The Year of Moving Forward

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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

An Embarrassment for Bessemer

The Birmingham News reported yesterday that Bessemer will settle a federal ADA (American with Disabilities Act) lawsuit, in which the city conceded it was out of compliance and will correct the matter. This is no small matter. "The whole city is not in compliance," Assistant City Attorney Aaron Killings said.

A 19 block area downtown and the Civic Center are out of compliance, and will be reconfigured, including curbs, sidewalks, parking, water fountains and more. The city has three years to correct the curbs and sidewalks and seven years to correct stage access at the civic center. why seven years?

This act was signed into law in 1990 by Daddy Bush and it is unbelievable that the city of Bessemer ignored the standards outlined in the act for 17 years. What were you thinking, Quitman, and for the last 5 years, Ed?

This city has such potential, and there is so much good going on, then something like this is revealed that shows that those in power do not really care about the disadvantaged. Why should we believe that they are concerned about any of us?

Bham News

I learned this from Dear Abby. "The Ladies Home Journal i 1918 said: 'There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the general accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. Pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.' " Hmmmm. So all those pink Polo and Izod shirts really are for manly men!

More daylilies

And Sweet peas. They will take over if you aren't careful.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Barack in the Tribune

My column in The Western Tribune is about Barack Obama and race, and is not an endorsement of Obama. I am undecided as to who I will vote for, and will comment on several candidates as the primary approaches. Also, I have not seen the paper yet so I do not know what the headline above the column is and when I learn what it is I will edit it in to this post.


It’s not often, I hope, that words on a bathroom stall inspire a writer to press on with something he is considering. But a Shell station rest room in southwest Alabama provided me with just that inspiration: “Obama claims he is African American but that can’t be. He has a white mom.” Never mind that “African American” could mean one is of African heritage and American heritage, regardless of race, but my query is whether the black community in Bessemer would support him.

See, politics in Bessemer are heavily influenced by groups that form and operate along racial lines. One such group of black voters, a few years ago, refused to endorse a white candidate who they actually favored to win, and they ended up endorsing no one rather than endorse a white person. When I learned this, I wondered how much “white” can a person have before they lose the chance to be endorsed by such a group. And how, exactly do they decide who is too white and who is black enough. Making such a decision goes against everything that Martin Luther King, Jr., meant when he said he hoped his children would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Scientists who study genetics and DNA have said that there are more differences within members of a particular race than there are between the races. And if you take it down to the elemental composition, we are all 65% oxygen, 18.5 % carbon, 9.5 % hydrogen, 3.3 % nitrogen, 1.5% calcium, and the rest tiny amounts of many other elements, regardless of our race or heritage.

In addition some are saying that Obama is not “black enough” because he has not had the experiences related to civil rights and growing up that many African Americans share. This is akin to saying that a physician who does not have diabetes can not understand and treat a patient who suffers from that disease, or that none of the presidents our country has had could address the concerns of women because they have not lived as one. Barack Obama, if elected, could surely represent the interests of us all.

Text messaging voters selected Jordin Sparks (who has an African American father and a “white mom”) as the new American Idol last week. Surely presidential primary voters can consider a candidate with the same heritage, and decide whether to vote for or against him based on his priorities and policies and not his color or lack thereof.


Another of the Hollyhocks

This Easter lily is confused

This is yarrow, and it is somewhat drought tolerant and hopefully will bloom all summer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tinky Resurfaces and Cindy Quits

And we thought when Jerry Falwell passed away this type of craziness had ended. Tinky

More flag history. the Star Spangled Banner Flag with fifteen stars also has fifteen stripes. On June 14, 1777, Congress declared the flag to be 13 alternating red and white stripes with a union of 13 white stars in a blue field. In 1794, after Kentucky and Vermont joined the Union, Congress added two stars and two stripes. In 1818, when five more states had joined, Congress again changed the design to 13 stripes, representing the original 13 states, and 20 stars, with a provision that an additional star be added on the admission of each new state.

Can you imagine the flag if they had not reverted to the thirteen stipes? Today there would be 50 stars and 50 stripes.

Cindy Sheehan has quit the anit-war movement, saying that her son (Casey) "did indeed die for nothing." She cites exhaustion and lack of faith in the democrats to bring an end to the war. I hope she will be OK. Cindy . I know a lot of people didn't like her, or her methods, but she was an important voice in trying to bring reason to a misguided administration.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy Memorial Day

Today is a good day to show our Historic Flag collection. Actually all the flags are new, replicas of historic U. S. Flags. Right now we have 4, but I plan to add 2 more before July 4.

