The Year of Moving Forward

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

Friday, May 30, 2008

Show Me the Money, Gays

Happy Birthday Red!!!

My youngest turns 18 today. Yes that makes me feel old. Here are both kids (not current - from a couple of years ago)

Scroll down to yesterday's post to see listings of Pride events. Happily, Central Alabama Pride finally has their permit for next weekend's parade.

CAP president Jonathan Quinn is still working to get rainbow flags or banners up in Five Points as in past years, and is working with merchants in the area. "They know what we do for the community and what business we bring and they appreciate our time and money."

The gay community's money is green, just like straight money. Years ago, when Pensacola was "wrestling" with hosting the big gay beach event on Memorial Day, the gay community made a point. A big one. With pink markers they drew triangles on their green money (never mind the color clash, this ain't fashion) so that business owners could see just how much gay money was being spent. Business leaders got the message, city leaders enjoyed the tax revenue, and the heat against the gay event died down.

CW says gays and lesbians would have more disposable income than other groups, since many of the group have no children. But there are other reasons as well.

The following comes from various sources, including : Selig Center (African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American Buying Power), U.S. Census estimates, and Witeck-Combs Communications and

Gays are:

  • More than twice as likely as the national index to be professionals or managers.

  • 3.4 times more likely as the national index to have incomes over 250K.

  • twice as likely to have graduated from college

And there are reasons for business people to cater to the GLBT community:

  • 2000 census shows that partnered gays and lesbians live in over 99% of U. S. counties

  • 9% 0f urban populations are gay

  • Gay men and lesbians go out more, buy more, have more disposable income and are extremely loyal consumers

  • Gay and lesbian consumers purchase from companies/brands that advertise in gay media, deliver product messages in gay-specific advertising, support gay and lesbian community causes and are good to their own gay and lesbian employees

  • 60 percent took a foreign trip in the last three years

  • 59 percent buy themselves whatever they want

And there is this. In 2003, America's 17 million Gays had 485 billion in buying power, compared to 688 billion for the nation's 36 million African Americans and 653 billion for America's 37 million Hispanics. That calculates to 1.5 times per capita buying power for gays compared to other groups.

So listen up, merchants. Gays are paying your mortgage and your kids college tuition. Fly the flags and let us know you appreciate us (well, our money, anyway).

And things are looking up in California. A Los Angeles Times poll taken just after the Supreme court decision for marriage equality showed that by a 54 to 35 % margin, Californians were in support of the proposed amendment banning same sex marriage.

More recently, a Field Poll, which has been tracking same sex marraige since 1977, when only 28% favored it, now shows that by a 51 to 42% difference gays should have the right to marry.

That difference in opinion has occured in just a couple of weeks since the decision. I think that by the time the vote comes around, the measure will be defeated handily. But not without hard work by people on the ground in California.

The Human Rights Campaign points out that marriage equality could last only 173 days if the ban is approved in November. Continue to visit Equality for All and donate to their effort to defeat the anti-equality amendment.

Enjoy Central Alabama Pride, even if you are not gay. The Art Show is tonight (see below).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Central Alabama (Birmingham) Pride...and Scotty boy

Pride begins in Birmingham this week, and key events are listed below. But I have to comment on "Scotty Boy" first.

Scott McClellan's new book, What Happened, is reported to be a tell-all about the Bush White House, and there is plenty to hear and read about it all over the place. But why are so many of us not surprised to hear the things he wrote? We have known all along the administration misled the public (and the congress) in the run up to war. We knew there were no weapons of mass destruction. We knew Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney were involved in the Valerie Plame leak.

President Bush is said to be puzzled by the revelations, but that is no surprise. Bush? Puzzled?

But is the book really a "tell-all"? I haven't heard Scott or any reporters talking about Scott's role in allowing Jeff Gannon press passes so he could launch soft ball questions to the press secretary. Gannon remember (real name James Guckert) was really a gay escort (aka prostitute) who was featured on a military studs website. I hope no one takes offense at this picture, but it was all over the news a few years back.

Now you know that in a White House so boned up about security, that somebody had to realize that Jeff's background included posing nude and making money with his body. Scott McClellan comes to mind, in part because of his reputation for cruising gay bars in Austin before going to D.C.

McClellan said at the time there was no breakdown in security, but most journalists take weeks to get clearance to work in the White House press corps. Somebody had to vouch for him, or maybe even lie about supposedly getting clearance for Gannon. Cruisy McClellan seems the likely choice.

And speaking of things gay, Pride begins in Birmingham this week. See a listing of all the events

at Central Alabama Pride. Highlights include:

Pride Art (works by local artists for viewing and sale) at the Harbert Center (2019 Fourth Ave N.) Friday, May 30, 7 - 9 pm.

Interfaith Prayer Service at Hill University Center (1400 University Blvd) Saturday, May 31, 7 - 8:30 pm.

Town Hall Meeting at Covenant Community Church (5117 1st Ave N) Wednesday June 4, 7 pm.

Parade Five Points South Saturday June 7, 8:30 pm. Arrive early.

Pridefest at Sloss Furnace Sunday June 9, 12:30 - 10:00 pm. Vendors, music, drag, politics, advocacy.

