Wednesday, August 31, 2011

31 AUG 11: Mark 'em All Down



Before there were Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Katia, another local website was talking in terms of a "hurricane Shelnutt." There are plenty of attorneys who could fit that description, I suppose - since lawyers have a reputation for presenting a lot of hot air in court.



But now a Muscogee County Judge openly is accusing attorney Mark Shelnutt of stirring up a storm throughout the Government Center. In fact, Bobby Peters says Shelnutt is going after officials other than judges - so city auditor John Redmond had better not foul up any upcoming reports.



Judge Bobby Peters told the Ledger-Enquirer it's "my understanding" that Mark Shelnutt has provided tips to the special state prosecutor examining Muscogee County courts. Those tips may have brought down Judge Douglas Pullen, and potentially could embarrass other judges. The big winner in all this could be the business which dry cleans judicial robes.



Judge Bobby Peters went so far as to remove several cases from his docket this week, because Mark Shelnutt is a defense attorney in them. Shelnutt supposedly suspects Peters is biased. A few weeks from now, Shelnutt might complain Judge John Allen is exhausted from handling too many cases.



Why would Mark Shelnutt consider Judge Bobby Peters biased? Peters explains it stems from a July hearing involving Melvin Moseley - a convicted child molester, who at the time was approaching nine years without going to prison for his crime. Shelnutt supposedly claimed Moseley was mistreated. If living in Columbus nine years is mistreatment, why didn't Shelnutt move to LaGrange long ago?



Mark Shelnutt responded to the claims Tuesday by saying it's "bizarre" for Judge Bobby Peters to make accusations against an attorney to the news media. Shelnutt has a good point. When other judges do this, they insist on being called "highly-placed sources."



But Judge Bobby Peters didn't stop there. He suggested Mark Shelnutt has provided the special state prosecutor with tips about Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr. This probably involves the gender discrimination suit Shelnutt filed, and the alleged "whistleblower" who was suspended. Come to think of it, do Columbus Police even blow whistles anymore to stop crooks?



Special state prosecutor Joe Hendricks said Sheriff John Darr is NOT the target of his investigation. Of course not - the judges are, since Hendricks is reviewing the judicial circuit. The only people Darr seems to judge are public school students....



Perhaps the strangest accusation of all is Judge Bobby Peters's claim that Mark Shelnutt gave the prosecutor tips about District Attorney Julia Slater. Huh?! Those two were such close friends three years ago that Shelnutt practically was accused of being a scout for "Prosecutors Got Talent."



The eye of this alleged hurricane is a pending criminal case against Mark Shelnutt. Late September will mark one year since his arrest on drug charges, yet the case apparently still hasn't gone to a grand jury. Of all people, Joe Hendricks is the state-appointed prosecutor in that case -- so Shelnutt may be trying to win by being the last lawyer standing.



-> The big moment came early for us Tuesday night, at an online poker tournament. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-



E-MAIL UPDATE: Our brief Tuesday mention of "Hands Across the Border" prompts a reader to raise a hand and ask a question....



Hmmm.. couldn't be sure of the time given the brevity of your comment but wouldn't midnight til 3:00 AM on a Friday or Saturday night be a better time for a DUI checkpoint downtown?



What I saw on the Oglethorpe Bridge occurred around 9:30 p.m. ET Sunday. But remember, this was a check "across the border." A downtown drunk driving detail would be Hands Across the Broad Street.



(Wow - a 3:00 a.m. drunk driving check? No wonder they held the Midnight Express Run so early in the evening....)



We're holding one other message for this weekend. Now hold on for a few more Tuesday topics:


+ The Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum announced next year's headline speaker will be former President George W. Bush. This follows his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week and his wife last year - making me wonder if the organizers don't consider any Democrats real leaders.



(We confirmed Tuesday Condoleezza Rice barred any "soundbites" of her Monday night speech at the Trade Center, and declined to do any interviews beforehand. Did someone bother telling Rice Columbus actually does have a Fox News affiliate?)



+ Columbus Council heard a proposal to move Muscogee Manor from its current location on Schatulga Road to Whitesville Road and Williams Road. It's always seemed strange to me that a big-name nursing home was placed down the street from the prison and the landfill. For one thing, quality card games at the Gallops Senior Center are such a long drive away....



(Frank Morast with Muscogee Manor told WXTX he also wants to move the nursing home because it's close to a training ground for Fort Benning. Take that, you scoffers! Some residents actually still have hearing.)



+ The Cathedral of Praise on Buena Vista Road confirmed someone left a winning $80,000 lottery ticket in a collection plate. So which minister gets a bonus for shouting during the service, "Money is coming today!"?



+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported Auburn University football has a backup offensive tackle named A.J. Greene. Considering Georgia had a star wide receiver named A.J. Green last year, I'm a bit surprised the coaches didn't tell Greene to move to Athens.



Instant Message to whomever kept the scoring at the Midnight Express Run: Thank you! I've been moved up two places to number 1,080. But have you figured out the true identity of the fourth-place runner - the one named "The Ghost Ghost"? How could one of those things from the Springer Opera House pay the entry fee, anyway?



Our count of unique visitors in the first half of 2011 was up 25.5 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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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

30 AUG 11: Rice and Cohn



Didya hear about the big star-studded dinner Monday night at the Trade Center? From what I saw on TV, the main dish was fluffy Rice....



When I took a Monday morning "follow-up" jog downtown, the main vehicle entrances to the Trade Center on Front Avenue already were blocked by yellow tape. I presumed it was a security precaution for Condoleezza Rice's appearance at the Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum. After all, Carver-Spencer football "after-parties" usually don't last three nights.



Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the big opening-night speaker at the Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum. Oops, check that - WLTZ called her a "head of state." Huh?! I thought Laura Bush spoke at the Leadership Forum last year.



The schedule had Condoleezza Rice speaking for 30 minutes, then taking questions from the audience for 30 minutes. I'd tell you what she said - but TV stations apparently were barred from recording it. So if Rice called former Vice President Cheney a tabloid blowhard the way Colin Powell did Sunday, you'll have to find out from a Democrat who bought a ticket.



Condoleezza Rice apparently didn't hold a news conference to go with her Columbus appearance. I wanted to hear her reaction to Dick Cheney's memoir, which comes out today - the one in which he takes credit for Colin Powell's departure, which led to Rice becoming Secretary of State. He shot a hunter as Vice President, and still fires at will today.



(It turns out Condoleezza Rice has her own memoir coming out this fall. So if Dick Cheney's book makes "heads explode" in Washington, Rice could provide the Super-Glue to put them back together.)



I also wanted to know what Condoleezza Rice thought of the unusual photo collection of her found recently. It was in the compound of embattled Libyan leader Muammar Ghadafi. What sort of weird Wonder Woman fantasies has he had?



Condoleezza Rice was born in Birmingham, so she has roots in this region. In fact, I wonder how many east Alabama bachelors bought tickets to this dinner - since Rice is still single after all these years.



The Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum continues today. The best-known speakers are Senator Johnny Isakson and Fort Benning Commanding General Robert Brown. But I'm intrigued by Patrick Lencioni - who wrote a book called "Five Dysfunctions of a Team." Why would someone who wrote about the Auburn University men's basketball starters be invited to this event?



As it happened, Monday brought news that a longtime local leader plans to retire. Judge Aaron Cohn will leave the Juvenile Court bench next month at age 95. My first reaction to this news was obvious -- what did the Judicial Qualifications Commission possibly find out about him?



Aaron Cohn has been a juvenile court judge in Columbus since 1965. He's seen a lot of changes, and not all of them for the better. Cohn says drugs were NOT an issue when he took the gavel. But as I recall, the Beatles changed that within a couple of years.



The career of Judge Aaron Cohn was shaped during World War II, when he served under General George Patton. Cohn says he helped liberate a concentration camp in Austria - as opposed to Michael "Weaver" Carothers, who would rather obliterate any memory of it.



Judge Aaron Cohn has been honored in many ways in Columbus. A Youth Development Center is named after him. And you may not know Cohn is in the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame, for playing tennis in college at Georgia. And way back then, a 40-0 lead really was worth something.



So we wish Aaron Cohn the best, as he finally lays down the gavel at age 95. I guess the time eventually comes when the spanking hand loses part of its sting....



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



E-MAIL UPDATE: As for that other judge who plans to retire Thursday, Douglas Pullen....



I told you a few years ago that this guy was a dirtball...[T.H.] is one of 3 Mothers that we know he screwed in court...all the same complaints and comments. Well now you can see for yourself he should never have been on that bench.



Patricia A Holt



Hmmmm - so much for the other Columbus Youth Development Center being named after him.



That mother "T.H." was named in an e-mail to us two years ago. We shortened the name and are doing so again, for the sake of twins the mother lost in a 2007 divorce ruling by Judge Doug Pullen. But I don't think Pullen had her child support checks sent to the Mercer Law School.



The Ledger-Enquirer website revealed three of the complaints against Judge Doug Pullen Monday night. None of them seem to involve divorce cases, or Pullen once declaring himself a spokesman for God [14 Oct 09]. But one complaint asks whether Pullen's "social or professional relationships" influenced his decisions. Yeow - who bought him lunch at the River Club?



With Aaron Cohn out of the running for Doug Pullen's Superior Court seat, Columbus suddenly has two open judicial positions. Maybe that's part of the reason why Georgia Governor Nathan Deal came to town for Condoleezza Rice's speech. Attorneys had their own job networking night.



Before returning to our top story, let's catch up on news items we've missed from the past couple of days:


+ An inside source confirmed to your blog WTVM will drop "Weather Now" from channel 9.2 in four weeks, to add the new "Bounce TV" channel founded by Andrew Young. In 2008, Columbus had two local weather channels. Soon there will be none -- so the door is wide open for Kurt Schmitz to start a pirate TV station.



+ Traffic at all Chattahoochee River bridges slowed to a crawl, as police conducted a "Hands Across the Border" checkpoint for drunk drivers. I could see the Oglethorpe Bridge slowdown outside my window. If someone's started a "blogger tour" of Columbus for tourists, there must be a better approach than this.



+ Uptown Columbus Director Richard Bishop hinted the Chattahoochee River rafting course might not be ready next Labor Day weekend after all. He told WTVM the whitewater project may not be finished until early 2013. Well, it HAS been a bit on the wet side there lately....



+ Instant Message to Wane Hailes of The Courier: If it will make you feel any better - the Columbus Civic Center doesn't spend any advertising money with me, either. I think the staff waits for me to reveal something it's quietly canceled.



LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: We commented on Condoleezza Rice several times when we wrote LaughLine for national subscribers. Here's part of our "Condi collection" from 2000-01....



18 DEC 00: On Sunday, the President-Elect nominated Condoleezza Rice to be his National Security Adviser. If you recall Mr. Bush's introduction at the Republican convention, she's called "Condy" for short. She should NOT be called a "high-rise Condo."



The President-Elect promised Condoleezza Rice will have a "key foreign policy role" as National Security Adviser. He introduced Rice as a "brilliant person." We thought about this, and realized we've heard no one introduce Mr. Bush this way.



24 SEP 01: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice scoffed Sunday at Afghanistan's demand for proof of Osama bin-Laden's involvement. She told CNN that country does NOT follow a western standard for justice -- proving the Taliban and right-wing radio talk shows have something in common.



Condoleezza Rice told "Fox News Sunday" all sponsors of terrorism will be considered hostile to the U.S. In her words: "We are not going to declare that there are good terrorists and bad terrorists." So if someone rubs out Osama bin-Laden, will he still be tried for murder?



15 OCT 01: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told "60 Minutes" Sunday night Afghanistan's government is "losing military assets daily." Well, hold on a minute. Every time a pilot drops a U.S. bomb, what do WE do?!?!



Condoleezza Rice said it will NOT be the U.S. Army's role to get involved in "nation-building." We think she means the formation of Afghanistan's next government -- because as we recall, the U.S. helped rebuild Germany and Japan after World War Two.



Condoleezza Rice warned TV networks again against showing videotapes of Osama bin-Laden from start to finish. She said it's a matter of presenting "unedited incitement" of hatred. This may explain why we haven't seen speeches by Louis Farrakhan on TV lately, either....



22 OCT 11: The latest "U.S. News and World Report" claims the Bush administration will NOT put women in units on the front lines in Afghanistan. First they release a "top 22" list of terrorists that's all-male - and now this?!?! C'mon, Condoleezza Rice, speak up!



2 NOV 11: U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice announced Thursday bombing runs WILL continue in Afghanistan during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The only thing that MIGHT change is that food drops will happen only at night. You don't want to tempt somebody who's fasting.



Condoleezza Rice responded to international pressure to stop the attack during Ramadan by saying: "We can't afford to have a pause." Can't afford it? We thought the surplus this past fiscal year was the second-biggest ever....



6 NOV 01: The latest "Ladies Home Journal" ranks the 30 most powerful women in America -- and for some reason, it placed Britney Spears above National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice! Can you imagine what would happen if they switched jobs? The Taliban leaders would be dodging falling Pepsi cans.



(Condoleezza Rice IS a trained musician, you know. Maybe she needs to switch from classical piano to something with a hip-hop beat.)



9 NOV 11: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice revealed Thursday President Bush will NOT meet with Yasser Arafat while they're at the United Nations. She claims the Palestinian leader is too close to some terrorist groups. Why can't the Palestinians do what U.S. residents do - and build a gated community an hour away from the terrorists?



Our count of unique visitors in the first half of 2011 was up 25.5 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.



