Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Tuesday was a different sort of day on Old Cusseta Road -- and that's saying something. It's the part of town where mobile homes can catch fire, crime of all sorts can break out, and the neighborhood MIGHT get a McDonald's sometime in the 22nd century.

So what made Tuesday different? Columbus police say a bounty hunter showed up, and tried to capture a wanted man. I guess I should expect more stories like this - because we're next to Fort Benning, with so many people wanting to be "soldiers of fortune."

Police say a bounty hunter from Russell County crossed the river into Columbus, and found a man wanted for jumping bail. If Sheriff Tommy Boswell is resorting to this, why can't Columbus? A bounty hunter might cost even less than a new police officer.

(To be fair: we're not sure if Sheriff Tommy Boswell knows about this bounty hunter. He may be too busy trying to find the lowest price for Bounty paper towels.)

Columbus Police say the bounty hunter tried to capture Scott Goodman at a mobile home on Old Cusseta Road - and after a short scuffle, Goodman wound up shot in the shoulder. I suppose the main rule is similar to hunts of long ago: to bring 'em back alive.

Scott Goodman had lived for three months at the Old Cusseta Road mobile home. If Goodman indeed "jumped bail," he certainly didn't jump very far - but then, after paying bail he probably couldn't afford to miss his job.

(Which reminds me: Do bail bonding companies have holiday parties? And do they have a "bail jumping" contest for fun, with staff members leaping over bags of money?)

Columbus Police took Scott Goodman into custody, as well as the unnamed bounty hunter. Authorities weren't sure if the bounty hunter had legal authority to capture Goodman -- perhaps because the law books from Phenix City in the 1950's haven't been opened in a long time.

Another unanswered question is how much the bounty hunter was going to make, by capturing Scott Goodman. I suppose there's a sliding pay scale for these things - and the money probably is better in Northern cities, where they have Bounty Hunters' International Unions.

(What does a bounty hunter do on weekends for fun? I doubt they'd go deer hunting, because the deer don't tend to put up much resistance.)

I'm more familiar with the concept of "bounty hunters" from professional wrestling. Bad guys and their managers used to bring them to town, to "cripple" a good guy on a winning streak. After that, of course, they'd all go out to a nice steakhouse for dinner....

I don't have cable or satellite TV, but I understand bounty hunters are the subject of reality shows these days. They work a bit like the officers on COPS -- proving once and for all you can solve crimes in one hour or less.

Maybe the Muscogee County Marshal has an alternative to hiring bounty hunters. Greg Countryman announced plans Tuesday to begin a "Junior Marshals Programs" in local schools. We wondered what would happen to all those badges Ken Suddeth had to return....

The Junior Marshals Program will begin across Muscogee County in January, and encourage young people to consider careers in law enforcement. I assume this could become a magnet program -- and logically would be at Marshall Middle School.

We've been wondering what happened to Marshal Greg Countryman. Since taking office in January, he's been much more low-key than Ken Suddeth was. But then again, for some reason Columbus Councilors aren't talking loudly anymore about abolishing the department.

BLOG UPDATE: Speaking of which, Columbus Water Works officials asked Columbus Council Tuesday to approve a five-percent rate increase. So in the case of my recent water bill [18 Nov], the cost of nothing is January could go up about two dollars.

Columbus Water Works officials say without a five-percent rate hike, their budget will have a two-million dollar shortfall next year. How can this be, when we've had a surplus of rain this year?

Do you think Columbus Council should play hardball with the Water Works, and refuse to grant this five-percent rate increase? Or do you think the Water Works will respond by filling the fountains with red ink?

Meanwhile, Columbus Council voted down a proposed cell phone tower Tuesday. Powertel wanted to build it near 17th Avenue and Warm Springs Road -- but that was three years ago, back when Powertel actually was a familiar name in town.

Columbus Council also voted to buy five parcels of land along South Lumpkin Road, for possible use as a new marina and hotel. Can we go ahead and name the marina after Al Fleming now - since he's griped about it on TV for years?

Mayor Pro Tem Jack Rodgers didn't like the idea of spending $1 million to buy land near the new National Infantry Museum. He said much of the project is uncertain at the moment. So? So were most of the wars where members of the infantry fought.

Now other bits and pieces from a terrific Tuesday:

+ Auburn police admitted they were wrong, in not revealing for almost two weeks that an Opelika officer was arrested on sex crime charges. Now this is refreshing! Columbus sometimes won't even reveal who won its officer of the month award.

+ Former President Jimmy Carter appeared at the Columbus Public Library, to sign copies of his new book "Our Endangered Values." So why are they endangered? I hope we're not in another of Mr. Carter's "malaises."

+ GPB-TV showed a pledge drive "Disco Explosion" special, for the second time in three nights. Have we buried the disco era and forgotten it THAT much?

(As someone who was a big disco fan during college, I actually like this GPB special. But I'm not calling in a pledge - because I have plenty of that music on albums and cassettes, and it's gathering dust.)

+ Georgia Southern University fired its head football coach and his entire staff, even though the team has made the NCAA playoffs in three out of the last four years. What are they trying to be - Valdosta High School East?

+ Instant Message to the staff at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Phenix City: Thank you for repairing my weak tire Tuesday - but this now makes two times that you've misplaced my car key, as if you're trying to keep it. My car's getting so old that next time, I might actually let you do that.

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, November 29, 2005


Uh-oh, here we go again! A bill has been pre-filed in the Alabama Legislature to mention God on most license plates. You'd think people could buy "God is my co-pilot" bumper stickers on their own....

An Alabama state representative proposes putting the words "God Bless America" on almost every license plate in the state. A notable exception would be motorcycle tags - which would make atheists get in a corner with the H**l's Angels.

The proposal to write three new words on Alabama tags has three other words written all over it: election-year politics. Next year is a statewide vote. Roy Moore is running for Governor. And all sorts of churches don't have a lottery to worry about.

As you might guess, the group "Alabama Atheists" promises to oppose putting the words "God Bless America" on Alabama license plates. Who would they prefer, to bless America - a humanist like Ted Turner? Or a billionaire like Bill Gates?

But there could be another hidden issue in this issue to add words to Alabama license plates. Some lawmakers have tried for years to remove the state slogan "Heart of Dixie." Old-time Alabamians might consider "God Bless America" a concession that the Civil War is over.

(Which brings up another issue: the song "Dixie" doesn't mention God, while the last verse of "The Star-Spangled Banner" does. Would the Alabama Atheists like to change anthems? And would they like to explain it to civil rights leaders?)

I'm wondering why the Alabama state representative proposing a license plate change doesn't offer "In God We Trust" instead. It's the national motto, the phrase some conservatives want posted in school classrooms - so students point that daily "minute of silence" in the right direction.

There's also the matter of the words currently on Alabama's tags: "Stars Fell on Alabama." I've heard some people complain about them, even though they're from one of the official state songs. I guess they think the only things that fall on Alabama are opposing college football teams.

Changing a state license plate always causes controversy with some people. Remember the veterans who opposed Georgia adding what appeared to them like a yellow streak of cowardice? It really was an orange line on the plate, to signify the Peach State.

But I suspect many Alabamians really don't care what's on their license plates. They try to drive so fast that law officers can't read the tag number, much less the slogan....

We'll watch this issue in the months ahead -- but we'll tag out now, and check other Monday headlines:

+ A public forum was held on building a new Mildred Terry Library branch downtown. The current branch is the smallest in town, yet has the most visitors per square foot - and from my visits there, the children's section has the smallest visitors per square foot as well.

(There are plans to double the size of the Mildred Terry Library in coming years, to provide meeting rooms and more space for public access computers. Right now space is so tight that a few computer users play online games against each other.)

+ Part of Interstate 185 was blocked during morning rush hour, because a storm drain was covered by leaves during heavy rain. You'd think someone would be out collecting all those leaves, taking them home, and burning them all winter to lower his heating bill.)

+ Opelika police officer Keith Preer resigned, because he was arrested on sex crime charges. Preer was arrested in Auburn nearly two weeks ago, yet word came out about it only Monday - so at some levels of government, cover-ups may be legal.

+ The Columbus Better Business Bureau opened its nominations for the Torch Awards, honoring reputable businesses. This was WRBL's top story during the 6:00 p.m. news - perhaps because "torch" is a subtle reminder that station shows "Survivor."

+ Instant Message to Blimpie: Why do so many of your shops in our area open for a few months, then shut down? The latest one is at the Pierce Crossing Shopping Center in Phenix City. Why don't you merge with Firehouse Subs, and sink for good?

SONG OF THE DAY: Maybe this is a bit behind the trend - but if they can use the "Chipmunk Christmas Carol" about hula hoops to sell DVD's of "The Sopranos," I can put new lyrics on it for health reasons:

Mister Atkins, he has said....

