Archive for September, 2010

A Nice Day to Get an Oil Change

September 30, 2010

AND A SPECIAL NEW OIL THAT I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT

It was such a beautiful day I decided I needed to go out and do something. So I went to a get an oil change.  Now you may think that’s not a good way to enjoy a nice sunshiny day with a refreshing Autumn breeze.  Well, then maybe you don’t realize they have a nice bench to sit on outside. 

I just sat there enjoying the weather, watching the Stars and Stripes with a Gastrol flag underneath flapping in the breeze and writing about it on Facebook.

The oil change itself was eventful.  I was offered a new oil that gets 15,000 miles before another change.  That means you won’t need another change for about a year, depending on how much you drive. It costs $20 more, but, in Columbus, GA,  they throw in a $20 wash job, and $15 off on your next change  if you buy it, so I bought it. 

My 2001 Mercury Grand Marquis is one of the best-riding cars on the road, and that V-8 engine is hard to beat, but it has started using a little oil.  Not to worry.  “Just bring it in and we’ll top it off for free.”  

How about that.  A beautiful day,  flags flying,  sociable oil changers, and a new oil that gets 15,000 miles before you have to get another change.  Life is good.

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This is Not the First Time America has Fallen Behind in Education

September 29, 2010

WE HAD TO PLAY CATCH-UP WHEN THE USSR LAUNCHED SPUTNIK

As I watched Brian Williams’ Education Nation  report on the education crisis in America on Nightly News,  I had reflect on the resemblance to the same crisis that we had in 1957, when Dwight Eisenhower was president.  That crisis was the subject of one of the very few actual commentaries I did in my broadcast journalism career.

I was working at WSB Radio in Atlanta at the time.  The Associated Press decided to start an awards program for excellence in broadcast news reporting in Georgia.  WSB Radio took just about all of the first place awards, including commentary, which was something that was not normally done on WSB at that time. Program Manager Elmo Ellis ask me if I wanted to do one. He said we would be sure to win because no one else had entered one.  WSB did one that year, and guess who won the  first AP Award for a commentary on radio in Georgia.  Elmo was right. We were the only station to enter one.

I did that commentary on the emphasis that America had to place on education in order to catch up with the Soviet Union which had shocked the world when it put Sputnik into orbit. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was, I think , something to effect that being a teacher was a very important job and that teacher pay had to be made competitive with other professions in order to get the best people to make teaching their career.

That emphasis did catch on and more money was poured into education and improvement all over the country was quick in coming.  It wasn’t because of my tape recorded editorial.  WSB Radio’s Georgia audience was huge, with more people listening when I did the morning news than all other Atlanta stations combined. And since WSB was a 50,000-watt AM station, it had quite a reach at night and was considered a “national” station, but its national audience was miniscule.  I don’t know when the editorial ran. I didn’t hear it on the air. It could have run at 2 in the morning for all I know. It didn’t matter. It served its purpose by winning the AP Award for Excellence in Broadcast News.    

As you know, the United States caught up with and passed the Soviet Union in space, and the country’s education system benefited from that.  But, we let things slip, and now our education system is behind a number of developed nations.  If something isn’t done, it will have a bad effect on the country’s economic health. Those who can do something about it now realize that, so there is hope.

NASA produced replica of Sputnik 1

The Suhr Cure

September 26, 2010

Like so many in our area, John Suhr and I were good friends for a very long time. That goes for Beverly, also.

I could go on and on about his musical and artistic talents. They were considerable.  His musical legacy goes all the way back to the early fifties when he played and sang with dance bands like the Cavaliers. He wrote and recorded some of his own songs over the years. 

I could also go on and on about his creative talents in advertising, when he had his own agency, and all of those years that he composed those high-volume color newspaper ads for Bill Heard Chevrolet.

But I won’t.

Instead, I’ll just tell how he and his Beverly affected me with the love and generous spirit that both of them showed so many close friends.

I can remember when I was going through a rather traumatic personal experience.  After I had delivered a newscast one night and was headed home, I was so blue I just had to do something. I stopped off, unannounced, at the Suhr’s. I told them I needed a diversion and suggested we watch some Laurel and Hardy shorts.  (This was before DVDs.)  John wasted no time in treading their projector and all three of us once again laughed out loud at the classic antics of those great movie comedians.  I left feeling much better. The Suhr cure always worked.

