The Year of Moving Forward

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

Friday, February 26, 2010

Four books

There are four books that should be required reading for anyone interested in learning why Alabama is the way it is.

You could add the 1901 Alabama constitution to the list of required reading also. I'll have something to say about that in my Western Tribune column next week.

First, though, some housekeeping.

To the left you will see a button where you can donate to Bessemer Opinions. While you will never be required to pay to read what is on this site and my others, it does take time to research and produce the content that you see. So if you feel generous from time to time, and appreciate my effort to get the progressive blue message out in this red state, click on the button and make a donation. Thanks.

Carry Me Home, Birmingham, Alabama, The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, by Birmingham native Diane McWhorter, is a must read. Published in 2001, Carry Me Home is both a personal memoir and a historical account of the fall of segregation. If you are from Birmingham, you will recognize family names of the your friends and co-workers and you might be surprised by what you learn.

Alabama in the Twentieth Century by Wayne Flynt was published in 2004. Flynt is a Distinguished University Professor of History at Auburn University, and this book outlines the issues by topic rather than chronologically. The books is divided into three parts: Alabama's Political Economy (starting with the 1901 Constitution), Alabama's Society, and Alabama's Culture (with a chapter titled What Would Jesus Do? Religion).

Slavery by Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon was published in 2008. "Shocking...Eviscerates one of our school-children's most basic assumption: that Slavery in America ended with the Civil War" is how the New York Times described this book. There was an article about it in the Birmingham News recently, but many of us heard the author during interviews on NPR or read of this story in the Wall Street Journal.

As if our history of slavery is not bad enough, what is exposed in this book should make very American look to the ground in shame. The photographs are particularly disturbing.

The book tells the history of a post civil war systematic re-enslavement of blacks in our state under the guise of law enforcement and justice and deals of human labor trafficking. It is a difficult book to read because the personal stories of the individuals are so tragic and so, unfair.

Trying Times, Alabama Photographs, 1917-1945, by Michael V. R. Thomason, was published in 1985. This book may be difficult to find but I might let you borrow mine. Or look at it over here.

This book is a photo-essay of the social and economic history of our state during those years. There is an introduction and a short commentary, and each photograph is accompanied by a paragraph explaining it.

Near the middle of the book, opened to pages 152 and 153, are two photographs. On the left hand side is a picture of a tenant farmer family in Greensboro in 1941, in their newspaper lined cabin, with a black and white cat curled up on the floor. On the facing page is a photo of a white family taken in 1939. The children have hookworm and the woman has pellagra. "Neither affliction was uncommon," the caption informs us. Unexpectedly, under the bed in the photo, is a black doll, presumably belonging to one of the little white girls in the photo.

There are other good books about our history and society, bu these four can catch you up. What better on a cold winter evening than to turn off the tv (once the Olympics are done) and crack open a book that may do more than just educate you. It might lead to some self-discovery, and that means being honest with yourself and your feelings and beliefs, and that is always a good thing.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Newspapers have a responsibility

During the years after World War I a wave of antisemitism swept the country, and some newspapers printed articles or opinions that fueled hatred against the Jews. An example would be the automobile manufacturer Henry Ford's reprinting of Protocols of the Elders of Zion in a series of articles in the Dearborn Independent.

This action was widely criticised and Ford later apologized.

In the late 1800's the Birmingham News warned that the Negroes in Birmingham be restrained lest they "develop into human tigers and give vent to their hatred of some white men." The 'restraint' which ensued included banning Negroes from the front of streetcars, public parks and white-zoned neighborhoods. (Diane McWhorter - Carry Me Home)

During the mid 20th century in Birmingham, a newspaper (the Birmingham Post) fueled racial hostilities with its support of Bull Conner with an article headlined "Commies Sponsor Negro Youth Meet." (McWhorter)

I give these examples to show that newspapers sometimes choose to act in irresponsible and harmful ways. They sometimes allow debate where there is clearly not an issue that is debatable. They sometimes allow rhetoric that is clearly hateful, that is clearly meant to inflame, and that clearly crosses the boundaries of decency.

Always society looks back in amazement if not disbelief at the hatred that was allowed or encouraged by the media. Henry Ford was forced to apologize. The Birmingham News sort of apologized years...many years, later.

Now the media thinks it is ok to allow smears against the gay community in the form of debate or opinion. Terms such as "sodomite" might be used, which immediately gives an impression of a Higher Power giving disapproval, and thus influencing the reader toward disapproval.

The Western Tribune has allowed a reader to respond to my writings in that paper and in the Birmingham News in hateful ways on more than one occasion.

"It is well known that there are biblical injunctions that prohibit the crime of sodomy, so sodomites must overcome this injunction.

"They do it by several means.

"First, they ignore the bible or pass it off as an antiquated and irrelevant document because it prohibits what a sodomite desires to do.

