Saturday, January 31, 2004



True confession: I hardly ever get invited to Super Bowl parties. I've been invited to someone's house a couple of times, but I was scheduled to work. And the one time I actually went to a party in 1981, I annoyed people by practicing my play-by-play skills during the game.

Given my history, it's tempting to go to Callaway Gardens this weekend. It's promoting a Super Bowl party starting at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, complete with giveaways and free food at halftime. Halftime?!?! Isn't part of the purpose for this party to have food from pre-game to post-game?

It would be a bit of a drive for me to go to Callaway Gardens simply to watch a football game on TV. So this year, I'm doing something different - I'm boycotting the Super Bowl. Yes, I said boycotting. We know how well that works for the Columbus Rainbow/PUSH Coalition....

So why should you boycott Sunday's Super Bowl? Glad you asked that question....

1. MTV is producing the Super Bowl half-time show. Do you really want to risk your family seeing another Britney Spears-Madonna style kiss?

2. The Super Bowl promotes militarism. I didn't realize this until I discovered a column online this past week, written by a British reporter. You may have thought those Air Force flyovers were patriotic -- but in North Korea, they're called government propaganda.

3. We all have more important things to do. Start on your income taxes, and you'll get your refund faster.

4. The emphasis on commercials. You say you only watch the Super Bowl for the ads? You can see full-length infomercials on Columbus TV stations at least four-and-a-half hours per day, from Monday through Friday -- and the weekend total is probably higher.

5. Related to that: WRBL is showing the game - which means important on-screen statistics will be missed at least once for the "Columbus Transmissions" time and temperature.

6. New England has a linebacker named Teddy Bruschi, pronounced BREW'-skee. How much drunk driving will this name encourage?

7. This year's game is in February - on purpose, not due to a postponement after a terror attack. Playing important outdoor football games this close to President's Day simply is wrong.

8. The alternative "Bud Bowl" practically has disappeared. It once had dueling Budweiser beer bottles and million-dollar giveaways - but this year it's down to a coupon booklet at Publix.

9. We can do more loving, outreaching public service projects instead. For instance, how about a card shower encouraging Muscogee County Deputy David Glisson to get well enough for that G.B.I. interview?

10. BIG PREDICTION: I'll tell you now, Carolina will win. N.F.C. teams have won the last four Super Bowls played in Presidential election years -- and if you count "old N.F.L." teams like the Steelers, they're 8-1 overall. Oh, if only Michael Vick had stayed healthy....

BLOG UPDATE: WRBL's Weather Team conceded Friday evening, in that showdown over the weekend forecast. It lowered the predicted high temperatures down AGAIN, to the high 40's the other guys expected for days. I never knew Triple Doppler Radar had the ability to read highs as well as rain.

(But it turns out today's high was 56 degrees F. So which station would you rather watch -- the one that's right but backs down, or the one that's wrong all along?)

Now while you plan or execute your weekend strategies, let's send some Instant Messages to East Alabama:

+ To Smiths Station High School: I can understand why you bought billboard space to salute your champion junior varsity cheerleaders. But why are two of them located on U.S. 431 in south Phenix City? Are you trying to rub it in to Russell County High?

+ To the LETA trolley driver in Opelika: Just because your trolley is cute does NOT mean you can block three or four parking spaces at Sonic by parking long-ways. Pick a spot, please!

+ To Café 123 in Opelika: So you have "country cooking" at lunch and "fine dining" for dinner. Does that mean the chicken-fried steak gets a fancy sauce poured on it?

AHEAD THIS COMING WEEK: We learn whether anyone knocked off a Columbus champion....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 30, 2004



The first thing I noticed were the green cloths. They hang down as if they're covering humans - though some children might think a group of ghosts drank that new "Diet Coke with Lime."

But this exhibit is anything but child's play. I was looking at a Holocaust display currently in the library of Chattahoochee Valley Community College. The green cloths obviously represent people killed by the Nazis. The "bodies" are much too thin to be people enrolled in Weigh Down Columbus.

Each green cloth in the exhibit has a small "star of David" attached, and the word "Jude" on each star. That word made me think first of the short New Testament book, instead of Jews. Despite my last name of "Burkard," most words in German are, well, Greek to me....

What really drove home the Holocaust message for me was what rests below the green cloths: several pairs of empty shoes. The "bodies" seem vaporized. I knew the Nazis sent thousands of Jews to gas chambers, but I never considered they would turn into a form of gas afterward.

The display of Jewish bodies is surrounded by photos from the World War II era, and quotes from Holocaust survivors. To be honest, I didn't read the quotes. I was too distracted trying to figure out how those cloths hung so neatly, while some of my clothes never do.

CVCC's Holocaust display includes a rack of library books about World War II which students can check out. A table has several booklets for browsing, which tell you the Holocaust involved more than Jews. Even Jehovah's Witnesses were killed - though I doubt readers will remember that when members knock on their doors early on a Saturday morning.

In front of the display is a placard listing "three commandments" learned from the Holocaust. Uh oh - when is the lawsuit going to be filed, to move that to a library closet?

As I considered this powerful display, I reminded a library employee many people believe anti-Semitism is increasing again in Europe. Synagogues have been burned. Newspaper writers have claimed Israel has no right to exist. And have you noticed how much more expensive all-beef hot dogs cost at the supermarket?

As it happened, Chattahoochee Valley Community College hosted a forum Thursday on renovating downtown Phenix City. Mayor Sonny Coulter and other city officials now plan to visit downtown Atlanta for some ideas. That's just what this area needs - 25-story skyscrapers on Broad Street.

FREE FOOD FINDER: "God is good all the time!" my fixed-income neighbor said Thursday as she got in my car after loading the trunk with groceries. But then she added, "White folks will help you. Coloreds won't - black people." This African-American woman slowly is becoming the latest person to believe "one Columbus" really CAN happen.

I drove my neighbor to St. Anne's Outreach, a food pantry located in a house down the hill from St. Anne's Catholic School and Pacelli High. Somehow I doubt any students come here to eat - since if you can afford to send children to private schools, they don't need subsidized lunches.

Before the stop at St. Anne's Outreach, my neighbor and I stopped at the Health and Human Services Center on Comer Avenue. I'd never been here before - and it may be the first city government building I've ever seen with a labeled "Food Court." [True!]

Big signs are present around the Health and Human Services Center promoting employment. One of them said, "Think work, not welfare." So why aren't these signs posted in the management offices of area mills?

The Health and Human Services Center handles a variety of local concerns. One of them is domestic violence - and in fact, it helped arrange several forums on that topics last October. I know this because the flyers promoting the forums still haven't been taken down from bulletin boards, almost four months later.

Speaking of FREE FOOD, that's practically what the RaceTrac station on Victory Drive is offering right now. You can get free candy with a fountain drink - or any size fountain drink and a hot dog for one dollar. A 44-ounce soda will wash away that weiner in no time at all....

BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: Have you seen a place with free food, either for one night or year-round? Please write us, to help build an online Free Food Finder for our area.

Now for other things that happened on Oprah Winfrey's 50th birthday (and oh yes, my home state of Kansas's 143rd):

+ Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff explained the city can afford big raises for the two Deputy City Managers, because the city is saving money trimming costs in other areas. You won't mind if jail inmates come out to fight fires, do you?

(City Manager Carmen Cavezza told WRBL his deputies were given raises to about $90,000 a year partially because that will "keep them in town." If I had that much money, I'd be tempted to take a vacation even farther AWAY from town.)

+ WRBL's Weather Team backed down a bit, in a TV showdown over the weekend forecast. News 3 was predicting Saturday and Sunday highs around 60, while the other guys said 40's. Now News 3 has dropped its prediction to around 55 -- and if that's wrong, the meteorologists probably will borrow a Howard Dean speech and still declare victory.

(But then again, there's Jim Devitt on NBC-38 - who admitted at 11:00 p.m.: "I don't analyze this stuff. I rip it. I read it." If only he knew what other newsrooms tend to do....)

+ Cusseta Road Elementary School held "Dynamic Dad's Day." This sounds like a great idea to get fathers involved in education. If we had more Dynamic Dads, our schools might have fewer Dropout Duds.

+ Country singer Kenny Chesney gave a benefit concert at Auburn's War Eagle Supper Club. It raised an estimated $3,000 for Lee County Boys' and Girls' Clubs - which reportedly serve 800 children. So this show's benefit comes to four bucks a child. Chesney might as well have given the clubs a stack of autographed programs to sell.

+ The Columbus Riverdragons lost by three points to Charleston, in a game played at Fort Benning's Audie Murphy Gymnasium. But c'mon now - isn't it a stretch to call this "the first professional basketball game ever played at a U.S. military installation?" Somehow I suspect the Harlem Globetrotters played inside a base at least once.

