Monday, November 29, 2004


Sunday was a day of celebration for one Columbus family. A missing son was recovered, after walking away and disappearing on Thanksgiving. I know you're supposed to get out and exercise after the holiday dinner, but this is going too

Billy Hardin is mentally disabled, and relatives say the 34-year-old has the mind of a four-year-old. He walked away from his Manchester Expressway-area home, and somehow wound up 25 miles away in the woods at Fort Benning. A sergeant found him there - and resisted the urge to sign him up for basic training.

Even with his return, Billy Hardin's family was a bit upset Sunday. For one thing, relatives claimed Columbus Police seemed uninterested in handling their "missing person" report -- which probably matches them with the half the employees at busy shopping centers over the weekend.

The family of Billy Hardin wanted an alert issued for several area counties - but relatives say Columbus Police never spread the word about his disappearance. But keep in mind, it WAS Thanksgiving weekend. I know from experience some law enforcement offices don't like to pick up the phone even on a typical weekend.

The family of Billy Hardin also is upset with the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, because at one point in the search it indicated he was dead outside town. If it's any comfort to the Hardin family -- I've been skeptical about the paper's daily horoscopes for a long time....

I can relate in a personal way to what the Hardin family endured. My younger brother has been in an institution in Kansas for more than 35 years. We always called Donnie mentally retarded - this is, until people who didn't know about him started telling us we were insensitive with our language.

Donnie proved so difficult to handle at home that when I was eight years old, my parents decided to put him in the Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka. He's lived far longer than anyone in our family expected. And he can hold a ball so tightly, he'd probably fumble less often than Warrick Dunn of the Falcons.

Donnie probably couldn't walk away 25 miles, as Billy Hardin did. He's done well in his life to walk at all. It's a mutual thrill when I can visit him, and push his wheelchair downhill outside his dorm. Of course, this is Kansas -- where a steep hill is hard to find....

Now for other things we spotted on a sunny Sunday:

+ The "Eternal Flame" outside the Government Center was aglow again, after we noted it was out on Saturday. Wouldn't it be strange if a firefighting crew lit up that memorial again?

+ Cascade Hills Church held its annual "Christmas Spectacular" at the Columbus Civic Center, featuring what the church called "former supermodel Kim Alexis." Excuse me - but when does a supermodel become "former?" Does she become simply a model again? Or is this some kind of negative statement about her appearance?

+ The Atlanta Falcons scored in the last two minutes to knock off New Orleans 24-21. Saints owner Thomas Benson said one week earlier his players played "like a high school team" - which means they showed up at the Georgia Dome about 24 hours too late to take on LaGrange.

(Fox play-by-play announcer Dick Stockton was off-form at times Sunday. He declared the Saints in front 13-0 by mistake, and said kicker John Carney "is used to kicking indoors...." Carney kicked most of his N.F.L. career in San Diego - where they only go inside for sports because the hockey ice might melt.)

+ Instant Message to the Publix store at Cross-Country Plaza: Did you mean to hang those holiday banners so low? Some Riverdragons basketball player is going to bump his head on them, and sue you.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We're having trouble going online with our home computer, so we may have to miss a day or two for repairs....)

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, November 28, 2004


Even before Saturday afternoon's downpour, it was out. I passed it about 1:30 p.m., and it was out. The "Eternal Flame" outside the Government Center wasn't lit. So which S.O.A. Watch prankster pulled this off -- and how?

I don't drive down Ninth Street every day, so I can't tell you how long the flame "in honor of our veterans" has been out. Bobby Peters might know, since his house is practically across the street. He apparently doesn't have a pocket lighter, to get it going again.

About a year ago, someone suggested I investigate how much it costs the city of Columbus to keep the Eternal Flame lit. After all, natural gas isn't cheap these days - but veterans probably would respond with that cliche, "the price of freedom
isn't free."

The person who made this suggestion also offered a warning - that some terrorist might try to blow up the Eternal Flame. He said that would damage not only the Government Center, "but also Bobby Peters's house." Surely there's a better way to persuade a Judge-Elect to move into your neighborhood....

But I confess I haven't made the phone calls to the Government Center or Atmos Energy - not to ask about the cost of lighting the flame, and not to ask about someone blowing it up. Either way, I'm concerned my monthly bills might increase.

Could what I saw Saturday be a sign of things to come? After all, City Manager Carmen Cavezza has talked of extensive budget cuts. But you'd think a former Fort Benning commanding general would wait until he leaves office to shut down a veterans' memorial....

I doubt any politician in Columbus would dare recommend the Eternal Flame be turned off. But then, I doubted anyone would dare propose a tax vote which might end the property tax freeze....

Meanwhile, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Buena Vista Road still sits unrepaired - months after a driver struck and damaged it. C'mon folks! Is everybody committed to building Habitat for Humanity houses for the next three months?

(But you know what? Maybe we should leave that memorial "as is" until late January. That could be the perfect community service project for S.O.A. Watch suspects.)

E-MAIL UPDATE: Uh-oh -- speaking of "flames," your blog received not one upset message Saturday, but two from the same place:

Bloger, why do so many people feel the need to make some crack, (probably showing when you bend over right now) about people crying, you, a few from the Columbus news paper, I think if you really did something besides write, you might see it is really exhausting , and women, me in this case , cry more when they are tired, so next year I bet you 100 dollars if you hang with me from the Monday before the event till the event around 3:30 when they started asking me questions I bet you will be crying as well, and I promise you I will count whining as crying because that is what men do when they are tired....

Also because you are so ill informed , I didn't have a restaurant I had a private party place and that was so I could control who came. I always had more than I needed or wanted, that is why I sold, Miriam tidwell

Ms. Tidwell, since you brought it up - I experimented with what you mentioned as I wrote this reply. No, "it" was NOT showing. Some of us do tuck our shirts inside our running shorts.

My concern over the years has NOT been about "cracks" in the area you're describing. For some reason, my pants tend to develop holes in the inside thigh area. If I stand up straight, people don't notice it - but then again, does that make the problem worse?

Then there's the pair of running shorts I wore for a twilight jog tonight (a run shortened by rain). Somehow, a small hole has developed in the middle of the backside of that pair. I'd rather people wonder about the safety pin in the back, than see through that hole and remove any doubt.

(Could it be that a hungry cockroach ATE that hole in my running shorts -- one which prefers a high-fiber diet?)

But I guess that's not why Miriam Tidwell wrote, was it? And come to think of it, I don't recall ever seeing a stand-up comic on her TV-16 talk show....

I had nothing against Miriam Tidwell crying during "God Bless Fort Benning." [21 Nov] If 15,000 people showed up for my big celebration, I'd probably break down and cry as well. For one thing, I wouldn't have anywhere near enough snacks
to feed them.

Hopefully Miriam Tidwell had some time to rest this past week, after all the activities involved with God Bless Fort Benning. Husband Jack shouldn't have required her to prepare the Thanksgiving turkey - especially since his cancer
treatment center has devices which can heat things in a hurry.

So men whine when they are tired, eh? Miriam Tidwell should have been where I was Thanksgiving afternoon. After dinner, so many WOMEN demanded other people prepare coffee that I openly asked if "Thanksgiving whine" was being served with the meal.

But hold on here - Miriam Tidwell "didn't have a restaurant"?! Then what is this "Miriam's Café and Gallery" I see in the BellSouth Yellow Pages, under Restaurants? Who was the "ill informed" person who bought that listing for several years? Ms. Tidwell may have controlled some things, but maybe not her advertising.

And that's not all: what about that grand opening I attended on 13th Street 15 months ago? [15 Aug 03] Didn't I see something there about Miriam's opening up for breakfast? Maybe Ms. Tidwell sent customers across the street to Lewis-Jones for doughnuts.

Now let's compose ourselves (hanky optional), and send some Instant Messages:

+ To everyone parked at Peachtree Mall around 5:00 p.m. Saturday: I hope you don't mind - but I laughed at you as I drove by all your cars, on the way home from church. Lambs can be led to slaughter, you know.

+ To the organizers of Friday's after-Thanksgiving "Buy Nothing Day": I had to clean my clothes, so I went to a coin laundry. Does that count?

+ To WRCG radio: I like those new, rocking jingles. But as someone who scans the AM dial a lot, it's going to take awhile for me to sing your letters instead of "WBBM" in Chicago where I heard the jingles first.

+ To Cascade Hills Church: I've never seen anything like what I found on your web site -- a church "Marketing Director." Some of us Christians call these people evangelists.

