The Year of Moving Forward

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

Friday, May 29, 2009

Net Loss - 60

The Episcopal Church has ousted 61 priests that severed their ties and aligned with the Anglican archdiocese of Argentina over gay issues.

Jerry Lamb, the new Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin, called the decision to oust the clergy “heartbreaking.”

“But, the fact is, they chose to abandon their relationship with the Episcopal Church,” he said.

That is offset a little bit by the gain of Father Cutie (appropriately named, but pronounced KOO'-tee-ay), the priest that jumped ship from the Catholics after being photographed frolicking on the beach with a female cutie, and became an Episcopal priest (he must complete a little more training).

AP Photo

"I believe that I've fallen in love and I believe that I've struggled with that, between my love for God, and my love for the Church and my love for service," Cutie said.

And from another source:

He quoted from the book of Psalms and said, "More than ever, I'm assured that God is love."
He continued, "I have searched my soul and sought God's guidance for a long time."

I wonder if he believes that since "God is love" that all love comes from God?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Pics, Old Pics and Anniversaries

1. A Bessemer Improvement

For months (meaning years) we have waited for this to be cleaned up.




Now it looks like this.


Before you know it, a building will rise and this part of downtown will be reborn. Cleaning was delayed due to environmental concerns. The Public Building Authority has seen preliminary drawings. Nice.

2. Bonnie and Clyde

Did you know that it was 75 years ago this week that the two were ambushed and killed. In honor the FBI released new information and photos. Since I am on their favs list, I got them.

Not quite Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, huh?

Here's Bonnie Parker, wanted.


Here's Clyde posing by a road sign.


Here's a crowd gathering around the car after the ambush. Crime does not pay.


Go here for more.

3. History of Stonewall by Varla Jean

Speaking of anniversaries, this summer marks the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. I will be in NYC to celebrate!



Prop 8 Reaction - Buddhist

From Buddhist Peace Fellowship

Proposition 8: What Happened to Change?

by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

While Prop 8 is the catalyst to our actions and the stimulus to a meta-dialogue on marriage, I would go further to say Prop. 8 is harmful legislation that is being used as a tool to further moral issues of many who feel that same-sex relationships are immoral and an “abomination to God.” The clear message is that there really isn’t a question of marriage for same-sex partnerships simply because the California Supreme Court has upheld 18,000 (!) same-sex marriages. The court could have easily denied the right to marriage to those 18,000 people.

Meanwhile, many Americans in this Obama era advocate for change on a national level and have celebrated change. Many have celebrated difference this year with the victory of a different kind of President. When it was announced that the California Supreme Court had decided to affirm Prop. 8, what I saw and experienced as a Zen priest that lives in a same-sex relationship, is the unbelievable shock of not being part of the change America claims in this 21st Century.

What happens when we must deal with change (and may I say inevitable change) that is meant to transform hatred among us? Despite, Obama’s win there is still racial hatred. What if the change we were to embrace included the end of oppression of one group over another? Letting go of a superior or inferior being is what Shayamuni Buddha taught in his lessons on “no-self” or interrelationships with all living beings. We are nothing without each other. So, the denial of freedom to one is to deny freedom to all.

At the core of the “Prop. 8-struggle” is not marriage, but the transformation of massive pain into freedom and liberation. At the core of this struggle is finding the deep and meaningful purpose of our lives as human beings. Can the fire we feel be transformed into non-harming ways for reconciliation and peacemaking? Legislation alone will not do this. After same-sex marriage is legalized, we will still have the hatred to contend with in our living on this planet.

The saving grace is that as the seasons shift, the sun rises, the moon wanes and waxes, as nature continues to show us each day on this earth...change is coming. In the meantime, may there be peace in our hearts and minds so that we have room for the love necessary.

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
Buddhist Peace Fellowship
5/27/09

So my take on this is that the Buddhist priest is right on. Some of those who call themselves Christians and some Mormons are using this issue to promote their hatred. Don't throw me that "love the sinner" garbage either. As I said a couple of days ago, its about power, and as long as they can keep the gays down, less than equal, dirty sinners then they remain in power.

I DVR'd "Intervention" this week and watched it last night. Poor Gabe (watch), adopted from a foreign land to a white Christian family, told all along he was loved, but that he was a sinner, but having his difference pointed out every time he looked at a family portrait.

"That pain, and that depression, it's something inside you that just grows and grows and grows and grows."

He felt that he could never live up to his father's expectation and was doomed to failure. He ended up addicted to heroin and cocaine to mask the pain.

"When all you say is 'look to God, look to God,' I know, look to God, but there's more to it. All you do is judge, you just make me angry, you just make me want to go use."

Christianity, when used as it was in Gabe's case, and as it has been in the fight for equality for gays, is a religion based on hatred. Jesus himself would abhor the way his teachings are being ignored or twisted to promote divisions and a class system.

The priest is right, however. The change that we are fighting for, and that involves more than gay marriage, is inevitable. And they are blind to it, but the divisive Christians are only hurting themselves.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Prop 8 Update Update

Be sure to read my Plug and Play column that follows this.

A challenge to Prop 8 has now been filed in Federal Court. I am not going to comment on whether this is a wise move or not, but it certainly keeps the issue alive (as if it needed a boost).

The attorneys argue that relegating same-sex couples to domestic partnerships instead of granting them full marriage rights is a violation of the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The attorneys are former rivals in the 2000 Bush v Gore suit that handed the presidency to W.

Theodore B. Olson, the U.S. solicitor general from 2001 to 2004 under President George W. Bush, and David Boies, a high-profile trial lawyer who argued on behalf of former vice president Al Gore, filed the suit May 22 in U.S. district court on behalf of two California gay couples.

Interesting.

