By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
Scott's two years in office have been a nightmare of GOP talking points turned reality. First, he pushed through a law requiring drug tests for welfare applicants, saying it was "unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction." Instead, taxpayers have subsidized $200,000 worth of tests, many of them conducted by a company owned by Scott's wife. Capitalism! (Oh, and so far, only 2 percent of the tests have come back positive.) Never mind the fact that the law is likely a violation of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches.
Scott didn't stop there. He also required drug tests of every state employee (because society falls apart if the dudes at the DMV smoke a joint once in a while) and signed a truly bizarre law banning doctors from discussing gun ownership with their patients. He let local governments steamroll the Everglades and then rejected a $2.4 billion high-speed rail system between Orlando and Tampa (which was to be paid entirely by the feds and private businesses). Why? Because trains are communist, you pinko.
Scott's biggest priority in office, though, has echoed his Republican overlords' national plans: suppress poor and minority voters. Last summer he signed a law slashing early voting from 14 days to eight and outlawing voting on the Sunday before the election — coincidentally, the day that black churchgoers usually drive en masse to vote for Democrats. The law made it more difficult for liberal-leaning students to update their addresses to get ballots, and it threatened voter registration groups with fines. Even the Boy Scouts of America took offense.
And Scott targeted Hispanics by ordering a purge of "potentially ineligible" voters from the rolls. It turned out that hundreds were perfectly legit citizens — including one guy who had survived combat in World War II.
You might think you're safe from this insanity in your East Village apartment or Los Angeles rancho, but the Republicans' Frankenstein-like experimentation in Florida is already beginning to spread. The most infamously insane idea to go viral is the Stand Your Ground law, at the heart of neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman's defense for fatally shooting unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
Normally, in order to claim self-defense, someone is required to retreat from a threat before opening fire. But in 2005, Florida put the onus on prosecutors to show shooters' lives were not in danger. Soon the legislation quickly spread to 24 other states.
In Florida, Stand Your Ground has been used by drug dealers to escape murder charges, invoked by one guy after shooting a bear, and cited by a jogger who beat a Jack Russell terrier. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the law is unevenly enforced to favor whites over blacks and Hispanics. And researchers at Texas A&M University recently found it has increased homicides across the nation.
Sadly, Stand Your Ground isn't the only scourge Florida has unleashed upon the States. Decades of deregulation have made it the epicenter of the country's foreclosure crisis. That same blind faith in business has also turned it into a veritable Scam-istan, ruled by Ponzi schemers such as retiree-bilking Bernie Madoff, cricket-crazy R. Allen Stanford, golden-toilet-owning attorney Scott Rothstein, bogus University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, and dozens of others.
Meanwhile, poor residents have borne the brunt of steep budget cuts. Programs for mental health, substance abuse, and the homeless have been slashed. So when "Miami Zombie" Rudy Eugene ate the face off of indigent Ronald Poppo a few months ago, Floridians weren't nearly as surprised as the rest of the nation.
Hunter Thompson would be similarly unfazed: "Civilization ends at the waterline," he once wrote. "Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top."
Oversize pink vaginas. Black Bloc anarchists. The bright-orange spurt of pepper spray into a crowd. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has Technicolor nightmares of what could go wrong at the RNC. The moderate Democrat didn't ask for his city to host the event. But if anything goes awry, it will be endlessly looped on television and YouTube, and he'll be blamed.
"Other than the Olympics, this will be the most-watched television event in the world this year," he says. "So yeah, hosting a convention in the middle of hurricane season in this economic and political environment leads to a little gray hair."
These are strange days for Tampa, and for America. Over the past decade, political polarization has turned the country into a powder keg. Buckhorn's job is to prevent tens of thousands of convention conservatives and left-leaning protesters from combusting on his streets. It won't be easy. If the nation has long been coming apart at the seams, Tampa could be the crotch that finally splits wide open.
Inside the convention center will be titans of industry, the billionaire Koch brothers, hordes of Tea Partiers in tri-corner hats, Bill O'Reilly and Fox News freaks, Karl Rove with his Crossroads GPS super-PAColytes, and a few thousand fawning female Christian fundamentalists toting "Enraptured by Paul Ryan" signs.
On the other side of the picket line will be those resisting America's rightward shift: Code Pink matriarchs clad as papier-mâché vulvas, carbon-neutral nouveau hippies, and the moldy leftovers of the Occupy movement. More than 15,000 protesters are expected. Videos threatening violence, supposedly by international hacker group Anonymous, have already been uploaded online.