The Year of Moving Forward

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Elections: Present and future

Don't forget the special city council meeting tonight at 6:00 where Earl Cochran, council president says he will set the mayor "straight" on how the city should be run. Tangled up in the mess are the poor dogs housed in the Bessemer Animal Shelter, who have been without food at least 8 times over last few months. Yet the mayor refused to accept a donation of food. That's bad, but the real question is, "Where did the money go?" The agency is budgeted sufficient funds to pay for food, so why did they not have it? The council also has other issues with the mayor, so it could be a very interesting meeting. Be there.

Be sure and read my Western Tribune column, which follows. Me? A communist?

Congratulations to both Claire Mitchell and Lawrence McAdory who were the top vote getters in yesterdays special election. The runoff will be November 10. Claire Mitchell will win.

Those who are trying to prevent health care reform must be feeling pretty chipper this morning after the Senate Finance committee rejected the public option yesterday. But it's not over. Readers like Becki who would rather see a gay person with AIDS die without treatment than have government run health care assisting him, think that most Americans agree with them, but they don't. Sixty five percent of Americans want a public option.

So Michael Moore said it right. He can count on me to join him. This is at 10:50 in the video. But watch it all.

To the Democrats in congress, who don't quite get it, I want to offer a personal pledge. I, and a lot of other people, have every intention of removing you from congress in the next election if you stand in the way of health care legislation that the people want. That is not a hollow or idle threat. We will come to your districts and we will work against you, first in the primary and if we have to in the general election. You don't think so? You think we're just gonna go along with you because you are democrats? You should think again. This is the number one domestic issue on people's minds right now.

Western Tribune column September 30 2009 Communism

I wrote this column in response to an accusation made against me in The Western Tribune last week by a reader. I am not going to reprint the 300+ word letter, but what it said, basically was that "Obama admitted to communism...share the wealth" and that he was "selected to be the change Lord Jacob Rothschild to be president" and that "the name 'Openshaw' is degraded...for defending communism..."

The claims about Jacob Rothschild set off an alarm because of the radical nature of the author who is promoting that claim about him and Obama. Google it if you don't know.

Don't expect your radical comments to be accepted. Nice ones will, though

Western Tribune column

In my column two weeks ago I wrote of a group of people who want to take us back to an earlier time. While I was referring to the days of segregation, during that same period another ugly idealism developed: McCarthyism, where often unfounded accusations were made against public and not so public figures that they were communists. Apparently there are still those who want to return to that era as well, as if communism is the greatest threat we face today.

These modern day McCarthyists use the accusation of “communist” just as it was used against such noted civil rights leaders as Martin Luther King Jr and Bayard Rustin – to discredit those who are working for equality and progress, including myself.

In last week’s column I mentioned the teachings of Jesus as a reason to support the public option in health care and now that “sharing the wealth” has been equated with communism I want to address that as Jesus might see it also.

Jesus implied without doubt that we are to share the wealth. When he instructed his disciples to feed the five thousand, he didn’t just make some food appear. The charitable actions of the few inspired the others in the crowd that might have had some food to share theirs as well.

Everyone was fed.

But that is just charity, not government distribution, one might argue.

The Bible teaches us to create a just society. We ignore that directive and have created a society that neglects the poor and rewards the rich. Justice would have us provide a decent life for all. Society has had two thousand years to reach that goal, yet still we refuse to see. Is it greed that blinds us? Or maybe it’s just our ignorance that keeps us from understanding.

Ignorance is the evil we face today, not communism. And by that I don’t mean stupidity, I mean those who refuse to educate themselves. Reading a book about conspiracy theories and prophecy does not relieve one of ignorance, in fact it may contribute to it if it prevents one from further investigation of, say, whether the book has any validity or not.

If Obama is a communist, as some have indicated is their belief, then Jesus was too. And if not a communist, he was certainly a progressive liberal. And this is 2009, not 1949.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Historic buildings in Bessemer

Have you voted? The unscientific Bessemer Opinions poll has Claire Mitchell winning the district 56 primary without a runoff! Low turnout is expected, so your vote could really make a difference. Go now!

I don't know the history of this building. I don't know when it was built. I don't know what it's original purpose was.

I do know that it is one of Bessemer's historic buildings.

But there's no preservation going on here. Yesterday the building came down, as you can see in this picture from the rear.

This is unrelated, but just a block away, the remains of this building sit on this corner for months. Why hasn't this been cleaned up?

Three blocks away, a burned building sat for months before the lot was cleaned off. And that didn't happen until the city decided to build the new DHR building there. Click here to see how the DHR building will look.

