Friday, December 26, 2008

VIDEO You Dog, You!

These are a few of MY favorite things to mark the holiday but they're all led by the four-legged thief who didn't think twice about swiping something nice.

Now keep in mind a dog doing what dogs do isn't news...but when it's caught on video surveillance it's worth another look:

I could watch this over and over again...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why Radio Is Special: The Holiday Goat

The best things you hear on the radio are sometimes the things the audience never really gets a chance to listen to.

Take this past Saturday, when our friend Andy January opted to showcase a worthwhile program saving farm animals during his "My Beautiful Home" program. Truth be told, I think Andy's a softie when it comes to taking care of the four-legged but his heart is in the right place.

Problem is, it was more than just the heart in place when his guest showed up at our WAKR studios with two roosters (in cages) and a goat (on a leash) to help illustrate the plight of abused livestock. As you may know, pictures and video work great on television and the web but as-of-yet a radio-only show such as Andy's isn't quite the venue to show off goats and chickens. Thanks to for the informative drawing, at left, for those of you goat-challenged readers...go due east for a sense of the geography of this story.

The roosters did what roosters do -- and you could hear 'em pretty much along the entire third floor of the Akron Radio Center. The goat did what goats do naturally as well, turning "My Beautiful Home" into more of a "My Formerly Beautiful Carpet" show.

Now the Akron Radio Center isn't a stranger to animals doing their thing on our carpet; all three stations are long-time supporters of the Akron Zoo, and all have active segments on-air and online featuring dogs and cats available for adoption. Sometimes the puppies and kittens get a little nervous, and their nerves have been known to spill onto the floor. Usually no big deal -- I think it's why the carpet gods made Berber.

But goat poo steps away from Akron's largest radio newsroom is a relatively new experience for those of us here, even the most grizzled veterans used to dealing with BS from local political animals. I can tell you goats are easier to clean up after...and I'm just glad Andy didn't choose to highlight an elephant rescue operation.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Washington Just Doesn't Get It

We all enjoyed -- admit it, even you most diehard of Detroit automaker supporters -- all of us were glued to the set when the Big Three chiefs were grilled for their greedy and stupid business practices while lapping at the government trough for billions in loan guarantees and handouts.

Are you enjoying paying more for the self-serving blowhards in Washington who served up the fresh crow for the business executives? (for a primer in how Washington works there's no better than P.J. O'Rourke's book, at left -- check it out on Amazon) has a fascinating return to reality, Capitol Hill-style, with this word our courageous leaders (such as Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, the "look the other way" overseers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's collapse) won't step in and stop the pay raises for -- themselves.

Congress, according to TheHill, has done this before; they suspended the automatic pay raise in 2000, but apparently the economy is so strong these days it's worth the additional $4,700.00 a year elected officials will be granting themselves. Yes, the same men and women who crabbed over bonuses due the wizards of Wall Street who took the American economy into the dumper will themselves take the money for their own purses and wallets.

Want real reform? Here's a suggestion: let's tie in the "automatic" vote period on congressional pay raises to the election cycle; they have to have a recorded vote turning down the raises but it has to be taken during the summer session, before the General Election, every two years. That way, voters will know before the ballot casting just how their public servants really define the word "servant."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Joe 1, State Dems 0

Joe the Plumber didn't get his candidate for President of the United States elected...but he did manage to bag a state snoop caught abusing the vast Ohio government computer database for political purposes.

Everybody remembers Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, the Toledo-area guy who questioned Barack Obama and became a footnote in political history in the process. Even after he was left by the curb when John McCain's campaign came up short, the long shadow of this citizen everyman is cast over the state political system.

The Dayton Daily News reports tonight Helen Jones-Kelley, the Strickland appointment to head the Department of Jobs and Family Services, will be celebrating the holidays off the public payroll.

Jones-Kelley is the state official caught with her virtual fingers in the virtual cookie jar, plunging through state record after state record digging up dirt on Joe after he had the temerity to actually challenge her choice for President. State computers did their work while her fingers flew over the keyboard, which also included soliciting support for the Obama campaign using her state email service.

