Sunday, September 30, 2007


(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Guest bloggers are filling in while we're on a slow-paced vacation. This item was submitted by former WTVM/WXTX news anchor Deborah Singer.)

When Richard asked me to be a guest blogger, I have to admit I was honored, greatly. I have long enjoyed Richard's observant, witty, intellectual writings on his blog and in the news shows he has produced for WTVM and WXTX. There's no one like Richard. ; )

Columbus may remember me as Roszell Gadson's co-anchor on FOX 54 News at Ten and anchor of the 5:30 evening news on Channel 9. Two months ago, I left Channel 9. Since then, life has changed dramatically, but in the best of ways.

After leaving the station, I spent the month of August in Amsterdam volunteering at a Christian youth hostel in the heart of the city's red light district. At The Shelter City I met backpackers from around the world. When I wasn't swapping life stories with the travelers I was working in the hostel's café and working as a cook. I lived in a community house with 39 other people who hailed from places like Germany, Hungary, and South Africa. It was really fun connecting with people from such a variety of cultures.

So why go to Amsterdam? What took me there was an experience that happened 11 years ago. On a college trip, I stayed at the same youth hostel, as a guest, and learned about an inspiring outreach program to the city's prostitutes. It's called the Scarlet Cord. The organization's name comes from the bible story of Rahab, a prostitute who hid some Israelite spies and then saved herself and her family by dangling a scarlet cord from her window, to let the Israelites know that she had given safe shelter to some of their spies. Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam and women get sucked into it for different reasons. Some women choose the work as a quick way to get out of debt, others believe selling their bodies is the only option they have for a living. Still others, many others, are trafficked in from other countries. What the Scarlet Cord does is build friendships with these women and gain their trust. They then teach the women practical work skills and trades and eventually some of the women choose to leave prostitution for a better life. The stories of these women deeply touched me and I always wanted to return to Amsterdam to be involved with the work of the Scarlet Cord.

In May I saw a window of opportunity to return to Amsterdam. The youth hostel desperately needed volunteers for August. Since my contract was up at the end of July, I decided to go. It was perfect timing. My hope was to return to Amsterdam and work closely with these prostitutes. But upon my arrival, I learned my involvement would be limited. To build the trust of the women, the outreach requires all volunteers to spend at least a year in their program. My role would be behind the scenes, learning about the situation and observing the work being done as well as hearing the success stories of women who left the sex industry.

Going to Amsterdam was one of the best things I could have done, especially at this point in my life. Working ten years straight in TV news can leave you feeling burned out and a bit jaded. When you're reporting on murders, scandals; tragedies in general you have to remove your feelings from the story, which sometimes leaves you numb to the heartbreaking situations around you. But you never forget those stories and the people in them. Being in touch with humanity on a personal level is good and right. Meeting people from around the world and hearing the stories of their lives was inspiring. Amsterdam was a place of refreshment and life there made some profound changes to my life.

I'm back in the United States now beginning a new life in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I've taken a leap of faith, moving to a strange new city for love. I hope to continue working as a TV news anchor/reporter, but I'm really up for new challenges, in whatever career that might be.

I do miss Columbus. Staying three and a half years in the same city in this business is not common. I miss my church, cool co-workers, my charming Lakebottom hardwood floored, 10-foot ceiling-ed apartment and familiar hangouts like Fountain City Coffee. But there are new coffee shops to discover in this Arkansas college town (Go Razorbacks!) I get to see my boyfriend every day and I live in an actual house, which also has hardwood floors. Life ain't bad!

Thanks for reading this blog. And thank you, Richard for allowing me to share something personal, from my heart to your readers.

Take care,

Deborah Singer

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Thursday, September 27, 2007


(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Guest bloggers are filling in while we're on vacation. This item was submitted by former Columbus TV and radio personality Robbie Watson.)

Greetings Richard and Company!

I'm a dessert first kind of gal so let's just get right to the sweet stuff. Georgia PLUS THREE AND A HALF, yeah baby. Now before you folks start about hindsight being 20/20, by the time I received that little revelation regarding last Saturday's match up against Bama it was too late to email the Blog. Let's just say I've redeemed myself with the loyal Georgia fans in my family (that would be everybody but me) with my "advice". People ask me all the time who do I root for and when I rattle off, Well I like Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Auburn, Ga Tech, Oklahoma...... the response is generally No, who do you REALLY like. It depends on the game. You've heard of homers (folks that always root for their home team) I guess that makes me a gamer! I love to root for the underdog. It's the MOST wonderful time of the year! I would sing to you people if that were possible via the blog. I feel like a million dang dollars for an unemployed person.

Since we don't have enough time or space in this blog to take on the Georgia Department of Labor, government workers, customer service representatives who honestly believe they are doing YOU a favor, phoning India for Dell computer service, bill collectors, Kaffie Sledge and those misguided folks in Louisiana, local judges who sentence child pornographers to a measly year in prison, fools who talk on their cell phones and drive, and the tax commissioner's birthday "present" to me every year, we'll just have to narrow it down a bit.

My job search has been rather interesting over the summer.

I was surfing the Chattahoochee Help Wanted site and noticed (like everybody else browsing that site, no doubt) that the National Guard was awarding a 20 thousand dollar sign up bonus. Admittedly, the money caught my attention first but I had to dig a lot deeper than my bank account while pondering the position. The Guard was advertising for a "Cook" and I thought now here is something I am actually qualified to do. Here is something I would be HONORED to do. Cook for our brave soldiers, what a cool gig. At the very least I thought since serving the country seems to be the litmus test on whether or not you can have an opinion about the war,(unless you're in Congress) I was ready to shut the naysayers up. Put up or shut up. I'm ready to go, I'd decided it's time for me to put up (and pay the power bill) So, I gathered the family around and announced folks, I've got the answer to our problems. I'm thinking about joining the military, what do you think? My husband laughed out loud and that was the extent of his response. My 12 year old was a little more vocal and a lot more emotional. The words had barely left my lips and my only daughter immediately started to well up with tears. "Absolutely not, mother!" My two young sons were oblivious, they just know big brother serves in the Air Force and he's the greatest thing since sliced bread so how bad could it be? I started to wonder how I was going to say goodbye to the children knowing full well I would be deployed sooner than later. How can I leave the children? What could be a more noble cause I thought to myself. So I called the recruiter who promptly started asking me all kinds of personal questions. How much do I weigh? The very sensitive female SGT replies, "Uhh, well you'll have to lose about 30 pounds or you can just come down and we can test your body fat, that's what they really use to determine if you are overweight or not." Helloooooo? My goodness these torture techniques are out of hand aren't they? Test my body fat for the love of God, now that's horrific. Can I be water boarded instead?

Okay, I would have to lose 30 pounds to go back into television so what the hay! I can lose 30 pounds for the military, not a problem. Next the recruiter informed me I would have to leave home for several weeks for basic training. AND THEN several more months to train for the position of cook. Train? WHAT ? you mean I don't get to plan the menu? I cook for these Dawg fans, what on earth would I need to train for. I bet the troops would love my artichoke dip and game day delights. Wait a minute, now we're looking at 7 months away from the kids BEFORE I ever deploy.

In those brief seconds it became abundantly clear I did not possess the courage to even cook for our troops. Then my eyes started to well up. I started to think about all the parents who serve this great country. The men AND women who miss out on months and years of precious time with their own children. For the first time in my life I had a glimpse, a tiny little glimpse of the real sacrifice these soldiers make before their boots ever touch the ground in Baghdad or Afghanistan. God Bless the people that muster the courage to serve, today's blog is dedicated to you.

As for my only daughter who didn't turn in her homework on time last week, she wonders is it too late for mom to ship out? One hero per family will have to be enough for now. Some of you may recall our oldest son served last Christmas in Afghanistan with the 41st Search and Rescue squadron, this year he's heading to Iraq. Please Pray for Michael Jr. and all who serve. I will spend the next few weeks mustering up the courage just to say goodbye.

Other items of interest:

* I mistakenly thought the Republicans didn't have a real choice in the presidential pool. After watching the Fox News debate Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is the MAN!

*After suffering through several minutes of Britney Spears play by play on FOX, complete with a five person panel, I've decided I don't like the FOX channel anymore. Britney Spears is not NEWS. White Trailer Trash, YES! but NOT news people.

