Archive for June, 2009

Savannah Revisited #2

June 30, 2009

On my recent visit to  Savannah,  I had to reflect on the way that while the city has grown with new, impressive high-rise hotels and a spectacular new bridge across the Savannah River, it maintains its connection with the past, with history.

Georgia Queen, Savannah, Georgia

Georgia Queen, Savannah, Georgia

The contrast of then with now was pronounced as a paddle wheel river boat pulled away from its dock loaded with school children on a day cruise and headed toward the very modern Talmadege Memorial Bridge that crosses the Savannah River.

Georgia Queen cruises Savannah River, Savannah, Georgia

Georgia Queen cruises the Savannah River, Savannah, Georgia

Savannah has been a port since it was founded in 1733, and that port is still busy.  But, Savannah was also Georgia’s first railroad town,  and the Savannah History Museum, which occupies the old Central of Georgia office and warehouse building,  sports a late 1800’s locomotive,  along with a lot of other interesting exhibits that depict Georgia’s past. 

Historic Locomotive, Savannah History Museum,  old Central of Georgia depot, Savannah, Georgia

Historic Steam Locomotive, Savannah History Museum, Savannah, Georgia

Coming up,  a real Oscar.

Savannah Revisited #1

June 28, 2009
Riverfront, Savannah, Georgia

Riverfront, Savannah, Georgia

I was in Georgia’s “first city”  recently and was impressed with the impact that  a book and two movies made on Savannah.  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt, was a record breaking  New York Times Best Seller for 216 weeks.  It was written in 1994, and three years later, the movie was made. 

Savannah now boasts almost 7-million tourists a year, twice as many as before   Midnight was published.  As a comparison, Columbus, Georgia, which has a population about the size of Savannah’s, had 1.1 million last year.

The movie Forest Gump, which was nominated for six Oscars in 1994  did not have the impact of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but it did help.  The bench, on which Forest, played by Tom Hanks,  sat in one of the famous historic squares in downtown Savannah, is in the Savannah History Museum, which is housed in the old Central of Georgia depot’s warehouse and offices.

Paramaount pictures donated ths is park bench to the Savannah History Museum.  It was the one on which Tom Hanks sat at a bus stop. telling his story to different people waiting for a bus.  The bench appeard to be made of concrete and wood, like the ones in Savannah's 24 historic squares, but, it's not.  Paramount had one made of fiberglass so that it could easily be moved around.  There is a picture of Hanks from the movie placed on the bench.

Paramount Pictures donated this park bench to the Savannah History Museum. It was the one on which Tom Hanks sat at a bus stop. telling his character Forest Gump's story to different people waiting for a bus. The bench appears to be made of concrete and wood, like the ones in Savannah's 24 historic squares, but, it's not. Paramount had one made of fiberglass so that it could easily be moved around. There is a picture of Hanks and the suitcase he carried in the movie placed on the bench.

More on today’s Savannah,  tomorrow.

You Know What This Is

June 28, 2009

But, where is it, and why is it so small?


The answer is coming soon.

New Website: Way Down in Columbus, Georgia

June 26, 2009

I continue to marvel at the quality and quantity of music in Columbus . I’m talking about all kinds of music. One of our musical citizens, who went away and did his turn in the big time of Nashville, is back and offering a website, Way Down in Columbus, Georgia,  for the Columbus musical community.  It contains not only contemporary information, but a lot of history.  

 Larry Jackson,  recording artist, composer, music publisher, and found of the website Way Down in Columbus, Georgia (Courtesy, Larry Jackson)

 Larry Jackson worked in Nashville as a singer, composer, and recording artist. He was also an administrator for two music publishing companies, marketing record releases for various artists, people like Tim McGraw. He has owned two record labels.

 After accepting the invitation to join his site, I decided perhaps other music lovers would like to know about it, and asked him to tell us about it. 

