Friday, May 30, 2008


"You didn't miss nothin'." That was the answer my next-door neighbor gave Thursday afternoon, shortly after I returned home from vacation. And I automatically assumed he was right - since after all, this is Columbus and not Atlanta.

People also didn't say much about local news Thursday night, as I returned to Lil Kim's Cove for my first local poker night in four weeks. But at least that place had one advantage over Harrah's casino. We actually DID have a poker tournament -- and now if you buy a drink, you get 1,000 bonus chips.

So that just about does it for No, I can't do that to you. But I admit this was a real vacation from Columbus for me, as I didn't follow local developments much on the road. Blame my older brother, whose home computer's dial-up is SO SLOW that Columbus TV station web sites refused to come up. After five minutes of sitting and waiting, it's time to move on....

(I've become so spoiled by broadband Internet that I was stymied by my older brother's computer at first - until he showed me the "connect" button on the dial-up box.)

But perhaps it's only fitting - because my older brother in Kansas City was left with the impression that Columbus is a bit slow and behind the times. He pitied me when I told him we have NO 7-11 stores or QuikTrips. I should have told him that at least all the Circle K stores have large fountain drinks for 79 cents.

"Do you have moving pictures down there?" my older brother dared to ask with a touch of sarcasm. That's when I told him about Carmike Cinemas having its headquarters in Columbus -- a big movie chain which seemed new to him. I conveniently neglected to mention that Carmike's closest theater to the headquarters is a 15-minute drive away.

I'd already told my older brother about Columbus being the home of Aflac and Char-Broil (well, more or less). So he was surprised that our best convenience store in his mind was Circle K. And he was openly skeptical at the thought of Baskin Robbins ice cream coming back to town, combined with an Arby's restaurant. Roast beef on a cone simply won't impress him.

Columbus has added a lot of new businesses and restaurants in recent years. But it only takes one road trip to remind you of what we're still lacking. For instance, Columbus has no "HuHot" Mongolian Grill. Where I went, I found one. No, not in Kansas City - but Topeka, Kansas, which has 60,000 fewer people.

You might consider HuHot a regional restaurant - but there are other larger chains I saw in the Midwest, which have yet to link with Columbus:

+ Whole Foods Markets, which recently merged with Wild Oats. Some stores here do well to have "whole grain white" bread.

+ David's Bridal shops. Albany has one, while Columbus doesn't. Are that many local women marrying soldiers at the courthouse?

+ On the Border Mexican restaurants. Local critics would contend many of the employees at El Vaquero have crossed that border already.

But then again, perhaps the success of El Vaquero speaks well for Columbus. We don't need big national chains and "big box" stores to have a nice standard of living. Locally-owned businesses can succeed and thrive. Well, until a convenience store chain like Spectrum is bought out by Circle K....

E-MAIL UPDATE: We promised to return to a local e-mail feud. It started 19 May, with a complaint about the appearance of the old Georgia Welcome Center on Victory Drive. A reply 21 May said it's used by disabled veterans, so the first writer should shut up and clean it up. Now the first writer responds....

To the hothead RW: The individual complaining is a disabled veteran of several wars! Yes, the old Welcome Center is home to a disabled vets organization and several other vets organizations. And there are certainly many healthy vets in this area who are fully capable of maintaining the area around the building. How about all those 100 % Disabled veterans who are working full-time jobs? And on any day of the week you will find many disabled vets maintaining the lawns and landscapes around their own homes and businesses! And for those too old or in poor physical condition they could donate a couple of bucks to hire it done. And may I suggest an Anger Management class for you. They probably have one at the Columbus VA Clinic.

Here's hoping few of the returning Third Brigade soldiers need those anger management classes. If they're angry, it should be vented in the proper direction -- like the defense department officials who admitted Thursday army bullets might not be strong enough for Iraq.

We'll get to other e-mails this weekend - but we did get home in time to check the Thursday evening news highlights....

+ WLTZ became the first Columbus TV station (and only the third in Georgia) to present the news in high-definition. Some of us are old enough to remember when "high-definition" news meant you had to look up words in an unabridged dictionary.

(But did I hear reporter Maria Jones right -- that someone at WLTZ "suggested" the station go high-definition last summer? Considering all TV stations have to switch to digital programming by next February, I'm guessing the suggestion came from the staff lawyer.)

+ Common Cause of Columbus announced it's looking into recent ethics complaints against State Senator Ed Harbison. Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker reportedly tried to negotiate a settlement to some of the complaints, but without success. So watch for Harbison's campaign commercial proclaiming he's "tougher than nails."

+ An arrest was announced in Marion County, for a series of thefts of catalytic converters. A couple were stolen from vans used by Cascade Hills Church - so did that lack of converters inspire several recent sermons on soul-winning?

+ Muscogee County Junior ROTC students went to Fort Benning, to practice airborne parachute jumps. Did you see Deputy Superintendent Robin Pennock on TV, wearing her own Army uniform? That will come in handy later this year, when she begins consulting work for military academies.

+ Columbus Water Works announced it will begin supplying water to all of Fort Benning. Water Works officials say this will result in higher-quality water for Benning -- but is this really a good thing? How can a drill sergeant tell soldiers to "get the lead out" if it's out of the water system already?

+ WRBL reported the Muscogee County animal shelter has stopped taking new animals until further notice. Several animals have a respiratory infection known as URI. Why Uri Gellar hasn't tried to cure this, I have no idea....

+ Instant Message to all Columbus area gas stations: Thank you for showing some compassion over the last 48 hours. You could have seen that flipped-over tanker truck on U.S. 280, and hiked the price of regular unleaded above four dollars a gallon.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Our road trip scrapbook, and the Alabama Primary....

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers 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: 823 (+ 5, 0.6%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008


We're on our family vacation at least one more day - but thanks to the new blessing of pre-posting, we don't have to hunt for a public library to update this blog anymore. Before we left home, we prepared a SPAM-A-RAMA special just for you. We take real subject titles from our InBox, and offer our own comments on them. Hang on, because they'll come fast....


And when you're finished washing the dishes, clean your room.


Then you must be driving southeast, toward Atlanta.


If they said "Riverdragons" on them, they're now collectors' items.


What religious scoffers say about the second coming.


What can brown do for me? Wear gloves, for one thing.


OK - I'll settle for chicken sandwiches, instead of fish.


If I have that third baseman from Pacelli, I might not need anybody else.


I guess that beats the artificial ones, on "The Hills."


This used to describe any street in Hurtsboro.


The next Olympic commercial from AT&T.


Next time, ask for it without ham.


C'mon now - wait your turn before taking communion.


Oh please - how many more forums on the one-percent sales tax do we need?


Beginning just past the northernmost Burger King on Veterans Parkway.


No, thank you - Kansas winning the college basketball finals in overtime was bad enough.


If you want fresh grape juice, why not?


It's either him, or that algae-powered tractor in Salem.


Hillary Rodham Clinton's last hope of winning.


In Auburn, I've found most shoppers wear orange.


So do I - but I'm not going to the "Sex and the City" movie.


When ARE they selling Peter Jennings's clothing online?


What that church would like to rename "American Idol."


That Columbus is only at "level two."


Which describes a lot of Hardaway High School's sports teams lately.


Go ahead - the library has it all on computer now.


A message from the Dale Cardwell for Senate Committee.


Yeah. You ever take English?


But isn't that called streaking?


Now now - maybe the Victory Drive dancer's car really did break down.


That might get you on the Atlanta Falcons' roster, but not Auburn's.

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers 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: Suspended for vacation

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008


SOMEWHERE IN KANSAS -- When vacation time comes, there are choices to make. Do you drive, fly or travel another way? Do you pack something formal, or stick with leisure wear? And should you really risk your stomach on a restaurant with a name you can't pronounce, when a McDonald's is waiting nearby?

On my current family vacation, I faced a different choice - what to do about my mail. Normally, I'd ask the next-door neighbor to watch the box and collect it for me. But this is no ordinary spring. Something special is heading for the mailbox - but no, I'm NOT that desperate for a bride.

I'm away from home while those highly-hyped federal government stimulus checks are in the mail. The mailing schedule posted at the Internal Revenue Service web site shows my check shouldn't arrive until after I get home. But what if it does - and what if the Treasury Departnent wants to make sure you don't miss it, by putting big dollar signs on the envelope?

