Wednesday, September 30, 2009

30 SEP 09: Rumorville

"People like to bellyache about their utility bill...." So a woman said to the Phenix City Council Tuesday. How ironic - one of my reasons for attending the meeting involved claims that a Councilor did exactly that. And that Councilor supposedly bellyached loud enough to get results....

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Two Phenix City officials denied a series of accusations Tuesday, which implied ethics violations. They were anonymously mailed around the area in recent days, and one of the letters reached us. In fact, they also reached the offices of the accused officials - which really hurts any effort at an "ambush interview."

"Garbage" is how Phenix City Utilities Director Stephen Smith responded to one accusation directly affecting him. It claimed a Council member complained about his water and sewer service being cut off, for being nearly $2,000 in arrears. Maybe I should have asked about the trash collection, while I was at it....

The accusation was aimed toward the Phenix City Manager, because he supposedly intervened to restore water service for a Councilor. But Utilities Director Stephen Smith took it personally - telling me water cutoff rules would be enforced, even if President Obama lived in Phenix City. He's probably waiting for the city to rename Broad Street in his honor.

Phenix City Manager Wallace Hunter had a similar response to other mailed accusations, when we talked with him before a Council work session. In fact, he showed me a manila envelope filled with letters from the anonymous "13th Street Businessperson." At least Hunter keeps them. Stephen Smith says his copies are thrown in the trash - and apparently aren't even recycled.

Wallace Hunter suggested he tries to ignore the accusations of the 13th Street Businessperson. But he responded to part of the latest mailing without our even mentioning it -- explaining why Phenix City workers "have been ordered to work on a 'private' girls club." Put those last three words together in a sentence, and some people might think "Sin City" is coming back.

The Phenix City Manager told me Parks and Recreation Department employees "have been cutting grass at the Girls' Club for years. That's city property." The property is east of Lakewood Park Drive, near six baseball fields -- which I think puts it in fair territory.

Wallace Hunter also denied a suggestion that he fixed a traffic ticket for a Phenix City Councilor in the last few weeks. "I know the merit system pretty well," the City Manager said -- adding he hasn't stayed on the city payroll 25 years "by doing stupid things." For one thing, someone with the last city government would have demanded his resignation or ordered his arrest.

Wallace Hunter could only talk with us for a moment -- so we couldn't ask him about one other accusation. The 13th Street Businessperson claims the Phenix City Manager ordered all city employees to sign a memo barring them from discussing city business with the general public. If that ban is in effect, the Utilities Director may be fired sometime today.

(If any Phenix City employees can verify they were ordered to sign a "vow of silence," we invite them to e-mail us. If they have a copy of the alleged memo, that's even better. We'll keep your identity confidential - but we'll need something to prove you're not some kind of troublemaker from Smiths Station.)

Mayor Sonny Coulter told me these anonymous negative mailings are commonplace in Phenix City. Coulter says he was a target when he first ran for mayor 25 years ago. Of course, he's been in and out of office so many times that he's become a moving target.

The latest mailing from the 13th Street Businessperson admittedly frustrated me. While he/she was accurate about the Holland Creek sewage spill in June [2 Jul], this one was filled with vague accusations and NO specific names and places. At least Glenn Beck specifies which politician he considers racist....

On top of that - if this anonymous mailer is accusing officials of ethics violations, why doesn't the Russell County District Attorney's office have a copy of the mailing? Assistant Prosecutor Buster Landreau told me Tuesday he doesn't recall seeing it. Considering other mailings have "cc" listings naming Columbus Councilors, I simply don't understand.

(We asked Buster Landreau if his office was investigating the Phenix City government at this time. He told me the District Attorney's policy is not to confirm or deny either way. If Landreau has a big announcement to make, I doubt he's going to send it in a plain white envelope with no return address.)

Since we were at Phenix City Hall, we stuck around for the Council work session. It turned out your blog was the ONLY humor blog news outlet of any sort in attendance - so perhaps the Citizen of East Alabama reporters were busy at the weekly Auburn football news conference.

The work session brings us back to the quote which began all this. Two firms presented proposals for handling the annual audit of Phenix City records. The comment about bellyaching came from a firm based in Alabama. The other finalist is based in Georgia. The City Council vote to settle this could come next week -- well before the Auburn-Georgia game.

(In fact, the potential auditor from Atlanta seemed prepared for this - telling the council he could "get you a nice Auburn graduate that you can use...." Alabama alumni get overlooked again....)

The Georgia candidate for Phenix City's auditing work actually has a Birmingham office. A presenter said it opened in 2003. Then he added: "It's been open for six or seven years - I'm not really good with numbers...." One city council member noticed me on the side, almost doubling over at such a statement from an auditor.

But in his defense, the potential auditor from Atlanta wore the exact same kind of shoes I was wearing. From where I sat, I could tell even the sole was the same - so he must be a penny-pinching Wal-Mart shopper like me.

(And that man revealed during his presentation he used to come to Phenix City over Labor Day weekend to spend time with relatives - and "watch the Jerry Lewis telethon." Now do you see why some people wanted that Phenixian development so much?)

Stephen Smith says in addition to an auditing firm, Phenix City will need to hire an actuary to review "post-employee benefits." I didn't know the word "retirement" was considered offensive nowadays.

Mayor Sonny Coulter tried to emphasize the positive about Phenix City's finances. He told one auditing firm the city has a Standard & Poor's credit rating of A-plus -- and was told in reply that's "not very common" for cities of its size. Of course, most Phenix City residents only care about the rating of the Central High School football team.

But the mayor puzzled me when he told one auditor candidate: "Probably 65 to 75 percent of the people who live in Phenix City work in Columbus." Sonny Coulter called the Bi-Cities "one community" - although I suspect deep-down, he wants to agree with the Auburn football coach and put the whole community in Alabama.

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: There was one other Phenix City question we needed to resolve Tuesday. This came to our InBox....

Also, reliable sources tell me that most of the recyclables collected at the two recycling centers in Phenix City are going to the landfill. The only items they say are being recycled are the milk jugs, newspapers and aluminum cans. Is this so? I would like to know so I can take my items elsewhere if they are just ending up in the landfill. I had previously been told that since Goodwill ended the recycling contract in Columbus in July that Phenix City's recyclables were being given to the city of Columbus. Is this correct? So which items are really being recycled by Phenix City and which items by Columbus?

Coca-Cola company opened the largest plastic recycling operation in the country in S. Carolina in April. Their goal is to recycle 100% of the plastic soft drink bottles in the U.S. So is Phenix City really taking those bottles to the landfill?

Please check this out for us Richard. Many of us spend valuable time trying to "go green" and recycle as much as possible.

Utilities-Finance Director Stephen Smith confirmed some of this. But we should note "milk jugs" and plastic soda bottles actually can be recycled together. I've never heard of any city sorting out #1 plastic and #2 plastic. I thought that sort of division was reserved for sports playoffs.

Stephen Smith told me Phenix City actually joined the city of Columbus in sending recycled items to Goodwill. With the end of the contract, Phenix City sends items to the city of Columbus now - but Smith added that will be reconsidered before long. After all, a "Greenie Award" from WLTZ is at stake.

Stephen Smith pointed the market for recyclables is subject to ups and downs. For instance, the metals market is strong right now. "Plastics have gotten much better," he added -- proving the movie "The Graduate" was right 40 years ago after all.

With every pressing question in Phenix City now resolved (for at least the next few days), let's check other Tuesday news:

+ Columbus Council held a work session of its own, on the proposed Crime Prevention Director. The discussion seems to have moved away from a single director, to a board with anywhere from seven to 11 members. The commission which studied this area for months simply likes each other too much.

+ The morning low temperature in Columbus was 53 degrees F. Isn't this a refreshing change? I moved from having trouble sleeping due to a sweaty bedroom, to having trouble sleeping due to a chilly bedroom.

+ Columbus city officials revealed the recent flooding damaged some park benches along the Riverwalk. This is the moment we've been waiting for - as "Yella Fella" rides into town with better wood, along with two iron fists to beat up ornery prison inmates with their weed-whackers.

(The Army Corps of Engineers has postponed this weekend's West Point Lake volunteer cleanup - because there's debris to clean up after the flooding. How bizarre is this?! No mother would buy this argument, when it comes to a child's bedroom.)

+ The Greater Columbus Fair opened in South Commons. The evening news showed a children's game called "Frog Fishing." Excuse me - but if you're trying to catch a frog, should it really be called fishing? I guess calling it "frogging" wouldn't work, because the children would want to jump around all night....