"Other sodomites claim the biblical passages - and there are many - are unclear and therefore they obfuscate the arguments opposing their acts of sodomy.

"Some sodomites have made this argument null and void by producing their own version of the Bible and omitting those scriptures that condemn sodomy, therefore exposing their knowledge that the injunctions exist.

"To give you the right to legally engage in sodomy (marry another man) is to grant you supra-rights (rights above and beyond the rest of us)."

Aubrey "Snuffy" Garrett" Western Tribune 10-14-2009

The letter writer repeats the term "sodomy" in an effort to defame, with God's blessing, the gay community.

Would the same newspaper, or any other, allow a letter to be printed that defamed the black community in the same way?

Imagine reading a letter in your paper calling for suppression of blacks using biblical references. (this is not a real letter)

Dear Editor,

The blacks are getting too much power. The Bible instructs us

"Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ." (Ephesians 6:5)

"Slaves are to be submissive to their masters in everything, and to be well-pleasing, not talking back ." (Titus 2:9)

"Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel. " (1 Peter 2:18)

We would never stand for such to be printed in the newspapers. Why, pray tell, can the Bible be used to degrade gays? Why would a newspaper allow it?

What really gets me is that this is a newspaper that I write for!!!

In this week's Western Tribune Mr. Garrett continued his biblical assault on the gay community.
In a letter Mr. Garrett responds to my recent letter in The Birmingham News supporting marriage equality, in which I used the terms "loving relationships" and "sacred."

"You must ask yourself the question: If God condemns an act, how could He consider it sacred or holy, the answer is of course, He cannot. A man could so love his horse that he commits sodomy with it and then calls it a loving relationship but God would still call it sodomy!"

Aubrey "Snuffy" Garrett Western Tribune 2-24-10

So loving relationships between gay men or women are compared to having relations with a horse, with the premise that the Bible, and God, back up this comparison.

Just as using the Bible to support the enslavement of blacks is a form of spiritual terrorism, using it to slander the gay community is spiritual terrorism as well.

This egregious example is from the Western Tribune, but the same thing happens every day in newspapers and on radio and TV across the country.

This will continue as long as we allow it. A good start to putting an end to this would be to contact the Western Tribune. Contact information can be found here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Western Tribune column February 24, 2010 Hate Crimes

My Western Tribune column for today, Wednesday, February 24, 2010.

I wrote this because another columnist wrote a homophobic column degrading gays and using religious based bigotry in denouncing hate crimes legislation.

This person is the former owner of an ambulance company and often brings to our attention his ties to the medical field. One might think that he would be aware of, or even seen, victims of hate crimes (beaten and bloodied that he made money off of by transporting them to receive medical care) and that his heart might have been softened a bit.

Apparently not. I'm not going to copy his column here, you will have to find a Western Tribune to read it. Or come over.

He doesn't do any name calling re gays but he falls back on that old tired hateful use of the bible and that classifies as homophobia in my book.

At the end of the column I have inserted a video of the 12th annual Hate Crimes vigil in Montgomery on Sunday, including excerpts of Ox Freeman's moving and powerful speech.

I am also sharing a couple of exclusive photos of the event.

Western Tribune column:

It bothers me a bit when someone claims, for whatever reason, that hate crimes laws are not needed. Maybe they’ve not had a son or daughter or friend attacked because of who they are.
In 2004 Christopher Gaines tightened the rope around 18 year old Scotty Joe Weaver’s neck as he cried in anguish, “Chris, please stop.”

Christopher didn’t stop, in spite of Scotty’s cries. Chris hated gay people so much that he felt it was OK to kill an 18 year old boy, then urinate on the body and set it on fire.

Some claim that homosexuality is a sin, and that the Bible backs them up. Yet Jesus said nothing about homosexuality, instead he preached about heterosexual relationships and divorce. If one really studies the Bible, instead of just memorizing the talking points, they would recognize that the verses that mention same-sex activity are not at all critical of homosexuality as an orientation, but rather against specific immoral acts involving abusive relationships or improper worship.

Yet just last year I saw Christians holding signs that say “sodomites are vile, unnatural and worthy of death,” here in Birmingham. I saw Baptist minister Fred Phelps in town a few years ago holding signs that said “God hates fags.” Phelps was here to protest a memorial for Billy Jack Gaither, another gay man who was murdered and burned in 1999.

When I see Christians actively promoting the death of gay people and others who claim to be Christian looking for reasons not to enact protections against such crimes, I am disheartened.

All crimes are not based on hatred, as some think. A mugger does not attack and kill his random victim because of hatred of the individual he has chosen. But a man who chooses his victim because of his race or his sexual orientation has allowed his hatred to dictate his actions.