There are plenty of other offerings, like Cosmic Bowling and a cook out at Lakeview Yacht Club and more, so check out the web site.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

John much to be said

John McCain is a veteran, and most veterans, it seems, would support a G I bill that increases veterans benefits such as improving the path to college for vets. But McBush, er, McCain, like his hero George W, is opposed to improving the lot of those who fight for our country.

Of course their reasoning is flawed; they say that better college benefits will decrease re-enlistment and result in less numbers of servicemen. But a prediction by the Congressional Budget Office says the bill will increase recruitment by 16%, which happens to equal the predicted decline in re-ups.

VoteVets is urging McCain to support the bill. Watch.

At the VoteVets site you can also find news stories about V A officials urging fewer diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder. Now my understanding of good medical practice is when a disease or disorder is present, you diagnose it. Don't avoid the diagnosis to make the numbers work or to reduce costs.

It is absolutely ridiculous and a sin that people returning from war can not get all of the counseling and therapy that they need. Perhaps then some of the estimated 18 suicides per day among veterans could be avoided. Of course the VA claimed that there were only 790 suicide attempts in all of 2007, when in reality about 1000 attempts per month were seen at VA facilities. 18 per day works out to be about 6,570 attempts per year.

Here is how Dr. Ira Katz, VA head of mental health, communicated about the numbers: ( from it )

First, he titled his e-mail: "Not for the CBS News Interview Request."

He opened it with "Shh!" - as in keep it quiet - before ending with "Is this something we should (carefully) address … before someone stumbles on it?"

Our country just uses its young men and women, then discards them with no concern for their future.

But really I didn't set out to write about PTSD in current veterans. But it does lead right into my column on John McCain and his medical records.

McCain released (some of) his medical records on Friday. Here is my column from today's Western Tribune about that:

Forty years ago, in the summer of 1968, John McCain was a prisoner of war. As is often repeated, he is a war hero, in part for surviving this harrowing experience, and should be honored as such. His past heroism is partly responsible for his success as a senator, while also providing somewhat of an excuse for his hot temper and at times unexplainable behavior.

As the presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican Party, under media pressure, McCain released his medical records last week. Included were such accolades as being much younger physiologically than he is chronologically. Not included were his psychiatric records.

When McCain was released from captivity he admittedly had experienced severe trauma, but avoided the diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder because the term was not used at that time. Information in his medical record clearly shows he would have received the diagnosis had it been recognized as such then. We have also seen that since the diagnosis became available in 1980, that veterans from as far back as World War 2 would be diagnosed with current episodes related to the condition.

PTSD can be overcome, or can linger and become a chronic condition. Shouldn't John McCain release his psychiatric records if we are to believe he can be our president? If he has recovered, his records should say so, and we should be able to see them.

In addition, during that summer 40 years ago, McCain twice attempted suicide. I am not sure that anyone undergoing the torture that he went through could endure it without similar thoughts, but still, do you want a president whose answer to a most severe problem, regardless of the magnitude, is ending his own life?

Don’t get me wrong. I do not think that there should be a stigma associated with mental illness or even a suicide attempt, and if treated properly and a recovery is made this should not preclude one from becoming a leader or taking a position of responsibility including becoming a senator. But a senator works as part of a body of legislators, and is not by himself making decisions of national importance.

A president does make such decisions, often under unpredictable stress. For this reason, and unless John McCain releases his psychiatric records, I do not believe he is qualified to be president.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

McCain on Ellen

Tomorrow I have my final, final exam, in the morning I will be studying, and that is why I posted the other day that on Wednesday I will put my Western Tribune column on here, about John McCain not being fit for the presidency.

Today, I am going to post a video of McCain on the Ellen Degeneres show last week.

I don't like giving McCain that much blog time, but he is, after all, the candidate that keeps on giving.

Our Memorial Day was excellent, and I hope yours was as well. Later this week I hope to post some pictures of the fun. But for now, its study study.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Enjoy Memorial Day

This Memorial Day, enjoy your family and friends, enjoy the lake, the pool and the barbecue. Enjoy the alcohol (responsibly - don't drink and boat, don't drink and drive, don't drink and embarrass yourself), enjoy the sun. Cut a watermelon, make homemade ice cream or fish shaped cupcakes (that's what we are having).

If you are one of the lucky ones to be in Pensacola, you can celebrate on the beach. This is a scene from Pensacola Beach last year.

But also take a moment and remember the men and women who gave their lives for our country. So that we could sit over here and fight in other ways for liberty.

In particular, remember the 4,082 Americans who have been killed in Iraq, including 67 from Alabama (along with 514 wounded). They were doing what was required of them, and put in harm's way by our president. As we remember these individuals, we will also remember what must be done to end this war.

Electing a Democratic congress was not enough, obviously. We must elect a Democratic super-majority and a president who will commit to ending the war. A Democrat.

If that sounds partisan on a day that should not be, blame your president.

Enjoy the day, and be safe.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pride Parade Update 2

From Central Alabama Pride (emphasis mine):

The Central Alabama Pride, Inc. Board of Directors is pleased to announce that a permit WILL be issued for the 20th Gay Pride Parade in Birmingham.

