Thursday, March 31, 2005

31 MAR 05: US VS. THEM

This weekend Port Columbus will mark the 140th anniversary of the "Battle of Columbus." If only we had known how the hockey playoffs would go, the museum could have saved money and called this off....

The Southern Professional Hockey League finals begin tonight, with the Columbus Cottonmouths facing the arch-rival Macon Trax. If those guys in Macon were real men, they'd head down U.S. 80, meet our team at the Talbot-Crawford County line and get the fighting penalties out of the way right now.

The Cottonmouths finished fifth during the S.P.H.L. season, but they're on a hot streak now and are undefeated in the playoffs. We really shouldn't be surprised by this - since "Snakes" always seem to thrive better in warmer weather.

Cottonmouths Coach Jerome Bechard admits he never expected the Columbus-Macon rivalry to reach the S.P.H.L. finals. But it only makes sense this year - since few expected the major-league hockey players to have no playoffs at all.

But one concern about the best-of-three final round is that Macon shut out Columbus twice in a row, to end the regular season. To block out those bad memories, we suggest the Cottonmouths team bus avoid Macon's "Pio No-no Drive."

The Cottonmouths have organized a special "fan bus" to travel to Macon for tonight's opening game of the finals. Some of us would be happy if the team made a special deal, so the game was on a radio station Columbus residents actually can hear.

Since this final round is between arch-rivals, we can't help jumping on the bandwagon. Have you noticed all the ways besides hockey in which Columbus is better than Macon?

+ The Cottonmouth is a real creature. The Trax is - well, what IS a Trax? Some discount supermarket's look-alike cereal?

+ If something goes wrong with the Cottonmouth, Columbus can call in the AFLAC duck as a backup.

+ Columbus has a Civic Center. Macon can't decide what it has. Is it a Coliseum, a Centreplex or what?

+ Macon has an Idle Hour golf course. The Columbus area's "Idle Hour Park" lets you do a lot more stuff.

+ Macon has a Confederate Museum which includes "Cannonball House." We have Port Columbus, which can fire dozens of cannonballs at a time.

+ Columbus State University's basketball teams make the NCAA playoffs all the time. Macon's Mercer University went 23-6 two years ago, and wasn't even chosen for the N.I.T. [True!]

+ Macon has one of those shopping malls with "Colonial" in its name. Columbus leaves cookie-cutter things like that for Auburn.

+ Columbus TV stations fire news directors who practice pregnancy discrimination. Macon TV stations then hire them.

+ Columbus found a replacement baseball team when the RedStixx left town. Macon lost an Atlanta baseball affiliate -- and may be trying to form a league with Americus.

(BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: Are there other ways in which Columbus is better than Macon? Write us with ideas, and we'll add them to the list.)

BLOG UPDATE: Columbus civil rights leaders raised the stakes in the Kenneth Walker case Wednesday, by calling for a boycott of Riverfest. Or better put, they want you to stay home and grill your own steaks....

Columbus NAACP President Bill Madison urged everyone to stay away from "the Salisbury Fair in every manner possible." How about we stay one block away - and have a party on First Avenue, on the lawn of the NAACP office?

Bill Madison says you should stay away from Riverfest "out of respect for Kenneth Walker's family...." If you didn't know better, you'd think Walker was stopped by Muscogee County Sheriff's deputies for taking too many rides at a carnival.

"We wish that the vendors would not come," Bill Madison said at a news conference. He'll be joined in that viewpoint by countless dieticians, who want to see low-fat funnel cakes on midways.

WRBL reported civil rights groups plan to stage pickets at Riverfest. Well, why stop there? There'll be high fencing all around the grounds on Broadway - so climb over the fence with crosses, like the SOA Watch protesters do.

The call to boycott Riverfest apparently was sparked by the postponement of a scheduled court hearing today, on the grand jury examination of the Kenneth Walker case. State NAACP official Ed DuBose complained: "Two days before court, again we've been stalled." He has a point -- since Terri Schiavo's parents are getting much faster service than this.

The Georgia Attorney General's office apparently called a judge Tuesday, and persuaded him to have today's hearing postponed until April 20. Take that, Ken Nugent - you're not the only one with the power of "one call, that's all."

When the Kenneth Walker "days of abstinence" were announced by civil rights leaders, we noted they were scheduled for the weekend after Riverfest [20 Feb]. Now the protest season has moved up to include Riverfest itself - depriving countless protesters of a great way to fill their bodies with food before they starve.

So what do you do if you don't want to upset picketers, or you're boycotting Riverfest? For one thing, April 23 is the date of Auburn's annual CityFest - and since it's not on the university campus, you don't have to worry about that other racial boycott.

And as it happens, the church congregation I attend will be not far from Riverfest on Saturday, April 23. We've reserved several tables at Bludau's on Broadway for an after-church dinner. Last time I checked, Bludau's didn't have cotton candy on the menu - so boycotting vendors can set up outside for our dessert.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Is a fan club building for a Columbus TV anchor? Yet another message about him reached us Wednesday:

Notice who's on the front page.... check the resume.... interesting huh?

Did you know that?


None other than WRBL's Blaine Stewart was on the front page of the TV news web site Wednesday. Well, at least he's not on the home page of "America's Most Wanted...."

Blaine Stewart was listed as "Today's Talent" at Medialine Wednesday - implying he's open to offers to work elsewhere. If he moves to another city, the population of Columbus may drop from all the groupies following him.

As for Blaine Stewart's resume - I'm assuming KC was pointing my attention to this part:


Member, Nat'l Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association

Co-leader, Task force for smaller markets

After all, I'm sure other people have come here from Hattiesburg, Mississippi without anyone objecting....

No, I didn't know Blaine Stewart was a member of this association. But then again, I don't normally go up to TV reporters and ask if they belong to it. Perhaps some fiery Southern Baptist preachers might, but I don't.

Before you head for that "write me" link to complain - please note I am NOT "outing" Blaine Stewart. By posting a resume mentioning his membership in that group, Stewart MAY have outed himself. But then again, perhaps you can be a member of this group and be straight. Hopefully there's no (ahem) initiation test to determine this....

(How I long for the good old days my Pastor likes to talk about - when an "outing" meant a trip to the zoo.)

This development comes less than two weeks after another blog reader spotted Blaine Stewart in Orlando, in the audience of the morning TV show "The Daily Buzz" [21 Mar]. Now I'm wondering what else Stewart might have done there. For the time being, I'm going to assume it was NOT done with Amy Giuliano.

Blaine Stewart made a very different revelation Wednesday on "News 3 at 5." When Britney Spears heard her first song on the radio, HE was the radio D.J. in Louisiana who played it! Amazingly, rumors about both their love lives have been spreading far and wide ever since -- but not together.

Blaine Stewart recalled his radio station's staff years ago never expected Britney Spears to be a star. We know better now - so just because Stewart is "today's talent" doesn't mean he knows anything about tomorrow's talent.

LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: During our years writing LaughLine for a national audience, we thought often of the late attorney Johnnie Cochran. Here's some of what we wrote about him:

13 Jan 00: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Wednesday in favor of Chicago police officers. They chased and detained a man who turned and ran away when a squad car rolled by. We can hear Johnnie Cochran's warning to clients now: "Run from a cop, and you're gonna be stopped!"

27 Sep 00: U.S. [Olympic] shot putter CJ Hunter denied Tuesday that he's used banned drugs.... And who should be in Sydney Tuesday to come to CJ Hunter's aide - but Johnny Cochran! "He flunked the test, but we're not going to rest!"

8 Jan 01: African-American leaders promise to hold protests during the Bush inauguration in two weeks. We suggest it include protests in the form of poetry. There's Maya Angelou, Johnnie Cochran, Snoop Dogg - who else wants to join?

2 Mar 01: "Puff Daddy" dared to take the stand in his own defense Thursday. [Sean] Combs claimed he did NOT take a weapon to that New York nightclub in November 1999.... His Puffiness had some moral support in the courtroom as he testified, as rapper "Heavy D" attended the trial. We thought hiring Johnnie Cochran as a defense lawyer was pretty "heavy D" already....

14 Mar 01: Prosecutors of "El Puff-Bo" tried to put together a string of "threes" for the jury. Three people were shot in the nightclub. Three guns were recovered. Three people are on trial. And Johnnie Cochran probably is charging three million dollars to be a defense lawyer.

9 Jun 01: The [ABC News 20/20] report "Tampering with Nature" examines warnings by environmental groups about things such as global warming. Some arents claim John Stossel asked their children misleading questions over and over. Why couldn't ABC find someone else to do this -- like Johnnie Cochran?

6 Oct 01: An interesting vote is planned today in Berkeley, California. The City Council will consider a resolution condemning the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan.... Supporters of the Berkeley resolution say the best way to gain justice for the deadly skyjackings is for the United Nations to sue Afghanistan, for harboring terrorists. Aw, c'mon - what good would THAT do? The Taliban would hire Johnnie Cochran, and the legal wrangling would go on for years.

24 Oct 01: O.J. Simpson faced more cross-examination Tuesday about his actions at a Miami intersection. He claimed police were "somewhat apologetic," saying the case was mostly about nothing. Or were they REALLY apologizing, because they feared Johnny Cochran would call them to the stand to admit all their secrets?

14 Nov 01: President Bush signed an executive order Tuesday that permits trials of some suspected terrorists in MILITARY court, before a special commission. Let's see Johnnie Cochran try one of his fancy poems on a row of Marine officers....

