Friday, February 27, 2009

27 FEB 09: Fear Factors

Several years ago I worked with a man who had a touchy personality. He'd give me what I called "Friday morning sermonettes" -- angry complaints toward me or the workplace, which left me pondering a response all weekend. When I offered one the next Monday, he'd often forget he brought anything up. He simply moved the guilt cloud over to my house for awhile.

With that history in mind, today we throw away the usual optimism and good feelings about our immediate future. That's because we found several items Thursday which could scare people silly. Of course, I tell people I'm immune from this -- because I'm silly already.

The scariest discovery came while I was browsing online. Without even looking for it, I came across a site which shows the impact of nuclear explosions. That's as in bombs - not like your spouse catching you cheating with the next-door neighbor.

The web site lets you choose any location on Earth, as well as eight different sizes of explosions. So of course, I thought first of Fort Benning. What if extremists took control of SOA Watch, and decided crosses at the fence simply aren't getting things done?

If the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima fell on Fort Benning, the impact zone would be surprisingly limited - a radius of 1.5 miles around Ground Zero. But we all know how misleading that could be. Anyone who has endured controlled burns with shifting winds can tell you that....

The damage would be much greater if Fort Benning was hit by a bomb equivalent to the largest nuclear test ever in 1961. The circle of devastation would stretch from Hamilton to nearly Eufaula, and from Ellaville nearly to Tuskegee. It's scary to think a nuclear bomb would match the signal strength of WXTX.

A much more personal scary item comes from the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery. Its annual report on "hate groups" came out Thursday, and Columbus happens to have one. Yet for some reason, the local Yellow Pages lacks a listing for Hate Groups. And the closest thing to hatred under "Associations" might be the National Catfishing Association.

The Southern Poverty Law Center found a branch of the "European-American Unity and Rights Organization" in Columbus. EURO is connected with former Louisiana state lawmaker David Duke -- but it seems so conservative, I doubt any member would admit using the euro currency.

The Columbus contact listed at the EURO web site only has an e-mail address and a post office box. He's NOT listed in the phone book -- so perhaps civil rights organizations found out about him well before the Southern Poverty Law Center did.

The report on hate groups also shows Georgia and Alabama each have more of them than New York. Alabama is said to have the second-highest concentration of hate groups, compared with state population. But of course, Auburn sports fans would consider any University of Alabama booster club to be a hate group....

If all this isn't enough, there's the bizarre story of an Alabama undertaker. Harold Watson Sr. of Gadsden is accused of keeping a dead body in the back of a hearse - for weeks. I never realized funeral homes had "busy seasons," where customers can be forgotten.

Gadsden police say Edna Woods died two years ago, and her family never paid for her funeral expenses. So Harold Watson Sr. reportedly put Woods's body in a hearse, and kept it there. I've heard of "cold storage," but this is ridiculous....

Harold Watson Sr. now faces a felony charge of "corpse abuse." I didn't know there was a criminal charge like that. Countless Alabama football fans may be guilty of that, when they bring up some former head coaches.

So there you have it - three reasons to be concerned about where our society is headed, especially in this part of the U.S. And did you notice I never even brought up Thursday's report on the Georgia unemployment rate?

-> Was it a "bad beat" or simply bad thinking? Learn what happened during our Thursday poker night at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

BLOG UPDATE: Carmike Cinemas presents another 3-D movie special tonight. For two weeks the Hollywood Connection 15 will show a concert featuring The Jonas Brothers. If one of them blows a kiss at the audience, half the girls actually will feel it on their cheeks.

Now for other items (hopefully less frightening) from the Thursday news:

+ Russell County Sheriff's Officers announced the discovery of large amounts of stolen farm equipment, from at least three counties. No one has been arrested in this case - but the thieves had better remember: nothing runs like a Deere.

+ Columbus city employee Larry Taylor won $6,000 in a Georgia Lottery game. So there's one pension the city can freeze, to save a little money....

+ The "Georgia Thespian Conference" for high school students began at the Columbus State RiverPark campus. From what I saw during an afternoon jog downtown, everything is going well - and no church groups have embarrassed themselves by showing up with picket signs about lesbians.

+ WRBL's 11:00 p.m. newscast had a strange twist - as the digital channel had practically no audio, while the analog channel did. Someone in a control room must have hit the wrong "big switch."

+ Barbour County's boys bombarded R.C. Hatch 55-40 to win the Alabama 2-A basketball title. Coach Raymond White noted afterward when his team lost in the finals the last two years, the community reaction was "like you lost the war." At least he didn't mention any parents sneaking into Russell County to enroll their children.

(Later in the evening, Loachapoka won the Class A boys' basketball title. Some bright music student ought to create a song and dance celebrating this win - you know, a Loacha-Polka.)

+ The Alabama High School Activities Association fined Valley High School $2,500 for the playoff brawl in Montgomery. Each player on the team was fined $300 - so their next cell phone upgrade could be delayed about three months.

+ Instant Message to Arby's restaurants: C'mon, admit it - you've surrendered. The chain which was founded on an alternative sandwich is now selling "roast burgers"?!?! Burger King still hasn't stooped to selling roast beef sandwiches....

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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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

26 FEB 09: It Ain't Dead Yet

A mother finds a school library book embedded with profanities, and a school district committee rules it can stay. So much for the Muscogee County School Board engaging in spring cleaning....

The decision to reject a parent's appeal and keep a grade school library book came Wednesday from the "Media Committee" of Muscogee County schools. How long have they had this committee? And why isn't it explaining to reporters how nice the new administration building will be?

Wednesday's discussion started when Shirley Waller's nine-year-old daughter brought a book home from the Reese Road Elementary School library. It was a novel set in the Revolutionary War called "My Brother Sam is Dead." These days, grade schoolers might face a computer version of this - "My Brother Sim is Dead."

It wasn't the dead brother in the book which stunned Shirley Waller. She says she found at least 19 profanities in the text - and apparently none of them were scribbled inside by smart-aleck sixth-graders.

On the surface, Shirley Waller's argument seems logical. She says profane words are not allowed in Muscogee County schools, so they shouldn't be allowed in school library books. While we're at it, school cafeterias probably need to put some radio stations on a six-second tape delay during lunch....

But members of the Media Committee were unimpressed. They noted "My Brother Sam is Dead" is a well-written novel, which has won awards. So? They once gave the Academy Award for Best Picture to an X-rated movie.

The Media Committee added it's never banned a single book from Muscogee County schools. That may be true. But some of us remember when Guy Sims was Superintendent, and he ordered a small "touch-up" of textbooks showing the classic portrait of "Washington Crossing the Delaware." It's still the only time I've ever heard George Washington and "cover-up" used in the same sentence.

The evening news dared to show parts of the novel which Shirley Waller considered objectionable. They're certainly words I would never use. But I have some news which may stun Waller again - those words also are in the King James Bible, which is probably in school libraries as well.

Some familiar arguments come up, when a parent complains about this sort of book. Critics say profanity is everywhere, including television and the movies. It's the "everybody's doing it" argument - yet parents are supposed to teach their children to reject that argument when it comes to illegal drugs.

Others say families can set their own language rules - but those rules about morality should be kept in the home, not imposed on others. Those people must not have lost their homes in the last six months, to greedy loan companies making false promises.

I admittedly haven't read "My Brother Sam is Dead" - but I would ask if those 19 profane words are absolutely necessary to tell the story. If they're not, what's the point of including them? Are some schools daring to add them to spelling bees as well?

This debate actually marked the first time I'd heard of "My Brother Sam is Dead." Yet it ranked among the most challenged library books of the last decade, not far below the Harry Potter books. When ARE they planning to make the movie version of "Heather Has Two Mommies," anyway?

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. See what we mean at "On the Flop!" <--

BLOG UPDATE: We received some old-fashioned "snail mail" the other day, from an anonymous writer who doesn't think much of that new Phenix City partnership with Troy University....

Economic development pursuits began in in earnest with Phenix 2000 over 15 to 20 years ago (city subsidized), with little or no success

We are currently signed on with economic development efforts with the Phenix-Russell Chamber of Commerce. With regardss to this the Mayor takes extravagant trips with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, in what has amounted to "no results".

We are currently under contractual agreement with the Valley Partnership in an effort to secure industry.

Our previous council contracted with a firm to identify areas (commercial, retail), that we need to cultivate in the name of economic development. We have paid for this.