(As part of the NBDL's tribute to the military, the rap group "Nappyroots" promoted reading at Fort Benning's Faith Middle School. I can't help wondering whether any of those students have ever heard of the book "Roots.")

+ Instant message to the last circus to appear in Columbus, wherever you are: Did you forget something when you left town? I found some things you left behind, at the Oakland Park Shopping Center. You might consider them souvenirs, but some of us call it litter.

BLOG CORRECTION The Junior League's Follies actually will begin February 5th, not February 6th. So the cast can put its acting lessons from "Cats" to work even sooner....

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 29, 2004



First came the billboards. Then came TV commercials. But the last straw came the other day, when I saw a bumper sticker on Wynnton Road promoting "Follies '04." Whoever gave this name to the presidential campaign certainly did a great job....

But seriously: "Follies '04" is a stage production the Junior League of Columbus is preparing for the first full weekend of Feburary. I understand why the group wants to promote this - but members even have put up yard signs around town. What does it say when there are more Follies signs than United Way signs?

A Junior League spokesperson talked about Follies '04 Wednesday on WRBL's "News 3 at Noon." She said it's the first Follies in Columbus in four years. That refers to the show, not the hiring of a Muscogee County school chief of staff.

The Junior League spokesperson said Follies '04 has been in the making more than a year - and any member who tried out for the show was guaranteed a role. We're either in for some big dance numbers, or a choral version of a bad "American Idol" audition.

This year's Follies will take place at the Bradley Theatre, which is where the first Junior League Follies was staged in 1933. From the clips I've seen on television, I wouldn't be surprised if the ladies in this year's show wear MORE clothes.

The theme of Follies '04 is "Big Band, Bold Blues." In most years, this would refer to the Albany State Marching Band's appearance at McClung Memorial Stadium in November....

The proceeds from Follies '04 February 6-7 will benefit the Anne Elizabeth Shepherd Home. The spokesperson said the Junior League has "returned more than $1 million to the community" since 1931. OK, so how much did you smuggle out of town?

I've lived in other cities where the Junior League gets involved in stage productions. During my youth in the Kansas City area, we took field trips to see women perform children's stories such as "Cinderella." I doubt this was performed for grown-ups - because some desperate single guy might try to imitate the glass slipper part.

The Junior League in Enid, Oklahoma used to put on "Follies" productions every year. They must have been good, because some businesses actually posted signs praising them. But of course, in Enid there was controversy over whether a country star should have a Sunday afternoon concert outdoors.

(By the way, why is there a "Junior League" but no "Senior League?" In Columbus, that phrase seems to refer only to tennis or bowling.)

It strikes me as strange that Follies signs seem to be all over town, while the national tour of "Cats" doesn't have as much publicity for next week's shows at the RiverCenter. You'd think the Muscogee County Humane Society would be selling discount tickets or something....

(I realized only Wednesday that "Cats" will visit Columbus at the same time "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" is playing at the Springer Opera House. Please don't get these plays mixed up - or you'll have a lot of explaining to do to your children.)

Now other notes from a winter Wednesday:

+ Columbia Forest Products announced it will close its Cuthbert plant - which reportedly employed more than half the people in town. Maybe some of those workers should have chopped down trees around Randolph County on their weekends.

+ ShopWise sent a mass mailing across Columbus with coupons from Schlotzsky's Deli. Trouble is, the ad listed a store on Auburn Avenue - which has been closed for weeks! To borrow from the Schlotzsky's slogan: "Funny Name, Seriously Misinformed."

+ Soul singer Faith Evans appeared in an Atlanta courtroom, after she was arrested on drug possession charges. Considering who her former husband was, she's in B.I.G. trouble....

+ Instant Message to B&B Tax Services on Macon Road: what do you mean when you say in your radio commercial I'm "more than a tax return?" Does that mean I'm a credit card number, too?

COMING SOON: A small, but powerful display.... and why you should boycott the Super Bowl....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004



A grade school assistant principal near Warm Springs has been arrested, because he punished a troublesome kindergarten student by spanking. What's going on here? Are Meriwether County schools running low on Ritalin?

Anthony Crawford of Mountain View Elementary School is charged with abusing Chase Youngblood, by giving him a paddling. He had to post a $5,000 bond to get out of jail - and avoid hearing jokes from other inmates about being put in "time out."

Mother Debby Youngblood said Tuesday she gave permission for her son to be spanked at school - but the bruises on her boy's (ahem) bottom went too far for her. This family should be thankful it lives in Meriwether County. In Muscogee County, the principal might threaten to call a sheriff's deputy.

Anthony Crawford reportedly is back on the job as assistant principal at Mountain View Elementary. He hasn't even been put on leave, despite the arrest! Considering Crawford is African-American and the boy he spanked is European-American, now we'll REALLY see if area civil rights groups are color-blind....

The Muscogee County School District has specific rules for corporal punishment. Among other things, a witness must be present -- and spanking cannot be the "first line of punishment." I guess that means the student gets a long, boring lecture first.

So, you may be asking, where do I stand on spanking? Anywhere I can - because that way, it's easier to avoid....

I was never spanked at grade school when I was young - but a couple of times I was put "on the line." That meant while the other children enjoyed recess on the playground, I had to stand at the edge of the blacktop facing the other way. It turned out to be great practice for some of the surprisingly sexy moments nowadays on prime-time TV.

For years, I've heard ministers say spanking is necessary for teaching discipline - but they also say it should be done in love, not in anger. But then again, I've never heard of a mom or dad who kissed the spot before spanking it.

Here's what else caught our eyes and ears on Tuesday:

+ Former Tonight Show host Jack Paar died at 85. I mention this because practically my first childhood memory involves him. I sat in my preschool playpen in a bedroom on a sunny afternoon, and the name "Jack Paar" kept going through my mind. To this day, I don't know if it was because I woke my parents up at 11:30 p.m. one night.

+ Fourth Street Baptist Church had an unusual funeral - as parked right behind the hearse on Fifth Street was a stretch limousine. No, I don't know which rap star died....

+ At the corner of 11th Street and Third Avenue, a yellow Volkswagen smiled at me. Really, I can prove it! Now I know I've been working in front of computers too long.

(It's either that, or I finally found one of those cars which get nothing but Chevron gasoline with Techron....)

+ A Winterfield neighborhood group submitted petitions to stop a proposed car wash and detailing shop on 32nd Avenue near Cusseta Road. Neighborhood spokesman Willie Phillips said that business would have loud music, and "attract all kinds of people..." Well, we certainly can't have that - because that might actually bring Columbus together.

+ Columbus Council heard a proposal to set up a 3-1-1 phone number, for city services. I'm not sure this is a good idea. For one thing, residents might move to other cities, ask "what's the 311?" and get laughed at.

+ Russell County Commissioner Tillman Pugh was jumped from behind and mugged by several people. We hope the suspects didn't do anything worse to him - like utter some sexually harassing comments.

+ Governor Sonny Perdue was given a Georgia Force arena football jersey, complete with shoulder pads. He even put the uniform on for reporters -- which probably was a big mistake. Democrats already think he's padding the truth about his use of state helicopters.

(Why would Governor Perdue put on something like this? Only last year, he made such a big deal about losing weight.)

+ Instant Message to the Ledger-Enquirer: It's nice to see your Wednesday issue has an article on the missing live TV lottery drawings. I guess I can understand you not reading this blog for an entire week, since we mentioned it first - but doesn't your staff watch evening television, either?

BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: Did you go to Russ Whitney's highly-promoted Columbus "wealth building seminar?" We'd like your thoughts about it (good or bad), to share on the blog. Please write us with your comments.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004



Nicaragua's Defense Minister received an award Monday, from Fort Benning's Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Hopefully he received a good taste of the Columbus scene, by stopping at Brito's Market on South Lumpkin Road to buy some imported bananas.

It was no surprise at all to see Jack and Miriam Tidwell on hand to see WHINSEC honor Nicaraguan Defense Minister Jose Guerra. Sometimes I wonder if the Tidwells should save the government money, and run the institute themselves. They seem to love it that much....

Jose Guerra says Nicaragua needs an institute such as WHINSEC to teach military officers "civilian control." Does he really mean what he's saying? Managua must have had non-stop brawls in the streets for decades.

Jose Guerra received a "democracy and human rights award" from WHINSEC as 28 opponents of the institute went on trial in U.S. Federal Court. They marched to the courthouse at dawn from Howard Johnson's - thus proving they're out of touch, because they didn't stop for breakfast at Ruth Ann's.

Federal Judge Mahlon Faircloth sentenced some of the SOA Watch protesters to six months in prison. Others received one year's probation - and they left the courthouse complaining, "Those other guys are going to have all the fun!"

One of the people on trial for illegally crossing onto Fort Benning was a mother of five from California. Lissa Ann Barnes warned her children she might have to go to prison for months - but in the back of her mind, Barnes might consider this an extended vacation.