(WRBL's Bob Jeswald confused me a bit during the 6:00 p.m. news - when he declared the fair began "three minutes ago, Eastern time." I didn't know the Columbus Civic Center security staff was keeping Opelika residents out for the first hour.)

+ Our evening blog research led to an interesting surprise - a Myspace page for Bill Heard Chevrolet. The page is still online, even though someone last logged on to it one year ago today. And here's something even more surprising - Bill Heard somehow still has dozens of Myspace friends.

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© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

29 SEP 09: A Sticky Evening

The server brought out barbecued chicken, with a special sauce on the side. Diet cola was in my glass. The public address system played traditional blues music. Yet the restaurant which offered all this was NOT a typical Columbus "barbecue joint." It was "Old South" to be sure - but it was supposed to be more South Asian.

I gave "Old Siam" on 11th Street a try one recent evening. Old Siam is a new restaurant, but it's in a tight old downtown building - so perhaps the Thai- tiebreaker is an old Siamese cat the chef keeps in a back room.

Old Siam replaced the Tavern Off Broadway several weeks ago. It still serves beer and wine - but the emphasis now is on "authentic Thai cuisine." To be honest, I wasn't quite sure what that meant. Would the rice be a bit more downscale, compared with Chef Lee?

Old Siam has a web presence, which includes its lunch and dinner menus. There's plenty of rice there, but also several dishes featuring curry. I've eaten at East Indian restaurants a couple of times, so they could "curry my favor" rather easily....

Old Siam even uses Twitter to promote some of its specials - but the items posted are for lunch, so I had to ask about the dinner specials. One of them was Thai barbecue chicken, which my server described as something I could eat with my fingers. Good - because I wasn't sure how formal this restaurant was. A lack of tablecloths could simply be a way to keep prices low.

The server added my chicken would be served with a curry barbecue and "sticky rice." I made sure I heard that correctly - because that kind often was criticized in Uncle Ben's commercials years ago....

As I waited for dinner, I was struck by the background music Old Siam was playing. It was NOT "authentic Thai" at all. In fact, my jaw dropped when they played a Southern-style blues tune with the line, "Kiss your bad a** goodbye." Sunday dinner groups from nearby First Presbyterian Church might have done exactly that.

After a few minutes, the barbecued chicken came out. The half-chicken was relatively easy to pull apart - and almost didn't need the curry barbecue sauce at all, because of a nice herb-cooked flavor. If Old Siam keeps this up, it could open a spinoff restaurant which keeps Boston Market away from Columbus for good.

I asked the server to repeat how I was supposed to eat Thai barbecued chicken -- by rolling it in the sticky rice, then dipping it in the sauce. Trouble is, the rice refused to cooperate. It was a sticky rice pattie, all right -- almost like a tropical storm was striking the Thai coast.

The chicken wouldn't pick up any sticky rice at all, even when I dipped it in the sauce first. I'm not sure how Old Siam made it stick together so well - but I suspect Tammy Terry of WRBL uses the same formula on her hair.

Since I was eating "finger food," Old Siam only brought out a metal fork for dinner. Not even the side of that fork could slice through the sticky rice very easily. I made a little progress -- and since the restaurant was surprisingly empty on a Friday night, I had a "buffer zone" if anything went airborne.

I didn't want to embarrass myself and ask for a knife to cut the rice, since this would prove I was a rookie at Thai cuisine. But I also didn't eat the pattie with my hands, like a slice of bread. I may be a single guy, but I DO know something about manners....

After several minutes of trying, I surrendered. I gave up the dinner plates with the rice pattie half-eaten. I also declined the server's offer of a "to-go" cup for my diet cola - although come to think of it, something in the soda might have cut through the rice.

The Thai barbecue chicken had a special price of $9.95 - and with soda and a tip, I dined at Old Siam for less than 14 dollars. That's not a bad price, but I admittedly left a little disappointed. When the rice and blues music are almost as memorable as the main course -- well, you might say there are some loose ends to Thai together.

Now let's move from something old to something news, from the Monday headlines:

+ The Chattahoochee River kept dropping in Columbus, making the Riverwalk visible downtown again. But the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper told WLTZ the water has 40 times the maximum safe level of e-coli bacteria. Some spectators should have stopped at simply throwing rocks in the river....

+ Investigators examined the remains of the fire-damaged River Road Pharmacy. I didn't know about this until Monday evening - yet as I drove to church Monday afternoon, I said to myself Columbus was due for a major fire. Think about it: Jordan Mills, the Phenix City Moose Lodge and Bibb Mill all burned in October. Hopefully this isn't an arson ring planning an early vacation.

+ The Army Corps of Engineers announced a $333 million commitment grant to the new Martin Army Hospital. Take that, St. Francis! Government-run health care will plow you under yet.

+ Alabama Gas indicated it will reduce natural gas prices this winter. The Associated Press reported wholesale prices have dropped 70 percent since the middle of last year, but residential rates have dropped only seven percent. Someone at Alagasco must be absolutely convinced an earthquake's coming.

+ Auburn football coach Gene Chizik visited the Columbus Quarterback Club meeting, and declared to WRBL: "Columbus might as well be connected to Alabama...." If you see Chizik "wanted posters" plastered across half of the Government Center by the end of the week, this is why....

+ Troy University announced a four-year home-and-home football series with Mississippi State. Troy coach Larry Blakeney said a home game against a Southeastern Conference school is "a step in the right direction." This means either Blakeney is tired of all the blowouts in big stadiums - or he's calling Nick Saban a chicken.

+ Instant Message to Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue: Ohhhhh - THAT'S what you meant by "Hands-On Georgia" week. It's about public service. It's NOT about the two attractive young women who sat next to me at church....

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© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

for 28 SEP 09: U-SO Sorry

Did you know the USO chapter at the Atlanta airport is named after Jean Amos -- the mother of Aflac's Dan Amos? We don't want military personnel heading away without some insurance, you know....

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: As the Third Brigade prepares to head for Iraq, your blog learned Sunday that financial problems have forced a paid staff cut at the Columbus USO office. A blog reader tipped us off to this by e-mail....

Richard, Very reliable informants have told me that Robbie Watson (former host of WRCG's Talkline) is no longer working as the director of the local USO office in Columbus....

It turns out she quietly left that paid position a month ago. Watson borrowed from General MacArthur - as her tenure didn't die, it simply faded away.

Atlanta USO Director Mary Lou Austin summed up what led to the change in Columbus with one word: "financials." What happened on Wall Street last September was far more of an "F-bomb" than even what comics on"Saturday Night Live" say.

Mary Lou Austin noted the Columbus USO chapter began on Victory Drive only a year ago - so a reassessment is underway about whether paid personnel are needed. She indicated plenty of charities are facing tough financial decisions. Do you pay for a person to be in charge? Or do you risk being closed when a bank president drives by with an open checkbook?

Mary Lou Austin says the Columbus USO chapter currently has an acting director -- but it's a volunteer. She noted the Savannah chapter operates entirely with volunteers. If it's good enough for the overall Army....

Mary Lou Austin assured me the Columbus USO chapter still is in operation on Victory Drive. In fact, it joined with other Georgia chapters in providing tickets for military personnel to attend a Britney Spears concert earlier this month. At last -- an explanation for that head-shaving a few years ago.

Georgia USO chapters also plan to help military personnel attend Atlanta baseball games this week. And in a stunning development, their hollering at Turner Field actually could matter this year....

But back to the "celebrity name" which sparked all this. Before we called Mary Lou Austin, we asked Robbie Watson about this reader's tip. She e-mailed a wide-ranging reply Saturday:

Hi Richard!

I can confirm that I am no longer with USO Columbus. It wasn't meant to be. The Lord will open another door.

RE: the Warfighting Conference, if you wanted to preach the Gospel to the Infantry check your Bible Richard.

Ecclesiastes 3:8 states clearly there is ....a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

When I googled that famous verse the following also appeared:

Proverbs 13:5 A righteous man hates falsehood, But a wicked man acts disgustingly and shamefully.


This response about the USO was so vague that we felt compelled to call Mary Lou Austin for more details. We were thankful to see Watson's mug shot was NOT among those lined up on the front page of Sunday's Ledger-Enquirer.

At least Robbie Watson still has that picture inside the National Infantry Museum, showing her serving soldiers at the Columbus USO [4 Jul]. And I'm sure the chapter still would accept her as a volunteer -- although Mary Lou Austin indicated the USO needs dollars and cents right now, more than cookies and punch.