This building had an advertisement painted on it. The Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association is interested in it. More on this in a few days.
Bing Perrine of Billings, Montana collapsed last year because of congenital heart problems and needed open heart surgery. Can you imagine holding bake sales to fund your life saving surgery? That's what our country has come to, and that is what the Republicans (and Max Baucus) are fighting for. The status quo.
I'm fortunate, I guess. I know how to bake.

Monday, September 28, 2009


New Rule for Bessemer Opinions.

No comments will be allowed that use the word "communism" or any derivative of the word, unless the original post was about communism. The same goes for socialism, fascism, and Nazism.

Remember, this is not a forum for spreading hatred or lies. I know you "haters" will claim this isn't fair and will let me know by trying to say so in a comment, but those won't be posted either.

This is an action shot of a butterfly I was chasing around the back yard last week.

Finally I got the money shot. This is a Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae. Butterflies are making a comeback, it seems.

These brilliant butterflies can be found far out over the water at times, but its range extends to Baja California, north to San Francisco, the southern U. S., Mexico, and emigrating northward into the Great Basin, Rockies, Midwest, Great Lakes and mid-Atlantic States. See more pictures at Bessemer Science.

This tree is in a bad place in my back yard and for 8 years I cut it down each spring when it was just a little twig trying to recover. This year I didn't, and discovered it is Koelreuteria bipinnata or Chinese golden-rain tree, also known as Bougainvilla golden-rain tree. The orange or salmon colored fruit capsules will persist into fall.

This are different than Koelreuteria panniculata, the golden-rain tree that is more common along my street and known for the showy yellow flower clusters.

Here is one of the fruit capsules from the Chinese golden-rain tree.

Speaking of nature, Ken Burns PBS series The National Parks: America's Best Idea premiered last night. I'm recording it because we weren't here to watch it, but here is the (extended) preview.

Remember, Tuesday, September 29, 2009, to vote if you live in District 56. And Wednesday, September 30, 2009, at 6:00, City Council meeting.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I got a feeling...

I'm ignoring the crisis in Iran (because I have confidence in our president) and all other crazy news because I have a huge project to complete today.

This video by Black Eyed Peas will get me started. At first I just someone had too much caffeine...

UAB has taken a huge step, but the right step. UAB creating a climate of equality.

I watched the PBS Health Care Reform Special last night, and am more convinced than ever that health care reform with a public option is needed. Watch it here. It's over an hour long, but worth the time.

OK, let's get to work...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Crazy in (Bessemer) Alabama

My letter was posted on Equality Across America!

OK, Bessemer is just turning into the strangest place in Alabama. Here's just a sampling of the craziness. All of these stories come from the Western Tribune. Mostly.

1. Heard during a city council meeting last week, from a preacher addressing the council: "I don't know why they are upset. Prostitutes are in the neighborhood late at night and they go to houses to give oral sex."

"They" are residents on the street where his "church" is. "Church" is in quotes because...

2. A church is not a church if it doesn't have a steeple, according to mayor Ed May. Of course, the number of storefront "churches" without steeples in Bessemer is only outnumbered by bail bondsmen and payday loan stores. And the largest churches on the historic southside, the Methodist Church and Visionary Ministry, formerly South Highland Baptist, don't have steeples, so I guess the gig is up.

3. Three years after the last election the city council is finally about to grow some (no disrespect to Louise Alexander, Dorothy Davidson or Sarah Belcher). After council members were prevented from collecting their mail...well, actually, after they discovered their mailboxes were gone and "no one knew where they were"...they got riled. Council president Earl Cochran said he would ask the council to censure the mayor. But it's not just the mail issue. It has to do with changing locks and not getting the state forensic audit of city finances the council requested and...

4. The animal control issue will not go away. Hmmm. Let me just leave it at this. On Wednesday September 30 at 6:00 PM there will be a special meeting of the city council. Be there, if for no other reason, to be a witness.

Maybe, just maybe, a bit of the truth will be heard that night. Then there is this...

5. Red Scare!!!! That we have uneducated lemmings in Bessemer really surprised me. We had a discussion last night, and it was agreed that the enemy is not communism. And this is not 1950. I might reveal the true enemy in my column next week. Here's a hint: if you don't know what it is, you might be part of it!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Western Tribune column September 23, 2009 Public Option

This is my Western Tribune column for September 23, 2009. As I have said before, it's nice when the media and pop culture combine to produce videos that support my views.

Here's the column:

There are many reasons to support health care reform with a public option and here are three of the most obvious.

The constitution supports it.

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It would be hard to say that the “general welfare” of our country is not promoted by our government assuring that everyone has access to affordable, quality health care.

It’s the Christian thing to do.

