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Ain't it funny how the time democracy slips away?



Oct. 3, 2002 -- Gov. Jeb Bush is caught on tape boasting that he has "devious plans" to undermine an amendment that would limit the size of school classes. Reporters fail to play the tape backwards, thus missing Bush's a cappella rendition of "Helter Skelter."

Oct. 26 -- Florida Democratic Party Chair Bob Poe announces that he has received a suspicious phone call urging him to vote via absentee ballot no earlier than Nov. 10 -- five days after the general election. Poe's gubernatorial candidate, political naâ?¢f Bill McBride, expresses relief that he won't have to trundle to the polls while he's still filled up on Halloween candy.

Nov. 4 -- University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett gets the last word on the nasty congressional race between Tom Feeney and Harry Jacobs -- a mudslinging contest in which Feeney has accused his rival of "destroying other people's lives" and Jacobs has compared Feeney to Saddam Hussein. "I get the impression that they personally do not like each other," Jewett tells the Orlando Sentinel. Talent agents inundate the perceptive pundit with phone calls, offering him a cushy position as the host of "ElimiDate."

Nov. 5 -- Florida voters approve Amendment 10, decreeing that pregnant pigs must be given enough room to turn around. Re-elected District 8 Rep. Ric Keller wastes no time in requesting a larger office.

Nov. 10 -- McBride mails absentee ballot.

Nov. 21 -- In the course of a routine press conference, Bush distances himself from the "devious plans" remark, reassuring Floridians that no such plans exist. Of the many media outlets covering the event, only National Public Radio mentions that the governor has arrived wearing a bright green men's suit covered in question marks.

Dec. 6 -- A spirit of self-preservation swells among businesses put on the ropes by the adoption of Amendment 6, which bans cigarette smoking in restaurants and other workplaces. To preserve its late-night traffic, the Denny's chain institutes a heroin bar.

Dec. 17 -- During a thank-you dinner for key supporters, Feeney makes derogatory mention of Jacobs, referring to his vanquished opponent as "nothin' but a punk-ass beeyatch." Three hours later, unidentified assailants driving a black minivan spray Feeney's home with gunfire and speed from the scene. Authorities promise to investigate.

Dec. 30 -- McBride mails Christmas cards.

Jan. 14, 2003 -- Confused diners summon authorities to the Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q on South Alafaya Trail, convinced that the serving of smoked pork on the premises violates both Amendments 6 and 10.

Jan. 30 -- Bush quietly purchases a private island off the coast of Thailand. Florida newspapers, TV stations fail to make mention.

Feb. 7 -- Jacobs' mother appears on ABC's "20/20" to deny his culpability in the Dec. 17 drive-by. Holding a photo of young Harry, mama Jacobs tearfully asserts her son "was always such a good boy." Interviewer Barbara Walters surprises her guest by playing a rejected campaign commercial in which Jacobs charges that Feeney "wasn't never from the streets," then goes on to brag that the congressman's wife had slept with Jacobs not six months before the election.

Feb. 19 -- Keller grows snout, pointed ears, curled tail. Also experiences strange cravings for nicotine, smack, Moons Over My Hammy.

March 5 -- After a curious three-week absence from official activity, Bush breaks into a closed-circuit TV channel in the headquarters of the Florida Education Association. Speaking in real time from his island hideaway, he issues a grim ultimatum: "You want a world-class school system, gentlemen? Very well then. You shall have it. The price is seven billion dollars. The deadline is May 1. Failure to comply will rain down consequences -- fatal ones."

March 22 -- Jacobs is gunned down during a pleasure trip to Las Vegas. Grieving friends and family call for an end to political violence. The release of an "Increase the Peace" charity single is blocked by Republicans in Congress, who are still outraged over last fall's "Paul Oakenfold Remembers Paul Wellstone CD."

April 20 -- The teachers' union contacts McBride, requesting he dip into his lawyerly fortunes to pay Bush's blackmail demand. The ex-candidate promises to get right on it as soon as he sends out his tax return.

April 29 -- Up in Washington, Keller is arrested for soliciting pancake syrup from an undercover cop. He resigns in disgrace, and his office is broken apart for use by five freshman legislators.

May 2 -- Bush's deadline comes and goes. Enraged, the governor looses a horde of genetically engineered, nicotine-crazed swine on the state of Florida. Mass panic occurs, with school classrooms overrun by red-eyed animals raised to relentlessly bum Camel Filters.

May 6 -- McBride mails check.

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