We have, by contract, engaged the services of numerous firms (some excellent) with no positive results.

The most recent agreement with Jack Hawkins of the "worldwide" Troy University campus further confuses me. We have subsidized Troy to the tune of 2 million dollars for the purpose of purchasing property which will be non-revenue producing sources for the city of Phenix City, Alabama.

Our August mayor makes reference to this as a global economic development partnership. We currently cannot even compete in a state development competition.

Furthermore we are providing Hawkins with city office space to the tune of $35,000. to$100,000. per year

Furthermore, we will be provided the services of one Judson Edwards of Hawkins staff. Please accept my apologies if I am wrong, but could this be the same indivual who previously served as Director of Economic Development for the City of Phenix City with absolutely no positive results.

Coulters, comments "this partnership pools our talents and resources to attract retail, commercial and industrial development to our city and community. We anticipate this partnership will become a model for cities throughout our great state to follow.This statement I find to be "truly shocking" when we remember that this is the same "little mayor" who endorsed and promoted the multi million dollar purchase of a industrial park with soils determined to be sub-standard or conducive for development.

Summarily, it appears that the poor people of Phenix City will continue to be the victims of "misdirected or incapable leadership." It appears that the destiny and future of the people of Phenix City is in the hands of three people, George Jones, Jack Hawkins and Sonny Coulter. Maybe Sonny can get a job out of this, he has never been able to hold a "real job.

At least Phenix City officials are trying to diversify. They'll keep cutting deals until they find one which really works.

But I'd stop short of concluding nothing positive has come from all the development partnerships. What about that chicken processing plant which opened in Phenix City a couple of years ago? If it wasn't for that, KFC might not have started a value menu the other day.

Our writer appears to be right about Dr. Judson Edwards. He left Phenix City economic development five years ago, to lead a Master's degree program at the University of Southern Mississippi. Edwards then went to Troy, where he's teaching a course in microeconomics this semester. So maybe micro-growth is all you should expect in the months to come.

Mayor Sonny Coulter may have been off-base in the location of the Phenix Industrial Park - but remember something here. Soil problems also have delayed the Streetscape project on Broad Street, and a different mayor promoted that one. Plenty of politicians seem to be brilliant, until you get below skin deep.

Isn't it stunning to know George Jones helps to control the future of Phenix City? He must have been handed that great responsibility from fellow country singer Freddy Hart....

Now as George Jones might sing, "The Race is On" to finish blogging. Here's what else made news Wednesday:

+ WLTZ interviewed Columbus NAACP President Bill Madison about the national organization's 100th anniversary. Madison probably surprised all the viewers by NOT issuing a new complaint against anybody.

+ Richard Hyatt's web site reported Muscogee County Superintendent Susan Andrews has decided NOT to hire an assistant. This proves the Republicans were right after all - because federal stimulus money will NOT save that job.

+ Opelika High School teacher Betty Love was acquitted in municipal court of choking a student. That old phrase is proven true again - Love conquers all.

(In fact, Love's attorney claims the accusing student led to Love being injured by pinning her hand against a desk. You can try all you want to avoid a spanking, but it simply won't work.)

+ WRBL revealed Smiths Station High School has called off classes today, so students can watch the girls' basketball team play in the state semifinals at Birmingham. So why isn't Phenix City Central doing this for the boys team? Central High isn't THAT much closer to Peachtree Mall.

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) featured the Auburn men mystifying Mississippi 77-64. The Tigers are now 18-10, and dreaming of possible post-season play. But it has to be difficult for the players to dream of being like the Auburn women's team.

+ Instant Message to Lee McCard: What do you mean, WBOJ-FM "103.7 The Truth" is "the station everyone can agree on?" Not if you work with a bunch of atheists....

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation 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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

25 FEB 09: Fat Chances

Tuesday night should have shown us all how serious President Obama is about turning the economy around. You simply don't schedule a national address on a night which postpones "American Idol," because your popularity in the polls is bound to plummet....

But President Obama's address to Congress had unusual timing for another reason. He spoke on the night of Mardi Gras. So if the President offered any words of hope for rebuilding New Orleans, most of the city never heard him. And the Louisiana Governor who spoke later didn't pass the speech on to another Republican -- which may prove he's running for President in 2012.

The Columbus area is a four-hour drive from the Gulf Coast, yet that didn't stop a few Mardi Gras celebrations from taking place. One place may have come as a big surprise -- as St. Patrick's School in Phenix City had a party. Were the children too restless this year to hold on until St. Patrick's Day?

WRBL showed the Mardi Gras party at St. Patrick's, which had colorful beads and a small outdoor parade. But then again, maybe I shouldn't have been surprised by this. The New Orleans football team IS called the Saints, after all....

Why is it that some of the most noteworthy Mardi Gras celebrations in the Columbus area are connected to churches? St. Luke United Methodist downtown has held one for years, as its "Wednesday night supper" before Ash Wednesday. At least this year, the church is focusing on the book of Romans - as in the Roman Catholics.

The church celebrations of Mardi Gras seem odd, since the Lenten season begins today - with 40 days of self-denial, self-reflection and repentance for some Christians. But maybe it's all a sneaky plot. Maybe the people who attend these churches are such "goody two-shoes" that they need something to feel guilty about.

Downtown Columbus bars did their best to keep up, by holding a combined Mardi Gras "pub crawl" Tuesday night. But from what I saw on the late-night news, not many people were outside celebrating on Broadway. The bead throwing and wild dancing apparently was confined to the clubs near Fort Benning.

But the RiverCenter is well behind the curve this year -- as its "Mardi Gras Mambo" concert starring the Neville Brothers doesn't happen until Thursday night. The staff might have thought Columbus residents wouldn't know better. But maybe not - as they're now selling upper-level tickets two-for-one.

Given all of this, I hope I didn't commit a big sin Tuesday. I went to International House of Pancakes and joined their "National Pancake Day" celebration benefitting Children's Miracle Network. But it was still "Fat Tuesday," which my church tradition considers unbiblical and practically wrong. You're supposed to save the "fat things" for fall - and I don't mean football season.

Since I grew up in Kansas, I know all about the annual Shrove Tuesday pancake race in the city of Liberal. Why IHOP never has opened a restaurant in that city, I have no idea. Maybe the executives are, you know, too conservative....

But I followed an old church phrase in making Tuesday's decision to get free pancakes at IHOP. A thing by itself isn't necessarily wrong - it's all about how the thing is used. I ate the pancakes I was given, instead of flipping them on my plate while running down Airport Thruway.

As I arrived at the Airport Thruway IHOP, some woman walked to a car wearing a nice crown on her head. I don't think it was Miss Georgia - but I told her if pageant queens can eat at that restaurant, the food must be good.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. See what we mean at "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Speaking of party time, our Monday topic clearly pushed one reader's button....


RE: Hollywood Brawl......since you mentioned it, What in the $*!! are your friends at WTVM thinking? Did Ms. Taylor skip Journalism 101? You know, where you present BOTH sides of a story?

A. What kind of "parent" encourages their teen to attend a "pajama party"?

B. Why did the reporter make no effort to get a comment from the Columbus Police Department? Hollywood Connection?

Good Grief! Everybody knows folks drop their kids off unattended and then fail to return so our local police get to babysit every weekend. One may never know the facts watching the Newsleader.

And one more thing Mister! Why should we be "thankful the party wasn't on Victory drive"? I've had some fine parties on Victory Drive, fully clothed thank you very much!


As I understand it, the TV reporter tried to get a comment from police and Hollywood Connection managers - but neither wanted to provide one. And neither party qualifies as the sort of big-time celebrity which gets hounded by TMZ.

The parents who left their teens at Hollywood Connection last weekend apparently felt confident the Back Door club would provide adequate supervision and security. My Mom and Dad used to do that with me, for junior high school "Teen Town" dances years ago. Maybe the difference is that none of them required you to wear pajamas.

I'm glad RW has staged wonderful parties on Victory Drive. But really now - would you want teenagers strolling that road on a Saturday night? There have been times when I've been approached by (ahem) unseemly people there, in the middle of a weekday afternoon [17 Feb 05].

The party slows down only a little, as we review some other items from Tuesday's news....

+ Columbus Council held a second public hearing on changing the "300-foot rule" for serving alcohol in restaurants near parks and churches. Councilor Skip Henderson says police have no problem with the change. It's the convenience factor, really - get drunk at the restaurant, then stagger to church and pray about it.

