Friday, June 29, 2007
The current Supreme Court, under chief Justice John Roberts, is going to ruin America. I don’t think they can destroy the country, that is up to the Bush administration. But in the last few days we have seen free speech curtailed, and now we see that limits have been put on using race to determine programs that determine integration in schools. Not too long ago, we were celebrating the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark ruling that desegregated public schools and allowed for integration. If nothing else, this new ruling weakens Brown, and as if disparities in education are not great enough, just watch. A constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to a quality education, as mentioned in the Democratic Presidential debate last night, sounds like a good idea. Alabama would never vote to ratify such an amendment, however, we don’t even guarantee quality public education in our own state.
The once mighty are falling. Radio station 101.1 FM The Source is changing format, from conservative talk radio to oldies rock and roll. Matt Murphy will lose his powerful platform, as will Lee Davis, for promoting their divisive agendas. They will still be on another Crawford station, probably, but maybe not as powerful. And poor ole Hank Erwin, I guess he won’t even have a show. Burt and Kurt are staying on, it seems, I guess as oldie’s djs, and I think that’s how they got their start anyway. Dee Fine, formerly of the Russ and Dee show on that station, which was canned last September, takes credit for the stations prior success, saying she does “take some pleasure in realizing that, after we left, they couldn’t make it work.” Honey it wasn’t working when you were on the air either.
Listen for round the clock Christmas music in the days before the switch occurs. I guess they are out collecting Mama’s and Papa’s, and Steppenwolf cd’s (or vinyl), and that may take a few days.
I wonder if on the oldies station they will be playing "The Name Game" song. Remember that? Simon, Simon, bo Bimon, Banana Fana Fo Fimon, Fe Fi Mo Mimon, Simon!
I am referring to Simon Speights, the mayor of Lipscomb, who is in to name changing. Could that city get any more screwed up? I know in Bessemer we don’t have much room to talk, but at least our mayor didn’t change his name so he could avoid the restriction on registering to vote due to a felony conviction. Mr. Speights, er, Speight, or whatever, you must be a registered voter to be elected to office. Since you have been voting under an assumed name, you voted illegally, so that may be another felony. Lipscomb Mayor
Let’s see, all you have to do is change the spelling of your name, to avoid your felony conviction and be able to register and then run for office? Seigelman? Siegleman? Siegelmon? Think anyone would notice?
Thursday, June 28, 2007
I continue to read The Western Star.
Dale Jones, the editorial writer for the Western Star, is again off base with his opinion column this week. He continues to bring an anti-gay message to his paper, condemning Barack Obama for being a member of a denomination that endorses same sex unions (as well as for his views on using faith to bring people together). So many people that go out of their way to express their anti-homosexual views turn out to be suppressing their own homosexuality. This study completed at the University of Georgia supports this position. Warning, this is a scientific paper and does not mince words. I got this link from Trey at The Human Animal. Just read the abstract at the first of the paper, you will get the idea.
Dale, it’s OK.
But…to the column at hand. Using the same terms that Jones uses in describing Barack Obama, I will describe Jones as “claiming to be a Christian.” I actually think it is non-productive to be guessing at the validity of one’s relationship with God, but since he did it, I felt I could. Jones is right, though when he says “Faith is about bringing individuals closer to God.” But he is wrong when he criticizes Obama for saying faith is supposed to bring us together. Faith does both of these things.
How odd that he make this assertion in a column about patriotism and the Fourth of July. Does he not realize that our country was founded as the United States, after we were brought together as “peoples” of differing faiths, in spite of our differences? Because the various religious and political leaders of the time had faith that the union of the various states with their differing religious and political would succeed, the United States was formed. Does he not know that religious freedom was one of the reasons our country was formed? That we are free to worship as we please, and that we are united by our faiths even though they may be different?
So typical of conservative republicans is their propensity to be divisive, so it should not come as a surprise that Jones does not understand unity. That is how they win elections, by dividing the electorate and inducing fear. Be afraid of terrorism, don’t vote democratic. Be afraid of gay marriage, don’t vote democratic.
Jones is afraid of the people of this city being united (thus his criticisms of the gay community). He is afraid of the people of this country being united, as well. He says he is “frightened by an individual who claims to be a follower of Christ, yet refuses to actually follow what the scripture teaches” and “frightened by the fact that we seem to continue on this path…” There he is, spreading fear, as he tries to persuade readers to agree with him.
I don’t know what denomination or religious affiliation Jones is affiliated with. But this is obvious: his view is that there is only one way to interpret the Bible, and his way is that way. From his statements, he asserts that he understands every verse, and nothing in the Bible is open to debate. In questioning whether Obama is really a Christian or not, he asserts that those who do not follow his own view are also not Christian. He says later in the article that he is “not going to judge the spirituality of Barack Obama,” after spending three paragraphs doing just that.
He says to fly the Stars and Stripes, but not rainbow flags this Fourth. I say fly both. The Stars and Stripes to show your patriotism and your rainbow flag (whether you are gay or not) to show that you support unity and inclusion for all in our city.
What we should really fear is a government that picks apart our constitution, beginning with the First Amendment, as just happened in the Bong Hits for Jesus case in which the Supreme Court recently ruled against free speech. Read what Trey had to say: The Human Animal
Here is a crepe myrtle, one of many.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Coulter did not back down, but she was visibly nervous, but Edwards stood her ground as well. Hardball Video (I had a hard time running this video, but you've probably seen it already).
I’ve already given Ann Coulter more time than she deserves, but here is my Coultergeist column for those who might not have seen it. It’s people like Ann Coulter who give the first amendment a bad name, but without it she (and maybe me) would not have a job. (This is a job???...not really)
And then there are stooges on the small stage. I thought the criminals were weeded out when the Quitman Mitchell administration was replaced by the Ed May administration. Bessemer revenue director Ryan Rancher has been fired, after being on leave since last month while officials investigated the revenue office. Randall McNeil, deputy director of the securities commission mentioned the possibility of criminal charges being filed.
