A debate last week on the Ohio Senate floor almost ignited a race riot.
It began as a discussion about a bill to declare September 22 Emancipation Day to commemorate Abraham Lincoln's freeing of the slaves. But Senator Ray Miller (D-Columbus), a black-history expert, questioned the wisdom of honoring Lincoln. He argued that Honest Abe only pushed for freedom so he could recruit former slaves into the Union Army. If that didn't work, he thought it'd be a swell alternative to just ship 'em back to Africa.
That's when Senator Jeff Jacobson (R-Dayton), an expert on snow angels and cotton candy, rose to Lincoln's defense.
"I would invite you to my library," responded Miller. "Then you would have a bit more knowledge about history."
Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland) tried to quash the beef. "No more dissertations on your view of history and President Lincoln," he sternly told Miller. "Is that understood?"
But the debate nonetheless devolved into something resembling a youth baseball game in Cuyahoga Falls. Jacobson rushed over to Miller and got in his face. Democrats cleared the benches.
"I'm never one to miss a good fight," says Senator Marc Dann (D-Liberty). "I probably would have laid him out."
Sadly, nobody was maimed or killed, which would have improved state government. Troopers rushed the floor before anyone could punch like a girl.
But Miller's not done debating. "I'm going to recommend a reading list for [Jacobson]," he says.
Undies in bundles
Vermilion police are investigating the latest strike in what may be an undergarment-laundering ring.
Earlier this month, two teen sisters reported that 20 pairs of underwear were missing from their home. The discovery came several days after the girls saw a middle-aged man peering through their bedroom window. The man fled on foot and was never found.
Police believe the crime may be connected to a February heist of a teenager's bras and panties from a home a block away. In that incident, muddy footprints were found in the home and on a chair pushed up to an unlocked bedroom window.
In both cases, only clothing was reported missing.
"We're hoping if people not only in Vermilion but in other communities may have experienced this, that they'll come forward," says Police Chief Robert Kish. The perpetrator, he says, could be anyone from a sexual predator to a really bad practical joker.
In the meantime, investigators are reviewing tapes of Animal House and Porky's for signs of a motive.
Where's the cool chicks?
Cleveland is one of four finalists for the GOP's 2008 National Convention, an event that would bring thousands of guys with cowboy hats to town. But to get the nod, the city will have to outdo New York, Minneapolis, and a place called "Tampa Bay," which apparently is near Narnia.
Cleveland might make the perfect host. It sits in a crucial swing state and isn't "overrun by homos," according to a GOP spokesman.
Still, Punch can't help but wonder: Why isn't Cleveland -- which is overrun with Democrats -- bidding for that other national convention? Wouldn't it draw, like, way cooler chicks?
Ohio Democrats think so. "Republicans may shop better, but we party better," says spokesman Brian Rothenberg.
But luring all those drunks was up to former Mayor Jane Campbell, who predictably put the bid on her List of Things Not to Do Because They Require Way Too Much Work.
Democrats asked cities to submit proposals last fall. At the time, Campbell, who now teaches Harvard students how to suck at being mayor, was too busy plotting her own ass-kicking to think about the city's economic future.
But Campbell, who never met a mistake worth owning up to, paints it a tad differently. "Such a submission would require a strong community group to raise the funds," she tells Punch via e-mail. "We did not have that level of community support."
Translated into English: "It's all you guys' fault."
Dropping a dime
The Toledo Blade may be the best daily in Ohio. In 2004, it won a Pulitzer for a series on Vietnam War atrocities. Last year, it was a finalist for breaking the Coingate scandal. But it appears all that success has made management a bit Nixonian.
Our tale begins last year, when a Blade reporter anonymously wrote the Pulitzer board a letter titled "Deception and Coverup Taint Award-Winning Coingate Series." He alleged that the paper's then-political reporter, Fritz Wenzel -- who has since become a Republican consultant -- knew about the investment and campaign contribution scandal 10 months before the 2004 election, but sat on the story.
Executive Editor Ron Royhab says it ain't so. But when he learned of the letter, he hired a private eye to ferret out the newsroom rat. Last week, 14-year veteran George Tanber owned up to the anonymous missive and was promptly fired.
While nobody likes a rat -- they're not very cute or furry, after all -- the hunt for the saboteur seems a bit, well, hypocritical. With newspapers constantly squawking about government attempts to force them to give up anonymous sources, some find it odd that an editor would launch a Kremlinesque hunt for the double agent.
Tanber was particularly upset that the Blade hacked into his personal e-mail accounts in search of evidence. "I am stunned that the Blade accessed my personal e-mail accounts," he says. "I have nothing to hide in the content . . . but it's scary. I don't know if it's illegal, but it should be."
Yet Royhab doesn't see it as a double standard. To him, it's fitting punishment for not manning up. "I think when somebody is a whistleblower, they need to acknowledge who they are," he says. "They don't send it anonymously."