* A little birdie told me Paul Olsen showed up in front of council complete with suit and tie a few weeks ago. Way to pay homage to Talkline Paul. Of course, he's not out delivering flowers anymore so he doesn't have an excuse to show up in tennis shoes. (I haven't watched an episode of must see TV on CCGTV since my departure from the radio show)

*Speaking of attire, is it just me or has anybody else noticed that drab beige "Members Only" knockoff jacket Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is always sporting? Forget about Columbia that fool needs to visit "What Not To Wear" while in NYC. He's SO eighties!

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007


"You must be from Florida," a repairman said to me Tuesday afternoon at a coin laundry. My outfit for Laundry Day was an orange T-shirt and orange running shorts - but all I had in the car was diet cola, not orange juice.

"Not for this day," I answered - then showed them the words "Oklahoma State" on my T-shirt. That school's sports teams wear orange, just as Florida does at times. But did you notice the repairman didn't immediately conclude I'm an Auburn fan?

(And if you've seen the videotape of Oklahoma State's football coach at a news conference the other day, you might conclude the athletic department is even orange in the face....)

"I'm going to Florida on vacation tomorrow," I noted to the two repairmen fixing washers.

"Where to?"

"Panama City Beach."

"That's not Florida."

"It's not? What it is, then?"

"Lower Alabama."

The repairman went on to claim the entire Florida panhandle is really Lower Alabama - and to be honest, I see his point. Several cities in that part of Florida tend to be linked to Alabama. Pensacola's only 30 miles down Interstate 10 from Mobile, yet people there still might find the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail more attractive.

The Panama City area's connections to Alabama are a bit fuzzier to me. Phenix City Central went to that other "P.C." for a football game a few years ago. But have you seen the TV commercials in Columbus for the Emerald Coast RV Center? It's in Dothan - a good two-hour drive from Emerald Coast beaches.

A proposal by Governor Bob Riley actually could damage the Alabama connection with Panama City. He's proposing a toll road from Dothan toward Interstate 10 -- saying it's either charge tolls across the state, or increase gasoline taxes. Of course, it could be his sly way of deterring Alabamians from going to the state line, and playing the Florida Lottery.

U.S. 431 through Russell and Barbour Counties is a popular route for travelers to Panama City Beach. Could businesses along the way be damaged by this toll road, as drivers look for alternate routes which are free? Or might they actually make more money - by selling expensive maps, with those routes marked?

CORRECTED FROM FLORIDA: I'm not waiting for a decision on this toll road. I'm heading down U.S. 431 to 331 231 today, for an annual church convention. But I might not save that much gasoline along the way -- because I'll have to make a left turn toward my beachfront motel sooner or later.

Don't worry, dear blog readers - we're not forgetting you for the next week or so. Again this year, we've lined up "guest bloggers" and will post entries from them every couple of days. We've lined up some names which should be very familiar - but I'll only drop one hint about them. Judge Bobby Peters did NOT e-mail us any wedding photos.

But of course, Columbus life will go on while we're gone - so let's do some "pre-blogging," and look at events scheduled to happen during our vacation:

FRIDAY, 28 SEP: The Bavarian House restaurant at Whittlesey and Weems begins its two-night Oktoberfest. Given how early Halloween items went on sale, I'm surprised this didn't happen in August.

Also on this day, Fort Benning will unveil the first "self-service dog washing facility" in the U.S. military. They're stopping short of offering overnight kennel service with this - because the thought of "water-boarding" a dog simply sounds wrong.

SATURDAY, 29 SEP: The Greater Columbus Fair holds CPR training sessions in the morning. Then the Trade Center hosts a "firewalking experience" during the evening. Coincidence?!?

(I think I read it'll cost 50 dollars to take part in the evening of firewalking. I'm assuming that's to cover the high cost of gasoline for the coals.)

Also on this evening, Auburn travels to Florida for college football. I remember last year's battle at Auburn very well - and I regret to inform Coach Tommy Tuberville that the Gators are likely to remember their loss EXTREMELY well.

SUNDAY, 30 SEP: The final day of the Greater Columbus Fair. The fair opened Tuesday night, with Robin Walker of the Columbus Civic Center declaring on the evening news it has "more animals than last year." That's why police need to double-check all the staff members handling the rides....

TUESDAY, 2 OCT: Peachtree Mall hosts a fund-raising "Bunco Night" for women's cancer awareness. We hope no one gets out of control, and gambles as they roll the dice - because then police could hold a "bunko squad night."

THURSDAY, 4 OCT: Russia is likely to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sputnik launch, which officially began the space age. But you'll be saddened to learn as of Tuesday night, the Sputnik Bar on 15th Street in Columbus did NOT plan anything special.

Thanks to WRBL, we learned Tuesday night this day also is "Communities in Motion Day" in Columbus. So you don't get the wrong idea: this is designed to promote METRA. There will NOT be an attempt to break the world record, for the largest electric slide.

FRIDAY, 5 OCT: I'm scheduled to drive home, on day two of a four-day Georgia sales tax holiday. You can save money on "Energy Star" efficient appliances. Now if Columbus Park Crossing kindly will install a bicycle rack....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Back in the present, several of you want to comment about Monday night's Muscogee County School Board votes. One reader even goes after us a little:


You have some bad math going on today...that building was approved for $26.6 million. That is double what the citizens approved in their vote in 2003. I know what inflation is but my goodness, 50% increase in pricing within four years!!!!! That building is going to cost $177.00 more per sqare foot than it should. Either build it with what the voters agreed to or don't build the darn thing.

My child has been in school for 6 years now and I only had to go to one of their facilities ONE TIME - to register him. So it isn't like they have to make it a show place for parents. We only care about the school that the children will go to everyday and the books that they have.

If they think anyone is going to vote for another SPLOST they are sadly mistaken. This is will the only new thing the school board gets for a long time coming.

I don't think I have what this writer thinks I have. In fact, we have to issue a BLOG CORRECTION today - as it turns out gas prices in my neighborhood did NOT go up 20 cents. They stayed right where they were. So my problem isn't bad math - it's bad eyesight.

I went by what the Monday night TV newscasts seemed to say, about the cost of the new Educational Services Center. The higher price was smacked on the front page of Tuesday's Ledger-Enquirer - so maybe the school board members who voted against it already have figured out the cost overruns.

This reader may have a good point, when it comes to priorities in the school district. Have you noticed they never seem to give the Golden Apple Award to someone behind a desk at the old Bradley Library?

But the complaints about the school board's decision don't stop there....

Well, they did it,voted to build a $15,000,000 (+ -) administrative building while our kids are out in portable buildings with no covered walks...Middle schools and high schools bands are asking people to adopt a chair or a music stand. Their equipment is so old it is falling apart. There are classes with 30+ kids struggling to learn. MCSD was given money by the state to hire graduation coaches in each high school..MCSD opted to pocket the money and pull a guidance councilor out of their job descriptions and place them in this position. When that move took place the grade level that councilor was assigned fell on the other counselors..In the smaller high schools that was not as drastic as in the larger schools. A councilor can now have 550+ students that they have to keep up contact with about grades,attendance ,behavior and parental contact,plus all the standardize test that are required..At a state meeting of graduation coaches MCSD was the only one who pulled counselors to do this.

Adopt a chair?! This seems tame compared to the sign I saw outside Ashley Station Apartments during the summer. It actually asked people to adopt some of the Jordan High School seniors.

This writer seems to disagree with Muscogee County Superintendent John Phillips, who claimed on TV Tuesday the need for a new central office building is "obvious." Phillips claimed right now, some school buildings are "sliding down the hill." So who built the current office along the side of Wynnton Hill in the first place?

Even though the ratio may be one guidance counselor for every 550 students, that doesn't mean all those students need a counselor. I hardly ever talked with my high school counselor years ago. But then again, maybe I should have - because she wanted me to go to law school.

The other accusations against the school district will have to wait, until we get back from vacation. Now before I get a good night's sleep for the trip, here's one last headline check for the road:

+ Mayor Jim Wetherington admitted while Columbus has hired 52 new police officers this year, it's lost 40 more - so there still are 16 open positions. The mayor promised to do something about that. Hopefully that doesn't mean installing a revolving door at the Public Safety Center.

(WXTX "News at Ten" noted the starting salary for police officers is $3,000 higher in LaGrange than in Columbus. Wow - are Kia executives paying high property taxes on their mansions already?)

