Monday, December 31, 2007
The editorial board of Bessemer Opinions got together and came up with this list of the dozen top posts (or stories) of 2007. Seems that everywhere you turn there is a top 10 or so list, and we had a hard time whitling it down to ten, thus 12. These are not in order of importance, rather they are in chronological order, beginning in February, when Bessemer Opinions first began publishing. I realize there are 14 links here. But 12 stories (or 13).
February 12. Western Star and Tim Hardaway
This was one of the first stories to report the way The Western Star distorts the truth, and the story got me emails from across the nation. Bessemer Opinions will always expose lies, hypocrisy and plagiarism.
March 27 and 29.
Birmingham Falls Flat on Its Face
Birmingham: She's Fallen and She Can't Get Up
These two posts are related to Birmingham's failure to pass an inclusion resolution, which a few weeks later they passed unanimously.
March 1. Who I Would Not Like To Be
This post is about Katherine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal church. I admire her for doing the right thing in spite of misguided opposition. I often post about Episcopal happenings, mainly because they are on the cutting edge of inclusive theology. Full disclosure, I am a wandering Methodist.
April 26. Pat Tillman, Tom Delay and Gun Control
This story just about made me sick. Hypocrisy and spinning by war crazy people.
April 23. Earth Day II, Human Responsibility
The environment is one of the most pressing issues of the day (and has been since the beginning).
May 10. Hatred in Alabama, From a Trailer in Bay Minette to Goat Hill
This one just about makes one sick as well, but hatred against gays has got to stop.
June 21. Murder - 1956
I included this story then and now because I want the people responsible for this to feel guilty, and I want those who might know something to come forward.
July 12. Joe's Theology
I am not shy about revealing my opinions about any subject.
September 15. The Changing Face of Bessemer
There was a lot of important news out of Bessemer this year, and this story is about news that has not even happened yet. But I feel (and hope) that what is offered here is more important than what our city leaders do and don't do, because this looks beyond the next election, which is something the elected officials have a hard time doing. Another very important news story about bessemer was This one announcing The Western Tribune hitting the steets.
October 29. Western Star and Global Warming
This post explores one of the stupidest statements ever in print. The reason it is important is that if people don't wake up and understand what climate change is doing to our planet, and accept that as humans we bear some responsibility for it, we are doomed.
November 2. Consider This an Announcement
This was my announcment that I am running for a delegate seat to the Democratic National Convention as a Hillary Clinton delegate. We will see how the voting goes, and if I don't win a spot that way, all is not lost. Stay tuned.
November 15. Intelligent Design is not Science
I have been a student of science since elementary school, and my current studies are scientific in nature as well. I hate to see misinformation touted as fact.
Happy New Year.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
I have one child who is a senior in high school and one who is in college. One of them studied Pompeii in school, and the other did not. They both went to public school.
The more I learn about other cultures, whether they be in the present or in the past, the more I realize that we are all alike, and we haven't changed much in all of history. Individuals seeking comfort and luxury, subtle and not so subtle references to sex (homosexuality as well as heterosexuality). People coming together to help one another. People of different classes dying together.
And you never know how an event will affect history. There could have been a young child who died that day who might have grown to understand science and physics in the same way that Newton or Galileo did centuries later. Of course, that can be said about every young person who dies at any time. Take for instance the 3902 American service men and women who have died in Iraq. Or the 80,196 - 87,350 Iraqi citizens who have been killed since we invaded their country. (See "Facts About the War" over to the left) Think of the potential lost.
A movie that shows how a young person's potential can be lost or found is October Sky starring a young Jake Gyllenhall as Homer Hickam, and this is the true story of the West Virginia kid who for various reasons was pressured to follow the expected path of being a coal miner, but wanted to explore rocketry instead. Has Jake Gyllenhall ever made a bad movie? I don't think so. This one is certainly worth watching.
In fact, you could rent it today, and watch it while waiting for the New Year! Right after the Auburn Game (Chick-fil-A Bowl), you should have enough time to see the movie before the ball drops, or the bullets fall, as will happen in Bessemer and some sections of Birmingham at midnight tonight. The insane practice of shooting guns into the air to celebrate. What will the story be in tomorrow's paper? Hopefully not one of somebody killed or injured because of this reckless practice.
Regardless of how you celebrate, be careful, and have a good time. Wait until the lead has finished falling from the sky before travelling home. Happy New Year!!!
Friday, December 28, 2007
I don't know Haden White, but I know that when you go to the trouble of writing a letter to either the paper or a national magazine, it is a good feeling to see your efforts in print. Happy New Year Mr. White, and thank you for your service to our country.
Here in Alabama we learn that we are ranked 48 on the Forbes first ever list of America's Greenest States. That is no surprise, as our state is controlled by interests who, for the most part, do not care about the enviroment: the Republican Party and the Church (Christian evangelicals, to be precise).
Here is what Forbes says about Alabama:
"So who's at the bottom? Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Indiana and, at No. 50, West Virginia. All suffer from a mix of toxic waste, lots of pollution and consumption and no clear plans to do anything about it. Expect them to remain that way."
Here is the caption next to a picture representing our state.
Alabama No. 48 Score: 15.8 out of 50
In short, people in Alabama drive a lot. Only four states had a higher number of vehicle miles traveled per capita. Alabama also manages the fifth largest amount of toxic waste per capita, disposing of or releasing 122.9 million lbs of waste in 2005. It also has not implemented very many energy efficiency policies.
Here is an example of something I noticed on our trip to California. We were in the town of 29 Palms, just outside of Joshua Tree National Park.
We had exited the park to get gas, and noticed they used these vapor recovery nozzles on the pumps.
We filled up, and I got to thinking. We live in a metropolitan area that is plagued each summer with high ozone levels. Ground level ozone is created, in part, when gasoline vapors are exposed to sunlight. EPA Ozone Pollution
We filled up knowing that our contribution to harmful ozone was reduced by using this simple device.