+ To whomever parks a car at the Oakland Park Shopping Center with a "Money Come to Me!" bumper sticker on the back: Wellll - I suppose it would, if your sticker distracted me and I rear-ended you....

+ To the new "Easy Cheese Pawn Shop" along Veterans Parkway: That name is easily the cheesiest I've seen on any business in awhile.

(And about the bright orange paint job on your building - are you illustrating cheese with that? Or are you taking sides in Ukraine's political crisis?)

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, November 27, 2004


What a weird ending the Georgia-Georgia Tech game had tonight. You'd think between those two teams, the Tech quarterback would know how to count to four....

Georgia edged Georgia Tech 19-13, when G.T. quarterback Reggie Ball threw the ball far out of play under pressure on fourth down. Ball thought it was third down. And to hear Georgia Tech's announcers on radio after the game, you thought any mention of it would bring an F.C.C. fine.

It was more than 20 minutes after the final whistle before the Georgia Tech radio network explained Reggie Ball's boner. A post-game chat between the Atlanta studio and Jeff Van Note in Athens never brought it up! Maybe they were trying the
old theory that if you ignore something, it'll go away.

Georgia Tech play-by-play man Wes Durham didn't even bring up the Reggie Ball blunder during his on-air interview with Coach Chan Gailey. Instead, they talked about alternating quarterbacks in the second half - something Gailey knows well, from his struggling years coaching the Dallas Cowboys.

Not until the segment after the Chan Gailey interview did Wes Durham explain what happened. Gailey said Reggie Ball went by the Sanford Stadium scoreboard, which showed third down instead of fourth. Now THAT'S a sneaky scam - a home team that's slow with something other than the clock.

(You may have seen Reggie Ball on the field in the final seconds, talking to an official and holding up two fingers. Sorry, Reggie - in college football, they don't give you do-overs.)

On the other side of the dial, Larry Munson was his usual self. With the score 16-13, first the Georgia Bulldogs were in "deep trouble." Then Munson declared it "deep, deep trouble." One more Tech field goal, and Munson might have called on a coal mine rescue team from Pennsylvania.

Georgia ends the regular season 9-2. Georgia Tech winds up 6-5, and perhaps heading back to that bowl game in Boise, Idaho. What a week that could be - dining on all the baked potatoes you can eat.

Earlier in the day, LaGrange High School advanced to the AAA high school finals by stopping Martin Luther King High 38-0. This game was so lopsided that I almost expected Coretta Scott King to take the field and call it an injustice.

Instant Message to the Georgia High School Association: Shame on you. Did you HAVE to put a big ad for Dodge in the center of the field at the Georgia Dome, for semifinal weekend? Certainly you aren't as desperate for money as the Canadian
Football League....

COMING SUNDAY: Something's wrong with an old flame.... and a pair of complaints from a famous name....

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, November 26, 2004


Who could possibly call to complain on Thanksgiving Day? A 72-year-old woman did Thursday night - but thankfully, it was NOT because I failed to invite her out to dinner.

This woman watched the Thursday evening news, and was upset when she heard a child explain what she was doing on Thanksgiving Day at Valley Rescue Mission: "Helping poor people...." It left me wondering if the mission ever serves "Po' Boy" sandwiches.

"That was so slack," the 72-year-old woman said of the girl's choice of words. To which I thought to myself - "slack?!" Is this the new politically correct way of saying stupid?

This woman said someone should have corrected the girl's choice of words - because we shouldn't call people "poor." This woman also sounded like a Christian. But only later did I recall that word "poor" occurs in the King James Bible more than 150 times.

I must admit I also was taken aback by the girl's words. The "CNN Stylebook" from my former employer says you're NOT to use "poor" in news scripts. People are called "low-income" because poor is considered a pejorative term. If Jackie Gleason was still alive, he'd have to call his character the "economically-disadvantaged soul."

This 72-year-old woman wondered if the girl who said "poor" was on the Valley Rescue Mission staff. No, she was a volunteer serving Thanksgiving dinner - and hopefully she was kept in a back room, so diners didn't cuss her out on the spot.

I gave the caller the girl's name, and the woman apparently wrote it down. But when asked, she did NOT want to contact the girl. "I'm 72 years old. I can't correct a child." So at what age does that become illegal?

As we talked about the girl's choice of words, I recalled a sermon I heard on religious radio Wednesday night. The preacher said adults should NOT try to rush children through adolescence into adulthood. For one thing, Hillary Duff's album sales would drop dramatically....

"She's an immature person," I explained to the 72-year-old woman. "You should expect her to say immature things."

"But you're missing my point," she replied. "For every immature child, there's an immature adult...." I wish I'd known that when I was a boy, and didn't want to clean my room.

I don't know if the child was corrected by her parents off-camera for saying the word "poor" or not. But it's another example of why I wish we could return to the days when "P.C." only meant Phenix City.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Now for our next complaint! Perhaps the slugfest over the Muscogee County Marshal's race may not be over yet. Remember Eduardo Diaz?

In response to the post of Oct 27 04. All the statements suddeth made about me are not true. First of all my background is not Atrocious,and he just violated my rights under Employment Law and under the privacy act of 1974. No one is allowed to make a statement like that about ones background. Maybe I need to file suit against him for violating my rights. I think that fair!

I'm not sure if Mr. Diaz needs to file a lawsuit - but I'm sure many attorneys in Columbus need the money from representing him.

You may recall Eduardo Diaz accused Marshal Ken Suddeth of promising him a deputy's job, then not giving him one. In reply, Suddeth told your blog a background check on Diaz showed he was "atrocious." If that word is a violation - well, can the Marshal legally call Diaz a "poor person?"

By writing "all the statements.... are not true," Eduardo Diaz denies ever threatening to burn down Marshal Ken Suddeth's house. Diaz denies his mental health is "very questionable." But we still don't have his promised videotape of Suddeth staggering out of Chef Lee's restaurant. You don't have to wait for the Kenneth Walker tape, you know....

Isn't it amazing that Ken Suddeth's comments about Eduardo Diaz may violate a "privacy act of 1974?" Apparently the Marshal doesn't have any privacy - at least from video cameras watching him outside Columbus restaurants.

After Eduardo Diaz's first e-mail, we received a message promising the "SSPVLC" would check his case [29 Oct]. A Google search reminded me that's short for Southern States Police and Veterans Labor Council -- a group which used to
sponsor bingo games on South Lumpkin Road. So why did they stop? No game calls in Spanish?

So is anybody at all happy this Thanksgiving weekend? Thankfully, another e-mailer is:

HI, I just stumbled across you blog. Very nice..I'm in Columbus also where my husband is stationed at Ft. Benning. I also attend 1st Baptist. I saw you made reference to the Thanksgiving banquet honoring the 3rd ID and 36th Engineer Group [22 Nov]..I have to add to your comments that Sen Chambliss gave an outstanding and very uplifting speech that night as did Gen Freakley. The soldiers seemed to enjoy their dinner and we enjoyed their company. Glad to have found your blog...I haven't run across any local one's yet! Julie Swartz

Thanks for stumbling upon us, Julie -- but be careful. Someone might videotape that stumble, and threaten to pull it out in a future election.

It's nice to know Sen. Saxby Chambliss uplifted the soldiers at last Sunday night's banquet. But let's be real here. I can't think of any politician who would NOT give an uplifting speech to military.... no, wait. Georgia's Cynthia McKinney just won her U.S. House seat back.

Now other notes from a thrilling Thanksgiving - and I hope it was for you:

+ "Seussical the Musical" opened at the Springer Opera House. But some people were disappointed when the man the Ledger-Enquirer dubbed "The Cat in the Hat" several years ago did not perform. Maybe someday Jim Rhodes will be allowed to wear hats at Columbus Council meetings again.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths planned to play their first Thanksgiving night game at the Civic Center. But it was postponed, when the visitors' bus broke down on the way from Jacksonville. Just until those hockey goons get their hands on the bus line's mechanic.

+ The Eufaula Tribune reported Georgetown, Georgia would host a Saturday night card of "good, old-fashioned wrestling." How old-fashioned is this, really? Was this before or after villains started hiding brass knuckles in their trunks?

(Hey, wait a minute - brass knuckles?! Does any wrestling troupe plan a visit to Lumpkin? Maybe local residents can help raise money for a full-time librarian.)

+ Instant Message to Target Stores: I did NOT ask for a member of your "Wake-Up Crew" to call me at 6:00 a.m. about your holiday sale. So please leave a message on the answering machine I'm leaving on all night.

