Monday, November 23, 2009

23 NOV 09: SOA-What?

It was a chilly, cloudy and rainy Sunday - perfect for staying indoors and watching football games. The people who ventured outside again showed a north-south Columbus divide. People who live here in the South went to "Fantasy in Lights" at Callaway Gardens. People from up north went to the Fort Benning gates for a protest.

The web site of SOA Watch played things close to the vest Sunday night - reporting only that "thousands" of protesters showed up outside the Fort Benning main gate. In prior years, we would have seen a more precise number. Does that mean the turnout was down this year? Or do organizers realize they don't have to compete with God Bless Fort Benning anymore?

In prior years, SOA Watch regularly updated its web site as the big protest unfolded. But that apparently didn't happen Sunday -- and its unofficial Twitter feed has been updated only once since early September. It doesn't help your reputation as "lazy liberals" when you can't type a 140-character message once in a while.

SOA Watch reports four protesters crossed the Army's line, and were arrested for illegally entering Fort Benning. On Friday and Saturday, they could have gone to the headquarters of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation without any penalty. That'll teach them to get absorbed with that double-overtime Notre Dame football game.

(The four accused line-crossers are scheduled to appear in federal court today. I don't want to tell these suspects what to do - but they might to stop by St. Luke United Methodist Church first, to find some character witnesses.)

Columbus Police Captain J.D. Hawk told WXTX "News at Ten" there also were a few tense moments Saturday, where officers had to warn protesters to stay in line. You may have brought the giant puppets, but police still know how to pull some strings.

The WHINSEC staff went ahead with its annual open house, answering questions from the protesters. That frankly surprised me, considering what happened at Fort Hood and last week's discovery of a threatening note in a Fort Benning box. Did guards at the gates check the wooden crosses, to make sure the ends weren't sharpened?

One member of the WHINSEC question panel was a graduate from the old School of the Americas. Linda Gould said some SOA Watch protesters are simply college students "getting extra credit for a sociology course...." This makes you wonder why the organizers of God Bless Fort Benning didn't offer extra credit to ROTC units.

(SOA Watch refuses to change its name, even though the School of the Americas is history. I think it's because the protesters are having trouble developing a protest phrase for WHINSEC -- such as "Western Hemisphere Institute for Shootings, Executions and Choking.")

While downtown Columbus's troop-loving event was moved away from SOA Watch weekend this year, a group based in Pennsylvania made up for it. That group bused in people to hold a demonstration on Broadway Friday afternoon. I'm not sure what they did after that. Perhaps the bus moved on to casinos in Biloxi.

There's speculation the big crowd of protesters for SOA Watch weekend might diminish, as related seminars on social causes are moved out of Columbus. But that would hurt the local economy, as busloads of protesters no longer stay in motels. And this was about the only weekend of the year when Ruth Ann's Restaurant was open for Saturday night dinner.

As the SOA Watch protesters leave town, have you ever wondered what happens to the wooden crosses with names on them - the ones left on the Fort Benning fence? Someone told me a couple of years ago they're simply thrown away. At least the Army has enough sense not to burn crosses in public in the South.

By the way, the SOA Watch web site reports the organization has been nominated for next year's Nobel Peace Prize. Aw, c'mon! The day that happens is the day Taylor Swift is named "Artist of the Year" over Michael Jackson, and that day will never.... oh wait....

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: With unemployment in Georgia and Alabama reaching record highs, we were tipped off Sunday to this....

I just heard from a friend on Long Island that there are help wanted signs in half the stores there..She said people there can't understand why people don't want to work

The explanation may lie in the fact that "stores" are seeking workers. Retail stores increasingly want someone with sales experience -- and applicants often have to pass lengthy questionnaires, to see if they're right for the job. Choose the "pass the problem on to a manager" option too often, and the manager may pass on you.

Maybe this reader's tip explains our top item from the other weekend news:

+ WTVM reporter Greg Funderburg announced online that he will leave the station in mid-December. He did NOT disclose where he's going. But for some reason, his last day is a Friday - and not a "Get Movin' Monday."

+ Mayor Jim Wetherington told the Ledger-Enquirer he expects Columbus Council to approve funding for the Office of Crime Prevention at Tuesday night's meeting. Maybe Frank Myers's lawsuit against The Courier was a warning shot for some people....

+ GPB News reported the Georgia Pre-Kindergarten program wants to begin teaching all four-year-olds mandarin Chinese. If you weren't concerned about China holding all that U.S. Treasury debt before....

+ The Atlanta Falcons fell in overtime to the New York Jersey Giants 34-31. The Falcons' record has dropped to 5-5, and the Fox telecast reminded viewers that Atlanta never has had back-to-back winning seasons. So? There's no better way to keep a team from becoming overconfident.

+ Instant Message to the driver of a four-by-four in downtown Columbus with the license plate "LEVEL80": I thought the Masonic Lodge was more secretive than that....

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: The jokes for today have concluded, but you're welcome to read on for personal reflections on another local news item.)

BUT SERIOUSLY: It was stunning to learn Sunday of the death of Dr. Joseph Roberson. He was killed Saturday in a car crash in South Georgia -- only days after returning to Columbus, to testify in behalf of fellow United Methodist Mark Shelnutt. Hopefully local newspapers will avoid doing what a New York tabloid did the other day, and declare some kind of "Shelnutt curse."

Joseph Roberson gained a radio following as Pastor of South Columbus United Methodist Church, with the program "Getting on Top of Life." Then he went one step farther in 2004, and won a seat on the Muscogee County School Board. I attended a Sunday worship service Roberson pastored during the campaign [21 Jun 04] -- yet he never called me back to answer questions.

While Joseph Roberson was a church pastor, he was surprisingly skeptical of the efforts to offer "Bible Literature" classes in Muscogee County high schools. He wanted a panel of citizens to watch over the classes [19 Sep 06] - apparently to make sure teachers wouldn't turn into preachers. Roberson might have to spend time on Sunday correcting what students were taught Friday.

Joseph Roberson was satisfied with one term on the school board. He left last year, perhaps sensing a ministerial transfer was coming. He became a District Superintendent in south Georgia. May Roberson's family, friends and former congregation find comfort in the Scriptures, during a time of sudden loss.

COMING SOON: A reader challenges me to call a senior center....

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