Many faith traditions support caring for the sick but for Christians this should be a no-brainer. Jesus spent a lot of time and devoted many words to healing the sick and advocating for the unfortunate. The story of the Good Samaritan and others remind us that we are to care for others – we are our brother’s keeper. We should help to shoulder the burdens of others and this is what a public option would do. Medicare for all is a good way to put it.

A public option is the only way to bring down insurance costs.

Remember, insurance companies exist for one reason – to make a profit, which they do very effectively by collecting premiums and denying coverage.

Here is the total compensation for several insurance executives for 2008.

Ron Williams – AETNA, $24,300,112; H. Edward Hanway – CIGNA, $12,236,740; Stephen Helmsley – UnitedHealth Group, $3,241,042; Phillip Pope – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, $2,950,000; UnitedHealth Group deserves special mention because in 2005 their CEO, William McGuire, received compensation totaling $124,774,000. That’s 124 million dollars and it takes a lot of guts to make that kind of money off of the illness (and sometimes denial of treatment) of Americans.

Can we honestly expect the “for profit” insurance companies to police themselves and bring down costs? Of course not. A public option managed by a not for profit government agency is the only way to assure cost reductions and fair coverage for all Americans.

Those who argue otherwise might want to review the Constitution and the Bible and reconsider. Otherwise they are just as much to blame as the CEOs who are robbing the American people at the expense of the uninsured and under insured. And that could be any of us.

As if on cue, Will Ferrell, John Hamm and Linda Cardellini and others made this video as celebrities weigh in on the health care debate. from Funny or Die.

And former insurance executive turned whistle blower Wendell Potter shows up on Bill Maher's Real Time, which we finally got around to watching last night.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Comedy among the pols

On my site I've posted an open letter explaining Why marching in Washington is important. Please feel free to forward the link or the letter to those you know.

Who knew that Congressman Barney Frank was such a comedian. He appeared on Jay Leno's 10 @ 10 last night. Rush Limbaugh deserved this.

And President Barack Obama showed his lighter side as well, on Letterman. (Sorry about the ads)

OK, I agree, the president was black before the election (and still is), but remember, 30 or 40 percent of people didn't vote for him, and it's from those people that the vocal racists are emerging.

My column in tomorrow's Western Tribune gives three reasons we need to support the public option in health care. Here's a clue, one of them has to do with Jesus.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Equality Weekend Gala with John Lewis

What an evening the Equality Weekend Gala Dinner turned out to be. I was able to spend a minute or so with Congressman John Lewis and thanked him for all he has done for our country, and for our community.

There were several hundred people at the event, which featured a silent auction, awards presentation, performances by the Magic City Choral Society, a scrumptious meal and dessert and of course, the address by Congressman Lewis.

Seated at our table were Birmingham School Board candidate Elisa Burns-Macon and her partner Donna, congressional candidate Terry Sewell and two of her campaign staff members, Alabama Stonewall Democrats president John Smallwood and Congressman Lewis's driver. Pretty good company, huh?

Decor was provided by Confero Productions. Thank you Christopher.

You can view the video of Congressman Lewis's speech here. The speech is about 18 minutes long. Thanks Pam for sharing this.

He began the speech by reflecting on raising chickens as a child, and how he used to practice preaching to the chickens. Some would bow their heads, he said, some would shake their heads, but they never quite said "Amen."

"But I am convinced that some of those chickens that I preached to in the 40's and the 50's tended to listen to me much better than some of my colleagues listen to me today in Congress. As a matter of fact, some of those chickens were a little more productive."

He want on to recount some of his experiences as a Freedom Rider and his thoughts as he sat and watched Barack Obama's inauguration. John Lewis was the first person Obama greeted as he came out of the Capitol that day, and he asked for Lewis's prayers. Lewis assured him.

He urged the LGBT community, just as Martin Luther King urged the black community in 1963, that "You cannot wait, you cannot be patient. You want your freedom and you want it now."

"Discrimination is discrimination. No government, be it federal or state, should tell a person who they can marry or who they cannot marry. People have a right to fall in love and get married."

"I do not understand. Two men, two women, fall in love and get married. Whose marriage is being threatened?"

He compared the fight for same sex marriage to the fight for interracial marriage.

Some day we will look back and laugh at ourselves, he said. "The stars didn't fall over Alabama because people fell in love and got married."

Thanks, Equality Alabama, for hosting this event. Like the congressman said, we will change the south, we will change America, and the country will be a better country.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Congressman John Lewis headlining Equality Weekend

Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) will be the keynote speaker at Equality Alabama's gala tomorrow night.

Equality Weekend begins today and lasts through Sunday. You can still register for the event. The seminars and workshops on Saturday are free. Such noted speakers as blogger Pam Spaulding and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Mandy Carter and others will offer their insight for free. For some events, including the Gala, there is a fee.