And then there were the Three Stooges live on the Matt Murphy Show Monday. I won’t mention their names, but one of them is the host of the show, his guest just got fired from a weekly newspaper in Hoover, and the caller was his current boss at a local newspaper in Bessemer. They were stumbling all over each other (just like the Three Stooges I remember) trying to get the fired guy back up on the lofty pedestal he had created for himself.
Here is a sunflower blooming about 12 feet high.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
But last night’s rally offered none of that. The police chief told me yesterday morning that he was not even aware of the rally. The keynote speaker was Mayor Ed May, and one of the highlights of his speech, other than “me, me, me”, was that the recent murders took place because Satan handed Eve the apple. Another highlight was his assertion that an increased police presence would not make the area safer. We heard about the Lake of Fire, and how God used the mayor’s wife to prevent him from ending up in Mobile, instead, bringing him to Bessemer to fulfill his destiny. Oh, and we had a hand raising for the audience to declare whether we want to go to heaven or hell. “Come on, raise your hands.” The theme there was if you commit murder on the street, you will go to hell. Plain and simple kids, don’t commit murder. There, wasn’t that easy?
“Where does murder take place?” the mayor asked. “In the homes,” he answered himself. Murders take place in people’s homes so having more police in the neighborhood would not prevent them. Mayor May, listen and learn. Josh Hughes was not in a home when he was killed, he was in the yard. The three men who shot each other on Dartmouth Avenue were not in their home, they were in the middle of the street.
But you are right, Mr. Mayor, murder can take place in the home. Although not in Bessemer, in September 2006, 22 month old George Amison slept in his bed in his apartment home in Fountain Heights on Birmingham’s north side. A bullet fired from outside came through the wall and killed him. The same could happen here in Bessemer.
The solution, according to the mayor, would be for each one of the audience members, to tell another resident about Jesus, and for that resident to do the same, until all of Bessemer had converted. His good v. evil philosophy reminds me of the president.
Mr. Mayor (and Mr. President), you can not frame everything as either good or evil. That’s part of the reason we are failing in Iraq, and it is the reason that progress is not being made in Bessemer.
There was no talk of finding a way to occupy kid’s minds and time with something useful and productive, like a rec center. No talk of tearing down dilapidated buildings that attract criminals. No talk of rooting out drug dealers and manufacturers. No talk of bringing in programs that allow kids to have supervision in the afternoons while parents are working. No talk of encouraging neighbors to get to know each other, and increasing efforts of neighborhood watch associations. No talk of opening a police substation on Dartmouth Avenue (this is not a knee jerk suggestion; crime on Dartmouth Avenue is nothing new), no talk of police making an effort to get to know the residents.
I take that back. There was talk of those things, just not from city officials. Elvira Kidd, Susan Lehman and I have decided that since current leadership is lacking, and since we do not have neighborhood associations like Birmingham does, we will start our own association. We have called a meeting for every resident of Dartmouth Avenue from Highway 150 to the Bessemer city limit. Later we hope our efforts will spread to surrounding streets. At this initial meeting we will be assessing the needs of our street from the viewpoint of those present and then brainstorming to hear possible actions that we might later decide to take. We will not be solving the problems this week, but we will at least be talking about them. It’s a start. If you live on Dartmouth Avenue, you will receive a flyer this week inviting you.
Prayer is fine and I am all for it. But prayer without action is useless, in fact it may even be counterproductive, lulling the faithful into a false security and allowing them to ignore real problems for which human feet rather than God’s hands might provide real solutions. Susan, Elvira and I will be using our feet beginning this week.
Monday, June 25, 2007
On Sunday ABC 33/40 was on my block preparing to cover a story of another rally, occurring today, Monday, at 7:00 pm, at Broken Vessel Full Gospel Church on Dartmouth Avenue. Pastor Moulton told me that Mayor Ed May and Councilmember Earl Cochran are expected to be at this rally and that 33/40 will be back to cover it. I am hoping that the police department will be present to explain what they are doing (?) to curb violence.
If you live on or near Dartmouth, or anywhere in Bessemer for that matter, you are encouraged to attend this rally. Safety in Bessemer affects us all. Crime affects our city morale, our property values, our willingness to enjoy being outdoors, and other’s opinions of us. Hope to see you there.
My willingness to spend money at Wal-Mart is on a rollercoaster. There are so many reasons not to, but when they offered support to GLBT employees and joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce a year ago, I became more likely to support them. Now, folding to pressure from conservative “Christian” groups they are rescinding their support.
“I thought the company was moving in the right direction," one Wal-Mart employee wrote in an e-mail to Fortune. "But last week changed everything. Pulling funding from GLBT organizations is a slap in the face to gay employees, and it sends a very clear message. Diversity within Wal-Mart is only partially inclusive." Article
To me it is one thing if a company has never addressed the issue of gay rights, but when one signals acceptance and then reverses their policy, I agree, it is a slap in the face. I’m not saying I will not ever shop there; in fact there is something I have already planned to go and get. After all, they are still working to educate employees on GLBT issues, and support their gay personnel. But I just might increase my likelihood of Target shopping, and it won’t be long until Target and Publix are both in Bessemer according to the sign visible from I-459 near Eastern Valley Road.
And, if you have not read about Billy Gafnea's death in 1956, click here. This case needs to be reopened, if nothing else, exhume the body and determine the real cause of death!
Friday, June 22, 2007
Matt Murphy who hosts a radio talk show on Birmingham’s 101.1 The Source FM yesterday said that was a waste of money. Then he danced around the issues of racism and justice and said the money could be better spent on security, that we are at war.