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Monday, August 29, 2011

29 AUG 11: Sweating By Candlelight



"Did you go running this morning?" my next-door neighbor asked from his chair in the shade as I approached the door.


"No. Just walking," I said - which is what I do in the neighborhood many Saturday mornings. "I'll run later." He didn't know how much later -- the latest I'd ever run. And it wasn't because a criminal was pursuing me, either.



I hadn't planned to do it until about a week ago, but I entered the Midnight Express Run for the first time. Blame a mix of a strong Saturday night jog a week before, along with a minister I know who went hiking in the Rockies at around age 80. If a man that old can be over the hill, so can I.



You may have seen the column by Ledger-Enquirer editor Dimon Kendrick-Holmes that he started training for the Midnight Express Run one week in advance. Not so with me. I've done a lot of weekday morning and Saturday night running since mid-May. I've even hit the three-mile mark five times this year - so this event could give me a "six-pack," only not in my abs.



This was my first real road race since the 1993 Peachtree Road Race - a ten-kilometer race, twice as long as the Midnight Express. Extra-long distances have become less frequent for me, as I've grown older. And these days, high gas prices even have me questioning ten-kilometer drives.



So I knew the five-kilometer run in MidTown would be a challenge, but I registered online Thursday anyway. About 2,450 other registered runners joined me Saturday night. The featured band did NOT change a song to say: "I'm gonna wait till the midnight hour - when there's a crowd of folks around."



I ate a "carbo-loading" lasagna dinner about 6:30 p.m., focused on fluids after that, then drove to Macon Road around 10:15. The MidTown Shopping Center parking lot probably had its second-largest number of cars this year -- but Farmers Home Furniture was NOT open. Don't expect that mistake in late December.



The registration area was outside Country's Barbecue on Auburn Avenue. I was surprised to find my race number was a lowly 143. Huh?! Shouldn't the Falcons game on TV have ended around 10:30 p.m.?



At the Peachtree Road Race, you have to "earn" the T-shirt -- finishing the course in less than 55 minutes after the last runner crosses the starting line. But at the Midnight Express Run, you could pick up the T-shirt before the race. I don't know whose car hood I used for this picture -- but rest assured, I did NOT wear the shirt during the race at all.



If the calendar didn't say late August, you might confuse the Midnight Express Run for a New Year's Eve party. A big crowd showed up early. Several sponsors had tents set up near the starting line. But there was one big difference -- as I didn't see anybody walking around drinking alcohol before midnight.







The local band Classic Addict performed covers of old rock tunes before the race. I'm not sure where the Country's Barbecue bluegrass band was. Maybe they went to bed early, to perform at a Sunday morning church gospel jamboree.



I collected the T-shirt and assorted other souvenirs, went back to my car across Macon Road and placed them in the trunk. One concern I had was that criminals might show up for a big late-night event like this. But then again, most of the people wearing numbers were likely to outrun them and get away.



After stretching at my car around 11:30 p.m., I joined the lineup on Auburn Avenue -- and the big crowd filled the street, with not many spectators sitting along the roadside. I told one man there probably was less crowded racing during the NASCAR race at Bristol, Tennessee.



A big explosion of some sort at the stroke of midnight began the Midnight Express Run. Country's Barbecue does the runners a favor, by putting the starting line nearly at the top of Cross-Country Plaza Hill. Put it at the bottom of the hill, and the first block might wind up looking like Thanksgiving Friday at a Wal-Mart store.



For some odd reason, the website of the Midnight Express Run had no map of the race course. Nor did newspaper stories promoting the race. How is a runner like I supposed to prepare and plan my strategy? I know the proceeds benefit programs involving the blind, but this seemed a bit ridiculous....



But a veteran runner gave me a couple of clues as we waited for the race to start. He was correct in noting there's a quick left turn past the starting line, from Auburn Avenue onto Sue Mack Drive. Since that street is relatively flat, it's not like poison sumac at all.



Yet getting to that turn posed a challenge -- as the crowd of contestants all wanted to go at different speeds. Some women started walking from the start, right in the middle of the road. And with only street lights and small candles on each side of the street, I occasionally had to put my arms in front of me to check for other runners. I'm thankful I didn't errantly grope anyone.



The Midnight Express course turns right and heads north far about one mile on Sue Mack Drive. A wanna-be band played rock music to encourage the runners at about the half-mile mark -- no doubt keeping their neighbors from getting to bed early.



A bit of a downhill helped me at Richards Middle School, around 0.7 miles in. Then as the runners continued down Sue Mack Drive, we saw the only running clock on the course -- except it did NOT say how far along we were. No one told me to bring my own GPS pedometer.



The most surprising part of the course came at 1.2 miles -- a right turn down College Drive, with a fairly steep hill leading to Interstate 185. Hardaway High School was on our left, and a few marching band members were alongside to play for us. With so many police officers around, shouldn't there have been arrests for a curfew violation?



The course turned right again at East Lindsey Drive -- and with two narrow lanes and more free running room I asked loudly, "Does anyone know how far we've gone?"


One man to my left offered an answer: "Three miles. It feels like it."



No - our measurement Sunday found we were only halfway through. A couple of winding S's on East Lindsey Drive led to a right turn onto Edgewood Drive at 1.9 miles. The Shrine Club was in the distance to the left, but thankfully no one was along the road selling circus tickets.



Edgewood Drive intersects Sue Mack Drive at 2.1 miles - and a left turn put me back on the road where we were before. I presumed all the runners were doing well, because no one collided with me face-to-face heading the other direction.



Sue Mack Drive then becomes the "hospital hill" of the Midnight Express Run. A gradual incline past Richards Middle School tests how much strength you still have. I barely had enough - motivated by three people with health problems for whom I dedicated the run. The third mile was for my older brother, in pain from ingrown toenails. The wrong runner stepping on my feet could have put me with him.



But once I made it beyond Richards Middle School, the course was mostly level heading for home. A few people helped the runners by spraying garden hoses from their front lawns. No, I did NOT check their homes to see if they violated Columbus Water Works rules.



A left and a right on Sue Mack led back to Auburn Avenue at 2.7 miles, where traffic lights in the distance showed the end was near. I still had enough strength to half-sing a hymn, "I see the lights of the finish so bright...."



After a slight uphill bump, it was downhill all the way to the finish line near Country's Barbecue. A few runners sprinted down the hill, showing they still had a kick left. I did not - because after a half-hour of running, I didn't want to stumble over my own feet now.



(I should note these photos were taken well before the race. If I had carried a camera for three miles, I probably would have dropped it at some point when I bumped against another runner.)



The official race clock said 33:18 when I crossed the finish line. A wristwatch timer I kept in my pocket indicated from the moment I crossed the starting line, I made it 3.1 miles in 32:10 -- running all the way, never walking a single step. I was thankful. I was satisfied. But I knew I had to keep moving forward, because the people I passed still were coming -- maybe hoping to take revenge.



