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Nude 'n' Lewd 

Bars, booze, butts, boobs, bouncers, and bureaucrats. How can Mouth not bite into an issue like that? Yep, that law banning nudity in Ohio taverns is freshly rewritten and back from the constitutional graveyard.

Ohio's Liquor Control Commission just revised Rule 52, with expert legal assistance from Attorney General Betty Montgomery. Earlier this year, a U.S. District Court declared the 38-year-old Rule 52 "constitutionally overbroad" in a case involving Tiffany's Cabaret. An appellate court also found the rusted rule too vague and canned a few other nudity citations. Both courts cited First Amendment freedom of expression arguments.

This spate of rule rejections sent Battleship Betty and Ohio's liquor controllers to the law library for a rewrite session. But wait a minute. Ain't the Ohio Supreme Court about to consider the nudity citation of a Dayton strip joint? True, but so what if Betty and the booze bureaucrats have to revise it again? The point is to look busy.

The best route in these government-fabricated "victimless crime" issues is to let the consumers vote with their wallets. But nyet comrades, the all-knowing Big Brother can't allow that. Step aside, you behemoth bouncers, the liquor control agents are here to protect those poor dancers from assault with a deadly greenback.

So what's this new Rule 52 include? It's still vague, but let's chew over the four main points anyway. If alcohol's being served, it's illegal to "engage in any lewd or disorderly activities." We sure hope that applies to Big Dawg pulling his shirt off in the Dawg Pound. It's also illegal to "appear in a state of nudity." So don't risk taking a beer into the crapper. A liquor agent may be lurking in the next stall. Finally, you are hereby forbidden to "commit improper conduct of any kind" and "touch, fondle, or caress pubic areas, the buttocks or female breasts." Heck, that may be verboten in a bar, but at least you can still go to the Oval Office and do it.

'Net Income
Money, honey. It makes the political world spin. Once upon a time, you could count on the big media outlets to dig into campaign contributions and look for quid pro quo paybacks. But now their role is to sensationalize crime and lead the cheers for more authoritarian controls. (Hey, it's for "the common good," comrades.) That leaves it to voters and privately funded watchdog groups to find out who's buying whom.

Amazingly, your uncivil servant Mouth has learned of one elected official who's trying to help us out! Yep, State Rep Ron Amstutz of Wooster has introduced a new campaign finance bill. And this one actually gets to the heart of the problem--providing timely public disclosure and easy public access to all campaign finance reports.

By 2000, all statewide candidates collecting over $10,000 would have to file electronically. By 2002, it would apply to all legislative candidates, political parties, PACs, and advocacy groups. And here's the good part--the Ohio Secretary of State would have to post all those reports on the Internet within five business days. (Hey, didn't the current secretary once promise that? More on him in the next item.)

The non-partisan Ohio Citizen Action watchdog group developed this legislation with Amstutz. Since the OCA folks have had statewide candidate reports up on their website since January, this plan might actually work! And if you don't believe Mouth, just go to the OCA site at http://www.ohiocitizen.org and see for yourself.

Amstutz introduced the bill in the current "lame-duck session" to spur debate, and Mouth is glad to help out. He'll reintroduce it when the new session begins in January. Secretary of State-elect Ken Blackwell has pledged to have statewide candidate reports on the secretary's website by his one hundredth day in office. The state's website is at http://www.state.oh.us/, if you wanna keep watch.

Only problem is, 82 percent of U.S. households aren't hooked up to the 'Net. Until more homes get hooked, maybe the state can send a copy of the full report to every Ohio post office. Just put 'em right by the wanted posters.

Spinning Wheels
Could the end of the hated E-Check car inspections be just around the corner? After all, Secretary of State/Governor-elect Bob Taft said he planned to eliminate E-Check, and we gotta hold him to it.

Just in case he starts lollygaggin', we've got a new class-action lawsuit to spur him on. This suit claims the state's contract with the monopoly E-Check provider, Envirotest, is illegal! Among the plaintiffs are the Kent-based Coalition Against Testing and Chesterland lawyer Tim Grendell, the hubby of State Rep Diane Grendell. She's been a leading E-Check critic.

This case has been assigned to Summit County Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove, who's now presiding over the fun and games of the Ernie Tarle bribery trial. (We'll get to that next week.) The plaintiffs say the contract violates the Ohio Constitution by creating an "unlawful venture" between a private firm and the state, which gets $2.50 from every $19.50 E-Check fee.

Yeow, if that argument holds up in court, the future sure ain't bright for "public/private partnerships." Look for the proponents of corporate socialism to join together to kill this E-Check suit. Jeez, that leaves us to rely on tap-dancing Taft.

Load of Bull
Preservationists want 'em to stay. The Port Authority honchos want 'em to go. So does the unofficial voice of Clevo's top shadow governments, the editorial page of The Plain Feeler. That means it doesn't look good for the Hulett Unloaders.

Hey, so what if the Huletts have historic landmark status. The Port board has designed an expansion plan with no room for these monstrous old iron ore unloaders. And The Feeler decreed that the burden of proof is on the preservationists.

Port expansion is needed, so Mouth can swallow removing three Huletts. But why the hell can't we leave one of the four there? What better symbol to say, "Here sits a working port with a long maritime history"? Nyet, comrades, we prefer to rewrite history here in the Iron Curtain burg of Bucharest.

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