Monday, September 29, 2008

for 30 SEP 08: LUCKY YOU?

{BLOGGER'S NOTE: This post is extra-early and mostly "classic blog" so we can celebrate the Biblical Feast of Trumpets - what many call Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. A happy holy day to everyone keeping it!)

From the Monday e-mail comes this note:

Have you been inundated with emails that Tom Jumper was owned by Heard and is now shut down as well?

No, we haven't been - and we thank you for bringing this to our attention. I didn't realize Bill Heard had to resort to pseudonyms in parts of metro Atlanta.

(With a dealership name like "Jumper," I hope the car lot doesn't have one of those five-story-high towers to watch over the cars.)

Monday's news confirmed Bill Heard Enterprises has filed for federal bankruptcy protection. The filing occurred not in Columbus federal court, but in Huntsville. Now this takes some nerve - seeking shelter with the Cottonmouths' arch-rival....

The bankruptcy papers indicate Bill Heard Enterprises started losing millions of dollars a month in mid-2007. If you think that's bad, consider this -- that was long before Monday's no vote in the U.S. House.

CLASSIC BLOG/16 Jun 04: "Certified documents enclosed for addressee only," read the outside of the envelope from Marietta. If someone tampered of obstructed the delivery of this envelope to me, it warned, he could face a "$2000 fine or five years imprisonment." It's almost tempting to lave that envelope on the windshield of an enemy, then call police.

But this envelope had my name on it, so I opened it - and much as I suspected, it was a promotion for a car dealer. Why can't these places put their names on their envelopes? Do they pull this same sort of stunt when it comes to car payment bills?

I've grown familiar with gimmicks to get me into a car dealer's showroom. This one from Bill Heard Chevrolet came with a scratch-off card, with instructions NOT to scratch it off "until you are in the presence of an official representative." So it's like mixing the Georgia Lottery with the Patriot Act....

The offer notes one in 50,000 cards will win $10,000 cash. One will win $100 cash. The other 49,998 receive a "$1,000 Internet Shopping Spree." Yeah right, I said to myself. How many used CD-Roms of card games do I need?

I set Bill Heard's offer aside to pursue another day - but a short time later, my older next-door neighbor knocked on my door. She'd received the very same envelope, already scratched off the card -- and "I won a $1,000 shopping spree!" I wonder if she reads the fine print on Cash 3 tickets, too.

"I already called them, and they said I should bring it right over," my neighbor said with enthusiasm. Perhaps the Bill Heard staff has more patience on customers they perceive as suckers.

Of course, Bill Heard Chevrolet didn't realize who this potential customer was. This is the neighbor who needs me to give her rides all the time, so she has no car. And the financing would have to be really creative - since only hours before, I'd taken her to Valley Rescue Mission for free clothing and canned goods.

I tried to reason with my neighbor - noting if 49,998 out of 50,000 people get a $1,000 Internet shopping spree, she shouldn't get her hopes too high. Yet she was optimistic: "I told them I want to get some clothing." Well, she certainly wasn't likely to lose her shirt.

Since I'd already driven my neighbor uptown earlier in the day, we scheduled the trip to Bill Heard Chevrolet for Tuesday afternoon. As we left, she wondered if I'd be afraid of the rain and the storm sirens. I'd be more afraid if I was Riley Land, starting the sirens without a weather warning.

My neighbor was a bit surprised at the distance to Bill Heard Chevrolet. Why, it's located east of Peachtree Mall - too far out for the METRA buses she refuses to ride, anyway.

(But let's face it: new car dealerships in downtown areas are a thing of the past. The car companies don't want them there. And we certainly know the Phenix City Council doesn't want them there anymore.)

Nice touch #1: Bill Heard Chevrolet has marked parking spaces for customers. I've always worried a little if I took my car to a dealer and parked in the wrong spot, a salesperson would sell it by the time I returned.

Luis the car salesman seemed a bit puzzled as we got out of my humble Honda and walked inside. I couldn't blame him, really. For one thing, who was the customer here? And for another thing, could that 75-year-old African-American woman possibly be my mother?

Nice touch #2: "It feels good in here!" my neighbor declared walking inside the showroom. She meant the air conditioning on a sticky June day. I was a bit surprised not to notice any "new car smell."

We sat down with Luis, and he pulled out the "gift certificate" for my neighbor's $1,000 Internet shopping spree. All she had to do was go on the Internet and pick gifts of all sorts. Of course, now all someone had to do was explain to this older woman what an Internet is.

Nice touch #3: In addition to the business cards on Luis's desk, he also had several for "Living Waters Fellowship." I have no idea where this group meets, because the phone book only has a zip code and phone number -- perhaps to guard against visits by those pesky Jehovah's Witnesses.

"Praise Jesus!" said my neighbor about what she considered a shopping spree blessing. "I'm 75 years old, I've been attending a white church...." Even when there's a mass mailing giveaway -- if it happens in Columbus, someone will boil it down to a racial issue.

"My neighbor didn't want to give me a ride over here," the winner continued, "but this man here was willing to help me out." Welllll - this WAS promoted in Tuesday's blog entry as today's topic....

We left Bill Heard Chevrolet with no pitch at all from Luis to buy a car. He stared at my neighbor's words of praise and offered quiet agreement - acting like he could stare down Tim Duncan in that new American Express commercial.

My next-door neighbor doesn't have a computer, so she asked me how she could claim her shopping spree.

"I can go on the Internet, go to the web site on your certificate, and type in the confirmation numbers."

"And you know how to do that?!"

"Yeah," I quietly replied as modestly as I could. Nine years of online experience hasn't brought me any dates, though.

When we got home, my neighbor gave me her gift certificate. I turned on the computer, called up the gift web site and entered the right numbers -- then went to my neighbor next door and said, "I've set it up in the apparel section."


"The apparel section." That's a fancy northern word for clothing, you know.

My neighbor entered my apartment, became only the second person ever to sit in my Official Computer Chair -- and just stared at the screen. This 75-year-old woman is so computer illiterate, she might have run away if I'd said "mouse."

I scrolled down through the apparel section for my neighbor - and she seemed stunned by the listed "market price" and "you pay shipping and handling" lower price. This woman on a fixed income wasn't praising Jesus anymore. In fact, she came across as a woman who didn't have many blessings to count.

I explained the fine print on the gift certificate which my neighbor hadn't noticed. The items on this "shopping spree" require you to pay the shipping and handling, PLUS a "five-dollar processing fee per order." Spree and fee only rhyme with "free."

Another dilemma: to order items online, my neighbor would need a credit card. She doesn't have any. In fact, it took me more than a year to stop her from making me a personal loan office.

But the good news for my neighbor is that there's a "snail mail" option in the gift certificate fine print. For only $2.95 she can send a request to Florida for a catalog - well, maybe I shouldn't say "only." She can't pay me seven bucks for gas until next month.

My disappointed neighbor left will think about finding that $2.95 -- but she told me as she left my apartment, "I didn't see anything there for women, anyway." Unisex leather jackets and ladies fringed vests apparently didn't count.

I probed around the gift web site after my neighbor left - and it DOES have a few potential bargains on it. But some of the others seem like a ripoff. For instance, a one-year subscription to GQ magazine costs $9.95, including "shipping and handling." Shipping a magazine?! Is Fed-Ex delivering it in brown bubble wrap?

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The invitation seemed nice and cordial enough. Journalists were invited to see a young man in Midland obtain the title of Eagle Scout Sunday. If your son can't sing well enough to appear on "America's Got Talent" or your daughter isn't pageant-worthy, you try to promote them any way you can.

But a closer look at the invitation revealed something more. The new Eagle Scout's father was openly listed as "Superior Court candidate Gil McBride III." At least they were up-front about it. Other candidates might have left the political information out, and surprised curious reporters with a room full of campaign signs.

I'm glad Gil McBride IV is now an Eagle Scout. And it's interesting to read on the invitation that his father achieved that rank as well. But the skeptical side of me looks at the calendar, notes we're five weeks from Election Day - and, well, marvels at the timing. Especially when the invitation reads more like a news release, and Mom and Dad have someone else be the "contact person."

This invitation came about two weeks after another news release was issued, on Gil McBride III's wife. It noted Betsy McBride is a "local attorney" and "mother of four." OK, that puts her one away from the Sarah Palin standard....

You can understand why political candidates want to get all the media attention they can. But it's a tricky thing to seek that attention by using members of your family. Some might call it exploitation. Others might call it a diversion. And if a relative gets in trouble with the law, it could be called the kiss of death.