Speaker Ox Freeman and Equality Alabama board members at the rally

On Sunday the 12th annual Hate Crimes Vigil took place on the steps of the capitol in Montgomery. The event remembered Scotty Joe Weaver and Billy Jack Gaither and others, and awareness of the need for a state law was raised.

Adam and Steve (yes, God did make them) at the vigil

You may not be gay, but you might have a child or sibling or other relative or a friend who is.

Let’s stop using religious based bigotry that endangers them and pass a state law that helps to protect them.

Here is the video of the event . Thanks Lori!

Here is a documentary about Billy Jack Gaither. There are interviews with family members and there is a homophobia questionnaire that I think some acquaintances of mine need to take.

Frontline documentary

The interview with Charles Butler is particularly fascinating, as he speaks about Steve Mullin's likely sexual relationship with Billy Jack, and why he thinks he turned on his friend and killed him.

Such self hatred is very dangerous, and religious based bigotry only fuels the fire.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cleophus King announces

Cleophus King has announced his intention to run for Bessemer City Council district 7 with the creation of a facebook fan page where he has listed some of his priorities for the city and the district.

District 7 includes my neighborhood as well as other areas including Jonesboro.

Here are some highlights of his priorities:
  • Support neighborhood beautification and revitalization of downtown district.
  • Stimulate economic growth in under served areas in the city.
  • Seek to develop a more effective relationship with school board officials to provide our youth with keys to success, implement things that will cultivate their talents for a higher education.
  • Fight for better police protection in our neighborhoods.
  • Expand the neighborhood watch program all over district seven.
  • Hold district meetings to ensure Pubic Safety is Priority One.

I have spoken with Cleophus about his candidacy and about working with the current or future leadership in the city. I plan to meet with him to learn more specifics about the issues.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Tiger Woods is speaking to a hand full of hand picked reporters now. He chooses the middle of the Olympics to bring back up an episode that we had been able to forget.

Good timing or bad timing?

A young person close to me was listening as Tiger was talking about being a role model for young people out of concern that his infidelity would drive young people away from golf. But this person said that he might have just made a boring sport more interesting to many young people, and the sport might grow rapidly.

The deal to use stimulus money to build the Norfolk Southern intermodal hub in McCalla is being announced today or soon. Cynics say its just a ploy to prop up the stimulus (for which there is tons of evidence if they would just take the time to look).

Good timing or bad timing for the announcement?

Actions speak louder than words, as the republicans say, regarding the stimulus.

Speaking of the stimulus and the economy you have probably seen this graph, but if you are a republican you may have ignored it. Its a chart of job losses during the Bush and Obama years.

Notice the trend. So jobs were trending "loss" during the previous administration, and are trending "gain" during the current administration.

Republicans either ignore the truth, bend the truth, or make up the truth to promote their "Waterloo" agenda. Decent Americans respect the truth.

Olympic Update

Not really, just a couple of photos.

Johnny Weir may have been robbed a little in scoring, but he has a style unlike any other male figure skater.

I made a comment last night that maybe he was just a little too flamboyant for the judges and the same young person reminded me that this was male figure skating. Enough said. But congratulations to Evan, gold medal winner! And Johnny, we love you!!!

This is for those of you who said curling offers nothing, including no good lookers.

Canadian curler John Morris

There is some concern among readers both in the comments and in person that I will not be able to live up to my Lenten promise. Here is part of my strategy.

During the Olympics I am not watching Keith or Rachel or Bill O or Glenn or listening to Rush. I get my news from the newspaper and from the news shows, mainly channel 13 for local and NBC for national. So I miss a lot of the worthless chatter (of which I realize I am a part) that most people don't hear anyway.

When the Olympics are over I'm not sure what I will do. Maybe keep watching regular news and turn the TV off and read like they did in the 1940's or watch more "Cougar Town" and "Modern Family " and "Amazing Race."

It's all part of the new and improved Joe.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

39 days

Lent has begun, and I have decided to give up...

We've already been eating healthier and exercising, giving up the slovenly lifestyle. But that happened a while back. Heck, it wasn't even a New Year's resolution, it began around Halloween.
I wanted to give up laundry, but it's just been one day and there are three loads waiting already.

No, it's going to be abstinence, of a sort. I am going to abstain from snarky criticism of political figures.

Now that doesn't mean I will not be reporting on and setting things straight on issues.

But no Sarah Palin, Bob Riley, Jeff Sessions, Michael Steel, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck criticism by me.

My son and my partner say I can't do it.

39 days. I'm counting.

These first couple of weeks will be easy. I'm avoiding lots of issues while I watch and focus on the Olympics. How 'bout that run by Lindsey Vonn as she won the women's downhill by .56 seconds.

Here's a recap video of the day's medals for the US and others.

Men's figure skating long program tonight. Maybe Johnny won't get robbed like the other night.

