Friday, August 31, 2007

for 1 SEP 07: RESCUE ME

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

If there was any hopeful news about Michael Vick this past week, it was the footballer-turned-felon telling reporters he's "found Jesus." But the bad news was, Vick suddenly couldn't find the Tom Joyner Morning Show....

I heard from one man this week who thought Michael Vick's public statement was.... well, I thought it was made in Virginia, but this man declared it was in-Sincere.

"They never mean it," this man declared about people who say they "find religion" either behind bars or close to them. That seems like broad-brush painting to me - but I've heard similar comments from the wives of church pastors. Maybe they've seen prisoners with Bible covers "sharper than a two-edged sword."

Since Michael Vick claimed to have found Jesus, I was struck by another comment he made during his public apology. The suspended Atlanta Falcon said: "I will redeem myself. I have to." This sounds more like a football player than a deep-down Christian - but then again, football is known for rookie mistakes at times.

Believers in God should realize public sins are NOT like throwing an interception in football. The quarterback can make up for his mistake, with a big play on the next drive. In the "real world," that's not always possible. And in one current death penalty appeal, the Columbus Fraternal Order of Police wants to make sure it's not possible.

So if you can't redeem yourself, what do you do? You call on someone else to redeem you. This concept should be pretty easy to understand. The "My Coke Rewards" points would have disappeared, if I hadn't redeemed them a few weeks ago.

When it comes to our mistakes and sins, God provides a redeemer - and that person happens to be the same person Michael Vick is finding. The book of Hebrews says Jesus has obtained "eternal redemption for us." Eternal?! That's far longer than the deadline for S&H green stamps....

Jesus redeemed us by shedding His blood, and dying for our sins. If you're not familiar with this, I suggest reading through the book of Hebrews this weekend. You may find you need redemption, too - and it's better to find that redemption now, than discovering you need it after a sentencing hearing.

SCHEDULED SUNDAY: A lockdown at the most unlikely school in town....

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Governor Bob Riley has declared today "College Colors Day" across Alabama. If you've already put on your work clothes, you have our permission to go to a search engine now-- to enter your colors, find a matching college and fit in.

Has your workplace been buzzing about the start of college football season? Mine has for a couple of weeks - and I think all the talk has been a key factor in breaking our run of 100-degree temperatures.

Columbus is a college football crossroads, with supporters of teams from both Georgia and Alabama. But as we've noted here before, Columbus has NO college team in town. It's so bad that Columbus State University hasn't even started a men's soccer team, to go with the women.

All the big colleges in the area are in action on this opening weekend. Our title today is a famous line from the late Georgia Tech sportscaster Al Ceraldo - and shame on any of you who thought it referred to dancers at The Platinum Club.

For the second year in a row, Georgia Tech opens the season against Notre Dame. The Yellowjacket coaches may be checking today to see which players are Catholic, and thus less likely to give 100-percent.

Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey told reporters this week he looks on Notre Dame Stadium as "just another football field." He leaves it to the athletic director to notice all the fans in the stands, spending lots of money on tickets.

(I think I can name one man who's unlikely to root for Chan Gailey this season - Senator Larry Craig of Idaho.)

Many people may have forgotten how Georgia Tech reached its conference championship game last December - the only team in the area to do that. We'll quickly see how many Columbus radio stations have forgotten, since they tend not to carry Tech games at all.

A new era begins in Alabama football this weekend, as Nick Saban coaches his first game. Some people consider Saban under a lot of pressure, but keep one thing in mind. Unlike last year with the Miami Dolphins, he doesn't have to yell as he throws a red flag to get the referee's attention.

Alabama will open at home against Western Carolina. Somehow, I have the feeling this is NOT a "home-and-home" series - especially since Bryant-Denny Stadium holds more than 20 times as many people as Western Carolina's home town.

Auburn and Georgia open their seasons at home against Big 12 Conference opponents. And based on what I read several months ago, both games were arranged by ESPN. If the athletic directors at these schools ran major league baseball teams, the Yankees and Red Sox would meet only one weekend a year in September.

Georgia welcomes Oklahoma State to Athens Saturday night - which means a home-state appearance by O.S.U. running back and Jordan High School graduate Dontrell Savage. So does Savage have the privilege to request free tickets for his friends? The current Jordan team might fill one row of bleachers.

That leaves the home opener for Auburn - and a game which I admit has me very conflicted. The Tigers host Kansas State. As a native of Kansas, part of me wants to root for the visiting Wildcats. But as a graduate of arch-rival Kansas, part of me also wants to see them squashed like purple grapes below a buffet table.

Auburn University security officers showed off their "jail cell" inside Jordan-Hare Stadium Thursday. People who are caught smuggling alcohol into the game will be put in a holding tank under the end zone stands - and who knows how many of those drinkers will try to argue holding is a ten-yard penalty.

(It's possible to actually watch the game inside the holding tank. But you have to stare through narrow slits between rows of bleachers - and you have to hope the fans in those bleachers practice yoga, and sit in the lotus position.)

So that's our college football preview for 2007, and it should be.... what? What are you asking?! What about MY alma mater, Kansas? I may have mentioned here before what the start of football season usually means at Kansas. It's only about three months until basketball season.

But seriously: an online alumni newsletter from Kansas this month noted the Jayhawk football team is striving for its "fourth bowl-eligible season in five years." Talk about a spin job - it didn't bother mentioning that in at least one of those eligible years, Kansas wasn't selected for a bowl at all.

We shouldn't overlook the start of the area high school football season. LaGrange handled Harris County 31-0 Thursday night, in a game delayed for two hours by lightning. Someone actually carried a small pocket "lightning detector" - which I suppose is less bulky than a golf umbrella.

BIG PREDICTION: We're inviting you to send us your "sure-thing, lock of the year" predictions on area college football games. We begin with the son of WRLD "Boomer 95.3" morning star Alan Dupriest. Matthew Dupriest assures me Kansas State will lose to Auburn, and NOT score more than ten points. So he's presuming K-State will K-Stink....

Now some quick kicks through Thursday news stories:

+ The Education Park Coalition announced it plans a weekend meeting, about whether to take the library land fight to the Georgia Supreme Court. Coalition leader Josh McKoon says the group's rejection by Judge Doug Pullen shows the need to get campaign promises put in writing -- such as written statements that candidates are not homosexual.

+ WRBL reported the Columbus Foundry plans large-scale layoffs. I didn't realize until Thursday that the foundry makes parts for General Motors cars. Perhaps this means too many Chevrolets are winning NASCAR races, and avoiding crashes.

+ Instant Message to WRBL's Creshon Saunders: Are you kidding me? If you win tonight's $325 million Mega Millions jackpot, you'll really spend most of the money to "pay off my student loan"?! How many Ivy League master's degrees do you have?

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Thursday, August 30, 2007


Presidents past, present and potentially future made news in the Columbus area Wednesday. Even Mike Gaymon tried to get into the act with an economic announcement - as President of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

The past and potential future met in Americus, as former President Jimmy Carter strolled around Georgia Southwestern State University with John Edwards. They probably felt right at home with each other. Both are Democrats, both are Southern - but I think Mr. Carter's drawl is a little wider.

John Edwards told a GSW convocation about several of his key campaign issues. For one thing, he's in favor of "universal health care." Some of us would be happier, if he simply had a national plan.

When it comes to world affairs, John Edwards says he wants to establish a dialogue with Iran. Somehow, I think this means Joseph Lieberman would NOT be his Secretary of State....

John Edwards also called for a quick removal of U.S. military personnel from Iraq. Hmmmm - that explains why his speech was in Americus, and not next door to Fort Benning in Columbus.

John Edwards launched his presidential campaign in New Orleans, so he simply HAD to discuss Wednesday's anniversary of Hurricane Katrina coming ashore. Edwards said there needs to be a "surge" of help for hurricane survivors. But would people there become scared simply at the thought of a new storm surge?

