When All Else Fails . . . 

It's time once again to play Let's Attack the Homos!

In an effort to drive out Ohio's three remaining homos, House Republicans introduced a bill last week that would ban gays and bisexuals from adopting or fostering children.

Although most gays fled when we took the rest of their rights away -- can they even go to Dillard's anymore? -- the latest plan, hatched by Ron Hood (R-The Middle Ages), should get rid of the rest. Only closeted gays -- like certain Republican leaders -- are expected to stick around.

Hood and his nine co-sponsors didn't call Punch back, probably because they were busy drafting their next bill, the Wouldn't It Be Cool If We Just Burned Them at the Stake Act.

But their latest law doesn't target only gays. It also would prohibit anyone living with a gay person -- a roommate, a child, a Summit County Republican chairman -- from adopting. For example, even a well-respected, God-fearing man who happens to have a gay daughter -- someone like, say, Dick Cheney -- couldn't adopt, if his daughter lived under the same roof. Otherwise, the adopted kid might catch gayness.

Critics say the bill would make life difficult for caseworkers, who would have to ask prospective parents awkward questions like "How many pairs of Diesels does your son own?" It would also keep parentless kids in the custody of Ohio, costing the state money it otherwise could invest in MacGyver action figures.

"It's so ridiculous," says Sue Doerfer, director of Cleveland's LGBT Community Center. "How are they going to find out if people are gay and lesbian?"

Sources say that Republicans also wanted the ban to affect "anyone who has seen Brokeback Mountain," but the provision was scratched when Hood accidentally walked into a theater playing the movie. The same sources say that Hood now thinks Heath Ledger "totally deserves the Oscar."

Fraud protection?
For more than a year, state Senator David Goodman's whistle-blower bill sat untouched in committee, begging for someone to pay attention or at least buy her a drink. But passing a law that lets ordinary people sue companies that defraud the government apparently isn't high on lawmakers' to-do list.

So last week, Goodman (R-Columbus) found a way to make it more palatable to fellow Republicans, by taking the power away from the little guy.

Under the new version, only the attorney general could sue companies who screw the state. A whistle-blower could bring it to his attention, but if the attorney general didn't want to sue -- see Jim Petro -- the whistleblower couldn't either. Bonus round: All the evidence would be kept secret, so the rest of us would never know what happened.

State Senator Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) calls it the "Attorney General Cover-Up Act." It simply makes it easier for the Petros of the world to cover for their friends. After all, when Petro learned that Tom Noe was stealing millions from the state and that brokers were charging the state exorbitant fees, he didn't exactly leap into action.

Goodman says that he simply wants to protect legitimate companies from being "blackmailed and coerced" by disgruntled employees. Whistle-blowers stand to get a percentage of the damages if they win, and he doesn't want anyone scamming the system.

Plus, he's being realistic. This is Ohio, where legislators depend on corrupt companies for free rounds of golf and Florida vacation homes. Bills that limit the perk menu aren't exactly popular.

"I don't think it would be possible to pass it any other way," he says.

Company man departs
When Punch last caught up with The Akron Beacon Journal, its parent company, Knight Ridder, was slashing the office supply budget and trimming the paper's size to that of a fourth-grade book report.

Managing editor Mike Burbach denied claims that reporters were being asked to recycle notebooks. He also ran a curious December Q&A with himself, saying that the paper's Paris Hilton physique was due to slow profits -- all while the BJ's profits exceeded 20 percent, among the best performances in the chain.

But it appears that not even Burbach is buying his own line anymore. Last week, he resigned.

At least he'll no longer have to make up lame excuses for such embarrassing headlines as the one that appeared February 9: "Neil Diamond special found on VHS."

Yes, the story was from February 9, 2006. We are not making this up.

Alcoholics Anonymous
In order to showcase Cleveland's fabulous nightlife, The Plain Dealer's marketing department recently dreamed up a new photo section for Friday magazine, called "Get Caught Up in Friday: The Plain Dealer's Go Guide for Northeast Ohio." But it seems to be afraid of offending its elderly readership base by actually showing people having fun.

Last weekend, the paper sent photographers to bars with orders to catch attractive young hipsters dancing, chatting, making out -- doing everything except drinking.

"It was the strangest thing," says 26-year-old Lindsey Conway, who was approached by a photographer at downtown's V Lounge. "The photographers said they were out taking pictures of people at different bars, and they asked if they could take ours. My friend and I were like, 'OK, do you want pictures of us with our martini glasses?' And the guy was like 'No! no! We're not allowed to have alcohol in the picture.'"

Conway laughs. "We agreed to keep our glasses out of the picture, but we thought that was a little strange, since we were at a bar and all."

When Punch asked the marketing department about the photo, we were greeted with a terse "no comment" before the line went dead. Yet a scan of Friday's photo section revealed 28 people -- and not a single American-made brewski.

Since liquor is to Cleveland what surrender is to France, The PD may be running afoul of truth-in-advertising law. This could be avoided by simply retitling the section "Scenes From Rural Utah on a Tuesday Night."

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