Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rambling, mumbling, wondering

I've heard it from the critics of the current party in power over and over:

"Quit wasting our money!"

Sounds like the consumer reporter on Channel 5, who intones at the end of every segment, "Don't waste your money!"

Like fingernails on a blackboard.

In fact, it seems this country has whipped itself into a frenzy over the government spending OUR money to save us all -- get this -- from another Great Depression. Maybe, the correct tack would have been to let the financial institutions go belly up, let General Motors and Chrysler work out their own fates (die), and let those without jobs stand in soup kitchen lines.

We could have just pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps -- the American way.


With the Republicans poised to retake power on Tuesday in at least one of the and probably both houses of Congress, it's a pretty good bet that we'll see that kind of strategy in place in the near future.

I hope it works, because I can’t imagine what would have happened had all of the above been the reality.

Economists (I don't know what political party they belong to) say the Troubled Asset Relief Program of 2008 -- TARP -- actually worked and ultimately won't be nearly as costly as the initial price tag of $700 billion. Is $50 billion more palatable? Maybe not for some folks but then $50 billion is a lot of money to wrap your arms around especially when your private sector employer cut the match for your 401(k).

(By the way, George Bush was president in 2008.)

But back to the election.

The Republicans say they are not about compromise or working toward solutions with their more liberal Democrat colleagues in Congress. They will work, they say, to see to it that President Barack Obama is a one-termer. Compromise be damned.

Obama certainly isn't without blame here. Though he promised conciliation and compromise, we got a mostly liberal agenda that was pushed through in parts by one or both houses of Congress by the party in power. Compromise be damned.

Meanwhile, the next phase of the Great Recession is about on us. It's the government and health care phase. Both institutions -- if that's the right term -- are being crippled by falling tax bases and if you think Ohio's going to be a fun place to live in over the next few years, well, wait and see.

If the federal government turns off the stimulus spigot, it means Ohio will face the impending $8 billion deficit all by itself. And that means massive cuts in services, including our public schools and state universities. Meanwhile, hospitals are going broke providing services to people who can't afford to pay or don't have some kind of private insurance. And doctors? Well, they don't to want to service Medicare patients because the program's payments don't cover the cost.

It's a lot more complicated than that, but you get the point. Things aren't going to improve immediately just because we throw this set of bums out. In fact, it might get a lot worse before it gets better.

Just don't be surprised.

* * *
If Zack Space wins in Tuesday's election, he might want to take Constitution Party candidate Lindsey Dean Sutton out to dinner. Sutton promises to play spoiler in the election by siphoning votes from Republican challenger Bob Gibbs.

In other words, Space could win a plurality of votes on Tuesday, which would give him a third term in office. If that happens and the House turns to Republican control, Space then can have a little fun. (I think it's safe to say he is not having fun now.)

He can concentrate on constituent services, criticizing Republicans and, of course, attend a few hundred chicken dinners.

* * *
A certain former mayor of a certain city near Dover in Tuscarawas County seems to think that the editorial board of a certain local newspaper endorses candidates based on whether the street thinks certain candidates will win. That way the paper looks really good and powerful if the endorsed (popular) candidate wins.


I can't speak for the current regime, but that certainly wasn't the case under my watch. If I thought long and hard, I'm sure I could produce a sizeable list of losers endorsed during my 19-year stint. We endorsed after considerable thought, back-and-forths with editors and reporters, feedback from constituents and colleagues of the candidates, and after direct conversations with many candidates.

If we endorsed a candidate, it's because we thought he/she deserved it. Or we thought the alternative was unacceptable. In some cases, we thought both candidates were acceptable and said so. And both candidates subsequently vilified us for being non-decisive.

There is an exception in the process. Presidential (and sometimes U.S. Senate) endorsements usually were dictated by the paper's ownership.

* * *
I am fascinated by at least two people who have nothing to do with politics.

One is Bill Simmons,'s "Sports Guy." I think Simmons is a fabulous writer and I have to thank my son, Chris, for hooking me up with Simmons' body of work, which includes some hilarious pieces on his trip to Las Vegas with buddies.

The other person is LeBron James, the world's most misguided narcissist who is a favorite subject in Simmons' columns. Simmons offered his view of James' debut with the Miami Heat last week. Here's the

* * *
Addendum: Scout asked in the comment section whether newspapers should endorse candidates. I'll answer that with a question: Should newspapers champion any causes in a community?

 I think a good newspaper ought to lead in any number of ways.