Congressman Lewis, an Alabama native, is a hero to the GLBT community as he is to the Black community and for that matter, all of America. He was a participant in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march and has fought for equality all of his life.

Here is part of an interview of Rep. Lewis.

“It is unfortunate that a segment of our society fails to see that we all should be treated like human beings, that we all are citizens of the United States of America. I’ve taken the position and I’ve long held this position that I fought too long and too hard against discrimination base on race and color not to stand up and speak out against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

It doesn’t matter if someone is gay or straight or whether someone believes in a different philosophy or different religion. We’re one people, we’re one family, and we’re one house. There is not any room in American society for discrimination based on sexual orientation. It doesn’t matter whether someone is gay or happens to be lesbian or transsexual. We’re one people; we’re one family, the American family. You call it what you want, discrimination is discrimination and we have to speak up and speak out against discrimination.

You have too many people in this society saying they’re against same-sex marriage. If people fall in love and want to get married, it is their business. Martin Luther King Jr. use to say races don’t fall in love in love and get married; individuals fall in love and get married. So if two men or two women want to fall in love and get married it’s their business. Some people say it is a threat to the institution of marriage, and some of these people who go around saying that same sex marriage is a threat to the institution of marriage, which marriage or what marriage are they talking about? Some of these same individuals have had several marriages and I don’t think individuals that happen to be gay are a threat to anybody’s marriage.

Love is love. It is better to love than to hate, it is better to be together than to be divided.”

Congressman Lewis is a graduate of American Baptist Theological Seminary, and he gets it. Make plans now to hear this great man tomorrow.
PS. As a side note, Congressman Lewis has agreed to accept my pre-publication manuscript of my book, Those Others , which includes a great deal about the Selma to Montgomery march. It will be interesting to learn what he thinks of it. I plan to publish late this year or early 2010.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sweet sounds and sweet taste

Notice a poll to the left. You can vote until September 29, the day of the election.

One thing we can all agree on. Susan Boyle can sing. Last night she was on America's Got Talent. Wild Horses begins at 2:40 on this clip.

The winner was chicken catcher Kevin Skinner. He's good, too, as is runner up Barbara Padilla.

Did you know, that when you buy sugar, you can buy a "certified carbon free" product.

Now I've had a lot of organic chemistry, and I am trying to figure this out. Sugar (sucrose) has a molecular structure of C12H22O11. That's 12 carbon atoms in a molecule.

Oh, wait. Here is what it means. On the side of the bag it says "We are proud to share with you that the sugar you find in this bag of Domino sugar was grown and harvested on our Florida farms and has been certified Carbonfree® by, a non-profit organization that certifies products with carbon neutral footprints."

Learn more about Domino's efforts go here.

The label CarbonFree® means the product's carbon footprint is rendered neutral by cutting green house gases. And that's a sweet thing for all of us!

Our certification is unique because our Florida-farmed products' carbon neutrality is the result of our own production and supply of clean, renewable energy, which replaces the use of fossil fuels. Our renewable energy facility generates eco-friendly power for our sugar milling and refining operations as well as tens of thousands of homes.

So when you purchase one of Domino® Sugar's packages with the CarbonFree® label, not only are you sweetening your family's favorite foods, you're helping to sweeten the earth!

It's the same sugar, at the same price (at least where I bought it).


Mary Travers died yesterday. I grew up listening to my older brothers' albums of Peter, Paul and Mary. In my opinion they helped define a generation. Thank you Mary.

What is your favorite Peter, Paul and Mary song?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CSX hub opens in Bessemer

Be sure to read my Western Tribune column that follows this post. It deals with racism and Obama and Joe Wilson.

To those No-Hubbers who got on my case claiming that if the hub were being built in my neighborhood then my story would be different...

CSX has opened their railroad hub in Bessemer, and there is a school next to it and homes all around. Did we hear any whining from these folks? No.

No group has emerged to voice concern about what the facility will mean to students, as has happened in McCalla, where residents have objected to the Norfolk Southern's site proximity to McAdory Elementary School.

"This one had great political support locally and we certainly appreciate that." said Gary Sease, a spokesman for Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX.

Instead, the focus of the CSX project is centering on the benefits the facility could have on the 116-acre Interstate Industrial Park and the 750,000 square feet of vacant space among the 1 million square feet of warehouses there.

"It's going to enable Alabama manufacturers to connect to the ports of Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., on the East Coast," Sease said. "We're excited about it and looking forward to building business there as the economy comes back."

While my house is not next door to the facility, I can point out where it is on this map provided by the Birmingham News. so it's close.

More than 40 trains a day roll by on the tracks going along Carolina Avenue and you don't hear complaints...well, an occasional complaint maybe when they block major roads for long periods like this Norfolk Southern train.

