The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Monday, April 30, 2007

Stephanie Miller on MSNBC, Tenet's on the Hot Seat

George Tenet paints a picture of himself as a victim, but the real victims of his compliance in the run up to the war in Iraq are more than 3000 U. S. service members who have died, the thousands who have been injured, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have been killed or wounded and the families of all those affected. While Tenet should be applauded for telling the truth, why didn’t he do this in 2002 or 2003?

Remember seeing George Tenet sitting behind Colin Powell when the former Secretary of State spoke before the United Nations? Let’s not treat him as a hero for exposing more of what we already know about the Bush administration, let’s hold him accountable, along with the rest.

For three days beginning today the Stephanie Miller Show will be broadcast on MSNBC during the spot formerly filled by Don Imus. Stephanie is a progressive radio show host who is the daughter of former republican U. S. Representative William Miller. Quick, what is he known for?

William Miller was Barry Goldwater’s running mate in the 1964 presidential election. Her MSNBC show is on from 5 to 8 central time. Much better than Imus. Funny. You can also pick up Stephanie on Sirius Channel 146 from 5 to 8 in the evenings.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Roots of Distrust, Seeds of Trust

More on that later, but first:
I borrowed this from Sack Sessions. It's an easy way to feel better this weekend.

1. Open a new file in your computer.
2. Name it “Jeff Sessions”
3. Send it to the Recycle Bin.
4. Empty the Recycle Bin.
5. Your PC will ask you……………….
“Do you really want to get rid of “ Jeff Sessions?”
6. Firmly Click “Yes.”
7. Feel better.

Go to Sack Sessions to find reason we need to get rid of Jeff Sessions (as if you don't already know).

And this from Australia's Herald Sun, via The Birmingham News:

They asked Larry King: How often have you lost your cool with a guest?" Replied King," Not often...I'd have to go all the way back to George Wallace, governor of Alabama. He walked in ponpously to our TV station, Channel 4 in Miami, and said 'I don't see any blacks working here.' And I said, 'They own the station. They're out to lunch.' It started from that, then we started arguing." Way to go, Larry!

"Erica Young is a rare breed. She lives in Bessemer, teaches in Hoover, schools her kids in Homewood, frequests Southside and downtown Birmingham, visits family in Center Point and thrift shops in Midfield. Too many people in the metro area, she thinks stay in their own little worlds." These words begin the front page article in The Birmingham News today about trust. Her comments are part of an article titled Can We Trust One Another, about Birmingham's path forward and the challenges we face. Read the articles here:

I give a tip of the hat to Erica because she has for years worked to improve our city of Bessemer and now the whole metro area. Thanks Erica. Speaking of improving Bessemer, and the efforts of Erica, the Jonesboro Community Gardens had its second workday last Saturday and we planted more shrubs and mulched the plantings.

In the weeks to come arbors will be built, and a walking path established. During the summer a gazebo will be built. In the meantime, come and enjoy what is there.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Slow Blogging or No Blogging

This weekend I will be away from the computer much of the time. See ya soon!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Dems Debate and in Birmingham, SHOUT

Hillary Clinton couldn’t have had a better night last night. While all of the candidate’s answers were fairly predictable, Senator Clinton seemed most at ease and best prepared. And she looked presidential.

My favorite hopeful Bill Richardson was most disappointing. He stumbled on the question about Alberto Gonzoles and had a puzzled look on his face during many of the camera shots that came his way. Too bad, but I will put money on him having a high level position in the next administration.

Barack Obama had a good night also, but seemed like he was trying to get past something invisible. I guess he is, but with John Edwards not demonstrating much assertiveness Obama assured himself of remaining the greatest challenge to Clinton.

Who thinks Clinton and Obama will both be on the ticket in 2008?

When Dennis Kucinich pulled his “pocket constitution” out of his coat, I couldn’t help think that all representatives (and former representatives like Tom DeLay) should carry one. And look at it every day.

Don’t forget Shout!!!!

Here is the site to read about the various films and see the schedule and purchase tickets. See you there.
Be sure to see “Bulldigger” tonight, the premier of the doculmentary about Patrica Todd and her election to the Alabama legislature. And on Friday, “Semper Fi” the world premier about the life of Jeff Key. In the archives to the left see my post about Jeff Key.

I was concerned that the rain would destroy the roses and the newly blooming peonies, but the survived. It was the 6 inch high sunflowers that suffered the most, but some sturdy stakes will help them to recover.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pat Tillman, Tom DeLay and Gun Control; It's All Related

I have tried to stay political light this week, but yesterday my head almost exploded. Old news by now, but the revelations about Pat Tillman’s death are just driving me crazy. Not the fact that he died as a result of “friendly fire” (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one… “Here come the friendly bullets, don’t worry!). Nor that the army lied to his family, we already knew that, too.

No, what almost made me sick was army Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich calling Pat Tillman “worm dirt” and implying that if his family were Christians they would be happy that he was dead and in a better place. Read the entire story and interview at, but here is the meat of it:

"When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more — that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don't know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough."

Pat’s mother has responded to this line of thought:

"Well, this guy makes disparaging remarks about the fact that we're not Christians, and the reason that we can't put Pat to rest is because we're not Christians," Mary Tillman, Pat's mother, said in an interview with Mary Tillman casts the family as spiritual, though she said it does not believe in many of the fundamental aspects of organized religion.

"Oh, it has nothing to do with the fact that this whole thing is shady," she said sarcastically, "But it is because we are not Christians."

