Dubious achievement awards 2004 - February 

So what kind of gratification was it? Shock rocker Marilyn Manson and a shocked and rocked security guard settle their dispute out of court. Manson was originally charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for backstage antics back in 2001 at Pine Knob (now DTE Energy Theatre) in Clarkston. Seems Manson, dressed only in a leather thong and pantyhose, wrapped his legs around guard Joshua Keasler’s head and neck — and gyrated. But the charge was dismissed when the judge agreed that Manson’s bump and grind was not in pursuit of sexual gratification. We assume that Keasler, nonetheless, got some compensatory financial gratification from his civil suit, but both sides clammed up about the numbers.

Screw and be screwed: Kent Balliet, a dentist from the Grand Rapids area, was no doubt surprised in the late ’90s to find himself the father of a teenage daughter, the offspring, heretofore unknown to Kent, of a college fling back in 1982. But after he began paying weekly child support, there were more surprises to come. Three years later, when the daughter turned 18, she sued him for child support covering the first 15 years of her life, and, in the end, the Michigan Court of Appeals sided with her on a bill that, reportedly, could top $100,000. “This is going to turn paternity cases on their heads,” Balliet’s attorney, Amy Rademaker, is quoted as saying. She argues that dads could now be knowingly cut out of parenting, then socked retroactively with the bills for childrearing. She does not say (but we do) that the appeals court put a whole new twist on play now, pay later.

Safe? Hardly: A downtown fundraiser for Wilbur Wright trade school is supposed to mark a turn of fortunes. After all, the Detroit school has been hit with repeated break-ins, decimating the school’s instrumental music program. One break-in destroyed more than a third of the instruments; another reportedly did $200,000 in damage. Then the night before the fundraiser at Fifth Avenue Downtown, robbers hit the club and run off — well, we’re unsure how fast you can lug it, let’s say walk off — with the safe. Not to be deterred, school boosters move the fundraiser to the club’s Royal Oak location.

Armed to the teeth: An Oakland County sheriff’s deputy gets a surprise after a high-speed chase in pursuit of an errant pickup truck. Deputy Scott Howden tries to pull the driver over around 1 a.m. on a Thursday after he runs a flashing red at Adams and Orion roads. The driver speeds off, then slams on his brakes, forcing the deputy to swerve around. Then the driver rams the squad car from behind, bouncing it forward a couple of hundred feet. Howden gets out of his car and pulls his gun. Driver gets out of his truck and threatens to kill Howden. And here it gets weird: Driver swings a four-pound black poodle on a leash and tries to hit Howden — who responds with Taser (doesn’t stop him), nightstick (doesn’t stop him) and pepper spray (finally stops him). The poodle, now nicknamed Lucky by cops, goes to the Oakland County Animal Care Center, while the driver, facing charges including animal cruelty, is sent for psychiatric observation.

Joe wins: The 24-foot-long forearm and fist of Joe Louis gets smeared with gallons of white paint in the predawn hours. The painters flee but leave as calling cards photocopies of two recently slain Detroit police officers (both white victims of a black assailant) annotated, “Courtesy of Fighting Whites.” Having won Round 1 with a defenseless, motionless statue, Washtenaw County residents Brett Cashman and John Price lose the subsequent ones. Seen running from the scene, they’re apprehended and eventually plead guilty, agreeing to six days in jail and $1,000 in restitution each. The men say they were making a statement about violence and intended no racist symbolism. Right.

Chair-man Al: As the state’s Democratic caucuses near, candidates and advisers strategize about how to spend time at events like the one organized by the Detroit NAACP and other groups. John Kerry & Co. decide that with so commanding a lead, he needn’t invest more in the state. Howard Dean and his disciples abandon the pleasant peninsula and prepare a last stand against Kerry across the lake in Wisconsin. Wesley Clark similarly bails on the event, and John Edwards never agreed to appear in the first place. Which leaves the Rev. Al Sharpton sitting on a stage to debate empty chairs marked Kerry, Dean and Clark. It isn’t clear how many votes Sharpton picks up with his typically spot-on oratory, but Kerry, Dean and Clark get a chorus of boos in absentia.

Local boy makes guns: Call it a story about a life gone wrong and leading to redemption? The Detroit News answers the question: Whatever happened to the “Student by Day, Bandit at Night” who made headlines in 1959. After eight bank heists in metro Detroit (plus assorted hits at drug stores, and one jewelry store for good measure), and after three jail stints totaling 15 years, James Minder put down his double-barreled, sawed-off shotgun for good, turned his life around and founded a counseling and mental health services company in Westland. Later he moved to Arizona, where his work as a management consultant led to a gig as board chairman of Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. Talk about a unique perspective on your market. The revelation of his gun-toting past forces him to tender his resignation.

And posse makes 18: Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and top staffers need some time to blow off steam and get away from the office — about 1,300 miles away. Now that’s a retreat. Mayoral spokesman Howard Hughey offers a rationale: Nine (our emphasis, not Hughey’s) of the administration’s top guns were already going to Denver to study the city’s convention facility and help guide plans for Detroit’s proposed post-Cobo Center, so it was logical to hold the retreat there.

Can we build fries with that order? “When a fast-food restaurant sells a hamburger, for example, is it providing a ‘service’ or is it combining inputs to ‘manufacture’ a product?” asks the Economic Report of the President. Seriously? Yup. Critics pounce, saying the Bush administration and Council of Economic Advisers’ Gregory Mankiw, in particular, are trying to save the collapsing U.S. manufacturing sector by the stroke of a pen. U.S. Rep. John Dingell fires off a letter to Mankiw on behalf of 163,000 idled factory workers in Michigan who are surely heartened “that a world of opportunity awaits them in high growth manufacturing careers like spatula operator, napkin restocking and lunch tray removal.” Dingell later apologizes — sort of — blaming his humor on the “the absurd tenor” of Mankiw’s report.

How about a riposte for dessert? Is it only a coincidence that just days after Dingell’s scathing letter, Roll Call, the Capitol Hill daily, carries an unattributed dig at Dingell’s first-class flights — at government expense — to visit his home district Downriver. Dingell says Republican legislators, too, have been known to upgrade from coach.

Because that’s where the money is: A longtime informant for the local FBI office convinces his handlers that he’s onto a big international drug ring. He gets the feds to give him money for buys, plus money for expenses, etc. Before it’s over, the local FBI chief is reassigned under a cloud, while informant Myron Strong and a couple of cronies pocket $164,000 in federal money. Eventually, Strong and the two alleged accomplices are charged with defrauding the government and concocting an elaborate con that ensnared the local chief, who is cleared and reinstated.

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