John Edwards went on to say the federal government should fund 500 additional police officers in New Orleans. I'm not sure what Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington would think of this. He's quite pro-police -- but he'd want money for at least 25 here.

But there's one big problem with John Edwards's idea. The "CBS Evening News" reported Wednesday that the U.S. government has spent $86 million on crime prevention in New Orleans since Katrina hit. And if all that money's not enough, a new fall TV crime drama is set there....

So what did President Carter think of wanna-be-President Edwards? He expressed admiration, but stopped short of making an endorsement. Some of us who remember Howard Dean's trip to Plains in January 2004 are wondering if that's the campaign kiss of death.

The present President who visited Columbus Wednesday was Zeljok Komsic. He's one of three men who share the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina. So there, you see? If that country can do it, George W. Bush and Al Gore could have done it in 2001.

Zeljok Komsic appeared at Columbus State University - and I'm told he was under tight Secret Service protection. We all know how that vast Serbian community in Columbus likes to rise up and protest.

Zeljok Komsic told WRBL he has several goals for advancing Bosnia-Herzegovina - including having that country join the European Union. This is something I don't quite understand. Didn't his part of the world once have a small-scale version of that? It was called Yugoslavia.

CLASSIC BLOG: We dared to compare John Edwards's Americus trip with a campaign stop he made in downtown Columbus three years ago. Here are highlights from what we wrote 24 Feb 04:

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

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

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: The votes have been counted across East Alabama - but at least one voter wants to add a P.S.:

Richard, Hallelujah! The citizens of East Alabama have spoken. We've had enough! Do you think our elected officials will now get the message? Maybe these elected officials (especially school board members) would like to donate their salaries to the school system instead of asking us property owners for more money. They always can seem to find the money to give themselves pay increases but then whine about how the system needs more money.

And suggestions to Lee County School Board members: 1. Decrease your salaries for your part-time jobs

2. why should we pay for two superintendents? If the Supt. was not doing his job why didn't you fire him instead of paying him to do nothing for the next 4 yrs and hiring another Supt? 3. You might not need as many portables if you got all of the students from Russell County out of the Lee County schools (an on-going problem now for many years) 4. We're tired of hearing about BRAC - these new residents will pay their property (school) taxes. 5. Give the senior citizens a break on school taxes - we've supported the schools for years and many of us are on fixed incomes. It's all a lot of seniors can do to absorb the higher cost of gas for their cars and electricity to heat and cool their homes (AL Power has already had two increases this year!)

6. Let's see you do more with less. 7. Has anyone ever noticed how many "home schooled" kids win the National Spelling Bee and National Geography Bee, etc. And their parents do this with a fraction of the money the public school system spends per child....

A Lee County voter

OK, let's assume the Opelika School Board members gave up their salaries. How large a high school do you think their money would build?

Lee County Superintendent John Painter apparently was only demoted in July because he's under a long-term contract with the school district [20 Jul]. I'm not sure if the school board can treat him like a baseball player, and trade him to Montgomery for an administrator to be named later.

This complaint about Russell County students attending Lee County schools is a new one to me. I've heard of Barbour County students sneaking into Russell County -- so maybe there's a massive rotation going on.

This writer apparently believes the new Fort Benning families will pay so much in property taxes that older people in Lee County might not need to pay anymore. Of course, there's an easy way to accomplish this. Have the older people sell their homes to the new Fort Benning families -- then build high-rise retirement condos in Opelika.

(And speaking of tax breaks, why doesn't this writer propose an exemption for home-school families? Their property taxes are being used to teach other families' students - and those students might struggle someday to win on "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader.")

Meanwhile, Phenix City School Superintendent Larry DiChiara declared Wednesday when voters rejected a property tax increase, "they didn't vote for excellence.... They voted for mediocrity." Never mind what that potentially says about himself - why do you think these voters live in Phenix City, instead of Columbus?

I'd better stop there, before the e-mails really start - and check other items which had people talking Wednesday:

+ In that economic announcement we mentioned above, Teen Challenge announced it's moving its headquarters to Columbus. The office already is open, near Tenth and Broadway - a short walk from the Columbus State University RiverPark campus. So students about to lose their HOPE scholarships have a new place to go, besides the Coffee Beanery.

+ Columbus Library Director Claudya Muller told WRBL a Superior Court Judge ruled in favor of the library land compromise. So the Education Park Coalition will have to try something different - like bringing in their own sod, to cover bricks laid by the landscapers.

+ Columbus gas stations which had dropped their prices to $2.40 a gallon suddenly raised them about nine cents. C'mon, guys - it was NOT Hurricane Katrina, simply the anniversary of it.

+ BP America donated two solar-powered cars to Georgia Governor Sunny Sonny Perdue. One of them will be used at the Franklin Roosevelt Historic Site in Warm Springs - setting up a potential clash with the Garden Club, if trees need to be cut to keep the car running.

+ The Columbus Catfish swept a doubleheader from Charleston 2-1 and 2-1. The baseball team can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight, in its final home game of the season. Then a crew should cover Golden Park with shrink-wrap, so it will still be usable next week.

+ Instant Message to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Congratulations. You outlasted Richard Jewell in his lengthy lawsuit. Who's your next opponent, Cynthia McKinney?

COMING FRIDAY: The first big local prediction of the football season....

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Before we get to our planned theme for the day, we simply cannot avoid the Tuesday night referendum results in East Alabama. Voters in four different school districts all turned down property tax increases. Let's all hope no more hurricanes head this way - because those districts will need all the trailers they can find.

The vote in Phenix City was 74-percent against a property tax increase. Superintendent Larry DiChiara warned new construction was needed, because school enrollment was jumping. Maybe voters liked that "outdoor classroom" at Lakewood Elementary, and want the concept expanded district-wide.

Superintendent Larry DiChiara sent letters to parents throughout the Phenix City School District, asking them to support the property tax increase. But only about 500 voters did - which makes you wonder how long the waiting list is for enrollment at Glenwood.

The margin in Lee County was even more lopsided. A property tax proposal for schools was squished like a bug, gaining only 18-percent support. The answer now may be cost-cutting -- like cutting the costs of hiring a new superintendent, and bringing back the old one.

I'm hearing the Lee County property tax vote may have morphed into a referendum on the school board. The board still hasn't really explained its de facto firing of Superintendent John Painter in July. If Painter is this popular, he may wind up as an executive assistant to Muscogee County's John Phillips.

We don't have time to say much more, because of a tight schedule. We'd originally planned to offer another pre-packaged, preservative-laden SPAM-A-RAMA today. We take REAL titles of spam messages from our InBox, and offer quick replies to them. So it's hip hip hip, and away we go....


....So if your wife says she has a headache, insist she take aspirin.


Then Michael Vick was indicted.


What the "smoke-free" activists should do at The Tobacco Place.


Simply wearing one probably won't get you dates anymore.


Why Auburn University recruits offensive linemen.


What would happen if Victory Drive nightclubs added day spas.


OK - I hereby reserve 31 October, 2018.


In height, yes. In waistline, no.


Sitting at a computer all day is bad enough, without kneeling before one.


Chad the Alltel guy keeps trying - but those four geeks simply won't listen.


A skill many residents of South Phenix City have - but not by choice.



Well, no -- the Columbus Chamber of Commerce tends to hold breakfasts.


What's the prize - 2.5 million virgins?


Why no one lobbied to preserve the Three Arts Theatre.


Actually, the other day my neighbor wanted to buy some fish.


No, that one did NOT come from Hurtsboro.


Any old jog outside will do that to me.


And which Presidential candidate do you support again?


OK -- Mayor Bobby Bright was re-elected Tuesday night.


At a convenience store, I think gas is cheapest by the gallon.


If there's anything this candy bar has lacked, it's sugar.


And they don't play each other until Friday and Saturday.