+ Auburn University Dean of Students Johnny Green rode a bicycle around campus all day, trying to get students to park cars and ride bikes. Nice try, Dr. Green - but how do you expect football fans to have tailgate parties on Saturdays?

+ Chester's Barbecue downtown held a one-day online vote drive, trying to win an award from the Steve Harvey radio show. Chester's is a finalist for the best barbecue restaurant in the country - and all the loyal Country's customers must be wondering how Harvey missed all that smoke, on his last trip to town.

+ The Nation's Report Card on education came out, and Alabama Governor Bob Riley declared his state "number one." He says Alabama has the biggest growth in fourth-grade reading scores over the last two years. He did NOT bother saying Alabama still ranks below Georgia, and is considered below-average nationwide. So Riley is acting a bit like Crimson Tide fans did last Wednesday....

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007


The Muscogee County School Board voted late Monday to pay for a new "Educational Services Center." It will cost about $20 million, and be built next to the $49 million central library. The only thing they'll lack is an enclosed skyway with a moving sidewalk, to connect them.

A draft drawing of the Educational Services Center was shown to the Muscogee County School Board back in June. At the time, the school district had $13 million reserved in the budget for the building. Let's all be thankful that money wasn't invested in residential mortgage bonds.

The school board needs somewhere between four and seven million dollars to fully fund the new central office building. That money will come from something in Atlanta called Merchant Capital. I've never heard of this -- but Atlanta has plenty of merchants with capital, at Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza.

(It's not clear to me how Merchant Capital will make up the funding gap for this project. I can't imagine they'll get far by selling autographed lithographs of the schematic drawing.)

When it came time to vote on the new central office building, the Muscogee County School Board split 5-4 in favor. Board President James Walker said the district's staff deserves to work in a high-quality building. That's a nice change - considering a former Columbus High School basketball coach claimed her office was in a closet.

School Board member Cathy Vaughan Williams opposed the Educational Services Center, telling WXTX "News at Ten" it "circumvents the will of the people." So? I don't recall large numbers of people demanding a natatorium in that neighborhood, but one's being planned there.

Cathy Vaughan Williams says the school board should seek public comments about the planned central office building. After all, most people may decide they want Sears to reopen its store on that site....

School Board member Joseph Roberson also voted against the Educational Services Center. He wishes the board would look for ways to save money on the project. Someone's been e-mailing suggestions our way about that in recent months - such as putting the administrative staff in portable buildings.

If that's not enough, the Muscogee County School Board also decided Monday to begin planning for another sales tax vote. The board apparently has decided Nathan Suber is out of the public eye for good....

The school district plans to hold a series of public forums, to get ideas on what projects to include in a special purpose local option sales tax question. If some printing company wants to make fast money, it will start making "greenspace" bumper stickers today.

So what else happened on a rather muggy Monday? Let's take a look around....

+ Gasoline prices jumped 20 cents a gallon in parts of Columbus, hitting $2.84 around the Civic Center. Has someone bothered telling the oil companies that thanks to global warming, they might not need to adjust the refineries for heating oil anymore?

+ WRBL reported Phenix City will look for a new business park location, because the Phenix Industrial Park sits on poor-quality dirt. Huh?! I thought city officials only used that kind of language to describe some of the nearby residents.

(Phenix City Council member John Storey said the Phenix Industrial Park has never realized its potential, anyway. It's gained 12 businesses in 16 years - and that new poultry plant may have the city smelling trouble, even before it opens.)

+ Porter Paints employee Mark Chappell wore women's clothing for a day, because he lost a bet on the Georgia-Alabama football game. But he should look on the positive side. Chappell might be able to work weekends at that new Club Plush near Peachtree Mall.

+ Auburn punter Patrick Tatum was named the Southeastern Conference special teams player of the week. When your punter is considered the star of a 55-20 win, this is NOT a compliment to the offense.

+ Atlanta Falcons coach Bobby Petrino promised D'Angelo Hall will face "significant discipline," for the penalties he picked up in Sunday's loss to Carolina. One more outburst like that, and Hall will have to clean up all of Michael Vick's homes.

+ Instant Message to Lakewood Baptist Church in Phenix City: I'm glad you have that new outreach ministry called C.A.R.E. But when I call the number on the screen after the WLTZ telecast and only hear an answering machine - well, is this "outreach" stuff only one-way?

COMING WEDNESDAY: Where I'm driving for a getaway.... while I can still do it for free....

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Monday, September 24, 2007


A series of public forums begins tonight, on the proposal for Tax Allocation Districts in Columbus. It will be on the ballot November 6 - and if Georgia politicians really had some courage, they'd move up the Presidential primary to that same day.

You may have seen the billboards around Columbus promoting the Tax Allocation District question. I was puzzled by Columbus State University being involved with them, and actually hosting tonight's first forum. If it's a state-run college, why should the campus need a tax district - unless it's going to build a combined dormitory-condominium?

It turns out the Columbus State University business school was asked to host the public forums, by the city government. That should make sure things are fair and balanced - as long as Cunningham Center Director Carmen Cavezza doesn't start telling stories about his days as City Manager.

Part of the Columbus State University web site also is devoted to the Tax Allocation District vote. A check Sunday night found it includes a page with eight "frequently asked questions." Maybe I'm living in the wrong part of town - because the most frequent question I'm hearing is what's wrong with the Auburn football team.

(What do you know -- there's a page on the Internet about C.S.U. T.A.D. F.A.Q's. There's a fun puzzle for your next staff meeting at the office....)

The F.A.Q. page explains Columbus Council would set aside "areas in need of improvement" for Tax Allocation Districts. The two main areas I've heard about for a T.A.D. are Midtown and Columbus South. If anybody suggests one for Whittlesey Boulevard or Bradley Park Drive, be suspicious....

The web site also promises a Tax Allocation District will NOT increase property taxes, and will NOT change the rules for the Columbus property tax freeze. Somewhere Josh McKoon already has printed out this page, in case he has to file another lawsuit.

Money for redevelopment neighborhoods in Tax Allocation Districts would come from the city selling 30-year bonds. I can't wait to see these being offered on eBay - especially if they have Mayor Jim Wetherington's picture on them.

The C.S.U. web site notes a Tax Allocation District has helped build the Atlantic Station project in midtown Atlanta. So if you vote yes for local T.A.D.'s in November, be sure you hold Columbus Council accountable - and demand to know when the Ikea store is coming.

But the web site also claims East Point's Tax Allocation District as a "success" - and that might be a stretch. While several new retail stores opened on Camp Creek Parkway, a Target store didn't last long and has shut down. People apparently preferred the Target a few miles around Interstate 285 in College Park - while looking for the Kennedy and Cohen store whose sign hasn't come down after more than 20 years.

The Columbus State web site admits there are risks involved in creating Tax Allocation Districts. It notes: "TAD's may inadvertently force low- to moderate-income families out of neighborhoods...." Of course, this is happening in Baker Village right now without any citywide vote....

The web site also warns Tax Allocation Districts could lead to "growth and demand for public services that the government is not prepared for and may not be capable of supporting." That may explain why the vote is in November - before the Columbus Park Crossing traffic jams develop in December.

E-MAIL UPDATE: A couple of items from readers hit the InBox Sunday -- including a note from the local pastor we mentioned:

Hello Richard,

May I please clarify something regarding the situation involving Rex Humbard. Prior to going to Ambassador College, I worked for a publishing company that published books for the Rex Humbard ministry. I did not work with his ministry as such. It was the man in charge of the publishing company that made the statement to Rex Humbard that I overheard.

Hopefully that sets the quote straight. But now I'm wondering if that publishing manager was involved in the deal for O.J. Simpson's "If I Did It" book.

We also heard from a reader about our "semi-educated guess" of Friday, involving two Columbus radio stations which swapped spots on the dial:

101.3 the Beat moving to 98.3 has a lot to do with Clear Channel Communications trying to go private (see: and they need to get in-line with FCC regulations

The article in that link suggests Clear Channel might not be able to sell WAGH-FM 98.3 and other stations, because of the current tight financing market. Who could have guessed a bunch of hip-hop "jocks" would have something in common with a nice home in Green Island?