The first flag (with the 76 on it)is the Bennington flag that tradition says was flown at the Battle of Bennington (actually fought at Wallomsack, New York, not Bennington, Vermont)in 1777. This is the only U. S. historical flag with white stripes rather than red, as the outer stripes.

The next flag is the Betsy Ross flag, the first offical flag of our country, with the circular ring of stars, and flown from June 14, 1777 to May 1, 1795.

Our next flag is the "Star Spangled Banner" that has 15 stars, that inspired our national anthem. Francis Scott Key saw this flag thorugh the smoke at Ft. McHenry. This flag has its own web site at the Smithsonian. The Star Spangled Banner

The fourth flag is the current U. S. flag with 50 stars.

We will add the U. S. flag used during the civil war, and the flag used during World War 2, when my dad fought, during the summer.

This collection will fly on patriotic holidays.

Remember those who fought and died for our country today, while you are downing ribs and beer and beginning the summer season. And be careful, there has already been at least two drownings at Gulf Shores (drownings)and a murder in Bessemer on my street (teenager at a birthday party) this weekend. Teen killed

Here's what the AP reported about the gay weekend in Pensacola, as reported in The Decatur Daily. Funny, no reporting in the Birmingham News. And it's not on the Decatur Paper's web site. Not to fear, the Opelike Auburn News has it. 50,000 people and lots of green, along with rainbows. Gay Redneck Riviera

Friday, May 25, 2007

Bessemer News, including the Western Star goof

Memorial Day is coming up, and the Western Star goofed on their front page with their headline (above the fold) “Honoring our Veterans on Memorial Day.”

Veterans Day is in November. Memorial Day is to honor those service members who have given their lives in defense of our country. Besides, isn’t it odd for a conservative Bush supporting newsletter to be headlining “honoring veterans” when we see troops returning from Iraq who can not get adequate medical care, certainly do not get mental health services when needed, and I won’t even get started on Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Yeah, that’s honoring our veterans. We actually should honor our veterans every day (a democratic value) but let’s use Memorial Day to remember those who sacrificed all.

In big Bessemer news a Jefferson County Personnel Board hearing officer ruled that Herman Lehman, former city clerk, was fired without just cause and is entitled to a hearing before the whole board if the city no longer wants his services. At issue was whether Lehman was still in his probationary first year of employment, and the ruling says he was no longer on probation, and in his second year of employment when the firing took place. Lehman said he wants any back pay that is due to him from Bessemer, and is currently employed as city clerk in Montevallo. Read it

Great news, Herman!

Congress Stumbles, and the Weird Westboro Baptists

I am 100% in support of our troops, and believe we should fund them and send a surge…into Afghanistan, and Pakistan if necessary, to find Bin Laden. I am also in favor of supporting the troops in Iraqby bringing them home. So I am really pissed that the house and senate gave the president another blank check. $100,000,000,000. That much. Well, 95 billion anyway. 120 billion if you add all the other spending tacked on to the bill.

Are you listening, New Orleans? Are you listening, south Mississippi and Alabama? Are you listening, Kansas? Are you listening, 47 million uninsured Americans? Think of the ways that money could be used.

Is this what the electorate wanted when it voted last November and returned power in congress to the democrats? No. And now watch Bush’s ratings go up after congress caves in to his demand to leave out the timetable for withdrawal. At least Representative Artur Davis voted against the bill, saying earlier yesterday that he wanted a definite timetable for withdrawal of troops. But I have a question. If he was so sure he was going to vote against the bill, how come when I called his office before the vote, they wouldn’t tell me that, only saying they did not know how he felt about it? They say this every time I call, and I know other representative’s staff members will report whether they oppose or support a measure, but Artur's always seem to be in the dark.

In other national news Shirley Phelps-Roper of Westboro Baptist Church says that Americans are doomed to eat their children. “You’ll eat your kids, you hateful people,” are the words the church members sing in their parody of “We Are the World.” “No, we are not being metaphorical,” she says, basing her beliefs on a verse in Deuteronomy which says “Thou shalt eat…the flesh of thy sons and daughters.” BhamNews

Thursday, May 24, 2007

DNC Chairman Howard Dean in Birmingham

Civic Center workers scrambled to set up more tables as the crowd grew larger than anticipated for Governor Howard Dean’s appearance in Birmingham this morning. The Democratic National Committee chairman drew applause for several minutes as he took the stage. The loudest applause may have been when he said we need to “end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home with honor.” It is so encouraging to see people in Alabama echoing this opinion. Governor Dean emphasized that you are not being patriotic when you send young men and women over to Iraq to fight, and then forget about them when they return as has happened at Walter Reed.

