Archive for May, 2010

“The Yellow Handkerchief” Keeps Hope Alive for Quality Movies

May 31, 2010


“The Yellow Handkerchief” illustrates that good writing, good acting, good directing, and good cinematography make “small” movies often more than equal to the mega-budget, high-tech, dazzling special effects blockbusters.  “The Yellow Handkerchief” is low-budget, but high-powered. William Hurt is always good, but the rest of the excellent cast keep up with him. It’s playing at the Peachtree Art Theater.  If you like a really good slice-of-life movie about the power of love, you’ll love it.

Columbus Charitable Giving is Down, but Not as Much as Expected

May 30, 2010

Commenting on the effects of the current recession , a stockbroker friend of mine said that stocks losing their value causes philanthropic giving to lessen dramatically.   “When it takes giving twice as many shares this year to make the same monetary contribution that you made last year, there is a good chance the giver is not going to want to do that.” 

The big problem is that with unemployment hitting a disastrous ten percent, the need for assistance becomes greater at a time when giving drops dramatically.

Fortunately, though, the situation in the Columbus area, while problematic, is not as bad as it could be.  Last year, after a meeting with 100 CEOs about what their companies could be expected to contribute in this down economy,  United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley lowered its goal from the previous year by $400 thousand.   Scott Ferguson, president and CEO of UWCV told me that a lot of people stepped up to the plate and increased their giving to help make up the difference, and that generosity has caused the goal of $6.45 million goal to be exceeded by $200 thousand.  It will be interesting to see what the 100 CEOs have to say this year when that meeting is held.


While UWCV depends mainly on corporate giving, which relies on the contributions of individual employees,  individual members of the Tocqueville Society increased their contributions. The Tocqueville Society is made up of people who contribute $10 thousand or more.  The UWCV was recognized nationally for having the highest percentage of members, in an area of 300,000 to 500,000 people, increasing their giving. 

It’s thanks to Columbus area philanthropists who joined in partnership with the city government that we have the world-class RiverCenter with its three state-of-the-art theaters,  and the River Walk, and the Columbus Civic Center.   It’s thanks to philanthropists that the Springer Opera House,  Georgia’s State Theater, a historic gem,  was beautifully restored and renovated.  These things have made our city quite attractive. 

Now, we have to make sure that our citizens can afford to go to those theaters.  With the build up at Fort Benning,  that situation should be improving soon.

The Battle over the Defense Budget

May 24, 2010

Why in the world, when our country is suffering economic chaos with out-of-control deficit spending and whopping increases in the national debt, are we spending more on defense than all of the rest of the world’s nations combined?  We spend 5 times more than China, and ten times more than Russia. 

Robert Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense

Well, we’ve been fighting two wars for more than 8 years. And even though the 2011 defense budget comes in at $549 billion, Congress is on the verge of adding another $159 billion for those wars.  You’d think $549 billion would be enough. And maybe it would if, for one thing,  Congress would stop funding things the defense department doesn’t really need, things that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is not even asking for.  However, those things are being asked for by defense contractors who pour a lot of money into campaign coffers. 

Rep. Alan Grayson, (D) Florida, Dist 8

Florida Rep. Alan Grayson has introduced a bill to kill the $159 billion request and use that money to end income taxes on the first $35 thousand for individuals and $70 thousand for couples, and use the rest, $15 billion, to reduce the deficit.  In a news release Friday he said, “What George Orwell wrote about in 1984 has come true. What Eisenhower warned us about concerning the ‘military-industrial complex’ has come true. War is a permanent feature of our societal landscape, so much so that no one notices it anymore.

“But we’re going to change this. Today, we’re introducing a bill called ‘The War Is Making You Poor Act’. The purpose of this bill is to connect the dots, and to show people in a real and concrete way the cost of these endless wars.”

Guess we all need to pay attention to what Congress does this week. If fact, we ought to pay attention to what it does every week.

