Sunday, September 25, 2011


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


25 SEP 11: In Conclusion....

You've probably heard the phrase, "All good things must come to an end." Today I apply that phrase to this blog -- although I realize some of you never have been really sure about how good this blog is.

After more than 11 total years of online humor writing, close to nine years of blogging and 2,727 posts, The Blog of Columbus officially ends today. For some people, I'm sure this will be disappointing -- but they should look on the bright side. Now Robert Schweiger and C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon can branch out and set up blogs of their own.

Since LaughLine began for national subscribers in January 2000, I've dreamed of making a living doing comedy writing. But LaughLine died for lack of interest in 2002 -- and while this blog has about 1,000 visits a week, it simply hasn't brought in enough income to pay the bills. In fact, this year's blog income doesn't even cover one month of frozen rent.

(Before conspiracy theories start: only a few people paid me over the years to write this blog, in terms of donations or advertising. And absolutely no one is paying me to stop this blog. If someone had thought of that along the way.... well....)

What started in 2003 as a blog with humorous thoughts about Columbus grew into much more. I've marveled at what it's become, with a mix of satisfaction and frustration. It's humbling to have the mayor return your phone calls, get breaking news directly from public officials -- and even be offered tickets to a circus, real or political.

But the frustration admittedly has come from people who wanted to turn a humor blogger into something else. I never really wanted to become a puppet for people who want to reform towns. I also never planned to get on the "speed dial" of people who openly admitted to a history of mental illness. By sharing their "opinions," I sometimes wondered if they wanted to spread their conditions as well.

Long-time readers know I wrote this blog for several years while working part-time at a Columbus TV station. That station let me go in 2009, and I've been searching for new steady employment ever since. That opportunity finally has come, outside my chosen career of journalism. So now I'll hand out "scoops" to others, instead of spilling them myself.

(For now, I plan to continue my other blog. "On the Flop" was spun off, to be a mix of poker and ministry. But before you start rumors, I am NOT turning pro and moving to Biloxi.)

The thought occurred that I could continue to write this blog, perhaps on a reduced scale. But I don't think that would be fair to this new job opportunity, so I decided to give it my full time and attention. Besides, most doctors recommend getting more than five hours of sleep per night.

I step away believing this sort of "alternative journalism" project in Columbus will go on. I played a small role last year in developing Robbie Watson's River City Report, which appears ready to carry on some of the things I've done here. Sometimes I think she could use emoticons to make her jokes more obvious, but that's her choice....

The end of this blog probably will mean no more heady stuff, such as interviews with city managers and local celebrities. But it also will mean the end of late-night blog writing, which sometimes stretched until 2:30 a.m. First the brain cells start to die, then comes heaviness in the eye....

Whether you're reading this blog for the first time today or have been a loyal nine-year follower (Blogger counts 16 of them), I deeply thank you for your interest. It has been humbling. Thank you for your input, which occasionally has been stinging. And I leave you with words I wanted to leave for co-workers at two other jobs, but could not because of circumstances -- words made famous by Georgia's own Alan Jackson:

Way down yonder on the Chattahoochee

I learned a lot about living, and a little about love.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

24 SEP 11: Mentions of Troy

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

Did he do it? I really don't know. Even after hearing and reading plenty of arguments pro and con, I don't know. When it comes to high-profile cases like the one which caused all the controversy in Georgia this week, I'm not a Chief Justice. More often than not, my title should be Waffle King.

Since my background is in journalism, I watched the Troy Davis story from a distance -- even though a few people wanted to drag me into the fight. And I'm thankful no physical fighting broke out at the state penitentiary when it was over Wednesday night. One wrong move at the wrong moment, and "Selma 1965" could have found a brother named "Jackson 2011."

There was plenty of emotion over the last few days of Troy Davis's life. Now there's time to sort things out, and see what is backed up by fact and what isn't. It's a little bit like what Georgia football fans went through, after the Boise State game.

Let's start with a quick review of what happened, and what could have happened but didn't:

+ A reprieve from Governor Nathan Deal couldn't happen. GPB reported Georgia's Governor is one of only five in the U.S. who by law cannot make one of those movie-script last-second phone calls to save lives. He can only change living people's careers by executive order, as a state climatologist discovered.

+ President Obama could have intervened, but he didn't. In fact, he's only pardoned 17 people since taking office. That's five more than George W. Bush's pace -- but shouldn't a supposed "bleeding-heart liberal" have liberated hundreds by now?

+ Some Twitter users found special irony in the fact that the final appeal rejection notice came from Clarence Thomas. He's Georgia's contribution to the U.S. Supreme Court, and grew up in the Savannah area where Troy Davis was arrested. But for Thomas's critics, skin color should have run thicker than a map book.

+ Other online comments compared Troy Davis to Casey Anthony, and called it a classic case of racial injustice. They somehow missed the news about Lawrence Brewer -- a white supremacist executed in Texas the same night for the dragging death of James Byrd. Brewer's execution came even faster, and seemingly without NAACP complaints.

+ Mark McPhail's mother amazed me, with all the live TV interviews she did on the night of the execution. Annaliese MacPhail was on CNN with Anderson Cooper. She was on WXTX not once, but twice. For someone "waiting by the phone," she stood outside on her front lawn in Columbus an awful lot.

+ Perhaps less amazing was the report that someone drove by Annaliese MacPhail's home Wednesday night and yelled, "Save Troy Davis." As if she was going to recant, after rejecting the recantations of seven other people....

+ WTVM/WXTX again showed why in terms of coverage it is the "News Leader" of Columbus. (Yes, even after I was fired from there.) WRBL wasn't live anywhere at 11:00 p.m., not even at the mother's house. Who knows how many Kurt Schmitz fans broke their promise never to watch his old station again?

With all that said, I'm posting this on a Saturday for several reasons. Several deep issues and images came up in the Troy Davis case, which cry out for more discussion....

1. SEVEN OVER TWO? Davis's backers constantly declared seven of the nine prosecution witnesses at his trial recanted their testimony. Maybe so -- but what about the other two? Where have they been in recent months? Why didn't Mark MacPhail's supporters bring out a recounting, to counter recanting?

My Bible tells me the "testimony of two or three witnesses" is enough to convict someone of a crime -- even a capital crime such as murder. If District Attorney Julia Slater and her staff can't find those witnesses, that's another matter....

2. THAT'S AN ORDER, FRIEND. There was no doubt which side Columbus Fraternal Order of Police President Randy Robertson would take in this case. But there were times when the "tough cop" side of him came out. For instance, Robertson demanded all his Georgia Facebook friends post a picture of Mark MacPhail -- or "I WILL DEFRIEND YOU." Quite a change from the "Officer Friendly" I saw in grade school assemblies....

Part of me wants to say Randy Robertson's demand made him look more like a bully than a friend. After all, does a true friend require someone to change their behavior or actions? Well, this is why you should be careful about considering your workplace boss your friend....

Yet Jesus did put a stipulation on friendship with Him. It's in John 15: "You are my friends if you do what I command." That's proven to be a tough requirement for a lot of people. Ask any Tea Party member about "rendering to Caesar that which is Caesar's."

Proverbs 27 advises against forsaking friends. But Proverbs 22 warns against making "friends with a hot-tempered man." Unless, perhaps, you're paying him to be a bodyguard during weekend nights on Broadway.

3. TAKE ME, I'M YOURS. The most powerful picture I saw all week regarding the Troy Davis case came from downtown Atlanta. A pastor chained himself to a flagpole outside a Georgia state building, offering to give his life in exchange for Davis, The District Attorney's office might want to write down Marvin Morgan's name, for future death penalty cases.

Pastor Marvin Morgan promised to stage a protest fast while chained to a pole for as long as he can. You might dismiss it as a publicity stunt, but he was symbolizing (at least) what Jesus did for all of us. The end of Romans 6 says we're all under a "death sentence," because of our sins. Some people simply get more attention for it than others....

But Romans 5 points out Jesus Christ paid the death penalty for us long ago. It was a penalty He didn't have to pay, because He never sinned at all. I think that's a really good deal, which more people should accept. It certainly beats that offer on radio of "a 40-dollar tan for a 20-dollar bill."

4. THE END OF IT ALL? Many media reports called Wednesday night's execution "the end" of the long drama. If you think it is, think again. Troy Davis's last words asked people to keep investigating his case. And Georgia civil rights groups have spent decades doing that very thing, attempting to clear people's names. I doubt Columbus Police would merge its "cold case" unit with theirs, but you never know.

By extension, I don't think what happened Wednesday night is the absolute end for Troy Davis -- just as it was not the end for Mark MacPhail in 1989. Hebrews 9 reminds me humans die, "and after that to face judgment." And from what I can tell, the Georgia Supreme Court will not be reassembled for that one....

