Political espionage just isn't what it used to be. All that pesky breaking and entering and mumbling into reel-to-reel tapes that characterized Watergate's Nixon-joweled shenanigans aimed at skimming secrets from the Democratic National Committee in 1972 brought with them an irreparable crack in the country's political china. These days, Republicans with sneaky tendencies are lucky to get scraps from plastic plates at chain restaurants.
Last week, Happytown™ HQ stealthily intercepted an e-mail from the Orange County Republican Executive Committee announcing the group's April 8 campaign season kick-off strategy meeting for district one.
"After the biggest and most successful Lincoln Day Dinner in Orange County history featuring Governor Sarah Palin, we are armed and ready to do battle with Alan Grayson and his fellow progressive liberal Democrats," the missive boasted.
But how ever would they plan on doing that? By producing a housewife embed straight outta the Communist training camps, naturally.
Diana Evans — "a staunch fellow Conservative Republican," according to OCREC district one chairman Ron Janssen's excitable communiqué — crept under the barbwire surrounding the Marxist concentration camp of Obama's nefarious Organizing for America operation (for one meeting!) and is therefore the party's only hope. Apparently she took notes and learned the darndest things.
"It is so simple," writes Janssen, "you all will wonder how we could have missed it."
Best of all, Evans was scheduled to deliver her ill-gotten goods in the "Tower Room" of a Perkins Restaurant out on Conroy-Windermere Road after a "quick bite and some socializing." Socialists! Evans is not new to this family-style setting of political indigestion. She and two other housewives, Lisa Feroli and Suki Carder, made waves earlier in the year with their "speed-dating" approach to Tea Party political theater via a series of "Eat and Greet" nightmares (Feroli even caught Glenn Beck's crazy TV eye). At those events, candidates would get two minutes of face-to-face time with prospective voters, rather than the standard 16 hours of lectern bloviation. This — and the ability to show up to a meeting that anybody could have shown up to — qualifies Evans as an expert of the highest order. Well, maybe. Jannsen doesn't exactly sound certain of the party's chances in the upcoming midterms.
"We will be developing and implementing new strategies for finding a new job for Democrats like Alan Grayson, but what else would you like to do to make future meetings more enjoyable and valuable to you?" he writes. "The last thing I want to do is waste your time." And then Grayson showed up!
Speaking of sneaky, WKMG-TV Local 6 News Director Steve Hyvonen has only been in town for a couple of years but he's already surging in our race for a new favorite whipping boy. Let's face it: The guy's hilarious!
You'll remember that last summer Hyvonen's station snagged exclusive rights to video from the aftermath of the deadly monorail crash at Walt Disney World, then threatened to sue YouTube and anybody else who showed the morbid wreckage.
At the end of last year, Hyvonen re-friended the Internuts when asked why local Orlando news suddenly developed a case of the TMZs for their Tiger Woods scandal sourcing: "The availability of news on the Internet has changed everything; all these outlets are trying to scoop each other," Hyvonen told the Orlando Sentinel.
Now he's made it clear to his Local 6 employees, via a leaked memo regarding the April 17 "Newsroom Summit" (9 a.m. — 4 p.m. … on a Saturday!), that he won't tolerate any negative nancies in his classroom. "Who has a poor work ethic?" asks Hyvonen. "Who makes little positive contribution to the newsroom and our news product?"
To weed those he calls "battery drainers," Hyvonen's instituting a take-no-prisoners death match wherein fellow employees can vote for who they dislike the most. "Write/type three names on a piece of paper and drop it into the "battery drainers" box in my office," commands Hyvonen. "Everyone must vote. Your votes are anonymous. I also need to ask that everyone use the honor system and put real names of real people in our newsroom. No "Porky Pig" or "Howard Stern."
It's mandatory! Fantastic. Know what else he requires in the memo? "E-mail a list of things that make for bad TV news," writes Hyvonen.
We don't work for you, Steve, but here are a few off the top of our heads: 1) Headlines like, "Racing Sausage Collides With Motorcycle Cop" 2) Quoting tabloids as sources; 3) The existence of Tony Pippitone; 4) The existence of your memo.
And for good measure, here's a hint: Pay attention to what's going on in your newsroom rather than having your own staff do your evil bidding for you.
As our sunburned Solons (geek alert!) continue their budgetary hobnobbing in Tallahassee, more than 175 conservation organizations are still angling for a bit of attention in these dark financial times. The Florida Forever Coalition held a rally outside the Capitol on April 7 and led up to the event with a daily countdown of the top 10 sites that conservationists urge as the next big round of purchases. No money, no more land protected from development; and while Florida Forever has secured 2.4 million acres, that's less than seven percent of the state. Four of the sites that coalition members featured are in or near Central Florida: numbers three, seven, nine and 10 on the list.
They are, in order, the Wekiva-Ocala Greenway, 82,000 acres for a trail network through Orange, Lake, Seminole and Volusia counties; the 30,000-acre Adams Ranch in Osceola County; the Indian River Lagoon Blueway running down the Atlantic coast just to our east; and the Lake Wales Ridge Ecosystem just southwest of here. The other spots on the top-10 list are in the Panhandle, near Jacksonville, the Keys, around Lake Okeechobee and in Levy County to the west.
The conservation effort even drew kudos from the Florida Chamber of Commerce this year, but legislators aren't feeling as generous. The state Senate wants to brush off the program with a meager $15 million, while the slash-and-burn members of the House don't intend to offer a penny. Gov. Charlie Crist says he wants to pump money back into the program, but election-year intentions don't buy any actual land.
What's next, changing the emergency phone number to 711?
Kissimmee police used to waggle a metaphorical finger at people who didn't lock their cars or left expensive stuff like iPods and cameras in plain sight by leaving placards on the vehicles informing the owners that doing so was a bad idea. They finally stopped, perhaps realizing that essentially announced "Hey, thieves! Try this one over here — good stuff!"
So now, instead of directing smash-and-grab artistes to tourists' goodies, Kissimmee cops will perform a corporate song-and-dance, ostensibly for vehicle safety. The "Lock, Keep and Take" program teams police up with 7-Eleven. Now when officers see cars properly locked up, with no valuables visible, they'll reward the cautious with a coupon — worth a couple of bucks — for a free small Slurpee.
As if the whole thing didn't smell enough like advertising at taxpayers' expense, check out the press-release quote from Kissimmee Police Chief Fran Iwanski: "With the warm temperatures approaching, a cold 7-Eleven Slurpee is a nice thank-you treat." Can't you just hear the corporate jingle in the background? Oh, thank firstname.lastname@example.org
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