Several months ago, Muscogee County Sheriff candidate Mark LaJoye hinted he might use incumbent Ralph Johnson's family as a campaign issue [7 Jul]. I don't know if he's brought it up at public appearances or not. But I also don't think any candidate has brought out photos of Adam Johnson's wedding this past summer.

Then a couple of weeks ago, an e-mail to this blog criticized Sarah Palin for bringing out her pregnant teenage daughter for public viewing "rather than sheltering her." [11 Sep] This comment now seems a little out-of-date -- as some people accuse the John McCain campaign of sheltering the running mate.

I made a private prediction several years ago, that I'll bring out now. We'll soon have a presidential race where the candidates' spouses debate each other. Apparently that will NOT take place this year - even though I've heard a lot more about Michelle Obama's speeches than her recipes for cookies.

But back to the Gil McBride family: Perhaps these invitations/news releases are coming out because of problems with the candidate's web site. The page "About Gil McBride" is empty -- and the "contact" information is so generic, you wonder if that's his son's next project after becoming Eagle Scout.

By comparison, the web site of Superior Court opponent Alonza Whitaker has a picture of his family with background information. And oh yes, Whitaker's web site shows several pictures of him. Gil McBride's site only shows a gavel. Does that even out the billboard issue?

Now for other items which had us thinking, on a Sunday that was rather steamy but relatively quiet....

+ WRBL reported a skeleton crew will keep working at Bill Heard Chevrolet for a few days, until all cars left in the service department are repaired. At least the customers won't be told everything's hopeless, and they need to buy a new car....

+ McClung Memorial Stadium hosted a "battle of the bands," with high school and college marchers. Since this took place during the Greater Columbus Fair, I assume the band members received all the foot-long hot dogs they could eat.

(The Sunday battle followed a Saturday band festival at Phenix City's Garrett-Harrison Stadium. Anyone who sat through all that band music might be chewing food in 4-4 time until Wednesday.)

+ Best Buy held a "Teacher Appreciation Night" with discount pricing. Is Sunday night the right time for this? If students are busy finishing weekend homework, shouldn't the teachers be busy with lesson plans?

+ Alabama jumped to second in the Associated Press college football poll, after its big win over Georgia. Don't worry, Tide fans - my alma mater Kansas has Oklahoma on the schedule this year, so we can do something about this.

+ Instant Message to State Senator Seth Harp: What do you mean, you "get results?" If you really did, people would be buying beer on Sundays at Columbus convenience stores by now.

COMING TUESDAY: Classic blog, with one of our favorite Bill Heard tales....

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Sunday, September 28, 2008


If the U.S. economy really is at the edge of a cliff, we probably should expect more of it. With so many local companies cutting jobs in September, we probably should expect more of it. In fact, some of this fall's fund-raising walks for health causes might want to get ready - because beggars might show up and claim they're going to die first.

BLOGGER BEGGAR #9 (for 2008) was the first of two people to cross my path in 24 hours. Thursday's location was one which is all too familiar - my usual coin laundry on South Lumpkin Road. At least one of the driers makes up for them, by working double-time for a quarter.

"Can I have a dime?" a young man said as I loaded clothes in the washers.

"Can you have a diamond?!" I thought he said, and repeated it that way - wondering if gold teeth in that part of town might not be trendy anymore.

I don't take diamonds to laundromats (or anywhere else, for that matter) - but the young man really needed a dime. He wanted a can of soda from a vending machine, but I was admittedly skeptical.

"Do I get a share of it?" I asked. My investment would be about 22 percent of this drink. But the beggar seemed too young to understand the financial aspects of partnerships.

The young man nodded, like I could share the soda with him. So I walked to the vending machine, put in my one thin dime - and nothing happened. None of the buttons worked. Not even the coin return. At least at a casino, some numbers would spin and whir.

The young man reached under the hole where the soda was supposed to come out. But that accomplished nothing. He didn't beat on the machine very much. And the martial arts studio down the sidewalk wasn't open, to recruit any good kickers.

"Since the dime didn't work, I don't see a need to give you anything more." So the young man walked out, looking for another place to find a soda - well, along with someone else with deeper pockets....

Since the coin return didn't work, someone from the vending machine company wins a ten-cent bonus from me. Not that those "tips" have helped keep soda and snack prices down lately....

BLOGGER BEGGAR #10 went walking with a cane into the Walgreens store on Wynnton Road Friday. I saw her walking, as I waited for the traffic light to change at 13th Street. But I didn't know she was a beggar, since her other hand didn't hold a metal cup.

Walgreens had a nice discount this past week on small six-ounce boxes of Nabisco cookies and crackers. Chips Ahoys for one dollar? That's a single guy's lunch anytime....

But as I walked toward the far aisle with the Chips Ahoy cookies, the older woman spoke up to get my attention. "Do you have a dollar, so I can get some candles?" In all my years meeting beggars, this was a first - because you don't tend to eat candles.

I didn't quite grasp what the woman with the cane was asking - but I noticed another woman at the other end of the aisle, trying to get her attention. I pointed her toward that woman, and asked her to come back to me after they were finished. That other woman was holding out a dollar bill, and I was in no mood to start a bidding war in the middle of a drug store.

The woman with a cane took the dollar bill from the other end of the aisle, then picked up three long stick candles and walked toward the checkout. She didn't say a word, and clearly didn't need me anymore. Other beggars would have improvised on the spot, and asked for a matching tablecloth.

I happened to get in the checkout line behind the woman with the candles, who happened to have change in her pocket to pay the sales tax on her candles. As she walked out, I explained to the checkout woman what had happened.

"That's Miss Kate," she told me. "We've run her off once before for doing that." In fact, a Walgreens supervisor responded to my comment by trying to chase Miss Kate down outside. Either she got away, or she pulled a lighter out of her pocket and threatened to light those candles.

The supervisor stopped me as I walked out the door. "I think Miss Kate has something missing upstairs, because she always seems to forget to bring her money."


"And we've warned her before not to do that. But she keeps showing up, anyway."


"And I'm sorry that she did that to you. Hopefully she can get help of some sort."



"I was waiting to see if you'd say something more."

With the supervisor finished, I explained Miss Kate was the tenth beggar I'd met in the Columbus area this year. But I did NOT mention that another customer provided the money for the candles. I think that woman was still inside the store - hopefully not looking for someone else, to get her dollar back.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Mr. Big Volume suddenly has turned into Mr. Rumor Mill....

Little bidie says that A local dealership canceled the Employees insurance without notice to the employees before they received their last paychecks.

Also, that birdie mumbled something about Hendrick - (as in Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motor Sports in NASCAR ) has shown interest in either one or several of the same dealerships that decided to close up and run, earlier this week.

I don't know if we should trust "little birdies" these days. After all, a few of them in Harris County practically have put the Sheriff in prison....

We mentioned the Rick Hendrick speculation Thursday, but that hasn't become official yet. For all we know, the issue could be whether the dealership becomes Jeff Gordon Chevy or Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevy.

WRBL spread its own rumor Friday, that a group of local investors wants to buy the car dealers. The group supposedly includes Chris Fritz of Bill Heard Cadillac - who may have uttered the words our e-mailer put on his/her title: "Let's mark them all OUT."

The only confirmed report about Bill Heard involves a deal which apparently fell through. Carl Gregory released a statement saying problems involving a third party left a takeover agreement "almost dead." Hmmmm - could some other Chevrolet dealer revitalize this deal? Could Tom Jumper come down from Atlanta with "jumper cables?"

(In fact, the Tom Jumper web site actually has words of condolence toward Bill Heard's employees -- as if all Chevrolet dealerships are in a mourning period. Of course, some dealers might mark the occasion by putting black cars on sale....)

Since we mentioned the color black, let's review some weekend news headlines:

+ Alabama raced to a 31-0 halftime lead, and held off Georgia 41-30 in college football. Indeed, black is the color of mourning -- unless you're Nick Saban wearing it at a Monday news conference.

(The Athens fans sang "Happy Birthday" during the first quarter to the retired Larry Munson, as he turned 86. So what do you think - are the Bulldogs cursed at home now, until someone can hook up wires so Munson can call the games from his house while watching TV?)

+ WRBL showed highlights from the Columbus Urban League's annual "Do the Right Thing" celebration for young people. I assume this was named after that old Spike Lee movie - which a friend told me was filled with people doing the WRONG thing.

+ Country music star Taylor Swift performed for a sellout crowd at the Columbus Civic Center. That's not bad for someone who graduated from high school only a few months ago - but if she REALLY wants to make it big in show business, she needs to have a weird quicky wedding like Britney Spears had.

+ Swift's concert occurred during the opening weekend of the Greater Columbus Fair. If this was a real old-fashioned county fair, there would be a fund-raising project with donors pounding used cars with sledgehammers. And this year, someone would make sure that car had a Bill Heard sign on it.