We spend well over 100 million every day in Iraq (check the Cost of the War link to the left). One day of freedom from the war of choice would fund this whole project. So I don’t think $10 million a year is going to affect homeland security one bit. Especially since they seem more concerned with harassing mothers for attempting to carry their toddler’s sippy cup on board. Now that is a grand use of the taxpayer’s money, right?
Just a few days of freedom from the war of choice would provide enough money to develop a program to inspect shipping containers coming into our ports. And that would give me more of a secure feeling than watching our troops referee a civil war at such great cost in lives and quality of lives. Or maybe even provide a way of enforcing border security!!!
My post from yesterday (Murder? 1956) should let you know that I believe in justice, regardless of the period of time that has passed. Someone who has lived with the demons of their murderous sins for 50 years may have suffered, but they have not paid the price that our system of justice demands.
Yesterday the Birmingham Peace Project presented their Music for Peace and Justice Series at Church of the Reconciler in downtown Birmingham. Church of the Reconciler is a non-traditional United Methodist Church that practices “radical hospitality” in welcoming everyone, including the homeless, all races, all cultures, all sexual orientations, all social status. The theme last night was Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender rights…Human Rights for All. The group sponsors concerts always with a theme of peace (and justice). I should have posted this before the concert. Oops.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
This story has now been published in The Western Tribune, in an effort to assist Debra in having the case re-opened. There are witnesses who are still alive, and who may know more than they said 50 years ago. The story involves a girl, a threat from another young man, and a car full of teens. Fifty years ago forensics was not what it is today. Fifty years ago this family could not afford to pay for an investigation.
I am posting this because not everyone will see the story in the Tribune, and maybe, just maybe this link will be seen by or forwarded to someone who knows something. Please forward this to anyone who lives or lived in West Jefferson county and might know something.
Read about the case from Debra’s point of view. Seeking Justice for Billy Gafnea
Here is a picture of Billy’s jeans, with what looks to me like a bullet hole.
A close up
I also have pictures of Billy’s face, which I am not posting, and as I said above, there are no scratches on it .
A newspaper article that I have seen from Dec. 7, 1956 states that one of the boys (whose name I know and who was from Bessemer) admitted taking the car to his grandmothers house and cutting it up and burning the upholstery. He was arrested for leaving the scene. The two girls, and two boys, who know more than they told in 1956, are still living. One of the boys lived on 8th Ave and the other on West Lake Drive in Bessemer at the time.
The murder of a 19 year old in 1956 is just as unsettling as the murder of a 14 year old in 2007.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Oops. The mayor vetoed that decision. The mayor doesn’t want GUSC to manage the water. He wants it to be a city department. The council attempted to override the veto, with Albert Soles, who voted in favor of GUSC on June 5, deciding to abstain, and Earl Cochran, who abstained on June 5, voting to support the mayor. The vote ended as a 3-3 tie, so the veto was not overridden.
The attorney for GUSC, Shan Paden says it’s his opinion that the council’s original vote was not subject to veto. I have a feeling this is not over.
But I got to thinking (uh-oh). What is more difficult to understand, the hydrologic cycle or the Bessemer Utilities water cycle?
The hydrologic cycle is science and nature and is logical. The Bessemer water cycle is not logical and there is nothing natural about it.
Water on our planet is in continuous motion between the rivers and lakes and oceans (97% of the world’s water is salty). Of the 3 % that is freshwater, 2/3 of it is locked in the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps. So the available fresh water, that we all depend on, makes up less than 1% of the planet’s water.
The hydrologic cycle explains the movement of water between the atmosphere and earth’s surface (precipitation) and back again (evaporation and transpiration), and along the surface and below (river flow, groundwater movement). It’s actually pretty simple and can be diagramed out with numbers showing how many cubic miles are in which compartments and how much moves on a yearly basis.
The Bessemer water system came to be in 1990, with the creation of GUSC, which then allowed Bessemer to build its own water plant and break away from Birmingham. Bessemer water service buys its water from GUSC. GUSC pays Covanta ($166,000 per month) to manage the water plant. Covanta is an energy company, who claims to be a leader in waste to energy technology. Covanta filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002. Covanta wants out of the water business. The mayor wants the city to operate its own water plant or pay GUSC to operate it. Wait, I thought he did not want GUSC to operate it. Oh well.
Consumers don’t pay GUSC, we don’t pay the City of Bessemer, and we don’t pay Bessemer Water. We pay Bessemer Utilities for water. The little handbook that they give you says that our water is distributed by “the Water Department.” Who is that?
Now here is the kicker. I have been boasting about our water source and the mayor has been doing the same. The Bessemer Utilities Consumer Handbook that I have says the water “is purchased from the Birmingham Water Works.” That must be outdated ( I received it 2000), because the 2006 Bessemer Water Service Water Quality Report states “Bessemer Water Services purchases their water from Covanta Water Systems.” But didn’t I just say that Bessemer Water Service buys their water from GUSC. That is what the Birmingham News says. So Covanta doesn’t just “manage” the water plant, they “own” the water? No wonder the Mayor wants the city to control it.
After all, water scarcity is “one of the most critical health threats to human society today,” according to Environmental Health edited by Howard Frumkin. I am not going to go into it right here, but someday I may address the issue of the Ogallala aquifer, which lies underneath much of 8 states from South Dakota to Texas, and provides about 30% of all groundwater used for irrigation in the U. S. It contains “fossil water” that has been underground for thousands of years. We are using it too much, too fast, it is not replenishing itself, and when it’s gone (20 to 30 years for some areas), see what happens to agriculture in the Midwest.
Anyway, just agree that the Bessemer Water System is much more complex than the hydrologic cycle.
