Saturday, February 28, 2004



The Sunday sermon topic posted outside Columbus First Baptist Church is "What Do You Have in Your Hand?" No, we don't know if a Muscogee County Sheriff's Deputy is the speaker....

But seriously: We received e-mail Wednesday night from a "Patricia Glisson." We have NOT been able to confirm whether she's related to former deputy David Glisson (apparently NOT his wife), but here's what she wrote:

If Kenneth Walker is such a saint and David Glisson is such a monster then how can a saint be at a house where there has been drug activity , what were they doing going,over their bible lesson. I don't think so!!!! The Walker family is going to make any excuse to cover up the true Kenneth Walker.
Everyone has a side that we don't want everyone to know about. But I guess there is an exception for Walker,saints now use cocaine in helping them follow Jesus Christ in their lives. They are just getting desperate in finding an excuse, so the easy way out is to blame everyone else, they planted the cocaine in his body, that is as far fetched as them thinking that they are going to get $100 million out of the Columbus sheriff's department.

That's what she wrote. Here's what I think of it:

+ I was once in a house where there was rumored drug activity. The pot-smokers reportedly were in the attic of the college scholarship hall. Christian students such as me never joined them. So am I a monster?

+ So the "true Kenneth Walker" is being covered up?! Perhaps -- but let's not forget whose name was covered up in this case for several weeks.

+ "Saints now use cocaine in helping them follow Jesus Christ," she skeptically writes. Perhaps she's never been top Jamaica, where some people claim the "every herb" phrase in Genesis justifies smoking hemp.

+ As for the $100 million lawsuit -- what's wrong with thinking big financially? It worked for baseball star Alex Rodriguez.

I bring out this e-mail now because it preceded Friday's news conference by David Glisson's lawyer, and actually previewed some of his statements. Richard Hagler told reporters Kenneth Walker had a problem with a "demon called cocaine." As opposed to Mr. Glisson, who probably calls attorney Willie Gary the devil.

Richard Hagler says he's seen the "cop-cam" videotape from the night Kenneth Walker was shot. David Glisson's attorney says it has no audio, and an officer obstructs the view of what happened - which means you might mistake it for a local religious broadcast on TV-16.

(So if the videotape is that lousy, why not release it to the public? Either that, or Richard Hagler could recruit some actors from the Springer Opera House to reenact it for us.)

Richard Hagler called the news conference to clear up some misinformation about David Glisson. He says the fired deputy had a heart attack last year, but has NOT attempted suicide. Glisson can't afford to take his life - especially since no one
else in the Sheriff's Department has spoken up in his defense.

Richard Hagler says David Glisson eventually will speak publicly. Apparently some details have to be worked out - such as whether local cable companies can put on a pay-per-view event.

You have to say one thing for Richard Hagler: he held his tongue about the Kenneth Walker case for a long time. He waited for Willie Gary to make his main accusation for him....

(But didn't Richard Hagler pick the worst possible time for this news conference? A big college softball tournament is in Columbus - and he comes out playing hardball.)

NAACP President Edward DuBose accused Richard Hagler of "losing focus of the real victims" in this case. But isn't that a main issue here? Civil rights groups say Kenneth Walker is the victim. Many white people say David Glisson is also a victim. And I'm starting to feel like a victim, from hearing these attorneys bicker back and forth.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Another message came our way, about whether Victory Drive needs to be renamed. Robert says no:

What the Hell's wrong with an hysterical name? Maybe we need to rotate names every decade or so. Victory Drive -that was for the 1940's, Stripper's and Whore's Drive for the 1960's? Drug Drive for the 1980's?

If you look at Columbus' history, you will find that many of original names of downtown streets were historical figures, I believe most were from Revolutionary War/Colonial years. (yes, Dorothy, the American Revolutionary War). Apparently Columbusites were not deemed smart enough to
remember these individual names so they were changed to numbers.

(could these have been plots by Printers and Stationers to force everyone to reprint their envelopes and letterheads? LOL. Or a CONSPIRACY by the CITY and the US POST OFFICE to make all Victory Drive addresses DISAPPEAR, thus cleaning up two birds, the name change and the Columbus South issue, with one stone. LMAO!!!!)

By the way, curses on you and the Red Baron from me and Snoopy, because this BLOG is just another distraction. But, heh heh heh, why not?

A "hysterical name?" That alone makes me think this is a hysterical message.

Robert may have a good idea, though, about rotating street names. I think this is done on Talbotton - Warm Springs - Gentian - Milgen Road now.

(So what name has he left out, which reflects what's on Victory Drive these days? Hey, I've got it - Mobile Home Highway.)

So Columbus residents long ago weren't smart enough to remember street names? I wondered what educators did, before the Iowa Test of Basic Skills came along.

Now other notes from a much-improved weekend weather-wise:

+ The "Old Mill Towne" restaurant near Peachtree Mall reopened under yet another new name, the "4th Quarter." As often as this place has changed names and owners, the "Bottom of the Ninth" seems more appropriate.

(So does this mean the "Mill Towne" restaurant in the Victory Drive Days Inn can add an "Olde" to its name now? It's the only one left, after all....)

+ "A Taste of Heaven" restaurant at 47th and Veterans Parkway has closed, and it's becoming the "Three Brothers" Mexican restaurant. The old owners made a big deal out of their Christian background. Maybe they should have displayed long bloody executions with dinner.

+ I finally heard a Columbus Cottonmouths hockey game on radio - thanks to my somehow picking up an AM station in Fort Myers, Florida. Is this a GOOD thing?

+ Instant Message to Max Cleland: Why should I care which candidate you're endorsing in next Tuesday's Georgia Presidential Primary -- especially since you moved out of the state after losing your Senate seat?

(And while we're at it, an Instant Message to John Kerry: Would you approve a TV commercial where people say bad things about you? If not, why should I think you support free speech any more than John Ashcroft?)

COMING SOON: Meetings with the P.B.A. and A.U.... plus our Super Tuesday watch....

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, February 27, 2004



Still looking for ways to advance my debut CD, I presented my first solo concert Thursday. The location was Columbus's Muscogee Manor. A couple of people showed up with lunch -- but I'm thrilled to say no one threw it at me.

Muscogee Manor is located just off Schatulga Road, a short drive from the Muscogee County Prison and Youth Detention Center. Admittedly it's a nursing home -- so some of the residents may feel like they have something in common with the inmates.

(I have to admit I'd never driven down much of Schatulga Road before Thursday. It was amazing to travel so far on a key road without passing a single fast-food restaurant or convenience store.)

People who dream of "One Columbus" should pay Muscogee Manor a visit. I found a good racial mix in attendance at the concert, and everyone seemed to get along. Not one person there brought up next week's referendum on the Georgia flag.

Since the Ledger-Enquirer and Playgrounds didn't send critics to review my concert (I knew I forgot to tell somebody!), allow me to self-evaluate what happened:

Pre-Show: The "concert room" at Muscogee Manor has a boombox and a small P-A system for audio. For some reason, it also has giant blow-up beach balls and baseballs on a back table. At some locations, the crowd would have batted them back and forth across the room before the show.

The activities staff at Muscogee Manor is surprised at first about my showing up for a concert. It wasn't on the very-full February "calendar of events" in the hallway. A recent Thursday a couple of weeks ago must have been slow - because it actually had "The Price is Right" scheduled at 11:00 a.m.

Song 1: With a staff member running the boombox, I'm introduced for the concert to begin. I'm not really that nervous, because I've sung church solos for hundreds of people before. And most of the people in the room are so old that their negative comments about my music would be dismissed as elderly crankiness.

At the church I attend, we normally don't gesture as we sing; it's considered too theatrical. So a strange thing happens during the hand-clapping song "Washing of Water" which WMLF Radio has been playing. Most of the audience claps on beats 1 and 3, and I discover I'm doing it on beats 2 and 4. I give away my non-Southern background right away.

Song 2: The audience enthusiastically applauds after the first song, and I make some small talk about the weather. It's cold and rainy outside their secure manor doors - and the folks in Gainesville can have that snow which fell overnight.

Another hand-clapping number starts - but I can't hear the boombox too well, and get a bit behind the beat. I was concerned that might happen with this song. But at least I'm still young enough to keep up with runaways like that one.

Song 4: I had a printed list of songs with me, just in case something happened - and I make it happen, by forgetting what song is next. Maybe I'm more nervous than I realize. After all, I haven't removed the microphone from its stand yet.

The next song "The Bible Says" follows "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" - and I engage the audience in some chat about HOW to have a closer walk. What should we read, I suggest? "Any book you can," says a retired minister to my right. Oh really - like maybe the Yellow Pages?