After a pause, her voice full with emotion, she added, "Pat may not have been what you call a Christian. He was about the best person I ever knew. I mean, he was just a good guy. He didn't lie. He was very honest. He was very generous. He was very humble. I mean, he had an ego, but it was a healthy ego. It is like, everything those [people] are, he wasn't."

So, Kaulzarich has declared himself judge (best left to God) and has sunk to the lowest depths of insensitivity in his public statements about a family in grief, who has been lied to by the very institution that the insensitive one represents (and who has been one of the parties investigating the death).

This is Pat and his brother Kevin.

Pat Tillman is a hero, no doubt. He died while defending our country in Afghanistan (not in Iraq, where we shouldn’t be in the first place). If his mother’s description of him is accurate, and there is no reason to doubt her, then Pat may well be in a better place, but his family, and the American people, still deserve the truth. And the army, or certain members, should pay a price for putting the family through unnecessary grief, for using their son’s tragedy in an immoral way, and for deceiving the American public.

Once again the Christian right is giving unbelievers good reason not to enter into their faith. There is no doubt that Jesus would approach this differently. Many of you know that I am a Christian, but I (and many Christians) do not worship the same god that they do.

Then there is Tom DeLay. Accusing (or coming very, very close, using his words) Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid of treason. He says he looked it up before he came to the interview (pocket dictionary?) I laughed as he gave his dictionary definition. He should have looked it up in the CONSTITUTION. I guess Tommy boy came very, very close to recommending Pelosi and Reid be put to death which is the punishment for treason. As he sits awaiting trial why does he think anyone is listening to him anyway? Well, I guess I listened, but as least I know not to agree with him.

Tom, don’t forget what you said in 1999 about Clinton and Kosovo:

“[Milosevic is] stronger in Kosovo now than he was before the bombing. … The Serbian people are rallying around him like never before. He’s much stronger with his allies, Russians and others.” Clinton “has no plan for the end” and “recognizes that Milosevic will still be in power,” added DeLay. “The bombing was a mistake. … And this president ought to show some leadership and admit it, and come to some sort of negotiated end.”

Oh, treason, Tom, treason!!!

Then to top it all off, all on the same day, I get a local weekly newspaper in the mail, and the editor says the Virginia Tech tragedy would have been prevented if the students and/or the professors had guns. His headline reads “A Gun Could Have Stopped the Violence.” I have a better one. “Had There Been No Guns There Would Have Been No Violence” I don’t think the founding fathers had automatic weapons and Glocks in mind when they gave us the right to bear arms, although certain NRA members are actually saying that they may have envisioned automatic weapons. Laugh.

Just to get a feel of how students feel, I asked several of my classmates at UAB and my daughter who is also in college how they would feel knowing their classmates were carrying weapons. Not one said they supported the idea. In one class we had a group project part of which involved making universities and colleges safer. These are all graduate students some with master’s degrees already. Not once in our research or in our presentation did the suggestion that college students and professors arm themselves come up. This is such a preposterous idea that I find it hard to believe it is even being mentioned.

How about laws that limit the sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons?

How about gun registration?

You know, we are close to being able to trace cattle back from farm to farm as all cattle will be registered and accurate records of sales kept in our fight against mad cow and other diseases. If we can track cows and calves and know their entire family history, why can’t we find a way to track gun ownership and sales and know a guns history? Just a thought.

How about limiting the sale of guns to mental health patients that have been declared to be a danger to themselves or others? Oh yeah, we already have that law, it was just ignored.

And while we are passing gun laws, how about one that requires trigger locks to keep toddlers from using their daddy's guns to accidently kill themselves or others?

Or, how about banning handguns altogether like Britain did after a horrific shooting years ago? The NRA has too much power to allow any of this to happen, unless the American public rises up in order to put a halt to senseless killing taking place in our schools at unexpected intervals and in our streets every day.

Time to editorialize a little. No one denies that thousands of Americans of all ages die each year from gun shots injury. This was published on Tuesday, June 25, 2002 in The Washington Post.

"For decades public health officials tried to address gun violence the way they tackled tobacco use and other leading causes of death. Former surgeon general C. Everett Koop labeled the bullet a pathogen. But targeting gun injuries can be hazardous to research. A pilot project at CDC in the 1990s to monitor firearm fatalities drew ire from gun advocates and was stopped after three years. Now all money appropriated to CDC to study injuries comes with a stipulation from Congress that the funds cannot be used to advocate for gun control."

So the CDC, which solves health problems around the world, has its hands tied regarding gun violence because of the powerful gun lobby. You begin to think they just don't care who dies, as long as they are not denied the opportunity to be the one to pull the trigger.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A New Planet and More Roses

What if this new planet that was discovered did support life? And what if the life was intelligent, on the same par as us? And what if their civilization has developed to a level comparable to ours? Unlike us, maybe theirs is a peaceful civilization, and they have never spoiled their environment or depleted their resources.

Imagine we discover first a way to communicate, and the language barriers are quickly overcome. Advancing technology allows us to plan a visit to their planet, and they say they will welcome us. A huge investment is made to send a party of earthlings to the new planet. Using space warp technology, we arrive after just 6 years in space.

And within 8 earth months, we have introduced disease, war, and a disregard for their environment. Within a year, we have screwed their planet up, and started it on the path to ruin, much as we have done to our own planet. Will there be someone like Al Gore to save their environment? A Jimmy Carter to bring peace back to them? A Bill Clinton to promote solving the medical crisis that has developed? Let's hope so.