Another of the SOA Watch defendants was a student at Duke Divinity School in North Carolina. They have a divinity school, at a university where sports teams are called "Blue Devils" ?!?!

Anyway, this Duke Divinity School student read a statement comparing the abuse Latin American people face from SOA Watch/WHINSEC graduates to the torture Jesus endured. After seeing a clip from Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" movie Monday night, perhaps this group will move from closing WHINSEC to banning New Testaments and films about them.

WHINSEC Commandant Richard Downie said the protesters are NOT on trial for opposing the institute. Instead, they're accused of crossing onto a military installation to engage in a protest of ANY sort. So when the Riverdragons play a game on post Thursday night, don't boo the officials or you might get arrested.

Now some other notes from a sleepy, rainy Monday:

+ Georgia Public Broadcasting showed a documentary on the Koinonia movement in Sumter County. But during a segment on integrating First Baptist Church of Americus in 1969, "Worthy of Worship" was sung - a song copyrighted 19 years LATER, in 1988! Is this the only alternative hymn they could find for "Onward Christian Soldiers?"

+ Talbot County residents held a public hearing to oppose a proposed biomedical waste facility. It would be located across the street from the Box Springs Café - which at least would ensure the café restrooms are filled with disinfectant soap.

+ WRBL News offered details of Alabama Governor Bob Riley's plan for more government accountability. One detail shown on the screen said he wants to ban "pass-through PARK." Well, that's one way to keep tourists in the state longer - having them drive around all the parkland.

+ Professional masseuses provided massages inside the Georgia Capitol building! They did it to lobby for a bill which would allow insurance coverage for alternative health treatments. [True/GPB-TV] So when do Victory Drive businesses plan to do this sort of thing inside the Columbus Government Center?

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 26, 2004



A week has now passed, and it still seems odd - not seeing any live drawings of Georgia Lottery numbers on Columbus television. But then again, convenience stores probably are thrilled. People have to go there a second time, to see if they won.

I'm hearing WRBL dropped the live Georgia Lottery drawings because the managers felt they hurt the ratings of newscasts. This seems a bit hard to believe. As often as I've watched the 11:00 p.m. drawings, I don't recall the number nine coming up that often.

I posted a question about lottery drawings on a television industry message board this past week - and one reply said Atlanta's WSB-TV considers them a big help in the ratings, not a hurt. But does that station really need that sort of help? Some people around Albany already watch that station on cable, for ABC shows.

So why hasn't some other TV station in town picked up the live lottery games? One person told me it costs valuable commercial time, to fit in those drawings. Couldn't a station simply start one of those infomercials a minute late? Most people won't notice a difference, because they're not watching....

I personally don't play the Georgia Lottery - so why do I make such a fuss about the live drawings? True confession: I use them to practice speaking Spanish. If I say "veinte-y-cuatro, treinta-y-ocho, treinta-y-nueve" fast enough, I might get to be a DJ on Ritmo Latino Radio.

As it happened, the Sunday night news speculated some Alabama lawmakers might bring up the lottery again during their upcoming session. This time, it might have a chance - if Roy Moore makes too many speeches outside the state to pay attention.

While we're into numbers: did you notice the temperature difference across Georgia Sunday? When Columbus was at 60 degrees F., Atlanta was at 42. Maybe the Georgia legislature is to blame for this - with the chilly relations in election years between Republicans and Democrats.

Two big numbers were noteworthy in sports over the weekend. First, Columbus State men's basketball coach Herbert Greene won his 600th game. Greene admitted in Sunday's Ledger-Enquirer he's old - but the newspaper didn't reveal HOW old. You almost wonder if Greene lied about that on his resume.

(Somebody has to ask this - is it fair to include six years of high school coaching in Alabama, in figuring Herbert Greene's 600 wins? Should a 32-minute game only count as 80-percent of a win?)

Then on Sunday, Auburn women's basketball coach Joe Ciampi won HIS 600th game. He's accomplished a lot over all these years - yet as usual, the A.U. trustees have blown it. Ciampi's never been offered a chance to coach the men.

(If all goes well, the Lady Tigers will win the NCAA title in April - making their coach a Joe Ciampi-on.)

BLOG UPDATE: Another march is planned in downtown Columbus this morning - this time by opponents of the former School of the Americas. It'll be interesting to see if Edward DuBose of the NAACP shows up, simply out of habit.

More than 25 people are going on trial in federal court, for "crossing the line" onto Fort Benning during SOA Watch weekend last November. Most of them probably will go to prison for six months - and hopefully write letters to Martha Stewart, to get her prepared.

The group of SOA Watch defendants had a pre-trial meeting Sunday night - and it more like a party than a wake. A few of them even wore Mardi Gras beads! Oh no - does this mean some of those nuns are going to strip in the courtroom?

So what else happened over the weekend? Here's what I noticed:

+ The Ledger-Enquirer asked Muscogee County School Board members to evaluate Superintendent John Phillips's first year in office. Four members gave him good reviews, while four others said it wouldn't be appropriate to do that in the newspaper. It looks like Mary Sue Polleys will have to break the tie....

+ "Big Fish," the movie filmed in Tallapoosa County which had Columbus residents dreaming of being extras, went 0-for-2 at the Golden Globe Awards. It followed a night-long trend - because by my count, NBC censors went 0-for-2 blocking dirty words.

+ Instant Message to First Baptist Church of Columbus: I didn't know you had a group of students doing interpretive dance to Christian songs during services. Can I do my own dance, to illustrate a sermon about "twisting the Scriptures?"

COMING THIS WEEK: The most-hyped production in Columbus.... and it's not called "Cats"....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, January 24, 2004



Before our topic, a tribute: I'm a bit saddened as I write this Friday afternoon, because I've just learned online of the death of Bob Keeshan - best-known as television's "Captain Kangaroo." If you grew up watching him every morning as I did, it's sobering news. And in his case, when it rains ping pong balls, it pours.

(I suspect this death will expose a generation gap. Baby Boomers hear "Captain," and think Kangaroo. Younger people hear "Captain," and only think Crunch.)

But I digress: do certain words or phrases get on your nerves? I heard a new one on National Public Radio Friday afternoon, as a newspaper reporter said money from Halliburton "went missing." WENT missing? Did bundles of bills wander into the Iraqi desert by themselves?

"Went missing" has become a catch-phrase for many things. It's often used to describe kidnapped children. Some use it to describe embezzled money. Before you know it, children will ask for help in finding their "went missing dog."

My pastor at church has a different sort of twist on this. He'll sometimes make a point by telling us, "You fill in the missing blank." How can I fill in a blank, if it's missing? Shouldn't I go find it first?

But I must give my pastor credit -- he's almost stopped using a "crutch word" he often used in Atlanta. He kept referring to interpersonal relations by saying you "interface" with someone. Maybe I made him feel guilty - because at a farewell event when he moved to Macon, I turned the Beatles classic "Yesterday" into, "Thanks for teaching me to interface."

Now for some questions to consider, on one of the few weekends of the year with no pro football on television:

+ Which Stewart County farmer is telling people mad cow disease could wipe out his cattle business in the range of $90,000, unless market prices keep increasing? I can't believe that many people are switching to Krystal "Spicy Chix" sandwiches.

+ Am I the only one who's noticed the "Barney" tour is coming to Columbus in the very same week as the "Cats" tour -- on almost the exact same nights? Is there some secret rivalry, which hasn't come to the surface?

+ Instant Message to the Piggly Wiggly store in downtown Phenix City: What do you mean you're watching me on a "recorded video camera?" Can I see the record of the camera -- like the bill of sale?

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 23, 2004



If the weather experts are right, it'll be a bit chilly for jogging outside today. If I can't wear running shorts, I normally don't run - because I fear I'll go so fast I'll trip over longer togs.

I tried out a new indoor place to exercise this week - the "Fitness Center" of St. Luke United Methodist Church downtown. This is quite different from other churches, which worry more about whether you're fit to escape fire and brimstone.

The St. Luke Fitness Center opened in September, and it's a nice place. It's on the second floor of a ministry building - so if they insist you pay for things in advance, you can get your workout by going up and down the stairs over and over.

The Fitness Center has a full-sized basketball court, with a narrow "track" around it for walking and running. I almost hesitate to call it a track - because I think Peachtree Mall has more room on either side of a kiosk.

(I'm admittedly presuming the basketball court is full-sized. It was divided in half when I was there - and filled with half-sized children holding practice sessions.)

With plenty of children running around the Fitness Center, I decided to walk around the track instead of running. After all, I didn't want to show them up - or trip them up, and get sued by their parents.

I did NOT go inside the Aerobic Room at the St. Luke Fitness Center. But I could see through a window it has treadmills and other exercise equipment, as well as four overhead TV sets. For some reason, at 6:00 p.m. none of those TV's were tuned to Dr. Phil and his "Ultimate Weight-Loss Challenge."