Song 5: The Ray Boltz song "Watch the Lamb" is a moving story of the crucifixion, which I compare in introduction to"The Passion of the Christ." Yet something different happens - as the audience starts applauding my singing one verse before the ending, on the line "the lamb ran away!" Maybe this group is a bunch of animal rights activists.

Song 7: Keeping the older audience in mind, I bring out the children's song "Jesus Loves Me" - and many in the audience know it. In fact, I tell everyone who joins in the singing to give themselves a hand.

Song 8: This was the song that gave me trouble in rehearsal, because I kept forgetting a few words. Yet at concert time, every word comes out fine. Muscogee Manor isn't fancy enough to have TelePrompters set up for the musicians.

After the song, I introduce a family from my congregation which came out for the concert. The daughter in the family is the church pianist -- and her face promptly turns red, when someone in the crowd encourages her to go to the piano and play something. "Maybe if they invite me back," I suggest -- or she can negotiate her own deal after the show.

Song 10: Just before the grand finale, I thank the audience for being friendly and responsive. Why, not even one person has left the room during the concert.

Then I ask everyone to smile - and pull out cameras I had hidden to take pictures of the audience. Only then do I admit it's my solo concert premiere. Always thinking about those potential hecklers, you know....

Many in the audience join me in singing "Amazing Grace" - and then the Muscogee Manor activities staff openly thanks me for coming, and invites me back anytime I wish. A Sally Field moment suddenly hits -- they like me! They really like me!!

Speaking of Christian music: an unusual concert is planned tonight at Columbus's Central Baptist Church. It's a fund-raiser for a commercial radio station, that's owned by Clear Channel. And yes, it was scheduled BEFORE Howard Stern was suspended....

The concert will raise money for WMLF-AM - specifically the "Southern gospel" side, which is on from Monday-Friday. Apparently NO money will be raised for the Friday-Sunday "Ritmo Latino Radio" programming. That's too bad, because I dream of recording a salsa version of "El Shaddai" someday.

Jim Foster said on WMLF the other day he'd like to get Southern gospel music back on the radio on weekends. Come to think of it, it IS bizarre that a radio station plays Christian music only on days which aren't considered worship days.

(So is Jim Foster in a money-raising contest with Jose Ricci of Ritmo Latino Radio -- and the person who brings in the most gets AM-1270 for all seven days of the week? Perhaps we should be thankful Clear Channel isn't suggesting "Duke and the Doctor" air 24 hours a day.)

What strikes me as strange about tonight's fundraiser is that the Southern gospel programming on WMLF has several regular advertisers. And if that's not enough, you have to pay $90 for Jim Foster to read your "church news" announcement! I don't think Oral Roberts asked for this much from donors when God threatened to kill him.

BLOG UPDATE: The attorney for former Deputy David Glisson has called a late-morning news conference today. Richard Hagler says he wants to clear up some misunderstandings about the Kenneth Walker case. For starters, Glisson does NOT have $100 million to pay for the family's lawsuit.

Aides to Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker announced Thursday they hope to appoint someone next week to handle possible prosecutions in the Kenneth Walker case. Isn't this amazing? It's too hot a case even for Attorney General Baker - and he's not up for reelection until 2006.

Aides say Attorney General Thurbert Baker is looking for a prosecutor in Southwest Georgia to take over the Kenneth Walker case. He's also looking for someone with the time to handle it In other words, we need a District Attorney with so little crime in his or her county that they're out playing golf two days a week.

Federal Judge Clay Land has agreed to hear the lawsuit filed by Kenneth Walker's family. But with $100 million at stake, you can't help wondering if this former lawyer wishes he was on the other side of the bench just one more time.

BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: Speaking of that case, this comment was posted less than two hours before we closed the Big Blog Question on David Glisson's firing Wednesday night. Here's what "Tree" had to say:

Kennth Walker would still be alive if he was not apart of a group that visited a drug den. Plain and simple !! There is the truth in a nut shell. Let's say he visited the drug den anyway and was still pulled over by the SWAT team. Mr. walker would still be alive if he had shown his hands when ordered to. Also, how can anyone believe that cocaine was planted in Mr. Walker's system after his death. Hello???? The NARCOTIC could not have flowed through his system unless his heart was pumping. Should we even begin to think that he came alive long enough during an autopsy for someone to slip a vial of cocaine into his system, have his heart pump it through his entire body and then die again. I think not. How stupid can any person be to believe that. Simply this is my opinion. Everyone is entitled to their's. If you agree please sign a petition going around to reinstate Deputy David Glisson. Also, CB&T has a trust fund to assist The Glisson Family as the endure such strife.

We appreciate your opinion, Tree. But it raises a few questions. For one thing, is everyone operating drug dens in Columbus posting signs so they're clearly identified -- so we can steer clear of them?

I don't claim to be a doctor, so I can't address Tree's statement about whether cocaine "flowed through his system." But if someone can develop darts tipped with poisonous ricin, maybe someone else is carrying bullets dipped in cocaine powder.

Plenty of other stuff happened Thursday as well:

+ Russell County High School's Principal finally confirmed a student was bitten by a bat Monday. I first heard about this Wednesday, but the school denied there was a problem.. Maybe the staff thought the bat belonged to the baseball team.

+ Summit Hospital officials revealed groundbreaking in Phenix City has been delayed - in part because Native American artifacts from 1,000 years ago were found at the construction site. So? If "Boomer 95.3" isn't playing songs from back then, it's obviously no big deal....

+ Columbus Police announced all-terrain vehicles will be used to patrol the Riverwalk. While we're at it, how about having those ATV's run over the grass on either side of the Riverwalk - so prison work crews won't have to cut it.

+ The United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley announced it needs $175,000 to match a challenge grant from unnamed donors. If this doesn't work, the agency may have to swallow its pride and borrow money from the Valley Rescue Mission.

+ Columbus State University renamed its computer science department after T-SYS. Aw c'mon! What's next - Columbus Tech naming its auto repair program after Slaughter's Discount Car Sales?

+ Alabama's annual education report card came out, showing Auburn High School students had a 98-percent passing rate on graduation exams. There's an easy explanation for this, of course. Auburn University trustees can't micro-manage

+ Brian Sharpe's "Restaurant Report Card" revealed Cancun's Mexican Grille in Auburn was marked down because of "sores on the cook's hand." We suggest the managers lower their standards a bit - and not serve chicken so fresh it's still pecking in the kitchen.

+ Instant Message to Maxie's Soul Food on Fort Benning Road: Did we hear your radio commercial right - you wait for "divine inspiration" before posting your daily lunch menu at 10:30 a.m.? If God stops giving you guidance, does this mean the "end-time" famine has begun?

(It looks like this is one restaurant NOT to visit if you're hungry for devil's food cake....)

BLOGGER'S NOTE: Daily blogging may diminish over the next few weeks, due to our annual spring clean-up....

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, February 26, 2004



Riverfest may be two months away, but travel through the Historic District and you'll find plenty of work already is underway. This week I saw city crews trimming trees along First Avenue at 7:45 in the morning. We certainly don't want any workers passing out in the 60-degree afternoon heat.

You may not realize Riverfest is moving this spring from South Commons to the heart of the Historic District, on Broadway. It's a logical move, since the event benefits the Historic Columbus Foundation. And if you feel slighted, several law offices are within walking distance for filing lawsuits.

When I heard Riverfest was heading to Broadway, the first thing that came to mind was one structure which didn't quite fit the Historic District's image. The 600 block of Broadway had a long two-story apartment building which appeared to have
low-income tenants. I say this because only a couple of grills were on porches, and they had no lids.

So why am I mentioning the apartment building in past tense? Because in the last few days, it suddenly has been torn down. Heavy equipment was on the lot last weekend, but it was gone when I passed by Wednesday afternoon. Maybe crews squeezed it onto that long train of military tanks, heading back to Fort Benning.

The former apartment building is now an empty lot, with 19th-century houses all around it. When you out-of-towners come to Columbus for a RiverCenter concert, it'll be the perfect spot for parking your RV.

(So will that open space become a Riverfest stage? Will the stages be put in the middle of Broadway? And can people like me a block away charge $20 an hour for parking?)

Uh-oh -- I just realized with the demolition on Broadway, I live in one of the few apartment complexes left in the Historic District. Before I start spring cleaning this weekend, maybe I should stop at the supermarket - for some moving boxes.