It ought to make sure its community is creating an atmosphere of progress and prosperity. It should campaign for decent health care, housing, jobs and infrastructure. It should applaud the arts and support its schools. And it should attempt to uncover wrongdoing on any number of levels.

Should a newspaper examine candidates for political office and then offer its view on the races? On the issues? Yes, it should, in my opinion anyway.

That's not to say other publications, such as the Bargain Hunter, play a role. Certainly they do. But they don't lead.

Can a newspaper be unbiased in its news columns and still lead on its editorial page? Good ones do.

Just sayin'.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sometimes you just have to do what's right

One of the toughest tasks I had as editor of The Times-Reporter was signing off on election endorsements.

Endorsements are something I think a newspaper should do for its readers because a good newspaper has a better handle on candidates and issues than the average Joe because if it's doing its job, it is asking questions that the average Joe doesn't get to ask. It sees the big picture, or should. And it ought to let the readers in on the deal.

Under my watch, the local newspaper was a strong supporter of local school levies even in hard times. I always believed, and I guess I owe a lot to my father for my thinking, that as a community's schools go, so goes the community.

For the most part, my father and mother believed in Catholic schools for their children. The younger children in the family, yes, including me, finished their high school educations in the public schools, but only after more than 10 years under the guidance of the sisters of St. Joseph or the brothers of Holy Cross.

But my father, never a man of great means, never voted against a public school levy despite the fact that he forked over tuition so his children could attend Catholic schools.

In our area, in this general election, four school districts -- Claymont, Newcomerstown, Conotton Valley and East Holmes -- are asking for approval of additional levies. Because we are in the Great Recession -- I don't think it's over either -- it would be easy to tell voters to just say no.

And that would be wrong. At least in my mind.

Three of those districts -- Claymont, Newcomerstown and Conotton Valley -- are among the poorest districts in our area. Their effective tax rates tell part of the story, but not all of it:

Claymont -- 26.27
Newcomerstown -- 31.10
Conotton Valley -- 30.16

For comparison sake, here are the effective tax rates for Dover and New Philadelphia:

Dover -- 36.09
New Philadelphia -- 28.98

Dover long has had the reputation of having the best school system in Tuscarawas County and this is no knock on New Philadelphia because perception may or may not be reality. But there's a reason why Realtors tout Dover Schools in their advertising.

Look at the effective tax rate. It means that you will pay more in taxes in Dover than you would on the same home of the same value in New Philadelphia. It's also an indication that homes in Dover have a higher value than elsewhere and that its citizens value public education.

(When you compare the effective tax rates in and around Tuscarawas County, they're all a bargain. Move to a Cleveland or Columbus suburb and your taxes will effectively double or triple.)

Now, the knock on school levies is that they place an unfair burden on property owners and that the state needs to fix the way it funds education. I agree. But this assessment has been going on since the '70s. And when someone tells you the state needs to fix education funding and you believe it will happen in the near future, and therefore vote against your school levy, you run the risk of wrecking what you have.

Think long term here. Let's take Newcomerstown, for example. It's a poor school district. The state kicks in more per capita to educate Newcomerstown kids than it does Dover kids because of that. But it needs local help to maintain its mission. And frankly, what would happen to Newcomerstown if its school system went into the big dumper? Would you want to live there?

I know. I read the comments posted underneath stories on newspaper web sites. Some people can't figure out why they have to fund the schools when they have no kids. Others say the state needs to totally fund the schools and spare property owners. And still others blame public schools' staffing -- too many administrators, they say. Too many guidance counselors.

"They ought to run school districts like a business," is a common refrain..

Well, it's not a business. It's a school system that is charged with the responsibility of educating children in the very complicated 21st century. Good Lord, we don't know what jobs will be around in 10 years but somehow we have to prepare the children to be ready for them.

Think that's easy?

Add to the equation that a significant portion of the population probably ought not to be parents and they send their children to school every day with the scars of emotional abuse and/or neglect.

So, now we want to tell our school districts -- our poorest school districts -- to do more with less because, we'll, we're in a recession. OK, easy way out.

I'm just saying if ever there were a time to support the schools, this is it. And yes, let's hope the state figures out a better way to fund public education.  But don't forget, it can never do it without your money. You're naive if you think otherwise.

For goodness sakes, support your schools.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some things I know that are true

Every writer needs some kind of feedback and that includes me. Since I re-energized this blog a couple of weeks ago, I've received a couple of comments, but not enough to make me happy.