22 Nov 01: Attorney F. Lee Bailey was disbarred by Florida's Supreme Court Wednesday. You knew he was in trouble when he chose NOT to hire Johnnie Cochran to defend him....

12 Feb 02: Slobodan Milosevic plans to defend himself against genocide charges -- without using any attorneys. It's probably just as well. He's the sort of fellow who wouldn't laugh at Johnnie Cochran's poems, anyway.

25 Apr 02: Harland Braun admitted to "People" [Robert] Blake might have talked about killing his wife -- BUT added people in Hollywood exaggerate when they talk all the time.... Former prosecutor Marcia Clark openly scoffs at Harland Braun's explanation of Robert Blake's words. Clark told "Entertainment Tonight" it was the "Hollywood defense." Yeah, right - like SHE never told anyone she felt like tearing Johnnie Cochran limb from limb.

17 Jul 02: This could be a very blue Monday at the Arthur Andersen accounting firm. It was convicted over the weekend of one "obstruction of justice" charge. As Johnnie Cochran might put it - "Be careful what you shred, or your firm may be dead."

19 Jul 02: Zacharias Moussaoui has filed all sorts of motions with the federal court, some of which seem strange.... He's made references to the O.J. Simpson trial. There's an obvious reason why Johnnie Cochran hasn't taken this case - "Moussaoui" is awfully hard to rhyme.

22 Aug 02: Millions of jaws must have hit the floor Wednesday night, when Tamyra Gray was voted off "American Idol." If the producers still refuse to release vote counts, Gray can expect two phone calls today -- from Al Sharpton and Johnnie Cochran.

COMING FRIDAY: You had questions about a big Columbus event, so we tracked down answers....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


"I'm sorry to interrupt you," said the woman looking through my screen door around 5:00 p.m. Tuesday. The woman apparently doesn't live at my apartment complex, yet somehow she wandered onto my porch. Sometimes I wonder if people get off the "trolley" bus facing the wrong direction.

"I'm one of those nicotine freaks," the woman wearing a generic "Minnesota" shirt continued. Is that what they call smokers at Georgia Cancer Coalition meetings?

"I don't have any money with me," the visitor went on, "but I can give you these stamps to get a pack of cigarettes." These weren't food stamps, but appeared to be bright orange postage stamps. The Postal Service already has special stamps to fight women's cancer -- but maybe there should be another one for lung cancer.

"These are.... 37-cent stamps," the woman said as she carefully examined the small book of stamps in her hand. For a second, I thought I was looking at a former host of QVC shopping shows.

"I figure I can give you four of these stamps for a pack. Is that a good deal?" This is what happens when they take Jim Foster's "Swap 'n' Shop" off Columbus radio.

What would YOU have said to a stranger making this offer at your front door? I receive unusual visitors like this about once a year - including one Monday morning at 7:05 a.m., when a man came by selling pain relievers and cologne. I guess you take the one if you're chemically sensitive to the other.

In this case, I had no choice for how to answer the woman's question about a good deal. "I don't know. I haven't priced packs of cigarettes because I don't smoke." If she saw a cloud inside my home Tuesday, it was because I was in the middle of spring cleaning and vacuuming the bedroom.

"Perhaps you can go to Spectrum down the street, and see if that's a good deal," I suggested to the woman. Oh yeah -- as if convenience stores are into the barter system?! A few one-dollar lottery tickets might get you a pack of cigarettes, but beyond that....

With that, the disappointed woman went on her way. I didn't see if she went to other apartments at my complex, where people actually smoke. Those people tend to stick together, you know - such as on back porches, outside workplaces.

My mother smoked Salem cigarettes for years, as I grew up - and she often gave me the honor as a boy of stashing her weekly carton in a dining room cabinet. But she didn't want me playing with her cigarettes. Even back then, I guess tobacco taxes were too high.

My mom died at age 59, after developing a brain aneurysm. Although doctors never could confirm it, I'm convinced to this day her smoking habit had something to do with it. So no, I don't smoke. I have no cigarettes to share with visitors. And come to think of it, I've never stopped to visit Salem, Alabama.

BLOG UPDATE: Columbus returned to two Deputy City Managers Tuesday, as Councilors confirmed Lisa Goodwin to fill Isaiah Hugley's old position. She'll also remain the director of the METRA bus service - so apparently she has more "drive" than any of us realized.

Lisa Goodwin was selected as Deputy City Manager over eight other people. I don't know who those other candidates were - but if any of them work in public safety, "IsOurCitySafe" probably will reveal that name to everyone in town before long.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley says by keeping Lisa Goodwin as METRA Director while she's Deputy City Manager, the city of Columbus will save exactly $97,011. I certainly hope police officers appreciate those 11 bucks....

Part of the savings will come from Lisa Goodwin's salary. When Isaiah Hugley was Deputy City Manager, he was paid $90,000. I was about to write "he EARNED $90,000," but the Fraternal Order of Police might send me another flaming e-mail....

But anyway: Lisa Goodwin will be paid $77,500 as Deputy City Manager - or about 14 percent less than Isaiah Hugley. I never realized those METRA buses were made with glass ceilings.

March is Women's History Month, and Lisa Goodwin makes history as a female Deputy City Manager in Columbus. But couldn't a $12,500 pay difference be seen by some as gender discrimination? Do city officials actually WANT Hillary Rodham Clinton to make a Presidential campaign trip here?

Another question: can the new Deputy City Manager handle the extra load of overseeing METRA as well? City Manager Hugley assured WRBL, "I would not put Lisa Goodwin in a position to fail...." Of course not. That's why Columbus Councilors confirmed the nomination - so they'll get the blame for that.

As Deputy City Manager, Lisa Goodwin will oversee the Columbus Parks Department. So if your neighborhood park doesn't have a METRA bus stop, it could have one very soon....

But City Manager Isaiah Hugley noted he's taking on extra city duties as well. For one thing, he'll now oversee the city government access channel. I hope the tape of that Government Center program honoring wife Carolyn Hugley doesn't wear out from being played so much.

Speaking of METRA, word came Tuesday that some riders are willing to accept a modest fare increase to avoid cuts in bus routes. I'm not sure what they mean by "modest" - but it would cost the bus system a lot of money for the fare boxes to accept pennies.

Now let's pull the cord, ring the bell, step off this bus and consider other sights from Tuesday:

+ Legendary lawyer Johnnie Cochran died at 67. You may recall Cochran's visit to Columbus in 1998, when he opened a law office in the Historic District. He hardly ever appeared here after that - so maybe Cochran had trouble finding words which rhyme with Columbus.

+ Longtime Alabama Senator Howell Heflin died at 83. He was Alabama's Chief Justice before heading to Washington. And you thought Roy Moore was getting his inspiration from a higher power....

+ Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus showed off its seismograph of the deadly Indonesian earthquake. Faculty members say their gear is so sensitive that it can record students walking across campus. This is yet another reason for GSW not to have a football team.

(Which reminds me: the Asian tsunami happened one day after Christmas. This latest earthquake happened one day after Easter. Where are the Christian know-it-alls, claiming God's trying to send a message to the Muslims?)

+ Davis Broadcasting made its second radio change in 48 hours, as "K-95.7" and "92.7 The River" swapped positions on the FM dial. What amazing timing - as The River suddenly seemed to go up three feet.

+ The teenage section of the Columbus Public Library was closed until further notice, because glue is seeping through the area's floor. You knew things were getting bad when teens started crawling on the floor and inhaling heavily.

+ Ten "St. Francis fellows" spent the day in the hospital's operating room, to see how things happen there. Who knows how many of them were disappointed to find the doctors aren't as good-looking as Noah Wyle on "ER."

+ Derrick Zimmerman of the Columbus Riverdragons was named N.B.D.L. Defensive Player of the Year. Sometimes I wonder if he plays defense too well - and keeps fans away from the Civic Center.

+ Russell County beat Marianna, Florida 1-0 in high school baseball, thanks to 20 strikeouts by pitcher Kasey Kiker. With a name like Kasey Kiker, you should expect a lot of K's....

+ Instant Message to the driver of a car in Phenix City with the Alabama license plate "SXYNRED": Why do you need red yarn to do that?

COMING THURSDAY: We get you ready for the big hockey showdown.... and offer a LaughLine Flashback on the late Johnnie Cochran....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


"X-3?" asked the man holding a clipboard Monday afternoon.

I was ready for this exact question. "No, I've never been married."

I was joking, and the man quickly realized it. He was asking if I wanted to take a drive in a BMW X-3 car - one of several available at Monday's "Ultimate Drive" fundraiser downtown. To be honest, I didn't know any BMW model names. I figured most of them would be in German, anyway -- and I don't speak much German.

The Ultimate Drive may go down as the easiest fundraising campaign ever invented. You simply show up, drive a car for a few miles, and BMW makes a donation to fight women's cancer. And the best part is that somebody else paid to fill the fuel tank.

About 20 people were in line to drive cars when I showed up at Ken Thomas BMW late Monday morning. One or two of them actually had already driven cars, and were waiting for another ride. I got over this habit when I was young - after about ten rides in a row on a Kansas City roller coaster.

(In fact, so many radio stations had their vans parked outside the dealership that I almost thought the announcers were doubling as chauffeurs.)