Also in the Historic District, Sixth Street was practically closed several weeks ago between Broadway and Front Avenue. The street was filled with a pile of gravel, as if the old railroad tracks there needed repair. Yet in all my years, I have yet to see anyone from the Booker T. Washington Apartments use those tracks to get to the Space Science Center.

BLOG UPDATE: After hearing Wednesday that the "Columbus South Revitalization Task Force" wants a new name put on Victory Drive, we'd like to begin the official debate with some suggestions:

+ Roy Bourgeois Boulevard. He's brought so many SOA Watch protesters down that road over the years....

+ Soot Street. To reflect the area's most distinctive feature.

+ Calle Ocho. Yes, Miami already uses that name - but consider how many Hispanic businesses are on that road now.

+ South Boulevard. It's simple, it's factual - and some tourists might mistakenly think they're in Montgomery.

(I can't help wondering what the folks at the V.F.W. Hall on Victory Drive think about a possible name change. If it happens, will they start calling it Defeat Drive?)

BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: Do you have a new original name for Victory Drive? E-mail us, and let's discuss this.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION: The first few votes were FOR the firing of Deputy David Glisson. But the last several votes were against it -- and we wind up with 70 percent of voters (7-3) saying Glisson should stay in the Sheriff's Department. I only hope this poll doesn't get me added to the Walker family's $100 million lawsuit.

Now other items from a very wet Wednesday:

+ Because of afternoon rain, I went running indoors at the St. Luke Fitness Center downtown - and what did I find when I walked inside the gym but six Phenix City Fire Rescue officers! I never felt safer and more secure on a jog in my life....

(You could tell they were Phenix City Fire Rescue employees because almost of them had matching T-shirts saying so. Now which candidate for Mayor will promise to build an indoor fitness center on their own side of the river?)

+ Columbus High School's women handled Hephzibah in basketball playoff action at the Civic Center. But the Blue Devils somehow lost track of time, because they raced out of the locker room to the court just as the second half was starting. I can't explain it -- especially since they played well before "The Bachelorette" came on.

(Columbus senior Keisha Swanier was worth the price of admission. She plays with no fear, knows how to get open, and made some good-looking no-look passes. In fact, I dream of trying one of those "no-look passes" on Coach Ashley

+ Ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore went before a "stand-in" state Supreme Court, hoping to get his job back. You don't think the regular justices who recused themselves spent the afternoon watching "The Passion of the Christ," do

(Roy Moore noted before the hearing that the Ten Commandments are on display NOW inside the Alabama Judicial Building - while his big monument remains in a closet. Why, he asked? Well, Moore should know the answer. The Commandments now appear with other historical documents - something he declared unacceptable in the Alabama law library.)

+ Clear Channel Communications announced a new "zero-tolerance" policy for obscenity at all its stations. That includes eight radio stations in Columbus, where the on-air staff will be offered "training" in what they cannot say. You need to be
TRAINED in this?! We can see it now -- a room full of announcers saying "FREAK" over and over.

(Clear Channel's Columbus Operations Manager Brian Waters admits obscenity is not a big problem here - in part because of the area's "slower pace." Huh?! Do people only swear when they're driving 70 miles per hour?)

+ Instant message to John Edwards and John Kerry: Why do you keep telling us you "approved" your commercials for the Georgia Presidential Primary? Most of the time, you're doing all the talking. Is President Bush the only candidate with a

COMING FRIDAY: Perhaps the most unique concert review you'll ever read.... and a comment Kenneth Walker's family and lawyer won't want to read....

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004



Premiering at the movies today: "The Passion of the Christ." For young soldiers reading this at Fort Benning -- no, it has nothing to do with some dancer on Victory Drive.

"The Passion of the Christ," of course, is Mel Gibson's new movie about the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life. If you haven't heard at all about this film - well wait, you can't be in a monastery somewhere, because Gibson's Roman Catholic....

Mel Gibson was interviewed about his movie Monday on the Focus On the Family radio program - but believe it or not, a Columbus religious station which normally carries the broadcast refused to air it! The station kept playing Christian music, so atheists and Jews couldn't have taken over.

WYFK-FM 89.5 is part of the Bible Broadcasting Network, based in Charlotte. The network's President spoke out twice last week against "The Passion of the Christ," suggesting Christians shouldn't "sell out" to Hollywood to preach to people. I wonder if he's also against selling Bibles at Barnes and Noble.

BBN President Lowell Davey quoted a Bible verse last Friday, as he explained his opposition to the Mel Gibson movie. "'Faith comes by hearing -- '" then adding, "not by seeing, by hearing...." This apparently explains why he only has a radio network, and not a television one.

Then there's my own Pastor, who told the congregation where I attend last weekend "The Passion of the Christ" is a Catholic movie. This raises an interesting question - is this movie being shown in Northern Ireland? And do the Protestants
there dare admit they support it?

My Pastor calls "The Passion of the Christ" Catholic partly because Mel Gibson and several cast members had mass before every day of filming. I would imagine this had some advantages, though -- such as saving on catering expenses.

My Pastor suggested we pray about whether or not to go to Mel Gibson's new movie, and not get "sucked in by the masses." The strange thing is, he never suggested doing this when Mel Gibson came out with "We Were Soldiers."

Albany's Sherwood Baptist and several other churches held "sneak previews" of "The Passion of the Christ" Tuesday, and rented entire theatres to do it. I'm not sure why they did this. Perhaps they didn't want members corrupted by worldly
viewers who really need to see the movie.

(Is it really a good idea for churches to hold preview screenings, before the movie officially premieres? After all, Christians are supposed to set examples of patience.)

As of Tuesday afternoon, two showings of "The Passion of the Christ" at the Carmike 15 already were sold out for today. Interestingly, they were the 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. screenings - so how many worshippers will be skipping Wednesday night Bible study?

We heard some churches in the area actually plan to hold Sunday church services at theatres this weekend. I only hope they don't do what a "hip" assistant pastor did for my group of teenagers at the county lake years ago -- and try to pass off popcorn and grape soda as Communion.

BLOG UPDATE: The attorney for Kenneth Walker's family announced a $100 million lawsuit Tuesday. Let's assume for a moment the family wins every penny of that. Once legal fees are figured in, it could wind up with about $10,000.

The lawsuit by Kenneth Walker's family names as defendants the Muscogee County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Ralph Johnson and fired Deputy David Glisson. With $100 million on the line, Sheriff Johnson needs to call President Bush for help building a defense fund.

Florida attorney Willie Gary announced the lawsuit at a Government Center news conference, saying: "In a very real sense, it's judgment day." The fact that no settlement was announced by the 6:00 p.m. news shows we shouldn't believe everything this man says....

Willie Gary offered a big surprise with the lawsuit announcement. He released the autopsy and toxicology report on Kenneth Walker - and it concludes traces of cocaine were in Walker's system when he died! You'd think Gary would know better than to drop a bombshell on his own case.

The toxicology report shows Kenneth Walker had 0.12 milligrams per liter of cocaine in his system. But Walker's family contends he never did drugs, and no drugs were found in the vehicle on the night he was shot. So was there some hanky-panky by sheriff's officers - or have some other drivers been scattering "happy dust" along Interstate 185?

Muscogee County's Coroner took issue with one of Willie Gary's claims at the news conference. James Dunnivant says he WAS able to examine Kenneth Walker's body at the Medical Center last December 10th without any delay. OK, but that still puts him well ahead of Walker's family....

Willie Gary says he'd be willing to settle the $100 million lawsuit out-of-court, if justice is the result. But he warned if the case goes to trial, there will be "blood in the courtroom." In the courtroom?! We haven't even seen any yet from the sheriff's videotape.

Willie Gary seems unconcerned about the size of the $100 million lawsuit, saying at the news conference: "I don't care where they get the money." On behalf of tens of thousands of taxpayers, I think I can safely say - we do.

(Do the math on this. That $100 million lawsuit comes to more than $500 for every Columbus resident. If this case was in Clay County, Willie Gary would be on the verge of owning every square inch of it.)

WRBL recalled an interview Willie Gary once gave "60 Minutes." The attorney claimed he designed his office so "I want you to know, you're going to have to pay...." Those other lawyers who offer free consultations in the Yellow Pages look
better all the time.

Did you see former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell with the Walker family at the news conference? He's now part of the defense team - and we can't help remembering the song supporters on the night he was first elected Mayor: "Don't Mess with Bill." [True!]

The Columbus Council knew the news conference announcing a lawsuit was coming, because it huddled in an executive session Tuesday morning. Mayor Bob Poydasheff came out saying $100 million was "out of the question." Maybe if someone in the Government Center had won that big Mega Millions jackpot....

