At a Statehouse pep rally for the Bush/Cheney reelection effort a few weeks ago, Senator George Voinovich criticized Democratic presidential contenders for ripping the administration's handling of Iraq.
"I think they ought to be careful what they're saying," said an ever-vigilant Voinovich. "We have thousands of men and women overseas."
After the rally, Dan Williamson, a reporter for The Other Paper in Columbus, pressed Voinovich to name what he found so disturbing. "It's just the whole tone of this was just some kind of, some -- that the president had some motivation that's not in the best interest of the American people," said the senator.
Of course, when a Democrat occupied the Oval Office, Voinovich wasn't so eager to play the patriot card. In 1999, he declared the Clinton-backed NATO bombing of Yugoslavia "one of the worst foreign policy decisions of the century." Indeed, Voinovich sounded very much like today's Democrats. He questioned the quality of U.S. intelligence -- the CIA should have seen that Slobodan Milosevic would unleash atrocities once the air war started -- and lamented the loss of prestige with Europeans, "who look upon this war as a giant U.S. bombing video game." Say it ain't so, George.
Daze of wine & gold
The newly intriguing Cavaliers have caught the fancy of television programmers everywhere. After being all but banished from national TV since the Ron Harper era, the team will appear nationwide 14 times this season. And when the Milwaukee Bucks visited Gund Arena last week, viewers in Wisconsin were treated to their first-ever televised preseason game.
Even -- gasp! -- Pittsburgh is getting in on the action; station WBGN is scheduled to broadcast 30 games. But given the steel towns' rivalry -- not to mention that Pittsburgh's a hockey town -- it seems a bit like televising Israeli basketball in Damascus.
"If the NBA were playing on the back porch of the average Pittsburgher, they'd pull down the shades and call the cops," says Mark Madden, a sports talker on the city's ESPN radio affiliate and a columnist for the Post-Gazette.
WBGN doesn't seem to have given much thought to the matter. Questions for the station's program director might as well have been posed in Portuguese, for all the info they yielded. What has the city's response been to airing Cleveland games? Dunno. She did say that the station has carried the Cavs in years past, but she was unaware of whether viewers had noticed.
"I'm not even remotely aware of that, which is probably all you need to know," says Madden, who has yet to receive his first on-air call about LeBron. "I can't picture a Pittsburgher going to Cleveland and rooting for the Cavaliers. It boggles my mind that Cavaliers management would even think that would happen."
New Cavs President Len Komoroski, incidentally, is a Pittsburgh transplant and an old college chum of Madden's. "If anyone should know there'd be no interest in basketball or Cleveland in Pittsburgh, it's Lenny," says Madden.
Clear Channel cares
After coming under growing attack for gobbling up hundreds of radio stations (six channels in Cleveland alone) and then steadily reducing local content, Clear Channel now seems to be taking a page from the first George Bush, who once tried to counter the notion that he was unmoved by ordinary concerns by famously proclaiming, "Message: I care."
On the same day that regional programming VP Kevin Metheny was addressing a group on the odd topic (for Clear Channel, at least) of the care and feeding of creative people, his business-side counterpart Jim Meltzer appeared on a PR/media panel exploring local business media.
Meltzer wowed the crowd with his aggressive approach to thorough, investigative news: "I'm in the sound-bite business," he said. "I admit it. I'm in the story-count business. How many stories can we pack into five minutes, to keep listeners from switching the channel?" But he was only warming up. Afterward, during a Q&A session, he was asked what the long-term vision is for Clear Channel's news efforts. "I don't think it's anything other than branding and helping to sell more shares and make the stock go up."
At least you have to give him points for honesty.
Some pet owners have begun sacrificing the souls of their pets -- to God. Greenmont Veterinary Hospital sponsors a Blessing of the Animals, where the good Rev. Brad Purdom lays his hand on any cat, dog, or gerbil presented. But it's hard enough for humans to stay awake during church services -- baptizing pets seems closer to cruelty. After all, Fluffy can't tell you whether she's Muslim or Mormon, and presumably animals should have the right to worship as they choose.
"We feel it's like having a baby," says Rachel from the Animal Protective League. "Just like a baby, a pet adopted into a family is accepting the religion of that household." But since a lot of pets are adopted from shelters, how do we know our cat isn't already a Moonie or a Jehovah's Witness? "I'm giving them a non-denominational blessing -- just recognition that the love of God is bestowed upon all His wonders," says Father Brad.
Ohio's miracle industry
Ohio's economic future has arrived, in the form of a goofy-looking, long-necked mammal. Alpaca farming is a growth industry -- in the sense that it has nowhere to go but up -- and Ohio is in on the ground floor.
There are about 160 alpaca farmers in the state, tending 6,500-plus of the furry South American critters -- more than in any other state in the nation, according to Ohio Business magazine. Alpaca owners say the animals are gentle and low-maintenance. They adapt to all kinds of weather, half a dozen or so can live on a single acre, and they even dump in a communal pile. What more could you ask for?
Granted, the business model is a little sketchy. The Medina-based Ohio Alpaca Breeders Association admits that there's not much of a market for alpaca fleece at the moment, despite its supposed superiority to wool. The real money, it seems, is in convincing others to go into alpaca farming, too. "Currently, the demand for high-quality alpacas exceeds the supply in the U.S.," OABA's website notes, "so your investment will usually be recovered through selling the offspring."
What, us worry?
Flagging attendance and dwindling corporate support have buffeted the Rock Hall. Now comes word that it may face more competition.
Efforts to build a National Music Center and Museum in Washington, D.C., are slowly picking up. While the $220 million museum would open in 2008 at the earliest, it's not too early to wonder whether it could siphon away visitors from the Rock Hall, where paid attendance dropped to an all-time low of 377,566 last year.
If hall officials are worried, however, they're good at hiding it. Spokesman Todd Mesek paints the prospect of another music museum as a chance to share ideas and swap exhibits, as the hall does with the Experience Music Project in Seattle. "They're more our friends than our foes," he says.
Maybe so. But D.C. offers just a few more tourist attractions than our humble hamlet, and the music center would boast three performance halls. Sounds more like a potential adversary than ally.