Are Video Games Bad for Your Health?

May 17, 2010


Matt Hanes, Engineering teacher at Northside High School, Columbus, GA

Matt Hanes, teacher of engineering at Northside High School,  explained to members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus the big battle between those who say the games cause kids to be desensitized to violence and to become more violent themselves and those who don’t agree.  That one still hasn’t been resolved. But, one thing he made clear was that parents should never just go out and buy a game a kid asks for. He or she should always check first to make sure they are age appropriate.

All this made me reflect when I played “war” or “cowboys and indians” when I was a kid.  There were no computers.  High tech then was a teletype machine. Yes we “killed” the enemy with our toy guns.  Did that make us more violent?  I don’t think so. We knew that it was playing.  We knew the difference between fantasy and reality.  Also, I think it was better than video games because we were actually playing with other real kids.  We were socializing and doing it outdoors.  Today, too many kids aren’t getting outdoors and playing with other kids enough; they are sitting at computers and game consoles instead.  

Bottom line: parents should control what video games kids play and the amount of time they play them.  Of course, many of today’s parents are addicted to the games themselves.  Who’s going to discipline them?

Now I can get back to my favorite video game: Freecell.

Willie Nelson’s Favorite Singer is …

May 17, 2010

Frank Sinatra.  Who would have thought that one of the biggest country music icons of all time would have picked a non-country singer?  He told Time magazine, “I got to know [Sinatra] pretty good. He has always been my favorite singer. As far as I’m concerned, the rest of us – we trot along behind him.”

Willie’s new album Country Music is now available.

Herschel Walker Tells Ft. Benning Audience How He Overcame Mental Illness

May 14, 2010


Herschel Walker speaking to National Infantry Museum Parade Field audience

Herschel Walker talking with media following his talk to soldiers and middle school students at Fort Benning

Walker said he went from being a “special” student because of a speech impediment, who suffered a lot of bullying in his early years,  to becoming a martial artist and successful high school, college, and professional football player.  He made the point that everyone gets knocked down a lot in the game of life,  but getting back up and staying in the game is what is important.   Also, a big moment is when, like he did, you admit you need help in handling your mental problems and get it.  He was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder.  He also emphasized repeatedly the important role that Jesus Christ played in helping him overcome his problems. Along with three writers, he has authored a book about his life, Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The Army brought Walker to Fort Benning as a “Guest Trainer” for the Suicide Prevention Awareness Training session which was sponsored by the Army Substance Abuse Program.  The suicide rate in the Army has been steadily increasing, hitting a record with 128 suicides in 2008. 

This morning’s event was definitely worth the trip to Fort Benning and the long, hot walk from the packed National Infantry Museum parking lot to the parade field.  It’s not everyday that you can hear probably the greatest running back of all time tell about how he overcame mental illness.

A Sign of Hope for Responsible Media Political Coverage

May 10, 2010

Thanks to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer for a real show of being “fair and balanced.” A week ago the paper published an op-ed column by Georgia 3rd Congressional District Representative Lynn Westmoreland attacking the Obama administration’s health care reform package that passed in Congress.  As a well-financed incumbent with a huge campaign war chest, he has a great financial and name recognition advantage over his Democratic opponent Frank Saunders. 

This week, the paper ran Saunders’ reply to the Westmoreland attack.  It was located in just about the same space on the Sunday editorial page, and was about the same length as the Westmoreland column that ran the week before.  

The Westmoreland attack criticized the Obama administration’s healthcare reform package as being too expensive and socialistic, and called for a market-based approach to health care reform.  Saunders replied that the attack was an example of Westmoreland’s war on the middle-class and working poor,  and his “free market” plan relies on the insurance industry to fix the problem. He said “if any of the players need to be taken to task regarding health care cost, it is the insurance industry.”