So why, in our city, county, state, do we not require this type of device on gas pumps? Like I said, we are controlled by republicans and evangelicals, and the republicans are against this because it might cost their gas producing corporate buddies (although the cost would really fall on the gas station owners who would pass it on to consumers) a penny or two. Evangelicals don't care because improving the environment is too close to the ideals of us "tree hugging liberals". These are attitudes that need to change in our state.
Here is a tree we saw in a botanical garden, in Palm Springs, but it is native to tropical Mexico. The common name is "Cascalote" and the scientific name is Caesalpinia cacalaco. It blooms in the winter and has thorns on the branches that turn into these sharp knobs on the trunks.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
United Airlines has problems that go beyond my little episode, as this story from Chicago tells us. Yesterday they were into their third straight day of cancellations, angering thousands, if not tens of thousands, of customers over the Christmas holiday period. But contrary to what the Chicago story says, yesterday made at least the fourth day in a row for concellations, because our flight on Sunday was cancelled as well.
But that wasn't even the problem. Because our flight home was actually scheduled for Saturday. We arrived at the Ontario, CA airport one hour before the time our ticket said our plane would leave. Slow downs on the interstate from Palm Springs delayed us a little bit, but not much.
We did not know that United had changed our flight time, so when we tried to check in at the kiosk we learned the flight was closed. No more check ins. According to my cell phone, which I think has pretty accurate time, we were 34 minutes before takeoff.
Now I know it is recommended to get to the airport two hours before scheduled take off and all, the fact is that on the United Airlines ticket envelope it says "Reservations and seat assignments are subject to cancellation for any customer who fails to check in and obtain a boarding pass at least 30 minutes prior to sceduled departure..." and on their website it says the same thing.
I would later learn that the web site "recommends" (not requires) you be there 1-1/2 hours before departure if you plan to check baggage.
They would not relent. Now, the Ontario airport is about like Birmingham's. It was not busy, there was no one in front of us when we arrived to check in, and no one behind us while we tried to negotiate entry onto the plane. We were right next to security, and there was no line there. So we could have easily made it on to the plane.
Over the next several minutes I heard a man at the next kiosk arguing with the agent becuase he was being bumped from a flight. His flight was overbooked, he had tickets, and he was arguing that he was being bumped because he had acquired his tickets by using miles, rather than purchasing. The agent denied this was the reason, but regardless, he was bumped from his flight due to overbooking.
Around that same time another agent who was trying to find flights for us for that same day finally said "There is nothing. They are all overbooked."
My conclusion is that our flight was overbooked as well, and since we were (almost) late, they had already allowed someone else to board in our seats. Grrr....
Before I go on, I assure you that others have had bad experiences and are spreading the word.
Here is Lono, for instance, who takes a little time each day to hate United Airlines. Not so much for problems with overbooking and such, but because of this. A couple of years ago, he wrote:
Guess what United decided today, with the company still failing in bankruptcy, and still nowhere near ever making a profit?
United CEO could get $15 million in stock
Three executive vice presidents at United would pocket restricted stock and options worth $6 million each, and four senior vice presidents would each receive equity grants worth $3 million. Thirty-one other company officers would each get $750,000 in grants, and 366 other managers would receive $100,000 in equity.
Wow. I mean, just... WOW. The company went teets up, laid everyone off, went into bankrupcy, reneged on the retirement for all their employees... then gave the suits millions.
Here is Kent's experience Here
Here is Olivier's experience Here
So it's not just me. Anyway, we were rebooked for a flight on Sunday (same flight number, same flight time). But on Sunday, we arrive about 2 hours ahead of departure (the only thing within sight of our cheap hotel room was a Circle K and a Jack in the Box, so not much to keep us from shuttling the quarter mile to the airport), only to be told our flight had been cancelled. Bullhockey.
So they scurried around and found us and another guy seats to Denver on a flight out of Palm Springs (had we known...) and promised to get us there to make the flight, which was leaving in less than two hours. Now, it is impossible to make the trip in less than an hour, so we could not get there one and a half hours ahead of time, but I guess on Sundays at another airport that does not matter.
We entered the airport about 10 minutes before departure, and were told at the counter there was "no guarantee" we would get on the plane and there was "no guarantee" our luggage would get loaded, and that we needed to "run" to the gate.
Well we ran, and I was still getting dressed (I had to remove my belt and of course, my shoes in security) as we crossed the gate (with the gate attendent saying "Go, go,") running.
But we were on a plane to Denver, and already had boarding passes for the flight to Birmingham.
In Denver we went to the gate where the monitor said "If you have a boarding pass you do not need to check in again." So we didn't. Mistake.
Instead we went to a pub and ate nachos and fries, and headed back to the gate at the scheduled boarding time. We were in the middle of the pack, and when we reached the gate the agent said "Uh-oh, something's not right." Someone was in our seats. She got the 20 second version of my frustration of the last two days, and assured us we would get on the plane. She would just have to remove someone else from the plane so we could have seats. In the meantime, please go to the end of the line.
Well, we got on the plane, those two other people are probably ticked off and blogging about it right now, too.
Here is what United told me yesterday. We were late, and because we were not there 1-1/2 hours before departure, we were denied. They said the flight was not overbooked (even though the agent at the counter said they were all overbooked). I don't believe them.
They told me that "recommended" (1-1/2 hours) on their web site means "required." Really, that is what she said. They made up their own definition. But if that were true we should not have been able to board in Birmingham, or in Palm Springs, so that is bull.
They told me that the 30 minute rule on their ticket envelope and on the web site refers only to travellers without checked luggage. Really, that is what she said. They told me I was supposed to know that is what it meant. Really, even though it does not say that in print anywhere.
They will not pay for our cheap hotel room, and offered a pittance compensation equal to about 1/4 the cost of our ticket. In the form of vouchers. And there is another example of their ineptness.
I was told that with the vouchers I have two options.