I'm not making a lot of money doing this, folks. Actually, I'm not making any money. So my payment comes in the form of feedback. And I'd really like some.

To make it easier for people to leave comments, I tweaked some of the settings for commenting. One no longer needs to retype a computer-generated word. Every time I'm confronted with one of those, I usually type it in wrong. Then I get another word and get that one wrong, too. Ever notice that those computer-generated letters are hard to decipher? Anyway, you just have to leave a comment now. At least that was my intention.

* * *
OK, some things I know to be true:

-- Facebook can be a dangerous place. I'm amazed how many people on it offer their whereabouts to the world. I'm not sure it's a good idea to tell the Internet that you're vacationing out of state and won't be home until a week from Tuesday. Perhaps people who do that have excellent home alarm systems.

-- I think a lot of Facebook people irritate their "friends" unknowingly by weighing in on the side of an issue that might be offensive to someone in the Facebook food chain. I did that once and now I'm a little gun shy about responding publicly to an issue. Unintended consequences and all that.

-- I don't think voters can necessarily trust the polls this year or any year for that matter. I remember getting inside exit polling numbers from the Bush-Kerry election that indicated a clear victory for John Kerry. Obviously the polling didn't tell the whole story. Kerry did well in large cities across the country and George Bush killed him in rural counties and communities.

-- The Republicans will control the House of Representatives following the election and then the onus will be on the GOP to solve all of our problems. As the New York Times points out in this story, that might be good for President Barack Obama.

-- The former Dover Elks Lodge still is standing after all these weeks. My guess is that the ghosts that inhabited the building are a little confused. Where do ghosts go after their haunts disappear?

-- Newspapers that haven't endorsed candidates by now are probably too late. I voted last week by dropping off my ballots at the Board of Elections.

-- If you're dropping off ballots at the Board of Elections, do not park for even a minute in one of the judge's parking spaces because a sheriff deputy will threaten you with a citation. Your tax dollars at work.

-- The Plain Dealer lost its editor, Susan Goldberg, to Bloomberg last week. She'll be developing Web "content" -- not news, mind you. A few weeks ago, the PD's excellent Cavaliers beat writer, Brian Windhorst, left for And the Chicago Tribune is in turmoil after the ouster of its CEO and a vice president because of bad behavior in the executive suite. Is the print side of the news business in trouble?

-- In the first season of "Boston Legal," James Spader's character pointed out that Fox News and all the other news media outlets are competing for ratings. They are giving us "content" that they think we want. He was right, of course. Fox News speaks to a particular demographic. So does MSNBC, NPR and all the others. It's OK to consume the content if you remember that it's all about ratings.

-- Meet the Candidate forums are a good thing. It's too bad they're so boring. I spent a little more than 2 1/2 hours at one a couple of weeks ago and at times had trouble staying awake. I also got the impression that most of those in attendance were partisans and not members of the general public. I still think they're a good thing.

-- Yahoo Sports says the Cleveland Cavaliers will win only 12 games this season because, well, we know why. I think they will be better than that. Perhaps now they'll play like a team and not stand around waiting for The King to shoot. Still I don't think they will win more than 30 games. Wait till next year.

-- I think the Cleveland Browns are a lot more interesting this year. They don't look so hapless. They still won't win more than a couple of games. Wait till next year.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Excellent stories on Strickland, Kasich

The Columbus Dispatch on Sunday offered two excellent stories -- profiles on Gov. Ted Strickland and his opponent John Kasich.

You can access them here.

And an op-ed piece by Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown on the inequities of trade with China. The column appeared Sunday in the New York Times.

Recommended reading.

Let me know if the links eventually go dead.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Limbach's expertise still in demand

I know I promised some fresh reading for Sundays but this one is coming a little early. Ironically, I'm writing this on Friday morning, which I used to devote to writing those Sunday commentaries that appeared in the local newspaper for 19 or so years.

* * *
New Philadelphia resident Joanne Limbach, who served as tax commissioner under Gov. Richard Celeste, was among experts who participated in a panel discussion recently at the Columbus Dispatch. The topic was the impending $8 billion deficit the state is facing and the discussion served as fodder for a story in the Dispatch last Sunday (Oct. 10).

I turn to Limbach often for facts and figures on the state budget. Among them: A penny increase in the state sales tax would generate about $1.3 billion annually. So, you can kind of figure out what it would take to fix the deficit if the Legislature decided to go that route. Tuscarawas County's rate is 6.5 percent.

The Dispatch story is here.