The finish line team from Country's Barbecue provided souvenir wet hand sponges for the runners, with an Aflac duck on them. They also handed out barbecue sandwiches - which sadly were only pork. So the elected official who reportedly took one for himself amidst the crowd should thank me, because I gave mine up.



But I did pick up a water bottle and fruit at the finish line -- as well as a large cup of Country's sweet tea. That lasted me well into Sunday afternoon. I wanted to get to sleep after the run, after all.



The Midnight Express Run is the biggest road race of the year in Columbus, but you never hear about the winners. There's one big difference from the Peachtree Road Race -- because the top runners are NOT from Africa and Europe.



David Marley outran the field, winning the Midnight Express Run in 15:40 by a five-second margin. Brittney Skiles won the women's division in 18:45, with only 24 men faster than her. Clearly a lot of male high school cross-country runners have work to do this week.



I'm thrilled to report I finished in the top half of the field -- number 1,082 out of 2,445 officially timed runners. Not bad for a guy who turned 53 earlier this month. My first Peachtree Road Race in 1985 was about 28 minutes above my age -- and now I'm 19 minutes under it.



Not only that, I outran several celebrities embedded in the field. Christina Chambers of WLTZ ran track in college, so she led her age group. But I beat Sarah Panko of WRBL, Alan Riquelmy and Sonya Sorich of the Ledger-Enquirer -- but for some reason, Dimon Kendrick-Holmes's name didn't make the list. Was he too busy chasing Judge Douglas Pullen for an interview?



The Midnight Express Run was an experience I'll remember for a long time to come. But as a veteran of five Peachtree Road Races, I noticed some ways it could be improved....


+ Water tables along the course. The race-time temperature was about 81 degrees F. - but the only thing neighborhood residents provided besides a hose-down was two guys in the middle of the street offering high fives.



+ Mile markers, to chart our progress. No one's stolen those things from the Riverwalk for a souvenir yet.



+ If people want to walk the course, fine -- but ask them to follow Atlanta Airport transportation mall rules. Maybe you've heard that recorded voice: "Please stand to the right, to allow others to pass."



+ If you're going to hand out black T-shirts before the race, do NOT encourage people to wear them as they run. Some spots are so lacking in lighting that those runners will feel like hockey players from being bumped so often.



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



E-MAIL UPDATE: I decided to go to bed happy after the Midnight Express Run, and wait to open a message in the InBox until Sunday. Good decision....



Mr. Burkard,



For some reason I knew you would find a way to compare Michael Weaver to me are some other civil rights activist in the city, as if you could intelligently compare civil rights advocate with a white nationalist. Mr. Weaver has never mentioned my name or compared what he does to what I do as a community activist. I really do not know why you would. Well, maybe I do know why.



If you think we are in the same business because we both talk about what is commonly known as race, it just goes to show how terribly ill-informed you are about what I do in the community.



Let me help you out in the understanding department as you must be very confused about who does what. I promote unity, community, fairness, compassion, equality, understanding and truth-telling. I do not espouse racial hatred nor uphold racial prejudice no matter who the practitioner happens to be. I am neither a separatist nor a nationalist. I speak out and stand up against injustice, inequality, and discrimination as I believe all red-blooded decent Americans should. White nationalism and civil rights are antithetical. What Mr. Weaver does claiming to love all white people is a perversion of what I do, which is not really hard at all to figure out.



I guess names of public officials like Skip, and Red, and Pops are all assumed names if "Brother Love" is an assumed name as you claim? Do not have one standard for characterizing me and an entirely different one that paints those men in a more respectable light. If you are going to call it, call it straight.



Mr. Weaver's real name is Carothers, which by your own admission you did not know prior to the indictment. I served on the very first Columbus Public Safety Advisory Commission. You have called me "C.A. Hardmon" on many occasions right here on your blog. I sign published letters to the editor of the Ledger as C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon so that people will know exactly who said what. Articles in the Courier have appeared under C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon. I am one of the easiest people in Columbus to find and identify in public. My point is for you to suggest anything less to those that might not know any better at the time is disingenuous and misleading your readers, even if you are just having fun as a humor blogger.



Finally, I am not one that writes this humor blog because no one else is giving me any attention. I simply offer my opinion in response to what you say about me or the issues I deal with in this community. I appreciate the opportunity you give all to have their say whether they agree or disagree with you. Consider this just me having mine for what is certainly not the first time, and we both know it will probably not be the last time.



Take care,



Brother Love, Director



Grassroots Unity Movement for Change



Me - "very confused?" Yes, that happens sometimes. You should have seen me a few weeks ago, when I hunted for a box of toothpicks at a Kmart. They're with the foil, not the cake mix?!



Of course, Michael "Weaver" Carothers probably would argue he also is for "unity, community, fairness.... and truth-telling." He simply wants all that his way - and that's the problem throughout society. Plenty of people think their way is the right way, and even the only way. In fact, I fear I elbowed a couple of them Saturday night while passing them in the race.



C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon makes a good point when it comes to names of Columbus Councilors. I've tended to call "Pops" Barnes Jerry here, but I've failed to call "Skip" Henderson Barry or "Red" McDaniel C.E. Now will someone please investigate whether Council Clerk Tiny Washington was born under another name?



And after checking an online dictionary, I should apologize for using the phrase "assumed name" in the first place. None of these people have assumed their names "temporarily." I'm not one to demand their drivers' licenses to prove that, either.



It occurs to me the Columbus Public Library was a big loser with that indictment and arrest last week. Imagine a public forum with Michael "Weaver" Carothers on one side, and C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon on the other. Who would get upset and walk out first? Who would have more supporters in the audience? And would Geraldo Rivera want to be the moderator, for old times' sake?



By the way, let the record show C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon did NOT enter the Midnight Express Run. Nor did any other director of a local civil rights organization. Nor did Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson -- which may end the rumors she's already running for something beyond her current office.



SCHEDULED TUESDAY: A LaughLine flashback about the famous name visiting Columbus today....



Our count of unique visitors in the first half of 2011 was up 25.5 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: 609 (unchanged)



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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Saturday, August 27, 2011

27 AUG 11: Trust the Driver?



We split an e-mail from this past week into two parts. Today we return to part one, which referred to the new Georgia license plate....

Hey Richard, in response to the new Georgia tag being offered plain or deluxe, how about one with the phrase, “In No One Do I Trust”. It seems that is appropriate for today’s society. As for the atheists, there are no atheists in h**l…when they get there they become believers and know at that moment that there is indeed a God!


Investors in Synovus may know a little bit about this -- since Columbus Bank hasn't been Trust-worthy for stock growth in a while.

Before Johnny Carson became a late-night TV talk show star, he hosted an afternoon game show called "Who Do You Trust?" It involved husbands and wives answering questions -- but NOT about each other. That was left for "The Newlywed Game," which may have spread more distrust than anything else.