If my next-door neighbor collected my mail, I'm concerned he might see a stimulus check and be tempted to lift it out of the stack. There are phrases in government for this sort of behavior - things like "set-aside programs."

So I don't tempt my neighbor, I decided to have the Postal Service stop and hold my mail while I'm out of town. Yes, I know - that means I'm throwing the very same temptation on the post office employees. But over on Milgen Road, I think there are security cameras watching over their behavior. Strangely, that almost makes the September 11 attacks a blessing.

But back to those stimulus checks: this is the second time Washington has sent us extra money since George W. Bush became President. When the first one came, I actually tried to turn it into extra cash - by offering it for bids in an online auction. Internet shoppers truly are NOT as stupid as you might think....

LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: We wrote a lot about the last round of government stimulus checks, for a national LaughLine audience. Here's some of that, from the summer of 2001:

2 Jul 01: A new government projection suggests the surplus this fiscal year will be 56 billion dollars LESS than expected. So when your tax rebate comes in the mail, put it in a new envelope and send it right back. You'll keep the surplus up -- and maybe keep postage rates down.

10 Jul 01: We should have seen this coming: the first "tax rebate check" stunt. The Treasury Department warns people in four states are offering to figure the amount of your refund for a fee. You'd think this formula would be so simple, even President Bush could understand it....

Some news reports call the tax rebate figuring offer a "scam." Yet Treasury Department officials admit the offers might actually be within the law. If the people making this offer suggest you invest the rebate in an Internet stock, THAT would be a scam....

18 Jul 01: The Internal Revenue Service admitted a computer goofed - and 500,000 people are getting incorrect tax rebate notices. The mailings say people are getting the maximum rebate, when they really aren't! The old phrase is still true -- never spend the money until you're sure the check cleared the bank.

19 Jul 01: LaughLine World Headquarters received its federal tax rebate notice Wednesday. We're pleased to see it reflects the President's commitment to protecting the environment - or did you notice that box in red ink that says, "Do not throw away" ?!?!

The chart on the tax rebate notice puzzles us a bit. If you're "single," you can get as much as 300 dollars. But if you're a "head of household," you could receive 500 dollars. If we're single and living by ourselves, why don't we get a bump-up? We ARE the head of our household....

The tax rebate notice says, "You will not be required to report the amount as taxable income on your federal tax return." Then three lines later it adds: "Please keep a copy of this notice with your tax records." Why do we have to keep it if we DON'T have to report the money? Is this a reminder that Democrats might take over all of Congress next year?

23 Jul 01: Wal-Mart stores are ready for a "rebate rush." Many of them plan to have extra money on hand -- and might even cash your federal check for you. Just follow the newly adjusted signs, to UNCLE Sam's Club....

An ABC News "Moneyscope" poll shows 34 percent of U.S. residents will use their federal rebate check to pay bills. These are the people whose "revolving charge accounts" spin faster than tires on the interstate.

Some religious groups suggest when your federal tax rebate check comes, you TITHE on it - giving a tenth to faith-based charities. That sounds nice. But if people tithed in the first place, the charities might not need federal funds - and the donors might get a refund ALL the time.

The exact date when your tax rebate check arrives depends on the last two digits of your Social Security number. People whose numbers end in "00" through "09" should get checks this week - making this one of the few times when it pays to be a "zero."

CBS News reported it cost 116 million dollars simply to process all those rebate checks. That figures to more than one dollar a check. Yes, we'd like the extra money - but you DON'T have to send it airmail....

We saw one estimate that 38 billion dollars in rebate checks will bring a half-percent increase in U.S. economic growth. Of course, with some football linemen, a 300-dollar check could mean even bigger growth - in their waistlines.

27 Jul 01: The second wave of tax rebate checks should go into the mail today. This batch is for people whose Social Security numbers end with "10" through "19." If you have your check by now, do you REALLY want to tell anybody about it? It would be a big clue toward identity theft....

A Treasury Department spokesperson explained the phrase "tax relief for America's workers" is printed on rebate checks so you'll know why the check was mailed to you. But there still might be confusion. Take the people who don't work anymore, because they're retired....

1 Aug 01: A Treasury Department statement admitted the government has "cash flow problems." So it's borrowing billions of dollars to cover the federal tax rebate checks. Uh-oh - instead of planning to spend hundreds of dollars coming in the mail, maybe we should spend only five dollars for a "return to sender" stamp.

3 Aug 01: House Speaker Dennis Hastert praised the approval of a tax cut. He said the rebate checks are "more than checks in the mail - they're cash in people's pockets." Mr. Hastert apparently hasn't heard about the big numbers of people using those checks to pay bills....

16 Aug 01: President Bush's road trips have several purposes - some of them political. He attended a fund-raising dinner Wednesday night for Senator Pete Domenici. The President wished Congress had approved a bigger tax rebate - so more people actually could afford to buy a dinner ticket.

21 Aug 01: Yippee!!!! LaughLine World Headquarters received its federal tax rebate check Monday. No, we will NOT offer any hints about the other eight digits of our Social Security number....

(One of our neighbors asked a few weeks ago if we'd received our tax rebate check yet. We were unsure how to respond - because we feared he might start hovering around our mailbox.)

We can see why some Democrats have complained about the tax rebate checks having a political tone. Ours was mailed from the Treasury Department's regional office in Austin, Texas! How DID the President arrange that?!?!

(Since we live in Georgia, the check has the words "Atlanta tax relief" near the top. But we live 100 miles from Atlanta -- so next time, our town's convention bureau needs to do a better lobbying job in Washington.)

The rebate check includes five words that Democratic Party Chair Terry McAuliffe considers controversial: "Tax relief for America's workers." He says the phrase sounds like a political theme. We say when retired people receive it, they'll feel guilty and apply to work at Burger King.

The goal of the tax rebate check, of course, is for us to stimulate the economy. But the check says it's "void after one year." Shouldn't we hold onto it, so we'll feel more important if things get worse?

29 Aug 01: LaughLine posted its federal tax rebate check ONLINE Tuesday - at "Yahoo! Auctions." You can bid on this 300-dollar check through Friday, September 7. This should show once and for all how valuable those checks REALLY are....

We weren't sure exactly where on Yahoo Auctions to post the tax rebate check. It's not really "paper money" or coins. And we suppose the check could be listed as a "collectible" -- but we're afraid bidders might confuse it with a bobble-head doll.

So why put our tax rebate check on an Internet auction site? Well, President Bush DID urge us to use the check to promote spending and economic growth. And you're guaranteed a return on this check -- unlike some Internet companies we know.

31 Aug 01: The stock market dropped as the government reported personal spending increased only 0.2 percent in July. This is strange, since the first batch of tax rebate checks was mailed in July. C'mon, folks - this isn't like a dinner table, where you have to wait until everyone is served.

(Then again, maybe people ARE taking advantage of their tax rebate checks - because their spending increased too much earlier in the year.)

Someone told us the other day he's not all that happy with his federal tax rebate check - because next spring's tax refund check will be smaller. He complained the government isn't telling you the full story! We should have told him to invest that check in the right stock - and he might never notice a difference.

10 Sep 01: The ten-day auction for LaughLine's federal tax rebate check is over. And we're amazed to report - nobody won! No one even BID on our check! It looks like the Democrats were right. Those checks ARE a worthless idea for our economy.

We figured someone might bid on the federal tax rebate check to have it as a "collector's item." But no one even bid for it - which leaves us thinking even millionaire Republicans are hurting for money.

The final score from Yahoo! Auctions: 107 "page views" of people looking at our offer of the 300-dollar tax rebate check -- but no bidders. So where did we go wrong? Maybe we should have thrown in a beanie baby, because they're more valuable....

We wonder if one problem with the rebate check auction was the minimum bid price. We wanted at least 325 dollars for our 300-dollar check. After all, if we couldn't make a profit on it, we might as well invest that check in the stock market.

(We thought about posting the auction with NO minimum bid price, so low-income people NOT eligible for a check could have one. But our Social Security number is on that check - and before long, the government might ask what we're doing on welfare.)

We wind up losing money on the rebate check auction, even though no one made a bid. We owe Yahoo a small fee for posting the auction. We could have paid more to highlight it in gold, or have it posted on the auction home page - but then we might have wound up sending the check to Yahoo.