Revelation 20 tells of a time when almost all people will stand for judgment before Christ. But it indicates that won't happen for at least 1,000 years. Wow -- Harold Camping's revised date of 21 October apparently is going to be wrong again.

The good news is that by taking advantage of Jesus's offer to pay the death penalty for us, you can be brought back to life when He returns -- 1,000 years before everybody else. I told you that was a really good deal. Even if II Peter 3 notes 1,000 years are like only one day to God.

When that real judgment day comes, a God who sees everything will reveal exactly what happened on that fateful night in 1989. Both victim and suspect are likely to be there, along with all of their closest friends and relatives. And hopefully they'll know better than to talk back to Jesus -- because I suspect He can respond even tougher than Judge Judy.

COMING SUNDAY: A big announcement some blog readers have waited a long time to see....

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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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

23 SEP 11: Water-Fall

Today is the first day of autumn in Columbus. During my college years, I drove home from campus one fall Saturday morning to relax with the family. But I wound up on top of the house, because the rest of the family decided it was time to put new shingles on the roof. For a while, political science textbooks seemed a bit more appealing.

After a hot and dry summer which left almost the entire Columbus area with an extreme drought, water seems to be making a comeback with the change of seasons. A surprise rainstorm developed in my neighborhood Thursday night, as I began to write this edition. Yes, I know it was cloudy almost all day - but who really expected the clouds to give up long after dark?

This week's rainfall may wind up costing Columbus more than we realized. Deputy City Manager David Arrington told WRBL Thursday Comer Auditorium might be declared a loss beyond repair, due to a partial roof cave-in and water damage. The gym floor has standing water - and it came too early in the season for basketball towel crews to train for the clean-up.

David Arrington says the city of Columbus has property damage insurance for Comer Auditorium, with a $50,000 deductible. So far, no one has answered the obvious question - whether the secret fund for the Columbus Blazers basketball team could have paid for that.

Comer Auditorium has been a landmark in Bibb City for decades - and perhaps the only fully-intact landmark left, after the River Mill fire of 2008. What will that neighborhood do, if the gym has to be torn down? With all the water on the floor, is it too late to postpone Monday's groundbreaking for the MidTown natatorium and move the location?

Only a few blocks from Comer Auditorium, rainfall probably was a welcome sight Thursday - at the Chattahoochee River. After all, we don't want to require whitewater rafters to bring their own gallon jugs to fill the course....

A "River Blast" event above the Columbus Riverwalk officially kicked off the "Ready 2 Raft" construction work downtown. We posted a picture of heavy equipment in the river Monday. This gathering allowed local leaders to show they can put on helmets and hard hats, too. Only when they absolutely have to do it, but they can.

Whitewater developer John Turner says something had to be done on the Chattahoochee downtown, because the river dams are more than 100 years old and probably would collapse before long. So why not show a little patience, and wait for that to happen. Several church groups would love to do a reenactment of the Red Sea crossing.

Phenix City Mayor Sonny Coulter joined Columbus Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson at the River Blast event. You may recall Coulter expressed concern months ago about his city being left out of the whitewater project's planning stages. He's apparently now satisfied a new place to raft won't give him the shaft.

(Since the entire Chattahoochee River downtown is considered part of Columbus, Sonny Coulter should be thankful he was invited to be part of the ceremony at all. But Phenix City skeptics say Coulter has a secret weapon at his disposal - a city sewage treatment plant which sometimes spills, and could make this a brown-water course.)

I'm not sure if any of the local leaders went for a sneak-preview boat ride on the river, but the evening news showed a group of people carrying a raft over their heads on the Columbus Riverwalk. You'd think Columbus State fine arts majors would have had classes to attend....

Exact details of the whitewater project still are not final, but promoters say it will end with a new restaurant overlooking the Chattahoochee. Why spend all that money for membership in the River Club, when you can visit a Captain D's where the fish seems fresher than ever?

With hope the right parts of Columbus dry out soon, let's quickly check other items from the last full day of summer....

+ Phenix City attorney Dana Gentry was arrested at his office. If I understand the legal language properly, he's charged with possessing a bad check as well as "criminal simulation." If criminal simulation is against the law, then how did Crimestoppers get away with all those reenactments on the evening news years ago?

+ Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski lectured Fort Benning soldiers about teamwork. Please do not be confused about this. Simply because he's known as "Coach K" does NOT mean he's to blame for high gas prices at Circle K.

+ WBOJ-FM "88.5 the Truth" announcer Garrett Lee told WXTX he went through three separate for "The X Factor" in Dallas. But an e-mail finally informed him he was NOT chosen for the TV show. From the clips I've seen on Fox, Lee might have made it to Hollywood if he had worn a wig and acted like Lady Gaga.

+ The Springer Opera House opened its new theatrical season with "The Blues Brothers Revue." I drove past the entrance before showtime and spotted a man near the door with sunglasses, a dark fedora hat - and a noticeable gray beard. Aw, c'mon! That's jazz, not the blues.

+ Troup County trampled Columbus in high school football 44-0. The game at Kinnett Stadium was delayed for awhile due to lightning - undoubtedly sparked by Troup returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown.

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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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

22 SEP 11: Where-a-Cop-a Parked

Wednesday night was a night of tension and anxiety for a lot of Georgians. You can't blame some of them for being nervous and on edge. It's left to your humor blogger to attempt to offer a bit of comedy relief -- so I will say nothing here today about Atlanta's baseball team losing to Florida again.

We'll focus instead on a place I considered the "Central Park" of Columbus when I moved here 14 years ago. In fact, I considered renting a duplex which was under renovation in the Lakebottom area. But when I walked into the middle of a work project, the workers openly presumed I wouldn't be interested. I guess I didn't look like a Home Depot kind of guy.

Lakebottom Park and the surrounding area is a popular location for a lot of residents - but the news from there this week has been a bit on the wild side. Two arrests mentioned in the Ledger-Enquirer make me wonder if a weird gang is trying to take over. They might go by the name "Lakebottom Lulus."

The most recent case in Wednesday's paper involved a man police say was following women around Lakebottom Park. The suspect reportedly carried a camera phone, and tried to take pictures of their (ahem) posteriors. So we could call this the saga of the sagging cell phone....

A woman on the Lakebottom Park walking track reportedly noticed what the suspect was doing - and when she turned around to face the paparazzo, police claim he said: "You are the baddest (woman) out here." I'm glad he settled that, because police think they know who the baddest guy was.

At that point, other Lakebottom Park patrons reportedly intervened. Police say women watched the suspect hide in some bushes - then when he tried to follow another woman around the track, a man held him on the ground until officers showed up. That'll teach this scofflaw to attempt some razzle-dazzle during football season....

Police arrested the man with a cell phone - then reportedly discovered his battery was dead. For all we know, he may not have snapped any photos at all. So after the suspect serves his time, he might be "behind in his work" in more ways than one.

The cell phone saga follows the Monday arrest of another man at the Lakebottom Park baseball fields. This man reportedly was spotted on the diamonds with his pants pulled down to his ankles. The Valley Rescue Mission thrift stores need belt donations more than ever....

This suspect reportedly had an explanation for Columbus Police about his actions. He claimed he was tucking in his shirt. And for that, you drop your pants almost to the ground?! Which employer gives its staff shirts that are six sizes too large?

The suspect allegedly kept talking - and eventually admitted he's a sex offender, who was using the baseball fields to (ahem) go to the bathroom. If it was March instead of September, a Peach Little League player might have picked up some habits to embarrass his parents for years to come.

Put these two cases together with last year's razor blades taped to the playground equipment, and you start to wonder what's going on at Lakebottom. The place someone dubbed a "prince of parks" after renovations years ago may need extra attention from police -- before these alleged freaks add to the list of corrupted faculty members at Columbus High School.

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: After waiting for replies which did not come, a Russell County town's unofficial prosecutor continues his assault....

"Sir" Richard:

You are truly AAAmaZZZing! You seem to have total recall. My Sunday offering unearthed my: years ago, introduction to Grant Writer Bob Corwin. Back then it was a Town Park he was promoting with the grant from ADECA for $i50,000.00 as his goal. The "good" old government coughed up the dough even though the Town of "Hurt'sboro didn't keep its end of the bargain. And, there seems to be some question as to where a large ammount of the money ended up.

When I first contacted ADECA they were very cooperative - when I questioned their bookkeeping, the door was slammed in my face. I managed to get my hands on some of the checks; and I can assure you, Bob Corwin got his commission.

Then there's the "Streetscape" fiasco where "Gas" tax funds were used to build a sidewalk. That deal was also orchestrated by Mr. Corwin.