Robbie Watson refers us back to Saturday's comments about the National Warfighting Conference. Clearly there are various views in the Christian world about whether to participate in military service. Some groups support fighting for your country. Others are pacifist. And if they ever clash, the pacifists probably won't be posted as the favorites in Las Vegas.

Since Robbie Watson quoted Old Testament verses, let's check the New Testament for a moment. Jesus praised a Roman centurion for his faith in Luke 7. But He also chastised a supporter for slicing off someone's ear with a sword in Luke 22 - then healed that ear. To this day, Mike Tyson has NOT taken a similar step toward Evander Holyfield.

Then there's the minister I saw on TV Sunday, who dared to indicate God will inspire a Third World War between Europe and radical Muslims -- and do it to punish the U.S. So if some of these accused terrorists actually succeed with bombing courthouses, am I supposed to offer a prayer of thanksgiving?

By the way - why do you think Robbie Watson quoted that verse from Proverbs in writing us? Was that some kind of pre-emptive strike, about what we might write? I haven't heard the slightest thing about her running for mayor next year -- much less coaching our new minor league basketball team.

BLOG UPDATE: The Dillingham Street Bridge should be open for a Monday morning commute. I know this because it was open for MY Sunday morning commute - and when cars pass a jogger like me to cross the bridge, it's a rather persuasive argument to run on the sidewalk.

The Phenix City Amphitheatre was practically dry early Sunday, despite the Saturday night rain. That tells me the Chattahoochee River level is going down. Either that, or a group of people showed up to tape an infomercial about a miracle mop.

Today's main topic was the result of a blog reader's tip. To offer a story tip, advertise to our readers, 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: 359 (- 21, 5.5%)

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© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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27 SEP 09: The Rain, the Ballpark and Other Things

With thanks to The Cowsills (and showing my age), we begin with the rain. It fell heavily at times on Columbus Saturday night - but as I told a woman at my dinner stop, "Better us than Atlanta right now." Parts of Atlanta have been too busy blow-drying carpets to dry out the ground for another storm.

The rain apparently canceled the final night of an unusual theatre production in Columbus. Shakespeare's play "The Tempest" was staged outside Bludau's restaurant on Broadway. Hopefully the managers had a backup plan - and invited the audience inside to play Othello.

It was steamy before the rain came -- and I hope Kurt Schmitz is right when he calls this weekend "the last gasp of summer." Friday's high in Columbus was 90 degrees F. I wimped out, turning on my home air conditioner for the first time in weeks. Well, I thought I wimped out - but then several men at church told me they never turned theirs off for fall.

A Saturday morning stroll in the Historic District found much of the Riverwalk still covered by flood water. But there was one dry spot below the old amphitheatre at Sixth Street. It wasn't much, though - as the only running people could have done was a back-and-forth on-the-whistle basketball drill.

The flood level at Golden Park did NOT change from Thursday morning to Friday afternoon -- still barely up the stairway. A man asked online if I had seen any "Mud Cats." I assured him the baseball stadium was empty....

This brings us to the ballparks. For the second Saturday night in a row, lightning delayed the start of Auburn's football game. And here's the sad thing -- Bobby Lowder can't afford to make big donations anymore, to install a retractable roof over Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn bounced Ball State with ease 54-30. WRBL noted Ball State was paid $850,000 to come south for this game - so it would have been downright selfish for the Cardinals to take home a win as well.

Ball State actually jumped out to a 7-0 lead - but then Auburn scored 30 points in a row. So much for Ball State's team getting invited to New York, to join alumnus David Letterman....

Auburn quarterback Chris Todd threw for five touchdowns for the second game in a row. That hasn't happened at Auburn since the 1940's - and if Auburn's best-known modern quarterback is any indication, Jason Campbell is never going to do that in the N.F.L.

During the first quarter, Tommy Trott took a touchdown toss from Todd. Any Auburn fan who could say that four times fast obviously did NOT drink beer during the game.

But not every throw by Chris Todd was perfect on a rainy night. Auburn radio analyst Stan White said one incomplete pass was "thrown wet.... maybe with no laces." Why aren't football shoes made to attach with Velcro, anyway?

Auburn fans were left with a post-game cliffhanger, as quarterback-turned-receiver Kodi Burns left early with what the coaches said only was a "leg injury." If an Auburn lineman was described this way, it could refer to eating too much chicken at the training table.

Auburn football fans may have reason for some big dreaming now. The Tigers are 4-0, the next two road games at Tennessee and Arkansas seem winnable -- and Coach Gene Chizik's old school has won more games in September than he did all last year.

Up the highway and down the FM dial, Georgia had a much tougher challenge Saturday night. The Bulldogs edged Arizona State 20-17 on a last-second field goal. But what does it say when a starting wide receiver has to block a kick, to keep Georgia from falling behind?

Blair Walsh kicked the winning field goal for Georgia, then was mobbed by teammates in what Bulldog broadcaster Scott Howard called a "dog pile." After 60 minutes of football, it probably smelled about as ugly as that more commonly-known "dog pile."

(Scott Howard accidentally declared the "last play of the ball game" at the end of the first quarter. If he hosted the Sunday highlights show on television, I might understand that - but he doesn't.)

The Georgia broadcasters found an unusual statistic about a Bulldog fullback. Fred Munzenmeier had rushed three times this season for three touchdowns - but he failed to score three times against Arizona State. So Munzenmeier hasn't quite eclipsed the legacy of Larry Munson yet.

All the other major college football teams in the area won Saturday. Georgia Tech knocked off North Carolina 24-7, and held the losers to only 17 rushing yards. Is this really a surprise? When your nickname is Tar Heels, you're more likely to get stuck when you're running.

Now we're ready for those "other things" -- and there's plenty to review this weekend:

+ Muscogee County Judge Doug Pullen disqualified Stacey Jackson from being Michael Registe's attorney. Jackson should look on the bright side - now he can take over for that woman who's bringing soldiers to federal court over President Obama's birthplace.

+ WLTZ reported all the judges in the Chattahoochee Circuit will work one day a month without pay. Isn't this inspiring? Now defense attorneys will have no excuse to avoid the indigent defendant program.

+ The city of Columbus held its annual auction of surplus property. It was held next door to Riverdale Cemetery -- but for some reason, the city decided NOT to bury old cars there to develop an east-coast version of the Cadillac Ranch.

+ Russell County commissioners approved a fiscal 2010 budget, giving most employees a three-percent raise. Tillman Pugh voted against it, explaining the county was spending potential savings. I assume Pugh never lets his wife shop at the mall....

+ The Lowe's store on Veterans Parkway held its first "Safety Saturday" for young people. WXTX "News at Ten" showed public safety workers there from as far away as Ellaville -- so apparently the "safety" had nothing to do with playing football.

+ An ABC News investigation found a "leadership political action committee" set up by Senator Saxby Chambliss spent $204,000 on candidates the past two years - while spending $225,000 on golf outings. It could be worse, I suppose. Chambliss could call it his idea of "going green."

+ The Columbus Times listed this year's nominees for the Liberty Theatre's "Libby Awards." One finalist for Best Actor is TV reporter Chauncy Glover -- so next time he sticks his hand in his pocket during a newscast, it may simply reflect good directing.

+ Instant Message to WTVM meteorologist Derek Kinkade: Did I hear you correctly Friday evening? Did you declare bowling the "sport of champions?" I doubt most sports fans could name the most recent U.S. Open bowling champion - and you'd think someone from Texas would promote the game by wearing a cowboy hat or something.

SCHEDULED FOR MONDAY (with an early post time): An unexpected change of command....

The number of unique visitors to our web site was up 11 percent in the first half of 2009! To advertise to our readers, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 380 (+ 10, 2.7%)

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

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

26 SEP 09: Peace Doesn't Pay?

(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.)

The chaplains with Fort Benning's Third Brigade are asking for community prayer Sunday, before soldiers begin another mission in Iraq. The war protesters who show up outside St. Luke United Methodist Church on weekends might actually go inside, and do something productive.

The Army was on display to the public in Columbus this past week. The annual "National Warfighting Conference" was held at the Trade Center - but I didn't hear about any protesters there. The Columbus State University fine arts students down the street may have been too busy copying the moves on "Glee."

The Warfighting Conference had booths inside the Trade Center, but you didn't have to go in to view some of the displays. Several military vehicles were parked outside - including a big one "hiding" behind the Trade Center sign on Front Avenue. Dozens of Columbus Police officers on speeding patrol probably jotted down that one....

