Maybe it’s the decadent cocktail of endless sunshine and pill mills, giant insects and swampland, religious crazies and wang-shaped geography that gives this southern purlieu a bazaar touch. (I like to call it Insanity Fair, though I recently found out, sadly, I’m not the first to get punny with Thackeray.) If something kooky happens in the bottom half of our old U.S. of A, readers, bet confidently: there’s a good, even great, chance it happened here. So every Monday, we’ll detail some of Florida’s crazier, zanier, or just plain hilarious news items you might’ve missed over the past week. This week includes Terry Jones and his mustache, voter suppression, and the ever-pressing animal-dyeing legislation that crossed Rick Scott’s desk.
1. Gainesville Pastor still annoying as ever
Mustachioed attention-whore Terry Jones, who got famous trying and burning the Koran in Gainesville in 2011 and showing complete disregard for consequences and human life, told a posse of 20 in Dearborn, Mich., Saturday, “Islam has one goal: world domination.” Dressed in a black leather jacket and sunglasses and looking like that old guy from American Chopper, Jones went on about “taking back America” and standing up to Muslims who are always pushing “their agenda on society.” His rally blocked traffic to a mosque, upsetting worshippers, who you know, wanted to exercise their First Amendment rights as Jones was exercising his. All the while an electronic billboard in front of the mosque read “Happy Easter,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
2. Florida’s No. 1 … in voter suppression
Remember when we totally fucked up the 2000 election? Like, so badly that it went to the wrong guy? And then all those wars happened, and weapons of mass destruction didn’t happen, and missions went unaccomplished, and the U.S. economy imploded? Well, Florida came out of that with one good thing: early voting. No longer wanting to be the epicenter of political fiascos, we thought, why not help boost turnout in an orderly, responsible way? Be a proud example of democracy instead of total buzzkills. Even former Gov. Jeb Bush got on board with early voting, saying in 2004, “I think it’s great … It’s another reform we added that has helped provide access to the polls and provide a convenience. And we’re going to have a high voter turnout here, and I think that’s wonderful.”
But when Obama trounced Republicans in 2008, the GOP started saying No to all that democracy stuff, and moved in 2011 to limit early voting from 14 days to eight — even eliminating voting on the Sunday before the election, when black churches traditionally mobilize their constituents.
But that’s not all. Florida took the top spot in last week’s Center for American Progress’s voter suppression report for two more reasons. In addition to curtailing early voting, Republicans in Florida set up a more onerous standard for ex-felons to restore their voting rights than was previously in place; in March 2011, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet imposed a minimum five-year waiting period telling ex-felons, you’re not really Americans, at least not for the next half of the decade. And then there are the weird new requirements on voter registration groups such as a mandate to submit completed registration forms within 48 hours of completion or face a hefty fine, which forced the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization that encourages civic participation, to call it quits in Florida.
.On Thursday, The Colbert Report‘s investigative team looked into a string of violent attacks on Florida manatee mailboxes. With the help of the “Sea-Cow Victim’s Unit” and forensic psychologist Stephen Reich, who provided a look into the mind of the Manatee Mutilator, the team started to piece together a disturbing trend. “Lock your doors America,” the host warned, “Because no matter where you are — as long as it’s Mid-, South, Coastal Florida and you have a manatee mail box — the mutilator could strike at any time!”
4. Leave the kitties alone!
Over the weekend, a Facebook page dedicated to stopping the eviction of the Orlando Loews Hotel‘s feral cat community (which until recently coexisted peacefully with the pet-friendly management) posted photos of cats injured by traps. “We have heard horrible reports of cats held outside in traps for up to nine hours, baking in the hot sun and in temperatures of 90 degrees with no food or water. “Eyewitnesses have posted photos of cats who have been injured from the frantic struggle to free themselves — at least two with a bloody nose, another with a gash on her head,” Becky Robinson, president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
5. Dye, Dye My Darling
Rick Scott ignored over 4,000 emails and phonecalls from worried animal lovers, and instead thrilled five year olds too young to realize such actions can be cruel, when he signed a bill last week reversing a 45-year-old ban on dyeing animals. Although it was signed just before Easter, the holiday fun won’t commence until next year as the ban stays in effect until July 1. I mean, why color eggs when you can dye baby rabbits and chicks, right? Moreover, who cares about the sky-high homeless-pet population numbers? Parents buying their kid a blue, green, pink chick and then dumping it at a local overcrowded shelter isn’t your problem. At least Rick Scott doesn’t think so.