” vacation package … in Naples. Google Maps – which would never lie – says the distance between the two hotels is 190 miles. Viacom wins, right? Probably. 

“My client is suing Viacom because it breached its contract not to enter into arrangements with any other entity that will compete with our hotel, which is based in Orlando,” said the lawyer representing Family Suites to BusinessWeek. Family Suites is seeking $180 million. They also claim that Marriott and Viacom plan to skip hand-in-hand together all over these United States, which makes their resort look like nothing more than Dora the Explorer’s discarded jungle waste. We have two pieces of SpongeBob advice for them: “Never trust a genie,” and “You don’t need a license to drive a sandwich.”

happytown@orlandoweekly.com
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