Alabama State Representative Patricia Todd spoke with Mayor Langford on Saturday morning and the mayor assured Representative Todd that the parade permit WILL be issued with no issues from his officeThe Board of Directors thanks everyone for their quick response in this matter and hopes that this will be a learning experience for all those of our community, as well as an opportunity for education for others. Mayor Langford has also agreed to meet with leaders of our community to have an open forum about other concerns.

The 20th annual Pride Parade will take place on Saturday, June 7 through 5 Points South. The Board of Directors would like everyone to come out and take part in this parade and show Central Alabama the best parade turnout ever!Thanks again and HAPPY PRIDE!

Central Alabama Pride, Inc.
Board of Directors

Pride Parade Update

Kathy has posted that Rep. Patricia Todd says the mayor will allow a parade permit, or rather, leave it up to the police department. For real? How about banners? Let's wait and see.

Birmingham is Slipping Again

First, though, know that I have written a column for The Western Tribune about John McCain and the release of his medical records and why they disqualify him from being president. Read it Wednesday, in the paper, or on this site.

Birmingham fell on its face last year.

Then Birmingham took a giant step forward.

Now, under the leadership of Larry Langford, Birmingham is renewing its old, tired attitude of intolerance and bigotry. Langford is refusing to grant Central Alabama Pride a parade permit for their annual Gay Pride Parade, which has been a part of the festivities of Pride since 1989.

Langford said "I just don't condone the lifestyle". Mayor, we might not condone your lifestyle either (and apparently the SEC and the justice department also doesn't), but this is not about how one leads their life, it is about who one is, about one's very being.

"It's not a civil rights issue, its a personal choice issue." Ignore science. Ignore medicine. Ignore all current knowledge about the origins of sexuality and call it a choice.

No, I will tell you what is a choice, Larry. Making a conscious decision to discriminate, to be intolerant, that is a choice, your choice.

Fortunately, the parade is not the main event of Pride, it is a "fun" event. But it plays an important role in that it allows families, gay and straight, to come together and enjoy floats and beads and candy. It allows people who are questioning their own sexuality to see from a distance (of sort) others who are out and comfortable that have been through what they are going through.

There are other events of Pride...10 days of events, including an art show, Pridefest with music and vendors, bowling, faith events and more. Central Alabama Pride

My advice to the organizers of Pride? Hold the parade in another city. Homewood, perhaps, or Tuscaloosa or (gasp!) Bessemer. Not that we can be sure mayors of those cities believe in equality, but you know, we need to know who our friends are.

And march with or without a permit up to city hall and into the next council meeting in protest. As of May 15 2007 Birmingham is an inclusive city that believes in acceptance and rejects intolerance and bigotry, according to the resolution. Stand up, Birmingham.

Kathy has a good write up about this too at Birmingham Blues.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Western Tribune Column...New Graduates

This is my most recent column, published Wednesday May 21, 2008.

Last week I had the privilege of attending my youngest child’s graduation from public high school. Young is a relative term as he is about to turn eighteen, but then again, old is relative as well but I won’t reveal my age here.

Anyway, as we sit through graduation ceremonies we hear speeches meant to encourage the new graduates but regardless of our age we can always learn (or be entertained) from others. Thursday was no exception.

The bright young man who was honored as valedictorian managed to garner the participation of the entire senior class as he discussed Pooh (that’s Winnie) and the sound of racing car engines while encouraging his classmates to set their own goals and establish their own limitations as they pursue what they feel in their hearts is their calling. Included in this, he pointed out, was protesting the war in Iraq, if one felt so moved, thus indicating that he might make a wise decision as he casts his first vote for president in the fall, as well as increasing my confidence in public education.

Young people today are more progressive than many of their parent’s generation, but oddly enough, most of us were much more progressive than our own parents as we protested another war and fought for the rights of others.

According to a recent MTV/CBS poll two thirds of today’s young voters want a president who will end the war in Iraq within 2 years. And a flurry of polls shows that about 75 % of young people are in favor of either same-sex marriage or civil unions. We can almost rejoice in realizing that every day thousands of kids in this country turn eighteen and if they vote, most will cast a progressive vote.

When I was young people my age protested by marching and at times through civil disobedience. Today this age group is more educated and is more likely to exert influence through the education of others and (I am still hopeful) voting.

New graduates are also here in Bessemer, of course, and they should all be congratulated. Finishing high school is indeed an accomplishment, but it is not an end. College, trade school or gainful employment are all future steps that will be taken by this year’s graduates. Assuming the responsibility of becoming a registered voter is as well.

Graduates: continue to educate yourselves and vote. An educated person at the ballot box is a good thing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Catching Up on Issues

The voters had their way and (drumroll) the winner is ....David Cook. Good choice. In this song he "still hasn't found what he is looking for," but now he has. Let's see what he can do with it.

Victoria has decided that her secret counts and Victor's secret doesn't, in Kentucky. Even though the owner of the adult novelty store is named Victor (Mosely) a federal judge ruled he can not use his name in promoting his stores. Story He will just have to keep his little secret. Apparently Victor's wife Cathy now has a secret, as the store is named "Cathy's Little Secret." Do you think these T shirts have just increased in value?