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers 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: Suspended for vacation

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008


KANSAS CITY, KS -- In southern England in 1992, I refused to do it. In Puerto Rico in 1995, I also refused to do it. But on Memorial Day 2008 in my home area, I finally did it. Call me an infidel if you wish -- but I set my feet inside a casino.

BLOG SPECIAL EVENT: “I hadn’t told you about this,” I confessed to my older brother during a Sunday evening dinner with some of his friends. “But if Ryan can do it, I can do it.” I followed the lead of my youngest niece’s new husband, and went to a casino to play poker. Even after discovering my brother is a church treasurer and his wife co-chairs the church board.

Ryan plays poker often, and even had a seat at a World Series of Poker event a couple of years ago. But I didn’t ask him for advice about how to play in a casino. He might have challenged me to a game on the spot, and emptied my wallet.

The Kansas City area has become filled with casinos since I moved away 26 years ago. The Wyandotte Nation of native Americans even opened one recently, inside an old historic church. This seemed so wrong to me -- until I remembered how many Catholic churches have bingo nights.

I wanted to play poker at a famous-name casino, where the chances of being cheated were slim. So I went to Harrah’s in North Kansas City, where they normally have two poker tournaments every day of the week. And unlike the Columbus poker games, people actually will park your car for you -- and bring it back.

The Harrah’s casino in North Kansas City is NOT quite like Las Vegas. I learned this while walking to the casino -- when I passed the buffet restaurant, and found dinner Monday night cost $13.95. Maybe more gamblers win here than I thought....

This casino also includes a Starbucks coffee shop (as if free soda isn’t enough for staying awake) -- and a “Toby Keith I Love This Bar and Grill.” Now I understand how Keith led a recent magazine list of the most successful country singers. He does NOT simply go around asking, “How do you like me now?”

My plan was to play in the 1:00 p.m. poker tournament, so I arrived a bit before noon. Harrah’s required me to submit a photo ID for a “Total Rewards” card, because Missouri law states gamblers can lose no more than $500 every two hours. Sadly, the baseball Royals have no such limits -- and they’ve now lost eight games in a row.

My timing was perfect for arriving at Harrah’s, because the staff was handing out free T-shirts to customers from 12:00 noon on. So what do you know -- at least I could take home a consolation prize: a fine limited-edition T-shirt.

But when I reached the Harrah’s poker room, the tide suddenly turned. Because it was Memorial Day, the 1:00 p.m. tournament had been canceled. Isn’t this wonderful? They think this much of the people who died for our country -- the people who gave their lives, so we could blow all our money in casinos....

Funny thing, though -- Harrah’s didn’t care enough about our armed forces to shut down the casino completely. Cash games kept going in the poker room, like any other day. And there was no sign saying the proceeds would go to any American Legion post.

But the good news for me was that the 7:00 p.m. tournament was still on. And since seats can be purchased as early as 8:00 a.m., I reserved a seat for $50. Before your jaw drops at that price, consider something -- a seat aboard any flight from Columbus Airport probably will cost at least twice as much.

Hold on here, some of you may be saying -- aren’t you a Christian? Yes, I am. So I set personal ground rules for this casino trip. I would NOT play any “gambling” games -- no blackjack, no dice, no slot machines. In fact, when a roulette hostess I passed called “Six Black,” I thought she said “Six Flags” and told her that was in St. Louis.

A poker tournament is different from the “cash game” format, where people buy chips and sit down at a table with the potential of losing it all. The $50 “buy-in“ at a tournament is like an entry fee. You don’t lose any more money -- unless you’re silly enough to spend at least five dollars for valet parking.

So I returned to Harrah’s at 6:00 p.m., and had The Buffet (the name of the restaurant) before tournament time. If you’re planning a trip like this, take my advice -- go to Golden Corral or Ryan’s Buffet instead. The cost is lower, the food every bit as good, and the staff won’t forgot to bring you silverware.

Up the stairs we went to the poker room at 6:45 p.m. -- only to see the tide turn again. The evening tournament was canceled as well, blamed on the “Memorial Day holiday.“ Perhaps all the veterans filled the cash game tables, and I didn’t realize it.

“It’s not for lack of interest,“ the cashier told me about the tournament cancellation. I reclaimed the 50 dollars for my poker seat -- but now what was I to do? I’d already walked away from The Buffet without leaving a tip....

At that point I started doing a bad thing. I utilized human reasoning -- but in a casino, such reasoning usually isn’t logical and is based more on intestines than brain.

I decided to take 25 dollars in chips to a poker cash game. In one hand I had a pair of aces on the flop -- but was forced to fold, when someone else seemed to have a straight on the river. Then I lost my last chips to a woman with three 10’s. And she didn’t even look like a perfect ten.

With my losses for the day cut to 25 dollars, I wandered around the casino for awhile -- then stopped downstairs at a blackjack table. I watched one man with a small stack of chips slowly build it over several minutes. If he could do it.... well, maybe he was counting cards and not telling anybody.

I dared to claim six five-dollar red chips, since the minimum bet in blackjack was ten dollars. For a short time, I climbed from 30 dollars to 60 -- enough to reclaim my poker loss. But my human reasoning kicked in again. And blackjack doesn’t work the way mutual fund managers do.

(The blackjack dealers actually DO root for players to win. As one of my three dealers put it: “If you don’t make money, we don’t make money.” They want tips every bit as much as the servers at a Waffle House.)

On my second “all in” push of ten dollars, my chips were cleaned away. And this time, I walked out the door. The lessons for me were learned, and obvious. Don’t change your ground rules, even if the house does. And at $55 each, casinos offer the highest-priced T-shirts in the world.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We planned to wait on your messages until after we returned home, but this one is an exception because it relates to our trip....

I hope you were not caught up in the Wiz.of Oz. tornados that hit Kansas on Friday.

Thankfully, all is safe in Kansas City -- but western Kansas and Oklahoma had some truly scary storms. I used to live 20 miles from Hennesssy, Oklahoma, where you may have seen a twister tear apart a hog farm. When I saw that video, I thought of one thing -- people have hog farms, in a cattle state like Oklahoma?!

But would you believe someone plans to build a giant tornado monument near Kansas City? I read online the plans call for something as tall as the Seattle Space Needle, with a revolving restaurant at the top. This seems even stranger to me than the bole weevil monument in South Alabama -- and makes me wonder if Home Depot is funding it.

COMING WEDNESDAY: Why I had my mail stopped during this vacation.... (special pre-produced editions the next two days)

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers 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: Suspended for vacation

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, May 26, 2008


LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: Happy Memorial Day to you! We covered two Memorial Days' worth of events, when we wrote LaughLine for a national audience. In this holiday "road trip" edition, we recall some of those items.

28-29 MAY 01: Today is Memorial Day in the U.S. Aides spent the weekend with President Bush, explaining what he's supposed to remember....

(Many Senate Republicans may visit cemeteries today -- if only to give their "Committee Chairman" plaques a decent burial.)

Before heading for California, President Bush did several things to mark Memorial Day. He placed a wreath at Washington's "Tomb of the Unknowns" - then asked an aide why some Florida voters are buried there.

President Bush also signed a bill to start construction on a "National World War Two Memorial" on the Washington Mall. The bill also suspends all lawsuits involving the memorial's site and design - reducing the chances the debate will become World War Three.

The National World War Two Memorial will cost 160 million dollars to build. Most of that money's already raised in donations. Maybe some of these whining baseball and football teams need to build a "National World War Two Memorial Stadium" - to save the taxpayers a lot of money.

President Bush also approved a task force, which will study how to improve the health care system for military veterans. How about putting buglers in all the V.A. hospitals? Have them play "Reveille" every morning, and dozens of vets might be surprised at how well they still scramble out of bed.

Does your town have any Memorial Day services planned? We've noticed in many places, the speeches are very similar. One common cliche is, "The price of freedom is not free." We notice this every time there's a "buy one get one free" special at the supermarket. The one you buy seems SO expensive.

Vietnam veterans gathered in Washington Sunday, for their annual "Rolling Thunder" motorcycle parade. Now if we can figure out a way to turn a "Chocolate Thunder from Down Under" into a military tribute....

We passed a mattress store in town Sunday, and saw a sign we could not believe. The sign said: "GET LAID MEMORIAL DAY." We're not sure if they're trying to sell us a mattress, or some (ahem) special accessory....