+ WLTZ's top story on the evening news (for some reason) was the historic Ma Rainey house. Curators say it had about 1,500 visitors last year -- which is amazing, since they didn't have a third annual "grand opening" event to boost the numbers.

+ Outgoing Muscogee County Republican Chair Josh McKoon revealed he's thinking about running for Georgia Secretary of State. I hate to break the news to him, but there's hardly any parkland around those state office buildings in downtown Atlanta.

+ The evening news reported some of Georgia's federal stimulus money could be used to upgrade the Interstate 185 gate to Fort Benning. That's funny - I thought that project had been underway for years. Who paid for all the construction before now? Were SOA Watch protesters fined that much?

+ A trip down Veterans Parkway revealed "Fat Boys Farmers Market" will reopen this weekend, under new management. The fact that it didn't open on "Fat Tuesday" indicates to me the new owners watch their weight a lot better.

+ Loachapoka and Barbour County advanced teams to the Alabama high school basketball final round. The Barbour boys blew away a team from Sand Rock -- which apparently acted more like the former than the latter.

SCHEDULED THURSDAY: A complaint about Phenix City development....

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation 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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

24 FEB 09: He Makes the Save

A table was set up at the Columbus Government Center Monday, with people offering piggy banks - and the piggy banks looked very small. That's the way to remind Mayor Wetherington to prepare a tight budget....

But seriously: The Muscogee County Extension Service set up the table to promote "America Saves Week." I know some people who would laugh at that name right now. They're the ones who saved money in a 401(k) plan, and have watched much of it disappear since last September.

The extension service wants people to start a saving habit this week, then set aside a little money each week for future plans. It could be for a trip. It could be to make a down payment on a car. And it could be the 50 dollars your neighborhood bank needs to avoid nationalization.

The official web site for America Saves Week shows all Alabama extension offices are taking part. The only one in Georgia is listed as "Columbus County." Well, it's not "America Learns Geography Week...."

The official web site explains the goal of America Saves Week is to "build wealth, not debt." Yet the list of "participating government agencies" includes several federal offices which don't seem to follow that example. So should I do what they say, or follow the lead of what they do?

The concept of saving money isn't bad at all. Perhaps your grade school was like mine, offering a U.S. savings bond program. You paid 25 or 50 cents each week, received stamps in a book - and when the stamp total reached $18.75, you received a $25 bond. I never asked where that other $6.25 came from. Given that big stimulus plan, maybe I should have.

But given what's happened to financial markets in the last six months, the idea of saving for the future suddenly seems -- well, maybe not foolish. Let's say it seems quaint. If you do it, you should do it the old-fashioned tried-and-true way - with dollar bills under a mattress, or a jar buried in the backyard.

Retirement plans such as the 401(k) are designed to encourage saving, by making it "painless" with pre-check deposits. But then the quarterly statements come in the mail - and somehow you have a pain in the wallet over money you've never really seen before.

(Besides, people in the church congregation I attend keep talking about how President Obama might order all retirement plans folded into Social Security. But then, this makes an assumption - that in a year or two, their retirement plans will have any money left.)

But at the other extreme, many people have gone on spending sprees and run up huge credit card debts. They're busy paying interest on the debts, and don't think they can save at all. Some "card games" can cost you much more than an evening at the poker table....

One way to save money is to look for freebies and discounts anywhere you can. As it happens, several are in play right now -- so we're happy to mark America Saves Week by sharing them:

+ Today is "National Pancake Day," and International House of Pancakes restaurants are offering a free plate for everyone. In return, you're asked to make a donation to the Children's Miracle Network. Save money or save lives -- hmmmm?!?!

+ Thanks to the Ledger-Enquirer's web site, I learned Monday that Quiznos is giving away one million free submarine sandwiches right now. In return, you'll probably get on the restaurant chain's e-mail list - and get inundated with reasons why the "five-dollar foot-long" is worn out and dead wrong.

+ The current Publix "Italian Sale" includes a sweepstakes where you can win $10,000 in supermarket gift cards. Hopefully the Internal Revenue Service office on Macon Road won't mind if I hand over a few next February at tax time....

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. See what we mean at "On the Flop!" <--

BLOG UPDATE: It was "mete-out Monday" in a couple of Columbus locations - as in meting out punishment for weekend brawls. Police announced five people were arrested for the weekend pajama party/fight at Hollywood Connection. Which is strange, because normally"five for fighting" is reserved for hockey games....

But what's this I'm hearing about Columbus Police not even preparing a report on the Hollywood Connection fight until Monday morning? Officers may have hoped cooler heads among the teenagers would prevail - but instead some parents blew their tops, and complained on TV.

The other brawl to be resolved Monday involved the Columbus Cottonmouths. Two players received five-game suspensions for the Friday night fight against Twin City. One of them is backup goalkeeper Chad Rycroft, who raced into the risk from outside. And given all the padding goalies wear, "race in" is a bit like a yak racing across a muddy farm.

Cottonmouths Coach Jerome Bechard also was suspended by the Southern Professional Hockey League. It's a two-game suspension (one already served) for not controlling his players. Somehow he missed that moment of instruction from former Coach Bruce Garber.

Now let's settle down like good girls and boys, for a review of other Monday headlines:

+ Aflac announced chief executive Dan Amos will do without his annual bonus, of $2.8 million. You'll notice unlike last year, Amos didn't dare take it to the shareholders for a vote.

+ WRBL reported Columbus's Ed DuBose has been named to the NAACP national board. Wow - now he'll get to compare eggplant-shaded suits with some of the nicest ones in the country.

+ The new Russell County Government Center opened in the old Mead WestVaco building on Broad Street. For some reason, there was NO grand opening celebration where court documents were tossed in the air like confetti.

+ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution announced it will begin combining its business section with the front section of news, and combine some separate Sunday sections as well. Take that, you scoffers! The Ledger-Enquirer turns out to be ahead of its time.

+ Instant Message to the Cannon Brew Pub on Broadway: Congratulations! I didn't realize until Monday night that this month marks your tenth anniversary. So do you plan to let everyone know - you know, by actually firing a cannon?

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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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

23 FEB 09: Pugilists in Pajamas

What's going on here? First there was a brawl at a high school basketball playoff game. Now we hear about battles at a Saturday night teen party. Did some movie channel have an "Oscar week" showing"West Side Story" and "Fight Club"?

The latest skirmish developed over the weekend at Hollywood Connection. Police were called to a "pajama party" when several fights were reported, both inside and outside the building. It's supposed to be a lock-in, not a lock-up....

Several parents say fights broke out inside the "Back Door" teen club, then spilled into the parking lot. Is it possible that gangs make pajamas in their special colors?

The parents claim police were called, and The Back Door ended the party early. Trouble was, it was supposed to end at midnight -- so many teens had nowhere to go, while waiting for parents to pick them up. Young people walking along Whittlesey Road in their pajamas?! Let's all be thankful this party wasn't on Victory Drive.

One parent said Sunday the managers of The Back Door were more concerned about clearing out their parking lot, than making sure the teenagers were safe. That's one way to look at it. The other way could be that managers were more concerned about getting arrested themselves for violating police orders, or encouraging teens to break the late-night curfew.

The Sunday evening news didn't say if any teenagers were arrested for the fighting at The Back Door. But why should they be? No one apparently was arrested at the Valley-Montgomery Carver basketball game the other day -- not to mention that brawl involving the Cottonmouths in North Carolina.

There's part of me that wants to give The Back Door a little credit. It tried to offer teenagers something fun to do on a weekend -- at least the 99 percent of teenagers who don't know how to ride a skateboard at that new park in South Commons.

And there's part of me that's thankful the pajama party didn't get farther out of hand. Let's face it: it's hard to hide a weapon in a pair of pajamas. If someone had a robe with pockets on top of them, that might have been different.

But two incidents like this in a six-day span show -- well, they show some teenagers are much like teenagers were decades ago. There used to be "rumbles" in the alley, or so I've been told. Now they're out in the open, where surveillance cameras can identify them - which may mean the teens long ago were smarter.

The Phenix City Library tried to offer its form of an alternative Sunday, by debuting a "Tween and Teen Area." Trouble was, the guest authors shown on TV didn't look very young to me -- and the sparse crowd didn't seem to include teenagers. Maybe they were finishing weekend homework, before Sunday night cruising time....

The main Columbus Library offers an area for teenagers on Friday afternoons promising "music, games and fun." But that ends when the library closes at 6:00 p.m. After that, teens are expected to go home, eat dinner and sleep until sunrise.

