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8/26/2010

Columns > Happytown

Happytown

 

Here comes a train wreck! Probably the strangest thing to come out of the seemingly endless battle over SunRail (and high-speed rail) clogging the political arteries of the Sunshine State has been the continued reference to its potential for killing people. After all, most of us curl up into the bumbling cabooses of our sepia-toned perceptions of train travel; some sort of top-hatted flirtation interlude in the club car leading to a steam-blast-camouflaged romp in a rattling bed. We don’t tend to think about passengers crushing their skulls in cinematic collisions, because trains are safe. Right?

Well, this week in train-spotting, Amtrak begged to differ and, in doing so, the federally funded rail giant is threatening the legacies of both Gov. Charlie Crist and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. The $1.2 billion SunRail project already jumped treacherous tracks during a special session of the state legislature back in December. That’s when it was agreed that taxpayers would have to cover any sort of crash liabilities exceeding $200,000 for CSX, the freight company from whom the state was purchasing the 61 miles of tracks from Nowhereseville (DeLand) to Nowhereseville (Poinciana). Well, as it turns out, Amtrak wasn’t happy with the deal, something it’s been making clear repeatedly since last November. Why? Because it didn’t get its cut, apparently. Last week, Amtrak sent a hate note to the Florida Department of Transportation basically saying, “I will not be ignored!” In fact, it threatened to cancel regular train service to Central Florida if the company’s needs were not properly addressed. Amtrak wants protection for “liability exposure,” too, on the tracks it will share with SunRail. Now it looks like this gambling on disaster could postpone the project beyond its expected 2013 launch. Translation: You may have to wait even longer to be a “liability” on some pseudo-train to nowhere. You’ll be fine.

Or you may not! If you’ve been on a pill hunt at your friendly doctor’s office in Florida any time in the past year and somehow thought it wise to broach the health-care reform question as bedside banter, you’ve probably come away with the impression that your physician’s BMW isn’t terribly fond of the changes on the horizon. Well, at its annual convention in Orlando on the weekend of Aug. 14, the Florida Medical Association chose to make that sentiment official, effectively thumbing its nose at the American Medical Association’s positive position on reform. Naturally, it all started with a plastic surgeon. Ft. Myers face-maker Douglas Stevens filed a resolution echoing a stance you might have heard before: the health-care reform represents “a severe intrusion on the patient-physician relationship [that] allows government control over essentially all aspects of medical care,” according to a report in Jacksonville’s Florida Times-Union. Stevens went on to wingnut that he and his cohorts would effectively become government employees and that the whole medical profession would just die. Initially, the FMA considered secession from the AMA, because this is the South after all. Instead, it opted for a simple “no confidence” vote in the form of a letter to the AMA saying that the parent organization “has failed to represent practicing physicians on the issues of health- care reform.”

A guest column from a couple of disagreeing doctors in the Times-Union put the issues in a more reasonable light, calling foul on the system that has historically (and unevenly) rewarded specialists with mansion-bearing incomes; also, the part of reform that requires doctors to update to electronic health-record technology is meant to improve patient care, not make your Caribbean vacation two days shorter.

“The FMA’s challenge to the AMA was the old guard denouncing the new,” concluded the doctors. “But the new way is what mainstream patients, doctors and the people who pay the bills for care desperately need.” FML!

Oh, dreeeam crusher! Look, we don’t take any delight in stomping on the fairy-dusted piles of dubious ambition and faux-bitchy machination that plopped out of a power-gay circle in Thornton Park and onto the local news recently. We really don’t. But on Aug. 6, WESH-TV, Channel 2 spotlighted a “juicy cast of characters” – locals Steven Taramino, his partner, Omar, Daniel Moore, Bob Hull, Randy Ross and Ross’ crazy elderly mom – who hired a film crew and set about creating a Bravo-esque pilot of their wacky adventures titled Thornton Park. WESH lapped it right up, claiming their endeavor was, in fact, “for Bravo,” and that it “could air on Bravo in the Fall or Winter season!” according to, well, the guys making the “show.” 

Only it wasn’t just any “show,” claimed the Real Housewives of Orlando: “We are truly trying to accomplish something here,” said Ross earnestly. “We want to change the way people look at people who are gay.” Noble! 

The story was even picked up by national outlets like MSNBC and Yahoo! in the following days, and the dramatic gang even started a Facebook fan page that garnered over 1,000 “fans.” It had all the makings of a local success story. 

Except – and you knew this was coming – it’s, well, let’s say it’s still in the dream phase. See, contrary to popular belief, you don’t just up and shoot a TV show, sit back and revel in the glory as millions of people watch your daily comings and goings with delight. (Although we’ll grant you that Snooki makes it seem that way.) It can take years of heartbreak, compromise and, most importantly, tons and tons of network dollars. It’s a massive investment of time and energy that lives and dies by the mercurial whims of development execs. 

We suspected that wasn’t what was going on with Thornton Park, so we picked up the phone – are you paying attention, WESH? – and asked Bravo: “Hey, do you know about this Thornton Park show?” Their completely predictable response? Nope. “Not commissioned by Bravo,” says the network’s spokesperson. An executive from Bravo also chimed in (off-the-record) that they get this kind of thing all the time with our great nation’s housewives

Frankly, WESH wouldn’t have had to look very far for confirmation. Bravo is owned by NBC Universal, of which Channel 2 is an affiliate, so pretty much any method of communication more evolved than a tin can and string could’ve told them all this.

So … sorry, fellas. Dream big and dream hard. As for the local news, we can only offer a full-throated “Bravo!” to your hard-hitting investigative work. Keep it up. 

Think political hedging by candidates is just that – political hedging? Your wallet says otherwise. Call us “the professional left,” but when then-Senator Barack Obama told Messiah College in 2008 that America needs to “take a comprehensive approach where we focus on abstinence … [but] I do believe that contraception has to be part of that education process,” he wasn’t fooling around about the disturbing first part. Despite all evidence to the contrary – a 2007 study by the Department of Health and Human Services that concluded abstinence-only education has no impact on teen sexuality despite a price tag of $87.5 million a year for more than a decade – Obama still believes there is a place for it. (And you thought he wasn’t a real Christian.) One of those places, it turns out, is in the grabby hands of Dr. Anne Norris, a professor of nursing at University of Central Florida. Instead of encouraging our nation’s future RNs to help prevent teen pregnancy by the nearly 100-percent accurate, damn-near-fool proof method of getting girls on the pill and getting boys to put their dicks in rubber, Norris has devised an elaborate motion-capture video game to teach girls to ignore their natural sex drives and be submissive little daddy’s girls until they get a ring on their finger. With Norris’ precious Avatard, middle-school girls wear a special suit and enter a digital realm where dirty boys hit on them and they practice saying, “No, thanks. My parents are conservative closet cases who taught me better.” Says Norris: “It’s a place to practice where there aren’t any social consequences.” Great idea, Nurse Betty!

The kicker? The cost for Norris’ utterly ineffective, non-scientific fuel for Medieval-minded puritans comes out of taxpayers’ pockets at a grand total of $434,000. Hope the teen moms out there don’t need any help from the government. It’s busy using that money to make more of them

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