(But come to think of it - why hire Heidi Klum and Ice-T to make Target's phone calls, like I saw in the TV commercial? This is one job where Salvation Army bell-ringers could do just as well.)

COMING NEXT WEEK: A fond farewell for a longtime landmark....

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, November 25, 2004


Do you want to stop some people cold today? Ask them what they're thankful for this Thanksgiving. Columbus civil rights leaders will give you Marshal-Elect Greg Countryman - but then it might be very hard.

One of my pet peeves is how some people refer to this day as "Turkey Day," instead of Thanksgiving Day. You'd almost think the Pilgrims sailed here from Britain nearly 400 years ago simply to find an alternative to beef stew.

Besides, nowadays turkey is NOT simply for Thanksgiving anymore. Many supermarkets offer fresh or frozen ground turkey. It's lower in fat than ground beef. It's usually less expensive. And if someone tells you, "Don't have a cow," you can tell them you didn't.

But anyway: the point of Thanksgiving Day is supposed to be - well, you know, giving thanks. Yet I've found when I ask people what they're thankful for, many of them have to stop for a moment and think about it. I guess advertisers have made us think we should be dissatisfied with everything.

My first church pastor in Atlanta 20 years ago is my Pastor in Columbus now -- and it's amazing how his Thanksgiving messages always have a way of making me feel guilty. Last weekend, his sermon told us to be thankful for things we DON'T like. Being thankful for Usama bin-Laden can be tough....

I checked my notes from a Thanksgiving eve Bible study this pastor gave in Atlanta 20 years ago. In November 1984, he not only preached against ingratitude - he also declared boredom a sin. You probably thought the teenagers didn't sin until
they acted on that boredom, by poisoning cakes.

(So how did boredom come up in a Thanksgiving message? The Pastor explained bored people are self-focused people, and self-focused people are guilty of ingratitude. I think this is the "six degrees of Satanic separation" rule.)

I don't want to bore you with more. So for the second year, your blog offers a list of things for which I'm thankful - not in any order:

+ For being in a city where the temperature has stayed in the 60-70 degree range all Thanksgiving week. Considering my home town of Kansas City had snow Wednesday, that's a real blessing.

+ For Hank Aaron, for bringing a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop to Columbus this year. I finally paid it a visit Wednesday night - but I have to ask if this is really a doughnut shop, or a museum and boutique.

+ For the Firehouse Bar bringing "Boyz II Men" to Columbus for a concert Wednesday night. If that group made it all the way down I-185, truly it HAS "come to the end of the road."

+ For Fort Benning - because it made a list of businesses for soldiers to avoid. Now at last I KNOW I shouldn't visit Cellars Lounge.

+ For everyone who sued Continental Carbon - and finally gave me an explanation for why the hood of my car slowly turned black.

+ For the "Redneckin'" blog which focuses on Phenix City. That blogger doesn't want to admit it, but he provides me with some healthy competition.

+ For all the Auburn football players who decided to come back this season. If only your coach had kept Southern California on the September schedule, this Bowl Championship Series drama could be quite different.

+ For everyone who keeps the Columbus and Phenix City Riverwalks in good shape, for my jogging. Now if someone will kindly flatten a couple of hills, so my distance can increase....

+ For the new St. Luke Ministry Center downtown, where I can run indoors when it's too cold or wet outside. And on top of that, its vending machine somehow sells packaged brownies for 50 cents - which in 2004 is downright miraculous.

+ For Valley Rescue Mission, which allowed me to sing two songs during its March telethon. So when can I autograph copies of my CD at a Bargain Center?

+ For all the radio news reporters in Columbus - you know, the ones who work full-time for TV stations.

+ And for all of you who read this blog, vote on our questions and send e-mail when you feel the need. Maybe you keep visiting this web site, spreading the word about it to friends - and nudging Judge Roxann Daniel to finally give that concession speech.

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, November 24, 2004


The Kenneth Walker case suddenly took a dramatic turn Tuesday night. A grand jury decided NOT to indict David Glisson on any counts. In court-speak, we believe this makes him the winner of the 2004 "No-Bill Prize."

But wait a minute here - you may be asking, "WHAT grand jury?" Almost 50 weeks after it happened, the killing of Kenneth Walker suddenly went before a Muscogee County grand jury Tuesday afternoon. And it was decided THAT fast? Even pro basketball commissioners need a full day to sort through evidence of crimes....

In fact, WXTX "News at Ten" reported the grand jury deliberated the Kenneth Walker case for only one hour! But then, maybe we shouldn't be surprised by this. If anyone in Muscogee County is neutral on this case after 11 months, that person
must be living in a long-term care home.

(To borrow a joke my brother told me after O.J. Simpson was arrested: "Knock, knock." "Who's there?" "Glisson." "Glisson who?" "Good, we'll put you on the jury.")

Specially-assigned prosecutor Ken Hodges quietly drove from Albany to Columbus, and presented the evidence in the Kenneth Walker case. Promises to alert local reporters apparently were ignored. It was almost like Hodges wants to become the next Secretary of Homeland Security.

(When was the last time Georgia saw such a big racially-charged development, occurring so quietly and suddenly? Oh yeah, I remember - but don't remind south Georgians about that state flag change.)

When former deputy David Glisson was spotted at the Government Center, word spread quickly that something was up. Of course, the word started among government employees - since most journalists in Columbus still don't know what Glisson looks like.

David Glisson's attorney told reporters the grand jury refused to indict his client, on any of five possible charges. Skeptics will be quick to point out Georgia has no law against "D.W.B." -- you know, driving while black.

Ken Hodges says he presented the grand jury with seven witnesses, including David Glisson. And I've heard the grand jury process is stacked heavily in favor of district attorneys -- so you see how clever Gray Conger is? By passing on this case, he winds up making civil rights groups upset with a Democrat.

The grand jury also saw the mysterious "dashboard-cam" videotape from a Muscogee County Sheriff's Department car. Some say it shows Kenneth Walker being shot. Others say the view is obscured. This may come down to whether prosecutors showed VHS or DVD.

(Columbus District Attorney Gray Conger said Tuesday night the videotape now can be made public. This should be a big holiday seller on Buena Vista Road....)

Ken Hodges noted a civil lawsuit still is pending against former deputy David Glisson and Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson. He says that case may bring a different result. If indicted former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell remains as an
attorney for Kenneth Walker's family, maybe not....

The grand jury session apparently caught NAACP President Edward DuBose by surprise. He was in LaGrange Tuesday night, asking the City Council to fire a police officer. If at first you don't succeed, aim at a smaller target.

The 2003-04 Columbus phone book listed David Glisson's phone number and home address in Salem. The latest edition of the phone book does not -- and that's understandable. Now that a grand jury has cleared him, he'll be a big star on the
conservative dinner tour.

A number of unanswered questions remain in the wake of Tuesday's refusal to indict David Glisson - questions I suppose will be settled in coming days:

+ What made Ken Hodges suddenly decide to come to Columbus, and have a one-day grand jury presentation? Did he think THAT many people would be distracted, by the runoff for Georgia Court of Appeals?

+ What was the racial makeup of the grand jury? Based on the tape WRBL showed, there may have been at least one African-American member - but that person might have lived north of Wynnton Road, which changed everything.

+ What happens to David Glisson now? Will the defendant in a big civil suit turn around and sue Muscogee County, to get his Deputy job back? Or will he follow Mark Fuhrman's example from the 1990's, and write a tell-all book about the case?

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION dares to ask the obvious - and it's the question other local web sites seem scared to ask. Should David Glisson have been indicted? Please note this doesn't say "conviction," simply whether he should have been put on trial - and maybe get Columbus on Court TV.

(And for those of you who say ordinary readers can't make an informed decision on this question - well, that didn't stop online polls last week on the Alabama-Auburn game.)

Besides that big news, we had other Tuesday items to consider....

+ Debra Bernes won the runoff for Georgia Court of Appeals, defeating Howard Mead -- well, maybe. If Mead can find enough voters who thought he was Howard Dean, he might challenge THIS vote in court as well.

+ Mayor Bob Poydasheff told WRBL he's not concerned about Columbus falling short of clean air act attainment. The Mayor argued local pollution is "minimal." Did he say that same thing during the Continental Carbon trial?

+ First Presbyterian Church announced plans to buy the downtown YMCA. Talk about keeping up with the Joneses! Now St. Luke United Methodist Church will have to expand its ministry center, and add an indoor pool.