Now for other Sunday items which might interest all ages:

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported Columbus State University and Columbus Technical College may start an education partnership. You'll notice this is one college merger State Senator Seth Harp conveniently has NOT suggested - one that could eliminate jobs in his own district.

+ The Columbus Civic Center held the first-ever all-star indoor football game for area high school players. For some players, this had to be a dream come true. They could finally do indoors what their parents told them not to do in the basement when they were six.

+ Instant Message to the Columbus Times: About that ad on page 4 - the city government ad that says, "We salute the accomplishments of African Americans" right above a large picture of Mayor Jim Wetherington. Do you know something about his background nobody else does?

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation 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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

22 FEB 09: Saturday Night Specials?

They say Saturday is the busiest shopping day of the week. For years, I've tried my best to balance things out - shopping for groceries on Friday or Sundays. Yeah, this Sabbath-keeping stuff is serious. I'm only stopping for a bag of ice if the Presiding Elder calls in advance, and says the punch bowl needs it.

But I hopped in the car after my Saturday evening twilight run, to visit a couple of stores in the Wynnton/Macon Road corridor. After 7:00 p.m., the crowds seem to go away. Of course, this could be due to wild rumors about criminals swarming around the parking lots.

The first stop was Walgreens, at the east end of 13th Street. A couple of special offers lured me there, but both turned out to be disappointments. There were half-gallons of milk on sale for $1.79 - but the fat-free containers had Sunday expiration dates. For a single guy, this is a problem. For that mother of 14 in southern California, it's probably not.

(No, I will NOT refer to that mother with that "Octo-" label. That is a demeaning title for a woman facing a very big challenge - and it makes her sound like a character in a Superman comic book.)

I stepped up the ladder, and bought a half-gallon of one-percent milk with a later expiration date. Well, I think it's milk. The label says it's "Nutrish," with added A and B vitamins. The scoffers who claimed pasteurization and added vitamin D ruined milk must have all died.

But even more disturbing was a coupon in the Walgreens weekly ad, offering two "Big Rolls" of toilet paper for a dollar. Those rolls were all gone - as if fans from Auburn snatched them all, to celebrate winning another Southeastern Conference swimming title.

The man behind the checkout counter told me of a substitution - four-packs of Big Rolls for two dollars. Trouble was, they were gone as well. How desperate have people become in a recession, when all that's left in the toilet paper aisle is high-priced Charmin?

I decided to wait until another day for bathroom tissue, and rolled on to the second stop. Publix has become my normal place to buy postage stamps. If the post office added a bakery offering "first-class donuts," this might change....

The current Publix ad gave me special reason to stop - as a box of three-dozen "assorted" bakery cookies is on sale for $3.59. But trouble developed here as well, when I picked up a box filled with chocolate chip cookies and took it to the checkout line. No, the 36 cookies were NOT ruled to be above the "ten items or less" boundary.

The register showed my chocolate chip cookie package costing $5.09. Then again, so did the price sticker on the package. So I asked about the weekly ad, and the checkout person was puzzled when she pulled it out of a drawer. Doesn't "assorted" cookies mean any package of three dozen? The chips are down -- like everything else, right?

The checkout person walked over to a manager for a ruling. So I turned to the people waiting behind me in line, and sounded like a National Football League referee. "Customer is challenging the ruling on the field that the cookies should cost $5.09, when the ad says $3.59. We will have a review." No, those people did NOT wait for the timeout to end. Maybe if I'd added an echo effect....

In a moment, the checkout person hurried back with an explanation. The special offer on "assorted" cookies was only for cookies assorted INSIDE the box. I'd have to get the package with 12 chocolate chip cookies, 12 sugar cookies and 12 oatmeal raisin cookies. Come to think of it, that IS a more culturally diverse choice.

Instead of putting up a fuss, I accepted this decision and walked back to the Publix bakery section. Only one of the assorted cookie packages remained -- which at least was one better than Walgreens. And for once, I could "man up" and endure eating sugar cookies before getting to the good stuff.

After all of this, you may be wondering whatever happened to an old phrase - "the customer is always right." Not on this night, I wasn't. I didn't ask for a Walgreens coupon rain check, and I didn't demand my chocolate chip cookies get a $1.50 discount. Instead, I accepted the fact that other customers and store rules came first. One of these days, my long losing streak will end....

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. See what we mean at "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: A news release Saturday marked a change in Columbus politics. We're only posting the top part of it...

Josh McKoon, 29 year old Columbus attorney, announced today to Muscogee County Republican Party members that he will not stand for election to another term for Chairman.

McKoon has formerly served as Chairman of the Muscogee County Young Republicans, as National Committeeman from the State of Georgia to the Young Republican National Federation and as Secretary of the Muscogee County Republican Party....

Yet I doubt we've heard the last of McKoon. Why, he's probably already reserved a bulldozer to begin scraping up asphalt behind the Columbus Public Library for that park.

Josh McKoon also is active with the nonpartisan Common Cause of Columbus. Could this explain why he's leaving the top position in the Muscogee County Republican Party - because he discovered some Democratic ideas actually make some sense?

Another reader noted our e-mail editing policy, which was stated Friday:

For future reference always correct my grammatical errors. Plese. :^O


All right, then. There probably should be a comma after "reference." And since you didn't ask me to correct your spelling.... well, you know....

Now to a busy weekend of interesting news:

+ Columbus Police arrested two employees of the Pyramid Food Mart on Buena Vista Road. Officers say they found video slot machines hidden in a back room. If this is true, this was a generous idea - to let people win back the money they spent on four-dollar per-gallon gasoline.

+ Kodak opened a new production line at its imaging plate factory in Columbus. The company promises to add 50 local workers by mid-year, even though it recently announced an 18-percent reduction in its worldwide workforce. Leave it to Kodak to develop something from a "negative."

+ Aflac stock dropped to nearly 15 dollars, before rallying to $17.01. The company's stock value has dropped by nearly two-thirds since the year began - so it's no wonder the Aflac tower didn't have the "A" and "L" letters on the east side lit Saturday night. [True!]

+ Phenix City officials signed an economic development partnership deal with Troy University. Troy's experts will help recruit more shopping centers and restaurants to town. Shouldn't they start by filling the unused spaces in the current shopping centers? The abandoned Winn-Dixie store on U.S. 280 hasn't even been claimed for a nightclub.

+ Phenix City's new ordinance took effect banning smoking in most public places. Smoking in your car is still allowed - since city workers won't be able to tell that smoke apart from the steam of frustrated drivers on Broad Street.

+ The "Vision '09" worship weekend at the Columbus Civic Center concluded with a concert by the band Mercy Me. If only they'd change one letter in that name - then they could be sponsored by "MyChurch" and "My Mechanic."

+ Columbus native Bebo Norman was nominated for a Dove Award, for Best Christian Pop/Contemporary Album. If he doesn't win the award in April, at least he can enjoy the Dove chocolates in that gift basket.

+ A Thomas County, Georgia emergency supervisor was placed on leave, because alerts were never sounded before a tornado struck Wednesday night. That supervisor obviously cared about the local residents -- because he didn't dare interrupt "American Idol."

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths lost 6-5 in overtime to Twin City. The Snakes played with Coach Jerome Bechard and four players suspended, after a lengthy bench-clearing brawl Friday night. When you wear pink jerseys at a men's hockey game, some would say you're asking for trouble....

(The intermissions were extra-long during Saturday night's game in Winston-Salem, so Twin City could stage its "Miss Cyclone" pageant. I assume any woman with missing teeth had an extra advantage.)

+ Roundball Saturday Night (tm) found Louisiana State's men stopping Auburn 79-72 to clinch the Southeastern Conference Western Division. Auburn radio announcer Rod Bramblett declared the officiating was poor on both sides - which is "fair and balanced" on the level of Sean Hannity discussing President Obama.

+ The Phenix City Central boys and Smiths Station girls advanced to the Alabama state high school basketball semifinals. Both 6-A semifinal rounds will have teams from Bob Jones High School of Madison - so we assume the men and ladies will ride segregated buses, to avoid any ungodly teenage hand-holding.

+ Instant Message to Clark Howard: Our best wishes as you deal with prostate cancer. But we're a bit surprised - because we know how you love to save money, so we figured you'd use frequent flier miles to buy cheap supplements in Mexico.