Mayor Poydasheff suggested the filing of a lawsuit by Kenneth Walker's family was premature. He told WRBL, "We don't have all of the facts...." Then how did Sheriff Johnson have enough to fire David Glisson last week?

Meanwhile, the attorney for David Glisson announced Tuesday friends have set up a fund to help his family at CB&T branches. This could mark the first time that people walk in wearing masks to DEPOSIT money in a bank.

SPAM-A-RAMA: Usually when I receive a "Use this patch immediately!" e-mail that's supposedly from Microsoft, I delete it. But Tuesday I dared to open one such message, and here's what I found:

Dear friend , use this Internet Explorer patch now!

There are dangerous virus in the Internet now!

More than 500.000 already infected!

Oh no! There ARE a virus?! What's the name of it - "MyFailedGrammar?"

(Rest assured I did NOT open the "patch.exe" attachment. Those letters can stand for "execute" - as in killing my hard drive.)

Other things happened on Tuesday as well:

+ The Columbus South Revitalization Task Force presented its improvement plan. The plan didn't need a cover, of course -- you could identify it by the black soot on the top page.

(Pastor Joseph Roberson of South Columbus United Methodist Church claims the Southside "has no entertainment" to offer residents. Huh?!?! Isn't the Civic Center located in SOUTH Commons?)

+ Smiths Station resident Curtis Williams admitted to WRBL he was conned out of more than $4,000. A work crew offered to repave his driveway last weekend, but instead scattered some sort of black liquid over it. I think this crew also stopped at Cross-Country Plaza - because the grass there looks spray-paint lime green right now.

+ Bobby Lowder's foundation donated $4.2 million to Auburn University's athletic department, to build a new "student-athlete development center." Lowder is an Auburn trustee - so the message here apparently is if micro-managing gets you put on probation, switch to mega-managing instead.

(A "student-athlete development center?" Some of us can remember when this referred to the entire college campus.)

+ The Columbus Riverdragons played a home game at 11:00 a.m., before a crowd mostly of children who met a book-reading goal. What does it say about local sports when they take youngsters out of school for a matinee, instead of holding a "businessman's special?"

+ Instant Message to the Columbus Civic Center: What a wonderful sign of spring you're displaying! The trees with purple buds outside the front door look great. How did you arrange the purple-shirted downtown business "ambassadors" to plant those things?

COMING SOON: Preparations for Riverfest, starting quite early....

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.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004



Presidential candidate John Edwards made a campaign stop at the Trade Center Monday night. He obviously did this to make sure you know he disagrees with President Bush's trade policy.

(Hopefully John Edwards paid a visit to Dr. William Howell while he was in town - and thanked him for not calling a Rainbow/PUSH boycott of Columbus city buildings yet.)

Senator John Edwards says he's the right man for President because he came from "humble beginnings," as the son of a mill worker in the Carolinas. He went from a mill family to law practice to the U.S. Senate - so it sounds some of those laid-off Pillowtex employees don't have any excuses.

John Edwards told WRBL he opposes any more closings of military bases, and wants U.S. forces brought home from Iraq. Well, it WOULD be embarrassing for soldiers to come home and find their families were transferred 2,000 miles farther

As for his economic policy, John Edwards says he wants to provide tax breaks to companies which bring jobs to the U.S. Compare that with President Bush - who wants to bring the immigrant workers in first, before the jobs are ready.

The Edwards presidential campaign doesn't seem that well organized in Columbus. For one thing, the live reporters at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. Monday didn't have any supporters waving signs and cheering behind them.

Supporters of the John Edwards campaign expected a "standing room only" crowd at the Trade Center, of more than 2,000 people. Aw, c'mon! Columbus barely can get that many people out to see a hockey game, and that's a lot more

(By the way, that leads me to ask a question about campaign trips like this - is the local fire marshal a Republican or a Democrat?)

Monday happened to be the first time John Edwards was escorted by Secret Service agents. So am I glad it rained Monday afternoon! Agents probably would have stopped joggers like me on the Riverwalk, and take a two-block detour around the Trade Center.

John Edwards visited voters in Albany, before travelling up Highway 520 to Columbus. But he did NOT stop to see Jimmy Carter in Plains, explaining he's trying to reach out to rank-and-file voters. The way the Democratic race has gone, Mr. Carter probably wouldn't have endorsed him, either.

Before John Edwards reached Columbus, he appeared in a campaign commercial on local TV. He described a land of "two Americas," including "two governments." I thought Al Gore told Democrats to stop thinking that way in December 2000.

(The commercial also claims the U.S. has two education systems. No wonder the Muscogee County School Board's workshop on redistricting Monday night caused such a fuss - they might actually merge.)

With Georgia's Presidential primary one week away, two of the remaining four Democratic candidates now have visited Columbus. Will John Kerry come to our city seeking votes? And if Dennis Kucinich comes to town, can I go on a double-date with him?

LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: We don't recall any Presidential candidates visiting Columbus in 2000 - but the wife of the Democratic nominee did. Here's how we reported on that visit, in the LaughLine of 31 Aug 00:

The road to the White House passed through our town Wednesday, as Tipper Gore spoke to a rally at the local university. We arrived 20 minutes early, and found all the chairs in a banquet room already full. Our first question came to mind immediately - how much did these people donate?

Refreshments were available in back corners of the room - cans of Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite and Dr. Pepper. If the Democrats REALLY want our Southern town's vote, they didn't impress us with this. Where are the Moon Pies and RC Colas?

(Also, we found NO trash can around the refreshment table. You'd think an environmental candidate would at least have recycling bins nearby....)

As we waited, a woman came by asking where the "Gore-2000" stickers were. A man was handing them out minutes before - but "he didn't come down MY side!" You'd think a Democrat would - especially since the woman was sitting to the LEFT of the stage.

The Tipper Gore speech was scheduled for 5:00 p.m. At 5:05, workers brought a lectern on stage. And you wonder why the Democrats haven't done much this summer to get airline flights off the ground on time.

The news media area was open in the back, and a ten-year-old girl climbed the stairs of the camera platform as the wooden lectern was put in place. The girl, who uses the name "Nebula Girl" for an Internet address, explained to her Mom they're
"getting the speaker ready." She apparently didn't realize Tipper Gore was speaking - NOT her husband.

If anyone asked what "Nebula Girl" was doing among the media, the girl and Mom had an explanation ready. She's with "CKN Morning Announcements." In other words, she's on the P.A. system at Clubview School. But the girl didn't know what "CKN" meant. Apparently it ISN'T an abbreviation for chicken.

We asked "Nebula Girl" to explain one of many "pro-Gore" signs hung around the hall. It said, "TIPPER BEATS THE DRUMS" - but nothing more! The ten-year-old guessed: "If she's playing the drums, she's beating, right? She's real high, she's real loud...." Republicans hearing this might have thought she was describing Hillary Rodham Clinton.

At 5:28, a mystery announcer we never saw introduced Tipper Gore and two local officials - one of them State Representative Calvin Smyre. Trouble was, the announcer incorrectly said his name was "SMEAR!" You never know where smear tactics will pop up in a campaign.

As the threesome walked on stage, a woman from the back came forward and used our shoulder as a brace to take a snapshot from the platform steps. She then told us: "I got their two heads!" We're not sure what she meant by this - but we
wondered if Medicare has an eyeglass benefit.

The Mayor of our town [Bobby Peters] took a moment to introduce various officials in the audience. An assistant to the U.S. Senator got nice applause - but for some reason, the County Tax Commissioner didn't get as much. And this is a

The Mayor admitted he was nervous, in the presence of potential first lady Tipper Gore. He said, "I'd like to represent - uh, introduce...." We're marking down that quote for the 2002 House race.

Representative Smyre was the loudest speaker of the three, and had to remind the crowd it was a pep rally. He introduced Tipper Gore as someone who "pulls others up by their bootstraps." Uh oh - if the Democrats win, here comes another
government entitlement: guaranteed boots.

At 5:37, Tipper Gore finally spoke. She recalled her days with the "Senate Spouses Club," when she was asked to say a prayer for a luncheon with Nancy Reagan. She noticed how quiet everyone was when she finished and returned to her seat - then realized why it was that way. "I forgot to say Amen!"

(There go those Democrats again - bringing up religion in the campaign....)

Mrs. Gore said the goal of the Democrats is to "widen the circle" of prosperity. Of course, for many people this has happened already. The circles that used to be our waistlines are now wide ovals.

Tipper Gore promised, "Education is the number-one priority...." Good thing. One of those signs on the wall of the banquet room said, "Welcome to GORE-gia!" With that state 49th on SAT scores, we're not sure if that spelling was
intentional or not.