These roses are about 15 to 20 feet off the ground, the one on the left is "Mermaid" growing up through a magnolia tree. A close up is below.

Mermaid, introduced in 1918, grows up to 30 feet as a climber.

This is Celestial, I have been told, although does it really grow as a climber? This one is about 12 feet tall, growing on the pergola. The fragrance is really outstanding, I look forward to this flower every year.

This is the rose I am calling Will Scarlett until someone corrects me, above the pergola.

And this is the "noisette" (I pictured a single bloom a few days ago). It's blooming up high above the pergola also. Standing (or sitting with a cup of coffee) under the pergola these days one is just immersed in fragrance that is unbelievable. What a way to start your morning!

Too bad storms are coming tonight. We need the rain, but there will be rose petals all over the yard.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

UAB Remembers Virginia Tech

This worker is painting the trim on Broken Vessel church, undergoing restoration in the South Highlands neighborhood of Bessemer. They expect to be using the church within a few weeks.

There is beautiful and there is ugly, and sometimes the two are linked.

Last night a candlelight vigil was held at UAB Commons to remember the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings. Several hundred students and staff were present, as several people spoke, including Dr. Carol Garrison, the president of UAB and Dr. Jeff Graveline, the president of the Virginia Tech Alumni Club of Greater Birmingham. Most moving were the remarks by Melissa who spoke of her friend Ryan Clark, a triple major, 4.0 student who she had known for eight years since they served together as counselors at a camp. She said media reports said Ryan died a hero coming to the aid of another student in the dorm where he was resident assistant, but she tearfully said that he was a hero long before that. She had worked her way up to assistant director and Ryan had become music director, and he was always a favorite of the campers. They became close friends even away from camp and her description of his concerns for others and the way he encouraged and helped friends who were troubled were an inspiration. She said the world was already a darker place without his light shining, yet through her words his light shines on.

Then there is the ugly.

The American Family Association has released a DVD that begins with a letter being read. “Dear God,” the letter begins, “Why didn’t you save the students at…” and then a long list of cities where school shootings have occurred is read, ending with Blacksburg, Virginia. “Signed, Concerned Student.”

Dear Concerned Student” the voice over continues. “I am not allowed in schools. Sincerely, God.”

The narrator then goes on to describe how this came about, blaming Madeline Murray O’Hare for removing God from schools, Dr. Spock for the lack of discipline our kids recieve, the removal of corporal punishment in schools, internet child predators and the legalization of abortion, among other things. The dialogue ends with “You reap what you sow.”
Finally, the truth.

When you sow gun laws that allow the sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, you reap murder. When you sow ignoring requirements that certain mental health patients can not purchase guns, you reap mass murder. When you skirt federal law requiring reporting of patients who have been determined to be danger so that they will be flagged during the laughable instant background checks and prevented from buying guns, as the state of Virginia did, you get Blacksburg, VA. When you sow arming the general public, including students in classrooms, as some have proposed, you get disaster.

Let me remind you of something. Last year a man shot and killed five girls at an Amish school in Nickel Mines, PA, a location curiously left off the AFA list of "Godless schools". If God was ever present in schools, the Amish schools for sure would be filled with his presence. The Amish practice discipline in the manner the AFA suggests, and I assume the Amish do not support abortion. So God being in the schools, and disciplining children does not protect the students.

How can people who claim to be Christians overlook the facts and distort the truth to promote such views? Why don’t they focus on fixing the mental health system? Why don’t they work to promote responsible gun ownership and laws that protect the public? This is no different than Jerry Falwell blaming 9-11 on homosexuals. In my view, they lose all credibility and are more likely to drive people away from Christianity rather than attract people to it. Of course, people need to be driven from this radical Christianity, which really isn’t that much different from radical Islam, but that is a different subject for a different day.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Earth Day II: Human Responsibility

The Birmingham Earth Day parade is today, and I am still in an "earth day" mood so I am posting an essay I wrote years ago in a theology class about our responsibility for taking care of the earth from a biblical perspective. This assignment had particular objetives, so that is why the comparison between the two denominations is included. Since that time a number of evangelical Christians have taken up the cause of protecting the earth, at great cost to some of them as other “Christians” criticize and even seek to demonize them for taking a stand. And whether one is Christian or not, the same principles apply as far as taking care of our planet goes. For the sake of our planet, let us pray that more and more Christians, as well as members of other faiths and those without religious beliefs will realize how important protecting our earth is to our future.
The pictures are examples of "creation" from my backyard (the lizard and flower) and Tulum (the beach).

Human Responsibility as Part of God’s Creation

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep,
while a wind from God swept over the waters
. (Gen 1.1)

The first book of the Old Testament goes on to describe how God gave light to the earth, followed by sky and dry land and vegetation. Stars and the moon were added, followed by living creatures of every kind. While theories abound as to the details of creation, from fundamentalist Christian beliefs that the Bible’s words provide a literal description of the order of creation and that God was involved in each step of the beginnings of our planet, to the widely accepted views that an orderly process occurred that resulted in what is our world today through what is known as evolution, they all seem to agree that where once was nothing, physical (science) events occurred that resulted in our planet, followed by biological (science) events that resulted in the plant and animal life on our planet, and only then did human life appear.

So God created humankind in his image…
Male and female he created them
. (Gen 1:27)

Regardless of the depth or scope of one’s belief regarding creation, all would agree that the physical elements of earth and the various plants and animals were present before humans appeared. This was necessary for people to survive. This made it possible to have places to live and food to eat. Without what is known today as the environment, and nature, we could not exist.

