Last week, Cleveland State's Center for Election Integrity invited Ohio Congressman Bob Ney (R-Scotland) to discuss voter fraud, disenfranchisement, and what Washington is doing to shore up the country's electoral process.
For a group with Integrity in its title, Ney was an obvious choice. He's at the center of Ohio's latest bribery scandal.
Political consultant Michael Scanlon has pleaded guilty to sugaring up Ney with a Super Bowl trip, a golf outing to Scotland, and other gifts in exchange for helping some Indian tribes Scanlon was shilling for.
Before his CSU talk, Ney denied any wrongdoing and vowed to cooperate fully with investigators, which is Washington-speak for "not cooperate at all."
Cleveland State law professor Candice Hoke says the group invited Ney in June, when he was merely known as Congress' most strident protector of predatory lenders, not Jim Traficant's cellmate-in-waiting.
Withdrawing the invitation wasn't considered, Hoke says. "We recognize that if politicians come to talk, they will have different kinds of baggage."
Needless to say, Ney's baggage doesn't exactly fit easily in the overhead compartment. "We've taken some hits for letting Representative Ney take the floor," Hoke says with resignation.
Save the pencils!
The Akron Beacon Journal, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning paper now operating as a 'zine for the geriatric set, is getting squeezed to comedic proportions by San Jose's Knight Ridder, its parent company.
Knight Ridder is under a dual assault by investors, who are demanding 30 percent profit margins, and the company's own leadership, namely CEO Tony Ridder, the heir-in-charge who's proved strikingly adept at running Knight Ridder into the ground.
Executives recently asked employees to share pens and notepads with other departments, since no more office supplies will be purchased this year. The problem is that some departments have already run dry, including the photo department, which ran out of batteries and paper. "They did make an exception and ordered the photographers new batteries," says reporter Paula Schleis.
"It's been a tough year," concedes managing editor Mike Burbach. "The budget has been very tight and we're saving where we can, but I don't think it's gotten to the point where reporters are without pens and notepads. At least I certainly hope not."
Plain Dealer reporters were prepared to launch an emergency relief effort by shipping office supplies to Akron, but they were told not to bother. "Frankly, with all this talk about the Knight Ridder sale, we don't want them wasting their goodwill on notebooks," Schleis says. "We'd rather they wait and use it to help the people who are going to lose their jobs."
In the meantime, if the Beacon is soon printed on piles of stolen bar napkins, you'll know why.
A family affair
After being laid off by Graco Children's Products, Wayne Nix was ready to take anything. Then his wife told him about her cousin's 28-year-old son, Mike Siebert, who runs a duct-cleaning business in Garfield Heights. For $77, Siebert's company, Extra Clean Services, promises to suck the dust out of your heating ducts to help you breathe easier.
Nix landed a job. But after three days, he says his conscience made him quit. He also filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
Instead of sucking the dust from vents, Nix says, they'd reverse the vacuum and blow the dirt back down the ducts. "We could do a whole house with 15 vents in it in less than half an hour," he says.
But the biggest scam, Nix explains, was the sanitizing spray Siebert sold for an extra $100. When it ran out, Siebert filled it back up with water and a few cups of carpet cleaner.
"I'm like, 'What the hell is that? That's carpet cleaner,'" Nix says he told his boss.
"No, that's sanitizer," he says Siebert told him.
When Scene called Siebert, he initially denied knowing Nix or even being a duct cleaner. But he soon changed his tune. He says Nix -- or as he calls him, "white-trash government-scam-operator Wayne; I don't even remember his last name" -- was just mad because Siebert refused to pay him under the table.
"The allegations made by this low-class, unintelligent individual are just allegations, with zero fact behind it," says Siebert.
Brainiacs for nudity
The brainiacs of Cleveland's Mensa chapter took a break from their usual seminars on chaos theory and fashion tips for taping up their eyeglasses to tackle a far more interesting topic: strippers!
For its monthly dinner, held last week at an Old Brooklyn spaghetti house, Mensa invited Angelina Spencer to break down a bill in the state Senate that would cripple Ohio's $160 million adult-entertainment industry ("Save Our Strippers!" June 15, 2005). Spencer is president of a national strip-club trade group -- and, as she proudly announced, a former stripper. "I told you!" one nerd bragged, having accurately predicted the pretty blonde's former vocation.
Spencer said she would spare the group a reading of the entire 29-page bill. "Just read us the dirty parts!" someone hollered. (Breaking news: Mensa people are really, really horny.)
Spencer heeded their request, focusing on just the filthy parts -- like how the bill would outlaw lap dances and force clubs to close at 11 p.m., thus killing the industry and ruining Punch's Wednesday nights.
The bill now awaits action from the Senate Rules committee, Spencer said, at which point one angry Mensa member stood up and shouted something very cool in Latin . . . we just have no idea what.
The cold truth
On November 22, the night before the new Xbox 360 went on sale, Avon police were called to BJ's Wholesale Club after a few strident videogame addicts refused to leave the store. The cops then decided to eject an entire parking lot full of enthusiasts, who were willing to brave the overnight cold for the latest in couch-potato technology.
Police were unknowingly doing them a favor. BJ's received only eight machines, and "all eight were gone in eight minutes" when the store opened the next day, says manager Russ Moore.