I said yesterday that our resolve was strengthened. Not just mine.



Oh, the caption for the picture at the beginning of the column, from the San Francisco Chronicle is:
Spouses Frank Capley-Alfano (left to right) and Joe Capley-Alfano of San Francisco hold each other while listening to speakers during a meeting for an action before the service at St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco.

Plug and Play: Western Tribune Column 5-27-09


This is my column from The Western Tribune this week. (Images added for drama)



Is Bessemer a “plug and play” community?

Are we a community where everyone fits in and where newcomers can find opportunity and a support system while being themselves?

I have been a close observer of Bessemer over the past decade and still can’t answer that.

Richard Florida, a professor of economic development at Carnegie Mellon University, believes that it is important to be such a community to attract what he calls the creative class.

Florida’s research focuses on larger cities, and suburbs are always linked to their big sisters even when we would rather not be. Birmingham ranked number 9 out of 23 medium cities on the Creativity Index developed by Florida in a 2002 study.

But we are not Birmingham. If Bessemer wants to be the hub of the area, we need to keep and attract our own creative class and here is why.

The creative class that Florida writes about includes creative professionals such as lawyers and health care providers and business managers that have to use creative problem solving in their daily lives. But also included are university professors, writers, editors, artists, analysts and opinion writers and such.

People who are creative in their daily work also bring that ability home and into their neighborhoods. In general, they enjoy outdoor life, and desire walking trails and parks but also cultural venues such as art galleries and theaters and concert halls. When these things are in place, according to Florida, people don’t try “to get away from it all,” they want “to get in to it all, and do it with eyes wide open.”


Graphic credit Randi Wolfe, Northern Illinois University

Diversity is valued by the creative class because they value a mix of influences. One measure cited by Florida is the “Gay Index” developed by a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon. They found that the hot spots of high tech industries and talented people correlated well with concentrations of gay people. When they applied statistics, they found high correlation between the gay index and several other measures of high tech growth.

All this boils down to: if Bessemer wants to be the hub, and wants to retain and attract talent both for the arts and for industry, we need to become a diverse and inclusive community that values all of its residents and recognizes the contributions of all. At this point, I am not sure that Bessemer does.

(End of column)


Flag Wars is a documentary about...well, you can read. Flag Wars. Maybe this should be aired in Bessemer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Prop 8 Response and Bessemer Meet Up

The California Supreme court just upheld Prop 8.

If I say that the gays are saddened or disappointed or feel cheated because Prop 8 was upheld in California I know I can depend on the homophobes to poke fun as they have before. But sure, there is disappointment. But I will respond with what has become a cliche: It only strengthens our resolve.


Because, as Cody Daigle said in his Prayer for Prop 8, “…if we are forced to fight this fight again (and we will fight this, and we will win, because justice is ultimately on our side), Tuesday’s ruling makes us wiser, stronger fighters.”


Efforts are already underway to gather signatures to bring the issue up again in 2010. The fight will not end until equality and justice are realized.


Here is the real question the justices were asked to answer. Can a majority of voters take a right away from a minority? Well, they did.


A right, like the right to fall in love and establish a legal partnership, exists, whether we recognize it or not. I mean, people are getting married, right. It’s just a matter of recognizing that the right applies to all. California is having a hard time recognizing that, because there are those who want to exclude those who are different. It’s just a power thing. They see themselves as better and as long as they are able to deny a group of people equality, they retain that status.
But like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, we are getting tired of waiting. As Dr. King once wrote, “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait,’. It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ ”


And as we wait, the resolve strengthens in California. And in Bessemer. California is a long way from Bessemer, but the same prejudices and hatred and misconceptions are prevalent in our community, and today, inspired by and responding to the announcement in California, the efforts to bring Bessemer into the 21st century begin in earnest.


The Facebook group Bessemer Equality continues to grow and we will meet tonight to discuss our strategy. Bessemer Equality is a group of straight and gay people who believe that our city can only grow and prosper if all of its residents are treated with dignity and respect.


Communities across the country are responding to today’s announcement, just as they did after the passage of Prop 8 in November. Join us on Facebook where you can learn details of tonight’s meeting. If you are not on Facebook, but are interested, email me.


As for President Obama’s reluctance to act on issues like DOMA and DADT as quickly as expected, read Frank Rich's recent column from the New York Times.


To go along with the column, here’s Adam Lambert singing “A Change is Gonna Come” from last week’s Idol finale. Sorry, no live video (the sound and video were not in sync on the video’s I saw.)




Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

As Memorial Day approaches, think about what our men and women have died for. Isn't it for the rights and liberties that we all enjoy?

Well, most of us.

13 Love Stories tells the stories of 13 gay or lesbian couples who have not been able to enjoy the same rights as others in our country.

Here are Travis and Greg.



There are other stories, too. Watch Leona and Grace



OK, one more. I can't put all 13 on here, but you can watch them from the link.

Cas and Ricky.




From the website of the California Supreme Court:

The California Supreme Court has announced that it will issue an opinion in three cases challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8 at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 26, 2009. (Strauss v. Horton, S168047; Tyler v. State of California, S168066; City and County of San Francisco v. Horton, S168078.) Tuesday at 10 a.m., the opinion will be available on the California Courts Web site at this link: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/ .

So expect a comment about that on Tuesday, around noon our time. In the meantime, have a great Memorial Day and let's remember what our guys and girls in uniform have died for.

And here's Jason Mraz and the 13 Idol contestants, "I'm Yours."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

This Memorial Day weekend take a moment to honor those who have been killed in defense of our rights and values. These flags are flying for that reason.




Briefly, the first two flags were flown during the Revolutionary War (13 stars), the next during the War of 1812 (15 stars), the Civil War (34 stars), World War II
(48 stars) and Vietnam and the current wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, (50 stars).