The Gore campaign's "topic of the week" is health care, and we were ready to write down all the detailed specifics of the Democratic plan. But Mrs. Gore barely mentioned the topic at all - and sounded tired, as she quietly discussed important
campaign issues. Maybe the health care plan should include guaranteed sleep time for everyone.

The crowd applauded when Tipper Gore used the phrase "freedom of choice" for women. She explained it means "having a say over your own personal destiny...." That's strange - if politics really worked that way, her husband would be running unopposed.

The Tipper Gore speech ended at 5:48. Some people waited an hour or more - to hear her talk for 11 minutes! We expect some of those folks will start camping out TODAY for this Saturday's college football game.

As the crowd departed, we stopped at the soda table - and met a Catholic priest [Tom Wiese] from a neighboring town. He described himself as a political "schizophrenic," since his father was a Republican and his mother was a Democrat. We imagine his congregation has well-worn Bibles - since they probably go back and forth between the Old and New Testaments every week.

The priest admitted he's NOT pleased with the emphasis on third-trimester abortions - but he doubted Republican George W. Bush would make things better. "They haven't done a d**n thing about it for 30 years," the man in priestly garb said. We were stunned by his language - since we hadn't heard a minister say "trimester" in SO long.

As we walked out, we saw one more surprise - a young black woman with a Gore sticker, and a Lillian BUSH name tag! We asked why she wouldn't support a Bush for President. Her answer: "I did that once, and it didn't do me any good!"

COMING WEDNESDAY: "Passion," pro and con....

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, February 22, 2004



The 600 p.m. news Friday night profiled an Opelika pastor - and the news anchor referred to him ss a "man of the cloth." Why do ministers get this title, while people who clean restaurant tables and wash cars don't?

The phrase caught my attention because I visited a downtown Columbus car wash this past week. No big deal, you say? For me, it's a VERY big deal - because I get so busy with various projects, I become The Ultimate Guy when it comes to cars. If it runs, that's all that matters.

True confession: it had been years since I washed my humble Honda. In fact, I couldn't remember the last time I did it. The grime was so embedded that the only way someone could write "please wash me" on my car was with a knife and chisel.

I came into two coupons for "The Works #2" at the Fourth Avenue Car Wash, so I decided it was time to use one. The weather was warm and springlike. I'd just finished a rough draft of my tax returns, and determined a big refund was coming. And with Sheriff Ralph Johnson finally firing Deputy David Glisson, it seemed like practically the perfect day.

Yes, I know Fourth Avenue downtown is called Veterans Parkway now. But the car wash between 10th and 11th Streets never has changed its name. I think it's proof we haven't had a prolonged rainstorm in Columbus in years....

When I pulled into the Fourth Avenue Car Wash, the attendant noticed trouble right away. "I can't promise we'll be able to get all of this off," he said - saying it MIGHT be possible for an extra five dollars. I said no thanks - since I've had people on the street offer to remove loose parts from the car for that much.

"The Works #2" at the Fourth Avenue Car Wash is quite a meticulous process. You drop the car off with an attendant. Then crew members vacuum the inside of it, even before it goes into the wash. I felt I had to specify the cups in the back seat I did NOT want thrown away.

One member of the vacuuming crew is profiled in a framed newspaper article in the hallway inside the Car Wash. He's a mentally retarded man who's worked there for years, and is praised by owner Richard Brown for his reliability. Of course, some lazy slackers would dismiss this by saying he doesn't know any better....

Fourth Avenue boasts about having an "all-cloth" car wash - and since you can watch the car roll through from a glass hallway, I can verify that's how it's done. I didn't see one S-O-S soap pad used at any time.

When this car wash offers "The Works," it means it. After the car came out, staff members weren't finished. They cleaned the rims around my tires - and ALL my windows, both inside and out. It's the most pampered and spoiled I probably can be, short of visiting a casino.

Because there was a big crowd on a warm, sunny day, the whole process of "The Works" took close to an hour. I never guessed it can take longer to wash and clean a car, than to change the oil in it....

Richard Brown obviously has a good business going at Fourth Avenue Car Wash, because he had a lot full of cars on a Thursday afternoon. But I'm glad I had a coupon to get "The Works" for free. When a car wash accepts credit cards, I'm not sure that's that really a good thing.

Richard Brown's doing so well he's even become Vice President of the "Southeastern Car Wash Association." I never thought about there being such a group. What does the group do - lobby Congress for better drying rags?

Throughout this car wash, I remembered a radio ad Neal Boortz used to do in Atlanta in which he said: "A clean car runs better." When the wash was over, I certainly had a much cleaner car, one that actually looks respectable - but I regret to report my brakes hesitate just as much as before.

BLOG UPDATE: A new "tree of unity" now stands in Lakebottom Park, in remembrance of Kenneth Walker. It was dedicated Saturday by the Columbus Rotary Club, with Walker's family present. We can all be thankful the Sheriff's Department did not have to be called for crowd control.

COMING THIS WEEK: We remember the last time a Presidential candidate's wife visited Columbus.... and hear some surprising Christian comments about "The Passion of the Christ"....

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, February 21, 2004



The Georgia Bureau of Investigation turned over its report on the Kenneth Walker killing to the District Attorney Friday. Then the District Attorney turned over that report to the Georgia Attorney General's office. And the way things are going in
Atlanta these days, the report might wind up being traded to Detroit for a draft choice.

District Attorney Gray Conger disqualified himself from the Kenneth Walker case. So if you're keeping score on your computer, this is a D-A D-Q....

Gray Conger says former Deputy David Glisson trained some of his District Attorney staff in firearms, so there might be the impression of bias. So is THAT the standard in making decisions like this? The National Action Network saw bias, simply by looking at Conger's skin.

District Attorney Conger says he wants the killing of Kenneth Walker handled in an "impartial, unbiased manner." Come to think of it, I can't think of any radio talk show host who's become a prosecuting attorney - it's usually just the opposite.

Local civil rights groups may feel like they have the upper hand now. The Kenneth Walker case is in the hands of Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, who is African-American. Trouble is, they need to remember Mr. Baker's campaign
commercials from two years ago - when county sheriffs did all the talking in his behalf.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation handed over about six volumes of evidence concerning the killing of Kenneth Walker. They include the "cop-cam" videotape from the Sheriff's patrol car, showing what happened last December 10th. Is it safe to assume we'll never see that video on "COPS?"

Wayne Baker of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance says the squad car videotape still needs to be released. He explains Columbus residents have a "first amendment right" ro see it. Maybe we should see "The Passion of the Christ" first, so the video won't look so frightening....

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION: We have a question currently open for your vote, about the firing of Deputy David Glisson. I couldn't help thinking of District Attorney Gray Conger when I saw this comment from a voter:

As a former resident of Columbus, I have kept abreast of the situation with Deputy Glisson and it is my understanding that the family isn't pursuing this issue and that they even made a public announcement saying that the NAACP doesn't speak for them the family......

I agree why isn't the tape being shown... [Sheriff Ralph] Johnson is just scared of losing his J.O.B....

You have to admit, though -- civil rights groups are showing the patience of J-o-b in this case....

So what else can we talk about on a springlike weekend?

+ Columbus Cottonmouths General Manager Phil Roberto denied reports from Florida that the hockey team will move to Bradenton-Sarasota after this season, if that area can build a new arena. Roberto said you should bet on the Snakes staying in town. What, and miss out on that $230 million Mega Millions jackpot?

(Phil Roberto admits attendance at Cottonmouths games has been weak this season. He notes when the team was "winning, winning, winning, attendance dwindled, dwindled, dwindled...." Maybe if the team scheduled regular fights on the
ice between periods....)

+ "Teacher astronaut" Barbara Morgan visited children at Phenix City Intermediate School. Morgan is sixth in line for a space shuttle trip -- and after about 18 years of waiting, she's more likely to get a pay raise in Phenix City first.

+ Which TV newscast interviewed someone by phone in Tempe, Arizona -- but showed a map putting that city in the middle of New Mexico? Some people are giving a whole new meaning to that book "Atlas Shrugged."

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, February 19, 2004



What?!? You mean that was a sonic boom from an F-16, which so many people in the area heard Thursday afternoon?! I thought it was the African-American community passing out in disbelief, after Deputy David Glisson was fired....

Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson dismissed Deputy David Glisson Thursday. The termination came ten weeks after Glisson shot and killed Kenneth Walker along Interstate 185 -- and two months before Jesse Jackson could make room in his schedule for a protest march.