If one believes that God is the creator of the world, and that he created it as outlined in the book of Genesis, then we can assume that he had a reason for creating it in the way that he did, for creating everything else before he created humankind, and that is because these things are necessary for human existence. And it stands to reason that the creation of God would have been ideal for human existence. Likewise, if one believes in evolution with or without the guidance of God, it also stands to reason that humans would not, in fact, could not have evolved until conditions were ideal (I was wrong on this point, as pointed out by one of my brothers). Therefore, it can be reasoned that we should do as little as possible to change our environment, lest we make the conditions in which we live less than ideal for our survival.

This is especially important today, as we now have the ability to adversely affect our environment in so many ways. The advancing of civilization has resulted in reduced air quality and polluted streams and rivers, oil spills from transport tankers and offshore rigs that taint large areas of sea and shore.

Because of the continued demands of society coupled with the unchecked greed of businesspeople and corporations, we now have the ability to deplete our natural resources to a point from which recovery is not possible. Add to this the likelihood of nuclear or chemical terrorism and the widespread devastating effects on the environment that would result, and the prospects of permanent damage to our planet is heightened.

As Christians, what are our duties and responsibilities regarding the environment? The book of Genesis offers instruction. We have already seen that the earth and its flora and fauna were created before humans, and that this was necessary for our survival, but does that mean that the rest of creation belongs to us, that it is ours to do with as we please?

Certainly not. To begin with, we must accept that we are not apart from nature; rather we are a part of nature. The days (or years) of creation include the creation of humankind. God did not rest after he created the earth and its non-human inhabitants, the task was not finished. To complete the creation of the world, humans had to be added. Only then did God rest, only then was creation complete. We are a part of creation, a part of nature. Nature does not just surround us, nature includes us. Migliore (Daniel Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding, An Introduction to Christian Theology) says that creation as described in the Bible portrays humans as “standing in organic relation to each other and to the world of nature.”

Second, God still cares for his creation, including, but not limited to, humans. Migliore asserts that God cares for all of creation and not just humans.

The heavens are telling the glory of God,
And the firmament proclaims his handiwork
. (Ps 19:1)

God blesses us, then tells us to “be fruitful and multiply” and gives us dominion over the “fish of the sea and over the birds of heaven and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” He gives us “every plant” and “every tree” and “every green plant” (Gen 1:28-30). Dominion implies control over or sovereignty, not just ownership. God put the rest of creation in the hands of humankind, to be taken care of.

Finally, we should realize that the physical earth, and the beings on it, the creation of God, is the tangible link between us and God. God put man and woman in a garden, and gave them the responsibility to “till it and keep it.” (Gen 2:16). In other words, humans are to take care of what God has provided for us, and keep or protect it, as we nurture our gardens and fields today so that they will keep producing. God gave man the birds and the creatures, and allowed man to name them. These were gifts from God, and we should to this day remember that the animals and birds around us, and the fish in the sea, and indeed all of nature, are a gift from God, an actual, tangible gift.

It is the responsibility of the church to instruct its members and guests regarding the creation and our responsibility in keeping it. The United Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches does not address environmental issues in their Statement of Faith or by-laws. Perhaps they should follow the example of the United Methodist Church which addresses environmental issues in their Social Principles. The section titled “The Natural World” affirms that the creation belongs to the Lord and that we are responsible for it. “Water, air, soil, minerals, energy, resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings.” It goes on to support social policies that are environmentally friendly, in regards to energy production and consumption, waste disposal and industry. Animal life is valued, and this is reflected as well by policies that support the preservation of species, the humane treatment of pets and domestic animals, and painless slaughter of meat animals.

The degree to which these principles are followed and taught by the United Methodist Church probably vary from one congregation to the next. In my personal experience, I have never seen these issues addressed by the church in meetings that included the congregation. The Social Principles are positions the Church has taken on sometimes controversial issues. “They are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophet spirit” so it may be that their best use is as a reference when issues arise. It would be good if individual churches would present their position on environmental issues to their congregations in order to remind people that creation is the Lord’s, and also to raise awareness that the church is concerned about the natural world. This could be done with a periodic insert in the weekly newsletter or bulletin, and/or by encouraging a group to form that would promote the church’s positions.

The environment and the natural world are important to Christians as reflected, beginning with the very first verses of the Bible through history to the condition of the world today. Hopefully Christians will realize this in greater numbers and become a driving force in shaping local and national policies and not just be content with having their principles buried deep in a book that few read.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day. Remember to take care of the earth. For information visit:

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bill Clinton Makes Alabama Happy

It is probably safe to say that never before in the state of Alabama have so many happy Democrats been in one place as were last night at The Cahaba Grand where Bill Clinton was the speaker at the annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner. After the party's victories in 2006 in Alabama and across the nation, Democrats have a lot to smile about.

From Sue Bell Cobb who gave the call to order, to Rev. Steve Jones of Southside Baptist Church (whose remarks included the words "gay and straight,") who gave the invocation, to the 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, who gave the keynote address, democrats re-affirmed their inclusiveness, their faith, their committment to the truth, their ability to solve problems and to find solutions and their ability to unite rather than divide.

Bessemer was well represented. Sunny Lippert was glad to be there,

as were the Brite Blue Dots, Jason and Glen. (Want some Blue Dot merchandise...go here

Bobby and I enjoyed ourselves as well.

Artur Davis can't believe the crowd.