+ The Bavarian House restaurant on Whittlesey Boulevard celebrated Oktoberfest -- four days before October begins. This is what happens what the Trade Center schedules "Christmas Made in the South" for late October....

+ Instant Message to the executives of Washington Mutual: What are you saying this weekend - "woo-hoo" or "boo-hoo"?

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Friday, September 26, 2008


Thursday marked the end of a long project for me - and while I'm resigned about it, I can't really say I'm happy about it. That's because the project was stolen. Thankfully, it happened several doors down from the other big project of the day - doing laundry.

The project was stolen sometime since last Saturday, in the latest criminal act against Millie's Corner on South Lumpkin Road. The store continues to be a target, almost three months after a cook was shot on Independence Day -- and the manager admits he's ready to kill the next person who attempts a break-in. Now there's a way to appeal for more police protection....

For several years, manager Lefty Incarnacion allowed me to have a rack outside Millie's Corner for distributing free religious magazines. I paid him back from time to time by purchasing items from the store - but when he stopped selling the Lance 10-packs of cookies, things admittedly became hard.

The magazine rack wasn't outside Millie's Corner Thursday. I thought it might have been left inside for some reason, but I couldn't find it there either. That made me concerned - and in a couple of minutes, my fears were confirmed. The rack had been stolen. And it was NOT the work of a competing church in the strip mall.

"It's these kids, man," Lefty Incarnacion said with a shrug of the shoulders when I asked about the magazine rack. His store is located across the street from Eddy Middle School - a school praised by Georgia School Superintendent Kathy Cox Wednesday. Or is this sneaky plot by youngsters down the block, at Our Lady of Lourdes?

"They took the other rack, too," Lefty Incarnacion continued -- a rack offering the newspaper "American Classifieds." I heard someone Thursday call it by the old name "Thrifty Nickel." If you think it's thrifty to save a nickel nowadays, you have an even more pessimistic view of the economy than President Bush.

"I yelled at them to try to stop them," Lefty Incarnacion explained. But the thieves got away, even though they left one rack in the parking lot. If the religious magazine wasn't the one "left behind," there could be a deep spiritual meaning there....

"They broke my window again, too," Lefty Incarnacion added. That vandalism happened a couple of weeks ago. Break enough things at a business, and you might break something else -- an owner's property insurance policy.

Lefty Incarnacion talked with an even tone, but he clearly is fed up by a series of crimes at Millie's Corner. "I'm sleeping here at night," he revealed to another customer alongside me, "and if I catch them breaking in, I'm gonna kill 'em." The good news for Incarnacion is that there's now a law office a few doors down from his store....

"I'll let the Ledger-Enquirer...." Lefty Incarnacion mumbled more as he walked away from us, but I didn't hear what he said. Considering Millie's Corner doesn't sell the daily newspaper, I'm assuming it was NOT very nice.

Lefty Incarnacion is a "Nuyorican" -- having moved to Columbus from New York. He probably figured this area would have less of a crime problem. But instead, Millie's Corner has seen its own whirlwind of crime in the last three months - from theft and vandalism to an in-store shooting. About the only thing is a visit from the "Law and Order" detectives.

To be honest, I've wondered for months if someone was stealing the magazines I put in the rack. More often than not this year, my weekly checks have found the rack empty. Now the metal magazine stand - but at least it was there several years. Cardboard box stands at the old Bagel Break on Broadway seemed to vanish within a week.

Since Lefty Incarnacion has talked about putting Millie's Corner up for sale, I've decided NOT to replace the missing rack of religious magazines. But I hope the thieves actually sat down to read one of those publications. They might just read something which helps them realize they're doing something wrong.

And another thing: don't these criminals realize if they shut down Millie's Corner and the shops around it, they're only hurting themselves? They'll suddenly have fewer things to steal....

BLOG UPDATE: The Harris County Sheriff's Department denied rumors Thursday that Sheriff Mike Jolley has been "dismissed." And there was no news release from Governor Sonny Perdue, indicating he had might have intervened to fire Jolley. So those of you who oppose him may have to take the old-fashioned approach - and vote him out in November.

In fact, WRBL interviewed Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley Thursday - in his office, wearing a sheriff's sport shirt. At no point did Chris Hansen from "Dateline NBC" walk into the room, with a decoy officer holding a set of handcuffs.

One rumor which came our way linked the Harris County Sheriff to the board of directors at Columbus Community Bank. But the bank's web site doesn't show Mike Jolley on the board. Rumor-spreaders need to learn we're in 2008 - and you can't outrun the Internet researchers.

The Harris County Manager told the evening news Sheriff Mike Jolley is NOT under investigation. Danny Bridges said some of the accusations made in a woman's letter are inaccurate. So the woman who claimed DARE money is missing might really be a DARE-devil.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Now to the biggest business story Columbus has seen in awhile....

Tell me, Richard... after Charbroil (WC Bradley) left for China, did you ever see any local media offering even a few minutes of service to all those former employees (and their families) who were left at the pier unemployed? The whole thing was on how long and how well they, Bradley/Charbroil, had served the community in the past. It was like we were all supposed to go to the docks and wave our hankies at them as they sailed away with our jobs!

Now it's Bill Heard turn... but this time, it IS all about those former employees!

Is there something just a little disgenuine here? Is there even an ounce of objectivity in the media anymore?

- Redoubt

Maybe I'm not clear on the question - but I do recall TV newscasts reporting on the laid-off Char-Broil workers, including the final day for employees at the plant near Bradley Park Drive. But that was four years ago [17 Nov 04]. In Columbus television news, that's about two generations ago.

The difference here may be that W.C. Bradley took several months to shut down the Char-Broil plant, while Bill Heard Chevrolet's closing is much faster. In fact. it's as sudden as jamming on the brakes when the traffic light changes on Manchester Expressway in front of the dealership.

Another difference could be the cloud of complaints which have hovered around Bill Heard Chevrolet for years. One message board posting claims Heard "had to close shop because he got caught [defrauding] GM on his floorplanning, and GM yanked his financing." Huh?! Did the managers promise five Chevrolets in the showroom, and only made room for three?

Bill Heard Enterprises isn't helping much with the media "objectivity" right now. It's released only a short statement about its closing, while managers have said nothing on camera. The next time Bill Heard Jr. gives an interview, he may have to be lured onto CNBC by Dan Amos.

Most Bill Heard Chevrolet employees picked up their final paycheck and termination papers Thursday. The only people on the job were working in the body shop. How ironic is that - they were working on bodies, while some say the dealership lost its soul.

Mike Gaymon of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce admits the shutdown of Bill Heard Chevrolet was stunning. But he told WRBL we should be thankful that "Fort Benning's growing, Kia's growing...." Hey, that's it - Autosport of Columbus could become the "world's largest Kia dealer."

By the way, we called the Muscogee County School District Thursday and asked about the leased Chevrolet by the Teacher of the Year. We're waiting for a response - and whether Melissa Wilks is trying to work out something with Glynn-Smith Chevrolet in Opelika.

Now for some other quick items from Thursday's news....

+ A federal jury ruled former Columbus Police officer Alicia Davenport received gender discrimination from three other officers, but NOT race discrimination. The jury found the city at fault, but NOT Police Chief Ricky Boren - which has me confused, because I thought this suit was filed before Jim Wetherington became mayor.

(The federal jury awarded Alicia Davenport $5,000 in damages. That's not a lot in 2008. After she pays the attorneys' bills, Davenport might be able to celebrate with a Burger King combo meal.)

+ Columbus State University staged a parade and convocation downtown, to mark the end of its 50th anniversary celebration. The ceremony included people playing bagpipes and wearing kilts. I didn't know C.S.U. was offering language courses in Scottish....

+ Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas visited the University of Georgia football team. Wow - they're taking this "blackout" weekend all the way, aren't they?

+ Troup County trampled Northside 36-0 in high school football. WRBL's Shawn Skillman declared the game was broadcast on "the WOKS radio network." Network?! On some nights, it sounds like WOKS barely can afford to extend tin cans with string from the stadium to its studio.

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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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Thursday, September 25, 2008


Bill Heard Enterprises called its employees together Wednesday, for what was described as an "emergency meeting." And for once, the "emergency" was not one of those four-day markdown sales to clear out Chevrolets....

Employees of Bill Heard were told the company is closing all its dealerships immediately. The chain of car lots not only includes Columbus, but a string from Orlando to Las Vegas. At least the Las Vegas staff can invest their final paychecks at casinos.