It's still a bit unclear whether David Glisson was fired for shooting Kenneth Walker, or for not fully cooperating with an investigation. How strange would it be if Glisson's job came down to opening his mouth, as opposed to opening fire?

(UPDATED INFORMATION) Columbus City Attorney Clifton Fay says Deputy David Glisson submitted a statement to the Sheriff's investigation, and answered a narrow series of questions about the shooting of Kenneth Walker. Perhaps he's saving the big, wide-ranging interview for a supermarket tabloid....

Sheriff Ralph Johnson says he did NOT terminate David Glisson face-to-face or by phone. Instead he wrote a termination letter. If other officers follow the Sheriff's example, fewer drivers will be pulled over by mistake on the interstate.

The attorney for David Glisson issued a statement saying he's "very disappointed" by the firing. For one thing, the deputy missed that big job fair at the Trade Center by two weeks.

Attorney Richard Hagler says former Deputy David Glisson has been battling depression in recent weeks. It certainly hasn't helped that no community leaders have organized a rally in Glisson's defense. Why, not even the Ku Klux Klan has done

Richard Hagler called the firing of Deputy David Glisson "premature," and blamed it on community pressure for Sheriff Ralph Johnson to do something. Well, we certainly didn't expect Sheriff Johnson to face questions on "The O'Reilly Factor."

Richard Hagler even hinted he may sue Sheriff Ralph Johnson, to put Deputy David Glisson back on the force. Will the Walker family feel insulted, if Hagler sues the sheriff before they do?

The President of the Columbus NAACP attended Ralph Johnson's Thursday midday news conference. Edward DuBose called the firing of David Glisson a "start" toward justice, and something "long overdue." We say the same sort of thing when our income tax refund checks arrive in the mail.

Edward DuBose stated he won't be satisfied justice has been done until the "Walker family is made whole." By that, does he mean a money judgment against the Sheriff's Department? Or is he trying to find Mrs. Walker a new husband already?

(Given what he said earlier this week, "justice" for Edward DuBose might mean tying David Glission to a pole outside the Continental Carbon plant - then making him breathe in black soot.)

Other civil rights activists probably won't be satisfied with the firing of David Glisson. The National Action Network wants Sheriff Ralph Johnson to resign. Rainbow/PUSH leader William Howell wants Georgia Governor Perdue to resign.
And we're a bit surprised no one's demanded Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones run Glisson out of his home in Salem.

There's also the matter of the "cop-cam" videotape of Kenneth Walker's killing. The G.B.I. has seen it, but the community at large has not. If this case had involved Paris Hilton, the tape would be on sale over the Internet by now.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation should submit its own report on the Kenneth Walker killing to District Attorney Gray Conger today. It reportedly will be full of facts, but NOT make a finding of guilt or innocence -- since after all, the civil rights activists decided that matter several weeks ago.

Sheriff Ralph Johnson says Muscogee County reopened its investigation of the Kenneth Walker killing because the G.B.I. was wrapping up its work. That's strange, because he declared the county probe was "over" in December [13 Dec 03] - so it's just like they always seem to say in television news: the investigation IS continuing.

(So much for Yogi Berra's line, "It's not over till it's over." In Muscogee County, it's not over even after the Sheriff says it's over.)

By the way, for all the "national attention" supposedly attracted to the Kenneth Walker case, did you notice only two TV microphones were at the lectern for the Sheriff's news conference? This Ralph Johnson is one sly politician - barely letting
anyone know he's doing damage control.

Sheriff Ralph Johnson says he'll now reach out to the African-American community, and attempt to mend damaged relations. We recommend he take this slowly -- starting with 30 minutes of time on WHAL-AM, preaching forgiveness.

BLOG UPDATE: I guess my campaign hunch was wrong. Supporters of Presidential candidate John Edwards announced Thursday he'll make a campaign trip to Columbus Monday. But please note he's NOT going to Plains on Sunday - because we've already seen this year that's a sign of political suicide.

Other things happened Thursday that seemed to center on Atlanta:

+ The Georgia Board of Education approved a new biology curriculum - and it DOES include the word "evolution." Of course, it might turn around and approve an English curriculum with "evil-ution" as an alternative spelling....

+ The Atlanta City Council debated whether to sell sponsorships of city parks to businesses. Of course, Columbus already does this. Didn't Dr. Dinglewood pay for the parkland, after opening his pharmacy? And how do you explain Bradley Park

+ Basketball's Atlanta Hawks traded Rasheed Wallace to Detroit. Wallace played a grand total of ONE game with the Hawks, after a trade from Portland! Why, he didn't even stay long enough to pick up a technical foul.

+ A national report indicated three Atlanta interchanges rank among the 20 most congested in the country. Well, at least I did my part! I moved to Columbus seven years ago.

BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: Where's the worst traffic jam in the Columbus area, and what should be done about it? We'd like to hear from you, for a future blog topic. Write me with your opinion.

COMING THIS WEEKEND: Do clean cars run better? We're going to find out....

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Vote on our new Big Blog Question, about the David Glisson dismissal! Comments welcome!

Now you can meet the blogger, and hear him sing! Stop by Muscogee Manor at 7150 Manor Road in Columbus Thursday, 26 February at 2:00 p.m. ET. I'll present songs from my debut CD, "One God, Many Moods." It's on the "local artists" shelf at Mustard Seed in Columbus -- or you can click here for music samples and details on online ordering.


I searched on the Internet at the start of 2003, and found no one keeping a blog about events in Columbus, Georgia. So being the web-savvy guy that I am, I decided to start a blog of my own - chronicling happenings in the town I've called home for nearly seven years, as well as my experiences in it.

But.... I used to have a humor service called LaughLine.Com, so my views may be a bit amusing. And the views are my own; no one has paid me to present theirs. Pressured, yes - but paid, no.



Did you see the report Wednesday night about a web site for critiquing schoolteachers? This is yet another sign of the decline of U.S. society. After all, students used to do this in person on the school bus....

The web site "Rate My Teachers" apparently is the talk of Opelika High School, because at least one teacher has been the target of negative comments. The principal expressed concern Wednesday the criticism is "not constructive." I assume by extension, this principal bars teachers from turning on radio talk shows in class.

But the Opelika High School principal is puzzled by one name on the "Rate My Teachers" web site - a person who doesn't even teach at the school! So what grade will the students get for this creative writing project?

(You don't think this is all fun and games for Opelika students - having a strange sort of fantasy education league....)

One Opelika High School teacher recommended if students have a problem with her quality of teaching, "come to me about it." Why, if students go online with their criticism, next thing you know they might go to the school board.

Some people might say it's about time high school teachers were held accountable for the quality of their work, in training students for the future. Shouldn't they be held to the same standards as the head football coaches?

I couldn't resist calling up "Rate My Teachers" Wednesday night, to see what students are saying anonymously about Columbus teachers. Some of the comments are rather blunt, and not always about teachers:

+ Columbus High School Principal Susan Bryant is "ineffective at best. Tends to blame in-school policies on the school board when they are her own." Was this really written by a student - or a jealous teacher at Carver?

+ Pacelli High School Counselor Nita Walters "doesn't help you get into college." Well, there IS a shortage of priests - and seminary training probably takes less time.

+ A history teacher at Hardaway High is "cute and nice and very cool!" Now THERE'S a way for Muscogee County schools to make money - selling "students' studs" calendars.

+ A Harris County High history teacher twice has the comment: "You have to study every night." So if a Harris County resident never wins "American Idol," this could explain it....

As it happens, the Opelika teacher-rating issue surfaced as a Hardaway High School senior challenged a Muscogee County School policy. Ashley Schlag is pregnant, and says sending her to a special school would mean a lower-quality education. But doesn't this school provide some advantages - like maybe more space at the desks?

It doesn't help the district's cause that the school for teen moms is referred to as "Teenage Pregnancy School" - or TAPS. In an army town, that sounds SO final and devastating....

All this talk about teaching quality happened to come on the day Columbus State Rep. Tom Buck asked on the House floor if this was the right time to approve a pay raise for teachers. Well, it certainly couldn't hurt - unless he wants teachers lining up at job fairs to become police officers.

BLOG UPDATE: Not wanting to be outdone by Saint Luke United Methodist Church's "Mardi Gras" night, Cascade Hills Church holds its annual "Wild Game Supper" tonight. And at this church, "wild game" does not refer to softball with bad umpiring.

The Wild Game Supper is known for serving all sorts of exotic meats -- everything from alligator to elk to bear. This way you can learn once and for all if everything tastes like chicken....