And I am glad to see so many letters in the Birmingham News about Larry Langford's ill-conceived opposition to the syphilis ads on buses. The letter writers all make good points. Realistically, how many high risk people are going to go to a church or town hall style meeting to learn about syphilis? Yes the ads were certainly "in your face" and that is whole point about reaching people.

What strikes me in this morality play being staged by Langford and Bettye Fine Collins is that Collins is one of the six voting members of the health department board, but she didn't attend the meeting when the syphilis program was discussed. She said "They have known the 5 o'clock time was a difficult time for me because many times I'm out in my district."

Is that an excuse? "In her district" could just mean she is at home sitting on the veranda with a toddy at 5 o'clock. This board meets once a month, and has to do with the health of our community. Oh yeah, I forgot, Bettye Fine Collins doesn't care about the health of the community and especially of the less fortunate. Remember, she wants to close Cooper Green Hospital. It's kind of reminds me of former FEMA chief Mike Brown in his interview with Jim Lehrer on September 1, 2005 soon after Katrina.

The second part of my answer, Jim, which, I think, again, the American people understand how fascinating and unusual this is -- is that we're seeing people that we didn't know exist that suddenly are showing up on bridges or showing up on overpasses or parts of the interstate that aren't inundated, and that now we're trying to get to them by Coast Guard helicopter to at least get them some immediate relief so we can start airlifting them out.

"Fascinating" that "we" didn't know that poor black people existed in New Orleans. And Collins and Langford want to just ignore the needs of the underprivileged in our city and county. What quality leaders we have!!! They rank right up there with Brownie.


And while I am thinking about conservatives and republicans, watch this video of Kevin James, conservative radio talk show screamer, make a fool of himself with Chris Matthews on Hardball. It's about 9 minutes long, but worth it to James get pummelled.

This is so typical of righties when they learn a new word (in this case "appeasement") and make into the buzz word of the day without even knowing what the word means.

Appeasement! Appeasement!


I was accused by a reader of The Western Tribune of being "kin" to Neville Chamberlain a while back ( I wrote about it here ) and I wonder if the letter writer knows any more than Kevin James about the history in the 1930's. Birds of a feather...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Country Music is OK*

*That is more than I can say about the Alabama state Senate.

I have little to say about the state legislature. Well, the Senate. If we are not worthy of them going to Montgomery and doing what they are being paid to do, then they are not worthy of (very much of) my time.

But to kill several important (and progressive) bills because they can't come to consensus on $25 million of the education budget is plain pitiful. $25 million sounds like a lot of money, but in the education budget, which is about $6.36 billion, it's chump change, about 0.4% of the budget.

I know there is a lot of bickering over this budget, involving more than the 25 million, but still. In a year when proration is being discussed due to decreased revenues we are going to spend $400,000 on a special session because the people we sent there to do the job can't do it?

So I will just focus on today's big election. No, not the one in Kentucky and Oregon. I'm talking about David Cook and David Archuleta on American Idol, who will give their all in their attempt to become the next forgotten winner.

Of all the previous winners, only Carrie Underwood seems to have locked up a career. Kelly Clarkson, forgotten; Ruben Studdard, underwhelming; Taylor Hicks, Grease (not that there is anything wrong with theater, but hardly where music fans expect to find their "Idols").

No, for success, you have to look at the losers: Chris Daughtry comes to mind. And Jennifer Hudson, an early exiter in 2004, has an Oscar for Dreamgirls (OK, I know, Hollywood isn't where music fans look for "Idols" either, but success is success and she has an oscar!)

Back to "country music" where the Carrie Underwood reference was supposed to lead. The New Yorker stated that "Any enterprise that lets Dolly Parton expand on her work for an hour is adding to the common good," referring to the week that the contestants worked with the superstar and her influence on them and the show.

True. And country music continues to grow. Sunday night's Country Music Awards on CBS had 11.7 million viewers, second only to Desperate Housewives (ABC) 16.8 million. Some of us saw both (there are reasons to watch DH) and got to see this performance by Taylor Swift, one of the reasons country music is growing in popularity. And as you watch, remember how in the past I have shown favor toward people who displayed pure joy...well watch Taylor at the end of her song and you can tell how thrilled she is with her performance. The first video I posted of this has been removed and this one most likely will too, so watch now.

I just wonder what her hairdresser thought of this.

The California Ruling is Nothing to Sneeze At

I had a professor who used that expression frequently in class in the fall.

June weddings:

In about 27 days Californians will be able to marry (my post from Friday) the person they love. But for how long?

I am confident that Californians will vote in November to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment to take right of marriage away from same sex couples who are married over the next few months. Officials are working to verify the signatures that opponents have gathered, and they have to have about 700,000 valid signatures to get the measure on the ballot. About 1.1 million signatures were turned in, and most people on both sides of the issue think this will be enough signatures to get the required number to place the proposal on the ballot.

Over the weekend I went to every California newspaper web site I could find and every one of them supported the court's decision.

Closer to home:

Today will be an active day in the state legislature. Or not. They could bog themselves down and not pass any legislation (in which case a special session would have to be called to address the education budget).

Issues that might be voted on, though, include the statewide smoking ban*, removing sales taxes from groceries, immigration, hate crimes, pac to pac transfers and more. It would be an interesting day to be in the Senate chambers, but, ah, we get our midterm back this afternoon and so I will be sitting in class instead.