(Yet Bill Heard Chevrolet still had commercials running Wednesday evening on WLGA CW-66. Call it the last echo of "Mr. Big Volume," before someone pressed the mute button.)

Some people saw trouble coming a couple of weeks ago, when Bill Heard suddenly closed its Chevrolet dealership in suburban Phoenix. So much for the optimists, who thought it was a protective move before the Georgia-Arizona State football game.

Bill Heard billed itself as "The World's Largest Chevy Dealer." Yet in Columbus, the company sells more than Chevrolets. So for some of the employees, Wednesday's news of being laid off was truly a Saab story.

(Bill Heard Cadillac-Saab is the proper name of that dealership. What did Chris Fritz say Wednesday - "Let's SHUT 'em all down"?!)

A statement from Bill Heard Enterprises blamed the shutdown decision on a variety of economic factors. One of them was the high price of gasoline. So it apparently came down to a clash of the titans - and Mr. Big Volume lost to Mr. Big Oil.

The Bill Heard statement also noted the overall economy is tight these days. General Motors had resorted to a promotional campaign called "Employee Discount for Everyone." If you're discounting their pay down to zero, I'm really not interested....

More than 300 employees will lose jobs, because of the Bill Heard shutdown. One woman told the evening news she started on her job only Tuesday - which will only add to the complaints on file in Atlanta about deceptive business practices.

The Bill Heard Chevrolet web site was still up Wednesday night, and it indicated 329 cars and trucks were available for sale. I'm not sure who will get those -- but come to think of it, Oprah Winfrey is overdue for one of those "everybody gets a car" episodes.

Some customers hurried to Bill Heard Chevrolet as quickly as they could Wednesday, because they had cars in the service department. The late Mac the Mechanic talked about hearing a "5:00 surprise," but this had to top them all....

Richard Hyatt's web site claims the original plan was to shut down Bill Heard Chevrolet Friday. But Hyatt posted what he called "rumors" to that effect Tuesday, which reportedly led the managers to move up the closing. We decided NOT to mention Hyatt's report here - in case someone might run over his rumor with a Silverado.

The rumor game now centers on who might step in, and become Columbus's official Chevrolet dealer. Trying to continue his winning streak, Richard Hyatt reported Rick Hendrick might take over -- as in NASCAR's Hendrick Motorsports. As in the man who pleaded guilty to mail fraud in the 1990s, and escaped going to prison due to health problems. Is this really a quality trade-in?

Another rumored purchaser is local Dodge and Honda dealer Carl Gregory. A spokesperson for his office wouldn't give a direct answer about that Wednesday night, but said Columbus will "continue to have a Chevy dealership." I'm not so sure about that -- since Columbus went for months with no TV station showing Oprah Winfrey or the lottery drawings.

Some employees left the Bill Heard lot in tears Wednesday. Yet to be blunt, I suspect some Columbus residents quietly are thrilled by this news. They're the customers who believe the dealership ripped people off for years, and the bosses had it coming. If someone applies for a parade permit near Bill Heard Jr.'s Green Island home, this could explain it.

A man reminded me recently of customers who went to Bill Heard Chevrolet, handed over their car keys - then had to call police before the sales staff would give the keys back. They didn't dare walk away in protest, because "Mr. Big Volume" might have moved their cars to the "pre-owned" lot and sold them in a hurry.

While Bill Heard employees packed their belongings Wednesday, the U.S. House approved a bill to provide extra money to General Motors and other carmakers. Sometimes "trickle-down economics" simply isn't fast enough....

The Bill Heard name has been part of Columbus life for 89 years. So this sudden closing leaves all sorts of unanswered questions....

+ What does the Muscogee County Teacher of the Year do? Melissa Wilks won a one-year lease of a Chevrolet. Will a school bus bring her back to Wynnton Elementary School, if she has to turn it in?

+ What does Miss Georgia do? Chasity Hardman also has the use of a Bill Heard vehicle, for making all her appearances. Can she train for the Miss America pageant, by riding a bicycle around the state instead?

+ What does the Georgia Department of Transportation do? It renamed the east half of Manchester Expressway "Bill Heard Parkway" several years ago. If Republican officials hurry before Election Day, they might be able to change all the signs to Rob Doll.

+ What does the Columbus RiverCenter do? Its main stage is the Bill Heard Theater. Renaming it "Theater Jay" wouldn't sound quite right.

The bad economic news Wednesday went beyond cars, to planes. DayJet has gone out of business, ending by-request flights from Columbus to other Southeastern cities. The shutdown actually took place last Friday -- so the fact that it was only mentioned on the Wednesday news should explain everything about what went wrong.

We pulled a surprise, and went to a special Wednesday poker night. Learn what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!"

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on our future is over - and wow, talk about big-time drama! To make things fair, I didn't look at the poll results for 36 hours before closing the survey at Wednesday midday. And considering our topic was whether to stop the humor, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the outcome.

The voters have spoken, and 55 percent of them (11-9) want our current format to continue. That means we'll remain a humor blog, instead of focusing entirely on investigative news from the public. Before you ask: I have no way of tracking how many votes against a change came from the Government Center or the Muscogee County School District.

We posted this poll after we received a stack of requests to investigate various local topics - including some serious subjects which seemed inappropriate to write jokes about. At one point a few weeks ago, we had four pending questions in the InBox. It was almost enough to send me before Columbus Council, and ask for some of the public safety sales tax money.

Several people left comments during this poll, including a few who wanted us to keep both the humor and the investigating. One referred to our "interesting mix" as "the Morning Mo Jo." I suppose that puts this blog one notch above "Morning Joe" on MSNBC....

But other voters seemed unimpressed by our blogging approach. One accused us of falling "hook line and sinker" for Cascade Hills Church Pastor Bill Purvis, because we worshiped there for awhile after last year's exclusive interview about a change in governmental structure. Let the record show we do NOT attend that church now - nor has it announced any church business meetings for months.

(And for the person who wrote, "I didn't know it was a humor blog" - maybe we need to do a follow-up poll, on whether to add smiley faces at appropriate points.)

Even with Wednesday's two big historic moments, several other things happened....

+ A Harris County commissioner confirmed Sheriff Mike Jolley is under an internal investigation, because money for the DARE anti-drug program is missing. Apparently the Sheriff's Office was not allowed to keep all the surveillance cameras from "To Catch a Predator," and set them up inside the courthouse.

(Is the timing of this investigation more than a coincidence? Mike Jolley is up for re-election in 40 days. Has the person who filed this complaint spent any time in Juneau, Alaska lately?)

+ Stewart County commissioners voted to shut down the county prison, due to a lack of money. This is how you know the economy is bad - when criminals break the law by stealing money, and the county has to close the prison to avoid doing the same thing.

+ Georgia School Superintendent Kathy Cox visited Baker and Eddy Middle Schools. She stopped short of suggesting the schools be combined into a Christian Science magnet academy.

+ Fort Benning personnel told WRBL the only fuel available for the public on post right now is E-85 ethanol and diesel. But that's OK - since I learned long ago that the Army runs on its stomach.

+ Instant Message to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: You're kidding, aren't you?! I mean, with that proposal to have ice cream shops switch from cow's milk to mother's milk? Are you trying to give the American Red Cross new things to do, besides taking blood donations?

Our number of unique visitors is now up 28 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.<

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1201 (+ 38, 3.3%)

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, September 24, 2008


So I'm dialing around the 6:00 p.m. newscasts Tuesday night - and I stumble upon what appears to be a presidential debate. And of all things, it was in Columbus! The weather couldn't possibly have been that bad in Atlanta, to divert more than one flight....

But a closer look revealed this was NOT a real presidential debate. For one thing, John McCain spoke with an obvious drawl. That guy sounded much more like Phenix City, Alabama than Phoenix, Arizona.

What WLTZ showed actually was a mock presidential debate, between John McCain and Barack Obama impersonators. This is what your news department does when The 6:00 Report has lower ratings than "Half and Half."

No wait - WLTZ did NOT stage this debate. It was put on by TSYS employees at the Columbus Trade Center. And it was done to kick off the company's annual United Way campaign -- which can only dream of matching the donations that the presidential candidates are raising this month.

TSYS is the biggest contributor to United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley. Employees of the credit card processor provide about 13 percent of the annual budget. This can't possibly explain why United Way provides NO funds to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service....

But anyway: during the TSYS "debate," John Mock-Cain (as I would call him) praised what United Way does to help homeless people. From my own experiences recorded here, I've learned Columbus has more homeless people than the real John McCain has houses.

Barack Faux-bama in the TSYS debate urged spectators to consider how much food United Way agencies provide for needy people. It's close to two million pounds a year - which is approximately what the Auburn University defensive line will eat this season.