Use them to purchase (well, part of a purchase) a ticket to anywhere in the continental United States by phone, or in person at the airport. You can not use the voucher for purchases over the internet. If you use the voucher at the airport, you have to have a reservation "on hold", made by phone, of course, before you can use the voucher. Also, the voucher has to be mailed back to them to make the purchase. I wonder how long you can have tickets "on hold" before you lose them...like during the time the vouchers are in route by mail to United. How archaic.
But that is how they explained it. I asked if the terms would come with the voucher, she said yes. I hope the voucher is written in better "English" than I heard over the phone, and maybe it will make sense.
Dave (and his commentors) says it all, in few (not so nice) words: I hate airlines
And like Stan I wonder what United is thinking. I told the agent on the phone, that after talking to her I was convinced that United does NOT care about customer satisfaction, it is all about feeding the corporate officers and managers.
I hope Ron Paul adds the airlines, United in particular, to his list of corporate fascists that he says is ruining this country. More on that later. For now, I have to think about where to fly on my final United flight, paid for in part with their "travel certificates." After that, never again.
Update: A reader alerted me to this site through a comment, and it is worth sharing.
Untied Airlines (spelled that way on purpose).
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Today the world returns to normal. Not that we can't continue to enjoy the holidays and the good feelings that they bring us. But serious blogging resumes, and of course, that is what makes the world go 'round. Now, somebody is going to take that serious, and comment how big-headed and misguided I am. If that's what they think, oh well. They are probably of the misguided koolaid drinker type that continue to check out this site. They are welcome, they might become enlightened.
Take for instance Dr. Doug Smith of Bessemer. He recently responded to my column questioning president Bush from December 12 in The Western Tribune.
For those who do not read the Tribune, here is Dr. Doug Smith's letter:
In response to the Joe Openshaw left wing, liberal Democratic way of thinking (Dec. 12 column, "Counting time left for George Bush"), I would like to respond.
In rebuttal to Openshaw's conclusions about Iran and North Korea he obviously only read a little of the report. Iran can restart its nuclear weapon program and produce an atomic weapon within one year.
They only need the nuclear nmaterial which they are producing as I write this. They didn't have weapons grade material in 2003, but they are producing. If Mr. Openshaw thinks that Iran is not a threat to the rest if the Free World then he is misguided.
If he really is concerned that the psychopath that rules North Korea might not believe President Bush's diplomatic efforts, then he thinks exactly the opposite of most of the world.
Why should anyone trust North Korea when they have broken every treaty that they have signed.
If anyone thinks that that psychopath who has starved over a million of his people is not a dnager to the rest of the world has their head in the sand or somewhere else.
As far as misleading the American people in the Iraq war Openshaw evidently doesn't remember Kuwait or all the Resolutions of the United Nations that Saddam Hussein failed to comply with or the money he paid to the families of terrorist bombers who killed Americans or the intelligence gathered by our allies.
I guess Openshaw thinks like John Kerry that the UN and diplomatic talking would have won the heart and mind of Saddam.
Mr. Openshaw, you and your mentors, Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Charles Schumer, Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein, Hillary Clinton and other liberal Democrats are the biggest danger to this country, NOT President Bush. You are entitled to your ridiculous opinion but that don't (sic) make you right. Mr. Openshaw are you kin to Neville Chamberlain?
Dr. Doug Smith
Where do I start? I guess at the beginning. Dr. Smith (oh, by the way, Doc, I'm a Dr. too but you did not offend me by calling me Mr.) pays me a compliment, referring to my left wing liberal way of thinking. Thank you!
According to the "the report" Iran is continuing to produce enriched uranium, for civilian purposes. This is not weapons grade material. Learn a little, Dr. Smith. The report goes on to say that if they used the uranium to produce a weapon, it would take until the middle of the next decade. Not next year. Try seven years.
And I never said Iran was not a threat. My concern was the way Bush is dealing with the threat, by threatening war (WWIII), and lying to promote his cause. Read about the report here .
Here is a headline from Fox News web site: "Bush Administration Credibility Suffers After Iran NIE Report."
President Bush is not respected in the world, that is a fact. Even the Brits are falling away. A survey from last year shows that "only 14 percent of those surveyed supported the view that Britain should “pursue a foreign policy agenda closer to that of the United States;” 45 percent believed that “Britain should position her foreign policy closer to that of the European Union.” Research Europe
That article sources several other polls that show sour attitudes of the British people with U.S. policy.
So Dr. Smith, if our closest ally is in disagreement with us, do you really think the rest of the world loves us. Travel abroad, listen to people.
But, I also never said North Korea was not a threat to the United States or the rest of the world. I made no comments regarding their leader or supporting their leader. It was our leader George W. Bush that I was critical of. Don't accuse me of not thinking rogue nations are a threat to our security. But let's deal with them in ways that might get results, while at the same time restoring our standing in the world.
What does Kuwait have to do with our current war in Iraq? Nothing. Quit trying to spin.
Dr. Smith brings up Saddam's payment of money to "families of terrorist bombers who killed Americans." Yes, he paid money to families of Palestinian suicide bombers, and I admit, I am not sure if any Americans were killed in any of the bombings that Saddam paid money for. But I am sure that Saudi Arabia also pays money to suicide bobmers, and they are on of our "allies." (Yeah right). When are we going to invade them?
As for the intelligence gathered by our allies, why even bring that up. It was just as faulty as our own.
And as for my ancestry, I do have roots in Britian, but Neville Chamberlain is not on our family tree.
Here's another letter from last week's paper:
How can you allow such seditious material in your fine newspaper?
Joe Openshaw doesn't have a clue about the truth.
My response to Mr. White is that rebellion is needed in this country. And it will come in the form of an election in November 2008.
It doesn't bother me at all that The Western Tribune prints letters about my columns with opposing viewpoints. A conversation is much more interesting when it involves two or more people. I just wish those who opposed me watched the news and understood world events, rather than just drinking the toxic Republican (Fox News) koolaid.
If anyone would like to respond to the paper about my column or the letters, you can submit letters to the editor (300 word limit) firstname.lastname@example.org, fax to 205-428-0015, or mail to 1530 3rd Ave. N., Bessemer, AL 35020.
