Columns > HappytownHappytown
It seems like only yesterday – well, actually it was just over a month ago – that we were firing exclamation points from our polemics perch in the general direction of the Florida legislature and its clumsy attempt to write hate on its arms (or onto the November ballot and later into the state’s constitution) and block access to healthcare (or Obamacare) for Floridians. In what was clearly being positioned as means to draw all the Berthas (birthers?) from the backwoods this election season, in April the Republican legislature passed a questionable amendment ballot-option – the so-called Amendment 9 – that contained such well-worn fundie phraseology as “waiting lists,” “doctor-patient relationship” and “mandates that don’t work.” Hooray for subtlety!
Then, on June 24 – just as the amendment’s authors Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, and Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, were launching their whole “Yes on 9” fundraising campaign – Tallahassee attorney Mark Herron filed a lawsuit with a Leon County judge calling foul on the amendment’s “misleading” language. Plakon, who we contacted at the time, was caught unawares but doubted that the suit would amount to much.
Ha, ha. On Thursday, July 29, Leon County Circuit Judge James Shelfer disagreed, calling out the ballot initiative for its blatant rhetoric. “Someone voting on the amendment, reading those introductory statements would have a false understanding of what they were voting on,” Shelfer ruled. The amendment will now be removed from the ballot.
But the righteous part – thank you Florida’s court system for saving us from our own elected representatives! – isn’t even the funny part. In response to the ruling, attorneys for the legislature tried to eat their client’s own words, according to the St. Petersburg Times. They asked if maybe the questionable parts could be substituted out, leaving the cruel blockage of Obamacare out there to drive haters to the polls. Shelfer denied them, basically saying, “Hey, I can’t do the legislature’s job.” Oooh, snap!
The ruling came the same week that a Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed a significant shift into favor of healthcare reform nationally. Fifty percent of 1,504 people polled now like the healthcare law. Only 27 percent would want healthcare reform to be repealed.
That can’t be good news for gubernatorial hopeful, Attorney General Bill McCollum, who will get his hearing in September to see if his strung-together federal lawsuit challenging the plan will carry any water. Of Thursday’s ruling, he told the St. Petersburg Times “I’m very disappointed.” (Wow, that’s surprising. You don’t always look disappointed, Bill.) He had hoped the lawsuit/ballot double-whammy would “make it very clear that we do not approve of the health/Obamacare bill.”
Also disappointed was Plakon, who immediately reached for his Republican Word Generator to come up with the term “activist judge” to describe Shelfer. Plakon and Baker then took to the press-release pulpit to call the ruling an “outrage.”
“To any reasonable observer, the intent and spirit of this amendment is clear,” angrily typed Baker. That’s if “reasonable” were at all synonymous with “Republican,” dear. There are rumblings that all parties are eyeing a Supreme Court appeal to Shelfer’s decision because what else are they going to run on this year? Oh, immigrants!
Anyway, one of the plaintiffs named in Herron’s suit, local full-time student and woefully uninsured mother-of-two Gracie Fowler, 33, is understandably relieved at both the brevity and the outcome of the case.
“As a mother and a person with a tender heart, if people need healthcare, I’m glad I can be a part of it,” she says. “Even for myself – my economic situation is scary – with healthcare, how can you be mean about it?”
Just be a Republican.
Or a fake Democrat! Jeff Greene, the judiciously foreheaded Democratic candidate for Florida’s open Senate seat, may be all about the environment officially – “I oppose drilling off Florida’s shores,” reads Greene’s website. “Our beaches and our shores are our lifeline and must be protected.” – but, like nearly every other position the Jewish Frankenstein – excuse us, Fronk’-en-steen – holds now, he wasn’t always that way.
The St. Petersburg Times reports this week that five years ago, Greene’s three-story, 145-foot luxury yacht – “like a 14-story building turned on its side” is how the report describes it – dropped anchor in Belize, a Central American hotbed of hotties, where the motherfuckin’ boat proceeded to devastate the barrier reef lining the country’s coast. Despite the reef being recognized by the U.N. as “one of the world’s most magnificent and irreplaceable treasures,” and despite reports of people on the shore flailing their arms and shouting at them not to park there, Greene’s yacht (Greene himself was not on it at the time – probably busy marveling at the invention of fire) parked its shelf butt right on the barrier, wrecking it to the tune of $1.87 million in fines.
The damage was so severe that the Times even got someone from the Smithsonian to squirt some tears over it. “It was bad,” says Melanie McField, a marine scientist at the museum.
Fulfilling his Mary Shelley-scripted destiny as a Halloween Horror Nights monster, Greene denies it ever happened and claims “career politicians” (you know, he kind that he’s campaigning to become) made the whole thing up, despite voluminous documentation of the incident from the moment it happened.
Adding insult to Greene’s bolted head, the Times also throws in this little factoid: “ … it costs about $100,000 to fill up the tank on Summerwind [the name of the yacht], which burns about 50 gallons of fuel an hour.” Naturally, the modern Prometheus’ website claims America’s dependence on foreign oil is “ridiculous.” No, you are!
Usually, Orlando’s role in hate-baiting dipshittiness is more like a younger-brother “Mr. Me Too,” hopscotching over the backs of the more original idiots around us in a grab for negative attention at any cost. But this week, out of nowhere and from the most unexpected source, our dumb city stood up against racial and religious intolerance … all by itself!
For some completely unmotivated reason (unless you count hatred, intolerance and ignorance, natch), our Floridian neighbors burst at the gut-overlapping seams this week with Muslim-hating theatrics. First came the news on July 21 that the Dove World Outreach Center, a “non-denominational” church in Gainesville that, oh, just happens to violently oppose gays and abortion, announced that they would exploit the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by burning a bunch of Korans. “We feel, as Christians,” – wait, is that not a denomination? Sorry, go on. “We feel, as Christians, one of our jobs is to warn,” says Pastor Terry Jones. Warn of what, you ask? Does it matter?!
Next, Jacksonville hopped on board the brownout. On July 31, the Glad Tidings Church (they always sound so nice and kind) hosted a “Jihad in Jacksonville” training conference to “learn about the Muslim enemies already here and what you can do about it.” Apparently, some nutjob worked as an intern at the Council on American-Islamic Relations stole a bunch of files that show how Islam is going to kill us all, and is now discussing his findings. (Sound illegal? It is. The FBI has reportedly already served him with a grand jury subpoena.)
Unbelievably, Orlando hasn’t hopped on this rickety wagon of sadness. In fact, Joel Hunter, a pastor at Orlando-based Northland and a man who we grudgingly acknowledge as kind of a hero throughout his career, has stepped in and called for a stop to the Koran burning. “We have to recognize that fighting fire with fire only builds a bigger fire,” Hunter announced. “Love is the water that will eventually quench the destruction.” Um, OK. Hero!