(In fact, I was surprised by how many Columbus and Fort Benning police cars were parked in the middle of Front Avenue. Apparently they were there for traffic control - but it still looked strange. Shouldn't the big military vehicles protect the small cruisers, instead of the other way around?)

The vehicle playing "peek-a-boo" was a Stryker, which has been modified to provide medical help. I should have asked it that means it shoots out flu spray, instead of ammunition.

Parked next to it in the entryway was a large Cougar four-by-four. I don't know if will be displayed at today's Columbus State women's soccer game - but if it is, it probably will have to be painted pink.

Thomas Jambriska of General Dynamics was at a table, showing off the Cougar. He told me one of them costs $400,000 to $600,000. But he admitted the model on display was "overkill," as it had special protection underneath against IED's. Hopefully it also has something to prevent Iraqi sand from causing rust damage.

Raytheon was at the Warfighting Conference, showing off a state-of-the-art military tent. It was hooked up to show high-definition television - so there HAD to be a microwave oven somewhere for cooking MRE's.

Plenty of Fort Benning soldiers strolled around the Trade Center, looking over all the items. Perhaps some of them attended the conferences inside, with top officers such as General David Petraeus. It was Petraeus's second trip to Columbus in three weeks - so which realtor is showing him retirement housing?

Then there was this item along Front Avenue - a portable guard tower for watching over military action. A salesman told me I could have one for about $4,500. And I probably could take delivery in time for hunting season.

OK, I'll admit it - I went to the Warfighting Conference with an agenda. For one thing, I wanted to know how these articles of war could be used for peaceful purposes. In some cases, the answer is obvious. That fancy tent could be the next step up for a party, when my older brother turns 65.

Thomas Jambriska seemed to guess at a peacetime use for his giant Cougar. He thinks it would work well in "homeland security." But if we still need such a big thing for a secure homeland, are we really at peace? Some people don't feel secure, even with a much smaller burglar alarm.

I also asked the display workers what it might take to bring an end to war. Would the carpet-bombing of Afghanistan suggested by a local pastor [15 Sep] be the answer? Thomas Moody of Raytheon didn't think so. He noted the country has plenty of mountains - and for all we know, Usama bin-Laden really may be hiding in Iran.

Thomas Jambriska openly doubted we'll ever see an end to war. He told me as long as humans are the way they are, it's unlikely to happen. And he has a good point - people don't go to mixed martial arts matches to see handshakes and hugs.

I left the Warfighting Conference with one main, perhaps cruel conclusion -- war pays. It may cost military personnel their lives, but plenty of companies and contractors make lots of money from it. After all, some people say World War II pulled the U.S. out of a depression more than President Roosevelt's work projects did -- although the cabins at FDR State Park somehow are still standing.

But I also left with the feeling that these companies don't realize something - a "prince of peace" is coming soon to change their thinking. You KNEW we were heading in this direction, right? After all, I don't even have a water gun in the house - much less a modified tank.

My Bible shows Jesus Christ is coming back to bring peace to the earth. But the Old Testament book of Zechariah indicates it will come "the hard way," with Jesus striking opposing countries with a deadly plague -- and even bringing a plague on all sorts of animals. If I belonged to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, I'd cancel the protests and get out of the way.

If the presence of a Warfighting Conference in Columbus disturbs you, remember this - SOA Watch will bring the opposite perspective to town in a couple of months. You won't find Strykers and Humvees parked around the Trade Center. And if anyone tries to pitch a tent, police probably will arrest that person for being a vagrant.

So pray for the Third Brigade this weekend if you wish - but don't forget to pray for something much bigger. Pray as Jesus suggested, for God's Kingdom to come. If you really think it's here now, maybe you need to go to Afghanistan and let the Taliban know.

The number of unique visitors to our web site was up 11 percent in the first half of 2009! To advertise to our readers, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 370 (- 40, 9.8%)

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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Friday, September 25, 2009

25 SEP 09: Mobi Slick

Today's blog entry should be brought to you by the letter M. I can't come out and declare it's sponsored by M, because in this day and age "Sesame Street" might file a protest -- even though I think that program lost its alphabet monopoly with the "What is G?" commercials.

M was the letter of the day Thursday at Columbus State University - as campus officials announced a new web area for people with mobile devices. Before Alabama's Governor becomes concerned, a "mobile device" does NOT refer to a slot machine casino near the Gulf coast.

The new secure web site will allow Columbus State students to obtain vital campus information on their cell phones and PDA's. I assume this includes a Blackberry - although if you handed me one to use right now in an emergency, I'd be in a Blackberry jam.

Columbus State computer geeks technology experts spent months developing a system to connect C.S.U. online elements with Google applications. The result is possibly a first for any U.S. college campus - which is surprising, because you'd think Appalachian State University would pioneer this. You know, "Appy State...."

Campus officials say the "Columbus State Mobile Apps" will offer all kinds of benefits to students. While walking around campus, they can review...

+ Class schedules. As if they're so busy studying for a 1:30 p.m. test that they'll forget they have a regular class at 10:30 a.m.

+ Academic records. Now you can prove to employers you're smart, without paying for a transcript.

+ Student financial accounts. Walk into the library with an unpaid fine, and your cell phone should play old country music songs.

+ Athletic events. Scott Miller may ask you to press the "lucky key" during the final minutes of the basketball game.

Columbus State's experts want to expand the Mobile Apps beyond all this. They dream of a secure system for students to chat with each other. Some of us can remember when this was called a restaurant booth in the student union.

The day even may be coming when Columbus State students will be able to follow classes via cell phone and PDA. Of course, this leads to a question - why even have classrooms? Can't the professor set up a teleconference from home?

Columbus State University students paid for this new mobile gadgetry through higher fees for "student technology." But for some, these new applications still may not be enough. They're hoping for a connection providing them free membership at eHarmony.

(For all the high-tech improvements, the C.S.U. communications system still isn't perfect. The news release announcing all this says it was "developed by Columbus University" - showing you still can't beat an old-fashioned set of proofreading eyeballs.)

Isn't it amazing how Columbus State University keeps making significant steps forward? This week alone has brought the first club football game, a new mobile device web site - and skeptics are waiting for giant TV screens to be set up across campus, with non-stop messages from President Timothy Mescon.

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

(The Riverwalk view from Golden Park, Thursday at 9:15 a.m. ET)

BLOG UPDATE: We posted these pictures Thursday morning, showing how flood water from metro Atlanta is covering the Riverwalk at Golden Park. The water level is still several feet below May 2003, when the Chattahoochee River was halfway up the stairs. If that happens this time, sales of kayaks in Columbus may skyrocket.

The Columbus city web site finally posted an alert Thursday about the closing of the Riverwalk. It also posted several keepsake pictures of flooding in the downtown area. But why does it seem to me like most of the photos focus on the Phenix City Amphitheatre stage being covered?

Forecasters say the Riverwalk could be covered with river water until next Tuesday. Until then, you're asked to please NOT go around barricades and walk too close to the Riverwalk. Take it from this jogger - Lumpkin Boulevard along South Commons is wide and dry enough for your morning exercise.

Hoping you stay high and dry, let's review other Thursday headlines....

+ Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle visited Fort Benning, to review base realignment construction. Cagle came here because Governor Sonny Perdue was seeing the Panama Canal on a business trip. Apparently the Chattahoochee River isn't interesting enough to watch right now....

+ The Columbus Health Department assembled a panel of experts, for a news conference on the H-1-N-1 flu. That's nice - but if Scrubby Bear wasn't there, should I really believe what these people say?

+ Employees of a Warm Springs restaurant complained to WRBL they've been under "Bulloch House arrest" since the owners were arrested for an alleged ponzi scheme. Workers claim they've even needed an escort from authorities to go to the restroom. Maybe the Columbus Tea Party's warnings about socialized health care are right after all.

+ Albany's WALB-TV reported the former Randolph County, Georgia school superintendent keeps showing up for work, even though he was fired three weeks ago. They should have checked this man for literacy when they hired him....

+ WALB also reported Georgia has 20,328 state-owned vehicles - more than any other state in the Southeast. That may sound bad, but consider this. Once Governor Perdue leaves office, the state probably won't need as many helicopters for governors to fly.

