The Year of Moving Forward

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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Democrats: A Call to Action

This ought to fire some people up. Bob Martin, who writes “The Alabama Scene” in the Hartselle Enquirer, writes the following (The Alabama Scene):

Gov. Bob Riley wants to rid the state legislative halls of Democrats and he’s leading the charge to raise $7 million to start the job in the 2010 elections.Last Wednesday, Riley announced he will chair the fundraising campaign and has already secured the pledges of 68 people to contribute $10,000-a-year over the next four years to eradicate all those pesky “yellow dawgs” from the House and Senate chambers in Montgomery.

But Democratic Chairman Joe Turnham says that money can’t buy Alabama voters and wonders what kind of favors those who pony up the huge amounts of cash will get from the governor.“I predict these folks will become the most expensive cronies in Alabama history,” he said.And Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, the Senate’s deputy pro-tem, told a group of newspaper editors and publishers in Greenville on Friday he was dismayed by the governor’s action.“Just a few weeks ago I received a letter from Gov. Riley talking about how all of us need to work together in a bipartisan way for the benefit of the people during the upcoming legislative session. Now I read where he is leading the charge to get rid of all of us who aren’t members of his party. I am simply baffled,” Mitchell said.

The successful election of Democrat James Fields Jr in House District 12 on Tuesday (special election) indicates that the "pesky yellow dawgs" are not going to go down easy. Fields got about 59% of the vote, and will become the first black person to represent the people of the mosty white district when the state legislature convenes on Fat (Super Dooper) Tuesday (there is a lot happening that day).

Democrats have to realize that the importance of being involved does not end on Tuesday. Sleeping dawgs get snuck up on. Don't let it happen to you.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Nation, The University, The City

1. The Nation

Did you notice that I made no comments after the president’s State of the Union Address? I was just so glad that it was the very last time we have to be subjected to that type of event with him in charge.

But Tuesday night was a different story. Tuesday itself was full of Biostats and such, and I anticipated coming home to relax. (Even with two tests on Wednesday). But how can one relax when their candidate is experiencing a huge win in Florida?

No delegates for the democrats, you say? That will be argued later when the Florida Party officials are lobbying to have their delegates credentialed. No, this vote was very important because of this >>> The candidates did not campaign in Florida…but Florida voters are not without televisions, computers or newspapers. They are well aware of the bickering between the candidates, the media bias, and of Barack’s big win in South Carolina. And they still are giving Hillary a 17% win, with 50% of the vote.

The Floridians had the same amount of candidate contact that most of the Super Dooper Tuesday voters will have. We for the most part, across the 24 states, have to depend on media reports…and word of mouth from friends and neighbors. We will not have candidate saturation like South Carolina had. People interviewed from Florida said that is what they did, and they propelled Hillary Clinton to a huge victory. And as a result, she got great air play from her win and her speech last night.

I just learned that John Edwards has dropped out of the race. It is hard to judge who this will help, the "white" vote might go to Clinton, the "anti-Clinton" vote will go to Barack, some will stay home (but come back out to vote in November). But it does mean we will have a one on one debate tomorrow night between just Barack and Hillary.

2. The University

UAB had a “Free Food For Thought” yesterday, a forum in which students, faculty and anyone else can come and get free food in exchange for participating in a round (rectangle) – table discussion. This month’s topic was “Is UAB Committed to Diversity?” On the flyer above the word “diversity” was a rainbow colored graphic, and also a collage of diversity was pictured. UAB does mention sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy.

The event took place in the Ryals Building which houses the School of Public Health, so it was easy for me to attend. The School was well represented, but there were also students and staff from the School of Medicine, undergraduate, the radio station and more.

One important point brought up is that the appearance of diversity does not indicate diversity in reality. The student who mentioned this used the Bush administration as an example, but even among the public health students this was noted. We are probably the most diverse School on campus, attracting students from around the world, with many students from various African countries along with India, Iran, Bangladesh and more. We are represented by Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Christians and more. Sexual orientation is understood (as presented in various classes) as a part of the normal spectrum of people.

So I was surprised to hear my fellow students voice opinions that did not reflect this. Too much Christianity an American said. Too much gathering of Indians with Indians and Blacks with Blacks and Whites with Whites in the hallways, another said. Yet another public health student said the biostats all hang together, the epi people all hang and the maternal and child health people do the same.

My feeling is that none of that reflects the University’s commitment to diversity, rather the natural tendency of people to associate with people like themselves.

But I was able to bring up an issue that reflects the University’s lack of commitment, or at least their lack of realization that they are breaking their own anti-discrimination policy by refusing to offer benefits (insurance) to same sex (or opposite sex) unmarried partners of employees who are insured. A commitment to diversity should include all people and treating all people equally.

Don’t let UAB tell you they can not do that because the administrator of their plan does not offer it. I am not sure if Blue Cross Blue Shield is the administrator of their (self insure) plan or not, but regardless, other “self insures” like Wachovia, RBC Bank, and Southern Progress offer such benefits, and I think they are administered by BC/BS. Correct me if I am wrong.

Then others like Terry Kellogg from BC/BS who spoke at the Over The Mountain Democrat forum a couple of weeks ago say economics will not allow it, but that is a fallacy. Studies show that costs are less for most same sex couples because most of them do not incur health care costs for things like pregnancies and childbirths.

What’s in it for UAB if they offer insurance benefits? Many top professors and research scientists overlook UAB for this reason. They may not be gay themselves, but they want to work in a place that offers equality. Some probably realize that if one group is discriminated against, it might not belong before another will be.

I made those points in about four sentences, and no one else commented on it, but I did notice some nods from some faculty types that were there. And sexual orientation was mentioned by a couple of other people as being a part of diversity.

All in all the forum was worthwhile and the food (Mexican) was good.

3. The (little) City

Bessemer is trying its best to become "Little Birmingham." (not to be confused with the liquor store by the same name on the outskirts of Panama City Beach that was the first stop on the beach road for our family vacations when I was growing up!)

I mean, here is Bessemer about to turn control of their water filtration plant over to an outside agancy with no control reserved for the city, like the Birmingham Water Works, sort of. Then, last night at a Council meeting during which the public turned out to voice concerns, Mayor Ed May, Council President Jesse Matthews, Councilors Dorothy Davidson and Earl Cochran, and others, put on an embarrasing display of childish behavoior, arguing and raising their voices until finally the meeting was adjourned having accomplished nothing.

I take that back. Something was accomplished. Information that I learned at the Bessemer Neighborhood Association meeting Monday was released. $3 million or so is missing. This is bond money that during Quitman Mitchell's administration was supposedly placed in irrevocable trust to draw interest to later pay on the $56 million bond issue that GUSC has only been making interest payments on. Money that was to be used now, or in 2009, to make the principle payment that everybody is worried about.

Those of us who wonder why only interest has been paid also wonder where the $3 million went. We do have copies of a resolution from 2000 which authorized GUSC to make "the first four payments of the $3.7 million from GUSC" to "the City of Bessemer General Fund..."

Alice Martin where are you?

Monday, January 28, 2008

State of the Union, and a Couple of Notes

Bessemer readers: There is an important meeting tonight at 7:00 at Broken Vessel Church on Dartmouth Avenue regarding the proposal to authorize GUSC (Governmental Utilities Service Coprporation)to buyout the contract that the city has with Covanta to manage our water plant. There are problems with this proposal. One is that the GUSC board is autonomous with the exception of their appointment by the council. In other words, no oversight. Can you say "Absolute authority?" Can you say "Birmingham Water Works?" Come learn what is going on in your city. The meeting is sponsored by the Bessemer Neighborhood Association.

