Monday, August 22, 2011

22 AUG 11: Squish the Bug



Hello, my name is Richard - and I'm a cockroach. You know, the sort of thing which loves to hang around kitchens. And if you find me on one bedroom wall, I might drive you right up the opposite one.



What - you didn't know I'm a cockroach? Well, I really didn't realize it either. But that all changed last week, thanks to an interview on Paul Finebaum's radio sports talk show based in Birmingham. And since that's the place where we learned the Toomer's Corner trees were poisoned, that should be an authoritative source for other wonders of nature.



It wasn't Paul Finebaum who declared me a cockroach - it was one of his guests. USA Today sportswriter Danny Sheridan said it. Thankfully, not about me individually - but about bloggers in general. Of course, Sheridan stands far above cockroach level. He's most well-known in his newspaper for setting gambling odds on sports events.



Danny Sheridan verbally took off his shoe to pound cockroaches like me after he refused to name a "bag man" -- the person who supposedly provided money for Cam Newton to play quarterback at Auburn University. Contrary to what you may have seen on WLTZ Sunday, Newton has NOT changed his mind about playing pro football. And he's not dreaming again about coming back to beat Georgia.



Instead of naming a bag man, Danny Sheridan scolded bloggers for not identifying themselves online. He suggested we "man up.... grab some sack, post some comments under your real names...." I thought Sheridan was old enough to remember how "Deep Throat" exposed the Watergate scandal....



Danny Sheridan said your friendly neighborhood blogger is like a cockroach, because a cockroach "hides at night. Flip on the light and they run for cover." So I guess this puts me in the same boat with the Metro Narcotics Task Force.



But the cruelest cockroach crushing of all came when Danny Sheridan urged bloggers like me to "stop hiding behind your computer screens in your mother's basement." Ouch - now that hurts! For one thing, my mother lived in a one-floor mobile home when she died....



To be honest, I've been called a lot of things over the years. A woman once called me a "jerk" to my face - and it happened in the foyer after a worship service. The strange thing is that I was dating her daughter, not her.



But being compared to a cockroach - well, that's new territory for me. It's about on the level of being told to consider myself dust. And that didn't come from an upset candidate or city official - it came earlier this year from a church pastor, during a sermon.



Of course, Danny Sheridan might declare me an exception to his blogger rule. I sign my work at the end of almost every post. And if Mr. Sheridan wants to single me out for that, I'd politely point out the copyright symbol next to my name and ask for a royalty check.



But being a somewhat-anonymous blogger can have its advantages. In almost 2,700 posts, I've hardly ever shown my picture here. The reason for this is simple: I want readers to keep coming back, instead of running away....



The semi-anonymous blogger also can roam around -- uhhhh, well, admittedly like a cockroach. I can drop in on activities and unveil myself at dramatic moments. A great example of that came in January, when I found myself at the same breakfast table with Mike Gaymon. A bad example came last November, when Paul Olson kicked me out of his election-night watch party.



So to some extent, Danny Sheridan may have a point. I get the feeling he's been bitten by "cockroach" bloggers more than once over the years. But he'd better be careful -- because he who puts all bloggers in the same "roach motel" may find he needs a few of them for shelter someday.



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



E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Sunday comments about fire fees in Lee County brought a response from a "Concerned Firefighter" faster than a.... well, you know....



Richard,



A couple of points regarding your story.



The vote will not simply be to increase the fire fee. The current fire fee of $25 is set to expire. The vote will be to "renew and increase" the fee. Without the fee there will be no fire departments. While the firefighters are 100% volunteers (and there are NO paid firefighters, per call or any other form of compensation to the firefighters at Friendship, Salem, South West, Farmville, or Beauregard Fire Dept's) none of these departments have been able to find a gas station to "volunteer diesel fuel" or a service shop to "volunteer tires, oil changes, maintenance, etc" on the fire trucks, Alabama Power does not volunteer power, the insurance companies that insure the fire trucks, stations, etc do not "volunteer" that insurance and the equipment companies do not volunteer or donate equipment such as hose, jaws of life, bandages, etc. The fire departments must pay for all of these things and more. Without income these things will not get paid and if an alternate source of funds can't be found these departments will go out of "business."



