We go partying downtown with Buddy and the devil .. er Dave Weldon, Jr. 

Buddy Dyer doesn't like to talk about extending drinking hours downtown, the one issue his downtown supporters, and his own Downtown Strategic Transition Team, urged him to take up. But this year, just like every year for as long as we can remember, the city council wants you to get really shitfaced on amateur night, aka New Year's Eve.

We're not complaining, and we'll be out there among the unwashed showing 'em how it's done. We just wonder why, if something is good for one night a year, it can't be good for the other 364. We also wonder why Dyer doesn't have the spine to bring the issue up. Speaking of partying, remember last year when Hizzoner kicked the street cafés off Church Street, and swore that it wasn't being done solely to benefit Kres Chophouse, the owners of which really, really wanted valet parking in front of their posh meat palace? Turns out it was! We are as shocked as you must be.

Owners of bars located on Church Street originally asked to close their little corner of downtown 18 times during 2005 for street parties. But the Downtown Development Board, an arm of the city, thinks that many closures would conflict with that valet parking we all love and need when dining at Kres. The DDB wanted to go down to eight events, but eventually settled on 14 – a number the city council agreed to Monday – plus several more partial closures that wouldn't get in the valets' way.

Incidentally, some bar owners say adding the valet and getting rid of the street cafés brought in a higher-class clientele, which helped business. Speaking of partying, Part 2: Joel Springman, the owner of Wall Street Plaza, won't have any problems closing his street. In approving the consent agenda – where all of these items were placed and passed as formalities – the council granted Springman permits for block parties every Friday and Saturday night in 2005, except for the separate permits he'll need for three-day St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo weekends, including twice-a-month "rock the block" parties featuring local bands.

Remember this name: Rep. Dave Weldon Jr., the Republican from District 15 in Melbourne. It will go down in infamy. It's Weldon's moniker that's tagged to the abominable bill underhandedly signed into law Dec. 8 by the devil, er, president himself: the Weldon Amendment. To paraphrase, this legislation allows any health care professional in any state to refuse, for any reason, to perform an abortion – even when a woman's life is at risk or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

The amendment contains the same provisions as the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act that was initiated by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and lobbied for by the National Right to Life Committee, but was not approved by the Senate. In a last-minute manipulation, the Weldon Amendment was slapped onto the $388 billion omnibus spending bill that Congress had to approve to avoid a government shutdown. Worse yet, a week after the maneuver, not a newspaper within this state had printed a word. (Way to go, Sentinel! You guys rock.)

Meanwhile, the California attorney general announced intentions to sue the federal government Dec. 9, and the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association filed suit Dec. 13 to obtain a temporary restraining order to stop enforcement. Sue Idtensohn, president/CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando, explains this blatant discrimination against women: "The Weldon Amendment allows any health care entity, including your gynecologist, your HMO, or even your local hospital to refuse to provide you with basic information about abortion, for any reason. Of all people, Weldon, who is a physician, should know that this amendment will place incredible barriers to women seeking access to safe reproductive healthcare."

Don't you just love Republicans?

And now over to the other side of the aisle for a moment. The Association of State Democratic Chairs was in town recently. Sadly, we missed most of the doings.

See, the Happytown™ Mobile Information Center has a knack for getting itself lost on Disney property. Blame it on the tourists, or blame it on Mapquest, or blame it on the fact that every single road out there seems to be named Buena Vista this or that, or blame it on the fact that we try to stay out of that part of town. In any case, we spent 20 minutes wandering Mouseland in search of the Wyndham Palace. We wanted to be there to hear the stump speeches of the nine men running to replace Terry McAuliffe as head of the Democratic National Committee. (State party leaders will vote on Terry McAuliffe's replacement in February.)

We had assumed, given the presence of such high-profile big shots – OK, Howard Dean was there – that there would be loads of national media types. Not so. There was an assortment of notebook-carrying journalists, some laptop-juggling bloggers and a few TV crews, but nowhere near the hubbub we anticipated.

We were told that each of the candidates would give a five-minute speech, then the Dems would kick all of us media/blogger types out for a closed-door session with the wannabe leaders. Which is exactly what happened.

While we jockeyed for a place in the herd at the rear door, we gleaned what we could of the party's current plight. It ain't a new story: Dems need to reach out to their base, Dems need to define their message, Dems need to listen to state party leaders, Dems need to show America they don't hate freedom, blah, blah, blah.

All of which leads us to conclude that, in fact, there is absolutely no hope for the Democratic Party. Jump ship now.

Hallucinate. Deregulate. Love your mate. The animal we ate. Choose your fate, then. And, if you're lucky, that fate will involve a neck-wrapped braided belt and a beat-off session that includes every word rhyming with "masturbate" that your busy Australian mind can conjure.

Seven years ago, INXS flop-fop hero Michael Hutchence dropped his slinky panties for the last time and gave the world a moment's pause by introducing the term "auto-erotic asphyxiation" into common parlance. Apparently seven years is long enough. Hold on to your headshot, Suicide Blonde, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Enter Mark Burnett, tasteless progenitor of the primetime "reality" impulse (The Apprentice, Survivor), with a really bad idea. See, INXS has had a hard time filling the pointy shoes of their deceased leader, but CBS thinks you might be the person who can do it. (We told them otherwise, as we know you quite well, but would they listen?) Are you? Well, hair-challenged idiot of unearthed sexual persuasion, here's your chance.

On Jan. 22 and 23, the exploitative folk from CBS will be in town to search for the next suicidal candidate to lead a band beyond its prime into further failure via television exposure. And guess what? You could be the singer!

Men and women age 21 and up can call Peter Cohen, talent producer, at (310) 471-3781, ext. 202, to set up an audition. Men and women age 21 and up can also choose to spare themselves the humiliation and beat off in private.

Here at Happytown™, we prefer the relative peace of the bathroom stall for our self-flagellation; plus we sold our copy of Kick five years ago to score a cheeseburger. We're just going to throw our head back, close our eyes and pretend this charade isn't happening. Do you have any hand cream?



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