We have "adult clubs" in town, but they've never had signs as brazen as the one outside that mattress store. Some of those clubs simply list the dancers' names - well, at least we THINK that's what they are. "Tangerine," "Cherry" and "Mocha" could be the ice creams they sell.

If a mattress store is going to use a sexually suggestive sign like this to get business, what will local businesses do for advertising next?

+ The convenience store across the street might promise, "Get Lay's seven days a week."

+ The Baptist church down the road may give a sermon on, "Get laid on with hands."

+ Poultry farms outside town could offer: "Getting layed - only OUR eggs come out!"

We passed the store again when it reopened Monday - and two words were ADDED to the sign! It now says: "Get Laid BACK Memorial Day SALE!" We thought maybe they had too many mattresses in stock for privacy....

We went inside the mattress store, and asked the person on duty about the change of signs. He explained some pranksters had stolen the letters for "back" and "sale" over the weekend. OK, we'll accept that. But we hope they learn a lesson - and don't print statements announcing employees are "laid off."

27 MAY 02: Today is Memorial Day in the U.S. All weekend we've been reminded of the reasons military veterans gave their lives for our country - such as the restaurant with the "12-burgers for five-99" holiday special.

Because the President is in Europe, another member of the Bush administration will place the traditional wreath at Arlington National Cemetery's "Tomb of the Unknowns." Vice President Cheney would be fitting, since he's been in unknown locations so often in recent months.

Military veterans continued a Memorial Day weekend tradition Sunday. The "Rolling Thunder" motorcycle ride roared into Washington, to remember missing and imprisoned veterans. These riders somehow have forgotten another great U.S. tradition - of forming biker gangs and having feuds.

Are you planning a holiday cookout today? A recent "Integer Group" poll found men are four times more likely than women to wear aprons with funny sayings on them. There's an obvious reason for this. People still don't expect most husbands to cook well - but they expect it from the wives.

(This survey also revealed you're more likely to be romantic if you prefer beef rare, as opposed to well done. We guess women would rather have e-coli germs on their lips, than black spots that ruins their lipstick.)

Last year our town's public schools held classes on Memorial Day - explaining the calendar left no other choice. But they're closed this year, after some veterans protested. Amazingly, no children wrote veterans to complain about their summer vacation ending sooner.

President Bush will mark Memorial Day by visiting the beach of Normandy in France - the area of the D Day invasion. But for one more Supreme Court justice, Mr. Bush's D Day might have come in Palm Beach County, Florida....

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers 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: Suspended for vacation

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008


KANSAS CITY, KS -- “He usually is aggressive.” That’s how a friend of my youngest niece’s new husband described him to me Saturday night. Before you jump to conclusions about their wedding night, please note -- the friend was describing the groom’s poker style.

BLOG SPECIAL EVENT: Three years ago in May, we were back home in Kansas City for the “Heather of the Spring” tour [22-23 May 05] -- as our youngest niece graduated from college. Saturday brought the next big step, as Heather married her college sweetheart. So far, they have NOT asked for my presence as a godfather for their baby.

The wedding of Ryan Von Bevern and Heather Burkard (to explain our title) took place at the United Methodist Church where I grew up. My older brother was married there in 1970, with a reception in the church fellowship hall. Saturday night’s reception was in a high-rise hotel near Kansas City’s elegant Country Club Plaza -- so at least one middle-class family has been climbing.

“It’s all happened so fast. It doesn’t feel like I’m even married,” Heather told your blog in an exclusive interview during Saturday night’s reception. But I must confess I had to pay for this interview -- during the “dollar dance” portion of the program, paying for short turns on the floor with the bride and groom.

But we should start at the beginning of this big weekend. I was asked to sing a couple of songs for Heather and Ryan’s wedding, as I had for the weddings of my two other nieces in 1992 and 2002. When I reached Kansas City Friday afternoon, I learned the plan had been trimmed to one song. Today’s young people simply want everything faster....

The weekend officially kicked off with the wedding rehearsal Friday evening, Those rehearsals can be a hectic time. Even Heather was trimming her words -- as the jobs of the ushers became “ush-ing.”

Then there was Ryan’s young cousin Eli, a little boy who served as ring bearer. He did NOT want to practice walking down the aisle during the rehearsal. And this boy was so young, I couldn’t even persuade him with that classic line from pro wrestler Ric Flair -- “You’re gonna have to walk that aisle.”

Heather had some details of Saturday’s event down to a minute detail. For one thing, the bridesmaids had matching flip-flops to wear at the wedding reception. No “Sex and the City” wedding for this couple....

(But on some points, the bride decided against being nitpicky on some details of the ceremony. It led to a famous quote she feared people would long remember -- “Heather doesn’t care.”)

Candle-holders were set up along the center aisle of the church sanctuary, for the rehearsal. But female relatives of the bride and groom decided NOT to leave the candles up overnight. They feared with no air conditioning running, they might melt. Anyone who’s been through a 100-degree summer heat wave in the South could have told them otherwise.

The accompanist and I worked through the wedding song quite easily. And after a couple of run-throughs, everything seemed to be somewhat in place. Well, sort of like the field being in place for today’s Indianapolis 500 -- as long as everyone stays in their lanes when the green flag flies.

From there, it was on to the rehearsal dinner -- at a large and relatively new sports bar. We were advised it was “open menu, open bar.” Considering the United Methodist Church’s slogan is “open hearts, open doors, open minds,” this seemed very fitting.

The bride and groom handed out gifts at the dinner, to various people involved with the ceremony. To which my brother noted: “You know what we’re going to be given? The bills.”

My brother and sister-in-law drove me to their house from the dinner, to rest for the night. Apparently Ryan and some of his groomsmen went elsewhere from the sports bar. I think that explains a comment before Saturday’s wedding of someone “choosing to pass out on the floor.”

Saturday’s big day began in the morning, as women involved in the ceremony had hair appointments. Nothing along those lines was set up for me -- but I took it like a man in any case.

To move things along, the traditional picture-taking was conducted before the 4:00 p.m. ceremony. It began at 1:30 -- with not only the official photographer, but relatives getting into the act. Jenna Bush will never know how much paparazzi fun she missed....

In an unusual twist, the bride and groom posed for their photos before the wedding ceremony. Heather and Ryan apparently don’t believe the stories about NOT seeing each other until ceremony time on the wedding day. But then, they saw plenty of each other during a 14-month engagement.

We waited with the groom’s party in the church choir room, while time passed before the 4:00 p.m. ceremony. No one bothered to turn on the TV or stereo in the room. And we’d been told the computer inside had NO Internet access -- so I apologize to those of you wanted live real-time blogging of the vows.

Ryan prepared something else for his mates to pass the time. First there was a small silver flask, then a bottle with “Maker’s Mark” on the label. This ended any misconception that the ceremony might be inside a Baptist church....

(No, I did NOT touch any of that stuff. I brought my own water bottle, along with leftover orange juice from breakfast. The last thing you want in a prayerful song to God is a hiccup during a key word.)

The guys talked a good bit about poker during their waiting time. Ryan apparently has made a few successful gambling trips to Las Vegas, but recently has been losing $500 a session in local casino cash games. So that explains the “dollar dance” at the reception.

Among other discoveries we learned during the waiting period in the choir room....
+ Heather and Ryan will honeymoon in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. “I’m going to find Bob Marley,” Ryan joked -- as if Marley is every bit as alive as Elvis Presley?!

+ The couple will assume Heather’s student loan, for her medical school studies. As one man dared to observe to Ryan: “You’re $100,000 poorer, as of 4:00 p.m. today.”

+ Ryan was NOT nervous as the wedding hour approached -- just anxious to “get it over with.” So yes, marriage can be a bit like graduating from Muscogee County high schools.

At 4:00 p.m. the main event began, and everything went off.... well, I can’t really say they went off “without a hitch.” After all, Ryan and Heather now ARE hitched.

Heather choked up a bit as she repeated her wedding vows. Her sister/matron of honor later said I brought it on, because of the song I sang seconds before. I brought some CD’s on the trip -- but selling them at a wedding ceremony?! I learned a little bit from Star Jones about trying that....

BLOGGER’S NOTE: We regrettably are unable to download and post wedding photos on the road. We’ll put some on our usual blog picture page in a few days, once we’re back in Columbus.)

The wedding ceremony was over in 30 minutes. The crowd then stepped outside on a beautifully sunny afternoon, for the tradition that’s replaced even bird-seed throwing at newlyweds. And no, it’s NOT the offer of a contract for a reality series.