He spoke of three democratic values that we need to remember. First is fairness. For example, we don’t need to be leaving children behind in education or in health care as the current administration is doing. Second is toughness, and it is possible to be both tough and smart when it comes to security and defending our country. Third is fiscal responsibility and we know that the current administration has not been responsible in this area. Leaving a debt for our children and grandchildren to manage is not being responsible.

Here the chairman is sporting his new Brite Blue Dot cap. Get yours at

Here in Bessemer where The Western Tribune pointed out this week that there are no water restrictions (we have our own water supply), there are still some irises blooming and the daylilies are continuing to open.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Western Tribune

The Western Tribune this week contains my column regarding the resolution of inclusion recently passed by Birmingham's City Council. To my knowledge, this is the first gay positive column or report pubished in a Bessemer newspaper in history. I know there are homophobic people in western Jefferson County, I ran across several while I was campaigning, but whether they read the Trib or not I don't know. But just in case, it would be nice for the Tribune to hear from readers of this column (and the paper) who support diversity in our community. I am sure they will hear from those who don't. Dan titled my column "One Vote for Diversity in Bessemer." Mine may be the first vote, but I am sure it is not the only one. Let them know. The mailing address is The Western Tribune, 1530 Third Avenue North, Bessemer, AL 35020, and their email is For those who do not have the newspaper (you can subscribe at 425-7171) the column is repeated here:

One Vote for Diversity in Bessemer

A few weeks ago I was critical of the Birmingham City Council because they failed to pass a resolution of inclusion proposed by Councilperson Valerie Abbott. The resolution would promote tolerance and respect for all residents and visitors and condemn racism, bigotry, homophobia and other forms of discrimination, and would encourage the city of Birmingham to embrace diversity.

Birmingham’s history, like Bessemer’s, does not always shine when the issues of tolerance and inclusiveness are brought forth. The words of intolerance and division that filled the chamber just weeks ago are evidence of a past that lingers, one of mistrust and hatred.

A city that has been divided has no business promoting intolerance when wounds are still healing and fences are still being mended. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And Coretta Scott King echoed her husband’s feelings by saying “Like Martin, I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others” when she was speaking against discrimination against gays and lesbians in 1994.

On May 15 Birmingham righted this wrong by passing, unanimously, a modified version of the resolution for inclusion. The council members who had voted no the first time realized that voting to exclude people because of who they are presented a negative image for their city. One councilor who changed his vote, Steven Hoyt, said this was the right thing to do, after doing some research and having discussions with spiritual leaders. By voting now to reverse that decision, all residents and visitors can feel welcome and appreciated.

I wonder if the Bessemer City Council, if presented with a similar resolution, will behave like the Birmingham Council did in March with hateful speech and divisive votes, or will they show unity with a progressive vote for inclusion and tolerance. With the contributions that gays are making toward improving our city, I would hope for the latter. Bessemer is a diverse community and has been mentioned more than once by the Birmingham News as a community where gays are helping to revitalize the city by preserving their historical homes and contributing to efforts to bring cultural events and art shows. And history shows that revival of fading communities across the nation is often heavily influenced by the contributions of gays in those communities.

Resolution or not, let’s hope the leaders and followers in our community appreciate the efforts of everyone to improve our city.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pensacola On My Mind

We are back from our little trip, and Pensacola Beach was very nice. There is still so much evidence of Hurricane Ivan’s destruction (2004) that one wonders how they will handle the crowds on their big weekends, including Memorial Day weekend when thousands of gays flock to Pensacola, and the Blue Angels weekend in July when thousands of everybodies flock to the island. We visited there in 2005, just months after Ivan for the 4th of July and Blue Angels and they handled the crowds then, so I guess they will do OK. The road to Ft. Pickens is still closed, and the road to Navarre is closed a couple of miles in to Gulf Islands National Seashore, but I assure you that is where the crowd will be this weekend. In fact, the road is washed away, with parts of the blacktop and center stripes lying on top of the sand a few yards inland from where the cracked and rumpled under layers of the road are still visible. I guess the Park Service on both ends of Pensacola Beach either are in no hurry to repair their roads or can’t find construction workers to do it since they are all building condos and repairing existing commercial properties.