You might hear more about water scarcity from me. Sometimes it is natural, sometimes it is political, sometimes it is the result of war. It is always serious.
First of all, he is one of those party changing politicians who loses some degree of credibility when they morph from blue to red (are you listening Richard Shelby?) but that is a different issue.
There should be some degree of decorum among those we elect when they are conducting the business of our state. Alabama has enough to be embarrassed about. I don’t need to remind you of the ugly highlights in our history, but we and the people we elect should be especially concerned about the image we project to the public.
Don’t throw Senator Lowell Barron’s language at me in defending Bishop. Colorful language and expletive terms have been a part of politics from the beginning, and even our current President and Vice-President have been caught letting four letter words slip.
Still some will try to excuse Bishop because his action was prompted by Barron’s disputed insult toward Bishop’s mother. Please, the term that was used, if it really was said, is meant to insult the person being addressed, not their mother, and everybody knows this. People who would never insult their own mother sometimes use this term in describing themselves, as in “I’m the meanest… you will ever meet.”
And remember, this is not the first time Bishop has lost his temper in the senate. Remember that Bishop already came close to fighting with Sen. Zeb Little and they had to be separated by Senate Security. Bishop had invited Little to meet him outside to settle an issue. Are these adults? At least the fight would not have been in the Senate chambers.
It is embarrassing enough that our state legislature does not go to Montgomery to do what we elect them to do. Then to have this broadcast the world over? I can’t wait till the next legislative session begins, can you? Hopefully it will be without Charles Bishop.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
This happened in the middle of the street in the 2700 block of Dartmouth. I don’t know whether any of these men had prior felony convictions, but I will renew my call to get guns off the street. You saw my editorial (the second part of this post)about it, and I delivered a personal letter last week to Police Chief Rutledge regarding the issue, but not surprisingly I have not heard back from him.
I don’t know why the city leaders (the mayor, the council, pastors and civic leaders), are not upset and outspoken about this. Do they think that “some level” of crime is acceptable? Do they think that Josh may have been a tragedy but these three thugs they can just ignore? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know these three men or anything about them. But three guys arguing in the middle of the street at 2 AM more than likely are thugs.
It would be refreshing to hear from the police department. I don’t mean answering my letter, I mean addressing the community.
Yesterday as part of one of my classes we visited the Norwood Community in Birmingham, beginning at the Norwood Resource Center, in a restored historic home. This pot of zinnias was blooming on the front porch.
There is not a lot blooming now, but the sunflowers are very close to opening.
There are too many of these in the yard, but these umbels of small yellow flowers reach optimistically toward the sky, either in appreciation of the sunlight they receive or maybe they are pleading for rain, which they should get today. This is fennel, and it grows about 5 feet tall. The feathery leaves smell like licorice, and can be used in arrangements although they wilt pretty fast.
Speaking of water issues, the automatic sprinklers were working just fine in front of the Wynfrey Hotel at the Riverchase Galleria on Saturday night around 8:45. How many regulations were being broken here, and whose fault is it, the mall or the hotel?
And the deck is coming along. Soon, soon.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Remember not too long ago our republican led, war starved country was renaming things like Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast, in the House of Representatives cafeteria, to so much anti-French fanfare. They called for boycotts of French wines and French cheeses, and everything French. During the 2004 presidential campaign an anonymous Bush advisor told the New York Times that Kerry "looks French," to persuade voters that he was anti-American.
Oh, last year the House quietly returned to the use of "French Fries" and "French Toast." Young lovers resumed "French kissing" (as if they ever stopped. What would a "Freedom kiss" be like anyway?) and the makers of French's Mustard breathed a sigh of relief. John Kerry returned to looking "New Englandish."
My how things change. Why, with German steel maker ThyssenKrupp AG coming to the state, and now luring the French, Alabama could become a virtual melting pot of its own, with all kind of outsider and foreign influence affecting out state. Our leaders may not like them, but we will take the money coming from "Old Europe ," to use the term that Rummy used to dis the French and Germans when they wouldn't support the War in Iraq, as it was called back then.
Jeff Sessions in Gay Paree. Now there's a picture.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Makes about 20, takes about 10 minutes to prepare, 15 to fry them all
¾ cup self rising corn meal
¼ cup all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground red pepper (or a tad more)
6 medium squash cooked and mashed
½ cup buttermilk
1 small onion, minced
1 large egg
Combine first 5 ingredients, set aside. Stir together mashed squash and next three ingredients. Add to dry mixture and blend. Heat ½ inch of oil in skillet to 350 degrees (who measures?) and drop by tablespoonfuls in to oil. Fry about 3 minutes on each side, till browned. Drain and salt.
Let me know how you like them.
I rarely fry food anymore, but had a request to do something “different” with some of the squash (for a change). Even the 17 yo said even though he hates squash and zucchini, he really likes the puppies.
Since I’m posting a recipe and people still talk about the chocolate chip cookie recipe I posted months ago, here it is, for those who missed it. The recipe is here
I’ve not been able to discuss the Sopranos ending with my daughter because she had not watched it until last night, but I had been giving her little teases about it. The wait was worth it to hear her scream in frustration at the ending. Priceless.
It has finally begun. Here is what the "deck to be" space looks like now. When it is finished, there will be a celebration. Who’s in?
A neighbor has these two little kittens that need a home. Please help us find them a home, surely you or someone you know needs a kitten.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
So much water in the news. I don’t have to say anything about the drought. (Yeah, right) We all know it is the worst in recorded history, Birmingham Water Works customers are under restrictions for water use, Bessemer Utilities water customers are not under restrictions, and this includes some people in Shelby County, and Ross Bridge and other communities that were smart enough to contract with Bessemer to supply their water. But there are a few more water stories.
