January 21, 2007

Shameless Plug: USAT Recommends CYMnow.com Without Realizing It

Filed under: General — Tom @ 5:49 pm


It’s nice when a publication says something you want to say with your having to ask them.

This is one of those times:

It’s January, and the mail no longer brings cheery holiday cards. Instead, credit card bills — heavy with holiday expenses — are arriving in mailboxes, inducing groans, if not gasps, from those of us who can’t remember charging quite so many gifts.

Before the holidays began, the average shopper planned to spend about $800 for presents, according to the National Retail Federation. By the end of the season, spending rose by 4.4% from the 2005 season. The average consumer charged $628 to his or her credit cards, according to CardWeb.com. It’s no wonder that household debt can be swollen by holiday bills.

“There’s going to be some big surprises, as there always are, when these first bills come in,” says David Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies, or AICCCA.

Are there any ways to ease the pain? Yes, though unfortunately only a little. Debt, after all, still has to be repaid, promptly. The most effective step you can take now is to develop a plan to take control of your finances before the next holiday shopping season.

That last sentence is exactly what Control Your Money Now (CYMnow.com) is all about.

Ohio Schools: An Economy-Crippling Power Grab

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Economy,Education,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:33 pm

It’s definitely worth noticing when the Cleveland Plain Dealer has a problem (HT to an anonymous e-mailer) with an education and tax proposal because it’s too expensive and “controversial.”

And that is indeed the case:

School Funding
Just as Ohio’s conversation takes a new, hopeful turn, old, familiar, self-serving voices blurt non-solutions
Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Never have the prospects for Ohio school funding reform looked more promising.The state has a new governor committed to reform and many lawmakers at least willing to consider it.So, with the conditions ripe for reform, along comes the movement’s most ardent advocates to mount their latest self-defeating stunt. Not only have reform advocates crafted a plan that comes without a price tag, they’ve managed to alienate a handful of well-intentioned, big-city mayors who were once their allies.

Their destructive handiwork comes in the form of a lengthy constitutional amendment that would guarantee each public school student in the state “the opportunity for a High Quality Public Education.” The provision would create an accountability commission to report on whether the state is spending as much as it should, while another commission would work with the State Board of Education to determine just how much to spend. Lawmakers would have substantially less influence, unless they could muster three-fifths majorities in each house to override the recommendations of the so-called experts.

This is obviously the kind of idea that rings more alarm bells with conservatives than the Chicago Fire. But when even the big-city mayors with the worst (and, not coincidentally, most expensive) school systems are objecting, you know it’s really bad news.

How bad? We’re talking really big, economy-crippling numbers here:

  • State Senator Kevin Coughlin (R-Cuyahoga Falls; HT RAB) — “What the coalition has proposed is nothing more than a massive tax increase on Ohioans,” Coughlin said. “If this plan were in place today, it would require at least a 38% increase in state income tax, or a 43% increase in the state sales tax to just fund schools in FY2007. The actual tax hike needed to fund this plan will be even higher once the coalition finally tells Ohioans just how much they want to spend on schools.”
  • Lone conservative PD columnist Kevin O’Brien: “….. whenever the legislature, the governor or the taxpayers might be tempted to say “no” to some educator-driven excess, the education lobby could say, “Ah, ah, ah! It’s a fundamental right.”

You would think that even tax-and-spend addicts might conclude, after decades of watching spending on primary and secondary ed per pupil go up at roughly twice the rate of inflation, with no measurable improvement in student performance (and by most accounts, a decline), that the same old “money will solve everything” mantra would be getting a little tired. You would be wrong. What’s more, the proposed set-up is a straitjacket that will commit the state to the factory-model school for eternity.

Meanwhile, it is more than a little likely that technological and other developments, if allowed, will lead to the ability to deliver more meaningful, effective, and relevant learning at a fraction of the cost. If that day indeed arrives and other states get in on the improvements first, the constraints imposed by a constitutional amendment such as the one being proposed could cause Ohio to very quickly become an ignorant, expensive, and embarrassing educational backwater.

No way this proposed constitutional amendment (PDF) should make it to the ballot. If you are asked to sign a petition to get it there, just say no.