To lose weight, do not eat bread.

Carbohydrates, they can be....

Adding to obesity.

Eat lean meat -- and eat fish, too.

Protein foods are good for you!

If you'd rather wind up dead....

Eat lots and lots of bread!

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.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Georgia Public Broadcasting radio presented its program taped in Columbus Sunday night. The topic on "Cover to Cover" was a novel called "Where the River Runs." So why was this program taped last Sunday at the Columbus Public Library? Was the RiverCenter reserved for SOA Watch protesters?

"Where the River Runs" is the second novel by Georgia author Patti Callahan Henry. One member of the audience praised her for writing in a Southern style - but was amazed she was born near Philadelphia. It could have been SOUTH Philadelphia, you know....

Patti Callahan Henry explained in response she moved to the South when she was 12. She read plenty of Southern authors, and learned their sense of "melancholy." After 140 years, you'd think they would accept the outcome of the Civil War.

Another member of the audience revealed he's a historical writer, who's working on a book about Columbus called "Sorrow's Kitchen." Somehow, I don't think the Columbus Chamber of Commerce will give a book with that title much promotion and publicity....

I didn't catch the name of the author of "Sorrow's Kitchen," but he said he can't publish his historical book quite yet. "I'm waiting for all the people to die," he explained. Hmmmmm - what does he know about Dick McMichael that isn't in HIS book?

Back on stage, Patti Callahan Henry talked about how she writes novels. She admires authors who can write three or four books a year, because she says she needs time to "let my characters grow organically." I guess the alternative is to throw
fertilizer on your word processor.

Patti Callahan Henry says when it comes to promoting a book nowadays, a web site is "non-negotiable." She has one, which receives visitors from all over the country. Why settle for the "Amazon" when you can have your own virtual three-acre wood?

(But Patti Callahan Henry admits she finds it "really scary" that people can look up her name on Google to learn about her. I'm not sure why that's a scary thing - unless someone somewhere has nude pictures of her.)

Patti Callahan Henry's latest novel "Where the River Runs" is about a woman who moves to Georgia from South Carolina's "Lowcountry" region. For those of you who don't know geography - this is the area near the coast, not a region filled with factory outlet malls.

Patti Callahan Henry's biography says attended Auburn University, and now lives along the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta. The better to have close-up views of sewage spills, I guess....

But seriously: Patti Callahan Henry explained her home fulfills her "deep need to see the natural world outside my window." Huh?!?! Plenty of Atlanta homes have backyards - and even some condos have views of Piedmont Park.

From the applause at the end of the hour, "Cover to Cover" seemed to attract a large audience at the Columbus Public Library last Sunday night. And amazingly, no one interrupted the program and uttered the word "WHINSEC."

Now let's return to the present, and topics from Sunday's news:

+ By order of Georgia's Governor, it was "Drive Safer Sunday" across the state. For about 75 percent of Georgia's drivers, there's an easy way to accomplish this. Consider the posted speed limit the law, instead of a suggestion.

+ A new commercial for Gold's Gym claimed Columbus Chamber of Commerce President Mike Gaymon lost 33 pounds there. This may mark the first time Gaymon is happy about the city losing something in double digits.

+ WXTX "News at Ten" reported Bo Bice of "American Idol" fame has opened his home near Birmingham to a family which fled Hurricane Katrina. It's a house he reportedly had on the market - so does this mean he's fleeing Alabama for Hollywood?

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© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Here's the scoreboard from a holiday weekend trip down Highway 520, between Columbus and Albany: four signs supporting Mark Taylor for Governor. None for any other candidate. And one homeowner flying the old Georgia "Confederate" flag - probably wishing Roy Moore lived there instead of Alabama.

Our journey down the South Georgia Parkway found NO big crowds of Friday shoppers filling stores. Well, at least not in places like Dawson or Sasser in Terrell County. Residents there must get a big laugh at big-city shoppers crowding into malls.

Things were busier in northwest Albany itself. At midday the Target parking lot was almost full - which may prove you really didn't need Kermit the Frog to wake you up to shop....

On the way out of Albany, I stopped for soda at a convenience store near the Lee County line - and found myself triple-teamed by beggars. And amazingly for Thanksgiving weekend, none of them was ringing a bell or playing a tuba.

Three young people were holding canisters for the "Phantoms Boxing Team." Apparently it's a Christian boxing team, because I saw crosses on the canister labels. Whether it was a right cross or a left cross, I have no idea....

A youth boxing team like the Phantoms apparently needs plenty of money to operate. One of the youngsters told me a road trip can cost $4,000 or more! I guess even at an early age, these boxers need a posse to mooch off them.

The big goal right now for the Phantoms Boxing Team is securing a new gym in Albany. The youth told me the boxing ring itself could cost $15,000 to $20,000. I didn't know they cost so much - but then again, maybe this is a specially-reinforced ring for power-slamming pro wrestlers.

I didn't go to Albany to buy boxing rings, yet here I faced three young fighters. If I didn't put money in their canisters, they might have bopped me on the head with them until I surrendered.

After going inside to buy my soda for the drive back to Columbus, I succumbed. My spare change went in one of the canisters as I walked out -- but only after the store cashier confirmed the young boxers had permission to be there. There wasn't some mysterious "Peanut Mafia" at work here....

It felt a bit uncomfortable to give money to an Albany youth boxing club, since I presumed Columbus also had one. Sure enough, a Saturday night check online found the "Columbus Blazers." Maybe if the Phantoms aren't legitimate, that team can go down and beat them up for me.

Let's now retreat to a neutral corner, and check other discoveries from the holiday weekend:

+ Columbus Police admitted the city has had 26 armed robberies in the last 46 days - and a shortage of officers isn't making things any easier. Maybe if we gave convenience store clerks giant magnets, to collect the guns and knives....

+ The "Getting on Top of Life" broadcast on WHAL-AM featured Pastor and Muscogee County School Board member Joseph Roberson saying to tell only part of the truth is "so like Negroes...." Now hold on a minute! I haven't heard anyone accuse the Secretary of State of leaking names of CIA agents.

+ Dougherty shocked Shaw 30-14 in the Georgia high school football semifinals. So why did Charles Flowers answer "maybe," when WRBL asked if it was his final game as Shaw's head coach? Is he thinking about bailing out as Muscogee County Athletic Director? Is he being offered Ashley Powell's old office in a closet?

(Did you notice both Shaw and LaGrange lost their semifinal games to teams named the Trojans? Some of us are wondering when Baptist parents will stand up, and claim that nickname promotes unsafe sex.)

+ Georgia scored a late touchdown to beat Georgia Tech 14-7. The first quarter was slowed down by officials reviewing four different plays -- which had me wondering if the booth reviewer was from the Georgia Law School.

(Georgia radio announcer Neal Williamson declared the Bulldogs now have won 13 games in a row over Georgia Tech -- since two Tech wins in the late nineties have been vacated due to probation. Did Williamson happen to help George O'Leary prepare his resume a few years ago?)

+The rap show "Dead Serious TV" on WLGA showed an interview at FM 101.3 "Da Beat" - which was labeled the "krunkest station" in Columbus. It is?!?! I thought WRCG had that.... no wait. "TalkLine" callers make it the crankiest station in Columbus.

(OK, I'm not hip on hip-hop slang - but does this mean when you FM 101.3, you should "krunk it up?" As in the volume?)

+ WRBL and WLTZ showed the same infomercial at the same time, 7:00 p.m. Saturday. At least it was a collection of music from the 1970's - because dueling exercise programs would have worn me out.

+ Instant Message to the driver of the Patriot Cab with license number 483 KKF: Are you kidding me?!?! Turning around in the middle of Macon Road? And doing it between Forrest Road and Interstate 185?? This isn't Atlanta - you CAN go around the block here.

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.

Friday, November 25, 2005

25 NOV 05: O.P.P.

Uh-oh - another one of those titles that's an abbreviation for something. Can you figure out THIS one? Here's a hint - despite all the OPP hats I've seen over the years, I've never traveled to Opp, Alabama.

No, we're not adopting the old inner-city slogan of "Other People's Problems." This is "Other People's Posts" -- as in revealing items posted at other area blogs. And the good news is, "revealing" does not mean any X-rated pictures of film stars are on them....

The Columbus area is filled with blogs now, and you may not have the knowledge of them or the time to check them all. Maybe that's good, though - you're not what one woman called herself to me recently: a "blog-aholic."

With that said, we begin with....

1. MAYOR ON THE MOVE. The blog of a former "TalkLine" co-host spotted Mayor Bob Poydasheff driving rather strangely on Broadway the other day. The reportedly fast-driving mayor flashed his lights and honked at a cement truck in his path. You'd think the mayor would realize First Avenue is faster, with four lanes.

