Sunday, February 15, 2009

What Pork Really Looks Like

Want your very own view of making sausage? It's all here at Stimulus Watch, a great web tool designed to give the folks ultimately paying the bills (that'd be you and me) a birds-eye view of just what Uncle Sam, Cousin Ted and Nephew Don want to do with all those billions.

My first visit went to the site for Akron projects, and it's a whopper -- more than a billion dollars worth of gimme put together by the City of Akron. It also makes very real what is often a powerful position for politicians: that all that spending is pork.

You might think so as well until you see your street, your school or your idea of what government should pay for on the list, and one the list of dozens and dozens of projects odds are you'll see plenty that ought to get a piece of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid pie. After all, who would complain about getting federal money to fix the crumbling roads and bridges we're seeing in the Akron area now that the snow and ice are off the highways?

You get the same look-see at what Mayor Healy in Canton says his city needs; there's even a separate page for Stow, almost five million dollars worth to finish Seasons Road and pave the road to Bulldog Prosperity. It is disappointing we don't see Hudson belly up to the bar here as well...one must imagine how much federal recovery dollars would help build new off-site parking for the boutiques on the Square.

Sorry, can't help but being cynical even while recognizing all this money would certainly do plenty of good. The problem is the majority of folks who are as cynical as I am living in Texas, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Virginia and the rest of the 49 states other than Ohio (see what the state is asking for here to get a gander of the 847 projects the Strickland Administration forwarded Washington ) will take a look at these projects and wonder just why their hard-earned tax dollars need to go to a state with a $55 billion dollar budget. Then again, those of us in Ohio will think the same thing about a dime spent in Texas, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Virginia and the rest of the 49 states other than Ohio.

That's the point: our "must have" list looks like a chunk of Bob Evans' most popular product to anyone on the outside, while anything outside Ohio's borders looks like it's all pork to those of us between the Ohio River and Lake Erie.

The interesting thing about pork in 2009, however, is we get to ride along and even report on our own what we think is good, what we think is bad, even what we think is B.S. (that's not short for bachelor of science...) and needs to be exposed. We still have to pay the bill for what Washington says we need but don't necessarily want. The difference between life under Bill and W. is with tools like Stimulus Watch we can get a better look in the Obama butcher shop on how the sausage is made -- including how much pork is really in the mix.

StimulusWatch.org is the creation of a couple George Mason University types with help from web professionals; they claim no affiliation with Presidents, Governors, County or City officials and even provide a Google Excel site to grab the database yourself and sort to your heart's content.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The DTV Marathon

I've avoided much comment on DTV (digital television) transition issues, partly because I wear the hat as chair of RTNDA and it might be construed any of my snarky observations represent the Association. For the record, here's what my own experience reflects on just one person's digital dealings.

I have a DTV converter for the 20-year old tube we have in the basement, which Nature Girl and I call the tornado TV. When the winds get really bad we exercise the option to pick a corner of the basement resembling a bomb shelter and follow the news via the combination of ol' reliable and a battery-powered radio.

Unfortunately, Tornado TV won't work much longer because we don't have it hooked up to cable; the feeling is if cable goes down at least we still might have a way to watch local forecasters track a storm using Double Doppler Viper Triple XXX Monster radar.

I'm no engineer but hooking it up was pretty simple...rabbit ears here, wire to TV there, and plug it in. It worked OK except it won't pick up WOIO, so no 19ActionNews nor side channels but it does pick up Akron/Canton's Channel 17 (all five subchannels) and 3, 3.2, 5, 8, both 43's (including the Tube Channel that has no Tube), both 49's, 55 and 61.

But if I weren't a young whipper-snapper of 53 I'd be more like this woman --

video

Thanks to my sister Donna for sharing and, in the process, probably breaking hundreds of copyright laws.

Oh, and now some stations will be digital this month, some won't, and all are supposed to be in June (with some exceptions) while Uncle Sam figures out how to get the converter boxes to viewers who won't notice now until they can't watch American Idol.

Change is coming...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Just Became An Obama Fan

With all the hubub going on in Washington -- and the tendency of those within the Beltway to lose sight of life for those of us outside the Beltway -- I figured there was plenty of business as usual with the cabinet appointments of public figure after public figure who couldn't quite grasp how to pay their taxes. Mr. Obama made the right call today.

Here's the AP Video report from AkronNewsNow on President Obama and what the pundits are calling major mistakes.

For my money, and by extension yours as well since it is on our dime these people get to play in the political sandbox, the President did what few politicians are ever ready to do: took responsibility, admitted it was a snafu and noted America should expect better when it comes to the leading by example of our appointed and elected officials.

If only the other elected tax bums, including U.S. Representative Charlie Rangel of New York, would learn from Mr. Obama accepting accountability and even former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle stepping down.

Daschle really is one of the decent fellows the Heartland has ever sent to Washington, but in his time since losing re-election the cash came rolling in because of the learning he'd been able to do under the Dome. Any one of us would have done the same thing: use our experience to benefit our lifestyle and that of our family. There's no difference for any consultant...they had to learn on someone's dime at some point, they just have the knowledge (their clients hope) now that allows them to cash in. Why would we really expect different from former public officials?

I was leaning toward giving Daschle the benefit of a doubt when the story first broke but then more details made it seem more...silly, and stupid. Not paying taxes on use of a car seems like such a little thing but these are the men and women who make a living plumbing tax loopholes, creating tax policy, and expecting the rest of us to toe the line and pay our fair share. Kinda tough to make that argument when the preacher is such a sinner to begin with...something I think Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will have to wrestle with the first time his IRS has to crack the whip.

In the meantime...Bravo Barack for doing what no politician these days seems to grasp the American people really hunger for: admitting a screwup, paying more than lip service to what we think, and standing up like a man instead of a politician.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Miss The Super Commercials?

NOT! Regardless of what you think of the quality of pigskin played on field, some of the truly mind-boggling stuff actually came out of the commercials -- again. Now you can watch to your heart's content -- just the spots.



Great little tool from Hulu -- and another great sign of just how quickly things change in today's media landscape. You don't need to worry about the Digital Transition because just about everything you rally want to see is already digital to begin with.