Schooling the Big Boys

Now that's how you play dirty politics.

The Sounds

With IMA Robot and Kill Hannah. 8 p.m. Saturday, February 21, at the Agora Theatre, 5000 Prospect Avenue, $12, 216-241-5555.

The ankle biting permeating the presidential primary has been an embarrassment to good Democrats everywhere. So far has the party fallen, even its tradition of quality knife fighting now resembles a bitch-slap contest between rival figure skaters.

Fortunately, the fine Democrats of Cleveland still play old school. Witness evidence in the DUI case of Mark Miller.

Miller's crime wasn't really drunk driving; it was running against Common Pleas Judge Nancy Russo. On August 7, 2002, he left his fund-raiser at Massimo da Milano and drove straight into a political ambush.

Attorney Richard Summers, a friend/sycophant of Russo's, attended Miller's fund-raiser, then followed the candidate afterward, keeping Cleveland police officer Jimmy Simone updated by cell phone. Phone records later showed 18 calls between the two. Other calls were placed to Channel 19 and The Plain Dealer.

But while Summers and Simone get an A for effort, they'll need some tutoring on execution. Simone didn't pull Miller over till they reached Westlake, nine miles outside Simone's jurisdiction. When a Cleveland cop just happens to arrest somebody in a distant suburb, that tends to leave a stink. Miller challenged the charge and won, but by that time he had already lost the election.

Russo has publicly denied involvement. Summers claimed that he was there doing reconaissance for Judge Robert Glickman. (Glickman denies this.) All signs point to Russo.

"My client believes she knew about it," says Pat Farrell, Miller's attorney. Say it ain't so.

A hooker dresses up
Like a fat Parisian prostitute larding on eye shadow, FirstEnergy is trying to make itself more attractive to potential suitors. Three years earlier than expected, Northeast Ohio's favorite lady of the night quietly announced last week that it would rescind the "poison pill" from its shareholder's agreement.

A poison pill is a little trick designed to fend off a hostile takeover. If, for example, General Electric tried to buy the company, FirstEnergy's poison pill would allow its shareholders to buy company stock at a discounted price, either before or after the merger. "The whole idea of poison pills is to make a hostile takeover prohibitively expensive," says Tim Fogarty, chairman of the accounting department at Case Western Reserve's Weatherhead School of Management. "If it's not a deal-breaker, it's a pretty ineffective poison pill."

The intentionally sticky wicket was supposed to expire in 2007. Instead, FirstEnergy announced it would ditch the clause on March 31, which is kinda like sticking a sign on the front lawn that reads "For Sale: Electric company. Great revenues from gouging customers, but even greater debt. Some problems with giant blackouts and near nuclear meltdowns. Make offer."

The company says it's just being responsive to shareholders, 65 percent of whom voted last year to kill the pill. "If shareholders feel that the best thing for the company is to take away this barrier to outside takeovers, it's just good corporate governance for us to be responsive," says spokesman Ralph DiNicola.

No word on when the company will be responsive to its customers.

Play it again, Sam
Sam Fulwood III, The Plain Dealer columnist who phones it in so often he has free minutes on his calling plan till 2036, has been named this year's winner of the Nobel Prize for Incompetence.

He was cited for his recent column "Nametag wearer gratified by greetings," which was vintage Fulwood. It's about a kid who wears a nametag 24-7. But the lame topic wasn't what inspired the nominating committee. Fulwood's big score came when it was discovered that he'd actually rewritten a column that already appeared in the paper a year before, setting new records for both incompetence and sloth.

Look it up in The PD archives. Tom Feran -- known as "The White Fulwood" for harboring similar energy and imagination -- wrote about the same kid and the same nametag on February 9 last year under the headline, "Hey, everybody, have a great day."

Surely the bosses at The PD were nursing nasty hangovers when they let the second installment in. Only post-partem stress or 17 shots of Jim Beam would allow anyone to find nametags interesting the first time, much less a second.

Perhaps their eyes had simply gone blurry from reading Fulwood as a job requirement. One recent column contained the stunning admission that he's -- gasp! -- addicted to coffee, which he confessed with "great humility," since he's never been drunk in his life. "I'll sip a martini before dinner and have a glass of wine during the entrée," Fulwood wrote in one searing passage. (Here's a tip, pal: This is Cleveland. That's not the kinda thing we talk about in public.)

Then there was the ball-busting column in which he took on Parma Republican leader Lee Stoop, who forwarded a redneck e-mail that was eventually made public. "Lee Stoop, I'm calling you out, because you were wrong," wrote Fulwood, puffing out his chest as he challenged the 77-year-old woman. (Vegas booked the fight at 3:1. Advantage: old lady.)

Now, the same guy who endlessly rips ideas off his own colleagues has launched a blog. That means you can get a daily dose of Sam's piercing commentary on kids' pants, East Side dinner parties, and whatever his fellow writers covered two days earlier.

"Those already familiar with blogs might find mine more responsible than much of the palaver slowly but surely filling the void of cyberspace," Fulwood modestly proclaims in his first entry. "Quite frankly, a lot of what I've seen on blogs is the debris of emptied minds, spilling all over their computer keyboards."

Vegas booked it at 750:1 that he doesn't see the irony.

Meet the new boss
You think your New Year's resolutions were ambitious? Check out those of the Nation of Moorish Americans, a quasi-Islamic black separatist movement ["Color Scheme," January 28]. Instead of choosing to avoid fats or join Fitworks, the Nation decided to take over the country. Or maybe secede from it. We can't quite tell which.

A 60-page document supposedly sent to the United Nations, the White House, and other places of import indicates that followers of Moorish nationalism laid claim to the governance of the United States -- previously run by a "European administrative government" -- on January 1.

What this means to the rest of us is unclear. But until it's all straightened out, Punch advises you to suspend your RITA payments, ignore all laws, and use bogus checks to purchase Cadillacs while supplies last.

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