Locked & Loaded

The PD editor and gun nuts play a strange game of chicken.

When Ohio's concealed-weapons law was passed with the provision that only journalists have access to the names of registered carriers, Plain Dealer Editor Doug Clifton declared that he would publish complete lists of all area residents who receive the permits.

Last week, The PD splashed the names of heat-packing Northeast Ohioans over two and a half pages. Not surprisingly, the move drew the ire of Ohioans for Concealed Carry, which maintains that family newspapers have no right to divulge who's walking around with an unnatural bulge in their pants.

So with eye-for-an-eye resolve that would make Suge Knight proud, OFCC deftly returned fire by posting Clifton's name and phone number and a map to his house on its website. "The editor of the Cleveland [paper] believes in open records," the site reads. "Thus he should certainly have no problem with OFCC publishing his home address and telephone number . . ."

Ouch! And just how did the cunning sleuths unearth such privileged information? They pilfered it from the phone book, where Clifton's home number has appeared for years.

"The posting, I gather, had two purposes," Clifton wrote. "The first was to say 'turnabout is fair play': Public records are public records, and you're not exempt. The second was to intimidate. Why else run a map?"

What he failed to mention is that he's an experienced stalker himself. Clifton made his bones at the Miami Herald by staking out then-Presidential candidate Gary Hart's townhouse to catch him fraternizing with a woman who was not exactly his wife. The revelation deep-sixed Hart's candidacy and became the template for the sex-crazed reporting that would bring us Monicagate.

But what if some pissed-off gun nut decides to take OFCC up on its none-too-subtle suggestion to visit Clifton? "It's a ridiculous question," responds spokesman Chad Baus of Fulton County, who's also -- hint, hint -- listed in the phone book. Perhaps it is. As Clifton noted in an appearance on a National Rifle Association radio show, "I have had guns my whole life. I have a gun in my home -- a pistol."

Consider it a none-too-subtle warning of his own: This editor packs heat.

How do you really feel?
An online editor for WLWT-TV in Cincinnati was fired last week after making a radical departure from the just-the-facts-ma'am style prized by mainstream journalists.

The story, about a body identified in Portsmouth, included this bizarre digression: "Investigators are not sure if [the woman] died where her body was found or if she was killed elsewhere, WLWT Eyewitness News 5's most-overrated, obnoxious, stick-like, ho-bag, sperm-receptacle staff member Raegan Butler reported."

The editor, Dave Thomas, claims he didn't write the passage; it was accidentally dropped into the story. Punch believes him, since a guy who insults this well surely would have thought up a better lie in his defense.

All the President's friends
Last Friday, President Bush appeared at the opening ceremonies of the International Children's Games, where he pretended to care about kids. Then he got down to the real business of politics: grubbing for money.

His motorcade sped to Kirtland Hills, where Ed Crawford, CEO of the manufacturing conglomerate Park-Ohio, was hosting a $2,000-a-plate fund-raiser. The President couldn't have found a host more representative of his policies.

In 2002, Park-Ohio received a low-interest $1.5 million loan from the Ohio Department of Development to build a $5 million factory in Cleveland and create 225 new, nonunion jobs. Park-Ohio promised the state that it would not use the new plant to lay off unionized workers at other factories. But less than a year later, Park-Ohio laid off 161 workers at its Geneva Rubber Plant and moved the equipment to the new state-subsidized factory.

Local unions, the Sierra Club, and liberal group MoveOn.com threw two roadside protests in Willoughby and Kirtland, hoping to catch the eyes of Bush. (Alas, the President took a different route.) MoveOn later attempted to deliver 8,000 pink slips to the Crawford manse. "We're just trying to let George Bush know that there are 8,000 Ohioans who believe he deserves a pink slip for what he's done to Ohio's economy," said organizer Josiette White. But the president's firing was thwarted by the vaunted Kirtland Hills Police.

Hidden treasure
The Greater Akron Baseball Hall of Fame hit a fund-raising home run on the weekend of July 23-25, attracting legions of poker players to the Slovenian Hall on West 130th Street. Those who attended saw seven to eight tables running strong all four days. "I'd say they brought in about $70,000-$80,000," says one gambling insider.

The overhead must have been brutal, because Walt Mitchell, the man who helped organize the event, gave only about $7,000 to the charity. But Mitchell's generosity is to be commended. After all, he didn't even bother telling the Hall of Fame that he was holding a fund-raiser that weekend.

Mitchell also helped organize a gambling fund-raiser in mid-May that brought in an estimated $70,000, and this too was a surprise to the Hall of Fame. A board member says that the event was never mentioned and the hall never got a penny.