The cement truck reportedly was in the way because of Columbus State University's construction work. But a traffic spotter for the work crew saw the mayor, and waved for the truck to keep going back. Certainly Mr. Poydasheff would understand the price of downtown progress....

To his credit, Mayor Poydasheff reportedly sat and waited quietly in his car for a minute while the cement truck made its maneuvers. But assuming all this is accurate, the mayor should learn a lesson from this week's "America's Next Top Model." Even when you're not in public, you're ALWAYS modeling.

As someone who received mysterious mail during the 2002 campaign about an old Bob Poydasheff traffic ticket, I realize some people quietly want the mayor to have a driving foul-up. But he could take this sighting into a positive - and propose building a track for NASCAR racing near Midland.

2. OLESEN OUT. TV sportscaster Kirsten Olesen announced Wednesday night she's leaving Columbus, to work at a TV station in Fort Myers, Florida. After all the hurricanes of the last two years, she should be able to find inexpensive housing.

But here's the rub: I consider Kirsten Olesen a friend of mine - yet she broke the news about her departure to a couple of other Columbus bloggers. It's not like I was going to declare her an undercover CIA agent or something....

And here's rub #2: Kirsten Olesen is one of the pioneers of blogging in Columbus - yet she let the other bloggers break the news about her departure, instead of telling it all on her own blog. Maybe this was a symbolic passing of the mouse.

Kirsten Olesen has admitted on her blog for some time she was seeking work in other cities. Now she's found it, and I wish her well as she heads for Florida. I have no hard feelings - and she's welcome to use my home as a hurricane evacuation shelter next summer.

3. I'M A WINNER! Well, sort of -- as a Phenix City blog awarded us a rather dubious "Burn-Out Award" this week. No, it's NOT because I drive as fast as Mayor Poydasheff....

The other blogger declared I'd run dry of topics and "burned out" because of our entry on low morale at the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer [20 Nov]. Well, hold on - no one at the newspaper has contacted us to refute our claim. Of course, maybe they're all in private therapy.

I responded to this award by pointing out the REAL top sign of blogger burn-out. It's when you write blogs about other bloggers, and I would never.... well, wait a minute....

That's what other blogs are finding -- now let's clean up some Thanksgiving Day leftovers:

+ NBC News reported at least part of the Third Infantry Division will come home from Iraq in two months. It focused on the "Delta Company" - which sadly may be in better shape right now than Delta Airlines.

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue spent Thanksgiving Day in Kuwait and Qatar, meeting some of the soldiers on duty. It's a wonder he didn't climb aboard one of those army helicopters and take it for a spin....

+ The Smiths Station High School Marching Band performed in Philadelphia's Thanksgiving Day parade. Hopefully band members saw the city's historic attractions - since after all, none of them was alive when Sylvester Stallone climbed the stairs in the first "Rocky" movie.

+ Big Lots and Kmart opened at 7:00 a.m. for Thanksgiving Day sales. I'm told the parking lots were crowded - yet when I bought groceries at the Phenix City Wal-Mart SuperCenter at 2:30 p.m., things actually were lighter than usual. When a child can spin a top in the frozen food aisle, and one did.... [True!]

+ The Columbus Civic Center's electronic sign reported Alison Krauss will perform there in January, with her bluegrass group "Union Station." I fear this concert will be a bust - since this is SUCH a non-union town.

(By the way: why did the Civic Center present the touring play "Madea Goes to Jail" Tuesday and Wednesday? Couldn't they book it a couple of days earlier, to mark the SOA Watch protest?)

+ The Atlanta Falcons downed Detroit 27-7, to break a two-game losing streak. Detroit became so desperate that it tried three different quarterbacks - and couldn't talk Troy Aikman into coming down from the Fox broadcast booth for a try.

(Did you notice the Thanksgiving Day football games had something in common? Detroit has a receiver named Roy Williams. Dallas has a safety named Roy Williams. If North Carolina starts playing basketball games on that night, it will be the trifecta.)

+ Instant Message to Callaway Gardens: How many people bought the Thanksgiving "to-go box" you offered - a full dinner for at least six people, for 95 dollars? Was this for wealthy North Columbus residents, who are too ashamed to be seen at a Shoney's buffet?

BIG PREDICTION: I predict at least one TV station in Columbus will do a news story today about holiday shopping. Don't ask me why - I simply have a hunch about this....

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, November 24, 2005

24 NOV 05: TY

OK, "TY" - what do you think today's title means? Here's a hint: we have NO evidence that Ty Pennington of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is coming to Columbus....

Hint #2: I've only driven through Ty Ty, Georgia a couple of times in my life. I stopped there once on a vacation in 2000 - and I was more interested in a convenience store restroom and a bottle of soda than nurseries filled with muscadines and grapes.

If you're into text messaging or Internet chat rooms, then you've probably solved the puzzle of our title. "TY" is 21st-century shorthand for "thank you." It's so short that it seems almost insignificant -- but then again, so is a little toe until you stub it on a table leg.

Are we becoming too flip with our saying of thanks, when we reduce it to a TY? Well, at least we're saying something. A wave from your car window to a courteous driver really says nothing -- and in the wrong eyes could be taken as a Nazi salute.

I bring this up because it's Thanksgiving Day. This should be the ultimate day of the year for TY's. Of course, many people who want to try this have to wait another month -- until someone gives them a specially-equipped wireless phone.

Since I don't have a text messaging device or a wireless phone, I must use a blog to send high-tech TY's. And there's no better day to send them, so let's send a stack as we customarily do on Thanksgiving:

+ To the Russell County Commission - for becoming the best source of joke material of any governmental body in the area.

+ To the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, for a nice mention of this blog several months ago. Not that anyone's mentioned it to me since, but....

+ To the board overseeing the new Columbus Public Library. At least the two-dollar brownies in the café are worth the price - even if that sculpture wasn't.

+ To WLGA TV-66, for building the new tower it started using this week. At last I can see why people watch "America's Next Top Model" - well, at least why guys watch.

+ To Auburn University trustee Bobby Lowder, for getting caught on that secret trip to Louisville two years ago. It was the best incentive Tommy Tuberville ever could have had.

+ To the Firestone repair shop downtown, for fixing my broken-down car two months ago - and for doing it without anything else mysteriously going wrong.

+ To all the area motels which have housed survivors of Hurricane Katrina for the last three months. Who knows how many beggars would have slept on my floor, if you hadn't done that?

+ To the soldiers at Fort Benning, for keeping us safe from danger - you know, like those chanting protesters on Fort Benning Road carrying crosses.

+ To the Columbus Kiwanis Club, for allowing me to speak at a lunch meeting a couple of months ago. And that offer to be a paid consultant in building a blog for you - I meant that.

+ To WEAM-AM, for bringing ESPN Radio back to Columbus. The other day I heard minutes of fascinating analysis, about Randy Moss saying nothing in an interview for 12 seconds. [True!]

+ To the Columbus city crew which repaved Wynnton Road over the last few months. Coasting down the hill from Buena Vista Road to Tenth Avenue never has been more fun.

+ To the Atlanta Hawks, for finally winning a basketball game Wednesday night. Now we can all point fingers at the Falcons, for having the longest losing streak around.

+ To area gas stations, for lowering their prices to $1.99 a gallon or less. Wow, it seems strange to write that....

+ To "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" - a Columbus blog which claims this one as its inspiration. That's truly humbling. But so far, I still think I write better jokes.

+ To Antonio Carter, for becoming co-host of WRCG's "Talkline." You've proven civil rights leaders actually CAN go out and get a real job.

+ To the Columbus Cottonmouths, for playing here for a tenth season. Compared with other local pro sports teams, that's almost a lifetime.

+ And to all of you who read this blog, and contact us about it from time to time. May you have a happy Thanksgiving. May you take time to express thanks to the real source of all blessings. And may you please think of me, if someone gives you cheesecake in a flavor you don't like.

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, November 23, 2005


Today marks one year since Columbus had its "Thanksgiving surprise" - when a grand jury suddenly came together to consider the shooting of Kenneth Walker. If the special prosecutor in the case has been to Columbus since that day, he's been incredibly quiet about it.

You may recall last November 23, a grand jury decided NOT to issue indictments in the deadly shooting of Kenneth Walker along Interstate 185. Walker's family and supporters were stunned. The family and supporters of former deputy David Glisson felt vindicated. And the special prosecutor left town faster than the Columbus Riverdragons.

What has happened in the Kenneth Walker case since the grand jury's afternoon session one year ago? You can look at that question in a couple of ways. First, here's what HAS happened:

+ Jesse Jackson brought a large protest march to downtown Columbus - an event many people only remember now for one woman's complaint about bananas.

+ Columbus has added an African-American Marshal - and the Marshal's office has fallen out of the limelight so far, the officers might be on secret spy missions.

