You gotta love Willie Gary. Who else could fly into town aboard his own Boeing 737 - The Wings of Justice II, which sports, among other amenities, an 18-karat gold sink and a $1.2 million sound system - put on a press conference depicting himself as just a regular ol' attorney trying to defend the little guy, threaten to bust the Orlando Sentinel's balls to the tune of $600 million, then jet off into the clear blue sky?
Gary and a couple of his law partners were at Orlando International Airport May 12 for a press conference about their lawsuit against the Sentinel and its parent company, Tribune Corp. Their client, Orlando psychiatrist Dr. E. Michael Gutman, claims stories published about him on Nov. 30, 2003, have all but ruined his practice, his reputation and his life. "They made accusations tantamount to calling him a murderer," says Gary, not one for understatement.
The articles were headlined "11 died from pills local doctor prescribed" and "Many die as doctors exploit Medicaid." The former is all about Gutman's alleged prescribing practices. In it, reporter Rene Stutzman states, "Manuel Angel Ruiz, 45, a baker disabled by a back injury, died Sept. 30, 2001, of an overdose of oxycodone, a pain medicine prescribed by Gutman."
Trouble is, says Gutman attorney Madison McClellan, "Gutman never - I repeat, never - prescribed Ruiz OxyContin `a brand name for oxycodone`."
There are other factual errors, according to Gutman's attorneys, that the Sentinel would have caught had reporters and editors bothered to check. "There was no fact checking at all in this case," says McClellan.
It's a little hard to believe that Stutzman and her editors blew off fact checking, given that the Sentinel had been burned by some inadequate fact checking on an OxyContin story just a month prior. But Gary smells blood; he recently sued ESPN for $2.5 billion on behalf of Don King.
Sentinel spokeswoman Ashley Allen says the paper doesn't comment on pending litigation. But Gutman had this to say from the comfy confines of The Wings of Justice II: "The war is on."
It's official: Our very own United States congressman Ric Keller is a bona fide radical right-winger! So says the American Conservative Union, which recently lauded 48 representatives and eight senators as Washington's "best and brightest," meaning that they voted the way the ACU wanted 100 percent of the time. Keller shares this honor with fellow Floridians Tom Feeney and Jeff Miller, and other GOP luminaries; no Dems in the field, natch.
Keller got a 100 percent rating last year. He does, however, have a measly 97 percent lifetime rating, which we assume means that at some point earlier in his political career he wasn't marching in complete lockstep with the Tom DeLays of the world.
This time, Keller got his award for anti-abortion votes, a vote to protect fast-food companies from lawsuits, a vote for drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve, a vote against publicly funded arts, and just about every other regulation-busting, tax-cutting thing you can think of.
We asked Keller's chief of staff, Bryan Malenius, if this was the type of honor that might show up on Keller's campaign literature next year: "Conservatives say Ric Keller is the best!" Or would his campaign shy away from the award for fear of Keller being portrayed as a overzealous nut job who can't think for himself? "Ric votes his conscience and doesn't think about how a particular group might 'score' him," Malenius responded via e-mail. "There's lots of those groups out there and for every one that likes how he voted on an issue there's one that doesn't like it. And since Ric votes his conscience he's not worried about being seen as 'too conservative.'"
We don't doubt that Keller votes his conscience - it's just a little unnerving that his conscience syncs up so exactly with the ACU's agenda. These people hardly have a claim to "mainstream."
Speaking of Keller, remember the May 11 Sentinel story in which Rep. Tom Feeney was described by the Public Action Campaign as the lawmaker most in the pocket of the ethically challenged House Majority Leader Tom DeLay? Feeney wore the insult as a badge of honor, apparently proud of the fact that he takes money from DeLay's PAC and gives to his ethics defense fund, and that he votes with DeLay - who, if you'll indulge a short lapse of journalistic objectivity, is a pustule on the buttocks of democracy - 97.5 percent of the time.
Last week, MoveOn.org's political action committee sent out a press release urging Floridians to contact Keller as well, and ask nicely that he distance himself from the execrable DeLay. According to MoveOn, Keller voted with DeLay 97.2 percent of the time and has accepted $20,000 worth of DeLay's PAC money.
Malenius tells Happytown™ that the "numbers are probably right. The money Keller for Congress received from Mr. DeLay's PAC is related to what leadership deems as the most hotly contested races in the country. If I'm not mistaken, Keller for Congress didn't receive any money during the recent election cycle because ours wasn't considered a top 'national' race."
In other words, if Keller's running unopposed - or virtually unopposed - DeLay has no reason to get involved. Either way, Keller's not worried about his apparent ties to DeLay: "Ric doesn't see Rep. DeLay as a liability, though we doubt this matter will go away any time soon," says Malenius, who notes that the Public Action Campaign ranked Keller 116 in "closeness" to DeLay. They're close, but not too close.
If you find yourself watching the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (which opens May 20 at Enzian Theater), and you see someone who looks familiar, that may be because he's your neighbor.
Mike Muckleroy, 75, of Winter Park, is an ex-Enron International executive interviewed in the film. Muckleroy left the infamous energy company in 1993 because he had differences with the way the people who ran the company were doing the accounting and other business practices. "I did not fit into the mold of what people like Jeff Skilling, `Ken` Lay et al. wanted," he says.
As we all know now, what they wanted was more money and power than they already had, which led them to set up thousands of shell companies to hide massive losses and cover up highly questionable accounting practices.
Muckleroy, who spent 30 years in the energy business, says he personally helped clean up a similar mess made by Lay in 1988, an incident he discusses in the film. He also, at one point when his relationship with the company was deteriorating, offered to go mano a mano with Skilling.
"I offered to let him whip me. I thought seeing as he is 20 years younger than me that he would take me up on it, but he didn't."
LETTERS TO BUDDY!
Real e-mails from the mayor pro-tem's in-box!
We are receiving many new and second year proclamations including numerous mayors, councils and commissioners throughout Florida, along with the FL governor. We wish to include Orlando this year as we have several members there and visit the city frequently. Additionally, we are currently up to 68 country connections and are aware of over 20 local GLD events worldwide for the day.
Please let me know if you require anything else on our end. We do have local resident TLF coordinators in the city if that is appropriate. I appreciate your assistance - please forward my email to the appropriate person.
Love, light and peace,
Harold W. Becker
The Love Foundation Inc.