I know I have left out some flags and wars, but maybe I'll purchase those this year.

Problems at the Grill

Don't be surprised when you fire up the grill this weekend and the flame goes out before the ribs are done. Here, we learn that "When oil prices soared in 2008, propane suppliers quietly reduced by two pounds the amount of gas pumped into each 20-pound tank, saying they wanted to avoid raising prices."

I have a little problem with that. I mean, when you get less for the same amount of money, prices have been raised.

Here's another quote from the article:

"Until last year, Blue Rhino and Amerigas, two major suppliers, put 17 to 18 pounds of propane in each 20-pound tank. Tanks should not be filled completely for safety reasons.

About a year ago, that amount was cut to 15 pounds to save consumers a price hike, Blue Rhino spokesman Chris Hartley said."

Hey Blue Rhino, that is a price hike.

Of course, if you are a purist and use charcoal, or if your grill is fueled by natural gas, you don't have to worry about that.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Police Chase Thoughts

I got to thinking about this car chase/police beating thing, and realized that whenever I begin to beat someone with a billy club, I usually know immediately whether they are unconscious or not. I mean, the five officers' attorney says they didn't know. I wonder if she would be willing to lie down, pretend to be unconscious, and let somebody take a swing at her with a billy club and see if she doesn't flinch.

Now I don't really beat people with billy clubs, I never have, but I'm just saying...



She also said the officers did not know the man had been thrown from the vehicle. Since the police cars stopped either behind or beside the overturned smashed vehicle, I don't believe that.

She said the officers were doing what they were trained to do. But on the news, a spokesperson from Virginia College said that is not what they are trained to do in the criminal justice program.




From The Birmingham News, in an interview on CNN mayor Larry Langford said, "Neither of us (he and Chief Roper) saw this. It was under the previous administration."

Of course Langford took office on November 13, 2007 and the incident took place on January 23, 2008.

Former mayor Bernard Kincaid spoke out, "Normally I don't make public comments involving the activities at City Hall, but this is so egregious that I feel I must. It did not happen on my watch and I wish anyone who made public comments to that effect would correct it publicly."

Former police chief Annetta Nunn said she too was shocked by the mayor's comments.

Langford later said it was immaterial who was in charge when the incident occurred.

Well, yeah, if you hadn't tried to blame someone else, maybe so.

Trying to blame this incident on the prior administration because some supervisors from that administration were still in place is like Republicans trying to blame 9-11 on Clinton even though W was in office when it happened.

We've almost gotten to the point where young people and outsiders don't think of police dogs and fire hoses when Birmingham is mentioned. Now we will have to spend the next 50 years trying to get this image of Birmingham out of people's minds.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Updates from yesterday

Kris Allen won American Idol, and no one was more surprised than Kris himself.


"Are you freakin' serious? ... It feels good man, but Adam deserves this. I don't even know what to feel right now. This is crazy. Thank you so much."

I said yesterday that gays would feel cheated if Adam did not win, and sure, the greater talent did belong to Adam. But like my friend Glenn said (in response to my facebook status) "Adam will be a huge star but Kris needed the win."

CW says that most of the Gokey votes went to Kris, and that is what propelled him past Adam.


The Atlanta Journal Constitution was sure that Adam Lambert would win, and posted this at 10:11 (Eastern time) last night after the winner was announced:


From towleroad , who also reported that this was the fault of the AP, not the AJC.

Be sure to read my Western Tribune column this week (about the occupational tax), posted directly below this.

And the California Supreme Court posted this on their site yesterday:

Forthcoming Opinion Filings
May 20 2009 -- No opinions were announced for filing on Thursday, May 21, 2009.


There is no pending notice of forthcoming opinion filings. When opinions are expected to file, notices are generally posted the day before. Opinions are normally filed Mondays and Thursdays at 10:00 a.m.

There was a rumor that San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsome asked the court to delay the filing so as not to coincide with the White Night Riots anniversary, but his office denied that.

The California Courts are closed Monday, so we shouldn't expect an opinion then.

Here's Kris singing "Ain't No Sunshine."







And there's some strange goings on in a neighboring city. That's all I can say right now. (But I'm not talking about Midfield's mayor, though I might real soon).

Western Tribune Column May 20, 2009 Occupational Tax

If you go back and read one of my columns from February you will realize that the Alabama state legislature ignored my advice once again. I can’t feel too insulted, however, because it seems they ignored or defeated many important issues, as they often do.

One issue that I had hoped would pass was an enhanced hate crimes bill that added sexual orientation to the existing law. The house passed the bill, the senate let it die. Since a threat toward sexual minorities was recently uttered during an unsolved crime here in Bessemer, such a law would be relevant to the safety of our citizens.

But there were several other issues of major importance that were not addressed to satisfaction, including the Jefferson County occupational tax. The legislature failed to approve a replacement for the tax which was struck down by a circuit judge earlier this year. County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said, “I am stunned…We will begin Monday morning to reduce government.”

Up to twelve hundred jobs may be lost. By the time this is printed, we will have heard (again) that the new courthouse in Bessemer will not open when completed. And look for reduced services (and longer lines) in the old courthouse.

Maybe the newly created Alabama Commission to Reduce Poverty will be called on to solve this because this inaction is certainly going to create economic hardship for some.

Seriously, the occupational tax is the most important unresolved issue of the current legislative session and a special session could be called to resolve it. But why should we think the Jefferson County delegation would agree on anything in a special session when they couldn’t agree on a solution during the regular session.

Representative John Rogers is clearly right when he says that it is useless to introduce a bill that still exempts certain professionals when the Alabama Supreme court declared that the existing tax was unconstitutional because of those exemptions.