+ Speaking of which -- Instant Message to St. Luke Church: Do you always have security personnel roaming around your building after weekly dinners? Were you expecting trouble Tuesday night, after the grand jury announcement - or are people
sneaking in bottles of alcohol to these events?

COMING THURSDAY: The Thanksgiving list we'd planned to offer today, before the grand jury blew up our plans....

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.

UPDATED 8:09am

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

23 NOV 04: SHE SPY

She drove a white car with a Lee County, Alabama license plate. And in 30 seconds Monday morning, she put on one of the strangest displays of driving I'd seen in some time. In fact, I wish the woman had smoked her tires -so I would have known she won a stock car race or something.

My humble Honda was heading north on First Avenue, when the driver of the white car turned in front of me at Sixth Street. It didn't look to me like the woman had stopped completely at the stop sign.-- but at about 9:00 a.m., maybe this was her idea of a morning rush hour.

So the white car turned in front of me onto First Avenue - then suddenly pulled to the side of the road. That close to downtown, you take free parking anywhere you can find it....

But no, she did NOT park the car along First Avenue. Instead, she turned left and put her car across First Avenue right in front of me. What was going on here? Were public safety workers surrounding my Honda to take me into custody, and shut the blog down?

For her next stunt, the driver of the white car backed up a bit - then rolled forward, going the opposite direction on First Avenue. She did a U-turn in the middle of the street, apparently without caring about me driving behind her. Or then again, maybe she thought I'd follow her to Bobby Peters's house.

As the woman turned around and passed me in the other direction, I stared almost in shock through the window. And that's when I noticed the driver holding a cell phone in her right hand. She drove like a jerk, because she was jerking the car
around one-handed....

So what do you think happened here? Did this woman make a wrong turn, because she was distracted by the cell phone call? Was someone on the phone giving her directions as she drove? Or did I happen upon an undercover officer, whose target just walked across a street one block away?

BLOG UPDATE: SOA Watch reports 18 demonstrators appeared in federal court Monday, for their actions during Sunday's march outside Fort Benning. Almost all of them posted bond - but for some reason they didn't return to Benning Road, where the fences were being taken down.

One 75-year-old protester claimed he was a victim of discrimination in federal court - because he's blind, and for the second year in a row his charges were dropped. The last time we saw someone so willing to go to jail, a tabloid hired her to provide scoops on Martha Stewart.

The Associated Press reported one S.O.A. Watch protester was arrested for violating Georgia's law against wearing masks. How many police officers could have enforced this on Halloween, and made their quota for a couple of months?

Did you hear what one city clean-up crew member said about the dozens of crosses protesters left in the Fort Benning fence? He said all of them were thrown in the trash! You'd think some of them would be saved for recycling - for instance,
along U.S. 431 in Russell County....

(How many Columbus residents will be stunned to learn wooden crosses were thrown away like this? We're in the "Bible Belt," after all - not the heart of Berkeley.)

Now some other shorts from a warm, steamy Monday:

+ The Alabama State Patrol reported 62 percent of all rural highway deaths this year have involved drivers NOT wearing seat belts. This truly is sad news - but maybe there's an explanation that's being overlooked. How many of those vehicles
were old pick-up trucks, with no seat belts in the first place?

+ Some residents of Hamilton protested a plan by Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley to rezone six acres of land for apartments. I heard this report and was simply stunned - because how in the world can a law officer afford to own 22 acres of land in Harris County? Which lottery jackpot did he win?

+ Columbus State's men's basketball team opened the season by topping Tuskegee. But a 24-point second-half lead almost disappeared, and C.S.U. only won by three. I could really tell it was opening night when I started worrying about the lead well before broadcaster Scott Miller did.

(Tuskegee brought to Columbus a player from North Carolina named Robert Helaire. If he becomes the star of the team, it will be absolutely Helaire-ious.)

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, November 22, 2004



At least 20 opponents of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation were arrested Sunday, for climbing a fence onto Fort Benning. Those people could go to prison - where perhaps they'll share the same cellblock with Ron Artest, and teach him about non-violent protest.

The S.O.A. Watch web site claims 16,000 protesters gathered for a march down Benning Road. How loud was their protest? I could hear the chanting at noon, from the area of the Buena Vista Road Wal-Mart store -- more than three miles away. If these people marched against Wal-Mart, the crowd might be larger and more receptive.

Columbus Police estimated the S.O.A. Watch crowd at 11,000, while the protesters say 16,000. NOW do you see why we needed metal detectors on Benning Road? They could have doubled as attendance counters.

One college-age protester from Pennsylvania admitted she hadn't studied every detail about WHINSEC, but argued "10,000 people can't be wrong." Oh yes, they can. Take about half the crowd at an Alabama-Auburn football game.

Another protester said the "will of the people" was being heard outside Fort Benning's gates. You know, they could have a point here. If the manager of Coach's Corner can persuade enough customers to show up on Benning Road next weekend....

Some people and businesses along Benning Road and Victory Drive took advantage of the S.O.A. Watch protest to make some fast money. They charged $10 to park a car, and $20 for a bus -- proving again what they say inside Benning on Memorial Day: the price of freedom is not free.

(And protesters actually were willing to pay that ten-dollar parking fee! If the Riverdragons charged this much at South Commons, the small crowds might disappear completely.)

Other people along Benning Road sold food, drinks and T-shirts to the SOA Watch crowd. And who knows how many protesters plan to sell autographs of Martin Sheen and Susan Sarandon on eBay this week....

Mayor Bob Poydasheff was unimpressed by the S.O.A. Watch crowd. He says protesters have an "abysmal lack of knowledge." C'mon, Mayor - make some news, and call them blithering idiots.

Mayor Poydasheff says the protest outside the Fort Benning gate was "philosophically inconsistent" with what's happening in Latin America. Apparently he didn't watch the weekend news -- where Chilean government security guards pushed around a few U.S. Secret Service agents.

(Which reminds me -- Instant Message to incoming School Board member Joseph Roberson: Did you house any demonstrators in your church building this year, as you have in years past? Oh, never mind. You still haven't returned my request for an interview from June.)

The Georgia State Patrol had more than 100 officers on duty, monitoring the S.O.A. Watch protest. It even watched the demonstration from overhead - thus giving some college students bright ideas about hang-gliding over the Fort Benning fence next year.

But all in all, the S.O.A. Watch protest this year seemed to be calm and peaceful. After all, 20 arrests out of 16,000 protesters isn't much. And when not one Muslim terrorist tries to infiltrate a mostly-Catholic crowd, maybe there isn't much to worry about.

After the protest ended Sunday night, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia came to Columbus. He spoke at a Thanksgiving dinner for Third Brigade soldiers at First Baptist Church. How many troops dined on turkey, and wished they were going TO Turkey?

Senator Saxby Chambliss noted U.S. forces fight overseas so that S.O.A. Watch protesters are free to demonstrate outside Fort Benning. Well, as long as the protesters don't sharpen the ends of those crosses they leave at the fence.....

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION about WGSY-FM "Sunny 100" ended Sunday, and 78 percent of you say that radio station should NOT play holiday music before Thanksgiving (7-2). Bad sadly, I doubt this will change anything - since only about ten percent of Columbus residents listen to that station now.

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, November 21, 2004



"Welcome SOA Watch Peacemakers," read the banner hanging outside the Columbus Trade Center Friday afternoon. So who put up that sign? Mike Gaymon with the Chamber of Commerce - or some motel manager?

At least 9,000 people gathered outside Fort Benning Saturday, for the start of "S.O.A. Watch" protest weekend. The crowd today may even be larger - and I must say I've never heard so many Columbus residents openly hope for rain on a Sunday in my life.

(Why do all these residents want a rainy Sunday? Do they think the rain finally will give some of the protesters a shower?)

Columbus Police Chief Rick Boren noted the crowd of protesters was peaceful Saturday. Today might be different, as some of them dare to "cross the line" onto Fort Benning property. As long as Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers doesn't show up, things should be fine....

Many of the protesters have been given pink cards, with instructions on their legal rights and how to conduct themselves. Who came up with this brilliant idea - opening the door for critics to call them "pinkos?"

For some colleges, SOA Watch weekend apparently is a field trip. I noticed a bus downtown Friday from St. Mary's College of Minnesota. What do you think the school nickname is - the "Peace Eagles?"

SOA Watch promised several celebrities would show up for the protest this year, including TV star Martin Sheen. He can afford to do this, because his character on "The West Wing" is about to leave office due to term limits.