And speaking of financing problems: we saw a TV commercial at our post time which we couldn't believe. A housing development in Russell County called "The Grove at Ridgebrook" will give you a new car, if you buy a house! Suddenly the Saint Jude Dream Home has to play "keeping up with the Joneses."

We thank all of you who read and write - and now let's check some things which made news Sunday:

+ District Attorney Gray Conger admitted to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he's accepted plea bargains in some murder cases because pursuing the death penalty can be expensive. Before you criticize Conger for this, here's something to consider - he hasn't struck any deals with people who counterfeit money.

+ Blue Bell ice cream marked its 100th anniversary, with a touring display at Hollywood Connection which included free samples. Only one thing could have made this more appealing - but Blue Bell did NOT bring BeBe the cow out of hiding, after months of surgery.

+ The Atlanta Falcons lost to Carolina 27-20. Some post-game analysts said the game turned on a series of penalties against Atlanta defensive back D'Angelo Hall. This is where Falcon coach Bobby Petrino shows he's a rookie - because Bobby Cox would have stepped in, and had himself ejected.

(The Panthers had to call on a backup quarterback to get the victory -- but somehow I doubt there will be a move in Charlotte to rename the team CARR-olina.)

+ Instant Message to everyone who's wondering what we think about the death of Marcel Marceau: We have no comment. He probably would prefer it that way.

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, September 23, 2007


It was sad to learn Saturday night of the death of Rex Humbard. If you're up in years or follow religious broadcasting, that name should be familiar. He gained a big following with his weekly telecasts from Ohio's "Cathedral of Tomorrow." But Humbard died in Florida -- so is it now the Cathedral of Yesterday?

A local pastor I know can tell stories about Rex Humbard - but they're not very complimentary. He worked with the ministry during its early years, and recalls the day he heard another man say to Humbard: "How much did you get from those suckers today?" Humbard never challenged that comment, and the future pastor noticed it. That pastor now preaches in a very different association, which has no cathedrals at all.

My main memory of Rex Humbard is very different, and goes back to a Sunday night a few weeks after I started college. I was home for Labor Day weekend, my mother had gone to bed, and I stayed up late watching the Cathedral of Tomorrow. You have to understand this was 30 years ago, when Sunday night was NOT yet football night. It wasn't even infomercial night, after the 10:00 p.m. news.

Rex Humbard's sermon that Sunday night was about Jesus's encounter with a leper. As he spoke, I noticed a bump on one of my hands. The longer he spoke, the more the bump grew - as if I was being punished for not watching "faith healer" Ernest Angley instead.

"I'm a LEPER!" Rex Humbard said loudly several times - emphasizing how people with leprosy had to warn people around them of their condition. "I'm-a GOIN' to the LEPER COLONY!" And as I looked at the growing bump on my hand, I wondered if he somehow had me pegged to join that group in the next few days.

Before the sermon was over, I couldn't stand it anymore. I didn't want to disturb my sleeping mother with this situation, so I quietly took the car keys off the hook in the kitchen and drove to an emergency room. Maybe, just maybe, I was becoming a leper. I should have been thankful Rex Humbard didn't preach about being thrown into the lake of fire.

I don't remember much of the emergency room visit on that Sunday night -- but I wasn't there very long. And I know for sure that the staff never asked me to show an insurance card....

But the emergency room staff did something to reduce the bump on my hand - because by morning it was practically gone. I drove home comforted in the fact that Rex Humbard had NOT accidentally issued a prophecy of leprosy for someone in his audience. Well, at least not for me -- but maybe others had the same problem, and also have been too embarrassed to admit it.

When I got home, my mother still was asleep. I quietly hung the car key back inside the kitchen cabinet where we kept it, and went to bed. I don't think I even stopped to pray that night. Too bad - because I didn't consider the events which could happen the next morning.

When I woke up that Labor Day morning, I realized I should tell my mother what I had done while she was sleeping. Yes, it was confessional time - and we didn't even grow up Catholic....

I explained the whole story to my mother - about Rex Humbard's sermon, the bump on the hand and my trip to the emergency room. She did NOT punish me, or take away my privilege of sharing the family car with her. She didn't even suggest I write the Cathedral of Tomorrow with a "love offering."

Since that strange Labor Day weekend in 1976, I've only needed to visit an emergency room a couple of times. Neither of those visits came after hearing sermons on radio or TV. Perhaps it's because I've become as skeptical of "televangelists" as that local pastor. When Benny Hinn runs around waving his arms on TV today, I never come close to falling back and collapsing.

BLOG UPDATE: "I got home at 5:30, and I'm still tired." That's what Georgia NAACP President Ed DuBose was overheard telling someone downtown Friday. We're assuming he was talking about a trip to Jena, Louisiana - and not some side trip to a Mississippi casino.

One of the organizers of the Columbus State University protest for the "Jena 6" appeared on WRBL Friday afternoon. Fallon Holmes said an event scheduled for two hours wound up going six - which is amazing, because long-winded speakers such as Jesse Jackson actually were in Louisiana.

For some strange reason, WRBL's Steve Ring never asked Fallon Holmes for her reaction to the Jena news item of the day - that a judge denied bail for accused attacker Mychal Bell. This anchor is new to Columbus, but a "Ring" shouldn't be out of the circle that much....

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: My next-door neighbor had the outcome right Saturday night. Georgia edged Alabama in overtime 26-23. So how many Crimson Tide fans will turn on Nick Saban this week, and declare he's the wrong answer for the program?

Larry Munson stayed home from a Georgia football game for the first time in years - yet I'm told he spoke with the Bulldog broadcasters by phone during the game. Wherever Munson was, I imagined he worried and fretted in the final minutes just as much as usual....

I didn't realize until WDAK's Scott Miller mentioned it the other day that the first Georgia-Alabama football game was played in Columbus. That was back in 1895 - when Memorial Stadium actually might have held more spectators than the stadium in Tuscaloosa.

Meanwhile, Auburn struggled for a half before knocking out New Mexico State 55-20. Perhaps the Tigers were still recovering from the "International Day of Peace" held on campus Friday....

So let's see: Alabama has one loss. Georgia has one loss. Auburn and Georgia Tech each have two. And my good ol' Kansas Jayhawks are still undefeated, at 4-0! Have all you fine young men at Carver High School considered playing college football in much more comfortable weather - and winning besides?

In the hopes I haven't committed a recruiting violation, let's check some other weekend headlines:

+ The President of Southern Union Community College testified before a grand jury in Montgomery. Susan Salatto may have been explaining what she knows about possible scandals in Alabama's two-year college system. Or prosecutors may have been demanding someone in the South remove the word "Union" from her school's name.

+ WRBL reported an umbrella drive is underway at the Academic Success Center on 29th Street. Well, I suppose leftover box fans from the Valley Rescue Mission would be a bit awkward to carry over your head.

+ Alabama marked "Inside Out Day," with students watching a video about why they should stay in school and avoid going to prison. These days, I think the good-looking female teachers need to take notes on that video as well....

(How times have changed in our country! When I was a teenager, "Inside Out Day" was when you could show school spirit during homecoming week by wearing your clothing backwards.)

+ The new Iron Mike's War Museum opened on Tenth Avenue, next to the old state farmer's market. I would have guessed Mike Ditka would put this thing in Chicago, but....

(So if "Iron Mike" can open a War Museum with little fanfare and modest donations, what gives with the National Infantry Museum? It's looking for all sorts of federal handouts, yet it's going to have the fanciest movie theater this side of the Fox in Atlanta.)

+ The country music duo Montgomery Gentry performed at Fort Benning. I feel a bit sorry for those singers - because taking the "and" out of their name still hasn't helped them beat Brooks and Dunn at awards shows.

+ Plains, Georgia held its annual Peanut Festival. The weather for this year's celebration seemed a bit closer to boiled, than to dry-roasted....

+ Instant Message to Avery's Edrooms on Milgen Road: Hey, that's what the sign on the side of your building says. Did Brookstone School students hold a scavenger hunt or something?

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Friday, September 21, 2007


(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.)

"I am not the devil," a man declared at my poker table the other night. Some might have reached that conclusion, because he had just won a pot with three 6's.

"But I am a close relative," the man continued. Uh-oh. He was joking, but now he had stepped across a line with me. Why would anyone in his right mind want to associate himself with the devil? But then again, we were in a bar - and who knows how many beers the man had drunk.