Comments are also welcome here.
Monday, December 24, 2007
But this is Christmas Eve, a magical day I usually spend at the mall, even if my shopping is done, because I love the hustle and bustle (when I am in my own city and not running like O. J. Simpson through the airport...oh, there I go again. Sorry. And I guess the O. J. reference is no longer a good one).
Since not all who read this see The Western Tribune, I am posting my Christmas column. After Christmas, look forward to my response to the right wing Bush lovers who wrote letters to The Tribune. I will post the letters here so you will know what we have to put up with here in Bessemer.
********The Western Tribune Column**********
During this last week before Christmas it is easy to forget what the message of Christmas is, with last minute shopping and festive parties to attend.
Peace on earth. Good will toward men (and presumably women, as well).
There are many for whom this message has little meaning, or for whom the message has been overshadowed by the circumstances they are in.
After the kids have unwrapped their presents and the ribbons and paper have been collected and thrown away, but before you sit down to that big dinner with the family, take time to think about the soldier standing alone in the desert in Iraq, away from his or her family, on watch with only a rifle to keep as company on Christmas day.
Think about the young mother in Zimbabwe, whose life expectancy is around 30, lying in a makeshift hospital bed, who will die on Christmas day from AIDS, leaving an orphaned daughter whose father has already died.
And think about the teenage boy in Bessemer who on Christmas day will make a decision to try crack cocaine for the first time, and whose life will be forever changed.
Where is the message of Christmas, peace and good will, for these three people and others who face loneliness and despair and hardships that few who are reading this can imagine?
I can not begin to answer for them, but for me, the message of peace and good will comes without politics or partisanship.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
St. Francis of Assisi
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Declaration of Independence
“If we are to reach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children.”
“If we really want peace in the world, let us begin by loving one another in our own families.”
“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
“I have a dream that one day…we will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Peace on earth. Goodwill to all.”
The Angel of Bethlehem
Friday, December 21, 2007
Here are more clues as to where we are. A giveaway clue is at the end.
The picture below is of a Joshua Tree. The Joshua tree is to this high desert ecosystem what the saguaro cactus is to the deserts of Arizona. Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Western Screech Owls and other birds make their homes in the trees. Desert Woodrats and Antelope Ground Squirrels live nearby.
We stayed in the desert until sunset, and it was stunning.
In the valley between mountain ranges the wind always blows, sometimes hard enough that it affects your driving. They take advantage of this source of energy with these windmills, hundreds, if not thousands, of them, producing energy for the region.
Here is some information about the windmills, which produce enough energy to power the whole city of Palm Springs according to this site.
And the Joshua Tree National Park is another natural wonder that is worth travelling out here to see. The Park actually includes parts of two different deserts and the transition zone between them. Below 3,000 feet the Colorado Desert occupies the eastern half of the park. There are no Joshua trees in this part of the park. Higher, with elevations up to over 5,000 feet, to the west, is the Mojave Desert. Huge boulders and rock formations (of different kinds in the Colorado and Mojave sections) make for wonderful vistas driving and hiking in the park.
We were able to experience two rare events in Palm Springs. The desert city only gets about 3 inches of rain a year, and last night it rained. We were indoors at the time, and not even aware of it, but it washes the dust away and everything looks clean and new this morning.
The other rare event occured around 4 in the morning a couple of days ago. A 4.0 earthquake, mild by California standards, rocked Big Bear to our north. We felt it, but fell back asleep so it wasn't really that big a deal.
There is so much beauty and diversity in our country, and this area showcases some of the best. From this valley, palm lined canyons and snow capped mountains are all around. What a place.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Where in the world are we?
What does the snow in this stump remind you of?
Finally, decode the Christmas message in this photo, taken about three blocks from where we are staying.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Oh well, just headlines today.
In Bessemer news, from the Birmingham Business Journal, former revenue director Ryan Rancher has been charged with fraud and theft. Seems there is a lot of that going on around Bessemer.
From the Des Moines Register, an endorsement for Hillary Clinton.
I'm sure you know that by now. Also, Ann Lewis was here at a reception in Mountain Brook for Hillary, well atttended. Read in The Birmingham News.
And if you just want to poke fun at dubya, go here to see the latest talking action figure.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Al Gore (the Nobel laureate) is acting as peacemaker at the U. N. climate conference in Bali, where European Union nations are threatening to boycott an upcoming meeting in the U. S. unless the Bush administration agrees to a compromise regarding reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Without repeating all the numbers here, European nations and others want numerical goals as reference points in curbing global warming. The U. S. refuses to accept the goals, instead just promoting a program that encourages nationally determined voluntary cutbacks.
Gore is urging the delegations to reach a consensus even if it means putting aside specific goals for emissions cuts.
Meanwhile in Denmark, Bjorn Lomborg, a leader of the "climate change contrarians" as they are being called, is claiming that global warming isn't a big threat and that the proposed treaties and carbon emission cuts would cost a lot but provide little help.
"Contrarians," to me is a strange little word that sounds like it should come from "Lord of the Rings" or "Star Wars" or some other fantasy that has a dark side.
I like NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt's response to the contrarians, "Their claim that debate is being stifled has the same credibility as members of the Flat Earth Society complaining about the round Earth mafia."
I first saw Lomborg a month or so ago on "Real Time with Bill Maher" as his book, "Cool It - The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming," was being released. You sort of get the idea that he is most interested in selling books rather than in putting a halt to progressive policies that might help the planet. I mean, he agrees that humans are responsible for climate change and that the threat of rising sea levels is real. He just says lets not do anything about it.
I don't have a problem with him urging leaders to address the problems of AIDS or malnutrition, but Bjorn, we are big guys...we can multi-task.
Take Bangladesh for example.
