Wednesday, February 28, 2007


We'll get to our main topic in a moment -- but first, we have to break from our "Hurtsboro Monday" custom. That's because several city employees told WRBL Tuesday night they haven't been paid in two weeks. With so many businesses in the town reportedly closed, I'm not sure where they could spend the money, anyway.

Hurtsboro Mayor Sandra Tarver said she signed the city paychecks as usual. But the City Clerk has been fired, apparently because she followed some kind of "lag time" rule in paying city bills. Maybe the clerk used to work at a furniture store - and believed that stuff about "90 days, same as cash."

The Hurtsboro city payroll now is being handled by a company in Trussville, Alabama. Given what we've heard about the town in the last 60 days, it could be because no one else there can be trusted with the money.

As for Hurtsboro's loudest critic: Constable R.J. Schweiger's case is scheduled for a "docket call" in Russell County court today. He's scheduled for a jury trial in mid-March - and if he decides to be his own defense attorney, there could be an open chair for a blogger like me to be in the courtroom.

AND NOW.... back to our originally scheduled topic: a big musical week in Columbus, which officially starts tonight. In a five-day span, the original plan was for visits by two "American Idol" winners - as well as Art Garfunkel, who probably never would have passed an audition before Simon Cowell.

The first singer to perform is Taylor Hicks, appearing tonight at the RiverCenter. He went from nightclub appearances in Birmingham to the "American Idol" title last year - then surprisingly did NOT sign a deal to do commercials for Just for Men hair coloring.

Taylor Hicks was cheered on to victory by fans called the "Soul Patrol." If WFXE-FM's Michael Soul had organized one of his own, Gonzoes' Sports Bar in Phenix City still might be in business.

Hopefully Taylor Hicks will end his RiverCenter concert early, because a behind-the-scenes interview with him is promised tonight on WXTX "News at Ten." But then again, maybe these things are being combined -- and Deborah Singer will join Hicks in a duet.

The success of Ruben Studdard, Bo Bice and Taylor Hicks have made Birmingham a hotbed for American Idol - so much so that open tryouts were held there last summer. But Alabama is absent from the final 20 singers this year. NOW will you believe it was a mistake to fire Mike Shula?

After Taylor Hicks, Thursday night will be Art Garfunkel's turn to perform at the RiverCenter. If Paul Simon is joining him, it has NOT been announced. Given their recent history, it probably would have to be - else Garfunkel might walk out.

The cavalcade of stars was supposed to wrap up Sunday, with Fantasia Barrino sharing the top billing for a Columbus Civic Center concert. But that show isn't on the Civic Center's calendar -- so once again, Columbus has "star fatigue." It can't handle more than two big names in a week.

(I can't help wondering if Ms. Barrino's victory on American Idol in 2004 changed Disney's plans -- and stopped the re-release of the "Fantasia" movie.)

LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: American Idol began in 2002 - and as the show took off, we covered it for subscribers to Here's some of what we wrote:

25 Jul 02: Every time we hear people talk about "American Idol," we wonder whatever happened to rocker Billy Idol - and whether he's waiting for the right moment to file a lawsuit.

1 Aug 02: "American Idol" slipped to a sextet of singers, as Ryan Starr was eliminated.... "Entertainment Weekly" reminded us Ryan Starr went by the name of Tiffany Montgomery when "American Idol" started. Changing your name is easy - changing your voice isn't.

8 Aug 02: Has "American Idol" changed British judge Simon Cowell? In one way, it has. Cowell revealed the other day he no longer wears high-waisted Armani trousers. [True/Sky News] What a hypocrite - telling contestants to raise the bar, while he lowers his own.

14 Aug 02: The five finalists on "American Idol" sang an evening of Burt Bacharach music, coached by Bacharach himself. We hope Simon Cowell took the song "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" very personally....

15 Aug 02: American Idol dropped to its "fab four" Wednesday night, as confirmed Christian R.J. Helton was shown the door. We keep waiting for Christian conservatives to picket outside this show, anyway -- campaigning against idolatry.

19 Aug 02: If you vote once a week in "American Idol," others may be voting MUCH more often. Producers admit some people with the right software are making thousands of calls at a time. If the wrong telemarketer gets his hands on this, we all may be doomed....

The producers of American Idol believe about 100 people across the U.S. are using high-speed Internet connections and "auto-dial" software to phone in as
many as ten-thousand votes a night. Democrats in Chicago have a term for this -- a great new approach to business as usual.

American Idol's producers call the high-volume voters "phone phreaks" - and say they know who's doing it. We're simply glad we don't have that show's "Caller I-D" bill.

The staff of American Idol claims the "phone slammers" are NOT having a major impact on the weekly results. But they STILL won't reveal the weekly vote counts. Just wait until the second-place singer files a lawsuit in Palm Beach, Florida....

You may not know that American Idol set up the phone system so people in California CANNOT vote while the singers appear on T-V in New York. The telecast doesn't appear in California until three hours later. This presumes, of course, people actually vote based on how well the contestants sing.

20 Aug 02: The theme for "final four" night on American Idol will be songs from the eighties and nineties. Which performer will stare at Simon Cowell and sing, "Papa Don't Preach" ?!?!

21 Aug 02: The producers of American Idol spent Tuesday explaining a troubling story in "U-S-A Today." It revealed the singers signed a contract allowing the rules of the game to be changed at any time. This is a scary thought - that Attorney General John Ashcroft might be allowed to walk in and take the record deal.

The producers of American Idol say the contract language about changing the rules allows them to intervene, if the phone voting system breaks down. Well, OK - as long as they don't give the final vote to Simon Cowell.

American Idol's producers promise they will NOT change the basic rule, to let viewers choose the top singers. But we wish at some point, they'd also allow to choose which judge we can vote off.

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.

(Did you notice how American Idol was more musical than ever this week? Because of the contestant count, it was "three-four" time.)

23 Aug 02: Three singers now remain in American Idol - and Kelly Clarkson now may be the favorite. She's the only one who has NOT been called to center stage, for having a low number of votes. If Clarkson wins, she'll get phone calls from almost every candidate for Congress.

28 Aug 02: All three American Idol finalists have been given bracelets by judge Paula Abdul. The bracelets have the message: "Own the Power" - to which the singers probably asked each other, "Does Ford make that car?"

(In response to this, Simon Cowell might give all the singers something to remember him -- an autographed set of carving knives.)

So why doesn't M-T-V have its own version of American Idol? Put all ten singers in the same house, and have them live together for weeks....

29 Aug 02: The hosts of American Idol did NOT give away who placed first in this week's voting. Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini are left to wonder who's in the lead - and who needs to hire James Carville to prepare attack ads.

2 Sep 02: Speaking of Labor Day, did you know the "American Idol" finalists are union members? They joined a musicians' union in Hollywood over the last few weeks -- but for some reason, the runners-up have yet to picket outside Simon Cowell's dressing room.

Kelly Clarkson admits she's gained a motor-mouth reputation among the American Idol singers. Clarkson says she could talk and talk about anything -- so if she doesn't win the big recording contract, she'll get her own show on M-T-V.

3 Sep 02: The American Idol duo seems to offer voters a clear choice. Justin Guarini has an African-American father, an Italian-American mother and a background of singing bar mitzvahs. Kelly Clarkson is a white girl from Texas. In other words, it's Democrat versus Republican.

Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini will sing three songs for the voters tonight. In fact, they'll each sing the SAME song - one written to be their debut single later this month. They'll take turns singing it, so the "re-mix" rights can be sold to as many studios as possible.

4 Sep 02: The American Idol judges were given seats in a Kodak Theatre luxury box, to evaluate the singers. Wasn't that amazing -- life imitating "The Muppet Show...."

"Inside Edition" revealed Kelly Clarkson's most recent job was as a cocktail waitress. Considering all the smoke in nightclubs, it may be a wonder she can sing at all.

(And did you also know Kelly Clarkson's favorite treat is an orange flurry from Sonic Drive-Ins? All she needs is a pair of roller skates, and she can sing her first TV jingle.)

5 Sep 02: Kelly Clarkson stood almost expressionless when she was named the winner. Her mother in the audience broke down in tears. And in Florida, some Democrats accused the Texans of cheating with the votes again.

Kelly Clarkson's next big performance may come next Wednesday. She'll sing the national anthem at a September 11 commemoration at Washington's Lincoln Memorial. It will make a great statement to the world - since the Taliban wouldn't let a woman speak, much less sing.

Now back to the present, and other news items from Tuesday:

+ Columbus Police raided two stores on North Lumpkin Road, made three arrests and seized counterfeit name-brand clothing. One store is called "Choose Shoes" - as if those items are the frauds.

+ An attorney for former Phenix City Municipal Court Clerk Max Wilkes confirmed a lawsuit has been filed, to challenge his firing by city officials. Have you noticed absolutely no one has talked about running for mayor, since Wilkes was let go last September?