+ Richard Scrushy's fleet of classic cars was sold at auction in Birmingham. The highest bid for part of the former HealthSouth chairman's collection was more than $170,000, for a 1929 Cadillac with fewer than 5,000 miles on it. The lack of mileage is understandable -- because in some rural corners of Alabama, parts would be "borrowed" from a car to keep farm equipment running.

+ Carver clobbered Columbus in high school football 47-13. WRBL's Shawn Skillman noted the Tigers have been running more swing passes lately. If he's calling Coach Dell McGee a swinger, Skillman may be barred the way University of Georgia recruiters.

+ Instant Message to Richard Hyatt: That's an interesting idea on your web site - to name the new Muscogee County School District administration building. But shouldn't it really be named after John Phillips? Well, at least the executive washroom next to the Superintendent's office?

COMING THIS WEEKEND: A strange question we asked at the Warfighting Conference....

Our deep thanks to a "blog patron" for donating to our site in the past few days! To make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 410 (+ 16, 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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Thursday, September 24, 2009

24 SEP 09: Overflow Room

A web site named Gawker focuses on gossip about entertainment and politics. But Wednesday brought proof gawking is NOT confined simply to New York and Los Angeles. It happens in our area, too - only we have to watch for natural disasters, since Mayor Jim Wetherington's wife simply does not shop enough to make news.

The gawking was obvious during a section of my morning run, which had to be moved to the 13th Street Bridge. Drivers to my left seemed to go up the incline from the Phenix City side slowly - and I concluded the reason had to be the high river level to their right, because I wasn't dressed outlandishly at all.

My morning jog had a detour to the 13th Street Bridge because the Phenix City Riverwalk was closed. And of course, the closure was due to flood water moving down the Chattahoochee River from Atlanta. You know what they say - when one floodgate opens, another one closes.

(All six floodgates were open at West Point Dam Wednesday afternoon - but only four out of 33 are open at Lake Oliver. People in a sophisticated city like Columbus know how to hold their water....)

The closing of the Phenix City Riverwalk also meant the parking lot behind the new Russell County Courthouse was off-limits. But the county commission meeting went on as scheduled. Better to risk flooded cars at the new building, than drips from a leaky roof at the old one.

The Phenix City Amphitheater's stage was an island surrounded by water when I jogged by it at 8:30 a.m. By late afternoon, it was covered with water from the rising Chattahoochee River. If someone had acted quickly, Phenix City could have scheduled its own version of Aqua-palooza.

Concern about gawking expanded during the afternoon, as the Columbus city manager announced the Dillingham Street Bridge would be closed to cars. Isaiah Hugley told the Ledger-Enquirer foot traffic still would be allowed, but discouraged - since we all know very few local residents wear old-fashioned "boat shoes" these days.

The city manager explained there's NO structural problem with the Dillingham Street Bridge. The closure is because slow-moving drivers staring at the river cause traffic problems. Imagine the scare those drivers would get after crossing into Columbus - turning right on Front Avenue, and seeing large military vehicles parked for the National Warfighting Conference.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We stopped by the Warfighting Conference Wednesday, and will have some thoughts about it this weekend.)

Isaiah Hugley also announced the entire Columbus Riverwalk would be closed until further notice. I read this online, hurried to Golden Park at 4:45 p.m. - and found NO flooding on that section of the Riverwalk yet. But things could be different later today. The water could be higher -- and crowds may show up for the traditional tossing of rocks from the railroad track.

While the Columbus city manager alerted the news media to the bridge and Riverwalk closures, the city web site still didn't mention them Wednesday night. Instead, there was a message from Marshal Greg Countryman about "community policing." That's nice - but can he match the police department's ten new beats?

But I digress: a WRBL news team was warned away from the riverbank in downtown Columbus because "water moccasins" were jumping out of the Chattahoochee. If we can have a hockey team named the Cottonmouths, you'd think someone would start a Water Moccasin swim club.

Back up the river, flooding receded across the Atlanta area Wednesday. A closed section of Interstate 20 reopened. Rides at Six Flags Over Georgia were more visible. And Lake Lanier was within 3.1 feet of a full summer pool - which may have prompted half of Atlanta to take tub baths in celebration.

Since we sort of promise at the top of the page to comment on "the flow of the river," West Point Dam currently is releasing 50,000 cubic feet of water per second. So if you drive to West Point today with a few empty five-gallon jugs, I don't think the park rangers will mind very much....

Some people say they can't remember the last time the Chattahoochee River was so high in Columbus. That's why we're here to help - as the Riverwalk also was covered in the spring of 2003 [13 May 03]. But the Dillingham Street Bridge was NOT closed at that time. Uptown Columbus Inc. needed every visitor it could find.

WLTZ's Pat Walker noted Wednesday night Columbus has received 52.3 inches of rain so far this year. That's 15 inches more than normal -- and it's still warm enough that people who relied on rain to fill their backyard swimming pools can enjoy them.

Given what's happened in the last few days, perhaps this e-mail Wednesday from Columbus state Rep. Richard Smith shouldn't have come as a surprise:

The Special Subcommittee on Adequate Water Supply scheduled for Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 2:00 pm at the Iron Works is being POSTPONED.

I will keep you posted when the meetings are rescheduled.

Part of me wonders if a late-season tropical storm will mean no meetings at all - and perhaps the disbanding of the subcommittee.

Let's shift now to some drier Wednesday topics....

+ The Muscogee County School District announced it's receiving a Defense Department grant to build a library of podcasts. What could be more inspiring than to hear the Fort Benning Commander personally read his weekly column in "The Bayonet?"

+ Berry Plastics on Eighth Avenue announced an expansion which will result in 25 new jobs. The company makes plastic drinking cups for restaurant chains such as Subway - which tells me the $100,000 Scrabble game piece has to be waiting for me somewhere around here.

+ A judge in Birmingham cleared the way for an auction today of 19 cars owned by former HealthSouth executive Richard Scrushy. The collection includes a Bentley and a Rolls-Royce - which tells me Scrushy had a salary so high, he didn't have to worry about fuel economy.

+ Atlanta's baseball team announced manager Bobby Cox will retire after next season. Cox has managed in Atlanta SO LONG that some newspaper employees probably think he's one of the owners.

(Trivia time - do you remember the man Bobby Cox replaced as Atlanta manager in 1990? It was Russ Nixon, who complained at the time he wasn't given a fair chance to succeed. Yet unlike the baseball players, Nixon never sued on grounds of collusion when no other team took him.)

+ The College Football Hall of Fame announced it will move to Atlanta from South Bend, Indiana. The managers apparently want to be surrounded by winning teams again.

+ The University of Georgia athletics board approved a new six-year contract to play the Georgia-Florida football game in Jacksonville. Coach Mark Richt suggested the series be played in Atlanta every other year -- which tells me he hasn't checked the small size of the Georgia Dome parking lot.

Our deep thanks to a "blog patron" for donating to our site in the past few days! To make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 394 (+ 20, 5.3%)

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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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

23 SEP 09: Healthy Bankroll

The topic was health care reform Tuesday on WDAK radio's "Viewpoint." A guest said 31 cents of every dollar spent on health care go to hospitals. Doctors get 21 cents, and drug companies get ten cents. The guest made malpractice attorneys sound practically bankrupt.

The interview occurred as the Ledger-Enquirer broke some big news about local health care. St. Francis Hospital announced plans for an expansion and renovation which will cost $110 million. You now can start an office pool on which local government critic will be the first to declare this "Taj Mahal III."

St. Francis Hospital plans to borrow $75 million to pay for the renovation project. We're now waiting for the Columbus Tea Party to announce a march outside, to protest yet another colossal case of deficit spending in health care.

WTVM showed a breakdown of how St. Francis Hospital plans to pay for its massive makeover. It indicated $75 million will be borrowed, $25 million will come from reserves and $30 million will come from donations. Trouble is, that makes the total $130 million - so the planning for cost overruns may be already underway.

Yes, donations are expected to pay for 30 million dollars of the St. Francis Hospital expansion. Did the managers miss the town hall meetings in August - when people demanded health care reform with NO public option?

Isn't it fair to say the public will pay for this makeover, whether they "donate" to the hospital or not? If I give to the St. Francis expansion fund now, can I get a guaranteed discount on one of those 230 private rooms later?

St. Francis President and Chief Executive Robert Granger explained several reasons why the renovation is needed. For instance, hospital admissions are up 27 percent in the last five years. The number of surgical procedures has nearly doubled. Granger is counting on you, Columbus -- so keep on getting sick.