+ Civil rights groups called for a boycott of Riverfest, then called it off at the last minute. They flip-flopped about as fast as some Democrats have on keeping soldiers in Iraq.

+ Even with this, Edward DuBose has been promoted to Georgia NAACP President. Nothing succeeds like success, they say....

On the other hand, other things have NOT happened since the grand jury met one year ago today:

+ As far as we know, fired deputy David Glisson has NOT found work. There haven't even been any reports of him attending all those job fairs at the Columbus Career Center.

+ The Georgia Attorney General has NOT ordered a new grand jury to hear the case, with David Glisson answering questions under oath. Maybe Thurbert Baker is getting campaign donations from major oil companies.

+ Local and state officials have NOT resigned, even though Columbus Rainbow/PUSH President William Howell demanded it. Howell is due to make his quarterly public appearance any day now.

+ Perhaps most important, Muscogee County Sheriff's Deputies have NOT shot and killed any potential suspects. So much for that alleged pattern of corruption....

Your blog called Spirit-Filled Ministries Tuesday, hoping to talk to Pastor and Walker family supporter Wayne Baker about the case. He didn't return our message - so either he was busy, or he's read this blog and is trying to copy Oprah Winfrey's example of avoiding David Letterman for years.

I wanted to ask Wayne Baker if his Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance has met with Georgia's Attorney General in the last year, or if ANY local civil rights leaders have. If not, why not? Isn't Thurbert Baker one of "them?" Or is another surprise political party switch about to happen?

Perhaps Wayne Baker didn't return our call because he's waiting for the massive civil suit by Kenneth Walker's family to go to trial. It appears that will happen in 2006, and might go down as the trial of the decade in Columbus. Our apologies if that offends any SOA Watch protesters still in town....

Whatever the reason, it seems fair to say Columbus residents on ALL sides have cooled their emotions since last November 23. The Kenneth Walker case doesn't come up much in local discussions any more - so perhaps it's fading like that other Walker. You know, the Texas Ranger....

BLOG UPDATE: We've found an interesting leftover to last weekend's big events. Another local blog reports Fort Benning soldiers were REQUIRED to attend "God Bless Fort Benning." So one side used freedom of speech - while the other may have had no freedom to avoid a peaceful assembly.

We already noted soldiers helped set up South Commons for God Bless Fort Benning last Saturday. Now soldiers reveal they were required to attend, apparently on orders from their superiors. Is that why those helicopters hovered overhead - to make sure nobody went AWOL?

(It should be noted that for other big events at South Commons such as the fair, the set-up crew usually consists of jail inmates. I guess I can understand why they weren't used for God Bless Fort Benning - too many comparisons to Cuba's Camp X-Ray.)

Now for tidbits and topics from Tuesday's headlines:

+ Russell County Administrator LeeAnn Horne-Jordan revealed Ronnie Reed can remain a Commissioner despite his 1975 burglary conviction, as long as no one files a complaint. And we all remember how quickly residents rushed to recall the Commission last year, don't we????

(Ronnie Reed declined to comment for WRBL after the meeting about the cloud over his office. He referred all questions to his attorney - which could mean he has a future working for Vice President Cheney.)

+ Columbus Council heard a traffic department proposal to install 250 new traffic lights. We're told they'll save energy, which will save the city money. And they'll be brighter - so maybe now drivers finally will see the lights changing, and stop running reds.

+ Road America announced it will open a new call center on Victory Drive, employing 300 people. The company provides roadside assistance for stranded drivers - so is it just a coincidence this center will be down the street from The Waggoners Trucking?

+ The Columbus YMCA announced plans for a new downtown complex on Broadway. It will be built across the street from Country's Barbecue - so which building should exercisers visit first? Should they reward themselves for a nice game of racquetball, or use the game to work off lunch?

+ People lined up outside Best Buy for the new X-Box 360 game system - then complained it was bundled with other games they don't want, making it cost more than $500. It's called Minesweeper, folks, and most computers have it already....

SCHEDULED THURSDAY: We're making a list and checking it.... well, at least once....

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, November 22, 2005


The Historic District has an unofficial "dividing line" between Sixth and Seventh Streets. North of that line, you tend to find the law offices and nice businesses. South of the line, you tend to find halfway houses and Little Joe's party shop - although I suppose Bludau's restaurant could get its wines from there.

The Historic District doesn't have many restaurants, but a nice new one is quietly gaining visitors at Seventh Street and Third Avenue. It's called "Café 222," and if you don't look carefully you'll miss it. If you look for a parking lot nearby, you'll definitely miss it -- because it has none.

Café 222 is the "breakfast" part of the Rothschild-Pound House bed and breakfast on Seventh Street -- or as the signs say, "Inn and Cottages." There's a Muscogee Cottage and a Springer Cottage. But if you stop at Judge Bobby Peters's cottage, you've made a wrong turn.

I walked to Café 222 for breakfast on a recent morning. As I stepped inside, the server asked: "Are you an inn guest?"

"No, I'm not. I guess that makes me an out guest."

I was seated at a table near the front window - but not just any table. Café 222 has tables made from old recessed front doors, with a glass surface on top. It never occurred to me to knock on the table, to get a server's attention.

The breakfast menu at Café 222 fits on one page. I chose a plate of pancakes, since all the meat items were pork. It was too nice a morning to raise a beef about this....

I brought a magazine to read (not to mention use to take notes on the visit) while I waited for breakfast. But there's plenty of reading matter inside Café 222, as the walls are lined with historic books. Of course, if you tried to pull one out, you might risk ripping a hole in the wall.

The plate of three pancakes came after a few minutes, and they were more than enough for one person's morning appetite. They were big, thick, and tasted to me a bit like lemon pound cake. Well, maybe it was Rothschild-Pound cake....

With a beverage, I started my day at Café 222 for less than ten dollars. While I didn't ask, guests at the Rothschild-Pound House may get breakfast as part of their package. I also didn't ask if the lunch menu fittingly includes "Cottages Cheese."

Café 222 is open for breakfast and lunch most days - and it represents what the Historic District ought to be. But this restaurant is a bit of a walk away from the Government Center. It's actually closer to the Greyhound bus station - and that clientele is more likely to go to KFC instead.

So the Historic District dining lineup looks like this: there's the popular Minnie's on Eighth Street. Café 222 is on Seventh Street, Chester's Barbecue is at Sixth and Veterans Parkway, Bludau's is at Fourth and Broadway -- so when does Fourth Street Baptist Church plan to open a diner on Fifth Street?

Now that we've had breakfast, let's wash it down with events from a rainy and chilly Monday:

+ Fort Benning police reported 35 protesters were arrested during SOA Watch weekend. The protest group reported 41 arrests Sunday -- so while these college students may know their politics, they might need remedial math instruction.

+ The Muscogee County School Board voted to give teenage mothers the option of attending their neighborhood school, or the Teen Age Parenting Center. So from now on, young women can choose to "tap out" at any time.

+ Former President Jimmy Carter told NBC's "Tonight Show" his Thanksgiving dinner will be a wild turkey he harvested last year -- hunted by making a noise "like a sexy hen." Wouldn't you expect former President Clinton to do this, instead?

+ A man complained to me he had to wait three hours on Saturday at the Columbus Department of Motor Vehicles office, to get a license plate. There's a way to obtain one much faster, of course - and what felony crime would you like to commit to start making some?

+ A "Business Week" report found the average price of a home in Columbus is about $111,500. The magazine calls that a sign the local housing market is "undervalued." With anything else, we'd be praised for promoting discount pricing.

+ WXTX "News at Ten" talked with a local married couple which met through a dating web site. I've always been skeptical about finding romance this way. Will your digital date be the "1" - or a zero?

+ WLGA TV-66 switched to its new tower in Chattahoochee County - and WOW! For Columbus viewers who don't have cable or satellite, the difference was clear right away. For instance, for the first time in months you can actually WATCH the station....

+ The giant new Georgia Aquarium opened for season pass holders in downtown Atlanta. It's tempting to take the Atlanta Hawks there - since at 0-9, their season is going into the tank already.

(This new aquarium opens only days after the Flint "Riverquarium" in Albany announced layoffs, due to a lack of visitors. What if people don't go to Atlanta's complex? The downtown beggars might not like sharing street corners with sharks.)

+ Instant Message to Majestic Carpet Care: About your coupon in the latest Super Saver Value Book, offering "free deodorizerizing" - is that the same thing as deodorizing? Or does your deodorizer need special deodorizing of its own?

(If it will make you feel better: this same book has an ad for Bill Heard Chevrolet which proclaims: "We support our TROUPS." Hopefully they support people in the surrounding counties as well.)

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, November 21, 2005


"Yayyyy!" a woman said cheering my arrival Sunday afternoon. I'd never received a more enthusiastic welcome outside a Piggly Wiggly store in my life.