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation 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: 1,407 (- 157, 10.0%)

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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

20 FEB 09: Open InBox Friday

It's been a long and challenging week for me. Nothing much in the news thrilled me Thursday. So we're waving the white flag today, and letting your e- mails rule the discussion. In fact, you can tell how uninspired I am when I borrow titles from Rush Limbaugh.

Your blog has been all over the "social blog" feud of the last week. Today we hear from two leading names in all of this, beginning with the one who broke away:

Richard, This is a letter I sent out to all our members regarding your blog of columbus posting regarding

Please be sure to add this as a comment to your blog.



Over the past few days we have heard about an all out Social Blog Civil War.

This site was not created in the image of another. We created this site to give people another option, another venue to enjoy and be entertained.

IntownColumbus has done a great job of bringing in people with different views and different ideas. But we are not IntownColumbus. We are ColumbusGeorgia. And we want our members to not feel they are restrained from certain topics. Now I have seen where others have said that this a mistake to not put restraints and limitations on subject matters. But you see, that is where we differ. We don't restrain our folks from being themselves and speaking from their hearts.

For so many people out there, they have to adhere to a certain stereotype or ideology to be accepted in life, but not here. We believe in individuality and we respect everyones opinion.

I am not going to debate ITC or any other site for my reasoning on allowing all topics of discussion. But when someone will not let you get your word in, then they are hindering the voice of the people and that is something I will not do.

But of course we have rules like any other site. No profanity and No personal attacks on others. We can agree to disagree. That's the beauty of being an American, where every voice is unique in its own way and we want to hear them.

Change has only occurred when people went against the status quo and only by making your voices heard, can change ever come about. When you limit those voices, you restrain Change. And isn't that what America is all about, Changing for the better idea? I think so, and I hope you do to.

I want to thank each of you for joining our site and becoming a member and inviting others to join. We are not at war with anyone. We just want to be ourselves without people restraining that effort by deletion of discussions or remarks. We want to hear your unique view and we want to know what it is that you think.

We don't care what side of the tracks you came from, what race you are, what sexual orientation you prefer, what God you worship, We just care about you. Again, thank you for the strong support I have seen with our new members and thank you for helping make this site a success. People on IntownColumbus want to thank Abe for making that site a success, when in fact its the members who make it a success. I haven't done anything but give you the tools to make your site the best ever in Columbus. I will not take credit for this sites rapid success. That glory goes to you, the members, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for helping this site grow and succeed.

So Speak Out and Invite Many. 65 members as of today and we are less than a week old. I am so proud of all YOUR hard work to ensure the people of Columbus have a choice for their entertainment needs.

God Bless You All,

Your Humber Site Creator


For the record: this blog did NOT call it a "civil war." We realize how offensive that phrase is to some readers - but we couldn't really call this a "war between the states," because both S-blogs are in the same city.

A check of the Columbus, Georgia S-blog Thursday night left me a bit confused. At first Simon announced certain leaders of InTown Columbus would be barred from his site. Now that restriction seems to be gone. Perhaps private peace talks were held in the last few days -- using Twitter, no doubt.

The Columbus, Georgia S-blog certainly appears to be diverse. There's now a "Jesus Group" for Christians, as well as an "LGBT Book Group." I'm assuming that abbreviation does NOT mean Large Books for Tables.

As for Abe: he noticed something we wrote Wednesday....

REALLY enjoyed your blog post yesterday Richard ...

This comes from "Abe," one of the masterminds behind InTown Columbus. What we wrote Sunday hasn't really been discussed there. Instead, there's talk of two additional new social blogs with "Columbus, Georgia" in their names. At least no one has gone all the way and named one Columbus, Kansas.

Mastermind? I'll take that as a compliment Richard ... let's get one thing straight ... you're a blogger and I'm a sblogger (host for lack of a better word) and I admire your work. I do appreciate you mentioning ITC on your blog. Some of our best contributors found us as a result of you hyperlinking ITC .... Richard Hyatt has done the same with his blog and we've also been mentioned in the Ledger ... I credit each outlet as a major part of whatever success we've had .... keep up the good work ... OMT, can you check my spelling and grammar should your publish this comment on your blog? ;-)

Yes, a "mastermind" can be a compliment. If you're playing that old table game, it is. If I was talking about a leader of North Korea, that might be different.

Don't worry, Abe -- we always check the spelling and grammar of the people who write us. We normally don't correct it, but we check it....

It's our policy to post e-mails "as is," unless they contain something which is profane, obviously personal or likely to inspire a lawsuit. Our readers are on their honor to check their work before they submit it -- you know, a bit like those English papers in middle school.

And speaking of spelling....


Why is it that no one but you at wtvm, uses spell check...... here's a perfect example..


News school schedule: A week off for Thanksgiving

Posted: Feb 18, 2009 12:15 PM

Updated: Feb 18, 2009 12:15 PM

New = News : when the h**k did writers become so lazy and not spell check...

I know that you are by far, the best writer at that station.

Keep up the good work on the blog.

thank you for your time.


Timothy's making an assumption here -- that I always use SpellCheck. Sometimes when I'm a hurry, I don't. And SpellCheck can't help you when you make my most common mistake - leaving key words completely out of the items we .

But come to think of it, that headline might not be completely wrong. Maybe Shaw High School is expanding its morning newscast, and becoming a journalism magnet. The quality of their football teams might drop, but it could happen.

We've also heard from an Ohio blogger who received a link here Wednesday. He wants to make something perfectly clear....

I'm not calling for nor organizing a tax protest. I have no desire to see the inside of a federal prison.

I'm just saying the possibilities are there. After all the revolution started primarily as a tax revolt.

Now now - you don't have to go to prison simply for protesting taxes. Mayor Jim Wetherington has yet to organize a roundup of everyone who voted against the public safety sales tax last year. I think some people are waiting for it, but it hasn't happened yet.

The item we linked predicted "you may see a wide movement of tax resistors, organized or unorganized...." For a long time, it appeared the organized movement was called the Republican Party.

Thanks to all of you who read this blog and write to us! Now for some quick thoughts from the Thursday news....

+ Hardaway High School began a two-day shutdown, so some underground pipes could be replaced. This seems to be a growing problem in Muscogee County schools -- but at least we know something is older than the textbooks.

+ Phenix City attorney Tommy Worthy told WRBL he's organizing a campaign to turn the old Phenix Regional Hospital into a Veterans Administration medical center. Worthy seems to be overlooking something here. Many veterans who receive health care in Tuskegee can take a short side trip to Victoryland.

+ Bruno's announced it will close ten underperforming Alabama supermarkets, including the one in Auburn. The efforts to expand TigerTown about five miles to include it apparently were unsuccessful.

(I used to shop at Bruno's in Atlanta, then at its FoodMax store in Phenix City. Now both are gone - and when the Russell County Commission doesn't want to use your store for office space, that's a bad sign for your company.)

+ Indianapolis Colts linebacker Philip Wheeler returned home to Columbus, and appeared at Key Elementary School. But Wheeler admitted to WRBL the students booed, when he mentioned playing college ball at Georgia Tech. The efforts to promote "One Columbus" need to start at an early age.

+ Jeff Francoeur signed a contract renewal to play baseball in Atlanta. He gets a one-year deal worth $3.4 million - after spending part of last season in class AA minor league ball?! I keep waiting for Democrats in Congress to call a hearing on such obvious overspending....

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation 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: 1,564 (+ 27, 1.8%)

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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

19 FEB 09: Suddenly No Susan

Columbus High School students dealt with their second surprise in as many days Wednesday. For some of them, they had to be heartbreaking. But for others, they probably are no big deal - you know, the ones who are focused on the start of baseball season.

The first surprise came at Tuesday night's Muscogee County School Board, when Columbus High Principal Susan Bryant announced she would leave at the end of next week. If you didn't know better, you might think Bryant was joining Phyllis Jones from Rigdon Road Elementary on a "Ya-Ya Sisterhood" retirement tour.

But then came Wednesday, and the second surprise. Susan Bryant has lost her educator's certificate for a year, in a settlement with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. It's nice to know a high school principal can make a deal like this. I doubt any of the Valley High School basketball players will have that privilege.

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission actually announced its decision on Susan Bryant last week. But to look at the minutes of the Commission's meetings, you would never know her case was scheduled. Matters are listed by case numbers, not names or even school districts. This has all the "transparency" of a bottle of black cherry soda.