Of interest to people whose yards are turning brown and landscapes are dying, Bessemer Water has offered to sell water to Birmingham to help in times of drought, like now, but Birmingham has refused to buy it. You can lead a horse to water…
There is a drought on the space station. Russian computers that control oxygen and water have failed. Supposedly the crew, including Americans, are in no danger and they have “plenty of time to sort this out,” says Mike Suffredini, NASA manager of the Space Station program. U. S. astronauts can shower on Mondays and Thursdays, and Russian cosmonauts can shower on Tuesdays and Fridays, under the new water use plan. Just kidding.
Birmingham’s water supply will reach its limit by 2025, according to an article in the Birmingham News. Seems like it may be more like June 25, but at least the BWWB is searching for new sources to tap. They will spend 2 years and 2.4 million dollars to find ways to expand the system. Can you spell r-a-t-e h-i-k-e? Birmingham Water
And in Bessemer, the city is buying out its water contract by voting (the city council) to approve a buyout plan of about $2 million for the General Utilities Service Corporation to finalize a deal with Covanta (or as the Western Star reported this week, Cavanta?) to control the water.
Mayor Ed May wanted the city to purchase the contract, not just approve the deal for the independent GUSC to control it. May said allowing the city to control it would have benefited the city (and ratepayers), but GUSC board member W. W. Ledbetter says having control of the water will let profits go back to the water department to help pay for upgrades and equipment.
That may be a good idea. Remember last summer, when major water mains around Bessemer broke and we were without any water for days? Seems that pipes were outdated and such, so maybe the water department needs the extra cash for upgrades.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
9:30 tonight on Comedy Central Lil' Bush
This show is reported as a “crossover” series. Comedy, especially on Comedy Central, has crossed so many lines and pushed so many envelopes that what is left to crossover? What they mean is: “Lil’ bush premiered last fall on cell phones as five minute mobisodes. Apparently the first such series to cross over from cellular to TV…” So that is what crossover means these days. And I thought Shania Twain was crossover. Mobisodes?
We had a little celebratory episode at dinner last night: the first ripe tomato from the garden. That of course allowed the entire salad to be called “garden fresh,” even though the rest of the ingredients came from Bruno’s. That brings up a question. Bruno’s has this big sign out front about “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” or something like that. But inside, there is no indication of which produce is local, if any. Do we then assume that all of it is? The bananas? The oranges (which had a California sticker on them)?
And now to stickers on fruit. You know, the tomatoes have the little stickers on them with a code number so that the check out guy will know what to charge for. Have you looked closely at the stickers lately? On a tomato I recently bought, was the code number, and an advertisement for Disney’s “Mickey’s Great Clubhouse Hunt (On DVD March 20).” The things you can learn from a tomato.
I am all for buying local. Today the Park Place market begins. From 10 am to 2 pm vendors will be on Park Place at Linn Park selling fresh, local produce as well as fresh pastries and arts and crafts. Like a little Pepper Place Saturday market. Look for these guys every Wednesday, except July 4.
Any of you who have experienced delivery problems with The Western Tribune things should be better this week. There was a glitch, should be solved. If you are not getting the paper delivered call 425-7171 to subscribe. Here is my column from the Trib this week. I am serious about this issue, and will present this challenge to the chief of police just in case he hasn’t subscribed to the paper.
Of course I don’t know the title of my editorial, but here is the meat of it:
The most recent example of senseless killing in Bessemer is the death of 14 year old Joshua Hughes. Josh was attending a birthday party on Dartmouth Avenue when he was struck by stray bullets last month. He would have turned 15 this week, on June 15, but there will be no such party for him. He was in the “wrong place, at the wrong time,” it was said.
Rolando Williamson of Lipscomb is 21 years old. Williamson has been charged with murder in the killing. Williamson has previous drug and weapons charges pending from an incident in Homewood.
Last week in Tuscaloosa a team of federal officials and local police combined their efforts and took into custody at least 10 people sought on federal gun charges. David Hyche, a supervisor with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Birmingham office said that this effort was several years in the making, and will be ongoing, as reported in The Birmingham News. “We're going to do it every month for as long as it takes. With a partnership like this, we'll make an impact on violent crime in Tuscaloosa,” Hyche said.
I feel certain that Rolando Williamson’s previous charges preclude him from legally carrying a gun, yet he obviously did. How many other felons, drug dealers, illegal aliens, fugitives and convicted domestic abusers are in Bessemer and illegally possessing firearms?
I don’t know if such a dragnet would have prevented Joshua’s murder, but such an effort would be welcome in Bessemer. Pastor Thomas Franklin of Ward AME Church wondered what if this was his child. I wonder also. My children are not much older than Joshua, and could find themselves “in the wrong place, at the wrong time” on any given day.
Bessemer Police should team up with U. S. Marshalls and agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives like Tuscaloosa police did to institute such a program here. Our police department is good at solving homicides, as the arrest in this case and the recent discovery and identification of the body of Mary Catherine Williams and subsequent arrests of four suspects in her death shows us.
Bessemer should expand its efforts in preventing such crimes. The city would benefit from using the powerful assistance that Federal involvement would bring, and the instances of “wrong places” and “wrong times” could be reduced. This is not the first teen killed in Bessemer in recent years. Parents, aunts, uncles; we worry every day. Let’s do this in memory of Joshua Hughes, so that his premature death shall not be in vain.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Habeas corpus has been in the news lately. In president Bush’s bumper sticker war on terror, he is trying to do away with habeas corpus. And in the neighboring state of Georgia, habeas corpus is getting a young man closer to being released from jail.