Well, actually I parked at the far end of the Piggly Wiggly parking lot on the 280 Bypass in Phenix City. That's where the "Drive Against Prostate Cancer" van was set up. Compared with the "Ultimate Drive" against cancer earlier in the year, this was disappointing -- because no one allowed me to drive the van.

The woman sitting at a table outside the van was happy to see anyone, because a strong rain was coming down. Staff members said the turnout was good before the afternoon storm started -- and before the Atlanta-Tampa Bay football game became too good to stop watching on TV.

(Yes, the woman was shielded from the storm by an overhang. So she was NOT cheering me because she needed a ride home - and with my luck, she probably already is married.)

The Tidwell Cancer Treatment Center arranged for the prostate cancer van to visit the area for the weekend. It was set up at "God Bless Fort Benning" Saturday, then moved to Phenix City Sunday -- but I didn't bother to ask how many SOA Watch protesters stopped by instead of going to the procession.

The van offered men two free tests. One was a Digital Rectal Exam, or DRE - and if this is where Dr. Dre got his name, he has some serious explaining to do.

The other test was a "Prostate Specific Antigen," where someone takes a blood sample to be analyzed. A fact sheet I was given warns too much PSA could be a sign of prostate trouble. But the doctor on duty noted the test could have "false positives" or "false negatives" - which could be a sign of lab trouble.

As usual with these free exams, there was plenty of paperwork to fill out. One of them was a pledge card, promising to be screened for prostate cancer every year. As long as this van shows up and it's offered for free, we've got a deal.

As I filled out the paperwork, several staff members inside the van talked about nothing in particular. "Horses are my addiction - I mean, hobby," a woman said at one point.

"Sometimes horses CAN be an addiction, you know," I told the woman. "Like if you're at a track, gambling on them."

I was the only patient in the lab - so when the paperwork was finished, I was invited to an examination room at the back of the van. Dr. Mark Taylor took charge, asking me to take down my pants and underwear for a check. I changed my shirt and shoes before making this visit, but I never thought about other clothing.

"Bend over," Dr. Taylor said - so I grabbed the side of the examination table, and almost put my face on it so he could feel around my (ahem) derriere. No, I had NO dirty thoughts at that moment. I've never been to that sort of club, thank you....

"Your prostate seems fine," Dr. Taylor assured me after a few seconds. I should have asked him if I could return the favor, to get an idea of how to do self-examinations.

It'll be six to eight weeks before I'm mailed the results of the blood test - but it was good to make this trip, and be reassured about my health. No one should live like the words of that old hymn: "Let angels' prostates fall." Well, it goes SOMETHING like that....

BLOG UPDATE: Sunday's crowd of protesters outside the main gate of Fort Benning reportedly was the largest yet - and probably was the loudest yet. Last November I heard the procession on Buena Vista Road. This year I heard it faintly atPacelli High School - which amazingly was NOT used as a base camp.

SOA Watch estimated late Sunday 19,000 people gathered to protest the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. One evening newscast put the number at 15,000. Now "God Bless Fort Benning" organizers can announce they had 20,000 people Saturday, and claim victory.

The protest moved Sunday night to the Muscogee County Jail, where at least 41 people were held for trespassing onto Fort Benning. The crowd outside the jail was much smaller - perhaps because the big crowd didn't get the surprise guest appearance they wanted from Martin Sheen.

We should note only 41 people were arrested for trespassing. That means at least 99.7 percent of the SOA Watch protesters did NOT break the law, and apparently none tried to use other Fort Benning entrances. So this was a case of obedient civil disobedience....

One woman in the SOA Watch crowd explained the protesters are NOT against Fort Benning's soldiers. She said the demonstrators were remembering the victims of military leaders trained at the old "School of the Americas." So one of these years, shouldn't they hold a march in Venezuela or Colombia?

SOA Watch founder Roy Bourgeois told reporters by training Latin American "assassins" in how to use weapons, there's "an issue of complicity" with WHINSEC. Based on this logic, hundreds of driving teachers should be arrested when people are cited for DUI crashes.

An official with WHINSEC took issue with Roy Bourgeois's complaints about the former School of the Americas. He explained the institute helps "educate professional people in professional skills...." So it's a lot like Columbus Tech - or for critics, a lot like the Mafia.

So where were the Fort Benning military helicopters Sunday? They didn't fly over the SOA Watch crowd, the way they did at God Bless Fort Benning - and the Army needs all the training it can get in psychological operations.

The SOA Watch event brought people to Columbus from all parts of the country. I met a family on the Riverwalk Friday afternoon, which came here for the protest from Boston. There's nothing like anger against Latin American assassins to build family togetherness.

"Why are you against the School of the Americas?" I asked a young woman in the family who wore a Boston College sweatshirt.

"No, I'm covering it for the campus newspaper," she answered. Apparently they don't hold Boston Tea Party protests the way they once did.

The young journalist revealed Boston College paid part of the cost for 110 students to attend SOA Watch weekend last year - but this year the college paid for only 50 students. Either the campus budget is tighter, or more students will get low-priced trips to B.C.'s bowl game.

The family asked me to take pictures of them on the Riverwalk, and I was happy to do so. Some of you will be disappointed to learn I did NOT ask for prints, to turn in to the Fort Benning military police.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We've been pondering the sighting of an attractive woman at Houlihan's restaurant downtown. Our latest asking of the musical question "Who's that lady?" [17 Nov] brought this update:


She's not married, and I'm sorry to tell you but someone else has already swooped in and stolen her heart. Isn't that always the way?

Better luck next time!


Maybe that's my problem - I don't know how to swoop.

My parents never taught me about swooping growing up. My older brother is four inches taller than I am, so swooping was easy for him. And I can't really seek expert guidance anymore - now that basketball star Sheryl Swoopes has come out of the closet.

Now from swooping to sweeping, as we clean out Sunday subjects:

+ Georgia Public Broadcasting radio recorded a "Cover to Cover" book program at the Columbus Public Library. This took place after closing time, so the audience had to enter through a side door - and no one could go upstairs, to see if the guest author was lying about what she wrote.

+ The Atlanta Falcons lost a tough game to Tampa Bay 30-27. Both Falcon quarterbacks had critical fumbles -- which makes me wonder why baseball pitchers are allowed to have rosin bags, while quarterbacks aren't.

+ Georgia football coach Mark Richt explained on his TV show why he gambled on fourth down several times against Kentucky: "I was tired of punting...." So learn from this example - and if you're tired of driving to work every day, walk to work instead.

+ Instant Message to whomever included this blog in the Wikipedia entry for Columbus: Thank you -- what a nice surprise! But are you sure about that listing of Mayor Bob Poydasheff as a "famous Columbus native?" One live appearance with Lou Dobbs on CNN does NOT "famous" make.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $1.99 a gallon at Spectrum, Wynnton Road and Brown Avenue.... milk for $1.49 a half-gallon at Walgreens.... and FREE water from the heavens Monday; simply set out your buckets....

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, November 20, 2005


"At this time, there are no newsroom positions available." That was the message I heard Friday afternoon when I called the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer's automated job line. I guess that means Kaffie Sledge's job is safe for another week.

But seriously: this call to the Ledger-Enquirer's job line may confirm what someone told me recently - that the newspaper does NOT plan to fill the reporter position which opened when Melanie Bennett died. Maybe she took her notes to the grave, but surely not her entire cubicle.

I'm hearing from several places that morale in the Ledger-Enquirer's newsroom is in the pits right now, and reduced staffing is a big reason for it. And we thought Tim Chitwood started covering Columbus Council meetings because he needed joke material [15 Sep] -- now we're starting to wonder.

One person told me the Ledger-Enquirer is getting embarrassed by television stations breaking big stories, and the newspaper printing Phenix City crime stories two days after the fact. But hold on - maybe Ledger reporters are waiting for the big jailhouse interview with Commissioner Ronnie Reed.

. The people spreading stories about the Ledger-Enquirer's newsroom put the blame for the low morale on management - especially one top editor who arrived a couple of years ago. This "new broom" apparently is acting too much like an industrial "shop-vac."

One person claimed to me the Ledger-Enquirer's management has a goal of cutting the number of reporters in half by the end of 2006. If that's true, the managers should realize it won't satisfy the newspaper's critics. They want half the editorial board cut - the left half.

(Come to think of it, does this explain why classic Iron Bowl football games were all over the front pages of the Ledger-Enquirer this past week? Maybe the sports staff isn't getting cut - or maybe it's trying to justify its size.)

Because of the newsroom staff cutting, I'm told, longtime Ledger-Enquirer staff members such as Tim Chitwood and Richard Hyatt are being "lassoed in to work more." At least they haven't jumped the ship completely, and started writing about "C-Town Hotties" for "The Edge Magazine."

We called the Ledger-Enquirer Friday to ask about its staffing, and wound up transferred to the job lines. If it's any comfort to the employees, we should note a human being answered the phone and spoke with us....