Larry Jackson:

When returning to my hometown of Columbus Georgia , I decided to continue marketing and wanted to begin writing history down, not only of my experiences in the entertainment industry, but for all those whom I’ve known and those whom I’ve admired down through the years. I decided to put all together on one massive internet site and called it Way Down In Columbus Georgia. This title comes from lyrics from the legendary song titled Columbus Stockade Blues written by Thomas Darby and Jimmie Tarlton.

 Way Down In Columbus Georgia is a web site, invitation only, for those in Columbus Georgia who have given their talents and lives to the entertainment industry, and is an International site where those in countries outside the United States may come and enjoy the music on this site, and add to with videos, stories about their experiences, and just down home sharing, together, in one spot.  Also, the can meet people world-wide they might not ever get to know elsewhere..

I am amazed at the talent currently in Columbus, and the legendary talents who have left their mark on our community, as well as the world.  Their history needed to be written down to be remembered.  I have done that on Way Down in Columbus, Georgia.

 I want to welcome all our current members and new members to come.  I hope they enjoy and contribute to the abundance of history recorded on this site of memories and those to be made.

 Enjoy the music and the history.

Airport Manager Claims Reliability is Greatly Improved at Columbus Metropolitan Airport

June 25, 2009

A prominent Columbus physician, who I won’t identify because he told me privately,  said, “I would like to start flying out of Columbus again.  I stopped because of the flight delays and cancellations.  What can you find out about the status of that situation?”  My blog about how flying out of Columbus has become affordable again prompted his response.

Mark Oropeza, Airport Manager, Columbus Metropolitan Airport

Mark Oropeza, Airport Manager, Columbus Metropolitan Airport

“Once I finally figured out what was happening that was causing all of those delays and cancellations, I was able to do something about it,” Airport Director Mark Opropeza told me.

He said he called the president of ASA and advised him that the delays and cancellations were driving people away from flying out of Columbus. After investigating the problem, the president said the problem quite often was not caused by mechanical problems with the plane scheduled for Columbus.  The person who scheduled flights would run into the problem of having to cancel a flight to a bigger town because that plane had problems and solved that problem by switching the Columbus plane to the other run and canceling the Columbus flight. He basically put a stop to that and reliability has improved a lot at the Columbus airport. Mark says he does have to keep on top of it because, “We’re dealing with people here and some flight scheduler may not have gotten the word that he can’t do that.”  When we sense it’s happening again we call ASA and they take care of it.

He says another reason reliability is better is that ASA’s new regional jets are simply more reliabile than the ones they had been using.

If the flights are more affordable and more reliable now, there should be no reason that business for the airport not to  increase even more.  Of course, the word has to get out. The airport commission has a big marketing push planned and it should kick off soon.

Columbus Metropolitan Airport Seeks More Airlines

June 23, 2009

Getting the Columbus Metropolitan Airport back up to speed can have a huge economic impact on the Columbus-Phenix City- Fort Benning area.  

Before 9-11 had its devastating impact on the airline industry,  Columbus had Atlantic Southeast Airlines,  U.S. Airways Express, American Eagle, and Northwest Airways.  With direct flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis and Nashville, about 250,000 people were flying in and out of Columbus a year.  Now, with only ASA still operating in Columbus,  there are about 100,000.

ASA-Delta Connection jet at Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, GA

ASA-Delta Connection jet at Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, GA

 Airport Director Mark Oropeza tells me  each airline can generate  a $38 million impact on the community.  He also tells me that he and the airport commission are working on getting more airlines to come back to Columbus. 

Mark Oropeza, Airport Director, Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, GA

Mark Oropeza, Airport Director, Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, GA

Recently, he attended a Jump Start Conference in Canada.  Representatives from all of the major airlines were there to hear pitches from different communities seeking to attract them to serve their airports.  “You only get 20 minutes to convince the airlines that they need to hear a longer and more involved presenation at a later date,” he told me. Turns out he was successful in getting future sessions lined up with American Eagle, American Airlines regional service; U.S. Airways; and Delta.  ”

Why Delta,” I asked. “you already have ASA service, which is the Delta Connection.”