Animal lovers: Columnist Scott Ostler: "Michael Vick, serving a 23-month prison sentence, will enroll in a drug-treatment program that can reduce the sentence of nonviolent offenders by as much as one year. Our family dog Petey just asked me to explain to him the part about 'nonviolent offenders.'" (Seen in The Birmingham News Sports Page "Fun Buzz." Our dog wonders where's the "fun" in that buzz?)

U. S. Citizens: Tonight president Bush gives his State of the Union Address. I write about this in The Western Tribune this week, citing this poll, that was taken just last week. The headline from the web page is:

"State of the Union Rated Poorly by 4 out of 5 Americans Four in Five Also Say Strengthening the Economy is Going Poorly"

But our state of the union is really demonstrated in a song by Pink and the Indigo Girls, and (like last week) I am posting 2 videos.

Dear Mr. President.

And here is the other.

We know that Bush and company lied 935 times.

Lets see how many we can catch him in tonight. And will Dennis Kucinich file for impeachment of the president by the time Bush speaks tonight? That was the rumor last week.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

South Carolina Votes

And a South Carolinian speaks.

Ann is a friend of mine since college, and she now lives in South Carolina and reads Bessemer Opinions. She sent me a message this week about the candidates in her state, and gave me permission to share it. Here is her picture and her message.

I had a great time today listening to Hillary explain her plans for the economy. Earlier this week, I heard Barack speak. I have nothing against Barack and will certainly support him if he wins the nomination but . . . Hillary was impressive, especially when she answered questions. Her plans for the economy are specific, detailed and reasonable. (published today on her website) She was able to field any and all questions with in-depth knowledge and plans for handling all issues - coal lobbyists, social security, medicaid health coverage for children adopted from foreign countries (right now there is a 2 year wait), securing borders, electric cars . . . You name it and she handled it. I came away very impressed.

Barack gave his normal very rousing speech and generated a great deal of excitement but then answered only 4 questions and had a great deal of trouble with 2 questions, one about farm subsidies and one about insurance coverage for mental health patients. I think this was largely due to the fact that he was obviously exhausted, but again, I just think Hillary can handle it.

I hope we can have a 16 year dynasty and I have the opportunity to vote for Barack in 8 years.

By the way, I was just on CNN! woo hoo! It's fun to be in SC right now!!

I am sure Ann is not as excited now, as Barack Obama has been declared the winner (with 0% of the vote counted) and Hillary Clinton is taking second place. But remember, Ann says what I have said as well. Democrats like us will support Obama just as strongly should he get the nomination, and most democrats I have heard feel the same way.

A reader wanted to know my thoughts about the race, and race. I can see where the media focus on race would turn voters off, but hopefully they are like me and it just turns them off from listening to the news, and not from voting. Obviously it didn't turn the people away from the polls in South Carolina as turnout looks to be huge (especially when compared to the Republicans).

I predict the campaigns (who knows about the media, they are less predictable) will be less focused on race this week as we approach Super Dooper Tuesday, and I would really be surprised if we know the Democratic nominee after that day. But back to race. I am convinced that race is becoming less important to the voters in spite of the media. When you look at the numbers of white voters who voted for Barack, and the number of black voters who voted for Hillary it seems that both candidates appeal to both races. And if that can happen in South Carolina, it could happen anywhere. Even in Alabama.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Wrap Up

Alice Martin has been busy. The U. S. attorney was in Bessemer last night. No, not rooting out corruption in the city government or indicting more pastors, but speaking at the Bessemer Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet.

As Martin came to the lecturn she said she had a little throat problem and a Bessemer City Council person had given her a cough drop. She said she thought it was OK to take it, but she wouldn't trust it if had come from the Birmingham City Council. Federal humor.

Prior to speaking in Bessemer she was holding a press conference in which she announced former two year college chancellor Roy Johnson agreed to a plea deal and to cooperate and that the investigation will now focus on legislators and state school board members.

I wonder who has the jitters this morning? I mean, those who are guilty know it.

She may return to Bessemer however, because the Bessemer City council voted this week unanimously to have an audit of the city finances. I have not yet received word as to who will do the audit, but I did hear from two of the council persons last night that another council person wants to "rescind" the vote and appoint a different accountant to perform the audit.

First of all, can you "rescind" a resolution vote? I don't think so.

Second, think of the reasons a council person might want to change accountants. That's what I thought. So it looks like somebody's got something to hide.

As far as accounting for the city finances, I say the sooner the better and let the chips fly.

And I just have to comment on presidential politics beginning with the Republican debate last night. The quacky moment just had to be when Mike Huckabee suggested that Saddam's (fictitious) weapons of mass destruction might be in Jordan. What a way to make friends in the region. Ignore the really crazy countries and pick on Jordan.

And Rudy dissing the New York Times after they endorsed his rival John McCain. Giuliani's poll numbers continue to fall...remember, Rudy, a lot of those Florida voters moved there from New York. They remember you. Contrary to how he feels, Rudy Can Fail...unlike the message in this song from The Clash:

If you want to hear a better version of the song, listen to this live version by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros a few years after he left The Clash.

Which version do you like?

They also endorsed Hillary Clinton, their real choice, even over McCain, since they said this about the candidates:

"We have strong disagreements with all the Republicans running for president. The leading candidates have no plan for getting American troops out of Iraq. They are too wedded to discredited economic theories and unwilling even now to break with the legacy of President Bush. We disagree with them strongly on what makes a good Supreme Court justice."

Well said.

Tomorrow will be an interesting day in South Carolina.

Monday: State of the Union.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dominionism...and Heath Ledger

Coincidence is not the word. Ironic is not the word. Strange could be the word.

Anyway, sort of funny definately describes The Western Tribune endorsing Mike Huckabee in the Republican primary and on the same page printing my anti-endorsement of Huckabee. The Tribune also endorsed my candidate, Hillary Clinton, for the Democratic nod.

My concern is Huckabee's dominionist leanings, more of which I will address later in this post. And Heath Ledger too.

First, here is the column, for those who have not read it. The parts in blue were edited (for space I am sure) from my orginal copy:

This week we celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but this follows two weeks in which his legacy and accomplishments have been overshadowed by media reaction to comments made by presidential hopefuls in the Democratic race.

I say media reaction because it is utterly ridiculous to believe that Bill or Hillary Clinton would discredit Dr. King, or that Barack Obama would lack any understanding of the important roles that both Dr. King and President Johnson had in advancing the cause of civil rights.

Why the media made such an issue of this and ignored what Republican candidate Mike Huckabee said about our constitution is beyond me. Speaking to an audience in Michigan, Huckabee said the following.
"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family."

Thomas Jefferson must have been spinning in his grave after that remark.

A public information project at Cornell University called Theocracy Watch documents the rise of the Religious Right beginning right after Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964. That may sound like old history to some but the Republican Party has not always been controlled by Christian fundamentalists.

It is not evangelical Christians that we should worry about if we love our country. It is Dominionists such as Pat Robertson, Roy Moore, Phyllis Schlafly and Mike Huckabee, who seek control of this country in ways that the founding fathers never dreamed of.

Dominion theology holds the belief that society should be governed by the word of God as set forth in the Bible to the exclusion of secular law.

Were he alive today, Dr. King would find many ways in which we have yet to achieve the dream. I am sure he would find that replacing our Constitution with “God’s standards” would result in more of a barrier to reaching his goal than achieving it.