Which would be better?
a. Reducing poverty such that the populace can afford to better feed themselves only to face the disasterous effects of mass migrations along with flooding and loss of farmland when sea levels rise (one of many links that provide this information ).
b. Reducing poverty such that the populace can afford to better feed themselves and at the same time address climate change with policies that prevent the rise in sea level that will bring such disaster to the country, so that millions of people do not become refugees and can continue to live and farm on their own land.
"The one meter sea level rise generally predicted if no action is taken about global warming will inundate more than 15 percent of Bangladesh, displacing more than 13 million people and cut into the crucial rice crop". That is from the link cited above.
But the contrarians (be very careful...we have one here in our own city of Bessemer) don't care. I mean, if we were to get serious about cutting emissions that might mean we would require less oil, and if we required less oil, who would we go to war against? I think it's OK to lump the contrarians and the war for oil guys together. Let's give them a name...how about...republicans???
And I haven't even even mentioned Story 3 , an article headlined "2007 may be one of warmest years," which states "Within the last 30 years, the rate of warming is about three times greater than the rate of warming since 1900," according to Jay Lawrimore, chief of the climate monitoring branch of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.
Contrarians, you will lose this battle. The world does have a future.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Prediction # 2. Alan Keyes has filed papers and announced he is running for President.
Remember Alan, he's the guy who called Mary Cheney a selfish hodonist.
Actually he didn't say that, he just agreed when asked the question by Michelangelo Signorile.
Mike Signorile: "So Mary Cheney is a selfish hedonist, is that it?"
Alan Keyes: "Of course she is. That goes by definition. Of course she is."
Anyway, back to the prediction. Alan Keyes will not win the presidency.
But I was sure surprised to hear Keyes' voice during the republican debate yesterday. I admit, I didn't listen to more than 15 minutes of it while driving home and then fixing my lunch, but I did see Keyes standing up on the stage with the rest of the stooges.
I still stand by that prediction: Alan Keyes will not win the presidency.
ButI learned long ago not to make bold predictions on politics or Auburn football, because one can never be sure how an election or a game against Georgia (or Mississippi State) will turn out.
But the article in the Birmingham News by Phillip Rawls today (for which there is no link at this moment) about Ron Sparks joining the Hillary Campaign makes me think that Clinton could do much better in the south, including Alabama, than people think.
While Lucy Baxley had her comments about Hillary used against her as being "too liberal for Alabama," Sparks is being pragmatic in endorsing Clinton with the hopes that after she is elected she will work with him (as commissioner of Agriculture) and the people of Alabama. He says he feels a connection with Senator Clinton, but has had the opposite reaction from the president and his agriculture secretary. "I've seen no respect," Sparks says.
There is no question that Sparks has been one of the most effective and most influential commissioners of agriculture our state has had, and this carries over to national recognition as he will become president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture in June 2008.
Maybe I will meet Ron Sparks this weekend, as we will be attending a private reception with Ann Lewis (former White House Communications Director and Senior Advisor to Hillary Clinton for President), in support of Hillary. Ann Lewis has a long list of credentials and accomplishements, summed up here (wiki). She also happens to be the sister of U. S. Congressman Barney Frank. It promises to be an interesting afternoon.
Hillary could surprise a lot of people in this state, because as it becomes more apparent that her leadership, experience and knowledge are what is needed to return America to it's position of leadership in the world, and to move our country forward on the issues that are important to us, then more Alabamians will fill in the little circle by her name (and in District 7, by my name as well, as a delegate to the convention) in February...and again in November.
Saturday will be a busy day, though, as we have three more events that evening: a Christmas Around the World party, a party congratulating a friend who is receiving his PhD from UAB in Public Health, and the Bessemer Historical Homeowner's Association Christmas Party at Hillcrest Manor. Here is more about the home from the BHHA site.
And for today...my last final exam for this semester!!!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Jay Zwally is a NASA climate scientist, who also said, "At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions."
Read the story here on aol news. Now I know that anecdotal reports and individual events can not by themselves prove global warming to be a fact. But here it is 78 degrees in the middle of December and dry as a bone. The picture in The Birmingham News this morning of a sunbather at Oak Mountain State Park tells the story of the bigger picture of climate change that the vast majority of real scientists know to be fact.
Just think, if one of the Republican planet haters gets elected president, by the time their term ends, the Arctic ice could be no more. From 2008 to 2012, while they would continue to refuse to admit our country's (and our species') part and ignore steps that should be taken to help our planet, the Arctic (along with Alaska and Greenland...see the article) would be melting.
The republicans don't care about our planet. The rest of the world doesn't count to them. Oh, unless they have oil.
They care about two things: money and power. And to control those things, they only use one tactic: fear.
Fear of terror . But as we have seen this week and last, terror from abroad is not what affects us, or what we should fear. Terror from deranged U. S. citizens at shopping malls and churches and universities is much more likely to affect us than a foreign born agent slipping in to the country.
Fear of immigrants. Just listen to the hateful rhetoric from republican presidential candidates about illegal immigration.
Fear of the gay community. Although gay people have been a part of world history since Socrates (yes) and a part of our history since the time of Johnny Appleseed (no, but read Frontiers by Michael Jenson...I have the book if you want to borrow it), now the thought of "Adam and Steve" living happily together or fighting to protect our country is supposed to scare people into voting to preserve bigotry and keep them in power.
Fear of Hillary. There is a debate today (1:00 central time on CNN and others, the Dems debate tomorrow)of Republican candidates, if it the debates of the past are any indication, Hillary's name will be mentioned more than any thing else. They are scared of her because she is a woman. They are scared of her because she is a leader. They are scared of her because she is right. They are scared of her because she represents the truth.
Here is what we should really fear. The remaining 405 days of the Bush presidency. I addressed this in my Western Tribune column this week, and here it is. For those who want to wait and read it in the newspaper at home by the fireplace (it's too hot to be building a fire) this evening, stop now. There is nothing after the Tribune column (till someone posts comments).
There are just a little more than 400 days left in the Bush administration, but I am not sure the country can stand the rest of his term.
I worry about the children that have been learning about our government with him as their role model over the last few years.