* * *
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, whom I met a long time ago when he first launched his political career, is becoming something of a rock star. He was the subject of a story recently in the New York Times for his role in the foreclosure crisis.

Cordray, endorsed by this blog, is an unassuming individual who once appeared (and won) on the TV game show "Jeopardy." He's extremely bright.

I'm interested in watching the impact of the foreclosure freeze in all 50 states. If I understand it correctly, banks can no longer sell homes in foreclosure until there's a resolution of the attorney generals' lawsuits. Ultimately, it could cost banks billions. Their stocks are taking a hit.

Hindsight will tell us whether the Cordray-led assault was a really good idea or a really bad one. I suppose, though, that if a bank is going to foreclose on a homeowner it ought to review all the fine print before it pulls the trigger. There is a lot of evidence to suggest the process was not only flawed, but downright fraudulent.

Says the Times in another story: "As the furor grows over lenders’ efforts to sidestep legal rules in their zeal to reclaim homes from delinquent borrowers ... banks insist that they have been overwhelmed by the housing collapse. But interviews with bank employees, executives and federal regulators suggest that this mess was years in the making and came as little surprise to industry insiders and government officials."

I'd also add that some homeowners brought the mess on themselves by ignoring the simple rules of housing affordability.

* * *
The only thing that surprises me about the Twin City Hospital Chapter 11 bankruptcy is that it didn't come much sooner than this.

It was apparent for a long time that the hospital could not pay its bills. In late spring, it owed $1 million to the physician group that staffed the emergency room.

The biggest problem TCH faces is that it operates in an impoverished area with a large percentage of Medicaid patients. My bet is that the hospital emerges from bankruptcy eventually but not without a controlling partner.

* * *
No debate here that Tuscarawas County is a great place to live and work, but we do have our share of nut cases. Most recent nut case in point is the arsonist who was at work the other night, setting fires in Strasburg, Beach City and Brewster.

Perhaps our communities need to take a cue from the big cities and begin to install security cameras at strategic points.

Anyway, I hope law enforcement (Walt? Orvis? You there? I'm counting on you guys!) nabs the culprit quickly. My guess is that there are a lot of nervous property owners along the Rt. 21/250 corridor.

* * *
Rob Burch of Dover has emerged from the shadows. Apparently some local Democrats met up with Burch at a local watering hole after the recent "Meet the Candidates" night at Kent-Tuscarawas. Burch was an unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1994 and was trounced by Republican George Voinovich.

Even Burch's hometown newspaper, The Times-Reporter, didn't endorse him.


Burch, who was informed that blogger Dick was at the "Candidates" session, replied: "I will pi-- upon his grave."

It's good to know that Rob still has that sense of humor.
* * *
I recently got a sneak peek at the Performing Arts Center at Kent-Tuscarawas and it's something else. When theater/concert patrons enter the stage area for the first time, they will be overwhelmed by its beauty and majesty. There are no bad seats.

I am understating the experience. You have to see it.

I normally don't get excited about such things. But this is different. I am excited.

And thanks to everyone who helped make it happen.

Check out the upcoming shows here. The center's grand opening weekend starts Nov. 27.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Strickland, Portman, Space

Let's forget, for a moment, the noise that has overwhelmed this year's general election. Let's forget the TV commercials that generally speak to Americans' prejudices and ill-informed views on the issues. Let's forget the annoying robo phone calls and the oversized "screaming" post cards that feature color photos of the favorite candidate and his family and black and white photos of his evil opponent.

Let's just forget all that.

Most candidates are decent, law-abiding citizens who really do want to serve the public. But the handlers and political machines transform them into supermen or bogeymen. A lot of that has to do with the unbelievable amount of money that is funneled into our campaign process.

With all that in mind, this free-to-everyone blog offers the following endorsements, for what it's worth:

Governor -- Democrat incumbent Ted Strickland.

OK, so Strickland's not the most exciting guy in the world, but there have been some bright spots in his first term. His administration has been a friend to economic developments in our area, including the new high tech park in New Philadelphia

His biggest task is before him. The state is facing an $8 billion deficit in the next fiscal year and Strickland, if re-elected, will have to deal with it immediately.

The Republican opponent, John Kasich, scares me. He wants to eventually eliminate Ohio's income tax, which in 2009 numbers would amount to about $8 billion a year. How would he make up the revenue shortfall? Well, he's a little vague about that, and says that eliminating the income tax will be good for business and as a result everything will be fine.

Yeah, right.