God may be all powerful but he certainly does not depend on the human lust for power under the guise of Christianity to demonstrate it. What these Dominionists actually demonstrate is both a lack of understanding of the supremacy of God, and a total misinterpretation of the principles upon which our country was founded. And what we do not need is a Dominionist as president.

Dominionism. It should scare the hell out of you. Theocracy Watch, which I mention in the column, is a wealth of information. There are buttons to the left of the page that direct you various topics, but I am going to put links here to some highlights.

Here is Taking over the Republican Party and here is Bush.

There are several pictures like this one that show Bush in messianic situations.

Does that not make you cringe?

There is a page on homophobia, as well as one on the war against women.

There is a lot more, and this is not some fly by night anti-christian's from Cornell University.

I will get slammed for this, but dominionism as described is more of a threat to our society than any radical Islamic fundamentalism. I mean, this is from within. They are over there. Who's gonna get you first?

And to show how wacky and depraved some of these people are:

You have Fox's John Gibson mocking Heath Ledger after he was found dead.

You have "Christians" planning to protest his funeral, not because he is gay (he is not) but because he played a gay cowboy in a movie.

You have "Christians" saying God struck him dead for the same reason.

You have "Christians" saying he killed himself because of his shame after playing a gay peson.

You have someone on TV (I couldn't get to the TV in time to see who said it, but I heard it) saying he killed himself because he watched the Democratic Presidential debate Monday night.

And this is a religion (and a party) that wants people to embrace their principles? If this kind of rhetoric does not drive people from the Christian church, I don't know what will.

OK, I know I am painting the Christian church with a broad brush, but isn't that what people do with Islam? To the world, this is what the Christian church in America looks like, intolerant and foolish. And notice, I did not say the Christian Faith, because that is a far cry from the Christian church of today.

You know, I think the more proper way to acknowledge Heath Ledger is to appreciate the body of work that he produced. Brokeback Mountain will be playing this weekend on the big screen in this house. And we might watch A Knight's Tale, too.

Here is a tribute you can watch right now.

In the meantime, watch your back. The Dominionists are out to get you.

We will miss you, Heath.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Back on Track

One more day like yesterday and I will...well, I guess I will miss another day of blogging. but school is pretty much a priority these days, and biostatistics...

There are in fact two things: science and opinion. One begats knowledge, the latter ignorance.
- Hippocrates

I wonder where I fall in there, since I often write opinions about science. Hmmm.

Barack Obama was critical during Monday's debate of Hillary Clinton for sitting on the board of directors of Walmart back when the company really did sell products "Made in America" and before Walmart came under fire for things like mis-treating employees and mis-labeling food as being organic when it is not.

Of course he didn't bring up that his wife Michelle resigned less than a year ago from the board of directors of Treehouse Foods, Inc., whose largest customer is Walmart which accounts for over 16% of its sales. She resigned immediately after Senator Obama made a speech critical of Walmart and its anti-union policies. I guess she felt the heat since Treehouse doesn't have the best reputation regarding pickle plants and low paid Hispanic workers.

But in defense of both women, maybe sitting on the board of a corporation is one way to bring positive change to a company. I mean, blaming directors is not unlike faulting progressive democrats in congress who can't get legislation passed because of the neocons in power, which was especially the case before the 2006 elections.

I guess that the Romney campaign is desperate to show some humor, so that their candidate can be proven not to be robot, but does this do it? Here son Matt Romeny plays a little jokle on his dad.

Are you laughing? Will candiate Mitt be laughing after the Republican primary in Florida where recent polls show him neck in neck with John McCain? (Leaving poor Rudy out)

In today's Birmingham News is a political cartoon by Walt Handelsman of Newsday.

But I wonder...somewhere between the Hillary Haters and the Independents and Moderates, should there be a cut of racists? Or are they distributed throughout all the divisions of the party? Regardless, we have heard for years about the differing factions of the democratic party, gays here, African Americans there, Hollywood liberals way over there, northern elitists running the party, progressive evangelicals not being heard, working class being our ass, uh, donkey could be cut up in a similar manner. But when it comes down to it, all indications are that in spite of the expected bickering between candidates, after the convention the Democrats and progressive independents and moderate republicans will come together to support whoever the Democratic candidate is.

There is an interesting story in the New Yorker that starts out:

Who, speaking last week, made the following statement: "Enough is enough. More people need to be willing to step up and say, 'Let's do something about this.' That's how change will be made."

Think you know the answer? Wrong, It wasn't Barack or Hillary. It was April White, a massage therapist from Clermont Florida who in 2003 purchased a set of 800 count sheets from Bed Bath and Beyond in Birmingham, AL, and making a long story short, had them examined by a forensic textile lab (who knew?) only to find they "were, in facts, mere 408s."

To make a longer story even shorter, if the judge approves, April will recieve $2500, and her attorneys $290,000. In addition, " all purchasers between August 1, 2000 and November 9, 2007 of multi-ply sheet sets, pillowcases, down comforters, bedskirts, shams, duvets, and down pillows from Bed Bath and Beyond that were labelled as 'plied,' 'two-ply,' or '2-ply' " are eligible for refunds and discount certificates.

While $2500 seems like enough to compensate someone for having to sleep on scratchy sheets for a day or two, a quarter of a million dollars for attorney's fees seems a little steep. A good chunk of that money should have gone to buy sheets or blankets for the poor, and I'm sure they wouldn't have demanded 800 count linens. Such a donation would be the philanthropic thing to do.

And do we really have to keep every little receipt for everything we buy, just in case a class action lawsuit is brought up a few years later?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr: Pro Public Health and Anti-War

Since 1900 the average life expectancy in the United States has increased 30 years. Of that, 25 years can be attributed to advances in public health, and the other five years to advances in medicine.

The differences might not be readily apparent, but in general, public health initiatives that contributed to extended life include things like food safety and better understanding of nutrition, decrease in tobacco use, improvements in workplace safety, family planning, maternal and child care, water safety and fluoridation, vaccination programs, seat belt use and sanitation.

Advances in medicine, while important from an individual standpoint, do not contribute that much statistically. These include things such as the development of new diagnostic equipment, advanced procedures and new drugs to treat illnesses.

Today we honor the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King understood the importance of public health and the role that it plays in the health of our nation. Consider the following:

"One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive, for the person who picks up our garbage is in the final analysis as significant as the physician, for if he doesn't do his job, diseases are rampant. All labor has dignity."

(Martin Luther King, Jr., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson (Grand Central Publishing, 2001), pp. 352-35)

King was referring to the low wages the sanitation workers received and was fighting against the institutionalized poverty forced upon blacks by their own government. But he also made the point that in the control of disease, sanitation is a must. In the 19th century immigration and urbanization caused a population shift that led to overcrowding in cities with inadequate waste disposal systems. Often garbage was piled in the streets or thrown over a fence giving food and shelter to vermin and contributing to disease outbreaks.

By 1900 public health departments had been established in 40 of the 45 states. From the 1930’s through the 1950’s, great strides were made in solid waste disposal, as well as sewage and water treatment and hygiene practices. Vermin control, related to garbage control, also contributed to the reduction of disease.

I believe King would also be an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq. Here is what he said about the Vietnam War:

"And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such."

(Beyond Vietnam speech delivered April 4, 1967. The quote can be found in A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard (Warner Books, 2002), p. 142)

To the left of this column you can see the Cost of the war. $487 billion. Almost half a trillion. Consider the job training and education that could be provided with that money. Not to mention the cost in lives lost or damaged. One example is the number of men and women returning with traumatic brain injury, and an army task force suggests that 10 to 20 percent of those returning for Iran and Afghanistan have brain injuries. This story from September explains how the problem is insidious and how the effects can be long term.