+ The Georgia Legislature gave final approval to a bill allowing a Columbus citywide vote on creating special "tax allocation districts." The districts would be set up for redevelopment - and there's nothing better to attract new businesses to Victory Drive than charging them extra taxes.

+ State Rep. Carolyn Hugley told GPB's "Lawmakers" the PeachCare health program needs to continue because "the children of Georgia are the responsibility of the state of Georgia." Which makes you wonder if her children are in federally-subsidized day care centers during the legislative session....

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths lost to Huntsville 3-1. The WEAM announcers thought they saw a Columbus fan offer money to a Huntsville player, so he'd get into a fight. That might work with Mike Tyson in Las Vegas....

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Our jokes for today have concluded - but you're welcome to read on, for a follow-up to Tuesday's main topic.)

BUT SERIOUSLY: Had we only known.... but we didn't know. Not until late Tuesday morning did we learn a Daytona Beach Thunder player had died during the Columbus Lions' first game. Our Tuesday topic might have been very different, had we only known.

We checked the Columbus-Daytona Beach live webcast during the third quarter. It was the fourth quarter when a collision occurred, stopping play for 30 minutes and leaving a Daytona Beach player dead. It's absolutely no way to promote a new sports franchise -- except maybe for young people who play violent video games too much.

There's still much we don't know about the deadly play. Lions Coach Jason Gibson said Tuesday the front of a helmet seemed to cave in, when two players who weren't watching each other collided. They may have hit face mask-to-face mask - and that may be where the first lawsuit will come, in the wake of this death.

It didn't help matters that as of midday Tuesday, neither the Columbus Lions nor the World Indoor Football League had posted anything about the death on their web sites. The WIFL site only hinted at it, announcing a news conference "concerning the events" of the night before. Refusing to talk about death does NOT make it go away.

We were reminded of two years ago, when a former Troy University football player was killed during a game with arena football's Los Angeles Avengers. Add to that Coach Jason Gibson's statement on WRBL that about six Lions were injured during Monday night's game, and you start to question whether indoor football really is a good idea.

An ESPN Radio host the other night recalled the words of Super Bowl-winning quarterback Kurt Warner. Warner once said the National Football League is slower than arena football. And while the players in both versions may have similar padding on their bodies, I know the side walls of indoor football aren't well padded - and you wonder a bit about the carpet below their feet.

Undoubtedly the WIFL season will go on - but the attitude probably will be different now, and the mood at games may be different for a while. Certainly safety issues of indoor football need to be studied. And the fans in Daytona Beach should understand that - because the same thing happened there, after Dale Earnhardt died six years ago.

This blog has thousands of visitors each month, from people in Columbus and around the world. To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Columbus's latest pro sports team played its first game Monday night. But there was NO live television, NO broadcast on local radio - and in fact, the only Lions on the air at all Monday seemed to be "Between the Lions" for children on GPB.

The Columbus Lions went on the road for its first game, and downed Daytona Beach 45-42. Get used to that matchup, because I didn't realize until Monday night the "World Indoor Football League" has only four teams in it. Somehow I thought the world extended beyond Georgia and Florida - maybe to Alabama?!

The Columbus-Daytona Beach game was webcast, with live streaming audio. But the first two links for listening at the Lions' web site didn't work with my Windows Media Player. Thankfully, this is football - so the triple option wound up working successfully.

But things were a bit confusing at the Columbus Lions web site. When we checked it late in the third quarter, the home page showed Columbus leading 28-21 - but the streaming audio revealed Columbus actually was losing 28-27. Well, the state of Florida IS famous for its recounts....

The Columbus Lions used two different quarterbacks in its opening-night win. But the announcers on the Daytona Beach webcast openly admitted they didn't know how to pronounce the name of backup Chinedu Okoro. This is why hockey hasn't exactly caught on in Daytona Beach, either.

It was a bit saddening to call up the Columbus Lions web site during the third quarter of a one-point game, and see it showing "19 visitors online." Perhaps hundreds of fans called up a window with the streaming audio, then listened while they tried to hack the Alabama and Auburn football sites.

(Only 19 visitors at the Lions' web site during the opening game? C'mon, folks - this team already paid its Civic Center rent for the season.)

The Columbus Lions web site shows an ad for WGSY-FM "Sunny 100," but that station didn't broadcast Monday night's game. Not even co-owned WSHE-AM did -- and that station has coach Jason Gibson on its midday sports show once a week. Does that mean Gibson isn't a born-again Christian?

Jason Gibson admitted he wasn't sure how his players would perform on opening night, because the Columbus Lions have a lot of rookies. In fact, they're SO YOUNG that I don't think the team has an official car rental company....

There's a big regional presence on the Columbus Lions roster. Five players are from Tuskegee University. Four went to Fort Valley State. Three attended Auburn. And hopefully all of them graduated, because the payroll isn't that big.

The Columbus Lions will play their first home game at the Civic Center March 10 - one night after the Harlem Globetrotters come to town. Which event do you think will draw a bigger crowd? And will Lion players watch the Globetrotters, to take notes on the dunks?

BLOG UPDATE: The Muscogee County Library Board discussed what to do with six million dollars in surplus money Monday. This is sales tax money left over, after the new central library was built -- so apparently sculptor Albert Paley has been paid off, once and for all.

Chattahoochee Valley Library System Director Claudya Muller says one idea for the surplus money is to soundproof the central library's study rooms. That way, teenagers researching the history of rap music can turn it up as loud as they want.

Claudya Muller added another possible use for the six million surplus dollars is to buy more library books. Excuse me, but this doesn't make any sense. The library staff threw out a lot of old reference books when they moved from the Bradley Library to Macon Road - either that, or they were mislabeled and sent to the Labor Day weekend book sale.

WRBL obtained a letter from the Muscogee County School Board to the Library Board. It warns the School Board will oppose any plan for a "park" around the central library. I'm not really sure why. Consider how many future business leaders could be trained, by having them sell off lawn mowing privileges.

OUR TEXT FOR TODAY: Two total strangers are chatting in an online game room.

"This is the most fascinating discussion I've had all day."



"Now I know you're gay."

Make of that what you will -- and now let's see what else made news Monday:

+ A court hearing was held on a campaign to recall Marion County Commissioner Frank Powell. Bryant Vaughn of the "Coalition for the Betterment of Marion County" declared the closer he gets to county government, "the more it smells like a manure pile." So does this mean Talbot County won that fight against sludge?

(Frank Powell denies he's done anything deserving of recall. But the Coalition for the Betterment of Marion County claims he's violated open meetings rules, by whispering to other commissioners during meetings. Do they really want Powell to say out loud how good-looking the constituents are?)

+ WRBL reported the plans for whitewater rafting through downtown Columbus and Phenix City have been postponed until the summer of next year. One obstacle is that part of the Chattahoochee River has been cited for having too much unhealthy bacteria. I may never spit in the river while I'm running on the Riverwalk again....

+ The Georgia Lottery awarded Rodrick Doss of Waverly Hall a check for $500,000. Doss won that prize playing the "Jumbo Jumbo Bucks" scratch-off game. But compared with tonight's jackpot, "Jumbo Jumbo" simply isn't "Mega."

+ Instant Message to the web site : I don't quite understand your commercial - but I had a fascinating TV choice Monday night. It was Oprah Winfrey on ABC, versus Jesse James on PBS.

COMING WEDNESDAY: "American Idol week" begins in Columbus, and we offer our version of an "Idol Rewind"....

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Monday, February 26, 2007


"Who is Richard Burkard, and what is his plan?" That's what someone wrote on a message board the other day. Let's get these rumors settled right now. I am NOT a write-in candidate for Mayor of Columbus in 2010. For one thing, what if Bert Coker decides to do it again?

This question actually was posted at a message board of the Concerned Citizens for Responsible Government in Talbot County. And it was the result of a warning message from, of all people, Russell County Constable R.J. Schweiger. Attack me from both the west AND the east, and soon I might be surrounded and surrender.

Even though R.J. Schweiger has been true to his word and kept his distance from me in the last week, we still can have a "Hurtsboro Monday." That's because the Constable posted a thread called "Misery loves company" at the C.C.R.G. message board. If our blog can build bridges like this, maybe we can solve that water-sharing mess.

Here's what the Russell County Constable posted at the message board of Talbot County activists:


I,m Constable R.J. Schweiger. I noticed on Richard Burkhard's BLOG that Talbot County and "Hurt'sboro are basicly in the same boat.

I've contacted Susan Horton and warned her about the maneuvers you can expect from Burkhard - I've been there and done that!

I intend to further my cause (Better Government) through the legitimate media. If you would like to share - I will send a copy of everything I submit to Micheal Owen (L/E Opinion page) and the Phenix Citizen to your site. Let me know if you are interested.

Best of Luck

Constable R.J. Schweiger....

