We Was Robbed!

Ohio falls in public corruption standings, may not make playoffs.

The Faint of Heart The B-Sides Lounge, 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights (beneath the Grog Shop) 8 p.m., Saturday, February 14, 216-321-5588; the show is free
Ohio finishes at the bottom of so many quality-of-life lists, we should lease a time-share condo there. But if there's one thing we've always taken pride in, it's our gift for public corruption. Now it seems even that is in question.

When Corporate Crime Reporter recently announced its list of the country's most corrupt states, Ohio didn't even make the top 10. Using Department of Justice figures on corruption cases involving federal, state, and local officials, the magazine calculated a "corruption rate" for each state. Mississippi, North Dakota, and Louisiana all medaled, leading Punch to believe that extra points were given to state senators caught chicken rustling.

Ohio finished 11th. The consolation prize: We were a mere thousandth of a point behind 10th place New York.

But here's the good news: In one category -- corruption convictions between 1993 and 2000 -- Ohio trailed only five states. And let us not forget that a 2002 Better Government Association survey ranked the Buckeye State an impressive 37th for government integrity.

Still, Punch has a beef with the rules committee. What's considered a felony in other states is just considered good government here. Hell, we don't get a single point for kicking FirstEnergy an extra $10 billion in a sweetheart deal, letting cops lie on their time cards for court testimony, or allowing judges to assign indigent cases as campaign fund-raisers. No fair!

But at least we'll always have pollution. Try kicking our ass on that, North Dakota.

Wardrobe malfunction
When those fabulous punk-porn princesses the Suicide Girls hit the Beachland last week, they thoughtfully provided a reenactment of the Super Bowl halftime show, just in case you missed it.

All the best people were there: I'm-too-cool-to-leer punk boys, alterna-girls dolled up in their finest vinyl corsets and thigh-high stilettos, and, of course, the requisite supply of old pervs.

Not long into the show, someone in the crowd yelled, "We want a wardrobe malfunction!" The Suicide Girls, always mindful of customer service, swiftly complied, doffing their lacy lingerie to reveal bare boobs covered only by some well-placed electrical tape. Though Punch might quibble that duct tape would have been the more cunning fashion statement, a fun time was had by all.

FCC Commissioner Michael Powell was said to be investigating the matter. The probe will center on why he didn't get comped tickets.

Great moments in justice
Last week, Judge Burt Griffin dismissed a child-rape charge against community activist James Box. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations had run out on the 15-year-old case, thanks to serial bungling that would make a good episode of Reno 911.

The alleged victim's mother gave Box's name to police, but the detective never bothered to ask for his address, which Mom knew. Police passed the case to the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, which got a grand-jury indictment. The charge then went to the Sheriff's Department, which never served the warrant because it didn't know Box's address. So the case sat in limbo while Box -- far from hiding -- led a very public life as a street-corner activist.

Box saw this as evidence that the system works. Griffin saw it another way.

"The lack of attention the state gave to this case is particularly disheartening, considering that it involved the rape of an 11-year-old girl," he wrote in his ruling.

A thug Cleveland can love
Maurice Clarett, whose move from college to pro is likely to entail a pay cut, is a good bet to still be on the board when our beloved Browns make their first draft pick.

Think about it: A William Green-Maurice Clarett backfield. Just the sound of it has Punch -- and the city's bail bondsmen -- drooling. Subtract expected jail time, league suspensions, and/or recovery after they're stabbed by their girlfriends, and together they could compose one fulltime back.

According to high-level team sources, the Browns are looking to beef up their criminal element to compete in the AFC North. Ray Lewis inspires fear for the Ravens, thanks in large part to his narrowly escaping a murder rap. Steelers wideout Plaxico Burress is on his way to committing an alcohol-related crime in every major American city. (Cleveland? Check.) And Bengals lineman Levi Jones was arrested for allegedly taking the baton away from a cop who was breaking up his Super Bowl party.

Compare this with the sad state of the Browns, who have a running back (Green) who was a victim of domestic violence, and a quarterback (Couch) who cries when the fans boo. Clarett, get your bad ass to Cleveland, pronto.

Average Joes
If you've been watching Average Joe: Hawaii, the reality show pitting fat guys and geeks against hunks in a fight for the affections of a former beauty queen, you know Larissa's a lock to pick a pretty boy. All Punch has cared about is which Cleveland guy would last longer -- tanned and chiseled ad exec Michael Cardamone, or ponytailed and paunchy contractor Fredo LaPonza.

Though Michael seems shorter on the prick quotient when compared to fellow beefcake, he suffered a setback when Larissa found out he'd indelicately referred to her as a "hot beaver." Yet Michael did show some Cleveland street smarts. The guy who ratted him out had also drawn a mocking cartoon of the average Joes. So Michael tipped off Fredo, who promptly got in the guy's face -- and made him cry. Twice!

Heart, smarts, and workingman's honor notwithstanding, Fredo seems a long shot. But at least he beat Michael, who got the boot this week after telling Larissa's overweight "mom" (really Larissa in disguise) that he's a no-fat-chicks kinda guy. Too bad -- we'd been hoping to see Fredo administer an attitude adjustment. (Average Joe airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.)

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