I hope that tabloid headline is SO wrong.


Call it downtown, anyway. The merchants on Broadway will still take your money.


And so WDAK airs Sean Hannity, and not minor league baseball.


Yet another critic of that album offer....

COMING THURSDAY: A "no" voter's suggestions for what a school district should do next....

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

28 AUG 07: IT'S A 5:00 WORLD

Depending on when you read this, there could be time for you to watch a total lunar eclipse. The Challenger Space Science Center is opening at 4:30 a.m. for people to see it. If only Golden Donuts had a giant rolling truck, the way Country's Barbecue does....

Perhaps you're scoffing at the idea of people in Columbus getting up at 4:30 a.m. to watch something like a lunar eclipse. You must be one of those people who doesn't hit the after-Thanksgiving sales until 9:00 a.m., right?!

But more people may be arising at 4:30 a.m. in Columbus than we realize. I've marveled several times in recent months at how many drivers are on Interstate 185 in the 5:00 a.m. hour - and they were NOT all heading to WLTZ, to sing gospel songs on "Rise N Shine."

I was reminded of this early-morning rush one day last week, when a road trip had me on I-185 between 5:15 and 5:30. It wasn't "bumper-to-bumper" traffic, but the lanes were filled and drivers were moving quickly. If Columbus Police set up a "Hands Across the Border" checkpoint around Macon Road, the speeding fines could pay for another big public safety raise.

Several things struck me about the 5:15 rush down Interstate 185....

+ The action was all southbound, toward Fort Benning. Either the drivers were rushing to be first on the post racquetball courts at 5:30 -- or soldiers were out partying all night, and hurrying to make a 5:45 a.m. bunk check.

+ Most of the vehicles heading south were pickup trucks. But the big crowd didn't keep rolling all the way to Richland, to start working on farms.

+ The vast majority was zipping along at well above the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. It's nice to feel legal on the road, and watch all the lawbreakers race by you - until you realize one half-asleep driver could leave your car at flat as a compact disc.

It was a jolt for a speed-limit driver like me to join this southbound crowd on I-185. And it didn't help that the right shoulder of the highway is barricaded off these days, between Buena Vista Road and Victory Drive. Either stay tight in your lane, on a not-well-lit interstate - or wind up being shoved into concrete more often than some NASCAR drivers face in a career.

I was thankful to get through this slot car-style tight situation on Interstate 185, and exit into Chattahoochee County. But it was strange to encounter so many cars so early in the morning in Columbus - then hear on an Atlanta radio station that the highways there were all clear at 5:30 a.m.

(Some Columbus radio stations tried to offer "Metro Traffic" reports a few years ago, but that experiment quickly ended. Maybe if the reporters hadn't been sitting 100 miles away in Atlanta, it might have worked.)

When I moved to Columbus ten years ago, several co-workers told me the city had NO rush hour. Nowadays, I'm not so sure that's true. The drive last week showed me parts of town have early-morning rushes which could rival major cities such as Atlanta. In fact, I think some drivers privately want them to rival the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Here's a name which hasn't crossed our path in a while....

Richard, I didn't see this myself, however a friend called to tell me he saw Russ Hollenbeck (former producer and a former host of Talkline) on East Alabama Cable hosting an interview show today. I wasn't at home at the time so I couldn't tune in - so could you tell us inquiring minds if Russ is now employed with EACTV and does he have a regular show there? Thanks

"I don't know the name," said the woman who answered our call to East Alabama Cable Monday. Neither did a co-worker, when I brought up Hollenbeck's name Monday night. And then people wonder why Doug Kellett's comeback on WRCG radio didn't last very long.

Russ Hollenbeck's last known talk show stint was as host of "Wake Up Columbus" on the old WCGT-TV 16. Do you think he might have stooped to doing infomercials for cable TV? Or is this ponytailed man actually doing an audition for WLTZ's new newscast?

Now before we head for bed, let's send some Instant Messages....

+ To the managers of the new Burger King on Victory Drive: What do you mean, you're "taking applications at the old Burger King" down the street? Why aren't you taking the staff already there, and moving it to the new restaurant? Is a one-block move going to be that big a hardship?

+ To the owners of convenience stores around St. Francis Hospital: Yes, people are noticing. The people who drive downtown and see gas prices 23 cents lower than yours are really noticing -- and they're complaining.

+ To First Presbyterian Church: I missed your sermon last Sunday, "If God Had a Refrigerator...." Was it sponsored by Sears or HH Gregg?

+ To Alabama Governor Bob Riley: C'mon now. You didn't really need to declare Friday "College Colors Day" across the state. I think most residents already were planning that, without any encouragement from you.

+ To the city of Warner Robins: Huh - no Little League victory parade until Saturday?! You're making Columbus city officials look downright dynamic and forward-thinking.

+ To Michael Vick: I hope you really have "found Jesus" in the last few weeks. And you'd better hope those "All Dogs Go to Heaven" stories are fairy tales.

+ To the Atlanta Falcons: OK, here's my idea. Forget about this season. Go 2-14. Then choose Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan with next year's top draft pick, and solve your big problem. Oh yes - and give Brennan all the fluffy cats he can handle.

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Monday, August 27, 2007


The last ten years have taught us there are "red states" and "blue states." Unless, of course, you live in Alabama - where for at least one week every November, part of the state is Crimson red and part of the state is Tiger blue.

Perhaps it's time to bring out a new political crayon - and draw in which cities and counties are "money green." Tuesday will be a good time to do that, as four different jurisdictions in East Alabama hold votes on raising property taxes. To some critics, of course, they shouldn't be considered "proper" at all....

All of Tuesday's property tax votes have something in common: improving public schools. Auburn High School's principal told WRBL a new band room is needed, because only half the band members can fit inside it now. But maybe there are other solutions -- like fewer tubas. Or even asking obese students to lose some weight.

The proposed property tax increase in Opelika schools would be used to build a new high school. Principal Stan Cox says the current school is set up so one light switch controls an entire hallway of classrooms. At some Wal-Mart stores, this is applauded as an example of energy savings.

Stan Cox says Opelika High School's infrastructure has reached the point where you can't operate a microwave oven and a coffee maker at the same time. So your property tax money can build a new state-of-the-art teachers' lounge.

Lee County Schools also have a property tax vote Tuesday. That money will cover an area from Loachapoka to Smiths Station -- so how the money is divided could come down to which town can go to military bases in other states, and recruit more incoming Fort Benning soldiers.

Lee County's interim superintendent notes plenty of portable classrooms are in use these days, due to high enrollment. He describes the need for a property tax increase as "urgent times four." I think Matt Drudge would go all the way, and call that a bulletin.

The biggest sales job to promote a property tax increase seems to have been made in the Phenix City schools. Superintendent Larry DiChiara says even before base realignment, his district has been seeing large increases in enrollment. Who would have guessed so many parents would flee Russell County schools like this?

Superintendent Larry DiChiara has held several public forums to promote the property tax vote in Phenix City. Yet to my knowledge, there hasn't been a widespread campaign for people to vote against it. That would have happened weeks ago in Columbus, because.... oh wait. Maybe not. There's no real call-in show on radio anymore, to get it organized.

Perhaps Larry DiChiara is concerned about what a Phenix City blogger has written, opposing the Phenix City property tax question. The "Redneckin" blog has been skeptical from the start - almost as if the writer wants every newly enrolled child brought to his house for a count.

Redneckin's writer Chuck describes himself as a "libertarian with a small l." His comments about the property tax question have seemed more like something a full-fledged member of the Libertarian Party would write. They appeal to people's heads, with little of the emotionalism that we could have if children sang about how poor their parents would become.

In some 22 August "thoughts" on the property tax question, Chuck of Redneckin warned Phenix City rents will jump if people vote yes Tuesday. He said landlords will pass on their higher tax bills that way. This may explain why the Phenixian has been described as "high-end" condominiums.

