Hey, wait! Is that just the barometric pressure drop of a long, hot Florida summer we're feeling, or is it the vise-like grip of social injustice squeezing our sensibilities until all we feel are pangs of anger? Well, for this week – and last week, and the week before, and so on – we're going to go with the latter. You may have heard the rumbling over the plan to scrub Florida's voter rolls of 180,000 alleged non-citizens just in time for the state's Aug. 14 primary. Awesome, no? No.
Gov. Rick Scott and his cronies, like Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who would rather do anything than allow democracy to play out, have seen to it that thousands of Floridians have received letters informing them that they are not citizens and are therefore not eligible to vote. Only problem is, as some media outlets are pointing out, the database the state is using to ferret out the alleged non-citizens is full of errors. So hundreds of people who have received the letters are citizens and do have a right to vote. Hello, voter disenfranchisement!
Fortunately – and predictably – there is a considerable backlash to this latest move. On one hand, you have a battle brewing between state and federal elections officials, reports the Palm Beach Post, because the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has to go all national with the vetting of the state's non-citizenship claims. On the other hand, a huge coalition of voting-rights and Hispanic rights groups are lawyering up, calling the boneheaded scrubble-trouble a violation of the National Voter Registration Act, which forbids such actions within 90 days of a federal election (you know, like the Aug. 14 primary). Also, because this effort is mostly targeting Hispanics, there's an element of racial profiling involved.
“This year's deeply flawed process disproportionately targets Latino voters and is discriminatory, unfair and antithetical to the values of our nation,” one of the groups said in a press release.
The secretary of state's office balked at the notion of impropriety, with the “obligated by law to do it” sort of noise, even trying to deny the fact that there is a primary in August; there is, even if it isn't of the presidential variety. This is Florida, the land of pretending nothing is happening when it really is.
You know what else is happening?Public universities are about to become exclusive club boxes for the rich – or petri dishes of lifelong debt and regret, depending on how you look at it. On May 24, the University of Central Florida's board of trustees reluctantly agreed to a 15 percent tuition hike, prompting even good ol' boy Republican and school trustee Rich Crotty to grumble out loud, according to the Orlando Business Journal, that things were getting really bad.
“[The state legislature] keep[s] slashing and burning the state university system,” he said.
UCF President John Hitt continued passing the hot potato with his own mildly sarcastic response: “This is what productivity increases look like, folks. We don't like this either.”Of course not.
The move comes on the heels of seven years of tuition hikes caused by budget cuts; this year alone, the legislature cut $300 million from the state's public universities, $53 million of that from UCF, in an effort not to trouble the indigenous fat cats and speculators that make up our “Sunshine.” As Time magazine reported, the result is that through the recession, “Florida, the nation's fourth largest state, has lost more than 10,000 high-tech jobs.” Not to mention just how much dumber and poorer we are getting.
As an aside, it's interesting to note that liberal turncoat Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, who voted for that budget (and just about every other Republican thing you can imagine), isn't even smart enough to handle his own campaign finances. According to a May 24 report by the Florida Current, Siplin is approaching a settlement involving a $3,000 fine for accepting numerous faulty campaign donations. That way, he and his wife, Victoria – who is running for his term-limited seat now – will probably avoid the embarrassment of being deposed. Good guys always win!
Well, sometimes they do, actually. On Friday, May 25, a proud father of a University of Florida graduate, Steve Wheeler, laced up his marathon shoes to run 110 miles from Gainesville down to Altamonte Springs in order to draw attention to the arts education programs – his path made stops at his daughter's schools, from elementary school on through college – that made her who she is today. Because, as we all know, the arts are killing our kids and must be stopped.
“Her success may not have been possible without the exceptional teachers and arts programs available,” Wheeler told the UF fine arts blog, The Loop. “Kids are going to lose part of their creative mind.” That is, if they already haven't. School's out forever!
Hey, remember those crazy kids inthe Tea Party? We haven't heard much from them in a while, but an election is looming and guess who's coming out of the woodwork! This week, we got a panicky, revolutionarymissive from K.B. in Houston, who tells us that the National Defense Authorization Act has passed and that the government has ordered enough rifle ammo to put “two bullets into each person.”That must mean the government is preparing to go medieval on our asses, right?
“200 FEMA camps are being staffed as re-education centers,” she writes. “Police are being militarized. Why do you suppose the press isn't all over this? This isn't about terrorism! For real information, start checking alternative news sources and stop trusting mainstream media.”
We here at Happytown HQ never trust the mainstream media, so we looked into some of the “alternative news sources” we suspect K.B. has been reading. Sure enough, we found that some alternative news outlets – that is to say, paranoid blogs that like to talk about the pending revolution, as well as a chain email that seemed to have made the rounds beginning in March – did trumpet the fact that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security entered into a contract to order a shit-ton of .40-caliber bullets. Some 450 million of 'em, which is indeed a number that far exceeds the population of the United States – about 313 million people, as of the most recent census estimates.
What those alternative “news” sources fail to reveal is that the U.S. government always orders a shit-ton of ammunition to arm such agencies as the Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and – a perennial favorite of Tea Partiers, xenophobes and revolutionaries – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. You know, the one that keeps them damn foreign freeloaders from coming into our country and stealing all of our jobs and health care.
Anyway, the Austin American-Statesman and the Tampa Bay Times' Politifact project checked up on this rumor recently and determined that “the large size of the contract is explained as a way for the government to buy in bulk to save money on ammunition used routinely for training officers in a wide variety of agencies.”
So, in other words, the government is trying to do something that the Tea Party is always urging it to do: Be more efficient and stop squandering taxpayer dollars. A source Politifact talked to about the conspiracy email that has been circulating called them sensational and “borderline irresponsible.”
How about we meet halfway and just call this one batshit crazy?