The original occupational tax passed in 1967 provided an exemption for fortune tellers, among others. Although the fortune telling industry has shrunk and they are no longer exempt from the tax (are they?) maybe we should call upon their services to determine if a special session would be successful.

And while they are at it, if they could predict for me the winning lottery numbers, my budget woes could be solved as well.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gays with Guns (in Bessemer)

Joemygod is reporting that the California Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 will be announced Thursday. In anticipation the San Francisco police department is dropping off barricades to set up in the Castro District, as tens of thousands of gays are expected in the streets regardless of the ruling, either in celebration or in protest.



Also, Friday is the 30th anniversary of the White Night riots which occurred after Dan White's voluntary manslaughter verdict in his trial after he shot and killed Harvey Milk.


Photo credit Daniel Nicolleta

The gay community is sort of in an emotional quandary, and with states like Iowa allowing marriage (that is not a slight to Iowa), if their state does not, Californians will feel left at the alter. So let's see what happens tomorrow. (There's also that emotionally charged event, the announcement of the next American Idol, tonight, and the gay community will certainly feel cheated if Adam does not win, because as talented as Kris might be, Adam beats him handily.)

Gays with guns. The gay community in Bessemer is in a quandary, too. All of the gay people I know in Bessemer are peaceful folks. But every gay person I have spoken to about the subject has said they are getting or have gotten a gun.

The chief of police spoke to the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association last night about public safety after receiving a "well written letter" from the group regarding a recent crime and the police response to it, and we appreciate the chief taking the time to meet with us. During this crime, a gay person was abducted from his home, threatened to be burned in his car, taunted at gunpoint, and told by the abductors that they didn't want "whites or faggots" in the area. He escaped when the thugs stopped at a gas station. The thugs have not been caught.

The point was brought up that prior to September 11, 2001, if someone were kidnapped from their home or abducted off the street, the term "terrorism" was often used in describing the crime. The question was then asked if an abduction was still viewed as an act of terror, in view of the events of 9-11.

The chief said "no." I understand his explanation, but I disagree with it. He said that if the intent was to instill fear in the community, or a certain group in the community, then it would be an act of terrorism. But since he has heard no other threats to the gay community (or white community) and no other incidents have taken place, it was not an act of terrorism. He said the threat was made to intimidate the victim, but there was no indication that there would be followup crimes toward others. I understand what he means, because if the victim had not survived, the threat would have never been known.

Here is where I disagree. The threat was made and reported. Even if we had never heard about it, it shows that the attitude is out there. The thugs are out there, and their like minded friends are out there. The gay community is under threat.

Let's compare it to terrorism as it is viewed today. 9-11 occurred. We quickly learned that Al-Qaeda was responsible. We didn't have to wait until another terrorist attack before we began efforts to combat the terrorist attitudes that turned out to be more widespread than we initially thought. Now that is over simplified, I know, but its just an example.

Now, terrorism is often thought of in these broad terms. But "lone wolf" terrorism is also recognized. Timothy McVeigh is the prime example, but Eric Rudolph (who was anti-gay) is also included in that category. While the Bessemer thugs have not (yet) staged anything of the magnitude of those lone wolves, their attitude is the same: rid the area of people they don't like. And the knowledge that there are people out there with such feelings who are not afraid to act on them is what makes this an act of terror.

So, we don't have to wait until another gay person is abducted or killed to realize that we are under threat. And that, to some, is terror.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Coldplay! and CIA Stuff


Coldplay was unbelievable. The above shot was taken before Coldplay took the stage at the Verizon Wireless Music Center in Shelby County Alabama. I would pay good money to see them again right now. I recorded about 4 songs on my Blackberry, but I will not subject you to those poor quality videos. But here's a live video from another person at a concert on this tour in Tokyo. What an evening. Balloons and all.



Chris Martin makes a big deal out of bass guitarist Guy Berryman's hot looks and says he's the reason they are so successful, he draws the teen age girls and all the gay guys. Read it here at Towleroad. Or, just gaze at these pictures from that site.

Guy is second from the right in this photo.



The CIA and Pelosi

Ok here's a thought about the CIA and Nancy Pelosi. First, it is no where near as important what Pelosi knew and when as it is to determine and hold accountable those who authorized and commanded that torture take place.

Second of all, the CIA has a mission and to carry out that mission involves espionage and spy techniques. In order to do that, they lie. Being a spy means you have to lie about who you are and what you do. Since the CIA lies to fulfill its mission, why should we believe that the CIA would not lie to make itself look better?

Third, I don't like plagiarism, and although I usually enjoy Maureen Dowd and her columns, she's been caught. Read this. She used the words of TPM's Josh Marshall. Poor excuse, Maureen.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Viva La Vida

Dan is back at Daily Dixie. Yay!

JT won a million bucks. Yay!

Obama is the voice of reason. That deserves more than a "yay." Read his speech at Notre Dame here.

I liked this part:

...And yet, one of the vexing things for those of us interested in promoting greater
understanding and cooperation among people is the discovery that even bringing
together persons of good will, men and women of principle and purpose, can be
difficult.


The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet
reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from
harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages
of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might
unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem cell research may be
rooted in admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the
parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their sonʼs or
daughterʼs hardships can be relieved.


The question, then, is how do we work through these conflicts? Is it possible for
us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a vibrant and varied
democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us
remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without
demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?...


He then went on to explain how.

Meanwhile, the protesters are left looking silly and narrow minded. Now I'm not demonizing them when I say that, although I did say yesterday that Alan Keyes should be jailed and stay there.

Part of Obama's "how" was:

Thatʼs when we begin to say, “Maybe we wonʼt agree on abortion, but we can still
agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both
moral and spiritual dimensions.