A lot of people would like to think the devil is a fictional character. We've noted here before how two local high schools have devils of various colors as mascots. Yet for some reason, Calvary Christian hasn't balanced that out by naming its sports team the Angels.

Yet people who read the Bible tend to reach a different conclusion -- that the devil is real, and is behind all kinds of wrong things in our world. But how people see the devil working is open to question. Is he in O.J. Simpson? The Jena, Louisiana District Attorney? Or both?

This is an important weekend for many Jews and Christians, when it comes to the devil. Before you get the wrong idea - no, they're NOT privately celebrating Halloween one month early....

Friday night and Saturday mark the Biblical Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. The book of Leviticus describes an ancient ceremony where the sins of mankind are placed on the head of a goat, which can depict Satan. Who knows how many Jews quietly wish the goat could also depict the President of Iran?!

The ceremony on the Day of Atonement indicates a time is coming when God will put all human sins on the devil who inspired them - then cast Satan far away. To put it in Columbus terms: your sins might be abandoned in a field southwest of Eufaula.

This is a wonderful thing to consider - a time when all sins are gone. It's going to take the return of Jesus to bring this about. After all, Democrats in Congress can't even get Fort Benning soldiers out of Iraq....

It's worth considering Leviticus 16 this weekend, along with several chapters in the book of Hebrews - because they describe a high priest named Jesus who offered Himself for our sins. The Bible indicates it's better to be a "brother" of Jesus. If you think you're related to Satan now, I recommend trying to become a distant cousin - and "once removed."

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: "The Family Redeemer" drama based on the book of Ruth, FREE at Lakebottom Park at 5:00 p.m. ET.... you'll find Boaz is not just a place with outlet stores....

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When Thursday began, I had decided in my mind to leave Jena, Louisiana alone. This is The Blog of Columbus, not the Blog of Jena. But then again, Jena's not that much bigger than Hurtsboro - so it may not be able to support a blog of its own.

But then things happened which changed my mind. As I took a morning run across South Commons, a group of about 25 people stood outside the Civic Center - some of them appearing to hold picket signs. Was this a sudden, spur-of-the-moment rally in support of the "Jena Six?" Or did the animal rights groups who oppose circuses show up too late this year?

As I jogged back toward home, the small group still stood in front of the Civic Center. I slowed down intentionally to check the signs, and found they had words such as "Shaw" and "Taylor County." On top of that, the group was multi-racial - so Taylor County may be farther down the path toward unity than we realized.

"Nothing about Jena. I was wondering," I said to the group - then jogged on down the sidewalk. I thought I heard one or two people laugh at my statement. But I wonder how many of the adults dared to start a conversation about it. In 2007, I'm not sure even bringing it up is considered politically correct around here.

(The Civic Center event actually was a Columbus public safety demonstration, discouraging teenage drunk driving. I saw fire trucks behind the arena, as I had to circle the building because of fences set up for next week's fair. That slow-jogging loop-de-loop is about the most thrilling ride I'd want to try.)

The real local Jena Six protest occurred during the lunch hour, at Columbus State University. A table was set up for people to sign what one organizer told WRBL were "beautifully written petitions." I looked at them carefully, and didn't notice any calligraphy.

Compared with the Civic Center, handheld signs were almost nonexistent at C.S.U. One man held a poster explaining the Jena 6 case - but it was a bit out of date, because it said Mychal Bell would be sentenced Thursday. Bell's conviction was overturned last Friday. Too bad the Columbus Times only puts out new issues on Thursdays.

The Jena 6 protest actually was a class project -- arranged by the Columbus State "African-American Literature" class. This seemed puzzling to me, because no blogs were printed out for people to read about the case....

Joy Hughes of the African-American Literature class told me the Jena Six petitions were signed by "quite a few" white people. All the signatures will be sent to Louisiana's Governor, as well as a Congressman for the Jena area. What does it say when local Congressman Sanford Bishop doesn't have the clout to force a hearing?

Joy Hughes says when it comes to the Jena Six case, either everyone should be charged or no one should be. White high school students who hung nooses from a tree received only suspensions - and so far apparently have NOT been ordered to follow Phenix City Central's example, and turn the ropes into swings in a park.

Joy Hughes claimed "no one had gotten in trouble" in Jena, Louisiana until a district attorney filed attempted murder charges against six African-American students. She says the high school took action too late to reduce racial tension. I didn't think to ask if that called for the Taylor County answer - you know, like separate proms.

The protest organizers announced Columbus State University will form its own chapter of the NAACP next week. Oh dear -- Reginald Pugh at the Urban League is getting passed over again....

Meanwhile, about 50 people boarded an NAACP bus in midtown Columbus to travel to Jena, Louisiana. It cost ten dollars to ride the charter bus - which means Greyhound may only be able to pay half its electric bill in October as well.

Columbus NAACP leaders gave bus riders specific instructions for the journey to Louisiana. For one thing, they had orders NOT to buy anything in Jena - which turned out to be no big deal, since the entire town seemed to shut down for the day.

(But what about African-American business owners in the town? Why wouldn't the NAACP encourage travelers to support them? Maybe some shop sold an item which said: "I traveled to Jena, Louisiana for a protest, and all they let me buy was this lousy T-shirt.")

When I went to my neighborhood poker night In the evening (tied for 11th place), a hot case involving Louisiana was brought up by a man sitting next to me at the table. No, not the Jena Six - but whether Britney Spears should keep custody of her children.

All the local news coverage I heard from Jena seemed to focus on the protesters. It was left to the national newscasts to add some important details:

+ Five of the six suspects are out on bond right now. So a majority of the Jena Six technically IS free. But some protesters would say true freedom only comes when the charges are dropped. And the civil suit is won. And the monument is erected on the high school grounds....

+ The prosecutor in Jena says he couldn't arrest and charge white high school students for hanging nooses from a tree, because he could find nothing in state law declaring that a hate crime. But at least the Boy Scouts haven't awarded any medals, for rope-tying skills.

+ Some people in Jena boarded up their windows, apparently fearing the civil rights protests would end in violence. That's where the Columbus NAACP was smart with that ten-dollar fare. Homeless ex-cons would have a hard time begging for that much money.

BLOG UPDATE: Perhaps you already knew this, but we didn't until Thursday - that two Columbus radio stations have swapped dial positions. "Da Beat" is now at 98.3 FM. "Magic 98.3" has moved to 101.3 FM. And the Magic 101 van I saw Thursday was repainted so quickly, Clear Channel must be serious about keeping it there.

Both FM stations have been owned by Clear Channel. We called the office Thursday, and learned the radio station swap occurred about two weeks ago. But when we asked why it happened, the woman on the phone couldn't explain it -- so for all we know, some executive may have lost a football bet.

But we can make a semi-educated guess about why Clear Channel switched these stations. It's giving up control of WAGH-FM at 98.3 - but it's keeping WBFA-FM at 101.3. Apparently the company decided one Edgar Champagne was more valuable than "10,000 joints in a row" which started "Da Beat."

The Courier reported a few weeks ago that Archway Broadcasting was interested in buying a hip hop station. With "Da Beat" now at 98.3 FM, this could be what Archway's after. Then "Wild Bill" can be on WKCN-FM in the morning, and go really wild down the dial in the afternoon.

BIG PREDICTION: This weekend's big college football prediction comes from someone who's been following the Southeastern Conference closely for years - my next-door neighbor. He says Georgia will go to Alabama and win, 21-7. This is despite the fact that the Bulldogs will play their first game in years without Larry Munson in the broadcast booth.

But here's the strange thing: my next-door neighbor rooted for Alabama to beat Arkansas last week. Now he's turning around and picking Georgia to beat Alabama. Why? "I live in Georgia," he told me late Thursday. Based on this logic, he'll be on my side when Kansas meets Nebraska and Colorado in the coming weeks.

Coach Mark Richt has closed Georgia football practices to reporters for the last few days, as he prepares for Alabama. So he could be preparing a big surprise - such as installing Auburn's Brandon Cox at quarterback.

We'll see if that prediction comes true - and in the meantime, we'll check other Thursday news stories:

+ WDAK Radio reported Police Chief Ricky Boren intervened personally, to catch a fleeing robbery suspect on Macon Road. Either he's working on a pilot script for a TV crime drama - or the officers' shortage suddenly is worse again.