*No one will be surprised that I support the statewide smoking ban. In the news today is a report in the Los Angeles Times that bans on smoking in restaurants actually deter children from taking up the habit. A study was published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescents that in towns where smoking was not restricted, 9.6 % of youth became established smokers over the four year study period, while in towns where smoking bans were enacted, 7.9 % became smokers.

This is a greater effect than that of raising taxes on tobacco products or media campaigns according to the study author.

In other health news male trees spreading their DNA (just like human males) is the cause of many problems in the spring, as common practices of city planners and gardeners contribute to our allergies. More male trees are planted to avoid messy female trees dropping their fruit (like acorns) according to a story in the news today.

More males means more pollen, and more pollen means more runny noses and sneezing.

Speaking of sneezing, has this ever happened to you?

And most people think this is a fake sneeze, but the song is good if you like Green Day. Billy Joe sneezes right in the middle of "Hitchin a Ride". Hmmm, Ok I get it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Going to the Chapel...

Not really, but:

Who would have thought that it would be 30 hours past the most historic court decision involving equality since the U. S. Supreme Court overturned Texas' sodomy law in Lawrence v Texas in 2003, before I posted a comment on California's ruling? But sometimes family celebratory occasions and midterm exams take precedence. Besides, now I have the benefit of everyone else's opinions.

Let me start by saying I knew the decision would come out around noon yesterday and as I was driving I was listening to Sirius OutQ to hear what I hoped would be good news. They said there was some delay, and I went to CNN where some uninformed reporter who must be embarrassed out of her shell was stating the marriage ban had been upheld and the San Francisco marriages annulled and there would be hundreds of thousands of people disappointed and this would be a set back for the gay rights movement and all.

Crap, I thought, and I switched back to OutQ where their reporter was just beginning to read from the decision (about 160 pages) and said the ban had been overturned, and that the court ruled that "Our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation..."

Not long after we learned that the ruling began with a historical account of sorts, and that the CNN reporter was reading that, thinking it was the ruling. Ha.

Out Q beat all the news outlets as well as AP with the story.

Anyway, here are the important things I now realize.

  • The Republican party did not come out swinging (except for Jay Love, running for congress here in Alabama...thanks Jimbo for the can view Jay Love's awful ad on youtube but I am not providing a link. More about him later). How could they? Three of the four justices who ruled in favor of same sex marriage were appointed by republicans, and the darling of republican governors Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed to uphold the freedom to marry.

  • The fight is not over (nor will it ever be). California has a ballot initiative to write discrimination into their constitution that will likely be on the November ballot. But marriages can begin in 29 days or so. By November, hopefully thousands of couples will enter into traditional, loving same sex marriages and other Californians will see that the sky did not falland that pestilence has not overtaken the state, and will vote against the measure.

  • Just I consider myself straight friendly (I hold no animosity against straight people) there are many Americans who are gay friendly and support the rights of all. So everyone, gay or straight, who reads this should go to Equality For All which is the organization formed to fight the ballot initiative and donate to the cause. The religious wrong is going to be gathering energy and money from across the country to support the ban. Can you say Hawaii, 1990's? Remember how it took efforts from across the country to stop same sex marriage in Hawaii? Remember those efforts were successful? So let's not let that happen again. Come on everyone, donate a little!

  • California was the first state to legalize interracial marriage way back in the 1940's. Other states followed suit and eventually the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in Loving v Virginia in 1967 that interracial marriage should be and would be legal. That is the way it has to work. After several states enact marriage laws one or more can bring the issue before the Supreme Court.

  • Yiiiipeeeeeee!!!!!! Yippeeee. Yippeeeee. Yiiipppeeeeee!!!!!!

  • Now let's get to work. Oh, and Jay Love? His ad says "Christian Conservative Change." You might as well say Iraq War, high gas prices, inflated food costs, torture, and blunders because those are the Bush policies and he claims to be the Christian conservative. Let's hope the people in that district can keep him at home.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Today is a proud daddy day. Tonight my son graduates from high school. That means that we have 100% graduation rate among my children, bucking the odds... well not really, because my kids knew they had better complete high school. Nuff said. But with lots of kids not finishing high school, including the public schools that mine attended, one has to be concerned.

And just as important, in my view, is that he will continue his education and go on to study some computer security stuff that is beyond me. Maybe the day will come that I don't have to take my computer to the Geek Squad when problems arise. Or maybe he will be part, I think his training will allow him to rise above geekness.

Congratulations, Daniel.

Later this month he turns 18, and so will be able to vote in the Presidential election this year. We will be talking about that over the next few months, I am sure.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Spiders and Cigarettes

Jason Bond, an East Carolina University biologist, has named a new variety of trap door spider after Neil Young. The spider is named Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi. Here it is, from ECU News Service.

Why is this important to Bessemer Opinions?

  1. The specimen that resulted in the naming of a new species was found in Jefferson County, Alabama.

  2. I grew up listening to Neil Young, both when he was part of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and also solo Neil. Here he is in 1971, live with Heart of Gold. Songs like this are part of the reason adults today are the way we are? Is that good or bad? Good, of course.

Bond said Young is worthy of the honor because he's been an activist for social and political issues.