(I walked in the Historic District Saturday morning, saw three Georgia State Patrol cars heading east on 7th Street - and couldn't help wondering which one carried the Hollywood star inside.)

A Jesuit priest from New Mexico told WXTX "News at Ten" even with a name change, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation still teaches the "same values." Considering President Bush just won re-election, this must mean graduates promote Christian love across Latin America - and they never admit any mistakes.

On the other hand, WHINSEC Commandant Gilberto Perez says the fears expressed by SOA Watch are overstated. He explained the armies in Latin America are much smaller now than in past years. For instance, Colombian drug cartels bought out much of that military....

WHINSEC opened its doors Saturday for SOA Watch protesters who wanted to take a tour - and some of them looked around the complex. Amazingly, not one of them staged a sit-in. Why, no one even brought in a giant puppet.

But one protester who toured WHINSEC came out and told WRBL, "They're pretty set in their ways and we're pretty set in our ways." We truly hope the SOA Watch protest outside Fort Benning isn't giving local Democrats and Republicans any ideas.

The alternative to SOA Watch had its biggest crowd ever Saturday -- the "God Bless Fort Benning" event outside the Columbus Civic Center. One report indicated it had more people than SOA Watch. We can guess which event had more soldiers present....

WRBL reported more than 15,000 people attended God Bless Fort Benning. Considering fewer than 1,000 showed up last year, this is truly remarkable. And considering last year's event was on a Sunday, it may show how many people are worn out by local church services.

Some people showed up with wireless phones at God Bless Fort Benning, and gave them to soldiers for calling their families. Many of those troops may he heading for Iraq in the coming year - a place with about as few cell phone towers as Stewart County.

(Nextel had its own wireless phone tent at God Bless Fort Benning. I can't help wondering if Nextel Cup rules applied here - and any soldier saying a curse word was penalized 25 minutes of time.)

An estimated 400 motorcyclists showed up at God Bless Fort Benning as well. Was that one of them I saw on Milgen Road Saturday afternoon - carrying a giant British flag? You're supposed to do that around here for college football teams, not national rugby squads.

The guest celebrity at God Bless Fort Benning was Lee Greenwood. He's famous for the song "God Bless the U.S.A." - and a stack of old country songs only trivia buffs would remember....

(A pet peeve of mine during my years at CNN Center was how many journalists called Lee Greenwood's song "Proud To Be an American" - and NOT the proper title "God Bless the U.S.A." Yes, that place DID have plenty of agnostic Northeastern liberals.)

The sight of so many people at God Bless Fort Benning was more than founder Miriam Tidwell could take. She cried openly during an interview with WRBL -- and deep down, she may have wondered why all those people didn't show up at the café she used to run.

Now let's check some non-military topics from the weekend:

+ The church I attend displayed a large amount of donated food in front of the lectern. It's going first to needy members, then to a Columbus food bank. Don't worry - the food is safe to eat, and no one probably thought to add any gospel tracts.

+ Auburn beat Alabama 21-13 to win the Iron Bowl and remain undefeated. Maybe Governor Bob Riley should forget about Auburn's accreditation for a few days, and lobby all the voters in the college football polls.

+ Troy University won its final home game of the season, mashing Middle Tennessee. The visitors seemed to lose their momentum in the second half, after the quarterback asked officials to quiet down Troy's "Sound of the South" band. That player probably paid more attention to the band than most Troy students do.

+ Instant Message to retired Columbus firefighter Louis Robinson: Congratulations on turning 100 this weekend! So how low was the public safety pay when you retired?

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, November 20, 2004



"Is that a brown seahorse?" At least that's what I thought the woman asked, as I got out of my car Friday afternoon. I was on South Lumpkin Road, but well down the road from Oxbow Meadows.

It turns out the woman was saying something else. "Do you have a bouncy horse?" This still was a puzzling question, since I was wearing a dress shirt and tie. I don't even own boots, much less a cowboy hat.

Not sure of the woman's point, I answered her question as simply as I could. "I don't own a horse. I have a Honda." For all I knew, this woman could have been drunk at about 1:00 p.m.

This reply brought a moment of silence in the parking lot - then the woman and I went on our separate ways. So did I miss something, perhaps some bit of slang? Or was this woman in serious need of an eye doctor?

The only thing I can guess the woman was talking about was the way my car stopped in the parking lot. Admittedly, my brakes have been a bit hesitant and shaky lately - but at least they still work. My car doesn't act like it's on the world's loosest shock absorbers, like they sometimes show on B.E.T.

After ten-and-a-half years and more than 101,000 miles, I'm starting to wonder if it's time to say farewell to my humble Honda. Not only do the brakes seem weak, but the car goes uphill a lot better during summer when I turn off the air

One of my co-workers sensed my concern this past week, and wrote down details of a car he'd like to sell me. It's a used 2004 Toyota, and includes a "four night hotel stay" if it breaks down out of town. If the car company is offering this, how
much confidence should I have in the engine?

Let's pull over for a moment now, and check other weekend wonders:

+ The high temperature today was 72 degrees F. At times like these, only one thing is lacking around Columbus. Who wants to move the Gulf of Mexico north about 200 miles, so we can go walking on the beach?

+ The country group "Big 'N Rich" appeared at the Columbus Civic Center - and wow, did I misunderstand this event! I thought the Atlanta Hawks were playing basketball....

+ Iraqi soldiers raided a Baghdad mosque after Friday prayers, seeking suspected government opponents. I heard this on the radio, and wondered Muscogee County Sheriff Deputies started consulting the Iraqi army.

+ Instant Message to the Winn-Dixie store on South Lumpkin Road: You have Famous Amos vanilla sandwich cookies for $1.79 - but the chocolate sandwich cookies are $1.99? Are you guys for "One Columbus" or not?

POEM OF THE DAY: Someone complained on a message board the other night about the news media calling states "red states" and "blue states" based on the Presidential election. That inspired me to write this reply - and with "Seussical" coming to the Springer Opera House, it's even more appropriate:

One state, two state. Red state, Blue state.

Which one is a W state?

One is for the G.O.P.

Another was for John Kerry.

Let's put colors on them all.

Have a patriotic ball!

If your state has just turned blue,

Election night you cried boo-hoo.

If your state is colored red --

Deficits to match ahead.

(And not one state is colored Green.

That party's turnout was too lean.)

States are labeled red and blue

Since plaid and polka-dot won't do.

COMING SUNDAY: The dueling demonstrations....

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, November 19, 2004



The rumored change of command at the Government Center became official Thursday, as Columbus City Manager Carmen Cavezza announced he'll retire. Before you ask the obvious question - no, I don't think they're outsourcing his job to

Carmen Cavezza told a meeting of city employees he'll retire January 7. He's been Commanding General at Fort Benning, then Columbus City Manager. Now all he has to do is move to Phenix City, run for Mayor and get the trifecta.

A statement from the Government Center says City Manager Carmen Cavezza promised to "sprint" on the job until he retires in January. So much for Verizon Wireless bidding on the city cellular phone contract....

Carmen Cavezza says he'll take another job somewhere in Columbus next year - but he wouldn't say exactly what it is. Maybe he'll join Guy Sims, and turn the United Way office into an unofficial museum of local leaders.

Carmen Cavezza told WRBL he's been offered a job with Columbus State University's business management center. You may recall word leaked last month that the City Manager applied to be center director [23 Oct] - but since he's 67, he might be hired merely to be a greeter at the door.

Carmen Cavezza admitted to WRBL if he had it to do over, he would NOT have taken the City Manager's job in 1997. He says he never realized the city had such a "fragmented chain of command." I'm not sure Columbus residents knew it, either - until Marshal Ken Suddeth said he wasn't answerable to the Council.

Carmen Cavezza apparently decided to leave the City Manager's office before the local option sales tax vote. When LOST, uh, lost, he says he thought about staying on the job. We thought Zimbabwe was the only place where a vote against the government was taken as an endorsement.

Carmen Cavezza started to use the word "crisis" in describing Columbus government's situation to WRBL. Then he corrected the wording to "situation." You almost wonder if he changed the word again off-camera - to the military abbreviation of "SNAFU."

Mayor Bob Poydasheff announced once Carmen Cavezza leaves office, Isaiah Hugley will serve as Interim City Manager. This could be a major step toward "One Columbus" - at least Edward DuBose's vision of One Columbus.