(Chief Boren told the evening news the crime surge in Columbus seems to have died down abated in recent weeks. One resident in the Baker Village neighborhood even called to thank him, for putting all the drug dealers in jail. That resident also should thank the Columbus Housing Authority -- for moving all the Baker Village Apartment residents out, to demolish the complex.)

+ Fort Benning marked the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Infantry School. So back in 1907, who was the first person to tell soldiers "Follow Me?" And how did this person do it, without a Cunningham Center for Leadership Development?

+ The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation held a "cultural expo" at Fort Benning. Some students who attended this may have been surprised - as there were no displays showing how torture is different in Chile as opposed in Panama.

+ WRBL showed the "previously recorded" Mega Millions drawing - as in the drawing of two nights before. If the jackpot already has jumped, why would any viewer call and ask to see the winning numbers again?

+ The Four Tops performed at the RiverCenter. I read somewhere that only one original member of the soul group is still alive - but renaming the group "The Top and his Second-Best" wouldn't sound quite right.

+ Atlanta Police reported a man stole a radio and several batteries from a discount store. The suspect was identified as a blond man, wearing a dress. [True/] I've never heard of anyone with such an urge to listen to Barry Manilow songs.

+ LaGrange conquered Kendrick 34-0 in high school football. The Grangers are now 4-0 on the season, and all the wins are shutouts. So much for the Atlanta Falcons holding a scrimmage with them anytime soon....

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Thursday, September 20, 2007


Call me old-fashioned, but I still wear a suit and tie to church. If the people at one of those "come as you are" churches forced me to change my wardrobe, my closet of sportcoats might never be opened again.

With an annual church convention approaching, it's time for me to get suits cleaned for the trip -- and this year, I was ready. I had pulled out a "frequent customer card" from Continental Cleaners, which was buried under other papers for a few years. Of course, that meant it was as stiff and flat as a starched shirt collar....

My frequent customer card from Continental Cleaners was punched all around - and as it clearly says, "20 punches earns $10 on next order." I'm old enough to remember when taking 20 punches from a heavyweight boxing champion was considered a major sports story.

But anyway: I took three suits and my frequent customer card to a Continental Cleaners shop last week. Not knowing when I had to turn in the card, I gave it to the attendant right away.

"Oh, no," she said at the sight. "We stopped accepting those three or four years ago." I guess I'm not as frequent a customer as I thought I was.

"You might as well throw that card in the trash can," the woman said next. But I couldn't, as she dropped it in a wastebasket behind the counter herself. I've never even had a date dump me like this.

I suppose if I had visited Continental Cleaners more often, I might have spotted signs warning about the end of the frequent customer card program. Especially at a dry cleaners, where every spot should be noticed right away....

But I wish businesses such as this one promoted the end of their special deals, as much as they do the deals themselves. Broadway theatres do this with "final weeks" notices for plays. But thankfully, no political candidates are tacky enough to do this to incumbents.

This isn't the first time I waited too long to take advantage of a discount in Columbus. Does anyone remember the old Playwright Café on Broadway? I had a card for a free meal there, after a lunch with lousy service - only when I tried to use it weeks later, the restaurant was shut down. Which means, of course, the service had gone from lousy to worse.

So what would you have done, if someone at a business had just thrown your long-saved discount card in a trash can? Would you have protested, arguing "the customer is always right?" At a dry cleaners, that's like asking for your suits to come back with mysterious cigarette-sized holes in the elbows.

Would you have taken your clothing, and simply walked out the door? That's not easy at a dry cleaners, either. Prices normally aren't posted on the walls, to help you make price comparisons. The second choice might cost you more - and then you might ruin your suits for good, by throwing them on the ground in disgust.

I decided to let Continental Cleaners go ahead and clean my suits. The three coats and three pairs of pants wound up costing me about 32 dollars. That ten-dollar discount card would have been nice - but I don't think it even received the dignity of going in a white paper recycling bin.

While we prepare other items for the road trip, here's what we noticed in the news Wednesday:

+ An evening walk around Golden Park confirmed the Columbus Catfish have posted absolutely nothing, to note they won the South Atlantic League pennant a week ago. With Auburn football fans in near-crisis, you'd think the baseball team would give us something to smile about....

+ Cessna Aircraft broke ground for a parts plant at the Muscogee Technology Park. Cessna is based in Wichita, Kansas - the "Air Capital." I've seen so many spelling mistakes on signs in Columbus that I'm tempted to call it the Error Capital.

+ A Muscogee County schools spokesperson told WXTX "News at Ten" accused sex offender James Cypher has been removed from the Columbus High School faculty. He's now working in the transportation department - where apparently the only thing he can manhandle is an oil filter for a bus.

+ The director of "In the Valley of Elah" appeared on public television's "Tavis Smiley Show." Paul Haggis admitted he's not sure people will want to see his movie, based on the Richard Davis murder case in Columbus. Apparently some people do - because Fort Benning hasn't declared it off-limits to soldiers yet.

(Tavis Smiley confirmed In the Valley of Elah is only in "limited release" right now, in New York and Los Angeles. Even when it comes to Columbus, the movie's release still may be limited - such as one screening in mid-December at the main library.)

+ Opelika city officials encouraged young people to recycle, by declaring Wednesday "Make It a Habit Day." Wednesday was also "Talk Like a Pirate Day" - and I hope I never meet anyone who's trying to put the two together.

+ A Snellville, Georgia medical examiner concluded the brawl we mentioned here Wednesday ended with a man dying from a heart attack -- NOT from an armless man head-butting him. Then again, the thought of being beaten up by somebody with no arms could stun me into having a heart attack, too.

+ Instant Message to rapper 50 Cent: 2 Two Too bad. Kanye West's new CD is SO outselling yours. But if you plan to go ahead and quit the music business, I've found the perfect new career for you - "50 Cent Rent-a-Car" on Wynnton Road.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Suppose you wanted to paint your house - but you had to pay City Hall 200 dollars to do it. That sort of issue came up at Columbus Council Tuesday. And no, it was NOT a scheme involving hiring prison inmates on a "work release" program.

Several residents of Columbus's Historic Districts complained about proposed new city fees for improving their property. Any sort of renovation on a house would cost 200 dollars - and this may have a clue of what will happen, if the Georgia House Speaker gets all the property taxes abolished.

The evening news showed a schedule of the proposed new fees in Historic Districts. They're for improvements which have had no charge before....

+ Room additions: $200. In the district where I live, this wouldn't be easy. Space is so tight, extra rooms might have to connect with the next-door neighbor on a top floor.

+ Demolition: $500. But as we've learned in recent years, a homeless person living in crawl space can take care of that with a few matches.

+ Adding a new building: $1,000. For that price, why add a storage shed? Build one of those New York Avenue hotels from the Monopoly game.

WRBL interviewed one resident of a Historic District, who indicated she'd have to pay the city a fee to modernize her kitchen. I never realized the preservationists were this picky. After all, not even old housing projects use wood-burning stoves anymore.

Columbus city officials explained the proposed fees would cover the cost of the Planning Department handling applications. I didn't realize it cost hundreds of dollars for Government Center employees to pass paperwork back and forth. Are they wearing protective gloves to do this now?

But some residents of the Historic Districts pointed out they already have to file building permits with the city for renovations - plus win approval from a Historic Preservation Board. It's no wonder so many of those classic homes near downtown have turned into law offices....

The residents are concerned that steep city fees for renovations will make people less likely to move into Historic Districts. And if that happens, eventually the homes REALLY will look historic - like the peeling paint on the Spencer House along Veterans Parkway.

Columbus Council decided to delay a vote on the Historic District fees for two weeks. The consensus seemed to be that the proposed fees should be reduced. If the Councilors can resolve that, maybe they should talk to some mortgage bankers next....

While I live in a Historic District, my apartment complex is far from historic-looking. I believe it was built in the 1960's - and the only history it recalls for me is an old Best Western Motel.

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: A group of people is in an office, and I ask out loud the question we posed here Tuesday.

"I want to know what the city of Columbus is doing to honor the Catfish. They won a title!"

A woman speaks up behind me. "They're professionals. They're paid money to win. So it's expected."

With that bubble burst, let's check other Tuesday headlines:

+ The Phenix City Council approved a budget for the next fiscal year. It includes a 2.5 percent raise for city employees. But in a mild surprise, there was NO motion from Ray Bush to cut the pay of the City Clerk's staff.