Robert Granger also told the TV news St. Francis needs a renovation because of base realignment at Fort Benning. This seems strange, considering planning is underway for a new Martin Army Hospital. I thought government-run health care is supposed to put the private sector out of business - and if they ever bring back the draft, it might happen around here.

That's what strikes me as curious about the big St. Francis announcement. Doesn't a $110 million hospital expansion increase the cost of health care -- especially if it's based heavily on borrowed money? And doesn't such a step by a private agency justify the argument for government-run health coverage? Which, of course, is borrowing plenty of money already?

The St. Francis expansion is only a proposal at this point, and needs Georgia state approval. But making the planned improvements by 2011 will mean....

+ An estimated 150 new jobs. But Robert Granger says they'll all be construction jobs, over the next five years. So we'll have plenty of new private rooms, but the same old nursing staff.

+ Another 20 emergency room beds, increasing capacity by 40 percent. This is why Columbus State University can't move beyond club football yet.

+ A new parking lot with 400 spaces -- perfect for employees on weekdays, and Ryan's buffet customers on weekends.

+ A new auditorium with 324 seats. Since this is St. Francis Hospital, Pacelli High School will have first rights to use it for stage shows.

By the way, suppose Columbus Regional announced this sort of expansion proposal. Since it relies in part on city funding, how would the mayor and council respond? There probably would be calls for something the St. Francis project list curiously does NOT have -- a new Sickness Prevention Director.

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: We really didn't consider the deadly Georgia storms anything to joke about. But someone sent us a message titled, "Mine, Mine, All Mine"....

I cannot believe no one has mentioned if Gov Perdue has tried to take measures to make sure any of the Flood water does not leave the City of Atlanta, let alone the state of Ga.

If Sonny Perdue tried to do something, it didn't work. My Tuesday morning Riverwalk run downtown found the Chattahoochee River only one to two feet below pavement level. I'd say it was perfect for ducks to swim - but uh-oh, the usual waddling ducks along the riverbank were missing.

Flood gates were opened at West Point Dam and Lake Oliver, to handle excess water from the Chattahoochee River. That probably will put parts of the Riverwalk underwater for awhile. If the threatened shrimp near Apalachicola can't make a full recovery from this, maybe people in northwest Florida should move on to something else.

Did you see the pictures of Atlanta's flooded East Lake Golf Club? The PGA Tour Championship is supposed to start there Thursday. It's hard to advise a golfer to avoid the water hazard when the entire course is a water hazard.

And somebody's gotta say it: who was the alleged genius in Tennessee, who dared someone to go swimming in a flooded ditch to win five dollars? It reminds me of what Neal Boortz once called the "famous last words of a redneck - y'all watch this."

(Hmmmm, you know - the man who made that dare ought to be forced to appear on every episode of "Wipeout" next season.)

With best wishes to everyone north of here, let's check other Tuesday topics:

+ An "Honor Flight" took 100 local World War II veterans to see the memorial built for them in Washington. One person who helped with the journey told the noon news he considers those veterans the "greatest generation we'll ever have." Translation: once they're dead, our country could be doomed.

(WLTZ's Stephanie Tiso went with the veterans on the Honor Flight to Washington. I hope those frisky octogenarians stayed on their best behavior - and didn't offer to "discharge some rounds" in her direction.)

+ Columbus Council approved an "overlay district" along Victory Drive. There's a cheap joke about nightclubs and prostitutes waiting to happen here, but I refuse to write it....

+ Columbus Council also considered a fare increase for riding METRA. The cost could jump from $1.25 to $1.30 on 1 October - and there's no time to bring in the band Nickelback for a protest rally.

+ WBOJ-FM had "Teen Advisors Night," in which I learned Japanese television shows a version of the children's game "Red Rover." Tokyo needs a National Football League franchise more than it realizes.

+ Instant Message to Longhorn Steakhouse: Aw c'mon - a sirloin steak with both bacon and whiskey? Are you trying to drive ALL the serious Christians away?

Our deep thanks to a "blog patron" for donating to our site in the past few days! To make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 374 (+ 12, 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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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

22 SEP 09: Like It and Lumpkin It

Isn't it amazing how secretive local grand juries can be? They come together seemingly from out of nowhere - and hours later, we have decisions on some of the biggest criminal cases in Columbus. Sometimes they seem like a downtown version of The Big Eddy Club....

That sort of big decision occurred again in Columbus Monday. A grand jury decided NOT to indict Frank Lumpkin III, for a shooting outside a convenience store last October. With a famous last name like Lumpkin, critics might call this a call of honoring "no-bill-ity."

In case you came in late: Frank Lumpkin III claims he happened upon his stolen sport utility vehicle last fall at a convenience store on Fort Benning Road. Lumpkin reportedly then attempted a "citizen's arrest" of the driver -- and we should remember that happened about 60 new Columbus police officers ago.

The auto theft and shooting case quickly ballooned into much more. The Columbus NAACP demanded a special prosecutor over the Frank Lumpkin III case, and that happened. Lumpkin's supporters began investigating the family of the teenager he shot, and his mother was arrested for shoplifting. And does anyone know if Grey Conger and Judge Julia Lumpkin still are dating?

Frank Lumpkin III eventually told a juvenile court he accidentally shot a young man inside his stolen SUV [16 Nov 08]. The gun reportedly was in the driver's lap - yet there's still been no proposal in Columbus Council to ban texting while driving, much less shooting.

Two teenagers found inside the SUV were sentenced to five years of juvenile detention. But way back last November, defense attorney Darrell Dowdell predicted Frank Lumpkin III would be punished eventually [11 Nov 08]. It now appears Dowdell plans to do that himself - by suing Lumpkin to the point that he'll be homeless.

Darrell Dowdell warned this blog last November he planned to file a civil suit against Frank Lumpkin III. He said it again to WTVM Monday, indicating several witnesses of the shooting never were brought before the grand jury. This sounds a bit familiar, doesn't it? If the prosecutor's starting lineup isn't getting a win, bring on the substitutes.

Darrell Dowdell dared to connect the Frank Lumpkin III case to the shooting of Kenneth Walker. He noted a grand jury refused to indict David Glisson in 2004, and now history has repeated itself -- as if the grand jury held a five-year reunion with a Government Center business session, instead of a picnic at Flat Rock Park.

Frank Lumpkin III reportedly called Columbus Police several times after his SUV was stolen, without a response. Eleven months later, the response might be different. Chief Ricky Boren said Monday ten new police beats are now in operation during the day, and should be in effect around the clock by January. That'll teach you to apply too late to be an officer - you get the night shift.

Let's see what else had people talking on the last full day of summer....

+ The parent company of Rob Doll Nissan filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Doll stayed away from "cash for clunkers" - and now his dealership apparently is lacking for both of them.

+ Teen Challenge International held the official grand opening of its downtown headquarters - five months after it actually opened. When you have to wait this long for the mayor to show up and cut a ribbon, Columbus truly is becoming a big city.

+ Columbus Councilor Jerry Barnes told WLTZ's "Rise and Shine" he's organizing a Veterans Day parade for mid-November. If I know Barnes, this will NOT consist simply of veterans marching - as firefighters will walk alongside, testing them for diabetes.

+ Better Way Foundation President Jeremy Hobbs issued a statement, reporting 92 people took part in his group's weekend HIV/AIDS walk and run on the Riverwalk. His next event is a "World AIDS Day banquet" in December - where you'd better be careful about asking for "cocktails," because someone might serve you medicine.

+ WXTX called off its "Fox 54 News at Ten" for the night. Anchor Jason Dennis blamed the problem on "technical difficulties." From what I saw in other WTVM newscasts, something in the control room became as temporarily insane as Dr. House.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer web site reported the Courts of Praise Worship Center in Phenix City will host a night of professional wrestling on 3 October. That may sound strange, but think about this - the book of Genesis says Jacob once wrestled with an angel, and it apparently was a no-time-limit match.

(There's one good thing about having pro wrestling at a church. The cheating wrestlers finally may have a conscience - and suspend their hair pulling and eye gouging for a night.)

+ WRBL showed a new scoreboard which is being installed at Kinnett Stadium. It's replacing one which is broken, and eventually could be installed at the proposed new Brewer ballpark. That stadium may be next to Brewer School, but I suspect the name "Andrews" will be in there somewhere.

+ Columbus State University played its first-ever "club football" game at Kinnett, and lost to the Shorter junior varsity 22-14. I'm amazed a Division III college such as Shorter even has a "junior varsity" team. I'd expect that at Georgia Tech - with players actually taking serious engineering courses.