But let's face the facts: the newspaper industry as a whole is in a slump. Circulation is down across the country, as more people get their news from the Internet and other sources. Are you paying attention, Ledger-Enquirer advertisers? I said INTERNET - like this web site here.

Have you noticed the stands outside stores, offering you a "free paper" in hopes you'll sign up for a subscription? Some of us who are real cheapskates walk on by - because we read the paper for free at a public library hours before.

The Ledger-Enquirer's parent company hired Wall Street investment specialist Goldman Sachs this past week. Knight-Ridder is considering several options, including selling its newspapers to another company. Maybe Cox Newspapers will buy them -- and we'll get a Chattahoochee Valley edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution every day.

To be fair: the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer still breaks its share of news stories. For instance, Friday's issue revealed Kohl's will open a store in the Columbus Park Crossing area next October. This finally may be the impetus for "Buck Ice and Coal" to drop the coal part of its name.

BLOG UPDATE: The roar of helicopters began in my neighborhood at 8:55 a.m. Saturday. If you're going to invite Historic District residents to "God Bless Fort Benning," at least have a sign flying from the back of your chopper mentioning it....

Four military helicopters circled around God Bless Fort Benning for at least half the day Saturday, giving rides to visitors for $45 each. While they made a lot of noise, it probably was the safest day of the year to live at the Booker T. Washington apartments.

As the helicopters flew over the Historic District, someone in my apartment complex had WKZJ "K-92.7 FM" on his stereo. At about 10:45 a.m. that station played the Gap Band classic "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" [true] - and for a moment I was scared....

Fort Benning soldiers were on display at South Commons, for the special day. So were miliary veterans, and visitors were invited to "hug a hero." I can't wait to try this line on women at a nightclub....

Several members of Congress attended God Bless Fort Benning this year. That really wasn't surprising - since next year's event probably will occur after the 2006 election.

The star musical act at God Bless Fort Benning was country singer Tracy Lawrence. He performed his hit song, "How Bad Do You Want It?" Some people apparently didn't want it badly enough - as no Iraqi insurgents showed up.

For the first time, God Bless Fort Benning stretched well into the night. One event was a Phenix City Amphitheater concert by Vince Vance and the Valiants. If you saw Vince's picture on billboards, his hairdo almost could fit the SOA Watch stereotype.

(That concert really may have been aimed across the Chattahoochee River - as SOA Watch traditionally sets up organizational tents at the grassy oval near Tenth and Bay Avenue. So this could have been a long-distance "tents situation.")

The Columbus Civic Center had a Cottonmouths game after God Bless Fort Benning - and the hockey team came out wearing the colors of the U.S. flag. So should true soldier-loving Columbus residents have rooted for the New England Patriots to beat Atlanta a few weeks ago?

There were no firm numbers Saturday night on how many people attended God Bless Fort Benning. One person who was there told me it wasn't as crowded as she expected it would be. Maybe if the Columbus Exchange Club had shown up, selling foot-long hot dogs....

(While the final attendance count is in doubt, we can be sure of one thing. No one at God Bless Fort Benning was arrested for crossing a line or climbing a fence.)

The Saturday evening news asked several Fort Benning soldiers what they thought of the SOA Watch protest - and many admitted they didn't know much about it. What do you know? That puts them even with a large numbers of today's demonstrators on Fort Benning Road.

The organizers of God Bless Fort Benning say it's not a "counter-protest." Yet Dr. Jack Tidwell told the evening news the event supports "protesters in uniform" - the U.S. military, protesting terrorism. The Iraqis probably wished their carried placards, instead of rifles.

To say God Bless Fort Benning is NOT a counter-event to SOA Watch weekend is at least disingenuous. Remember how it all started - with a tent near the protesting crowd at the main gate three years ago. Besides, veterans like Jim Rhodes probably want it timed to fall precisely on Armed Forces Day in May.

So did I visit God Bless Fort Benning Saturday? No -- and I don't plan to visit the SOA Watch protest today, either. I decided I should attend either both events, or neither of them. You want your blogger to be "fair and balanced," right?

I skipped God Bless Fort Benning because I went to church. The congregation where I attend wants God to bless ANYONE truly trying to please Him. Which leads me to dare to ask - where on Saturday's schedule was a prayer, with ministers ASKING for that blessing?

Now for other little things from a big weekend of area activities:

+ WRBL reported at least one Columbus gas station has dropped below two dollars a gallon. I'm told at least one Macon station has fallen to $1.87. So we know the drill, don't we? Fill your tank today, before the Thanksgiving price hike.

+ The AFLAC Tower was lit on the east and west sides with a "50" after dark. If you're in Columbus for the weekend, please don't be confused by this. This is marking AFLAC's 50th anniversary - NOT how many stories the skyscraper has, and not even Dan Amos's age.

+ Auburn University's trustees voted to give Interim President Ed Richardson a $60,000 raise. One more of those in a couple of years, and he might finally drop the "interim" part of the title.

+ Auburn beat Alabama for the fourth year in a row 28-18, as the Tiger defense tackled the Tide quarterback 11 times. So was this an Iron Bowl, or a sack race?

+ Later in the evening, Georgia Tech stunned third-ranked Miami 14-10. Of course, that's the final score for now. If history repeats itself, Tech will lose that game 1-0 five years from now due to an ineligible player.

(You've got to love Georgia Tech broadcaster Wes Durham. He previewed next week's Georgia game by calling it "good old-fashioned hate." Larry Munson would have waited until next Saturday's pre-game show to go to that extreme.)

+ Instant Message to "Just for Men": How did you know?! I mean, sending me that coupon for hair coloring - who told you about my new beard?

SONG OF THE DAY: Under "loser has their fight song changed" rules, it's time for Alabama's tune to go commercial:

Call Ken Nugent - get a check!

If you're in a car and you're in a nasty wreck.

Call Ken Nugent, right away!

He knows how to make the insurance agents pay.

Make one call and -- that is all!

Since you know the settlement you're offered is too small.

When you're in a collision,

Make the right lawyer decision....

So call Ken Nugent - get a check!

Tell tort reformers they're pains in the neck!

COMING MONDAY: We wrap up the big weekend.... and get an update on that good-looking woman at Houlihan's....

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, November 18, 2005


(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find this humorous, serious, or a little of both - but from time to time, we offer things to reflect upon as we keep the seventh-day Sabbath.)

Thursday's high was only 55 degrees F. in Columbus - but there I was around 5:15 p.m., doing my duty and running on the Riverwalk in a T-shirt and shorts. I passed one couple wearing winter coats and said: "You're not cold out here, are you?"

Yet I'll remember Thursday's run for much more than my 1.7-mile nonstop distance and the temperature. The first sign of something unusual occurred near the crime victims' memorial on the Riverwalk. On top of a park bench lay a single, long-stemmed rose. Well, it beats dropping bread crumbs for leaving a trail.

But as I jogged on to Rotary Park, then turning around near the Dolly Madison bakery and returning, the sightings continued. There was another single rose. Then another and another. Either there's a nice proposal coming, I thought - or this was a strange way to promote a flower shop.

(It was tempting to pick up a rose or two for souvenirs - but I figured out these flowers were NOT for me. If I have a "secret admirer" somewhere, I might not know for sure unless a card was left in my mailbox.)

I presumed I'd have to leave this an open question - but that all changed as I jogged down the Riverwalk hill toward the Civic Center. A couple approached me, and the man held several roses in his left hand.

"I wondered where all the roses came from," I said as I slowed to a stop. Well, correct that -- my jogging pace is slow to begin with.

The couple provided me the rest of the story. Thursday was the man's 23rd birthday, and his wife decided to take him to the Riverwalk and hold a "scavenger hunt." So they walked along, collecting roses she left for him in advance. That certainly beats pulling out historic markers.

I would have guessed a man might do this for his wife or girlfriend, but the roles were reversed here. Hopefully this young husband likes roses. More than enough guys I know would have been happier with NASCAR collectibles or deer carcasses.

It was the coldest afternoon in months in Columbus, and the sun was already hiding behind Phenix City's trees to add to the chill. Yet on this day, the Riverwalk was in bloom. In several ways. And I jogged home feeling joyous about it. Imagine if someone really had left the roses there for ME....

The church I attend will have a pre-Thanksgiving dinner Saturday evening. Is there someone special you're thankful for - someone who hasn't received thanks from you in a long time? Then don't wait for next Thursday. Do what this young woman did, or something just as fun or creative. After all, love can grow inside even when it's cold outside.

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.


Today's blog entry is all about nothing - but please don't get ahead of me. This is NOT about the upcoming release of old Seinfeld episodes on DVD.