+ Voters in Marion and Sumter Counties approved one-cent sales tax questions. So why did they approve such things, while voters in East Alabama said no? Well, you have to admit Sumter County's hospital is in much worse shape right now....

+ Snellville, Georgia police reported a man died after a fight over a woman. The victim was fighting an armless man -- but he collapsed after receiving a head butt. [True/AP] Those spiky men's hairstyles are more dangerous than I realized.

+ Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville announced he'll rotate two quarterbacks for the rest of the season. Whether this earns him a commercial endorsement from Firestone tire stores remains to be seen.

+ The Atlanta Falcons signed former Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich, one day after signing veteran kicker Morten Andersen. Huh?! Do you mean Doug Flutie wasn't available, to do both jobs?

(Now now, Falcons fans - things could be worse. The managers could have copied Cleveland, and traded away Joey Harrington. Or they could have followed Notre Dame's example, and urged Harrington to enroll in a graduate music school.)

+ Instant Message to Alabama Governor Bob Riley: OK, so your new state tourism slogan is "Sweet Home Alabama." But why announce that in Orange Beach? Doesn't that song say, "In Birmingham, they love the Governor"?

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Now THERE'S a title which ought to attract a lot of blog readers! But we're sorry to disappoint all you fans of The Daily Kos -- because we're talking about another official named Bush, and he's located somewhere between the White House and Texas....

Monday's TV news showed a police "mug shot" of Phenix City Councilor and Mayor Pro-Tem Ray Bush. After looking it over, he doesn't seem that bad. Bush's mug shot certainly rates above Glen Campbell - but he's below Mel Gibson, and certainly below Paris Hilton.

(The worst celebrity mug shot I've ever seen in this area came during the late 1990's, when then-TV news anchor Patricia Hargarten was stopped for drunk driving on a Saturday night. I'm not saying it was bad - but she reportedly had to go all the way to Pennsylvania to find her next job.)

Ray Bush turned himself in to Phenix City Police Friday, on charges of harassment. He admitted on TV Monday he was shocked that he had to do that. Bush must have assumed Police Chief Brian McGarr was out looking for another nightclub to shut down.

Ray Bush posted a $1,000 bond to get out of jail, so he should be at the Phenix City Council meeting today. Hopefully no one will mind if he brings in the Phenix City Central offensive line, to act as personal bodyguards.

The arrest of Ray Bush is the official "kicking it up a notch," in a feud with an aide to the Phenix City Clerk. Charlotte Sierra filed a complaint against the Councilor a couple of weeks ago [7 Sep]. In Hollywood, Nicole Richie would have been tried, convicted and through with her sentence by now.

Charlotte Sierra claims Ray Bush touched her improperly, and made improper comments around her for a couple of years. The Councilman may need to buy a new joke book - because the "Hi, Sierra" pun probably wore out a long time ago.

But Ray Bush says when all is said and done, the harassment charge against him will prove to be merely political. Bush could have gone farther and called it "just a Storey" - but that might give away the politics he's talking about.

Charlotte Sierra did NOT want to talk to the TV news Monday about her complaint. But don't you get the feeling the staff at the Phenix City Clerk's office is watching her closely? Especially to see if she's making calls to Russell County Administrator LeeAnn Horne-Jordan?

It's worth noting that Charlotte Sierra still has a job in Phenix City government - as opposed to one-time City Clerk Max Wilkes, who was "trimmed" out of the city budget several months ago. Wilkes now is suing the city. So if officials aren't careful, Sierra could turn this into a "lack of class" action suit.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Monday Blog Exclusive sparked some powerful thinking....

If the Greyhound Bus station's elect.bill was $1,000 plus I can't image what the elect bill for MCSD and TSYS must be....TSYS needs to put in their own hydro-elect.plant on the river bank..

MCSD school board is thinking about starting school later next yr to avoid the high summer heat of August...That might be a wise decision.....

If the Muscogee County School Board makes that move, I'm not sure it would bring any energy savings. Classes would have to be held during the last week of May, or perhaps early June - and global warming could cancel out everything.

The Muscogee County School Board has tried to end the year before Memorial Day for the last few years. You may recall the fuss some veterans raised, when classes actually were held on the Monday holiday. Attempts to tell them school also was in session on Confederate Memorial Day simply didn't work.

Now let's see what else gained our attention Monday, on Constitution Day:

+ The Columbus murder-based movie "In the Valley of Elah" failed to crack the top ten in weekend ticket sales. Perhaps it's one of those films which are described as "limited release" - matching the way Richard Davis's killers have been for some time.

+ CBS News reported Georgia is one of only three states where education spending has increased, since an "education lottery" began. There's a good explanation for this, of course. Too many students don't care about HOPE scholarships, and keep dropping out of high school.

+ Auburn University reported a record fall enrollment of 24,137 students. Wow -- that many students, and they can only find two quarterbacks?!

+ The Montgomery Biscuits won the Southern League baseball title for the second year in a row. The city reportedly is planning a championship banner for the Biscuits, while Columbus is planning for the Catfish.... uhhhh.... well, what IS the city planning? A Glenn Davis bobble-head day at Columbus Council?

+ The Atlanta Falcons released their rookie place-kicker whom hardly anyone could name, and resigned Morten Andersen - who's now 47 years old. If he keeps making comebacks year after year, Andersen will become the first active pro football player to do commercials for Poli-Grip.

(First Atlanta's baseball team brought back Julio Franco. Now the football team is bringing back Morten Andersen. Is it against the rules to take Dominique Wilkins out of the Basketball Hall of Fame, so he can play with the Hawks?)

+ Instant Message to O.J. Simpson: Aw, c'mon - this is going too far! I mean, trying to take the "trial of the century" title two centuries in a row....

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Monday, September 17, 2007


Sunday was the coolest morning in months in Columbus, as the low temperature was 58 degrees F. How many homes switched from running central air conditioning to central heat during the night?

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: A lot of people are facing big September electric bills, after the August heat wave. But your blog has discovered one high-profile Columbus business is at least 30 days behind in its payments - and when it comes to Georgia Power, you know how important it is to "be current."

We've obtained pieces of the September electric bill for the Greyhound bus station downtown. The total tab comes to $3,100.54 - and more than half of that is for "previous service." This apparently means your bus ride out of town today will help pay for people who used the vending machine in July.

The receipt of Greyhound's September electric bill shows about $1,580 of it was paid last week. This covers the "previous service," as well as some sort of "LPC" charge. Since I pay my bill on time, I'm guessing those initials stand for "late payment charge" - and not for someone who took the bus from the Louisiana Power Company.

Greyhound elected to leave more than $1,520 of its September electric bill unpaid. The bill includes one line which puzzles me - $102.30 for lighting. Why isn't that included with "electric service?" Are homeless people pumping bicycles in the basement, to keep the fluorescent lights on?

Until this bill passed our way, I'd never really thought about how much the downtown bus station paid for electricity. My big question was where Greyhound hid the diesel fuel pumps - and if there aren't any at the bus station, who tells the their drivers the cheapest places to fill up.

If the Greyhound bus station spends about $1,400 a month on its electric bill, we can guess how much other Columbus locations spend. I would imagine the bill is at least twice as high at the airport - even though Greyhound probably handles a lot more passengers per week, and without running those fancy X-ray machines.

So, you may be asking, how did this blog wind up with the downtown bus station's electric bill? Don't worry, you U.S. Postal Service employees - I'm not going to bash you twice in seven days....

Believe it or not, someone left the Greyhound bus station's bill out in the open for anyone to pick up. And sure enough, someone DID pick it up at the Georgia Power grounds up Veterans Parkway. Apparently a $1,520 unpaid electric bill is no big deal -- nor is Greyhound's account number with the electric company.

What sort of lessons can we learn from this? The biggest lesson which comes to mind for me is that Greyhound might want to increase its electric bill a bit more - to buy a top-quality paper shredder.

In the interest of full disclosure, I suppose I should tell you how big my electric bill was this month. It's huge for me -- at about 48 dollars. Maybe I should have heated frozen dinners in the oven, instead of the microwave.

