Assault on Freedom, Part 6,542 

Ohio's now trying to save you from . . . tanning.

Guinness certified Ohio as the world-record holder for statewide bans back in 2005, when lawmakers outlawed "doing anything kinda gay," which ranges from driving a Prius to tucking in your shirt.

But the legislature doesn't want to hold the record; it wants to obliterate it. So Representative Courtney Combs (R-1940s Italy) is pushing a new law that would ban anyone under 18 from using a tanning bed.

Combs apparently finds the current law way too lax: After all, it dictates that teens who want to get bronzed must get permission from Mom and Dad. And what the hell do they know?

But Combs has encountered an unexpected foe: fellow Representative Tom Brinkman (R-Prehistoric Man). "We give the parents responsibility," Brinkman tells Punch. "This isn't a socialist society that dictates . . . how you raise your kids."

(Editor's note: The following paragraph contains toxic levels of irony. Pregnant women and those with high blood pressure should consult a physician before reading on.)

Brinkman, you might remember, is the Cincinnati Republican with something of a fetish for banning stuff. He championed Ohio's gay marriage ban, helped to pass a ban on lap dances, and tried to ban abortion. He also sued Miami University, claiming its same-sex partner benefits violated state law. And he introduced a bill that would ban adoptions by gays, or anyone who owns the My Fair Lady soundtrack or has ever eaten at Johnny Mango.

So why does the tanning ban fail to meet the Brinkman Litmus Test?

"I'm kind of for freedom," he told The Columbus Dispatch last week.

For the (dead) birds

Behind all the shooting flames, particulate matter, and migrating coal dust, Mittal Steel is a warm and fuzzy place where animals and industry live in harmony. So says the company's new PR campaign.
Mittal, which is under federal investigation for allegedly operating a blast furnace at illegally high levels, has discovered a nest of peregrine falcons in an abandoned tower at its mill in the Flats. If that doesn't prove there's nothing to worry about, then what does?

It's "another testament to Mittal's environmental stewardship and the vast improvement that has been made to the quality of the air and water in the area," reads the company's latest newsletter. "We have to admit a steel mill isn't the most cuddly place in town -- but it seems to suit these peregrine falcon nestlings just fine."

In other words, "If these here birds haven't croaked, then you and your family should be just fine . . . we think."

But Liz Ilg of Ohio Citizen Action, whose campaign against Mittal sparked the EPA's investigation, isn't falling for the old cute little birdie trick. Neighbors with orange stains on their homes and kids with chronic asthma may provide better testament.

"What is Mittal's public relations department saying here? That the falcons have read Mittal's pollution report and decided it's worth the risk?" asks Ilg.

She says falcons should consult Jeff and Arlene Green, a Slavic Village couple who live next to the plant and once found four dead birds in their backyard in one day.

"It looked like they just fell out of the sky in midflight," says Jeff. "Their wings were sticking straight up."

Fly away, little birdies! Fly while you still can!

Utah Sphincter Alert!

The federal government -- at least the Utah version -- has a hard-on for Cleveland brothers Sam and Michael Harb.

Last week, the two owners of Movies by Mail, an internet porn distributor in our lovely city, were indicted in Utah on obscenity charges. They were hit after federal agents there ordered such highbrow cinema as Cocktails 5. Now the Harbs are looking at five years in prison.

Besides the prospect of spending a fortune in legal fees, Sam Harb is miffed at why his company is being singled out.

"I could go online and find 10 to 20 websites who are selling the exact same product," he says. "There's probably 500 stores across the country that have it stocked."

It seems the man with the answer is Brett Tolman, a 37-year-old U.S. Attorney appointed by President Bush last year. The movies, which fall into the gonzo category -- meaning they don't even try to have a plot -- apparently offend Tolman's Mormon sensibilities, which tend more toward marrying 13-year-old cousins.

"The male penetrates one of the female's anus with his penis in order to engage in anal intercourse," the indictment reads. "She asks, 'Doesn't poop come out of there, mister?'"

It seems that asking legitimate anatomical questions in Utah is not fitting for polite company.

Social justice is passé

Roe Green, daughter of the late U.S. District Judge Ben Green, has been quite generous in honoring her father's alma mater, Case Western Reserve's law school. In 2003, her family gave $2 million to refurbish the school's library, which was subsequently named after Dad.
But Roe has decided to close her checkbook because the school's new dean, Gary Simson, is creating a Center for Social Justice.

Roe says she wants the school to focus on more relevant issues, like terrorism law and international law, which she described in an interview with Crain's Cleveland Business as "things that are happening today." [She didn't respond to repeated calls from Scene. ]

It would seem an odd argument to make in Cleveland, the Poorest City in America™, considering we've run away with the predatory lending title for the entire decade, and our city and state governments make Russian kleptocrats look like licorice thieves.

Yet apparently none of this can be seen from the window of Roe's $600,000 Aurora condo.

Case professor Henry King is stunned by her logic. "We can't turn our back on social inequality," he says. "[Case] can be a beacon of light in this city and in the nation for standing up for human rights."

Roe's other charitable endeavors include a $6.5 million gift to the Kent State theater and dance department, which shouldn't be in jeopardy as long as the school agrees not to stage Les Misérables.

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