I'm almost as excited as Buck (What the Buck) reporting on the Olympics, I try to watch every minute. Well, not as much caffiene here, but even curling, love it!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Western Tribune column February 17 2010 Olympics

My column focuses on the Olympics.

What could be more fitting than a day of snow prior to watching the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics? Never mind that snow was lacking in Vancouver, British Columbia, the host city.

Those watching the event quickly learned that a Georgian athlete, luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, had been killed in a training accident earlier in the day. The ceremonies were dedicated to the young man and the festivities went on. The Olympic and Canadian flags were lowered to half staff.

Nodar Kumaritashvili Photo AP via Huffington Post

Some sports writers have said that the opening ceremonies should have been canceled or delayed or that luge events be canceled.

As one who has watched both winter and summer Olympics since 1964 I look at the games as the pinnacle of sporting events and as tragic as the death of a competitor is, the games must go on.

Although we don’t like to admit it, all sporting activities involve some degree of risk, including death. In Olympic history, death is nothing new.

Just prior to the 1964 games the deaths of a British luger and an Austrian alpine skier occurred prior to the opening ceremonies. Several other deaths have occurred in both winter and summer games. The games go on.

If one looks back to the ancient Olympics in Greece, death was sometimes a part of the competition in the sport of boxing, and possibly in other sports. In those games if a competitor died he was immediately declared the winner.

While competition and rivalry rightly exist in Olympic competition, a spirit of diversity, acceptance, and cooperation is one of the things most appreciated about the games. For two weeks during Olympic summers and two weeks during Olympic winters we can forget about politics, wars, and skirmishes, even though those things certainly are going on and even affecting the games.

Uncertainty is another factor in sports, and this is not the first time that a lack of snow in the host city has been a concern. In fact, for those same 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, the Austrian army brought in ice for the bobsled and luge runs and snow for the alpine events.

Let’s remember Nodar Kumaritashvili as an athlete who died doing what he loved to do, but let’s not let this or unpredictable weather hinder our enjoyment of sport.

“Shine in the momentum of noble contests,” the Olympic Hymn commands.

Shine, indeed, Vancouver and every athlete.


Medalists in men's singles were Felix Loch (Gold), David Moller (Silver), and Armin Zöggeler (Bronze)

Gold medalist Felix Loch

Here's Moller completing his run.

Armin Zöggeler preparing for a previous run.

Here are the three medalists.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Mardi Gras

Kathy posted this video on Birmingham Blues and I thought my readers might enjoy it too. It's titled "Silent Monks Sing Halleluia" (but it's actually some high school kids (who need a spelling lesson)) and has gotten over 4 million hits. If you need a laugh, here's your chance.

Today is Fat Tuesday. Here's a link to Parade Cam from the Fat Harry's building on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. Parades should be rolling at 10:00, but I've never been there when they began on time. During the parades there will be narration hosted by

Here's some video of the Orpheus Parade last night, just so you will know what we are missing.

Have a happy and safe Mardi Gras!

Orpheus Rolls Down Uptown Parade Route

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's gone

Live 100.5 is no more.

Now there's just automated music. No more Reg. No more Chris. No more Dru.

And for Birmingham no more Adult Alternative music once the station switches to un-original talk radio format.

One of my favorite songs they ever played was the Avett Brothers "Murder in the City." I've posted this video before, in view of the death of decent radio it makes sense to re-post it.

Live 100.5 brought top notch musicians to the city. Brett Dennen was one that we saw. Here's an interview with Brett from Billboard, where he explains his song "Heaven." It's not exactly about what you think.

People say Brett's voice when speaking reminds them of Truman Capote.

Here you can listen to Brett and Natalie Merchant singing "Heaven."

Adele is another artist that we might not hear on any other station. What a voice. and what a style.

Finally, my friends at Left in Alabama noted the demise of decent radio with this video of the Fleet Foxes "White Winter Hymnal."

"I don't know if I'll be back. I do know that I'll probably be the last human voice you'll hear on Live 100.5."

With that Scott Register ended his gig yesterday. I'm sure he'll land somewhere else. Until then, I guess it's Pandora on my blackberry for decent music in the car. At least until I replace my satellite radio.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Prodigal Sons and A/X ads

Today begins the Great Backyard Bird Count. Get out your checklists. birds are easy to spot in the snow. Oh wait. Misled again, it seems. Maybe we'll still see some. But we know we will see birds.

You can count birds today, tomorrow, Sunday, and/or Monday.

Prodigal Sons

Well Oprah was not off base, the show yesterday featured the former high school quarterback standout Paul McKerrow, who is now Kimberly Reed, and is indeed a lesbian, and in a relationship with her partner Claire.