So yes, the war in Iraq is a “demonic, destructive suction tube” destroying the lives of our young people who are fighting as well as hindering education of students not yet old enough to be sucked in.

There are so many ways in which this war is wrong, and Dr. King would be one of its most outspoken critics. Unlike the ever changing heated rhetoric that we hear on a daily basis (from presidential candidates), his words are set, his opposition is unchallengeable, and his positions unchangeable. And they apply today.

Some of the information I used here comes from Soulforce , an organization whose mission statement reads:

“The mission of Soulforce is to cut off homophobia at its source – religious bigotry…We apply the creative direct action principles taught by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. to peacefully resist injustice and demand full equality for LGBT citizens and same-gender families.”

Information on sanitation and control of infectious diseases and public health can be found here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

"Goings On" From Here and There

There's a lot going on the world of politics and culture, including caucuses and primaries this weekend, so here's a little local news, some political news and come cultural news.

The Western Tribune has a front page story this week about a hate crime being charged against the city by a Bessemer employee. Seems Willie Burgin's city truck broke down in a wooded area in Hueytown and he called in for assistance and waited but no one came. He was told by his supervisor on a walkie talkie, "Get you a rope and hang around, they are coming." He asked for clarification, he was told the same thing.

Burgin complained to his supervisors and told to forget about it. Rev. James Eades, head of the department, suggested the employee was simply "looking for a big pay day."

So he went to the mayor, Ed May. He recieved a letter from May that said the city "found no evidence that Mr. McLaughlin's statements were made with malice or that they were intended to be racially dipsaraging or offensive."

Burgin says that the mayor hides personnel problems by "sweeping them under the rug."

Burgin has filed a complaint with the EEOC (Economic Equal Opportunity Commission) and with the Jefferson County personnel board.

The Western Tribune: Real People, Real Issues, Real News

I just wonder if Ed May is a closet republican. He's teflon, like Ronald Reagan. He budgets money like the president and former republican congress did, with no regard to fiscal responsibility, and he governs with Cheneyesque secrecy. Well, he is running for a delegate position to the Democratic National Convention (for the wrong candidate), and after all, many democrats in Alabama are "republican lite" anyway, so who knows.


The Hillary Clinton Campaign is opening its Birmingham office Saturday with an event at 2:00. I am all for snow, but I hope it doesn't intefere with this event.

The office will be in downtown Birmingham, on 21st street, across from the YMCA. If the roads are there!

The Napa County Farm Bureau which promotes agriculture and protects family farms in Napa, California, has published a calendar as a fund raiser for 2008. From the looks of the calendar, all of Napa's agriculture involves grapes and winemaking with some beef operations as well.

But the real beefcake is in the photos of mostly bare farmers who have taken it off for the cause. Here's 35 year old Michael H., who is a grape grower and is Mr. June, so to speak.

Not all of the farmers pictured as as, uh, young, as Michael, but let me tell you, the vineyards and grapes all look healthy and fine. Support California Wines. And support Napa farmers by visiting Napa Uncovered where you can learn more about the Napa farming community and maybe even still get a calendar. This calendar was featured in Parade magazine a few weeks ago as well

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Who Would Have Thought That?

The Pope has been rejected from speaking at the inauguration of the new academic year at a prestigious university (La Sapienza) in Rome, of all places. Professors and students alike protested the planned event, because of the Pope's previous statements in support of the 17th century inquistion trial against Galileo.

Galileo, as you know, was tried for heresy after his publication of "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems" in which he reported his discovery that the earth revolves around the sun. In the book he ridiculed Pope Urban VIII, and as a result stood trial in 1633. The judgement said his views were "absurd, philosophically false, and formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scriptures". Galileo later recanted to spare his life, but we can imagine how he felt deep in his heart.

This is the precise reason that I find no problem with examining and sometimes being critical of church teaching and current translations of "scripture", especially as it relates to science. I use quotation marks because those writings were pretty much hand picked by old white guys with an agenda (did they have republicans back then?)

So the Pope is unwelcome in Rome.

Now, who would have thought that?

And in Iran, where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death, and where Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said there are no homosexuals (ok to laugh here), transgenderism is OK. A documentary will be shown st Sundance titled Be Like Others, written and directed by Tanaz Eshaghian. In the movie she follows the experiences of four transgendered inidviduals, one who has completed her surgery, and three others considering or undergoing procedures.

According to Eshaghian, in an interview with Larry Flick on Sirius OutQ this morning, the Ayatollah Khomeini gave the OK to gender reassignment surgery because transgenderism was (and in that country still is) considered an illness. It was decided that persons could not be judged because of an illness, so the procedures are allowed.

According to the film info on Sundance, the doctor whose practice is examined in the movie performs more sex change operations in one year than are done in the entire country of France in 10 years.

Now, who would have thought that?

Hillary Clinton can be funny and entertaining, in addition to being right for America.

Now, who would have thought that?

Well, now you know!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hope for Arlington School, Little Hope for Republicans

Judging from the number of emails and contacts I have received after my post about Artur Davis I am sure people will be visiting Bessemer Opinions (as well as Birmingham Blues to read Kathy's post) to read it today. Just scroll down or use the above link.

The Republicans are no closer to deciding who they want after yesterday's Michigan primary, which Romney won, than they were six months ago but we know we don't want this person to be our next president.

Mike Huckabee doesn't just want to "amend" the constitution, he wants to "amen" it.

And I thought we were close to a theocracy now. But at least we can rest assured that the democratic controlled congress would never attempt to amend the consitution in this way...would they?

And speaking of "amends" did you see Chris Matthews trying to make some with the Hillary camp after last nights Mod Squad (one black, one white, one blonde) debate. Matthews, who insulted Hillary, Bill, Barack and the entire list of democratic voters in new Hampshire last week declared Hillary the winner of the debate and praised her "power play" that restored her to the front runner position in the race. The momentum grows.

In Bessemer, what might be the most important story of the (15 day) year was buried in the Birmingham News today, on page 3B under "Government Roundup".


Arlington school declared surplus

The school board Tuesday voted unaminously to declare the former Arlinton school building surplus property.

Why: The land must be declared surplus before the board can sell it.

History: The building, constructed in 1908, housed Bessemer's first high school. It was later an elementary school and closed in the 1980's. Since then various groups have proposed uses for the building, including converting it into apartments for senior citizens.

Now we just have to hope that whoever they sell it to realizes the historical significance of the building and restores it to be used in way that benefits our historic southside community as well as the entire city. Alabama Heritage magazine described the property in this way, "A fine example of classical revival school building from the turn of the last century, the Arlington School, built in 1908, was Bessemer's first high school. Its most distinguishing features are the decorative brick and stone facade, interior sky-lighted basketball courts, and an auditorium in the form of a jewel box theatre with a raked floor, proscenium stage, and horseshoe balcony. Once a part of a thriving middle class neighborhood, the Arlington School was abandoned in the early 1980s. Now dilapidated and out of use, the school's state of disrepair is indicative of the decline in the surrounding neighborhood..."

Stay tuned.

Just added:

Hillary Clinton called Bush "pathetic" and so does Kathy. He's pitiful.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Artur Davis Ignores History, Insults Gays

This post and the one below address the Over the Mountain Democrat forum about healthcare last night, where the question came up about insuring domestic partners of same sex employees. Terry Kellogg from Blue Cross Blue Shield (see post below) replied that only 20 or so of his employer customers have inquired about that, and the thousands of other customers do not want such benefits provided because they don’t want to pay for it. OK, money is more important than doing what is right, but you expect to hear that from a corporate view.