Everyone at the wedding picked up a little bottle, for blowing bubbles at the bride and groom. There even was a machine next to the church door, spurting bubbles. But I fear I revealed my age to people nearby, by speculating that’s how Lawrence Welk did it years ago.

The wedding party then climbed into a Ford Excursion, which had been modified into a stretch limousine. Their arrival at the reception site seemed a bit delayed -- and if it was for the reason I suspect, I should note the best price for gas I’ve seen in Kansas City is $3.68 a gallon.

The reception at the Embassy Suites Hotel featured a buffet dinner and a DJ playing plenty of partying and dance songs. Heather told me late in the evening they already had received four noise complaints -- so apparently Heather and Ryan beat the competition reception on the other side of the building.

The alcohol continued to flow at the reception, as the cash bar offered free beer and wine. On the other hand, sodas cost two dollars -- proving there are times when being the designated driver simply doesn’t pay.

The groom’s stepmother even pulled out a champagne bottle from somewhere, and poured it for a few people at my table. It’s a wonder the DJ didn’t play the song “Bubbly” for dance music.

(I later admitted to the DJ I was a bit embarrassed by one of his songs. Considering I live in an “Army town,” I still don’t know how to dance the “Soldier Boy.”)

Only one person at the wedding and reception dared to ask me The Question -- the one I feared someone would bring up, and really hoped no one would. An older man in the United Methodist Church didn’t cut me any slack: “So you’re still not married?!”

No, I’m not -- but the older man went on to say he has a couple of nephews who still aren’t married. One of them is 51, “almost as old as you are.” Considering I’m actually younger than 51, I wasn’t sure whether to take that as a comforting compliment or not.

Many in the wedding party booked rooms at the Embassy Suites overnight, so they wouldn’t have to worry about driving after the reception. But I drove back to my brother’s house, and went to his computer keyboard. Your blogger knows a good Blog Exclusive when he sees one -- and besides, nothing in the ceremony qualified for America’s Funniest Videos.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEK: We refuse to let such a lovely weekend be spoiled by local e-mail feuds…. but one is building, and we’ll bring the next chapter in it....

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers 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: Suspended for vacation

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008


BLOG SPECIAL EVENT: I never would have known about this song, if not for the new WVOJ-FM "103.7 the Truth." Thanks to them for providing a better gift for my brother and his family on a daughter's wedding day, than any gift card I could buy at Columbus Park Crossing -- even if the visuals are lacking.

And you know what? This might be a nice gift for this weekend's high school graduates. Think "Butterfly Kisses," and have a hanky ready....

UPDATE FROM THE ROAD: We learned Friday of an important P.S. to this song -- one that is nothing short of startling. Read it here. I understand the memorial service is today.

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers 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: Suspended for vacation

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, May 23, 2008


LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: We're attending the wedding of our youngest niece this weekend. When another niece became married, we wrote about it for a national audience in the 10 Jun 02 edition of LaughLine:

One of our nieces became married in Kansas City, followed by a reception with SO MANY beverages that we may open a drink stand for the rest of the summer.

The wedding of our second-oldest niece had all sorts of synergy. The bride's name is Jennifer. One of the maids of honor was named Jennifer. The keyboard player's name was Jennifer. If we'd known about all this, we would have called "Jennifer convertibles" for a wedding gift.

(Only one thing kept these women from having a perfect weekend. Jennifer Capriati didn't win the French Open tennis title.)

We sang at this wedding, so our weekend began with a Friday evening rehearsal at a church. One of the groomsmen apparently had a long week, as we quickly found him lying down on a front pew. Too bad for him -- this church never has held healing services.

Lots of details go into a perfect wedding, you know. The coordinator told us at the rehearsal the Pastor "is very picky about the rings." She meant how the minister takes them from the bridal party -- NOT that the bride and groom keep them on until the reception is over.

We were also informed at the rehearsal that one of the two outside doors leading to the church sanctuary would be locked 30 minutes before the ceremony. Apparently this wedding coordinator saw the movie "Runaway Bride...."

The wedding coordinator has been close friends with our sister-in-law for more than 25 years. At the rehearsal dinner, we learned they were pregnant at the same time long ago. Call this a divine secret of the MA-MA sisterhood.

The bridal party sat at a long table for the rehearsal dinner. But to take a picture of everyone, at one point we had to put our heads down in front of them. Our face was literally one inch above the plastic plate -- and we learned you CAN see yourself in those plates, without that dishwashing liquid.

Saturday was the wedding day -- and it started with picture-taking two-and-a-half hours before the ceremony started. That man used up so much film that he HAS to own stock in Eastman Kodak....

The wedding ceremony went very well -- but the Pastor pointed out one small difficulty the newlyweds must overcome. The bride's family is filled with University of Kansas students and graduates. The groom's family is filled with Kansas STATE graduates. We assume the wedding was held in June because it was off-season.

Remember when congregations threw rice at the departing newlyweds? This ceremony didn't even use birdseed as a substitute. Instead, everyone blew bubbles at the bride and groom as they left the church! Too bad no one brought any old Lawrence Welk records to play....

The bride and groom then went on to the wedding reception a couple of miles away. They traveled there in a restored 1922 Model-A Ford convertible! This car has mechanical brakes -- so thankfully, the driver did NOT have to face any of those aggressive interstate drivers.

The wedding reception included a buffet dinner and dancing. If you're planning a wedding soon, please take a tip from us -- have boxes of tissues on the tables if the D-J is going to play "Butterfly Kisses."

It wouldn't be a wedding dance anymore without people doing the "Electric Slide." But that number prompted today's deep question: What do natural gas employees think of the electric slide? Do they boycott the song when it's played at a dance? Is someone working on a "gas slide" as an alternative?

The wedding weekend ended Sunday with a brunch at the home of the bride's father. It took two solid hours for the newlyweds to unwrap all their presents and open all the cards! And what's more amazing is -- they received only TWO George Foreman grills.

We never heard until Sunday about a superstition involving wedding gifts. For each ribbon a bride breaks opening gifts, it supposedly means one child she'll have. We finally may have an explanation for the McCaughey septuplets....

After all this celebration, the bride and groom fly to Miami today to begin a honeymoon cruise in the Caribbean. They leave behind so much uneaten food from the dinner and so much unopened wine from the reception that they could have fed everyone on the cruise ship for three days.

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers 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: Suspended for vacation

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008


First the Phenix City Mayor asked the City Manager to resign. He didn't. Now the City Manager is demanding the city Utilities Director resign. So far, he hasn't. Why don't these officials follow the example of the Columbus Mayor, and simply send letters of reprimand?

Wednesday's Ledger-Enquirer reported Phenix City Utilities Director Greg Glass is writing officials in Washington and Atlanta, to answer accusations by City Manager Bubba Roberts. He says the outsiders will provide "professional and expert opinion." The Lee and Russell County bloggers should take this as a personal slap in the face....

This is a case where the Phenix City Mayor and City Manager seem to agree. Mayor Jeff Hardin complained two weeks ago about the Utilities Director approving a $25,000 change at the water filtration plant on his own. The mayor believes without City Council approval, making a filtration change simply isn't a grate idea.

Greg Glass says Phenix City Manager Bubba Roberts actually has tried to fire him three times. But you have to give the Utilities Director credit - this Glass doesn't break under repeated pressure.

But Greg Glass has backers in Phenix City - as we discovered after the Ledger-Enquirer first reported on this spat Monday. This e-mail reached us Tuesday:

I know this subject is bound to come up with your readers and I just wanted to make sure they got a dose of the truth along with all the trash the Ledger-Enquirer & their buddies in PC (IE: City Mgr Bubba Roberts, The mayor, & council) want you to read.

So the City Mgr cannot fire the Utilities Director ... he writes him a letter pretty much saying I want you gone resign and this is why. Soon im sure it will come before the council and they will vote on whether or not to replace him ... matter of fact they meet today so we might know soon. As far as the letter goes (yours truly has seen the original copy) and the tone is very ominous & petty and if you work for the city ... well any letter from Bubba "let me throw yet another chair across my office" Roberts is ominous & petty.