(One of these years I'm going to stop by the Wild Game Supper - with my Bible open to the lists of unclean meats.)

The Cascade Hills Wild Game Supper will have more than food. One minister said Wednesday there will be an archery contest - with the winner taking home a new shotgun! We hope this doesn't go to someone on the Sunday preaching

Now other items from the Wednesday wire:

+ Phenix City Police Chief Preston Robinson held a "community awareness meeting" on topics such as racial profiling. Based on the last couple of months, we're not sure Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson is aware of it yet.

(Did I hear WRBL's Katie Weitzner right - the police meeting occurred before a "mostly all-black crowd?" What were the other people, polka-dot?)

+ Presidential candidate Al Sharpton visited Atlanta, and was endorsed by former Mayor Bill Campbell. I really doubt any more candidates will visit the Columbus area -- because Sharpton's trip in late December jump-started his campaign about as
much as Howard Dean's visit to Plains did.

+ Somebody's gotta ask it: what is wrong with the Columbus State women's basketball team? The Lady Cougars were clobbered by Kennesaw State 82-56, and only scored 15 points in the first half! I simply can't believe that many players are resting their bodies for the start of women's soccer next fall.

(After several years of playoff appearances, C.S.U.'s women now have a 10-13 record and their worst losing in ten years. This is one year where Coach Jay Sparks may have nothing but duds.)

+ Instant Message to Bill Heard Cadillac: I'm glad you're big fans of Auburn sports - but it's mid-February. Isn't it about time you changed your radio commercial supporting football coach Tommy Tuberville?

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, February 18, 2004



Its new fitness center with a walking track has been quite a blessing to me this winter [23 Jan] - but tonight St. Luke United Methodist Church is doing something I don't quite understand. A church is staging a "Mardi Gras" party! Doesn't this seem a bit contradictory -- like a preacher saying he's FOR sin at certain times of year?

The St. Luke Wednesday night "fellowship supper" will have a Mardi Gras theme, complete with a parade. I hope they stage this parade on 11th or 12th Streets -- because if they have it on Third Avenue, it might offend the First Baptist Church crowd right across the street.

The promotional flyer for St. Luke Church's Mardi Gras dinner promises "Gras" (fat) fare -- but a menu I saw had nothing but breakfast items, such as pancakes and omelets. I'm not sure anyone there even has heard of foie gras....

The Mardi Gras menu at St. Luke Church did NOT have "king cake" on it -- but if the past is an indicator, you can get that right now at many Publix stores. That's the ring-shaped, ridiculously sweet cake with a hidden toy baby inside. That's just what those Methodists need to get them ready to see "The Passion of the Christ."

And that's not all! St. Luke United Methodist even is naming a Mardi Gras King and Queen - and your purchase of beads helps decide the winners! How many husbands will pick a set that will go well with their wives' Easter dresses?

To be fair, this Mardi Gras dinner is a moneymaker for the "Samaritan's Fund" at St. Luke United Methodist Church. Which leads me to ask a question - if Samaritans in the Bible were so good, how come there's no country named Samaria today?

Perhaps my thinking about Mardi Gras has been colored by the stories I've heard from New Orleans. People in the French Quarter get drunk. Women show off bare bodies to get beads. In fact, it's a wonder the National Football League still plays Super Bowls there every few years.

Yet I've also heard Christian ministers over the years who've preached against not only Mardi Gras, but the season of Lent which follows. My own Pastor said sarcastically the other day, "God sure will be impressed by them giving up chocolate for Lent...." This is in a congregation where we'll give up leavened bread for a week in April. [True!]

The critics of Mardi Gras and Lent say there's no Biblical backing for it, and that's true. In fact, I take this so seriously that I haven't lent any strangers money in a long time....

BLOG UPDATE: Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue accused Columbus officials of "paranoia" Tuesday, when it comes to his policy on water from the Chattahoochee River. He may have a point, you know. Did anyone think about naming our fine arts hall the AFLAC-Center?

During a visit to LaGrange, Governor Perdue denied he's "sending signals" to Columbus officials by withholding support for a million-dollar federal environmental grant. If this Governor wants to send a signal, he'll attach a banner to a state
helicopter, climb inside and fly it over the city himself.

Mayor Bob Poydasheff hasn't changed his mind on the city taking Alabama and Florida's side, in a legal fight over Southeastern water usage. He told WRBL he doesn't want drinking water "that makes people gag." You tell 'em, Mr. Mayor - save that for when the monthly bill comes.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION: Our baseball nickname survey is over, and people prefer the new "Columbus Catfish" to the old "South Georgia Waves" by a margin of 2-1. So now we can officially say you can "Wave" the old name goodbye....

As for other news items we noticed Tuesday:

+ The Muscogee County School Board voted to ban smoking on school grounds by faculty members, as well as students. How are teachers supposed to unwind during planning periods -- by grading papers or something?

+ The School Board also decided to save money by ending after-school tutoring programs after this week. This could force changes at Boys and Girls Clubs -- for instance, by teaching spelling with basketball games other than H-O-R-S-E.

+ New statistics from Muscogee County Schools indicated 18 percent of all students have dropped out over the last five years. That computes to more than 3,000 children, who apparently are counting on Columbus Park Crossing bringing in more restaurants.

+ Georgia State Senator Regina Thomas of Savannah chastised lawmakers for passing a constitutional amendment specifying only male-female marriage -- but NOT attaching her amendment making adultery a crime. How scared would men be, if this happened? Jimmy Carter might have to clarify that "lust in my heart" quote from Playboy magazine years ago.

+ The Werner Ladder Company of Anniston, Alabama announced it's going out of business by year's end, putting 550 workers out of jobs. I'd never stopped to consider this before -- that even the ladder business can have a fall-off.

+ Instant Message to WXTX Fox-54: You don't HAVE to show "Becker" reruns at 11:00 every night, you know. Keep showing that "Doo-Wop Gold" album infomercial, and you'll steer me away from the news most of the time.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004



It's no big deal anymore when a telemarketer calls during dinner. But the caller the other night had an offer which surprised me - videos with topless women. Just because I get my gasoline on Victory Drive doesn't mean I go to ALL the businesses there.

"I was wondering if you'd heard of the 'Girls Gone Wild' videos?" the man on the other end of the phone asked.

"Sadly, yes." Seldom do I have the privilege of putting a telemarketer on the defensive this quickly.

The caller tried his best to argue for the acceptability of "Girls Gone Wild" videos. "Nobody's getting in any trouble," he said - only to have to pause for a moment when I reminded him of several recent arrests of producers in Panama City Beach for videotaping minors.

"That's just the prosecutors - they've got to find someone to prosecute to show they're doing their jobs," the caller counterpunched. I've heard of quotas for police officers, but never for district attorneys.

The telemarketer suggested the girls who go wild on the videos do so willingly. "No one's forcing them to take their tops off." This man has a great future as an attorney for Kobe Bryant.

"You like sports, don't you?" the caller went on. "A lot of people think sports are stupid." Yes, but at least in sports you can learn quality lessons about character from losing something.

"But you don't see nude bodies at sports events," I replied. "Except maybe at Super Bowl halftime shows...."

When young women expose themselves on Girls Gone Wild tapes, the telemarketer finally argued, it's "good clean American fun." If it's so clean, you wonder why The Jerry Springer Show still covers it with pixilation.

After several minutes of discuss.... well no, of DEBATE.... the telemarketer still hadn't explained the reason why he'd interrupted my dinner. "You called me to debate the morality of 'Girls Gone Wild' videos for what reason?" I would have been happy at this point if it had been that TV show "Crank Yankers" pulling a stunt.

But apparently not - the man asked me if I wanted to buy "Girls Gone Wild" videos. As you might have guessed by now, I said no. Then I ended the conversation with something I probably should not have said. "God bless you, sir" - trying to emphasize GOD as forcefully as I could.

What are we coming to when telemarketers call you at home to sell X-rated (well, he maintained they're R-rated) videos? Is this what telephone sex hotlines do on a really slow night?

Now let's step out of the gutter, for a quick check of President's Day headlines:

+ A Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent revealed his office has reviewed "cop-cam" video of the shooting of Kenneth Walker. The agent only would say the tape was "helpful" - which I suppose means we now know it was a real Sheriff's patrol car.

+ Several local groups announced they're joining a lawsuit against the state of Alabama, for granting an environmental permit to Continental Carbon of Phenix City without proper notice of a hearing. One supporter of the suit declared: "We're not in Taiwan, we're in an American democracy...." So when did mainland China finally invade?

