Monday, August 31, 2009

31 AUG 09: Back In or Move Out

We could have gone in several directions for a topic today -- but then a couple of e-mails arrived Sunday with a similar theme. They involve Columbus media, but you'll see they really deal with much more. Let's start with a free plug:

Just wanted to let you know that I have a new sports radio talk show called "The Drive" starting tomorrow morning. The show will be on from 6am-9am every Monday. We will be talking mainly about high school and college football, with some Braves and Falcons thrown in. Ya'll tune in and give me a buzz. I don't care if you give me a hard time, I just want to hear from some callers. Don't know the number yet, but you can also text or email me. Text at 7063297190 or email at

Catch us on 1460 or tune in online at

Craig S. Howard

This is the same Craig Howard who caused a fuss on a Cable TV of East Alabama talk show, by bringing up Phenix City Council pay. This new show beginning today will be similar -- only now he can bring up the pay of Mark Richt and Nick Saban.

The WHAL-AM "Fox Sports Radio 1460" web site didn't mention Craig Howard's new talk show Sunday night. Maybe Clear Channel managers aren't posting "The Drive" until they're sure WRLD-FM "95.3 the Ride" won't file a lawsuit.

(Speaking of WHAL's programming - did you know The Jim Rome Show has writers, who prepare some of his "rants?" I found help wanted ads online in recent weeks seeking a writer, and asking for sample rants. So Rome may not really be burning - it's his staff burning for a pay raise.)

Back in May, Craig Howard indicated to me he wanted a private family life while he sold billboard space. But then he started blogging for, and now he'll host a radio talk show. There must be something magnetic in those media microphones, which keeps pulling people back to them.

But while some people come back to the mike in Columbus, others are going away. That brings us to this e-mail, inspired by Sunday's topic:

Richard, Since you have worked for local television for years maybe you can explain to us viewers why reporters don't seem to stay long in Columbus. It seems that as soon as they learn to pronounce the names of local streets, schools, etc. they are gone. However, the on-air employees for WSFA in Montgomery never seem to change. What's the difference between Columbus and Montgomery? Just wondering

Hmmmm - I think the reason goes beyond the fact that Montgomery has a Costco store.

It's common practice in television and radio for on-air personalities to start in small "markets" or cities, and move on to larger ones. In most cases, the larger city offers more money and fame - but there are exceptions to that. My supervisor in Enid, Oklahoma radio years ago was shocked to learn he could easily top my salary in Kansas City. I wouldn't dare say every industry has its cheapskates....

It happens that the new national rankings of television markets came out a few days ago. It shows Columbus at #128, unchanged from a year ago. Base realignment could move the area up a few spots - so that explains why the local media are so happy to see NCR coming to town.

Laurie Bernstein is moving to Pensacola, Florida - which combines with Mobile to be among the top 75 TV markets. You may have wondered why many news reports make it sound like Pensacola moved across the state line....

(By the way, a source I tend to trust claims WRBL's Jennifer Serda is moving in a different direction. She's supposedly heading to Savannah, which is around #95 on the TV market list. Serda must not have seen that TV Guide Network series, about the news people there longing to move away.)

Montgomery's TV market ranking isn't far above Columbus, so I think other factors are at work here. Perhaps WSFA pays its staff members more - or the news team considers Montgomery a better city for settling down and bringing up a family. It's hard to believe, considering Montgomery doesn't have a pro hockey team.

To be honest, most TV reporters who come to Columbus dream of going to Atlanta or Birmingham for better pay or a more interesting atmosphere. But isn't that true with plenty of other local workers? We heard it about police officers in recent years. And even Mayor Jim Wetherington tried working in Atlanta for a while, before hurrying home to a Christian school.

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: Speaking of which -- our weekend InBox also had a suggestion from former Columbus police officer Brent Rollins:


Are you keeping count of how many Columbus Police Officers are getting arrested? Now you know the REAL reason Chief Boren fired make me look like I was an idiot. It's going to get worse.

OK, since you asked -- based on our unofficial blog archives, the arrest last week of Keith Levallee makes four Columbus Police officers handcuffed this year. They join one high-profile Columbus attorney and an assistant fire chief. But the good news that the mayor isn't talking about Fire Chief Jeff Meyer being "salvageable" anymore.

Mayor Jim Wetherington admitted on WDAK's "Viewpoint" last week that several of the 100 newly-hired law officers have "washed out" of the police academy. Host Mike Gaymon declared that a good thing, since those people won't get into trouble on the force. The bad news is that some of them could apply to become security guards at Peachtree Mall.

Let's take one more message, which goes back to Sunday's main topic in a way....

Lee county Alabama is a mess with the road signs

The Blue background signs are county roads and county maintianed.

The Green Background signs are NOT COUNTY APPROVED roads and NOT Maintained by the county ( even through they have a Lee Road number on them, for 911 purposes).

If a road sign has a Actual name on it - it is inside a City limit area .

As for the signs not at intersections, most in Alabama do want to be found ( we love wonderers, some make it out, some do not, -- ha ha ha )

Hmmmm -- why are people laying low in Lee County? Sooner or later, the people with secret meth labs will have to come out and visit a dentist....

Thanks to all of you who write us - and now let's check a few other weekend items:

+ An adviser to the "New Day Campaign" told the Ledger-Enquirer Muscogee County Superintendent Susan Andrews "will be the face of the campaign" for a school sales tax. Will be?! The three-week campaign already is one-fourth over. Andrews needs to put on some running shoes, and show the deficiencies at Kinnett Stadium.

+ WTVM showed 50 member of a Wynnton neighborhood group forming a "prayer wall" along Rigdon Road. The group prayed for an end to local crime -- and also prayed against litter. That litter prayer might be even tougher to answer. Should God make empty cans and bottles stick in people's hands, until they're around a garbage can?

+ Organizers of a mass home-building project in Lanett announced a section of U.S. 29 along the state line will be named the Millard Fuller Memorial Highway. I hope people don't get the wrong idea about this, and leave nails along the roadside.

+ Instant Message to Tedy Bruschi of the New England Patriots: I'm reading online that you'll retire today. Best wishes to you -- but do you realize what this means for many football fans? Drinking games based on your last name may never happen again.

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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 344 (- 14, 3.9%)

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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Sunday, August 30, 2009

30 AUG 09: She's Going WEAR

Sooner or later, Lee County simply must improve its road signs. Most of the Lee Road markers are NOT at intersections, and they're a mix of numbers instead of names. In some neighborhoods, the directions to some addresses probably double as the combination of locks.

Following a tricky set of directions led me to a farewell event in Lee County Saturday night. It was a going-away party for Laurie Bernstein, who left WTVM news Friday. Local TV viewers who turned to her after Bonnie Bernstein vanished from ESPN may be in a funk for weeks.

We caught Laurie Bernstein preparing margaritas for guests at her farewell party. But no, we did NOT drink any alcoholic beverages. We might have lost our way on the winding roads of Lee County, wound up out of gas in downtown Smiths Station -- and sit there stuck until the Sunday church services ended.

Laurie Bernstein (NOT related to Bonnie) came to Columbus two years ago, after working behind the scenes at one of the big TV stations in Washington. So perhaps it was no surprise when she became WTVM's "Political Reporter." Does that also explain why John McCain and Barack Obama avoided Columbus during last year's campaign?

Even though her title was Political Reporter, I saw NO local politicians at Laurie Bernstein's farewell party. Then-Mayor Bob Poydasheff showed up at the send-off for Ashley Nix three years ago [28 May 06]. But then again, this party was well outside Columbus - and Poydasheff was in an election year.

Another distinction Laurie Bernstein gained was being the only Jewish journalist in Columbus. She's moving on only three weeks before Rosh Hashanah - which means local rabbis might want to mail greeting cards to all the newsrooms in towns, reminding them there WILL be Rosh Hashanah.

People at the party stopped to watch live reports from a new WTVM reporter. Laura Ann Sills lived up to her promise, and walked on fiery coals at the "Midnight Express" Run in midtown Columbus. In fact, it looked so easy that we may have found a new attraction for the Greater Columbus Fair.