Artur Davis chimed in, completely ignoring history, and told us that LGBT people should not be looking to Montgomery or Washington for answers, because (paraphrased quote) “It is not the role of government to tell people how to think.”

I almost fell out of my chair as I heard an African American who is the Alabama campaign manager for Barack Obama, who at the same moment is involved in a controversy about the role of MLK and Lyndon Johnson in the civil rights movement, say those words.

Has he forgotten that telling people how to think and act is precisely what the government did when Johnson signed the civil rights act? Does he not realize that had the government not told people how to think he might not be sitting on that stage tonight, and Barack Obama surely would not be where he is right now?

I am not ignoring Martin Luther King’s role (and neither was Hillary Clinton, by the way) in changing the attitudes of many Americans, but without the role of government telling Americans how to think there would be no voting rights and we could still be living in a segregated society.

But it sure seems that Davis is ignoring that.

Besides, Americans are already on the side of equality for gays and lesbians. Let’s consider four popular issues.

Hate Crimes. From The Christian Post, a Gallup poll from May 2007 reveals that 68% of Americans favor expanding the hate crimes legislation to include sexual orientation.

Civil Unions. An ABC Poll from November 2007 shows us that 55% of Americans favor civil unions, with 42 % opposing.

Employment non-discrimination. A May 2007 Gallup Poll showed that 89% favored employment protection for gays and lesbians, and for the particular legislation that Davis voted against, 58% of whites, 61% of blacks, 56% of latinos, 70% of democrats, 55% of independents and even 52% of republican women favored it.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. A 2007 Harris Poll shows that 55% of Americans believe gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the armed forces.

So, Mr. Davis, it appears that Americans already know how to think. But we need laws and regulations passed by the government to assure that those who thrive on bigotry and prejudice do not undermine the fairness and equality that most Americans realize is part of our constitutional rights. And we need congressmen who will recognize that equality goes beyond the color of one’s skin.

HealthCare Crisis addressed by Democrats

I am separating my thoughts today into two posts with regards to the Over the Mountain Democrats forum titled "Crisis in American Healthcare: Is Universal Coverage the Solution?" The forum was held last night at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and was attended by about 400 interested people, including many from the School of Public Health and fellow blogger Kathy who writes about the event on Birmingham Blues.

Questions about disparities in healthcare, why so many are uninsured or underinsured, why we pay more than twice as much as any other country for healthcare in spite of low rankings among industrialized countries when it comes to quality of healthcare and whether healthcare is a right or a privilege, were addressed (sort of).

Panelists were Dr. Wally Retan, state coordinator of Health Care for Everyone – Alabama and whose son is Chris Retan, executive director of Alethia House, Mr. Terry Kellogg, executive vice president of Blue Cross Blue Shield, Dr. Max Michael, dean of UAB School of Public Health and former medical director of Cooper Green Hospital, and congressman Artur Davis of the 7th congressional district in Alabama.

The one thing we all knew going into the forum was that healthcare in America is a complex issue that is not going to be resolved by a 4 person panel in Alabama. But what this panel did was offer hope in that 4 people with very differing opinions sat and talked and took questions without calling each other names or losing their tempers and those who make the policy decisions over the next few months and years that change our system will have to do so in the same manner.

In four snapshots, here is what the panelists offered.

Dr. Retan gave the keynote address, but his pitch is for universal coverage, no exceptions, no exclusions, but at the expense of doing away with the private insurance companies. He spoke highly of the German model for healthcare.

Mr. Kellogg, wanting to hold on to his company of course, wants to reduce costs by having physicians stop performing expensive procedures such as all types of spinal fusion for which there is no evidence that the procedures work or that they improve the quality of life for those who receive them. In addition, he is all for doing away with pre-existing condition exclusions if his competitors are required to do the same (because his premiums would have to go up so the others should too).

Dr. Michael would like to reduce costs by removing simple monitoring and treatment such as for high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol from the healthcare system and allowing people to monitor and treat themselves. Of course, this would only work if his big picture was accepted, and this would be rather than using $120 billion to insure everyone, use the money to improve education and job training so that people would have a better understanding of their personal health and why and how to maintain it, and this also would improve the socio-economic status of many so that they would be in a position to have employer provided insurance or buy insurance.

Artur Davis would like to see Barack Obama elected.

To be fair, Davis did offer some good points, but they were lost after his insult of the audience’s intelligence and slamming of the LGBT community, and this is what will be addressed on another post.

The most uplifting part of the evening was when the question was posed asking how many believed providing healthcare was a moral issue. Almost every hand in the room went up. It is a moral issue, and what is immoral is that how much money one has determines whether you get treated when you are sick. One thing Davis said was that in our country, when you are accused of a crime, innocent or guilty, you are assured of getting legal representation. There is some degree of morality in assuring that everyone is represented. Where is the morality that assures that everyone in America who gets sick is able to see a doctor and get first class treatment? And I don’t want W’s answer that everyone can go to the emergency room. That is not a solution.

Another point he brought up (as a result of appearing on right wing radio talk shows and hearing complaints that “illegals” are being treated in our emergency rooms) is that medical professionals take an oath, and to refuse treatment to anyone would be in violation of that oath and could lead to forfeiture of their license.

So the forum did not solve the problems of healthcare, but it did give those in attendance a chance to hear differing views, all of which seek solutions and all of which, to some degree, will be a part of the solution.

Let’s just hope the democrat who is elected president will also have a congress she or he can work with to find ways to address the growing crisis, or we may find all of us without the type of healthcare are accustomed to.

Comic relief was provided by Barry Ragsdale, the moderator, and by two ladies sitting next to me, who, when Barry recognized the help provided by the Young Democrats from Hoover and Mountain Brook High Schools whispered "Both of them!" in repsonse.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Clinton Seeking Youth Vote, Women's Support

This post should be forwarded to young voters, and female voters and, well, all voters. Hillary Clinton is making inroads with the so called youth vote and recently had an online event where she addressed questions submmitted by facebook users. Here is a five or six minute youtube video where the candidate addresses questions posed to her.

Clinton addresses the following subjects here: genocide in Darfur, making college more affordable, creating green collar jobs, combating the upcoming recession and why she is the best candidate to bring change.

"She closes with "I want to reclaim the future for America, and that's really about you more than it is about me. And I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen."

Here is the youtube link link that you can send to your friends, or you can just forward Bessemer Opinions to them.

And Hillary still appeals to women, regardless of their age, and this column by Madeleine M. Kunin shows why Clinton's appeal among women was so much greater in New Hampshire than in Iowa.

Kunin is the former governor of Vermont, and she suspects that in states that have a good history of electing women to statewide office or sending them to Congress in Washington, that Clinton will do better than in states that do not have record of electing women. Iowa is one such state, one of only two (Mississippi is the other) that has never elected a woman to Congress or the governor's seat. New Hampshire has elected a woman governor three times and has the nation's second highest percentage of women in it's legislature (Kunin's state, Vermont, ranks first).

I think that since women's roles in politics (and elsewhere) are still repressed in much of the south, including Alabama, that Clinton will have a fight on her hands attracting huge numbers of women voters, but it is a fight that is winnable. South Carolina may tell us a lot about this, but Florida (if you consider it a southern state) has five women in Congress and their state legislature is 23.1% women. The women in Florida may give Hillary their support.

If I had the time I would research each state regarding these parameters and come up with an prediction, but there are too many other variables influencing this race.

So forward this to your female friends as well.