The St. Luke Fitness Center is open seven days a week, but there are monthly fees for using the Aerobic Room. You pay less if you're a member of St. Luke United Methodist Church - which leads me to ask how the staff enforces this. Do you have to recite the Apostle's Creed when you register?

(Yes, the Fitness Center even is open on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons. It may be about time for Pastor Hal Brady to do a series on the Ten Commandments -- including that one about not doing any work on the Sabbath.)

I say it's about time downtown Columbus had a free indoor exercise facility like this, other than the YMCA. But I have to ask why the city never has built indoor walking-running tracks at recreation centers, as other cities have. Is there some long-term plan to cover the Riverwalk with a glass ceiling?

(This indoor track could be as simple as putting one around the new ice-skating rink planned for South Commons. And to provide balance with the RiverCenter, it could be named the "JayMaxx tracks" or something.)

BLOG UPDATE: Which well-known law officer is telling friends Deputy David Glisson tripped over something December 10th - and because Glisson didn't have the "safety" device on his submachine gun, that's why Kenneth Walker was shot? We may have had two deadly "trips" at the same time....

A Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent said Thursday his staff still has been unable to interview Deputy David Glisson. Now attorney Richard Hagler is citing "health reasons." I can't believe Glisson is allergic to interrogations.

The G.B.I. Special Agent added investigators now have interviewed the three men who rode with Kenneth Walker on the night of the shooting - but they could NOT provide specifics about what happened. So where is the passengers' Montgomery attorney getting all of HIS specifics about that night? Do people think more clearly when they're not staring at a shiny badge?

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 22, 2004



The Columbus NAACP stepped away Wednesday evening from a potential showdown with Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson. This group may have learned a lesson from the Kenneth Walker case - if the deputies don't shoot you down, public opinion might.

NAACP President Edward DuBose threatened last week to reveal his source of information about the Kenneth Walker shooting, if Sheriff Ralph Johnson didn't reveal all he knew. The Sheriff's news conference last Friday didn't satisfy DuBose then - but apparently it does now. Either that, or someone reminded DuBose reporters never reveal sources.

Edward DuBose explained Wednesday evening his goal was for Sheriff Ralph Johnson to acknowledge Deputy David Glisson shot Kenneth Walker six weeks ago. That's a bit strange, because it was DuBose who used the word "alleged" at his own Friday news conference to describe the deputy....

Last November the NAACP filed suit to challenge the school sales tax vote - then it settled the matter privately on the day of the hearing. Now the NAACP has threatened to name names in the Kenneth Walker case, only to back off at the deadline. If you ever play poker with Edward DuBose, always assume he's bluffing.

The NAACP hosted a public hearing at the Liberty Theater Wednesday night on reports of police misconduct in Columbus. Police Chief Willie Dozier and Marshal Ken Suddeth attended - proving again hardly anyone of importance pays attention to Al Fleming's commentaries.

About a dozen people at the hearing brought up cases where they felt law officers treated them improperly. Dozens of others could have said the same things - but they're all serving time in jail, denying they're guilty of crimes.

An old issue resurfaced at the NAACP hearing - a visit by a sheriff's deputy to Spirit-Filled Church on a Sunday morning to serve an arrest warrant. One member claimed the deputy had to be restrained by church deacons. So this must not be a "so spirit-filled, you run up and down the aisles" church.

Members of Spirit-Filled Church revealed Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson attends First Presbyterian - and they claimed if a deputy had tried to serve an arrest warrant there, "he would have been run out of town." I somehow doubt the downtown church would do this. Columbus State University might have, as it did with a restaurant....

(Maybe Spirit-Filled Church should do what First Presbyterian does -- and have its Sunday service televised live, so TV cameras can show us everything.)

The NAACP took notes on the public hearing, and will send a transcript to the Justice Department in Washington. Once Attorney General John Ashcroft reads that, he may take action - by hiring some of the accused deputies, and sending them to Cuba to "guard" suspected terrorists.

By the way, it's now ten days since a CNN reporter visited the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's picket lines to look at the Kenneth Walker case - and the network has yet to air the story. We've read it's been delayed due to "legal issues." So maybe CNN is waiting for the NAACP to threaten a lawsuit against it, too.

Here's what else caught our eye on a mild midweek day....

+ Col. Richard Downie revealed he's leaving the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, to take a position with a defense center in Washington. If his WHINSEC farewell party isn't at Miriam's Café, it will be the biggest shock to hit Columbus this year.

(Did you see the TV report comparing where Presidential candidates stand on WHINSEC? Former School of the Americas Commander Wesley Clark is for it. Congressman Dennis Kucinich is against it. And Howard Dean may be practicing how to make each word in WHINSEC into a cheer.)

+ The manager of the Mildred Terry Branch Library received an award from the New York Times. Sylvia Bunn was honored for her work in improving library usage -- and apparently not for having the current day's Times in the newspaper rack, because it's never there.

+ A hearing-impaired student competed in the Midland Middle School spelling bee. How do you help a youngster like this become a top speller? Does anyone make a game called "Hooked on Sign Language?"

+ Jean-Francois Plourde of the Columbus Cottonmouths had an assist at the East Coast Hockey League All-Star Game. When he skates alongside players from Las Vegas, San Diego and Alaska, it may be about time for this league to change its name.

+ Auburn's men's basketball team came from 19 points down to beat Arkansas 70-63. If the losing streak had continued much longer, some fans might have turned from "Cliff-Dwellers" to "Cliff-Hangers."

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004



"I hope I find the right door. I don't want to get shot." So said one of my neighbors Tuesday morning - and no, she was NOT standing outside the Muscogee County Sheriff's office....

I'd brought my older, fixed-income neighbor to a food pantry, which provided her with free groceries for a week. It's located in an unlikely part of town - St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Hilton Avenue, in a neighborhood with big lawns and expensive-looking homes. The only "shots" people fire around here are at the Country Club of Columbus.

You may not realize St. Thomas Episcopal Church has a "food closet" for low-income people like my neighbor. Apparently you need to have SOME sort of income - because I don't think METRA buses run down Hilton Avenue.

The door to the food closet is located in a back corner of St. Thomas Episcopal Church. I suppose this provides a measure of privacy - so customers can't hear well-off neighbors complain about how the area is going to pot.

You'll be pleased to learn after trying three doors, my neighbor was NOT shot at the church. In fact, she came out with a grocery cart full of items - but I'm not sure who picked some of the items at the basket. It's hard to imagine a woman in her seventies eating "Mud and Bugs" breakfast cereal. [True!]

My neighbor was thankful for the help St. Thomas Episcopal Church provided. "When you're poor, you've got to do what you've got to do," she told me. "I don't want to rob or steal from anybody." That's good to know - but I'm still keeping score of how much money she owes me for rides around town.

There are many other places which provide food to needy people in Columbus. A new "soup kitchen" recently opened on Hamilton Road. Come to think of it, I should have stopped there Tuesday - because Gordon Elliot from the Campbell's commercials might have dropped by.

BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: We'd like to start an online "Free Food Finder" for the Columbus area. If you know of a place offering free eats, either for a one-night special or year-round, please write us.

BLOG UPDATE: Just when you thought Al Fleming was becoming a softie, his NBC-38 commentary Tuesday went after Edward DuBose. Fleming declared the NAACP Director "vengeful" toward law enforcement. Now wait a minute! I haven't heard DuBose call for a buyback of Sheriff's Department weapons.

The NAACP is holding a public hearing at the Liberty Theater tonight, for anyone who wants to report police brutality in Columbus. Al Fleming says no one should attend -- and anyone who does should "hang their head in shame." So if an officer pulls you over and shoots you, remember: you probably deserved it.

Al Fleming listed several Columbus law officers who died in the line of duty in recent years, and suggested Edward DuBose is insulting their memories. So, Mr. Fleming - where do you suggest we build the David Glisson Recreation Center?

Al Fleming went on to suggest the next time a criminal is at your door, "don't call the police - call Ed DuBose." We're glad he didn't tell us to call William Howell of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. He might not show up for days.

So what else happened Tuesday? Let's see....

+ Auburn University's Trustees approved Ed Richardson as Interim President. The outgoing Alabama School Superintendent says he does NOT want the Auburn position full-time. In fact, it seems the only person at Auburn who wants to stay there for years in Tommy Tuberville.

(Some professors opposed the installation of Ed Richardson - arguing Auburn's next President should be selected in a "deliberate manner." Hopefully these professors won't mind if students turn in term papers three months late.)

+ WCGT TV-16 pushed back Miriam Tidwell's talk show 30 minutes, for the premiere of "See Ya Here" - a live talk show about cars starring Randy Peters of Rivertown Ford. With his voice, at least they could have kept the jazz pianist in the background.

(TV-16 offered a strange alternative to the President's State of the Union speech - an old Xmas edition of "Rozelle." And here I thought the holiday season ended Monday with King Day.)

