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6/30/2010

Columns > Happytown

Happytown

 

Oh, crap. The healthcare wars are back! Way back on April 22, the legislature approved House Joint Resolution 37, a wildly divisive bit of political hackery intended to save the great state of Florida from the evils of Obamacare. The bill, which passed both the House and Senate with more than the required 60 percent, allowed its main co-sponsors state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, and Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, to insert their knobby rhetoric into the general confusion of the “amendments” portion of this November’s general election ballot. To wit, “Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to ensure access to health care services without waiting lists, protect the doctor-patient relationship, guard against mandates that don’t work…” etc. Nothing slanted or confusing there, right?

Wrong. On June 24, Tallahassee attorney Mark Herron filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief challenging the amendment’s place on the ballot. 

“It’s apparently obvious, at least to me, that the amendment addresses subjects that aren’t in it,” explains Herron

What he means is it’s full of lies.

“The ballot title and summary include false and improper statements of the content of Amendment 9, whose only possible purpose is to mislead the public,” the complaint reads. It goes on to list those statements – the “waiting lists,” the “doctor-patient relationship,” the “mandates that won’t work” – following each with the concise realization that “this legislative statement is nothing more than political commentary on the federal health care reform act” and that the statements are only there, again, to “mislead voters.” 

Four plaintiffs are named in the suit – Mona Mangat of Pinellas County, Diana Demarest of Palm Beach County, Gracie Fowler of Orange County, and Louisa McQueeney of Palm Beach County. According to Herron, finding them was not difficult. “I just kind of worked at it,” he says (Mangat’s a doctor and healthcare reform advocate; Demarest writes a liberal blog). 

We contacted Plakon to find out his take on the whole takedown, and not surprisingly, he wasn’t surprised. Or, wait, he was surprised. “Has this been in any media yet?” he asked.

While he couldn’t comment directly on Herron’s complaint because he hadn’t seen it, he says, “It’s not unexpected. We’ve had discussions about possible challenges.” 

Meanwhile, last week Plakon and Baker – perhaps ironically – launched their own fundraising efforts to promote Amendment 9, both at flhealthcarefreedom.org and on Facebook. Will there be big TV buys with grainy grannies queuing up for giant rubber-stamped “no” markings on their foreheads? 

“We’re still feeling that out, what the fundraising possibilities are,” he says. “We’ve been talking to a number of groups about endorsing it.” What groups? He won’t say yet. 

The rift comes on the heels of a recent shift in popularity for Obama’s healthcare plan. A June Associated Press poll shows the public cottoning to the big scary monster that soundtracked last summer so suddenly via the town hall frenzy. Opposition to the healthcare plan has sunk from 50 percent to 42 percent, while support has grown from a low of 39 percent to a reasonably impressive 45 percent. Of course it’s also running concurrently with do-no-right attorney general Bill McCollum’s federal suit challenging Obama’s plan, but somehow that bit of wingnut litigation seems less likely to succeed than this one. 

As for Herron, he maintains that his aim is virtually apolitical, focusing instead on the letter of the law and the rights of Floridians to know what they’re voting on.

“From my point of view, and the lawsuit’s point of view, we’re not trying to replay healthcare,” he says. “What we’re trying to do is focus on what the voters are entitled to under the Florida constitution and statutes of ballot proposal.” 

Please don’t replay healthcare. 

Don’t worry about that nasty old oil spill. It’s all being taken care of by hard-working Republican governors and their backup choirs of “family policy” – translation: right-wing Christian – groups. And by working, of course, they don’t mean anything like actually plugging Deepwater Horizon or even soaking pelicans in Dawn. They mean shifting all that messy practical stuff to Jehovah.

All five states that border the Gulf have Republican governors, and four of them issued proclamations calling for a leak-stopping day of prayer on June 27. They were egged on by the Southern Baptist Convention, which met right here in Orlando on June 16 and threw up its prayin’ hands at any human solution to the human-caused problem.

The sole heathen holdout? Our own Charlie Crist. But fear not, Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp leapt in to fill the empty pew, issuing his own proclamation-junior that quotes noted petroleum engineers such as John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, and oceanographer Ronald Reagan.

The ever-helpful Florida Family Policy Council joined Kottkamp’s khorus to ask blessings upon victims of the spill, seek “divinely inspired solutions” for government officials and wave off any hurricanes that might mosey through the slick.

“We are reminded by history that our nation has turned to prayer and humility before God during challenging times,” the FFPC says. Strangely, they omit what we’re sure are reams of research on just how effective all that supplication was. We suspect they’ve been doing a lot of warm-up prayer over at the FFPC, and we guess it does work: No tar balls have washed up on Orlando’s beaches yet, anyway. But given the incredible damage BP’s blunder has already done, and the postulate that the ultimate hand on the tap is God’s, the FFPC’s image of the all-loving Creator doesn’t look much different from a schoolyard bully who says he might quit pounding your face (or dousing you with crude oil) if you just beg him abjectly enough.

Strangely, there are no matching calls for a day of technological prowess, but we’re sure that’s on the agenda. And if we can find a god of greed and regulatory shortcuts, we’ll let you know.

OMG, don’t rape people. WTF, why would you rape people? Yes, the Orlando Police Department, in an effort to reach back through time to the turn of the century and speak directly to the teen-folk who use slang like “OMG” and “WTF,” have plastered bars and restaurants in downtown Orlando with posters bearing the acronyms and a message that drinking impairs one’s ability to not be a monster (guys) or be victimized by a monster (gals). The feminine version, graphically enhanced with a couple of red high heels, changes the OMG acronym to mean “Only Make Good Choices,” before going on a long rant about being “careful” not to go home with suspected d-bags. The male version, showing said d-bags hitting on some ladies asks, “WTF: Went Too Far?” before reminding dude-bros everywhere that a woman who’s passed out has not given consent just because her head nodded a little on its way to the floor. It’s a good message, but we can’t help but wonder if text-speak is the most effective way to remind coked-out and drunken frat-tards not to commit or be victimized by heinous crimes is the most coherent message ever. 

Bong baby! Bong baby! A baby smoking a bong! OMG (and not the “Good Choices” kind), there’s a baby with its mouth on a bong! That was the gist of the American public’s always classy and understated response to a photo that one Keystone Heights, Fla., mother posted on Facebook of her 11-month-old infant clutching a sweet peace pipe. The 19-year-old mom from the tiny Northeast Florida town angrily argued that it was a “TABACCO” pipe, first of all, y’all, and secondlymost, there’s not even no bowl in it. Because sparking it up would be wrong, dang! 

The Florida Department of Children and Families, who apparently know the mommy well, are investigating. The baby’s been signed to a three-picture deal with Apatow Productions.

happytown@orlandoweekly.com
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