Smoking Ban Update

If the Alabama House passes the smoking ban Governor Riley says he will sign it. On Monday we will see whether public health trumps special interests, as the Alabama Restaurant Association opposes it. They do have a point, and support a more inclusive bill that would ban smoking in stand alone bars also. But as is the case in so many things, sometimes you have to take what you can get. Pass this bill, get it signed in to law, then work to pass a bill that places the same restrictions on bars.

Monday will be an interesting day in the state legislature. Smoking ban, hate crimes...such progressive issues. Is this Alabama?

And I wrote a short addendum at the end of yesterdays post.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Big Wedding

No, not the one in Crawford Texas, even though Jenna Bush and Henry Hager's nuptials are worth noting, if only because we know the real reason Jenna decided not to have the wedding at the White House. Here is the happy couple in a photo from thefirsttwins , where you can link to other photos.

The president: "The weather cooperated nicely. Just as the vows were exchanged, the sun set over our lake and it was just a special day and a wonderful day and we're mighty blessed."

Nice. But the BIG event, seen by millions last night, was Kevin and Scotty's wedding.

A simple affair, and no one was struck down and a flood did not wash them away or anything. The "Brothers and Sisters" couple now can enjoy the 1100 benefits and responsibilities afforded by federal and state laws that straight couples can enjoy with a simple (or not so simple...just ask Jenna) ceremony. Including insurance for spouses, hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, parenting rights...things that many people take for granted and don't realize that other couples can not enjoy.

Civil unions, domestic partnerships, marriage, it doesn't matter what it is called, what matters is that everyone is treated equally and certain people (or couples) do not have rights denied to them that are enjoyed by others.

Jenna Bush and her twin sister Barbara probably understand this even though their father doesn't. Remember in 2004 they were invited to attend the wedding of their celebrity eyebrow waxer, Elizabeth Arden make-up artist Erwin Gomez and his partner James Packard in Laytonsville, Maryland.

Oh well, if people can get over whatever reasons they are currently giving when they say they will not vote for the eventual democratic nominee in the November election, and instead look at how important the issues of the economy, the war, health care, the environment and our reputation in the world are, and cast a vote for the Democratic nominee, then we might begin to make progress toward becoming a nation of equality.
By the way, (at least) one of the actors in Brothers and Sisters who just tied the knot really is gay, as he let us know recently. Read it here.

Addendum: Actually Kevin and Scotty will not enjoy the 1100 or so benefits that married couples are privileged to, because their marriage is still not recognized by the federal government (or the state in which they were married). Ahhh, but one can dream, can't one.

Friday, May 9, 2008

American Pillar

I am not writing about a pillar of society, rather I am promoting a vigorous rambling rose. I believe this rose is American Pillar, introduced in 1902. It is aggressive, growing very rapidly, and when I moved here it was just spread all over the place. I built this "pillar" for it to climb on, but I can't keep it contained, and it has grown up into an oak tree and over to and along the fence.

But its blooms are a wonderful shade of deep pink with many bright yellow stamens, occuring in bunches. Unfortunately it only blooms once a year, and last year had no blooms as the entire plant was afflicted by powdery mildew.

One thing I like is the timing of its show, because as most of the other old roses are past their peak, this one takes over, and is visible from the street as well as from the yard.

In a different light, the blooms take on a slighly different hue, leading some to think this might be a different variety.
If anyone thinks this might be something other than American Pillar, let me know.

And if anyone needs a good laugh, just watch this clip from "Whose Line is it Anyway" with Richard Simmons. Careful, if you are at work, your co-workers will wonder why you are rolling in the floor.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Stay in Hillary, and Signs in Bessemer

Hillary should stay in the race

Barack Obama will be the nominee of the Democrats, I have no doubt. But Hillary's presence in the race, and the discourse between the two candidates brings countless new people into the process in every state when a primary occurs. I can not remember an election in which voters in every state felt as though they were having a say in who the nominee would be.

These new voters might not have seen the light had it not been for the opportunity to make a choice and express it through voting, many of them for the first time. Since the Democrats will need every vote in November to defeat McBush, the primaries should continue. Then, as Hillary has already indicated, we will all come together and support Obama. Kumbaya.

Signs in Bessemer

Sometimes a sign looks like this:

The sign pictured is at the Red Rock Convenience Store located at Arlington Avenue and 19th Street in Bessemer's Historic Southside. That is a business that many in the area would like to see closed down, but there are some in the area who want it to remain open because (as some suspect) it gives them a place to gather and sell their drugs (conveniently). This sign has been in its current position for years, and when I walk to town on the city sidewalk, I have to leave the sidewalk and either walk in the street or walk through the parking lot. I don't think an entity can place a sign across a sidewalk, so I will ask our council person to look in to this.

Across the street is this sign:

In front of this building.

I have written about this historic property before, but that was when I thought the school board would use common sense and sell the property to a nearby developer who was going to restore the building. Then they got greedy, and want to use the property to make money by selling it for more than anyone would pay for it, while it continues to decline at an exponential rate.

Then there is this sign:

and I only include it here because I featured another sign here on this post last year.

Sometimes signs are more subtle, such as a sign that Bessemer might actually be moving forward on issues that have been overlooked for years. Council president Jesse Matthews said "We're going to take some aggressive moves out in the districts," in an interview reported in the Western Tribune.