Do an online search for that phrase "Who Do You Trust?" today, and you might be surprised by the results. A couple of religious messages came up on page one. It was a little disappointing -- since an article I wrote with that title two years ago wasn't at the top.

That article examines the problems we can face in trusting other people -- whether it's your spouse, your boss or your friendly neighborhood blogger. All of them are bound to disappoint you sooner or later. But I didn't really plan for this post to be about those Jada Pinkett Smith rumors....

I've learned it's far better to trust God than human beings. That's even true of humans who preach and teach the word of God -- and that brings me to the other part of that e-mail. Who says there are no atheists in.... well, you know.... that place which used to be a "swear word" you couldn't say on Johnny Carson's game show?

I don't believe there are atheists in "hell" today -- at least not the way many preachers present that place. The Biblical book of Hebrews indicates there's a judgment day awaiting all who died. But Revelation 20 indicates that day hasn't happened yet. And for once, the reason does NOT involve a plea-bargain offer from the District Attorney.

Harold Camping's followers still contend the Biblical "judgment day" happened in May, even if Jesus didn't come back and no believers were pulled up to heaven. But if you read all of Revelation 20, you'll see a judgment day for the bulk of humanity may not happen for more than 1,000 years. God's view of time can make a one-year wait for a Muscogee County criminal trial look downright speedy.

The book of Acts encourages people to "search the scriptures daily," to see whether ministers are preaching the "gospel truth" or something else. If their preaching doesn't match the Bible, they might be unwittingly doing the atheists a favor. Give it to people "right," and everyone should be on the "right side" when all is said and done -- as in up, instead of down.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We will have no post Sunday. When you see Monday's post, you'll understand why.)



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Friday, August 26, 2011

26 AUG 11: Scoreboard Watching



The high school football season kicked off in Columbus Thursday night, with Randolph-Clay clubbing Kendrick 33-20. Randolph-Clay has a running back named Cornelius Bennett - the same name as a legendary linebacker with Alabama and the Buffalo Bills. So has any Columbus couple named its baby boy Matt Ryan yet?



That game was played at McClung Memorial Stadium - a ballpark with a lot of history, that's still getting a lot of use. Dozens of football games will be played there in the coming weeks, from youth league marathons to college rivalries. In fact, it was nice of Randolph-Clay and Kendrick fans to keep the bleachers clean for Carver-Spencer tonight by keeping most of them vacant.



Yet after about 95 years of use, I wonder if McClung Memorial Stadium is TOO historic in one way. There's only one scoreboard, high above the north end zone. And it shows.... well, little more than the score. You can see basic information about the game. But that's it. There's nothing to get your attention in case Carver is blowing away another also-ran.



That "basic board" was the norm for most U.S. football stadiums 40 years ago. But in 2011, McClung Memorial's scoreboard looks quaint at best and outdated at worst. Some high school football fans can see fancier graphics simply by bringing their iPhones to the game.



The lack of a 21st-century scoreboard at McClung Memorial says several things about Columbus. First, it shows inconsistency. Matrix scoreboards have been part of Golden Park and the Columbus Civic Center for years. Special messages at football games are left to the public address announcer -- unless the cheerleaders are exceptional at doing ad lib routines.



In fact, you can drive past several Columbus churches and see fancier display signs than the McClung Memorial scoreboard. Even the Reaves Wrecking office on Tenth Street has joined that trend - and the people most likely to see those messages are the friends and relatives of jail inmates.



The second thing I see in the old McClung Memorial scoreboard is a tight city budget. After all, the Parks and Recreation Department maintains the stadium. It was able to pay for a modern new Civic Center display sign along Fourth Street a couple of years ago. So if Tony Adams can pay a little restitution, there soon could be another one....



Yet the city doesn't necessarily have to pay money for a new scoreboard. It could follow the example of Callaway Stadium in LaGrange, where a "jumbotron" was installed three years ago thanks to business donations [21 Aug 08]. McClung Memorial Stadium doesn't even have a "tron" - unless football teams watch that old movie in the locker rooms.



(And if cost is a concern, advertising could be sold on the scoreboard to cover the expenses. Who said Aflac trivia questions were only for the fans watching on TV?)



But that brings up the third message I get about Columbus from the McClung Memorial scoreboard. For all the "Hometown Spirit" hype, high school football normally doesn't draw big crowds unless there's a special event attached. Tonight's Carver-Spencer showdown is one such event. Expect more passing of business cards at the concession stands than footballs during the game.



Unless Carver is on a roll toward a state title, local high school football teams reinforce the history of Columbus being a poor sports city. Football games matter more to people in smaller communities - even at Phenix City Central, where they've sometimes sparked shouting matches between school district officials and city leaders.



I don't recall exactly where I heard or read this, but I think the upcoming renovation of Kinnett Stadium is supposed to include a new scoreboard. But that would be funded by school sales tax money, not the city -- and school board member Mark Cantrell ought to be able to pay off any spending gaps.



McClung Memorial Stadium now hosts three big college football games every fall, which bring in thousands of visitors. Wouldn't it be nice to impress those crowds with a nice new scoreboard -- and maybe even have one at both ends of the field? Or are city officials concerned a video replay board might inspire some people to challenge police actions?



SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: What do trust and atheists have in common? You'll see....



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Thursday, August 25, 2011

25 AUG 11: Go White to Jail



Instant Message to all new families from Fort Knox: If you haven't noticed it already, race relations tend to bubble below the surface of nearly every issue in Columbus. If you want a "city too busy to hate," head for Atlanta. Some people in Columbus seem to have extra time to think about it.



The stage is set for what could be Columbus's next racially-charged criminal trial. Wednesday's Ledger-Enquirer reported a grand jury indicted and police arrested "white rights" activist Michael Weaver. It's a good thing jail outfits are orange, because Weaver might object to black and white stripes being side-by-side.



Prosecutors say the local National Alliance leader stopped his car in the Rose Hill neighborhood, got out and sprayed a pedestrian in the neck with mace. The indictment claims it happened on a Saturday evening last December -- but it does NOT tell us if either person demanded figgy pudding.



At first Michael Weaver was charged with misdemeanor battery. But according to the newspaper, a "detective familiar" with the suspect contacted the Solicitor General, who in turn alerted the District Attorney's office. Prosecutors explained it was because the attack was unprovoked -- or is it a case of Weaver provoking too many people in general?



Regular blog readers should be familiar with Michael Weaver's name. He's been in regular contact with us over the last couple of years. And if he wasn't being held without bond, Weaver probably would have called us Wednesday offering an exclusive jailhouse interview.



In fact, Michael Weaver informed me last summer I "provided the inspiration" for his "White Information Network" blog [16 Jul 10]. I dared to check for my name there Wednesday night -- and this is one time when I'm grateful to report I've never been thanked, or mentioned at all.