It had been a couple of years since the last time I took part in the Ultimate Drive, and a few things had changed. For one thing, high winds drove the registration table inside the BMW dealership. They also drove down the registration sign -- so I almost hopped in a car without signing in first.

The sign-in form for the Ultimate Drive has a back page filled with fine print to guard against lawsuits. For instance, you have to confirm you haven't been drinking. If you have, it could truly be YOUR ultimate drive -- as in the last one.

Once you sign the sign-in form, your hand is stamped to make you an eligible driver. Only in a Bible Belt city like Columbus would a staff member understand my calling that stamp "the mark of the beast...."

While I waited in line, a man on the Ultimate Drive staff reminded the group: "When you pull up, be sure you do it near us...." Is this one of those Southern phrases - to "pull up?" I seem to recall hearing this action called "parking" years ago.

Finally my turn came to drive a BMW X-3 - a minivan-like car which I learned later has a starting price of about $31,000. This was easily the most expensive vehicle I've ever driven. My late dad wouldn't even let me drive his tractor-trailers....

A staff member made sure I started the car - then she reset the mile counter to zero. Every mile counts, in terms of BMW donations to a cancer foundation. But I also had a specific course to follow on my drive - so a side trip to the supermarket would have been exposed.

(It turns out X-3 cars are sold with their own "onboard navigation systems." So if I'd decided to hurry down to Cusseta, someone in front of a giant map would have called police.)

My BMW beeped a couple of times as I backed out of the parking space to begin my drive. I'm not sure why it did. But someone was walking behind the car as I started to back out. Maybe this anti-cancer X-3 is built just for women - you know, extra sensitive.

Special thanks to whomever set my X-3 to have WEAM-FM on the radio. But it may disappoint you to learn I'm a converted believer already....

(The song on WEAM-FM as I started the drive was called, "I'm Blessed." If I really was, they'd have a drawing at the end of the day and give me one of those high-priced cars.)

The X-3 came fully equipped with all sorts of things - including not one but TWO sunroofs. So driving in Columbus during July, you could get sunburned on several different parts of your body....

The course for the Ultimate Drive covered 6.7 miles, from Ken Thomas BMW at Ninth and Veterans Parkway to Victory Drive and North Lumpkin Road. I was a little surprised that people weren't lined up outside the Booker T. Washington Apartments, seeking handouts from charitable-minded drivers like me.

The course for the Ultimate Drive didn't really allow me to open up the throttle to see how quickly and powerfully the X-3 could go. Besides, I applied a rule I keep telling myself when I rent a vehicle for vacation - "This is not my car."

The test drive didn't last nearly long enough, but it was nice and uneventful. I felt like I had more "blind spots" than usual, driving a car with an elevated driver's seat like the X-3. Normally I'm in a compact car, watching SUV drivers glare at me for driving at the speed limit.

With the X-3 "pulled up" to its proper place, I went inside Ken Thomas BMW to sign a car. Yes, there was a special car people could sign to fight cancer. I don't recall any NASCAR drivers doing this after they win races....

There was only one catch: you only had a one-inch square area of the car to sign. People who have seen my handwriting over the years won't be surprised by this news - I made my name fit that area just fine.

One nice hidden extra of the Ultimate Drive is that free food is available for participants. I overheard one woman saying quiche was served for breakfast at Ken Thomas BMW Monday. At the Daewoo dealer, I suppose it was the usual little box of raisin bran.

The color pink was everywhere, relating to the cancer-fighting theme of the Ultimate Drive. The cars had giant pink ribbons on the hood. The plates and cups for the refreshments were pink. Balloons around the showroom were pink. About the only things missing were Trista and Ryan from "The Bachelorette," renewing their vows.

Melissa Thomas of Ken Thomas BMW takes the Ultimate Drive personally, since she's a cancer survivor. During a lunch-hour program after my drive, she urged people to drive cars all day long. Did the driver finishing the most laps take home a checkered flag?

Melissa Thomas's goal for the Ultimate Drive this year was 10,000 miles driven, which computes to $10,000 for cancer research. She noted BMW of Macon only reached about 6,000 miles. Based on these numbers, the Cottonmouths will accept the Southern League hockey trophy right now.

The program at Ken Thomas BMW included an appearance by the director of the John B. Amos Cancer Center. He said one modern feature of the new center on Veterans Parkway is the use of "nurse navigators" to guide patients. That's funny - my computer's Netscape Navigator became dated about four years ago.

If you missed the Ultimate Drive, there are other ways to help fight women's cancer. The registration table had something called "Sip for the Cure," with a special tea bag. I suppose we'll never see a low-carb beer with a "Guzzle for the Cure" label....

Now please be careful not to spill anything, as we consider other Monday highlights:

+ The Army Corps of Engineers announced five gates would be opened at West Point Lake, to relieve pressure from the weekend rain. Hey, I've got an idea! Do this next year, too - and expand "Thunder in the Valley" to include powerboat racing.

+ The Auburn-Opelika Convention and Visitors Bureau called for a higher hotel-motel tax - with the money to be used for its own advertising. Does this explain why Spectrum stores keep running commercials, mentioning everything but gas prices?

+ Qualifying opened for the open mayor's seat in Talbotton. You can run if you've lived in Talbotton for a year, and pay a 35-dollar fee. This could be the political comeback Danae Roberts has been waiting for....

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed a bill granting teachers a tax deduction of up to 250 dollars, if they buy their own school supplies. We expect an expansion of Chapman's on Wynnton Road will be announced before the end of the week.

+ ESPN reported former Atlanta Falcons head coach Jerry Glanville will become Defensive Coordinator at the University of Hawaii. I'm sure his black trenchcoat will be perfect on the sidelines in tropical Honolulu....

+ Instant Message to Davis Broadcasting: Is that all you plan to do with AM-1580? You'll simply run ESPN radio 24 hours a day, without even station identification?! I thought you were competing with satellite radio, not doing the exact same thing.

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 28, 2005


The Columbus area will try to dry out today from a weekend of rough weather. Some places had so much rain Sunday that a traditional Easter church greeting changed to, "IT is risen, indeed."

The Russell County town of Pittsview may have had the worst of the wetness, as more than five inches of rain flooded dozens of homes. Only after this occurred did I stop to ask a question - why would anyone want to live in a city which promotes a view of a pit?

The rain came so hard in Pittsview that flooding developed, and authorities had to evacuate a church. It's safe to predict this congregation will not sing the hymn "Showers of Blessing" for several weeks....

An Alabama National Guard truck carrying ten people in Pittsview ran off the road at one point, and almost fell into a flooded creek. In most other parts of the world, this would be considered a fun challenge on "The Amazing Race."

Fort Benning provided a helicopter to help evacuate several people in Pittsview. It's nice to see soldiers keeping busy -- especially the ones who get their jollies start all those smoky controlled burns....

Some locations south and west of Columbus may have received ten inches of rain. This includes parts of Clay County - but so far there's no talk of changing the name to Mud County.

The Chattahoochee River in Columbus rose more than 11 feet above its normal level Sunday. The last time a big rise like this occurred was two years ago - and despite all the talk since then, I didn't hear of one person kayaking under the 13th Street Bridge.

The sudden rise in the Chattahoochee left the Columbus Riverwalk flooded in some places. So was the stage of the Phenix City Amphitheater - which I guess gives a whole new meaning to "flood stage," doesn't it?

Several intersections in Phenix City were closed due to flooding, and local officials urged people NOT to drive unless it was absolutely necessary. Considering it was Easter Sunday, hardly anyplace was open to visit on trips, anyway.

Troup County also received a lot of rain, leading to reports of cars hydroplaning on Interstate 85. How many drivers of four-by-four vehicles said to themselves, "It's about time we had a little fun on the highway"?!

All in all, Sunday was a great day to stay home and clean the house - and that's what I did for much of the afternoon. I'm into my "serious spring cleaning" season right now. This means another dust-off for my two pairs of suspenders - and someday I might actually wear one of them.

Reflecting on all the weekend rain, several thoughts come to mind:

+ March supposedly is the wettest month of the year in Columbus. But does all the rain have to come at one time?

+ Someone noted at church a few weeks ago West Point Lake seemed awfully low. He was told that was on purpose - and the 2003 flooding occurred because the Corps of Engineers failed to lower the level. Whatever "Farm Almanac" the Corps read this past winter, we thank them.

+ When severe weather happens, is it REALLY comforting to know a radar system on television is sponsored by a funeral home?

E-MAIL UPDATE: We're only one "IsOurCitySafe" letter from getting back to even:

So we don't have a problem with that lack of Police?

The names in this email have been left out to keep their privacy. This is an email in reference to a complaint received by crime stoppers.

On 3/21/05, Mrs. X and Mr. X of Oakland park came to the department and complained about criminal activities in their neighborhood. They stated that there is an ongoing problem with people racing automobiles on Hawthorne Dr. and Ramsey St. There is drug dealing going on in Rigdon Park. There have been numerous burglaries in the neighborhood and they think that prostitution is taking place on the 1st block of Hawthorne. I am working with them to get an active neighborhood watch going in the area. They stated that recently the Mayor rode through the area and promised them help. Mr. X believes that a male living at xxxx Hawthorne Dr. is stealing automobile stereos.

From Patrol Major Graham to patrol supervisors:

Please be advised of the ongoing problems in Oakland Park and have your officers patrol this area as much as possible. Forward and documentation in reference to arrests made to the patrol majors office.