But back to Laurie Bernstein: she's moving from Columbus to Pensacola, Florida. She'll report for that city's big TV station, WEAR - and we sincerely hope the experience and the Gulf Coast humidity doesn't WEAR her out.

I've been to Pensacola a few times for church conventions, so I can give Laurie Bernstein a couple of tips on the territory....

+ The city itself is OK, but the real action is in a town across the bridge on the way to the beach. Gulf Breeze is famous for UFO sightings - which the police tend to miss, because they're too busy stopping speeders heading for the beach.

+ Pensacola Beach has some nice beachfront hotels. In fact, I had a first-floor room one year - and knew I was secure, because I shared the hotel with a police convention. Well, until the late-night parties started down the hallway from me....

+ Don't even think about trying to make some clever fast money from Pensacola's name. People there were ripping off Pepsi-Cola advertisements in T-shirts years ago.

So who will replace Laurie Bernstein at WTVM? Several sources tell your blog Roslyn Giles will be on the air this coming week -- changing stations after years at WRBL. Giles follows a path taken in recent years by Semone Doughton and Cheryl Morgan. Hmmmm -- Now I'm wondering when Phil Scoggins's current contract runs out.

With best wishes for all, let's check other weekend headlines:

+ Supporters of Mark MacPhail and Troy Davis held separate events at the Government Center. Davis was convicted of killing Columbus native MacPhail in Savannah 20 years ago. The Georgia NAACP claims seven of nine witnesses who accused Davis have recanted - so why didn't the other two show up at the pro-MacPhail event? Are they in hiding, to protect them from new evidence?

(NAACP leaders told the Ledger-Enquirer they would pray for the families of both Mark MacPhail and Troy Davis during the evening at Greater Shady Grove Baptist Church -- yet a sign outside the church said "NAACP Musical." I'm going to assume one of the songs was NOT "He Had It Comin'" from "Chicago.")

+ The bluegrass group Rhonda Vincent and The Rage performed at the Phenix City Amphitheatre. I keep waiting for a concert promoter to do the logical thing, and combine this group with Rage Against the Machine.

+ Northside knocked off Jordan 25-18 in high school football in overtime. The game was postponed a day and moved to A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium, because a bank of lights failed at Kinnett Stadium. Uh-oh -- Kinnett "upgrades" are part of the Muscogee County school sales tax project list. The anonymous conspiracy letters should be in the mail by Tuesday.

+ Instant Message to the new Cluckers Restaurant on First Avenue: Wow - I didn't think it was possible! I really can trade cash for Cluckers.

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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 358 (- 31, 8.0%)

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, August 28, 2009

28 AUG 09: Line Up to Get Shot

You're not supposed to call it the "swine flu" officially anymore, you know. The proper name is H-1-N-1. Yet a meeting at the Russell County Health Department Thursday included a large cartoon pig on a big screen. So which barbecue restaurant provided lunch?

Russell County officials huddled on how to respond to the spreading H-1-N-1 flu outbreak. The county has three confirmed cases so far. But so far, there's no plan to quarantine them in any vacant Hurtsboro stores.

A priority list was announced for which Russell County residents should receive the H-1-N-1 vaccine this fall. Johnny Burrell with the Health Department says the first target group is "children six to 24 years of age...." Now hold on a minute - since when were 24-year-olds considered children? Does Burrell run a rental car office in his spare time?

Russell County School Superintendent Yvette Richardson told WTVM parents will have "to give permission" for children to receive the H-1-N-1 vaccine. This was stunning, considering someone at an online poker room tried to convince me Thursday the federal government will order everyone to take the vaccine -- and lock you up in camps if you don't. But then again, poker players are known for bluffing once in a while.

(I was pointed to a web site which seems filled with conspiracy theories. It indicates the H-1-N-1 vaccine is more dangerous than the flu bug itself. Of course, this could change if the promoters find evidence that the government is controlling all hand sanitizer companies.)

The Russell County Health Department also plans to give top priority for the H-1-N-1 vaccine to first responders. This is understandable -- since sheriff's deputies will need protection from the weirdos who claim they're spitting the flu at law enforcement during arrests.

But there's one place where the Russell County Health Department is being officially ignored. The Phenix City Council approved a budget Thursday night with NO money for the department. Mayor Sonny Coulter explained it's a county-funded agency under state law. Besides, city folks have that nice new hospital - assuming it can stay open.

H-1-N-1 already has caused headaches at some east Alabama schools. Lyman Ward Military Academy in Camp Hill called off tonight's scheduled football game, because at least 11 players have come down with the flu. As if the Army would call off a military operation overseas for that reason....

The latest federal "FluView" report indicates Georgia has a regional outbreak of flu. Alabama has a less widespread "local" outbreak. And if your children have flu-like symptoms, officials urge you to keep them home from school - perhaps to play a swine flu version of "this little piggie."

Flu specialists with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say a White House warning that 90,000 people could die of H-1-N-1 in coming months is a worst-case prediction. We'll have to wait and see if they're right. In the meantime, I'll go grocery shopping today to see if there's been a run on bar soap.

BLOG UPDATE: Old-fashioned bureaucracy may be slowing repairs to the library roof at Chattahoochee Valley Community College. WLTZ reported Thursday the work at Owen Hall hasn't even started yet, because it's still in the bidding process. Maybe a closed library is no big deal, in an age when students can call up "Google books" on their iPhones.

Now let's clean up other drips of news from a Thursday which had a rainy ending:

+ A source I tend to trust claims 84 construction workers at the Kia plant in West Point have pooled five dollars each, to buy Mega Millions lottery tickets. Trouble is, they all missed Tuesday night - proving "safety in numbers" only gets you so far.

+ Columbus Police Officer Keith Levallee was arrested on charges of writing bad checks, to buy items on a debit card.. In my former home of Oklahoma, this charge would be called "uttering a forged instrument" - which sounds more like trying to talk through a trombone.

+ GPB reported a federal feasibility study could begin early next year for Interstate 14 -- the highway proposed from Columbus to Augusta. I'm debating whether this highway is a good idea. For one thing, you'd probably see a lot more of Macon than metro Atlanta.

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue held a meeting with his staff, to mark 500 days until he leaves office. I'm still waiting for him to produce that "Sonny Do" list from the 2006 campaign - to show us all the things he's decided he can't afford to do anymore.

+ The TMZ web site posted a mug shot of singer John Mayer, from a 2001 arrest in Atlanta. Mayer was accused of driving with a suspended license, but the charge was thrown out of court one month later. How did that judge know Mayer would go on to be a pop star, instead of a rapper needing "cred?"

+ Opening night of high school football in Muscogee County found Monroe of Albany crushing Kendrick 40-0. Ouch - and then the school sales tax supporters say Carver is the school needing a new football field?!

+ Instant Message to the Eufaula Tribune: I don't get it. Quitman County deputies say a "small-scale riot" developed in Georgetown Thursday night. You offered a couple of pictures to WRBL. But the only evening update on your web site involved high school football?! Did this group burn down the bridge across the Chattahoochee River?

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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 389 (+ 10, 2.6%)

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

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

27 AUG 09: Tigers Like Lambs

A big day has come for Columbus sports fans -- the day when football teams start playing for real. Three Muscogee County high schools are in action on opening night. Remember, your school sales tax vote can make sure fewer teams have to play on Thursday nights - and the cheerleaders can stay home to watch "Grey's Anatomy."

The big rivalry game between Carver and Spencer is Friday night. But the Carver football team is making noise, for something which has nothing to do with football. A YouTube video showing Tiger players is making the online rounds in Columbus. And surprisingly, it was NOT posted by Cairo High School to show how to beat Carver in the playoffs.

The YouTube video shows Carver High School football players saying the words to Psalm 23 from the Bible. It apparently was recorded in the high school weight room - so when players say the words "I will near no evil," they could be referring to their ability to bench-press 300 pounds.