What is the story behind this blackberry picture of a train stopped in Bessemer? It demonstrates something that people do not understand.

See the man in the blue shirt crossing the street? He just emerged from Churches Chicken ( I was parked in their lot) with his lunch and walked over to the train and climbed in. So, here are my questions.

Does the operator of this train stop for 15 or 20 minutes so he can get his lunch, blocking several major roads at the time?

If the train is stopped because it is waiting for another train to pass, as they sometimes do, could he not stop 150 feet back and not block 19th street? Could he walk half a block for his lunch?

Just wondering. This happens more frequently than you might think.

Keep reading, the Western Tribune column is next.

Western Tribune Column September 16, 2009 "Race"

This column was written on Friday, well before President Carter made comments about the role race is playing in the vitriol we are hearing about President Obama. I will post a video of president Carter's comments after the column.

I also was sent this video by Zach (thanks, Zach) on the origins of white privilege.

That video explains, in part, why the white people that I write about in the column have developed the (erroneous) beliefs that I mentioned.

Western Tribune Column

There is a segment of the American people who can’t look to the future. They are always looking back. Take Glenn Beck for instance. He sponsored an event in Washington DC called the 9-12 Project, and wants to take us all back to the place we were as a nation on September 12, 2001.

On that day we were a terrified nation with a vague sense of enemy. We did not know for sure that the terror would not continue to spread beyond the city of New York or the Pentagon or a field in Pennsylvania. We were fearful. Right wingers like Beck often use fear to influence and manipulate people.

Then there are the “teabaggers” and “birthers”, mostly middle aged and older white men and women who want to “take our country back” even further. Back to when?

Back to the days of their youth, when life was good and conservatism ruled the land? Back to the days of less government, before social programs were developed to assist less fortunate members of our society?

Progress has been made in many areas over the last half century and we are a better nation because of it. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are examples of social programs appreciated by those who receive the benefits. But other social programs such as welfare and housing assistance are perceived by some as helping racial minorities at the expense of “hard-working” whites.

By advocating for the days of less government what they really want is less assistance to the “have-nots,” which to them, means blacks.

Some of the protests have been overt and others have been subtle but there is an obvious lack of comfort among some Republicans at having a black man in the White House. Joe Wilson, the South Carolina legislator who ignored established decorum and shouted “You lie” during the president’s address during a joint session of congress last week, is a good example. Wilson is a member of Sons of Confederate Veterans, a Southern heritage group that defends slavery and advocates secession. He even voted to keep the Confederate flag flying over the South Carolina capitol.

His lack of respect for the first African-American president might have given courage to the disruptive protesters who wish we could return to the days of segregated lunch counters.

Fortunately the leaders in congress and the majority of Americans feel differently. We voted for and we support our president.

President Carter:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Billionaires for Wealthcare

On Hardball yesterday Chris Matthew's Big Number was 930,000. That's the difference between what the teabaggers claim was the attendance at their Washington march last weekend as the actual number of attendees. And I love how they used a pre 1994 picture claiming the mall was full, not realizing that a museum has been built since 1994 that was not visible in their picture. They can't even lie well.

The status quo is wealthcare!

Billionaires for Wealthcare is a grassroots network of health insurance CEOs, industry lobbyists, talk-show hosts, and others profiting off of our broken health care system.
We are not a political, religious or even particularly well-organized group. We're simple folk, thrilled profiteers pouring out of our corner offices to dance on the grave of "Change."

We'll do whatever it takes to ensure another decade where your pain is our gain. After all, when it comes to health care, if we ain't broke, why fix it?

They were in DC this weekend joining with the teabaggers hoping to derail health care reform.

Well, not exactly, but last month they explained their position in song also.

They are fighting, like the teabaggers, for the status quo. You know, number 37 in health care.

Update: OK, there's been a bit of confusion. The billionaires are not for real. They are showing the stupidity of the protesters. So, they're doing a good job, huh?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Taylor, Kanye, Beyonce, Double Take

First, Taylor Swift won Best Female Video for "You Belong With Me."

Then Kanye West interrupted her acceptance speech with:

Taylor, I'm really happy for you, and I'm gonna let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time.

Tayor didn't finish her speech.

West was asked to leave the show, and later posted this on his blog:

Then, later in the show Beyonce won for Best video for "Single Ladies." During her acceptance speech she asked Taylor to return to the stage and have her moment.

Taylor Swift and Beyonce both have more class in their little fingers (with or without a ring on it) than Kanye West could ever hope to have.

This video might get taken down, but here is Beyonce with Single Ladies.

If it won't play, you can watch it on her YouTube channel.

Or, watch this parody by Double Take.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Bessemer State DHR building

Update: New DHR Building opens.