Maneuvers - from me?! If I had to do something besides a salsa on "Dancing With the Stars," I'd be in big trouble....

R.J. Schweiger's original message board posting has brought several responses in recent days. One wrote: "As if Talbot County wasn't already fighting off a sludge farm...." Don't worry - I'm not planning to show up with even a sack of garbage.

The Constable wrote a follow-up message, when someone asked about me and my alleged "plan." In part he explained:

He recently put some things on his BLOG that weren't complimentary to CCRG. It's his habit! He did it to me and does it to anyone that falls into his clutches!

First of all, I have no one in my "clutches." Ask any woman I've tried to romance in the last 15 years or so....

Review all our entries of the last few weeks about Talbot County, and you should find we've had a mix of comments about the C.C.R.G. Someone sent e-mail criticizing it. Someone sent e-mail defending it. If allowing freedom of speech is a "habit," put me behind bars with Benjamin Franklin.

A check of the message board indicates R.J. Schweiger has been invited to the next C.C.R.G. meeting on March 31. The Constable writes he'll "do my best to make it." Who knows -- maybe he'll find a place with even more "anarchy" than Hurtsboro, and come to appreciate the town's mayor after all.

By the way, we've called the Alabama Governor's office to ask about the petition drive we mentioned last Monday -- the Constable's request for executive intervention in Hurtsboro. As of Friday afternoon, our calls had NOT been returned. So for all we know, the staff could be looking for the petitions in a white-paper recycle bin.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Speaking of "misery loves company," Sunday's message about chewed sunglasses brought this:

I bought a soda in the cooler at the cash register at Fred's Dept.Store..When I got in the car I discovered it had been opened and a gulp taken...yuk...The cashier was very polite in offering me another..Can you image drinking after someone who would do that then put the lid back on and replace it in the cooler? I never thought of that happening,now I'm alert as I open bottled sodas..

The lesson here seems very clear -- twist with your wrist, 'cause it might have been kissed.

But in the post-September 11 era, a discovery like this might raise serious questions. What's to stop a terrorist from poisoning a few soda bottles at a checkout line, to make people sick? After all, if some of us have enough time to browse through a couple of tabloids....

BLOG SPECIAL EVENT: We're looking for suggestions to name the Aflac duck - and the latest one comes from the woman we profiled here Sunday:

I think the duck's name shooooould be........

Dinkles. Dinkles the Duck. This is also the same nickname given to weekend meteorologist Derek Kinkade (I don't know why, even though I made it up). I believe the duck should be named after him!!!


For a duck, "Dinkles" is doable -- but for a meteorologist?! Wouldn't "Sprinkles" be more appropriate for him?

Your nominations are still welcome, so e-mail us with your ideas. Now a look at some news items from a springlike Sunday:

+ The first group of about 50 Third Brigade soldiers left Fort Benning for Iraq. This is called the "torch party," because it "lights the way" for the rest of the Third Brigade. Some of us wish they'd use a real torch - that "ray gun" demonstrated in South Georgia awhile back, to knock people senseless.

+ Auburn University concluded its second annual summit on fighting world hunger. So which person got to take home the Wendy's Bacon Mushroom Melt "trophy burger?"

+ The Leadoff Classic Softball tournament ended, with only the championship round canceled due to an overnight storm. That meant several brackets had co-champions - and why they didn't have a poll of sportswriters to break the tie, I have no idea.

+ Instant Message to anyone who was annoyed by "An Inconvenient Truth" winning two Oscars: The Columbus Public Library plans to show the graphics from that movie in mid-March. But Albert Gore is NOT coming - so please write your protest signs accordingly.

This blog had more than 28,000 visits in 2006, from people in Columbus and around the world. To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007


"If I was a corkscrew, where would I be?" This actual question was asked Saturday night at a TV reporter's farewell party. Hopefully the person who asked this question and brought wine to the party didn't try to stuff herself in a kitchen drawer before it was over.

The TV reporter receiving the farewells in central Columbus was Amanda Iler. She'll be on the air here one more week, then leave for a TV station in Lexington, Kentucky. So her next contact with Columbus may come when the South Atlantic League's Lexington Legends face the Catfish - and her new station asks her to investigate the outfield at Golden Park.

Amanda Iler admits there probably are some people in Columbus city government who will be glad to see her go. She was involved in digging up the "fee-asco" involving the city landfill, as well as the news about uncollected parking tickets. In a way, I wish Iler would stay in town until my occupation tax refund check comes in the mail.

Amanda Iler tried her hand at blogging for awhile - and in fact posted a few details of my plans for Power Frisbee last February, before I mentioned it here. She hasn't asked me yet where my business money went. But I'm ready, with my folder full of advertising bills.

Amanda Iler won't move to Lexington by herself. She told me when she interviewed for a reporting job with WLEX-TV, she happened to see her boyfriend's resume on the News Director's desk. "What do you think of him?" the new boss asked Iler. Job references don't come much better than that....

So both Amanda Iler and her boyfriend will move to Lexington in about a week. He'll work behind the scenes, while Iler is on the air reporting. But they're being proper and discreet about this, I'm told - making the move in separate vehicles.

But before they leave for Lexington, Amanda Iler is holding a yard sale at her home next Saturday. "Come buy my c**p," she encouraged people at the party. Not even Columbus used car dealers get this desperate....

Amanda Iler's farewell party included invited guests not only from her TV station, but from her amateur soccer team. Iler normally plays midfield or defense, but admits she can play goalkeeper as a last resort. So look out, you TV critics in Kentucky - this woman knows how to take a shot or two.

A wall of Amanda Iler's house has two interesting photos side-by-side. Both show her standing in front of fires - one when she was young and joining her volunteer firefighter dad on duty, the other from her coverage of the Jordan Mills fire of October 2005. You'd think her father would have given her a fire coat as a graduation present....

One unusual moment at the farewell party came as people watched the WXTX "News at Ten" sportscast. One man went to the set and leaned his ear against the speaker, when tape was shown of stock car qualifying runs. You might be addicted to NASCAR if....

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION has taken a strange turn since we posted it Friday. A comment left there claims staff members at W.F. Burns Middle School in Valley now deny toilet paper ever was removed from the restrooms. Of course, maybe the staff received a "faculty lounge" exemption.

I asked the reporter who broke the bathroom tissue story about this Saturday - and Brock Parker told me the Chambers County School Superintendent confirmed it was true. The Superintendent could have given it all the toilet brush-off.

All this should make for an interesting Monday meeting of the W.F. Burns Middle School P.A.C. - its version of a PTA meeting. Will it be a four-roll PAC, or something bigger?

E-MAIL UPDATE: Readers have many things on their minds this weekend -- including a man who was accused by another e-mailer 15 Feb:

Mr. Burkhard:

I am not with the Amatuer Athletic Union, whether it be "orginal" or not. Also, I do not make threats. Anyone that knows or has ever heard Brother Love could easily vouche for that statement.

But I do believe if there is no justice the God of Love is not satisfied with a people and there are future consequences.

Columbus should not feel I issued a threat, but I am sending a wake up call for the future of our children and community.

And I do believe in Love. Just as I believe in Justice and in the greatness of this country.

I am sure you were really trying to be humorous, and stimulate interest in your blog.

Then, again, I could be wrong. If you believed I was making a threat, you were attempting to insult or ridicule.

I only setting the record straight. Only you can change your mind if you feel it necessary. I am not trying to do it for you. I can only tell you the truth and state the facts plain.

We can disagree without becoming disagreeable. I wish you well.

God bless,

Brother Love

Mr. Love is correct in assuming our focus here tends to be humorous. But I'm not the one who said he was making a threat against the city. Another e-mailer claimed that -- and I'm still a bit puzzled as to what the alleged threat was. It must not be that Mr. Love threatened to move to Harris County.

Brother Love tends to sign his name with an "OAAU" - and thanks to a great online tool, I learned Saturday night what those letters really mean. They stand for "Organization of Afro-American Unity." But if Columbus has several different civil rights groups, some would wonder how well this organization is doing....

Now we head to Muscogee County high schools - and a follow-up to the Northside assistant principal who just resigned:

Nice to see the Ledger giving equal time to Warren Beaulah after their article on Fenton Dixon.However,Beaulah does have the upper hand on the number of DUIs.

This refers to the Carver High School boys' basketball coach. Ledger-Enquirer columnist Richard Hyatt revealed Beaulah has a record of five drunk driving arrests, stretching back to before he was hired. Hopefully he doesn't follow the old Mickey Mantle line, and tell his players to rebound the ball in the middle.

Our current BLOG SPECIAL EVENT inspired this next message:

Dear Richard;

Have you ever remembered an advertisement but not what the advertisement was advertising? You know you can remember some very funny ads but can't remember what product the ads are for? Those interesting ads do not do their job very well.

Product Name recognition, or name branding, is the most important part of advertisement.

