It ain't easy being green, especially if you're a Florida legislator. The League of Conservation Voters has released its voting scorecard for the U.S. Congress in 2005. The report rates legislators on a zero-to-100 scale, a higher number signifying a greener pol. There were 18 votes taken into consideration for the House, 20 for the Senate. The score is a percentage of "environmentally correct" votes out of the total. 21 votes were considered; significant votes dealt with drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and revisions to the Endangered Species Act.

Guess what? Many Florida elected officials didn't fare too well. The wrap-up: Reps. Tom Feeney, Ric Keller and Katherine Harris all scored an ultra-low 17. But Sen. Mel Martinez whipped their butts with an über-sucky score of 10. That's voting against Earth 18 times out of 20, including three votes to push forward on drilling in ANWR.

There was one bright spot: Sen. Bill Nelson scored a 90 by voting "correctly" on 18 out of 20 environmentally important votes.

The LCV also identified five environmental committees in each chamber and highlighted the scores for the 10 chairpersons. Two scored a six, two others a five. The remaining six chairpersons each scored an anti-Mother Earth score of zero. Republicans rule!

You've probably heard of Darfur. But if you're like many Americans, you're not exactly sure what, exactly, is going on over there to warrant the coverage you kind of keep hearing about.

It's the media's fault you haven't heard more about what is going on in Darfur. It's always the media's fault. Frankly, your friends at Happytown™ are the only media types you can trust.

So here's the short version: In 2003, non-Arab rebels got tired of oppression by the Arab-controlled Sudanese government, and they attacked. The government, less than thrilled at the criticism, began a series of military attacks on the people of Darfur, and stopped the flow of food and supplies. More than 400,000 people have been killed, and nearly 2 million have been displaced and now live in makeshift refugee camps across the area.

This week at the University of Central Florida, under the name "Project Darfur," hundreds of students are piled into tents, on site 24/7, in a mock refugee camp on a large lawn behind the Student Union, in an effort to help educate the campus and the community about Darfur. David Brown, ringleader of the event, has miraculously created a coalition of 30 or so student groups, including (get this) College Republicans and College Democrats, anti-war activists and Christian crusaders, to support and participate in the camp.

The event kicked off Monday night with a speech by rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy fame. Throughout the week, a Red Cross tent is set up adjacent to the camp area where human rights films will be shown; Mia Farrow is scheduled to speak Friday afternoon.

Campuses all over the state are holding similar events. For more information, visit www.projectdarfur.com.

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 congressman, U.S. Rep. Ric Keller!

Last time we documented Ric's undying obsession with Pell Grants; they paid his way through college. But then we found an interesting item: a Jan. 29 Washington Post story about broken promises Ric's hero, George W. Bush, has made during his State of the Union addresses – among them Pell Grants.

Shrub has promised to increase the size of Pell Grants, but it ain't happened yet, even though his party controls everything. Yes, the president has secured a 5.4 percent increase in Pell Grant funding, which helps needy students pay for college, but so far his promise to increase the actual Pell Grant award by $100 (from $4,050 a year) has gone nowhere four years in a row, even though the cost of college has shot up 34 percent since 2001.

We'd think this would cause our Pell Grant-lovin' congressman some alarm, and that he'd be out pounding his podium or something. But no. So we posed the question to Ric, who was kind enough to respond with a letter. We've run his answers through the Happytown™ Pol-Speak Translator™ to help you, the reader, figure out what's really being said:

Ric: "As you know, President Bush's budget request is merely a suggestion to Congress and is not binding in any way."

Translation: Bush's poll numbers suck, so we don't have to listen to him anymore.

Ric: "I continue to support an increase in the maximum award. However, each $100 increase in the maximum award is estimated to cost $420 million, on top of the increases for the ever-growing number of students participating in the program. In light of the 5.5 million students receiving Pell Grants, compared to only 3.9 million when I was elected to Congress in 2000, it has been a challenge to even keep the award level."

Translation: Pell Grants are fine until they get in the way of more tax cuts.

Ric: "Pell Grant funding has increased 74 percent since I was elected in 2000, from $7.6 billion to $13.2 billion today. A good education is a child's passport out of poverty, and I'll continue to be the biggest supporter in Congress for the Pell Grant program."

Translation: Get off my back already.

Thanks for keeping it real, Ric!

In our continuing effort to keep you informed about the latest reality show to fall madly in love with Orlando, we note that ABC's Supernanny is coming to town March 4 and March 5 to scout for out-of-control, snotty, smart-mouthed little punks in need of a good caning. If you want to let this British shrew into your home – and who wouldn't? – show up at the Dock Stage at Downtown Disney with your progeny from hell between noon and 4 p.m. March 4, or noon and 6 p.m. March 5. Be nice, though, or she'll make you sit on the naughty mat.

This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman, James Carlson, Emily Ruff and Bob Whitby.

Rate the Protest

Orlando is such a hotbed of activism these days it's hard for concerned, engaged citizens to figure out where to exercise their First Amendment rights. So we've devised this quick guide to local protests to help you weed out the duds. Happy shouting!

WHAT: MoveOn.org's Constitution Vigil protest, Feb. 22.
WHERE: Lake Eola Park, directly across the street from U.S. Rep. Ric Keller's office.
CAUSE: Speaking out against President Bush's illegal wiretapping via the National Security Agency, a top-notch reason for raised dander.

SIGNAGE: Eh. "Stop illegal wiretapping" is succinct, but not sexy.

STREET THEATER: This one was deadly dull until everyone started somberly reading the Bill of Rights, which was sobering. Nice touch!
Theatrics Theatrics

BEN MARKESON: No, Orlando's favorite anarchist was not in attendance.

RAGE: There were a few heated conversations, but rage? Not so much. More like restrained disgust.




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