March 20, 2003. American troops were roaring through Iraq, just hours into the invasion. In Washington, Republicans were preparing some shock and awe of their own, popping corks and congratulating each other on what seemed then like two sure, decisive victories: over Saddam Hussein and over those damn Democrats.
So they introduced a resolution that read in part:
"Whereas the United States Armed Forces and allied forces are performing their missions with great courage and distinction in carrying out air, land, and sea attacks against Iraqi military targets; and "Whereas the ability of the Armed Forces to successfully perform their mission requires the support of their nation, community, and families: Now, therefore, be it
"Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That the Congress expresses the unequivocal support and appreciation of the Nation - "(1) to the President as Commander-in-Chief for his firm leadership and decisive action in the conduct of military operations in Iraq as part of the on-going Global War on Terrorism;
"(2) to the members of the United States Armed Forces serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, who are carrying out their missions with excellence, patriotism, and bravery; and
"(3) to the families of the United States military personnel serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, who are providing support and prayers for their loved ones currently engaged in military operations in Iraq." See how they did that? Shamelessly bundling support for rank-and-file military personnel with gushing praise for Dear Leader Bush (and his specious claims about Iraq and terror)? It was almost elegant in its shamlessness and transparency, but still, most of the then-voiceless and cowering Democrats took the easy and safe route and voted for it. Only 11 in the entire House of Representatives refused to be bullied. Stephanie Tubbs Jones was one of them.
This brief episode in her long career received mostly passing attention in the coverage of her death. But it spoke volumes. Congresswoman, your courage will be missed. - Frank Lewis
Catalyst Church in Kent, apparently tired of luring new souls through crappy music, like decent Christians, is trying a new strategy to appeal to university students in need of a little warmth in the heart: shot glasses. Inscribed with the words, "CatalystChurch.com: Give Us A Shot," these shot glasses are sure to make an excellent conversation piece for Sigma Chi's next Tequila Night.
Says pastor Jonathan Herron, " A few years ago I had the opportunity to study improv comedy in Chicago under Tina Fey. I quickly realized that humor builds bridges. A church handing out shot glasses? That's funny." But only about as funny as improv, Jon. And nice name-dropping, dude - you just got miles out of that Thursday night class you went to once, 15 years ago.
Herron continues in his press release: "What we discover from the Scriptures is that Jesus spent more time in bars and parties than he ever did in temples." Apparently he's referring to the little-known Gospel According to the Chuckster, who focused on the disciples' recollections of Jesus' fondness for 10-shekel wing nights, turning Judas' wine into water as a joke and, of course, the emotional but largely incoherent Sermon on the Table.
Seriously, though, we think the shot-glass idea is kinda cool and can't wait to see what they inscribe on condoms. - James Renner
BOMB, REPEAT, BOMB
If you had any misgivings about annual "family friendly" air shows being used as pseudo-recruitment galas, then get ready to seethe in the juices of certainty.
At this weekend's Cleveland National Air Show at Burke Lakefront Airport, participants as young as 13 will be privy to the Virtual Army Experience. Part of the urban warfare game and set in a mock Humvee in a desert village, VAE arms participants with realistic, recoiling weapons to ward off enemy combatants.
According to the U.S. Army, "Participants employ teamwork, rules of engagement, leadership and high-tech equipment as they take part in a virtual U.S. Army mission." It's every desensitized gamer's dream: Killkillkill.
And that's the problem, according to several prominent speakers who held a rally on Monday at the downtown Soldiers and Sailors Monument to decry the spectacle.
"In our wildest dreams or nightmares, we never imagined that one day we'd see, in the United States of America, a game in which kids as young as 13 would be encouraged to kill, would be given a kill score and be taught that soldiers live in make-believe shooting galleries, where no one sees a drop of blood or suffers the horrors of combat or retains the scars of having killed somebody," said Mary Reynolds Powell, president of the local Veterans for Peace and a combat nurse during the Vietnam War. "Nor could we have believed that this game would be promoted at a festival billed as a wholesome family event. Right now, we can all wonder what kind of looking glass we've fallen through as a society."
Wearing an "Imagine Peace" button on his suit coat, the Rev. Wayne Arneson of West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church noted the Bible story about Cain and Abel. "It should remind us that violence is a long-standing part of what it means to be human," he said, "but that it is part of a curse upon the human race."
