New Kook Crusade

Technology research must be stopped, says God.

Evangelicals sure know how to make friends. After trying to kill off Ohio's strip-joint industry, home to 20,000 jobs, they're now after . . . technology?

Yes, the Christian Coalition and Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati are using their direct access to God to fight Issue 1, Governor Taft's $2 billion bond initiative that would go to business development, rebuilding infrastructure, and technology research.

Yet the technology part could include stem-cell research on embryos. And that's where Jesus' varsity squad draws the line. Apparently, God doesn't want embryos to be used for scientific experiments -- you didn't get the memo? -- even if it could help cure Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes, heart disease, and other modern plagues.

"Issue One means state funding to kill innocent human life through research," warns Right-to-Life's website. "This is direct support for the culture of death."

Of course, there are good reasons to vote against Issue 1. Given Taft's unique sense of fiscal responsibility, half the money is likely to go to campaign contributors, while the other half will be invested in Rob Schneider-autographed baseballs.

But killing innocents for research? Naah. Some money could go to embryonic studies, says a Taft spokesman, yet it would be conducted on existing stem-cell lines, not human sacrifices.

What would Jesus steal?
"God bless you. Let's pray." They're unusual parting words for a thief. But Eric Anderson is not your everyday con man.

In the last year, Anderson has walked into three Parma-area businesses, pretending to be a priest and claiming he's $30 short on cash. Using God as his witness, he promises to pay the people back, with interest.

So as not to inconvenience his victims, the good father tells them to meet him at ATM machines so he can repay them with direct transfers. Anderson then "deposits" about $280 into their account, asking his victims to give him back $200. They get to keep the remaining $50, he tells them, as reward for "being a good person." Then he asks his victims to pray with him.

Only days later do victims realize that Anderson's bank-account number is bogus.

It's a good gig -- which is probably why Anderson hasn't bothered to vary his scam, despite owning a generous list of convictions for similar cons, says Parma Detective Bill Mauer. But last week, Anderson was arrested on two counts of theft.

The Choir crisis
Speaking of God, He's apparently to blame for the East Side's rampant poverty. So says Cleveland's highest ecclesiastical authority, the Free Times.

In last week's cover story, the paper's thesis went like this: The East Side has few stores, but lots of churches. Ergo, houses of worship have crowded out business. And since churches don't create jobs, they're to blame for unemployment.

One activist even castigated them for "bleeding dry her already poor community" with their nefarious Sunday collection plates and periodic fund-raisers.

Unfortunately, the Free Times had to disregard all known economic theory to make its point. After all, attending church is not exactly compulsory; people seem to enjoy it. And the East Side is so loaded with vacant property, only a complete moron couldn't find land for a store or factory.

But when you're battling a foe as wicked as God, concessions of logic must be made. That's just good journalism.

Republican race card
When Matt Trafis sent a letter to his neighbors, lobbying against a plan to bring a new Aldi store to Seven Hills, it seemed an innocent play by a political upstart. Trafis, 23, was a candidate for city council at the time. He thought the city could better use the real estate.

Not long after his letter hit the streets, a concerned citizen named Elizabeth LiBassi blasted the media with e-mails over "Matt Trafis' Racist Scare Tactics." The candidate was "trying to scare citizens about a grocery store that may bring black people into their community," she claimed, though she wanted to remain anonymous.

Later, when Trafis was bounced from the council race on a technicality, he talked about a run for the Ohio House. So LiBassi sent the letter to black Democrats, then hit the media with more e-mails, saying that some "black state representatives were putting pressure on the Democratic Leader Chris Redfern to convince Trafis not to run because he is a racist."

But there were problems with LiBassi's story. First, the racial assumptions were all hers. Believe it or not, white people shop at Aldi too, and Trafis' letter doesn't even faintly allude to race. Moreover, black Dems have no worries about the candidate, says Redfern. "That's just horseshit," he tells Punch. "Nobody's pressuring me."

It appears that Trafis had encountered the Republican Black Ops Machine. [Cue the ominous music. And make sure there's an oboe. The oboe guy needs work.]

Punch investigated LiBassi -- i.e., Googled her name between trips to Turns out she's a 19-year-old Republican who's volunteered for the county GOP, President Bush, and Representative Jim Trakas (R-Independence), who's now running for secretary of state.

LiBassi says she ran the smear campaign on her own -- which Punch buys, since it was clearly an amateur affair, unworthy of her party's reputation for professional efforts. But she still believes Trafis is racist. "If you're running for public office, just don't say stupid things," she tells Punch, who rolled his eyes and went back to surfing the web for cheap weed.

Platinum problems
Things just haven't gone right for Anthony Hodel.

You may remember him from last week's cover story ["Platinum Tony," October 12]. He was the head of Platinum Warranty, a Cleveland company accused of failing to cover the car repairs of more than 825 customers. Hodel claims he has no money, though he borrowed over $600,000 from the company, and hundreds of thousands more is mysteriously missing.

Last week, Hodel and the U.S. trustee agreed to liquidate the company. But a judge ordered Hodel to deliver eight computers to the attorney general's office for inspection. Hodel only dropped off six.

"We want to move to lock down the computers . . . see what's on them," says Jim Ehrman, a lawyer for the bankruptcy trustee. "They may or may not still have the information on it. We hope it does."

But Ehrman isn't getting his hopes up. Hodel claims that ex-employees deleted critical financial documents as revenge for being fired. Consider it the corporate version of The Dog Ate My Homework.