Anyway, even a week before Memorial Day, you see this kite flying and you know you the area has been staked out for gays and gay friendly folks. Need information:

Remember the Tiki House? Their sign proclaimed it “A 50’s Place” and it is where Bobby and I met (not in the 50’s). This is all that remains, the motel site is now used as a staging site and parking for condo construction that is going on across the street

This crab kept trying to creep up on us. Nosey little critter.

Next weekend there will be a hundreds of these rainbow colored umbrellas lining the beaches. Not this year for us though.

Tomorrow I will post my weekly column from The Western Tribune, Bessemer's newspaper. And any news I might have about the pot boiling over.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Pensacola is Better than Blogging

Why I am not posting this weekend:

What I would be posting if I were:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Former President Carter says President Bush's administration is "the worst in history" in international relations, taking aim at the White House's policy of pre-emptive war and its Middle East diplomacy.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Stirring the Pot, and the Melting Pot

I can not go into detail, but let me tell you the pot has been stirred in Bessemer, the fire is hot, and the stew is about to boil over.

This is nice. The sign looks like it has been spruced up for the 2007 season.

And the beach ball welcomes visitors.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked me what I like about President Bush, implying there must be at least one thing. I did not reply, but I knew right away what my answer would be. Although not in agreement 100%, I come real close to agreeing with him on his immigration policy. Like the saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Well, Bush is not right that often, but...

The agreement reached yesterday by key senators and the white house certainly has my approval. No, it’s not perfect, but as Senator Diane Feinstein says, “Please, please, please, please, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” No plan is ever going to be acceptable to everyone.

Critics say the plan with its merit system does not consider family ties when allowing certain foreigners to immigrate. At first I thought this was significant, but USA Today states “In a historic shift, it also would eliminate some of the preferences given to adult children and siblings of U. S. citizens applying to immigrate and create a merit-based point system designed to promote immigration by workers whose skills are in demand in the U. S.” I was concerned at first it might mean minor children would be denied, but adult children? It does not bother me at all that certain adults are denied entry since adult partners and same sex spouses (that might have legal marriages from other countries) of U. S. citizens are denied entry, often even when the foreign partner has advanced skills. That needs fixin’.

This is not amnesty. Detractors will call it that, but they won’t be satisfied until we round up all the illegals at gunpoint, house them in “double Guantanamo” (Mitt Romney’s term) and deport every one of them. Of course, they don’t look forward enough to know that we might not have any lettuce or oranges to eat (never mind the bee shortage and the effect of that on produce), or that construction would slow down significantly (and rise in cost), or that your golf course might not be kept green, or your hotel beds not made each day, and your favorite restaurant might have to close (and this includes more than just Mexican restaurants). The immigrants in our country, whether legal or illegal, do affect our economy in a HUGE way, and its not all negative.

So come on, support this plan. It can be modified later if need be, but let’s get something going.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

This is Just Bad

Remember how you felt the first time you heard about Fred Phelps? He was probably in the news protesting the funeral of a homosexual, parading around with signs with suggestive drawings of homosexual sex and slogans such as "Fags burn in Hell." If you are gay, you probably thought he was a nut, or disrespectful, or just another example of Baptist hypocrisy. If you are straight, you should have thought "This guy needs to shut up, he's going to give Christianity a bad name."

Then Phelps and his clan began to protest at the funerals of American service members killed in Iraq, because the U. S. is enabling homosexuals he says and Clinton and Bush allowed the service to be filled with "fags and dykes" by executive order. By that time people who previously ignored Phelps began to think he was being disrespectful. After all, who cared if he protested at the funerals of gays, but hey, these are our soldiers who died for our country.

Now this is unbelievable. It's enough to cause Tinky Winky to roll over in his grave (he's not really dead) and Sponge Bob to wet his Squarepants. Westboro Baptist Church is going to protest at the funeral of Jerry Falwell. This has been reported on alablawg and Birmingham Blues and other blogs, but I feel compelled to share it with my readers. I am not going to link to WBC's web site, I'm sure you know what it is, but this came off of it:

To save you time, from wikipedia, with all its links: Zeitgeist (help·info) is originally a German expression that means "the spirit (Geist) of the time (Zeit)." It denotes the intellectual and cultural climate of an era.

So they think Falwell is responsible for the current cultural climate, and I can't totally disagree with them. He is somewhat responsible for the anti-gay, bigoted views of many evangelicals in our culture.