So letʼs work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by
reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and
providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term. Letʼs
honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible
conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are
grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of
women.”


That makes more sense than filling the jails with women who have made a heart wrenching decision and the doctors who are performing the medical procedures.

Viva La Vida

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sweep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own...



Tonight, at Verizon Wireless Music Center. Coldplay! I have waited years to see them.


Here's a link to watch The Scientist.

And here you can watch it backwards (which means forwards, or something like that). Wear your seat belt. always.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Western Tribune Column May 13, 2009

Here is my column from the May 13, 2009 edition of The Western Tribune.

There is always a lot of interest in what goes on in both Tuscaloosa and Auburn, with news about Auburn coaches recruiting in limos or Alabama coach Nick Saban serving as grand marshal of a race at Talladega. But other things go on in those towns as well.

In Tuscaloosa recently, members of the Kappa Alpha fraternity recently held their annual Old South parade in which they wear Confederate uniforms. Apparently they chose to stop in front of the house of the historically black Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority house to pick up members of another sorority from nearby.

Members and alumni of AKA were offended, and called for the university to permanently end Old South Week and similar events.

Meanwhile in Auburn recently an Auburn city council member removed confederate flags from a cemetery that had been placed there by members of the Daughters of the Confederacy to honor ancestors who had fought in the Civil War, a fifty year old tradition.

Councilman Arthur Dowdell, who is black, had not noticed the flags until this year. He said the cemetery had the appearance of a Klan or skinhead rally.

If my only source of information had been the anonymous comments posted online regarding these events I would have thought that shots had just been fired over Fort Sumter. In reality, both of these incidents are being overblown in attempts to promote agendas on both sides of the issues.

I won’t deny that racism still exists or that some whites in our society still yearn for the ways of old. It’s also true resentments are still strong and that a constant degree of suspicion exists among some blacks at the motives of all whites.

But here is what the players in both of these dramas should be doing. Rather than issuing formal apologies like the KA’s are doing, they could be organizing a permanent project to help disadvantaged kids with the AKA sorority as a co-sponsor.

And instead of issuing a disingenuous sounding apology like the councilman did, he could meet with members of the Daughters of the Confederacy in order to understand the importance of ancestry even when one might not agree with the beliefs of the ancestors.

Human nature, it seems, makes us seek conflict. But a more healthy conflict might be that based on chosen attributes, such as university allegiances, rather than conflict based on race. War Eagle.

Friday, May 15, 2009

ACLU Preserving the Constitution

On Tuesday night I was fortunate to be in the audience as Michael Macleod-Ball, the ACLU’s Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel in Washington, D.C, spoke here in Birmingham.


Here, Glynn Wilson at Locust Fork News Journal gives a good recap of the evening.

I wonder what Macleod-Ball thinks about Obama's reversal on releasing the torture photos. Or about the CIA lying to Nancy Pelosi about the use of waterboarding.

As a former Board member of the ACLU of Alabama I am always interested in what the group is doing to preserve our Constitution.

Here's a story out of Louisville, KY.

LOUISVILLE, KY – Nine months after an employee at a McDonald’s restaurant in downtown Louisville called a group of gay customers a series of anti-gay slurs, the American Civil Liberties Union announced today that McDonald’s has agreed to a cash settlement and diversity training for management at 30 of its Louisville-area restaurants.

Ryan Marlatt, Teddy Eggers, and three other friends had stopped for lunch at a McDonald’s restaurant on East Market Street on July 26, 2008 while visiting Louisville for the weekend. While they waited for their food to be prepared, an employee behind the counter referred to them as “faggots” to another employee. When Marlatt and Eggers objected to the slur and asked to speak with a manager, the employee who had called them “faggots” started arguing with them, repeatedly calling them “faggots” in front of other customers and calling one of them a “cocksucker” and “bitch.”

“The reason we made such a big deal out of this to begin with was because we didn’t want it happening to anyone else, so I’m very glad McDonald’s management is going to be having these trainings,” said Eggers of Indianapolis, Indiana. “We were hurt and upset, but at least we’re adults and can handle being called names. We hated thinking that this kind of harassment might also happen to someone young and vulnerable who would really take it to heart.”

The supervisor on duty refused to refund the group’s purchase, so Marlatt attempted several times in the following weeks to contact both the general manager of the McDonald’s and the corporate offices, with no results. Louisville law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, so the ACLU filed a complaint in September on behalf of Marlatt and Eggers with the Louisville Human Relations Commission. In October, representatives of a variety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups as well as other civil rights organizations protested at the downtown Louisville McDonald’s where the incident took place.

Read the entire story here .

The important thing is that Louisville law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. So the ACLU was able to file a complaint.

Maybe Birmingham, or even Bessemer, will one day understand that all of its citizens deserve respect and dignity and will enact such a law.

Watch this short video that explains why the Kentucky ACLU's LGBT program is so successful and why it can be a model for other states. If you are even remotely supportive of LGBT equality (or opposed) you should watch this video.



And to paraphrase someone who made a comment recently, equal rights, including the right to marry, are inevitable. Just as equality for people of color marched on, so will equality for LGBT people.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Reality

Reality shows are coming to their season's ends. This year has been fun, even though who has time to watch all the shows. So let me recap.

On American Idol last night, the two finalists were named. This is gonna be close. We have Adam Lambert from San Diego...



And Kris Allen from Conway, Arkansas.



Both will have a successful career, and we know that often second place (or lower) finishers go on to do better than the winner. So, who will it be?

On The Amazing Race, Luke and his mother Margie did not win, but they had the greatest difficulty factor in my opinion. Luke is deaf, and in this contest communication is key. They did well however, and made it to the final three.