“We want Delta to put some larger planes in service in Columbus.  You know, DC-9’s.  The ASA flights would continue, but those planes only carry 50 passengers.  Fort Benning would be flying more people out of here if we had those larger planes.  On weekends they are filling up ASA flights and having to put the overflow on chartered buses to the Atlanta Airport.  Benning officials tell me they will use our airport as long as it is cost effective.”

“So you think you will have enough traffic to justify Delta’s flying DC-9’s here again?”

“Absolutely.  We’ll be meeting with Delta soon and a Fort Benning representative will also attend that meeting.”

What will landing American Eagle do for the airport?

“It will connect us directly with Dallas,  American Airlines hub.”

He said American is interested and will hold a future meeting for Columbus to make a longer presentation.  But, he said American wants a first year guarantee.  If business doesn’t generate enough money to pay for the service, they want the airport to make up the difference.  Mark says he is working on raising the money for that guarantee.

If he can get U.S Airways Express to serve Columbus again, it will provide a direct flight to the Charlotte hub.  They are interested, but have a problem: not enough airplanes.  They would have to either buy some more or shift flights from less profitable cities.

What about the reliability problem?   A lot of businesses and individuals stopped flying out of Columbus because of too many delays and cancelled flights.  Mark says he discovered why that happened,  and that he has basically corrected the problem.   More on that coming up. Stay tuned.

What Does the Future Hold for Today’s Medical School Graduates?

June 22, 2009

That was certainly on the mind of medical school graduates at a graduation ceremony I attended at Sunrise, a Fort Lauderdale suburb. My grand-nephew, Dr. Gibson Gray, was one of the graduates from Nova Southeastern University.  Keynote speaker, Florida U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, told them about the healthcare changes she supports.

Being a good Democrat, she made it clear that she supports President Obama’s initiative for Congress to come up with a new health care plan.  With costs going out of sight, and about 50 million Americans being uninsured, many believe something has to be done – not that everyone wants anything done, because some are making out like bandits with the system the way it is – but the sticking point is what will be done.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, FL (D),  Nova medical college keynote speaker, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, FL (D), Nova medical college keynote speaker, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Rep. Schultz says any new plan has to ensure that no one will be denied coverage, that no policy should deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions,  that no one can be excluded from coverage, and no one looses coverage because they changed jobs, and that the government offer an optional insurance plan.  The insurance companies will, no doubt, spend many millions of dollars to kill the government option part of the plan.  The government plan would provide competition by providing lower rates, and the private insurance companies would have to keep their rates down to sell any insurance.

This can and will be debated, but a lot of people believe that the plan will not really solve the problem because it will still rely on private insurers.  Among those who believe it won’t work and who are for single-payer is the organization  Physicians for a National Health Program.  They believe that only single-payer can actually cause the change needed.  They maintain the private insurance industry is the reason that  health care in America has reached this critical stage.  On their website,, Dr. Fred Silver of Florida says, “This is because private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $350 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.”  Physicians for a National Health Program is a non-profit research and education organization of 16,000 physicians, medical students and health professionals who support single-payer national health insurance.

Naturally, health professionals are concerned about how healthcare reform will affect their careers, especially recent grads who owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in college loans.  Some believe that if the government plan does lower physician compensation, it should pay off those loans.  They have a good point. 

It appears there is little doubt that Congress will come up with some sort of healthcare reform legislation.  It also appears that the healthcare industry is going to cooperate, with health industry leaders pledging to reduce  healthcare spending by $2 trillion over the next ten years.  And the pharmaceutical  industry has agreed to spend $80 billion over the next decade to lower drug costs.  Reform is probably preferable to revolution,  and, no doubt, many drug industry leaders would consider a single-pay system a revolution.  It would be.  

The Educational Class System

June 21, 2009

Neatly tucked away at the end of the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer story about the Muscogee County School Board retreat  was a much more alarming report than the cell-phone-used- for-cheating issue that got top billing and tons of space.  More portables are being added to Northside, and   Hardaway High Schools. It’s not because of population increase in Columbus, but because students are transferring out of Carver, Kendrick, Jordan, Spencer, and Shaw High Schools.  Those schools did not make Adequate Progress last year. When that happens the federal No Child Left Behind Act says students can transfer to schools that did make Progress.