This is not a new problem. The citizens in Oakland Park have been complaining about the rise in crime for a long time. The only problem is that they are complaining to the wrong people. Complaining about response times and criminal activity will only get knee jerk reactions from the department such as officers having to keep logs of calls, arrests made, and emails to supervisors telling the officers to patrol as often as they can. Well, between having to run from call to call because we are dangerously short on officers, I am sure these officers do patrol as often as possible. The simple fact of the matter is that the officers are very busy answering domestic dispute calls, accident calls, and other calls and have very little time to patrol their beats in order to prevent crime. Our department is about 99% reactive and 1% proactive. If the citizens would take time to complain to city council instead of "preaching to the choir" about crime, something might get done. You don't have to tell the Police that there is crime in Columbus...we already know and are doing our best with what we have. The Mayor is talking out of both sides of his mouth when he promises these citizens help. I bet he just smiles his greasy smile, shakes their hands, and drives away. He tells them whatever they want to hear at the time. Our mayor has made NO EFFORT to increase the amount of officers in Columbus. What's even funnier to me is that the citizens will probably elect him again if he runs for office.

An opinion of our city councilors:

Nathan and Evelyn are the most arrogant of the 12 I think although I have yet to meet 4 of them.

Not enough of them listen. ..........reminds me of Judge Turner...peanut butter in the ears with too many years of service and a lack of understanding with regard to anyone's world but their own.

We need a big toilet bowl to just flush-em-on-down.

A fine candidate for Turner's seat:

I have purposely left this individuals name out of the email until he decides if he is going to run or not. I can honestly say that if he does decide to run... I will be campaigning heavily for him. He is an ex-police officer who understands the problems of the city first hand. He does not have his head in the clouds and his ears aren't full of peanut butter. He would do a good job.

He emailed me this:

I have been approached about running for council several times. With all of the things going on, I am going to seriously consider running. I am in Turner's district.

Lookout councilors! Your days are numbered!

Their days numbered, possibly. The Councilors numbered - well, that's another matter. Last time I checked, there were ten of them instead of 12....

This message raises a question "IsOurCitySafe" isn't even writing about. Who is releasing complaints filed with the Columbus police department, so they can be spread all over Columbus via e-mail? I've heard one person say this violates privacy rules. But maybe this is step one of the "police corruption" some almost expect to see.

But as to this complaint: Why are people racing cars on Hawthorne Drive? Does Victory Drive east of I-185 have too many hills?

(There's an easy answer to car-racing problems, on ANY Columbus street. Keep the price of gas above two dollars a gallon.)

So the Columbus Police Department is "99 percent reactive and one percent proactive"?! Somehow I thought the Metro Narcotics Task Force had more than three or four undercover officers....

I must admit I've never checked Mayor Bob Poydasheff's smile, to see how "greasy" it is. If civic groups would serve more baked chicken at their dinners and less fried, this problem could be solved in no time.

We should make something clear: "Judge Turner" is different from Columbus Councilor Evelyn Turner Pugh. Judge Haywood Turner is not related to her, as far as I know. I don't even know for sure if they share the same brand of peanut butter.

Now some more dry thoughts from a wet weekend:

+ WRBL reported METRA Director Lisa Goodwin will be nominated for Deputy City Manager. This would bring immediate savings in one way -- as a reserved parking space for one city employee should come open.

+ WEAM-AM announced its gospel programming is "moving to a new home" today - namely WEAM-FM. They've shared the same programming for two years. So did any radio preacher sanction this divorce?

(A check at our post time found WEAM-AM had replaced the gospel music with sports talk from ESPN Radio. But as of Saturday night, the network's web site still claimed to be on WSHE-AM 1270. If you're going to dump somebody, at least have the decency to call and let them know.)

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths knocked out Knoxville 3-2 in overtime, to advance to the Southern Professional Hockey League finals. The Snakes must have psyched out their opponent - because they stunned me by putting an ad for an "Easter Sunday" game in the "Faith and Spirit" section of the Ledger-Enquirer. [True!]

+ Instant Message to Jiffy Auto Painting on Victory Drive: I hope your paint jobs on cars look better than the paint job on your building - because that yellow paint is peeling badly.

COMING TUESDAY: I take a spin in someone else's car....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


"Wal-Mart is evil," I overheard a co-worker say the other day. Considering this man doesn't live anywhere near the proposed SuperCenter in Midland, this was quite a statement....

Wal-Mart certainly has become a no-middle-ground name in U.S. society. People either love it or they hate it. But here's my question: If Wal-Mart has so many customers, and fights so hard to keep prices low - why is the inflation rate slowly going up?

Regular blog readers know I've steered clear of Wal-Mart for about a year - ever since the arrests of illegal immigrant workers, at stores in Valley and other areas. After all, the church I attend teaches obedience to the law. Of course, my congregation also has several admitted "American Idol" viewers, and idolatry is against the commandments.

But with Wal-Mart settling the illegal immigrant hiring case about a week ago for $11 million, I decided to end my long personal boycott. The related boycott against Kmart will end once Martha Stewart shows me she's not wearing that ankle bracelet anymore.

I'd only been to Wal-Mart twice in more than a year, and that was because my tires were under warranty there for free rotations. Friday afternoon I returned to the Phenix City SuperCenter to shop for groceries - and as full as the parking lot was, they probably never missed me one bit.

I was barely out of my car when a little boy came up to me holding an envelope. "Want to help the Heart Association?" Oh no - is a PEX bus bringing beggars to Wal-Mart from downtown Columbus?

Moments later the little boy was joined by a little girl, and someone I presumed was their mother. They said they were collecting money for the American Heart Association, as a project for their school in Smiths Station. Somehow they could win prizes such as bicycles - and I suppose the grand prize was a home defibrillator.

"We can ask for money in the parking lot, but not inside the store," the mother explained. So apparently Wal-Mart treats all panhandlers evenly....

Mainly due to years of run-ins with beggars in Georgia, I carry as little cash in my wallet as possible. On this Friday, I had only two dollars -- and not knowing what else to do, I put one in a child's envelope. It either was that, or take the boy inside and buy him a bicycle for 50 or 60 dollars.

(I expressed my frustration with beggars in general to the mother. What if someone came up to me, trying to get something to eat? It's either death or a heart attack - and neither is a very good option.)

But as I walked inside Wal-Mart, I was shaking my head over what I'd encountered - so I decided to head immediately to the customer service desk, to verify the beggars' claims. Maybe I should simply have trusted what they said. After all, there was no sign of a carnival in the parking lot.

The trip to customer service turned into another jaw-dropper - as there was a line stretching all the way to the end of the office. Shouldn't this line wait until Monday, after the heads are ripped off all the giant bunnies?

A man with a two-way radio was standing at the customer service entrance, so I asked him if he knew anything about the Smiths Station Heart Association parking-lot fundraiser. He promised to contact security about it. No one approached me when I left - so maybe the family was chased away to Home Depot.

Not worrying any more about it, I started grocery shopping at a packed Wal-Mart. This was "Good Friday" - but for this store, it was more like "great" or "spectacular...."

If there's a busier grocery store in the Columbus area than the Wal-Mart SuperCenter, I haven't found it. At the end of some aisles, I had to wait on three or four carts to exit before going in. You'd think they'd put up one-way signs for us occasional shoppers.

As I rolled to the end of one aisle, a VERY full cart turned in right in front of me - with a woman walking in front, and a young man pushing behind. I think the woman apologized as she said, "Now you know why I won't let him drive a car."

Because this is a Wal-Mart first and a grocery store, some of the items I needed were scattered around the giant store. The food has its own segment, but the shampoo was practically at the opposite end. And those shopping carts simply are too small for buying a couple of new tires for my car.

Near the checkout lanes, a couple of young men at a table tried to sign me up for a "Wal-Mart Discover Card." I've had a Discover Card for years, but I haven't used it in years because other credit cards give me better perks. Besides, since Sears invented the Discover Card, isn't this robbery?

For all the crowds and small aggravations, Wal-Mart has some food values you won't find at most other supermarkets. A pound of turkey sausage costs $1.06, two-liter soda is 58 cents -- but a bakery offering "chocolate cinnamon biscuits"?! Sometimes a store can go a little too far....

Wal-Mart didn't win the price race in everything. After I checked out, I drove down U.S. 280 to Walgreens for better prices on milk, orange juice and microwave popcorn. But I drove right by Winn-Dixie - making me one of the many reasons why that company is in bankruptcy court.

So has Wal-Mart won me back? It depends on how the news in coming weeks goes. Wal-Mart faces a stack of other lawsuits, such as sex discrimination in hiring. And if they start selling Michael Jackson dolls, I'll really have a problem....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Uh-oh - a reader wants to let me have it:

I can't believe you let the 12th street rag do a better job of covering the March 22nd Columbus Council strategy session at the Trade Center. They actually had two articles about it. One concerned the entire affair, while one was devoted to the exchange between police major Rowe and Councilors Pugh and Suber. You only devoted one paragraph to the latter and it missed the whole unusual exchange between these three people. There seemed to be more there than there was with the T. V. News 3 articles. Boring (after the first 500 paragraphs)!

Oh dear - my apologies for letting you down. Hopefully you're sending a similar e-mail to Playgrounds Magazine and the Columbus Times.

If you're counting on me for "better coverage" than the Ledger-Enquirer, I fear I'll let you down a lot. After all, the newspaper has many reporters, a staff of photographers and an advertising team bringing in money for all of that. I have - well, have you noticed my note about PayPal donations?