If all media would really make an effort to donate space and airtime to  candidates so that the best candidates,, not just the richest candidates, could be heard, in my view, the country would be a lot better off.  Plutocratic control of the government is causing a lot of economic pain for too many Americans.  Average folks simply have to regain control of their government.  

 Fair treatment and adequate space and airtime can make a big difference in making democracy work for all Americans. It may be too much hope that this is not an isolated incident and we’ll see more coverage of this nature not just by the Ledger-Enquirer, but all media.  Recent history does not give us reason to reason to believe this will happen, but we can hope.

Andrew and Tesla and Wireless Electricity

May 6, 2010
Some kids do science projects because they want to get a good grade in their science class.  Not my step-grandson Andrew Champion who lives in Kennesaw, Georgia. He does them for enjoyment.  His latest project is electrifying, and, if you are not careful, shocking!  Literally!  Recently, when I visited him and my stepson Ken, step-daughter-in-law Katrina, and my two step-granddaughters,  Shannon and Caitlin, he demonstrated his Tesla Coil for me.  He explained it as the sparks flew, but I figured it would be easier for him to tell you about it than me, because I couldn’t remember all of that technical stuff. 

Andrew Champion and his Tesla Coil

I have always been interested by the mechanics and inner-workings of machines. For the past four years, I have focused heavily on the electronics aspect of mechanics, such as building small electronic circuits and low voltage devices.  My interest in high voltage sciences began when I built a small coil gun out of camera flash circuits and capacitors. My little “gun” would fire a small nail about 10 feet when I applied a magnetic pulse to it. 

After my coil gun, I began work on my most ambitious project yet, the Tesla Coil.  At a cost of over one thousand dollars, countless hours of work and even, some blood and tears, I am now the proud creator of a fascinating machine invented by Nikola Tesla, arguably the most influential inventor of the industrial age. 

Tesla Coil emits a dazzling and loud spark that circles around the machine. When he demonstrated it for me he handed me a pair of protective earphones. They helped...some.

Dr. Nikola Tesla was born in Serbia and began his career in France as a simple electrical engineer. During this time he devised the idea of transmitting electricity via alternating current (AC).  Later he moved to America to work for Thomas Edison at the Edison Corporation (later to become General Electric). Tesla’s genius was actually stifled by Edison because Tesla doubted the feasibility of Edison’s pet method of city-wide electrical transmission, direct current (DC). 

Tesla was later hired by the Westinghouse Corporation as a chief engineer.  It was at Westinghouse where Tesla perfected his AC motor and generator.  Although Thomas Edison is the much more commonly recognized name in electrical history, it was Nikola Tesla who pioneered the AC electrical distribution system used throughout the world to this day.  Edison’s DC method had a number of technical shortcomings and fell out of favor quickly.

Nikola Tesla, circa 1896

Tesla also designed another method to wireless transmit electricity from a central transmitting station wireless to receiving antennas at homes and businesses.  The primary device which generated the wireless electricity would become known as the Tesla Coil.


Andrew graduates from Shiloh Hills Christian School on May 21st.  He’s then going to Southern Tech in Marietta for two years,  then transfer to – where else?  –  Georgia Tech.   He plans to be a nuclear physicist.  We had a good scientific conversation about matters nuclear. Wish I knew what he was talking about. 

Gubernatorial Candidate DuBose Porter says, “Public Education is at Stake in this Election”

May 4, 2010


DuBose Porter, Georgia House Minority Leader and Democratic Party Primary candidate for Governor

“What businesses want when they are thinking about relocating to Georgia are better schools, better transportation, and a better quality of life for their families, and they also want security.  All of those things have come down under these Republicans.”  That’s what Gubernatorial candidate DuBose Porter told Muscogee County Democrats Saturday. 

He said Georgia is “number one in percentage of prison population, and about number 50 in education.  You pay early or you pay later.”  He believes education is the answer to keeping prison populations low.  “Republicans see prisons as a growth industry as more privatized prisons are being built.”  Commenting on the money the private prison companies give to legislator’s campaigns, he said it is a form of subtle corruption. 