Also, from wiki: Arminianism is a school of soteriological thought in Protestant Christian theology founded by the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius. Its acceptance stretches through much of mainstream Protestantism. Due to the influence of John Wesley, Arminianism is perhaps most prominent in the Methodist movement.
Arminianism holds to the following tenets:
Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation
Salvation is possible by grace alone
Works of human effort cannot cause or contribute to salvation
God's election is conditional on faith in Jesus
Jesus' atonement was for all people
God allows his grace to be resisted by those unwilling to believe
Salvation can be lost, as continued salvation is conditional upon continued faith

If nothing else, this is educational. I am a Methodist by tradition and upbringing, so I guess Arminiansim is in my background. Who knew? This should not be confused with Armenian, being from Armenia, although, coincidentally enough, Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion.

Just so you know, I would not condone protesting at anyone's funeral. Not that Falwell and his family are not used to him being protested against, but during a funeral respect should be shown, and who is going to get a postive message from a protest like that anyway.

With that, I am off to Pensacola.

Tribune and Republicans Shake It Up

The Republican presidential candidates duked it out again last night, this time on Fox. But even Chris Wallace and Brit Hume could not steer this debate in a direction that made the candidates look strong.

Most interesting was Ron Paul’s assertion that U. S. policy resulted in the attacks on 9-11, a charge that Rudy Guiliani strongly denied. Oddly enough, in Fox’s text message poll, Paul (25%) outpolls Guiliani (19%), trailing only Mitt Romney (29%). Could anti-war voters be influencing the republican polling? I sure hope so.,2933,272493,00.html

The Western Tribune hit the streets yesterday and today, and the early buzz is that it outshines the competition by far. The paper is crisp looking, with good use of color on the front page and throughout and with true news stories, including an exclusive about the Bessemer Airport Authority and the huge financial mess they are have been left with. One reader said they were going to have to adjust their schedule now, after spending a good bit of time reading this issue, as compared to the minute it took to flip through the old paper.

The editor, Dan DeLong, said “All newspapers – big and small – have a duty to act as the community’s mirror.” He understands that a newspaper not only has that obligation, but also that if it upholds its obligation, it can help to “improve everyone’s living condition,” he says. “Let me repeat, everyone’s living condition.”

A community is made up of all the people who live there, whether they are black, white or brown, young or old, gay or straight or of one faith or another (something the Birmingham City Council has suddenly realized). Other stakeholders in the community are business owners and their employees, and visitors. A paper that does not accept this and targets only one segment of the population becomes more of a “newsletter” rather than a “newspaper.” DeLong assures us this will not happen. “You can take it to the bank,” he says.

And where else will you find a recipe for squab, or pigeons, that even describes how to make the local birds tender for consumption by marinating. No one should go hungry in Bessemer, and I look forward to Chef Bouffon's next contribution. I will be glad to email the recipe to anyone who does not have access to the paper. Soon I hope the paper will be online.

Daylilies are beginning to bloom, and the rain this morning has beat these down a little. I don't expect the flourish of blooms I had last year because we dug up most of the plants and divided them. There must be over 20 varieties.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Birmingham Takes a Giant Step

The Birmingham City Council just passed a resolution of tolerance similar to the one defeated just weeks ago. This resolution promotes tolerance and respect for all residents and visitors, and condemns racism, bigotry, homophobia and other forms of discrimination, and encourages Birmingham to embrace diversity.

"Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama and it is an important part of us changing the hearts and minds of the people of this state, " said Howard Bayless Board Chair of Equality Alabama. He went on to say, "Today is an important day for the LGBT community. Today is the day we can look to and say now we have a place here. We have a place in Alabama that we are WELCOMED."

This is one spot in Alabama where progress is being made, and the work of Howard and Councilwoman Abbott and the many bloggers and email writers and others who made this possible are certainly appreciated.

Just on the heels of this we learned that Jerry Falwell has died. Falwell has been a voice for intolerance and homophobia, and lets hope that his message of bigotry and hatred dies with him. My condolences to his family.

Another Bush Casualty

Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty is stepping down; making him the highest ranked Bush administration casualty in the U. S. attorney’s firing case. He will remain until late summer. He will join Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling as justice department officials who have resigned as the controversy continues. And the ring leader, Alberto Gonzales, remains with the full support of Bush. Will that support fade after Gonzales turns over his emails today?

Paul Wolfowitz is getting closer to getting the boot. A World Bank committee made up of board members called on the full board to make a decision on Wolfowitz’s fate. My prediction at the first of the month was that he would be gone by May 22, so we are still on track.