Man, stuff like this gives government workers a bad name.

Governor Strickland, shocked that such activity would take place under the watch of a political appointee, placed Jones-Kelley on leave. Republicans cried it was a slap on the wrist, easy for them to say since their candidate lost. In fact, very easy for the GOP to say since just about all their candidates lost.

The State Inspector General found Jones-Kelley had indeed strayed over the line, and now she says for the continued safety of her family and concern over the legacy she leaves behind after her year in office she must step down.

What, a legacy of snooping?

Memo to Lt. Governor Fisher: the next time you lead a group of state officials to Asia on a trade mission, make Japan a stop for a primer on Seppuku, the practice of doing one's self in with a ceremonial slash to the abdomen. The class should note that this form of bloodletting, while a bit extreme, does include the unique concept of admitting shame and taking responsibility.
Former Attorney General Marc Dann was the last statewide office holder admitting shame but not taking responsibility until forced to; former Cuyahoga Falls State Representative John Widowfield provided a similar profile in courage before bowing out disgracefully; former Governor Bob Taft even found his moment in the dock while pleading out on ethics charges that forever condemned him to a lifetime of 11% approval rating.

Now Jones-Kelley goes out with a snarl because she was caught rather than leaving behind a lesson learned for others to follow.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Watching Mr. Blago

The election cycle is over but the soap opera that continues to swirl around those in power (and those about to assume the reins) is mighty entertaining these days -- even hundreds of miles away from Blago Central.

While the "when will he resign?" watch continues in Illinois, it is stunning to watch how quickly we drop our fascination with Britney and Brangelina and LiLo (if you don't know who those folks are by their news nicknames, odds are you never will) fades to make way for the head of hair known as Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Unless you've been living in a cave he's the guy in previous posts with a full head of chutzpah, caught on tape dropping f-bombs all over the place while he tried to figure out how to make a buck off appointing Barack Obama's successor in the U.S. Senate. At least, that's what we are led to believe by Blago's failure to own up or deny, the leaks galore coming out of the U.S. Attorney's office (including juicy transcripts showing Mrs. Blago's mouth did a stint as a sailor) and the lightning speed with which some in the media are condemning Obama's apparent lack of clear answers or rushing to explain why Obama's staff needs time to answer questions.

From a purely observational position this has been heaven sent; something to get my mind off the continued economic free fall, despair over the next round of mortgage collapse to come, and just plain anger over the bailouts crappy executives get for putting their companies, their workers and the country in this position. It is news porn: the political version of reading the magazines Dad kept in the closet.

Of course, we've got to toss ourselves in that mix too, right? After all, we were the lemmings rushing to the brink to lap up no-money-down 30 year mortgages without income checks; we're the consumer economy that continues to make big screen flat panel TV's the top holiday gift despite millions of our neighbors losing jobs and homes; it's been our profligate spending like there's no tomorrow that puts tomorrow itself in jeopardy for the kids today. Don't we own a piece of pax Americana the same as the citizens of the Roman Empire pushed their emperors to watch while Rome burned?

We wished for easy, affordable housing and deep credit available to everyone without the lessons learned by our parents and grandparents the last time the nation saw so many in the unemployment line: we get what we pay for. If it sounds to be too good to be true, it is. There's no such thing as a free lunch -- someone has to pay for it.

Now we're learning the someone is us. We're the ones who collectively must pay for bank executives driven to quarterly returns that now sink more than a century of trust and community-building; it's been our hunger that drives Detroit's big three automakers to be more responsive to the more sensible world market (they do make money overseas, I hear) while feeding our selfish demand for models that don't make sense anymore. Is it just me disgusted to learn trucks and SUV demand went up when gasoline prices at the pump went down? Are we a generation and a society that learns nothing from the past, even when the past is only three months old, and is doomed to repeat the same mistakes again and again?