Luke, by the way, is gay, and in this interview he and his mother talk about the race and about labels, and the challenges Luke faces as a deaf man and especially as a deaf gay man in issues like dating.

This season of The Amazing Race was apparently the gayest ever, with father and son team Mel and Mike White (both gay), sisters Kisha and Jen (Kisha is a lesbian), Luke, and another gay person who is not out of the closet.


On America's Next Top Model a winner was chosen. Teyona. What can I say? Look for Teyona on the cover of Seventeen magazine and in addition she won a $100,000 Cover Girl contract and will be managed by Elite Model Management.




On America's Biggest Loser Mike Morelli came in second place, but still, congrats Mike. Looking good.



But the winner was Helen, this years biggest loser.





On Survivor Tocantins, Drake Middle School (in Auburn) principle Debra Beebe was eliminated. But Samson, Alabama cattle rancher J T is still in the running. Here is a clip from an earlier show in which he broke a tooth.



Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Is Gay The New Black?


A lot of people disagree, but hey, a civil right is a human right is a civil right.
Anyway, Tyra Banks asked this question on her show last week, and here you can watch the entire show. The first half is about a lesbian couple whose marriage was not recognized by one of the mothers. They were a repeat on the show, and their segment had little to do with gay being the new black.

The next segment introduces Sam Harris, (the musician) who is passionate about his relationship of 14 years to his partner and their infant son. Watch this in the third segment at the link.



The last segment is this one, where a "debate" between same sex marriage advocates and those against takes place. Let's see, who demonstrates love and understanding here?




Shameless plug. My book, of course, which I have recently gotten back from an editor and am making some changes in, and am still working on getting published, follows one young man's journey in 1965 as he learns that rights and equality belong to all people.

Ok, back to the show. Tyra was struck by Sam's vlog after Prop 8 was passed. Now this video was made just after Prop 8 was passed, and some misinformation was released about black voters and their support.



"There always has to be somebody low to kick around."

Thanks, Sam.

Miss California

While on the subject, let me say that I am glad Miss California is keeping her crown. Remember, I asked why this was a controversy in the first place. She's allowed to have her view, and to answer from her heart. And yes, Perez Hilton is a doof. But so is Donald Trump.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Election Results

Priscilla Dunn top vote getter in special election.


There will be a runoff between Priscilla Dunn with 2006 votes (33.73%) and Merika Coleman with 1725 votes (29.01%). Congratulations to both Dunn and Coleman.


CW says most of Alexander's and McAdory's votes will go to Dunn, and Scott's votes will split, putting Dunn over the top in the runoff.

The big story is that almost nobody voted. Out of 72,104 registered voters only 5947 people voted. That is a dismal 8.25%.


Here are the unofficial results of the District 19 Election from
Jefferson county web site .


SUMMARY REPORT PRIMARY SENATE DISTRICT 19 Unofficial Results
RUN DATE:05/12/09 ELECTION
RUN TIME:08:59 PM MAY 12, 2009
STATISTICS

VOTES PERCENT

PRECINCTS COUNTED (OF 86) . . . . . 86 100.00
REGISTERED VOTERS - TOTAL . . . . . 72,104
BALLOTS CAST - TOTAL. . . . . . . 5,947
VOTER TURNOUT - TOTAL . . . . . . 8.25

********** (Democrat) **********

STATE SENATOR DISTRICT NO. 19
VOTE FOR ONE 1
LOUISE "LULU" ALEXANDER. . . . . . 332 5.58
MERIKA COLEMAN. . . . . . . . . 1,725 29.01
PRISCILLA DUNN. . . . . . . . . 2,006 33.73
ERIC MAJOR . . . . . . . . . . 364 6.12
LAWRENCE MCADORY . . . . . . . . 503 8.46
NATHAN REED. . . . . . . . . . 123 2.07
RODERICK "ROD" SCOTT. . . . . . . 873 14.68
MADILYN SOUTHERN . . . . . . . . 21 .35

Vote Today, Town Hall Tonight

If you live in Alabama Senate District 19, and have not already done so, get to the polls and vote!

Since I got such a good response to the Bonnie Tyler videos here is another one, arguably her best known hit. She is from Wales and was born Gaynor Hopkins. Remember those early videos from the 1980's? Here's one for you.



Tonight, the ACLU of Alabama is sponsoring a Town Hall Event "Restore Our Rights."



From Guantanamo to civil rights to First Amendment freedoms,our country faces many challenges. What are our elected leaders doing and how should they respond? How can we restore our rights?

Join the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama for an engaging and interactive town hall featuring special guest, Michael Macleod-Ball, the ACLU’s Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel in Washington, D.C.

WHAT: “Restore Our Rights” Town Hall Event
WHEN: Tuesday, May 12th, 2009, at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham
4300 Hampton Heights Drive
Birmingham, AL 35209

See you there!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why I Support Tougher Gun Laws

First, watch this video by Bonnie Tyler. This was her first single following vocal cord surgery after which she disobeyed doctor's orders and did not let her voice rest, leaving her with the raspy voice. She thought her career was over. Be sure to watch her other video at the end of the post.




Alabama 2nd in gun deaths

That is the headline in the Local News section of the Birmingham News.

We are second only to Louisiana. Here the gun death rate was 16.9 per 100,000 (in 2006).

In Alabama, hundreds of people each year die in gun-related homicides, suicides and accidents, according to information from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Hundreds. This is not an inflated number

During 2006, there were 43 accidental gun deaths, 400 suicides by gun, and 333 homicides by gun and 8 deaths by guns of undetermined intent in Alabama.

The next year, accidental deaths by gun decreased to 28, an improvement. But there were 399 suicides by gun, no change, and 373 homicides by gun, an increase, and 14 undetermined guns deaths, an increase. These statistics come from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Picture credit al.com

Here is the press release from VPC (Violence Policy Center) from which some of this information was taken. Their data comes from the CDC.