I must give Mr. Corwin credit for his patience. The sewer grant was a long time in coming. In fact, it was applied for, well ahead of the Park and Streetscape requests. There's no question, that the sewer in the eastern part of "Hurt'sboro needs repair. But so do the storm drains and the streets in that section of town.

The Water & Sewer Board were, (inorder of events) determined to do the prject, convinced to borrow money and put it in a municipaly controlled account, and duped into thinking that Bob Corwin and Sentell Engineering wouldn't be involved in the project.

Much to their surprise; they have learned the hard way, that the Mayor is a significant player,the funding is inadequate to do the job as planned, and that Bob Corwin and Sentell engineering are calling the shots.

A local fellow with engineering credentials is looking after "Hurt's boro's best interests. He has a set of plans, and follows the contractor from man-hole to man-hole and takes notes on the existing conditions. The first phase of the project, (cleaning and inspection) has been completed.

Now, it's left up to an analysis of the on-site Engineer's notes by the project engineer, followed by a presentation of recommendations to the Water & sewer Board. I'm told this series of steps will take at least a month to complete.

By the way! I'm being told that Bob Corwin has already cashed his check.

R.J. Schweiger

Sorry, I do NOT have total recall. My humble Honda has been losing one part at a time because of age, not warnings from the company.

I also have a good blog search engine, which allowed me to backtrack to Robert Corwin's years of work with the city of Hurtsboro . It turns out he's a "consultant" for several Alabama towns - and if enough council members swapped notes with each other, they might be able to chase Corwin across the Oglethorpe Bridge and into Columbus.

Sentell Engineering has not replied to our e-mail, seeking a comment on Robert Schweiger's accusations. An e-mail sent to Robert Corwin bounced back, citing an invalid address. Maybe he's visiting a different town this week....

Doesn't it sound like an action-packed job, to take notes on city "manholes"? If one of those things is faulty, your work could take a dive in several different ways.

Another e-mail from Robert Schweiger came Wednesday. But I'm imposing a "one per day" rule, holding it until later and moving on to other issues....

+ An overnight thunderstorm caused part of the roof to collapse at Comer Auditorium in Bibb City. That's where the Parks and Recreation Department is based, so now it has to move. But shouldn't this symbolic message have been sent to the Parks Director about a year ago?

+ Muscogee County Prison Warden Bill Adamson announced he's retiring after 21 years. He faced some questions in recent years, because several prison inmates walked away and escaped while on city work duty [14 Jun 07]. Yet to this day, I still don't inmates with long bungee cords attached from their waists to city trash trucks.

+ The Georgia-based Hall of Fame rock band R.E.M. announced it's breaking up after 30 years. Well, the official online message says the band decided to "call it a day." They could have been more clever, and declared it's time for some R.E.M. sleep.

+ Instant Message to Alabama head football coach Nick Saban: I hope what you said the other day was accurate. Today's college football players should get "crunked" for big games in Tuscaloosa. But in Athens, Georgia, I fear some players get drunk instead.

Our count of unique visitors from January to August was up 22 percent from 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 611 (+ 13, 2.2%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

21 SEP 11: Call the Bouncers
Yes, I know what the big local news story was Tuesday. But no, I'm still not planning to make any jokes about it here - because people on both sides probably are ready to set up a picket line outside my door.

Instead, I've noticed something else on Columbus TV in the last 48 hours. If you've been counting the days until the big change at WTVM's digital channel 9.2, you may have miscounted. It's already happened. The 24-hour updates on the forecast are gone. And "Weather Now" now is officially Weather Then.

WTVM has replaced Weather Now with messages promoting the new "Bounce TV," which officially debuts next Monday. Shame on those of you who thought Bounce TV referred to the N.B.A. Network....

Bounce TV has Georgia roots, as the network's founders include former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young and Martin Luther King III. But it's not clear to me why it's called Bounce. Does it have less static cling than other channels?

The founders of Bounce TV admit their aim is to provide African-American programs -- and that apparently concerns some local viewers. I've read online grumbling suggesting such a channel will divide Columbus. Why, of course -- no African-American leaders will want to watch the 6:00 p.m. news when "Soul Train" is on against it.

The critics may be wondering why WTVM General Manager and "One Columbus" advocate Lee Brantley would add Bounce TV. But maybe he felt compelled to add an African-American network - especially since Queen Latifah and Montel Williams stopped doing their talk shows years ago.

But I think Lee Brantley was compelled to add Bounce TV for another reason - corporate bosses requiring it. Raycom Media made a commitment months ago to put the network on many of its digital TV channels across the country. And I assume the check written in Montgomery didn't bounce at all....

The critics of Bounce TV have a valid point, when it comes to ethnic division in the media. We've noted here before how the Columbus radio dial (and it's not merely Columbus) reflects a great deal of segregation by music format. Yet I haven't heard anyone demand Davis Broadcasting play an hour of polka music every week on WFXE "Foxie 105."

("What about Hispanics?" one online comment asked. Drive to Atlanta or Orlando, and you'll find they already have Hispanic TV channels. But WHAL-AM never gained any numbers in the Columbus radio ratings with "Viva 1460" -- leaving El Vaquero as the place with the best salsa in town.)

But a close look at the Bounce TV lineup reveals not every program will be primarily African-American. Take the Saturday morning children's shows. I watched "Real Life 101" on WXTX years ago, and its team of hosts had ethnic diversity. People who want Fat Albert marathons will have to track down a DVD boxed set.

My biggest puzzle in WTVM's decision is that "Weather Now" was dropped to add Bounce TV. The Raycom station in Savannah is putting Bounce TV on a third digital channel, at 11.3. Couldn't WTVM add a third channel, to keep weather updates on the air - and give equal opportunity to computer-generated voices reading the forecast?

That's enough bouncing for today. Let's now rock, skate and roll through some headlines you may have missed from the last couple of days:
+ The East Wing entrance to the Government Center reopened, after being closed for two months. The closure was designed to save money and improve security, but Sheriff John Darr says some disabled people were hindered from getting license plates. Let's hope no one shows up there with a set of fully-loaded crutches.

+ Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson took her "Let's Talk" forum series to an American Legion post on Cusseta Road. The mayor told reporters the first forum on Forrest Road led to improvements in the Carver Park area. For instance, Sunday National Football League games started at a perfect time....

+ The Muscogee County School Board voted to install security cameras in the hallways of 17 schools. The hallways?! Aren't teachers more likely to proposition students inside their classrooms?

+ Fort Benning's public affairs office announced Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski will visit post and lecture soldiers Thursday. A news release spelled Krzyzewski's name correctly, but declared him coach of "the current college basketball national champions." Will someone please inform this office there WERE games after the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament?

(Krzyzewski once coached at Army, where his players included current Fort Benning Commanding General Robert Brown. That must be where Brown learned skills in the high post.)

+ Instant Message to St. Matthew Evangelical Lutheran Church on Macon Road: Ooh boy -- your Sunday sermon title is "Shake Off the Snakes"?! Do I have to give up Columbus Cottonmouths hockey, too?

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/21 SEP 01: President Bush went to Capitol Hill Thursday night to prepare the U.S. for the fight against terrorism. He put the situation in absolute terms: "Freedom and fear are at war." We've felt that same sort of emotional battle in recent years -- owing the Internal Revenue Service at tax time.

President Bush kept things basic at times in his speech. For instance, he said: "Americans are asking: Who attacked our country?" If they're still asking after all the U.S. government statements and news reports, they must be conspiracy buffs.

President Bush assured the U.S., "This will not be an age of terror. This will be an age of liberty." Of course, many moms and dads already have passed the age of terror - when their children were two years old.

For a change, the opposite party did NOT offer a reply to the President's speech. Instead, Congressional leaders from BOTH parties joined to declare their unity with Mr. Bush. Isn't it nice to see Republicans and Democrats as united on-camera, as they are after hours at the bar?

An amazing thing happened in Philadelphia when President Bush's speech began. A preseason hockey game was underway - and the fans demanded the third period WAIT until the President finished speaking! They probably wanted to hear the first bombs had dropped. You KNOW how much hockey fans love a good fight....

The President's speech lasted more than 30 minutes - and when it ended, the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers players shook hands and left the ice. The teams never played the third period! Mr. Bush had better not give any speeches on Sunday - or the Super Bowl might not be played until May.

Our count of unique visitors from January to August was up 22 percent from 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

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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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

20 SEP 11: Something or Nothing?

It's been quite a long time since we played a game here about the news of the day. So today let's try one called - hey, the title's already up there - "Something or Nothing?" We'll consider several developments around the area, and determine if they amount to something or nothing. And remember: if it's "next to nothing," it's probably still something.