That blog also fails to mention Michael Weaver's arrest in Rose Hill last December. And Weaver's entries stopped last Saturday - so if the National Alliance has other members in the Columbus area, no one has come forward to take his place. A group so opposed to racial conspiracies certainly will hold a public meeting to select a replacement....



But the White Information Network blog mentions a couple of other Columbus residents in startling ways. Michael Weaver used the killing of Heath Jackson last September to promote the National Alliance's goal of "an All White Homeland." But for some strange reason, he's never been a big promoter of Columbus Cottonmouths hockey.



The biggest surprise for me Wednesday was NOT really the arrest of Michael Weaver. It was the indictment revealing his real name is Michael Carothers. A man who's claimed to be "in pursuit of the Truth" operated all this time under an assumed name?! Weaver and "Brother Love" again have more in common than you might think.



I can almost imagine Michael Carothers making comparisons to C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon from his jail cell. Carothers considers himself a civil rights activist, only with the monochrome reversed. If Glenn Beck would hurry home from Israel, he could do for Carothers what Michael Baesden did for the Jena Six.



The District Attorney's office will need to handle Michael Carothers's case with special care. He's bound to see an aggravated assault trial as free publicity to promote his cause. National Alliance supporters could organize rallies, the way Jesse Jackson came to Columbus after the killing of Kenneth Walker. And who knows - maybe the Kardashian sisters will show up to restore racial harmony.



Many people grumble about racial issues in Columbus, but Michael Carothers has been rare in turning the grumbling into action. He's handed out "white rights" literature downtown - and even engaged a local rabbi in an e-mail exchange where Carothers made tough accusations against Jews. It's a wonder Carothers was never hired to work for Andrew Breitbart.



Michael Weaver/Carothers ranks with several other people who have written me over the years -- people on the political or societal fringes, who come to a humor blog because no one else is giving them any attention. Is it really better to have someone laugh at you, than ignore you completely?



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E-MAIL UPDATE: We asked for outside help in recent days with a couple of other hot topics. Wednesday brought an explanation about volunteer fire departments from Andy Guy of the Lee County forestry office....



The Alabama Forestry Commission does not collect financial reports from the departments. They are not reported online. Each county has their own source of funding decided by the local departments and are distributed differently. Some are fire fees, some come from sin taxes, etc. Lee County volunteer fire departments receive their funding through a fire fee that is collected by the Lee County Tax Assesors Office. They can help you receive this information.



Aw c'mon -- sin taxes?! It's hard to believe volunteer fire departments are making money from people who might smoke cigarettes in bed.



So the Lee County Tax Assessor may (or may not) have the Friendship Volunteer Fire Department's financial report. And a blog reader informed me Wednesday she's obtained the 14-page state law authorizing a Lee County fire fee referendum. But I have to ask: do readers want a humor blogger pursuing this stuff? Do you find plenty of joke material in your personal tax return?



Next comes an e-mail we held over -- and since it covered many topics, we're going to hold part of it for this weekend. But here's the rest....



As for the Judge submitting his resignation papers, I guess this excludes him from any further investigations by doing so and no danger of him winding up incarcerated with all the ones he had already sent up the river, huh?



The River City Report has been all over this story, so I passed this question to Robbie Watson Wednesday. She told me Judge Doug Pullen indeed will be able to escape further probing and sanction by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Time will tell if Pullen escapes punishment as long as that convicted sex offender.



Robbie Watson adds as of next week, Douglas Pullen truly will be a "retired judge." And he won't be able to come back to Muscogee County court, because he's being banned from further judicial service. There's only one way Pullen could oversee cases again - if WLTZ gives him the time period Judge Greg Mathis used to have.



Now it's time for closing arguments (or statements or whatever) from Wednesday's news....


+ Muscogee County School Superintendent Susan Andrews revealed to WRBL she had the Public Education Center evacuated during Tuesday's earthquake in Virginia. Andrews said she felt shaking in her third-floor office for several seconds. And amazingly, it was NOT due to parents attempting to move children into schools which made Adequate Yearly Progress.



+ The Liberty Learning Foundation presented a program at Downtown Elementary School. It ended with Columbus Councilor Bruce Huff having children repeat the phrase, "I am the next great American." Now wait a minute -- they can't ALL be the next one. That's why we need programs such as "America's Got Talent."



+ The Russell County Commission voted to end all funding for the public library near downtown Phenix City. Oh boy - now that can be named after Jimmy Wetzel, too.



(Library Director Martha Noyes told WRBL a $500,000 renovation project is planned in the children's section, because it's "one of our growingest programs." Yes, she said "growingest." How many books did she read aloud to preschoolers this summer?)



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© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.




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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

24 AUG 11: A Case of the Shakes



OK, you sign-seekers - the ones who think an earthquake rattling the U.S. capital is a deep message aimed at our country and President. Tuesday's quake was the strongest one in Washington since 1897. Within a year of that quake, the U.S. was at war -- but we beat Spain then. Why couldn't we take over Cuba a second time?



Some people in our area insist they felt a bit of Tuesday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake, even though it was centered in Virginia. One woman told WXTX a lamp shook in her Phenix City office for several seconds. Maybe it was from the quake. But I'm wondering if any 350-pound people were walking through her building.



Then there was the young man in Columbus who said his third-floor bedroom shook - and at first he blamed it on his brother. If his mother walked in the front door while he jumped up and down on that staircase....



But I didn't feel anything unusual Tuesday at the time of the Virginia earthquake -- and I happened to be on the second floor of a building at the time. There was no swaying, like a White House camera went through. Of course, that happens in Columbus several times a year - when the Government Center "skycam" is shown on a windy day.



There's one place in Columbus which could settle the earthquake issue. The Space Science Center has a device which monitors quakes and creates seismographs. I'm not sure many grade school children have the inexpensive alternative to that anymore. It went out of.... oh wait....



But geologist Neal Garner at the Space Science Center admitted he couldn't confirm if waves of the Virginia earthquake reached Columbus. Perhaps that's because the center's "real-time seismometer" apparently has been frozen in time for two weeks. Did one of those summer camp rocket launches go terribly wrong?



A local pastor I know is such an earthquake and prophecy buff, he sometimes recites a rundown of recent tremors during worship services. He noted one day a fault line runs right down the Chattahoochee River. Take that, you skeptics -- downtown whitewater rafting could be more thrilling than you think.



But it turns out the pastor's comment was a little misleading. The Brevard Fault Zone does follow the Chattahoochee River -- but from Heard County northeast to the Toccoa area. So the renovation of the 14th Street Pedestrian Bridge won't require reinforcements for block parties after all.



The only memorable earthquake I've encountered in Columbus came in the spring of 2003. It occurred around 5:00 a.m., as I prepared a morning TV newscast. I felt only one slight rumble under my shoes - but it woke up so many people that the newsroom telephones had visible aftershocks.



The morning production crew was in the newsroom with me, and I pleaded with them to answer phones and take information. But they sat motionless, doing nothing. The only thing which could have shaken these people to their feet was an offer of free coffee.