From the press release:

The analysis reveals that the five states with the highest per capita gun death rates were Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, Mississippi, and Nevada. Each of these states had a per capita gun death rate far exceeding the national per capita gun death rate of 10.32 per 100,000 for 2006. Each state has lax gun laws and higher gun ownership rates. By contrast, states with strong gun laws and low rates of gun ownership had far lower rates of firearm-related death. Ranking last in the nation for gun death was Hawaii, followed by Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York.

VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “More guns means more gun death and injury. Fewer guns means less gun death and injury. It’s a simple equation.”

The VPC defined states with “weak” gun laws as those that add little or nothing to federal restrictions and have permissive concealed carry laws allowing civilians to carry concealed handguns. States with “strong” gun laws were defined as those that add significant state regulation in addition to federal law, such as restricting access to particularly hazardous types of firearms (for example, assault weapons), setting minimum safety standards for firearms and/or requiring a permit to purchase a firearm, and have restrictive concealed carry laws.

From the B'ham News article:

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said Alabama needs to strengthen gun laws, including adding regulations to sales of guns at gun shows and placing restrictions on the types of guns that are available.

"The one point I try to stress is that we're not anti-gun," Helmke said of his organization. "With the right to have guns comes a responsibility and an awareness of the risk."

These German students created a video called the Violence Policy Center Show regarding gun control in the United States. I am pretty sure they have no relation to the group by the same name in this country.



I'm not in favor of tough laws that prevent people like me from purchasing and owning guns. Heck, every gay person in Bessemer should own a gun, after the events of last month (if you don't know what I am talking about here, email me. More info to be released soon). I'm for laws that make less guns available on the street, where most convicted criminals say they purchased their guns.

Here's another Bonnie Tyler video, "My Guns Are Loaded."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dan Choi

First Lieutenant Dan Choi is an Arabic-speaking linguist who is being fired from the Army National Guard because he is gay. As Commander in Chief, Barack Obama is responsible for this.


Between 1996 and 2006 60 Arabic linguists were discharged for being gay under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. 12,500 otherwise qualified personnel have been discharged under the policy, at a cost of over $360 million.

Ejecting brave men and women with specialist skills is a threat to national security and leads to a dangerously weakened military, as Choi explains: “On Monday, September 10th 2001, a message was intercepted by the State Department: tomorrow is zero hour.

"Despite its simplicity, nobody was able to translate it. Any of the dozens of linguists already discharged for being gay at the time would have done so easily.” pinknews

911 could have possibly been avoided if this discriminatory policy had not been in place.

Here, Aaron Belkin explains why President Obama should and why he can sign an executive order today to stop this practice.

Straight people are really interested in the progress of gay rights, as this report from CNN shows. They start out talking about marriage but turn to DADT during the segment.



The segment points out, correctly I believe, that the gay community is being patient because we understand that there is a lot going on. Don't do anything contentious regarding gays just before you want to get a (hopefully) equality minded Supreme Court justice affirmed.

But, come on Mr. President. Save Dan Choi's job. Our country needs him.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Jonathan and David: A Love Story

It's just weird when you look out your front door early in the morning and a police car is parked there sideways in the road with lights "a flashing."




This was on the morning of the recent fire, however, and the car was blocking the street.

I promised in a comment a few days ago that I would provide an example of where homosexuality is treated in a positive way in the Bible. One such instance is the story of the love between David and Jonathan.

"When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father's house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt." 1Samuel 18:1-4.

This was pretty much love at first sight. Brotherly love does not lead a man to get naked and offer his most personal possessions, the symbols of his manhood, to another man, but that is what Jonathan did here.

Jonathan's father, King Saul, was not happy about the relationship:

"You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen David, the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother's nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives upon the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established."
1 Samuel 20:30

In other words, Saul is furious that his son has chosen David as his lover, he says it is shameful, something many gay men have heard when they reveal themselves to their fathers. Saul tells Jonathan that he cannot produce an heir to the throne (while in a same sex relationship) so he can not claim the kingship.

"...they kissed each other and wept with one another; until David exceeded. Then Jonathan said to David, 'Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying "The Lord shall be between me and you, and my descendants and your descendants, forever"' He got up and left; and Jonathan went into the city." 1 Samuel 20: 41-42.

Again, clearly the association between Jonathan and David goes beyond what is expected from heterosexual males. They knew they would not see one another again, and this is the parting of doomed lovers, so to speak. Yet they made a bond that would last through all generations.


The Hebrew word used here, gadal, translated above as "exceeded," can have various meanings. It means to grow, to become great. Some scholars when translating this passage have completely changed the meaning, saying David "recovered himself, " or "got control of himself" or even deleted the ending completely, being uncomfortable with the obvious meaning, that David became erected.

After Jonathan's death, David wrote a song while mourning, in which he says:

"I am distressed for you my brother Jonathan;
Greatly beloved were you to me;
your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." 2 Samuel: 1: 26

I have not known a heterosexual man to proclaim that his love for another man was greater than his love for a woman.

This is an example, in the Bible, of two men in a loving, sexual relationship, and the Bible celebrates that love in this song.

Picture Credit: Wikimedia commons. Gottfried Bernhard Goez: Jonathan Greeting David after David Killed Goliath

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

FIVE

Maine's governor has just signed a bill allowing same sex marriage!

Hooray

That's five states. Maine, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts and Iowa.

Soon we will know about New Hampshire, and any day now the California Supreme Court will hopefully rule favorably there.

Every day in this country more people realize that same sex marriage does not interfere with their own marriage, that LGBT people are just like everyone else, and that our creator loves us just the way he or she made us!