"Something fishy is going on," says a man close to the hall.

Tha block was hot
At the tender age of 21, rapper Lil' Wayne has already built a formidable career upon his gift for rhyming words like "sheezle" with "measles." The New Orleans performer, best known for the single "Tha Block Is Hot" and his encyclopedic knowledge of firearms, was holed up at the Mansfield Reformatory last week to shoot a video for his new track "Go DJ."

The 108-year-old prison, closed to offenders since 1990, has been revived by its occasional cameos in films (including The Shawshank Redemption and Air Force One) and videos (most notably Godsmack).

"They were very pleasant," says Reformatory spokesman Ed Meehin, who estimates that Lil' Wayne's cast and crew numbered almost 50, not counting posse members and assorted bitches and ho's.

For fewer than 48 hours in the cell block, Lil' Wayne forked over $2,000. The fee goes toward restoration of the dilapidated building, which will eventually require as much as $20 million, Meehin says.

Conventional wisdom
For once, Cleveland actually stacks up pretty well against national rivals. Last week, USA Today ranked convention centers on the crime risks posed by their surrounding neighborhoods. The nastiest: Chicago, Detroit, and Washington. By comparison, the I-X Center ranked 24 out of 25, making it among the safest in the country.

Of course, it helps to be located in a field by the airport, with a spectacular view of nearby smokestacks. But talking heads were not exactly complimentary upon hearing the news. "It's still not reason enough to go to Cleveland," quipped CNN's Jack McCafferty.

Baby, wanna ride my bus?
An RTA ad campaign promotes its one-day, unlimited-use pass by describing some jaunts you can take.

"Jacobs Field, Browns Stadium, Cardiologist."

"West Side Market, Little Italy, The Y."

"Lawyer's Office, Divorce Court, Pawn Shop."

Okay, so The Daily Show it ain't. Tonight Show either. But we pay them to operate buses and trains, not to entertain us. That's what the legislature's for.

Then Punch spotted this one: "Dinner, Movies, Drugstore." Hmmm. What might one need from a drugstore at the end of a romantic evening?

"It refers to Alka Seltzer, something for upset stomach," said RTA spokesman Jerry Masek in a phone interview, so we couldn't tell whether he was keeping a straight face.

Alka Seltzer. Right. But for the record, if you have to pick your date up on the bus, you probably don't have to worry about the drugstore part.

Det. Smuckler's on the case
Jeremy Smuckler, a former Case Western Reserve University law student, decided to put his legal education to use when his wallet -- and his identity -- were stolen two weeks ago at a University Heights Quiznos.

After Smuckler's bank called, informing him that the thieves had registered his name at such charming websites as blackcockswhitesluts.com, he got really pissed. "They couldn't have chosen better ones?" he sighs.

Smuckler called the porn sites' billing company and was given the thieves' e-mail account number, their address, and the computer they had registered from. Smuckler also discovered that Quiznos still had the surveillance tapes from the night of the theft. So last week, he delivered the info to University Heights Police. But apparently his gift-wrapped investigation wasn't enough. The dashing men in blue told him that it remained a "difficult case." He's still waiting to hear back.

Messin' with the geeks
The A/V guys at NASA Glenn Research Center haven't been this excited since the Borg assimilated Captain Picard in The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1. On June 30, Glenn scientists watched their monitors as the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft settled into orbit around Saturn. They had reason to be proud. Cassini-Huygens carries vacuum tubes designed in Cleveland. When it comes to traveling wave-tube amplifiers, nobody plays like C-town.

The tubes provide atmospheric info on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Theory has it that Titan may have the necessary requirements for primitive life.

But since Punch's science background consists of watching the movie Flubber, we decided it would be too onerous to fake our way through a sincere interview. Besides, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to fuck with people way smarter than us.

Meet Sallie Keith, kindly spokeswoman for the agency, who will be playing the straight-man's role in this juvenile gag.

Punch: "Any plans of . . . um, heh, photographing Uranus?"

Keith: "Voyager II photographed [it] during a flyby in 1986."

Punch: "Better watch yourself, Sallie. A Youngstown newscaster got fired for that. What color is Uranus?"

Keith: "Methane in the upper atmosphere absorbs red light, giving [it] its blue-green color."

Punch: "Yeah, my uncle had that problem, too. Sallie, how large is Uranus?"

Keith: "[It's] the third largest in the solar system; diameter of 32,190 miles."

Damn woman, you could sit on a rainbow and make Skittles!

Still waiting to hear whether NASA has Prince Albert in a can.

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