1. EXPEDIA EXPENDITURES. Have you noticed is running commercials during Columbus TV newscasts? I've seen them on WRBL for several nights. And they raise an obvious question - how can this travel website find TV stations in town, when it can't find any motels?

The TV commercials are straightforward, promoting the travel deals you can get through . They say nothing about the long legal fight with the city of Columbus over hotel-motel taxes. But then again, Columbus residents aren't likely to book local rooms online in the first place.

In terms of our game, I'm leaning toward saying these TV commercials are SOMETHING. They show Expedia is willing to spend a little money in Columbus. The website simply trusts that money in Teresa Whitaker's hands more than City Attorney Clifton Fay's.

But we should watch carefully to see if Expedia's investment in Columbus TV time affects the news coverage of its legal fight. At least WRBL should offer a nice donation to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

2. "MAD HATTER" HYATT. Shame on The River City Report. It noted Monday's main topic about a circus ticket offer from Mark Cantrell, and compared it with a weekend post at Richard Hyatt's website. Hyatt revealed he was an "honorary ringmaster" during the 2010 Shrine Circus. That ranks him far above me - because my "free ticket" might have been in the top row.

The River City Report is implying Richard Hyatt was unethical to accept Mark Cantrell's ringmaster offer. But I'm ruling this fuss is NOTHING. Cantrell was NOT a Muscogee County School Board member last September - simply a candidate. And Hyatt apparently didn't mention Cantrell on his website for a year after receiving the honor. That's certainly unusual "hush money."

3. THE TROY DAVIS TRIAL. Yes, this is SOMETHING. And for now, I don't dare say anything else about it here....

4. SATURDAY NIGHT RACING. The Ledger-Enquirer reported on a weekend police chase from Phenix City to Columbus and back. Authorities say it ended with the suspect stopping his car outside the Russell County Jail, getting out with his hands up and surrendering. At least they say he surrendered - but he might have decided he won a Formula One race.

Authorities say the police chase went from South Railroad Street in Phenix City across the 13th Street Bridge, around the Columbus Government Center, then through the Linwood neighborhood and down Cusseta Road. If Columbus television stations only had a helicopter -- we could have had a live local episode of "Cops."

Unless there's a police dashboard recording of this chase, we have to conclude it was NOTHING. Even in Columbus, the idea of using sketches to describe dramatic showdowns went the way of the Spanish-American War.

5. THE FRENCH CONNECTION. Legacy Chevrolet owner Emanuel Jones resurrected a familiar name in the Columbus car business. Chris "Mark 'em All Down" French is his new general sales manager. You'd think two young tag-team spokesmodels on TV would be enough to sell cars in this city....

Chris French took a break from selling cars, to start an organic farm in Harris County [24 May]. I'm not sure if he's still involved with that farm. But if someone wants a red Chevrolet, French will have a tomato handy to prove the color's right.

Emanuel Jones said in a TV commercial he's "bringing back" Chris French. French once was sales manager at Bill Heard Cadillac, on the grounds of Legacy Chevrolet. That convinces me this announcement is SOMETHING - since even with the great recession, French has found his second automotive job in three years.

6. WOMAN'S PURSE STRINGS. Alabama now has its first female state finance director. But if you think Marquita Davis will improve the state's financial situation simply by being female, I fear you'll be disappointed - and you'll wind up feeling Marquita-sad.

While I wish her well, I think the appointment of Marquita Davis will amount to NOTHING. After all, Alabama didn't avoid proration with Kay Ivey as state treasurer -- and the "529 College Savings Plan" has done well to avoid dropping to about 440.

7. CAM-DEMONIUM. Some Columbus residents have decided enough Cam Newton hype is enough. The hosts of WDAK's Morning Show appealed to local TV sportscasters Monday to stop focusing on Newton. He's no longer playing for Auburn, they argued - and you may recall Toomer's Corner was NOT rolled when Jason Campbell moved from Washington to Oakland.

The WDAK hosts also said Cam Newton now plays for the Atlanta Falcons' division rivals in Carolina. Yet minutes later, Scott Miller noted "Matthew Stafford had a big day" for Detroit -- and Stafford stopped playing quarterback for Georgia three years ago. Or did Miller do that in case federal "fairness doctrine" rules for radio come back?

I can see the radio hosts' point, but Cam Newton has thrown for more than 400 yards in his first two N.F.L. starts. So at this early point in the season, I'm declaring the former Auburn quarterback SOMETHING - at least until the Atlanta Falcon defense does to him what it did to Michael Vick the other night.

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/20 SEP 01: President Bush flatly refused a suggestion from Afghanistan that the U.S. negotiate a handover of Osama bin-Laden. The idea now rests in a new computer file created exclusively for the White House - the "Recycle Bin-Laden."

Afghanistan's government ordered CNN journalists to leave the country Wednesday. So much for it becoming the "Kabul News Network...."

Several airports have removed all knives from their kitchens and restaurants. For those of us who love Cinnabons, this is NO inconvenience. Eating them openly and unashamedly with your fingers is a dream come true.

Several Las Vegas casinos report business has dropped by a third since the skyjackings. It certainly doesn't feel right to tell a blackjack dealer, "Hit me...."

Major college football resumes its regular schedule. For security reasons, blimps will NOT fly over stadiums for awhile. You'll have to settle for the ones playing on the offensive and defensive lines.

Our count of unique visitors from January to August was up 22 percent from 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

19 SEP 11: Circus Mark's-imus

The weekly Columbus siren test went as scheduled over the weekend. And this time I was awake at 12:00 noon to hear it. It's not that I'm keeping score, mind you - I think that's part of the reason why Riley Land still has a city job.

But moments after Saturday's siren test, the phone rang - and it was completely unexpected. Muscogee County School Board member Mark Cantrell was calling. I'd only mentioned him once in this blog since mid-May [26 Aug] - and I really don't keep a scoreboard, when it comes to jokes about elected officials.

"I've been reading your blog for about a year," Mark Cantrell told me. "And you seemed like someone who's never been to a circus, so I want you to come as my guest." This past weekend was the annual Shrine Circus, of course - one of Cantrell's big causes. In fact, sometimes I think Jeremy Hobbs and Cantrell are in a race to have more big events each year.

But Mark Cantrell's presumption was incorrect. I've been to circuses before. A few times, in fact - and I'm not counting utility board meetings which got out of hand.

One Sunday long ago, my mother came to me asking if I wanted to go to the circus. I said no. I quickly learned my mom was NOT asking multiple-choice questions.

I don't remember now what I wanted to do on that Sunday. But I was a rebellious five-or-so year-old who didn't want to go to the circus -- and especially didn't want other people telling me what to do. I could stop here and draw conclusions about half-a-dozen big local news stories, but I won't....

My nine-year-older brother then pulled an ingenious stunt, by pulling out the family Stratego board. If he won a game, I could stay home. If I won, I had to go to the circus. Trouble is, he put the flag of victory in his front row - and I knocked it over in about two moves. This is why I haven't played my brother in Monopoly in decades.

(I told my older brother about this moment Sunday night, and he didn't remember it. This surprised me a little - because he beat me in board games so often that a loss ought to stick out in his mind.)

So feeling a bit scammed (even before I knew what a scam was), I went with my family to the Kansas City Police Circus. The only real memory I have from that trip is how hard it was to follow acts in three rings at the same time. Yet you never hear people connect circuses with attention deficit disorder.

If police officers were part of the Kansas City Police Circus, I don't remember them. This was in the 1960s - long before officers might show up with an arrest warrant, to haul away lion tamers for animal abuse.

The last circus I attended was an unusual one during college. The Royal Lichtenstein Quarter-Ring Circus set up shop in the middle of campus around finals week -- a parody more than anything. I didn't sit around long enough to realize it was a form of street ministry. I left when the ringmaster uttered his rhyme: "The faster you put your money down, the sooner we'll be out of town."

So yes, I've been to the circus. But when Mark Cantrell made his ticket offer Saturday, I quickly turned him down. For one thing, it was the seventh-day Sabbath -- and I had an afternoon worship service to attend. If Cantrell is free next weekend, I'll be singing a song which might remind him of the circus. Only it mentions lambs along with lions....

Yet I didn't mention to Mark Cantrell a second reason why I turned down his offer. Even though Cantrell probably called wearing the fez of the Shriners, he's now an elected official - and the rules of good journalism say all gifts from elected officials should be declined. Whether this blog qualifies as "good journalism" obviously is a matter of dispute.