And for all voters, here is a good piece by Robert Farmer, Democratic bigwig. He was previously supporting Barack Obama, but has switched to Hillary Clinton's camp. This was printed in the Washington Post after the Iowa Caucus, on the day of the New Hampshire primary, before we knew Hillary had won. Farmer has considered electability in his decision and his editorial is worth reading.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Notes on Religion

The Birmingham News at the end of last year had an article on the religion page about what a pivotal year 2007 was. Too bad I can’t find a link, but the article mentioned the deaths of James Kennedy, Jerry Falwell and Tammy Faye Bakker Messner as a “passing of the guard among religious conservatives".

The article also mentioned The Christian Coalition sitting out the 2008 presidential race, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals stating that he’d rather conduct a funeral (or wedding) than meet with presidential candidates and Pat Robertson’s coziness with Rudy Giuliani as indications that things are changing.

But are they really? Here’s a few thoughts on recent stories in the news.


Kentucky Southern Baptist Seminary president Albert Mohler Jr. is being considered to head the denomination. Remember this is the guy who wants to carry the Ex-gay movement into the womb, suggesting that changing the sexual orientation of fetuses would be acceptable. What next, Albert? Examining fetuses and changing their race, gender and handedness to produce only straight white right-handed males? After all, their view of denomination domination includes treating women as second class citizens too.

I hope Baptists find a more compassionate, peace loving and tolerant person to lead them. But that would mean following the teachings of Jesus. That would require a paradigm shift for the Baptists and I don’t think they will go that route.


North Alabama Conference Bishop William Willimon led a revival of sorts among Methodists urging a return to the roots laid down by John Wesley. Pretty good suggestions. “Wesleyans believe that our relationship with God is totally dependent on God,” Willimon said. “Wesleyans believe you are here because of God. God is an active force…We believe everybody is being loved and attracted by God even if they don’t know it.”

“He (Wesley) believed in religion of the heart, but he believed that the test of the heart is religion of the hands, not only how we believe in Christ, but how we follow Christ.”

My roots are in Methodism also, and I can’t argue with Bishop Willimon. Whether one is a Methodist or other denomination or no denomination or whoever, this statement, “the test of the heart is religion of the hands” is worth consideration.


The Mormons are trying to play catch up as they change the words of their sacred text so match what science has shown us: that Native Americans are not direct ancestors of a lost tribe of Israel.

Previous editions of The Book of Mormon stated “After thousands of years all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the ancestors of the American Indians.”

Then came DNA, evidence of which contradicted their scripture. So now the scripture says the Lamanites “are among the ancestors.”

So the Mormons are conceding that science is accurate? Then when will they accept the science regarding sexual orientation and stop excommunicating members who are gay?

I’m not holding my breath, but we did buy one of these.


Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefforts Schori is in town to preside over the consecration of Rev. John McKee Sloan as suffragan or assistant bishop for the diocese of Alabama.

Here is what Jefforts Schori says about the war. “My understanding of Jesus’ ministry is that he told us not to go to war, and that he is at heart a peacemaker. We understand our mission as a church to be reconciliation. There may be times when it is appropriate to go to war. I’m not convinced of that, but we live in a world that is not perfect.”

“We pray for the troops constantly, even as we pray for peace and reconciliation in Iraq.”

She has a daughter who is a first lieutenant in the Air Force who was recently deployed to the United Arab Emirates, so I am sure she has given lots of thought to this war and war in general.

Give credit to the Episcopals for promoting peace.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ron Paul and Iran, and Time to Rise Up against Eagle Forum

Now we learn that the "voice" stating "I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes." may not have come from the Iranian speedboats that approached U. S. Navy vessels at all. This is according to a spokesperson for the Navy. Was the whole incident fabricated or was it just poorly put together by our leaders in the pentagon? We will probably never know.

This we do know, however. Ron Paul is right. The current administration and all the other Republican candidates are itching to start a war with Iran. Last night Ron Paul won the text voting after the debate...again, or at least he was winning with 32% when I turned the TV off. "Make fun, buddy", is what Paul says after Smitten Romney pokes a jab at him after his answer on Iran last night.

Too bad the media refuses to treat Paul with respect, since the media controls who the serious candidates are rather than the people (this is true with both parties...just ask John Edwards and Bill Richardson).

Locally, another Republican has been found guilty, as former Jefferson County Commisssioner Gary White learns it's not a wise thing to take envelopes stuffed with cash from persons seeking sewer contracts. Of course White is not the first to fall, and corruption in Jefferson County knows no party lines, but it goes to show that the County Commission was (and still is) a corrupt joke.

And their latest antic of providing $15,000 to Eagle Forum to help their "Education Foundation" takes the cake. According Eunie Smith, their Vice President, Eagle Forum will delve into issues like "Pre-K: Does it Live Up to Its Promises" (meaning they are against it), and my favorite, "Consequences of Accepting the Myth of Global Warming." The letter in the Birmingham News from Smith today recommends registering early, as space is limited. The Forum is February 22 and 23 at the Birmingham Marriott, and is FREE. I hope progressives and liberals scoop up tickets and flood the place. Visit their web site (google it, I refuse to put a link) for information.

Remember, Eagle Forum is headed by a far right wingnut that declared the responsibility for the Virginia Tech shootings lies with the English Department rather than with Seung-Hui Cho, who actually pulled the trigger while pointing his gun at 32 different people. Here she shows her ignorance about evolution and would be wise to read my post on the subject and follow the links there to Nova's show. Need I point out more of the kind of trash Eagle Forum puts out?

Of course I realize that Bessemer Opinions is just a "pathetic blog" (quote from Dale) and Eagle Forum is a big neo-con (wouldn't it be nice if they would actually) think tank, and their right wing voice is much bigger than my progressive voice, but you gotta start somewhere.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Next President Has Been Named

From Dale Jones, Editor of The Western Star:

"Hillary is out. Despite their efforts, mainstream media cannot carry this election for her, and Hillary Clinton will soon ride off into the proverbial sunset."

Far from it, Dale. Senator Clinton may or may not be the eventual nominee, but it is far from over. And even if she does not prevail, she will not be riding off into the sunset.

Dale often writes about the "moral, ethical, Christian stance" that he takes on the issues, and in this column he claims "how overwhelmingly people support" his stand on the issues.

Let's not discuss here the irony of those claims when his editorial policies (plagiarism, twisting or ignoring truths, flat out lies) are considered. (Tell me, how can a plagiarist make a claim of ethics?)

Instead, let's consider his assumption that only Republicans hold moral, ethical and Christian values, and just wait and see how many voters in Bessemer vote in the Democratic Primary compared to the number who vote in the Republican Primary. That in itself won't tell us which party holds the key to those values, but it will tell us that not everyone in Bessemer ascribes to the ethical and moral edicts put forth by his philosophy. In other words, "The World According To Dale" is a myth. And not all Democrats are heathens, in spite of TWATD.

Dale states that 60% of those who participated in the Republican caucus in Iowa are "evangelical Christians". That is no surprise, and similar or higher numbers might be found if they did a similar poll in Alabama. I don't know what percent of Democrats in Iowa are evangelicals, but I bet it's a pretty high number.

Examine the numbers a little more. Of the 60% of GOP voters (114,000) who are evangelicals (68,400), less than a majority, 46% or 31,464, voted for Huckabee, who Dale Jones has already crowned as president: ("When all is said and done, just as in years past, the American people will speak, and good, honest, moral, conservative values will prevail and Mr. Huckabee will be our next president.")

To make it clear, more evangelicals who voted Republican voted against Huckabee (54%) in Iowa than voted for him. And Iowa does not have a great history of picking winners. It's hard to believe anyone would make a bold prediction after just one state has spoken.