Remember when our senator Richard Shelby embarrassed us by switching from the democratic party to the republican party? Clinton said that in Kansas republicans are switching parties to get elected because they realize that if they want to get things done they have no choice but to join the democratic party. We haven't seen that in Alabama (yet) with elected officials, but voters sure seem to be leaning to the left.

Patricia Todd enjoys star status as a recently elected representative from Birmingham.

Clinton spoke of what America needs to do in the years to come to regain our status in the world. He referred to the Millennium Development Goals ( which if met would solve most of the public health issues facing developing countries. By spending a small percentage of the money we are spending in Iraq, we could help literally billions of people and meet these goals.

He said that we need to address the inequities in our society by increasing wages and making college more affordable for everyone. We need to confront the issue of climate change and rather than ignore it or deny it, embrace it and use the challenge to develop new energy sources, lessen our dependence on foreign oil and in the process we will be creating jobs, jobs, jobs. Third, we need to address the rising costs of healthcare and the growing number of uninsured and underinsured in our country.

All in all it was a great night for democrats and a great night for Alabama. If this is any indication we can look forward to a great 2008 as well.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Bessemer Happenings and Roses, Roses, Roses

Tomorrow (Saturday, April 21, 2007), is the second workday at Jonesboro Community Garden. We have a few more trees to plant, and mulch to spread and more. Please bring gardening gloves, sunscreen, snacks, water, and tools. 8 to 12.

This rose is Mutabilis, first recognized in 1894. Our small shrubs will grow to about 6 feet and be covered with blooms that change colors from a peachy yellow to a cameo pink and finally a crimson on the third day. This change is caused by sunlight acting on pigments in the petals. The fragrance changes also, and the rebloom is continuous.

In the next few weeks look for some major announcements and a few meetings here in Bessemer that you might be interested in. I will make one announcement now. Most of you already know this, but we will have a new newspaper called The Western Tribune, or “Trib.” Publication will begin in May, and yes, my voice will be heard. To subscribe, or to place an ad, or just to get information, call 425-7171. Subscribe to be sure to receive the premier issue May 16, 2007.

I was told this is The Black Prince Rose but I have my doubts. Anybody know?

On June 4 there will be a meeting at 7th Street Baptist Church with the police department and our city council person Earl Cochran. This meeting will focus on safety and security, and some new ideas will be introduced. Old ideas like noise will be discussed also. I will confirm the date and time closer to the event.

Soon after that will be a Town Hall meeting, more for the whole city, at Broken Vessel Full Gospel Church, at which several new ideas for the city will be introduced. When the date is confirmed I will let you know, and you really should attend, plus you will get to see the inside of the restored church.

These two roses are rugosas, an ancient class of rose known for their tolerance of poor conditions and many, many thorns. I am impressed with their fragrance.

Look for the building on 19th Street to come down real soon. This, according to Earl. I was pleased that Earl agreed with me on some things. One is that to be progressive in today’s world concern’s for the environment is a must. The U. S. Pipe expansion has not been announced, but whether it is located in Bessemer or Birmingham, the new plant will be environmentally friendly and upgrades to the old plant will bring it up to standards (of some level) also, according to U. S. Pipe officials.

The blooms of Cl. Clotilde Soupert are so full and so heavy that the stems of this young plant can not hold them up. It was introduced in 1902, and is another old rose with outstanding fragrance. I'm hoping as the climber matures the blooms will be better supported.

Here is something of note. Northport, AL resident, and Alabama School of Fine Arts Student (in Birmingham) Elizabeth Esser-Stuart received a $4000 scholarship from the American Civil Liberties Union for her role in protecting civil liberties for young people.

Elizabeth took action when the principal of her school forbade students from wearing t-shirts with the slogan, “Gay? Fine by me.” Elizabeth, only a sophomore at the time, did copious legal research on students’ constitutional right to free expression and worked to educate her fellow students on the importance of free speech. On several occasions, she presented research to the principal that made it clear that the ban was unconstitutional, urging him to reverse his policy. He refused.

Subsequently, Elizabeth contacted the ACLU of Alabama. Working together, they challenged the principal’s action. Elizabeth’s extraordinary efforts to protect her fellow students’ constitutional rights paid off when the principal agreed to let the students resume wearing the shirts.

“In a time when our rights are being threatened and core values undermined, it is inspiring to see young people stand up and defend our freedoms,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero. “This scholarship is one way the ACLU can recognize the bravery and determination of these young men and women who could be tomorrow’s leaders.”

Want a T shirt?

This might be Jeanne D'Arc, a noisette from 1848. There are three of these vigorous climbers in our yard and they also produce a good fragrance. In a few days they will be covered with blooms.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bush's Success and a Request from Bessemer's Mayor

President Bush, Vice President Cheney and John McCain must really feel good now. McCain had bragged about how safe it was to walk in a Baghdad marketplace, yet yesterday a bomb in just such a place killed 127 people. In all, at least 183 people died in Iraq yesterday. Last week the Iraqi parliament building was attacked and at least 8 people died. The parliament building is in that same secure zone. Bush, Cheney and McCain keep talking about the “successes” we see because of the surge in targets, I mean troops, that we sent over there. But the only success I see is the success of the insurgents in killing their own people and the surge I am most aware of is the surge in U. S. military deaths, with at least 80 deaths per month reported over the first three months of this year.

Here is what Bush says about it, “Violence in Baghdad, sectarian violence in Baghdad, that violence that was beginning to spiral out of control is beginning to subside. And as the violence decreases, people have more confidence...” Those were his words just 9 days ago.