GEICO has satisfied its need for name recognition with its GEKKO commercials.

AFLAC has satisfied their advertisement need for name recognition by creating an ad in which the DUCK shouts out "AFLAC". If the DUCK had a name it would create the association (memory) of the DUCK with a word other than AFLAC. That is why the DUCK is always in situations that demand he shout "AFLAC" hence he is the AFLAC DUCK. So, we all remember the AFLAC name from those brilliant ads.

The AFLAC DUCK ads are the perfect ads, providing memorable name recognition, humor, an association of warm and fuzzy feelings with the product through the animal in the ad, (the viewers want to see more), and a demonstration of the product satisfying potential viewer needs.

Deb Owens

Isn't it interesting that Geico Insurance has a gecko, Aflac Insurance has a duck - but State Farm Insurance with a "farm" in its name has no animal at all?

So here we have a suggestion that it's better for the Aflac duck NOT to have a name - and I suppose there's some precedence for that. I only know the talking M&M candies by "the yellow one" and "the green one."

But we're looking for suggestions to name the Aflac duck because many animal mascots in commercials have had names, while effectively selling products. Budweiser beer had Spuds McKenzie the dog. There was Morris, selling 9-Lives cat food. And which came first - the Sugar Frosted Flakes, or Tony the Tiger?

Today's last e-mail heads in a very different direction:


This has absolutely nothing to do with any of your current topics but I thought that it was highly strange and worth sharing with everyone here in blogland. My son went to one of our nice stores in Columbus (no, more upscale than that one) and selected a pair of sunglasses. While standing in line he noticed that one of the ear pieces had "chew" marks on it. When he brought this to the attention of the person at the register, she showed it to her manager and was told that their store didn't carry that brand of sunglasses even though it had the store's tag attached to them. What did the store do? Offered my son a two dollar discount from the price marked. Weird, huh? We would have to assume that an employee of the store decided to swap a pair of his sunglasses (with a chewed ear piece) for a pair that the store was selling. That's the only way that we can figure, that it was an inside job because of the store's tag that was attached to them. Beware customers, inspect the items before making a purchase to make sure this doesn't happen to you. It may have happened to other items in the store as well. Just to be sure, we won't shop for underwear in that store.


Phenix City

Hmmmm - maybe this store ran out of ink pens for employees to chew. I speak from my own experience there....

This story may ring a bell with longtime blog readers - because a few years ago we mentioned a box of crackers we bought at Wal-Mart [12 Sep 03]. After we took them home, we found the box was already open with a couple of crackers eaten. Even then, the employee protests over health coverage may have been underway.

We thank all of you who read this blog and write to us! Now let's check some quick items from the weekend:

+ Which local bank executive somehow dropped a corporate credit card on the sidewalk in the Historic District -- and never recovered it? Who wound up paying for dinner at Bludau's, after the executive discovered it was missing?

+ Gas prices jumped across most of Georgia and East Alabama, until the lowest we found was $2.17 a gallon at Marathon on Warm Springs Road. Iran can't prove to me it's producing peaceful nuclear energy fast enough....

+ The Columbus Health Department issued a flu alert, noting cases have increased with the changing weather. Would that big-time Internet web site sue, if we started posting a "Grunge Report?"

+ Carver High School "drill team mom" Elonda Floyd finally was flown home to Columbus, six weeks after she was struck by a hit-and-run driver in St. Petersburg, Florida. Floyd will probably have to make several return trips in the weeks ahead - maybe to sue the hospital where she developed all those infections.

+ A new running track was dedicated at Hardaway High School, built with a large donation from the Hardaway family. The track team will use it from now until May - and then the school will cover it up for nine months, so football cleats don't ruin it.

+ Instant Message to the people selling rugs on Seventh Street: Do you mean that? I mean, your sign saying "Oriental rug expedition and sale?" Do I get to go on a personal trip around the building or something?

COMING MONDAY: Could it be? Talbot Friday and Hurtsboro Monday are merging?....

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Friday, February 23, 2007


(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find this item humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts on occasion, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

Did you hear about the blogger who's just been sentenced to four years in prison? Before you get the wrong idea - no, I was NOT pulled over by a Hurtsboro police officer....

A blogger in Egypt was sentenced to prison this past week, for posting comments against Islam in general and Egypt's President in particular. Among other things, he compared Hosni Mubarak to the ancient pharaohs. If he's ordered by prison guards to turn straw into bricks, I guess we'll know for sure.

"Thankfully, we have freedom of speech in the U.S." you say? "No one would ban blogs here," you say? Well, not so fast. There's one small U.S. church denomination which recently told its members NOT to have blogs. And amazingly, it was NOT because the leaders feared members would mistype a web address and wind up seeing pornography.

The Restored Church of God declared its members (especially teenagers) should not have blogs - mainly because blogs do little more than express a "personal opinion" on an issue. The denomination argues that's mere human vanity, because God's viewpoint matters most. At least this group realizes bloggers are NOT God. Some writers simply come across that way....

(The denomination seems to have added a disclaimer since originally posting the article on blogging last October. It now says it's offering "internal" guidance for church youth -- while claiming "professional" blogs can have good uses. In other words, blogging is OK if you're making money from it.)

I agree with this denomination that God's viewpoint should matter most in our lives. But does that means humans should just shut up, in what they say and write? Does it mean they should simply reprint everything God says verbatim -- and to rephrase a song, you'll know they are Christians by how fast they wear out the ALT-C, ALT-V keys?

This church seems to have forgotten God actually can be persuaded by human opinion. It happened in the Old Testament, when God was ready to wipe out practically the entire nation of Israel. Moses pleaded with Him NOT to do it, and God relented. Maybe this is where the idea of death penalty moratoriums started.

Perhaps this church is overlooking something else - that when its ministers write magazine articles which are posted online, they seem to do the very same thing a blogger does. Are they "duping" everything God says in the Bible, or quoting selected items which fit their doctrinal viewpoint? Jumping over certain verses is what I call the "spiritual high hurdles."

It appears this denomination is concerned about teens creating Myspace accounts - and the horror stories involving Myspace are well-known. But Myspace can be used for good things, and in fact is starting to be used by mainstream companies and musicians. A "friend" online beats not having any off-line.

But I also suspect the denomination may be trying to suppress bloggers who might challenge church leaders, or expose secrets about what really goes on. Ministers years ago warned against such behavior, only it was on the "grapevine" or over the back fence. These days, some of those same ministers are concerned about neighbors NOT knowing each other.

Whether it wants to admit it or not, this denomination is promoting limits on free speech -- but deep down, the leaders might consider freedom of speech a bad thing. That's because they really oppose "freedom of religion," too. If you're not a part of their religion now, you're asking for it -- because Jesus considers them the only right ones. It's pray now, or pay later....

A Bible verse warns you and I will have to account someday for "every idle word" we say. That probably goes for what we write as well. So we truly should be careful, whether blogging online or talking to our friends. Besides, if God doesn't get you, a lawyer with a slander or libel suit might.

But telling church members to stop blogging completely doesn't strike me as a Christian way to do things. Check your Bible and you'll find God struck some people "dumb" a few times - but eventually He let them speak again. The blogger in Egypt can go free in four years. This denomination hasn't posted a time limit yet.

I'm thankful for the opportunity blogging provides, and respectful of the free speech our Bill of Rights guarantees. For instance, that freedom allows us to hear unique voices such as Larry Munson's at Georgia football games - although I'm not sure at his age if he really knows what a blog is.

This blog had more than 28,000 visits in 2006, from people in Columbus and around the world. To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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Tuesday's blog entry was absolutely NOT written with a sequel in mind. But one developed Thursday, far from the table where I filled out tax forms. This new case shows there are times and places when paper still comes in handy - such as a restroom stall.

Did you hear about what the administrators did at a middle school in Valley? They removed all the (ahem) toilet paper from the restrooms, in an act of punishment. Some students might wish this was done in the classroom - because it would end pop quizzes.

The bathroom tissue was taken out at W.F. Burns Middle School because some girls decided to roll the restroom. Aw c'mon - how else are you supposed to train future Auburn University students?

Once the bathroom tissue was removed, middle school students had to ask the teacher for some if they needed to relieve themselves. And parent Brandi Worthy says children were given only a few sheets. This could give a whole new meaning to the phrase, "roll your own."

Brandi Worthy told the evening news she understands the need to punish middle school students for rolling the restroom. But she says the action by W.F. Burns administrators went too far, because toilet paper is "not a privilege." It's NOT?! Then she needs to hear my Pastor at church - who preached a couple of weeks ago about the days of Sears catalogs.

Brandi Worthy says students were humiliated by having to ask the teacher for bathroom tissue. In her words, "It's not a prison." How many students laughed at that statement - including the straight-A students, who have to endure repeat lectures for the rest of a class?