Here are drawings of the new Bessemer State Department of Human Resources building scheduled to be built next year. After completion the DHR services for our area will be consolidated into one building. This will increase both efficiency and security for clients as well as employees.

The building will be situated at the corner of First avenue and 20th Street. Currently the lot is vacant.

This is the view from the front, along 20th Street.

This view is from the side, along 1st Avenue.
The building will be around 52000 sq feet, two story. Around 150 employees will work in the building.
The Bessemer Public Building Authority has approved these preliminary drawings as well as the preliminary plans.
Ground breaking will probably be in late January or early February, 2010.

Obama sways the country

It's one thing for uneducated fools to heckle congressmen at Town Hall meetings, or for birthers and deathers to exercise their right to free speech, regardless of how foolish it seems. But the halls of congress are a different setting, and the president of the United States deserves a bit of respect, regardless of how one feels about him.

Americans of all stripes argue that our country is different, that we are above the type of raucous government that is seen in other less developed countries. But the people of South Carolina have sent to congress Joe Wilson, who let his teabagging emotions get the best of him. Letting one's emotions get the best of you is no excuse for heckling the president during a joint session of congress.

If you want to let Rep. Wilson know how disappointed you are about his behavior, call him at 803-939-0041.

His opponent in next year's race is a former U. S. marine named Rob Miller , and his donation page was overloaded overnight, with contributions of over $100,000 since the outburst.

Now I know that I have readers who approve of the type of outbursts that Wilson made, but listen. This is the United States of America. That's all I have to say.

The president said this last night (read the speech here):

But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.

With plenty of examples of insurance company abuses(One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn't reported gallstones that he didn't even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it. and Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne), there are still Republicans who want to do nothing.

Jeff Sessions: I think Republicans felt like it was an attack. Well, yeah. You (republicans) will continue to be attacked for your lies and misrepresentations. You all sat on your hands when the president declared (truthfully) that there are no death panels in the plan while the rest of the hall cheered that the truth was being told. sitting stone faced, does that mean that you believe the death panel garbage. The president didn't mention her by name, but we all know he meant Sarah Palin as the originator of that phrase. It's a lie. She's a liar. Republicans are fools for not distancing themselves from these lies.

And you (republicans and some democrats) will continue to be attacked about sending us to an unnecessary war and tax cuts for the rich and such. Get used to it.

Richard Shelby: I don't know who he persuaded tonight, but he didn't persuade me. Don't think too highly of yourself, Dick. He wasn't trying to persuade you. He was reaching out to reasonable people on both sides of the aisle.

Spencer Bachus: He's never going to sell that for no extra charge, the federal government is going to come in and create a host of new benefits and do it better and cheaper and more efficiently than the private sector. He laid it out for all to see. That you didn't understand it is not surprising.

This speech was arguably the best policy speech given in my lifetime by a sitting president. I was inspired and I was moved, especially by his reference to the letter from Ted Kennedy. Perfect, Mr. President.

Forget the republicans, democrats. Pass comprehensive health care reform with a public option. In a few years (or months), the republicans will look foolish for not coming along with the rest of America.

A CNN poll shows that the speech resulted in double digit increase in support for Obama's plan.

Sixty-seven percent of people questioned in the survey say the support Obama's health care reform proposals that the president outlined in his address, with 29 percent opposed. Those figures are almost identical to a poll conducted immediately after Bill Clinton's health care speech before Congress in September, 1993.

More than seven in ten say that Obama clearly stated his goals

Seven in 10 say that Obama's policies will move the country in the right direction, up 10 points from before the speech.

If you missed the speech, watch here.

Part one.

Part two

part three

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

We need the public option!!!!

Be sure to read my Western Tribune column which follows this post.

Republicans cried wolf over the president's talk to the nation's school kids. Yesterday I spoke with officials at several schools, today I will comment on that.

No, I won't. There is no need. Those who refused to allow the kids to watch are looking foolish enough without my help (McAdory Elementary, I'm talking about you). But the end result for the president's health care plan.

See, undecided people and moderates, after seeing the ridiculous way republicans behaved during August, and now hearing them cry wolf over the school issue, are realizing the Republican talking points are nothing more than scare tactics in an attempt to prevent change so that insurance companies can continue to control our health care and can continue to rake in the profits. Helping the insurance companies is more important to them than preventing children from dying because there's money available from insurance companies, but not from dead folks.

The president will speak tonight to a joint session of congress. This is rare. This is big. This is important. I hope the president will stress the importance of a public option. Here, I will let former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explain.

Maxine Waters understands.

Here's what some do not understand. The Public Option is a compromise. Single payer is what we want, but we will settle for a public option. Clear and simple.

Western Tribune column Sept. 9, 2009 Shelter Abuse and Ed May

Here is my Western Tribune column for the week.