Congress gulps and passes a bank bailout that gives Hank Paulson a blank check to spend $350 billion dollars and even his people aren't sure how all the money's been spent so far. The same Chris Dodd-Barney Frank combo that helped get us in this mess is now charged with getting us out. How do ANY of these people -- Paulson, Bush, Bernanke, Dodd, Frank -- have ANY credibility left? Have we become so deadened to being led by venal self-interest that even when we become painfully aware our interest lasts only as long as it takes to jump the tracks for the next scandal?

A generation ago James Caan starred in a film called "Rollerball" where big corporations had taken over the business and government of the planet, and they created a game to placate the masses so nobody would figure out just how powerless they had truly become. It's a play on those who paint religion as an opiate, or those who marvel at the passion it takes to root on a sports team but ignore the real-life issues around us that otherwise leave a real impact on the lives we lead.

In that film a single individual brought down the machinery above by standing alone at the end, a survivor. In real life, however, we wait for someone else to stand tall for us because in the end our memory only lasts as long as the last commercial break -- and we're too afraid to move beyond the easy comfort of others making the hard decisions for us.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What A Moron

The news from Chicago today was just stunning, even by the bloated history of Illinois political corruption. Governor Rod Blagojevich -- his name caused just about every TV pundit to choke tonight, with CNN's Lou Dobbs offering the most comical mispronunciations during a quickie promo advance round with Wolf Blitzer -- wanted to sell off his appointment of a U.S. Senator to replace the White House-bound Barack Obama.

Also on the hit parade: trying to get newspaper editorial writers fired for daring to question him (hey, at least they aren't parking attendants; our mayor in Akron actually pulled that one off)...holding back millions for a hospital serving sick children to force a CEO to pay up on a $50,000 campaign contribution; and plenty of other slick deals involving road improvements, hi-rise construction and other public works projects. This from the "reform" candidate to lead Illinois from the dark days of political scum.

What is with these idiot politicians so clearly without the ability to look back at all the others who've already plowed this fertile ground? Illinois is especially a textbook case with four past governors moving from executive office to the slammer. The man Blagojevich replaced -- George Ryan -- is actually still serving time on racketeering.

Going back on the national stage: Dan Rostenkowski, the Chicago pol who also did time after big-shotting his way to prison from Congress; Youngstown's Jim Traficant, who used his influence shakedowns to try and fix his boat moored in the Potomac River; Richard Nixon's fall from grace and grand exit via Chopper One from the White House lawn after All the President's Men already did their various perp walks to prison or grand jury appearances.

Let's not forget the poster boy: Gary Hart, the Colorado Senator who famously told reporters to go ahead and follow him after they asked about reports of his infidelity. Ironic since Blagojevich did the same, telling reporters the whole world should listen in on his phone calls.

In case you aren't old enough to remember the story that signified the National Enquirer as legitimate outlet for political news (see at left) the reporters took Hart up on that tossed gauntlet and led to more pictures of the Senator and Donna Rice aboard the aptly-named Monkey Business charter boat. History.

Poor, stupid John Edwards of North Carolina forgot that lesson despite his trip to a national candidacy aboard the John Kerry express in 2004 with his recent visit to a former paramour and her child in the dead of night at a Beverly Hills hotel.

Man, was he surprised when the Enquirer popped up with reporters and photographers in tow, sending Edwards to seek solace in a basement men's room until hotel security could bail him out.

I've had the unique experience of seeing this kind of thing from a key vantage point, thanks to a view from the inside thanks to prior life working in politics. These things always come down to one person in power forgetting the journey and those around them afraid to stop kissing butt and point out the obvious. It isn't pretty to watch the downfall, regardless of how much they've got it coming to them after the excess of arrogance leads to the humbling in the witness dock.

In days gone by the Roman emperor would return home to Rome, fresh from conquest, with the spoils of war leading the way past the adulation of the crowd. The wise leaders at the time made sure to have a slave accompany Caesar on the chariot, whispering all the way that fame was fleeting and those adoring crowds wouldn't think twice about ripping him to pieces when he failed.

If only more of America's leaders made sure someone was riding shotgun.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Man Who Meant Magic

Larry Bidlingmyer never forgot where he came from or where his heart remained, even during some of the toughest times imaginable. This morning Larry lost his fight with cancer but leaves behind an example as testament to life lived to the fullest.