The latest and possibly the most egregious thing the president has done is his handling of the intelligence concerning Iran and its nuclear capabilities.
Last week we learned that the president knew that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program as early as August, but continued to use harsh language in what appeared to be a run-up to war. This is similar to the way he deceived the American people in the run-up to the war in Iraq in 2002 and 2003.
Is George W. Bush three years old? He made an excuse for not changing his tone by saying “nobody ever told me” to change the rhetoric about Iran. That sounds like something one of my kids would have said when they were toddlers being scolded for something they did.
Just as disturbing is that Iran actually halted the program in 2003, and it took our intelligence community 4 years to realize it and report it in the National Intelligence Estimate.
Now in what could be an effort to shift attention from his mishandling of the Iran situation, Bush has sent a letter to Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader that Bush once called a “pygmy,” asking for full disclosure of the dictator’s nuclear programs. But isn’t this the guy that Bush for years has refused to even recognize, much less communicate directly with?
Bush is taking the advice of Democratic presidential candidates who in debates have urged dialogue and diplomacy with our enemies. Only by talking with our enemies (which in the case of the Middle East are difficult to separate from our allies) can we reach peaceful solutions to the multitude of problems that confront us in the world’s hot spots.
While I must support the diplomatic effort the president has put forth regarding North Korea, I have to wonder why we should expect the leaders of that country and others to believe he is sincere. The world knows this administration deceived them (and us) about Iraq, and now can clearly see he was trying to do the same with Iran.
Why trust him now?
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Time to do something here folks. And look for an announcement from the Bessemer Neighborhood Association soon about a new series of meetings beginning in January that will allow citizens to address their city leaders in a new and different way.
I promise there are no pictures to go with the Mike Huckabee story.
This story comes from several sources, including the National Review and Michelangelo Signorile’s The Gist. Also, I heard Signorile talking about it on his radio show yesterday afternoon on Sirius OutQ. The Gist gives a link to this New York Times article about the story as well.
By now everyone has heard about Wayne DuMond, the Arkansas rapist released from prison by Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who later went on to sexually assault and murder another woman. Does anyone one remember Willie Horton? 1988? If you are too young to remember, just google his name.
“Dear Wayne,” Huckabee wrote in a letter to Dumond. “My desire is that you be released from prison. I feel that parole is the best way for your reintroduction to society to take place.” This, after Jay D. Cole, a Baptist minister and friend of Huckabee, had counseled DuMond in prison and reported the rapist had found God.
Anyway, seems that prior to his imprisonment, when DuMond was awaiting trial and free on bond, two men broke into his home and castrated him after tying him up with fishing line. According to one source (the one listed below) they raped him. Did they act on the local sheriff’s orders?
The sheriff, Coolidge Conlee, must have thought that was pretty cool at the least because he displayed the testicles for a while in a jar of formaldehyde on his desk. “That’s what happens to people who fool around in my county”, he said. (this site)
OK, reports here differ, but my understanding is that he later gave the testicles to the parents of the girl that was raped…as some kind of testament to the type of justice that was being offered.
It was also reported that the testicles disappeared, hence the “missing testicles’ reference. But what I heard is that they were flushed down the toilet. By the girl’s father? I don’t know.
Anyway, DuMond won $110,000 judgment against the sheriff, presumably for his role in the castration.
The sheriff later was convicted of extortion and other crimes (in another case) and sentenced to jail where he died of natural causes. DuMond died in prison of natural causes as well, in 2005.
I can't say too much because I am sitting here in Alabama, but remember this was in Arkansas.
What is bothersome about this, other than at home castrations and parading souvenir nuts around in a jar, (and about a hundred other things), is that Huckabee and others at the time wanted this guy released because of his religious conversion or whatever. Hey, religious people commit crimes all around us...pastors and priests and lay people, without the benefit of being in prison, so what makes you think that a prisoner who "finds Jesus" is less likely to commit crimes upon his release than had he not "found Jesus."
Not that I have anything against ministering to prisoners or doing what ever can be done to make that person behind bars a better person (including the 126 from Bessemer in the county jails). I think that regardless of the situation one is in, if that person's life is improved, it improves the overall quality of humankind on earth (that world karma thing again). But don't let a rapist or murderer out of prison because he or she has "found the Lord." The Lord wasn't lost to begin with, and God doesn't need to be drug into the mess that the Arkansas parole board and then Governor Mike Huckabee created.
Of course Huckabee says he did not release the guy, but there was a secret closed door meeting of the parole board where some believe he pressured the board into releasing DuMond. Huckabee denies this, and denies he was soft on the death penalty, “Heck, I executed more people than any governor in the history of the state,” Byron York reports in the Nation Review article.
And this guy is soaring in the polls and could end up in the White House? Lord help us.
Monday, December 10, 2007
If only Oprah were running for president. Then the crowds that are filling auditoriums in Iowa and stadiums in South Carolina might mean something.
Oh sure, there will be some who come to see Oprah that might remember that one of her "favorite things" is running for president, and he is "the reason for the (election) season".
Of course maybe some who come to see her, uh, him, are not that interested in politics anyway, but after listening to Oprah they might get "engaged" and turn out to vote or caucus, so Obama probably will get a few votes from Oprah followers.
But Oprah's experience with crowds and with influencing people do not make up for Obama's lack of experience in global politics and foreign policy. Hillary Clinton wins that issue hands down, and when it comes down to it, voters should realize the importance of having a president that can play on the world stage. And of course Clinton has her own superstar campaign aide that can draw even bigger crowds than Oprah. Bill!?
Obama's lack of experience is no where near republican Mike Huckabee's however. His lack of awareness regarding the National Intelligence Estimate that was released last week for over 24 hours reveals that he just isn't on top of things like a president should be. What a disaster a a president Huckabee would be.