Blogging admittedly has become a gray area, in terms of whether or not to accept favors. Some "mommy blogs" have accepted products from businesses, using the explanation that they were for rating and reviewing. I haven't gone after any such gifts, and no one had offered me any until now -- which in part explains why I drive a very old car.

While I appreciate Mark Cantrell's generous offer, I would have bought my own ticket if I wanted to review the Shrine Circus. That's what I did in March, when I attended the Winterjam concert at the Civic Center. And I'd like to thank Georgia Tech for scheduling Saturday's game against Kansas for midday, so I wasn't tempted to buy a ticket to watch that debacle.

By the way, did you notice we're now in the "busy season" for Columbus activities? The Shrine Circus occurred on the same weekend as the annual Harris County rodeo. So why don't these two events merge? It would be fun to watch cowboys try to rope and tie down elephants.

The Shrine Circus weekend may have had a bad influence on some spectators. I drove down Victory Drive for dinner Saturday night, and found two people sharing a bicycle - pedaling west in the eastbound passing lane. Imagine if those people knew how to climb to the top of a telephone pole.

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: We have a new regular correspondent, watching downtown Phenix City -- complete with a camera....

you have your way of fishin' - they have theirs.

Of course, the construction equipment in the Chattahoochee River is due to the whitewater development that.... well, wait a minute. I'm assuming that's why the equipment is there. Then again, they've pulled three abandoned cars out of West Point Lake this year.

Let's dig up other news from the weekend....

+ WLTZ reported Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor raised money for the United Way by letting himself be dropped in a "dunk tank." Please do NOT spread false reports about this. Taylor did NOT appear ready for a drunk tank.

+ The Opelika-Auburn News reported Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller plans to seek a third term. He sent an e-mail to all city councilors, expressing hope they'll also be reelected. I can't wait for Fuller to hand them souvenir rubber stamps.

+ The pastor of Saint Luke United Methodist Church presented a sermon called "Jesus: Human, Worldly and Liberal." Does he plan to repeat that message outdoors next weekend, when the picketers from Westboro Baptist Church show up?

+ CNN showed Georgia Governor Nathan Deal throwing a metal skillet at a competition in Quitman. He would have thrown the pan farther, except for two things. He wore a coat and tie [true] - and no Democrats were standing at the other end of the field.

+ Auburn dropped out of the college football poll, after losing the national championship title to Clemson 38-24. WTVM reports some fans want defensive coordinator Ted Roof fired. After only three games?! Some fans seem to be confusing college football with Survivor.

+ Alabama remained undefeated by nullifying North Texas 41-0. The visiting Mean Green were penalized on one kickoff for putting two players on the field with the same number. This was startling to me - because it indicated North Texas was prepared to have dozens of players get knocked out with injuries.

+ Instant Message to the U.S. Postal Service: My older brother assures me he has NOT moved. So why did the birthday card I sent him come back marked, "Return to sender, no such number"? The address was absolutely correct. Has the staff lost its vision benefits due to budget-cutting already?

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/19 SEP 01: Saddam Hussein dared to suggest the Tuesday of Terror might be completely an INSIDE job -- pulled off by U.S. residents, not Afghanistan. OK, who made Iraq's President a member of the American Civil Liberties Union?

Saddam Hussein accused U.S. leaders of trying to develop "a clash between Christianity and Islam." That doesn't seem quite accurate. The last time we saw so many Muslim and Christian ministers together in the U.S., they were handing out tracts side-by-side at the airport.

One of the strangest sights we've seen since the skyjackings was on local TV news last Friday. A grade school class was shown watching the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance service in Washington on television. Who let this happen? If the children prayed aloud themselves, there would be lawsuits....

Our count of unique visitors from January to August was up 22 percent from 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

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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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

18 SEP 11: Pipes Down

Leave it to our readers to offer challenging topics for jokes. They could have brought up weekend football games, or Saturday being Constitution Day. But no -- today our lead item involves sewer pipes. Humor doesn't get much lower and dirtier than this....

SUNDAY SOAPBOX: The sewer pipes are, uh, dug up by someone who hasn't written us in several weeks. He titled this e-mail "The circus in Hurtsboro" -- so apparently the Columbus Civic Center has some competition:

"Sir" Richard:

P.T. Barnum said; "There's a sucker born every minute!" In "Hurt'sboro, it occurs oftener than that!

The Town Council sits like a flock of extinct birds (DoDo's) and lets the Mayor (in fact the last three) lead them down the road to poverty. Money mysteriously vanishes, withholding taxes go unpaid, and the Municipal Court provides a cash cow for for its Magistrate in the way of wages.

Mismanagement and corruption contribute to the fiscal debacle that exists; But, what's even worse, is the belief by the past trio of mayor's that, "free" money is out there for the taking. This opens the door for guys like Grant writer Bob Corwin and his pals at Sentel Engineering.They are in the business of soft-selling useless projects to the gullible, the greedy,and those in a position to spend someone else's money.

The only Department in "Hurt'sboro that's run with a sense of reality, is the Water and Sewer Board. But now even they, have fallen prey to Corwin and his cronies.

There has been a long standing need for sewer repair in a certain area of town. The W&S Board applied for, and received a $400,000.00 grant. Without hesitation (they were warned) they fell into the clutches of Bob Corwin, accepted a lesser plan suggested by the Sentell Engineer (relining the buried pipes) instead of following the original game plan.of replacement.

Well, the the pipes were in such bad shape they couldn,t be relined, The money that was spent to determine that fact, has put the project over budget, and now it's back to the pick and shovel.

A much needed and wortwhile project has become a Band Aid remedy to a serious problem, The W&S Board has been driven deeper into debt and will continue face the routine problems that existed before the project began.

Bob Cowin has collected his commission (just as he has done in the past) and it's a sure bet; he has "Hurt'sboro in his sights for another plucking. P.T. Barnum couldn't hold a candle to this guy!

R.J. Schweiger

Really now - if Hurtsboro has fewer than 600 residents, the town simply has to have a pace slower than one per minute.

Robert Schweiger expressed his displeasure with consultant Bob Corwin here four years ago [14 May 07]. At the time, Corwin described Schweiger as a "troublemaker" who called him personally to challenge the work he does. Imagine what Schweiger must do, now that he's no longer busy as Constable.

I wanted to e-mail Bob Corwin this latest complaint from Robert Schweiger, so he could respond as much as he desired. I could not find a good e-mail address for him until late Saturday night - and only found it through a building he owns in Wetumpka. Since it uses the municipal sewer system, shouldn't that make Corwin an expert on the subject?

Robert Schweiger also confused me by spelling the engineering firm two different ways. "Sentel" is a national company which does work for the military in everything from software to electromagnetism. If the right magnet can clean a sewer pipe, it could change the way we clean bathrooms.

But there's also Sentell Engineering - and I confirmed Saturday night that's the company Hurtsboro uses. It's based in Tuscaloosa, and offers services in "civil engineering." Of course, Robert Schweiger probably is ready to contend it's downright criminal....

With no good way to contact either accused party on short notice, I resorted Saturday night to calling my most reliable contact inside Hurtsboro city government. Magistrate Jimmy Baxley had good reason to hesitate to come to the phone -- but then I reminded him Alabama was well ahead of North Texas.

Jimmy Baxley told me it's the east side of Hurtsboro which is the focus of sewer work. He added the town had to pay $40,000 in matching funds to receive the $400,000 grant money. It's tempting to compare that amount to a bail bond, but I won't....

Jimmy Baxley says some work was done this past week on Hurtsboro's sewer line. But he admittedly knew little beyond that. After all, judges are supposed to rule on messes instead of cleaning them up.

We'll keep trying for a response from the other sides of the sewer story. But now we move on to a news item we mentioned Thursday:

I'm not surprised at a mother dropping her children off at Barnes and Nobles in Dothan for a seven hour stay .The summer the Macon Rd library first opened parents were dropping children off to stay all day and even packing them a lunch.. Now they just drop off loud teens on Sunday to roam the stacks all day..I remember when teens gatered at the Varsity on Macon Rd.I guess Macon Rd is just a teen magnet..

If it attracts that many teenagers, shouldn't the movie theatres behind Cross Country Plaza and the old Columbus Square Mall still be open? And shouldn't all the asphalt which used to be behind the main library have been filled with skateboarders every weekend?

Our last message of the day comes from the reader who alerted us to the fence next to the Phenix City Riverwalk, along 13th Street:

This is what you see at the Phenix City side of the 14th street bridge, Is it a back drop for shadow puppets?, Is it a device to tell time from the shadow of the 14th Street Plaza Tower? - A preview of what is to come for the ones in Alabama to see "White Water" in action.

And to make matters worse, there's a chain-link fence in front of the wall -- so Phenix City residents are deprived of their first real handball or racquetball court.