John had an infectious zest for life. He celebrated it every day, and loved to have friends celebrate it with him.

It would be dishonest to say we agreed about everything.  We were not on the same page politically, for instance. But, that didn’t matter. We agreed on so many other things: old movies, new movies, jazz, Frank Sinatra, Warner Brother’s cartoons – the one with the singing and dancing frog is my all-time favorite – good wine, and a lot more.

The one thing that we agreed on most: life is for living, and live full-out he did.

Almost 300 to Attend Muscogee County Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Gala

September 20, 2010

Congressman and Civil Rights Icon John Lewis is the Keynote Speaker 

 He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, was clubbed and seriously injured when he led the Selma March, played a key role in ending racial segregation in America, and has served as Georgia’s 5th District representative for 23 years. Rep. John Lewis will set the tone for this election year’s Muscogee County Democratic Party Jefferson Jackson Gala, a $50-a-plate fundraiser, at the Columbus Trade Center on September 20th. He will share the stage with this year’s Occasion Speaker Carol Porter, the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor.

 The Jack T. Brinkley, Sr. Service Award will be presented by Jack Brinkley, former 3rd District Representative, to three prominent local Democrats for their lifetime of public service to the community, state and nation. Honored will be former Georgia state Representative Milton Jones, 2nd Congressional District Representative Sanford Bishop, and Mrs. Ella Lewis.

 Jones, a Columbus attorney from 1959 to 1998, served in the Georgia House from 1962 until 1970. He also participated in Jimmy Carter’s campaign for governor in 1970 and President in 1976. He was appointed by Carter to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia in 1974 and served as Board Chairman during 1978-79.

Bishop has served as Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District representative for 17 years. He won the seat after serving only one term in the Georgia Senate.  He was President Barack Obama’s state campaign co-chairman in 2007. He is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, is a Blue Dog Democrat and is, arguably, the most conservative African-American in Congress. 

 Lewis is a lifelong Democrat and civic servant who cut her political teeth working for North Carolina’s Senator Sam Ervin.  She is not only a member of the Muscogee County Democratic Party but is a voting member of the Democratic Party of Georgia’s State Committee. She chairs the local party’s Affirmative Action Committee. Her list of community service projects is long and includes the Georgia Department of Transportation Citizen Advisory Committee, the South Columbus Task Force for Keeping Columbus Beautiful and the Superintendent’s Roundtable for the Muscogee County School District.

 Most of the Democratic candidates for state and local offices will participate in the Gala.

The Price of Unending War – Part 2

September 15, 2010

THE “POSITIVE THINKING” APPROACH TO MILITARY PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAINING

Continuing the discussion on The Price of Unending War,  I thought I would pass along to you a link to an article by Bruce E. Levine,  How Psychologists Profit on Unending U.S. Wars, which is featured on the website Counterpunch,  that explains the Army’s approach to the psychological training of soldiers.

It reveals, for one thing, that one in six soldiers is on a psychiatric drug, and questions the advisability of teaching the “positive thinking” approach.  You can read it by going to this link.

The Price of Unending War

September 13, 2010

 As retired Sergeant Major Samuel Rhodes spoke to the Rotary Club of Columbus about the U.S. Army’s suicide problem, I could not but help reflect on all of the costs of  being at war continually. 

Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Rhodes (retired)Sgt. Rhodes, who served for 30 months in Iraq and contemplated suicide himself, now works at Changing the Military Culture of Silence, the title of his book, in order to help soldiers cope with PTS, post traumatic stress. He says one in five combat veterans is diagnosed with PTS.  Many of them will contemplate suicide and the suicide rate keeps rising.  In the past the Army, he said, tried to sweep the problem under the rug, but that has changed.  The military’s top brass have praised him for his efforts in focusing on the military’s dealing with mental health issues. 