Perhaps my reporting on the WRBL pregnancy discrimination case spoiled some readers, or gave them wrong ideas. This blog does NOT promise "coverage you can count on." That's quite obvious, because I didn't count 500 paragraphs in last Wednesday's post before the police came up.

Keep in mind the Ledger-Enquirer never showed up at the WRBL discrimination trial. The newspaper covers what it chooses, while I look for things you might not find there. And I'd like to think page for page, I offer more one-liners than Kaffie Sledge.

To be honest, I didn't know the Columbus Council was going to have that seven-hour session at the Trade Center last week. Even if I had known, I might not have attended - because who knows how many questions Nathan Suber might have asked ME?!

Maybe this will make up for our lack of coverage -- an extensive e-mail on last week's Council meeting from "IsOurCitySafe":

The following is in reference to Wednesday's (3/23/05) article on page C4 of the Columbus Ledger Enquirer titled Police presentation cut short after testy exchanges.

Police Maj. Charlie Rowe, filling in for Police Chief Ricky Boren, came to the session to present needs on filling vacancies and increased demands on patrol officers, but it was cut short after a testy exchange with two councilors.

In the middle of the presentation, Suber asked a question, which Rowe answered, and then Councilor Evelyn Turner Pugh asked a question. Rowe took a deep breath and dropped his shoulders in a sign of exasperation.

Turner asked, "You don't want me asking questions?"

Rowe said the questions disrupted the "continuity of the presentation" and thought questions would be reserved until the end. After the city manager whispered in Rowe's ear, the officer continued his briefing.

Rowe said the department needed additional officers to patrol the northern part of town. Suber asked whether the department thought about reallocating its resources to cover that area. Rowe then showed more signs of irritation, while Suber said he was getting frustrated because it seems Rowe didn't like councilors asking questions.

Mayor Bob Poydasheff suggested continuing the conversation after Boren returns to town. Hugley, who just finished whispering in Rowe's ear again, said Rowe would continue the presentation. Rowe began answering the question, but then asked while looking in Suber's direction, "Did I say something wrong?"

Suber looked around to see if Rowe was talking to him and replied, "Who me?"

"You dropped your head," Rowe said to Suber.

"I think we need to move on to who ever is next," Suber said.

Hugley agreed. "The police department will come back to you at a work session when the chief is present."

Rowe then left the lectern and later left with the other representatives from the police department who were present.

Poydasheff, Suber and Hugley said they did not understand why the major reacted the way he did.

In my opinion, the reason Major Rowe reacted the way he did is because our fine city councilors ask stupid questions and make stupid comments. If they would wait until the presentation is over with, most of their questions will probably be answered. I can imagine how frustrating it might be speaking to adults who act like children and interrupt while you are trying to make points and stay focused.

Mr. Suber asked if the Police Department thought about reallocating its resources to cover the beats on the northern part of town. Well, duh, Mr. Suber, no matter how you set up the beats in Columbus...15-20 Police Officers on the street at one time is still 15-20 Police Officers on the street at one time. This comment makes me wonder if Mr. Suber thinks before he speaks. Its no secret that Mr. Suber does not like the Police Department and will do anything and everything in his power to keep the Police Department from progressing and growing to meet the needs of Columbus. I can only imagine how foul he will be when he really needs the Police at his home on Oakley Dr. and there aren't any Police to send. Oh I forgot, Mr. Suber doesn't want the Police at his home because they may be there to arrest his daughter for committing crimes he is attempting to sweep under the rug. Mr. Suber needs to be the first councilor to go at election time. He and the mayor need to be escorted out of the government center at the same time.

I can only imagine what the city manager was whispering in Major Rowe's ear. It was probably something to the effect of...just ignore him, he is talking out of his rear.

The Police are warning us that we are getting dangerously short on Officers to patrol the streets of Columbus. Our councilors are busy sitting on their thumbs and worrying about other things such as how Major Rowe acted during a presentation. I sure hope they get their priorities straight before this city turns into the wild west and citizens are required to patrol or the national guard has to be called in because our city government has no idea what its doing.

Thanks ,

Wade Sheridan

This message touches on a key issue in our city, which someone needs to settle once and for all. Are there any stupid questions, or aren't there?

Now I wish the blog HAD been at the Trade Center - because I'm left wondering if Columbus Council asked questions of other city officials during their presentations last week. If they did, then the questioning of Major Rowe was nothing unusual. If they didn't - well, maybe Chief Boren will show up with a Taser.

(If you think Major Rowe was irritated by Councilors asking questions, you should see some law officers dodge interviews with journalists. In some nearby counties, a homicide on Saturday isn't considered news until the Sheriff shows up in the office on Monday.)

So adults "act like children" when they interrupt people trying to make points? I take it Mr. Sheridan never watches cable TV news - because it's a rare hour when that doesn't happen there.

By the way, doesn't Columbus have "citizens' patrols" in parts of town now? It's the only way some housing projects keep drug dealers away....

This widespread e-mail from IsOurCitySafe brought another in response:

I want to hear what the dirty dozen say after they need the police and it takes an hour to get there. (HINT HINT) When big time corruption hits the department the blame will be at the feet of the DIRTY DOZEN.

Let's stop electing these people. The Fraternal Order of Partiers need to stop endorsing them also. When they come to the lodge tell them to get the heck on.

The Fraternal Order of WHAT?!?! Randy Robertson, I know you're a fan of this blog - but someone else wrote that e-mail, not me....

This public safety situation is starting to get really confusing. One e-mailer calls for a "police machine," then another one seems to openly predict "big time corruption" on the force - and we already know a local grand jury isn't likely to indict anybody in law enforcement....

(And for those of you who may be confused: I think the "Dirty Dozen" refers to the Columbus Council, Mayor and City Manager. It does NOT refer to the high prices t Dunkin Donuts.)

While you pause to sort all this out, we'll quickly check other weekend items:

+ Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox came to Columbus, and said the current rules for PeachCare insurance coverage are "very harsh." Families who are one day late with a payment can lose coverage for three months. So should we extend voting AFTER Election Day, too?

+ A Columbus church staged what WEAM radio called "an afternoon of soul-winning" outside a discount store on Buena Vista Road. Given the location, I guess this group was more concerned about people's lives than whether or not they can tithe.

+ A group from Evangel Temple rolled a 75-pound wooden cross down the length of the Riverwalk. From what I saw, the cross had a wheel on the bottom - apparently to illustrate the Bible verse that with Jesus, your burden truly IS light.

+ The Columbus Civic Center witnessed the first "triple double" in N.B.D.L. history - accomplished against the Riverdragons by Florida's Smush Parker. [True!] Shouldn't someone with a name like "Smush" be racing sled dogs in Alaska?

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 25, 2005


Once the sun sets and the moon comes out, some people might find it scary to go outside and run in the dark. I usually don't. After all, I don't carry a wallet with me - though maybe I should, to hand out dollar bills to beggars who stop me.

The last couple of weeks have been unusually challenging for nighttime jogging. I join the Riverwalk at Golden Park, but crews have been regrading the railroad tracks running past the park for months. If I want a "rocky road," I'll go to the store and buy ice cream....

But beyond the railroad tracks, the stairway from Golden Park to the Riverwalk has had no working lights for weeks. Perhaps people aren't supposed to use them, because of the railroad work. But barricades around the tracks are tipped over, and even blocking one side of the stairs - so should I think a wide-load rail car knocked them over?

The stairs from the Civic Center to the Riverwalk have two bright lamps, one on each side. I resorted to using that stairway when I ran Wednesday night. But Thursday night, I dared to use the Golden Park steps - semi-jogging down the four flights with a hand next to the handrail, probably looking like Grandpa Jones dancing on "Hee Haw."

Thankfully, I went downstairs slowly enough to avoid tripping over the stairs. But I certainly didn't feel comfortable about it. I'd rather wait to have those limping moments after I turn 80, thank you....

Running north from Golden Park, a couple of lights also are out along the Riverwalk at the Trade Center. It's almost enough to get me to start carrying a little flashlight - even if some people think I'm a Crime Scene Investigator.

Are runners like me going to have to get used to this? After all, Columbus is considering big city budget cuts - so burned-out light bulbs might have to go unreplaced. But then again, couples who use the Riverwalk for late-romance may be hoping things grow even worse....

It occurred to me Thursday night that Columbus voters merely are getting what they asked for, if Riverwalk lights stay out. They rejected a new one-cent sales tax last November -- and many public safety backers probably would argue they were "in the dark" back then.

I hope I'm wrong, and the lights soon are back on throughout the Riverwalk and its stairways. After all, there are advantages to a well-lit city. Some pilots might fly over us, and actually consider giving the Columbus Airport some business.

The appeal of well-lit cities especially is noticeable when you're traveling in the open countryside. The first time I drove into a small Oklahoma city to take a job in radio, the nighttime city lights were visible nearly ten miles away on the prairie. It felt welcoming - and amazingly, none of the lights were from strip clubs or casinos.

SPAM-A-RAMA: Speaking of the dark side -- hopefully you've noticed we accept PayPal donations for this blog. Perhaps as a result of that notice, we received this message the other day:

You have added as a new email address for your PayPal account.

If you did not authorize this change or if you need assistance with your account, please contact PayPal customer service....

T h a n k y o u f o r u s i n g P a y P a l!