But seriously: this wall is up because of the renovation work on the 14th Street pedestrian bridge. It should come down once the work is finished, perhaps by next spring. I know both Columbus and Phenix City have tight budgets, but no one's even proposed a toll bridge for cars and trucks.

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/17-18 SEP 01: President Bush left no doubt over the weekend - he considers the U.S. at war. He told reporters at Camp David when it comes to terrorists, "we'll smoke them out of hiding...." Those campaign donations from Big Tobacco finally are paying off.

A well-known civil rights activist visited a church in our town Sunday. Dr. Joseph Lowery advised against taking an "eye for eye" mentality in responding to terrorism. Does he really want President Bush to turn the other cheek? He wouldn't expect African-American voters in Florida to do that.

Dr. Joseph Lowery borrowed from the Bible's book of Hosea, warning those who "sow the wind" of violence will "reap the whirlwind." Maybe he should direct this message to Bill Clinton - since he ordered a strike against Afghanistan first, a couple of years ago.

We went to an Episcopal church on the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance. A minister led us in the Book of Common Prayer's "Great Litany" - but we noticed he skipped one section about "bring into the way of truth all such as have erred, and are deceived." C'mon -- can't God work miracles in terrorists, too?!

A patriotic spirit is sweeping our town, in the wake of last week's violence. A motorcyclist passed us on the highway Sunday - and if we saw it correctly, he had two small flags attached to his helmet! We wondered if he can pick up radio stations better that way....

At a supermarket Sunday, we saw a bumper sticker we suspect will grow more common: "I don't brake for terrorists!" So are they worth more points than armadillos, or fewer?

U.S. military personnel are already on the move, in response to the Tuesday of Terror. We've noticed more train whistles blowing around town the last few days. Either troops are on the way to new locations - or a lot of people still haven't returned home from those closed airports.

An e-mail appeal urged people to step outside Friday evening with a candle, in a show of remembrance. One man in town arranged a last-minute candlelight vigil at that hour along the riverside -- but after welcoming everyone, he shut up and said nothing more. As the crowd stood around silently, we were thankful that man is not our President.

After a couple of minutes of silence, the vigil organizer left it to others in the crowd to do as they pleased. A few started singing patriotic songs we learned in our youth. But when others started singing the hymn, "The Solid Rock," hardly anyone joined in. When it comes to "God and Country," most of this group put it the other way around.

One sign of normalcy arrived at LaughLine World Headquarters about noon Monday - when a telemarketer called, offering us a credit protection plan. This is one thing we'll be glad to sacrifice, in a time of crisis.... all those annoying calls.

We were told at church over the weekend that a member of our denomination was aboard one of the skyjacked planes - and she left behind three orphaned children, now living with a trainee minister. But early Monday, we learned it was all a HOAX! It's pretty hard to offer a prayer, giving thanks that something was a lie.

SCHEDULED MONDAY: A surprising call from a school board member, which brings up old memories....

Our count of unique visitors from January to August was up 22 percent from 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

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© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

16 SEP 11: Mission Accomplished

A little construction is still underway. But as of Thursday, six years of hope and hype officially are over. Base realignment has ended. Fort Benning is a busier place. And Muscogee County schools will have to look beyond Kentucky for help in improving test scores.

Thursday was the federal deadline for concluding BRAC, or "base realignment and construction." While some U.S. military installations were downsized or closed, Fort Benning gained the U.S. Armor School from Fort Knox, Kentucky. But Columbus city officials still may be disappointed - because they expected a lot more gold to be moved from Fort Knox with it.

Commanding General Robert Brown told a news conference BRAC brought about 2,200 new soldiers to the Columbus area. He claimed that's in line with what was predicted when the shift to Fort Benning was announced in 2005 -- but my records show 4,000 soldiers were expected then [25 Aug 05]. Perhaps Brown used the news conference to practice his propaganda techniques.

Gen. Robert Brown said the move of the U.S. Armor School to Fort Benning is better for soldiers, because training is easier when military units are together. Now I'm even more impressed at how WLTZ has its news anchors in Iowa, while its reporters are in Columbus.

The Commanding General noted some members of the U.S. Armor School never had seen a tank, before they were moved from Fort Knox to Fort Benning. Hopefully they sent thank-you letters to Chick-Fil-A on Wynnton Road for holding its "touch a tank" day several weeks ago.

Fort Benning commanders added not all the BRAC construction is finished. The Armor School has to share a firing range with the Maneuver School of Excellence for the time being. So why is this a bad thing? Can't the two groups of soldiers fire mortar rounds back and forth at each other, like they're playing catch?

(WLTZ indicated the Armor School soon will have its own firing range, at the Good Hope training area. And imagine the parties soldiers can have when they put on capes at Good Hope.)

It's tempting to add up winners and losers from the six years of BRAC work. One big winner clearly is the Fort Mitchell area of Russell County, which has seen a boom in new development. I won't be surprised if a movement develops to incorporate that area as a city - only to have Robert Schweiger arrive from Hurtsboro to warn intensely against it.

Generally speaking (pun), another group of winners may be average Columbus drivers. Base realignment was one selling point for the "streets and safety" sales tax, and a lot of money has been spent in recent years on road improvements. If the asphalt would stick a little better, we might not need that transportation sales tax for bridges on Buena Vista Road.

One big loser from BRAC may be Muscogee County schools. Officials expected a virtual flood of new students from Fort Knox. Instead, there appears to be enough to justify the purchase of one new school bus.

Commanding General Robert Brown said Thursday it's better for Muscogee County schools to prepare for big numbers and get little, than not to prepare at all. Brown isn't likely to have a post-military career in financial planning with that sort of talk....

Fort Benning will celebrate the end of the six-year base realignment process next week with an event called "BRAC to the Future." Then it will be on to the matter of expanding the installation to more counties - which could inspire another slogan: "BRAC to political football."

Before we march into the sunset for today, let's check other Thursday topics:

+ Several church associations held a prayer vigil at the Government Center in behalf of public safety and against violence. This shows how Columbus has changed in recent years - because I can remember when some pastors demanded Sheriff Ralph Johnson go to their churches, and leave all his official documents in the lobby.

+ Troup County law officers pulled another car out of West Point Lake. That makes three cars found in the lake this summer - and if the count reaches ten, Gil's Auto Sales will have enough to open a new location there.

+ AT&T showed off a new cell phone tower at Shirley Winston Park. This one is different, because the metal pole is disguised to look like a pine tree. Apparently the Columbus area doesn't care about red cockaded woodpeckers anymore....

(Maybe there's a lesson here for both sides in the Veterans Parkway "Streetscape" dispute. Make billboards that can be embedded inside trees - and when tires roll over a certain spot, the trees can light up with ads for local restaurants.)

+ The U.S. Postal Service announced it's studying the possible consolidation of Columbus mail processing in Montgomery. This news was confusing, because I thought mail processing was moved to Macon last year [14 Jan 10]. But perhaps a shift to Montgomery will allow you to drop off letters one hour later every day.

+ Auburn University officials assured football fans Spirit the "war eagle" will be all right, after flying into a press box windowpane last weekend. I'm not sure why people were so concerned about this bird. Hockey players collide with glass night after night from October to April.

+ Spencer spanked Terrell County 20-14 in high school football. Both teams are nicknamed the Green Waves - but no one dared wave stacks of dollar bills toward players on either team.

+ Instant Message to Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor: To answer the question you raised Thursday - I used to be OK. But then I moved from Oklahoma to metro Atlanta.

Our count of unique visitors from January to August was up 22 percent from 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

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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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

15 SEP 11: Gator of Green Island?

Newcomers to our area might find it puzzling. Glenwood School's sports teams are nicknamed the Gators. In east Alabama -- more than 100 miles from the Florida line?! But then again, Harris County isn't exactly known for its loose and roaming tigers....

But real live alligators may be closer to home than you think. Consider this e-mail we received the other day:

This picture was taken by a friend that lives near the water of Lake Oliver, in Green Island Hills.

( 0n Standing Boy Rd. .Just before you cross the bridge)

If I saw this creature near my camera, I would NOT be a Standing Boy. I'd be walking backward, at least.

I quickly concluded the picture from Lake Oliver was sent in response to the news about that 1,200-pound alligator found in Lake Eufaula [8 Sep]. That was more of a country crock, of course....

Yet when this picture reached my InBox, I was a little wary. It's been about a year since another Columbus website pulled its "shark in the Chattahoochee" Photoshop publicity stunt [19 Aug 10]. Apparently its reputation wasn't damaged too much -- because "All Over the Valley" isn't, well, all over yet.

