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 going of Orlando’s Favorite Republican, Ric Keller!

This week’s episode finds Ric standing up for journalists and children, except, you know, the poor ones who don’t have health insurance. They need to get jobs or something. Bootstraps, kids, bootstraps!

On Oct. 16, Ricky-boy took to the House floor to support the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007, a federal shield law that would prevent prosecutors from forcing journalists to turn over confidential sources.

“Whistle blowers, with inside knowledge of corruption, might be discouraged from talking to reporters if they fear their identities will be disclosed, and their jobs placed at risk,” Keller said. “That’s why protecting the public’s right to know is needed for a healthy democracy.” Amen, Ric!

Then on Oct. 23 Keller voted to extend the Higher Education Act for six more months. He also lectured his colleagues on the need for a permanent law to provide year-round Pell Grants – Ric’s favorite government wealth-redistribution program – and improve the affordability of college. RK is in the house!

But suddenly, on Oct. 25, Keller’s bleeding heart turned cold. He once again sided with Republicans to vote against the renewal of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, despite changes the Democrats made to lure moderate GOPers to their side. The bill passed, but not by a wide enough margin to override President Scrooge’s, er, Bush’s promised veto. Why? Because, silly, giving health care to poor and lower-middle-class kids is a step toward socialism!

“Democrats are financing their plan for socialized medicine with a gigantic tax increase,” Keller warned back in September. See, the Democrats want to raise tobacco taxes, which would hike the cost of the cigars our leaders smoke in shadowy rooms while plotting the merger of the United States and Mexico (unless they sneak them in from Cuba, in which case they just tell the IRS to piss off). Keller, meanwhile, is supporting a Republican version of SCHIP that relies on tax credits. Because tax cuts solve everything.

Thanks, Ric, for standing up for poor kids who need help with college, and not wasting our tax dollars on little snot-munchers without health insurance. Survival of the fittest! (Oops, Darwin said that. Sorry.)

From the Ain’t Gonna Happen Desk comes this tidbit: Doug Guetzloe is suing the Orlando Sentinel for libel.

Guetzloe and his lawyer, Fred O’Neal, are accusing the daily of explicitly and implicitly painting Guetzloe as an “extortionist who uses the threat of opposing tax or toll increases as a way to extort a payoff from a public agency.” Guetzloe also says that the paper holds a grudge against him because of his staunch anti-tax positions and, as such, vilifies him.

Well, duh. By this point you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in this town, outside of Guetzloe’s radio audience of seven, who doesn’t vilify him. And Guetzloe did plead no contest to some election-related shenanigans last year. If his appeals don’t work out, he’s facing a two-month stay at the 33rd Street Inn.

Guetzloe says the Orange County comptroller’s recently released audit of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority basically absolves him of any wrongdoing in that mess. Still, in the Sentinel’s defense, it did look a little fishy: Guetzloe had received $107,500 for “consulting,” routed through the authority’s public-relations firm.

We’ll keep you posted. If you’re the gambling sort, we’ll be offering two-to-one odds that this case is tossed by February.

We don’t usually patronize pawn shops, except when we need to procure a Glock to help entice grandma into an early release of our inheritance or to sell that Service Merchandise engagement ring from our last cheating suitor.

But apparently some people do go to pawn shops – crazy people! Value Pawn and Jewelry, the Maitland-based pawn empire with 62 stores in the Southeast, recently documented what they considered their 10 most absurd pawned items and sent them our way. And guess what? Desperation is mildly amusing. Drum roll, please …

No. 10: Louis Vuitton socks; No. 9: a spare tire; No. 8: an artificial limb; No. 7: a gold tooth grill and gold fillings; No. 6: an H&R Block tax refund debit card; No. 5: a used toilet from a home remodeling project; No. 4: a glass eye; No. 3: Chuck E. Cheese tokens (“the customer mistakenly thought they would appreciate in value” – hilarious!); No. 2: a “personal stimulation device”; No. 1: a stripper pole, with box and instructions.

What does it all mean? Nothing.

Flu season has descended on us faster than a phlegmy sneeze on a public handrail. The Centers for Disease Control – by way of the Orange County Health Department – dropped their yearly warning this week, stating that those who are less than perfect should probably consider a flu shot. Among those who should be concerned – kids, seniors, preggers, the usual – the health department dropped this typo into our hilarity lexicon: “anyone with a weekend immune system.” We’re not sure, but we think we have one of those.

This week’s report by Jeffrey C. Billman, Billy Manes and Shan Stumpf.

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