Kimberly has produced a documentary, described as "Superb" (San Francisco Chronicle), "Jaw dropping" (The Independent), "Exceptional" (the Village Voice), "Amazing" (Variety), about her and her brother, called Prodigal Sons.

Here she is in an interview taped during the 2009 Florida Film Festival about the movie.

Prodigal Sons is not yet scheduled for viewing here, but there are screenings in Atlanta and other cities. Dates can be found on the web site.

A/X and Valentines Day

Valentine's Day is this weekend, and advertisers are trying to target the LGBT market, it seems.

I have a few comments about the Armani Exchange ad, which appears as a 10 foot poster in the window of their stores.

1. Nobody I know is celebrating Valentine's Day with anyone who looks like any of these people.

2. We've seen more skin and sex than this in many hetero ads for clothing, perfume and beer. Abercrombie, Marky name a couple.

3. A mother's support group is claiming the ads "poison children with 10 foot posters that are nothing but soft porn." No, not teaching your children about the diversity of humanity is poisoning them with bigotry and in some cases, hatred.

4. One of the comments about this poster at the link above: "Posters like the AX ones are needed, to help us remember that people are not made of society – society is made of people. And people, in all their combinations, must come first."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Of surprises, quarterbacks and daytime talk shows

"Any gay would die to be at this show," Patrick said, writing about Oprah's show yesterday.

True, there was some talented eye candy on Oprah's stage yesterday when she had the Canadian Tenors on the show, and they were quite surprised when Celine Dion walked out and joined them during their performance of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," (you know this is one of my favorite songs).

You can hear Patrick's interview with Tenor Clifton Murray at the link above. They will be on Dr. Phil tomorrow and performing at the Olympics and the NBA All-Star game

You will watch this video more than once.

"I love a surprise," as Oprah says. Obviously, these guys do, too.

Celine, by the way, confirmed on Oprah yesterday that she will be returning to Vegas in March 2011 with a huge show. I see another Vegas trip in the future!

Today on Oprah, show is about "The high school quarterback who became a lesbian."

Maybe a little misleading, as there may be some confusion here between sexual orientation and gender identity. In the comments at the link, this is brought up, even before the show is broadcast. Ratings!

And in other quarterback/talk show news, Ellen is having Saints QB Drew Brees on!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Western Tribune Column February 10, 2010: Literacy tests

In my never ending mission, the calling out of those who want to damage our country, I wrote this for the Western Tribune column this week. Teabaggers, you are not going to get away with it. American's are smarter, and fairer, than you think.

I have inserted links of interest.

Western Tribune Column

The Tea Party may have lost any chance of becoming more than a flash in the pan when they allowed Tom Tancredo, a former Republican candidate for president, to address their first convention on their opening night.

Tancredo ran for the 2008 Republican nomination for president with anti-immigration as his number one issue.

At the Tea Party convention on Friday he brought back memories of the “Jim Crow” era as he said that President Obama was elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country."

Lest there be any doubt what he meant, he followed with, "People who could not spell the word vote or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House -- name is Barack Hussein Obama."

During the Jim Crow era laws reduced the political power as well as the social standing of black citizens.

Literacy tests were used during that era to disenfranchise blacks and poor whites by denying them the right to vote in order to continue wealthy white control. The results are lasting, most notably in that we still live under the 1901 Alabama constitution, put in place by wealthy whites in order to control blacks.

(a 1950's Alabama voter registration application , an actual literacy test used in Alabama)

The last time a political party with similar ideals about race gained such national attention was when the States Rights Democratic Party, or Dixiecrats, formed in the south in 1948. At that time disgruntled Democrats were fighting to uphold segregation. Now former Republicans (many of whom are former Democrats) are promoting this new class warfare with one aim, stated by Tancredo: stop the black president.

A recent documentary by Rick Rowley and Jacquie Soohen titled White Power USA, examined the connection between the Tea Party and the white power movement. The connection is there, and it is solid.

It makes one wonder if the decision to locate the Tea Party convention so close to the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan was a coincidence. The KKK was founded in Pulsaski, Tennessee, just after the Civil War ended in an effort to preserve white control in the rapidly changing social environment. Pulaski is about 75 miles south of Nashville.

The American majority of 2010 will turn from this racially charged movement. Remember, the real majority voted for the type of change Obama is pushing, in spite of what the vocal minority is saying. Congress should respond.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bessemer News and the Great Backyard Bird Count

Congratulations to The Bright Star, which received the prestigious "America's Classics" award from the James Beard Foundation. The Bright Star in Bessemer is the first Alabama restaurant to earn what is considered the Oscar for eating establishments.


In other Bessemer News, Councilwoman Louise Alexander was found not guilty on all counts yesterday. She had been accused of solicitation and using her office for personal gain.

Rarely does an election pass where Alexander's name is not on the ballot, and rumor has it that the mayor's race this summer is the prize she will next seek. If so, that would mean her council seat is open.