Besides, there's no identifying mark in this photo to confirm the location of the alligator. If it really was near Green Island Hills, it could have posed next to former mayor Jim Wetherington to show his toughness against crime.

So I wrote a reply to the e-mailer, to find out when the picture was taken. "Last week?" I asked. No - I was told in response the photo was taken in May. So even if it's accurate, this "alligator shoot" is several months out of season.

Meanwhile, I also contacted the Columbus Animal Control office to learn if it's handled any alligator cases in the last year or two. But I received no reply by Wednesday night. Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise - because a gator probably is the last thing you'd want at a "no-kill" shelter.

However, the original e-mailer's friend provided a little more information about this discovery:

The DNR told them that the ones in Lake Oliver should not be bothered. There is a street between his home and the water, and this was taken from the street......

Is a street of separation really sufficient here? Robert Frost came up with that quote, "Good fences make good neighbors" for a reason.

I admittedly have yet to contact the Georgia Department of Natural Resources about this Lake Oliver gator (did our writer make it plural?). But nature-centered websites confirm the Columbus area has several alligators. I don't think there are enough to merit their own handbag boutique near Bradley Park Drive, but let's give them a few years.

It's currently alligator hunting season in Georgia, under what's called a "quota hunt." The state's gator quota for the Columbus area is 65 again this year - which tells me the chefs at Green Island Country Club don't get many requests to prepare them for dinner.

Alligator sightings have occurred well north of Columbus. One was seen in Peachtree City during May, and actually was named Oliver. A gator also was found at Lake Lanier a few years ago. Those Florida football fans can be such pranksters, when their team makes the Southeastern Conference championship game.

So I guess you shouldn't be surprised this weekend, if you go fishing at Lake Oliver and spot a potential extra-large catch with a dark green shade. Georgia rules state you should use a harpoon, instead of a 20-pound test line. But keep one thing in mind - the alligator you attack might be a candidate for promotion to Oxbow Meadows.

E-MAIL UPDATE: The InBox also has a challenge to something we wrote Sunday....

from your blog: The weekly Saturday siren test in Columbus did not happen this weekend.

Are you sure about that? It sounded loud and clear from the siren located near Manchester Expressway and Ezell's.

As I noted, I was napping at 12:00 noon and didn't wake up until 12:03. But the siren test normally is still going then - and I live close enough to hear the Columbus Civic Center siren. Maybe they were turned off in South Commons because someone knew the mayor would be listening closely for silence.

-> We thought about 11 September 01 in terms of poker. Read about that at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: My Wednesday morning run finally allowed a closer look at the fence put up along the Phenix City Riverwalk. It only blocks the 13th Street entrance. And it was NOT the distraction which caused me to trip at the edge of the arching wooden bridge, and fall flat on my face.

With no liability lawsuit planned against the city, let's examine some real Wednesday news....

+ A public forum was held on proposed projects in the Columbus area for a regional transportation sales tax. Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson told WRBL one idea for "T-SPLOST" money is a bridge on Buena Vista Road, going over the "spider web" railroad tracks. Why do I have this feeling one end of the bridge would be in front of Carolyn Hugley's insurance office?

+ Fred Landrum of Prosperity America in Columbus appeared on Fox Business Network, discussing the "Georgia Works" jobs program. If it took a full week for the Ledger-Enquirer to learn about this interview, it shows how few viewers Fox Business has after so many years....

(Landrum says the Georgia Works program helped train new call center employees - and that program is now part of President Obama's job creation proposal. But someone apparently didn't tell the President the program didn't help Mike Thurmond get a job as U.S. Senator last year.)

+ The annual Maneuver Conference concluded at the Trade Center. I saw a big truck and trailer parked in the middle of Ninth Street downtown, removing an Army fighting vehicle - and reminding me some heavy military equipment really doesn't maneuver well at all.

+ University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby said it's time to consider consolidating public colleges, to save money. Former State Senator Seth Harp proposed something like that two years ago. But if Georgia students keep losing points on their Scholastic Aptitude Tests, won't some colleges close for lack of qualified students?

+ Dothan Police arrested a mother on charges of dropping off her two children at a Barnes and Noble bookstore - then picking them up seven hours later. At least the children should be literate enough to write nice love letters to their mother while she's in prison.

+ Instant Message to Coastal Carolina University: I must have missed something here. When did you start a football program? And did you start it simply so Georgia's Isaiah Crowell can run up his statistics this weekend?

Our count of unique visitors from January to August was up 22 percent from 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

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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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

14 SEP 11: Donut Hole City?

The scoffers in Phenix City say it's wrong for city officials to spend a lot of money to recruit a new downtown Marriott hotel. But maybe they're forgetting something. Tourists checking travel websites might conclude it's the only one within several miles of all the Columbus attractions.

Despite the long court fight over lodging taxes, several major travel sites still list NO Columbus motels. Yet a study presented to Columbus Council Tuesday indicated local motels seem to be thriving, anyway. Maybe most budget-conscious travelers are doing what I do on road trips - picking up a coupon book at McDonald's.

Smith Travel Research determined Columbus hotels actually are doing better than the national average. The occupancy rate is at 67 percent, up nine percentage points from last year. Do we give thanks to base realignment for this - or all those Craigslist ads which lead to police stings?

Yet while the occupancy rate is up, WLTZ reported the "average daily rate" for Columbus motels is down ten dollars. I guess this refers to the actual price of a room -- since I haven't heard of anyone trading motel futures at the downtown Raymond James office.

A ten-dollar drop in motel rates can turn into big bucks. Jack Pezold of Valley Hospitality estimates his company has lost three million dollars, because travel websites have delisted Columbus in recent years. So if your room has a five-year-old TV set which only picks up local stations, blame it on Expedia.

Jack Pezold complained when it comes to Expedia, Priceline and, "Columbus, Georgia does not exist on this planet." There's something noteworthy about Pezold's statement. One year ago, the Georgia Governor also could have been on that list.

WTVM checked several travel websites, and found Orbitz lists Columbus motels after settling its suit with the city. showed Phenix City locations, while Expedia brought up nothing. Nothing?! Most search engines automatically would assume Columbus, Ohio and show something....

I had a similar experience recently, while booking a car rental for an upcoming road trip. Travelocity's list of Columbus motels offers Phenix City locations for the top six choices. An unrated Microtel Inn and Suites on Fountain Court came up seventh - so maybe the key is for Columbus managers to tell guests not to mention their stays online at all.

(Travelocity also offered a "top secret hotel in Columbus" Tuesday night for 40 dollars. No, I did NOT click on it - in part because I don't want undercover police officers getting my IP address.)

The future of Columbus in terms of travel websites currently is in the hands of a federal court in Macon. Depending on the outcome of that case, the issue could return to Muscogee County Court - but it would no longer be in the hands of retired Judge Doug Pullen. Do we need to check which judges are members of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce?

By the way, another thought occurred Tuesday night about all those nominees for the open Superior Court seat. After years dealing with Judge Doug Pullen, a lot of attorneys who want his job are pushin'.

Before we pack our bags and fly into the past for humor, here are some other Tuesday news tidbits....

+ Which city employee prepared Tuesday's Columbus Council agenda to include an item about "Warms Spring Road"? Has the City Manager blocked access to Google Maps, too?

+ WBOJ-FM "88.5 the Truth" pulled a surprise, by breaking a business news story. Sanctuary Christian Bookstore at The Landings will close at the end of the month. This same thing occurred at The Landings five years ago, when the Mustard Seed store folded [23 Feb 06] -- but this time, you can't blame it on my attempting to sell albums there.

+ The annual Maneuver Conference opened at the Trade Center. This year for the first time, the U.S. Armor School joined with Fort Benning's Maneuver School of Excellence. But if they called it the "Armor Conference," too many people would think it's being held at the Buckhead Grill.

+ Officials in Opelika announced Pharmavite will open a vitamin manufacturing plant in the city. Yes, it means more than 250 new jobs - but it seems strange for those conservative leaders to suddenly encourage pill-popping and a form of drug-running.

+ The Birmingham area had a small 3.0 earthquake. But in September, this is no big deal - as residents automatically assume the epicenter is close to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

+ University of Georgia football coaches announced Isaiah Crowell will start at tailback this weekend. The Carver High graduate probably could have started last weekend. But doing that against South Carolina could have made Crowell.... well, you know.... too Cocky.

+ Instant Message to the student driver who was in front of me Tuesday on Macon Road: If there's a teacher in the passenger's seat, does your car really need that big "Report my driving" bumper sticker in the back?

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/14 SEP 01: Polls released Thursday night shows President Bush's popularity has jumped suddenly to the 80-percent range. Isn't this amazing? Terrorist thugs fly airplanes into skyscrapers - and suddenly millionaires in the White House aren't so bad.