Chuck of Redneckin also warns a "yes" vote on the property tax question will mean annual increases for homeowners, due to property reassessment. It's almost enough to make you root for more sub-prime mortgages to fail, and more lending companies to collapse.

We asked here months ago why the Phenix City school district needs a property tax increase for school improvements, since it recently received millions of dollars from a state bond issue. We could ask that same question about all the districts having votes on Tuesday - but we're awfully busy, like many voters are likely to be when they don't mark ballots.

It's also puzzling to hear about Phenix City schools growing in attendance, because Fort Benning schools are not. The latest issue of "The Bayonet" reports enrollment on post has dropped so much in the new term that the fall youth soccer season has been canceled. Wouldn't seven-a-side play give young players more room to run -- or is there concern they might keel over?

BLOG CORRECTION: Oops -- it turns out Bob Knight WAS at the Little League World Series with the Lubbock, Texas team. We didn't realize it until ABC mentioned it during Sunday's final game, in an interview with Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. Don't you wonder if Knight recognized Perdue as a college coach, from the movie "We Are Marshall?"

Sonny Perdue's old Little League town is the new world champion - as Warner Robins beat Tokyo 3-2 in an eight-inning thriller. Yet after the winning home run was hit, ABC Sports showed "second straight title" on the screen. For Georgia, maybe - but c'mon. About the only thing Columbus and Warner Robins have in common is a secret disdain of Macon.

Several of last season's Northern All-Stars were in the stands Sunday. I assume they were rooting for Warner Robins American to win the Little League title -- and may have been checking to see if their autographs had appreciated in value from last August.

The winning manager of the Warner Robins American team was Mickey Lay. I can already hear the motivational speech for 2008 - with a Lay saying, "Nobody can win just one."

Meanwhile, Columbus has another baseball team to root on. The Catfish lead their division with a week to go in the regular season, and sacked Savannah Sunday night 8-4. As long as another scattered thunderstorm doesn't knock over the fence at Golden Park, we could have home playoff games.

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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Sunday, August 26, 2007


If you believe radio host Tom Joyner on WKZJ-FM, Michael Vick spent some time this past week in Virginia with his mother. We hope he enjoys the meals there. Where he's going, the meals may taste like.... uhhhhh.... well, you know.... like dog food.

Michael Vick remains on the Atlanta Falcons roster this weekend, even though he's signed a plea bargain and will enter a federal guilty plea Monday. Come to think of it, Vick sounds like a good candidate for a trade to the Oakland Raiders.

Saturday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution explained Michael Vick remains on the roster because that's how the Falcons can recover money from his contract. The team reportedly is seeking to regain $22 million in bonuses - and hopefully no manager has placed a bet in Las Vegas on whether the team will get that money back.

Unless something bizarre happens, Michael Vick will plead guilty Monday in Virginia to conspiring to run a dogfighting ring across state lines. That's the problem with naming your enterprise "Bad Newz Kennels." Even when it's misspelled, Bad Newz can travel fast.

The plea deal signed by Michael Vick states he provided money to an interstate dogfighting ring, but never made "side bets" on the fights. Isn't this a bit like going to Victoryland simply for the low-priced food?

Michael Vick further admits in the signed plea bargain that he took part in training dogs for fights. It makes you wonder if any of the animals dropped his passes, the way Falcons wide receivers did....

But Michael Vick also admits in the plea deal that he helped execute several dogs last April, either by drowning or hanging. Vick still might be able to find work after his prison time is over - maybe not in pro football, but with al-Qaeda.

After the signed plea bargain was announced, the National Football League suspended Michael Vick indefinitely. I'm not sure what the league considered more reprehensible -- Vick's admissions in the plea bargain, or the fact that he lied to the commissioner's face back in April.

(The exact length of Vick's suspension may depend on many things. It could depend on the length of Vick's sentence, whether he names any other dogfighting suspects - or when Edward DuBose can organize a protest march outside the N.F.L. office.)

Michael Vick reportedly will be interviewed live on Tom Joyner's radio show Tuesday, after his court appearance. Vick's last broadcast interview should have said a lot about the trouble he was in. Vick didn't talk to a sports reporter - but to Atlanta radio DJ Porsche Foxx, who was out of work recently for her own legal troubles.

A couple of questions remain, in the wake of the Michael Vick investigation. First of all, to those who say the "media" wanted to bring Vick down - which sports reporter told him to start a dogfighting ring, because he might need some extra money?

Another question: what do you do with Michael Vick collectibles? I've read online that people are selling Vick trading cards on eBay - cards which have been chewed up by dogs. Here's hoping the sellers include a small can of disinfectant at no extra charge...

But seriously: for several years I've kept an empty box of Ritz crackers with Michael Vick's picture on it. Does its value now go through the roof? Does it fall through the floor? And if Vick signs that box someday, could prosecutors use it as evidence in other cases?

BLOG CLARIFICATION: After a chat with my Pastor this weekend, we feel a need to clarify parts of last Sunday's church picnic report. The Pastor says he did NOT "sneak away" from the picnic, and actually said goodbye to everyone. I'll take the blame for that one - and for focusing too much on the ball we were trying to volley back and forth across the swimming pool.

The Pastor also explains he left the church picnic early to visit with an older couple, which has been in poor health for most of the year. The husband returned to church on a weekend when I didn't realize I had pneumonia - and I hope I didn't wave at him too hard, to shake any germs onto his body.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We now return to our discussion about Columbus TV news. A comment about one station's alleged focus on Lee County brought this reply....

I do not see that the local Columbus TV stations reporting more from where Ope likes it and Aw burnt lites.

H*ck, when storms come in the area...if it is not headed towards Columbus - they mention it after it has my Alabama opinion.

Perhaps without realizing it, this writer seems to get to the crux of the issue. Whether the newscasts are dominated by one area or another seems to depend on where you live. I've yet to hear anyone from the Georgia side of the state line complain about hearing too much Georgia news.

(If you think that perceived bias is a problem now, wait until college football starts next weekend. It sometimes seems like viewers sit at home with stopwatches -- not timing 40-yard dashes, but whether Auburn gets 40 more seconds on the air than Troy.)

Our next e-mail goes beyond Georgia and Alabama, to a state we mentioned Saturday:

I have to tell you this......I am from Mississippi and came here in the 80's and I have not been in a single town in Mississippi that is as racially divided as Columbus Ga. and those who deny it always will

Wow! This is quite a statement. And considering recent trials in Mississippi, it could mean David Glisson will stand trial for the killing of Kenneth Walker about 40 years from now.

I heard a political analyst on public radio the other day declare Mississippi "the most racially divided state in the nation." I've never lived there, or even stayed there overnight. But I stopped in Tupelo once on vacation, to go jogging downtown - and nobody told me which side of the street to avoid.

Our last e-mail goes back to the summer crime surge - or rather how the newspaper is reporting on it:

I can't believe the Ledger would only print a small article about a car jacking in Columbus...A dad ran back in the house,left his toddler in the car,left the car running and in seconds someone was driving it off...What a service the Ledger could have done for the community warning parents you are not safe in your own driveway..Never leave a child unattended even on your own property..

Thanks for the Columbus Police Dept.who saturated the area with patrol cars and quick thinking neighbors the child was rescued..

I can think of a reason why the newspaper may have decided against making a big deal out of this case. The editors may have decided their readers have enough intelligence NOT to leave a running car in a driveway, with a child inside.

We thank all of you who write us - and now let's write a little more about this weekend:

+ A Saturday evening thunderstorm brought strong lightning and heavy rain to the Columbus area. I called off my twilight run as a result of the lightning - but I hope everyone in the "Midnight Express Run" was motivated to have record times.

+ Which Atlanta TV station was spotted with a table at a Columbus-area job fair? Is WLTZ going to have to double its salary offers to news reporters, in response?

