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Fourplex of Evil 

Oatmeal salesmen pose new threat to America.

The Quakers have long been pacifists known for their commitment to nonviolence, justice, and oatmeal products. But their actions were a carefully planned ruse. In reality, they were a sleeper organization that patiently waited 200 years for the right moment to destroy America.

So says a recently leaked Pentagon document, which outlines the Department of Defense's spying on antiwar groups. One event the government monitored was a March 19 demonstration in Akron organized by the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker front group. The protest was among many listed as a possible "threat" to the country.

"It's a combination of being shocked and not surprised," AFSC's Greg Coleridge says of the revelation. "It was about as lawful and peaceful as they come."

He claims the group was merely exercising its constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and expression. But those principles only sound good on paper -- not when you're the one being criticized. The Pentagon apparently believes that Islamic extremists are working in league with other terrorist organizations, such as the Methodists. The Quakers would seem a natural ally, since their radical history includes occasionally playing their fiddles for the neighbors too loudly.

But Coleridge refuses to acknowledge his group's role as the fourth spoke in the Axis of Evil, henceforth known as the Fourplex of Evil. "Violence is against our nature," he claims, and the spying "is an act of paranoia, intimidation, and just sheer stupidity. No wonder they haven't been able to track down Osama Bin Laden."

Tell it to your pals in the gulag, Boris.

Orphans of the 4th Estate
After Punch noted that the Akron Beacon Journal froze its office-supply budget, forcing reporters to share pens and notepads [December 7], the Poynter Institute, a Florida journalism think tank, promptly sent the squeezed newsroom a case of notebooks.

The gesture wasn't taken kindly. House apologist David Giffels quickly penned a column claiming the "rumors of Dickensian squalor" were "untrue." He even quoted veteran reporter Phil Trexler as being "offended" by Poynter's emergency-relief effort. "Send 'em back," Trexler declared.

But if reporters are maintaining a brave face, readers can be forgiven for mistaking the paper for a postcard from Aunt Martha. The same week Giffels attempted to dispel myths of the Beacon's troubles, the Opinion section was cut in half, the Sports section was scaled down to a minimum of four pages and a max of six, and the Lifestyles section was combined with the Local section, which was already wearing a size 2.

The wanton chopping could be justified, if the Beacon were losing money. But the problem is the opposite: It's just not making enough.

Financial reports from parent company Knight Ridder show the Beacon's profits exceeding 20 percent, among the best performances in the chain.

Tales from the Politburo
Despite a cast of promising candidates signing up for 2006 elections, leaders of the Democratic Party's old guard are doing their best to keep Ohio a one-party state.

First they chose Chris Redfern as the new state chairman, over the objections of urban and minority interests -- the only people who've actually turned out to vote in the past decade.

Then UAW leaders endorsed Cincinnati lawyer Paul Hackett over Avon Congressman Sherrod Brown. Though the fiery Iraq war veteran has become a liberal sweetheart with his blasts at the Bush administration and his apparent ownership of an operative set of testicles, early polls show him 29 points behind the congressman. Brown, moreover, may be Ohio's most popular pol with the union rank-and-file. Which leaves the UAW with divided resources -- its leaders pushing Hackett, but members backing Brown.

Stranger still was the union's endorsement of candidate Marc Dann for attorney general. The state senator from Liberty rose from obscurity with his guerrilla campaign to publicize the Taft coin scandal, but he's not exactly AG material. He's a divorce lawyer by trade, a profession ranking slightly above "suicide bomber" on the public-affection scale. He's also been reprimanded by the Supreme Court for blowing off a client's case.

Somewhere in New York, the guys who make Republican attack ads are salivating.

The UAW didn't even consider former Cleveland law director Subodh Chandra. In fact, Chandra spokeswoman Scarlett Bouder says that union leaders wouldn't even return her calls. She doesn't have a beef with the UAW's choice, but at least bosses could have comparison-shopped. "Marc Dann will eventually be the albatross around the Democratic Party's neck," she says.

With party leaders back to their old tricks, he'll likely have to wait in line.

Barefoot and pregnant
We may suck at everything else, but when it comes to keeping our women barefoot and pregnant, Ohio kicks major ass.

So reveals Planned Parenthood's annual survey on access to reproductive health care. Ohio once again finished in the Top 10 when it came to restricting birth control, reducing money for family planning, and taking away minors' access to care. On the upside, we did spend a lot of money on abstinence-only education, which at least is more effective than trying to convince women to turn lesbian.

"Ohio is approaching Mississippi as the absolute worst state for access," says Mary O'Shea of Planned Parenthood of Greater Cleveland.

Thanks for noticing, Mary, cuz we got more game where that came from.

Next year, the legislature will likely examine another bill that would broaden Ohio's definition of abortion to include the morning-after pill. It would also protect doctors and pharmacists from legal action as a result of their refusing to prescribe or fill orders.

In a related story, Greyhound offers daily departures to the civilized world. Call 216-781-0520.

The smell test
Rest easy, citizens of Akron: Your tap water has returned to normal levels of disgustingness.

The musty odor and taste that showed up in Akron's drinking water a few weeks ago was caused by algae, says Mike McGlinchy, head of the Public Utilities Bureau. But the water is now back to normal, which means you can drink it if you have all your shots.

Treatment-plant staffers confirm McGlinchy's assessment by noting the water now passes the smell test. A few weeks ago, they described the scent as "straight booty." It now receives a superior "middle school locker room" rating.

"It met all Ohio EPA requirements for drinking water," McGlinchy says, presuming this will reassure us.

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