Think of this. At Virginia Tech 32 people were murdered in one day. Think of how our nation is grieving and responding to this tragedy. When most of us were in school, 30 people was about the size of one classroom full of students. That’s about how many were killed at VT. Think of Iraq. Think of that kind of devastation every day. Think of having the equivalent of 6 classrooms full of people killed in one day. That’s what happened yesterday. Think of the worry you would have living in such a society. We worry now about our children or our friends or ourselves in college classrooms now and if we are safe, but what if we had to worry about the classroom, the marketplace, the bus. Every day. Most Iraqis know someone who has been killed or injured, and even more fear that it will happen to them.

We are not just taking part in destroying the infrastructure of a country, or destroying the confidence of its populace, rather we are taking part in the destruction of a society.

This is not success.

On to a Joel Montgomery update. Seems councilman Montgomery gets a little foul mouthed when he is drinking. “I haven’t been this drunk since before I ******g went to Iraq,” he said to the arresting officer. That was before he asked “Do you know who I am?” indicating that he believes he deserves special consideration. And most disgusting, off the police report: the defendant offered to give the officer something “good to look at” if the officer would remove the cuffs. The police report was leaked to the Birmingham News and you can view it at

And from the Mayor of Bessemer: “We have some very dedicated citizens, who are willing to work hard to get Bessemer where it needs to be and I want to give them an opportunity to do just that.” He want’s us join the various boards, committees or authorities in the city, including the Beautification Board, the Airport Authority, Emergency Medical Advisory Board, Health Care Authority, Public Library Board, Birmingham-Jefferson Transit Authority, Downtown Redevelopment Authority, Commercial Development Authority, Historical Preservation Commission, Park and Recreation Board, Tree Commission and more. To get more information, call City Hall at 205-424-4060 and ask for Mayor Ed May’s office.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Between Fences

Yesterday I was driving “where the buffalo roam” in Shelby County on my way to Columbiana, the county seat. I came across this small herd. No sign of Kevin Costner (darn) but maybe I did see some bronze skinned Native Americans on horseback in the distance.

Of course there was a fence between the buffalo and me. Although our house is surrounded by a fence (wrought iron) for the most part I am not a fan of fences. Had I been brought up in 1906 Oklahoma I would have been on the side of Curly and the cowmen (“Oh the farmer and the cowman should be friends…”). Hugh Jackman as Curly in Oklahoma! ..............OK.

A national exhibition called Museum on Main Street, sponsored by The Smithsonian Institution, is giving Americans an opportunity to look at fences from a historical perspective. ( The exhibit, called “Between Fences” is in Alabama now and closest to us from June 15 to July 29 at the Cahaba Lily Center in West Blocton.

This exhibit shows how fences led to controversy, between Native Americans and settlers, between the aforementioned ranchers and planters, between social classes, between countries and between neighbors. It tells the American story of the fence with visual and interactive effects. Also a photo essay by Rachel Fowler looks at the significance of the fence from birth to death.

Chad Allen, remember him from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, made a point yesterday during an interview that I want to repeat. As one who had difficulty accepting his sexuality, Chad said that the key, for some, especially if you are having difficulty because of religious teachings, is to just close your eyes, and forget everything that others have taught you about God and sexuality, and let God speak to you without the encumbrances of human influence, and you will realize that God accepts you as you are. That is a good start to accepting yourself.

Add a baby mockingbird to the list, and notice some new flowers to the left today.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Violence in America

The killings at Virginia Tech yesterday bring up the subject of violence in our country once again. Here’s my take: more guns, more violence.

A guest on the Glenn Beck show on Headline News last night (the only news I could pick up in my car other than Fox) said part of the problem was that the American public is not armed. Not one of those people in that class room was armed, and had they been, they could have stopped the killer was the message.

Yeah right, let’s arm all the college kids along with the rest of the general public. That would solve the problem. In my class last night my study group was scheduled to give a presentation part of which involved violence and injury on college campuses, and the question was raised “Do you feel safe on campus here.” Not many hands went up. Do you think more people would have responded positively if they knew their classmates were packing heat?

The guest on Glenn Beck must feel good about New Orleans. This from the Associated Press recently:

People across New Orleans are arming themselves — not only against the possibility of another storm bringing anarchy, but against the violence that has engulfed the metropolitan area in the 19 months since Katrina, making New Orleans the nation's murder capital.
The number of permits issued to carry concealed weapons is running twice as high as it was before Katrina — this, in a city with only about half its pre-storm population of around 450,000. Attendance at firearms classes and hours logged at shooting ranges also are up, according to the gun industry.

Our nation is becoming more violent, in part because that is what we see from our President. As much as the public has come to distrust him, still we see that our government thinks the only solution to a major problem is violence. And if violence isn’t working, amp up the violence. We may not like what we hear, but it fills our heads and if we aren’t careful, we begin to believe what our government is teaching us: violence is the answer. Four years ago, rather than put all their effort in to seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis (well it wasn’t even a crisis before we got involved) in Iraq, our leaders ramped up the war machine. Bush is now looking for a “War Czar” without realizing (or admitting) that he already holds that position.

But why not a “Peace Czar?” Rather than promoting war, why not promote peace? Let’s get out of Iraq, and then let’s start talking about peace. Let’s frame the issues with Peace as the main heading, not conflict and see how the attitudes and actions of the American public change. It’s worth a try.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bringing Bessemer Back, Mr. Mayor

Bessemer is undergoing some changes, but we need more.