+ WRBL reported Columbus Police officer Gregory Diltz resigned from the force, then was indicted on charges of stealing money from a drug dealer. If that act gets you indicted these days, the entire Fraternal Order of Police might take time off for Diltz's trial.

+ Peachtree Mall hosted the second annual "Men's Health Awareness Day." Some shoppers passing by were disappointed - because two weeks after prospective models auditioned and one week after prospective singing stars auditioned, no man displayed the effects of Viagra or Cialis.

+ Warner Robins American won the U.S. Little League baseball title, by beating Lubbock, Texas 5-2. Lubbock could have been inspired to stage a comeback, but for some reason Texas Tech's Bob Knight wasn't in the stands to berate the players.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

for 25 AUG 07: ALL SHOOK UP

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

The man walked into the office, and felt he had to explain something. He had decided against going down a certain street in the Columbus area, because he was afraid of what might happen. A couple of identifying banners scared him away - and no, this was NOT a Georgia graduate visiting Auburn University fans.

This man happened to be African-American, and he flinched at the thought of going down a road where people had Confederate flags outside their homes. I guess this explains why the man lives in the Columbus area, and not in Mississippi....

But when I heard the man's explanation, a word came to my mind -- profiling. If I had been in his shoes and expressed fear of going down 30th Avenue or Cusseta Road, civil rights leaders certainly would use that word against me. They'd call it racial profiling - but I wonder if they'd call the other man's fear justified, and stage a march of support.

There's a key word at the core of this man's explanation -- fear. How much division in our society is due to fear? It's not merely racial divisions. There have been religious divisions in Northern Ireland, ethnic divisions in Rwanda - and don't forget that Columbus motorcycle club's strange Father's Day dinner at Hooters.

The church congregation I attend has focused on fear a good bit in recent weeks. One man noted fear works as a motivator for young children, but it tends to fade as they grow older. I think a leading indicator of that switch occurs when youngsters begin to enjoy roller coasters....

But when it comes to the word "fear," the Bible can be a bit complicated. On the one hand, believers are told to fear God. On the other hand, we're told to love God - and reminded "perfect love casts out fear." So what do we do? And are we in trouble if we buy one of those "No Fear" T-shirts?

The best explanation I've heard is that "fear" can have several definitions. Fear can mean "to revere" or worship - and that's proper to do toward God. Say what you will about our country's fight for independence, but at least the British learned a bit of Paul revere....

Fear also can mean to be timid or scared - and the Bible indicates believers should NOT be that way. The book of Psalms says we shouldn't be afraid of human evil or terror. Besides, people who stockpiled the drug Cipro six years ago may be finding their prescriptions are past the potency date.

Keeping the two definitions in mind, it seems to me that the more you fear God, the less likely you are to fear other people. God can intervene to provide protection in dangerous situations. Some soldiers who have survived a tour of Iraq know that - much less police officers who survive undercover drug busts.

The Friday evening news offered a couple of examples of why we need not fear other people groups. WRBL showed "Diversity Day" at Aflac, including a group of Hawaiian hula dancers. Hawaii seems even less likely to secede from the U.S. than the "Southern Heritage" supporters.

There was also a story from Plains, where Japanese exchange students met former President Carter. He said exchanges show how human beings tend to have a lot in common. It's something we all should remember -- but doesn't that really mean more people are fearful than they should be?

COMING SUNDAY: Michael Vick plays "Let's Make a Deal"....

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(BLOGGER'S NOTE: In the great "Dragnet" police drama tradition, the story you are about to read is true -- but a name has been changed, to protect possible embarrassment.)

Mrs. Chambers was in the lobby of police headquarters, and she was not a happy woman. But then again, how many people do you see stopping by police stations with "thank-you" platters of cookies and doughnuts?

Mrs. Chambers was at police headquarters to complain about a theft she said could total $5,000. Sad to say, for many drug squads these days this amount almost qualifies as a misdemeanor.

Mrs. Chambers didn't think the police were doing enough to solve a break-in at her home. She claimed a couple of weeks ago, someone took a portrait of the late actress Vivien Leigh - perhaps a portrait from her role in "Gone With the Wind." Mrs. Chambers seemed to think detectives were muttering Clark Gable's famous quote from that movie under their breaths....

Mrs. Chambers explained to an officer who met her in the lobby that she bought the portrait of Vivien Leigh at a yard sale two years ago for 80 dollars. She figures it's appreciated to the point where it could be worth $5,000 today. I hope no one's suggested that Mrs. Chambers invest in web site names.

But here's the twist: Mrs. Chambers explained her portrait of Vivien Leigh was not exactly stolen - it was replaced. A nearly-identical portrait was put in her house by the thief. So as might say in Auburn, the criminal attempted to have a Leigh Scot-Free.

Mrs. Chambers says she knows the portrait currently in her house is a replacement, because she put some sort of identifying code on the portrait she bought. It has her "signature," she told the officer. Perhaps this is one time when the little yellow tag does NOT mean a big savings....

Police went to Mrs. Chambers's home about two weeks ago, when she reported the portrait swap. But she complained to the officer in the lobby they "seemed more interested in the TV set and the portrait of me on the wall, than in what I had to say." Maybe the detectives were checking to see if her portrait was switched, too.

Apparently unsatisfied with how the investigation was going, Mrs. Chambers said she called police to her home again last Sunday. That time, she claimed she had a "rattler in my fish bowl" - as in a rattlesnake. Did the portrait swappers come back to leave something threatening? Or are Mrs. Chambers's fish that valuable, too?

Mrs. Chambers admitted the main reason for the second call to police was NOT about rattlesnakes. She wanted to report some stolen jewelry as well. It turns out a female officer responded to that second call - so lost jewels should have been sufficient to get her attention.

The officer in the lobby told Mrs. Chambers he had checked the police department's files - and could NOT find a report on her original complaint. There was no paperwork about portraits of Vivien Leigh. But he stopped short of speculating they might be "Gone With the Wind."

We'd love to tell you the rest of this true story - but at that point we had to move on, so (groan) we didn't hear it. But based on the evidence we've presented, what conclusions would you draw from it? First of all, I'd be careful if someone sells portraits of Vivien Leigh at area flea markets - especially if the seller insists on a thousand-dollar starting bid.

(Of course, you also should be on the lookout for someone selling Vivien Leigh portraits on eBay. If the picture is on a piece of toast, be especially suspicious.)

I'm tempted to draw a second conclusion, from how the police responded to Mrs. Chambers's first complaint -- that they decided she's crazy. After all, who goes scouting around people's homes for portraits of dead movie stars? And then SWAPS them, instead of stealing them? I thought "Planet Hollywood" restaurants worked a bit differently from this....

Mrs. Chambers certainly didn't help her cause by calling in an update on a crime, under cover of a rattlesnake. She may not have realized "Fear Factor" isn't on TV anymore.

Police departments sometimes have to deal with callers who, to put it politely, are delusional. It's like 911 operators taking calls from people with problems which are really not emergencies. You want to "believe the victim" - but if they call over and over again, they start building rap sheets as long as some hardened criminals.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Wednesday exclusive on NBC-38 still is bringing comments and ideas....

I can predict the furture of WLTZ's anchors. It will be a black woman and a white man just like channel 4 and 10. They tried to reverse it on Fox 54 and look what happened. They left! To this day I still mix up Dee Armstrong and Teresa Whitaker when flipping.

Now hold on a minute here - I don't think Roszell Gadson and Deborah Singer were fired from WXTX "News at Ten." In fact, I think they actually got along. But then, you can't see if they're kicking each other's shins under the anchor desk.

Travel to Dothan, and you'll find the big TV station has an African-American male anchor paired with a white woman. Perhaps viewers there accept it because they realize the man also is a Church of Christ minister.... [True!]