What makes this punishment even more interesting is what the principal of W.F. Burns Middle School has posted on the school's web site. Priscella Holley's tips for school success include: "Keep your child well stocked with school supplies. All workers must have the proper tools!" You'd think that includes "doing a good job" in the restroom....

(Another one of the principal's tips says: "Expect to see samples of school work regularly." No, I refuse to go there....)

It turns out this is not the first bathroom vandalism problem at W.F. Burns Middle School. Soap dispensers were pulled off the walls removed awhile back, so students now have to use hand sanitizers in classrooms. Did a science class do a germ experiment, to see if those things really work?

The Chambers County School Superintendent says as of the end of Thursday's school day, the bathroom tissue was restored at W.F. Burns Middle School. So the rationing is over - which should make for some interesting class discussions about World War II.

I've heard other strange stories about school restrooms in this area. A few years ago, a Smiths Station woman told me parents had to provide toiletries for the restrooms because Lee County Schools did not. I presumed this was due to budget cuts - but now I'm wondering if students were washing each other's mouths out with soap.

During my school years, the worse bathroom vandalism I recall other than graffiti was the "paper towels over the drain" trick. I never understood why some students did that - because they weren't Bounty towels, so they'd leak all that water sooner or later.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION returns from a long hiatus, to ask what you think about the punishment at this Valley middle school. Should students be deprived of toilet paper, if they leave a mess in a restroom? Or is this asking for trouble - such as pages ripped out of textbooks by desperate children?

BLOG SPECIAL EVENT: Here it is - the first entry in our project to give the Aflac duck a name:


I think the obvious would be Danny the Duck, as in Dan Amos, but that's not my entry.

I'm gonna say Alfred. Yes, Alfred the Aflac Duck.

-Chuck Leonard-

So it could be Alfred, as in "What, Me Worry? I've got that insurance!"

We're looking for your duck name suggestions as well, so please send them to us. Now let's check other interesting items from Thursday:

+ The sun came out in Columbus, with a high temperature of 77 degrees F. Could it be possible? Could the Leadoff Classic softball tournament beginning today will have nice weather? No wait, they're playing Sunday....

+ Auburn Mayor Bill Ham delivered his annual "State of the City" address. He did it in front of a sign which said, "Auburn: The Alabama you need to know." What's that supposed to mean? Do I draw wrong conclusions, if all I see is Phenix City?

+ Dawson Mayor Joseph Allbritten was arrested in Dooly County on drunk driving charges. It's his second DUI arrest in a couple of years - yet there's no better time to be Allbritten's friend. Remember last time, when he wound up with a $500,000 lottery ticket? [True!]

+ Senator Johnny Isakson spoke to the Georgia General Assembly, and revealed he helped weld a fence at the Arizona-Mexico border a couple of weeks ago. So he's moved from "Rock the Boat Johnny" to "Weld the Bolt Johnny."

+ Speaking of boats, the Georgia Senate voted unanimously to revoke the drivers' licenses of people who abandon their boats. Please give your vessels a polite funeral - such as playing "Taps" as you let them sink in the river.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths handled Huntsville at home 5-2. It was your typical Columbus-Huntsville game -- with a Havoc player knocked out by a hard check, Columbus Civic Center security escorting away a rowdy fan, and Mike Vee on WEAM-AM suggesting the referee let players fight if it's a "mutual decision."

(The Cottonmouths now have won nine consecutive games at the Civic Center. But thankfully, no one is calling Coach Jerome Bechard's home rink the "Boom-Boom Room.")

+ Instant Message to the woman who stared at me, as she turned left at 8th and Broadway: My car had a yield sign. You didn't have a stop sign on Broadway. So I was doing the right thing, by declining to go first. Were you expecting me to drive like a NASCAR addict or something?

SONG OF THE DAY: It's amazing what can come to mind as you scan the TV dial - such as I did Thursday at 12:00 noon, starting with "PBS Kids" on channel 28:

I love you - you love me.

We're a great big family.

But then I turn to Doctor Phil and see

Families act dysfunctionally!

COMING THIS WEEKEND: Thoughts on a blogger who's just been sentenced to prison.... and which local reporter is leaving now?....

This blog had more than 28,000 visits in 2006, from people in Columbus and around the world. To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007


Who could have guessed it? While some of us were watching Best Buy intently for the return of BeBe the calf, rumors were starting about the possible end of the Aflac duck. And come to think of it, no one ever tracked down the old duckless signs which were atop the Aflac Tower....

The front page of Wednesday's Ledger-Enquirer made it clear - Aflac does NOT plan to abandon its duck mascot. Which means....

+ It will NOT be sent to South Texas, to go on a hunting trip with the Vice President.

+ It will NOT be traded to the National Hockey League's Anaheim Ducks, in a "mascot-for-draft choices" swap with the Cottonmouths.

+ It will NOT move to Walt Disney World, and begin training to be the eventual successor to Donald.

The duck discussion apparently began inside "Advertising Age" magazine, where an Aflac executive talked about doing different kinds of ads in the future. At one point he said people know the Aflac duck, but not what the company does. Some Republicans would argue this is how they lost the last election.

The Advertising Age interview was mentioned in the "New York Post," and that tabloid article was mentioned on "Live with Regis and Kelly." The next thing you knew, my old employer CNN Headline News was talking about the Aflac duck "flying south for the winter" - which really would have been confusing, with spring temperatures arriving.

Aflac finally had to release a statement to the Mass Media, explaining there are NO plans to drop the duck. If Aflac begins offering a public retirement savings plan, the white feathers may turn a little gray....

The questions about whether the Aflac duck's goose was cooked days were numbered brought another issue back to mind for me - one I'm amazed no one has brought up over the years. What is the Aflac duck's name? Does it even have one? You never hear it mentioned in commercials - and sports announcers haven't even given it a nickname at football games and NASCAR races.

We say it's time the best-known duck in Columbus had a real name. So today we launch a BLOG SPECIAL EVENT to give him one! If Zoo Atlanta can have a name-the-panda marathon stretching several weeks, we can have one of our own - only Aflac's creature obviously is much more important.

We are opening the cyber-floor for nominations. Write the blog with your ideas for naming the Aflac duck. Then we'll take the top candidates, and hold a Big Blog Question here to determine the winner. There could be a prize for the winning submission - assuming we can get the managers to provide with a notebook full of trivia questions.

BLOG UPDATE: A 3-2 vote by the Phenix City Council Wednesday shut down yet another night spot. Truly you can't spell "Gonzoes" without G-O-N-E....

Phenix City's Mayor and Police Chief noted officers were called to Gonzoes' Jazz and Blues Sports Bar in the Phenix Plaza shopping center 14 times last year because of trouble. If this is the shutdown standard, several convenience stores might not be around much longer....

Phenix City Councilman Ray Bush said he didn't believe Gonzoes had crossed the "threshold" yet, with enough crime and trouble to warrant a shutdown. Perhaps he's applying the "Fire House standard" - where someone actually has to be shot first.

The 3-2 vote is a defeat not only for Gonzoes' management, but Michael Soul of WFXE-FM "Foxie 105." He spoke in the sports bar's behalf at a city public hearing a few weeks ago. Don't expect any Phenix City Council candidates to play "Soul Man" at election parties next year.

The managers of Gonzoes plan to appeal the revocation of their business license. In the meantime, their "jazz and blues" sports bar can't show the Utah Jazz - but regular customers might have the blues, anyway.

What makes this vote interesting is that Gonzoes sits only a couple of blocks from where The Phenixian is planned - the grand new condominium project where several restaurants are promised. What do the developers have planned, to keep the Phenix City Police from coming after them? Will they automatically close when Russell County Court adjourns for the day?

E-MAIL UPDATE: A message was forwarded to us, reacting to last Friday's comments about the Concerned Citizens for Responsible Government in Talbot County:

Deb O's lead in (if true & not just her imagination) indicates that she is being fed by one of local officials.

I don't really know if that's true or not - but I'd guess Talbot County IS part of a Meals on Wheels program.

Now let's quickly digest other Wednesday developments:

+ Fenton Dixon resigned as Assistant Principal of Northside High School. Dixon was arrested on drunk driving charges a month ago, but never reported it to the School District as required. His reporting was even slower than the Columbus Times....

+ Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington appeared on WRCG's "TalkLine," and joked his first 50 days in office had felt like a year. Well, he SAID it was a joke - but it's hard to see if someone's smiling by looking at a radio.

+ Retired Colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Robert Nett shared his story of World War II service on GPB. The program "Georgia Valor" noted when Nett married his wife Frances, she was an Army nurse who outranked him. Do you think she ever reminded him of this, when it was time to do the dishes?

+ The owner of El Zapata told WRBL she's closed the restaurant on Veterans Parkway, because it can't compete with all the new places around Columbus Park Crossing. We'll see if El Vaquero near J.R. Allen Parkway closes next - or whether it will change its name to "El Victorioso."