Some of the spectators at the TSYS kickoff event went all-out. I saw one poster reading, "Hockey moms for United Way." But from what I could tell, any "lipstick on a pig" is reserved for a Piggly Wiggly fund-raiser.

As of Tuesday, Election Day was 42 days away. I think Rush Limbaugh stepped outside and saw his shadow in the Florida sun, so we have six more weeks of campaigning....

But as we've noted, campaign fever can take unusual forms. I've seen a couple of e-mails in recent weeks from a "Presidential candidate" who claims to channel messages -- from people as wide-ranging as Jesus Christ and Robert E. Lee. He apparently does the channeling, when a dead people considers Shirley MacLaine too liberal.

This North Dakota psychic (please note I'm NOT naming him) recently released a message to President Bush, in which Robert E. Lee purportedly offers to organize a volunteer force to remove Russian soldiers from the Republic of Georgia. Well, at least Lee knows it's different from the state of Georgia he loved so much....

Robert E. Lee supposedly wants each state of the old Confederacy to provide 200 paid "volunteers," serving under "the stars and bars" to oust the Russian Red Army from the Republic of Georgia. Of course, the joke could be on this psychic - if some European psychic gets opposing orders from Josef Stalin.

But if this presidential candidate really wants "the South to rise again" as his e-mail states, why send his message to President Bush? Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue actually might support this idea - if only because he can buy some land in the Republic of Georgia at a discount price.

Have you visited our other blog? It's based on poker, but gets into much more. Read "On the Flop!"

E-MAIL UPDATE: Since we're talking elections....

I was reading the story about early voting and noticed that there was a link to the ballot....

Looking at the ballot, we are voting for John McCain or Barak Obama for president. I know you are looking for more comedy and less investigative journalism, but aren't we supposed to vote for the slate of electors to the Electoral College and not the president himself (or herself one day).

I'll try to help with the comedy - in reference to the Electoral College it's a shame that they don't even have a football team, but the same can be said for a lot of schools between here and insert opposing team's city.

Best to you


Bruce needs to take another look at that ballot -- because he left out Libertarian Presidential candidate Bob Barr. Barr clearly isn't the Republican prosecutor he used to be. Else he wouldn't have joined with Jimmy Carter, in trying to stop Tuesday night's execution.

This bit of investigation turned out to be rather simple. We called the Muscogee County Election Board Tuesday, and was told their ballot follows state guidelines. In the last couple of Presidential votes, Georgia moved away from lists of "electors" to the tickets themselves. That way, voters aren't scared away from an "Obama" by someone named "Brown."

A call to the Georgia Secretary of State's office to a 2005 change in the law, which removed a requirement for presidential electors to be listed with the candidates. It apparently was buried in the controversial "Voter ID" law. So now you have to show identification at the polls, but the electoral college delegates don't.

You may not realize the Democratic list of Georgia electors has a couple of local names. State House members Carolyn Hugley and Calvin Smyre are ready to vote for Barack Obama in December. So much for Smyre keeping his Monday choice at the Government Center a secret.

And oh yes - depending on the outcome of our Big Blog Question, we're willing to take joke ideas from our readers. Certainly the Electoral College is a small college. And this season, the LaGrange College football team actually appears capable of defeating it.

Now for another vote, which we mentioned here a few days ago:

Hi Richard,

I hope this email finds you well! Thanks so much for mentioning me on your blog last week concerning the short video I submitted .... ln in a free wedding contest! We are so excited to be 1 of the 4 finalists!

As you know, I am a young breast cancer survivor and unfortunately carry the gene mutation (BRCA1) which puts me at a higher risk for a recurrence. I have been under heavy surveillance the last three years, and I have to admit the medical bills are piling up. I no longer make the "big" anchor money and now work as a documentary producer for a nonprofit TV station here in Fayetteville, AR. I LOVE my job because it allows me to showcase the causes that are very important to me, like breast cancer awareness. (I actually just won my first Telly Award for a documentary I did on young breast cancer survivors--you can watch a 5 minute clip of it here:....

Anyway, this wedding contest that we've entered would be a dream come true. Unfortunately we are competing for votes alongside a reality TV show couple from CBS's SURVIVOR-CHINA....

To win this wedding, we are going to need A LOT of votes! I was wondering if you could help me spread the word to all of your friends and blog readers. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so it would be very timely.

Thanks again for your support! And remember to vote for us, if you can, once a day through October 17!

Take care, Richard!


Deborah Singer

Welllll - OK, I'll give this contest one more mention here. But if the bride-to-be isn't careful, she's going to become as pesky as some of those Muscogee County write-in candidates. Well, the ones who were pesky back in July....

It's sad to learn former WXTX news anchor Deborah Singer has been "under heavy surveillance" for three years. I presumed the Metro Narcotics Task Force would save this for someone who acted more like a drug runner.

Deborah Singer and her future husband certainly face a tough challenge, in that reality TV couple. The recent news about tainted milk has shown "Survivor China" may have been the most difficult contest of them all.

Now let's get caught up on other news from the last couple of days:

+ The Education Park Coalition announced the Georgia Supreme Court will hear its appeal, about greenspace around the Columbus Public Library. A statement from member Josh McKoon says the appeal concerns whether the Coalition had to prove "Columbus Consolidated Government acted ultra vires...." Keep using Latin phrases like this, and Jeremy Hobbs might misunderstand and file his own argument.

+ Phenix City Intermediate School held a family "Space Night," which included the firing of water rockets into the air. Is this really a good idea for middle- schoolers? Some smart aleck boys might use the locker room during physical education class for practice.

+ The RiverCenter announced the 18 October concert by Natalie Cole has been postponed. You may have heard Cole was hospitalized, due to hepatitis C. And this is one C-section no one wants to undergo....

+ Instant Message to Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama: Did I read that quote correctly - you oppose government bailouts? Then why do you keep bragging in news releases about big federal grants, to keep state projects going?

Our number of unique visitors is now up 28 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1163 (+ 31, 2.7%)

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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Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Area sports fans already were a bit in shock. After all, Skip Caray died less than two months ago. Then the Monday evening news revealed Larry Munson was retiring immediately -- and smack dab in the middle of Georgia's football season at that! No wonder Coach Mark Richt asked the fans to wear black this weekend....

Larry Munson spent 43 falls calling Georgia football games. How many Bulldog fans said over the years, "The day he leaves is the day they stop playing baseball at Yankee Stadium" - and now look.

How many people are introduced as "legendary" when they're still in the middle of their career? Yet Larry Munson was given that label for the last several years, when he was introduced as the "Voice of the Georgia Bulldogs." Only one person in Columbus seems to get the same treatment - and it's not Mayor Jim Wetherington, but Al Haynes.

I didn't hear either of Larry Munson's football broadcasts this season. But WRBL's Phil Scoggins admitted Monday evening he sounded weak at times. You don't think that caused the Bulldogs to drop a notch or two in the national polls, do you?!

Larry Munson certainly ranks among the most fascinating play-by-play announcers I've ever heard, because his approach was so unusual. He clearly rooted for Georgia - but he didn't simply root. He worried openly about the Bulldogs during games. Munson sometimes sounded like so many UGA parents, dropping off children for their first semester.

You have to understand: I took a sportscasting course in college under one-time Super Bowl network radio broadcaster Tom Hedrick. In fact, one of my classmates was Kevin Harlan of CBS. I took the class one time, and aced it. Ask Harlan, and he'll admit he took it several times - well, on purpose....

Tom Hedrick taught us how to call the action, without really taking sides. So I was stunned to move to Georgia in November 1984, and hear Larry Munson describe the Auburn game as a matter of "us versus them." He made it sound like this wasn't college football, but war. Of course, I had to learn - in this part of the country, it actually is.

Larry Munson epitomized the Southeastern Conference football spirit, as well as the feelings of its fans. You know - the groups of fans who wanted Jim Donnan fired for only having a record of 8-4....

But of course, Larry Munson became a legend for some of the plays he called. Some became fodder for an annual Munson imitation contest, at a sports bar in metro Atlanta. By comparison, you have to look hard for anyone who still remembers Al Ciraldo's voice at Georgia Tech.

I didn't realize until Monday night that Larry Munson actually went to Georgia in the 1960's to call Atlanta baseball games. He could have wound up in the same booth with Skip Caray - and every time Munson might worry about the score, Caray could tell a joke to calm him down.

Larry Munson also did the play-by-play of Atlanta Falcons games for a few years, including the final game at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1991. I know, because I took a radio to that game and heard him. And I needed him, because I was in about the 12th row of field-level seats with guys standing in front of me half the game.