Guest blog: WAKR's Ray Horner and Joe Jastrzemski

You're never prepared to hear the news that a dear friend has passed away. The e-mail that told us that Larry Bidlingmyer had died meant a real tough morning.

We remembered Larry on the air today. We'll do more tomorrow, and we'll certainly do even more to remember Larry when the Greynolds Classic takes place December 29th and 30th.
Honesty, hard work and class. Words that come to mind when we think of Larry Bidlingmyer.

"From bike riding to making sure that every detail was taken care for the Greynolds Classic, basketball event that was his brain child, Larry dotted every "I". I visited Larry at Barberton Citizen Hospital last Thursday so see how our friend was coping; "do you have everything you need for the Greynolds Classic?," he asked, despite the pain and fog of treatment. Larry wanted to get out his computer to work on details.

Jack Greynolds was a dear friend of Larry's and he wanted to make sure people did not forget what Jack did to help so many of our area's youth. I hope people remember Larry for those same goals." - Ray Horner

"My first meeting with Larry was at the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State. Larry was there to watch his son coach the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Larry was so proud, and he didn't come by himself, there were a dozen or so friends to enjoy the experience with him.

I always looked forward to sitting in the stands with Larry before those CSU-UWM games. The talk was not only about basketball but about everything from Barberton to giving me a scouting report on the upcoming game.

It was never about Larry. He was always looking out for others. This really came into focus in talking with Barberton Mayor Bob Genet about how sorely the community will miss Larry." - Joe Jastrzemski

Larry was passionate in life: biking in Washington D.C., trips to see his son coach college basketball, over lunch pressing for help raising dollars needed for various programs in Barberton. Larry loved the purple of Barberton, but more than that he loved life and those he touched.

Every time a basketball bounces in Barberton, be sure to remember Larry Bidlingmyer.

Friday, December 5, 2008

You Never Know...

...who you'll run into when waiting for a plane. Walking up, newspaper in hand, was U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown for the 8:40 to Washington-Reagan Airport Thursday morning. Just like the rest of us -- he was running late.

Brown actually took off from his northeast Ohio home via Cleveland Hopkins International on the 7:30 flight, which would have gotten him to the meeting room where Senators (including Brown) were getting their pitch from the Big 3 automakers today.

Unfortunately, a glitch and a warning light turned the flight around. The next plane out was the 8:40, which didn't spell much hope he would be sitting in the hearing room on time but he promised me he would be doing whatever he could to get there before the testimony was over.
Funny how transportation humbles even the best of us; the Detroit automakers got clobbered for taking private jets, then drove this time to DC in hybrids. Brown normally would be moving heaven and earth to be there on time, but the craft taking him through the heavens is another story.

At least I had the pleasure of saying hello and playing photographer for a young mom from New Orleans who wanted a picture with the Senator and her two kids. No need to burn any fossil fuels for that task.

- - -

In DC on RTNDA business; this city is clearly chomping at the bit for Obamaville just about a month and a half away. All of the sidewalk vendors have Obamagear for sale, including sweatshirts, hats, buttons, dishes, posters -- you name it. For $20 bucks you can get a sweatshirt, some of the other take home gifts are a bit pricier but people are gobbling this stuff up like crazy. It's tough to imagine just where they'll be putting the four million folks they expect to squeeze in between the Dome and the White House. My friend Jane's PA nieces and nephews are coming in just to say they were here -- even if it means watching on TV.

- - -

If you are one of the millions here's a tip: Shelley's Back Room at 13th and F. Take the Metro Center stop and find it but advance notice: it is one of the few places in the District where it's legal to smoke indoors. A very nice cigar bar (enjoyed a fine Mac with a cup of clam chowder tonight, reasonable prices too...) with nice ambiance but air you need a chain saw to cut. It was nice to smoke a stogie tonight in some place other than 25 degrees. Nice to be at the center of America's capitol, within site of the Treasury Department and White House...dreaming of an end to the Cuban embargo.