And Huckabee's comments about AIDS 15 years ago, when it was certainly known that HIV was not spread by casual contact shows that he either was not up to date on the current knowledge of AIDS and HIV then, or he was playing to the homophobic and hateful religious right of 1992. He advocated quarantine for those infected with the HIV virus. Listening to his explanation of his comments yesterday, I guess he still plays to the homophobic crowd, but after all he is a Southern Baptist preacher.
So since someone made a (probably sarcastic) comment about the pictures of flowers I sometimes put on here, I will share some more. Camellias are in bloom, and I am waiting on one to bloom that we trimmed back severely a couple of years ago that usually blooms right around Christmas, and is just now about to bloom again. Until then, we enjoy this one on the other side of the house.
Here's a picture of the flower...really brightening up the Christmas season with some natural outdoor color.
Friday, December 7, 2007
The good is the Guest Editorial by Priscilla Dunn, our representative to the Alabama House of Representatives. In this week's issue, she writes in support of the plan to expand the Alabama pre-kindergarten program.
I am assuming her facts are true (she is not employed by the newspaper). Dunn writes that "children that attend a quality pre-k are less likely to repeat a grade, less likely to require special education classes, and more likely to graduate from high school." Sounds like a wish list for Bessemer education, doesn't it.
Pre-k in Alabama is entirely voluntary, and some parents say that a public program for four year olds infringes on the family. Apparently they don't understand the definition of the word "voluntary."
Now governor Riley is promoting a plan to expand the program (story)from the current level of around 2300 to around 21,000 kids. He says the legislature has to find a way to fund it and the money would come from the Education Trust Fund. Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the AEA (and sort of the real governor of the state, but that's another story), says the governor needs to find another source of funding.
Huh? This is education. It makes education in Alabama more effective. Test scores will go up. Why should it not be funded out of the Education Trust Fund?
*faults such as hypocrisy.
For instance criticizing "stupid, idiotic,...anti-gun crazies..." on the editorial page while running a front page story headlined "Described as 'good person,' local man killed in Bessemer." The story relates how bullets were fired from a passing car leaving Timothy Horton dead. Something doesn't add up there. On the editorial page he is promoting the very gun ownership that allowed Horton to be killed.
Oh, here is the rest of Dale Jones' description, "...these stupid, idiotic, tree hugging, pro-government, global warming, anti-war, anti-life, anti-gun crazies are openly trying to run this country into the ground." I think he would include me in that group, except I I am not sure what "anti-life" means. And the country has already been run into the ground by the republican administration!
So Jones must be anti-environment and conservation (like Rush Limbaugh), anti-government (Dale this will get you in trouble with Dick Cheney!), pro-war , pro-life (except when it comes to government sanctioned killing... both in "wars" and in regards to the death penalty), pro-gun (like the killers of Timothy Horton).
I know that Jones and a couple dozen other people still support the war and the president, but I am so glad that there are only 410 more days until inauguration day.
Nothing, I mean, nothing could be worse than having this administration remain in power more than one day longer than necessary. Every day I become more disgusted at the president, and I am even trying to avoid listening to him. But his lies about Iran are so blatant that he is having difficulty trying to hop, skip and jump his way through it.
That's enough rambling for today. I have a take home final I need to work on. More about Bush later.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
And Dale (who yesterday claimed he never called my blog illegitimate in a comment he posted on Dec 4 blog) tells me that The Western Star did have a reporter at the council meetings, and I need to get my facts straight. Let's see, that's two mistakes for me, 8,764 for him. Just a joke.
I got to thinking about the $52,000 reserve the mayor says the city has after the payments. That's not much for a city to have in the bank, and it won't come close to paying Herman Lehman what the city is going to owe him after he wins a well deserved judgement against the mayor.
And isn't payroll coming up?
The Golden Compass (New Line Cinema) opens tomorrow here and I predict crowded theaters. There is something in this movie for everyone. Besides a fantasy story with talking animals and such,
there is the Coca Cola bear on steroids,
Nicole Kidman looking marvelous,
and Daniel Craig looking...well...the only bad thing is that he doesn't have a lot of screen time in the movie (neither does Nicole, by the way).
There are those who claim this movie is anti-Christian or anti-religion. No more so than, say, invading another country under false pretenses or lying about the nuclear capabilities of another middle eastern country to promote another unjust war.
People need to worry more about the message our children are receiving from the current administration than what they will see on this silver screen. Children and their parents are smart enough to understand fantasy such as depicted in this movie, but the high crimes and misdemenours of the Bush/Cheney administration are real, and affect our lives and unfortunately the future of the country and the earth. In the movie, according to Christian writer Albert Mohler, "The Magisterium, representing church authority, is afraid of human freedom and seeks to repress human sexuality".
Does this not sound like the White House? Their fear of human freedom is translated into restricting our constitutional freedoms and trampling over the Bill of Rights. And they want to demonize some for their sexuality while denying their own sexual escapades (Larry Craig, Ted Haggard, for example). In fact, most of the republican party could be included in this D.C. Magisterium.
Don't be afraid of talking ferrets, a bear in armor or little girl trying to find her father...be afraid of the evil that is lurking at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. And let me know what you think of the movie.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
The Western Tribune reported this week that a deal has been struck between Bessemer’s Mayor Ed May and the City Council to approve a $25 million bond issue to complete a water project to Alabaster.
Well, the council voted Tuesday night 7-0 to do just that.
It was quite a night for the mayor. He presented three checks totaling $3.5 million to be signed and sent to the Bessemer schools getting the city caught up with its obligation.
Also, May presented his 2007-2008 budget to the council.
It calls for a spending plan of $39.4 million, up from this year’s $35.7 million.
The mayor said the budget has a $52,580 reserve.
More on all of these stories in next week's print edition of The Western Tribune.
But we live in a different time now, as Bush has often said, since 9-11. Seems we have been at war. So, from The New Yorker and Tom McNichol, here are Emoticons During Wartime: (sorry for the poor use of html...live with it)
:-) No new attacks reported today
:-( New attack reported today
=:-)= This email being monitored by Uncle Sam for your protection
:-x I'd rather not say in an e-mail that's being monitored for my protection
:-w Our current leader speaks with forked tongue
*:o) Our current leader is a Bozo
/:-=( Our current leader somewhat resembles Adolph Hitler, at least in his disregard for our civil liberties during wartime
:-o Uh-oh, what was that?