Larry Munson also broadcast Georgia basketball games for a few years in the 1990s - but that never seemed quite right. There's no time to worry about key missed shots when the action is going back and forth....

If the University of Georgia athletic staff has any smarts at all, they'll quickly do what Atlanta's baseball team did. They'll name the broadcast booth in Athens after Larry Munson, while he's around to appreciate it. But hmmmm - should they prepare a vault for him at Sanford Stadium, alongside UGA VI?

While they're at it, the University of Georgia staff might want to consider WDAK's Scott Miller as a successor to Larry Munson. Miller's broadcast style reminds me so much of Munson - except Miller's "luck" is a spot instead of a lady.

E-MAIL UPDATE: On the way back from Athens, we bounce over Columbus to the far side of Russell County....

Hello Richard,

It has been a while since I have contacted you. I just wanted to let you know that I still read your blog practically every day even though there is not much news about Hurtsboro in there anymore. It seems that your biggest Hurtsboro contributor has decided that he doesn't want to affiliate himself with your blog anymore. Of course you know who I am speaking of....yes you guessed it....the infamous Robert Schweiger.

It appears that Mr. Schweiger has been a busy boy this year with two thwarted law suits and a failed bid for County Commissioner. Fortunately Mr. Schweiger has not prevailed in any of his malicious endeavors. I must say that I am quite surprised that he was able to talk five intelligent adults who ARE actually from Hurtsboro into going along with his feeble plot. I guess they are regretting it now since they each owe the court $700.00. It seems that the ole boy would have learned his lesson after losing his frivolous suit against me for which he was ordered to pay $250.00. Although Mr. Schweiger doesn't think that he has to pay me what he owes he may be in for a little surprise when he finds out that I have a judgment against him filed with the Russell County Probate Court and currently hold a lien on everything he owns until I am paid in full. So you might say that Mr. Schweiger is sleeping in my barn with my dogs and driving my pick up truck. Mr. Schweiger thought he was being funny by sending a $5.00 check every month and making it out to everyone but me. He only revealed the content of his character which is sorely lacking.

On an upbeat note I am looking forward to seeing the elections to completion in October and watching Hurtsboro improve with new leadership. I am confident that both candidates who remain on the ballot are concerned about Hurtsboro's future. With the right leadership Hurtsboro can thrive and continue to improve providing its citizenry with needed services such as round the clock police protection, sanitation services, and revitalization of it's down town. There are lots of federal grants that Hurtsboro could not qualify for without a charter. Hurtsboro has another untapped gold mine….it is widely seen as a "hunters paradise". Hunters come from all over the United States to enjoy the rich pleasures of the outdoors there. I think both Ray Tapley and Tatonya Burns have positive outlooks on fixing Hurtsboro's ills instead of trying to air dirty laundry which is practically an invite for those who live in larger surrounding cities who wish to do harm. There will be some monumental hurdles to cross but I believe they can be overcome. Hurtsboro is not ready for the grave and neither are its people. I am not from Hurtsboro and I no longer have a financial interest in seeing the town prosper. My interest is strictly personal. I made a lot of friends in Hurtsboro when I policed it's streets for a total of three years. I know the majority of people there would give you the shirt off their back even if they didn't have another. I didn't leave Hurtsboro because I didn't like it or its people. In fact I still visit routinely when I want to get away from the big city and see my friends.

Those FEW who followed Mr. Schweiger have assisted him in (pardon my expression) placing a proverbial turd in the punch bowl. I hope everyone gets behind the cart and helps push it forward because the only other directions are back and standing still. It's their community and they have to make it better.


Sam Smith (former resident and a friend of Hurtsboro)

Robert Schweiger did make a donation to this blog at one time, as any reader is welcome to do. I'm not sure that makes him an "affiliate." I mean, he's never asked me for a glossy autographed picture....

But I don't think Constable Schweiger is giving up yet, in his effort to dissolve the Hurtsboro city charter. He's asked Alabama Attorney General Troy King to review the case. King has gone after possible graft with absentee ballots - but an absentee mayor may be something else.

Wow - Sam Smith has a lien on all of Robert Schweiger's belongings? Surely one of Schweiger's horses is worth more than $250, to settle this court judgment. It's either that, or the Constable is turning all of his e-mails to our blog into a book proposal.

When we went to Hurtsboro last Thanksgiving, we noticed plenty of hunters in the restaurant at lunchtime. In fact, that really could be an "untapped gold mine" - for finding a new police chief, for instance.

We returned to Thursday night poker last week, after several weeks away. Learn how we did by visiting our other blog, "On the Flop!"

BLOG UPDATE: At last we come to Columbus - where early voting for the general election opened Monday. If people already are marking ballots for President, why are they even going to the trouble of having those debates?

A small gaggle of Democrats spread the word in the media that they were voting early Monday at the Government Center. And so they.... wait a second. Do you call a group of politicians a "gaggle," like geese? Nahhh - politicians are probably like lions. They're a pride.

But anyway: A group of big-name Democrats assembled at the Government Center to vote 43 days early. These must be the exceptions -- the ones who don't object to showing photo ID at the polls.

District Judge candidate Stephen Hyles told WLTZ he wanted to cast his vote as early as possible. I'm not sure why he's in such a hurry -- unless he figures he'll have to campaign non-stop for six weeks to beat Haywood Turner.

The Muscogee County Election Board is encouraging people to vote early, because a big crowd is expected at the polls six weeks from today. Look at it this way -- this election year started ridiculously on 3 January. You might as well end it ridiculously early, by voting before September's over.

Since early voting is underway, we decided it was time to roll out our first campaign ad of the season. It's admittedly inspired by the race for Congress in east Alabama between Mike Rogers and Joshua Segall. Based on the TV commercials, this is coming down to which you hate more -- " Big Oil" or people in New York City.

Now for other news, from a Monday when a lot of items could have been our main topic....

+ The Muscogee County School Board was told staff members have found $3.9 million which can be cut from the budget, without laying off any staff members. This will disappoint some critics, who want the cuts to start with the administration building construction crew.

+ District Judge Doug Pullen ruled the Expedia web site must pay Columbus city motel taxes, when customers reserve rooms. The way this web site is resisting, it's likely to pay when.... well, you know.... when it's Expedient.

+ A federal judge dismissed a sexual discrimination suit against Phenix City Councilor Ray Bush. But WRBL noted it was thrown out due to a technicality - so the complaint might not be Bush-league after all.

+ A ceremony in downtown Phenix City handed over four acres along the Chattahoochee River to Troy University. Critics have called it a $2.9 million land giveaway, which takes prime real estate off the city tax rolls. And to make matters worse, a business school is planned there - to teach entrepreneurs the fine art of tax-dodging.

(Troy University needs eight million dollars in donations over the next three years to complete the business school development. Who knows - if you give a arge enough amount, you might get a condominium at the Phenixian at no extra charge.)

+ Troy football coach Larry Blakeney spoke at the Columbus Quarterback Club. Blakeney said a schedule with games at Ohio State and Louisiana State are great for recruiting, as well as the fans. He listed every reason except the most obvious one - those big stadiums are great for the athletic department bank account.

+ Instant Message to the New York oil speculators: Thanks a lot! October crude - up more than 16 dollars a barrel?! You really DO want us to celebrate National Stay-at-Home Week....

Our number of unique visitors is now up 28 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1132 (+ 27, 2.4%)

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, September 22, 2008


There was a free event in Columbus Sunday which featured local talent, and was both educational and entertaining. Of course, some people would hear that description and automatically think it's a church service - as long as they don't have to come forward to leave an offering.

But this free event was at the Civic Center - the annual Columbus International Festival. It celebrated the cultural backgrounds of our residents. And the were free to show off those backgrounds, without fear of the Minuteman Project filing lawsuits to have them deported.

I still have a "Unity Pledge" card I picked up and signed at the 1997 International Festival. It's a promise to "promote and practice friendship, cooperation and understanding among the various cultures of our city...." Yes, I try to live up to that promise. Why, back in May I went to a Mexican restaurant buffet....

It had been several years since I went to the International Festival, so I decided to pay it a visit Sunday. Much of the South Commons parking lot was off-limits, because of preparations for the Greater Columbus Fair. So if you want to ask for Asian versions of the Exchange Club foot-long hot dog, you'll have to wait a few more days.

The International Festival began with a "Parade of Countries." But for some reason, the parade took so long that it put the program about 20 minutes behind schedule. The late addition of France should NOT have made things so difficult....

About 20 "countries" were part of the Parade of Countries. But a few of them were not really countries at all. Guam is a U.S. territory. Last time I checked, Hawaii was still a U.S. state. And it's a good thing they went in alphabetical order, to keep China and Taiwan far apart.