+ A federal transportation official visited Auburn University, to examine projects for improving highway safety. John Bobo told WRBL the focus at Auburn is on building "smarter roads." If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a stupid road - you know, the kind that insists on ending even though you're sure it's the right way to your destination.

+ Instant Message to Columbus Technical College: Did Kathleen Amos change the spelling of her first name when she remarried? She's shown as "Kathelen" in your commercial - and a college in a capital fund-raising drive certainly wouldn't misspell.... oh wait a minute. Do you offer English courses?

This blog had more than 28,000 visits in 2006, from people in Columbus and around the world. To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007


It's nice to have a real sports bar close to downtown these days. I can't count a pizza place on Broadway as a "sports bar" - especially when it only has two TV sets, and you have to ask the staff to change the channel to an important game they don't know about.

The sports bar I'm talking about is Locos Grill and Pub on 13th Street. I've visited it twice on Monday nights in the last few weeks, to see my old alma mater (and Top Ten ranked) Kansas Jayhawks play basketball. The restaurant has several high-definition TV sets - but I really haven't been able to count beads of sweat at the foul line.

Locos Grill and Pub not only has HDTV for sports events, it has a full menu of food and drinks. While it may not include the large-sized Scrambled Dog of The Sports Page, it offers several desserts where the sports bar on Veterans Parkway does not. And the cheesecake actually costs less than some of the overpriced items at full-scale restaurants.

But to be honest, I have yet to get to the dessert course at Locos. The appetizers are extra-large and very filling. My belly spent much of Tuesday processing the "Nachos Muy Loco" with chicken. The chips came covered with cheese sauce, along with embedded jalapeno peppers which are perfect for justifying Locos' big glasses of soda.

Perhaps some people at Locos drink things other than soda -- because when I was there Monday night, two men almost came to blows at a table. But I'm afraid I really didn't witness what happened. When my favorite team is on TV, I try to emulate them -- by being completely focused on the court.

I heard what sounded like glass crashing to the floor, and turned my head to see one man pulling up another by the collar. Kansas-Kansas State is a rivalry game, but I'd never get this angry with an opposing fan. Besides, neither man seemed to be wearing K-State purple.

(It could have been worse, though - they could have been tossing toward the mechanical dartboard next to the bar.)

A Locos manager intervened at this point, and police never had to be called. A server told me later that "two friends" had come into the sports bar, and almost wound up fighting. At the now-torn down Choctaw Grill on Macon Road, they would have put a wrestling ring in the parking lot and promoted this.

A few minutes later, one of the men involved in the scuffle had a long discussion with the Locos staff near my table. He kept claiming he did NOT mean to disrespect anyone there. But it seemed a bit like some other negotiations that day - the talks Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Both men wound up leaving Locos, and one talked openly about never coming back. I'm not sure if that was his decision, or the manager's orders. But the bar chairs were propped up shortly after they left - and my view of the second half on the HDTV behind the bar wound up more like a fifth-row seat on the arena floor.

But all in all, Locos is a nice place - and my large-sized appetizer plate with a large diet cola cost me less than 11 dollars with a tip. In fact, the server gave me back a ten-percent "Money Mailer" coupon I used. I suppose that was a "thank-you" gift, for sitting through an unscheduled sideshow.

BLOG UPDATE: The Muscogee County School Board voted Tuesday night to put the old Baker High School building up for sale. So now your dream for the building can come true. It can become a community center, an office building - or the new home of the recently-demolished Candlelight Motel and Cellars Lounge.

The Muscogee County School Board also heard from Northside High School students, about a new auditorium [11 Jan]. Students say it was promised five years ago, but never built. Maybe they should call Edward DuBose at the Georgia NAACP, to get faster results.

What else happened Tuesday? We tried to keep track of it....

+ A late-afternoon jog around South Commons found little white warning flags on the ground, alerting me to a pesticide application. I knew it smelled like spring outside - only it was the man-made counterfeit.

+ An Alabama pilot survived an emergency landing in Phenix City. He took off from Columbus Airport, and went down in Idle Hour Park. Give that man some credit -- he obeyed the signs, and did NOT trespass his plane inside Garrett-Harrison Stadium.

(WRBL found it curious that the pilot was taken to The Medical Center in Columbus, even though Summit Hospital was practically down the street. Officials explained the Medical Center has a "trauma unit" - while I guess Phenix City was simply in trauma over not having a hospital for years.)

+ Attorney Stephen Hyles had an unusual day. In the morning, he watched a client plead "guilty but insane" to a Harris County church attack. In the evening, he led a Columbus Library discussion of the Shakespeare play "As You Like It." Wouldn't "Love's Labours Lost" have been more appropriate?

+ Ground was broken in Plains for a new Alterra biodiesel plant. Former President Jimmy Carter was part of the ceremony, and said the new plant will help end our dependence on imported oil. It's nice to know he's still searching for that answer, after 30 years....

+ A bill was introduced to move up next year's Georgia Presidential Primary to February 5. So many states are considering this that next season's Super Bowl may have NO noteworthy commercials - because campaigns will buy up all the time.

+ The Columbus State women's softball team opened its home season by sweeping a doubleheader from Clark Atlanta. The Cougars won 20-1 and 20-0. If they'd been playing table tennis, the outcome still might be in doubt.

+ Instant Message to Chief Assistant District Attorney Mark Post: How many times do people pick on you about that name - or suggest you should be working in "Night Court?"

This blog had more than 28,000 visits in 2006, from people in Columbus and around the world. To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Even though Monday was Presidents' Day, the Government Center was open for business. And I'm glad it was, because that allowed me to finish all my tax return work for the year. Now if the Postal Service will simply do ITS work, and not confiscate my refund checks....

I actually mailed my federal and state tax returns last week - but I left two Columbus city returns for last, because they were more complicated. They related to my failed sports business, with one requiring me to guess in advance what my revenues would be. Just like on TV, I guessed too high - and I was a big loser.

Have you ever filled out the Columbus "Business Personal Property Tax" form? It's a six-page document that's clearly printed off a computer to save money - because there are perforations on both sides, it's printed on two sides of the page, and you feel like you're doing origami going from the instructions to the forms and back.

The Business Personal Property Tax form hasn't changed since the last time I filled one out, for 2002 [17 Mar 03]. That's too bad, because it's confusing for newcomers and incredibly detailed. For one thing, the merchandise you sell is NOT personal property. Which was puzzling, because I personally bought it....

One page of the Business Personal Property Tax form is for "inventory," such as your merchandise. But another page is for "personal property," defined as everything from equipment to furniture -- yet then you have to divide that property into four separate groups. Picking Medicare drug coverage should be a breeze, after doing this.

Schedule A of the Business Personal Property Tax form divides the property based on its "typical economic life." Some things are expected to last one to four years, while others should last 13 years or more. So it's sort of like what counselors do at The Pastoral Institute....

If that's not enough, the Business Personal Property Tax form is NOT handled at the Columbus Property Tax office. I was directed to the Tax Assessor's office, two floors up. So at least business people feel a bit more important, when it comes to city government....

But before I even went to the Government Center, I wanted to make copies of all my tax forms. So I drove to OfficeMax at Cross Country Plaza and did it for seven cents a page. If there's an inexpensive place to make copies downtown, I don't know where it is - and I didn't dare try to walk to Synovus and pretend I was an employee.

Once the copies were made, I went downtown -- and was directed to the second cubicle around the corner at the Tax Assessor's office, to have my Business Personal Property Tax form reviewed. I apologized to the woman there for covering several lines with liquid paper, where I had become confused. Please note in the interest of "One Columbus," I do NOT call it "White-Out."

In my frustration over preparing this return, I had a deep spiritual moment - and I'm afraid I tried to spill it out on the woman at the second cubicle. "Either the government tries to take as much from me as it can, as my Pastor has said under the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit which cannot lie, or...."

"Stop right there," the woman interrupted. I was talking fast, but never could get to the side of the argument where bureaucrats such as her get the benefit of the doubt.

The woman at the second cubicle gave me a legal pad, and had me write down everything I'd claimed as business personal property. Schedule A has no room for that, and doesn't require it. So I actually had to justify everything I was willing to pay taxes on - but that's OK, since I do that on income tax forms with extra change from vending machines.

In only a moment, the women at the second cubicle did some quick math about what I wrote. "I really don't think there's enough here for you to pay property tax." Wow, it paid off for me to buy a new computer on sale last summer....

The other form I had to finish Monday was for the city Occupation Tax. I made tax prepayments when I obtained a business license for Power Frisbee, but the business was such a flop that I'll be getting a refund -- unless, of course, that money's already been assigned for paying landfill fees.

