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From cash-hungry strippers to protesters dressed as vaginas, your gonzo guide to the Republican National Convention
Scott's biggest priority in office, though, has echoed his Republican overlords' national plans: Suppress poor and minority voters. Last summer, he signed a law that slashed early voting from 14 days to eight and outlawed voting on the Sunday before an election, coincidentally the day that black churchgoers usually drive en masse to vote for Democrats. The law made it more difficult for liberal-leaning students to update their addresses to get ballots, and it threatened voter-registration groups with fines. Even the Boy Scouts of America took offense.
And Scott targeted Hispanics by ordering a purge of "potentially ineligible" voters from the rolls. It turned out that hundreds were perfectly legit citizens—including one guy who had survived combat in World War II.
You might think you're safe from this insanity in your East Village apartment or Los Angeles rancho, but the Republicans' Frankenstein-like experimentation in Florida is already beginning to spread. The most infamously insane idea to go viral is the Stand Your Ground law, at the heart of neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman's defense for fatally shooting unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
Normally, in order to claim self-defense, someone is required to retreat from a threat before opening fire. But in 2005, Florida put the onus on prosecutors to show shooters' lives were not in danger. Soon, the legislation quickly spread to 24 other states.
In Florida, Stand Your Ground has been used by drug dealers to escape murder charges, invoked by one guy after shooting a bear, and cited by a jogger who beat a Jack Russell terrier. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the law is unevenly enforced to favor whites over blacks and Hispanics. And researchers at Texas A&M University recently found it has increased homicides across the nation.
Sadly, Stand Your Ground isn't the only scourge Florida has unleashed upon the States. Decades of deregulation have made it the epicenter of the country's foreclosure crisis. That same blind faith in business has also turned it into a veritable Scam-istan, ruled by Ponzi schemers such as retiree-bilking Bernie Madoff, cricket-crazy R. Allen Stanford, golden-toilet-owning attorney Scott Rothstein, bogus University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, and dozens of others.
Meanwhile, poor residents have borne the brunt of steep budget cuts. Programs for mental health, substance abuse, and the homeless have been slashed. So when "Miami Zombie" Rudy Eugene ate the face off of indigent Ronald Poppo a few months ago, Floridians weren't nearly as surprised as the rest of the nation.
Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn has Technicolor nightmares of what could go wrong at the RNC. The moderate Democrat didn't ask for his city to host the event. But if anything goes awry, it will be endlessly looped on television and YouTube, and he'll be blamed.
"Other than the Olympics, this will be the most-watched television event in the world this year," he says. "So yeah, hosting a convention in the middle of hurricane season in this economic and political environment leads to a little gray hair."
Inside the convention center will be titans of industry, the billionaire Koch brothers, hordes of Tea Partiers in tricornered hats, Bill O'Reilly and Fox News freaks, Karl Rove with his Crossroads GPS Super PAColytes, and a few thousand fawning female Christian fundamentalists toting "Enraptured by Paul Ryan" signs.
On the other side of the picket line will be those resisting America's rightward shift: Code Pink matriarchs clad as papier-mâché vulvas, carbon-neutral nouveau hippies, and the moldy leftovers of the Occupy movement. More than 15,000 protesters are expected. Videos threatening violence, supposedly by international hacker group Anonymous, have already been uploaded online.
"Mayor Buckhorn can shove his authoritarian zones up his ass," says a masked protester in one video. "When protest becomes illegal, there is no other option left but to fight."
Buckhorn says demonstrators have nothing to fear: "I've been very clear from the get-go that if you're coming here to protest, you're welcome. But if you step out of line, and if you're coming here to cause mayhem, we are going to deal with you."
The mayor is a cheery man with bright, beady eyes dropped like blueberries onto a doughy face. In true American fashion, he'll be happy if he can survive August with maximum profit and minimum scandal.
"I'm agnostic until the convention is over. For me, it's not about red state, blue state. It's about green," Buckhorn admits, estimating that the convention will bring Tampa more than $175 million.
Bipartisan bonhomie goes only so far, though. The Secret Service prohibits guns within the convention center, but in a state with more than a million concealed-weapons permits, Tampa will be swimming in sidearms. When Buckhorn asked the governor to ban concealed weapons temporarily in town during the convention, Scott scoffed.
"I'm not an anti-gun kind of guy," Buckhorn says. "I've got guns. Up until probably six months ago, I had a concealed-weapons permit. But to interject guns into a potentially combustible environment to me is absurd."
He says Scott's snarky response was probably written by the National Rifle Association. "He has his opinions about the Second Amendment, and he isn't going to let the safety of the public or our police officers get in the way of it."