The investigative report on Susan Bryant never even mentions her name. It only refers to her as a "high school principal." I suppose this is done to avoid any appearance of bias. But it can make cases nearly impossible for parents to follow, unless they have a case number. At least they could put the number on a board, and have the teacher pose for a mug shot.

The investigative report revealed someone complained to Susan Bryant as far back as 1998, about "sexual misconduct" involving male teachers at Columbus High School. One teacher was found sharing lunch with a female student in a classroom, and once "their ankles were touching." Only one small step away from a dangerous game of footsie....

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission report confirms Columbus Police once obtained a warrant to arrest Susan Bryant, for not reporting improper sexual contact by a teacher. But she escaped arrest, because the statute of limitations for the charge had expired. Bryant apparently ran out the clock better than Columbus High football teams did.

But the Georgia Professional Standards Commission found two violations by Susan Bryant, and that led to the one-year suspension of her teaching certificate. We don't know what Bryant plans to do in the coming year. Is Dr. John Phillips hiring any staff members for his educational consulting business?

While that issue appears to be settled, there's no word of a decision yet in the ethics investigation of Phyllis Jones. I probably should call Atlanta and ask about her case number. The Susan Bryant case shows when it comes to Georgia government, that's about the only way you can keep up with the Joneses.

BLOG UPDATE: Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street? I couldn't find it on my over-the-air TV set Wednesday. And.... well, uhhh.... it's not like I actually wanted to watch Sesame Street. I'm among those who think Guy Smiley really is everybody's favorite game show host, but....

But anyway: GPB made its "Big Switch" to digital television around midnight Tuesday night. WJSP-TV's engineers actually did it at about 11:58 p.m., before Ray Charles could sing "Georgia on My Mind" one last time in analog. It's like some of the staff members are Alabama natives or something.

Trouble is, in my corner of Columbus the switch meant no public television at all. If WJSP really is operating at a higher digital power from Warm Springs, should it be visible 35 miles away where I live? Back in the analog days, the signal was hit-and-miss at times -- and you can't hit the TV set when it's missing anymore.

"Scan, scan and re-scan," advised the GPB web site Wednesday. I did, did and did it again. But it was all without success. So today's episode of "Sesame Street" should be brought to you by the letter D - as in digital, and disappeared.

So we had to go to other media sources to find these Wednesday stories....

+ Severe weather moved across the Columbus area, with several tornado warnings. The rainstorms came in spurts at my house, and their timing was superb for me -- rain at four, run at five.

+ Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley told WRBL he wants all video gambling games banned. Jolley says the games can be addictive -- but he admits according to some convenience store owners, few people play them. So it would be a bit like banning fruit juice sales in those stores....

+ Phenix City Central advanced in the Alabama boys' basketball playoffs by downing Daphne 47-45. The Daphne men wore not only purple uniforms, but purple-tinted hair. Not even Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers has to resort to that.

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) saw Auburn ambush Georgia 71-59. The Tigers jumped out to a 38-9 first-half lead. But the Bulldogs rallied to within five in the second half -- almost as if Tommy Tuberville had taken a seat on the Auburn bench.

SCHEDULED FRIDAY: A day of e-mail catch-up....

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation 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: 1,537 (+ 15, 1.0%)

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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

18 FEB 09: A Stimulating Discussion

He hasn't been President one month yet, but Barack Obama already is leaving plenty of "buzz words" in the U.S. language. Take what he signed into law Tuesday - a "stimulus" bill. For several years, about the only time that word came up was when an Olympic athlete was disqualified.

A major critic of the President's stimulus plan came to Phenix City Tuesday -- and stunned some people by saying nice things about it. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama has been all over national talk shows, finding fault with the bill. But of course, Shelby realizes when he's in a majority-Democrat county....

Sen. Richard Shelby admitted the massive stimulus plan will provide money for "infrastructure" projects, such as bridges and road construction. But that doesn't mean everyone is going to be happy with those projects. I assume Shelby drove down Broad Street to reach Phenix City Hall....

To be honest, Sen. Richard Shelby had to support the infrastructure part of the stimulus bill. Shelby has gained a reputation for bringing plenty of "pork- barrel" spending to Alabama. All the catfish research at Auburn University couldn't keep a baseball team with that name in Columbus.

While he sees some benefits from the stimulus plan, Sen. Richard Shelby still is unconvinced it will turn the U.S. economy around. He believes the "free market" approach works best - and we've all seen how well it worked for Bernard Madoff.

(Sen. Shelby added, "No one's read the bill." To which I would ask: why didn't he? The text has been available online for people to read -- although admittedly Ann Coulter's books have more attractive covers.)

Other area Republicans in Congress were less kind about the stimulus plan. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland said it lacks money to develop small businesses. Yeah - what about giving us the Better Literacy Online Grant? You know, the BLOG.

The new White House "recovery" web site was quick with details about how our area will benefit from the stimulus plan. A breakdown was issued by Congressional district, with 159,000 jobs in Georgia and Alabama which will be "created or saved." Now hold on here - they're counting "saved" jobs?! Usually saves only count in hockey games and Baptist churches.

At least there's one section of the stimulus plan for ordinary taxpayers like you and me - a 13-dollar tax credit every pay period, which could begin as soon as March. Some Republicans are dismissing that as no big help. Hopefully they aren't the same Republicans who put down lottery games as "get rich quick" schemes.

The skeptics say President Obama's stimulus plan is flawed. They say it will reduce our standard of living forever - and a few are even dropping hints someone should start a national tax protest. As long as conservative radio talk show hosts get their big checks, that seems unlikely to happen....

But Tuesday night I reached for a notebook, showing where my investments stood after the 1987 stock market crash. Things looked grim for our economy then, and I thought about pulling my money out. Yet my grand total today is ten times greater than it was then. If history repeats itself, in 22 years I may be ready to bid on a foreclosed Green Island Hills mansion.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. See what we mean at "On the Flop!" <--

BLOG UPDATE: The end came suddenly, with no fanfare at all. WLTZ had barely begun "Everybody Loves Raymond" Tuesday at midday when the analog transmitter was shut off, making its "Big Switch" official. At least it happened after "The 700 Club," so no viewers would think digital television is a Satanic plot.

We had an early writing deadline Tuesday night, so we can't comment on how well the GPB stations' digital switch went. If it went well, WJSP-28 will appear with three digital channels. If it didn't go well, Columbus area lawmakers should come home from Atlanta since we can't monitor them anymore.

GPB executive John Olive explained running nine analog transmitters across Georgia for four more months would cost about $400,000. That computes to about $11,000 per station per month, which is almost twice as much as WLTZ was spending. This is why it pays to have a commercial station - because you can pay about half your bills through advertising.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our coverage of the battling S-Blogs Sunday brought this comment....

Check out '15 FEB 09: InTown Out of Bounds?'

I REALLY enjoyed your blog post yesterday Richard ...

This comes from "Abe," one of the masterminds behind InTown Columbus. What we wrote Sunday hasn't really been discussed there. Instead, there's talk of two additional new social blogs with "Columbus, Georgia" in their names. At least no one has gone all the way and named one Columbus, Kansas.

We also heard from someone Tuesday about the big U-turn crackdown:

Not long after reading the about police making arrest on Macon Rd in front of McDonald's for U turns I saw it for myself..There were 2 motorcycle units pulling people over..I'm not opposed to giving tickets if you break the law..However,I think doing 75 mph on 185 at the Macon Rd to J.R.Allen parkway where posted speed is 55 might be a wee more worthy of a ticket.Perhaps doing 85 on J.R.Allen is a little risky also. If we are short of police,which I know we are,then why not put them in the most needed areas for traffic violations.

But there's a small problem with this logic. The people getting pulled over on the freeway think car thieves are a wee more worthy of police time -- or burglars, or anybody else but them.

The good news is that Columbus Police are hiring those 100 new officers. So before long, we'll have enough people to watch both Macon Road intersections and J.R. Allen Parkway speeders. Maybe then drivers will hang up their cell phones, set their cruise controls at a proper speed, and thank Mayor Wetherington for how much safer they feel.

So what else happened Tuesday? Here are a few things....

+ Phenix City's mayor presented proclamations and "keys to the city" to several African-American pioneers. Original police officer John Allen showed WRBL he still has his badge from the 1960s. This shows how times have changed - since the current outgoing police chief almost had to surrender his.