T h e P a y P a l T e a m

"Plasm Seller?" I don't sell plasm. I've never bought any plasm. My mother wasn't even a plasm-Ma.

This e-mail offered a link to "PayPal customer service" which I will NOT post here. The address looked like a secure web site with "https" on it, but the link actually was for an address full of numbers and a look-alike PayPal page. It was an obvious scam -- obvious to me, at least. If the web page has no banner ads, that's immediately suspicious.

A check of the real PayPal web site revealed NO new address on my account named "Plasm Seller." So there's another lesson for you Internet lovers: don't trust any people claiming to sell plasm. They might be as slimy as protoplasm.

This e-mail was the latest sneaky example of attempted identity theft, known as "phishing." These messages are growing so devious and subtle, you can understand why the rock band "Phish" broke up - to protect its reputation.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Another e-mail in our InBox was legitimate - and our third in recent days from attorney Maxine Hardy. This time, it has nothing to do with that discrimination lawsuit she won over the owners of WRBL:

Dear Richard:

Do you have a day job? This is not a strategic question, I'm just curious. Why do you post to the blog in the middle of the night?

Since you seemed a little thrown by my earlier affectionate closing [21 Mar], I'll be a little more circumspect:

Respectfully, M

Uhhhhhh - can I refuse to answer these questions, on the grounds they might incriminate me?

I actually had a "day job" Thursday, doing freelance work at a TV station. When the station needs me, it calls me - sometimes for one day at a time, sometimes for weeks or months. I think lawyers face the same sort of thing. It's called the first year out of law school.

As to why I post "in the middle of the night" - I could give you a variety of answers:

1. No one seems to object to the Ledger-Enquirer publishing after midnight.

2. I'm trying to live up to the stereotype of the "blogger in his pajamas."

3. By writing and posting the blog right before bed, I can go to sleep with a smile on my face.

Search around the "blogosphere," and you'll run into some bloggers who post ten or more times a day. I prefer to combine all my thoughts into one issue a day. I suppose it's because I've been a journalist for years -- and besides, I'm much less likely to be sued if I think before I post.

The early-morning hour of this post reflects several things: a full day of work, a run after getting home -- and to be honest, I watched some really good college basketball playoff games Thursday night. The Big 10 team won, while the Big 12 teams lost. But remember, the Big 12 Conference still knows how to count to 12 teams.

Now other things to wrap up a good Friday - and some of us consider ALL Fridays good:

+ Fort Benning had a parachute jump to mark the 60th anniversary of the biggest airborne operation of World War II, called "Operation Varsity." Many people who live in Atlanta nowadays probably think this is the code for a trip to buy hamburgers.

+ A party marked the premiere of a new weekly bilingual Columbus newspaper. On one side is "The Courier" for African-American readers. On the other side is "Eco Latino" for Hispanic readers. This apparently opens the door for the "Phenix Citizen-News" to offer a Columbus version for white folks.

(Hmmmm. "Eco Latino" - is this title a subtle reminder to recycle all your newspapers?)

+ The Georgia Senate approved that bill an e-mailer mentioned to us the other day, allowing for secret donations to public state colleges. Columbus Senator Seth Harp explained some donors prefer to be anonymous. The rest, of course, get seats between the 30-yard-lines at University of Georgia football games.

(Hey, here's an idea -- why not split the difference on this issue? Let secret donors make donations, but require them to have pseudonyms. Then maybe Georgia Tech could have a "Mr. Wrestling Number Two" physical education building.)

+ Columbus State University Vice President Martha Saunders was named a finalist for Chancellor at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. She's obviously prepared to make this move - as the "Chattanooga Choo Choo" could start at the railroad station Burger King near C.S.U.

(Martha Saunders is one of four finalists for this job. I think the final test should be how fast the candidates can say "Chattanooga Chancellor" without tripping over their tongues.)

+ Alabama basketball star Kennedy Winston announced he'll skip his senior season, and turn pro. I wish him well - but I also wish he'd explain why his parents put his last name first, and his first name last.

+ Instant Message to Auburn University: Did I hear it right - you're helping market an upscale Italian pork product called "porchetta?" Did you put a fancy name on it, so Ed Richardson won't consider it "pork-barrel spending" and cut it?

COMING THIS WEEKEND: I'm ending a long boycott.... and my "coverage" is called into question....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


The annual "Drug-Free You and Me" conference began Wednesday at the Columbus Trade Center. It's designed to turn sixth-graders away from being hooked on drugs. And based on the giant logos on the backs of students' T-shirts, it's also designed to get them hooked on McDonald's cheeseburgers.

I know, I know - it takes money to put on "Drug-Free You and Me" events, and the school district will take whatever help it can. But the McDonald's golden arches practically cover the backs of every sixth-grader there! Besides, "M" also can stand for methamphetamines....

With McDonald's accused of serving high-fat foods which make our country more and more overweight, is it right for the golden arches to be on the backs of hundreds of sixth-graders? We may be turning them away from cigarettes and pot - but is getting them addicted to french fries any better?

In any case, the "Drug-Free You and Me" conference tries all sorts of approaches to send an anti-drug message to sixth-graders. The children are entertained by singers and dancers. They hear a variety of guest speakers. About the only thing missing is a "drug racing" competition on Front Avenue.

Organizers of the conference say many youngsters have decided by sixth grade whether or not they're going to try illegal drugs. If they'd go ahead and tell their parents on their 11th birthday, mom and dad wouldn't be so shocked later....

Conference organizers also believe the Nancy Reagan line "just say no" is not enough to keep young people away from illegal drugs. "They need weapons," one adult said Wednesday - so perhaps the National Rifle Association is sponsoring this as well.

One of the biggest concerns for conference organizers these days in the inhaling of household chemicals to get high. These young people should learn a lesson from parents who grew up on 1970's and 1980's rock music - it's better to get high on Van Halen than inhalin'.

(It's interesting to learn that fact this week, since it's National Poison Prevention Week. Should parents keep all household cleaning fluids locked up, even from teenagers? Well, maybe not -- since that could lead to even messier bedrooms.)

This is the 15th year for "Drug-Free You and Me" conferences, yet I didn't hear anyone say Wednesday how well they've worked in deterring drug abuse. Has marijuana and cocaine use by teenagers dropped locally? Or are teens too busy sitting around web-surfing and playing video games, to go out and buy any?

In another show of compassion for our children, Columbus Head Start participants received free shoes Wednesday from the "Controllers Civic and Social Club." It must be fun belonging to this group....

+ Instead of forming committees, they probably have a "Control Panel."

+ Someone living a long way from the meeting hall is considered a "Remote Controller."

+ The best dancer in the club might win the title, "Control Freak."

Before I get OUT of Control, let's check other quick things from Wednesday:

+ A final land use plan was unveiled for the area around the Columbus Public Library. It includes a new school and theaters - which is weird, because I thought Rigdon Road Elementary and the Columbus Square 8 were already there.

+ A street near Fort Benning was named "Cumbaa Court" in honor of 93-year-old Gordon Cumbaa. Please note this now, in case your grandchildren someday ask why a Columbus street is named after one of the days of Kwanzaa.

(The land around Cumbaa Court actually was bought by Gordon Cumbaa during the 1930's for $250. Times certainly have changed - now you can't heat a home on that street through the winter for that much.)

+ Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter resigned as directors of the Carter Center in Atlanta. Hmmmm - has this center's board been talking with the Habitat for Humanity board?

+ AFLAC employees began working on a Habitat for Humanity home in Columbus, to mark the insurance company's 50th anniversary. I won't be impressed by this project until I see a duck kicking a nail into place with its web feet.

+ Students at Northside Intermediate School in Opelika put faces on sweet potatoes, to mark "YAM: Youth Arts Month." But sadly, there was none looking like Mother Theresa - so it could be called "Yam-Mama."

(The yam creations will be on public display at the school today. Anything caught hiding butter or brown sugar under their coats will be asked to leave.)

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths beat Fayetteville 4-2, in a one-game first-round playoff showdown. Why is the Southern Professional Hockey League in such a hurry to finish the season? It's not like the major league hockey players are going to upstage them....

+ Former Spencer High basketball star Nikita Bell was named an Associated Press honorable mention all-American. Is that good enough to get her drafted to play in the WNBA? Or with a first name like Nikita, would she be better off playing in Russia?

+ Instant Message to whomever left an unlocked bicycle along the Riverwalk near the Civic Center: Was it just a coincidence that you left a bike to be stolen where you did - at the memorial to "Victims of Crime and Leniency?"

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Columbus Council held a seven-hour meeting Tuesday about possible budget cuts. It was called a "strategy session." Uh-oh! If we learned anything from the federal discrimination trial last week, it's that "strategy" is bad -- very bad.

For some reason, the budget discussion was held at the Trade Center. My theory is that Columbus Council went there to make room for all the public safety supporters and their protest signs....

TV reports on the meeting Tuesday night didn't mention any possible cuts in public safety. Instead, we heard of plans to cut part-time positions in the METRA bus service. Perhaps these are the people who drive buses to their regular jobs.

A tight city budget may force METRA to cut several bus routes - just as the price of gasoline moves above two dollars a gallon. Put those two together, and parents may buy bicycles as "Easter gifts" for themselves instead of their children.

Columbus Parks Department director Tony Adams said he might have to cut 40 part-time positions to make a ten-percent budget cut. Youngsters are asked to drag their moms and dads to swimming pools this summer, to serve as lifeguards.