If ever there was a time when a clean sweep was warranted, this is it. And a clean sweep can not involve putting a council person in the mayor's office. I'm just sayin'.


While Bessemer's Bingo halls sit shuttered and darkened, in nearby Greene County the machines are humming as usual. Greenetrack pays you money, the slogan says. The sheriff is standing by to thwart any effort by the anti-gambling, anti-employment task force. It will be interesting to see the sheriff standing in the bettinghouse door to prevent governor's men from entering. That's a switch for Alabama.


In the meantime, I'm gearing up for the Winter Olympics. Opening ceremonies are Friday, and we may be getting some snow that day to get us in the mood.

Great Backyard Bird Count

And this weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count, Friday through Monday.

Remember this guy who perched on my thumb? Not during the bird count, but it was in the backyard.

Last year in Bessemer only 8 checklists were submitted and 28 species were reported. That was way down from 2008 when 48 species were reported from 22 checklists.

Details on how to participate are on the web site, but basically you just have to agree to sit quietly and identify and count birds for at least 15 minutes a day on one or all of the days and report them online. It's simple. Take part.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dat's Who

Oh, to be in New Orleans during Mardi Gras this year.

Drew Brees carried the Saints to their first Super Bowl victory in their 43 year history. No need to recap the game here, I'll leave that to the sports guys.

But let's recap the celebration a little bit, beginning with this classic video of Louis Armstrong "When the Saints Go Marchin In" to get us in the mood. Thanks Neal for the idea.

Fast forward a few decades and this was the scene on Royal Street last night after the game, same song, more revelry.

A block over the celebration on Bourbon Street was just as raucous, same song.

And a little more Who Dat on Bourbon Street.


Thanks Sean (Payton: gutsy, aggressive game plan), Drew (Brees: MVP, ties record for most completions in Super Bowl, beat Warner, Favre, Manning, might be greatest QB of all time), Tracy (Porter: great interception, great return), Garrett (Hartley: first to kick three FG greater than 40 yards in SB history, great onside kick), Pierre (Thomas: great TD reception), and everybody else (defense, defense defense)!

But one more, everybody's favorite after Super Bowl moment. Drew Brees with his son Baylen celebrating.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tyson's appointment is illegal, it seems

I'm wondering how much longer Mobile District Attorney John Tyson will be allowed to continue to break the law. Or did Governor Riley break the law in appointing him as commander of the Anti-Gambling Task Force?

Code of Alabama, Section 12-17-184 (11) All district attorneys and all full-time assistant district attorneys shall devote their entire time to the discharge of the duties of their respective offices, and each and every one of the officers are prohibited from practicing law, directly or indirectly, in any court of this state or of the United States, or in any other manner or form whatsoever, except in the discharge of the official duties of their offices.

Bob Martin (The Alabama Scene) says "the words 'their entire time' is not ambiguous."

He also points out that the Alabama Constitution states, "No person may hold two offices of profit at one and the same time except justices of the peace, constables, notaries public, and commissioner of deeds."

In the meantime, Greentrack owners have surrendered their liquor license
because the brief filed in Macon County by the Task force referred to a law that allows warrantless searches for anyone that holds an Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board license.

Over 2000 people have been put out of work because of Riley's raids, and this is adding to the cost to Alabama taxpayers. There is also a personal cost to the individuals involved, some of whom are the sole breadwinners for their families.

Then there is the foolishness factor. But in Alabama we should be used to that.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Western Tribune column February 3, 2010 Bingo Raids

Here is my Western Tribune column from February 3, 2010.

The pictures of the pre-dawn raid were sent to me, with permission from VictoryLand to use them. Plus, we now know the raids cost the taxpayers over one million dollars.

Bob Riley's bingo raids are insane

Tensions were probably high among the employees of Country Crossings in Houston County when told they had to leave work last week in anticipation of Governor Riley’s raid on the facility. The building was subsequently darkened and padlocked when 135 state troopers arrived in a caravan of headlights that stretched as far as the eyes could see in the pre-dawn darkness.

One would think that the hideout of Osama bin Laden had been discovered, when in reality, little old ladies and some country music fans were just plunking nickels and dimes into bingo machines.

A similar raid was attempted at VictoryLand in Macon County, but the raiders were also turned away there. Former state Senator Fred Clay said that the raid reminded him of Governor George Wallace’s attempt to prevent desegregation by sending state troopers into Macon County fifty years ago.

Troopers arriving without a search warrant

Task force leader John Tyson reading document from attorney Fred Gray

It is estimated that the raids cost the Alabama taxpayer over $130,000 as the number of state troopers on duty for that time of the night jumped from 8 to possibly 240 for both raids. That, when state agencies are facing budget cut, does not seem a wise use of our limited resources.