Columbus area Democrats Rep. Debbie Buckner, and Georgia House Minority Whip Rep. Carolyn Hughley, who work in the legislature with Rep. Porter, were on hand giving their support

He said Republicans cut spending on public education by $3 billion over the last eight years.  “Georgia is the only state furloughing teachers,” he said, adding,  ” Public education is at stake in this election.” 

He also said they cut the State Patrol budget by a third, and cut funds for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation,  

He is not happy with their transportation bill that does not do anything for rail, which is essential to solving the highway gridlock problem, nor with the water plan that favors Atlanta developers who are heavy contributors to campaign war chests.  He said Republicans want to let private developers build reservoirs instead of impounding more water in existing lakes. 

On the question of religion, he said he usually didn’t talk about that in a campaign, but after he heard a Republican stand up and say, “If you are a Democrat you cannot be a Christian, I decided that’s it. The gloves are coming off. I am a Christian.”  He went on to say that it’s not being a Christian not to care about all Georgians,  just the people that can pour big bucks into campaign funds.   He also said that it’s not being a Christian not to want everyone to have health care. “Just look at the tax hike on hospitals. Instead of improving health care for all, they want to tax the sick.” 

During the Q and A following his talk,  he was asked if the Democratic candidates are going to make the big mistake of the last gubernatorial election by savaging one another in the primary, giving ammunition to the Republican candidate. He said he did not think that would happen this time, though differences in the candidates will be pointed out. He did take the opportunity to call primary front runner former governor Roy Barnes the “apology” candidate.  

What about the charge that his wife Carol’s running for Lt. Governor is a gimmick?  He denied that, saying that after people heard her making speeches for him, and participating in forums, they decided she was quite intelligent, could certainly handle herself in a debate, and encouraged her to run for something.  “We don’t have a candidate for Lt. Governor, so she decided to run for that.” 

“What happens if she gets elected and you don’t?” 

“I’ve been asked that before.  If that happens she will have my full support.  We’ve been married for 26 years.” 

Porter is a Dublin, Georgia newspaper publisher, attorney, and Georgia House Minority Leader.  The Porters have four sons, all Univeristy of Georgia students.  (Disclosure: Carol is my 2nd cousin. Yes, in my view, she is quite bright, a savvy businesswoman, has a warm personality, and I am going to vote for her.)

Selby Rollinson Honored with Mary Reed Award

May 2, 2010

Mary Reed gives Selby Rollinson the Mary Reed Award trophy as Rotary Club of Columbus President Bob Jones, Rollinson's wife, Sarah, and son, Zack, look on. (Photos: courtesy Jim Cawthorn, Camera1)

Selby Rollinson, Deputy Chief of Staff at Fort Benning, member of Rotary Club of Columbus

Selby Rollinson, who is a retired Lt. Colonel and now Deputy Chief of Staff at Fort Benning, which is one of the highest civilian positions at Fort Benning, and member of the Rotary Club of Columbus, was honored with this year’s Mary Reed Award.  The award is named for the club secretary and honorary member Mary Reed, widow of Dan Reed, who preceded her as secretary. The Mary Reed Award goes to a member of the Rotary Club of Columbus who demonstrates service above self over a sustained period of time.  The Dan Reed Award, which is given at a different time, goes to a non-Rotarian.  

A video was shown of notables who praised Rollinson for his work in facilitating Columbus area people with issues relating to Fort Benning. 

Greg Camp, National Infantry Foundation executive and member of the Rotary Club of Columbus

Greg Camp, who is with the National Infantry Foundation, and  who introduced Rollinson, told me that Commanding Generals come and go at Fort Benning, usually staying about two years, but the Deputy Chief of Staff stays on the job for years – Rollinson has been at it for 20 years – so he is especially equipped to be the “go to”  man when members of the Columbus community need assistance with arrangements on post.