Another reader wants to move on down the dial:

While you are on the subject of TV stations it seems to me that WTVM must be the audition station for the corporation that owns them. They seem to have a new reporter every week and they certainly don't seem to discriminate against the beauty impaired. In my opinion they devote more news time to Auburn-Opelika than to Columbus. Maybe it is because the purchase of the stations was financed by the Alabama Teachers Retirement Fund.

When you get around to McBarron, I went into her vitamin shoppe one time. It seemed to me that the prices on the "supplements" were higher than prescription drugs at a pharmacy

Ouch! Maybe I'm alone here, but I don't think Andrew Wittenberg is that bad-looking at all. I mean, he IS a newlywed....

So did WTVM show more Columbus news when it was owned by Aflac during the 1990's? And is WRBL losing viewers because it's owned by Media General -- which means it's probably biased toward stories about the headquarters city of Richmond, Virginia?

Since e-mailers keep bringing up Jan McBarron - I'm not really sure where she's based these days. To watch the infomercials she hosts with husband Duke, I might have guessed they bought a nice condominium along the east coast of Florida.

We'll keep thinking about "The Doctor" - but now let's check what news was "in" on Thursday:

+ Several Columbus gas stations which raised prices 25 cents a gallon on Monday knocked them back down 25 cents. The Circle K in my neighborhood went back to $2.42 - so is it too late to file a price-gouging complaint?

+ Southeast Canners announced it's adding about 50 jobs to its Columbus bottling plant. But I was a bit disappointed - because they're hiring electricians and plumbers, not taste-testers.

+ Phenix City Councilor John Storey told WRBL the owners of Club Roc have dropped their lawsuit against the city. Some of us hope Save-A-Lot now will reclaim its old supermarket site - and actually open the new stores we were promised about four years ago.

+ Atlanta police announced two teenagers had been arrested on charges of stealing the identities of 15 Fort Benning soldiers. The suspects are accused of using the soldiers' credit card numbers to buy top-dollar items at fancy Atlanta shopping malls. Once again, the reputation of Peachtree Mall takes another hit....

+ Rep. Lynn Westmoreland helped clean up a Columbus veteran's home, on the first day of the "House of Heroes" project. Thankfully, Westmoreland's staff briefed him in advance - and told him this had nothing to do with saving a cheerleader.

+ Columbus city officials held a public hearing on plans for a skateboard park in South Commons. I expect WDAK Radio to have a big advertisement there -- to encourage boarders to try a 540.

(Some people are saying the skateboard park should wait until after Columbus city officials "clean up" Victory Drive. If these skeptics were in charge of local government, the Montgomery Cottonmouths would be a hockey legend by now.)

+ The evening news reported the level of West Point Lake is nine feet lower now than it was last August. That's the bad news - but the good news is that the chances of catching fish ought to be nine percent better.

+ Authorities in Maryland announced Arthur Bremer soon will be released from prison, 35 years after he shot George Wallace. I hope he isn't planning a "victory tour" of Alabama - because large numbers of people in more than 40 counties still want to get even.

+ Members of last year's Columbus Northern All-Stars went to the Little League World Series, and cheered a Warner Robins team on to a playoff victory. So THIS time did the players take any homework with them?!

(What does it say when a Columbus bar I visited has two TV screens showing the Little League World Series - and NONE showing Atlanta baseball or pre-season N.F.L. football? It's like baseball players around here are over the hill at 22, if they haven't made the major leagues.)

+ Instant Message to that complaining mom at Park Elementary School in Hamilton: I've been thinking about this. Your son was suspended for throwing grapes in the cafeteria, right?! Then write a book about how this was handled -- and call it "The Wrath of Grapes."

COMING SOON: The Columbus "rush hour" most people probably never see....

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Thursday, August 23, 2007


They must have been downright giddy Wednesday, at the Columbus Airport Commission meeting. The airport is adding an extra flight. It's getting a new fire station. Now how are we doing, on adding Starbucks and Cinnabon in the concourse?

The biggest news from Wednesday's Airport Commission meeting may have been about ticket sales. The number of local passengers has jumped 20 percent in the last three months. It's amazing what a summer jump in gas prices will do, to keep people from driving to the Atlanta Airport.

Because of a growing number of passengers, Atlantic Southeast Airways plans to add a fifth daily flight from Columbus to Atlanta in November. Here's hoping it doesn't affect the other flights - and here's hoping ASA isn't trying to move its home of the "latest" flight in the country from Chattanooga to Columbus.

The second bit of good news for the Columbus Airport Commission is that Columbus Council has approved plans for a new fire station on the grounds. The abbreviation for the fire crew which works there is ARFF - which makes you wonder why the station isn't closer to the Muscogee County Humane Society.

The current fire station at the Columbus Airport is about 50 years old. So managers say it was due to be replaced - which is strange, because no one would dare make that same argument about Wynnton Elementary School.

Airport manager Mark Oropeza says the fire station needed an upgrade in part because it was originally built for male firefighters only. The new station will have areas for both men and women - so when September comes, one group can follow football games while the other watches Lifetime.

Mark Oropeza also noted the new airport fire station will be located at the opposite end of the grounds. The current location apparently makes it hard for control tower personnel to see a taxiway - and let's face it, no one would believe it if two planes collided at the Columbus Airport.

Mark Oropeza adds the new airport fire station will be built with federal grant money. In his words, "No taxpayer money will be used." Uhhh - so how is the Federal Aviation Administration getting the money it hands out in grants? Is that how the "begging booths" at airports are used now?

The Columbus Airport Commission might have done handstands Wednesday, if someone had announced a second airline was coming. But no - Mark Oropeza announced only that "serious discussions" are underway with United Airlines. Translation: at least one side is leaving the meetings with frowns on their faces.

Oh, about that Cinnabon idea - I really mean that. I've had enough of their cinnamon rolls at airports to know how addictive they are. In fact, I've stopped at an Atlanta-area mall on road trips specifically to buy one. If they waive the Columbus airport parking fee, I might make special trips every couple of weeks.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Wednesday exclusive about NBC-38 has one reader thinking hard....

Richard, So..WLTZ plans to have a news department. I'd like to offer them some unsolicited advice. Of course it might be worth exactly what they're paying for it!

No. 1 - Don't hire anyone who's ever worked for Ch 38 news in the past.

No. 2 - Cover more local area meetings (city councils, school boards, water boards, etc.) that the other stations don't.

No. 3 - Keep your news "local". Viewers already have many sources for national news such as the internet, newspaper, Fox, CNN, MSNBC, etc.

No 4 - Hire your news personnel based on their knowledge of the local area, intelligence, and public speaking ability and not on their looks, race, sex, or age.

No. 5 - Who cares about the expensive set? We want substance!

And other station advice -

l. Get rid of Al Fleming and his commentaries. Try "guest" commentators - like Bert Coker for instance.

2. Forget the idea of cooking segments on the "Calvin" show. Reminds me of the long ago "Rozell show"

3. Replace Dr. McBarron - Everybody's heard her same advice on buying those expensive vitamin supplements from her husband's health food store for years now. By the way I've often wondered why on her web site and literature she claims to be based in Atlanta rather than Columbus.

Our writer might want to call WLTZ personally about all this - since TV stations have a tendency to hire "consultants" for their news teams.

Let's start at the top of this list - and ask besides Al Fleming, can you NAME anyone who's ever worked for WLTZ news? If you can, you're ready to win a bar trivia contest....

Well, OK - I can. When WLTZ did short news updates during the 2000 Olympic Games, it brought in Reggie Richards to read the news and Mike Vee to provide sports. Of course, Richards is busy with other things these days - like trying to persuade WLTZ to put its new newsroom on Victory Drive.

Really now - do you want WLTZ to cover more meetings? Would you really be that thrilled to see the Columbus Water Board sitting around, discussing things such as fluoride content? I mean, there's a reason why C-SPAN has no advertisers....

I'm sure NBC-38 already has a policy barring discrimination in hiring on the basis of race, sex and age. After all, it's a television station with a federal license - as opposed to the Platinum Club.

