Happytown 

The gurgle and pop of Democratic balls, the rattle and wheeze of a Disney challenge and the distant sound of justice dying in Florida

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Wait, what’s that sound we just heard? Could it have been the gurgle-and-pop of the Florida Democrats growing a hefty, hairy pair? Fresh from their unceremonious bludgeoning during the 2011 legislative session – and not quite as fresh from the controversy in the 2008 presidential preference primary that left liberals with just half a vote for each of their delegates, an order handed down by their own national party – on Wednesday, May 11, the Florida Democratic Party made a bold announcement: They’re not going to take it anymore.

You’re probably already aware that state Republicans have been playing a laughable game of obfuscation in trying to set the date of next year’s big day of preference, forming a “committee” that will probably come up with a date for the primary around, ohhhh, Oct. 1. While most indications are that the Republicans will try to go early again, they’re expected to work out a wink-nudge with the national party that isn’t as early as the Jan. 29, 2008, hoodwink; by the rules of both parties, Florida isn’t supposed to stage a primary before March 6. Rather than wait around for CannonHair™ to settle on another lawless date, state Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff laid down the gauntlet last week, telling the St. Petersburg Times, “Should the Republicans break the rules, we will not be participating in the primary. Democrats from across Florida would be invited to attend county caucuses held in June, which will be used to allocate the delegates appropriately.” Sound the alarms!

Actually, this falls right in line with the noise we were hearing from Democrats prior to their session bloodletting: Basically, they have no business in a Tallahassee that doesn’t want them, and the way of the future would be to somehow diffuse the party into its stronger regional districts. And with Barack Obama set to face no real Democratic challengers, this may be the perfect political stunt to prove it. Look Ma! No strings!

Wait a minute. You know what else is theoretically supposed to be on the primary ballot? Orlando’s municipal races, where Democrats Phil Diamond and Buddy Dyer are set to battle it out for the mayor’s office. Officially, municipal elections are to be held on the second Tuesday in March, according to city code, but if there could be “substantial cost savings and increased voter turnout,” the city clerk is allowed to pin them onto the primary ballot. City Clerk Alana Brenner, who had not heard of the Dems’ ball-popping when we contacted her, was already growing frustrated with the anticipated October decision on just when the election might be held. Deadlines, people! “I don’t know if we can wait that long,” she says.

Considering that holding even one special election for just one district could cost about $15,000, according to Brenner, holding a standalone election in all districts could come at a “substantial cost” to the city. If one party pulls out, fairness dictates that the city will have to fund its own election, otherwise theoretically we’d have no mayor! Paging Matthew Falconer! Ugh.

Still, it does mark a welcome move for the seemingly mooted Democratic Party and its circular-firing-squad dance; also, caucuses are fun?

“We are designing a system that will very much help motivate our voters [to] participate in the process like never before,” an eager Jotkoff jacked off to the Times. “This allows us to organize and energize Democrats across Florida.”

Do you smell barbecue? We do.

If you plan on seeing the new Pirates of the Caribbean flick this week, keep this in mind: Somewhere in Orlando, one man is fuming. And no, it’s not the über-jealous jock stealing glances at his girlfriend when Johnny Depp appears onscreen, but rather, Royce Mathew, a former Hollywood B-film producer who now lives in Altamonte Springs and has dedicated the last eight years of his life to proving that Disney stole the guiding idea for Pirates of the Caribbean from a short film that he produced nearly 20 years ago. “It was the best damn work I’ve ever done,” Mathew says.

The logical retort is that the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland predates Mathew’s claim. But Mathew says the core concept of the movie franchise (cursed pirates who turn into skeletal ghouls by moonlight), as well as the characters themselves were pirated 
from his work, which he had first pitched to Disney executives in 1993. The recognizable elements from Disneyland’s attraction, he says, are merely ornamental.

We last wrote about Mathew in 2004, not long after the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was released. Since then, he has sued Disney twice, writing more than 400 pages about the saga, most of which he has dumped onto the website disneylawsuit.com, along with shot-by-shot comparisons of the two movies. Predictably, Disney outfoxed him in court – after all, it employed Sandy Litvack, former antitrust chief of the Department of Justice, as legal counsel. (Disney did not respond to Happytown™ for comment.) In mid-lawsuit in 2005, Disney released a book titled Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies, which, according to Mathew, alters history in Orwellian fashion by imposing the movie’s “supernatural pirate” theme onto the rides, which he says were originally intended as just a collection of pirate-themed vignettes.

Mathew says he is now working on a documentary to “expose” Disney for what they did to him. “They were fucking with [my] mind,” he says. Obviously.

While the Florida legislature has done some radical things this session – outlawing bestiality, offering a hefty chunk of the prison system to private companies and so on – it was unable to make perhaps the most radical change of all: splitting the Florida Supreme Court into separate divisions for civil and criminal appeals. The move would have also dismantled existing judicial nominating commissions and given Gov. Rick Scott the ability to appoint not only the entirety of the new commissions, but also three new justices. In other words, court packing.

The court’s defense of Amendments 5 and 6 last year is a sin that Republican legislators seem unlikely to forget, so it’s little question that Scott, House Speaker Dean Cannon and their loyal foot soldiers will make another go at it next year. Thus, on May 11, the League of Women Voters of Orange County invited 
U.S. District Court Judge Greg Presnell, Ninth Judicial Circuit Judge Lisa Munyon and Florida Bar Board of Governors attorney Mary Ann Morgan to look at not only what the proposal was, but also what it could still become. “It was a direct threat to the independence of the judiciary,” Morgan told the crowd. “I won’t say it’s gone, but at least it was postponed.”

Indeed, as Morgan pointed out, slipped into this year’s budget is $400,000 for the state’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability to conduct a study that “shall review … the workload of the Supreme Court, separated by civil and criminal cases, and whether it could be enhanced through a more effective structure.” (The budget sets aside another $400,000 for a study of “the potential benefits to Florida from destination resorts and horse 
racing.”)

Judge Presnell chose to let French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville speak through him to assess the threat: “By thus lessening the independence of the judiciary, they have attacked not only the judicial power, but the democratic republic itself,” said the possessed Presnell, who then relinquished the microphone and made a mental note to pick up a quill pen and pipe tobacco on the way home. Balls!

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