You pay occupation taxes in the opposite wing of the Government Center from personal property taxes. It made for an interesting walk through the basement parking garage - as I spotted a door with the sign "SHREDDING ROOM" on it. If finance department workers had known about that the last couple of years, Angela Cole still might have a city job.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Wheels are on readers' minds today, beginning with a sad story from Salem:

So sorry to see in the paper the death of another youngster on an all terrain vehicle..THese are not toys for kids..They are big boy toys,but are still dangerous even if the driver is an adult..

I've never driven an ATV, but I had a few thrills in the backyard as a teenager. A small five-speed riding lawnmower can pop wheelies like a funny car when you shift it -- and it's practical, too.

We also heard from the public relations team for Erica Ortiz, the Columbus drag racer we mentioned Sunday:

Thanks so much! She's moving forward this year, finished #2 in points for the last season only attending half the events. ended up running 6.69 @ 207mph by season close, and has a new car being built for this season.

You're awesome for sticking that up there!

Awe.... thank YOU! And if Erica wants to mention in one of those victory lane TV interviews she's driving the "Blog of Columbus Ford," I'll be thrilled even more.

(But as I mentioned Sunday, my aging Honda is anything but a drag racer. The only 6.69 I tend to run with my car occurs in the drive-through lane at Zaxby's.)

Now let's see what else caught our attention on Presidents' Day:

+ A TV investigation found some Wellcare insurance agents may have moved Columbus-area families off their Medicare plans without their consent. Older people actually had their signatures forged on documents - and you could tell they were phonies, because the letters didn't look shaky at all.

+ An Alabama state official called for the first price increase in hunting and fishing licenses since 1989. I'm really not sure why. Are deer and wild turkeys spending more to live in the woods now?

+ A Vice President at Columbus Technical College admitted to WRBL enrollment has dropped by more than 15 percent since 2003. That new Kia plant in West Point had better be very complex....

+ Chattahoochee Valley Community College swept Enterprise, in a basketball doubleheader. Those commercials really are true - Enterprise will pick you up.

+ Instant Message to Chapman's on Wynnton Road: You sell educational materials, right? So why does the sign outside your store say today is "Marti Gra?" Are you marking some obscure Cuban holiday?

COMING THIS WEEK: My first bar fight.... and how I almost missed it....

This blog had more than 28,000 visits in 2006, from people in Columbus and around the world. To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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Monday, February 19, 2007


A happy Presidents' Day to you. As a reminder, Columbus area libraries are closed today -- but the library staff is having a training day. So perhaps you can quiz them Tuesday, on the order of all the Presidents.

Around here, it's also another "Hurtsboro Monday" - but the tradition of several weeks could be at the brink of ending. That's because the man who started all the commotion several weeks ago sent us e-mail titled "ADIEU" during the last week. But then, maybe he knew the Parisian store was about to close....

But to get to the point -- the Constable comments again:


In your latest BLOG [12 Feb] you bemoaned the fact that you hadn't received any E-Mail from "Hurt"sboro. Well here's a submission - but I doubt that you will publish it!!

I found you by accident - but believe me - : I'm deliberately distancing myself from you!

It was a mistake on my part to assume that you were a legitimate journalist ( Phenix Citizen 2/8/07) but; "Fool me once and it's your fault." Believe me, there will be no second time!

There are serious issues here in "Hurt"sboro, the town isn't just in pain - its dieing!! Another business closed today, and others will follow soon. I suppose it's far too late to resuscitate the old burg but it should be at least given a dignified demise. It's totally inappropriate to invite a buffoon to blather over its deathbed!

I can take consolation in one fact - there was almost total lack of response, to your innuendo's and half-truths. Perhaps you are not as well circulated as you claim. Perhaps this E-Mail will serve to bring out your defenders!

I will bow out with this comment - "There is plenty of news here in "Hurt"sboro - a legitmate journalist could do a great service for the citizens of Russell County. COME DIG FOR IT!!!

Constable R.J. Schweiger

Oh dear - it's so hard to keep satisfied customers these days. We posted the Constable's first e-mail 4 Jan, and now he may not last through the end of high school basketball season.

First of all, does a mention in the Phenix Citizen-News explain why our number of blog readers suddenly doubled last week? We're happy to have all the new visitors - and maybe that newspaper is read more closely than the Ledger-Enquirer.

I'm not sure what I've done to make the Constable conclude I'm not "a legitimate journalist." I mean, just because I haven't posted continuous updates on the death of Anna Nicole Smith....

The Constable should recall it was this blog which tried to call four Hurtsboro business owners he specifically named, and offered a detailed response from the wife of one of them [22 Jan]. If the others don't want to talk - believe it or not, freedom of speech can include the freedom NOT to do so.

It was this blog which went to Russell County Court for Constable Schweiger's arraignment [7 Feb]. The arraignment which was continued until next week, we were not allowed inside the courtroom to watch -- and the Constable might have only recognized us had we worn a giant "BLOG" T-shirt.

It was this blog which offered details last week of a petition drive filed with the Alabama Governor, seeking executive intervention in Hurtsboro. As far as we're aware, it still has not happened. Or perhaps two Russell County Sheriff's Deputies were able to accomplish it, in an undercover operation.

What could have made Constable Schweiger turn against me so? What "innuendos and half-truths" have been brought here against him? He confirmed the convictions in Hurtsboro Municipal Court, and the petitions sent the blog confirm he wants state intervention in the town. Not to mention his admission that he sleeps on top of a dog cage....

Perhaps R.J. Schweiger is annoyed (and based on e-mail from two weeks ago, we probably can cross out the "perhaps") that the Hurtsboro Mayor has not replied to all his messages. I tried to call Sandra Tarver at home Sunday - but the number listed in the phone book for her has been disconnected. Is she scared I'd try to track her down? Or is she tired of a Constable already doing that?

Perhaps R.J. Schweiger is upset because we haven't mentioned everything in that U.P.S. package of papers he sent us. Not only did it have petitions to the Governor (which we considered more newsworthy), it also had petitions from last June about votes on "a projected retail liquor serving establishment" seeking an "on premises retail liquor license." I think I remember when this was called a bar.

(The petitions expressed concern about "large crowds" gathering at this establishment, while Hurtsboro has "no viable police department." Imagine if the petition-signers saw a full house for a country music concert at the Columbus Civic Center.)

But perhaps R.J. Schweiger is more concerned about this blog not making a drive to Hurtsboro to "dig" for details on the town's conditions. How does he know we have NOT done that? Is he checking every license plate passing down Alabama Highway 26?

And perhaps Constable Schweiger is most concerned about the people of Hurtsboro, who have described him to us as "eccentric" - to use one of the more polite labels. Perhaps he's going to "distance himself" from us because we've come quite close to turning the tables on him. After all, we could call his ex-wife in another state anytime [29 Jan]....

If Constable Schweiger does not want a "buffoon" visiting his beloved Hurtsboro after all, so be it. But he should remember something - some Democrats would argue he's asking for exactly that, with those petition to Governor Bob Riley.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Let's swing the microscope now back over to Georgia - and a reply to last Friday's e-mail about Talbot County activists:

In regards to the blog about Talbot County:

Deborah Owens made some interesting, but apparent misguided charges regarding the Concerned Citizens for Responsible Government (CCRG) of Talbot County.

Apparently Ms. Owens has an agenda that is contrary to the agenda of CCRG. The CCRG promotes open, ethical and honest government. Citizens are encouraged to get involved and participate. The public is kept informed and aware of the operations, policy-making and decisions made by county officials. CCRG also watches how county officials allocate and spend tax dollars. If these issues are objectionable to Ms. Owens, it would be interesting to know her agenda.

I do not belong to CCRG but I have attended several of their meetings and have talked with each of the current and past directors. I have found that each of them are committed to the goals of CCRG. I have also attended several Board of Commissioners meetings and based on my observations, the actions of the BOC are not always in the best interests of the taxpayers.

I am also aware that the Board of Commissioners meetings are video recorded. Video recording was started because, in the past, minutes were found to not accurately record the actions of the BOC. Also, commissioners tended to distort their previous stands on issues and talked down to constituents. Now, with a video record, the citizens have a way to refute any inaccuracies.

I noted Ms. Owens made several allegations but, she did not cite CCRG names. Of course, anyone can make outlandish statements without facts but, doing so usually indicates a lack of credibility rather than the opposite.

As for getting rid of all county elected officials: There may be some individuals who harbor that desire but, it is not and never has been the objective of CCRG. CCRG is dedicated to getting the current elected officials to follow the law and to act in the best interests of the citizens of Talbot County.

I wonder if Ms. Owns has ever attended a CCRG membership meeting or a board of directors meeting to see for herself how the organization works. Her comments remind me of an attention getter I have used:

I have a colored tennis ball, black on one side while the other side is still green. I select two people to come before the group, facing each other and I instruct them to identify the color of the ball the quickest, when I lift the handkerchief covering the ball. I hold the ball so the black side is exposed to one person and the green to the other person. When I remove the handkerchief, one person says green and one says black. I cover the ball and comment "how can that be." I ask them to repeat the procedure. This time, they tend to lean a bit so they can see more of the ball and they finally figure out the color of the ball. The point of the exercise is: we should not be too quick to jump to conclusions about something based on our own perspective but, we should also look at the situation from the other persons perspective.