I wonder what Dale thinks now that Hillary beat Obama in New Hampshire? I can't wait to read next weeks column.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Answers and Go New Hampshire, Go Hillary

New Hampshire.

Three things.

1. All the media outlets have emphasized that the voters in New Hampshire take their vote very seriously. Rather than just voting “against” her or him for unknown reasons, many of which are based on ill-conceived notions or prejudices, they evaluate each candidate on the issues and what that candidate says to them. In this case, Hillary Clinton definitely prevails, because she addressed the issues, including the economy, which is very important to New Hampshire voters. Obama did not address the economy over the last few days. In addition, “Hope” is not a plan, and when all you are offering is empty hope, voters do not know that you have any plans. Hillary has plans.

2. In New Hampshire, you can not vote twice, like in Iowa. People whose candidates were not faring well did not get to recast their vote for another candidate

3. The people in New Hampshire realize it is OK to be human. Hillary Clinton’s emotions, both during the debate and Monday showed her to be human. Your eyes can fill with tears and you can still be strong.

What a victory for Hillary Clinton. New Hampshire is good to the Clintons. And again, like in Iowa, what a night for the democratic party. While the number voting in the Republican Primary decreased , the number voting in the Democratic primary grew.

And I can not wait, if John McCain becomes the Republican nominee (not that I think he could sustain his momentum), Hillary’s end the war message would smother his hawk message.

I can not believe that the Jefferson County Commission is giving money to The Eagle Forum to host a forum. And they will discuss issues like gobal warming. This is like paying the contrarians to spread their lies and seems just a little too partisan to me. Is it even legal? Shouldn't be. Somebody should raise a big stink about this.

That being said, here are answers to the Alabama Quiz posted yesterday.

1. Here's the answer from the State Archives , which is where most of the answers and pictures come from, unless otherwise noted or linked. In 1817, when William Wyatt Bibb was appointed Governor of the brand new Alabama territory, Bibb realized he needed an official seal for his commissions and other state papers. With permission of President James Monroe and a law adopted by Congress, the territorial governor was authorized to select a design for a seal. Governor Bibb believed the best seal would be a map of the territory showing its rivers. It also showed the territories (now states) surrounding it.
By 1819, when Alabama became a state, the territorial seal was designated by the first legislature as the state seal. The state seal remained unchanged for 50 years, until the Reconstruction period when a Republican-dominated legislature had a new seal made. It consisted of an eagle perched upon the shield of the United States seal. In the beak of the eagle was a banner reading "Here We Rest". Around the new emblem were the words "Alabama Great Seal". This seal was used for 71 years to authenticate official documents and letterhead.
In 1939, a bill was introduced by the legislature to restore the original seal as the Great Seal of Alabama. When the bill came up it was approved unanimously by the Senate and the House. Governor Frank M. Dixon approved the new law and the Secretary of State had a new Great Seal created. Act no. 20.

2. The Crimson Cross of St. Andrew and a white field were adopted in 1895. The act did not stipulate as to the shape of the flag, so now you see both square and rectangular flags.

3. The state bird is the Yellowhammer.

The common flicker is the State Bird of Alabama. Alabama has been known as the "Yellowhammer State" since the Civil War. The yellowhammer nickname was applied to the Confederate soldiers from Alabama when a company of young cavalry soldiers from Huntsville, under the command of Rev. D.C. Kelly, arrived at Hopkinsville, KY, where Gen. Forrest's troops were stationed. The officers and men of the Huntsville company wore fine, new uniforms, whereas the soldiers who had long been on the battlefields were dressed in faded, worn uniforms. On the sleeves, collars and coattails of the new calvary troop were bits of brilliant yellow cloth. As the company rode past Company A , Will Arnett cried out in greeting "Yellowhammer, Yellowhammer, flicker, flicker!" The greeting brought a roar of laughter from the men and from that moment the Huntsville soldiers were spoken of as the "yellowhammer company." The term quickly spread throughout the Confederate Army and all Alabama troops were referred to unofficially as the "Yellowhammers."

4. “Alabama” is the official state song. Here are the words to the first and seventh verse:

1 Alabama, Alabama, We will aye be true to thee, From thy Southern shore where groweth, By the sea thine orange tree. To thy Northern vale where floweth Deep and blue thy Tennessee. Alabama, Alabama We will aye be true to thee!

7 Little, little, can I give thee, Alabama, mother mine; But that little--hand, brain, spirit, All I have and am are thine. Take, O take the gift and giver. Take and serve thyself with me, Alabama, Alabama, I will aye be true to thee.

Listen to our state song being sung. Does this take you back to grade school? Who all had Ms. Brown for their music teacher?

5. “We Dare Maintain Our Rights” comes from found on our state coat of arms. "Audemus jura nostra defendere"

Well and good, if only we all had equal rights. That day is a comin’.

6. The Southern Longleaf Pine is the official state tree. Great pine cones. When I was little, daddy planted a long leaf pine in the front yard. I could jump over it. For years. But suddenly it grew taller and faster than me, and it was a mistake to try to jump over it. I won’t elaborate.

7. Red Hills Salamander is the (cutest) official state amphibian. Click here for details and a picture of this endangered amphibian, which lives only in a few counties in south Alabama. I took a field trip in college to the Red Hills to scout for these critters during a herpetology class taught by Dr. Mount.

Click here for a picture and the story of the Red Hills Salamander.

8. Blackberry is the official state fruit. Yall don’t need pictures of blackberries, I am sure. But those of you who have tasted my pecan cobbler (from Miss Julia May) and those who love my peach cobbler, bring me a bunch of fresh blackberries this summer and let me make this for you.
Blackberry Cobbler.

4 cups fresh blackberries

1 cup sugar

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup butter melted

1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread blackberries in ungreased favorite cobbler dish. Mix sugar, except for I teaspoon, with cornstarch and lemon juice. Drizzle cornstarch mixture over blackberries and stir gently. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in separate bowl. Stir in milk, butter and egg. Spread batter evenly over blackberries and seal edges. Sprinkle with remaining sugar Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown . Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.

This is best served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream melting around it.

9. Conecuh Ridge Alabama Firewhiskey is the official state spirit. I could have used a shot of this when I lost this whole post and had to start over yesterday. And I think it would go well with the blackberry cobbler.

Travel Girl must have liked it. Scroll down to "Wednesday, May 10, 2006" to see what she said about Alabama, but her whole journal is pretty good reading.

10. Black Bear is the official state mammal. Yeah, I see a lot of these in Alabama.

11. Peach is the official state tree fruit. One recipe is all you get per post, but when the fresh peaches come in, I will provide. Mmmmm.

12. Fighting Tarpon is the official state saltwater fish. Travel girl mentioned this along with the Firewhiskey, so I guess they go together good also.

13. Camellia is the official state flower. You have already seen my favorite, and the Camellia show at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens is coming up, I will let you know when.

And you know, when I was entering grade school, the Goldenrod was the state flower. Then the powers that be named this non-native shrub as the Alabama state flower. Go figure.

14. Hematite (red iron ore) is the official state mineral. Vulcan sits atop Red Mountain, named after this ore. Read the story of Vulcan at the Vulcan link.

But here’s something you don’t know. My great Aunt Rose Openshaw Johns Cannon (reputed to be the most beautiful girl in Birmingham) was at one time married to Col. Llewelyn Johns. Before she became his widow, he paid the freight to have Vulcan shipped back from St. Louis to Birmingham after the World’s Fair. That is my Vulcan connection.