City Manager Carmen Cavezza isn't the only city employee heading out the door. A party was held Thursday night for 15 firefighters, who have retired since September 30. Either something's wrong with public safety pay - or Columbus is more of a retirement community than I realized.

A friend of mine pointed out after the January 7 retirement date, Carmen Cavezza likely will have TWO pensions - one from the Army, another from the city of Columbus. Apparently he knew about "multiple streams of income" long before those Internet get-rich-quick seminars knew it.

Now other thrills from the Thursday before Thanksgiving:

+ Marshall won the city middle school football title. This is good news for the school near where Bianca Walton was shot and killed last year - and they didn't have to form a marksmanship team to bring the students together.

+ Albany State's football team prepared for Saturday's opening playoff game - against the Arkansas Tech "Wonder Boys!" [True/Associated Press] Aw, c'mon! Since when did Wonder Bread buy the rights to college nicknames?

+ An Auburn University researcher took swab samples at several area restaurants, and found traces of the E-coli bacteria. We don't know which restaurants were tested - but next time you're at Waffle House, ask for hash browns that are "covered" with anti-bacterial soap.

(Dr. Jean Wiese of Auburn University suggests you keep germs away by washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, and timing it by singing the birthday song. How macabre is this? Singing "happy birthday" to kill bacteria....)

+ Convicted Birmingham church bomber Bobby Frank Cherry died in an Alabama prison. We grew up thinking a "Cherry bomb" was a chocolate candy - but then we moved south, and everything changed.

+ Instant Message to Alabama Governor Bob Riley: Am I hearing this right - you've offered satellite news feeds to TV stations three days in a row? Based on this, is it safe to predict you WILL run for re-election?

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, November 18, 2004



It was 5:40 a.m. Wednesday in Orange, California when someone or something there dialed my phone number. Early to bed, early to rise - and telemarketers hope to score fast buys.

The telemarketer calling me from southern California identified himself as "Mike Daniels." I worked with a radio announcer by that name in Oklahoma more than 20 years ago - only that announcer didn't sound like he was from New Delhi.

Mike Daniels talked very quickly about a program with a name like "Premiere Services." In fact, he talked SO fast I didn't catch it right away. Sometimes you can tell who had too much coffee first thing in the morning....

Mike Daniels said all I had to do was examine his offer for seven days, and I'd receive a $200 gift card. The card would be good at a wide range of stores, from Lowe's to Old Navy. Shortly before the call, I'd read online of the Sears-Kmart merger - but I didn't know dozens of other stores merged with it.

(By the way, isn't that a great combination - Sears merging with Kmart? I can't wait to see Martha Stewart color-coordinated circular saws, and Kathy Ireland designer tool belts.)

So what was this special offer? Mike Daniels said I'd receive 16 free movie passes a month under the plan, as well as dozens of free DVD rentals. And I'd probably save even more money if I had cable TV - since I could unplug it, with no time to watch it.

Mike Daniels read through a fast list of where I could use my free movie passes. "AMC, Loew's, Regal Cinema...." but one important Columbus name was missing.

"Do they work at Carmike?" You know, the future workplace of some Char-Broil employees.

"They're good at AMC, Loew's, Regal Cinemas...." the telemarketer repeated. It was as if the only English word this salesman understood was "yes" - certainly not "no."

After assuring me something would be worked out for movie passed at Carmike Cinemas, Mike Daniels went to the vital information. "Your name is, like, Richard...."

"Yes. In fact, my name IS Richard."

After checking my name and address, the telemarketer explained the trial period with Premiere Services would cost only $3.95 for shipping and handling. But NO credit cards were accepted - the company would deduct the money from my checking account. So this boiler room is on the same financial level as Family Dollar stores....

Mike Daniels explained the checking or debit card policy by saying, "We don't want your money." So put your own stamp on the envelope, and don't charge me shipping and handling.

Mike Daniels wanted to know the next numbered check in my account. "Grab your checkbook!" he exhorted me over the phone. I guess this was only fair -- since he'd grabbed my attention away from what I was doing before work.

But no, I did NOT grab my checkbook. Instead I raised the point so many telemarketers today forget. "Aren't you going to ask me if I'm interested in what you're selling?"

Welllll - no, he didn't want to ask that. Mike Daniels repeated the last part of his routine instead. I've heard repetition is the best form of learning - but it also can be the easiest way to annoy a customer.

Finally I told the telemarketer I wasn't interested in the offer -- and he had a question to ask me. "What's holding you back?" There were several things, actually - like the advice we all heard as children, not to go for a ride with strangers.

"I don't go to movies," I added. In fact, the last one I attended outside an IMAX film was on Labor Day, 1980 - a forgotten slasher movie called "Deadly Blessing," in which Sharon Stone was a no-name co-star. More than 24 years later, you can tell I still have guilt pangs about seeing that R-rated movie....

For some reason, Mike Daniels passed me on to his floor supervisor. This man also sounded like he would have been more comfortable in Bollywood than Hollywood - working with Indian movies.

The supervisor reviewed my vital information one more time. "Your zip code is, like, 30331?" No, not even LIKE that. The number might have worked when I lived in College Park - and the most irritating phone calls came from people thinking
I ran a car rental company.

The supervisor probed me deeper. "Do you have any children?" No. "Are you married?" No. Sadly, the boiler room did NOT double as a singles chat-line.

As the supervisor tried to make one more pitch for his offer, the phone line suddenly went dead. It wasn't from my end - so I guess their ten minutes on the prepaid card were up.

So the game ended, with everyone left lacking. No free movie passes to share with my friends. No checking account number being passed on to telemarketers. And no money spreading from there to who knows how many southern California immigrants.

Now let's hang up the phone and check other local Wednesday topics:

+ A preliminary site plan was unveiled for the area around the new Columbus Library - and it actually includes an area for 300 housing units. How nice to give the beggars outside the library door a place to stay....

(The preliminary plan also has space set aside for shops and restaurants. Of course, we all remember how well that concept worked before - when Columbus Square Mall was there.)

+ An online check showed the "Friends of David Glisson" web site isn't working at the moment. You'd think they would wait until after the District Attorney in Albany releases his report on the Kenneth Walker killing, before shutting it down.

+ The price of regular unleaded gas dropped as low as $1.81 in parts of downtown Columbus. In a way, I'm disappointed to see this - because my weight isn't going down fast enough to match this number.

+ Adams Pharmacy in Opelika confirmed to me it's offering the nasal form of flu vaccine to people ages 5-49. So if you were in line for a shot and missed it, now you can drive to Lee County and mist it....

+ Instant Message to The Sports Arena near Cooper Creek Park: I saw your ad in the "Super Saver Value Book" claiming to have "everything you need." But c'mon now - do I really NEED professional wrestlers?

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, November 17, 2004



Instant Message to all Columbus restaurants: If you don't mind, please slow-roast your chicken and burgers for awhile. Cooking them on a grill around here might make some people, well, steamed....

The W.C. Bradley company stunned Columbus Tuesday, by announcing it's moving production of Char-Broil grills to China. This had to shock some old-timers, who thought this company was "outsourcing" work by moving it to Opelika.

A statement from W.C. Bradley executives said moving Char-Broil work to China was "one of the toughest decisions" in company history. Why, it's enough to make the company's founder turn over in his grave - and right now he'd want to do it in a rotisserie.

It was left to chief executive officer Steve Butler to announce the layoffs to reporters. So if anyone asks who killed Char-Broil in Columbus, tell them the Butler did it.

About 500 area employees will lose jobs, as Char-Broil switches production from Columbus to Asia over the next couple of years. And to make matters worse, it's going to China! If it was the sister city of Kiryu, Japan, we might understand....

(Doesn't it seem like all the old-line employers are moving jobs out of Columbus? First there were the mills, now the grills....)

Mayor Bob Poydasheff said he's concerned about finding new jobs for the Char-Broil employees who are losing them. For one thing, the Waggoners still is hiring -- so maybe workers can drive big trucks over old grills, and gain some closure.

W.C. Bradley has made Char-Broil gas grills in Columbus since 1949. With the outsourcing to China, there could be a fringe benefit. Switch to charcoal grills, and propane prices may go down toward 1949 levels.

Char-Broil is only the latest example of U.S. jobs being moved to Asia, where profits can be higher because workers are paid less. So many people worried about the North American Free Trade Agreement - but now the countries in that agreement seem to be among the few friends this country has left.

As it happened, the PBS series "Frontline" reported Tuesday night Wal-Mart utilizes more Chinese imports than you might realize. The company's talked so often about "keeping jobs in the U.S.A." - but I never bothered to check the labels on the dog food....