The dictionary defines habeas corpus ad subjiciendum as a writ for inquiring into the lawfulness of the restraint of a person who is imprisoned or detained in another’s custody. To me, that means you get to question why you are being held, and whether your punishment fits the crime. Help me out here attorneys if I am wrong.
Genarlow Wilson was 17 years old when he and some friends decided to rent a motel room for some sexual escapades. Everyone was a willing participate. Someone had a video camera. Someone showed the video to someone, and Genarlow was arrested for having oral sex performed on him by a 15 year old girl. There was no coercion, everybody had a good time. (Well, maybe not the 17 year old girl who got drunk, had sex on the floor and claimed she was raped...a charge that did not stick. She is the one that reported the event).
Georgia tried to get tough a few years ago by revising its sex crimes laws and making sex with a minor a felony, and imposing stiff (pardon the pun) punishment including long prison terms and sexual predator registration. Genarlow was an honor student, a star athlete, and homecoming king. He had everything going for him, and only did what half of the boys his age are already doing, and the other half wish they were doing.
Because of the publicity surrounding this case, the Georgia legislature changed their laws to make consensual sex between teens a misdemeanor, instead of a felony. But they did not grandfather Genarlow in under the revised law, so he remained in prison, with a felony conviction, labeled a sexual predator.
Genarlow’s attorney filed a writ of habeas to seek relief for her client. Months of legal wrangling later (and years in prison later for the young man, now 21) yesterday the judge granted her petition and a bubbling attorney and Genarlow’s mother and CNN’s Rick Sanchez jumped up and down after the attorney read a fax hot off the machine announcing the decision (I have never before seen a reporter kiss a person he’s trying to interview but there is always a first time. Go Rick) that said the charge would be reduced to a misdemeanor, his time served would be enough time in prison, and no sexual predator status. CNN Video
Well now of course, the power hungry attorney general of Georgia has filed an appeal to keep Genarlow in prison, meaning he must think this young man is a danger to society.
If this appeal is successful Georgia had better start building prisons in every town next door to every high school, and just move the kids on in. I’m not advocating teen sex, but I do accept reality.
But the case at least shows us one way that habeas corpus works.
Now, to the war on terror. There are many ways in which the Patriot Act (inappropriately named) has trampled on our constitutional rights, and this has been pointed out many times. More recently the Military Commissions Act of 2006 was passed. In a few words, this act allows the federal government, i.e., the president, to hold detainees, and to convene a military commission to prosecute them. This law also denies habeas corpus type protections to those who are detained, and can be used against U. S. citizens.
In other words, the president can order anyone to be detained, without charging them with a crime, for any length of time, and the detainee can not challenge his or her imprisonment and if this is one of your loved ones you can not do anything about it.
Here is what Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, says about it, "The president can now, with the approval of Congress, indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions,” and an editorial in The New York Times described the Act as "a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy.”
This act or parts of it are being challenged on several fronts, and in the news today is what seems to be a setback for the Bush administrations War on Civil Liberties. A federal appeals court panel has ruled that President Bush cannot indefinitely hold a U. S. resident on suspicion alone and ordered the government to either charge Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri with a crime or release him. Of course the Bush administration is appealing this to the full appeals court.
Here is what the court said, “The President cannot eliminate constitutional protections with the stroke of a pen by proclaiming a civilian, even a criminal civilian, an enemy combatant subject to indefinite military detention.”
I am not a legal expert by any means, and am not even sure if habeas was used in this case (since I guess the guy would have been denied habeas anyway), but it all ties in together. The president does not respect our constitution, he does not understand the importance of basic fundamental rights as outlined in the constitution and bill of rights.
Monday, June 11, 2007
I am 100% sure that had I been watching from the beginning, or even just from the beginning of this season, and had a better understanding of the characters and plot lines that the entire episode would have been meaningful to me.
So from a one time viewer just let me say that Meadow trying to parallel park was the most brilliant part of the final few moments. Some of you may have it on Tivo and may not have watched it yet, so I will say no more.
If I am on one end of the Soprano's spectrum, then Brian Fleury is on the other. The Birmingham News reports that Brian, who lives in North Shelby County, ordered pizza for Sunday nights finale from Pizzaland in North Arlington, N. J. This pizzaria is shown each week during the opening credits. $44 ($13 for the pie, $31 for overnight delivery packed in dry ice)for a "really good New York-style pizza" was well worth it for Brian, even if the pizza did arrive cold. Toppings? Pepperoni and sausage. Apparantly he is not the first person to order pizza long distance from Pizzaland, "When I called, before they even said 'Hello,' they said,'Where do we need to ship it."
As I stepped out this morning the sun was bearing down on the back porch, and I guess the heat was helping this liitle rose release its fragrance, because it was almost overwhelming. This back porch is about to be torn down, but this rose will be saved as new construction takes place.
Most of the daylilies are surviving the dought, although flowering is not as profuse as in past years.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
I was reminded that I failed to post my Western Tribune column this week on Wednesday, as I have been doing, so here it is:
Recently the City of Bessemer settled a lawsuit with the Federal government which was brought against the city for non-compliance with the ADA (American with Disabilities Act). This act, signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, among other things requires public buildings to provide access to those with disabilities. A resident of Bessemer was denied access to City facilities because of her disability.
My first question is this: why did it take 17 years and a federal lawsuit before Bessemer took notice that it was out of compliance with this law? Quitman Mitchell was mayor, and for the next twelve years he was unaware, indifferent to or willfully negligent in not adhering to the standards outlined. The passage of the act was big news at the time; I don’t see how the mayor could have been unaware of it. For the last five years Ed May has been mayor and still nothing has been done to bring the city in to compliance.
The city has three years to remedy the situation downtown, things like curbs and sidewalks and ramps. The Bessemer Civic Center will have seven long years to make changes in access to the stage. There is my second question: why do we have to wait seven years before our citizens with disabilities are allowed to access all of the civic center facilities? Surely an acceptable design and necessary repairs can be finished in a much shorter time.