The video of Carver's football team was posted on YouTube last February, but the circumstances behind it aren't immediately clear. It was posted by a woman who operates a "faith-based media company" in Fortson. To record a videotape and trust it to come out in the right tint probably takes a little faith at times....

But whose idea was it to have Carver football players say Psalm 23 inside Carver High School? The video shows an adult for only half-a-second, and that adult doesn't say anything. So it's not clear if he's the "Bible Literature" teacher, or simply an assistant coach looking for stray gum wrappers on the floor.

Many high schools have a "Fellowship of Christian Athletes" program, with coaches serving as advisers. We don't know if a Carver High School coach came up with the Psalm 23 idea or not - and that's important. If students came up with the idea, it's probably legal. If a coach did, the American Civil Liberties Union may seek its share of SPLOST money in court.

Big court fights have been made over sports coaches leading their teams in prayer before a game, or even joining in prayers said by students. When it comes to Carver High School football players reciting Psalm 23, this could be a different matter. Maybe they also recited lyrics from a convicted rap star's album, to balance things out.

(We did find video of other Carver High School students on a football field, doing something which looked much more secular. But shouldn't you stretch your legs BEFORE taking the field for exercise?)

As it happens, the master football scheduled for Muscogee County schools has this message on every page: "Coaching is, most of all, a MORAL activity." I'm not sure what led to that message appearing - but that's not likely to entice Manny Ramirez to visit Columbus this fall.

Perhaps some towns need to have football players quoting Bible verses. Did you hear about the high school game that's being moved away from Marion, Alabama this weekend? It's because a feud between two families led to something close to a riot. And I thought the Hatfields and McCoys still lived in Kentucky....

Carver head coach Dell McGee is concerned about something else, as opening night approaches. He told WRBL Wednesday his staff is washing the football uniforms every day, as a precaution against players spreading H-1-N-1 flu. You can understand why.... hey, there's an idea! Have the quarterback call out, "H-1 N-1, Hike!" - and scare defenders off the field.

Meanwhile, the big high school football game tonight in Muscogee County has Columbus colliding with Hardaway. Columbus coach Phil Marino will watch from the press box, because he had knee surgery last weekend and is on crutches. Apparently the team is short on backup linemen, to give him protection along the sidelines.

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: One reader seems stunned by a revenue-sharing meeting we mentioned Wednesday....

Todays blog had this :

Russell County Commission Chair Mervin Dudley told WRBL all Phenix City residents "live in Russell County first." Robert Schweiger's been trying to make the same argument to Hurtsboro residents for years - and many are still ignoring him.)

He (Mr. Dudley) would have a hard time selling that idea to the many residents of Phenix City, who, in fact, live in Lee County. Or did I miss something?

Don W.

That thought crossed my mind, too. As far as we know, Lee County Commissioners haven't demanded their own meeting with Phenix City officials -- not even to bend the rules and allow fireworks stands on the north side of town.

The Russell County Commission tops our review of other Wednesday news....

+ A $240,000 contract was approved to put a new roof on the old Russell County Courthouse. The plan is to install the roof during October and November - which is perfect timing for the judges to take advantage of off-season motel rates in Gulf Shores.

+ WXTX "News at Ten" reported concern about the H-1-N-1 "swine flu" has prompted Aflac to have an on-duty nurse. That's strange - because you'd think the company would be hiring more people to handle supplemental insurance claims.

(I shudder to think of the newspaper headlines this will bring - such as "DUCK FEARS SWINE ATTACK.")

+ Sumter County, Georgia authorities reported two ninth-grade girls got into a fight and injured a teacher. What is happening to our young people, when teenage girls are fighting like this? Next thing you know, they'll claim to be practicing for Olympic boxing.

+ Actor Chuck Norris endorsed former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore for Governor. If Norris really is serious about this, he should track down Moore's Ten Commandments monument and thrust-kick it into two tablets.

+ Instant Message to the 1980s punk rock band Dead Kennedys: Please -- please don't tell me you're now planning a comeback tour....

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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 379 (+ 14, 3.8%)

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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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

26 AUG 09: New's or No's

So the race is on in Columbus -- and I don't mean the Midnight Express run this weekend. A three-week campaign began Tuesday night to win approval of a one-percent school sales tax. If your grade-schooler is given SPLOST as part of a spelling quiz, that's the reason why.

An evening bash at a strip mall on Macon Road kicked off "The New Day Campaign" for the special purpose local option sales tax. That's a little strange - because with that name, you might think the kickoff event would be a breakfast with coffee and doughnuts.

The location of the New Day Campaign headquarters strikes me as risky. It's on Macon Road, a two-block walk from the controversial Muscogee County School administration building. But then again, maybe supporters are trying to show the "New Day" is a whole lot closer to Kmart pricing....

TV commercials for the SPLOST begin today, featuring Muscogee County Superintendent Susan Andrews. They emphasize it's a "temporary tax" - and the school district hopes you'll remember that the last school SPLOST actually did expire last year.

In other years, a sales tax vote like this brought organized opposition. As of Tuesday, none had surfaced for this SPLOST - and I wondered why. Has everyone in Columbus suddenly fallen in love with the Muscogee County School District? Or did Doug Kellett need to come down from Atlanta, and knock some Republicans on the side of the head?

To be "fair and balanced" on the school SPLOST issue, we contacted three potential opponents to see where they stand. The Columbus Tea Party seems to be anti-taxation - but its web site says nothing about the school sales tax, and a message we left online brought no response Tuesday night. This "local grassroots" group appears more interested in marching on Washington.

We also discovered a well-known SPLOST opponent of years gone by has converted. Former Columbus Councilor Nathan Suber campaigned against the 2003 school sales tax question. But Suber tells me he's for this one, even though he won't be active in the campaign. Better to be quietly right than loudly wrong, I guess....

So what's changed for Nathan Suber since 2003? He told me Superintendent Susan Andrews is "trying to make amends" and "do the right thing." Suber also admitted he was upset with a proposal by former Superintendent John Phillips to close Benning Hills and Muscogee Elementary Schools. Phillips said it would save $500,000. Going without a school sales tax for months may have done the same thing.

But the last call we made Tuesday brought a more predictable response. Bert Coker told me he's already cast an advance vote against the SPLOST -- and he's already told this blog he's running for Muscogee County School Board next year. So you might get your sales tax money back, whether you want it or not.

Bert Coker says people have approached him about organizing a campaign against the SPLOST, but he admits there's not much time to do that. Coker also accused the School Board of wasting city money with a September vote -- forgetting most of Muscogee County won't have a vote on Election Day in November.

Bert Coker says he toured Carver High School, and saw the need for a replacement. But he believes a $40 million cost is too high, since Northside High School cost only $20 million to build earlier in the decade. Coker apparently wants Carver students to be like Northside -- and find religion by using a church sanctuary for plays and concerts.

Despite all the SPLOST hype, Bert Coker and his allies predict the school sales tax will fail. It appears Muscogee County residents will vote with their wallets either way. They'll either use money to pay the tax, or buy umbrellas for walking between portable classrooms.

Meanwhile, the Russell County School Board voted Tuesday night for a referendum on renewing a school property tax. That vote really wasn't surprising. What stunned me was that for once, all the board members seemed to agree on something.

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

BLOG UPDATE: Speaking of Nathan Suber, he's picked the position he's seeking in the 2010 election. Suber revealed to your blog Tuesday he'll try to regain the Columbus Council seat he lost three years ago to Jerry "Pops" Barnes. I could needle Suber about his decision - but Barnes is a nurse, so he has plenty of needles already.

Nathan Suber hinted he might make public safety an issue in next year's election. He said he doesn't feel safer today than he did when Jim Wetherington became mayor two-and-a-half years ago. Wait until those 100 new police officers are on the streets, and walking around his office several times a day.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Jim Wetherington told WDAK radio's "Viewpoint" he has no idea whom he might appoint as a city Crime Prevention Director. When I told Nathan Suber that.... well, I wouldn't label him skeptical. But Suber almost offered to sell me "land in Waycross."

