Wednesday, June 15, 2011

15 JUN 11: What's Done is Done?

A report released Tuesday shows a vast majority of U.S. schoolchildren cannot pass a proficiency exam in history. In fact, most fourth-graders cannot explain what made President Abraham Lincoln an important figure. Doesn't this prove it's time to eliminate the penny - and perhaps even five-dollar bills?

While educators bemoaned the test results and tried to explain why history matters, an attorney was in Russell County Court Tuesday arguing history should be ignored. It was an attorney for Phenix City Councilor Arthur Sumbry Sr. -- whose job could be history if he's convicted this summer.

It was pre-trial motions day in the Arthur Sumbry Sr. case, before his late-August trial on forgery and perjury charges. Among other things, Sumbry's attorney moved for the case to be dismissed because the charges aren't specific enough. Apparently "Clue" rules still apply - criminal, weapon AND location.

But the most interesting motions to me involved history. Russell County prosecutors asked for permission to mention Arthur Sumbry's 1981 perjury conviction during his trial. They'd better remember the proper, politically sensitive way to explain this - leopards can't change their paw shape.

The attorney for Arthur Sumbry Sr. argued for the 1981 conviction to be barred from the August trial. Raymond Jackson told reporters the two perjury cases are NOT similar. Why don't both sides take this dispute to the current authoritative arbiter of historical events - Sarah Palin?

(The defense would note Sumbry received pardons for two convictions in 1982, when Fob James was Alabama Governor. Prosecutors would respond James truly changed his ways in the last 30 years - for instance, by switching to the Republican Party.)

I can understand why a Russell County judge needs to rule on this matter before Arthur Sumbry Sr. goes on trial. A jury considering 2009 events might be distracted or confused by what Sumbry did 30 years earlier -- or they might look at Sumbry like modern-day Elie Weisels, and want to get even.

But at its core, this is a dispute about how much attention we should pay to history. Does what happened 30 years ago really matter in a criminal trial today? Are we doomed to repeat mistakes of the past, if we don't learn lessons from them? And how many Phenix City jurors really would remember who served on the Council in 1981, anyway?

Yet here's the interesting thing: Arthur Sumbry's attorney does NOT want the judge to ignore history completely. WLTZ noted Raymond Jackson wants a racially-balanced jury, because the 1981 jury which convicted Sumbry was all-white -- and amazingly, this was during a time when George Wallace was NOT Governor.

By the way, it was a bit surprising to see Raymond Jackson speak up for Arthur Sumbry Sr. at Tuesday's hearing. Didn't Sumbry hire Mark Shelnutt as his defense attorney in March? It would be a little ironic if Shelnutt has other plans in late August - such as his own second trial.

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BIG PREDICTION: No, I did NOT forget the Miss Georgia pageant is in town. Preliminaries begin tonight - and after carefully reviewing the field as a single guy should, I'm picking Miss Rome to win the crown. There's something about a woman with a last name similar to mine....

The Miss Georgia pageant didn't make it easy for me to pick the winner, by failing to offer details on the contestants. But after some searching, I learned Miss Rome Stephanie Burkholder is a blogger like me. Wow -- I've been looking for a fitting vacation substitute for several years.

Admittedly there's one negative on Miss Rome's resume. Stephanie Burkholder is enrolled at the University of Mississippi. Can someone do that, yet still win the Miss Georgia pageant? Burkholder should be thankful the Georgia-Mississippi football game in September is in Oxford, so she can hide.

I drove by the RiverCenter Tuesday evening, and saw a middle-aged woman carrying a bright white dress down Tenth Street. At first I thought it was a wedding gown. But shame on me - no young woman comes to the Miss Georgia pageant in her right mind with one of those.

Let's see who else was in the spotlight Tuesday....

+ Columbus City Manager Isaiah Hugley nominated Ross Horner for manager of the Civic Center. Horner currently handles marketing for the main arena in Bismarck, North Dakota - which should prove June heat waves still are appealing to some Northerners.

(Before you scoff at Bismarck, that Civic Center already has booked appearances by Bill Cosby and Amy Grant for later this year. It even is hosting a "Beerfest" in September, without even scheduling a country music band to perform with it.)

+ Columbus Council held two public hearings on the proposed fiscal 2012 budget. Three people spoke at the morning session in favor of reducing trash collection to once a week. If that's the huge groundswell of support Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson expected, she needs to hand out more plastic containers and organize a noisy march downtown.

+ WTVM reported Phenix Lumber Company could be fined $1.9 million. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found 77 safety violations over the past several years. OSHA probably could have gone further, but that would have brought complaints from 84 Lumber.

+ The Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce received a national "gold award" for its "I Am the Chamber" promotional campaign. Well, gold at least is an improvement from platinum white....

+ Harris County teams won a baseball and softball title at the Jack Cook Little League All-Star tournament. Somewhere in Hamilton, county commissioners smiled and said, "We told you so."

+ Instant Message to Auburn University Wide Receivers Coach Trooper Taylor: You have only yourself to blame. Your raise could have been on the Gus Malzahn level of 160 percent, instead of simply 20.7 percent - but you simply HAD to challenge President Obama to that chest-bump.

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