28 APR 11: Born in the U.S.A.?
Hello, my name is Richard - and I'm a United States citizen. I can prove it. Well, I think I can prove it. Some people might not accept it as proof. If they weren't in the delivery room with the doctors 52 years ago.... well, even though they wouldn't have been allowed in the delivery room 52 years ago....
I pulled out my birth certificates Wednesday, and I'm posting them for public display today. If the President of the United States has to do it, everyone in the country should follow his.... oh yes, I said certificates. Plural. Go ahead and start the rumors about my having a split personality.
But first: President Obama surprised a lot of people Wednesday, by unveiling the "long form" of his birth certificate from Hawaii. The President told reporters he wanted to end "sideshows" about the issue. Isn't it comforting to know some people consider questions about the U.S. Constitution a sideshow?
Within minutes, alleged Presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested he was the one who made President Obama release the long form certificate. While Trump cautioned the document needed reviewing, he declared: "I am really proud." Some days not even Trump Tower can contain that man's ego....
I hate to burst Donald Trump's balloon, but I have my own theory about why the long form certificate came out. Several state legislatures have bills requiring Presidential candidates to present such documents to be on the 2012 ballot. Remember the bill State Rep. Richard Smith says he co-sponsored by mistake? [6 Mar] It died in a Georgia legislative committee before Trump could claim he created it.
Besides, what about the other people who made the birth certificate a big issue for years? I wondered Wednesday about Orly Taitz, the attorney who represented Fort Benning soldiers who didn't want to go to war. Can she appeal now to get her contempt of court fine back?
Plenty of journalists also thought about Orly Taitz, and inundated her office with phone calls. She's still skeptical about the long form certificate, saying President Obama's father is listed as "African" in race and not "Negro." The fact that Barack Obama Sr. was born in Kenya couldn't possibly have anything to do with it....
Another question from Wednesday's "big reveal" is whether anyone's presidential campaign will be helped or hurt by it. Roy Barnes released more financial documents last year than Nathan Deal, yet Deal won the Georgia Governor's race. And come to think of it, a birth certificate was about the only thing Wayne Anthony did NOT request from the Teresa Pike Tomlinson mayoral campaign.
So now it's my turn for full disclosure - and my storage box actually contains two birth certificates. The more ceremonial one is from the hospital where I was born in August 1958. It's signed by the hospital superintendent, "Sister Rita Louise." If there's no last name, skeptics probably would conclude she's a secret informer for the Kansas City Mafia.
A second smaller "certificate of live birth" apparently was obtained by my parents in 1963, when I was four years old. It's much like the one President Obama released Wednesday -- except Hawaii's form had a line allowing for the mother to work outside the home. Hawaii clearly has more Democratic liberals than Kansas.
The certificate of live birth is certified and notarized by the Kansas State Board of Health - and still has raised marks from the notary seal. Donald Trump's investigators should go to the White House and ask: where are the bumps?
(I never looked closely at the small birth form until a few years ago - and I choked up a little when I saw one box. My mother lost two fetuses before giving birth to me. My parents never mentioned that before they died, but they called me "number-two son." Calling me "quattro" would have raised too many questions.)
So the birth certificates are out -- and the way things are going, maybe they should stay out. Maybe I should carry them everywhere I go, like a driver's license. After all, an immigration bill is on the Georgia Governor's desk -- and if he signs it, I'll have to prove I'm a U.S. citizen or risk deportation to Mexico.
As all this was on my mind Wednesday, I was reminded of something I saw Tuesday at the Government Center news conference. A "Freedom Shrine" on the Plaza Level displays copies of historic U.S. documents. President Obama's birth certificate could be the first one to appear there - especially since few remember what Woodrow Wilson said in his 1913 inaugural, anyway.
BLOG UPDATE: I went out again Wednesday to cover a news story - but this one was different and downright strange. It started with a phone call to the Russell County Court Clerk's office, to ask where "Judge Johnson" holds his hearings. The old courthouse on 14th Street is fenced off for renovation - as if the new Phenix City Tea Party might stage a sit-in inside.
The staff told me Judge Johnson holds hearings at 1000 Broad Street. So at 2:15 p.m. I parked at the Russell County Government Center to attend a 2:30 hearing - except there were no signs to lead me to a courtroom, and the chair at a big reception desk was empty. With no one to check my bag, it felt a bit like an airport in the 1990s.
A little wandering around led to a sign: "Family Court, Judge David Johnson, Second Floor." So up the elevator I went, even though I was looking for Judge Albert Johnson. Certainly they'd share the same robe closet, to save space....
I found David Johnson's courtroom, but Albert Johnson's name was nowhere to be found. Then a familiar-looking man came by, suggesting Albert Johnson was in another building and I should go back downstairs to find out where. Who could have guessed an angel would look like Ronnie Reed?
Down the side stairs I went, and a woman was back at the reception desk. She recommended I drive to the Courthouse Annex across 14th Street from the fenced-off courthouse. Thankfully it was only 2:20 - and it wasn't a big shopping day at the downtown Phenix City Piggly Wiggly.