The man is just plain mean & nasty. Many of the statements included in the Ledger-enquirer article are not only false they are just pure cr*p. Saying that Mr. Glass cost the city money from wholesale customers (IE: Russell Co & Fort Mitchell) because of disinfection byproducts is just stupid. #1 if neither entity is buying water at this time it is simply because they don't need too. The new rules surrounding disinfection by-products were just brought out a few years ago and the technologies needed to bring these levels down are still expensive & untested. ADEM has only approved a few for use in Alabama drinking water. All that aside if there is no money to implement these technologies exactly how do you expect Mr Glass to be the one held responsible for this? The simple fact is over the last 7 years (since the last utility rate hike) Mr. Glass has suggested each and every year that rates needed to be raised due to the rising costs of both producing drinking water and taking the sewer water & making it safe to re-introduce to the river. All this on top of the fact the utilities department needs millions upon millions in capital funding to keep up with new state & federal regulations.

So what happened each and every single year up until this years rate hike? Nothing .... the mayor, manager, & city council just said NO every single year. The sewer department alone is costing the city of phenix city so much money daily it boggles the mind. Is it because the sewer department does a bad job ... NO!!!! .... its simply because they have not raised rates for citizen customers ... we now charge our customers HALF what it costs to treat their sewage .... HALF!!!!

How long would McDonald's stay in business if they charged $2.50 for a Big Mac when it cost $5.00 to make one? That is exactly what this city is doing! They still havent raised sewer rates only water this year!!! This is simply a personal vendetta from Bubba to Mr Glass. It is years of city MIS-Management by the mayor, council, and city manager coming to a head. They wouldnt raise rates fearing they wouldnt get the city is having to come to grips with what bad planning & management year to year will get you ...... PROBLEMS. Hopefully the new elections will clean house and get some people that actually care into office ......

Speaking of people that actually care .... you kind of have to live in the city to care ... City Manager Bubba Roberts is STILL not abiding by the city charter. His home on the corner of 21st Street in Phenix city still sits empty & uninhabited in case anyone wonders. He still fills his personal vehicle with gas from the city gas pumps and commutes over 40 miles total daily to and from work on city taxpayers dime out to his big beautiful backwaters home near Opelika.

One more thought to ponder .... The City Manager ... DOES NOT EVEN HAVE A COLLEGE EDUCATION! NOTHING ..... not even a tech school certificate.

Current Utilities Director Glass ..... Degree from Auburn University

Mr Greene over at the water plant ... Degree from Auburn University

Tell me again why Bubba is the one in charge and making policy & decisions? The man who not only has a bad case of mis-management all the time but needs Anger management....... Guess its time for me to move along .... yall got room for a few more across the river? Its starting to get above my waders over here .....

Roscoe P Coaltrain

PS: The good ole' boy network is alive and well ... the true mastermind behind 90pct of the terrible decisions the city council makes & have made is Mr John "lets make up a" Storey. This man is an enigma and should also be removed. He is a cancer on our city. Truth be told ... He tells bubba and jeff hardin what he wants done ... and they carry out his wishes. If you hear a wet f**t ... he probably approved it.

Don't pack those bags yet, Roscoe - not until we clear up a few things. From the top: Phenix City Councilman Arthur Sumbry told Wednesday's newspaper the city manager DOES have the power to fire Greg Glass. If Bubba Roberts doesn't know this after three attempts at a resignation - well, that speaks to your education complaint.

It turns out the Phenix City Council did NOT meet Tuesday. Several members were at the Alabama League of Municipalities convention in Birmingham -- and we sincerely hope their by-products were well disinfected.

So what do you know -- we apparently have a reader who wants Phenix City to raise his sewer rates. Most people wouldn't.... well, you know.... they wouldn't raise a stink about that.

Roscoe is correct when he notes this is an election year in Phenix City. Perhaps he should find someone to run for mayor, who will make the changes he suggests. I'm not sure where Sonny Coulter stands on that proposal to abolish the City Manager's office completely. He might oppose it -- since he's a banker, and doesn't need the extra salary.

An online check Wednesday left us unable to confirm the educational background of City Manager Bubba Roberts. But who said you had to have a college degree to make big policy decisions? That hasn't seemed to stop Bill Gates....

(But then again, maybe that explains the Triangle development in downtown Phenix City. With a Troy University satellite campus there, Bubba Roberts can walk from his office to evening classes.)

But is John Storey really the brainchild behind what happens in Phenix City? The Redneckin blog in Russell County seems to have put that label on Sonny Coulter and Sammy Howard. And Wednesday's newspaper claimed Greg Glass is an important grant writer for city government - or is that ghost-writer?

E-MAIL UPDATE: Another reader wants to talk about something we mentioned here several years ago....

I wondered if you got a prayer rug from Saint Matthew's Churches.

It promised riches with use (and a return of offering to the church).

This link does a much better job explaining the whole mailing than I could - including the odd use of large font, underlining that made it seem like it was cut from magazines and glued together....

Oh yeah, did you hear about the car almost going into the river directly across from the TSYS office. When I got to work at 8:30 they were pulling it up the hillside back to the public housing.

take care


We've actually received a couple of those rugs from Tulsa, Oklahoma [19 Apr 04] - but we never bothered to use them. I've found plenty of Bible verses about prayer, but none that said you had to kneel on a rug. Yet I've found a rug is certainly more comfortable than a kitchen-tile floor....

Uh-oh - did someone pull this "car into the river" stunt in Phenix City again?! A woman did that near the Riverview Apartments a few weeks ago, in what I'm told was a suicide attempt. The woman was saved by several people, including a homeless man - who could have told her simply to jump off the 14th Street Bridge.

BLOG SPECIAL EVENT: Long before WRBL promoted "Daytrippin'," I was planning a road trip for this week. Except it will take me two days, and about 16 hours of one-way driving. I'm simply doing my part to make up for all the Memorial Day travelers who suddenly can't afford to go.

If all goes well (please, no last-second requests for governmental investigations), I leave this morning for Kansas City. My youngest niece will become married on Saturday - and since she dreams of becoming a doctor, she'll be ready if anyone in the audience swoons over her wedding dress.

I could have made the trip by air, but a long drive in the car should cost less money - yes, even with gas prices above $3.50 a gallon. Especially if airlines are going to start charging 15 dollars per checked bag, as American Airlines announced Wednesday. When does Chevron-Texaco plan to merge with them?

Wednesday was preparation day for the road trip. I had the tires rotated on the car. And I even went to a local car wash, where the staff did a thorough job of cleaning. This is a road trip to visit the family, you see - and I don't want my old car looking so bad that relatives propose to trade it for a clunker.

In years gone by, we would have to stop somewhere during a road trip to update this blog. But a recent change by our blog server means we won't have to do that anymore. We've already set up several items, which should automatically appear day by day. If they don't, you'll have to watch CCG-TV and come up with jokes of your own.

But we DO plan to blog a couple of times, while we're on the road. We plan complete coverage of Saturday's wedding for you - to set the record straight, before the paparazzi's pictures show up on TMZ.

Now before we fill the trunk and head up Interstate 185, here's a last quick check of Wednesday news:

+ WLTZ visited the National Infantry Museum construction site. Developers said work is on schedule, toward a grand opening next March. But if the money runs out in December, things still might be OK - with visitors arriving in an authentic World War II-style mud parking lot.

(There's one local company which might be willing to make up that three million dollars of state funding, which the Governor vetoed. But for some reason, the Infantry Museum isn't letting Carmike Cinemas run the IMAX theatre.)

+ Richard Hyatt's web site reported the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Muscogee County School administration building will occur 3 June. Critics have about two weeks to get their protest signs ready -- or maybe buy bicycle locks, to chain themselves to the construction site fence.

+ Georgia's School Superintendent declared some of this year's CRCT social studies exams invalid. Less than 30 percent of the sixth and seventh-grade students passed the test -- perhaps because they thought "social studies" was like social networking, and they expected questions about Facebook.

+ The Eufaula Tribune reported Alabama's Governor has vetoed a bill allowing a new one-percent sales tax in Barbour County. Bob Riley opposed it because the tax did NOT require a vote at the polls. Pay for a special election on a sales tax question?! I thought this governor was against gambling....

+ The Alabama House building lost power for several hours, and officials suspected it was due to a squirrel. Had this power outage happened in the state Senate, the cause would have obvious - a filibuster by some Democrats.

+ Hamilton Jordan died of cancer -- the man who served as President Carter's campaign adviser, and later White House Chief of Staff. NBC News noted Jordan battled cancer five different times, while fighting another overlooked battle. The fight to pronounce his last name JURR-dehn....