This is really an embarrassment for our city. If a city can not provide equal access to facilities and services for the disadvantaged in the city, how do we know that the city is looking out for any of us?
Schools are public buildings and are subject to ADA regulations as well, and I wonder if Bessemer’s schools may be out of compliance also. Do disabled students have full access to all of the facilities? While Bessemer school officials are thinking about compliance with the ADA, they should consider this IDEA. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), enacted in 1975 and amended most recently in 2004, was enacted to assure that children with disabilities have every opportunity to receive a free quality public education that other children do. Are our schools compliant in this area as well, providing the teachers, resources and support to provide what is required for every student?
This might be a good time for our Board of Education officials and principles to review the current ADA and IDEA regulations and make sure we are compliant with all of them. Let’s not wait until another costly lawsuit arises, or until a caretaker of a disabled person has to file a complaint.
Remember our friend the Watercress Darter that I brought to your attention months ago. Today Pat Byington has an editorial in the Birmingham News about the history and the importance of this little fish. Read it here: We must preserve God's vibrant tapestry in this state As Pat brings out in his piece, Alabama certainly has a huge amount of bio-diversity, and we do have a responsibility to protect it. I especially liked his quote of the discoverer of this rare colorful fish in describing his find, "A visual treat that does something to the spirit - like a beautiful sunset."
But its not just about the Watercress Darter, and Pat understands this. It's about the world we live in and climate change and sustainable energy and noise pollution and smoke free public buildings and more
Then go visit the Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge here in Bessemer.
Friday, June 8, 2007
In Birmingham gay pride has been celebrated for years, as Birmingham’s first organized PRIDE celebration was held in 1979, and the first parade was in 1989. We’ve come a long way, baby.
A few years ago we had a friend from San Francisco visiting, and took him to the PRIDE parade. He couldn’t believe that in Birmingham, Alabama we had such a celebration, with so many participating, and so many spectating, and was really amazed that so many straight couples and families were present. They were just out to have a good time, as Birmingham’s parade is a Mardi Gras style parade in good taste where candy and moon pies and trinkets and beads are tossed to the crowd.
This year, Patricia Todd will be the Grand Marshal of the parade, set for Saturday June 9 around Five Points South, beginning at 8:30. Line up begins at 6:30.
Also on Saturday is "Language Matters," a discussion sponsored by Equality Alabama at Avondale Library at 10:30 AM, which will explore how anit-gay forces use language against the GLBT community, and how to counteract them. Everyone is welcome.
On Sunday, at Sloss Furnace, the celebration continues with entertainment, children’s area, informational booths and vendors, from noon to 10 or so.
Come to these events to see friends, support equality, learn that you are not alone, be entertained, have fun, or become informed. GLBT or straight, there is something for everyone at these events.
In a sort of related matter, Isaiah Washington has been dropped from the Grey’s Anatomy line up. Goodbye Dr. Burke
Thursday, June 7, 2007
As long as we are on the subject, there has been progress made in the murder investigation of the 14 year old boy who was attending a birthday party on Dartmouth a few nights ago. Rolando Williamson of Lipscomb has been arrested for the murder of Joshua Hughes. Arrest made
And the "body" I wrote about is still by the side of the road, I guess the police and/or street department are not too concerned.
Senator Chris Dodd, Democratic Presidential candidate spoke before a capacity crowd last night at the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham, in an event sponsored by Over the Mountain Democrats. Although a long shot to win the nomination, but a sure shot to win the presidency if he does get the nod (any Democrat should win, unless they really screw things up over the next few months), it was certainly refreshing to see and hear in person one of our nation's leaders who understands the war (that it is a civil war and we must disengage from the conflict over the next few months as there is no military solution.) "There has not been one from the beginning...There is not an army big enough or a treasury deep enough to do this," he said.
"I think we would all agree that the stakes for our country, at least in our lifetime, have never been higher" Dodd spoke about health care, the environment, energy, and education and offered suggestions and solutions to the numerous issues facing our country in those areas. He would be a good candidate to challenge the republican nominee, whoever that might be. (Ron Paul?) Check out Dodd's creds at:
Chris Dodd for President
Sometimes a small news item just really strikes me as really worthwhile, and this one did. Coca-Cola has announced that it is funding a $20 million river conservation project to protect seven major rivers worldwide including the Danube in Europe, the Yangtze and Mekong in Asia, coastal East African basins from Somolia to South Africa, the Mesoamerican Reef in Latin America, the Rio Grande/ Rio Brave in North America and the Cahaba River in Alabama!
The press releases actually say "the rivers and streams of the southeastern United States" but the Cahaba is mentioned on the sites of the organizations involved.
To have our little bio-diverse river garner such international recognition (the announcement came from Bejing, China) is exciting. This came about because last year the Cahaba River Socity took Coke executives on a canoe trip organized by the World Wildlife Foundation, and the announcment came at the WWF annual meeting in Bejing.
Coke uses 76 billion gallons of water each year to produce its drinks. They want to "return every, every drop we use back to nature," Coke CEO E. Neville Isdell said at the news conference.
I've always preferred coke over Pepsi, and this is just one more reason.