Mayor Wetherington revealed on the radio that the Crime Prevention Director's job should come up again at a Columbus Council work session in late September. The mayor hopes for a final vote on the position in October. If people are willing to spend extra millions for schools, a $60,000 director will seem like almost nothing.

The Viewpoint program focused on the recent report from the Columbus Crime Prevention Commission. But here's the thing -- host and interviewer Mike Gaymon was a commission member. At least he admitted that on the air a couple of times. Gaymon's a bit more transparent with his biases than Rush Limbaugh.

Mike Gaymon offered several self-labeled "hardball" questions to the mayor and Crime Prevention Commission Chair Frank Myers. As he did, WDAK morning hosts Was Carroll and Scott Miller apparently sat to the side and said nothing. Shouldn't they do this interview, when Mike Gaymon has a conflict of interest? Or are they too busy looking for stories about dumb criminals in Europe?

Another curious moment came when Frank Myers declared current crime prevention approaches in Columbus aren't working. Yet at the start of "Viewpoint," Mike Gaymon chided WTVM for covering a murder case in Americus as if Columbus doesn't have homicides. Isn't that evidence the current approaches DO work? Or are the Americus criminals simply more entertaining for TV?

Let's make our own getaway now, to other Tuesday news....

+ The Phenix City and Russell County Commissions held a joint meeting on revenue sharing. Phenix City doesn't provide Russell County with any sales tax money collected inside the city limits. Yet for some strange reason, Russell County Commissioner Ronnie Reed has NOT called in Bill Madison to call for equality.

(Russell County Commission Chair Mervin Dudley told WRBL all Phenix City residents "live in Russell County first." Robert Schweiger's been trying to make the same argument to Hurtsboro residents for years - and many are still ignoring him.)

+ Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers made several stops in Lee County, urging people NOT to panic about the H-1-N-1 "swine flu." Please save your panic for the town hall meetings on health care reform.

+ Georgia Rep. Sanford Bishop spoke on health care reform before the North Columbus Rotary Club. For some reason, WTVM showed him holding up Thomas Friedman's book "Hot, Flat and Crowded." Well, last week's forum at the National Infantry Museum met two of those criteria....

+ Richard Hyatt's web site reported news anchor Jennifer Serda has left WRBL. Now this is hard to believe. Chuck Leonard was able to work with Ed Bostic on WGSY-FM "Sunny 100" for years - and Serda couldn't last a month?!

(The web page showing the WRBL news team is remarkably skimpy right now. It shows only two reporters, which is one fewer than WLTZ - and even scarier, only one more than this blog.)

+ Alabama defensive back Javier "International Sports" Arenas praised quarterback Greg McElroy, for his ability to throw the football "in some odd places...." And if he throws it during a chemistry lab one more time, his professor might knock him down a grade.

+ Instant Message to the Columbus Civic Center's executive chef: I trust you were told about the Cottonmouths' player signings Tuesday? Including a forward named Joey Martini? Can you have that drink ready in time for opening night in October?

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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 365 (+ 12, 3.4%)

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

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

25 AUG 09: Lost in the For(r)est

A Monday evening meeting at a Columbus elementary school focused on improving a long, well-traveled street. "FORREST RD WIDENING" said the flashing signs near the school. Show down to read that sign, and you risked running off the two-lane section of the road.

To be honest, the issue with me regarding this road never has been the width. I hardly ever drive on it. The issue for me is the spelling. For years, I heard the street signs were inconsistent - some showing one R as in Tuskegee National Forest, others showing two R's as in former Atlanta news anchor Forrest Sawyer. Remember, only you can prevent Forrest Sawyer....

Open a Columbus phone book to the "F" pages, and you might become even more confused. It shows both spellings for addresses - and even shows a "Forrest Food Mart" on Forest Road. Either there's some kind of typographical error here, or this store sells Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. souvenirs.

The White Pages listings of Columbus businesses show three named Forrest and two named Forest. But the addresses listed with those businesses add up to three Forest Roads, one Forest Road -- and one Schatulga Road. Forest Park Baptist must be one of those truly independent Baptist churches....

If that's not enough, Google Maps (yes, a guy checked a map) shows two interchanging names for the street - "Forest Road" and "Forest Highway." When was this a highway? That is, for someone other than an inmate leaving the prison on Schatulga Road?

So Monday evening, I decided to settle this matter once and for all. I drove nearly the entire length of this road - and apparently the recent upgrade of Columbus street signs ended any mix-up. Every intersection I passed was marked Forrest Road. So if you spell it with one R, you err - with two R's.

Yet there's still some confusion along Forrest Road, because of several other signs along the way. We found two churches with "Forest" on their sign or van. Before you laugh at them - could you spell Ecclesiastes or Philippians without checking a Bible?

Next door to Forrest Road Elementary School is an entrance to the Forest Park subdivision. This is potential trouble, as it opens the door for grade after grade of children falling short on essay questions.

Near Floyd Road and Forrest Road, you'll find the Forest Plaza shopping center. Well, the sign IS guarded by a tree -- albeit a small one....

Then there's the intersection of Forrest Road and Forestwood Lane. Something like this probably still would have tourists scratching their heads - and perhaps inspire vandals to spray-paint in an extra R.

But back to the Monday meeting. City Planning Director Rick Jones said the goal is to widen Forrest Road between Woodruff Farm and Schatulga Roads, by adding a center turn lane and sidewalks. One woman told WXTX "News at Ten" three lanes is a "so-called widening" - as if city crews will have to build narrower lanes to save money on asphalt.

Some people at Monday's meeting actually expressed concern a third center lane will turn Forrest Road into a highway for some drivers. But look on the bright side -- this will save Google Maps money, as the name won't have to change.

Money from the "streets and safety" sales tax will be used to widen Forrest Road. But officials say the work won't begin until 2012 - so there's plenty of time to wait on Congress to pass an election-year "Stimulus II."

P.S. We can't help mentioning one other discovery along Forrest Road. A sign shows the "future home" of New Life Church International -- more than a year after it merged with another one to create The Bridge Church on Second Avenue. Is there some kind of secret pre-nuptial agreement here?

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Sunday topic about a morning run brought this comment....

Hello Richard. After reading about your encounter with the group of teens on the Riverwalk, I thought that I would share one of my nephew's encounter with a bully in the young Phenix City school year. He is attending a new school this year in the district and quickly learned that one of his classmates has a reputation for determining who is strong and who is weak so that he will know who to pick on. My nephew said that the second thing that he noticed about the guy was that he had a foul mouth, the first being that he was outweighed by about twenty-five pounds. The kid was getting in other student's faces, cursing and challenging their nerve. When he made it to my nephew, he simply looked him in the eye and asked, "Are you a Christian?" The bully was taken aback by this question, stared at him for a few moments and then replied, "Naw, I guess not. I cuss too much." He walked away but its makes you wonder how many times that replayed in his mind for the rest of the afternoon. I am proud of my nephew and I'm sure that he was both pleased with himself and relieved.

That's a very interesting approach to take -- but uh-oh, this brings back memories. That's close to the "Columbine question" asked by a high school killer ten years ago. When a believer asks it at school, the only "weapon" he'd better be carrying is a spiritual sword. Anything else means expulsion, you know.

Let's see what else had people talking Monday:

+ The high temperature in Columbus was a comfortable 85 degrees F. WRBL's Bob Jeswald noted Columbus has seen NO 100-degree days this summer, and has never had one this late in the year. Yippie - parking my car more to prevent global warming actually works.

+ A sign was posted outside the Government Center, announcing the old Ninth Street ground-floor entrance will reopen next Monday. Plenty of senior city employees are looking forward to this - to teach the others how you should start at the bottom, and work your way up.

+ Mayor Jim Wetherington declared it "Vance Smith Day," as the Georgia Transportation Commissioner visited the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. That's a nice start, Mr. Mayor. But if you really want those state highway contracts, you should make your own trip down Forrest Road - which has a side street named after Sam Wellborn.