And how many drunk drivers went unnoticed and truckloads of cocaine and marijuana slipped by while the enforcers were standing by doing nothing for hours outside of the entertainment facilities?

Troopers lined up outside of Victoryland

Bingo in Bessemer is just as contentious although the venues are not as grand and the opposing authorities not as powerful as those in the big time operations.
However, seeing a ticket for $400 come out of a bingo machine in Bessemer is just as rewarding as retrieving one in Dothan.

What is really amusing about the controversy on both the local and state level is that in an economy where revenues are down and employment is historically low we have elected officials who want to let large amounts of potential tax money and licensing fees go uncollected.

They also have no qualms about putting people out of work. The facilities in Macon County and Dothan employ thousands and the small bingo parlors in Bessemer together probably employ one hundred or so.

Ron Sparks, candidate for governor, released a statement after the raids in which he said, “Instead of spending money to take jobs away we need to tax gaming to educate our children.”

Commissioner Sparks is right. He called the raids “insane.” Maybe after November sanity will return to the governor’s mansion.

Troopers arriving at entrance being greeted by attorney Fred Gray.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Auburn on top in recruiting

It looks like Auburn wins the recruiting war in the state, at least so far and according to which has Auburn ranked number 3 and Alabama number 5 in the nation.

Let's focus on Bessemer City's LaDarius Owens.

Photo credit Phillip Marshall reports this:

Bessemer City linebacker LaDarius Owens woke up this morning and starting thinking about his future. Then he started texting. The Auburn commitment sent out text messages to about "16 or 17" future Tigers he'd gotten close to during the recruiting process. "I texted all of them this morning," he said. "It said 'Go ahead and get your letters in and get this over with' and 'Let's get ready to play at Auburn' and "I love all of you guys' because I wanted all of those guys to know we are brothers now. We're in the Auburn family."

Owens said both he and Pelham's Jake Holland have been praised by Auburn coach Gene Chizik for their skills as linebacker prospects and recruiters. "Every time I talk to Coach Chizik he says that Jake and I are the best recruiters," Owens said. "He said we were a big part of the success of this recruiting class. Jake and I would share numbers and we'd go about talking to guys and making sure they were coming to Auburn. We went to work recruiting this class, too." That allowed Owens to be a pretty astute prognosticator when it came to the prospects of "Big Cats" like South Carolina runner Marcus Lattimore and Louisiana's Trovon Reed signing with Auburn.

"I knew Lattimore wasn't coming because he wasn't tight with any of the guys in this class after 'Big Cat' weekend," Owens said. "I knew Trovon was coming because he texted me this morning saying he was. He kept everyone else waiting." Owens said about the only guy who was tight within his circle that didn't come to Auburn was Lincoln's D.J. Howard. "I really don't want to talk about that," Owens said. "D.J. let me down but I don't hate him for it or anything. He's still like a brother to me."

Owens had a little Signing Day drama today as the school fax machine was not functional. He had a teacher drive him to the Bessemer Board of Education in order to make sure he complied with that text message he sent out to all his future teammates. Owens actually tried to get all the Auburn signees in the Birmingham area to sign together as a class instead of at their respective high school. But logistics and school loyalties proved to be tough. "We are all going to be teammates soon," Owens said. "I wanted to get (Springville's) Jeremy Richardson, Chris Davis from Woodlawn and Jake (Holland) and me and anybody else all to sign in the same place. It would have been cool to already sign together as teammates."

Owens held his ceremony at 1 p.m. today at Bessemer City High School.

Here he is at the signing ceremony today at Bessemer City, sporting his Auburn jersey and surrounded by Auburn folks and balloons.

Picture credit Western Tribune

Watch LaDarius here, in this composite video from 2008. Watch out QB's.

War Eagle!!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Poll results are in - OMG!

Photo - A local teabagger

Daily Kos had a poll conducted (by independent poller Research 2000) and the results are sickening. Really.

The poll was conducted by telephone survey of 2003 self-identified Republicans between January 20 and January 31, this year. The margin of error is less than 2%.

The entire results can be found here, with further breakdown of the raw numbers.

Here are the highlights.

Should Barack Obama be impeached, or not?

Yes - 39%
No - 32

Never mind that there has to be high crimes or misdemeanors.

Do you believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States, or not?

Yes - 42
No - 36

Over one third of your party still can't accept the fact that a black man born in the United States is president.

Do you think Barack is a socialist?

Yes - 63
No - 21

Do you believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Barack Obama?

Yes - 53
No - 14

Do you believe your state should secede from the United States?
Yes - 23
No - 58

In the south, 33% of Republicans believe we should secede.

Should openly gay men and women be allowed to serve in the military?

Yes - 26
No - 55

Should sex education be taught in the public schools?