The U.S. Senate voted Thursday to permit the wiretapping of suspected terrorists. Vermont's Patrick Leahy is concerned the bill is written too broadly. After all, how many parents have referred to their children as "little terrors?"

Religious leaders are commenting about the Tuesday of Terror, even before the day of prayer. Pat Robertson of "The 700 Club" claimed the U.S. has lost the "protection of heaven." Well, Al Gore DID warn us about that hole in the ozone layer....

Pat Robertson says the terror attacks stem from U.S. residents insulting God, in areas such as abortion and Internet pornography. Maybe so - but if strictly-Muslim Afghanistan doesn't have those things, why is it at the brink of hurting even worse?

Secretary of State Colin Powell declared Osama bin-Laden a "prime suspect" in the hijackings. Trouble is - how do you spell his first name? ABC spells it "Osama." Fox News says "Usama." But if the armed forces can track him down and hit hard enough, they might change it to "OW-sama."

The Southeastern Conference HAD planned to play college football games on Saturday -- but suddenly changed its mind Thursday afternoon. The last straw apparently came when Mississippi refused to change its nickname from "Rebels" to "Patriots," to show some sympathy.

(Do you think these football teams have been tipped off to something - that maybe a different sort of "all-out blitz" is on the way?)

Hunting season opens in our area this weekend - but for some reason, the Army base just outside town [Fort Benning] has banned hunting on the grounds for a while. We'd think the commanders would WANT extra people with guns there. They'd love to put the "extremist terrorist" on the endangered species list.

(The Army base also called off this weekend's post-wide yard sale. Spare coffee cups can be lethal, when they're dropped from 20-thousand feet.)

The school district in our town [Muscogee County] decided NOT to cancel classes for today's National Day of Prayer and Remembrance. After all, the civil liberties groups might complain about the "remembrance" part discriminating against Alzheimer's patients.

We're filling in at a TV station in town right now, and taking the most amazing phone calls. One caller Thursday suggested our station play "The Stars and Stripes Forever" to stir up viewers. People apparently are so overwhelmed they can't tell the difference between radio and television.

Then there was the 67-year-old retired veteran who called, expressing his desire to speak with a "senior military officer.... someone who's shot and killed somebody.... at least Colonel rank or higher." He claims he wants to see if he's relating his military experiences properly to young people. We wondered if the newspaper rejected his "Personals" ad.

Our count of unique visitors from January to August was up 22 percent from 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

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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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

13 SEP 11: Basket Cases

So really -- what is the deal about hand baskets? They simply don't get any respect. When someone talks about going somewhere "in a hand basket," they almost always are going to a place that's bad. You never hear people at church talk about going to heaven in one....

I have nothing personally against hand baskets. I use them often when I pick up a few items at stores. But in the last few days, I've had to learn a lesson in shopping basket etiquette. It's a small lesson, I suppose - but then, hand baskets are built on the small side.

It happened last week at a drugstore east of Interstate 185, which I will keep nameless. I went there to pick up several small items at mid-afternoon. I put them in a hand basket and proceeded to the register - and there wasn't even a line, to give me time for some on-the-spot arm exercises.

But that's when the problem happened. I set the hand basket on the counter next to the register, and explained to the cashier what specials I had. She stood and listened, but didn't move. Of course, she might have been an Army wife and considered me a retired soldier....

When my explanation ended, an awkward quiet second or two occurred. Then the cashier said, "I thought you were going to take them out of the basket...." Then she took the items out herself. I mean, I wasn't concerned about the fact that she didn't wear protective gloves.

I tried to apologize for not removing the items from the hand basket on the counter, but I probably didn't do it very well. At least I put the basket on top of a stack of them, while she rang up the total. Doesn't that mean I did the heavy lifting?

As I drove away from the drugstore, I pondered over what happened. My approach with the hand basket wasn't different from what I'd done at other store checkouts over the years. The items were on the counter, ready to be scanned. And I wasn't carting around a 25-pound bag of dog food, to give the cashier a hernia.

But after thinking over the scene for a minute, I decided I was the guilty party. After all, I take items out of large shopping carts when I reach the checkout of a supermarket. So I should have taken these items out of the drugstore hand basket as well. It's a matter of being consistent - and it probably showed why my dating life is consistently poor.

As it happened, I had a few more things to pick up at that same drugstore Monday afternoon - and after I did that, I was ready. "I want to thank you for giving me an etiquette lesson," I told the same cashier as before. And I said that as I removed my items from the hand basket. It's not often that I successfully do two tough tasks at the same time, but it happened.

"Thank you," the cashier said after my brief explanation. Someone got her message - and in this case, the concept of "good customer service" should include a good customer who serves the cashier. After all, we're in an economy where you might have to give that cashier a resume someday.

So the next time you're shopping and only have a few things to buy, please don't do what I did the other day. Think about a classic jazz tune - so you don't get taken to task-et for dropping down a little hand basket.

Another undoubtedly awkward moment begins our review of other major Monday developments....

+ Which male student at an area college was stopped by a campus police officer - and had to be told the dance team tryouts were for women only? The man wanted to audition. But instead, the only improvising he did was with his mouth -- to avoid getting arrested.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer revealed 13 attorneys have been nominated to take the seat of retired Superior Court Judge Doug Pullen. Talk about frustrating! The Columbus unemployment rate stands at 9.6 percent, yet everyone nominated for this seat already has a job.

(Two nominees are current Assistant District Attorneys - LaRae Moore and Alonza Whitaker. But perhaps the most surprising name is Arthur Smith, who's a senior vice president with Aflac. Shouldn't someone associated with the duck have a court show on Animal Planet?)

+ The Kia plant in West Point celebrated winning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. A team of drivers traveled in a Kia Optima hybrid through all 48 contiguous states on less than six tanks of gasoline. That sounds impressive, but it raises a question which could be even more mind-boggling. How often did that team stop to use the restroom -- and where?

+ WRBL planned to bring back its 5:00 p.m. "First Edition" newscast for the first time in two years. But the return was postponed until today, because of the U.S. Open men's tennis finals. One reporter promised online Monday afternoon would rank among "television's biggest events." Not for Rafael Nadal, it wasn't....

+ Instant Message to Solid Rock Ministries church in Walton County, Georgia: Wow - some of you think Satan was behind people getting sick at the Sunday potluck dinner?! Now I feel a little guilty. The same thing happened at one of my congregation's potlucks a few years ago, and nobody ever brought up that explanation.

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/13 SEP 01: White House aides say President Bush has talked with his father about how to respond to the terrorist attacks. The former President probably advised his son one thing above all else - make sure Alan Greenspan is well protected, to handle the economy.

The President asked Congressional leaders to grant him the authority to use emergency money to do "whatever it takes." If it means building a deeper bomb shelter at the ranch in Texas, then do it....

Some members of Congress minced no words about how they felt. Georgia's Zell Miller mentioned the Taliban in Afghanistan by name, and said - "Let's bomb the h**l out of them!" [True/news release] Apparently his first name is short for "Zell-ot...."

We heard one report Wednesday that prime terrorism suspect Osama bin-Laden moves to a new location three times a week. Before you call this suspicious, keep one thing in mind: he could pass for almost any player in the National Basketball Association.

....Tighter security rules will change one fun thing about living near Atlanta's airport. We used to go there on cold winter evenings - and for a one-dollar hourly parking fee, we jogged inside the long "Transportation Mall" under the concourses. We blended right in with the travelers, except we didn't have on those funny souvenir hats.

More rumors spread about spikes in gasoline prices Wednesday. One caller told us a convenience store employee in our town talked about the price hitting three dollars a gallon in the morning. We hope the caller misunderstood this - and milk is going on sale.

The Southeastern Conference decided it WILL play football games this weekend. Tributes to the terrorism victims are planned before kickoffs. But if groups of planes fly in the "missing man" formation, that will only make people nervous again.

The Army base just outside town [Fort Benning] tightened its security Wednesday - and it turned into a mess. Some drivers told us they were stuck on the Interstate SEVEN hours, before reaching the main gate! If this keeps up, the Red Cross will set up a blood drive along the side of the road

(Maybe NOW the radio stations in this town will see the need to hire a traffic reporter....)

Blood banks from coast to coast have been swamped with donors since the hijackings. That's a good thing - but at the blood donor center in our town, some of the nurses only got one hour sleep between shifts the other night! If you're giving for the first time and the nurse starts feeling your leg, speak up....

(The blood bank employees are SO BUSY that the refreshment table isn't the only place getting "punchy.")

Our count of unique visitors from January to August was up 22 percent from 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 593 (+ 22, 3.9%)

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

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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