+ Instant Message to WRBL sports anchor Shawn Skillman: So? Why it is such a big deal that Auburn football players are NOT spiking the ball after scoring touchdowns? That's been against the rules in college football for decades.

Our deep thanks to a "blog patron" for donating to our site this past weekend! To make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 362 (+ 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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Monday, September 21, 2009

21 SEP 09: Not a Good Time

Look at a typical U.S. road map, and you'll find a time zone boundary runs along the border of Alabama and Georgia. Spend a little time in the Columbus area, and you'll learn that boundary isn't quite accurate. For one thing, there's no visible barbed wire in the middle of the Chattahoochee River at all.

From my years in the Columbus area, I've determined Phenix City operates on Eastern Time. So do most of Ladonia and Smiths Station. But Eufaula is on Central Time - and so is Roanoke, Alabama. I recall a minister from there saying on Atlanta radio years ago that his city is "one hour slower." And compared to Atlanta, Roanoke IS a slow small town.

But a series of billboards currently posted across Columbus raises another curious matter of time. Have you noticed what's wrong with the signs promoting the Tuskegee-Morehouse football game? I mean, other than the fact that Morehouse never seems to be mentioned first?

The billboards show the kickoff for the Tuskegee-Morehouse game as "2:00 EST." I'm sorry, but that's not accurate for about half the fans coming to Columbus for the game. And it's not clear which half is affected - although we know for sure that half will be rooting for Tigers to win.

The problem is that "EST" stands for Eastern Standard Time. On 10 October, Columbus won't be on standard time yet. We'll still be on EDT -- Eastern Daylight Time. But then again, the sign makers could have misspelled "East."

Let's assume the promoters meant the Tuskegee-Morehouse kickoff time to be 2:00 EDT. People coming from Tuskegee still should arrive at 2:00 EST - because that computes to 1:00 Central Daylight Time, based on our moving clocks ahead in March. Give yourself bonus points if you understand this without calling up "control panel" on your computer.

This is a common mistake I've noticed during my years in Columbus -- people putting "EST" on activities during spring and summer, when we're actually on daylight time. A simple "ET" for Eastern Time can suffice at any time of year. Maybe some people still are concerned people will see "extraterrestrial" in that abbreviation.

One other matter of time was stunning for me to see, as I arrived in Columbus. I spent an afternoon at a TV station which showed a program's time as 4:00, "5:00 Central." That's not accurate, either -- and part of me wondered if pointing out the error would help me get a job there.

If you don't get it, 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time is the same as 3:00 Central. I learned that from watching television as I grew up. So it was stunning to see a TV station show the time incorrectly - especially a station at the boundary of two time zones. Sometimes a short drive from Columbus to Opelika can be helpful....

Did you know part of Georgia once was on Central Time? This month marks 90 years since that changed -- but amazingly, Georgia history web sites show the Governor signed a bill putting the entire state on Central Time, not Eastern. Maybe this explains why Auburn alumni clubs exist as far east in Atlanta.

Let's stop the clock for now, and wrap up some weekend news....

+ Fort Benning hosted a "Kids Deployment Camp," allowing children of Third Brigade soldiers to handle weapons and learn about Iraq. It's a good thing Ramadan ended Sunday - because I'm sure none of those children would be willing to go without food from sunrise to sunset.

+ Fort Benning also held the final day of the All-Army Combatives tournament. I don't know if the Navy does this sort of thing - or whether sailors are instructed simply to throw banana peels on the decks of ships.

(Did you see the evening news, with Columbus Cottonmouth hockey players attending the combatives tournament? They're always looking for new moves to try on the ice next season....)

+ The Shrine Circus ended its annual weekend show at the Civic Center. Promoter Mark Cantrell told WTVM more than 10,000 people attended the Saturday performances alone. Hopefully they signed up to become fans of the Shriners' official web site -- you know, FezBook.

(The Shrine Circus promised all sorts of acts, including a woman shot out of a cannon. This is quite unusual for Columbus - because it's normally men ordering shots at the Cannon Brew Pub.)

+ The pleadings of Auburn broadcasters were ignored, as the Tigers failed to crack the major Top 25 college football polls. The coaches have them at #29 - so the theme this weekend against Ball State may be "I Love the 80s." As in points....

+ The Atlanta Falcons won their second game in a row by collaring Carolina 28-20. Teenage tennis sensation Melanie Oudin was honored at the Georgia Dome - and hopefully she appreciated all the overhand smashes, when Falcons players spiked the ball.

+ Instant Message to Kanye West: I counted three references to you at Sunday night's Emmy Awards. Maybe it's time to start your own reality show, so you can.... oh wait. "The Biggest Loser" is already taken.

Our deep thanks to a "blog patron" for donating to our site over the weekend! To make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 350 (- 20, 5.4%)

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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Sunday, September 20, 2009

20 SEP 09: FM - Football Mania

It occurred to us if the Saturday night TV news isn't going to show you many college football highlights, maybe we should try. Trouble is, I don't have cable or satellite TV. I don't have a video camera. And being a single guy, you might wind up seeing more cheerleaders than quarterbacks.

But thanks to FM radio, I could keep up with two area college football games Saturday night. Clear Channel has aired Auburn games for years on WVRK "Rock 103". And now, Georgia games are on WGSY "Sunny 100." To me, that makes Auburn's team sound tougher - while "Sunny 100" sound more fitting for Georgia gymnastics.

A thunderstorm delayed Auburn's game with West Virginia by one hour. So the Auburn Sports Network played highlights from big games in 1999 and 2004. Fans remembered when Carnell "Cadillac" Williams wasn't paid enough money to buy a Cadillac.

The West Virginia-Auburn game didn't end until after midnight Eastern Time. The Tigers prevailed 41-30, but the Auburn broadcast team gave credit to West Virginia for being a good team. Other announcers would have mocked the Mountaineers for not having "Rocky TOP" as a fight song.

West Virginia took a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes, and the Auburn announcers suggested the one-hour lightning delay hurt the Tiger offense. To which I would ask -- why? Did the running backs and wide receivers have to (ahem) eliminate their energy drinks in the dressing room?

But Auburn fought back - and when the gap closed to 14-10, Auburn play-by-man Rod Bramblett declared it a "brand new ball game." For a moment, I almost thought that meant another hour-long thunderstorm....

The officials for the West Virginia-Auburn game were from the Big East Conference - and that may have led to the Auburn announcers challenging several spots. One second-half pass interference call was challenged by Stan White because the pass was "eight yards past the guy." He probably challenges delayed speeding tickets on Interstate 85 as well.

Stan White also gave an Auburn receiver praise because he "went down to his knees and caught the ball, and then kept running." Uhhhh - if you catch the ball on your knees in college football, isn't the play dead?

The Auburn broadcast team was even-handed to some extent. They noted running back Mario Fannin is gaining a "knock" for not being able to hold the football. They must have overheard the West Virginia coaching staff calling him Mario Fumblin'.

But then Mario Fannin ran for a touchdown to tie the tilt at 27-27, and Rod Bramblett declared he "ran like a lightning bug." How quickly some people forget a dangerous storm, which delays a game....

The Auburn win puts the Tigers at 3-0 - and the radio announcers were lobbying for the team to be ranked in the top 25. In fact, they talked about it so much that I wonder if there's an incentive clause in the radio contract.

On down the dial, Georgia outlasted Arkansas 52-41. Yes, in football. Back in February, that probably would have been the men's basketball score between those teams....

Georgia lost the ball on a muffed punt early in the game, and play-by-play announcer Scott Howard declared "that turnover bug" had struck the Bulldogs again. The bug apparently has arrived to replace Larry Munson's old nemesis "Lady Luck."

Scott Howard has inherited some of Larry Munson's emotionalism for Georgia football. As Richard Samuel ran 80 yards for a score, Howard declared: "There's he's going.... He's taking it to the house right now!" One of these weekends, that will be sponsored - and become a Fannie Mae foreclosed house.

Scott Howard also has become as colorful in his calls as Larry Munson - much more to me than Rod Bramblett is. For instance, Howard said a Georgia wide receiver making a catch "buttered him up, and then toasted him." That one works a little better when the kickoff is at 11:00 a.m.

The Georgia broadcast team puzzled me in the second quarter, when they noted the referee called a "third and final timeout" while the Arkansas scoreboard still showed one remaining. Doesn't anyone in the broadcast booth keep track of timeouts? All you have to do is count three of those, as opposed to four downs.