15. Marble is the official state rock. This sculpture of the Head of Christ by Giuseppe Moretti who also sculpted Vulcan, is carved from Alabama marble. Many of you have seen this sculpture, either in Montgomery or here in Birmingham when it was part of the Vulcan exhibit.

16. Racking Horse is the official state horse. The Racking Horse Celebration in Priceville is a big deal. Racking Horses

17. Largemouth Bass is the official state freshwater fish. There is some question about fees paid as part of the bond issue that is bringing Bass Pro Shop to Leeds. Gee, Bessemer is not the only city that has questionable bond dealings.

18. Wild Turkey is the official state game bird. I really thought Wild Turkey was the state spirit.

19. Square Dance is the official state American Folk Dance. There used to be several Gay Square Dance Clubs in the state, like the Rocket City Rainbow Squares in Huntsville and a similar club in Birmingham. Are they still around?

20. Pecans are the official state nut. Again, only one recipe per blog, but Chef Julia May’s Pecan Cobbler is a favorite around here around Christmas.

21. Basilosaurus cetoides is the official state fossil. Believe it or not, this is a whale, and an entire fossilized skeleton was found on a plantation in south western Alabama in 1834. And always remember this, from our state archives site: "Fossil remains of the Basilosaurus cetoides may not be removed from the state without prior written approval of the governor".

22. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is the official state mascot.

Did you know that the females also come in a dark or black form? The tiger stripes are still visible and here are some great pictures, be sure to look at the "golden form" picture link.

And don’t confuse them with the smaller but also black pipevine and spicebush swallowtails that we see around here.

23. The monarch butterfly is the official state butterfly. Monarchs migrate, and again, when I was little there was a tree at the “top of Vestaven Way” behind our house where these butterflies would congregate by the hundreds or thousands on their way to Mexico. Pretty neat, huh. Now, tell me how the butterflies with their tiny insect brains find their way.

Also notice this monarch butterfly is on a goldenrod, the former state flower. The monarch wouldn't be caught dead feeding from a camellia. And hey, Mr. Monarch, this might remind you that your title could be stripped at any time for the younger, more hip butterfly.

24. The Alabama Redbellied Turtle is the official state reptile. This picture was taken by my professor, Dr. Mount. 25. The Star Blue Quartz is the state gemstone.
26. Scaphella junonia johnstoneae is the state shell.

27. The Demopolis Christmas on the River Tournament is the official state barbecue championship. Read about it

28. Stockton Fall Horseshoe Tournament is the official state horseshoe tournament. I don't believe this tournment still takes place. If anyone knows differently let me know. Really, all you need is a few guys and girls and some horseshoes and posts and this tourney could be revived!

29. Alabama Theater for the Performing Arts is the official State Historic Theater. If anyone missed this question I am embarassed for you. Oh, on the website, you will notice Gordon Lightfoot is coming in February.

30. The Pine Burr Quilt is the official state quilt.
Here are instructions for how to make the quilt. Let me know if you make one. I will buy it from you. Look at the picture on the instructions to see the full quilt. Beautiful.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

An Alabama Quiz and Birmingham on "The Edge"

Gary left link in a comment yesterday to this site. Talk about the future of transportation! Thanks, Gary. I don't see any problems with a system like this, other than the transition from the current system. That is addressed on the web site, however.

And Kathy at Birmingham Blues had an interesting link to an article in The Edge about Birmingham and its progress in the gay community by Cody Lyon. Here is a quote:

"There is a large, visible, albeit loosely organized gay community in Alabama’s largest city. There are 24-hour gay bars, social, religious and political organizations, annual events, even entire neighborhoods that gays have transformed into friendly enclaves.

In fact, according to the 2000 United State Census, the city of Birmingham was home to a higher per capita concentration of same-sex couples than cities of comparable or larger sizes like Memphis, Charlotte and even more liberal northern cities like Columbus, Ohio."

The article is a couple of pages long and worth reading if you are interested in Birmingham's progress. Progress is progress, so you should all be interested.

Cody is from Wilsonville, Alabama and now lives in New York as a writer and such.

OK here is a quiz from the Hartselle Enquirer. Test your knowledge of Alabama. Answers on tomorrow. I scored a lowly 12 out of 30.

1. When was Alabama's great seal adopted?
2. What does Alabama's flag look like?
3. What is our state bird?
4. What is our state song?
5. What is our state motto?
6. What is our state tree?
7. What is our state amphibian?
8. What is our state fruit?
9. What is our state spirit (liquor)?
10. What is our state mammal?
11. What is our state tree fruit?
12. What is our state saltwater fish?
13. What is our state flower?
14. What is our state mineral?
15. What is our state rock?
16. What is our state horse?
17. What is our state saltwater fish?
18. What is our state game bird?
19. What is our official American Folk Dance?
20. What is our state nut? (Clue, it is not Roy Moore)
21. What is our state fossil?
22. What is our official mascot?
23. What is our official state butterfly?
24. What is our state reptile?
25. What is our state gemstone?
26. What is our state shell?
27. What is our official State Barbecue Championship?
28. What is our official Horseshoe Tournament?
29. What is our official State Historic Theater?
30. What is our offical State Quilt?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Self Driving Cars and Who's the Daddy?

School starts again today for a lot of people, including me. I am not sure what my blogging schedule will be because I have morning classes on some days and afternoon classes on others. I will have to develop a new routine.

Ever since I have been driving I have wondered when self-driving cars would come about. Once we had cruise control and phatpimp curb feelers what more would we need. Now GM and its partners are working to make it a reality.

The Birmingham News had this story in its print edition, but it is not online, so here is the story from the Boston Herald.

Here is a video of self driving vehicle from Daily Motion.

Talk about a change in society and the way we live. Read the paper on the way to work? Apply makeup? Eat breakfast? Shave?

Oh wait. People already do all of those things. But maybe with the new driverless cars they can do them without running into the car in front of them!

Look for the car insurance industry to fight this, as there are expectations that the 42,000 traffic deaths and other accidents would be greatly reduced, meaning auto insurance premiums could go way down even for teenage drivers. The auto insurance industry, while airing commercials that promote safer driving, actually needs people to keep having wrecks to be able to charge the high premiums we pay and remain a necessary industry.

Sort of like the tobacco industry actually recruiting "replacement smokers" while pretending to promote anti-smoking campaigns. Laughable, but sick.

The weirdest story of 2008 so far (7 days) has to be the allegation in Andrew Morton's book "Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography" that Tom is not Suri's father but rather Katie Holmes was inseminated with semen from Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Ooh. Yuck and Gross.

I wouldn't put anything past the cult, though, so David Beckham and Posh Spice need to watch out. The book says they are targets of Scientology. Run. Run. RUN...

If I have offended Scientologists...oh well. I mean, scientology has nothing to do with "science" and little to do with "ology", so here's a site that claims to expose Scientology for the fraud that it is: Operation Clambake. I don't like offending people for their beliefs, but Scientology, the Pope and Southern Baptists often need offending.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Bhutto: Bin Laden Murdered

On November 2, 2007 Benazir Bhutto was interviewed by David Frost on "Frost Over the World." She made the statement that Osama Bin Laden had been murdered.

Watch that portion of her interview here. Then try decide what she meant. Why didn't David Frost react? Then think who would benefit from information about Bin Laden's death not being released. Both in Pakistan and in the United States.

You can see the whole interview here.

While you are thinking about that, Parade magazine had an article obviously written before Bhutto's assasination in today's issue. Sort of weird. Online there is a statement that the issue went to press before the killing of the former prime minister. Their statement and the entire interview can be found at