It's about my monthly water bill, and something I didn't notice until I was waiting in line to pay the bill Thursday afternoon. The Columbus Water Works meter reading showed I used NO water in October! I honestly thought I showered more often than once a week....

There's a zero in the usage column of my water bill - meaning I did not use 100 cubic feet of water during October. Based on my figuring, one cubic foot is about the size of two Big Gulps. And let's face it, October wasn't THAT oppressively hot.

My two-sided kitchen sink can hold a combined 3.25 cubic feet of water. Yes, I measured it especially for the blog. I'll let someone else figure out how many Sonic Extra-Long Cheese Coneys could fit inside....

October was the month of my vacation, so the water didn't run for more than nine days. That explains why my usage was so low -- but I think my neighbor who watered my plant made up for that. I came home to find the front porch with a big water spot, which I don't think was a scattered shower.

The Columbus Water Works bill explains 100 cubic feet of water is the same as 748 gallons. A leaky bathtub faucet at the start of the year had me using 900 cubic feet a month or more - so if I could have made arrangements, I could have filled every swimming pool in town for the summer.

After wasting so much water and money for months, a zero in the usage column felt very good. Yet I still had to stand in line Thursday and pay Columbus Water Works $18.84. Fort Benning soldiers love to say the price of freedom is not free -- and in Columbus, the price of "nothing" is not nothing.

The bulk of the water bill is not really for water. It's the $14 garbage fee, tacked on by Columbus city government. Considering I usually only take out one bag a month, that's a rather pricy bag -- although I suppose it's still less than Parisian's price.

The water bill had a "current water residential" charge of $3.04, even though my usage was recorded as zero. I asked the Columbus Water Works teller about that, and she guessed it was the price of simply being connected. It's sort of like a property tax - only in this case, the property is a faucet.

(There's also a line on my water bill for "C.S.O. Treatment." Why I'm paying the Columbus Symphony Orchestra with my water bill, I have no idea....)

There was refreshing news about another local utility Thursday night. Atmos Energy announced it's reducing the amount of its proposed natural gas rate increase by about 90 percent! Maybe that will prevent executives from getting a Congressional subpoena.

Natural gas prices apparently don't have to go up so much because pipelines and wells made it through this year's hurricanes without much damage. That's nice to know - but I'm still thinking about cooking frozen dinners without preheating the oven.

The news from Atmos Energy was on the late news, not long after I lit my gas heater for the winter. Sometimes this can be a challenging task, and this year was one of those cases. When it takes 15 minutes for you to figure out your lighter's at the wrong part of the heater, that's not a good sign.

BLOG UPDATE: Preparations continued Thursday for this weekend's big events. Fences went up at one entrance to Fort Benning. Tents went up at South Commons. And smoke went up around the Auburn football stadium, from early tailgaters.

The fences are for this weekend's SOA Watch protest. Fort Benning plans to close two entrances to traffic for the weekend, because of the demonstrators. Someday these protesters will discover other gates onto post remain wide open.

A few SOA Watch protesters already were in Columbus Thursday. They joined reporters at the main gate, as an Army National Guard member declared she's a conscientious objector who will refuse to fight in Iraq. This should please the Chamber of Commerce - that even if SOA Watch achieves its goal, protesters may keep coming anyway.

The tents went up for Saturday's "God Bless Fort Benning" event. It was interesting to learn Fort Benning soldiers were the ones putting up the tents. Oprah Winfrey gets other people to set up her own self-glorifying parties....

The Budweiser Clydesdales will appear at God Bless Fort Benning. They actually arrived in town Thursday, and appeared at Columbus Park Crossing. But which TV newscaster actually said on the air the horses had "a little fur?"

And as for the smoke: tickets for Saturday's Alabama-Auburn football game are being scalped for as much as $1,200. We have a special message for the people paying that much money - L.S.U. beat Alabama last weekend.

Auburn police are concerned counterfeit tickets might be sold for the "Iron Bowl" game. WRBL showed how you can spot a real ticket - for one thing, by ripping it a bit to find it's pink inside. At the tailgating row, this only means the barbecue is medium-rare.

Plenty of other stuff was happening Thursday as well....

+ The evening news revealed Russell County Commissioner Ronnie Reed was convicted of felony burglary in Columbus 30 years ago. Under Alabama law, that means he's barred from holding elective office. If Reed shows up at the courthouse today, Probate Judge Al Howard might make a citizen's arrest.

(Ronnie Reed is declining to talk with reporters about his old burglary conviction. Maybe he's hiring Leeann Horne-Jordan's attorney, to file a harassment suit of his own.)

+ The Washington Post reported four out of five Justice Department review panel members opposed Georgia's new "Vote ID" law - yet the person in charge approved it, anyway. Is anyone really surprised by this? Republicans don't believe in "majority rules" - because then Al Gore would be President.

+ AFLAC continued its 50th anniversary celebration, by unveiling a new wall of history at its headquarters building. At last employees can see baby pictures of the duck....

+ A cattle truck somehow opened and cattle ran loose around Columbus Park Crossing - as the truck drivers were dining at Hooters! What sort of "fresh meat" were THEY focused on?

(The timing of this cattle roundup could have been better. It occurred around 10:00 p.m. -- and the Texas Roadhouse restaurant might have been closed already.)

+ The Columbus RiverCenter presented a performance by an Asian acrobatic troupe called "Chi." If you're male and dressed up for this event, I guess you wore a Tie Chi....

(Talk about confusing! The troupe's name "Chi" is pronounced CHEE as in Chi-Chi Rodriguez, not as in China -- so I really expected to see this show at an El Vaquero restaurant.)

+ Georgia Tech was placed on NCAA probation for the first time in history, for allowing 11 football players to play with low grades. Leave it to chemical engineering majors to find a way to cook the academic books.

(Georgia Tech was placed on two years' probation in several sports - not only football, but women's swimming and track. As if people CARE about track and field at Georgia Tech, as opposed to L.S.U. or Arkansas?)

+ The Peach Belt Conference admitted Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus as a new member. That should provide a nice rivalry for Columbus State - and if the C.S.U. baseball team ever gets rained out there, the players can use the free time to build a Habitat for Humanity house.

+ Instant Message to Publix: Huh?! Your packages of "Premium Brown and Serve Rolls" suggest they be refrigerated before heating -- yet they're sold in the bread aisle, where there's NO refrigeration? Someone's brain needs defrosting here....

SCHEDULED SATURDAY: Eighteen strides and a dozen roses (approximate numbers)....

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© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


A man I know called openly the other night for a visit to the Georgia Baptist Convention meeting. "We've got 2,500 Baptists in town," he said. I should have told this man he could see that at Cascade Hills Church some Sunday mornings.

Today might be called an "off day" between big gatherings in Columbus. The Georgia Baptist Convention was at the Civic Center for two days. The conclave of Roman Catholics arrives Friday -- otherwise known as SOA Watch.

I know, I know - the protesters of Fort Benning's Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation probably aren't all Catholic. But a priest has overseen the demonstrations for years. Plenty of nuns and Catholic college students attend.
And I've never seen a Pentecostal person there, trying to convert military police.

Organizers of the SOA Watch protest told WRBL Wednesday they expect more than 15,000 people for this weekend's rally outside Fort Benning. As long as they form a single line at the Fort Benning Road checkpoint for searching, all should be fine.

I haven't heard of any famous names joining the SOA Watch protest this year. There's one obvious celebrity who could bring the demonstration national attention - but I read Cindy Sheehan plans to protest in Texas instead.

Wouldn't it be interesting if the SOA Watch protesters and the Georgia Baptist Convention gathered in Columbus at the same time? One group comes preaching peace, while the other always seems ready for a fight - even if it's with a university it's supposed to support....

That was the big news at the Georgia Baptist Convention this year - a vote to cut off connections with Macon's Mercer University. The decision will NOT become final until another vote occurs next year. Talk about giving people time to repent.

The last straw for the Georgia Baptist Convention apparently came when a homosexual support group held a meeting at Mercer University. Campus officials shut it down this week - so perhaps the United Methodists at nearby Wesleyan College won't mind providing room for it.

As the Georgia Baptist Convention left Columbus Wednesday, a group called "Georgia Equality" showed up at a local church. That group calls the Baptists "closed-minded" for opposing Mercer's homosexual support groups. So Georgia Equality is open-minded enough to accept homosexuality as a choice, right?

One member of Georgia Equality says his group's main point is that homosexual people are a part of society, just like everyone else. Of course, so are car thieves - but Columbus police still want them behind bars....

Do you think Georgia Equality members will stay in Columbus, and join the SOA Watch protest? After all, I doubt mean Latin American generals would tolerate homosexual members of their armies. For them, it's "don't ask, don't tell - and don't die."

Then again, maybe the visitors from Georgia Equality will attend this weekend's "God Bless Fort Benning" event in South Commons. Last November that event attracted nearly as many people as the SOA Watch protest - and I don't think you have to register your sexuality at the entrance.