+ The "cash for clunkers" program ended at car dealers in Columbus. A sales manager at Legacy Chevrolet reported Saturday was "wonderful," with 22 cars sold. But doesn't 22 sound small, for the only Chevrolet dealer in town? There's a reason why the "Mr. Big Volume" nickname was retired.

+ The 5:00 p.m. news revealed a firewalk is being added to this weekend's "Midnight Express" activities. Aw, c'mon - what's next? Are they going to make all the runners jog five kilometers barefoot?

(My sympathies to Laura Ann Sills, a new WTVM reporter - who announced she'll take part in the firewalk. At some colleges, this would be called hazing.)

SCHEDULED WEDNESDAY: A three-week sprint officially begins....

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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 353 (+ 14, 4.1%)

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, August 24, 2009

24 AUG 09: A Little Too Loose

The "cash for clunkers" program to stimulate car sales ends tonight. It's really been a no-win idea for President Obama. Republicans have complained about government paperwork and a possible dearth of used cars - while quietly hoping no one would take advantage of the offer, and the program actually WAS a clunker.

My 15-year-old humble Honda wasn't eligible for the clunker promotion, because its gas mileage simply is too good. I made the first tank of my recent trip to Orlando at 37 miles per gallon. Beyond that, I'm not really sure - since the engine is working much better than my odometer.

Yet other recent economic actions in Washington are affecting me here at home. A letter several weeks ago revealed the credit line on one of my cards is being reduced by two-thirds. I've heard credit counselors suggest people cut up their plastic - but I didn't think the credit card company would do it for me.

"We noticed that you have used only a limited amount of your credit line with us," the letter said. To be honest, I'd noticed the same thing for years -- because this company had ballooned my credit line to $23,700. And the company did it without even asking me. It was almost like parking a new BMW in my driveway, and walking off with the keys still in the ignition.

It's my longstanding rule to pay off all my credit card bills in full every month. This company apparently was so astounded by that practice that it kept raising my credit line over the years. Some might say the company was encouraging me to be irresponsible. But I was too "old-school" for them - too focused on the smell of my checkbook than the feel of that plastic.

I knew I didn't need a $23,700 limit on my credit card. Even when I tried to start a frisbee league three years ago, I didn't charge that card at anything close to the line. To borrow from local law enforcement, I knew I might be "over the limit - under a bridge."

Financial experts warn cuts in your credit card limits can have a negative impact on your credit score. But I'd think how you actually use the card matters more than how much you're expected to use it. Of course, that also may explain why some liberals are frustrated so far with President Obama....

So when you hear news reports about how big bad credit card companies are slashing credit lines, keep something in mind - they actually could be bringing those lines down to where they belong. The big cut on that one card still keeps my limit at $7,500. And I'm still not interested in dining out at Bludau's every night for the next four months.

As it happens, a consumer survey is asking me to collect all the credit card offers I receive in the mail this month. We also did this two years ago [30 Nov 07], but the mailings are awfully scarce so far. The only company to write me so far is American Express, offering a "Blue" card. Nice try, but you need a Jayhawk mascot with that color on it.

Speaking of the economy: did you see the Liberty Theater's production over the weekend? It was a locally-produced comedy with a recession theme, called "Stimulus." I'm a little surprised one of those nightclubs on Victory Drive hasn't offered a (ahem) stimulus package yet - especially for men.

Let's put our wallets back in our pockets now, and check other weekend items....

+ The high temperature in Columbus was only 82 degrees F. Around here, some considered it a preview of fall and turned off their air conditioners. In Minnesota, some complain about 82-degree summer heat and turn them on.

+ Columbus Police told WTVM a man stole a squad car at 11th and Broadway at 3:00 a.m. By the time he was stopped at 42nd Street and Second Avenue, two wheels of the police car reportedly were gone. Those NASCAR races on Saturday nights simply are setting a bad example....

+ The Bill Purvis telecast on WLTZ included an admission by the Cascade Hills Church Pastor. When members give testimonies on tithing during January, they get several calls in the next few days from people asking for handouts. So? Why give to a church assistance fund for the needy when you can cut through the middleman -- even if you lose the tax deduction?

+ A helicopter gunner involved in the 1968 "My Lai Massacre" spoke out about William Calley's speech at a Columbus Kiwanis Club. Lawrence Colburn told National Public Radio Calley should go back to Vietnam, and apologize to the survivors of the attack. Wow, that's asking a lot - since it took Calley 30-plus years to summon the courage simply to speak to a Kiwanis Club.

(NPR also has interviewed Al Fleming about the visit, since Fleming invited William Calley to speak at last week's Kiwanis Club meeting. I don't know how Fleming got through the interview without lashing out against Robert Siegel for being a flaming liberal.)

+ Instant Message to all Ledger-Enquirer readers: I almost forgot to ask you -- which part of page one stunned you most on Friday? The big headline calling William Calley a "convicted murderer?" Or a front-page local article on the start of the Muslim festival of Ramadan?

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $2.27 a gallon at Big Cat on U.S. 80 in Ladonia.... two dozen cookies for $2.25 at the Publix bakery.... and some Republicans calling on Donald Trump to ban Venezuela from the Miss Universe pageant....

SCHEDULED TUESDAY: Reader e-mail about the "six-pack" we met....

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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 339 (- 22, 6.1%, record low)

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, August 23, 2009

23 AUG 09: Rocky Road

First the good news -- Saturday night marked my best running session since early April! The key for going beyond three miles non-stop apparently was the lack of humidity in the air. But a lack of curious dogs along the course didn't hurt, either....

Most of my running at this time of year takes place in the morning, shortly after I wake up. It's obviously cooler at 8:15 a.m. than at 5:15 p.m. Morning cloud cover and shady spots on the course keep the sun away. And running before breakfast makes the orange juice much more tasty and essential.

A morning run on the Riverwalk this past week led me to something I'm more used to seeing on Saturday nights - a group of six people walking together. I call two side-by-side a "blockade," after the game of Parcheesi. Four people make a quadruped. But a group this big? All I could think of was a six-pack.

I came upon this "gang of six" near Port Columbus. All of them wore plain white T-shirts, none of them appeared to be older than high school-age -- and they were strolling the Riverwalk at 8:15 in the morning. If their destination was a school on South Lumpkin Road, they should have been running like I was.

One girl in the group said something to me as I jogged by -- and I did something I probably should not have done. I stopped to run in place, asking her to repeat the comment. "Are you tired?" Hard of hearing at that point, more than tired....

"A little bit, but I'm working on it," I told the group -- my usual reply to people who ask how I'm doing during a run. The question never seems comes from joggers heading the other direction.

I started to jog on - but then a small rock fell in front of my path. I stopped to run in place again, and turned around. "Why?" I asked the group. If I offended someone somehow, this was their chance to explain. But as usual in these cases, the young people didn't have an immediate answer. Act first, think of an excuse second - at least the health care reform debate has that list reversed.

Someone in the group dared to ask what I meant. "Throw a stone at me, and risk hitting me on the head and hurting me."

"Who are you saying this to?"

"All of you. I don't know who did it." If I had eyes in the back of my head, I would have become a teacher.

No one offered an answer, so I jogged on without saying anything more. But indeed I was tiring, and gave up the run to turn around about one-tenth of a mile later. That's what made Saturday night's run with less humidity even more inspiring. I ran three times as far, and my T-shirt still didn't end up as wet.

The turnaround meant I would encounter the six-pack on the way home - but this time we'd be going in opposite directions, so I expected no more trouble. On top of that, a bare-chested young man in much better condition jogged past them moments before I did. For most young people, his muscles should be a more entertaining distraction.

But I probably made another mistake, by talking to the group about that fit man. "He's why I wear a T-shirt when I run." Not to mention because I'd be encouraging young women to walk around the Riverwalk naked as well....

As I jogged on, another rock hit and rolled in front of my path - this time a larger chunk of asphalt. This time, I didn't stop. I only added, "Enjoy your SCHOOL day!" Some sort of jeering was audible in the distance - but at least none of the young people tried to race me.

