The Duct Tape Caper

There's conspiracy afoot in Avon.

Still have doubts about that vast right-wing conspiracy in America? Consider the case of duct tape.

Two weeks ago, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge became a national punch line for suggesting that the combo of duct tape and plastic sheeting could actually save people from chemical or biological attack. As one writer sneered: "Homeland security is now a Monty Python skit."

A plot by Monty Burns is more like it. Despite the derision, duct-tape sales skyrocketed. And as Washington Post writer Al Kamen and an army of lefties have been quick to point out, the nation's leading manufacturer of duct tape -- with a 46 percent market share -- is none other than Duck Products, located in Avon. It was founded by local boy/entrepreneur/philanthropist Jack Kahl, who could safely be called a major donor to the Republican Party.

During the 2000 and 2002 elections, Kahl contributed more than $130,000 to Republicans, including $13,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and $86,000 to the Republican National State Elections Committee.

So when Ridge next announces that the best way to stave off a chemical attack is to buy lots of bananas, you'll know Chiquita boss Carl Lindner's fat checks are finally paying off.

Trademark-free America

Apparently, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America wasn't happy about Scene's recent campaign to warn readers about the dangers of marijuana. In case you missed it, the central thrust was this: If you smoke marijuana, you will either A) kill 8 million people, B) live in a tent with no cable, or C) have great difficulty catching fish.

But the Partnership seems to believe our campaign was off-message. When an astute reader contacted the organization for an explanation, it regretfully had to inform him "You've been had. The 'ads' didn't come from the Partnership, and those familiar with the law regarding unauthorized use of trademarked material are investigating the matter now."

That investigation was presumably conducted by one Edward P. Kelly, master New York barrister and counsel to the Partnership. In a letter to Scene, he used a lot of big words like "trademark infringement" and "false representation" and "designation of origin" and "dilution." Unfortunately, we went to public school. We didn't know what the hell he was talking about. But we did get the part about "refrain from using our client's mark in your magazine."

So that's how these things work, huh? Our campaign gets everyone in Cleveland to stop smoking pot, and some New York big shot wants to glom all the credit.

Thanks . . . whoever you are

The Utne Reader has named Shaker Heights one of the country's "10 Most Enlightened Suburbs." In its March/April issue, the magazine, often referred to as the thinking person's Reader's Digest, lauds Shaker for embracing "controversial pro-integration policies [that] have prevented it from becoming either a segregated white fortress or a resegregated black enclave."

High-minded praise, indeed. But Mayor Judy Rawson isn't quite enlightened enough. She had no idea what the Utne was before last week. "I would have guessed that it was a magazine for Earth shoes," she jokes.

While the censors slept

Hearty congrats to WOIO news anchor Sharon Reed, nominated by Philadelphia Magazine in the category of "Most Bizarre Moment in Philly TV News."

Reed, who worked at Philly's Channel 10 before arriving in Cleveland last year, is alleged to have threatened fellow newswoman Alicia Taylor on an Internet message board. "You ever had a street fight, bitch?" Reed supposedly asked.

Yet Punch thinks such banter would be a vast improvement over the usual anchor chatter. Imagine a world where Wilma Smith says, "And now we go to that punk-ass Dick Goddard, who best be bringing us some goddamned sunshine if he don't want no heel of my Gucci-ass boot done stuck up his . . ."

Suddenly, Cleveland TV news is bearable.

Bingo Bandit strikes again!

If you absolutely must steal from a charity, Punch suggests you find one that hasn't already been hit. Alas, this sage counsel comes too late for one thief, who in January was caught grabbing cash from the Eastlake North High bingo game.

Yes, this is the same North High that saw more than a million dollars of its bingo proceeds disappear over the last decade. The same North High whose Booster Club president and assistant principal went to the slam for skimming the game ("A Matter of Principal," January 17, 2002). Such charities learn the hard way about the importance of monitoring their "volunteers."

So surveillance cameras were rolling when one volunteer recently decided to shove wads of cash up her sleeves. Given the celluloid evidence against her, the woman had little choice but to confess. She has since paid $2,250 in restitution and is now awaiting trial.

But Punch just had to know: What is it about North High bingo that brings out the thieves? "It's common in all bingo halls," answers Eastlake Lieutenant Tom Doyle. The difference, he thinks, is that the Eastlake police bust those who steal from the kitty, while other departments let the state worry about enforcing nonprofit gambling.

Conventional wisdom

As our esteemed business leaders rush headlong into saddling residents with the bill for a new convention center, it's perhaps instructive to examine the experiences of other cities.

Today's lesson comes from the fair burg of St. Louis. It, too, is an aging industrial city that last saw its heyday in, say, 1953. And it, too, was stuck with a convention center from the 1930s. So, based on a study titled "Everyone Will Come Here if We Just Build a New Convention Center," it constructed the Cervantes Center in 1977.

Alas, not everyone came. Civic leaders knew the reason: The Cervantes was obviously too small. We must expand!

A new study was commissioned. Though it noted that the Cervantes was clearly a failure, it could be magically turned into a success if only its size was doubled. After all, the best way to repair any failing enterprise is to make it way bigger. Everyone knows that. And the expanded center, according to the new study, would quadruple business.

By the early '90s, the new center was built.

Sadly, from 1996 to 1999 -- even prior to the depression -- the new and improved structure generated the same amount of business it did in 1991 -- before the center doubled in size. The good news: It cost only $400 million in public funds to learn this valuable lesson.

Stay tuned in upcoming weeks as Scene presents new installments of our continuing saga, "Great Moments in the Convention Business."