(The Columbus NAACP is part of the lawsuit over Continental Carbon. Maybe if that company spread white soot over the south side of town, things would be different.)

+ Columbus State beat Augusta State in college baseball - and WRBL showed a dog watching the game at Ragsdale Field. I've heard of the "dog days" of the baseball season before, but never in winter....

SPAM-A-RAMA: In this new feature, from time to time we'll share some of the unusual e-mail which hits our in-box. This
REAL message arrived Monday:

Dear Friend! After some years we again have returned. We offer the unique offer. Such yet was not. Our new resource. It is very big and various portal. All categories for adults. All your imaginations. More than 100 places.

Attention. All this free-of-charge. It not a deceit! See Now!

You have received it because are our user. If it not so, we shall rem0ve your data.

The author of "the unique offer" had a Russian-sounding name, and a home address of "Britney Club." But I think even Britney Spears can write English sentences better than this -- not to mention Snoop Dogg.

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, February 16, 2004



First Baptist Church of Columbus marked its 175th anniversary Sunday. "We're one year younger than the city of Columbus," Pastor Jimmy Elder told viewers as the live weekly telecast began. That's funny, some of the deacons don't look that old....

(First Baptist actually has a current member who's 104 years old. That person probably can remember when a "giant screen display" at a church service meant the deacons carried out a chalkboard.)

"It's not about how old we are, but how many glorious years we have obtained," Dr. Jimmy Elder said in opening remarks at the 11:00 a.m. service. I thought for a minute he was going to start giving a free advertisement for herbal supplements.

Pastor Jimmy Elder led First Baptist worshippers in a responsive reading "litany," which said God has blessed their church. If you read that enough, I suppose you'd believe it. That's true for visitors to Howard Dean's web site....

Dr. Jimmy Elder's anniversary sermon offered a new word of the day, as he said God has "intentionality" in His purpose. Sure enough, it's in my dictionary - but intentionality? Somehow I can't see baseball managers saying that word, when Barry Bonds is walked on purpose.

A prayer offered during the service revealed First Baptist Church of Columbus was founded by seven women and five men. Isn't this amazing? Way back in 1829, some guys thought church was for ladies only.

Did I miss something during the anniversary service? Didn't the church choir sing "O God Our Help in Ages Past" only a few minutes after the congregation sang it as a hymn? Some churches apparently haven't heard about the radio concept of a
"no-repeat work day."

First Baptist Church members renewed their commitment to God by taking the Lord's Supper. But sadly, the telecast time ran out just as a crucial moment came. I wanted to see if they marked the anniversary with wine or grape juice.

"God's been faithful every one of our 175 years," Dr. Jimmy Elder told First Baptist Church worshippers, "but that doesn't mean we haven't made mistakes." This was the closest the service came to mentioning the hiring of Dr. Ron Grizzle.

First Baptist Church seems to have settled down from early 2002, when Pastor Ron Grizzle resigned after facing a vote on his firing. He had to "head for the hills," because too many Baptists did - only they went to Cascade Hills....

I couldn't help thinking back Sunday to First Baptist Church's 170th anniversary celebration in 1999. Dr. Ron Grizzle brought in guest speakers from several churches, including at least one woman and one African-American man. He tried to promote "One Columbus" - and now he's gone, trying to promote one Birmingham.

First Baptist Church still seems to be at a crossroads about its future. Modern mega-churches such as Cascade Hills Baptist are growing quickly, with lots of glitz and TV production. The most "state-of-the-art" thing First Baptist appears to have is a blue "prayer line" on the bottom of the TV screen.

As it happened, Franchise Missionary Baptist Church in Phenix City had "Black Heritage Day" Sunday. Members dressed for worship as their forefathers did - but hopefully none of them wore balls and chains.

BLOG UPDATE (based on a true story): "It's 1:00 p.m. in Columbus, 12 noon in Alabama - and welcome to our live, continuous, team, on-your-side, first, fast, accurate, dedicated, determined, dependable, comprehensive, courageous, fair, balanced, award-winning, and we hope mistake-free coverage of Columbus Choco-Fest 2004 (sm). It's Sunday, February 15th, and my co-anchor knows what that means."

"Don't we ALL know what that means?! Valentine's Day candy half-price sales! Our top story goes straight to the heart of the action...."

"Ohhhh, that's pretty clever of you."

"I just thought of it while putting on my makeup! Let's go to the Target store on Bradley Park Drive. Is our live reporter

"Yes, I'm here live. I'm not dead yet. And it looks like I'm not going to be anytime soon. Take a look at these shelves! They're practically empty! Only a few days ago they were filled with red and white Kisses, M&M's, Miniatures and more. But they made like Doves and flew out of this store. The discount chocolate's gone -- and here's the most amazing part. The candy sugar hearts with the silly phrases on them are almost gone, too!"

"Wow! Remarkable! Where DID all that choco-a-go-go?"

"That's 1-to-1 there, anchor buddy."

"That's the big question, guys. I was here for Choco-Fest 2003 (sm) a year ago today, and even in the evening there were plenty of chocolate bags left. This year, about all that's left for picking is the boxes of Lord of the Rings valentine cards."

"Ugh! Something for Oscar night, I guess."

"Yeah. What a difference a year makes. Thanks for that new, live, compelling continuous report."

"So what's a chocolate hunter to do? Let's go to candy stop number two. Our live team seemingly unending coverage of this breaking, developing, it's-gotta-stop-soon Choco-Fest (sm) continues continuously at Walgreen's on Veterans Parkway."

"Am I on the air? OK. Folks, this is an amazing scene. Look at all the Valentine's stuff left on sale at half-price at this drug store. It's just one little part of one aisle! And if you want chocolate, forget about it! It's red licorice, and not much
else! The rest of the holiday shelf is so empty, you'd think angry Muslim extremists came in and burned it all."

"If you can hear me out there -- what are those things on the other side of the aisle?"

"Yeah, that's really no surprise. Those are plush Easter toys. Opening day of the season, they tell me."

"And how long is it until Easter?"

"Two, four....eight weeks from today, folks."

"Discount chocolate fans may be in for a long drought. Thanks for the update, such as it was."

"You know, this is getting pretty serious. Two stores down, and no half-price chocolate at all! What's going on here?"

"Well, I DID see a billboard coming to work about a big consignment sale in mid-March."

"Wait -- I'm hearing in my ear we HAVE a chocolate sighting!"

"About time, if you ask me. Where's our Live Sky But Parked On the Ground official Choco-Fest 2004 (sm) truck?"

"Can you hear me in the studio?"

"Yes, go ahead."

"I've found the chocolate! I've found the chocolate! I'm at a little CVS store on River Road, near the carpet mill. We had to walk halfway through this store past several barren aisles, but here it is. Just like they say on big-city radio, it's Kisses
and M&M's together -- half-price!"

"Well, that's a relief! We were starting to think space aliens had shown up overnight and taken the chocolate back to - wherever."

"So what does half-price Valentine's chocolate cost this year?"

"Well, that's a bit disappointing, guys. Look at the regular CVS price on this bag. Ten ounces of Kisses for $2.99?! Even at half-off, 15 cents an ounce is way up the chocolate ladder."

"Not to mention the calorie count. Are the M&M's there any better?"

"They seem to be. A 14-ounce bag is - let's see, I'm doing the division on my laptop's calculator - a buck-50."

"Well, I suppose that'll HALF to do."

"Aw-haw-haw! Two-to-one! But an important question here. Those M-and-M's -- do they have colors? Or are they black and white, like the others on sale these days?"

"I'm not really sure about that yet. If I ripped open this bag right now, the candy would spill all over the floor and that could be trouble."

"Certainly DO have to avoid those liability suits. Thanks for the update."

"But you have to wonder with those prices - did OPEC take control of the chocolate factories or something?"

"Let's ask an expert about that. Veteran Choco-Fest (sm) watcher Richard joins us in our satellite right-down-the-hallway news center now, for in-depth team developing continuous analysis of this live count-on-able coverage. Richard, how do
you explain what we've seen here this afternoon?"

"Really, guys, I think this is good news. I've noticed over the years when the on-sale chocolate goes quickly, it's a sign of a growing economy. And the indicators are pointing that way a lot more this year than last."

"So we shouldn't panic about this?"

"No, I don't think so. After all, the Walgreen's ad had a three-for-a-dollar coupon in it today for regular chocolate bars. Oh, but I should add -- there's a new theory I'm looking at for all these after-Valentine's sales."

"And what would that be?"

"Shoppers think it's a Daytona 500 sale - and red and white ARE the colors of Dale Earnhardt, Junior's car."

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.