Someone recently asked if we might be moving to New England. Hmmm. Equality. Less likelihood of thugs wanting to rid the area of "faggots." Mountains. Beautiful fall colors.


Seis de Mayo and District 19 Forum Report

Updates at the end of this post.

Los Sombreros es un buen lugar para celebrar Cinco de Mayo.

Pardon my Spanish, but Los Sombreros in Bessemer is a good place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo because the management comes around and pours extra tequila into your frozen margarita.

Yet still, I am up early and able to function at full capacity.

At the forum for Democratic Senate district 19 candidates last night all of the candidates except for Madilyn Southern showed up to spar for votes. Rep. Rod Scott of Fairfield arrived late and only had 2 minutes to present his case. The others gave opening statements and then answered questions from the audience.

I asked a question about the budget passed by the senate yesterday. The budget included $2.8 million for AIDS funding, but $5 million is required to receive matching federal funds under the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act of 2006 formerly (and still commonly) known as the Ryan White Care Act.



Without the $5 million from the state, we stand to lose millions in money that pays for treatment and saves countless lives. In short, people will die.

I mentioned that the House had passed the same budget, as far as AIDS funding goes.

Both Priscilla Dunn and Merika Coleman were surprised. They indicated that they were not aware, and agreed to the importance of the match. They were surprised that Rep. Patricia Todd had not made them (and other legislators) aware of the urgency regarding this. Other candidates jumped on this, saying the current legislators should have been more informed and they they would have read the legislation and known.

Not necessarily. You might read "2.8 million" but the legislation is not going to say ("this does not meet federal matching standards").

Anyway, my multiple attempts to get a response from Rep. Todd about this have not been successful. When she does, I will post an update.

In the end, Dunn and Coleman believe that the budget can be adjusted in committee and the funding will be there. All of the candidates stressed the importance of getting matching funds when possible (I could have mentioned the lack of securing matching funds for public transportation by our Jefferson county delegation and local elected officials for years...decades, but we won't go there).

The Birmingham News reported this

(Eric)Major said he tried to introduce legislation while a representative to stop the
bond swaps, measures he said Coleman and Rep. Priscilla Dunn of Bessemer
opposed.
Coleman fired back by asking the voters to "Google" her record on
the issue.


I guess what she wanted the voters to be reminded of is Major's domestic violence charge and his trip to the Supreme Court of Alabama which threw out his $500,000 award for his claim that his civil rights were violated when he was arrested ( here and here).

Back to the AIDS funding.

There is still a final step left to finalize the General Fund budget. A committee of members from the House (Representatives Knight, Page, and Gaston) has to vote to reconcile the Senate's version of the budget.

Please take a moment to call and email Representative John Knight, Representative Victor Gaston, and Representative Jack Page and let them know that the $2.8 million for AIDS funding needs to be upped to $5 million, and while you are at it, tell them the $700,000 for AIDS Service Organizations needs to be added back as well.

Representative John Knight (334) 242-7660 John.knight@alhouse.org

Representative Victor Gaston (334) 242-7675 Victor.gaston@alhouse.org

Representative Jack Page (334) 242-7742 reppage@bellsouth.net.

Update: The house today unanimously rejected the Senate version of the budget for various reasons. Maybe they will fix this problem.

Also, today, a senate committee approved adding sexual orientation to the hate crimes bill. Now to the full senate.

Update: Rep. Todd told me she that Rep. Laura Hall is the primary advocate in the house for AIDS related issues. That makes sense, Hall had a son that died from AIDS and has been an outspoken advocate for AIDS issues over the years. One would think that Dunn and Coleman would have recognized this.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Another Fire

Fire on Dartmouth Avenue




This one story Queen Anne cottage at 1809 Dartmouth Avenue burned in the predawn hours today. The home was built c. 1905, and no one was living in the house.

Should We Be Embarrassed?

I don't travel up Carolina Terrace to Dartmouth Avenue often, and until yesterday had never noticed the street sign at the intersection. I'm also not the best speller around, and am thankful for spell check and my unofficial editors who point out my errors. But it's a bit embarrassing that the city street folks do not even know how to spell the names of the streets. Let's see how long it takes to correct it.

Senate Candidate Forum Tonight

The election for state Senate District 19 is May 12, and there will be a forum for candidates tonight at 6:00 at St. Mary's Catholic church in Fairfield. The candidates are trying to win the seat formerly held by E. B. McClain, who was removed from office after being convicted of misusing his office.

There are 8 candidates: Louise Alexander of Bessemer, Merika Coleman of Birmingham, Priscilla Dunn of Bessemer, Eric Major of Fairfield, Lawrence McAdory of Bessemer, Rod Scott of Fairfield and Madilyn Southern of Fairfield.

District 19 covers parts of Bessemer, Fairfield, Hueytown, Midfield and surrounding areas.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Torture and Prayer

Torture

A poll by the Pew Forum has shown that frequent churchgoers are most likely to support torture.White Evangelical protestants are the religious group most likely to agree.



Here are the poll results.


What gets me is that 15% of Americans (18% of Evangelical Protestants) think torture can be justified often. Let's not elect these people to office...please! But just as important, let's not select them to stand in the pulpit.

I guess what this indicates is that attending a weekly church service messes up one's moral compass, at least as far as human ethics and such are concerned.

That is not to say that there are not churches out there that respect humanity enough to teach that torture is wrong (notice that 25% of weekly churchgoers believe torture is never justified).

Prayer

With the National Day of Prayer coming up (May 7)here's some poll results on prayer, also from Pew.


Notice, the older one is, the more likely one is to pray daily, females are much more likely than males, and the more income one makes, the less likely. God v. mammon, I guess.