On July 7, 2009 at a city council meeting Bessemer mayor Ed May accepted a $5000 check from Robert White for Bessemer Schools.

On September 1, 2009 at a city council meeting Mayor May explained his refusal to accept a $2000 donation from Robert White which would have benefited the Bessemer Animal Shelter which had been without food.

I would quote his statement that he did not have the authority to accept anything on behalf of the city except why should we believe him, when he also said this:

“There has been no time when we have been out of food for our animals nor has there been any time when we have not had sufficient funds to purchase food. The dogs have absolutely not gone hungry.”

He said this less than a week after the shelter had called Greater Birmingham Humane Society begging for food and cleaning supplies.

I spoke with the director of GBHS and was told this is not the first time Bessemer has called with such a request.

The mayor previously said, “Something like this, quite frankly, it reminds me of Sodom and Gomorrah,” when the council passed the bingo ordinance.

The lesson of Sodom, when considered with all the passages in the Bible that mention the story, is a condemnation of the mistreatment of those who are most vulnerable, in that case, the strangers who appeared in town. In Ezekiel the guilt of Sodom is referred to as pride and excess of food with an unwillingness to assist the needy.

While the prophet was certainly referring to needy persons, it just seems that the prideful mayor’s refusal to accept the excess of food for the needy animals reeks of the type of wrongdoing referred to in scripture.

And while we are considering the biblical aspects of the story, let’s remember that we were given dominion over the creation. That means that we have a responsibility to care for the earth and its creatures, including the dogs and cats under our care. At the very least that would mean not neglecting or abusing animals and not withholding food. There is documented evidence of abuse over the last few years at the Bessemer shelter, and this latest incident only serves to underscore the uncaring attitude of city officials.

The people of Bessemer should rise up in protest about our shelter and our mayor. The dogs and cats deserve better.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I am embarrassed

I am embarrassed for our country.

The fact that school administrators are not allowing their pupils to hear an inspiring, non-partisan message about the importance of education is bewildering. Oh, I've heard the right wingers saying he's trying to deliver a subliminal message to indoctrinate our kids and all, sure - that's to be expected from those folks. But I would think administrators in schools would have better judgement than to be swayed by the birther/deather/pro-dropouters.

By "pro-dropouters" I mean...well, wouldn't it be ironic if the president's speech did influence kids to stay in school, so that as the years go by, the number of kids who heard the president and stayed in school and went on to have productive lives is higher, and of the kids who did not hear the president a greater number drop out and become a burden on society?

Is it so bad that the kids might hear this? (from the President's prepared remarks):

And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

That's what it's all about. Promoting education, promoting a learning attitude, to create a desire to better oneself through education.

Here is more from the prepared remarks the president will give.

Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

I decided to see what the area schools were doing so I made some phone calls this morning. This is what I heard from the person in the office of each school who answered the phone. The answers may or may not be official policy.

In Bessemer I called the superintendent's office, but could get no further than answering machines. So I called each school.

At Jess Lanier, all students will watch the president.

Davis Middle School - They don't have access in all the rooms, but some will watch and some will not. The administrator I spoke with then said "I don't know anything about it." (3 hours before the speech)

Abrams Elementary School - They are recording the speech to show later. They are going on with their regular instructional program during the day.

Hard Elementary - The person who answered the phone hung up on me.

Greenwood Elementary - They have not decided (3 hours before the speech). Referred me to the central office (where I had already tried but got a recording, I will try again.)

Jonesboro Elementary - I was referred to the librarian who said a decision had not been made, and when I asked when it might be since the speech was in 2-1/2 hours, she said goodbye and hung up on me.

Westhills Elementary - Will be set up so that teachers can show it if they choose to.

McAdory Elementary - No, and when I asked why, I was told "Because the principal said so."

McAdory Middle School - It's up to the teachers. They can show it but they cannot make any assignments about it.

McAdory High School - It's the teacher's option, and also the student's option.

Bessemer Academy - Not showing. Then hesitatingly said that only the government class might show it, then said if other teachers want to show it they can.

Let me just add right here that the Bessemer school system needs to have some mandatory telephone skills and etiquette training for their employees, especially at Jonesboro elementary and Hard elementary.

On Fox News yesterday Newt Gingrich and others agreed that the speech is a good thing and that students should be allowed to watch it and then discuss it.

I have read the speech. There is nothing controversial, no policy promotion or anything like that. But even if there was, is it not good for students to hear different views on subjects and then discuss their viewpoints? Is that not what school and education is about?

Then there is this (don't take it seriously).

Friday, September 4, 2009

Three things driving me nuts

Sometimes I make myself laugh. when I signed on to Bessemer Opinions this morning. Well, it's been corrected now, but if you saw it...