There's also this about Kasich. It's his way or the highway. Excitable? You bet. And people who've seen him in action say he is not above making his point by jamming a finger into an adversary's chest.

The former congressman also lined up on the side of those who advocated privatizing Social Security.

A month or so ago, polls showed Kasich with a double-digit lead over Strickland. That has changed and the race has tightened significantly. Thank goodness.

U.S. Senate -- Republican Rob Portman.

This blog has liked Portman for some time and believes that had Portman been selected by John McCain as his running mate, McCain might have won the White House.

Portman's list of accomplishments is long. Among them:  He was elected to Congress in 1993; served as U.S. Trade Representative in 2005 (a cabinet post) and subsequently as director of the Office of Management and Budget (another cabinet position).

If Portman wins the election, Ohio will have as its senators a conservative Republican -- Portman -- and a liberal Democrat -- Sherrod Brown. I rather like that check and balance.

Attorney General -- Democrat incumbent Richard Cordray

Cordray took over the attorney general's office in the wake of the Marc Dann scandal. Cordray is squeaky clean, maybe a little nerdy (so what) and is endorsed by law enforcement throughout the state. His challenger, Republican Mike DeWine, is looking for a post-retirement-from-the-Senate job.

State Auditor -- Republican David A. Yost.

Yost is the only CPA in the race. And this blog thinks the state auditor ought to be a CPA.

Secretary of State -- Republican Jon Husted

Treasurer of State -- Democrat incumbent Kevin L. Boyce

18th District U.S. Representative -- Democrat incumbent Zack Space

Has Space had some missteps? Certainly, but his stand on the health care bill -- he voted against it -- proves he is not in lockstep with the Democratic machine in Washington. After Space made his decision on the Thursday before the weekend vote, he was summoned to the White House for a one-on-one with President Barack Obama.

Talk about pressure.

He didn't cave. He voted against it at the risk of irking not only the machine but also his base, including labor. And labor has not disappointed, making robo calls in the district and urging voters to cast ballots against Space. So labor wants to punish Space by electing a conservative Republican? Huh?

Does anyone see Republican challenger Bob Gibbs voting for the Obama health care bill? Anyone? Anyone? That just goes to show you how silly the whole process has become.

And, by the way, Tuscarawas Countians, having a native son serving you in Congress is a lot better than having someone from Lakeville. Anyone know where that is? Anyone? Anyone?

96th Ohio House District -- Republican Al Landis and Democrat Josh O'Farrell

Examination of both candidates has left me in a quandary. They both favor job creation (so does every other candidate, including Supreme Court justice candidates) and both would like you to know that they're OK with you owning guns, at least according to their Web sites.

Let's face it, folks, Landis and O'Farrell are newbies to the process. Neither has held elective office and it will take a few years before they really understand how the legislative process works. I mean how it really works.

It boils down to this: Are you more comfortable with a well-educated young Democrat representing you in the Legislature, or do you prefer a conservative, older Republican?

Don't look for either candidate to solve the state's impending $8 billion deficit without a lot of help from legislative veterans.

This race is a "pick 'em."

Tuscarawas County Commissioner -- Republican incumbent Kerry Metzger.

This one's a no-brainer. Not going to waste cyberspace to explain it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mudslinging pols are cheapening the process

A friend of mine who has observed the election process up close like I have for many years commented last week that he had never seen the campaigns get as stupid and mean as they are this time around.

I had to agree.

Indeed, the candidates want you to vote for them because all hell would break loose if their opponents somehow got elected.
Pity guys like Republican Tom Ganley, who is running for Congress and who happens to be a very wealthy automobile dealer in Greater Cleveland. His opponent, incumbent Democrat Betty Sutton, would like you to know that Ganley "IS A CROOK!" and has found disgruntled car buyers to prove it. And that's why you should vote for her.

Give me a break.

At least one newspaper in Ohio -- the Plain Dealer -- is cutting through the crap with PolitiFact Ohio, which seeks to sort the truth in candidates' statements and commercials, using a "Truth-O-Meter."

OK, maybe the title's a little lame, but then we're talking about a goofy election. Somehow, it fits.

Both of our 18th Congressional District candidates -- Democrat Zack Space and Republican Bob Gibbs -- have starring "Truth-O-Meter" roles as do many other politicians.

Check out whose pants are on fire.

* * *
Here's the problem with Congress. We generally send good and decent people to its halls (yes, I think Zack Space and John Boccieri are good and decent people). But something happens when they arrive in Washington for the first time after winning elections.