What happens if these departments shut their doors due to lack of funding? Insurance costs will rise much more than $50 per year, from the numbers being tossed around $75 will be a bargain compared the the insurance increases the insurance companies will dole out when fire protection ceases or is heavily curtailed. There is a company called ISO who rates fire departments based on the level of service, amount of quality of equipment, number of volunteers, etc. that each department has. In turn the insurance companies uses these ratings to set there rates. If these departments close or strictly curtail there service it has been said people could see insurance increases of $1,500 or more per year. That makes $75 sound like a bargain. Of course no one knows exactly how much the increases will be as only the insurance companies know that, but what is for certain there will be insurance increases.



As for the comment about selling barb-q, all of these firefighters are un-paid volunteers, and they only have so much time they can "volunteer" remembering they have jobs, family's, kids who play sports, etc. wouldn't you rather the fire department focus on saving lives and training than out selling barb-q?



Don't forget Fire Departments don't just run fire calls anymore. Fire departments are responsible for extrication and rescue of MVA victims, respond to all medical calls, citizen assists, etc. With only 1 ambulance in the Smith Station area (station inside the Friendship VFD) there are many times the Fire Department is on the scene and treating victims long before the ambulance arrives. All of these departments have trained EMT's to answer the calls and perform life saving treatment prior to the arrival of the ambulance and in many cases ride in on the ambulance to assist them while in route. For the record, CVCC & Southern Union do NOT volunteer there services or waive the fee's for training these firefighters to be EMT's, the departments must pay like everyone else.



In my view the citizens of Lee County need to think long and hard before they decide they do not want a Fire Department anymore.



Finally, the comment "And since it's a volunteer department, that means it's exempt from the Alabama Open Meetings Act." couldn't be more incorrect. You should review Alabama Attorney General opinion 2006-108....



Wow -- I didn't realize Lee County had a Farmville. And you apparently don't have to register with Facebook to be part of it.



Someone left a phone message several weeks ago, suggesting I check the ISO rating for the Friendship Volunteer Fire Department. A lower number is better -- but the caller indicated the Friendship rating was poor, so Smiths Station homeowners already faced high insurance costs. The Friendship firehouse near Tallassee has a rating of five. But maybe that's an ISO-lated case.



Volunteer fire departments really don't have to be "out" selling barbecue. Many departments in the Columbus area cook and sell plates at the fire stations. And they use the sales to promote, well, friendship in the community. The children's sports leagues with their three-dollar candy bars might be able to provide some help with this.



The "Concerned Firefighter" indeed found an update to our link on the Alabama Open Meetings Act. I went by the original 2005 law which I found online. But the Alabama State Forester asked for a ruling, since volunteer fire departments are certified by the State Forestry Commission. Doesn't this fact indicate the Alabama Forestry Commission doesn't have a lot of other things to do?



So based on this 2006 option, WRBL should have stormed inside that Smiths Station meeting the other night. Give the Friendship firefighters a taste of what hey do at burning buildings already -- even if they're armed with extinguishers, and know how to use them in response.



We'll let that issue smolder some more, while we check a rather quiet weekend in the news:


+ Columbus Police arrested a man on charges operating a methamphetamine lab at the Efficiency Lodge on Boxwood Boulevard. This is the wrong way to pass science classes at Miller-Motte down the street....



+ A woman complained to WRBL about prison inmates whistling at her and shouting "cat calls" while working near her home. Wow - I never face this from inmates when I'm jogging in South Commons, and I show plenty of leg in my running shorts.



+ Phenix City officials announced the city's credit rating has improved. It was "A-plus stable." Now it's "A-plus positive." And if the city council can find enough additional taxes to increase, Phenix City will match the U.S. government yet.



+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported Burlington Coat Factory will open a Columbus store on Airport Thruway in November. I found some good bargains there when I lived in Atlanta - but this far south, a store with "coat" in its name might as well remain closed from mid-April to mid-October.



+ The second triathlon of the summer was held in the downtown area. I found runners on Broadway Saturday morning, with police watching over them at every intersection -- a perfect way to make sure nobody cheats and turns around before the Oglethorpe Bridge.



+ Instant Message to Rivertown Church: I received your card declaring 2011 "the year of revolution." So in light of the news from Libya, what kind of a "real marriage revolution" are you promoting over the next few weeks? Homosexual unions, or wives ruling over husbands?



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