Monday, August 10, 2009

10 AUG 09: Oy Oy, Sir

At first glance, the news seemed a bit surprising. The only place in the Columbus area which publicly displays a Hanukkah menorah plans to become more sensitive about Jewish matters. For starters, fundamentalist ministers must stop misspelling "synagogue" with an I.

The place which is becoming more sensitive about Jewish customs is Fort Benning. The weekend news reported it's in response to the beating of a soldier in basic training last year, after he complained of religious discrimination. I'm not sure there's ever a justifiable reason for a beating -- not even for cheering on Navy to win football games.

Last year's beating led to the dismissal of one soldier from the Army, and the disciplining of two drill sergeants. And it stemmed in part from the Jewish soldier wearing a yarmulke in a Fort Benning dining hall. You'd think by now, the Army would have issued one in a standard khaki color....

A senior chaplain at Fort Benning says commanders have made several adjustments in response to last year's beating, including a few still in progress:

+ Drill sergeants are taking religious diversity classes. Yes, there's a difference between the Torah and the World War II movie "Tora Tora Tora."

+ Jewish worship services on post soon will be held on Fridays. For years Jewish soldiers have been offered a Sunday chapel meeting, squeezed into the Christian worship schedule -- and this was before the Saturday night church services came along, to serve as an excuse.

+ Dining halls now offer kosher "meals ready to eat." Matzos fit a lot more easily into those little containers, you know.

In addition, Fort Benning plans to provide Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services on post in September. If WHINSEC students are allowed to have an event for Hispanic Heritage Month, this seems only fair -- and besides, no one's ever accused a Jewish U.S. soldier of being an Israeli spy.

(I didn't realize until now that Jewish soldiers were bused to a Columbus synagogue to keep the Fall holy days. It makes me wonder if there's a Hebrew or Yiddish way to say "hooah.")

Many Christian ministers are likely to accept Fort Benning's new tolerance for Jewish customs. But if this approach extends to Muslim soldiers, I suspect some of them will draw a line and protest. They'll bring up memories of 11 September, note how many Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan are terrorists - and somehow forget all about Timothy McVeigh.

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E-MAIL UPDATE: A big stack of messages has reached our InBox since Friday. We won't get to all of them today, but let's start with a long road trip we mentioned Friday - and no, it's not ours:

Hi Richard:

Why is Sanford Bishop in Iraq. I thought he was the Congressman for Georgia's second district not Baghdad. Doesn't he know that We the People would like to speak with him?


The purpose of this trip seems obvious to me. Rep. Sanford Bishop's district includes Fort Benning. Perhaps right now, it's safer to be surrounded by U.S. soldiers than people with no health insurance....

But don't worry, Congressman Bishop will be home soon. Another e-mail pointed that out:

Bishop to speak on health reform in local town hall meeting

The link goes to an Albany Herald article, about meetings there 20 August. A check of the Bishop web site shows he'll also have a hearing at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus 19 August -- close enough to Fort Benning so MP's can separate the health care reform supporters from the opponents.

On we go to education -- and the founder of the Better Way Foundation fears things are a little too quiet:

The SPLOST campaign must not end here.

People can vote early and you need to do some massive campaigning now, not wait to the week before.

Keep working. I don't care what you do, but don't give in now. We need to see an immediate media campaign.

Take us into the schools, show Carver and show why we need these new schools.

Show the number of Portables we currently house our children in.

These are the visuals that will get you votes of Yes.

Don't loose steam now. Prove to the public the need for this SPLOST.

Jeremy S Hobbs

The school sales tax supporters seem to be firing up the bandwagon now. There was a pro-SPLOST editorial on WTVM over the weekend. But supporters have to be careful not to push things too far. Pictures of large-eyed needy children might prompt donations to World Vision instead.

(Which reminds me: did you see Lee Brantley's WTVM editorial Sunday night? He's against the proposed city Crime Prevention Director. It's almost like the suggested script from the Chamber of Commerce arrived too late.)

With five weeks left before the school sales tax vote, where is the organized opposition? The usual suspects have been noticeably silent, such as Bert Coker and Paul Olson. Even previous SPLOST opponent Nathan Suber is keeping quiet -- as if he's waiting to run for the School Board next year as a tax-fighting populist.

Let's take one more e-mail about education, based on a Friday item:

Richard, I read your in your blog about the "smart boards" in the new Freshman Academy in Phenix City. Many months ago I visited an elementary school in Phenix City and the teacher demonstrated the use of the "smart board" to myself and another guest. I was very impressed. This teacher told us that every classroom in Phenix City has a "smart board". Just wanted to let you know that this equipment and technology is available for use in all classrooms in Phenix City and not just the new Freshman Academy.

Parents in many other districts probably are longing for smart boards. But in Russell County, some would demand a smart SCHOOL Board first.

Thanks to everyone for reading and writing - and now let's catch up on other news from the weekend:

+ Former assistant district attorney Stacey Jackson insisted he should NOT be disqualified from being the defense lawyer for Michael Registe. For one thing, consider the alternative - an attorney from the Caribbean with such a heavy Dutch accent, a jury will never understand him.

+ A Columbus attorney turned 60 by completing an unusual triathlon. Cecil Cheves ran 60 miles, rode a bicycle for 60 miles, then swam 60 laps around Lake Oliver. Talk about putting me to shame! I'm thankful nowadays when my car goes 60 miles without the speedometer giving out.

+ The Kia plant in West Point held a "big tent event" - promoting the company and giving away a car, but NOT offering public tours. If laid-off auto workers have time to disrupt health care reform hearings, who knows what they might do to a non-union factory.

+ The pre-season football coaches' poll by USA Today showed Alabama ranking higher in the top 25 than Georgia and Georgia Tech. Auburn wasn't ranked at all - and fans already are wondering if this fall on the Plains will be, well, plain.

+ Instant Message to the managers of Circle K stores: Did I hear your employee correctly? A big beverage in a Thirstbuster cup costs 79 cents - but if I bring that cup back for a refill, it costs me 89 cents?! Don't you want me to think environmentally? You know, like the lottery players who recycle the same numbers every day?

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! 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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