The machine gobbles them up and spits them out. Their first job, the machine says, is to raise money for the next election. And they are told that they need experienced Washington insiders to help run their offices. They are immediately subjected to the pressures of their respected parties. That means if you're a Democrat, you vote the way Nancy Pelosi wants you to. Or President Obama. Or any number of other Democratic power brokers in Washington.

When the young congressman bucks the trend, he is ostracized and threatened by the machine. Maybe with subtlety, maybe not. The pressure is enormous.

Meanwhile, there are constituent issues to deal with and chicken dinners to attend. (And in Zack Space's case, there are 15 counties in the sprawling 18th. How does one man cover a territory the size of a small state without suffering at least a mild case of exhaustion?)

What irks the American people is that most every issue in Congress is defined by partisan politics and that the public good takes a back seat to the political power play.

If they asked, I would advise Space and Boccieri to step away from the machine and if re-election is damned, well, so be it. Both men survived before they served in Congress and they will do so again. The sun will come up.

Should they win re-election this time -- and I think they will by small margins --  they should re-assert themselves as the managers of their offices and campaigns. They need to be in charge, not the machine and not the kids who come knocking for campaign jobs every two years.

Doug Applegate, who held the congressional seat for almost two decades, didn't worry too much about having to attend every chicken dinner in every corner of the district. And he was happy in his non-power role, excelling at helping constituents.

But the citizens and press didn't see him much. And it didn't seem to matter to voters. They elected him nine times.

But let's get back to the election of 2010. Every negative commercial that airs on behalf of sitting members of Congress serves to cheapen their roles and character. And their opponents aren't much better.

Isn't it a shame that we've turned over the election process to political Mad Men, whose strategy is always to beat up the opponent, using half-truths and innuendos?

I feel dirty just talking about it.

* * *
The New York Times has a good story on Nancy Pelosi and her bid to get Democrats re-elected. The Times acknowledges that Pelosi is not very well liked. No kidding.

You can access it here.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bullies not just for middle school

Writing a blog allows the writer to set his own limits. In the old days, writing for a newspaper of general circulation meant that I'd have to watch my language. There were certain words I couldn't use.

I'm not about to become a foul-mouthed pundit, but there are a few news stories that make me mutter The Word as in "What the ----?

One such story came to the surface last week.

Two Rutgers University students outed a gay classmate by streaming across the Internet live video of a sexual encounter with another man in his dorm room. The victimized student subsequently committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. His body was recovered from the Hudson River.

Tyler Clementi, 19, a talented musician, now belongs to the ages. We think of bullies as roaming middle school playgrounds. Obviously, they are all around us -- from dorm rooms to board rooms -- and of all ages. They always have been, of course, but now they've turned to the Internet and technology to attack and embarrass.

What the ....

OK, I won't use the word. But I'm thinking it.

* * *
It appears Atwood Resort & Conference Center is on life support. A story last week didn't offer much hope that it could be saved without a large infusion of money.

Let me ask this: Would the lodge have been a good project for federal stimulus money? Would the masses (read Tea Party) have gotten really angry over using public money to fix a resort and save jobs and tax base?

One other question: Would the lodge's fortunes have been better had it been built on the water rather than on a hill overlooking Atwood Lake? You know what they say about hindsight.

* * *
The only reason I mention this next item is because the few people I've mentioned it to have been surprised. I am by no means an expert in such matters.

Did you know all of the Columbus network-affiliated TV stations are available on Time Warner Cable in the Dover-New Philadelphia area? So is Cleveland's PBS affiliate, WVIZ. But you can't get them if you use a cable box or have an old TV set. You need a newer HDTV that can access HD channels such as 25-1, 25-2 and so on.

If this is important to you, get yourself a digital two-way splitter, inserting one coax feed from the splitter directly into the back of the TV. The other feed can go into the box, which should be connected to your TV via HDMI cable. That way you can have the best of both worlds.

The Columbus channels and WVIZ are not available through the box. Press the TV button on your remote, then find the menu and rescan for the available cable channels. That process can take a few minutes, but when it's done check Channels 97-38, 97-41, 97-42 and 97-43 for your Columbus connection.

I don't know why Time Warner is currently carrying those channels or how long it will continue to do so. But it's been that way for awhile. The Columbus channels, incidentally, are in standard definition.

If you have questions about this e-mail me. I don't want to spend a lot of time on this because it is really boring stuff for a lot of readers. And to those readers I apologize.