Sunday, November 21, 2010

21 NOV 10: Oath-Meal for Breakfast

The Georgia State Capitol is known as the "Gold Dome." The Alabama Capitol doesn't have anything like that. But members of the next Alabama legislature are trying to make up for it -- by promoting golden arches.

Tom Whatley already has taken the oath of office, to become an Alabama State Senator. But did you see where he had the ceremony Friday? Not at a county courthouse or City Hall -- but at a Phenix City McDonald's! I must have missed the big endorsement by Mayor McCheese....

Saturday's Ledger-Enquirer reported Tom Whatley took the oath of office while people sat around the McDonald's on Stadium Drive eating breakfast. What must the customers have been thinking, when Whatley walked in with a Bible and a Russell County Judge? Some might have thought Fred Phelps had staged a coup, and become President.

The TV news reports about Friday's ceremony failed to ask the obvious question. Why become a State Senator at a McDonald's? If you're taking the oath as Alabama Agriculture Commissioner, this might make more sense....

Tom Whatley explained to the newspaper he's conducting an oath-taking tour at east Alabama restaurants because "breakfast groups" are where he began gaining support. When he's not busy with Alabama Senate business next year, I can see Whatley writing a sequel to "The Breakfast Club."

Tom Whatley promises not to forget the breakfast restaurant crowd, while serving in the Alabama Senate. But isn't he asking for trouble with this approach? Some of us remember the Presidential candidate who accused his opponent of learning about world affairs at the International House of Pancakes.

If you think State Senator Tom Whatley is jumping the gun with this oath-taking extravaganza, he's not. A check Saturday night revealed Alabama state lawmakers take office at 12:00 midnight after their election. So Whatley might as well have driven to McDonald's on the night of 2 November, and taken the oath in the drive-through lane.

Tom Whatley's first stop on the oath-taking tour was Chappy's Deli in Auburn. After the McDonald's ceremony, his third and final stop will be a Burger King in Alexander City - so this Republican is taking pains to be "fair and balanced" when it comes to eating out.

But somebody's got to ask it -- is it really proper for a new State Senator to take the oath of office in this way? I don't recall any Republican cynics in Georgia warning Roy Barnes would become Governor at a Burger King.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I expect lawmakers to take office in a bit more dignified way than this. Tom Whatley is opening the door for all sorts of jokes about Alabama stereotypes - even if he didn't go all the way, and recite the oath at Mike and Ed's Barbecue.

(If Whatley really wanted to make a point about what Republicans plan to do with their new majority in the Alabama Senate, he could have ordered a McDonald's Value Meal for everyone in the house.)

What if other elected officials follow Tom Whatley's lead? Should Rep. Lesley Vance hold his oath-taking ceremony inside his funeral chapel along U.S. 280? And should he make it a "theme day," by inviting Russell County Coroner Arthur Sumbry to join him?

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BLOG UPDATE: Helicopters have been hovering over the south side of Columbus this weekend -- in fact, flying over my home several times. I assume officers are watching the SOA Watch protest. It's either that, or the Bill Gaither "Homecoming" concert has become a bigger act than I realized.

Columbus Police reported at least 22 people have been arrested so far at the SOA Watch protest. The protest website claims members of a "Russia Today" news crew were arrested while recording police actions. But as of Saturday night, Russia Today had not posted anything confirming that - so perhaps negotiations are in progress with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

SOA Watch claims some people were arrested at random without reason. But the Ledger-Enquirer quoted Police Chief Ricky Boren as saying a march up Fort Benning Road went beyond a designated "protest zone," and protesters loitered outside a Circle K store. They missed a golden opportunity to pick up the last cans of "original formula" Four Loko.

Recorder's Court will hold a special Sunday afternoon session, to process the protesters arrested Saturday. You get the feeling SOA Watch and Columbus Police arranged this in advance - and if everyone cooperates, the 3:00 p.m. hearing will end so everyone can get home to watch the Atlanta Falcons game at 4:00.

As SOA Watch supporters marched and protested Saturday, the Columbus VFW lodge on Victory Drive served a "welcome-home" luncheon to members of Fort Benning's Third Brigade. Is that timing coincidence - or could we have the roots of another counter-rally forming here? After all, retired General Jerry White is going to have a lot of free time next year.

Here's what else seemed interesting on the weekend before Thanksgiving:

+ The Saturday high temperature in Columbus was 74 degrees F. The afternoons are drop-dead gorgeous - but I wish the weathercasters on TV would stop saying it "feels more like spring than fall." I thought spring and fall were supposed to be about the same.

+ Which radio announcer said on the air if you don't attend the Heath Jackson tribute concert at Calvary Baptist Church tonight, "You're gonna be kicking yourself in the b**t"? And he said this on a Christian radio station? If he had cited a verse from the King James Bible, it might not have sounded so shocking....

+ Georgia Christian Coalition President Jerry Luquire told your blog his group plans to start a live daily radio talk show, based in Columbus. All he apparently needs is a radio station to be the base of operations - so the sooner Dr. Laura Schlessinger makes one last gaffe to be removed from WDAK, the better.

+ The Columbus Parks and Recreation housekeeping became complete, as former Assistant Director Cammie Currie was fired. The Ledger-Enquirer reported Currie accuses city officials of harassing her, because of her "perceived whistle blowing." I thought that's what recreation people are supposed to do at times - you know, blow whistles during basketball games.

+ The first-ever College Hockey Clash began at the Columbus Civic Center. Alabama clubbed Clemson 5-3. Georgia Tech shut out Georgia 4-0. And Georgia fans tried to confiscate all the videotape, so it couldn't be played for the Georgia Tech football team this coming week.

+ Chick-Fil-A announced its Kickoff Classic at the Georgia Dome next September will feature Boise State against Georgia. This is the game thousands of Southeastern Conference football fans have been waiting to see. But considering Boise State plays home games on blue artificial turf, wouldn't a game in the "Bluegrass State" of Kentucky make more sense?

+ Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy held a final-round interview for a Rhodes Scholarship, but was NOT selected. Maybe if McElroy had found someone in Mississippi, to lobby for a $100,000 payoff....

+ Instant Message to the After 5 sports bar on Reese Road: You're going to change your name, right? I mean, the sign outside says you're opening now at 4:00 p.m.

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