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Space Spin-off 

All right! Senator John Glenn has made a successful return to outer space. When can we send the rest of Congress up into orbit? Hopefully, that new space lab that's on the drawing board will have 535 seats. If ya wanna talk about the space program's spin-off benefits, just imagine the money we'd save from a yearlong Congressional mission to Mars. A whole year with no new spending bills passed? We could wipe out the national debt.

True, Senator Spacenik ain't needed on this shuttle mission, but at least he's qualified to be there. Sure, some say this is Glenn's political payoff for stonewalling the John Huang Chinagate hearings. And yeah, this gave Al Gore a reason to visit Clevo for another taxpayer-financed photo op and fund-raising foray. (For the children, of course.) Despite all that, Mouth can still savor this mission.

For one thing, NASA provides a good example for bloated government agencies to follow. The example is, yes, you can downsize, work smarter, and still achieve goals. Heck, NASA landed that picture-taking Pathfinder on Mars for $263 million. Indeed, comrades, it truly is cheaper to go to Mars than it is to build an NFL stadium. (Here in Bucharest, at least.)

Point number two: The space program ain't only about space. Our country's world leadership was built on our spirit of exploration. From Lewis and Clark to Neil Armstrong, it's not just about reaching the destination, it's about the knowledge gained along the way.

Which leads to our main spin-off benefit. The media, and consequently the nation, is focusing on something based on the pursuit of knowledge. Not on pandering to couch potato voyeurs eager to sit in judgment of the latest JonBenet soap opera. Not on deifying Hollywood stars who live off the marketability of their faces and then complain about the paparazzi. Not on glorifying pampered jocks whose success depends more on their bodies than on their brains.

Nyet, nyet, nyet. For once, we're glorifying the pursuit of knowledge. Now that's one helluva beneficial spin-off. And if it takes using John Glenn as a PR tool, even Mouth can swallow that.

Perils of Patronage
When it comes to political patronage, handing out full-time sit-on-your-ass government jobs is only part of the problem. The big waste comes when politicos hand out government contracts to their fave friends. This stuff is rarely uncovered, but amazingly, there's currently some digging going down in Summit County.

And we've got some fresh indictments! Yep, William Hartung just got hit with a conspiracy charge and eight counts of bribery. And this guy ain't the usual low-level scapegoat. Until last January, Hartung was the right-hand man to Summit County Executive Tim Davis. In other words, he was the county's top appointed bureaucrat.

The Hartung charges center on his awarding of "welfare-to-work" contracts. The prosecutors say he got kickbacks from a contractor who was training welfare recipients to do stuff like asbestos removal. (Hey, there's a nice long-term career.) If convicted, Hartung could get $2.25 million in fines and up to 85 years in the clink. Two months back, the county's welfare head honcho and his top consultant were convicted of bribery. Hmm, it seems like the investigators are working their way up the county food chain. Could the county exec be next?

Speaking of Tim Davis, where in the world was he when these indictments came down? In Germany, again! Yep, Travelin' Tim was on another two-week trade mission, just like last April when the Hartung allegations first broke. Hell, it may not hurt to check his luggage for extra deutsche marks.

Welfare Pimps
Mouth enjoys power games like the NBA Lockout. These long Jock-Outs let you see whose side the sports media takes. True, many try to avoid the issue. But as it drags on, most become total welfare pimps for the team owners.

There are rare exceptions, like in last Sunday's Plain Feeler. No jive, Bud Shaw made the NBA's taxpayer-funded arenas the focus of his column. Heck, he used "tax" or "taxpayers" eight times! He even mocked Calves owner Gordon Gund and his "capital improvement" rent deductions.

One point worth exploring further is that cities are "bystanders" in this lockout. Hey, there are plenty of bystanders. You have the tax-pushing politicos who use sports to drug voters into swallowing trumped-up "economic spin-offs." You have the league's "broadcast partners" who need those many hours of programming the sport provides. Then you have the fans and taxpayers, who are like stockholders without a vote. Nobody ever takes their side. (Except Mouth.)

But you can count on the broadcast partners to take the owners' side. Like WTAM yakker Bruce Drennan, who's been calling the NBA players "prima donnas," and begging for 'em to cave in. Ya don't expect him to talk about the Gunds' cushy arena deal, do ya? Funny thing is, during the Tribe playoffs, Drennan accidentally criticized his lord. Of NBC's Jim Gray he barked, "What idiot hired him?" We can't pinpoint the idiot at NBC. But we do know it was just a couple years back that Gordo Gund hired Gray to do Calves games on TV43.

Puncture Party
Mayor Mike White wants a piece of your next body piercing. The plan is to inspect Clevo pierce parlors once yearly and charge 'em $100 for an annual permit. When new industries grow, it ain't long before government horns in on the party.

But not so fast. City Council may object! Heh-heh, we're laughing, too. Really though, some councilmen think maybe piercing should be banned from the whole city. Gee, are pierce patrons dying? Nope, but Clevo already bans tattoo shops. What's one more small step for our overprotective Nanny State?

Best of all, this issue provides a nice symbolic way for politicos to "feel your pain" and heroically save you from it. Like Councilman Tim Melena, who told The Feeler, "We're talking about holes in all parts of the body!" Chill, Councilman, it ain't like anyone's innards are gonna come leaking out.

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