:-@ I hear screaming
B) Now donning protective goggles
.-) Good Sammy Davis Jr., movie on tonight
<-) Yes, the current conflict resembles Vietnam +<:-) Pope to make appeal for peace (:3 No, I am the walrus :(=) Interesting Jimmy Carter piece in today's Times
[:-) I'm listening to my iPod.
3:-0 Bovine encephalitis attack!
:-)8 Latest George Will column still doesn't get it
@:-[-- New Osama bin Laden message revealed
8-/ Local chemical attack causing blindness
:-# Kiss your ass goodbye
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Sounds like Dale Jones' rhetoric as Baptists in Georgia have passed a resolution stating that blogs have been used by "certain people ... for divisive and destructive rhetoric at the expense of peace among the brethren." (For those who don't know: Jones has been critical of this blog, calling it "illegitimate", "pitiful","pathetic", "a joke" and "crap.")
So what effect will this resolution have on blogging? The same as the Baptist's boycott of Disney had on that company's bottom line...none.
This is something that should concern us all during the holiday season. Seems that December and January are the deadliest months for heart disease and over-indulging at those smart holiday parties can do you in right there on the spot.
"Right away, a particularly heavy meal, especially a high-fat one, stresses the heart as it is disgested. Blood pressure and heart rate increase. There's even evidence that the lining of arteries becomes temporarily more clot-prone."
Great, one more thing to worry about when hosting a party. As if making sure that food-borne pathogens don't flourish in the items on the menu (especially those with mayo and dairy) is not a big enough worry.
"Too much salt has an even more immediate effect, causing fluid retention that in turn makes the heart have to pump harder."
Uh-oh, Cajun food for example can be loaded with salt. Especially things like Cajun Deviled Eggs and the Creole seasonings used in many of the casseroles and other dishes.
"Alcohol in moderation is considered heart healthy. But if a round of holiday parties leaves you tipsy, that, too makes your heart pump harder to get blood to peripheral arteries."
So an early party, both early in the season to avoid that cumulative effect, and early in the evening in hopes that those going to multiple events in one evening don't tip the scales at the first party they attend, is your best bet to avoid that problem.
"People say the're too busy to exercise..."
Now there is no way to shift the blame for this on to the host of a holiday party.
"Busy revelers tend to skip their medications..."
Please, take your medicine...all of it..(but no extra) before heading out to the parties.
At any rate, to my knowledge there has never been a falling out or an ambulance pick up at one of our parties and I hope it stays that way.
Besides, a Christmas party of celery and carrot sticks and granola bars just wouldn't be the same. That's reindeer food, I was brought up to believe, and we left those vegetable treats for the hooved animals and chocolate chip cookies and eggnog for the fat man in the red suit when I was a kid. And I am pretty sure he had a little alcohol when he stopped at our house on Christmas Eve as well. Now Santa still visits this house each year, so years of holiday goodies has not affected his health, I guess. Rock on, Santa.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Why doesn't Larry ("I am not gay. I never have been gay") Craig just be honest with himself and the rest of America. Well I know why. When you are that deep in the closet it is hard to see that being honest will in the long run make your life so much easier, so much more peaceful.
Eight more men have come forward who were targeted by Craig for sex or actually had sexual encounters with him, according a report in The Idaho Statesman .
Included is Mike Jones, the former male prostitute who outed Rev. Ted Haggard. Mike gets around, doesn't he?
You know, it really doesn't matter who is having sex with who. It is the hypocrisy that is is doing Larry Craig in. His high profile anti-gay record and votes in the Senate don't play well when he's out there ...well, read the report above and you will know exactly what he did and can even see how he felt guilty with himself, becoming agitated after at least one encounter.
And then there is Mitt Romney. There was a debate question last week about "Don't Ask Don't Tell, and Romney really made a fool of himself flip flopping on that answer. Here is Anderson Cooper asking Romney a question (later removed from the CNN re-broadcasts).
COOPER: [Former Massachusetts] Governor [Mitt] Romney, you said in 1994 that you looked forward to the day when gays and lesbians could serve, and I quote, "openly and honestly in our nation's military." Do you stand by that?
ROMNEY: This isn't that time. This is not that time. We're in the middle of a war. The people who have watched --
COOPER: Do you look forward to that time, though, one day?
ROMNEY: I'm going to listen to the people who run the military to see what the circumstances are like, and my view is that, at this stage, this is not the time for us to make that kind of a change.
COOPER: Is that a change in your position from --
ROMNEY: Yeah, I didn't think it would work. I didn't think "don't ask, don't tell" would work. That was my -- I didn't think that would work. I thought that was a policy -- when I heard about it, I laughed. I said, "That doesn't make any sense to me." And you know what? It's been there now for, what, 15 years? It seems to have worked.
COOPER: So, just so I'm clear, at this point, do you still look forward to a day when gays can serve openly in the military or no longer?
ROMNEY: I look forward to hearing from the military exactly what they believe is the right way to have the right kind of cohesion and support in our troops, and I'll listen to what they have to say.
How can you go from "looking forward" to the day when gays and lesbians can serve to believing equality is not important enough to think about changing the policy because we are in a war. Oh, I know. Because then you can say that the day will never come because we are in a war (on terror) that can never end?
And the policy "works?" When over 12,000 men and women have been expelled from the military solely because they are gay? Yet it's OK to be in gay and be in the military...until you reveal you are gay. Or, as Larry Craig might say (because of his experience there) "as long as you stay in the closet." (Not that he said that, but it is the way he is thinking).
Here is a picture by chip py the photo guy along with others. The 12,000 flags were placed there, as I said the other day, in homor of the 12,000 service men and women who have been discharged because of their sexuality.
Mitt Romney ... discovering that if you run too fast in flip flops you will trip!