One of the reasons for the increase in suicides is extended deployments of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Nine years of wars, wars that most Americans basically ignore because they are being fought by less than one percent of the population, have put a tremendous strain on the Army. Instead of increasing the size of the Army, soldiers are given extended deployments keeping them away from their families for long periods of time. For one thing, this has put a strain on marriages.  Sgt. Rhodes said when he returned home with PTS after his last 18 months in Iraq, his marriage of 26 years ended, and he contemplated suicide himself.  Instead, though, according to an article in the National Journal, he is remarried, happily he says, and he and his first wife remain good friends, and he is dedicating his life to doing what he can to help soldiers with PTS and their families. 

It is good to know that the military is now openly facing and trying to do something about this problem, but, in my view,  all of its efforts at providing therapy will not get to its root, the practice of staying continually at war. The military can’t solve that one. Only the politicians can do something about that. 

Most Americans may be going about their daily lives giving little thought to the sacrifice that a very small percentage of the population is making, but whether they’re paying attention or not, these wars are still affecting them on a grand scale.  The price is very steep. 

More on this in future posts.

(The photograph was supplied by my friend and fellow Rotarian Jim Cawthorne of Camera1.)

Why Everyone in Georgia Should Care About the Port of Savannah Deepening Project

September 7, 2010

MORE DELAYS IN COMPLETING THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STUDY COULD COST GEORGIA BILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND MANY JOBS. THE STUDY HAS LASTED 14 YEARS AND COST $36 MILLION, AND IT’S STILL NOT READY.   

 Ships continue to be the main source of transoceanic cargo delivery.   That’s why the Port of Savannah is so important to the state, and even the Southeast region.  I read that it is the second busiest port on the East Coast, the fourth busiest and fastest growing one in the country,  but it has a big problem.  Namely, the foot-dragging bureaucracy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  

The Savannah port just isn’t quite deep enough to handle the really big ships.  Sometimes they use it anyway, but they can’t load them to capacity.  In  2014 this will be a bigger problem. That’s when the Panama Canal’s expanded canal is expected to open. It will allow huge container ships in the Pacific to call on East Coast ports.  

The Savannah River is only 42 feet deep.  The Georgia Ports Authority wants to deepen it by at least another 6 six to allow the larger ships to come calling.   

The big problem is the Corps of Engineers seemingly never-ending environmental study that, according to an editorial in the Savannah Morning News, has been going on for 14 years at a cost of more that 36-million dollars.  This getting beyond absurd.  

The study was supposed to ne finished by 2007, but wasn’t.  Now the corps is saying it will not be finished until 2011, if by then.  It will take three years to deepen the channel.  That means it is critical that the study is completed no later than 2011 because not to deepen the channel will mean the really big container ships will use East Cost ports that can serve them.  That will be an huge economic  loss to Savannah and Georgia.   

In my view, no thinking person would want to deepen the channel if it causes irreparable environmental damage. It is known that it will cause more salt water to flow upstream, which could have negative impact on the delicate estuary system. An estuary is where salt water and fresh water meet and mix. It is critically important to sea life. Channel deepening could also send salt water into the freshwater aquifer beneath the Savannah River.  The study should answer those questions.  Why, though, has it taken 14 years and 36 million dollars to come up with those answers?  

Massive container ship starting its 15-mile trip down the Savannah River from the Savannah Port to the Atlantic Ocean. This shot was taken from the balcony of the VU Lounge and Restaurant at the Hyatt in downtown Savannah.

Meeting the Monday Deadline

September 7, 2010

Even though, like a lot of bloggers, I am blogging less, I am still trying to make sure I provide a new post each Monday.  However, today – and I’m just getting this in under the wire before it’s Tuesday – I am going to have to tell you that I can only tell you about a post that will be forthcoming.

I just got back from spending Labor Day weekend in Savannah, Georgia’s most unusual city.  We had fun, among other things,  celebrating a friend’s granddaughter’s 15th birthday, but I also learned something about the Savannah port that’s pretty important. I’ll tell you about that  in a future post.

There! I got something in before Tuesday.

Oh no! I just checked the post online, and the date shown is September 7th. It’s not Septermber 7th in Columbus because this was posted at 8:13 p.m., September 6th, Labor Day.  I guess WordPress, the blogging service I use, is on a different time.