I heard one long-time Columbus resident say Tuesday Char-Broil always was the employer of last resort. If a young person couldn't find work anywhere else in town, something would be available there. I can guess which company will get that distinction now -- and AFLAC might need a taller tower.

When Tuesday started, all seemed well when it came to local cooking. Columbus Council received a visit from Ronald McDonald -- prompting critics of city government to ask which Council member is most like a clown.

(Come to think of it, Mimi Woodson does look like she's using red tint in her hair these days....)

So what was Ronald McDonald doing before Columbus Council? Thankfully, he was NOT there to accuse outgoing Marshal Ken Suddeth of botching the arrest of the Ham-Burglar....

Ronald McDonald announced Columbus is a test city for the fast food chain's new "Southern Style Chicken" sandwich. So what makes it Southern? Based on the billboards I've seen around town, it doesn't have any cream gravy.

(By the way, has that clown mascot ever appeared live in Americus? If he did, would Millard Fuller urge him to build his own Ronald McDonald Habitat house?)

McChicken sandwiches have been part of the McDonald's menu for years. So the "Southern style chicken" sandwich must have something different. Hmmmm -- how long is it kept in the deep-fat fryer?

Remember the last time Columbus was the test market for a McDonald's sandwich? It was the "Big 'N Tasty" several years ago -- and as I recall, it caught on about as well as that low-calorie burger partially made from seaweed.

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, November 16, 2004



Monday was a big day for drivers heading to Fort Benning. Interstate 185 finally reopened beyond Victory Drive. Thousands of people no longer will be tempted to stop at the Traffic Light Inn, while they're detouring.

The I-185 entrance to Fort Benning was closed almost a year, so a major security upgrade could be done. So why open it THIS week - and let all the S.O.A. Watch protesters know they have an alternate route?

The security rules at Fort Benning are changing, with the opening of a new I-185 checkpoint. After Wednesday, you'll need a special sticker to avoid being stopped. And before some of you get concerned - the sticker will NOT have the words
"Bush/Cheney '04" on it.

If you don't have the special sticker after Wednesday, Fort Benning personnel will guide you to a registry office. You'll need to sign in your name, and why you're visiting. This may scare some veterans - because now there'll be a record of
them getting drinks at the NCO Club.

Before you're allowed on post, Fort Benning will compare your name with a list of people not allowed to visit. You can probably guess who's on this list. There's Usama bin-Laden, the manager of Coach's Corner....

For its next trick, Fort Benning will close the Benning Road entrance to traffic this Friday. This security upgrade will begin just in time for "S.O.A. Watch weekend." So anyone crossing the line onto post could have their sentences doubled, for doing it in a construction zone.

If you believe the Ledger-Enquirer, this year's crowd of protesters outside Fort Benning will include actress Susan Sarandon. Of course, critics will be quick to point out she starred years ago in a movie called "BULL Durham...."

(Hey, hold on here! I just realized - S.O.A. Watch never has been put on the Fort Benning "off-limits" list. So soldiers can go visit Pastor Roy Bourgeois, but NOT some Victory Drive nightclubs!? Apparently the generals care more about soldiers' hormones than their brains.)

It's not yet clear when sort of counterattack Fort Benning has planned for the S.O.A. Watch protesters. Last year, loud music was blared from Benning's side of the line. This year, one Columbus radio station already is playing psychological
games - by playing Christmas music.

That was the talk of my workplace Monday - WGSY-FM "Sunny 100" playing holiday music, six weeks before Christmas. Not even Christian radio stations in Columbus do this. Some wait until December 1 -- so you don't feel like you have to gulp down Thanksgiving leftovers.

Alan Quin of Sunny 100 admits some people like the switch to Christmas music in mid-November, while others can't stand it. Come to think of it, the same sort of thing happened when B-101 FM went hip-hop.

The music switch by Sunny 100 may have gained some important fans already. The bridge at the south end of the Phenix City Riverwalk was lit with holiday lights, when I jogged there Monday night. Perhaps it was a test for the big display in December - or perhaps Phenix City is showing which bridge is NOT under construction at the moment.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION wants to know what you think of this. Should Sunny 100 be playing Christmas music more than a week before Thanksgiving? Is this rushing "the season" too much? Or could we argue any "love songs" show sneakily promotes Valentine's Day?

BLOG UPDATE: Uh-oh - outgoing Superior Court Judge Roxann Daniel is being sued for almost $10,000. A public relations firm claims she owes that much for last summer's campaign. Bobby Peters could turn this into a class-action suit - because we think Judge Daniel still owes him a concession speech.

Marquette McKnight of "Media, Marketing and More" told WRBL Judge Roxann Daniel hasn't paid her, almost four months after the election. But you have to understand how politics works here. Judges are used to receiving payoffs, not making them to others.

Judge Roxann Daniel told WRBL Monday night she's waiting for an itemized bill from Marquette McKnight, to find out what she's paying for. For instance, how many "supporters" were paid to call WRCG talk shows?

Meanwhile, Monday night's news included the most unusual "campaign commercial" I've ever seen. A man urged you to elect him President - of the Georgia Missionary Baptist Convention! Wow, who's the "moral values" candidate in this race?

The Georgia Missionary Baptist Convention will select a new President Thursday. But c'mon - buying TV time to campaign for the job?! And it was the evening news, not a commercial break during "The 700 Club."

Now other items of interest from a busy Monday:

+ Former Georgia School Superintendent Linda Schrenko pleaded NOT guilty to stealing federal education money. Schrenko appeared in federal court in handcuffs - and former Governor Roy Barnes can't wait to post a big photo of that in his law office.

(If this indictment is accurate, and she actually used federal education money for cosmetic surgery, then Linda Schrenko needs to see a -- well -- a shrink-o.)

+ Georgia football coach Mark Richt was the guest speaker at the Columbus Quarterback Club. We're pleased to report after the loss to Auburn, there's still NO web site calling for Richt to be fired.

+ Tri-County High School basketball star Charles Jackson signed a letter of intent to play college ball at Illinois. He should feel right at home there -- as long as someone explains the corn stalks outside Champaign-Urbana are not peanuts on

(Did you see my beloved Kansas Jayhawks are ranked number ONE in the Associated Press men's basketball poll? I say let's have a hockey-style lockout, cancel the season and declare them champions now.)

+ Instant Message to the Columbus Riverdragons: Let's see - the front of your pocket schedule has pictures of nine female dancers, but only one basketball player. What do you REALLY want me to come watch this winter?

COMING WEDNESDAY: It could be one of the strangest Columbus Council meetings ever....

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, November 15, 2004



LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: During the years when we wrote LaughLine for a national audience, the late Yasser Arafat came up frequently. If "60 Minutes" can do a retrospective on the Palestinian leader, so can we:

27 JUN 01: President Bush now has met twice with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon. But he has NOT met yet with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat - and White House officials admit no such meeting is planned. Maybe aides still are trying to explain "Palestine" is more than just a city in east Texas.

16 JUL 01: Israel's Foreign Minister talked with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Egypt Sunday. Shimon Peres admitted in the Middle East right now, "the atmosphere is sick and poisoned...." When WILL these Palestinians quit burning tires, and start respecting the environment?

We couldn't help noticing Israel's Prime Minister did NOT meet directly with Yasser Arafat. Ariel Sharon recently called the Palestinian leader a "murderer and a pathological liar." Well, it COULD be worse. Mr. Arafat could lead the Slobodan Milosevic Fan Club.

14 AUG 01: Israeli officials claim recent suicide bombings could have been prevented - but Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat did NOT act on a list of suspected terrorist leaders. Well, why should he?! If racial profiling is wrong in the U.S., it's wrong everywhere....

(Somehow we can't imagine Yasser Arafat playing golf. He'd yell "fore" - and four suicide bombers would come out of hiding.)

9 NOV 01: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice revealed Thursday President Bush will NOT meet with Yasser Arafat while they're at the United Nations. She claims the Palestinian leader is too close to some terrorist groups. Why can't the Palestinians do what U.S. residents do - and build a gated community an hour away from the terrorists?

12 NOV 01: Despite the talk of a state called Palestine, President Bush did NOT meet personally with Yasser Arafat while at the United Nations. The Palestinian leader had to meet instead with Secretary of State Colin Powell. C'mon, Mr. Arafat, compromise a little - and trim that beard better.