Yes - 42
No - 51

At least over half of you want your children educated and safe.

Should public school students be taught that the book of Genesis in the Bible explains how God created the world?

Yes - 77
No - 15

Should the next question have been about doing away with science completely?

Do you believe the birth control pill is abortion?

Yes - 34
No - 48

Do you consider abortion to be murder?

Yes - 76
No - 8

So, that means that 25.84% of Republicans think that women who use birth control are committing murder.

Do you support the death penalty?

Yes - 91
No - 4

And I actually know people who are part of this party. Yikes!
Update: Del Ali, president of Research 2000 said this earlier today to Kos. "We have received two threatening phone calls in the past hour. Interestingly enough, both calls conclude that both you and I are terrorists promoting a gay and of course anti-American agenda. "

Playing catch-up plus an undercover ex-gay investigation

Catch up on your Joe Openshaw writing.

In case you didn't see yesterday's Birmingham News, here is my letter to the editor about marriage. The letter is just below the one that you see when you open the page. so scroll down past the ALDOT and Riley letter.

Parade magazine, on Sunday, included an article on intersex fish, which I wrote about on Bessemer Science. It's a little disturbing, since we drink the water that these fish live in, and don't know what is affecting them.

The American Prayer Hour will take place on Thursday, with an event here in Birmingham.

Preview my book, Those Others, by reading the preface and first chapter here and then commenting and rating at that site. The book is being formatted and should be available for purchase by springtime.

Read my Facebook note, "At Peace." I think you can read it even if you are not a facebook member.

Enough of me? I will be back to commentary on Bingo, Lulu, Teabaggers, and such soon.

In the meantime, read this article about another ex-gay exposure, by journalist Patrick Strudwick who entered an ex-gay program undercover and then spilled the beans.

Apparently they try to find anything to blame the natural orientation of gays on.

From the article:

Lynne explains that people only identify as gay when they are already depressed. "There's a confusion, there's an anxiety, there's a lot of pain," she says. "Often the thought can be, 'Oh I'm confused about my sexuality so I must be gay'." She says that at the heart of homosexuality is a "deep isolation", which is, she says, "where God needs to be".

"Did you have a difficult birth?" she asks. No, I say. Why?

"It's just something I have noticed. Often [with homosexuality] it is quite traumatic, the baby was put into intensive care and because of the separation from the mother there can be that lack of attachment."

She moves on. "Any Freemasonry in the family?"

Another therapist he sees offers this:

"...his central thesis is that you have to replace homosexual sex with what he calls, "the Four Intimacies: intimacy with God, intimacy with oneself, intimacy with the masculine and intimacy with the feminine." By strengthening your relationships in all these areas, and particularly by having more platonic contact with men, he says, your need for sexual contact is negated.

He later confronts both of the therapists with the truth, that he is a journalist. Read the article to see what happened.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Western Tribune column January 27 2010 Supreme Court Decision

My column from the Western Tribune January 27, 2010

It's not how democracy should work

Never again should conservatives speak out against “activist judges” after the decision handed down by the U. S. Supreme Court last week that affirms corporate personhood and allows corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money toward electing and defeating political candidates.

In doing so, the court reversed long standing legal precedent and overturned laws that had been on the books for decades.

How might this affect the election process?

Think of Exxon Mobil, the largest corporation in the country. In 2008 their operating profits equaled $85 billion. If they decide to spend just 10% of their profits on political campaigns, they would spend $8.5 billion, and this would be more than three times what President Obama, John McCain and all the House and Senate candidates in 2008 spent on their campaigns.

Does anyone think the environment stands a chance against this type of potential assault? Remember the Exxon Valdez?

At the risk of sounding like the Teabaggers, it’s “We the People,” not “We the Corporations.”
And we, conservatives and progressives, should fight this.

In a radio interview American University constitutional law professor Jamin Raskin proposed some steps that can be taken to return democracy to the people.

Raskin stated that since the early 1800’s corporations have been viewed as artificial creations of the state, but the state does not have to permit its creature to consume it.

He says that first; the president should call for a constitutional amendment to declare that corporations are not persons having the right to political expression.

Second, Congress should pass legislation stating that if you do business with the federal government, you cannot spend money on federal elections.

Third, the great people of this country and shareholders in the companies should demand that corporations not spend money on elections; rather they should involve themselves in the economy by economic production.

Short sighted conservatives may view this ruling favorably, as an opportunity to get legislators elected that will defeat attempts to pass progressive health care or environmental legislation. If they look to the future, they will recognize this tactic actually takes the power away from them.

After all, my measly contributions to political efforts, and theirs as well, will have little or no effect when matched up against the billions of dollars that corporations can offer.

And that is not how democracy is supposed to work.


You've seen the video of Justice Samuel Alito during the president's speech. Here it is again if you want to refresh.