One man I know says I should carry a concealed weapon on the Riverwalk when I run, because it's a dangerous area. But would pointing a gun at these young people have solved anything? Well, I suppose it might have started them running - either away from me, or toward a police officer.

To be honest, I'm not sure I could have done anything to stop the rock-throwing by someone in this group. It reminds me of the college hall-mate who laughed every time I tried to respond to someone who abused me. I finally asked what I could have done which would NOT have brought laughter - and he said, "Beat him up, I guess."

While we're on the Riverwalk: a construction fence which was up for years at 12th Street finally has come down. But now there's what appears to be a more permanent fence about 75 yards farther north, including a concrete sculpture in the middle of the walkway. The Eagle and Phenix Condominium owners apparently only want visitors at the sales office....

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: Oh dear -- it's time to call out the "rumor patrol" again....

Have you heard anything about the new library having building foundation problems? I have heard the rumor and noticed the bottom 2 steps inside the building have now been marked with "danger" signs because of the slant .

"No, no, no, no!" was the answer Friday from Debbie McGregor with the Columbus Public Library. For starters, the Muscogee County Library Foundation still has a book endowment program....

Oh wait - this is about the building. Debbie McGregor told me warning stickers have been placed on the bottom three stairs of the library's grand staircase because people have tripped on them and fallen. There used to be a caution sign there [20 Jan 06] - but maybe someone checked it out for two weeks.

Someday I'll understand why the central library was built with three separate steps at the bottom of the grand staircase. What's wrong with allowing patrons in a hurry to have a running start up the stairs?

We made this call on the day the Mildred Terry Branch Library held a "rededication" ceremony. The new building still isn't paid off, so 150 commemorative bricks are being sold to raise money. Hopefully the bricks were not chipped away from the Booker T. Washington Apartments down the street.

Let's see what else is making news this weekend:

+ Ground was broken for a new Smiths Station High School. I thought this was going to be the city's second high school, but the Lee County Superintendent says the old high school will become a junior high. Perhaps all the teenagers moving to our area with base realignment already have committed to military duty.

+ Aflac held its annual diversity fair - this year focusing on children's games. I suppose they call "hopscotch" something else in Japan, since it's not known for having immigrants from Scotland.

+ The new "Puerto Rican Women's Association" of Columbus held its first meeting. WXTX "News at Ten" showed several ladies wearing big hats. But if the meeting didn't end with a salsa dance or a big game of dominoes, it really wasn't authentic Puerto Rican.

+ Kyle Busch won the NASCAR race in Bristol, Tennessee. We mention this because WSTH-FM "Rooster 106" abandoned the race broadcast with 40 laps to go - returning to country music without any explanation. If Clear Channel Radio can't afford to pay for extra hours of NASCAR, the college football games in September had better not go to overtime.

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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 361 (+ 8, 2.3%)

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

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

22 AUG 09: A Healthy Peace

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

Before this past week's big health care reform meeting in Columbus, we received an e-mail which seemed to belong in a Saturday Bible discussion....

"Without an ultimate concern as its basis, every system of morals degenerates into a method of adjustment to social demands, whether they are ultimately justified or not." Tillich: "Dynamics of Faith" 1957

My congressman's chief of health care reform called me today with regards to my letter. I got the impression that my ideas were timely and resonated. I was told that despite appearances that my congressman really had no practical input in the process. Conservatives are being left out. There are at least three differing proposals on the table and they agree that congress and this administration has bitten off more than they can chew.

The more I think on it the more I like the strategy of MLK and Gandhi. As this "Chicago" style politics revs up to respond violently, they can be outflanked on the left by peaceful resistance and the cadences of the civil rights era. How embarrassing for the president and the liberals to be cast in the same mold as the racists of generations ago. Such an approach will transform a health care debate into a civil rights, moral and ethical debate on which we can claim the high ground.

As in every battle, we need a bold leader to step up and take the high ground, giving the enemy an uphill battle. By rising above the din of fighting, propaganda, petty details and focus on compromise for the moment, we need someone to articulate the larger picture; to claim for the American people our true values, compassion and liberty. We need a passionate visionary to speak the truth with boldness, divide the moral from the amoral, to point to that which is the constant center of our dynamic faith (our ultimate concern) which is the infinite and transcends reason. Yet as these words divide they do so as a surgeon cuts with purpose to bind our wounds, to unite and inspire all in a common courage to venture forth together as one people into the future in faith. By being able to grasp, embrace and capture the imaginations, hopes and dreams of this people such a person can, as Tillich teaches, enact faith and transform humanist reason to that which is beyond reason yet in the imagination of reason - reason in ecstasy. This is the reason that works with faith and the reason that seeks the truth for our humanity rather than the vain hope of a technological or legislative solution. It is reason that reaches courageously upward in obedience and then embraces others in love.

Health care for us is liken to the divide of slavery 150 years ago. It divides brother against brother, friend against friend and neighbor against neighbor. It ruptures community in the swill of selfish self interests and annihilates our agape love of others. It raises the eros above and over the agape. It turns our ultimate concern away from its true love and turns it inward to self being transformed to idolatry. What is freedom but the escape from the bondage of the mores, passions and powers of this evil world in order to serve God and others? What is liberty but the capacity to enact our free moral agency? While in bondage to the idols of this ruptured time and place we have lost both freedom and liberty - that which was bought and paid for by the precious blood of our Saviour and by all who fought and died for idea that man can indeed be free.

What is this current crisis but a rupture of our highest and most noble aspirations and relationships by materialism, politics and self interests. What is at stake is not only the shape of democracy but it's very survival in the face of this rupture. What is the core of this conflict but the failure of moral relativism, positivism and materialism to improve self and the human condition? What is the balm but the lost sheep, the pearl of great price, the lost treasure which is our ethic rooted in the abiding faithfulness and steadfast love of our Creator and His will for our renewal as individuals and as a community living in cooperative communion and peace. It is an ethic that envisions this life dialectically but the truth as absolute. It is fides ut intellegatam, or faith seeking understanding. And when the object of our faith is self it is idolatry and false because we can never be the object of our own faith. Faith demands the existence of one that is wholly other, apart and separate from the creature. For if the creature were to be able to grasp the Creator he would possess God and such is impossible. Yet are we not as they who built the Tower of Babel, grasping up to possess God and make a name for ourselves? And failing to learn this lesson we shall be scattered in confusion and the din of incomprehensibility. We fail to listen and obey (schema) and prefer to voice our own for our own.

The ground has shifted and the political landscape covered in fog and confusion such as right is left and left is right and neither are true to that which binds men in love and peace. There is no right, there is no left for in this post-modern sickness of epidemic proportions there is no center! We are falling back to the time of the Judges which is framed by the recurring theme for "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes." And who or what is our King? Where is the center upon which man must determine himself? When every view, ethic and moral can be judged right even if they are in conflict and defy reason, where are we but in the Bronze age of the Judges? Postmodernism errs by the false assumption that our attempt to tolerate and resolve all individual points of view as accept as true that which anyone may hold is a means of achieving peace and harmony. Nay, it is simply moral chaos without discernment and reason and will degenerate to factional fighting and violence! With no center, no one ultimate concern, we are lost, disoriented, groping in self-delusion only to awake in vanity and vapor.

America needs another Lincoln. The world needs another Lincoln. We need someone who is capable of transcending this dissonance and who can point us to the way, the truth and the light - for all Americans and all people regardless of individual faith. We are the enemy who now haunts the empty caverns of our souls. We must be reconciled and redeemed but we cannot do this ourselves. We can only do it by, as Tillich said, having the "courage to be." And that courage is the courage to risk all in faith and abandon that which we have and are for that which we ought. It is courage through surrender and mortification of self. It is true courage.



MY CHILD, I will teach you now the way of peace and true liberty

Seek, child, to do the will of others rather than your own.

Always choose to have less rather than more.

Look always for the last place and seek to be beneath all others.

Always wish and pray that the will of God be fully carried out in you.

Behold, such will enter into the realm of peace and rest."