Yasser Arafat's United Nations speech did NOT sound peaceful. He accused Israel of engaging in its own form of terrorism. At least we can take comfort in one thing. Whether devout Jews or devout Muslims are involved in terrorism, no pork products are ever used.....

26 APR 02: Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat announced Thursday he's held a trial for four suspected killers of Israel's Tourism Minister - and they were all found guilty. In a related note, Los Angeles prosecutors may seek a change of venue in the Robert Blake case.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Thursday's "New York Times" he's willing to let Yasser Arafat leave his Ramallah compound - IF he moves from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. This sort of dealing gives a whole new meaning to "Strip

29 APR 02: The agreement reached by President Bush will allow Yasser Arafat to leave his Ramallah headquarters for the first time since last December. They had to be frustrating months for the Palestinian leader. Just when he had spring cleaning finished, the Israeli army barged in....

2 MAY 02: Yasser Arafat wasted no time speaking out, after the Israeli army left his compound in Ramallah. The Palestinian leader declared the Israelis are terrorists. Maybe so - but at least when the tanks show up, you KNOW they're armed and dangerous.

Did you see the little girl walk up to Yasser Arafat during the "Nightline" interview with him? The Palestinian leader kissed the girl, and even handed her a candy bar. There, you see -- Mr. Arafat's not THAT bad a guy. He could have given that girl a stick of dynamite....

3 MAY 02: Yasser Arafat finally came out of his West Bank compound Thursday, after Israeli soldiers kept him stuck there more than a month. But the Palestinian leader missed a golden opportunity to help rebuild the territories. All he had to say was, "I'm going to Disney World...."

Yasser Arafat received a hero's welcome from Palestinians, as he left the Ramallah compound. A group of peace activists stayed in the compound with him - and some of them went 34 days without a shower! [True/NPR] Procter and Gamble executives should have been there, to hand out souvenir bars of Zest.

7 MAY 02: President Bush admitted Monday he still considers Yasser Arafat a disappointment. He urged the Palestinian leader to show he believes in peace with Israel. For one thing, he could organize an Arab remake of the song, "We Are the World."

8 MAY 02: NBC News interviewed Yasser Arafat in the West Bank Tuesday. He said he signed several controversial documents to provide for "impoverished laborers," not terrorists. Well, let's face it - the labor of terrorism doesn't pay as well as it used to....

Yasser Arafat was handed a copy of the Israeli report supposedly linking him to terrorism. The Palestinian leader called it a "big lie," and let it drop to the floor. Aha! That PROVES Mr. Arafat can't be trusted -- he's a litterbug.

President Bush still has NOT met personally with Yasser Arafat. Instead, he'll talk today (Wednesday) with King Abdullah of Jordan. Of course, when most Washington residents talk about "Jordan," the issue is whether Michael will retire

17 MAY 02: Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat said Thursday he wants to hold a Presidential election within six months. Of course, he'd also like the Israeli Prime Minister to have one - and lose.

Palestinian officials say they'll have a big problem preparing for a Presidential election. They claim Israeli soldiers destroyed the voter rolls in the West Bank -- the better to hide the people voting against Yasser Arafat.

29 MAY 02: Meanwhile, there's a new hot-selling food item in Egypt - cheese puffs with the image of Yasser Arafat on the bag! Apparently the cheese flavor simply explodes in your mouth....

The company making cheese puffs with Yasser Arafat on the bag says it's donating three percent of the profits to help wounded Palestinians. Scoff at this if you want - but how much is Kellogg's donating from Spiderman cereal to help rebuild New York?

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, November 14, 2004



We're getting plenty of e-mails these days - which means we have plenty of readers. Thanks to all of you! And we start today with an idea for public safety:

Hey Richard,

I have seen Columbus police officers directing traffic at churches around town. I guess they are doing it for the extra money. Well maybe they can direct all those crazy carts that get pushed around the aisles of Wal-Mart. The "Thin Blue Line could even wear those thin blue vests. "How may I help you?"

Enjoy your site...keep the colors!


Thanks to Me, it works for all of us - no wait, that wasn't how that slogan went....

I've noticed Columbus police doing traffic work outside churches, too. They come in handy at mega-churches like Cascade Hills, where drivers are exiting onto River Road. But for some reason, I never see them putting tickets on double-parked cars at Fourth Street Baptist.

Do police direct traffic at churches "for extra money?" If they're using police cars and they're in uniform, I really don't think so. They would be doing it while on duty - and the worshippers might not be in a mood to give them tips, after putting offerings in the collection plates.

M.M. & I. (what IS that ticker symbol, anyway?) has an interesting idea, having officers direct traffic inside Wal-Mart. For long-time officers, it might bring back some memories - back to when K Mart was king, and people crowded around
"blue light specials."

But I'd be more concerned right now about the cars outside Wal-Mart. Consider the next six weeks at smaller stores like the one on Airport Thruway. Maybe police should treat this like "Thunder in the Valley" in reverse - and have people park at the airport, then take shuttle buses.

(And officers wearing those vests - well, it would give the phrase "thin blue line" a new meaning....)

Our BLOG SPECIAL EVENT also received a couple of replies - and boy, were we embarrassed to see them. First:


I noticed that there was a discrepancy in your time. Did you mean 1984?

"Two months later in October 2004(1984?), the late CNN Headline News manager Paul Amos called and offered me a job. I didn't have to think about it long - because by this point, I had become THE radio news department. One person working long days and split shifts - sort of like some gift shops will do it for the next six weeks."

Just Axin...

Very good, Mr. Axin - you chopped me down to size.

I've been writing the blog late at night for awhile - and as politicians love to say, "mistakes were made." I've corrected the one he noted from 11 Nov. The CNN Networks had copy editors to keep writers like me in line - but as you may know, I'm a single guy....

(So sloppy has my writing been that I never explained something I promoted on the blog two weeks ago: the "orange thing hanging from my mailbox." On Halloween weekend, I didn't put a jack-o-lantern outside - I left a pamphlet explaining the pagan origins of Halloween. No one took it. Perhaps the thought of reading scared some children away.)

By the way, Saturday marked 20 years since I started at CNN Headline News. I still have the sportcoat I wore to work that Tuesday, and I thought about wearing it to church this weekend for the fun of it -- but I now know lime-green jackets in November don't really look right.

I've lost track of almost all the people I worked with when I started at CNN. This year, I've been thrilled to restore a friendship online with fellow writer, now public radio reporter, Lisa Napoli. We're open fans of each other -- but I keep waiting for her to call me for that exclusive interview.

Here's one more e-mail about my trip down memory lane - taking my memory [12 Nov] to task:

Bo didn't go to the NFL until 1987, and you claim to have watched him on MNF in 1984? He was still in college, where he won the Heisman in 1985.

Just an FYI.


As I wrote on a message board awhile back, especially fitting for the new millennium: "Roman numerals. They're M-M-good."

MM is right - I had my Monday night football games mixed up. I don't "know Bo." But then again, it's hard for me these days to believe Bo knows the sweet potato pies with his name on them.

I admittedly stopped and puzzled for a moment over what I actually saw on that Monday night in 1984. That's because I remembered seeing Atlanta newspapers around the same time, analyzing a wrong turn Bo Jackson made in a close college game. The fact that they still analyzed it the following Tuesday told me how slow a sports day it was.

A check online just now showed Bo Jackson had a 91-yard at the Seattle Kingdome in November 1987. Since then the Kingdome has been imploded - and if what I hear is accurate, Jackson's arm muscles have fallen to around his waistline.

Since we're talking somewhat about Auburn football - can someone explain why Tiger players were spinning hubcaps in the stands, at the end of Saturday's Georgia game? I certainly hope no trustees bought them sports cars....

Now let's breeze through other items on a breezy fall weekend:

+ "Ritmo Latino" radio returned to the air - only it's the title of a Saturday night show on Georgia Public Broadcasting. So at least the continual commercials for nightclub concerts have stopped....

+ An afternoon drive past the Sports Page bar found two people spray-painting words on the lawn. C'mon now - you can't have end zones for parking lot touch football, that close to traffic.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths beat Winston-Salem 4-2 - and there were more than 200 penalty minutes in the first period alone. Isn't it nice to see Coach Jerome Bechard has learned from his mistakes, and isn't passing them on to his players?

+ Instant Message to Cascade Hills Church: I know you're trying to be hip and impressive with your "Real Time" telecast. But when you use fancy sound effects to show a phone number during the middle of the sermon, you're distracting from your pastor - not to mention getting on my nerves.

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.