I answered as many phone calls as I could -- explaining so many people were calling the TV station to ask what happened, I couldn't make any phone calls out to determine what happened. Only one thing could have made that early morning worse. But thankfully, NASCAR doesn't have races at 5:00 a.m.



One of the news anchors finally was able to verify there was an earthquake. She did it by calling Columbus Police. I admittedly wouldn't have thought of calling that number - but long-time officers would be used to dealing with "rumbles."



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



E-MAIL UPDATE: The firebugs are still out in Lee County. Or at least they're talking as if that's where they are....



Jus because some use the excuse of a lower ISO rating that everyone is suppose to jump on board in support of the Fire fee Increase in Lee County, Al is just plain wrong



It will take way more than just a Fire fee Increase that lower a departments ISO, Some may never see a Lower Rating, Some do not care on lowering it, Some still have the same people in charge for way too long, Most have the Same Rating that was issued to them from when the Departments were formed way back when.



Not all Insurance Company's give credit for a Fire Department ISO rating, They go by the Zip Code only - People Please Call or go by your Insurance Company and make them produce a copy of it for you, all of them have it.



This Lee County, Al Fire fee increase is important - because Russell Co, Al Volunteer Fire Departments are now trying to do the same thing now, The addiction of Greed is spreading.



The Fire Departments will remain - They might have others running them which might be a good thing or not, but , they will be there



I believe the Beans need to be spilled on all



There's actually a company called ISO which does the ratings of fire departments and cities. A copy of its "Fire Suppression Rating Schedule" can be yours - if you're willing to pay 55 dollars for it. And if you're not interested in paying a 75-dollar fee for the firefighters themselves, this seems a little out of the question.



I discovered Tuesday night ISO's fire ratings are not based completely on the firefighters. Forty percent of the score is based on a city's water supply. So for all we know, you might be able to lower your fire insurance bill by stocking up on cases of Callaway Blue.



Another mysterious phone call came Tuesday on the "Friendship fire fee flap." It directed us to a bill approved by the Alabama Legislature this year, authorizing an upcoming referendum on the Lee County 75-dollar fee. Trouble is, the legislature's website already has removed all 2011 bills to make way for next year's session. When they say the fiscal year begins 1 July, they mean it.



We have one other e-mail on a couple of different topics, but I'm going to hold that for another day. Let's see what else flared up Tuesday....


+ Crimestoppers offered a reward to arrest a woman who walked into a laundromat on Buena Vista Road -- and smashed the windows on several dryers. I'm certainly not in favor of this behavior. But this is the "crime of the week" for a Crimestoppers report, maybe Columbus really has become a safer place.



(C'mon, lady - if you want "air-dried" clothing, there's a better way to get it. Invest a little money in clothes pins....)



+ Online reports indicated WTVM will add a new digital channel in late September called "Bounce TV." It's not yet clear if this network will replace Weather Now - or if the two channels will be combined on days when the temperature bounces up and down.



+ Columbus Technical College opened its fall semester, with administrators expecting record enrollment. If they really had some vision, they'd start a hotel-motel training program - and show those Columbus State students at the Holiday Inn what a REAL college education is about.



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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

23 AUG 11: Peaches on a Plate



And you thought this was an "off year" for elections. A winner was declared Monday in a vote which will affect practically everyone in Georgia. And it should be a big job creator -- at least for state prison inmates.



Governor Nathan Deal revealed the design of the next Georgia license plate. The creation of a mural designer in Forsyth will be produced on a large scale beginning this fall. At first glance, it's clear which of the "two Georgias" has won - because there's not a skyscraper in sight.



The new Georgia license plate features a tree with pink blossoms, and four ripe peaches in the corners. Hopefully they won't be so lifelike that hungry beggars will steal them....



A statement from the governor's office says the new Georgia tag will be less expensive to make, because it will NOT have raised letters and numbers. Digital technology allows for the production of a "flat plate." But I'm not sure that's a good idea - because won't the peaches be more likely to roll off the edge?



You may recall the online vote for a new Georgia license plate was restarted by Governor Deal, because of confusion over some designs showing the words "In God We Trust." I suppose some atheists might have been offended by it. But I don't hear anyone offering to add the optional line, "In Allah We Trust."



WTVM admitted some viewers were grumbling about the new license tag design Monday night on Facebook. You'd think those jealous pecan growers and cotton farmers would be over it by now....



But the announcement about the new license plate surprised me, by noting drivers "will also have the option of selecting a plain tag." And admittedly, there are a few people who oppose any pictures of anything on religious grounds. They stopped reading this blog entry a few jokes ago, so I can talk about them now.



Some of us can remember when "plain tags" were normal in Georgia. Monday night I pulled out the first two license plates I had when I moved to metro Atlanta. One of these days Country's Barbecue is bound to pay me big money for them....



The first Georgia tag on my 1982 Chevrolet had green letters on a plain-white background. There was no slogan or catch phrase - and this was before you could pay extra for "designer tags" promoting sports teams or colleges. It was an era when the most thrilling things about Georgia were Herschel Walker and Billy Carter.



The Georgia tag gained a little color around 1989 -- adding a peach on top and an orange stripe on the bottom. Yet I recall some military veterans complaining to the Atlanta newspaper the stripe looked a lot like a "yellow streak." They wanted no sign of Georgia surrendering -- as if they recalled how badly the Civil War turned out.



My current humble Honda has kept the same license plate for about 15 years. You can tell it's old because the tag has only six characters on it - and that isn't even long enough to make a good computer password anymore.



So my car is about due for a fresh Georgia license plate. But barring something unexpected, I'll have to wait until my next birthday next August to get it. In the meantime, I'll play mind games with the newer cars which pass me every day -- such as the "blobs" with BLB on their tags.



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



BLOG UPDATE: We now return to the "Friendship fire fee flap" in Lee County. One woman left an old-fashioned voice-mail message with us Monday, which we've transcribed with slight editing....



Hi Richard.... If they would post the time and dates of their meetings, maybe citizens could attend them. Also, obviously there's no accountability of funds. Look at the federal indictment about the embezzlement by the assistant chief here. Also, there's nepotism. We had a fire chief, and then his daughter as the assistant chief; that's for the last 20 years.



Also, why don't we let citizens elect the board members? That would be nice. And to triple? The fees?? In one year??? Are you kidding me?



Also, they don't talk about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Congressman Rogers gets from the federal government and disperses to the Lee County volunteer fire departments every year. You would really be surprised by the amount of income they take in - not only from our fees, which are put on our property taxes, but the federal funds and the fundraising. They have lots of money to work with.



And by the way, have you ever seen them stop a fire before it burned a house or a trailer down completely? Remember, they are not professionals. They are volunteers with jobs, and it takes them a long time to get to these fires.