But, it is really worse than that. Two of the under-performing schools had no Star Students last year.  Neither Jordan nor Carver had a student who made the minimum SAT score to be a Star Student.  

Columbus High, where most of the real classroom achievers congregate,  will not have to take any of the No Child Left Behind transferring students because, as the article says, “it is a total magnet school.”  

What does this do to the morale students remaining at those schools?   What does it do to their teachers? Why is it happening?  Have we, as a society, decided that we’ll have good schools for good students and to hell with the rest? 

This is an educational disgrace.

We can’t blame the system’s new superintendent, Susan Andrews, for this. She inherited this situation, and she says she is committed to improving test scores at the under-achieving schools.  Let’s hope she gets some results.

I  get the feeling that No Child Left Behind, while maybe the result of good intentions, is leaving a lot of children behind.

Monday on Dick’s World: Which Way Healthcare?

June 20, 2009
Doctor in St. Augustine, Texas giving Typhoid Innoculation in 1944, Photogrpah by John Vachon for the United States Farm Secuirty Administration

Doctor in St. Augustine, Texas giving Typhoid Innoculation in 1944, Photograph by John Vachon for the United States Farm Secuirty Administration

Recently, I went to Fort Lauderdale to see my grand-nephew Gibson Gray graduate from med school.  It was very satisfying to see him get that diploma, and the family had a great time celebrating the event with a Ft. Lauderdale vacation, but the event also brought home the fact that he is going into a profession that is in trouble.  That’s because healthcare in the United States is in trouble.

  Americans are not satisfied with the state of healthcare;  they list it right up there with the economy when asked about what concerns them most at this juncture in history.  The keynote speaker at Gibson’s graduation took the issue head on and got a lot of applause for eome of the things she said, but she also got some pregnant silences for some of the other things.  The subject is, as you know, very controversial. 

Monday, I will be getting into the issues that she raised.  Join me, and please don’t hesitate to give me your opinions.  Just click the “comment”  button and tell us how you feel.

Infantry Museum Now Open

June 19, 2009
Parade Field, National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning (The Parade Field is actually on the Ft. Benning Reservation, but the Museum building is in Columbus.)

Parade Field, National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning (The Parade Field is actually on the Ft. Benning Reservation, but the Museum building is in Columbus.)

Thousands made the long walk from parking their cars on the roadsides to the   parade ground next to the National Infantry Museum to attend the grand opening graduation ceremony for soldiers who completed their basic training at Fort Benning, and the grand opening of the Museum afterwards.

Museum director MG (R) Jerry White left removes coat,  former Sec. of State Colin Powell greets fellow attendee,  Parade Field stands, National Infantry Museum

Museum director MG (R) Jerry White left removes coat, former Sec. of State Colin Powell greets fellow attendee, Parade Field stands, National Infantry Museum

Former Secretary of State and General Colin Powell drew a cheer from the crowd when he arrived.  He is on hand to cut the ribbon to open the museum.  He topped the long list of dignataries on hand.

Silver Wings Sky Diver,  National Infanrty Msueum Parade Field

Silver Wings Sky-diver, National Infanrty Msueum Parade Field

After the Army’s impressive show of an air assault demonstration,  and members of the elete “Silver Wings” parachuting in,  the Infantry Center Band led the graduating troops onto the field from World War Two Company Barracks area. Since I was in a couple of Army bands, I  always enjoy seeing them do their stuff well, and they did, which was good since this was probably the largest audience they’ll ever march and play for. 

Infantry Center Band leading basic training graduates on to Parade Field

Infantry Center Band leading basic training graduates onto Parade Field

Now,  we can actually see the museum’s main exhibits.  Maybe folks will now start patronizing the Imax Theater, the Fife and Drum restaurant, and the museum’s gift shop enough to help with the museum’s operating expenses.  The crowds for those attractions have been disappointing up until now,  but maybe that will change now.  I’ve been to the theater and restaurant and enjoyed both, and I plan to go again and again. See you at the museum.