As the game ended, Scott Howard noted some Arkansas Razorback fans made signs about Georgia players having "swine flu." No one ever said college football fans in the South were the sensitive type....

To be fair: WTVM did show highlights of the North Texas-Alabama game Saturday night. Alabama won 53-7, racking up its biggest football score in eight years -- and reminding me why I tend to abbreviate the visiting school as "NO-Tex."

-> We marked our 100th night of live poker tournaments this past week! Learn how we're doing at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

BIG PREDICTION: At least one acceptance speech will be interrupted at tonight's Emmy Awards. This time, someone actually may pay Kanye West to stage it.

Which reminds me - Instant Message to 13th Street Bar-B-Q in Ladonia: Who dared to put up that sign, "Voted best by Kanye West"? Do you realize that's probably costing you more customers than it's gaining?

Now for other notes from a wet weekend:

+ Columbus Police reported a burglar broke into Pizza Pronto on Second Avenue - then was found sleeping behind the restaurant, with stolen items nearby. This is what can happen when you stay up until 2:00 a.m. to stage a break-in....

+ Columbus federal judge Clay Land threatened to fine attorney Orly Taitz $10,000. Army Captain Connie Rhodes claims Taitz filed an appeal in her deployment case, even though Rhodes asked her NOT to do it. Considering Taitz is an immigrant from Russia, this sort of rebellion apparently comes naturally.

+ Richard Hyatt's web site reported Muscogee County School District staff members will move into the new administration building on Macon Road by the first week of October. With the sales tax vote settled, finally the coast is clear....

+ The local American Red Cross office held a panel discussion on the H-1-N-1 flu - and the panel included a giant new mascot named "Scrubby Bear." He'll probably be in big demand over the next few months - by political candidates who want to clean up the Government Center.

+ The annual Harris County rodeo was held in Hamilton. Thankfully we've had some rain, so the dirt is a little softer when cowboys get bucked into it.

+ The Springer Opera House staged a musical version of the movie "Footloose." Broadway nightclubs ought to take advantage of this, and offer discount admission after the show for practicing dance moves.

Our deep thanks to a "blog patron" for donating to our site this weekend! To make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 370 (- 37, 9.1%)

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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Friday, September 18, 2009

18 SEP 09: Lawhon and Order

The campaigning may be over for Muscogee County Superintendent Susan Andrews. But it doesn't work that way for the school board. Members have to stand for election every four years -- which at least gives them a break from sitting down at every meeting.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: A member of the National PTA Membership Committee reveals today he plans to run for the Muscogee County School Board next year. Charles Lawhon tells your blog he'll seek the District Two seat of John Wells - and his supporters hope all's well that ends Wells.

Charles Lawhon happens to be a long-time blog reader and occasional e-mailer. So he decided to break the news about his school board campaign to us. But Lawhon requested we present this "in a professional and respectful manner." So much for trying what those other news-making web sites are doing - using hidden cameras and pretend prostitutes.

In an e-mail exchange with this blog, Charles Lawhon writes he already has financial commitments for a school board bid. They come from what Lawhon calls "Older Money People." That could mean some key Columbus families - or residents still clinging to "war bonds" from the 1940s in case Germany attacks again.

Charles Lawhon also claims he was approached by current Muscogee County School Board members, about running for John Wells's seat. Lawhon did NOT name any names -- but I get the feeling we're in for another several months of 5-3 votes at board meetings.

To quote one of Charles Lawhon's e-mails: "It is my firm belief that you must have a passion for people to serve people." He goes on to express concern that "some elected officials in this town" have forgotten that idea. Not to mention the local animal control officers....

In fact, Charles Lawhon expanded on our idea about school board campaigns - writing members "must campaign daily" to prove to voters they care about children and their concerns. If Lawhon is elected, kindergarten students across Columbus may have a lot of stories read to them.

Charles Lawhon adds in his e-mail about Muscogee County schools: "We cannot continue to use the same old techniques that we used 40 years ago...." Hmmmm - the supporters of students carrying cell phones may have found their candidate.

Charles Lawhon's education background is through the PTA. He served on the Georgia state PTA board, before taking a national position. And Lawhon chairs the Georgia PTA "Dad's Initiative." Of course, one challenge nowadays is convincing some dads to HAVE initiative....

But people on Charles Lawhon's e-mail list know something else about him. He's a committed Christian, who's not afraid to express his faith. So if high school students are having trouble in "Bible as Literature" class, a private tutor is available.

Charles Lawhon becomes the second man to reveal through this blog a campaign for John Wells's school board seat. The first was Bert Coker [9 Nov 08], who opposed this week's school sales tax vote. So which challenger do you prefer - one who wants to use tax money on new education ideas? Or one who wants to give the money back to you, for buying children new clothes?

(Lawhon tells me he likes Coker, but believes he and government critic Paul Olson "can be their own worst enemies sometimes." Given Olson's propensity to quote government statutes and city codes, it's tempting to compare them to a "Pinky and the Brain" cartoon.)

There's been some speculation John Wells might not run for the school board in 2010. But Wells told your blog Thursday afternoon it's his "intention to seek" another term. Asked about Charles Lawhon, Wells only said he's "entitled to do what he wants to do." Of course, that's why some people distrust public schools in general - that big bad entitlement mentality.

BLOG UPDATE: Muscogee County Schools responded Thursday to one of our indoctrination questions. Spokesperson Claudia Gordon told me there was NO "opt-out" notice for high school juniors, before Wednesday's drunk driving reenactment. Maybe that's not surprising - because teenagers already see plenty of blood in those vampire movies.

-> We marked our 100th night of live poker tournaments this week! Learn how we're doing at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Back to our InBox, for a question which has nothing at all to do with schools....

Has the L-E covered the ACORN scandal?

I didn't know the answer -- because to be honest, I haven't subscribed to a daily newspaper in more than 20 years. This is because I worked at jobs where the employer had its own subscription. Sometimes the Sunday morning fight for Atlanta Journal-Constitution coupons at CNN could get tense....

So I went to the Columbus Public Library Thursday to check the newspaper section. And as it happened, the Thursday Ledger-Enquirer had an Associated Press story on an internal investigation by the nonprofit organization. Of course, conservatives consider such an approach by ACORN to be simply nuts.

The Ledger-Enquirer stack on the library's second floor only went back a few days. I found a couple of short comments about ACORN in the "Sound Off" section Monday and Wednesday -- neither of them complimentary. The newspaper editors probably realize puzzled readers are smart enough to tune to WDAK radio talk shows for more details.

Meanwhile, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed an executive order Thursday banning any state business with ACORN. The agency had a contract to spread information about food stamps. If they offer to sell you stamps with President Obama's picture on them, be suspicious.

OK, you ACORN watchers - what do the letters in the group's name stand for? I had to check the web site to remember. It's the "Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now." If you didn't know better, you might think it describes Columbus South Inc. and Midtown Inc.

Let's see what else caught our attention Thursday:

+ In what would have been our main topic any other day, the Exchange Club announced it will no longer serve foot-long hot dogs at the Greater Columbus Fair. Sales apparently have dropped in recent years - and the club simply refused to follow the Ledger-Enquirer's approach, and cut back to a six-inch dog.

(This announcement is the shocking end to a 40-year Exchange Club tradition at the fair, and apparently was based solely on economics. Yes, we can say it -- hot dogs haven't mustard up enough sales.)

+ The parent company of WRBL and the Opelika-Auburn News announced another round of mandatory furloughs. The bad news is that all employees will have to take five days off without pay by the end of the year. The good news is that they can attend the Alabama-Auburn football game in November as a group.

+ Another rainy day led to a flash flood warning in several counties east of Columbus. If this rainy weather lasts much longer, Atlanta city officials will show up with buckets -- to prepare for the day when Lake Lanier will be off-limits.

+ Columbus federal Judge Clay Land presided over a Constitution Day ceremony, as 53 immigrants became naturalized U.S. citizens. As far as we know, none of them delayed taking the oath because they needed to know if President Obama is a citizen as well.

+ Callaway spanked Spencer in high school football 38-7. Part of the Muscogee County school sales tax is supposed to provide a new practice field for Spencer students -- as if the current field prevents players from scoring touchdowns, because it's too bumpy.

+ Instant Message to the Georgia Lottery: Are you kidding me? You created a 30-minute infomercial, about how you filmed a 30-second ad for a scratch-off game? With special projects like that, it's no wonder money is running out to pay for college textbooks.

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: 407 (+ 12, 3.0%)

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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