Thursday, April 15, 2010

15 APR 10: These Little Piggies

Here's hoping you're not confused by all the deadlines being broadcast right now. Today is the income tax filing deadline. Friday is the deadline to mail your Census questionnaire. And Saturday is the deadline to enter the St. Jude Dream Home giveaway - which will radically change the first two for awhile, if you win it.

With the tax deadline close, a new book accuses local members of Congress of wasting our federal tax dollars. The watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste released its annual "Pig Book" Wednesday. So if you see a copy of this book lying around, it is NOT a guide to Columbus barbecue restaurants.

The Pig Book gets its name from the pork-barrel spending some members of Congress work out, usually for projects in their districts. This year's edition counts 9,129 of them nationwide. That many pigs in one place used to get a short mention on the radio farm reports....

The Pig Book is not afraid to name names and projects. In fact, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama was connected to 30 separate earmarks last fiscal year worth $61.6 million. They include six separate projects at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville - to symbolize which way our federal deficit is going.

Both Alabama Senators are cited for pork-barrel spending, when it comes to developing a "climate model evaluation program" costing $1.8 million. I had a long-time favorite climate model - but now Alexandra Steele of the Weather Channel is married and a mom.

But Rep. Sanford Bishop comes close to matching Richard Shelby's pork-barrel spending total. The Pig Book connects him to 66 earmarks, worth $60.6 million. At least Bishop knows how to get more marks for his millions - a bit like buying low-fat pork sausage.

Yet this is where things get tricky - because Citizens Against Government Waste seems to define "pork" as almost any earmark attached to a bill in Congress. Most lawmakers probably would argue the money goes to necessary programs back home. Sanford Bishop obtained $75,000 for the Butler Police Department to obtain new equipment - and I doubt that means a Wii rifle range.

In fact, 16 of Rep. Sanford Bishop's earmarks were supported by Sen. Johnny Isakson. Bishop is a Democrat. Isakson is a Republican. But then, Isakson is up for re-election this year - and that can make many tight-fisted Republicans big spenders to "preserve jobs." Including their own....

What sort of local pork did Citizens Against Government Waste find? We went through the Pig Book and found several other examples:

+ The Family Center received $200,000 for a "Family Disintegration Prevention and Assistance Project." The church group I attend has another name for this - a weekend camp-out.

+ The "Building Toward Wellness Community Coalition" received $75,000 for an after-school program. This is a branch of Fourth Street Baptist Church - which leads me to think the program doesn't even dare teach the "Bible as literature."

+ The Soldier Center at Patriot Park received four million dollars. That could be in exchange for all the money lost when the National Infantry Museum hosted Sanford Bishop's town hall meeting on health care reform.

+ Shorter, Alabama received $500,000 for a new "Emergency Operations Center." The next time the anti-gambling task force moves in on Victoryland, it could be war.

+ Auburn University received $819,000 for what CBS News called "mapping the catfish genome." Aw, c'mon - most people in the South simply want a map of where they're biting.

A Republican candidate for Georgia Governor also receives special mention in The Pig Book. Former Rep. Nathan Deal gained a $392,000 federal earmark for streetscape work in Dahlonega - including "period lighting and signage." What IS the going rate for a gallon of kerosene, anyway?

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Ed Bostic wasn't at the unemployment office very long. The former morning host at WGSY-FM "Sunny 100" told your blog Wednesday night he's becoming the new morning host at WRLD-FM "95.3 The Ride." How fitting - he's the latest Clear Channel employee to be thrown alongside the radio roadside, only to climb inside the PMB pickup.

Ed Bostic says his attorney worked out "some legal issues" Wednesday, which allowed him to move from Sunny 100 to 95.3 The Ride. I guess that means he won't have to call himself something like Jack Diamond on the air for six months....

Ed Bostic notes the move to The Ride will bring him back together with WTVM news anchor Chuck Leonard. They were together for years at Sunny 100, before last year's "big switch" of radio-TV partnerships. So expect to hear the Peaches and Herb classic "Reunited" a lot Monday morning.

Ed Bostic's arrival means former morning host Al Haynes will move to afternoon duties at The Ride. Oops, excuse me - "The Legendary" Al Haynes. He's becoming legendary for bouncing around to the most time periods on the most radio stations.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you may not expect. Visitors from around the world read "On the Flop!" <-

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on Georgia's tobacco tax ended Wednesday afternoon. Six out of ten voters support raising the tax one dollar, to help balance the state budget. Four out of ten were opposed - which makes me wonder if I should offer blog advertising space to cigar bars.

One comment left during our tragically-unscientific poll took issue with arguments by Georgia Christian Coalition President Jerry Luquire: "The smoking tax cannot be used to justify taxing the obese, as food is.... not a choice but a necessity." Maybe so, but some people want to tax what they consider bad food choices. If they demand pizza be taxed by the slice, they'll lose me.

Money matters seem to dominate the other Wednesday news....

+ The Russell County Commission approved a contract for a new Judicial Center, behind the downtown Phenix City courthouse. First the commission moved down Broad Street. Now judicial offices may get moved. Is Russell County big enough for TWO courthouse museum pieces?

+ United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley announced it's receiving a national award, for the largest increase in donations. Maybe now the agency will find 20 spare dollars for the Urban League.

+ GPB News reported the Georgia Department of Transportation is considering adding advertising kiosks at state welcome centers. I can see it now - a giant picture of Wayne Anthony with the words: "Move here soon and vote for me."

+ Alabama House leaders decided to postpone a proposed constitutional amendment allowing a statewide vote on electronic bingo. They explained lawmakers will have a full week to study the proposal's wording - while they oversee a bidding war for their votes from lobbying groups.

+ Auburn's Police Chief told WTVM he's so fed up with litter, officers will issue $350 tickets to people caught in the act of littering. Now there's an alternative to raising garbage collection fees....

+ Limestone County, Alabama authorities arrested a man on cocaine possession charges. The suspect is accused of hiding five ounces of cocaine in foil, and making it look like a baked potato alongside chicken. Dangerous drugs are one thing. Dangerous drugs covered with high-cholesterol butter could ruin your health.

+ Georgia Tech trampled Georgia 25-6 in college baseball. You know the game is out of hand when the fans in Athens hurry home to watch the end of "American Idol."

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