+ The Georgia Lottery's "Mega Millions" game unveiled a hilarious new commercial, in which a winning husband has a "spokesman" argue with his wife about ordinary household matters. The spokesman is attorney Johnnie Cochran! Hopefully if you win a jackpot, you will NOT follow this example. Those legal fees will leave you broke all over again.

+ Phenix City officials announced garbage rates soon will go down, as a contract is renegotiated. Columbus needs to learn how to do this - so how about making prison inmates pay the city, to pick up trash?

+ Former City Councilman Jeff Hardin announced he'll run for Phenix City Mayor. Hardin says one of his goals is to ensure Phenix City is NOT the "stepsister of Columbus." So Wal-Mart had better stop with just one SuperCenter in Columbus, or it's in big trouble.

+ Instant Message to United Baptist Church of Phenix City: About your roadside sign which says, "Jesus, Name Above All Names" - if you really believe that, shouldn't the name "Jesus" be above the name of your church?

AHEAD THIS WEEK: Why I may kiss mall-walking goodbye....

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004



A "mass march" was called in downtown Columbus Monday morning, to protest the Sheriff's Department. Yet for some reason, organizer Wayne Baker never mentioned it during the noon-hour Martin Luther King Jr. service. Does this mean it wasn't mass enough?

The most political comments at Monday's "Unity Week" service came from a surprising source - Muscogee County Tax Commissioner Lula Huff. It's easy for her to speak out, of course. We have to pay her money, no matter what she says.

Lula Huff said the Kenneth Walker case has revealed "white Americans and black Americans can see the same thing in dramatically different ways." Some people could have realized this long ago, by listening to AM radio talk shows.

Tax Commissioner Lula Huff spoke against many things in her "why are we here" M.L.K. Day remarks:

+ She compared late-term abortions to "genocide." So much for putting her on Hillary Rodham Clinton's mailing list.

+ She said people should resist "Ebonics." Haven't some African-American people moved past this already - to "Snoop Dogg speak?"

+ She warned against any move to erode Georgia's HOPE scholarship. In other words, students need HOPE - but they shouldn't have faith in the Governor.

You may recall Lula Huff gave a last-minute high-profile speech last November, in favor of the school sales tax question [4 Nov 03]. After Monday's speech, I can't help wondering if the Tax Commissioner is positioning herself to run for another office. After years of collecting tax money, maybe Huff wants to pass it around instead.

The most emotional comments at the Unity Week service came from another surprising source - Columbus Mayor Pro Tem Jack Rodgers. He sounded close to tears, as he urged people to resist those who want to tear down city unity. I think that's another way of saying, "Please don't move your conference from the Trade Center to Howard Johnson's."

Naomi Buckner spoke in behalf of the Muscogee County School Board, and urged people to "invest in PUBLIC education." If that's so important to remember on this holiday, why did Martin Luther King Jr. sent to a private school for two years -- then attended the private Morehouse College?

Metropolitan Baptist Church hosted the King Day service, and Pastor Joe Andrews served as "Worship Leader." But I was left with the feeling he doesn't lead like this very often. He didn't move his hands during hymns - and he forgot to have an invocation. [True!]

As he introduced the guest speaker for the day, Pastor Joe Andrews reminded the audience of the fight for civil rights. "Without God on our side," he said, "we'd still be in the Liberty Theater." So what's wrong with that?! The Liberty's seats would have been more comfortable than his hard wooden church pews.

The main speaker at the Unity Week service was Dr. Dolphus Weary, who directs a racial reconciliation movement called "Mission Mississippi." We appreciate what he's doing - but if Sylvester Croom coaches Mississippi State's football team to a national title, that might be even more effective.

Dr. Dolphus Weary's theme was to "Dream Forward" - explaining if you look back too long, you'll be defeated. He has a fun new idea here - take the rear-view mirrors out of all the cars in NASCAR.

Dr. Dolphus Weary recalled the day Martin Luther King Jr. was shot in 1968. He was at a Christian college in Los Angeles, where he said some white students openly cheered the assassination. How many of them are still in California - under the government of an immigrant from Austria?

Dr. Dolphus Weary said there's only one way to avoid stumbling-blocks in life - and that's to sit at home and do nothing. Obviously he lives in a home where he doesn't trip over things piled up on the floor....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Speaking of city unity, we received this lengthy message about our recent postings about the Kenneth Walker killing:

I ran across it somehow on the web looking for something else in Columbus. Anyway I unfortunately live in the Metro Columbus area and just wanted to let you know.... people are reading your weblog.

As a African American male I also would like to thank you for your support of the events following the Kenneth Walker shooting. Race aside it's a senseless tragedy. However race is the real reason that it's 30+ days later and we still have nothing in terms of answers. Columbus is no different of many cities where there is just a true lack of respect for African Americans as a people. We are treated as a lesser life if that makes any sense. I witnessed this for years living in Columbus, working and also patronizing business around town. I can understand that the sheriff sticks by his deputy (that's a part of his duties as a leader) but there should be someone higher than the sheriff to be the one to step out and "do the right thing." What we do know is this man posed no threat much less a threat of life to the officers because he was unarmed, however he was fatally shot. The deputy's excessive use of force should at least warrant him to stand trial for manslaughter. If he gets off which he probably would... then at least he would have passed through the system like anyone else.

I personally know Rev. Wayne Baker and I can say that he is a fair, fine and upstanding man. As you pointed out maybe he was off on some points but a lot of credit has to be given to him for stepping out on a limb to rally support for this cause. As far as the city officials go.. black or white.. I feel like many of them are limited to what they can say or do. I've heard and seen situations of how "the powers that be" really run this town and even more so than other cities, elected officials must please them even more so than the constituents. In many cities, mostly larger cities our city of Atlanta here this a$$draggin investigation wouldn't take place and I feel that's because the line is less drawn between black and white because blacks have real economic and political power but there is a new divide. The economic divide, where many whites are included and don't even have the benefit of a voice because technically they are in the majority.

Do you remember the incident where the shop keeper killed the preteen because of an attempted robbery? The boy was fatally shot in the back. The storeowner waited 10 minutes before calling the police. People on WRBL that were interviewed (all white and by appearance apart of the have-nots) agreed with his actions because he was defending his property. When did property become more
valuable than human life??? Let me stop here because I could go on and on.

Columbus shows its true colors in the light of unfortunate events like this killing.

- Jake

I appreciate your insight, Jake. Truly African-American people should NOT be treated as a "lesser life." Maybe that's why they stopped calling it "Miller High Life" beer.

There could be someone "higher than the sheriff" who might step out and "do the right thing" Jake's talking about in the Kenneth Walker case. The problem is, Jake would have to talk Al Howard into moving out of Russell County - then starting a recall petition drive in Columbus

I'm certainly not questioning whether Pastor Wayne Baker is an "upstanding man." After all, I've seen his religious telecast - and he stands up for the entire half-hour.

Is the "economic divide" Jake describes really that new a thing? In a city like Columbus, it's existed for a long time. The only difference now is that mill workers with low wages have no work, and NO wages.

"When did property become more valuable than human life?" Jake asks. I think some Native Americans would trace this back to the winter of 1621....

In a very different light, here's a reply to last Friday's comment on the Auburn artist who draws a blue cat named Pete:

I thought the Pete and Re-Pete comment was funny - the artist James Dean actually has a kitten he just named Re-Pete. Are you psychic?

Thought I would pass that along.

Take Care and Keep Bloggin'


No, Gretchen, I'm not psychic. Old jokes simply recycle more often.

Now let's briefly check other holiday highlights....

+ One day after traveling to Plains to see Jimmy Carter, Howard Dean finished a weak third in the Iowa caucuses. Our projections now indicate Mr. Carter will have to buy his own plane ticket to the Democratic convention.

+ Live Georgia Lottery drawings disappeared from Columbus television. WRBL announced it's NOT showing them anymore. The odds that they'll surface on NBC-38 are 4-to-5.

+ The Riverdragons lost at home to Fayetteville by nine points. At halftime they trailed by 22 - and I was ready to suggest the team make a King Day demand for redistribution of all the points.

+ Instant Message to American Van Rental: In response to your commercial currently playing on WDAK - yes, I CAN believe summer's over. For one thing, it's mid-January.

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 19, 2004



We had a doubleheader at church over the weekend: a worship service in the afternoon, then a wedding after dark. Before my relatives have a heart attack -- I only spoke during the worship service.

A widow in my congregation is widowed no more, as she married a man from Tennessee Saturday evening. I did NOT ask how old this couple is -- but considering a bridesmaid kept asking me about country songs from the 1950's, that may give you a clue.

Becky the bride met Tucker the groom only three months ago, at a church convention along the Gulf Coast. In terms of my denomination, this was a "quick" courtship and wedding -- even though to Britney Spears, it might seem like a couple of lifetimes.