A more fitting title for this event should have been the Parade of Nations - because you can have a nationality, without being part of a country. People in Central and Eastern Europe can tell you all about this, because they've been fighting about it for years.

The last nation to come forward in the parade was the United States - which the emcee declared "the best country in the whole wide world." The Unity Pledge talks about friendship and cooperation, but it doesn't say anything about suppressing pride.

The emcee declared only the United States would assimilate such a multitude of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, for a festival like this. Hmmmm - does this explain why Canada was left off the parade list?

After the parade with flags and native fashions, it was time for the nations to display native dances. But I confess -- I left before the fire stick dancers from Tahiti came out. So I missed a good test of Columbus EMS response time.

As usual, the International Festival featured booths on the main floor displaying various nationalities. For some odd reason, Switzerland had a booth - but was NOT part of the Parade of Countries. I thought this neutrality thing ended a few years ago....

There also were a few booths promoting local organizations. But when I was there, the table marked for One Columbus was empty. As Don Rickles might have said during Sunday night's Emmy Awards, hopefully the executives weren't holding another fundraiser 30 miles out of town.

The biggest surprise for me came when I asked about going up the Civic Center steps. In years past, more tables were set up in the concourse promoting community causes. But this year, the security people told me there was nothing. Nothing?! Not even the usual three tables displaying Lonnie Jackson's plaques?

I left with the feeling that the Columbus International Festival has lost some of the luster it had a few years ago. I'm not sure why, but some of it may be due to a lack of promotion. The only way I learned about this year's festival was through a poster at a grocery store -- and it was NOT near the taco shells and salsa jars at Wal-Mart.

The International Festival wasn't even listed on the schedule at the Columbus Civic Center web site. The Mayor's Commission on Unity and Diversity puts on this event - so what's going on here? Was the e-mail announcement written in the wrong language?

Sunday's event actually wrapped up a full weekend of cultural festivals. "Festival Viva" was held Saturday, organized by WHAL-AM 1460 at Plaza Sol. But all the entertainers had Spanish-language names -- so maybe the staff needs to sign some Unity Pledge cards of their own.

Now let's see what else made news on the opening day of National Stay-at-Home Week....

+ Columbus Police announced several arrests on pandering charges. Undercover officers reportedly posed as prostitutes at the Travel Inn Motel on Victory Drive. No, I don't know which line in the police budget is set aside for fishnet pantyhose.

(Wow, I guess this could prove it. There may be pandering underway on Victory Drive after all -- but far below the political billboards.)

+ Darrel Wright and Pashion Keller were named Columbus's Big Brother and Big Sister of the year. Again this year, the title of "Big Mamma" was reserved for that fireworks stand in Lee County.

+ The Atlanta Falcons flattened Kansas City 38-14. Something is terribly wrong in my home area - because the baseball team is peaking in mid-September, not the football team.

(I didn't realize former Jordan High School running back Dontrelle Savage was playing for Kansas City. A group from Jordan went to the game - and saw nothing short of a Savage beating.)

+ Instant Message to all the Georgia football fans: I hope you're happy now. Some people in Florida say your team should have dropped below them in the polls, because the Bulldogs won again.

SCHEDULED TUESDAY: The first comment in a while regarding Hurtsboro....

Our number of unique visitors is now up 28 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1105 (- 27, 2.4%)

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, September 21, 2008

21 SEP 08: THE 5:15 SURPRISE

Saturday was a peaceful, lovely day. It was perfect for a cool walk in the neighborhood shortly after sunrise. And as my next-door neighbor noted as I returned, I didn't work up a sweat by walking at all.

In the late afternoon, I prepared to drive to church. I showered, shaved, brushed my teeth and knelt by my bed to pray - but in the middle of the prayer, someone knocked on my door. Now who could this be....

+ The neighbor who's complained about where I park my car? No, he was evicted last week - uniformed Marshal and all. I thank him for the nice carpeted doormat I salvaged from the curb.

+ A passing beggar? They've gone door to door at times over the years - including one on a Saturday afternoon who was collecting bus fare to Tuskegee.

+ A pair of Jehovah's Witnesses? They tend to come earlier in the day - as if they take that Bible verse about "the night comes when no man can work" literally.

Admittedly, I wasn't wearing much when the knock came at the door. I was praying with a Velcro towel wrap over my underwear, and wearing a pair of slippers. This may not seem like much -- but remember, Adam and Eve were before God for awhile in even less than that.

"In Christ's name, amen," I said quietly so as not to offend the Object of my prayer. Then to borrow from that December poem, I rose from my knees to see what was the matter. I couldn't tell by peering around the door -- as if a TMZ photographer was hiding from me.

"Hi. Pastor David!?" a man finally said -- the pastor of the church I'm attending these days. I was getting ready to hear him preach at 6:00, but he apparently decided to make a pre-game appearance.

Pastor David was out hand-delivering "welcome packets" to new attendees. But he admittedly didn't recognize me. I think that was more due to my lack of glasses at the door, than the fact that I lacked a sportscoat and tie.

It took Pastor David a moment to grasp the awkward situation he'd put me in - standing at the door in little more than a loincloth. Thankfully, he did NOT scold me on the spot for being as immodest as a Chippendale dancer.

"You must be getting ready for church," the pastor finally said -- and I opened the door a bit, so he could hand me the welcome packet. Sometimes a 6:00 p.m. service has disadvantages, compared to Sunday morning at 9:00....

I was surprised by the pastor's timing, but not really that upset. He was going out of his way to make a new attendee feel welcome. In contrast, Jehovah's Witnesses are more like political candidates - going door-to-door to win your support.

Now that we've had our moment of openness, let's close the books on some weekend headlines....

+ A woman appeared on WRBL to complain about a comment District Attorney Gray Conger made Thursday - a comment which apparently was made on WXTX. So why go to another station to complain about it? Did the woman decide Fox 54 is as Republican-biased as Fox News Channel?

+ WLTZ reported the Columbus Goodwill Industries agency is no longer in need of United Way funding. Apparently the new thrift store on Veterans Parkway is a success - as shoppers discover some of the stores at Columbus Park Crossing are simply too high.

+ The Junior League of Columbus had its annual "attic sale" at the Civic Center. To protect the new floor, I assume this time the sale actually was held IN the attic....

+ The Springer Opera House opened its new season with "Menopause: The Musical." If you spot a woman singing at the top of her lungs about this, it's a musical. If she's simply shouting, she's probably in it.

+ Columbus Youth Football held its season kickoff at McClung Memorial Stadium. The program marks its 50th anniversary this year - yet for some reason, no ceremonies were held at Golden Park.

(Oh yes, this reminds me - why did the people who updated the South Commons signs to add the Skate Park fail to add "McClung" to the Memorial Stadium name? If it's a matter of being paid by the letter, they could have added a simple A.J.)

+ The NCAA cleared Auburn University of major wrongdoing, in a recent football grades controversy. The "Directed Studies" courses taken by players were traced to two professors - who I assume have been directed to go teach at the Montgomery campus.

+ On the field, Auburn lost to Louisiana State 26-21. The Auburn radio team kept referring to L.S.U. as the "Fighting Tigers" - making me wonder if that's why the other Tigers lost.

+ Georgia remained undefeated by assailing Arizona State 27-10. ABC's Brent Musberger kept talking about how pro football scouts love Bulldog quarterback Matthew Stafford - almost as if backup Joe Cox's parents paid him to do it, so Stafford turns pro early.

+ Instant Message to the Auburn student who held up a "Barkley for Governor" sign around the GameDay set: I hate to break the news to you - but Charles Barkley appears on TNT, and this was an ESPN show.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $3.99 a gallon at Circle K, U.S. 80 and Summerville Road.... FREE International Festival at the Civic Center, 2:00-7:00 p.m. ET.... Great Value fudge sandwich cookies for $1.88 at Wal-Mart (but the package needs an addiction warning)....

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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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Saturday, September 20, 2008


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

So how has your week been? As a radio announcer in Dallas said years ago, "Have you made a million yet?" If you made it this week, please tell me how - because it must have been at online poker, instead of the stock market.

This week's news included the "de facto" government takeover of AIG - giving taxpayers control of a major insurance company. Yet I'm still waiting for the TV commercials offering me a corporate discount, like car companies do....

Did you know AIG has a Columbus office? It's located on Veterans Parkway, and the staff there must have been on edge this week - unsure if their company would even survive. The company had an ethics scandal a few years ago. But no one could have imagined there would be a scrambled AIG someday.