Perhaps Ms. Owens has only looked at the CCRG from her perspective and needs to look deeper to gain a clear understanding of their purpose and actions to achieve that purpose. The CCRG maintains a web site, which provides information about their efforts and cases when the elected officials are not acting in according to the law and in the best interests of taxpayers.


A. Earl Cheal

Midland, Ga

I would agree with A. Earl that Deborah Owens's agenda is different. To sum it up: she doesn't want anyone with "axe handles" swinging them at the pristine Talbot County woodland.

The use of a two-colored tennis ball can provide interesting lessons. For one thing, I could read the spin of it better in returning a serve....

Let's see if any of our Sunday topics make you spin or sputter....

+ Which son of a well-known Columbus minister is telling business people his father is the pastor of "Six Flags Over Jesus?" Is there a separate flag in Aramaic, since that was the language Jesus purportedly spoke?

+ The Best Buy store revealed "BeBe" the calf mascot has a worse break than first thought, and may not return to its spot until mid-March. A manager said the fiberglass calf was damaged from customers sitting on it. This is no way to practice for the pro bull riding tour....

+ Kevin Harvick won the Daytona 500 stock car race -- and WRBL reported one of Harvick's sponsors is Realtree of Columbus. So why wasn't Harvick's car in camouflage colors, to sneak around Mark Martin better on the final lap?

This blog had more than 28,000 visits in 2006, from people in Columbus and around the world. To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007


The big day finally has arrived - and are people around here ever ready for the Daytona 500! I learned that the other day, when a Voyager tried to pass me in a shrinking access lane on Bradley Park Drive. The driver actually stopped at the end of it to let me through -- but I stopped as well. If he wants a victory that badly, let him take it.

A four-time national champion racer was in Columbus last weekend. Did you see him? Did you even know he was in town? Did you even know he was born in Columbus? Probably not on all three counts -- because his family doesn't seem to lobby as hard for coverage as the parents of junior high school cheerleaders.

Drive west on Victory Drive between the two Lumpkin Roads, and you may notice a sign supporting this champion: "GO AARON YATES, WIN DAYTONA." He's a Columbus native, and he ranks among "the best motorcycle racers" in history. But then again, his uncle Aaron might be a little biased when he makes that statement....

The older Aaron Yates works at Yates Transmission and body shop on Victory Drive. The younger one is saluted on the sign outside the shop. He now lives in Milledgeville, as his family has jobs with Georgia Power -- which can be confusing, because the transmission shop does NOT provide his horsepower.

The older Aaron Yates told me Friday afternoon his nephew's racing motorcycles are provided by Suzuki. So it's not quite the family arrangement that Bill Elliott had for years in Dawsonville, Georgia. And I also doubt Yates has "converted" during his career, from a Coors sponsorship to McDonald's.

The racing Aaron Yates came back to Columbus last weekend because several members of his family happen to have mid-February birthdays, including his mother. If he was a NASCAR racer, they might have been able to share a family celebration dinner in the infield at Daytona Beach.

"He's been racing all his life," Uncle Aaron Yates said about his champion nephew. The younger Yates won the AMA motorcycle "Superteens" season title in 1995, then another national title in 2002 and the Superstock crown in 2005. About the only "super" title he hasn't won is Muscogee County Superintendent.

Aaron Yates is on a new racing team this season -- the Jordan Suzuki team. The "Jordan" just happens to be basketball legend Michael Jordan. But Yates's uncle is a Columbusite through and through - pronouncing that last name like the high school.

"Michael Jordan, he's a motorcycle freak," Uncle Aaron told me. So much so that he's now a part-team owner, has his legendary "slam dunk jump" logo on Aaron Yates's bike - and probably will place a bet on at least one race this coming season.

The AMA motorcycle racing season will begin at Daytona, as NASCAR does - but not until early March. Uncle Aaron Yates sounds very confident about the 2007 season, noting his nephew was fourth fastest in recent testing at California Speedway. Of course, if the top three bikes have Toyota motors, Yates may not have much to worry about.

(Those motorcycles are NOT cheap, by the way. Uncle Aaron Yates told me a Suzuki motor can cost $250,000. I don't think there's a shop in Columbus which details large-sized pickup trucks for that much money.)

Uncle Aaron Yates confessed to me he once dreamed of big-time success on the pro motorcycle circuit, but his nephew has accomplished that and more. The uncle attends AMA races in the eastern U.S. such as Road Atlanta, but can't always get to western tracks such as Pikes Peak. Do racing engines at that altitude make global warming that much worse?

The success of Aaron Yates is striking, considering there's no really good place in the Columbus area for motorcyclists to race. Well, unless you count breakaways during poker runs on U.S. 431 or Interstate 185....

Our curiosity about Aaron Yates brought back memories of a related e-mail we received last August. It arrived in the week that we tried to launch Power Frisbee, and we apologize for it falling through the cracks of our brain all this time:

Hi there,

Love your blog. Please check out This local young lady has just become the fastest woman in her drag racing series, running the 1/4 mile from 0-207 mph in just 6.85 seconds. Erica is an up and coming drag racer who is working towards a Professional career in the sport....


Heather Sinks

Heather's talking about Erica Ortiz - who was born in Orlando, but now calls Columbus home. Drag racing around here is much easier than motorcycle racing. In fact, some people probably do it past Yates Transmission on Victory Drive on weekends.

Erica Ortiz hopes to get her first professional drag racing title this year, driving "Pro Modified" cars. She had two second-place finishes last year, in the "Fun Ford Weekend" racing series. I presume none of those races are held around the closed plant in Hapeville....

But thinking about the name of her web site, it must not be easy for Erica Ortiz to race cars while wearing high heels. What if one of them gets caught in the floorboard when the green light comes on?

Erica Ortiz may have more local media coverage than Aaron Yates, considering she works in the advertising department of the Ledger-Enquirer. But then again, does she have a drawing of Tim Chitwood's face on her race car?

By the way, I'm impressed by Erica Ortiz being able to drive from 0 to 207 miles per hour in less than seven seconds. My humble Honda does well getting from 0 to 20.7 in that time.

BLOG UPDATE: Last Sunday we took you behind a convenience store, to meet immigration workers seeking day labor. We've now been given links to two federal web sites related to this topic. One is a page relating to Immigration and Customs Enforcement - the sort of ICE people in the Northeast and Midwest would prefer to see right now.

The link we were given describes a "mutual agreement between government and employers" program, called IMAGE. Companies who volunteer to be part of the program receive training in proper hiring, discrimination rules and "fraudulent document detection." If all the pictures of potential workers actually look alike, it may not be your bias after all.

The other link we received is to a pilot government program called SAVE, developed in part by the Social Security Administration. Amazingly, it has nothing to do with getting people to put money in retirement plans and stop relying on Social Security....

The SAVE Program allows the government to verify whether new employees at a company are eligible for work. It could be a matter of whether or not the worker is a U.S. citizen. And I suppose it could be a matter of whether the worker snuck away from a Muscogee County Prison work crew.

(There could be new job openings for immigrant workers in East Alabama, by the way. Someone is going to have to help Compass Bank employees chat with their new corporate office in Bilbao, Spain.)

Now to other items from a wintry weekend....

+ Which former candidate for Columbus Council is asking his opponent to make a decision NOW, about whether he/she will run for reelection in 2008? These Democrats running for President are setting quite an example for other politicians - of impatience.

+ The Parisian store at Peachtree Mall closed for good, as of 6:00 Saturday night. If you want something Parisian at the mall now - well, maybe FYE has some Charles Aznavour albums hidden away.

+ A "Peace in the Park" candlelight vigil was held in Lakebottom Park, to remember everyone who has died in Iraq in the last four years. I'm assuming this includes the car bombers as well as the U.S. soldiers - and I'm wondering if the organizers think both groups equally died in vain.

+ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution announced it will stop delivering newspapers to Columbus and Albany at the end of March. Isn't this amazing? The Ledger-Enquirer won the circulation war, despite the StreetScape work on Broadway.

+ Congratulations to Glenwood School, which won the AISA Alabama state titles in both boys and girls basketball! In some public schools, some students would be talking now about a breeding program - and they might not be joking.

+ Instant Message to the Spectrum store on South Lumpkin Road: You had me nervous there for a second - but I eventually figured it out. If your electronic sign shows gas selling for $8.88 a gallon, it's really not price gouging.

COMING MONDAY: Could it be the last Hurtsboro Monday? An e-mail hints at it....

This blog had more than 28,000 visits in 2006, from people in Columbus and around the world. To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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