I was asked to oversee audio for the wedding and bring some music for dancing. Little did the bride know these days, most of my dance music is Spanish salsa -- well, except for my cassettes from the disco era, with language my Pastor still might consider too risque.

(What do you mean, play music from my new the wedding? It was the couple's night for celebrating, not my night for selling albums. Besides, they didn't ask me to sponsor the bridal gown.)

Thankfully, others in the congregation brought a nice variety of musical options for the ceremony. Mostly they had country CD's - but I had to select carefully. Somehow "There's a Tear in My Beer" doesn't seem right for a wedding.

The wedding ceremony actually started twice - as our solo singer fouled up his words to a Steven Curtis Chapman song in the middle of the second verse, and had me started his accompaniment over. How strange it was when he did better WITHOUT looking at the words.... [True!]

(The singer told me later he slept with the song playing on headphones, to help the words sink into his brain better. This is a fascinating idea - but based on some of my recent dreams, the song would get me kicked off an island by Simon Cowell.)

In our denomination the wedding script does NOT include the cliche line, "Speak now or forever hold your peace." A teenager asked my Pastor about that afterward - and I couldn't help pointing out objectors could have approached the minister for several weeks.

Our denomination DOES allow for personalized twists at weddings, though. At this one, the groom reached into his suit pocket, pulled out a tiara and "crowned" his bride the queen of his life! Now THERE'S one to try at a singles bar one of these nights....

After the ceremony was over and reception tables were set up, I played "The Tennessee Waltz" for the new husband and wife. I did it because she's moving into his home south of Nashville. No, I did NOT have any idea that the Tennessee and Vanderbilt women's basketball teams were going to waltz over Alabama and Auburn Sunday.

For never-married men like me, inevitably The Question comes up at a wedding like this. You know, "THE Question" -- other than how much I thought the ceremony cost.

"When are YOU getting married?" asked a 70-something grandfather in my congregation. When I wasn't sure of an answer, he had some handy advice. "Go to Wal-Mart. There are plenty of women there!" Well, yes - but if I snoop around the fabric and sewing department too much, won't some people think I'm homosexual?

(No, I didn't tell this man about my current boycott of Wal-Mart. I didn't want him to lose hope in me completely....)

But I have to admit this wedding was thought-provoking for me. In my church denomination, singles often are told to "date widely" and get to know the people they might take seriously in a romance. Yet this couple went from introductions to the altar in three months. Why, that's faster than Howard Dean has risen and fallen in the Presidential race.

By the way, how about Howard Dean's trip to Plains Sunday? The candidate went to church with former President Carter, but WITHOUT his wife. After all, Judith Steinberg Dean is Jewish - and the Baptist preacher might have provoked another angry outburst.

COMING TUESDAY: We review a "King Day" service, and check holiday weekend e-mail....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 18, 2004


On my way to church Saturday afternoon, I passed a couple of cars in the Martin Luther King Junior Parade. One of them said on the side, "ELECT GREG COUNTRYMAN MARSHAL." Marshal?! He could run for Sheriff, and get a lot more interest and votes.

It took 37 days, but Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson finally has named the Deputy who shot Kenneth Walker along Interstate 185. Maybe we were too impatient with the Sheriff about this. After all, none of the Democrats running for President have named their running mates yet.

The Ledger-Enquirer article we linked to this blog for almost two weeks turned out to be accurate - as Deputy David Glisson shot Kenneth Walker. Sheriff Ralph Johnson says most people probably knew the name already. He may not realize many Columbus people joined in the cover-up with him - including a few civil rights leaders.

(But then again, WRBL News apologized on the air Saturday night for identifying the WRONG man as David Glisson in a Sheriff's Department group photo. Maybe the station attorney who sued the Sheriff didn't know the Deputy's name, either.)

Sheriff Ralph Johnson explained he withheld Deputy David Glisson's name because there was a threat of violence, after Kenneth Walker was killed. The fact that Glisson's name finally came out may show Muscogee County needs its own witness protection program.

Sheriff Ralph Johnson says Deputy David Glisson has no prior record of firing at a suspect. Yet the Montgomery attorney for Kenneth Walker's fellow passengers has said he's heard evidence to the contrary. That lawyer must have heard about the
deputy's high scores in shooting contests....

Richard Hagler, the attorney for David Glisson, says the Deputy sends his deepest condolences to the family of Kenneth Walker for what happened December 10th. If Glisson thinks that's all he's going to send this family -- well, I guess that's why he hired an attorney.

As it happened, a Muscogee County sheriff's deputy stopped by my apartment complex around 11:00 a.m. Saturday. I was NOT nervous about this - since I was prepared to demand a search warrant, before he seized my computer.

The deputy actually was handing out subpoenas. He gave one to the neighbor two doors down. When he knocked on the door of my next-door neighbor, I opened my door expecting to be next. But to my surprise, there was NO subpoena for me - which may mean some people at the Government Center haven't heard about this blog yet.

I actually asked the deputy about a subpoena, and he replied, "Would you like one?" No thank you, I said quietly - in a classic non-military example of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Not to be upstaged by the Muscogee County Sheriff, Auburn University President William Walker announced his sudden resignation late Friday. We're not sure exactly what led to this decision -- since we haven't heard of any searches for a new basketball coach, too.

You can't help wondering if Alabama Governor Bob Riley forced William Walker to quit, because of that trip to Louisville to interview a possible new football coach. But perhaps the bigger puzzle is why Auburn trustee Bobby Lowder hasn't named himself President yet.

(And what does Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville think of this change? If he isn't careful, he might get a big head and try to run for statewide office.)

Long-time Alabama State School Superintendent Ed Richardson will leave that job, and become Auburn University's Interim President. I can't blame him for bailing out, after years of dealing with budget cuts. But after years of abuse from local school boards, now Richardson will have to deal with the results of those boards directly.

Now some quick-drying notes from a rainy holiday weekend....

+ "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals" wrote a letter to Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller in Americus, demanding he promise not to harm wildlife during construction projects. How strange is this?!?! We can't recall ever seeing wildlife along Cusseta Road or 30th Avenue.

+ A PETA protest developed in downtown Columbus, as someone dressed as a crippled chicken stood outside a KFC restaurant. If only Jim Rhodes had driven by, and talked to this bird about V.A. benefits....

(PETA's protest at 9th and Veterans Parkway was based on the claim that KFC tortures chickens by de-beaking them. So where's the survey showing people want to eat chicken WITH beaks?)

+ The Liberty Theater staged an all-female production, "A Salute to the Women of Chicago." For instance, to the women who shovel snow off sidewalks in the winter while their husbands have tailgate parties outside Bulls and Black Hawks games....

COMING MONDAY: The "quickie wedding" we promised, which lasted longer Saturday night than we expected. But you can look at pictures from the ceremony now!

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 16, 2004



Had he lived that long, Thursday would have been Martin Luther King Junior's 75th birthday. For those of you planning to mark the occasion this weekend - no, it would NOT be appropriate to hide a diamond in a "king cake."

President Bush traveled to Atlanta Thursday, to leave a wreath at Dr. King's crypt. Hundreds of people protested the visit - but how many of them stopped to ask why Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley-Braun haven't done it?

Some of the protesters at the King Memorial in Atlanta accused President Bush of leaving a wreath at the crypt merely for political reasons. The accusers included some ministers, who ought to know the Bible verse about "judge not according to the appearance...."

(Then again, I guess that's the problem. This was the first time President Bush HAD made an appearance there.)

Coretta Scott King said her family did NOT invite President Bush to the family memorial in Atlanta, but she "welcomed" the visit. This is about the same as Sheriff Ralph Johnson visiting the church where Kenneth Walker's widow attends.

I bring up "King Week" events because of an item I heard on the radio Thursday. Girls Inc. is holding an M.L.K. girls' basketball tournament all day Monday, at its new Baker Village complex. Is that really a proper way to honor this civil rights leader? Well, maybe if a team walks off the court to protest an official's call....

This year marks 20 years for me as a Georgia resident, and I've seen various groups struggle to come to terms with how to celebrate King Day. One flyer I saw at an Atlanta Kroger store in the 1980's said employees could mark the day by wearing clothing that was either black or white. Huh?!?! Aren't we supposed to end this sort of separatism?

Then there was the night I drove through the east side of Atlanta, and saw a laundromat offering "free driers" as an M.L.K. Day special. I saw this and said to myself: "Free at last, free at last - thank God almighty, they're free at last!"

Columbus will mark King Day weekend with a variety of other events:

+ A downtown parade Saturday afternoon will feature former boxing champion Evander Holyfield as grand marshal. All spectators are urged to bring "Atkins Diet" products, to show him they're really trying to lose weight.

+ A "choral extravaganza" Sunday night at the RiverCenter will feature glee clubs from Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, as well as Tuskegee University. The ticket price will pay for scholarships at these institutions - with none of it going to Morris Brown College, which needs every penny it can get to stay open.