I attended church for years with a local AIG agent - and I sent him an "e-card" this week, expressing my sympathies for what he's facing. He sent this reply:

Thanks for your prayers this week. It sure has been earth shattering for our little world, but knowing we have the rock to stand on, makes weeks like this bearable. God and his principles are truly too big to fail.

Do you notice the faith this man has? I really don't think that "rock" he's standing on is a job offer from Prudential....

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 7 about building a house "on the rock." It survives when the storm comes, while a house built "on the sand" has a great fall. Keep that in mind the next time you travel to Galveston Island - because the seawall there is built with big rocks, and I think it's still standing.

But what rock is Jesus talking about here? I Corinthians 10 indicates HE is - "the rock was Christ." In fact, that chapter indicates Christ helped Moses lead Israel out of Egypt - apparently as part of the Godhead, before appearing as Jesus the Son. That's one plot twist they haven't even figured out how to do on soap operas.

If you stand in faith with Jesus and follow His instructions, you can know you'll endure the trials of life. The Old Testament leader Joshua indicates God's good promises do NOT fail -- and they're a whole lot bigger than AIG and Lehman Brothers.

OK, this sort of thinking isn't exactly a new revelation. But the need for it keeps showing up in new ways, as it did at AIG. And it keeps being expressed in new ways - such as this one from a Christian singer, who "rocks" in a different sort of way.

Our number of unique visitors is now up 28 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, 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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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, September 19, 2008


"I see you're still running," the man wearing glasses said as he approached me Thursday afternoon. Actually, I was walking at that moment - since it's easier to carry a package of brownies home from the store that way.

The man said some other things, but loud trucks rolled by on Fourth Street and I couldn't hear him. So I asked the man to start over from the beginning with what he said. Big mistake - as I didn't recognize a man who can make long-winded politicians look like they're on time limits.

"I still see you running," the man holding a bicycle said. "And you do it regularly. That shows you have commitment. Like the Marines." He served in the Marines during the Vietnam era. But really now -- I don't run nearly fast enough to pass training at Parris Island.

"I can tell you're an intelligent person," the ex-Marine wearing a Corona Extra hat on his head continued. "You listen to Beethoven." I didn't realize my glasses were that thick and nerdy.

The ex-Marine only made about 30 seconds' worth of comments to me originally. Now he decided to go non-stop - as if he was a member of Congress utilizing the privilege to "revise and extend my remarks." He emphasized the extend part....

From Beethoven, the ex-Marine suddenly switched to rapid-fire poetry. "A wise old owl sat in an oak. The more he heard, the less he spoke...." Only later did I discover he was reciting a nursery rhyme - and that surprised me, as he also claimed to quote some lines from Carl Sandberg.

The ex-Marine seemed to say whatever came to his mind. But his mind kept jumping from point to point, as if he had attention deficit disorder. Among those quick points....

+ He admires the armies of Sweden and Ireland for being "fighters." Sweden?! Is he talking about the latest bombardment of ABBA music, in "Mamma Mia?"

+ Marines are all about being strong in "mind, body and spirit." Yet when he started spelling out some of his words to me, he lacked the presence of mind to spell "sacrifice" properly.

+ He wants to be a writer someday - and talks of having a Royal typewriter. I actually still have an old manual version. But no one has yet to make a cord which connects it to a printer.

+ "We don't need a dove," he says about the presidential race. "We need a WAR-hawk!" So he backs John McCain - and then he notes Cain killed brother Abel in the Bible. I haven't even heard fundamentalist preachers use this kind of logic.

+ Jesus is coming back on "my birthday - May 21, 2011." Who knew God would have such mercy on a former Marine who rides bicycles?

I'm familiar with this prediction date - and when the ex-Marine quoted "Brother Camping" to justify it, I attempted my only interruption of his commentary. "He was wrong in 1994." Some ministers keep setting dates like they're going to die trying - and I somehow suspect Harold Camping will.

Eventually the ex-Marine said, "I'm looking for some feedback from you." He finally stopped so I could respond - and I looked at my watch.

"You've talked for about 25 minutes," I pointed out. This is what happens when you follow the example of Marine officer training lectures.

I also told the ex-Marine while he had said a lot of things which were true, his points were so disjointed that most people who heard him would consider him crazy. The exceptions might be Columbus State University students specializing in "performance art."

The ex-Marine realized I'd given him some criticism, but he seemed to accept it. Then he tried to start a second sermon. "I gave you 25 minutes to talk non-stop, sir," I said. "What more do you need to say?" Maybe this is why I'm still not married....

I started interrupting the ex-Marine when he repeated earlier points, yet he kept looking for new ones. He offered to buy me a soda inside the convenience store, saying he makes money by collecting cans while on his bicycle. It's a good thing I didn't tell him about Blaze Recycling's new car-shredding service.

Eventually the ex-Marine talked about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ - and when he compared it to the Bible account of Abraham offering to give up his son Isaac, he started to cry. Within about a minute, his talking was over. And I probably didn't give him the response he wanted, by falling at his feet and repenting.

I mentioned I had not recognized this man - but as I walked home, old memories came back. He seemed to be the same man who saw me after a wintry Wednesday night run on the Riverwalk several years ago, and proceeded to "praise" me with a non-stop speech about everything from the military to Michael Jackson. Only when I noted the temperature did he think to offer me his jacket.

For some reason over the years, people with a truckload of topics to unload have crossed my path to do it. I've mentioned before the man who called me at home and vented for as long as 85 minutes about his life and personal observations. When I put a ten-minute time limit on his calls, he took it almost as an insult.

You're probably saying you would have walked away, and ignored this ex-Marine. You might have concluded he'd fallen off his bicycle once too often. But I wasn't really under a time deadline. And I actually thought the man might stop after a minute or two - once he realized that owl in the oak tree story should apply to him.

There's one other small reason why I let the ex-Marine keep talking. A couple of times during his "conversation," he told me: "You're not obese, you're not overweight...." I know better than that - but extra buttering up can be tasty from time to time.

We returned to Thursday night poker, after several weeks away. Learn how we did by visiting our other blog, "On the Flop!"

E-MAIL UPDATE: We had to think carefully about whether or not to post this - and decided finally to post about 97 percent of it....

Hi, Richard --

My grandmother used to say that the only time a lady's name should appear in the paper (or a blog in today's world) is when she's getting married or dies. So, in honor of my grandmother, will you please keep my name out of your blog, especially when you're quoting someone from Talbot County who is making data-free decisions about my character, motive and future plans? If I ever get married or when I die, I'll have someone contact you. While Ms. Owens has property in Muscogee County, it is my understanding that she lives in Talbot County, and therefore is not eligible to serve on a board or commission appointed by the Mayor or City Council.

Thanks for understanding -

OK, I understand - and the person who signed this e-mail (well, she admitted she's a lady) is NOT having her name posted. But I wonder what Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin would think of this sort of reasoning.

And I hope this woman also has written the Ledger-Enquirer with the same request. The recent series of messages from Deborah Owens was sparked NOT by this blog, but by that woman's name appearing in the newspaper. And it wasn't even a slap in the "Sound Off" column....

BLOG UPDATE: Whatever happened to Deborah Singer? We're happy to report the former Columbus TV anchor is now engaged - and she's also engaged in a contest to win a FREE wedding in Charleston, South Carolina. You can vote for her to win once a day, through mid-October. If you don't - well, no one in Columbus has thought of this promotional idea yet.

Now for some actual Thursday news headlines....

+ The Third Infantry Division held a reunion at Fort Benning. Remember, old soldiers never die - their war stories simply get recycled to a new generation.

+ People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced it will honor the Columbus Fire Department, for rescuing four kittens from a 6 September fire. Talk about raising the bar! Now "right to life" groups will have to hand out awards, when people are pulled from fires.

+ WLTZ interviewed a Columbus man who jogs 15 minutes to work every day. His job is at Bill Heard Enterprises - so this story could start rumors about the local car lots all over again.

+ President Bush canceled a planned campaign trip to Huntsville. Aides said he needed to stay in Washington, to address problems in the banking industry. Apparently the Republican campaign committees aren't putting their money in Washington Mutual, to overcome this....

+ WRBL reported the Auburn University Dean of Students is urging students NOT to boo at Saturday's game against Louisiana State. That's not going to help the football team's confidence very much - not the booing, but the fact that an administrator has to issue statements like this.

+ Instant Message to all bicyclists, including that ex-Marine: When you're not on the Riverwalk, please remember to use the street and not the sidewalk. You get in the way of joggers like me - and these days, you actually can show up those drivers of gas-guzzling SUV's.

COMING THIS WEEKEND: The interesting words of a local man who's had a very stressful week....

Our number of unique visitors is now up 28 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1201 (+ 46, 4.0%)

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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