Here is a picture of the interior of Broken Vessel Full Gospel Church, undergoing renovation. The new congregation is saving a historic building of great importance to the city of Bessemer.

The former South Highland Baptist Church is recognized as a historic structure.

Now if we could make progress on Arlington School. I believe the School Board is now the hold up on this project, they need to move forward and let interested groups take control of this property.

And of course, we need to demolish structures, whether they are historic or not, that are no longer salvageable. I realize I have published picures of this bulding before, but I will keep reminding people of our city's unwillingness to take care of problems that can only described as "blight." This structure provides a breeding ground for vermin and becomes an unsafe playground when young children go exploring. Is it stretching it to say that leaving structures such as this around our city, and not promoting litter control and neighborhood beautification projects by our city leaders is their way of keeping the people down? Just where they want us? If the mayor and council wanted the city to look better and to be better, could they not do it? If they really wanted more educated and productive people to move to Bessemer, would they not take care of these problems that our image is based on? Or do they like Bessemer just as it is. The mayor is on TV proclaiming "Bessemer Is Back" and touting Academy Drive developements and the Colonial Properties development near I-459. Joy. We get to be like Trussville! Not that anything is wrong with Trussville.

But Bessemer is unique. We don't need to be like any of the other communities surrounding Birmingham, although we may occasionally refer to them. But we can be better. By preserving the rich history we have in architecture (both downtown and in our neighborhoods). By recognizing and celebrating the diversity of our population and culture. The Sweet House sits across the corner from the Arlington School. Fully restored, it stands in stark contrast to the deteriorating school (and the drug den on the other corner).

And we can begin this by nurturing respect for ourselves and our neighbors. It's hard to respect someone, and even harder to lift them up, if you don't know them. When we begin to show respect for our community we will see it looking cleaner. When we begin to show respect for our family members we will see kids doing better in school. And when we begin to teach respect to our children for the property and well being of others, we will begin to see crime decrease, and litter disappear, and vandalism decrease.

I am going to meet with Earl later this week to discuss issues that I think are important to our district and to the city. If you have suggestions, let me know.

Oh, and I saw a fledgling towhee this morning, so the wild bird population continues to grow in our backyard. Couldn't get a picture of this one, though. And you will notice a couple of new pictures over to the left of flowers blooming. you can look forward to seeing more roses over the next few weeks.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Jeff Key

No one has an opinion or wants to comment on race relations? Don't worry, I'm going to have more to say about it in the weeks and months to come.

Some of you know Jeff Key or know of him. Jeff is a former Marine and Iraq War veteran. He is also recognized for his play, The Eyes of Babylon, and is the subject of a documentary entitled Semper Fi which will air on the Showtime network in late June. Jeff was raised in nearby Walker County, so he is a local, now living in greener pastures. I say that because he has chosen to live in a place where he can be open about who he is, and respected and tolerated. Jeff is gay, and he now fights for equality, both in civilian life and in the military
He left the military, as portrayed in The Eyes of Babylon, because he could no longer accept being asked to take innocent life for corporate gain. The Eyes of Babylon reflects this part of his story, and played here last year, and many of us saw it. If you ever get the chance, see this one man play.

I spoke with Jeff last week about featuring his story and his activism on this blog. We had been in contact since the resolution for inclusion in Birmingham was defeated, and he made sure to point out that things were not like that in L.A., and that 2000 miles makes a world of difference. I first met Jeff at Equality Alabama’s Day of Equality last year following his portrayal in The Eyes of Babylon here in Birmingham. Since then I have been impressed with his openness and his desire to correct things both here and in Iraq.

Three years ago Jeff started a foundation called the Mehadi Foundation, named after a young boy he befriended while in Iraq. This non profit foundation was created to serve two purposes: one, to provide assistance to returning veterans who have emotional or psychological scars from the war, and two, to provide assistance to the Iraqi people who have been adversely affected by the war. Currently the Mehadi Foundation is focusing on organizing a peer group for veterans called Vets4Vets (website which is a peer support group where veterans of this war can come together and talk about issues in a non-judgmental, non-political and non-partisan setting. Jeff has said "Psychological scars always heal more slowly than the bloodier variety” and this effort will surely help heal some wounds. The other part of their mission involves assisting in restoring clean water sources for Iraqi citizens whose infrastructure has been destroyed with the war and occupation by U. S. military. As a public health student I am well aware of the problems that lack of access to clean, safe water is for people across the world, and add to that the ravages of war and it is easy to see that this is a worthwhile endeavor. To find out more about the Mehadi Foundation or to make a donation visit Donations are tax deductible.

I asked Jeff if he was still in contact with Mehadi and he said due to danger to the young man he was not.

The Showtime documentary uses excerpts from his play, interviews with his fellow marines and from friends and family in Alabama and LA to tell the story of his life growing up gay in Alabama as spiritual child who struggles because of some of his church's teachings and on into his life in the military and then in the peace movement. Semper Fi will have its world premiere at Birmingham Shout Gay and Lesbian Film Festival at Workplay on April 29 before being featured on Showtime. For more information visit Please support Birmingham Shout and Jeff.

I wish that all returning servicemembers had the vision, the ability and the strength to do what Jeff is doing: providing a much needed service to those who served in the same capacity as him, and helping to rebuild the country that we have torn down. In addition, he is continually raising the awareness of the injustice of this war, as well as awareness of the injustice of the current don’t ask, don’t tell military policy that bans gays (who are open about who they are) from the military. To me this translates into the broader picture of the injustice in our country toward gays and lesbians anyway. Thank you Jeff for being such a leader, a true hero, and a veteran.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Apologize for Slavery? How about Segregation?