+ An annual "unity breakfast" tradition will continue Monday morning at the Trade Center. If William Howell of the Rainbow/PUSH coalition doesn't show up, will this mean the economic boycott is on - or he simply overslept?

BLOG UPDATE: The big day has arrived! This afternoon I'll use that Piggly Wiggly gift certificate that caused me a moral dilemma for weeks. [14 Dec 03] So with apologies to the folks in Vienna, Georgia, this will be MY "Big Pig Jig."

William Howell of Rainbow/PUSH resolved my moral quandary earlier in the week, when he declared the group's boycott of Piggly Wiggly ended years ago. To be honest, I was planning to go shopping there no matter what he said. After all, a gift certificate for free food should cost this company money.

(If members of the church I attend are reading this blog - yes, I WILL tithe on the gift certificate. I've already been in a Piggly Wiggly store, and scouted out some nice cakes for the snack table.)

Sit down for this one: for years my grocery day budget has been $30 - and this Piggly Wiggly gift certificate is for (ahem) substantially more than that. I may have to make four trips around the store, to use up the whole thing.

(Yes, I said a grocery budget of $30 a trip -- and I make a full trip every two weeks. Can you tell I'm a single guy? Especially one who doesn't buy any beer?)

In a way, I'm relieved the Piggly Wiggly boycott is over - because for the last couple of months, I've personally been boycotting Wal-Mart. It's because the company is accused of hiring all those illegal immigrants. And let's face it, most Wal-Mart SuperCenters don't sell fresh burritos.

Meanwhile, another telemarketer called me Thursday afternoon claiming to be from "The Phone Company." "Momentum?" I asked. [9 Jan] No, this was "Epic USA" - another company I've never heard of. If I keep getting calls like this, I'm going to phone BellSouth and ask if there's been another break-up.

Now some other quick items from a nice January Thursday....

+ Georgia House Speaker Pro-Tem DuBose Porter told GPB's "Lawmakers" he opposes any move to base HOPE scholarships on S.A.T. scores. In his words, it's "a test that has nothing to do with achievement." Oh really?! For many students, showing "Scholastic Aptitude" will be an achievement.

(So you aren't confused: the S.A.T. used by colleges to evaluate applicants is the Scholastic Aptitude Test. The S.A.T. given to children during the year is the Stanford Achievement Test. And the S.A.T. many high school football teams flunk every fall is the Shaw Athletic Test.)

+ The Muscogee County Humane Society complained too many people are confusing it with the city's Animal Control Department. So please, you C.S.U. pranksters - stop the phone calls about "mad cow" sightings.

+ One TV newscast did a nice story on Auburn artist James Dean, who's created a popular series of paintings with "Pete" the blue housecat. To borrow from an old country music act, collectors would buy "Pete" and "Re-Pete."

(And when it's all put on display, what would you have? A "Blue Cat Group," of course....)

+ Instant message to WHAL Radio: Shouldn't you stop the "Gospel 24/7" announcements when you're airing Auburn basketball games? I don't hear Rod Bramblett praising God very much.

COMING THIS WEEKEND: A quickie wedding.... and it has nothing to do with Britney Spears....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 15, 2004



Callaway Gardens confirmed Wednesday it's cut about 25 jobs. Of course, the people there consider "cut" a rather harsh word - so please say something like "trim" or "shear" or "prune."

Callaway Gardens spokesperson Rachel Crumbley told WLTZ's "Coffee Break" a review of the staff revealed "too many layers" in the Guest Services area. Isn't this amazing? Most of us are putting on extra layers because of the cool weather, and Callaway is removing them.

Rachel Crumbley says the staff cuts will help Callaway Gardens get "back to basics." In addition, some employees will start cross-training in various positions. So don't be surprised this May to see a special division of the water-skiing tournament for gardeners.

Callaway Gardens's income has dropped 20 percent in two years - so the complex is offering FREE admission through February 15, for people in a 12-county area. Of course, if all of you take advantage of this, the income might drop even more....

(Rachel Crumbley even says Callaway's restaurant prices will have a 30-percent discount -- which means they'll just about match the prices at the mall.)

The free admission offer at Callaway Gardens includes Valentine's Day, which is on a Saturday this year. From my visit there last summer, [25-26 Aug 03] the Day Butterfly Center isn't going to be big enough for all those loving couples.

Let's see what else was going on in the middle of the week....

+ I drove to Columbus Water Works to pay my water/sewer/garbage bill, and was surprised to see a "Vet's Cab" taxi in the other drive-through lane, with a passenger inside. Is this how Hollywood stars pay their bills - only in limousines?

(Ponder this with me: why would someone call a taxi to pay their water bill? Maybe it was a millionaire, who wanted to surprise a cab driver with a huge tip.)

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue gave his "State of the State" address, and promised: "The HOPE scholarship isn't going anywhere." But if your children can't make the minimum S.A.T. score he's proposing, they won't either.

+ State Rep. Carolyn Hugley of Columbus introduced a "Bullying Bill" at the Georgia Legislature. It would require school districts to report all acts of bullying. For some reason, it does not require Sheriff's departments to do the same thing.

+ The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition finished its three-day picket outside the Government Center. If CNN doesn't show a story on the Kenneth Walker case soon, Dr. William Howell will demand Ted Turner's resignation - except Turner doesn't run CNN anymore.

+ Georgia Congressman Sanford Bishop announced he's supporting retired General Wesley Clark for President. Maybe if Al Sharpton had appeared more on C-SPAN, and less on "Saturday Night Live...."

+ Aides to former President Jimmy Carter announced he'll welcome Presidential candidate Howard Dean to Plains this weekend. All pickup truck drivers with Confederate flags inside are welcome to attend.

(Former President Carter reportedly will NOT endorse Howard Dean -- but instead take time to listen to his ideas. Apparently Mr. Carter has reached the age where he'd rather not visit Iowa or New Hampshire during winter.)

+ Russ Hollenbeck of WRCG Radio's "TalkLine" promoted an upcoming Caribbean cruise, including a stop in Cozumel, Mexico. Oh no! I can see this now -- all those conservative callers pointing fingers at Mexicans, demanding they give up their mill jobs.

+ WRBL hosted open auditions for "Survivor" contestants at Georgia Freight. Given what I've heard about that station's news ratings lately, Phil Scoggins might be voted off the island without even trying out.

+ Instant Message to Ford: About that TV commercial where a guy named Joe gives up his Ranger pickup - has Ranger Joe's filed suit about that yet?

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004



Not long ago, another local blog praised me for being "a magnet for homeless people." I suppose that's a good thing - but sometimes I feel like I need to reduce the amount of iron in my diet.

For the third time in four weeks, a beggar in need approached me Monday afternoon. This time it happened in the parking lot of the Phenix City Walgreens store. It's no wonder someone would ask for help there - because without a coupon, items at Walgreens tend to be SO overpriced.

"Can you help me?" asked a middle-aged woman as I approached my car after using a Walgreens coupon to buy three of Nestle's new Toll House candy bars for a dollar. Maybe it's the store which needs help - because it offers so many things to improve your health, then puts candy on sale.

"I need two dollars to get my prescription filled," said the woman wearing a University of Alabama sweat-top and holding a lit cigarette. Apparently the prescription was not for nicotine patches.

"C'mon. I'll go in with you." I motioned the woman toward the door, prepared to put up two dollars for her prescription if she paid the rest.

"On second thought, never mind," the woman replied. Huh?! Maybe her problem is bipolar....

"We can go in together," I explained. "You put up your money for the prescription, and I'll provide the two dollars."

"Never mind," the woman answered without a real thank-you. She went back to her car, and sat in the passenger's seat with the door open - perhaps looking for someone with less sense.

I stood by my car looking at the seated woman, and suddenly faced a variety of choices:

+ Do I go back into Walgreens and report this woman? She had a driver with her, and they might have moved to CVS across the street - probably needing more money, since CVS has those annoying discount cards.

+ Do I go to her car, trying to negotiate or talk further? Or does "no mean no" in a case like this, too?

+ Do I pull out the digital camera in my car, and shoot her picture? No, she might have sued me for sexual harassment.

Since I have no wireless phone for calling police, I decided to presume the woman innocent until proven guilty. I got into my car and drove home - wondering if this beggar's pitch will still work once Medicare prescription drug cards come out.

(Come to think of it, why do you find ATM's at so many supermarkets - but NOT outside pharmacies? After all, some older people complain their prescriptions cost them hundreds of dollars....)

The woman probably didn't know it, but I had some extra preparation for this encounter. Earlier in the day, I heard the late minister J. Vernon McGee talk on the radio about his efforts to help needy people in downtown Los Angeles. He gave one man seven dollars - then was surprised to see that man in a newspaper, calling ministers a bunch of "saps." [True!]