+ Cartersville conquered Columbus 10-8, to advance in the Georgia high school baseball playoffs. Which came first to Cartersville - the Budweiser brewery, or the weird school nickname Purple Hurricanes?

+ Instant Message to Best Landscaping: I left a voice-mail message, but you might see this first. One of your white trucks went around me during the noon hour Wednesday, in the entry ramp to I-185 southbound at J.R. Allen Parkway. The driver went through the off-limits triangle, to hurry onto the interstate -- but he showed that "How's my driving?" phone number long enough.

COMING FRIDAY: Our Blog Special Event continues, with another wedding at another time....

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers 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: 818 (+ 29, 3.7%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008


You have to hand it to Columbus city officials - they're trying as hard as they can to get the NAACP's Bill Madison to endorse the one-percent sales tax question. On Tuesday, they tried another approach. But they might as well have tried persuading Madison to take off his bright yellow jacket.

A Columbus Council work session focused on creating a "Citizens Review Board" -- an independent panel examining controversies in city government. At the moment, the closest thing we have to that in Columbus is the "Sound Off" column in the Ledger-Enquirer.

A panel of four from across the Southeast was assembled, to explain how Citizens Review Boards work in their cities. The emphasis seemed to be on law enforcement - since we all know top fire officials are above reproach.

Atlanta is currently the only Georgia city to have something like a Citizens Review Board. A member of that group showed a presentation to Columbus Council, in which one slide warned against boards being too identified with either police or complainers. Bottom line: bring coins to every meeting for flipping.

But wait a minute, you may be asking - doesn't Columbus have something like this already? Well, this month marks four years since a "Public Safety Advisory Commission" was established. That was set up in the wake of the Kenneth Walker shooting. But the members seem to have vanished almost as fast as the marches for justice.

The Public Safety Advisory Commission was asked to make recommendations to Columbus Council -- and that was about all. The proposed Citizens Review Board would go farther, by investigating police complaints. After all, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation really was created to do other things....

Mayor Jim Wetherington doesn't seem thrilled about creating a Citizens Review Board. He told WXTX "News at Ten" he's happy with what the city has now. And why not? Police officers funnel their reports to a former police chief - and things are kept within the family.

And amazingly, Columbus NAACP President Bill Madison seems skeptical about a Citizens Review Board as well. He actually agrees with the mayor about something?! Those "One Columbus" meetings are working after all....

Bill Madison actually is unsure about an independent review panel for another reason. He says it's a great concept, but won't work unless there's "integrity in the police department" from the Chief down. Of course, we know what would happen if that occurred -- the panel would have no reason to meet, and fold for lack of interest.

Is Bill Madison hinting police officers might lie to a Citizens Review Board, during an investigation of possible misconduct? If they're not giving sworn testimony for a court case, I suppose it's possible. And if they're jealous of another officer winning the "Protect and Serve Award" ahead of them, it really might be possible.

I don't see where a Citizens Review Board would hurt Columbus law enforcement. But if it's being done simply to placate Bill Madison and other civil rights leaders, it won't be enough. For one, Madison wants more than an outside examination - he wants officers like J.D. Hawk outside the force completely.

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: We're pleased to report the Alabama legislative session did indeed end with NO fistfights between lawmakers. It's nice to see things back to normal - with state Senators having tugs of war over piles of money instead.

E-MAIL UPDATE: A complaint here Monday brought a fiery response Tuesday....

Tell the son of a b**ch complaining about the old Welcome Center that it's home to DISABLED Veterans now so if he wants to shut his pie hole and do something for soldiers who have sacrificed for him to be free to spew such garbage, get on down there and clean it up, by all means. RW

I'll assume RW never worked at that Welcome Center -- because tourists might have jumped back into their RV's and driven non-stop to Valdosta.

Another e-mail will have to wait, until we do some research. So let's check other Tuesday topics....

+ Columbus Council approved a special Sunday "no-parking" zone on Fifth Street, between Second and Third Avenues. People have parked on both sides of that street for years, during Fourth Street Baptist Church services - even after a big new parking lot was built across the street. But if they're listening to the Pastor's scolding about where to park, do they remember his sermons?

+ Ground was broken for a new Health Sciences Building at Columbus Technical College. Governor Sonny Perdue said the project shows the importance of a good public-private partnership. Someone in the audience should have unrolled a list of all the donors to the National Infantry Museum.

+ An angry customer walked into the Metropolitan Life Insurance office on Warm Springs Road and fired several shots. Thankfully, no one was hurt - but some people need to read the fine print of that new Georgia gun law, because insurance offices aren't restaurants.

+ Brookstone and Pacelli swept doubleheaders, and advanced to the Georgia Class A high school baseball semifinals. These small private schools could collide in the championship round - and attract a crowd rivaling a typical weeknight with the Columbus Catfish.

+ Instant Message to The Medical Center: I heard you were placed on some kind of "honor roll" Tuesday. What was it for? The fastest takeovers of other hospitals in this decade?

SCHEDULED THURSDAY: We announce a new Blog Special Event....

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008


A lot of politicians talk about the "death tax." But how many talk about a funeral tax? A small part of the bill from all funeral homes goes to pay for a Georgia state license. So remember the next time a loved one dies -- those loved ones could be paying the governor's salary, whether they like it or not.

A report issued by the Georgia Secretary of State Monday revealed a Columbus funeral home has been doing business without a license. It's the J.W. Jones Funeral Home on.... well, where IS it, really? A Google search found addresses for it on Hamilton Road, North Lumpkin Road, Standing Boy Road and 13th Street. Maybe it all depends on where the hearse is parked.

To make things more confusing, there's no listing for J.W. Jones Funeral Home in the Columbus phone book. A man with that name has a home number listed in the white pages, but that could be a mere coincidence. No one would confuse the John B. McCain listed in Fortson of being that comic on Saturday Night Live.

Wherever it is, J.W. Jones Funeral Home apparently turned in a "Voluntary Cease and Desist Order" to last week's meeting of the Georgia State Board of Funeral Service. The order was for an "unlicensed practice." The staff may not have even bothered to get one of those fake online college degrees.

It doesn't cost a lot to get a Georgia state license. The application fee for a "funeral establishment" is 150 dollars. It also costs 150 dollars in fees to be an embalmer - which I assume includes the passing of some kind of test. Put the wrong chemical in a dead body, and you might wind up with The Incredible Hulk.

It's not clear what led to this "voluntary" cease and desist order - but I assume someone put pressure on J.W. Jones Funeral Home to file it with the state. Perhaps there was a lawsuit. Or maybe the staff offered customers DVD's of the series "Six Feet Under."

A check of the Better Business Bureau shows only two complaints against J.W. Jones Funeral Home in the last three years. But one of the complaints went unanswered - and even for a funeral home, that can be the death knell for a business.

The cease and desist order may have been even more voluntary because of staffing - and not with J.W. Jones Funeral Home. The Georgia State Board of Funeral Service has only two inspectors, while the state has more than 2,000 funeral homes. Hopefully someone is training Ray Brent Marsh in a very different career, while he's in prison....

This order from J.W. Jones Funeral Home makes two cases in three months of ethics problems in the area funeral business. In March, a Thomaston funeral home was fined $800 for not having eight caskets ready for display [16 Mar]. Who came up with that number - someone who was a big fan of the old TV series "Eight is Enough?"

BLOG UPDATE: The proposed pie of "public safety" money from the one-percent city sales tax was sliced again Monday night. Visitors at a Forest Road Elementary School forum were told some of the tax dollars will build two new fire stations. So the mayor's punishment of the Fire Chief really could have been much worse.

The last couple of weeks should have taught everyone that the Fire and EMS Department comes under our Director of Public Safety, Mayor Jim Wetherington. But when he started promoting a one-percent sales tax for public safety, how many people really thought that meant fire stations? After all, last summer's crime wave was NOT really due to a series of arsons.

The South Columbus Concerned Citizens group is now on record for the one-percent sales tax. President Owen Ditchfield says the city can be trusted with the money. And let's face it - Mayor Wetherington still has trouble giving people that wide and fake "trust-me" smile.

And in what might be considered a huge surprise, WLTZ commentator Al Fleming also supports the one-percent city sales tax. This is the same Al Fleming who cried out to city officials for years, "Where's our marina?" A passing speedboat must have poured cold water over his right-wing emotions.