+ Georgia lawmakers staged a "Peanut Power Hour" at the state Capitol, to show peanuts are safe to eat. To avoid any doubt in consumer minds, this was scheduled several days after the special events for firefighters and school nurses.

+ GPB's "Lawmakers" reported at least one Georgia college graduate with a physics degree has had trouble getting work in schools, because that person is considered "too smart to teach." You'd think schools would want that, to balance out the other extreme - the teachers who are too sexy.

+ The boys' high school basketball playoff game between Valley and Montgomery Carver was stopped early, when a brawl broke out on the court and spread into the stands. The chances of Alabama ever starting a high school hockey tournament are now practically zero.

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation 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: 1,522 (+ 28, 1.9%)

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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

17 FEB 09: The Return of Indy's

If you're going to have 15 of something, you might as well use one of them to try something new, experimental and different. Well, let me hedge that a bit. Unless you're that mother of octuplets in California....

The Carmike 15 at Hollywood Connection plans to try something new. We found out about it from Monday's e-mail:

Hello. I am contacting you regarding a movie entitled Remarkable Power! which will screen in Columbus from March 2 -- 7, 2009. An independent comedy-mystery starring Kevin Nealon & Tom Arnold, amongst others, the movie is headlining the Independent Film Series presented by Carmike Cinemas. A press release, press kit and one-sheet are attached for your review.

Naturally, I'm trying to generate some publicity; a write-up, or ideally a review. If you'd like to take a look at the movie prior to its public exhibition, I'd be happy to send a copy. Thank you kindly for the consideration and please drop me a line at your convenience.


Scott Sampila


The story for me isn't really Scott Sampila's movie - it's the place where it will be shown. Carmike is showing a series of independent films?! Didn't it learn anything from last year's "world premiere" of a horror film set at a bowling alley?

A news release sent with this e-mail says the Carmike 15 plans to show an Independent Film Series for 12 weeks. The fact that "Remarkable Power" will premiere on a Monday is independent enough. The producers must figure movie fans will see all the big-name movies on Friday through Sunday, then decide none of them are worth seeing again.

The web site for the Independent Film Series has announced only the first six weeks of movies. They range from family comedies to political films about obesity. Please don't hurt the feelings of our lawmakers in Washington, by calling them "fatcats."

It appears all the independent movies have one thing in common - a distribution company in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. You can only make so many movies about college students on spring break and beach bikers, you know....

But anyway: this series is surprising to me, because I've never heard of Carmike Cinemas doing this sort of thing before. Until now, Columbus residents had to settle for one-night film festivals at the museum, a series at the university -- or maybe a couple of cars parked along Cusseta Road on select weekends.

. Perhaps we're entering a new age at Carmike Cinemas, where executives are willing to take some chances. Or perhaps ticket sales have dropped to a point where they have nothing to lose. Come to think of it, that April movie about obesity might come with higher prices for popcorn.

Carmike Cinemas also continues to try a couple of three-dimensional movie stunts. They showed part of N.B.A. All-Star Weekend in 3-D. And a Jonas Brothers concert will be shown that way next week - since 11-year-old girls usually don't think it's a bad fashion statement to put on funny glasses.

There's also news today about a different kind of independent arts project. Former Columbus author Cilla McCain says her book "Murder in Baker Company" on the Richard Davis murder case should be released next fall. A publishing house in Chicago is behind it - which probably will start rumors of a conspiracy between McCain and the Obama administration.

BLOG UPDATE: D-Day has arrived for two Columbus TV stations -- as in DTV. WLTZ plans to make the "Big Switch" to digital television around 12:00 noon. I can't wait to see if they'll have a memorial service for analog, with Calvin Floyd and Al Fleming giving eulogies.

WLTZ NBC-38 news revealed Monday night that by turning off the analog signal four months early, the station will save about $6,000 per month in electricity. This afternoon may be the perfect moment for Stefanie Tiso to ask for a raise.

The GPB stations across Georgia will make the Big Switch together, sometime after midnight. They're promising to broadcast at higher power - and they'd better, or over-the-air viewers in Columbus may not be able to pick up WJSP-TV 28 from Warm Springs. A fuzzy analog picture of Elmo on "Sesame Street" is still nice and fuzzy.

Meanwhile, WRBL had to resort to Phil Scoggins presenting both news and weather at 11:00 p.m. Monday night. When this station loses its analog signal in June, where will those extra thousands of dollars in savings go? For a third meteorologist - or a five-minute newscast on weekends?

Now for some other selected short subjects from Presidents' Day:

+ Who went across several parking spaces between the Columbus Civic Center and McClung Memorial Stadium, and marked them with the number 54? Does Jason Dennis really need groupies like this?

+ Columbus Police arrested the owner of a home on Buena Vista Road where a shooting occurred over the weekend. He's charged with "maintaining a disorderly home." If police can arrest you for this, I can't start spring cleaning soon enough.

(Officers say not only was the house used as a nightclub on weekends -- it's also a hair salon. This smells like a racket to me. Put color on by day, then sweat it off dancing by night.)

+ State Senator Ted Little handed out several grant checks at the Phenix City Central Activities Center. The Alabama state budget allocates money for every lawmaker to give to various causes - and then Richard Shelby complains about that big stimulus bill?!

+ Instant Message to St. Louis Blues radio announcer Kelly Chase: Thanks for the funniest sports line I've heard in a long time. I mean, how you described that lengthy second-period fight Monday night - as an "old-fashioned Saturday night punch-in-the-face contest in Saskatchewan."

SONG OF THE DAY: Several Columbus drivers were caught breaking the law Monday, as they made an illegal U-turn in the middle of Macon Road near Cross Country Plaza. This new traffic sign needs some promotion - and we think the mayor is the perfect person to do it.

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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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

16 FEB 09: Take Me to Your Leaders

Happy Presidents' Day to you. I had to check a calendar to make sure I put the apostrophe in the right place. We're celebrating more than one President today - but of course, some Democrats have been celebrating one particular President non-stop for about a month.

We mentioned recently that a Russell County Commissioner has proposed renaming Broad Street in Phenix City "Barack Obama Parkway." Ronnie Reed may not realize what sort of local precedent this would set. For one thing, Russell County hasn't gotten around to naming anything after Don Siegelman....

Have you ever tried searching around the Columbus area for tributes to our U.S. presidents? I did several years ago, and was stunned to find there aren't very many. For instance, you're more likely to find signs in Columbus mentioning Ben Carter than Jimmy Carter - as in the company overseeing Columbus Park Crossing.

I've lived in cities where the street map can be a refresher course to the order of our early presidents. There's Washington Street, followed by Adams and Jefferson and Madison and so on. Streets with those names are short and scattered in Columbus - and I somehow suspect Adams Park Drive isn't named after either John or John Quincy.

In fact, a check of Google Maps finds the names of Presidents James Madison, James Monroe and James Polk still are available for the taking in Columbus. So is William McKinley - and I think it's a safe name to use, since he was President after the Civil War ended.

That could well be the reason why you don't see more streets named after U.S. Presidents in Columbus. This is the "Center of the Sunbelt South," after all -- an area where Lee County and Lee Roads dominate. It's an area where someone mentioning "Jefferson" is still more likely to hear "Davis" in response....

A review of the Columbus city map in the Yellowbook directory shows one recently-built subdivision may have attempted to correct this. It extends from Northstar Drive to the Fort Benning boundary. You'll find Cleveland Street, Eisenhower Avenue, Jefferson Drive, Kennedy Street - and "Pierson Drive" may be there because a Canadian native moved in.

Not even Muscogee County schools have done much to honor our presidents. The only one with a presidential name is Johnson Elementary, but it was named for former school board member Nunnally Johnson. I can't wait to see the creation of a district-wide "Fife Whiteside and Drum Corps."

The Fort Benning schools run by the Army aren't much better. Only one out of seven schools has a presidential name - and it's not Woodrow Wilson Elementary, but Private First Class Richard Wilson. Imagine what might happen if someone suggests naming a new "base realignment" school after former President Clinton....

Strange as it may seem, you're more likely to find a school in the Columbus area named after the "Virgin Mary" than George Washington. People moving here from faraway places might conclude Catholic missionaries founded the city, only to be overrun by Southern Baptists.

So if you're looking for a good way to celebrate Presidents' Day, your best option may be a drive to the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains. While Columbus is closing schools, this is NOT a holiday for city workers - or even for 12-month school employees. The only celebration they'll have is a trip to Presidents' Day sales on their lunch hours.