Thomas A. Kempis: "The Imitation of Christ." III:23

The town hall at the National Infantry Museum proved health care reform certainly has touched an emotional nerve with many people -- with plenty of name- calling and finger-pointing in both directions. This is what happens when college football season doesn't start until September.

The "larger picture" in this debate seems to be how to provide the most health coverage for the most people at the lowest possible cost. If that was really as easy as some people think, wouldn't Wal-Mart stores include doctors' offices and urgent care clinics?

I don't claim to be a "passionate visionary," but I've been studying a book which offers a vision of the future. A local pastor warned in a sermon a few weeks ago Democrats want to bring about socialism - but he didn't quote Bible verses to prove God is a capitalist, or socialism is of Satan. And I'm sure he was unimpressed when Fidel Castro legalized Christmas in Cuba several years ago.

An article I consulted in one religious magazine declares God offers obedient people "private property and opportunity for every family." That was based on Deuteronomy 6 in the Bible. But it's also based on obedience to God's laws -- and Deuteronomy 15 states one of them is debt forgiveness every seven years. Some mortgage bankers might jump on that, and pursue foreclosures even faster....

The article goes on to say after Jesus returns, His kingdom "will NOT be an economy of socialism with its accompanying heavy taxation and oppressive governments." Yet the writer goes on mention a passage in Leviticus about property returning to its original owners in a "year of Jubilee." Somehow, I think Jesus will lose a lot of conservative talk show hosts with that one.

I mention this to show the moral dividing line for health care reform is not easy to define, even when a Bible is pulled out. Some believers insist you should avoid doctors completely, and trust God in faith - while others respond by asking why a physician named Luke would be allowed to write two books of the New Testament.

One good answer to the health care issue could lie in a Bible verse many people overlook. I Timothy 2 reminds us to pray "for kings and all those in authority...." Pray for God to give them wisdom to find the best answer - instead of stopping with praying for clever words to calm down an unruly crowd.

And as for the question, "Who is our King" - I don't give that title to Michael Jackson. I wouldn't even give it to Elvis Presley or Richard Petty. I like the phrase U.S. colonial leaders used long ago - I have no king but Jesus.

SCHEDULED SUNDAY: Is the central library falling apart? We're challenged to get an answer....

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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 353 (- 67, 16.0%, record low)

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, August 21, 2009

21 AUG 09: Too Rich in Richland?

Prosecutors in Columbus released more details Thursday about an alleged "ponzi" scheme based in Stewart County. Some rural residents heard about this, and wondered why it took so long to arrest that rebellious punk on "Happy Days."

Prosecutors say Michael and Phillis Bleckley of Richland operated an unregistered and suspicious investment plan for several years. MKB Capital Management reportedly took investors for more than $2.5 million. And any taking apparently didn't give much back to Richland in taxes, because the city doesn't look any more modern.

Authorities say they were tipped off to MKB Capital Management by the family which owns Mikata Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar at The Landings. One TV report said the family decided in late 2007 "something fishy" was going on - and who better to know something's fishy than the operators of a sushi bar?

The Kim family which operates Mikata claims the Bleckleys promised to invest their money in German bonds and securities. So it's no wonder this offer was attractive - because Japan and Germany worked so well together in the early 1940s.

Prosecutors say the Bleckleys went against their word, and invested NO money in German securities. In fact, police still aren't where the Kim family's fortune is. If I might offer a suggestion - Swiss bank accounts are right across Germany's southern border.

Michael and Phillis Bleckley own some wide-ranging businesses - two funeral homes southeast of Columbus, as well as The Bulloch House restaurant in Warm Springs. This may explain why The Bulloch House menu refers to "fried chicken strips," instead of chicken fingers.

(The Bulloch House remains open for business. But its web site lists other people as the long-time owners, instead of Michael and Phillis Bleckley. But this IS Warm Springs, after all - where people take pride in doing things at a slower pace.)

If authorities are right with these charges, why would the Bleckleys go after the Kim family with such a scheme? Mikata certainly doesn't seem like a threat to The Bulloch House. Columbus has other restaurants which are more similar in style - but then, Minnie's Uptown Restaurant may be too close to the Government Center to be comfortable.

Prosecutors and police are wondering if other people invested money with the Bleckleys during this decade. If so, their complaints could be added to this racketeering case -- and Michael Bleckley might wind up writing a sequel to Bernard Madoff's memoirs.

If Michael and Phillis Bleckley wind up in prison for racketeering, the lesson for criminals should be plain and clear. You don't mess around with the owners of a Japanese steakhouse - because they know how to play with fire.

By the way, which staff member at WTVM decided to give this story the 5:00 p.m. on-air headline: "Ripped Off and P***ed Off"? Is that "P-word" allowed during newscasts before 10:00 p.m. these days? I mean, just because it's probably thrown around during "General Hospital" at 4:00....

We have plenty of other news items to review, from the last couple of days:

+ Dick McMichael's blog reported on a historic and rare public appearance in Columbus by retired Army Lt. William Calley. He told a Kiwanis Club meeting this week he feels remorse every day, for the so-called "My Lai Massacre" of 1968 in Vietnam. Supporters would note Calley went to the stockade for his actions and lost his right to vote - while Jane Fonda still has faced neither.

(I've heard stories for years of William Calley refusing to do media interviews - and even opening an umbrella outside V.V. Vick Jewelers to avoid reporters. Apparently WLTZ's Al Fleming only persuaded Calley to speak on the condition that the Ledger-Enquirer didn't know about it.)

+ National Infantry Museum Director Jerry White told the big health care forum the museum's attendance "exceeds expectations," at more than 1,600 visitors per day. Yet the Fife and Drum Restaurant has cut back to serving dinner only four nights a week - which means the competing Chuck E. Cheese down the road can't be built soon enough.

+ WTVM reported two women are charged with embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Fourth Street Baptist Church. We wondered here in January why Pastor J.H. Flakes gave a sermon specifically about stealing [19 Jan]. Now we see it had nothing to do with going back for seconds at church dinners.

+ WRBL reported three Lafayette firefighters have been fired, because they posted "inappropriate pictures" onto Facebook pages while on duty. Why couldn't these public servants have used Facebook for a more uplifting purpose at work - you know, like playing the Mafia Wars game?

+ Columbus Technical College held a "beam-signing" ceremony, for the beam going at the top of the new Health Sciences Building. I've never heard of signing steel beams before. Apparently the administration has decided if they leave names on the sidewalk, it will fall apart in a few years.

+ The Phenix City Council held a public budget hearing, with various groups asking for city money. Even the Russell County Health Department requested city funds - which must mean the roof repairs at the old county courthouse are already breaking the bank.

(A recent postal mailer to us wondered why Phenix City scheduled 2:00 p.m. budget hearings "when most.... working people cannot attend." The TV news reported an evening hearing is planned next Thursday - and you can't use "Survivor" as an excuse, because its new season hasn't started yet.)

+ Alabama gubernatorial candidate Artur Davis met with Phenix City officials at Shoney's. The closest thing this city can have to a "health care reform town hall" is at a restaurant known for all-you-can-eat buffets.

+ The University of Georgia announced the football coaching staff will have to take two furlough days during the season. Why they're not scheduled during the week of the Tennessee Tech game, I have no idea....

+ Instant Message to the Columbus chapter of Omega Psi Phi: What's this "All-White Affair" you're having at Fort Benning this weekend? Has your chapter joined One Columbus, and decided to expand beyond African-American members?

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: A reader's thoughts on health care and religion.... and my encounter with a "Gang of Six...."

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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 420 (+ 12, 2.9%)

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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Thursday, August 20, 2009

20 AUG 09: Cirque de Santé

"How's it going?" a neighbor asked as I walked toward my front door Wednesday.

"I went to the circus this morning," I answered.

"OK." The man didn't seem to get it, so I explained.

"I went to Sanford Bishop's town hall meeting on health care reform."

Maybe a "circus" on health care (which explains our title) is too harsh a word. But Rep. Sanford Bishop had trouble keeping order at times, during Wednesday's town hall forum at the National Infantry Museum. Bishop needs to become a House committee chair one of these days, so he'll have a gavel to pound.