Not only that, the Columbus Parks Department may reduce hours at some of its recreation centers. In fact, the department has prepared for this for some time. How else do you explain "Midnight Basketball" leagues playing games at 5:00 p.m.?

Columbus Fire Chief Roy Waters offered to cut seven positions, including one fire inspector. But he says the department needs to replace three fire trucks, at $256,000 each. Could we save money, by converting some METRA buses which apparently are going to sit idle?

When a presentation began on Columbus police and public safety, the discussion suddenly stopped. Councilors decided they want Chief Rick Boren to appear in person, not one of his assistants. So apparently this was supposed to be not only a strategy session, but an all-star show....

City Manager Isaiah Hugley explained Columbus departments may have to cut their budgets ten percent because city health insurance costs are going up. Insurance could cost the city $16 million next fiscal year. I propose an alternative: increase the money spent on breathing masks, and don't give them only to the prisoners mowing lawns.

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: A woman pulls into a drive-through lane at a Columbus bank.

"Ma'am, do you have an account with us?"

"No, but I was told I could only cash this check at SunTrust."

"We're not SunTrust. We're SouthTrust."

"Oh. Where can I find a SunTrust?"

"It's right up the hill." The SouthTrust merger with Wachovia can't become final soon enough.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on Columbus State University sports ended Tuesday, and the NO'S have it. Five out of six voters oppose our suggestion that C.S.U. teams advance from NCAA Division II to top-level Division I. The way the men's basketball season ended, I wonder if most of the no votes came from Kennesaw.

By the way, congratulations to Columbus State's Yandel Brown! He was named a Division II all-American basketball player Tuesday. Brown led almost all Division II players in scoring this past season. We're not sure if there's a similar scoring award, for pep band musicians.

Now for other late-March madness from Tuesday:

+ The Georgia House approved a modified bill banning smoking in many public places. The bill's sponsor admitted on GPB's "Lawmakers" he wasn't sure what all the amendments meant. Wouldn't it be funny if they turned his proposal into nothing more than "smoke and mirrors?"

(This Georgia House member added the smoking ban could end up being settled in a conference committee. That would be only fitting - working out details in one of those smoke-filled rooms.)

+ Rep. Carolyn Hugley was honored at a Government Center event marking Women's History Month. The theme this year is, "Women change America." Some of us already realized that. They're called diapers....

+ The Russell County Sheriff's Department showed off some of its ten new patrol cars. We're told some of them have computers installed. If enough of them drive into Pittsview, the number of computers in town might double.

+ Coca-Cola in Atlanta announced plans to bring out a new drink called "Coca-Cola Zero" in June. That's zero, as in no calories. So why not change "C-2" so it only has two calories?

(There's already a zero-calorie Diet Coke -- so what's the point of a Coca-Cola Zero? I guess some people are not on diets, and they're proud of it....)

+ Instant Message to the Mustard Seed store: Thank you again for selling my album - but I have to admit I'm stumped by something. What's the point of wearing religious symbols on men's socks? Do you expect guys to wear walking and running shorts all the time this spring and summer?

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

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© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


The car sat unused all day Monday. I pulled a couple of things out of its trunk, but that was it. I had no reason to go anywhere -- and as high as gas prices are going, it's reaching the point where a brain of reason needs to weigh more than a lead foot.

Many Columbus gas stations made history Monday, as their price of regular unleaded jumped above two dollars a gallon. I don't know why the price took a ten-cent increase - unless all those motorcycle riders at the "Rally for the Troops" were on "gas hawgs."

The lowest price I saw in the downtown area was $2.03 a gallon for regular unleaded. I'm old enough to remember when people bought two dollars' worth of gasoline for short trips around town. You can still do that, I suppose - but these days the town might have to be Waverly Hall.

WRBL was all set to crown the Phillips station on Wynnton Road the gas price leader, at $1.97 a gallon. But then Monday afternoon, the price there jumped to $2.07. Didn't the managers know the TV station was coming? They could have sold a lot of extra high-priced bags of chips.

Because the Phillips, uh, fill-up costs more, the unofficial "low price leader" became RaceTrac on Victory Drive -- still reportedly below two dollars. Considering this station is at the edge of town for drivers heading here from Cusseta and Albany, this station may have the most compassionate managers in Columbus.

Did you notice the gas prices in East Alabama aren't that much higher than Columbus? The Opelika-Auburn Wal-Mart SuperCenter had a posted price Monday of $2.04. And after last week's court settlement, there might even be an illegal immigrant standing in the parking lot to pump it for you.

It stings to see regular unleaded gas above the two-dollar mark. But I'm satisfied knowing I filled my tank Thursday night before the price went up for only $1.88 a gallon. That happened at the Summit station, at 22nd Avenue and Victory Drive. Of course, now we realize that "Summit" was little more than a plateau.

And to think in October 2001, I drove home from a Florida vacation to find a gas price war underway in Dothan - with regular unleaded around $1.10 a gallon. This feels weird, calling the weeks after the September 11th attack the "good old days...."

I suppose we could blame the latest jump in gas prices on the state of Alabama. Many schools there are closed for spring break this week. Can't you students park outside the Amphitheater, walk across the Dillingham Street bridge and board a METRA bus?

It will be interesting to see if METRA ridership increases, now that gas costs two dollars or more. You can take a bus to Peachtree Mall, travel all over downtown - and someday I'll figure out why the bus line stops about a mile short of the airport.

(No, I'm not kidding. A few years ago, I had to walk from the Wal-Mart on Airport Thruway to Columbus Airport to rent a car. There's no METRA route heading all the way there. So what did the bus drivers have against US Air and Northwest Airlines?)

My decision not to drive Monday could be a sign of things to come. You can save on gas mileage by combining several stops on one trip. Now if grocery stores would please set up youth baseball diamonds in their parking lots....

Gasoline isn't the only thing increasing in price. Did you hear what Buffalo Rock plans to do next week? The vending machine supplier will charge 70 cents for candy and 75 cents for sweet rolls. It's almost enough to make office workers listen for passing ice cream trucks.

(BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: What's the lowest gas price you've seen in the Columbus area? Pass it on to us, and we'll spread the word to others.)

E-MAIL UPDATE: The aftershocks continue from the WRBL pregnancy discrimination case. This message reached us Monday from Fort Smith, Arkansas:


Noticed in the blog that my appearance in Columbus was the subject of some debate. Interesting.

Just to set the record straight, I was there because I was served with a subpoena to be there.

Basically, when you get a subpoena from the U.S. District Court and it includes the language, "You are commanded to appear in the United States District Court"... you show up!



Thank you, Dale Cox -- but I'm still confused about something. Does this mean you would NOT have come back to Columbus without a subpoena?!

Dale Cox was responding to the weekend e-mail by plaintiff's attorney Maxine Hardy, claiming he "voluntarily" came here from Arkansas to be a witness for WRBL and Media General. Mr. Cox claims he was "commanded" - and otherwise, I guess someone would have volunteered to lock him up for contempt of court.

Speaking of WRBL, the topic of a Monday message responds:


I admit I had to chuckle this morning when someone told me I'd been spotted on The Daily Buzz, and it was on your blog. Yes, it's true, I'm a fan of the show. It was a lot of fun spending the morning in the studio in Orlando, but just as the person from the show told you, it was just a visit. While working there would be incredible, I'm still a long way from being talented enough to work on a show of that magnitude.

By the way, I thought that was you sitting in court Thursday, but I wasn't sure. You should have said hello, It would have been cool to meet you.

Take care,


That's Blaine Stewart, of course -- and after giving it some thought, I decided against saying hello to him after his testimony. I didn't want federal marshals hauling Stewart off to jail, for beating me senseless over what I've written about him.

Blaine Stewart was one of several WRBL news team members to testify in the pregnancy discrimination case. During closing arguments, an attorney for plaintiff Melissa Schultz Miller declared they spoke against Miller's skills because they feared being punished themselves. Yeah, right -- as if "News 3" needed five or six overnight producers.

By the way, I think this is the first time I've seen anyone to describe The Daily Buzz as a "show of.... magnitude." In most cities, it doesn't have large numbers of viewers - and earthquakes under Columbus wind up with a bigger "magnitude" than that.

Now let's see what else was shaking on Monday:

+ A marketing research firm from North Carolina reported hardly any tourists visit Columbus for leisure trips. Well, we can do something about that! Let's head to federal court, and file some more discrimination lawsuits....

(The research firm assembled several focus groups in Atlanta, and discovered many people don't know how close Columbus is to them. Of course, people who ride airport shuttles from Columbus know this very well.)

+ The Muscogee County School Board voted to make Wynnton Elementary an "arts magnet" school. Does this mean all the students will be given that toy with the baldheaded guy?

+ The National Basketball Development Association announced plans to expand next season to four new cities: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Austin and Fort Worth, Texas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Compared to the Columbus Riverdragons, this is called "going big."

+ Instant Message to "J.R.'s Steakhouse Downtown": Really now - does Smiths Station HAVE a downtown? Or are you declaring your new location actually IS downtown?

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 21, 2005


With no federal court cases to cover, we had time over the weekend to take a close look at your e-mail. Let's start with someone who was inspired by our current Big Blog Question:

....If this is about Columbus State University, it is time to free-associate.