Now a quick check of other historic moments, on the 28th anniversary of my college graduation:

+ Muscogee County School Superintendent John Phillips told WRBL the greenspace around the central library was being removed from a "master plan" for Midtown Columbus because it's "just a concept." Uh-oh - first it wasn't a park, and now it might really be anything?! Did Dr. Phillips have tickets to the Jerry Seinfeld show?

+ Columnist Richard Hyatt admitted on his web site that the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer is down to two staff photographers. There's never been a better time for a Hollywood star to make a movie in Columbus, and escape the paparazzi.

(Richard Hyatt also reveals the newspaper has NOT filled three editorial positions where employees recently retired. So when Hyatt was called in last week to deliver papers after the pressroom fire, it was a bit of desperation - either him, or extra money spent on minimum-wage help from the House of Mercy.)

+ The annual outing for older people was held on the Phenix City Riverwalk. People in their sixties and seventies could walk or ride on a beautiful spring day - then go up the ramp to that new coffee shop on 13th Street, and have it all ruined by looking at the price board.

+ Eastwood Christian Academy in Salem showed off a tractor which runs on school-produced fuel. The fuel is made from plant algae. Isn't this a rather extreme way to "go green?"

(If this school needs to promote its fuel beyond Alabama, I'm prepared to write a theme song. Let's see - "What's it all about? Algae....")

+ The Alabama legislature's regular session ended, and a proposal to end the state sales tax on groceries died. Once again, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce lobbyists came through.

+ Dalton, Georgia police warned fines will be imposed, if several residents do not remove Christmas lights from their homes this week. Talk about party-poopers! What if the bulbs are changed to red, white and blue for Memorial Day weekend?

(But then again -- if you need five months after the start of the new year to remove those lights from your home, you're either far too busy or far too lazy.)

+ Instant Message to Donald Aubrey: Some church pastor you are! I mean, three years in prison for molesting girls?! It's no wonder the Seventh-Day Adventists fired you from that position in Ladonia. And if that's not enough, the prison guards may force you off that vegetarian diet.

CLASSIC SONG OF THE DAY: WRBL launched a series of travel reports called "Daytrippin'" Monday night. If it seemed familiar, it should have. Brian Sharpe used to do the same sort of thing every week - and it earned his own song to the tune of "My Darling Clementine" on our blog 28 Jul 03:

Brian's Backroads, Brian's Backroads, Brian Sharpe will take a trip.

He'll see spots so unfamiliar

You'll ask why you give a flip.

He'll go all around the valley, Searching high and searching low.

He might find historic potholes

On the backroads he will go.

Brian Sharpe might go to Griffin

Or to Westville or Lanett.

But we're hard-pressed to remember

All the people he has met.

Brian's Backroads, Brian's Backroads, He makes trips so far away

That he ought to check the restaurants

And get more work done that way!

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BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 766 (+ 24, 3.2%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, May 19, 2008


It wasn't even 7:00 a.m., and the teenager on the phone sounded ready to cry. She talked about quitting school, because of an experience she considered "ruined." And imagine how she would have reacted have someone copied her prom dress.

The teenager was tipping off the news media to a "sit-in" protest inside Russell County High School. Students gathered in the commons area Friday morning, to oppose the planned dismissal of several teachers. Perhaps they longed for the good old days - when teachers would be arrested first.

The Russell County teen I'll call Gail named four teachers she considered her favorites, and indicated she would NOT still be in high school without them. All four of those teachers are being laid off. So are they really that exceptional - or are they padding grades for marginal students?

Gail went on to accuse the Russell County school board of ruining the high school - not only with teacher layoffs, but the removal of several electives. I faced a dilemma like this during my senior year of high school, only with conflicting classes during the same hour. If I had taken Shakespeare instead of choir, I might be selling a spoken-word CD on this site now.

"It's not just supposed to be an educational experience," Gail complained. "It's supposed to be a GREAT educational experience." Apparently these teachers make things great for her. Other Russell County High School students would have been satisfied simply with a second state baseball title.

So Gail joined other Russell County High School students in a sit-in protest Friday morning, at the school commons. She said it might last all day -- but I'm told the principal showed up, and persuaded everyone to go back to class by 9:00. Compared with Barbour County High School in April, these students were a bunch of wimps.

The principal reportedly explained teacher cutbacks are necessary because enrollment has declined in Russell County schools. Smaller student-teacher ratios would be nice. But having more parents paying property taxes would be nicer.

A similar drama unfolded this past week in the Lee County schools. One teacher at Smiths Station High School reportedly was called out of a class, to be told of a layoff. Then that teacher supposedly returned to class, cleaned his/her desk and left. Obviously this was not a drama teacher....

Alabama state education officials say this is all a matter of playing by the rules. Teachers supposedly have to be told by the last school day if they're being laid off. In Lee and Russell Counties, the last day is this Friday -- so perhaps the deadline to file resumes at Glenwood and Lee-Scott are approaching quickly.

But really now -- should teachers be pulled out of class, to be told they're being laid off? In the middle of a school day? Well, I suppose it's a matter of being evenhanded. Rebellious students usually don't have to wait until the final bell rings, to get a smack in the pants....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Some restaurants have Sunday buffets. Our InBox had a Sunday message titled, "Various Complaints...."

Richard, I assume most of us don't think of military generals as cry babies but retired General Jerry White is sounding like one. Instead of complaining about not getting more of Georgia taxpayers money for the new Infantry Museum why doesn't he ask for donations from veterans? The bi-city area has many thousands of military retirees and many more veterans. And with the number of retired generals in the bi-city area he should be able to match that $3 million dollar shortfall quickly. Or, is it that few of the area veterans and retirees care about the new museum?

Another items that bugs me - Why aren't the area veterans willing to keep their building on Victory Dr looking good? That's the building that was formerly the Georgia Welcome Center. When the state of GA had it the grounds were always beautiful. Then the state donated it for the use of the veterans and it usually looks bad. And you should see the inside! You would think that those who get the benefit from it (the veterans) would volunteer to keep it looking nice. But then again, have you ever noticed that when people get something for free they seem to appreciate it less?

And speaking of WLTZ's news team - You would think that their co-reporters (the Ledger-Enquirer reporters) would inform the news team in Iowa about the correct pronunciation of local places, towns, events, and names. How do they expect us locals to take their newscasts seriously when they don't make an effort to sound local?

And when are you scheduled to be on the "Calvin" show again? That program has really gone downhill since the station changed oownership!

Memo to self: Never put this blog up against Disneyland for the title, "Happiest Place on Earth."

You know, maybe the top two complaints go hand-in-hand. Veterans might be too busy saving money for the National Infantry Museum to fix up that Welcome Center....

I've jogged over to the old Welcome Center on Victory Drive once or twice. Yes, the outside could use a little painting and weed-trimming. And once a couple of Boy Scout troops finish their school year, they'll get down to earning those landscaping badges.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I take issue with the idea of appreciating free items less. I'd cite some personal examples - but the investments of my mother's inheritance really are none of your business.

I'm not sure what the WLTZ news anchors in Davenport, Iowa are mispronouncing. But if they have a question, they should turn to meteorologist Mark Prater because he's an Auburn University graduate. The other night, he even talked about eating several times at Country's Barbecue. Not recently, but he's done it....

The people at "Rise N' Shine" haven't invited me on their program in several months. But nothing seemed out of the ordinary when I glanced at the show the other morning. The only thing I noticed was how newscaster Julie Bercik's hair had turned a strange shade of green - but then, it WAS gardening day.

BIG PREDICTION: The Alabama Legislature holds the final day of its session today -- and after what happened last year, I hereby predict NO lawmakers will get into a fistfight.

Now for other things you might have overlooked over the weekend....

+ The 12th annual "Arts in the Park" festival was held at Lakebottom Park. But this year, one thing seemed strangely missing. Who forgot to bring the rainstorm?

+ Auburn University baseball coach Tom Slater resigned. The Tigers didn't play well enough to make this week's Southeastern Conference tournament -- so perhaps instead they should play Opelika High School, and help the Bulldogs get over that final-game loss.

+ Morehouse College in Atlanta marked commencement, with the first Caucasian valedictorian in school history. Isn't there a wonderful message here? Even white minds can be terrible things to waste.

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers 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: 742 (- 19, 2.5%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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