Our state legislature will probably be debating apologizing for slavery today. The resolution is six pages long, and was introduced by Sen. Hank Sanders who says “an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past…”
Alabama was admitted to the union in 1819. The importation of slaves into the United States had been banned 11 years earlier. The Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery in the United States, was ratified in 1865. Alabama, as a state, supported slavery for 46 years. So Alabama is in no way responsible for “centuries” of injustices. And many Alabamian’s ancestors did not live in Alabama during the times of slavery, or like mine, (Gabriel M. Overstreet) actually fought for the North.

I am reminded of Frank Matthew’s recent appearance before the Birmingham City Council requesting an apology for slavery, when the city of Birmingham did not even exist prior to the end of slavery. Birmingham was founded in 1871.

I think what would be more meaningful would be for Birmingham, and Alabama, to pass a resolution apologizing for segregation. I think the effects of segregation have more of an effect on African Americans today than slavery does. In separate ways, they are both demeaning social institutions, but only segregation is still in place. People are still alive who felt the effects of segregation, and people are still alive who promoted it. In fact, some still do.

During my campaign for city council, I was criticized for promoting “racial mixing” after using a clip art picture on a flyer of a white kid and a black kid playing together on a see saw. I was told that children being forced to play together on playgrounds was a subtle way of promoting racial mixing and inter-racial marriage.

In 2007!

We still live in a segregated society, a lot of it self induced. For the most part, we segregate by race on Sunday mornings when we go to worship. Our schools are segregated, in part by white flight to private schools. Pubic transportation in Birmingham is segregated; Rosa Parks would never have to worry about where she sat because white people, for the most part, don’t ride buses in this city. Patricia Todd had to fight for her seat not because she is gay, but because she is white, and black leaders felt that the seat was "stolen" from them. Apparently they want to remain segragated.

I mean, if you can't elect a white person in a predominately black district, does that mean we can't elect a black president in a predominately white country? Sorry Barack, that's the way black leaders in Alabama want it.

Slavery is history, not to be forgotten, but not to be focused on either. Focus on the issues that affect us now and the lingering effects of segregation surely do just that. Focus on the disparities in education, in tax structures that unfairly affect the poor. Focus on the high cost of health care and how our system excludes many who are most vulnerable.

Focus on the pipeline to prison that exists in our socity today for young black men.

Focus on city leaders, both white and black, who do not believe that every citizen, whether black, or white, or Hispanic or young or old, gay or straight, able bodies or disabled, deserve equal treatment and respect, and who even in 2007, use the politics of division to keep the public suppressed.

Focus on media personalities and celebrities who resort to name calling (we seem to be doing that) to promote their careers.

Focus on treating your neighbor with respect, and respecting our differences.

I have to mention Artur Davis and his vist to Birmingham the other day. He was right on the money with most of his answers, but for a good discourse on his appearance visit The Human Animal at, one of my blog links.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bettye Changes Her Tune, Imus Should Change His

Republicans are coming to the defense of Don Imus, with John McCain indicating that Imus’s apology (although he hasn’t yet apologized directly to those he offended) is sufficient and Rudy Giuliani acknowledging that he would go back on the show with no qualms. I don’t think the locker room mentality that Imus plays to with his degrading manner of speak is limited to conservatives, rather it pervades all of society, but the fact that some high profile republicans seem to be almost embracing him is just creepy. No, the pundits are right. We need to change the nature of dialogue in this country, and record label executives need to ignite this change by directing rap and hip-hop singers to soften their language. Then people like Imus, Isaiah Washington and Ann Coulter need to be muzzled.

Remember less than a year ago when County Commissioner Bettye Fine Collins questioned whether Bessemer was growing sufficiently to justify building a new courthouse? ''Is Bessemer growing residentially that it needs to serve more people? No,'' Collins said. ''We've got a courthouse satellite in Forestdale, we've got one in Center Point, we've got one in Homewood and now one in Gardendale. Why in the world are we building a $100 million deal in Bessemer?'' She did not understand that our courthouse was a full service courthouse, and not a “satellite.” She wanted to delay the funding for the courthouse until the new commissioners took over and now we know why. They could have then stopped construction before it even began, much like they’ve done with the new fire stations in Lipscomb and Brighton.

Well she must have read my letter that was printed in the Birmingham News last July (in which I pointed out that she didn’t understand the history or the importance of the Bessemer Cutoff and the courthouse, and invited her to leave her little world and come visit Bessemer and learn about us. I mentioned that historic neighborhoods are being restored, plans are in place to revitalize downtown, our public education is improving, and new families are moving to Bessemer). Because at the groundbreaking ceremony yesterday for the courthouse she said “Bessemer has a rich and wonderful history. This groundbreaking helps the resurgence of downtown and reflects the renewal going on all over the city.” What a change in attitude!

We should rally around State Representative Patricia Todd’s minimum wage bill. Our legislature just voted themselves a 62% raise (she voted against it), don’t you think they could muster up the decency to vote for an increase in the minimum wage? The proposal faces a key committee vote today.

And poor Dannielynn. I bet if she had her way, she wouldn’t choose Larry Birkhead or any of the other tabloid personalities as her father, or the life that she is going to be forced to live. I won’t disgrace my blog with a picture of those players, I just feel for the little child.