All I can say about Columbus State University is:

President Frank Brown thinks House Bill 340, is a good thing. Hidden Benefactor 340 allows for non disclosure of donors to universities. It passed the House and is in committee in the Senate. Sen. Seth Harp, committee chair, is harping its merits. He says President Frank Brown is with him on this. By the way, a hint for Sen. Seth Harp: informed voters and ballot box.

Great, now Spanky Franky can just go ahead and sell the university to whomever he pleases. No, Voters, you do not get a "say" in this.

Spanky Franky, what about this, The Wahabi School of Theology or is that The Wahabi Law Center, or maybe The Suicide Bomber School of Peace?

Or maybe the PETA Nutrition Center or is that the PETA School of Laboratory Ethics (hey if we are talking terrorists let us not forget the eco=terrorists, and the FBI watch list).

Spanky Franky what about The Ward Churchill School of Diplomacy or maybe The George Soros Student Center?

Not finished yet, let's look at what Morris Dees might have to say about this, (it is fun to look at things through the eyes of many perspectives, isn't it)? The KKK Think Tank. Think about it.

Spanky Franky, your name "FRANK" did not affect your personality did it?

Spanky Franky, You got some splainin' to do.

Deborah Owens

First of all - "Spanky Franky?" What does the C.S.U. teacher training program tell students to do?

Even with this "non-disclosure bill," Deborah, don't your examples show you'll still be able to spot some university donors? They're already the ones who have schools and chairs named after them. Maybe to be fair, some drunks should have stools named after them at bars.

I'm not sure I see the harm in not revealing the names of donors to state universities. Unless, of course, you think state-run universities are filled with liberalism -- and you want to put all the left-wing donors on Rush Limbaugh's e-mail list.

If Frank Brown really was trying to "sell the university," wouldn't parts of it be sold by now? After all, Georgia Tech sold its basketball court name to McDonald's several years ago....

Do you really think People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has the money to put its name on university buildings or department? PETA doesn't even draw big crowds in Columbus when people in chicken costumes protest outside KFC.

As for the people Deborah named, I'll make it a homework assignment for blog readers to track down who those people are. But I was more concerned about one name in the NCAA basketball tournament. Did you see Cincinnati has a player named Jihad Mohammed? [True] How many security checks did he face on road trips?

I misspelled the name "Spanky Franky" when I mentioned this item was coming soon - and my error led Deborah to write a second time:

"Spanky Frankie" is really "Spanky Franky" but

Since "Spanky Franky" has oft' times been misspelled, and for instance, since you, Blog-Blogger, spelled "Franky" "Frankie, and others have misspelled it "Frankee" & "Frankey." I think it is high time President Frank Brown had a new nickname, and frankly, while changing his nick name, with all the hanky panky, and his refusal to acknowledge the "Sunshine Laws," in his support of HB 340, or Hidden Benefactor 340 I think he should be called:

"Franky Panky."

Franky Panky had such a good Deal

He danced to their Drum

Became their best Chum

But his Prof Friends called him a Heel

He planned a new building

With Ad Infinitum Ceilings

But his Prof Friends called him a Heel

"This Sunshine must go,

Or they won't bestow."

But his Prof friends called him a Heel

"First Amendment be dashed,

We need the cash"

But his Prof Friends called him a Heel

Old College Grads said,

"Wow what a cad

He's Blocking the sun

He's Selling for fun."

Who is the highest bidder?

It could be Wahabi

Or Bin Ladin's Lobby

But His Prof friends called him a heel

OK, I think I see what sparked this. Deborah's upset that you can't watch C.S.U. baseball games from Gentian Boulevard anymore, thanks to the new John Cunningham Center for Leadership Development.

(If his "Prof friends" really call Frank Brown a "heel," they should send his curriculum vitae to the University of North Carolina. It's the "Tar Heel State," after all.)

Let's move now to television - and a reporter who apparently is watched closely:


have you ever heard of the tv show "the daily buzz"? it's a nationally syndicated morning show (out of orlando, florida) that airs on wb stations. imagine my surprise to watch the show Friday morning to see none other than wrbl's blaine stewart on the show. i only caught the last few seconds, at the end of the show, but he was talking about channel 3... and then the hosts welcomed him to orlando. has he left columbus? i thought i saw him on the air here here this week. i swear it wasn't a dream (i think i was awake enough to see what i think i saw). know anything about this?

keep on bloggin',


Yes, J.B., I have heard of "The Daily Buzz." The first time I heard that name, I thought it was what people bought in the morning at Jumpin' Java.

I saw Blaine Stewart on WRBL last week, too. In fact, I saw him in person Thursday afternoon - testifying for the defense in that pregnancy discrimination case [18 Mar]. I never imagined what Stewart said would require him to flee the state....

Always anxious to get to the bottom of these things, your blog contacted The Daily Buzz - and this reply came our way Sunday:

It's true the Columbus News Anchor was on our show Friday, but he was in the studio audience. He's a fan of the show and was in Orlando, and emailed us and asked if he could sit in and watch while he was here.

That's it.

We are sure he is a fine news anchor, but we have no plans on hiring him.

It's nice to know Blaine Stewart is a "Daily Buzz" fan. But I think this will cost him any chance to pose for promotional photos with Harry Smith and Hannah Storm of "The Early Show."

Speaking of WRBL, we have a follow-up to the pregnancy discrimination suit Media General lost. It comes from an attorney for the plaintiff, who e-mailed us twice:

Dear Richard: I thought I should let you know that the cap on damages is not a result of tort reform. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act caps damages for the very largest employers at $300,000. This applies to both compensatory and punitive damages. In this case, the compensatory damages are intended to compensate Ms. Miller for her emotional distress; the punitive damages are intended to punish the company.

I was very glad that I got to meet you, finally. You're not nearly as scary in person as you are masterminding the blog-sort of like the wizard of Oz....

As you can tell, I became an avid reader of your blog this week. It's the first thing I look at immediately after checking my e-mail.

I thought you might be interested in a couple of legal points that the jury didn't get to hear.

First, it is actually illegal to discriminate against a pregnant woman because of her marital status. We had prepared a jury charge on that issue just in case it came up. We dangled it a few times to see if a defense witness would bite, but they were a little too savvy for that.

Second--and this is something we wanted to explain to the jury, but we ran out of time on closing argument--Dale Cox could not have been compelled to come to Columbus, Georgia from Arkansa. We can only compel witnesses who are within a 100 mile radius of the court. We can compel witnesses to attend their deposition anywhere in the country, but we have to go where they are. That's why we did the videotaped deposition of Cheryl Butler to use in court; she would not come here, so we had to go to her. In our minds that lent Butler's testimony much more credibility than Cox's. Butler was compelled by law to give deposition testimony. What reason could Cox have for voluntarily travelling here from Arkansas and waiting around all week to put his two cents in?

Finally (I know I said two points, but I am a lawyer, after all) I think the reason the punitive damages were so much (that was the two million dollar part) was because the company demonstrated significant bad faith in handling Melissa's claims of pregnancy discrimination. Punitive damages are designed not only to punish, but to send a message to this defendant and to other people in the same position that its behavior was wrong and won't be tolerated. We submitted Media General's SEC (and that doesn't stand for SouthEastern Conference--whatever that may be) filings to the jury, showing the jury that Media General is a very, very big company with a LOT of money. (SEC filings are available on-line.) The jury recognized that the only way to get the attention of a company that large would be to require them to pay a significant penalty. I thought the jury made exactly the right decision--but of course that's just my opinion!

Have a good weekend! I'm certainly enjoying mine!

Love & kisses, M

Thanks for clarifying the record, Ms. Hardy - but "love and kisses?!" I thought you told me you were married!

An award of $300,000 is much less than the federal jury recommended, and may not be the big blow Melissa Schultz Miller and her lawyers wanted. The way defense attorneys described Miller, I'm not sure $300,000 could buy her enough tissue boxes to cry about her success.

As for why Dale Cox "voluntarily traveled" to Columbus from Arkansas - well, he lived in Columbus for two years. Do you think he actually might have made some friends here?!

Did I read this right: "Southeastern Conference - whatever that may be"?!?! I'm tempted to borrow from Hardy's fellow defense attorney, and ask what planet SHE lives on....

But oh dear - am I a "scary mastermind" behind this blog? I really don't mean to be. Let's reassure some readers about that right now, with this declaration: I do not own a single tie-dyed shirt.

Now some quick points to wrap up the first official day of spring:

+ St. Thomas Episcopal Church hosted a candlelight vigil for peace in Iraq. About 25 people walked around a labyrinth on the grounds, holding candles. If they tried this at Auburn University's corn mazes in the fall, it could start a big brush fire.

(So about 25 people walked for peace, while at least several hundred attended Saturday's "Rally for the Troops." If terrorists attack the peace activists, I'm not sure who's going to come to their rescue.)

+ Franchise Missionary Baptist Church in Phenix City held a "Palm Sunday parade" on Broad Street. Hopefully no one had the wrong idea, and showed off their "Palm Pilots."

+ The new Columbus Black History Museum held its ribbon-cutting opening ceremony. The museum's founder told WRBL when it comes to history, "we're going to bring it to you right." So if one exhibit shows David Glisson in a prison cell, be sure to correct him.

+ The Auburn Atlanta Club answered phones during a Georgia Public Broadcasting TV pledge drive. Isn't something wrong with this picture? Is Alabama Public Television run by a bunch of folks from Tuscaloosa?

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.