Up the hill I drove, parking on the west side of the Courthouse Annex building. I walked to the south doors, which were locked - then walked around to the east door, which was locked. Upon walking to the north side, a sheriff's officer stopped me. Those doors seemed too weary and run-down to trigger security alarms.
"2:30 hearing, Judge Albert Johnson," I said quickly to the officer - only to be told the only judge holding a court session inside that building was George Greene. Maybe the receptionist also was "green," but with a different spelling.
"Which Johnson do you want?" the officer asked me.
"Albert, Albert, Albert!" I hadn't realized Russell County has two judges with the same last name. In Columbus, the Hugleys scatter their government jobs a bit more widely.
The officer directed me back down the hill, to another Courthouse Annex on Seventh Avenue - the place where I reviewed judicial records on a computer last week. So at 2:28, I ran back to my car and hustled back down the Broad Street hill. At least gravity could work as a speeding defense now.
I parked at my third Phenix City building in 15 minutes, went into the lobby - and a security guard escorted me up stairs to Judge Albert Johnson's second-floor courtroom. But there was a new problem: there was NO 2:30 court hearing. If these judges somehow operate on Central Time....
A woman met me in a hallway, surprised that I was there for a 2:30 court hearing which wasn't happening. "Which case are you here for?" she asked. A long pause followed -- I guess because I assumed Russell County court employees get the same e-mail pleas and complaints I do.
"Robert Schweiger and the City of Hurtsboro...." I told the woman. Thankfully, she knew what case that was.
"They canceled the hearing. The case was continued until July." The very thing Schweiger didn't seem to expect from Judge Albert Johnson happened?! Did Johnson have a sudden doctor's appointment or something?
This news was a surprise to me - but a follow-up question was not. The woman said Judge Albert Johnson declined to recuse himself from Robert Schweiger's rehearing, in a complaint against Hurtsboro's use of city gasoline taxes. So Schweiger has three months to review books on proper courtroom etiquette....
I recounted for the woman all the stops I'd made to reach the courtroom hallway. "It isn't really funny," she said, "but we get cases like this every day." The Russell County Courthouse renovation can't get completed soon enough -- so the county can move on to changing worn-out carpeting from misguided visitors.
So I hurried to three different buildings, ostensibly wound up with nothing - and the infuriating thing is that all my rushing could have been prevented. Look at the e-mail we received Wednesday, hours before the scheduled court hearing:
I hope you are a better poker player - than prognosticator! As of 11:00 a.m. your time, I'm "Happy as a clam!"
I had no idea what Schweiger meant by that. For all I knew, he might have found a new way to have the Hurtsboro Mayor arrested.
This situation is remarkably similar to what President Obama did Wednesday. If Robert Schweiger had fully disclosed why he was happy, I could have saved a change of clothing and afternoon schedule - not to mention burning $3.63-per-gallon gasoline trying to find a court hearing which never happened. Maybe he wanted me to go on a wild goose chase, to see how long his puppet strings extended.
Russell County Court rules do NOT allow discussions of pending cases over the phone - so I couldn't call in advance Wednesday to see if Robert Schweiger's hearing was still on. I had to get in the car and try to track it down. And unlike "The Amazing Race," I seriously doubt I would have won a million dollars for succeeding.
I've wondered lately if Robert Schweiger is trying to "use" this blog, much less this blogger. After Wednesday's search for something Schweiger probably knew I couldn't find, I'm going to do something I haven't done in years: penalize a blog writer. Two e-mails sent by Schweiger since Sunday will NOT be posted. There's no great harm there -- since they said nothing positive about Hurtsboro, anyway.
Blog tipsters in general need to stop assuming I'm smart enough to solve their puzzles. State your tips plainly, please. Name your names. Tell the whole story. Otherwise, I could get things very wrong - which come to think of it might be a hidden goal behind it all.
Wednesday's two big local stories were nothing to joke about - so let's see what else was out there....
+ Columbus Police told the Ledger-Enquirer someone tried to roll four coils of copper past the checkout lane of Lowe's without paying for them. Officers quietly describe the suspect as a real "basket case."
+ Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson called a special Columbus Council meeting for Friday morning, reportedly to present her budget proposal. The mayor apparently didn't have it ready Tuesday - perhaps because not enough campaign donors could be found to balance a possible deficit.
+ Former Phenix City Mayor Jeff Hardin told WLTZ's "Calvin Floyd Live" he does NOT plan to run for city office next year. Hmmmm - I guess Sammy Howard is next in the rotation....
+ The Alabama Senate approved a bill removing racist language from the state constitution. One section still allows for segregated schools - and sometimes I think a few Russell County School Board members quietly want that option to come back.
+ Instant Message to the Columbus EMA office: Are you still planning to take part in that "Shake Out" drill on earthquake preparedness today? Some residents might be shaken up already, from all the severe storms.
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