"I'm hopeful you will have a question and not a speech." So said Rep. Sanford Bishop, as he opened the floor at the National Infantry Museum for questions about health care reform. It turns out that was a bit like hoping the reform plan will NOT mean more big government....

A majority of the nearly-full house at NIM-SCAPP opposed the health care reform proposals before Congress. When a questioner challenged Rep. Sanford Bishop to poll the room, the "cons" were louder in applause than the "pros." And we all know how well that's settled important issues in the past - like who would be "Queen for a Day" on the old TV show.

But Sanford Bishop pointed out before the "applause challenge" that the noise only reflected the people in attendance - NOT everyone in his district. In fact, at least two questioners at the forum don't even live in Bishop's district. This is what happens when Rep. Lynn Westmoreland merely makes a fact-finding trip to a hospital.

One of those out-of-district questioners was regular Columbus Council guest star public commenter Paul Olson. He suggested language on pages 1001-1008 of the main health care proposal might allow the government to order microchip implants within three years. At least that language wasn't printed on page 666....

Rep. Sanford Bishop replied the proposal to regulate "implantable" health devices refers to items such as pacemakers - NOT microchip implants, which some people have likened to the Biblical "mark of the beast." But that raises another question. Would health care reform have affected the body of Anna Nicole Smith?

Then there was the woman who said she used to live under "socialist health care" overseas. She told Sanford Bishop the health care reform bill would be unconstitutional - just as she claimed Social Security and Medicare are. A few attorneys must have made a fortune arguing this in court, over the past 70 years.

But let's rewind to the beginning of the forum. You might be surprised to learn Democrat Sanford Bishop opened the town hall meeting with a prayer - which HE led. Then Bishop wisely had the audience stand to recite the pledge of allegiance. That way, no one in the crowd would feel the need to "spontaneously" do so later.

Rep. Bishop told the audience he has NOT decided how he'll vote on health care reform. He explained that's because it's a "work in progress" in five different Congressional committees. People who oppose the expansion of big government gained a new talking point right there....

Sanford Bishop is a self-proclaimed "Blue Dog Democrat," so he was part of a House effort to delay a vote on health care reform until after the August Congressional recess. He said lawmakers should "take the time to get it right." That approach never seems to work for the contestants on "Wipeout."

Rep. Bishop gained applause when he declared his goal is a health care reform plan that's "neither Democrat nor Republican nor Canadian - but all-American." Hmmmm. What sort of health coverage do the Columbus Cottonmouths have, anyway?

But skeptics in the audience started murmuring "not true" when Sanford Bishop said the number of U.S. residents without health insurance has increased by seven million in recent years. I never could have guessed so many people in the crowd are paying for other people's coverage.

Sanford Bishop reserved judgment on the new idea to set up health coverage cooperatives. He noted utility and farm cooperatives have worked well in rural areas for many years. At least no state militia group has felt compelled to take them over....

Assuming a health care reform plan becomes law, Sanford Bishop says it will take time to make reality. It wouldn't be completely in place until 2023! It makes you wonder how those telemarketers can offer to sign me up for supplemental coverage today.

If you oppose health care reform, take note of this. Rep. Sanford Bishop said the main proposal allows an exception to health insurance for religious reasons. So if you can persuade your church congregation to believe in faith healing, you can save money - at least until the pastor preaches about tithing.

Rep. Bishop noted one main goal of health care reform is to set up community health centers, which focus on prevention. But the proposal apparently stops short of establishing a national "Prevention Director." Before you e-mail Mayor Wetherington and make some comparisons, remember something - the Surgeon General does that sort of thing now.

OK, any questions? Oh yes, several people at the town hall forum had them. The first woman in line actually supported a "public option" for health insurance coverage. That received mild applause. The rest of the audience may have wanted to offer their own "public option" -- for that woman to search for a better job.

Rep. Sanford Bishop also heard plenty of health care reform critics. One doctor spoke in behalf of eight others, who said any reform plan should include "tort reform." Yes, it's doctors versus lawyers all over again - and big insurance agents may hold the tie-breaking vote.

As more questioners came to the microphone, their "questions" became increasingly wrapped in mini-speeches. That irritated some members of the audience, who didn't agree with the points questioners were making. Sanford Bishop was the only long-winded speaker they wanted to hear.

Sanford Bishop tried to prevent outbursts from the crowd, but they occasionally happened anyway. One person would yell, "Ask the question!" Then another would answer, "That's a good question!" This is why high school and college debate teams usually don't compete in front of big audiences.

But the crowd was orderly, thanks to extra security at the National Infantry Museum. Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren was in the assembly hall 30 minutes before the forum began. And a museum security guard turned me around outside, because my bag was considered too large. Next time I go to a town hall, I'll take a magazine to read - not a full-length book.

While health care reform had plenty of critics, their comments showed plenty of disagreement and disunity. A doctor's wife asked for specific language ruling out federally-funded abortions. But then a man called for a one-sentence bill, saying the public can have the same health coverage as members of Congress. And if English teachers had been there, they would have warned against run-on sentences.

The town hall forum also had moments which skeptics might have called showboating. WLTZ commentator Al Fleming stepped up to offer advice to Sanford Bishop. A few women sitting to my right were given "Organizing for America" badges to wear. And a man in front of me (left) wore a T-shirt endorsing a candidate for Georgia Insurance Commissioner -- using this year's big campaign to promote the one next year.

While we saw no one holding up posters during the town hall, people on both sides wore T-shirts to display what think about President Obama. Your blog is FIRST with town hall photos online -- but pardon the blurriness of these pictures, taken during a break. The atmosphere simply was TOO tense and emotional for me to stay calm....

Sanford Bishop called for a "comfort break" two hours into the health care forum -- and many in the crowd didn't stick around for an additional unscheduled 90 minutes. I was one of those who walked out. I'd heard and read more than enough material for a humor blog. But I was a little disappointed, when the Columbus Tea Party didn't stage a side show on South Lumpkin Road.

Much more could be said about this health care forum -- but I left having drawn several conclusions:

+ As they used to say at Cascade Hills Church, this was raw and real. People on both sides of an issue were so fervent, they sometimes murmured opposition to each other during public comments -- something radio talk shows never seem to allow.

+ About 500 people attended the health care forum -- but the total number of opinions changed on the issue was in the range of three.

+ Plenty of people at the forum had personal concerns -- but hardly anyone offered ideas for helping people like me. I've had no health coverage for several years, because my budget can't afford it. And so far, there's been no real movement to form a Bloggers' Union of America to demand lower insurance rates.

+ One man was very perceptive in noting many concerns come down to questions of interpretation. Much of the health care reform language is vague at this point - such as whether an "implantable" device might be something Fort Benning soldiers can monitor.

+ The health care debate seems to boil down to a classic case of trust. Speakers claimed many government programs are "broke," from Social Security to the Postal Service. But the man who said the answer lies in getting everyone to work together with health insurance companies may have forgotten several mortgage bankers went broke, too.

+ Yet it was worthwhile for Rep. Sanford Bishop to have the town hall forum in Columbus. After all, it doesn't look like anyone is going to publicly debate the school sales tax vote in September.

+ The National Infantry Museum was the perfect location for this forum - because in many parts of the U.S., the debate over health care reform is close to becoming a war.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: We confirmed an overlooked media story during Wednesday's town hall forum. News anchor Libby Allison is gone from WLTZ. I'm told her final day was last Friday, and she's going to a TV station in Virginia. Well, I assume Allison's going to Virginia - as she only came here from Iowa once, for the Bi-City Xmas Parade.

The WLTZ web site already has removed Libby Allison's picture. It appears she'll be replaced by "11@11" anchor Sunya Walls -- which may require her to undergo physical training, since The 6:00 Report is more than twice as long.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Milk for $1.99 a gallon at Wal-Mart.... FREE Health and Education Fair at the Columbus Public Library from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.... and drugstore chains which don't know better continuing "back-to-school" sales two more weeks....

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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 408 (+ 13, 3.3%)

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

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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