Wow, I Want to Be in This Business

Filed under: Business Moves,Consumer Outrage,Economy — Tom @ 12:19 pm

Chuckoblog has the details on how you, too, can rake in $120 million a month and provide zero customer service.

A few years ago, this collection of scam artists company started charging monthly fees for access. They started at $5; and now it’s $15. Please don’t tell me the economy isn’t good when 8 million people can throw $180 a year at an online video game.

Evening News Viewership Was Down about 10% in 2006

So when are the Big Three Networks going to do something about their hopelessly outmoded and out-of-touch evening-news dinosaurs?

The 2006 report on The State of the News Media from Journalism.org, which covered 2005 results, showed that the Big 3 Networks’ evening news audience that year averaged 27 million (the exact number is not noted, but inferred from reading the graph at the link; if anything, the actual number may have been slightly higher).

TV Newser says the final 2006 evening news averages were:

NBC: 8,785,000 / ABC: 8,069,000 / CBS: 7,429,000

Rounding up slightly, that’s a total of 24.3 million — not exactly the disaster yours truly thought might occur this summer after a particularly bad week for evening news viewership, but a pretty steep decline nonetheless. On average during 2006, over 200,000 fewer people each month tuned in to see NBC’s Nightly News (currently anchored by Brian Williams), ABC’s World News Tonight (currently with Charles Gibson), or the CBS Evening News (with Katie Couric).

Eyeballing the following graph from last year and looking at the 2006 numbers above, it looks like NBC was down about 14%, ABC about 11%, and CBS about 6%:


The overall drop was about 10%. And yes, Virginia, overall evening news viewership is down well over 50% in the past 26 years, from roughly 52 million to today’s 24.3 million, while the USA’s population has gone up about one-third (from 226 million in 1980 to a little over 300 million at the end of 2006).

If the decline in the number of viewers continues at that 2.7 million-per-year pace, the audience for the nets’ hopelessly biased evening news broadcasts will be gone in just nine years. Of course, network executives who have been ignoring these loss leaders for years (the explanation as to why they can continue to deteriorate and avoid moving away from their relentlessly biased ways is here) will be forced to sit up, take notice, and act to pull the plugs long before that occurs.

Counting the days ….

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


UPDATE: The three evening news shows had a good week of Jan. 8 (26.24 million viewers, but with NBC and ABC benefiting from all of the gains; CBS came in below the average above), probably because of President Bush’s Iraq War speech and related stories.

Positivity: ‘Rocky’ tells Spanish audience he has returned to the faith

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:01 am

From Catholic News Agency:

Madrid, Jan 11, 2007 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- While in Spain promoting his new movie “Rocky Balboa,” actor Sylvester Stallone said he has returned to the faith and decided to make that part of the message of the movie, which debuts this week in Europe. According to the Spanish daily “La Razon,” the star of the Rocky and Rambo movies has rediscovered God and is encouraging his fans to attend church to help free themselves of the pressure of today’s world and to strengthen their souls.

Stallone talks straight about his conversion. “The past doesn’t matter. If you look to God, you can be reborn,” the actor says, adding that his latest film is a reflection of the Christian faith, which he lost in his youth. “To me this film has been guided by the hand of God,” Stallone confessed.

The actor grew up in a Catholic home and attended Catholic schools. “Later I took some wrong turns when I went out into ‘real life.’ I needed to go through my trials and tribulations before I could be man enough to star in a movie like this,” he said.

“Rocky Balboa” begins twenty years after the fighter’s last boxing match. Rocky has undergone a conversion, he listens to Scripture readings before each fight, “and that gives him strength,” Stallone added.

“Rocky forgives. He is not bitter. He always shows the other cheek. Its as if his entire life was one of service to others. The movie is about redemption, not only Balboa’s redemption but of Stallone himself,” the actor emphasized.

“Most of my previous films were bloody,” he continued. “They were the creative results of my youth, when my marriage was not going well and I felt myself seduced by the temptations of Hollywood,” Stallone told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Today he is in a stable marriage and has a completely different relationship with Jesus. “When I go to church and I deepen my belief in Jesus and I hear his Word, at the same time that I let his hand guide me, I see how he freed me from my pressures. The church is the gymnasium of the soul,” Stallone said.