;And now it's time for another installment of What's Up With Ric?™, our attempt to keep you up to date on the comings and goings of Orlando's favorite Republican, U.S. Rep. Ric Keller!

;;This week's episode finds Ric — recently heard denouncing President Bush's Iraq "surge" via a weird lawnmower analogy — on the receiving end of vitriol from those peaceniks at MoveOn.org. Can't the man catch a break?

;;On March 14, the group's political action committee blasted an e-mail asking members to contact Keller's office and demand that he "support our troops by bringing them home safely this year." House Democrats have scheduled a vote March 22 on a resolution — already shot down in the Senate, thus pretty meaningless — to bring troops home by September 2008. Keller's against the surge, but is he a full-fledged cutter-and-runner? And if he is, will that get the damn hippies off his back?


;Thanks, Ric, for getting yourself stuck in a quagmire!


;Speaking of quagmires, ;March 19 was the fourth anniversary of George Bush's Iraq adventure. But instead of defaulting to our normal means of coping — binge drinking — we decided to chart a more positive course. So we gathered up our anti-war sentiment and marched over to the intersection of Colonial Drive and Bumby Avenue, where a crowd of like-minded Bush-haters gathered to demand that we end the war, like, now.

;;About 75 attended the rowdy (protesters prefer "energized") protest, complete with yells to "get out of Iraq!" and a constant frenzy of honking commuters during the congested rush hour. Protesters consumed all four corners of the intersection. It was your usual suspects — from middle-aged women decked out in pink to peace-loving college kids and socially conscious anarchists slathered in black and displaying a dazzling array of body piercings. Not to mention a handful of suburban couples, some clutching infants, and a few token vets.;;


"This should never have happened," noted a Food Not Bombs protester, who went on to sputter about global capitalism. Boring.


;;There were lots of protests like this across the country, from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., to New York. Everywhere you turned, the increasingly angry voice of an increasingly unified country rose up to demand an end to the Iraq stupidity. No, the administration doesn't give a shit. No, nothing will change.


;When you're done being ;pissed off about Iraq, you may want to learn something more about it. Well, here's your chance: On March 26, University of Michigan professor and Middle East expert Juan Cole (see "Juan's world," March 16, 2006) will lecture at the University of Central Florida's Visual Arts Gallery at 7 p.m., with a reception afterward.


;;Cole has received plenty of attention in progressive and national media circles for his blog, Informed Comment (www.juancole.com), which criticizes America's foreign policy and makes the case that a lot of our mistakes come from hewing to rigid views of the conflict when the reality is much more complex. He's not the most popular guy around — critics have labeled him an apologist for extremists — but he has an interesting point of view. Simple-minded neocons got us into this Iraq mess; perhaps acknowledging that the Middle East isn't so black-and-white will get us out.


;Last week, the cause of the ;Lord took another hit here in Orlando, moving us even closer to being the devil's handmaiden, or perhaps Las Vegas' bitchy stepsister.

;;Satellite cable provider DirecTV — owned by Rupert Murdoch, who may be Beelzebub's half-cousin — dropped the Gospel Music Channel in Orlando and a few other markets for "business reasons." In other words, no one was listening, which gave Murdoch the perfect excuse to give it the ax. The channel, which features Jesus-infused holy tunes, only launched in April.

;;In the struggle of good and evil, this is big news. Orlando, the city that spawned Campus Crusade for Christ, is no longer devout enough to hold on to this glory-laden channel. Apparently it still thrives in Jackson, Miss., where the channel just bowed.

;;What's next for our little den of iniquity? A Creed reunion tour? This slippery slope is one we dread to ponder.;


;Here in Florida we lock kids ;up in big-boy jail when they screw up. Especially if they're dark-skinned.

;;This according to a report from the Campaign for Youth Justice, which is pushing Congress to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act to keep kids out of adult prisons. Several states, including Florida, have exploited a loophole in the law to send kids to adult jail, the campaign says. The federal law only applies to cases within the juvenile justice system. If the kid is charged as an adult, all bets are off.

;;The group's theory is that locking kids up with hardened criminals makes them more likely to be career cons, when all they really need is a good paddling or something.

;;Florida, of course, is at the forefront of sending juvies to the slammer. Here, the report says, 2,794 juvenile cases have been transferred to adult court; 58 percent were for nonviolent offenses. The report touts one case of a 15-year-old West Palm Beach boy who was held in an adult facility for weeks after allegedly stealing $2 from a classmate's pocket. Those charges were dropped. Oh, and by the way, 70 percent of those sent to the Big House were not white.


;This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman, Ian Monroe and Deanna Sheffield.

; happytown@orlandoweekly.com

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