Rosemary Palmer, who ran unsuccessfully in the last primary against Congressman Dennis Kucinich and whose son was killed in combat in Iraq, said the mission of the game is tainted: "They may be able to beat the game, but they won't be able to beat the reality of war."
Reynolds Powell urged those present to keep calling the city and sponsor Discount Drug Mart to protest the gruesome sideshow; the Army bowed out of a Milwaukee festival earlier this summer after a wave of complaints. She said she recently received a letter from Mayor Frank Jackson stating that he would ask the Army to raise the minimum age requirement from 13 to 17. (Jackson's office did not confirm this for Scene before press time.)
Walter Nicholes, the 84-year-old secretary for Veterans for Peace and a World War II veteran, helped Reynolds Powell lay a wreath at the end of the rally, at the monument's entrance, where stone war widows stare forlornly at the wounded and dead. He stifled tears when "Taps" was played.
"Who can argue that violence is an epidemic in the United States, especially among our children?" he wondered aloud. "So if we're caught up in a dangerous epidemic, isn't it sensible to try to end that epidemic?" - Dan Harkins
This week we spin an extended dance mix of debauchery and doom straight outta incomp-town, Cleveland, one of Forbes' fastest-dying cities in America ("Only Pittsburgh and New Orleans have seen sharper population declines this decade, and New Orleans was because of a natural disaster"). Woo!
Lorain's law director, Mark Provenza, popped by Lakewood police early last Wednesday morning after ramming into a Bunts Road home in the middle of the night and then taking off. The resulting DUI was Povenza's third since 2001 and second in Lakewood (in '01, he lost control of his vehicle and ran over a fire hydrant on Clifton). If this guy is law director, what exactly constitutes irresponsible behavior in Lorain?
Incidentally, the same day, Cleveland party-boy Councilman Zack Reed was released from a correctional facility after serving 10 days on DUI charges related to his November 2007 arrest. Maybe he and Provenza should rent a place together and hire a driver, then pitch the whole thing as a sitcom. Speaking of jokes that would be funnier if they weren't true, former County Recorder Patrick O'Malley's troubles just keep mounting. Last week, police removed his children from his custody and placed them with his former wife after finding the children wandering down Solon Road at 5 a.m. The kids reportedly told police that "daddy was grouchy." O'Malley's response? He threatened to call his former college roommate and current County Prosecutor Bill Mason and tell on them. Why is this man not already several years into a lengthy prison sentence? Oh, right, it's not illegal to be a loathsome bastard.
And in Cuyahoga County, sometimes it's not even illegal to act like one. Judge Alison Floyd dismissed the case against a troubled youth who'd admitted stalking and threatening an assistant county prosecutor (and who'd previously been arrested six times). The judge "sent a message to him that I'm fair game," the assistant prosecutor said.
Willoughby Hills will pay Elizabeth Miles, a city employee, $85,000 to settle a sexual harassment suit she filed against the city and former Mayor Ken Lorenz, 62. They met while she was a bartender at a strip club. He gave her a job with the city, but the suit claims he also showered her with gifts, money and unwanted affection. Lorenz also paid many of her bills. Miles said she accepted the mayor's largesse only because she did not want to lose her job.
Following up on a Local Dirt hotline tip: The U.S. Postal Service last week opened an investigation into the Cleveland Post Office's vehicle repair and maintenance contracts made to outside companies. Said Scott Balfour of the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, "We want to determine if the work the outside contractors say they are doing is actually being done." Wait - what? We understand the words, but strung together in that order and spoken without a hint of sarcasm … sorry, we need to sit down; it feels like the whole county is spinning.
Frank Russo's son, Vincent Russo, has closed the Burke Lakefront office of his consulting company. The feds took his computer during the county-corruption raids last month, but there's still a couch and refrigerator in need of a good home. Caveat emptor: The couch may look new, but it still kinda smells like Jimmy Dimora's ass.
Some Cleveland City Council members are talking up a charter change that would allow the council to meet in private ("executive session," as state law calls it; or, as we prefer, "the most comfortable forum for discussing a certain Council member's grab-asstic tendencies"). Cleveland Law Director Robert Triozzi, who also likes the idea, explained, "We just felt we should have the same ability as the county commissioners." Yes, because the example you want to follow is that of a legislative body whose most powerful member currently has more federal agents on his ass than Osama bin Laden.