Now let's power down, with some leftover news notes from the weekend:

+ The Courier reported a "letter of complaint" has been sent to the Muscogee County Sheriff, about the July drug bust at the Buena Vista Road McDonald's. The letter apparently expressed concern that a deputy fired shots near a children's playground. The report left out one key detail - is the complainant a suspect?

+ The 44th annual Shrine Circus had its closing performances at the Civic Center. When I jogged by about 5:20 p.m., a long line stretched into the parking lot -- and it didn't smell like the building was evacuated due to loose animals.

+ The Plaza Sol flea market on North Lumpkin Road held a party to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. If you feel threatened by this news, consider this: Another group marked Jamaican Independence Day last month in a Columbus city park - and there's still no radio station playing 24-hour reggae music.

+ Alabama jumped into the Associated Press college football poll, at #16. It's the Tide's first ranking since the.... huh?!?! Since the end of 2005?! You mean Alabama had ANOTHER good football team a couple of years ago? Hardly anyone in Tuscaloosa seems to remember that....

+ Jacksonville jolted Atlanta in pro football 13-7, holding the Falcons to 248 total yards. When Tiger Woods can go farther with one drive in Atlanta than the Falcons can in multiple drives in Jacksonville, it's not a good sign.

+ That very same Tiger Woods won The Tour Championship in Atlanta, as well as the "FedEx Cup." Put the twin titles together, and Woods won $11,260,000 in one day. Yeah, but can he win the Mega Millions jackpot Tuesday night?

+ Instant Message to the Columbus Catfish: What gives? You won a championship four days ago. At least you could hang a sign outside Golden Park saying so - or are you waiting for the city to organize a victory parade first?

COMING SOON: The woman who took my customer discount card, and threw it in a trash can....

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Sunday, September 16, 2007


All sorts of animals are in the spotlight across our area this weekend. The Shrine Circus has elephants and tigers. The Harris County rodeo has bulls and horses. And "Bikes on Broadway" had plenty of Hawgs.

The September tradition called the Shrine Circus concludes today at the Columbus Civic Center. The thing is, there aren't any Shriners' hospitals nearby so you can see the benefits of the show. I've never even seen a Shrine member riding around Columbus in one of those little cars -- unless they've been swapped for motorized wheelchairs.

This year the Shrine Circus is doing something different - by giving away $1,000 at every performance. I guess the hospitals are doing without new stethoscopes until next spring....

And in case the circus gets boring, there's also a "beach ball party" during the show. This smells suspicious to me. Do the clowns come along with needles, and release confetti in those balls?

It's also become traditional that if there's a circus in town, there's a protest outside it. The Saturday night newscasts didn't show one - so maybe People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals decided to start in Harris County, by freeing all the roped steers.

The two-day Harris County rodeo ended Saturday night - the event that's become the biggest rodeo in the Columbus area. Well, unless the Pro Bull Riding animals get out of their pen in South Commons again....

A traditional rodeo includes a variety of events. One that's always baffled me is women's "barrel racing" - since the barrels never move, so you're not racing them.

But over the last few years, Pro Bull Riding has been pushing traditional rodeos out of the spotlight. In fact, Fox will show a P.B.R. event today after the Falcons football game - and the bulls could wind up with more knockdowns than the Atlanta defensive line.

So perhaps animal rights groups made it a doubleheader weekend - picketing the rodeo first, and the circus today. We don't want the protesters to miss out on anything, so we'd point out some sights along the way. Veterans Parkway has two KFC's, one Church's and one Hartz Chicken.

But if the picketers are really serious about stopping the Shrine Circus, shouldn't they go after some of its sponsors? It has some big local names this year, including Country's Barbecue and Piggly Wiggly - but come to think of it, I can't recall the last time Piggly Wiggly sponsored a "kiss a pig" contest.

The biggest crowd of the weekend may have gathered downtown, for Bikes on Broadway. It certainly was the noisiest crowd. If it had lasted too late on Sunday morning, First Baptist Church Pastor Jimmy Elder might have been forced to try some Pentecostal shouting.

Bikes on Broadway brought an estimated 2,500 motorcyclists to downtown Columbus. But thanks to the Streetscape work, I'm not sure the bikers are able to park two-to-a-spot anymore.

Various blocks of Broadway were closed for the motorcycle weekend. But I suppose the Uptown Columbus farmers' market went ahead Saturday as usual - and there's nothing like storing a fresh head of lettuce inside your helmet, for the ride home.

Not everything was noisy during Bikes on Broadway. I went for a Saturday night jog, and noticed a tram moving down Broadway in the Historic District. I'm glad they respected the residents, who had college football games turned up on TV.

(But I also saw two people riding up Front Avenue on segways. Talk about wanna-bes....)

Enough of the animals - let's see what real people are doing this weekend:

+ WRBL showed highlights of a bi-city conference on air quality. So what can we do to reduce the smog level in Columbus? How about having every member of the "Fan Club" take them outside, and blow the clouds toward Atlanta?

+ WRBL also showed a House of Mercy parade on Third Avenue. It didn't seem to attract many spectators - perhaps because they feared the marchers would ask them to throw jewelry, instead of the other way around.

+ Alabama edged Arkansas in a heart-stopping football game 41-38. So much for the skeptics, who have been calling the Tide quarterback Sarah Jessica Parker Wilson....

(Alabama radio voice Eli Gold noted the referee was a Mr. Wagers. If he threw his penalty flag, I guess he would be the Wagers of sin.)

+ Auburn's football team lost at home for the second week in a row, 19-14 to Mississippi State. Maybe next time, they should bring in Brad Cotter to sing at halftime instead of Taylor Hicks.

(Auburn committed five turnovers in the loss - and at one point, senior quarterback Brandon Cox was pulled from the game. Come this time next year, Cox's only work in pro football could be as Jason Campbell's personal assistant.)

+ The Columbus State University "women's soccer showcase" featured a game involving Florida's Eckerd College. Maybe I'm missing something, but I figured this college would have changed its name to Rite-Aid by now.

+ Instant Message to New Bethel A.M.E. Church on Victory Drive: So today is "Lay Day," huh? I'll bet you can't have just one....

COMING THIS WEEK: Think your electric bill is high? Wait until you see this Blog Exclusive....

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Friday, September 14, 2007


(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.)

"Would you like to write a soldier?" a man asked me the other night. When Fort Benning units are deployed overseas, it's a bit hard to say no to such a question. Somebody might take your picture, and report you to "God Bless Fort Benning" for a hall of shame.

The September 11 commemoration at Columbus State University this past week included a table with giant blank postcards. Visitors like me were invited to write messages to soldiers - with the cards apparently being distributed randomly. Hopefully no one wrote a promise that a certain presidential candidate would bring them home in no time.

What would you write a soldier, on the spur of the moment? I didn't have anything prepared, so I sat down and wrote about what's on my mind these days. Before you jump to conclusions - no, the undefeated Kansas football team was not mentioned once.

Here's a rough paraphrase of what I wrote on the postcard: "May the God of peace soon bring the Prince of Peace, so that no one has to study war any more." Somehow I have the feeling this card will be routed through a chaplain's office....

Many Christians who keep the fall holy day season such as "Rosh Hashanah" and "Yom Kippur" see the coming of Christ in them. He's described by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah as the "Prince of Peace." Yet the New Testament book of Revelation indicates when He comes, "with justice he judges and makes war." So those old "make love, not war" bumper stickers may become very obsolete.

Revelation 19 goes on to suggest the second coming will bring a lot of deaths - with nations to be struck down. What sort of "Prince of Peace" is this? Apparently one who follows the books about "tough love" - as in love Me or else.

But if you stop reading Revelation right there, you'll misunderstand the plan. Chapter 20 talks about a resurrection of the dead, to face the judgment of God. I'm led to believe that even the people Jesus will kill in the second coming will be brought back to life. Maybe THEIR "second coming" will be much happier and more peaceful than the first.

After attending a program for peace at the Phenix City Amphitheater six years ago, I prepared a Bible study on the topic. You might find it thought-provoking - but I think peace is something we all could use. Some Christians want all terrorists obliterated. Some Muslims call for "jihad" - and if they're now going after Britney Spears, this is becoming very serious.

May your weekend be filled with peace - as well as all the days ahead. A more peaceful approach will mean less road rage. It could reduce the recent crime surge in Columbus. And who knows - maybe someday the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation will have teachers from S.O.A. Watch.

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