"He cited problems in the older neighborhoods topping the priority list" according to the paper, including getting rid of old burned out houses and repaving of roads. That's kind of ironic, as we approach the first anniversary of my columns in The Western Tribune. My first column was titled "Three things that Bessemer needs now" and while not in my original list, the column ended with "...let's see...Re-paving streets?"

Where are the streets worse, Bessemer or Birmingham? I drive in both cities every day, and it's close. On Birmingham's southside, 2oth street driving south just past the fountain is about the worst road I drive on. Or there is the railroad crossing in Powderly or the streets I take in West Birmingham on the way to UAB. I don't know, they are all bad, especially when you drive a bouncy little pick up truck.

But in Bessemer, where potholes and crummy repairs are spread all around the city, at least the council president is talking about paving. And improvements in our communities, something we haven't heard from council leadership in years. Let's see if he can follow through.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Alabama Hate Crimes law update, and Stonewall Findings

The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill to add crimes against people because of their sexual orientation to the hate crimes law. Now the bill goes to the Senate, but with only a couple of days left in the current session, it is unlikely to be considered, what with things like stimulus check exemptions and the education budget. Plus they have to consider whether to change the name of Troy State University to Troy University. Is there a sense of urgency there?

But the passage of the bill in the House is progress. At least one Republican, Pat Moore, changed her vote and voted with the majority. Change comes slowly. Progress continues.

The Stonewall Democrats conducted a census during December 2007 and January 2008 to gauge the feelings of GLBT Democrats across the nation. While not a scientific study, the results do provide a snapshot of the opinions of the community. Respondents were from all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico.

Here are some highlights. On whether ENDA, the Employment Non Discrimination Act should be an inclusive bill, meaning protections based on gender identity should be a part, along with sexual orientation, 85% said passing an inclusive ENDA should have a high priority level, and 70% said even if that means delayed passage. I agree strongly.

Here are the top 5 issues of importance to the GLBT community (although with the economy tanking priorities may have changed since this survey was taken).
  1. Civil liberties. You know, things like freedom of speech and separation of church and state.
  2. Affordable Health care.
  3. GLBT Equality. Among GLBT issues, Non-discrimination, relationship recognition, HIV/AIDS and Repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell received the highest priorities.
  4. Ending the War in Iraq.
  5. Improving Education and the Environment. (tie)

13% reported that they have served in the military. This is higher than the national average. This tells me that GLBT community is interested in serving the country and willing to fight for the liberties and rights that many of us do not have yet. And it is gives credence to the effort to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." DADT doesn't really make sense anyway, as detractors say keep the ban because military personnel don't want a gay or lesbian in the foxhole or the tent with them. But DADT allows them to be there, and they are there, fighting right beside you.

24% of respondents have children. This tells me that GLBT reproduce, something I already knew. But that is a lot of kids who would like to see their parents treated equally and their relationships recognized.

Again, these results were not scientific, but they give an idea of what Democrats who are members of the GLBT community (the ones most likely to vote and who are involved in policy and priority determination) feel.

As for the Alabama Stonewall Democrat Chapter the next meeting is Thursday, May 15 at Logan's Roadhouse in Crestwood (7724 Ludington Ln.) at 5:30. We will be holding a candidate screening, during which we will try to determine the qualifications and priorities of the candidates and how they relate to the community. We will be voting in June for candidates for judgeships, tax assessors and other offices for which we often don't know a lot about the candidates, so this is an opportunity to meet and hear some of them. Put this on your calendar now, and if you are not involved this would be a good time to show up and become a part of this progressive grassroots organization.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Lies, Distortions, and Gangsta Rap

On Sirius Left yesterday evening, talk show host Mark Thompson was "Making it Plain" (the title of his show) that he doesn't mind supporting false statements made by callers as long as they support his position that Barack Obama deserves the nomination and Hillary Clinton does not.

A caller yesterday who identified himself as a truck driver said that he spends $10,000 a month on fuel, and that "$30" is not going to help him one bit.

I remember when I was a little kid we used to play connect the dots. After doing so, hopefully with straight lines and in the correct order, I could see the picture that has been drawn. This driver must have had a really hard time with connect the dots because the $30 that some are claiming average drivers would benefit does not connect to the amount that would be saved on $10,000 of diesel fuel.

Let's see, estimating, at $4 a gallon that would be 2500 gallons and at 24.4 cents a gallon federal tax on diesel it looks like he might save $610. Why, that is more than the stimulus rebate he might be getting in the mail. I wonder if he would notice if he only got $30 back from the IRS?

And Thompson just went right along with him, they were both so hyped up on berating Hillary he didn't even notice. No, they "made it plain" that facts and accuracy are not important as long as they turn people against Hillary and further divide the democratic party in the process.

OK, enough about that. Now I may slip up on occasion and get a fact wrong, but Mary Kate Rush really goofed in a letter to the Birmingham News this morning. She is complaining about the Jefferson County Commission considering charging non-users of the sewer system a fee, and she wrote the following,

Reading Commissioner Shelia Smoot's recommendation that the nonuser fee be called a "Clean Water Act fee, " I recall that Hamlet said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." A nonuser fee by any other name will stink just as bad.