BLOG UPDATE: The widow of Kenneth Walker revealed on WRBL Tuesday she didn't receive his personal belongings from the Muscogee County Sheriff's Department until last Friday. That gave the Sheriff nearly a month to remove any clue which might reveal the name of the deputy who opened fire.

A Georgia Bureau of Investigation Assistant Special Agent said Tuesday the state still hasn't interviewed "Deputy X," or the three men who rode with Kenneth Walker on the night of the shooting. The G.B.I. apparently is going through the attorneys for these people - which means valuable hours of legal fees are at stake.

The G.B.I. Special Agent admitted a report on the Kenneth Walker shooting may have to be filed without interviews with key figures. But that's OK - tabloid journalists work that way all the time.

Meanwhile, Columbus Council asked the City Attorney Tuesday to examine the creation of a citizen review board to monitor law enforcement. One big question will be how much power the board can have. For instance, can members have radar detectors in their cars - or be allowed to tag along behind high-speed chases?

The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition held a second day of marching outside the Government Center Tuesday, relating to the Kenneth Walker shooting. When I drove by, I didn't notice any new signs or chants. If they didn't work on Day One....

Let's see what else happened on Day Three of the week (at least the way I count it)....

+ Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama announced he'll seek reelection this year. In fact, he's already paid the qualifying fee of about $3,000. With a fee that steep, the lesson is clear - hold fundraising dinners BEFORE you announce you're running for something.

+ Jason Tapp of the Columbus Cottonmouths was named the East Coast Hockey League's "Saver of the Week." Imagine my surprise when I checked the ECHL web site, and found this award is NOT named after a bank.

+ The Columbus Wardogs announced they'll play an exhibition game in March against an arena football team from Australia. I've seen Australian Rules Football, so I'm warning the Wardogs now - if a player punches the ball over your head like a volleyball serve, they think it's legal.

+ Instant Message to the Columbus Water Works: Thanks for the brochure with your latest bill, informing me of the 11 awards you won last year. I couldn't help noticing none of them were for that new fountain in front of the RiverCenter.

(Columbus Water Works employees won a "Golden Manhole Society" honor and a "Golden Wrench Award" from the state. But I won't be impressed until the breakrooms get a Golden Fork Award from Brian Sharpe.)

AHEAD THIS WEEK: If Piggly Wiggly is back in, what big supermarket is out?....

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004



Monday was a day of liberation for me - as my month-long moral dilemma involving Piggly Wiggly was solved! Free at last, free at last! Thank Rainbow/PUSH, I'm free at last!!

More on that later, BUT FIRST: The noon hour Monday found newscasts showing protesters with signs outside the Government Center - while Barney the dinosaur was on Channel 28 singing, "I love you, you love me, we're a great big family." That touring Barney show can't get to the Civic Center soon enough.

The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition began three days of marching outside the Government Center, demanding the removal of Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson. We only hope the protesters don't march AROUND the building - because history could repeat itself, and we'll have ten stories of damage to clean up.

I stopped by the Government Center around 3:00 p.m. Monday to see how the march was going - and found Dr. William Howell talking with CNN reporter Eric Philips. Rainbow/PUSH wanted the Kenneth Walker shooting to get national attention, and now Dr. Howell says he has it. Apparently coverage on BET in recent days doesn't count....

(Trouble is, Dr. William Howell has trouble pronouncing the Cable News Network's name. People who didn't know better might think it's a railroad.)

Dr. William Howell told CNN's Eric Philips something I hadn't heard before. He says the wife of the still-unnamed deputy who shot Kenneth Walker works for Mayor Bob Poydasheff. This couple may join Assistant Chief Rick and Nancy Boren and Chief Willie and Brenda Dozier, in the battle for Columbus's most powerful family.

In my own interview with Dr. William Howell, he declared the protest march was going "tremendously well." But by his own admission the number of picketers never topped 40. This is truly the optimism of a minister -- or maybe a ticket agent with the Riverdragons.

I asked Dr. William Howell about the thousands of African-American residents who were NOT our protesting the Kenneth Walker killing. "Our permit only called for a certain number of people," he answered. "We put in our permit that we would have in attendance between 24 and 50 people." Why think big and look bad, when you can think small and declare victory?

Dr. William Howell keeps increasing his demands, concerning the Kenneth Walker case. Now he also wants Mayor Poydasheff to resign - as well as Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. I'm going to assume the Governor didn't change his Columbus schedule last week, when Rainbow/PUSH people showed up outside.

Earlier in the day, Dr. William Howell of Rainbow/PUSH told a TV reporter his group finds the best way to apply pressure on public officials is through "high visibility" and "drama." It almost makes you wonder why his coalition doesn't join the crowd outside Fort Benning every November.

One protest sign carried outside the Government Center declared the Kenneth Walker case is "not a black thing/white thing, it's a human thing." So let's see -- does that mean the deputy who shot Walker was not a human being?

(The sign about a "human thing" may have lost some supporters. Now PETA members might not join in any marches.)

One TV station claimed Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson was unavailable for comment Monday - yet he showed up on the other station's 6:00 p.m. newscast, apparently in his office. The Sheriff must have his stations confused, because he talked to the one that's suing him.

Sheriff Ralph Johnson told WRBL in 23 years of law enforcement, he's never experienced anything like the protest march outside the Government Center. He's more used to people criticizing law officers one at a time - when they're pulled over along the road.

Sheriff Ralph Johnson says despite the protests, he has no plans to step down. He also says he won't do anything that might jeopardize a "thorough investigation" of the Kenneth Walker case. Apparently if the Sheriff quits, the F.B.I. might conclude HE opened fire.

WRBL scored another scoop late Monday night, by showing the first on-camera interview with Kenneth Walker's widow and mother. But for some reason, "News 3" declared the family was "breaking its silence." That office must have missed the letters the widow wrote the Ledger-Enquirer.

Jerry Laquire raised a good question on his TV-16 talk show Monday night: why is it taking so long for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to finish its review of the Kenneth Walker shooting? You don't think Sheriff Ralph Johnson is keeping the deputy's name secret from them, too.... ?!

BLOG UPDATE: Now back to my "moral dilemma" from a month ago [14 Dec 03]. I remembered to ask Dr. William Howell Monday about the Rainbow/PUSH boycott of Piggly Wiggly stores -- and was amazed to be told it ended YEARS ago! This must explain why "Mr. Pig" on the logo is still smiling.

Dr. William Howell recalled his Rainbow/PUSH coalition called a news conference several years ago, to announce an end to the 1998 Piggly Wiggly boycott. But I checked one TV station's archives Monday night, and found no record of that announcement. At least he could have gone to other supermarkets, and handed out fliers declaring it was over.

(Which TV journalist said about that boycott: "It ended for lack of interest" ?!)

The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition called a boycott of Piggly Wiggly in 1998 after employees of a South Lumpkin Road chased a suspected shoplifter out the door and down a street. They sat on Luke Dixon until police showed up -- and Dixon died. I gained local infamy when the story broke, with the headline: "DEATH BY SITTING."

Dr. William Howell obviously didn't expect my Piggly Wiggly question Monday - but as best he could remember, the attorneys for Luke Dixon's family worked out a financial settlement with the supermarket. A grand jury refused to indict any of the employees. So that means sitting on someone won't get you the chair....

(Perhaps the only place that reported this settlement might have been the "Columbus Times" - and if so, it reflects how little-read that newspaper is.)

Dr. William Howell told me the Piggly Wiggly boycott was "very fruitful," costing the supermarket chain "a lot of money." He says every store in Columbus in town was picketed - but he only named the ones on Brown Avenue, South Lumpkin Road and St. Mary's Road. If Rainbow/PUSH members had shown up at the store on River Road near Green Island Hills, they might have been arrested.

I tried to call Piggly Wiggly's headquarters Monday for a response. But the phone number listed in an online phone directory connected me to an office of the Texas Department of Transportation. So much for them being SMART-Pages....

Amidst all this, the Georgia General Assembly opened a new session Monday. In case you missed some of the highlights....

+ Rep. Tom Buck of Columbus told GPB's "Lawmakers" this will be the toughest budget session he's seen in 38 years of office. He said he can't find any "hidden money" for funding education. That's OK, Mr. Buck - as long as you find the hidden money to finish paying for the Trade Center expansion.

+ Rep. Bobby Franklin left something on the desks of every state lawmaker - framed copies of the Ten Commandments. Roy Moore heard this, and asked him to sneak into the offices of every state judge.

(How many lawmakers were offended at the sight of those Ten Commandments? Many of them are guilty of coveting more money for their districts....)

+ The Southern Heritage Political Action Committee announced it will boycott the March 2 referendum on changing the Georgia flag. This way, it leaves open the option of declaring the breakaway "Confederate Republic of New Dixieland."

COMING WEDNESDAY: Oh no, not another beggar....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.