Cahaba River Society (Strange, there is nothing on their site about this as of this posting)
Coke Press Release
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Unrelated to that, last year three badly decomposed bodies were found near Lakeshore Drive in Bessemer. Last week, a badly decomposed body was found out Morgan Road, near I-459. So I understand Bobby’s apprehension when driving from Lakeshore to the house yesterday, he saw on the side of the road what appeared to be a stained sheet wrapped around a form of some kind. Deciding to be CSI Bessemer, he came and got me and the camera and back we went. As we approached my apprehension increased also. We pulled alongside so that I could look down from my window. It was a body alright, badly decomposed with maggots and odors. Bones were visible, obvious a hip bone and ribs and what looked like metatarsals. Lots of hair, though, in the mix, and I think it was a large (LARGE) dog. I called the police anyway (non emergency number) and the person who answered did not seem to be concerned. I told her there was a badly decomposed body wrapped in a sheet by the side of the road, that it could be a dog, but it might not be. She said she would notify the Street Department about it, thank you. I didn’t even take a picture (be glad), but I will go back and see if the street department (or coroner) has come by.
Here’s an update about the (human) body found last week that I mentioned above. Remember the recent home invasion in Lipscomb? Those four guys are now charged in the murder of the young woman. Violent Suspects
With such depressing news it seems only natural to segue into the Republican Presidential Candidate Debate last night. Since I wrote about faith yesterday, I guess it’s OK to say “Lord help us”…if any of these men get elected to the presidency. The country club elite gathered in a New Hampshire hockey rink (the Dems were in the same place Tuesday)as a thunderstorm brewed outside. The highlight of the evening was when Rudy began to explain his position on abortion and lightning struck the facility and messed with the hockey rink's sound system. "Look, for someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is a very frightening thing that's happening right now," he said, to laughter.
Other than Ron Paul the candidates were stumbling over each other trying to appear more hawkish, more immigrant hating, and more anti-gay than the other. Stark, stark contrast to the democrats the other night. All the democrats want us out of the war. All the republicans, except RP, want to surge ahead, and maybe invade some other countries. All the democrats want to end don't ask don't tell. All the republicans believe the policy is working well (in spite of the fact that we are in need of Arab speaking translators because several have been kicked out of the service because they are gay. We are occupying an Arab speaking foreign country after all). The republicans all think that big business controlling health care is a good thing, all the democrats want to reform health care and make it more affordable for all, and to make sure it is available to all. McCain was right on immigration, the current bill is not pefect, and it is the result of compromise, but at least it is a start. By the way, Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, is going to try to end debate on the bill tomorrow, so that might be interesting.
Here is one suggestion that I think we can all agree on. Let's just go ahead and vote today, and spare ourselves the next year or so of primary and general elections.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
No, really I think this is good. Although I agree with John Edwards who said the United States should not be called a Christian nation, we can certainly be called a spiritual nation. For the past 6 years or more religion and spirituality has been framed around war and good v. evil and us v. them, and people are judged as righteous or sinful by nothing more than their beliefs about same sex marriage or women’s choice. For instance, the Roman Catholic Church speaks of denying sacraments to candidates who support choice. They also deny communion on a regular basis to homosexuals. Let me throw this in here too. The Roman Catholic Church is against non-celibate homosexuals and denies sacraments based on this. The Roman Catholic Church is against the war but offers sacraments to the soldiers who are participating, even to those who have killed. Is there something wrong here? I’m not saying to deny sacraments to soldiers, I’m saying that Jesus offers himself to all, and the sacraments should be offered to all.
Back to the subject at hand. Now the democrats are talking about faith. Now they are talking about Christian values: values such as protecting the planet and the environment, values such as taking care of the poor, values such as not leaving children behind after they are born. Not to mention things like invading and occupying nations and torture.
Anyway, this is something Howard Dean brought up when he spoke here recently. Even evangelicals are beginning to understand that while they may disagree on some things with the democratic candidates, they do agree on other pressing concerns such as climate change and poverty.
Edwards and Hillary both scored points in yesterday’s forum where along with Barack Obama they spoke and answered questions in an event sponsored by Sojourners/Call to Renewal evangelical organization. Then later on CNN most of the other democrat candidates were questioned by Paula Zahn on faith issues, and every one of them did a good job of explaining their faith and how they reconcile their political beliefs with their religious beliefs. I think they were all Catholic, by the way…Richardson, Biden, Dodd and Kucinich.
Apparently it’s difficult for some democrats to talk about faith because to them it is such a personal issue, and several have said they are suspicious of those who wear their faith on their sleeve. But they realize it is necessary for them to reclaim their spiritual edge if they are to be successful in 2008.
Monday, June 4, 2007
Oh, and Al Gore, (had he been there) gave the best answers to every question (I can dream, can't I) and surely is leading the pack now. One could only hope.
At least we got to hear about some other subjects, and not just the war. The second half where audience members asked questions forced the candidates to answer with less scripted responses. At least the democrats are thinking about Darfur and energy and China's influence over the Sudan and such.
Wolf Blitzer said the next democrat debate would involve google and You Tube. ???
This is one of those busy, busy days: school has started again.
Friday, June 1, 2007
Talitha Koum is alive and (getting) well. This is the cat that fell in a 12 foot sinkhole in Centreville and in the midst of rescue efforts, city officials filled in the hole as a public safety matter. Rescuers with TEARS then dug another hole and were able to rescue her.
"Talitha Koum" is a phrase from the Bible, meaning "Little girl, I say to you, get up," said by Jesus, before raising a young girl from the dead, according to Mark 5:41.
The only other use of this phrase as a name that I know of is Talitha Koum the Episcopal author of a blog, but she has not posted in a while. I hope she hasn't fallen in a sinkhole!
The rescued cat is pictured on the front page of the Birmingham News. The picture is not posted online, but...
She looks just like a young Clyde, my cat that came with me from Tennessee years ago and helped me establish my former veterinary practice. Here's Clyde, from a photo my friend Linda took.
Talitha Koum is going to be OK, and my hat's off to TEARS and Terra Cotromano, James Taylor (not the singer) and Adam Carter, who worked to save her. Also to Dr. David Fuller at Hope Animal Clinic, where she is receiving care.