But wow - asking WLTZ to hire people based on knowledge of the local area, instead of their looks? There are ways to get around that lack of knowledge nowadays. They're called GPS devices.

And as for guest commentators on NBC-38's newscast - have you noticed the "CBS Evening News" dropped its "Free Speech" segment several months ago? That's what happens when they don't have Rush Limbaugh giving his opinion every night.

I'll bite my tongue about Jan McBarron until another time - and move on to other Wednesday news that WLTZ could have covered:

+ The high temperature in Columbus hit a record 102 degrees F. I had a cup of ice outside at the lunch hour, added some bottled water to it - and the ice was gone in less than three minutes. Imagine if I'd kept the bottled water in the front seat of my car all morning, instead of in the trunk.

+ Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren announced "Operation Safe Streets" has resulted so far in 262 arrests, and the seizure of six weapons. Only six?! Judge Bobby Peters could announce a one-hour "gun buyback," and do better than that....

(Did I hear it right on WRBL - the name of this police effort quietly changed from "Project Safe Streets" to "Operation Safe Streets?" Did some residents of a housing project complain about discrimination?)

+ The mother of a Park Elementary School student in Hamilton complained the principal gave her only two punishment options for her rebellious son -- a spanking or a two-day suspension. She couldn't believe spanking was an option. Then perhaps she should be thankful it WAS an option.

+ Authorities announced the Georgetown City Hall was set on fire, as thieves stole $380,000 worth of seized marijuana. The next time people tell you marijuana is NOT addictive, remind them of this...

+ Retired Fort Benning Commander Paul Eaton told PBS's "Tavis Smiley Show" the U.S. is starting to be pushed around by Russia. If General Eaton can prove terrorists are mobilizing at the North Pole, I'll start to be concerned about this.

(Paul Eaton found fault with President Bush for not developing a "strategic reserve" in the military. But he never explained exactly what that means. Maybe if the President had asked the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention to reenlist....)

+ The Atlanta NAACP called a news conference, urging the National Football League NOT to ban Michael Vick for life. The members of this group must have short memories - because Dexter Manley was banned "for life" from the N.F.L. a couple of times.

(Did you see the man standing with the NAACP at its news conference, holding a sign? It asked whom you serve - "God or Satan?" I kept waiting for someone to ask that man which one he thinks Michael Vick has been serving....)

+ Sports Illustrated put Alabama head football coach Nick Saban on its pre-season cover - and WRBL's Bruce Frazier brought up the alleged "cover jinx." I'll repeat what I wrote years ago, which gained the former national press: Why is it that the cover jinx never applies to swimsuit models?

+ Instant Message to Brad Williams of Rivertown Ford: I really don't care much about your great deals, or even your cell phone number which spells out Ford. I want to know how your wife in the background suddenly became a brunette.

SCHEDULED FRIDAY: Why would someone steal a movie star.... especially one who's been dead for 40 years?....

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Today we have big news about a local.... hey, wait a second. Did I spell that title right? Well, actually I did. That's the station making news, by adding news. And I don't know yet if the theme music will be in a waltz tempo.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Your blog learned Tuesday that WLTZ "NBC-38" is assembling a news department, and hopes to begin daily newscasts around October 1. So don't be surprised in November, if the low temperature is announced on other stations as 37 or 39 degrees -- but never 38.

There's actually a hint at what WLTZ is planning in the "employment" section of the station's web site. It's seeking "Reporter/Photographers" with at least two years of experience. Too bad - that "Anchorwoman" premiering on Fox tonight was at a Texas TV station only about 30 days.

So who will the anchorwoman and/or man be for NBC-38 news? There's apparently been no decision yet - but Al Fleming has been sitting in his commentary chair for years, waiting for something like this. They'd have to lower it, of course, so his ego level would match his co-anchors.

(Then again, a couple of former local news anchors are between jobs right now. Has anybody seen Deborah Singer sneak back into Georgia from Amsterdam?)

"They're spending a lot of money on a set," one person who's been inside NBC-38 told me Tuesday. It's apparently under construction right now -- but for some reason, they haven't had a "home repair" segment on "Rise N Shine" to show how it's being done.

Of course, one of our first questions when we learned about WLTZ's new news department was what would happen to "Rise N Shine." Could the longest-running TV talk show in Columbus be replaced by something like "Today in the Valley?" Would talk show callers be down to organizing their own daily conference calls?

But not to worry: co-host Calvin Floyd tells me "Rise N Shine" will keep doing both, even with a new news department at WLTZ. In fact, he says big changes are in the works - with news updates during his show, and the return of weekly cooking segments. So the next time I offer my CD there, I may have to scrape it off the table with a spatula.

(Calvin Floyd noted he did regular cooking segments on "Rise N Shine" years ago. I don't know when Peachtree Natural Foods began sponsoring his show -- but there are probably only so many recipes you can make with St. John's Wort.)

NBC-38 actually had a news department in its early years, as WYEA. But the WLTZ Wikipedia entry (yes, it has one) says they stopped in the early nineties -- because the managers apparently decided Sheriff Andy Griffith was a more trusted face at 11:00 p.m.

If you scan the dial during political campaigns, you've probably noticed WLTZ has the same commercials at 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. as the other big stations. The campaign managers must not realize NBC-38 hasn't been showing news - or else they believed everybody really DOES love Raymond.

So with the commercial money already coming in, why would WLTZ restart a news department? I would think such a thing would cost the station more money than showing "Girlfriends" at 6:00 p.m. -- and besides, I doubt the anchors' hair possibly could match Persia White and Tracey Ellis Ross....

But I digress: NBC-38 obviously faces an uphill challenge here. Starting a news department from scratch certainly can't be easy, much less attracting viewers to it. Will WLTZ use some kind of gimmick to get people watching? Will Miller Robson threaten to play the worst country music videos of all time?

E-MAIL UPDATE: It's time now for our first-ever fantasy football draft....

Vick's new front line - coming this season

Bulldog Billy

Chomp Chomp Charlie

Electrifying Eric

Hanging Harry

Stranglehold Steve

Hmmmm - it's too bad they already made the sequel to "The Longest Yard."

Did you see the news story Tuesday about the Atlanta Humane Society? People have sent the staff Michael Vick jerseys as donations - and they're being used for cleaning dog kennels! Why, no one ever stooped this low with former owner Rankin Smith's suits.

Now a quick check of other things which made news Tuesday:

+ An afternoon drive revealed there are pockets of resistance in Columbus to Monday's 25-cent gas jump. A few stations at the north end of Second Avenue still had gasoline in the $2.55 range - which once again seems to show how Bibb City can lag behind the times.

+ The Phenix City Council announced there's finally a settlement in the dispute over riverfront development. Troy University will spend two million dollars to buy land where the Riverview Apartments now stand. NOW will you buy football tickets to see Troy play Southeast Louisiana?

+ The evening news showed the first construction work for a "Sculpture Walk" in the middle of Broadway. I hope the artwork is built well - because combine the sculpture walk with a "pub crawl," and there could be some damage.

+ Instant Message to the "Wok-N-Roll Restaurant" on U.S. 280 in Opelika: Cleverness of name -- grade A-. Spelling "restaurant" on your highway sign with an extra U -- grade D+.

Today's main topic was the result of a blog reader's tip. To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise 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, August 20, 2007

for 21 AUG 07: CATEGORY 25

Columbus took a direct hit Monday from Hurricane Dean. The impact was sudden and stunning. It was enough to.... huh?! What do you mean it was mostly sunny? I'm not talking about the weather. I'm talking about the biggest blow to our wallets since someone kidnaped the cows, and sent milk to four dollars a gallon.

If you waited until Monday afternoon to fill your gas tank, you waited too long. Prices jumped about 25 cents a gallon across Columbus. Why, the price moved faster than a Weather Channel meteorologist, being blown around the beach at Cancun.