Well, Hamlet was not worried about Romeo's family name, but two young lovers were.

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

While her point is well taken, Mary Kate needs to brush up on her Shakespeare before she uses it beside her lessons from history, because as people recognize her lack of knowledge of literature they might discredit her recall of history as well.

And I have to comment on Cynthia Tucker's column which also appeared in the Opinions section of today's paper.

She writes about resume inflation, but not the kind that gets football coaches jobs or ladder-climbers executive positions, but the ones that get gangsta rap musicians their cred.

Atlanta star Akon, who claimed to spend three years the fed for running a "notorious" car theft operation, as it turns out, just spent a few months in the DeKalb county jail on charges that were later dropped. Akon, whose real name is Aliaune Thiam, "made up a criminal history claiming he was a carjacker who owned chop shops but was finally brought down because he was ratted out by jealous underlings."

Tucker points out "You gain respect in thug culture - and millions of dollars in record and ring-tone sales - only if you're a bona fide thug."

The impression is that by abandoning one's middle-class suburban upbringing, which is how Akon was raised, and inventing a thug life history, one can do better than by becoming a "teacher or a chemist or an accountant" or becoming "a responsible father and husband."

And indeed, Akon did do better, after titling his cd "Konvicted" which apparently he never was.

And in an enlightening moment for those of us in Birmingham (area) where droopy pants and poor taste in underwear has been on the city council agenda comes this, from Tucker's oped.

Indeed, the baggy britches that are now de rigeur in hip-hop circles grew out of jail rituals. when men are arrested, their belts are confiscated, so their trousers tend to droop. It's from that unfortunate facet of ghetto life that the ubiquitous sagging pants were launched.

So kids want to be like their prison dwelling role models. We'd better listen to Cynthia Tucker, Bill Cosby and others who have seen the reality of what is and has been happening in our culture over the last several decades. A generation is being destoyed.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Ever Changing Gardens

For the benefit of those who have not seen our garden, or don't realize how much it changes from day to day, here's a look see. This is my second post of the day, so you may be here looking for something about chickens...if so, scroll down. But take a look at the flowers on the way.

This is a Rugosa, old thorny roses that produce really interesting flowers and often have a nice fragrance reminding one of old Victorian gardens.

Peonies are sort of like fragile roses. Their stems don't want to hold up the heavy blossoms, and rain really gets them.

Over at the pergola one has to look up to see the variety. this is Climbing Clotide Soupert, introduced in 1902, with over 100 petals per blossom and an outstanding fragrance. the blossoms are heavy, so letting it climb gives an opportunity to see them, otherwise they hang and face the ground sometimes.

Directly under the pergola one sees mainly red. I still don't know the name of this one, though I have been told it might be Will Scarlett.

This area of the garden actually is ruled by this mockingbird, and she was very glad to see the garden return to her rule the other day.

She doesn't even like me in the area, and often flies at my head. I know she must have a nest nearby, but have not found it yet.

And even higher, growing up through a magnolia tree, is Mermaid, an old climber from 1918, and this one may be that old. The 30 foot canes are huge, and the white blooms with their bright yellow stamens are wonderful, best seen from the bathroom window actually.

Ballerina has been around since 1937, and has a slight musky smell. But what is striking is how the flowers are bunched in hydrangea fashion (technically not so, but only in appearance).

There will be more to come in the following days. If you haven't seen the garden and want to, now is the time. Give me a call or email.

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

Prevailing winds usually blow from west to east, but there is a smell of chicken litter in Birmingham that could drift westward over to Bessemer. Crazy Larry...wait...let me stop right there. Larry Langford, who once called himself “crazy,” and the nickname sort of stuck, today was quoted in the Birmingham News,

“Now I understand why it’s so difficult to get stuff done in this city. It’s like the inmates running the asylum, and we can’t have that.”

You are running the city, Larry (even though he was actually referring to David Hill, executive director of the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority, who made a not so crazy move of delaying free bus service because they don’t have the money to pay for it).

Anyway, one of Langford’s co-defendants in the SEC case against them is Bill Blount, chairman of Blount Parrish & Company, a muni bond broker and dealer. Blount has a history of dealing with Bessemer and happens to be Mayor Ed May’s favorite go to guy.

Blount has had millions and millions of bond deals with the city of Bessemer, and rumors have been swirling for months that everything has not been on the up and up.

This quote from the Birmingham News interested me. The lawsuit states

“Langford quickly made sure Blount and Blount Parrish benefited from Blount’s financial assistance to him.”

Langford arranged for Blount’s firm to be involved “in every county bond offering and swap agreement in 2003 and 2004,” the SEC complaint states.

Both the mayor (of Bessemer) and the council have a loud and strong history of at least trying to arrange for their favorite bond company (that’s Gardnyr Michael Capital and Walter Lewis for the council) to be involved in every deal (rather than looking for the best deal for the city) and those who are looking more closely at things say the citizens of Bessemer have been screwed more than once because of it.

And if Blount has made swarmy deals with one municipality, I wonder if he would do so with another.

So the chickens have come home to roost for Larry Langford. That strange wind coming out of the east is dropping a few feathers in Bessemer, but only time will tell us if the birds will land here as well.