Now for some quick notes from Sunday's "national holiday of the South" - which as we all know was the running of the Daytona 500:

+ Columbus Police reported a shooting on Buena Vista Road. The location was described as a house, "which turns into a nightclub on the weekends." I can think of some college fraternity houses which fit that description much better....

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported Rabbi Thomas Friedman will retire from Temple Israel in August, and leave the ministry. He's certainly giving plenty of notice - and sacrificing a potentially fun summer of "Borscht belt" theater in the Catskills.

+ The Georgia State Board of Funeral Service fined Leonard's Funeral Home in Talbotton $200. Part of the fine was for not attaching an identification tag to a dead body. It's probably still wrong to take the old Doctors Hospital approach, and identify the body with a blue marker pen.

+ Instant Message to my family: Mom's old bright yellow Sunbeam hand mixer finally may have died the other day. I was mixing batter to prepare a luscious chocolate chip pound cake for a church dinner, when I smelled something unusual - which could explain the cake's smoked flavor.

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© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

15 FEB 09: InTown Out of Bounds?

An online invitation? That's nothing unusual. But three invitations in three days, to join the same web site? Now that's unusual. And none of them are offering millions of British pounds from a lottery drawing....

A feud is erupting this weekend in the cyber-world of Columbus social groups. We base this on the following two e-mails:

Tired of all the egomania drama of these other local "SBLOGS"? Well, join a drama free environment, where you are free to talk about any topic at any length. No Banning and No Limiting Your Speech....

Nothing is forbidden on this site as long as you treat everyone with respect. All topics are allowed. It started last night and already has 16 members. Advertizing is free.

Egomania drama?! In Columbus? I thought that only happened at school board meetings....

If you're not familiar with the term, an "S-Blog" is a local version of Myspace or Facebook -- with blogging, chats, picture-sharing and more. InTown Columbus has offered this sort of social blogging since last June. A check Saturday night showed it has almost 800 members -- although I have to admit that man from St. Charles, Illinois smells like an interloper to me.

But based on our InBox, there's a revolt under way against InTown Columbus. Our top link leads to the new "Columbus, Georgia" social blog -- where the creator named "Simon" claims ITC has banned some members, while "limiting speech." The Ledger-Enquirer probably hears that complaint all the time, because "Sound Off" has a two-sentence limit.

One person who says he's been banned from InTown Columbus is a local political/AIDS activist. Jeremy Hobbs writes on the Columbus, Georgia blog he's not sure why he was banned, but he's "not a play by the rules kind of guy." Announce you're running against Red McDaniel for Columbus Council, then back out and support him for re-election, and you'll get that reputation.

Other newcomers write at the Columbus, Georgia S-Blog they've been banned from InTown Columbus simply for joining the new group. You'd think people on the Internet would improve on the social graces of church splits....

Simon promises the Columbus, Georgia S-Blog will "believe in freedom of speech," with no worries about being banned. Yet it already has a blog post with the title: "Any ITC Administration Will Be Banned." Isn't this a little like leaving the oppressive dictatorship of North Korea to set up one in Cuba?

Simon explains in that blog post he's barring InTown Columbus administrators because "they will only work to destroy the harmony of this group...." In other words, don't interrupt our grumbling about you by trying to set the record straight.

As of Saturday night the Columbus, Georgia S-Blog had 25 members. The most familiar name on the list is Fife Whiteside, the former Muscogee County School Board member. There's also a misspelled name of Richard Hyatt - yet his mysterious "columnist" Mirabeau B. Lamar still is an InTown Columbus member. Wow, maybe they ARE two different people.

So what does InTown Columbus have to say about this breakaway? If there's a response, I couldn't find one. But I noticed a November explanation of the S-Blog's "no personal attacks" policy. Did someone on that new S-Blog go too far, and declare someone's mother wears Army boots?

A close look at the two groups' current forum topics suggests we could have a classic political division here. InTown Columbus has plenty of Republican conservative topics. Columbus, Georgia has one challenging fundamental views of the Bible. Not to mention the home page picture, suggesting Columbus could use a few new skyscrapers.

You may recall the ultimatum this blog received two weeks ago from an InTown Columbus member [1 Feb]. Given what's happened this weekend, I'm now looking like a stinkin' genius. I'm glad I didn't join - and I plan to stay neutral in this blog battle. At least until the bidding war starts for "free agents" like me....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our InBox also has a comment about local sports coverage....

Perhaps I'm just being sensitive,but I think it is in poor taste to refer to the two young athletics at a local high school as the "twin towers."..I think those words together have been retired out of respect for the thousands who died there and a sad time in US history.

This apparently refers to a Thursday headline in the Ledger-Enquirer: "Northside's Twin Towers Take Over." Of course, some are hoping they win a state basketball title in March - to prove some towers can keep standing, no matter what the opposition.

The phrase "Twin Towers" was used in basketball well before 11 September 01. They referred to Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson, two seven-foot-tall stars with the Houston Rockets. Olajuwon won N.B.A. titles. Sampson's career faded, but his son now plays college ball for Tubby Smith at Minnesota. At six-foot-11, Ralph Sampson III is Daddy's little boy.

But "Twin Towers" still is a widely-used phrase in Georgia state government. They refer to two tall state office buildings near the Capitol. That sounds more honorable than calling one of those structures by its other name - the "Sloppy Floyd Building." [True!]

And this disclosure by e-mail came as a big surprise:

Richard, A friend called me a couple of weeks ago to tell me about a new drive-in movie theater being built in Salem, AL. I listened but frankly I didn't believe it. Then yesterday I received my copy of The Citizen of East Alabama in the mail and there it was (a photo of the new drive-in on page B1). For you and your readers info it opens this weekend. Of course I realize that some of your readers are probably too young to remember drive-in theaters. They might want to visit to see how us old folks (when we were young) used to watch movies before VHS, DVDs, computers,etc.

The online version of The Citizen doesn't have this story -- but I'm old enough to remember drive-in movies. You actually stopped the car to watch them, as opposed to "drive-through" lanes at restaurants.

The drive-in theatres in Kansas City operated year-round, by offering customers "in-car heaters" during the winter. Who knows how many teenage couples on dates turned them down, and (ahem) produced their own heat on a weekend like this one?

This announcement prompts an idea - why don't Sonic Drive-Ins offer movie screens, while you wait for your order? The servers are so slow some evenings that you could watch a full-length Bugs Bunny cartoon before the meal comes out.

Thanks for all your comments! Now let's see what else is worth discussing this weekend....

+ Muscogee County Sheriff's Deputy Linda Warren was suspended without pay. She's blamed for running a red light and causing a crash downtown last week, on her way home from work. But look on the bright side - she could have jumped out with a drawn gun and stumbled.

+ Muscogee County eighth-grade students had "magnet exam day," as they applied for various high schools. The smartest teenagers may wind up at Columbus High. But the ones with the best chance at college scholarships may wind up at Carver High - you know, the football and basketball players.

+ An official with the Humane Society of the U.S. visited the main Columbus library, to discuss key bills in the Georgia legislature. One of them would ban cockfighting across the state - which would make Michael Vick's time in a halfway house a lot more challenging.

+ National Public Radio interviewed a retired Auburn University history professor about efforts to rewrite the Alabama Constitution. Wayne Flynt noted the state document is 40 times longer than the U.S. Constitution, and has more than 700 amendments. So? Think about how many attorneys it's kept in business in Montgomery.

+ An Ohatchee, Alabama recycling center received a crate containing a 15-foot-long missile. Some conservative must have misunderstood - he's supposed to wait for President Obama to order the confiscation of all weapons.

+ The Associated Press reported Birmingham-Southern College students took a course in which they toured 18 barbecue restaurants in six states. If that's not sad enough, the students were NOT required to take a physical education course to work off the extra pounds.

(The barbecue tour included Byron's Smoke House in Auburn, but did NOT stop in Columbus. Talk about an insult! Just because Country's dares to serve a beef platter along with pork....)

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths humbled Huntsville 3-2 in overtime, after starting the extra period with a two-man disadvantage. For a change, the Huntsville crowd had no one to boo except its own team.

+ Instant Message to all local NASCAR fans: I hope you're praying for nice weather today. No, not at the Daytona 500 - around here, so severe weather warnings don't interrupt the race again.

SCHEDULED MONDAY: President's Day in Columbus.... assuming we can find any....

Today's main topic was the result of blog readers' tips. 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.

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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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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