With zombie hysteria at an alltime high — scratch that; real unemployment numbers dipping perilously into the double-digits — you might expect that your standard downtown vegan-wrap stroll would be interrupted by rigor mortis on the sidewalks, some Thom Yorke-ian dystopia of ragged bodies rendered prostrate to the heated pull of the apathy of concrete. Well, on Wednesday, Sept. 15 it really happened! As part of its "Declaration of a Jobs Emergency," Central Florida Jobs with Justice pulled the old death-in trick right outside the fountain-fronted downtown offices of U.S. Senator Pepe le Pew (er, George LeMieux, R-Fla.). The results: well, there probably won't be any. But the spectacle was as effective as it was disturbing.
"That's why we took to dying," said Yesenia Garcia of the Student Labor Action Project, which is affiliated with Jobs with Justice. "Because it's an emergency."
The rather morbid action was in response to LeMieux's recent statements revealing that he would in no way support any policies that would further increase the federal deficit, though he did just break ranks with his party on the small business tax-cut vote the day before (because small businesses aren't people, and who cares about people?). LeMieux notoriously came out against the unemployment extension this summer. Jobs with Justice contends that all of this deficit talk is a sham, naturally, and that the real deficit is in real Americans not being able to find real jobs: 15 million unemployed, one job for every five applicants, cuts to public services that threaten even more jobs and the general downward spiral that occupies all of our minds in this time of horrific uncertainty. The tourniquet the group is suggesting involves a new tax on financial speculation (read: Wall Street) that could generate $200-$500 billion annually. It's a controversial view in the political shark tank of the now, but it's not as far off philosophically as some might have it. The assembled coalition of mostly college-aged activists think it's time that our legislators know that in the long run what they're doing — basically playing politics with the big word, "deficit" — will only increase the nation's debt.
"It's going to fail, because the foundations `meaning the working class` are going to crumble," Garcia said.
Garcia — and some of the other zombies we managed to communicate with — were well aware of how these symbolic actions are treated, but cited the desperation of the moment as cause enough to basically die on the spot. Most of the 20-or-so assembled had their eyes closed while playing dead, so they didn't get much of a sense of its impact as a spectacle; one, however, was able to squint enough to see a Lynx bus stop to take in the carnage, a television news camera surveying his carcass and several passersby reading his fact-filled plastic tombstone. When they all miraculously came back to life and bullhorn-marched up to the senator's lobby, they were met by a man in a suit who disappeared, came back, and told them that LeMieux's office would agree to greet just three of them … and NO MEDIA. What are we, dead?
When you come across (cough)aheadline that starts with "Obama taps Orlando Mayor Dyer," your first instinct is probably to avoid the potential viral spambot link designed to turn your computer into a Tea Party outpost for political pornography, right? But, against our better judgment, we decided to click on the St. Petersburg Times blog post on Sept. 15 and it turned out to just be somewhat boring news! Apparently, hizzoner Dyer was handpicked last week to join in some bizarro 45-person gossip commission going by the name of The Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. What does that mean? Is it, like, a job, or is it an influence knitting circle?
"The Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations is tasked with providing policy advice on trade matters, and is made up of members who broadly represent key sectors and groups of the economy," according to the White House announcement. Oh, really?
For fun, we called up city spokesmodel Heather Allebaugh to ask her in what capacity our fearless leader would be serving this great nation, and at the time of our phone call, it wasn't entirely clear. "I was just writing that press release!" she said, still somewhat surprised by the news. What she did know was that the mayor had been going through some kind of vetting process for it, that it would be a two-year term and that it was a very big deal. Would that mean that Dyer would be spending more time on K Street than Orange Avenue? Allebaugh doubted it and then carefully avoided our suggestion that the whole thing should be handled on Skype in the nude. "Well, we do use Skype at the city," she said.
"It is an honor to be asked to serve in this capacity and I believe I can offer a unique voice and perspective to this committee and the president on behalf of the residents and businesses of Central Florida," was the mayor's eventual presser quote. "This appointment also signifies Orlando's increasingly important role in international tourism and trade."
Well, we do have an airport. Anyway, it only took a quick perusal of the other 44 national pillars of awesomeness for us to surmise that this is one rather large mahogany boardroom table that we wouldn't want to be anywhere near. In addition to the numerous union leaders, business executives, governors, philanthropists and various other people that have no reason to talk to each other, there is one James P. Hoffa (know any good jokes?) and, our favorite, brassy make-up lady Bobbi Brown. If Buddy Dyer doesn't walk away with a smart handbag and a makeover, this is so not worth it.
Speaking of handbags — or, rather, handbaskets headed to hell with us in them — last week's seismic shift on the political right certainly seemed to reverberate its way into the Sunshine State. So let's recap, shall we? The week started off with former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist racing toward relevancy with a position paper on, gulp, gay rights. Good for him! It wasn't so long ago that we were scanning his tan body with our own in-house winking machine, the Happytown™ GaydarSensor™ (see Happytown, Sept. 21, 2006) based on a rumor mill wrapped around a pool boy or something. By Friday, that position would take on a different hue when headlines screamed from various sources that Crist and former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer went to Disney together, and you know what that means! (Nothing. They took their families.) Greer, it should be noted, also popped back in the news renouncing his cries of socialism from last year, made in regard to the president actually speaking to students in schools. So, the lesson is that when you leave the Republican party, you're a gay commie … instantly. So do it.
But for those still hanging onto whatever the Republican party is about after Delaware's Republican Senate primary went to that anti-masturbation Palinista, Christine O'Donnell, the race to the warm wedges of the far right couldn't have been more apparent. On Wednesday, Sept. 15, the torchbearer of the Christian historical revisionist movement — and the guy most likely to throw stones at gay glass houses — David Barton popped up at not one but two local conservative vanity bonfires. First, he spent the afternoon at a Longwood country club baptizing Crist's Republican opponent, Marco (Polo!) Rubio, in front of about 200 ugly people. Then, Barton joined up with our favorite homophobe Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel for "Florida Awake!" — an exclamatory event highlighting "heroes who shaped the godly heritage of our nation." Or, rather, the people who are currently ruining us. We'll see you in firstname.lastname@example.org