The Alabama Forestry Commission works with nearly 1,000 volunteer fire departments -- but if it collects financial reports from them, the reports don't seem to be posted online. You'd think the paper for all those annual reports would help the state's timber industry.



A recent county audit noted the Southwest Lee County Fire Protection Authority is a "related organization" of the county commission, so the commission appoints most members. But it adds the commission "is not financially accountable" for that authority, because it gets no "financial benefit" from it. The courthouse IS in downtown Opelika, after all....



But while the Southwest Lee County Authority has received nearly $100,000 in annual federal grants, the Friendship Volunteer Fire Department received only about $30,000 last December. Of course, some of that Homeland Security grant money led to the indictment of Angelia Curran in July. So a federal prosecutor must have found something. Are Curran's Tigertown shopping buddies in seclusion right now?



This case is bringing a lot of questions to the surface about local volunteer fire departments. But I'm getting the feeling many of them won't be settled unless and until Angelia Curran goes on trial. Until then.... well, firefighters are used to being surrounded by thick smoke clouds.



By the way, my visit to Rep. Mike Rogers's website to review fire grants had an annoying moment. A "welcome page" demanded I sign up for Rogers's e-mail updates, before even seeing his home page. I thought Republicans were above Congressional cover-ups.



Speaking of people dealing with the heat, let's check other Monday news....


+ The high temperature in Columbus was 100 degrees F. OK, I've had about enough. Summer can end now. It can move north to Minnesota and Wisconsin for all of September, if it likes - and I'm sure the people there will appreciate it a lot more.



+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported Judge Douglas Pullen submitted his retirement papers to the state. There you go, Mr. Shelnutt - the address for your resume is Governor Nathan Deal, 203 State Capitol, Atlanta 30334.



+ The Georgia Legislature's special session received its first look at a proposed Congressional district map. Columbus would remain divided, with most of the city represented by Sanford Bishop and the rest by Lynn Westmoreland. But we're pleased to report the "Macon Road divide" is no more -- it's now around Bradley Park Drive and Weems Road.



+ Rep. Sanford Bishop held a "deficit reduction workshop" at the Columbus State University Cunningham Center. From what I saw on WRBL, he did NOT give away free lottery tickets.



+ WLTZ showed photos of a log truck which overturned at an Interstate 185 interchange, spilling logs all over Victory Drive. Sigh - yet another reminder that the Aflac Outdoor Games took 2011 off.



+ Instant Message to Muammar Qaddafi (however you spell it): I tried to warn you. It looks like you'll never get promoted to general now.



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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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Sunday, August 21, 2011

21 AUG 11: Fee Fi Fo Fum



At least they're honest enough at Phenix City Council to admit they're raising taxes. They simply aren't giving people much time to think about it or discuss it. An increase first makes news on Monday, then gets approved on Tuesday - faster than Mayor Sonny Coulter can organize a protest march.



SUNDAY SOAPBOX: It's not being a called a tax, but something close to it in Lee County has a reader concerned....



Once again that d**n phrase" Fire Fee Increase" has popped up. Be it used to rid someone from a control position at a Fire Department to the ones on the west end of the County using it as "Terrorist Threats" to get their way, Many Lee County Citizens are going to have it thrown in their face until that secret" Special Election" is held, this is complete "BS"



Volunteer means different things, most agree that if you Volunteer to do a service or a simple act you are doing this without a demand for pay or expect payment once done, This "Fire Fee Increase" has too many twisted sentences in it - Try reading it, A volunteer under this could be paid from the same funds as used to buy Equipment and trucks. If you pay one or two to answer calls and not the rest that have responded or on standby, you have really just whizzed on all that are "Volunteers". If you want to leave it a "Volunteer" Fire Department system, then change the wording so that it is Chrystal Clear as to what the Money is used for and stop the back stabbing for the ones that are true "Volunteers".



If the current "Fire Fee" is not renewed in the next say 2 yrs, The Fire Departments under this would seek other means to collect funds to operate Equipment - you know , like the way it was! Some of the departments have sat back and not worked with or refused to work with the Community's since - Major fault here



Open Meetings have to happen whether the Departments Like it or not. Full Disclosure of all Funds on a Regular Basis.



This is where the "Fire Fee" Bill needs to be either dropped as is or complete restructure of the way the money is collected and used and make it clear to all and stop all this "If you don't give us your money - we will not respond".



I'm going to assume the writer is NOT referring to a volunteer "Bomb Squad" with that shorthand....



Lee County Commissioner Gary Long admitted to WRBL this past week a special election is planned on increasing the fire fee from 25 to 75 dollars per year. There's a novel idea for making that $500 fee proposed by the Columbus Charter Review Commission look outlandish.



But another Lee County fire department described a proposed 75-dollar annual fee as a bargain. The chief of Southwest Lee County in Auburn says the national average for such service is $150. So this is another example of how being "behind the times" in rural Alabama actually can be a good thing.



Members of the Friendship Volunteer Fire Department in Smiths Station apparently decided they had to remove the fire chief to gain support for a higher annual fee. But several e-mails to us this summer indicated it was needed to end nepotism in the department. The family that fought fires together practically was evacuated together.



The Friendship firefighters in Smiths Station met behind closed doors. And since it's a volunteer department, that means it's exempt from the Alabama Open Meetings Act. Perhaps Tea Party members should switch to fire axes, if they want to protest that.



This writer did NOT send us a copy of the proposed Fire Fee Increase, and I couldn't find it posted at the Lee County government website. But the idea of a "paid volunteer" admittedly sounds a little strange. Maybe not for football players at the University of Miami, but in this area....



In other East Alabama counties, volunteer fire departments raise money in an old-fashioned way. They sell barbecue plates several weekends a year. If they're involved in "pork barrel" spending, at least people get some personal pork in return for it.



A much smaller fee has people in Columbus grumbling right now. We mentioned Thursday Wells Fargo customers could write more checks to get around the three-dollar monthly debit card fee. But one reader answered....



Richard,



Don't forget the price of using more checks to pay your bills. The three dollars per month may still be relatively cheap. Enjoy your blog.



Sincerely,



Kelley Earhart



The hosts of "The Wall Street Journal This Morning" on WDAK radio made this point as well. But I've been able to avoid a quick emptying of my check box by putting as many bills as I can on credit cards -- and all my cards have no annual fee. Well, at least they don't for now. But they ARE from big banks, so anything could happen when the September bill comes.



In the last 30 days, I've only needed to write ten checks to pay my bills. That number would drop even more, if more utilities followed the example of Columbus Water Works and accepted credit cards. You'd think Georgia Power would appreciate a "charge" card after all these years....



But come to think of it, Wells Fargo's upcoming debit card is "only" three dollars a month. Some people have memberships which cost even more per month. Trust me from experience - you don't really need to be part of the college alumni association, and the telemarketing calls only come about twice a year.



Our count of unique visitors in the first half of 2011 was up 25.5 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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