Be sure to read my (corrected) Western Tribune column which follows this.

Three things that drive me nuts.

1. Mayor Ed May

2. Glenn Beck

3. People who are against President Obama speaking to their kids.

1. I could not keep my head from shaking in disagreement at Tuesday's council meeting when Mayor Ed May was speaking. I guess you will just have to read my Western Tribune column next week to get the details. But...a lie is a lie. and the issue of the abuse and neglect at the Bessemer animal shelter is not going to go away.

2. Thank you Keith Olbermann for this clip. Look at what Glenn Beck is saying. Has he completely gone nuts? By the way, I love old buildings and the architecture with the reliefs and statues and such. Goodness, if Glenn Beck ever goes to St. Louis (or even Birmingham) and looks at some of the architecture, he'll have a coronary.

3. Presidents should be able to talk to kids.

These noisy birther/deathers have really gone off the deep end too, arguing that they don't want the president speaking to their kids in his back-to-school address next week. (It's at 11:00 am central time Tuesday on C-Span and live on the web).

Parents are urging other parents to keep their kids home from school.

This is utterly insane. A president, regardless of who he is, urging school kids to do their best and to stay in school, is not a scary thing. I hardly believe he's going to be talking public options and universal coverage to the kids.

And remember, the majority of people in education probably supported the president. This means that many teachers, and many principals, have the same views that the president does. Does this mean students should be barred from hearing their teachers and principals urging them to succeed?

What a bunch of malarkey we see coming from the right. It's comical, really, but when you think about it, it's sad.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Western Tribune column September 2, 2009; Candidates and Education

This is my Western Tribune column from this week's paper.

I might be stepping on some toes here, but with elections in Bessemer coming up next year, and the very entertaining Birmingham elections just past, it’s time for people to begin considering running for mayor, city council, and school board.

No one would dream of a school board member being elected who does not have a college education, but in Birmingham a candidate lied about both his college degree and his high school education, believing that these embellishments to his resume would increase his standing with voters.

I spoke with that candidate by phone and communicated via Facebook because I was in charge of arranging for a candidate screening for endorsement s by the Alabama Stonewall Democrats. I had no idea at the time that he was a liar.

Then when the candidate profiles for all of the Birmingham races were printed on Sunday before the election I thought looking at the educational qualifications of each candidate would be interesting.

It seems to me that that a college educated candidate would be better prepared to deal with issues facing a city or a school system than one who had less education. That’s not to say that other life experiences are not important or that good ideas can’t come from everyone.

All the school board candidates, other than the liar, had degrees of varying sorts.

But city council candidates were a different story. Based on their candidate profiles, thirteen out of 43 candidates did not have a college degree, including some incumbents and some in runoffs.
Many jobs require a certain degree of education as qualification before one should even apply.

No one would deny that serving as an elected official is an important job. Running a city involves budgeting skills and decision making and working together; qualities that most graduates will say they developed while a student in college. Especially, I might add, if a master’s level is achieved.

I have no idea of the educational level of any Bessemer elected official. I don’t know if any incumbents will be running or who the challengers might be, so I am not picking on anyone when I say that we need candidates who have completed a college education.

And when the various political groups begin to endorse candidates, let’s hope that they also realize the value that a college education adds to a candidate’s qualifications.

We can do better than Birmingham.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In Afghanistan....

The U. S. military does not allow gays to participate openly because "it would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline."

Of course, "straight" people in Afghanistan who are guarding our embassy can do this:

Granted, these are not military, so they are not America's best, but still. For more pictures, including pictures of security contractors get their kicks peeing on one another, simulating anal sex, doing "butt shots," and "eating potato chips out of ass cracks," go to Gawker.

"They have a group of sexual predators, deviants running rampant over there. No, they are not jamming guys in the ass per say [sic], but they are showing poor judgenment [sic]." Most of it appears to have been voluntary, but those who didn't really want to drink vodka shots out of the clenched butt-cheeks of their male co-workers were penalized and reported barricading themselves in their rooms. And sometimes the behavior extended to the locals:

"An Afghan national employed as a food service worker at the guard corps' base at Camp Sullivan submitted a signed statement dated August 16, 2009, attesting that a guard force supervisor and four others entered a dining facility on August 1, 2009, wearing only short underwear and brandishing bottles of alcohol. Upon leaving the facility, the guard force supervisor allegedly grabbed the Afghan national by the face and began abusing him with foul language, saying, "You are very good for fXXXing." The Afghan national reported that he "was too afraid of them I could not tell them any thing."

These are the people guarding our embassy. I hope Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has her way, no, let me re-phrase this, fires their asses and has them incarcerated where they can have some real fun.

What an embarrassment.