God Bless Fort Benning suddenly became a big gathering last year. But this year organizers Jack and Eve Tidwell are taking a big chance, with an added attraction which could reduce the turnout. Who knows how many men are afraid to get their prostates tested for cancer?

Between God Bless Fort Benning, SOA Watch and the "Iron Bowl" football game at Auburn, the total number of people involved in big weekend events in our area could top 100,000. I suggest AFLAC seize the moment here - and fill all 2,000 new positions for the next five years now.

By the way, I'm really not surprised that the Georgia Baptist Convention and the SOA Watch protest are separated by several days. After all, when was the last time Notre Dame played Baylor in football?

BLOG UPDATE: It turns out Sumter County isn't the only place reviewing school dress codes. Muscogee County's School Board is preparing to set a new district-wide clothing policy, starting next term. Students will be thrilled to know they will NOT all have to wear preppy plaid....

Right now school principals in Muscogee County have some discretion on dress codes. Some schools have uniforms, while others have budding hip-hip performers.

While the new dress code will be district-wide, Muscogee County school advisory councils are being allowed to offer input about what they'd like to see. So far, no grade school councils are demanding the right to wear fuzzy pink slippers in the morning.

Unlike the "tuck rule" in Americus-Sumter County, Muscogee County might allow students to wear untucked shirts - but with some limits. For instance, if they only go down as far as some of Britney Spears's outfits....

Speaking of schools: WRBL reported Wednesday a Georgia state review has concluded Muscogee County should let teen mothers attend regular schools, if they wish. I thought Republicans were running the state government - yet here's a decision that's pro-choice.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Let's borrow from an old soul tune, and play "Who's That Lady?"

Dear Richard,

About once a week, I go through your blog entries and I really enjoy reading it. I noticed that last week [10 Nov] you posted an email you received about a woman at Houlihans celebrating with a military officer and a lady with a camera. The beautiful woman with long legs is a relative of mine and the lady with the camera is too! I knew they were planning to eat there.

She doesn't live here in Columbus, but is planning to move back and was in town to look at a house she is thinking of buying. The emailer was right she is beautiful, both inside and out. She's always looked like a real live Barbie doll to me and just the sweetest lady you'd ever meet. But to my knowledge she doesn't know Judge Peters, so the emailer must have her confused with someone else. What a small world, wait until I tell her about this!

Elizabeth W.

Thanks for clarifying, Elizabeth - but there are three unsettled questions here. What is this mysterious woman's name? Is she married? And if she's not, can I meet her before Judge Bobby Peters does?

BLOG CORRECTION: A CB&T commercial Wednesday night reminded us that the name of the bank's president actually is Steve Melton. Our apologies for the mistake - which should prove I do my banking somewhere else.

Now for other news and notes, from a Wednesday when I brought in my plant for the winter:

+ Legendary Columbus TV weatherman Doug Wallace died at age 90. Our sympathies to WRBL, Wallace's family and friends - and I wish I could give him a truly fitting tribute. But I don't know how to write an online blog with chalk.

+ The Columbus Trade Center hosted a statewide conference for law officers on respecting civil rights. Sheriff Ralph Johnson attended the conference - and you have to give him some credit. He brought this to town so quietly that Kenneth Walker's family couldn't organize a picket line.

+ The aunt of Natalee Holloway said it's time for yellow ribbons to come down in Mountain Brook, Alabama. I'm not sure why. The teenager has been missing less than six months - and some Fort Benning troops have been in Iraq a lot longer than that.

+ "Duke and the Doctor" on WCGT TV-16 discussed losing weight with a product called hoodia. I admit I'm skeptical about things like this - so I presume it's a bunch of hooey-a.

+ Columbus Catfish executives confirmed the baseball team could move to Columbia, South Carolina after next season. It depends on officials in Columbia approving a new stadium, the Los Angeles Dodgers cutting its agreement with the team - and whether local baseball fans keep caring more about Columbus High School.

(The talk of moving comes only weeks after the Catfish signed a three-year lease to play at Golden Park. Apparently there's an escape clause involving an affiliation with the Dodgers. Don't Columbus city officials know better than to let fish wriggle off the hook?)

+ Instant Message to the driver of a van I saw on Wynnton Road for "Invisible Records": How can anyone buy your records if they're invisible? People can see my CD in stores....

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $2.03 a gallon at Spectrum, Wynnton Road and Brown Avenue.... Publix sandwich cookies for $1.67 a 20-ounce package.... and FREE breathing for smokers, if they take advantage of Great American Smoke-Out Day....

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, November 16, 2005


AFLAC did it again Tuesday - announcing an expansion which will bring 2,000 more jobs to Columbus over the next five years. Don't be surprised if in honor of this announcement, the city puts AFLAC ducks in every fountain.

AFLAC plans to invest $100 million in a major expansion at the Corporate Ridge Industrial Park. With that large a commitment, you policyholders had better not get sick....

The AFLAC expansion project is so huge that Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue came to Columbus to help with the groundbreaking. Then he went to the Georgia Baptist Convention meeting and - well, who can help me here? Did the Governor speak against lusting after riches?

Governor Sonny Perdue says it's always good to have economic growth for Georgia from a homegrown business. For one thing, it means more jobs he can claim as his own when he campaigns for reelection....

The construction will add 340,000 square feet to AFLAC's offices at the Corporate Ridge Industrial Park, giving it more than one million square feet there overall. And if the insurance market ever crashes - voila! Columbus will inherit the world's largest recreation center.

Phase one of the AFLAC expansion will involve 90,000 more square feet, for the customer service department. I never realized the computers for mazes of telephone automation needed this much space.

The second phase of AFLAC's expansion will be larger, and will focus on technology. It's good to see a Columbus company is on the cutting edge -- building more fuel-efficient insurance policies.

AFLAC Chairman Dan Amos timed the expansion announcement to fall on the week of the company's 50th anniversary. This seems to prove once and for all that the duck lays golden eggs....

Executive Vice President Paul Amos II told WRBL he personally never expected AFLAC to become so large. Tell me about it! I never expected the duck to become so famous that he appears with Wayne Newton and Chevy Chase in commercials.

Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff was thrilled with the AFLAC announcement of new jobs. He said combined with the transfer of thousands of soldiers to Fort Benning, the city will have a "tsunami" of growth. But I think we can predict which group will win the bidding wars for new homes....

The Columbus Chamber of Commerce calls the expansion its biggest economic announcement of the year. One official said imagining the city without AFLAC is a "pretty dreary, dreadful thought." Mike Helton at CB&T needs to take a hint from this, and make funnier commercials.

With all the expansion planned at Corporate Ridge, I couldn't help wondering about the future of AFLAC Tower. Could this company someday move completely away from the center of Columbus? After all, those new Fort Benning soldiers might like high-rise converted condominiums.

That wasn't the only thing making news, on a busy Tuesday:

+ The Mega Millions drawing was for $315 million - yet things seemed strange near the Oglethorpe Bridge. The Georgia Baptist Convention delegates stayed inside the Columbus Civic Center. They didn't cross Fourth Street, to preach to sinners buying tickets at Spectrum.

+ Columbus Council confirmed Jeff Meyer as the city's new fire chief. Meyer once delivered newspapers for money. Now he's in charge of making sure delivery drivers don't throw papers too high, and into electric lines.

+ Blackmon Road Middle School held "Mix It Up at Lunch Day." Some of us can remember when this would mean students skipped class, went into the woods beyond the football field and had a fistfight.

(The REAL goal of "Mix It Up at Lunch Day" was for students to sit next to someone they'd never met before. The faculty is trying to stop school "cliques" - which is so old-fashioned, since the Internet age encourages them all the time.)

+ The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation put City Mills of Columbus on its list of ten statewide "places in peril." OK, let's see trust members stand outside the buildings and stop those bulldozers....

+ Auburn University football players met the media about this weekend's showdown with Alabama - and linebacker Travis Williams showed up with a large face of a tiger on his head. Imagine what he would have done to Aubie the mascot, if his team had LOST to Georgia.

+ WKCN "Kissin' 99.3 FM" unveiled a new commercial for the Country Music Association Awards, promoting its "two-minute guarantee." Wow - those slackers at Domino's Pizza impressed me with 30....

+ Instant Message to the man who predicted to me the CMA Awards would be filled with "white men, all looking about the same, and all wearing white hats": Well, not quite. Alan Jackson was about the only one who wore a white hat.

(P.S.: Shame on you, CBS, for cutting off the band Alabama as members accepted entry in the Country Music Hall of Fame. The network simply HAD to go to commercials - as if we hadn't heard that Big and Rich song about the "cit-AY" enough already.)

SCHEDULED THURSDAY: A Columbus version of a "culture war"....

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.