A Circle K station in my neighborhood actually went up to $2.48 a gallon late last week, then went down to $2.42 over the weekend. But Monday it jumped to $2.67 - as if too many players got all the Keno numbers right.

The most logical excuse explanation for the sudden 25-cent jump in gas prices is the presence of Hurricane Dean. There have been fears the storm could damage offshore oil rigs on the Texas coast. It reminds me of that former Secretary of State from Georgia -- wasn't that Dean Risk?

But as of Monday night, the maps of the weather experts indicated Hurricane Dean will miss the Texas coast. Instead, Dean may dash into eastern Mexico in a day or two -- ruining countless empty homes that immigrants are building, by wiring money back from the U.S.

(You think I'm kidding with that last one?! Public radio had a report several weeks ago about how immigrant workers send money to build family "retirement homes" in Latin America -- and then come to like the U.S. so much, they never go back to them. You see, the Mexican restaurants around here really ARE good.)

In fact, crude oil futures prices dropped a bit in New York Monday. So if gas prices jumped based on what people thought Hurricane Dean might do, it's clear what we have here. A former boss of mine used to call it a "PRE-panic attack" - panicking before there's even a reason to do it.

Another possible explanation for the sudden jump in gas prices is a fire last week. It broke out at a Chevron refinery on the Mississippi coast. Isn't this amazing? You don't have to go to a casino anymore, to see your hard-earned money flitter away.

Before you get too upset by Monday's sudden increase, keep this in mind. Gas prices in Columbus are still about 15 cents a gallon lower than they were last August [10 Aug 06]. Of course, maybe I shouldn't write that - because dealers and distributors may realize they haven't made their quarterly goals.

Perhaps you didn't notice the impact of Hurricane Dean Monday because other things distracted you - such as:

+ Which veteran Troy Public Radio announcer talked about an upcoming orchestral audition - and pronounced openings in "bass" like the fish, not the stringed instrument? Is this announcer secretly trying out to work at an outdoors channel?

+ An attorney for Michael Vick announced the Atlanta Falcons quarterback will plead guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges. Oh really?! He's not scheduled to appear in court until next Monday - and I'm not considering Vick guilty until Edward DuBose of the NAACP says I can.

(The announcement about Michael Vick came as the Falcons confirmed backup quarterback D.J. Shockley is out for the season with ligament damage. Suddenly those three prime-time home games during the season look like perfect nights to go shopping at the mall.)

+ Some customers at Buffalo Wild Wings at Bradley Park Drive objected to servers wearing Michael Vick jerseys during Monday night preseason football. The sooner this restaurant holds an auction to benefit the Humane Society, the better....

+ Columbus Police said the Waffle House on Milgen Road was robbed at around 5:30 p.m. Now THIS is a dumb criminal - holding up a waffle restaurant before the dinner hour, on the slowest night of the week for restaurants.

+ A motorcyclist named Jon told WRBL he was slashed in the throat ten days ago at The Saloon and Oyster Bar. That settles it for me - this restaurant is going to have to serve softer oyster shells.

+ The Muscogee County School Board considered expanded funding for a free breakfast program. This year's theme is, "Breakfast for All" - to which I'd add, "With Pepsi toward none."

+ WXTX named Eufaula's Brandon Barker the winner of its "Fox Idol" contest. In fact, Barker already has a professional singing background - and opened for Ricochet last Friday night at the Phenix City Amphitheater [True/Eufaula Tribune]. This may prove a long run on "Nashville Star" doesn't really get you anywhere.

+ Instant Message to "Benjamin Franklin, the Punctual Plumber": I saw your truck Monday on Manchester Expressway -- but hold on a minute! Aren't you sending a misleading message here? Shouldn't you really be an electrician?

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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Sunday, August 19, 2007


A recent e-mail made a complaint which sounded familiar:

How about getting our children out of the stinky broken down 10' wide trailers called portable classrooms before spending millions on an administration building for the desk sitters of MCSD.Put them out in these poor excuses for classrooms and see how they like them.(especially on a rainy day)

Now, now - some school administrators work in the old Bradley Library, and it used to have leaks in the roof. It might still, but you can't see them now without a security card.

Since I'd received this complaint before, I asked the e-mailer for some examples of "broken down trailers." That person pointed me to Hardaway High School - where if they can't afford new classrooms, they at least can afford a nice new weight room for the sports teams.

We drove to Hardaway High Sunday, to check on those "stinky trailers." Admittedly it wasn't raining -- but I figured enough rain might be left over from Friday night to make any bad odor more noticeable.

Several portable classrooms are set up on the north side of Hardaway High School. I was reminded of how Don Siegelman campaigned against portables, when he ran for Alabama Governor in 1998. Hopefully he's in a permanent concrete prison cell today.

The e-mailer specifically wanted us to examine the portables closest to College Drive. At first glance, they look like all the other portables. I mean, none of them say "Winnebago" on them....

A closer look had to wait a moment, until after a Columbus Police car passed us. Taking close-up pictures of this sort of thing can raise terrorism suspicions, you know....

But that close look revealed some small faults in one of the portables - with what looks like a water stain on one wall, and small holes at ground-level. The termites didn't seem to have chewed away at Hardaway's wooden ramps and stairs, so perhaps they want iron in their diets.

There's nothing but a dirt path, if Hardaway High School students have to walk between the portables. Maybe that's why the e-mailer is concerned about rainy days. Fresh mud on a 75-dollar pair of name-brand sneakers can look embarrassing.

We couldn't stop to smell the roses around Hardaway High School's portables, so we smelled the portables instead - and didn't notice anything unusual. Perhaps if someone planted rose bushes or something similar around the portables, they would look more appealing. So how about Hardaway becoming a horticulture magnet school?

But perhaps the e-mailer's real point is not with the condition of the portables themselves - it's the fact that they're being used at all. If the Muscogee County Schools are going to build a new central office, they should adopt a policy borrowing a bit from the Bush administration. You might call it, "Leave All Portables Behind."

There's one other "trailer" at Hardaway High School, that seems to be bigger than any portable classroom. A 45-foot-long storage container is parked next to the sports fields. If they're going to haul the football team to games in that thing, I think it's going to need some air holes.

To be honest, something else seemed more noticeable in the north parking lot of Hardaway High School - and that was how a couple of students (I'm assuming) have "reserved" parking spaces. They've painted the spaces, to make them distinctively their own. I've never seen that at a high school before - and it beats distracting paw prints on the streets, leading to a school nicknamed Tigers.

Now let's check other things, on a Sunday where news was hard to find:

+ The evening news noted Columbus has a rain deficit for the year of almost nine inches. But Birmingham is more than 20 inches below normal - giving Baptist preachers there hope that people finally will stop calling it "The Magic City."

+ Phenix City School Superintendent Larry DiChiara told the Ledger-Enquirer he'll offer incentive pay to teachers who don't use any sick days. Isn't this reassuring? Teachers desperate for extra money could make dozens of children ill.

+ WHAL-AM "Viva 1460" announced the creation of a Peru earthquake relief fund, through SunTrust Bank. I expect a few local bloggers to offer something similar - buying illegal immigrants from Peru one-way tickets home, to clean up the damage.

+ Sportscaster Andrew Wittenberg announced during WXTX "News at Ten" he became married about a week ago. But being a true Southern sports fan, he made sure the honeymoon ended before college football season started.

+ Sports Illustrated writer Peter King told NBC's Sunday Night Football that Michael Vick might not play again until 2010. This assumes Vick goes to prison, then serves an N.F.L. suspension. If Vick thinks football linemen are tough, wait until other prisoners try to rush him without any pads on.

+ Instant Message to the New York promotional house which sent me a "2008 Women's Monthly Planner": OK, I guess I'll try to use it. But did it have to be all in pink?

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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 2256 (- 69, 3.0%)

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