Unrelated (I hope), Eric Rudolph is taunting his victims by having his essays posted on the Army of God web site. Rudolph and his Army of God connections prove that Radical Christian Fundamentalism exists. Donald Spitz, who maintains the web site has railed against abortion providers and their staffs, gays and lesbians (using not so nice words), and Muslims, among others. Rudolph brings Jesus in to the equation by arguing that he (Jesus) would condone “militant action in defense of the innocent.”

And shame on The Birmingham News using a picture of Rudolph that looks like it came out of Entertainment Magazine. The attractive, mysterious image on page 1B should be replaced by a mug shot photo. I won't promote Rudolph by reproducing his picture here.

Anyway, yes, Jesus was radical. But Jesus was radical in his love for all, and he even told us to love our enemies. He promoted tolerance and acceptance, not “militant action”. Radical Christians are Christian in name only, and don’t represent true Christianity, anymore than radical Islamic fundamentalists represent the true Muslim religion.

Let’s see if tolerance and acceptance is promoted in Birmingham today.

Pomegranates grow on large shrubs and these are the flowers that will later produce fruit. These shrubs were already here when we moved to this house.

Foxgloves are another traditional flower that I am trying to establish around the house. I doubt they will ever be as striking as the foxgloves at my neighbor Jane's house.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Big Week for Bessemer and for Birmingham

This is the big week for The Western Tribune, as the premier issue is published this week. You can call Nancy at 425-7171 and she will be glad to enter your subscription.

The Tribune is the only locally owned and operated weekly newspaper in the area, so they have a vested interest in printing accurate and relevant news for Western Jefferson County, and their policy is to put news coverage before anything else.

Biormingham has a chance to redeem itself Tuesday, May 15 as the Resolution for Inclusion is re-introduced at the council meeting at 9:30. Join Equality Alabama and others to witness this critical vote, or read about it later right here.

This is my first attempt at growing Hollyhocks. People tell me they remind them of their grandmother's gardens, so I guess they are appropriate for a historical home.

This hydrangea is new, in fact, it isn't even in the ground yet. I went to the hydrangea sale at Aldridge Gardens and purchased four of these to put in an area close to the fence in the back. There is already a hydrangea garden between the house and the fence on the side of the house toward the street, but those aren't quite in bloom yet.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hatred in Alabama, from a Trailer in Bay Minette to Goat Hill

I know I live in Alabama. I know I live right on the buckle (of the bible belt). But really, how disgusting was it, to re-hear the details on the radio, and re-read them in the paper, of another horrific murder of a man because he was gay, and on the very same day, have our state house of representatives fail to pass a hate crimes bill that includes sexual orientation.

Christopher Gaines had already pled guilty to the murder of 18 year old Scotty Joe Weaver of Bay Minette in 2004, after his girl friend and accomplice gave him up. Those two recruited another man who they knew hated gays, to help them. But Chris is the one that tightened the rope around Scotty's neck, as Scotty, in vain, cried, "Chris, please stop." Then they beat him. That is before Chris and his two friends carried the body away and set fire to it. Oh yeah, as reported on the radio, after urinating on it. Because Scotty was gay. But in Alabama that is not a hate crime.

Billy Jack Gaither was 39 years old when he was bludgeoned to death in 1999 in Coosa County, because he was homosexual. His body was set on fire too. Why do they burn them? To burn away their own sin? I went to Billy Jacks memorial service at Covenant Metropolitan Community Church that year, and it was standing room only. Across the street was Fred Phelps, the Baptist preacher known for his "God Hates Fags" web site and his followers, including small children, with degrading signs about Billy Jack and all homosexuals. In Alabama killing and burning Billy Jack because he was gay is not a hate crime, however, hatred, as displayed by the Baptist preacher Fred Phelps, is protected.

There have been other people murdered in our state because they are gay. But our legislature continues to ignore this, saying it is OK to act on your hatred. Oh I know murder is murder and its already against the law to kill, why single out this group to protect, etc. Well if that is true, shouldn't we just do away with the current laws that includes people based on race, color, religion and national origin, which is what Alabama's 1994 hate crime law says? I say "No."

Here are the Birmingham area legislators who voted no: G. Canfield of Vestavia Hills, P. DeMarco of Homewood, O. Drake of Leeds, B. Galliher of Gadsden, J. McClendon of Springville, M. S. McClurkin of Indian Springs, P. Moore of Pleasant Grove, A. Payne of Birmingham, E. Thomas of Oneonta, A. Treadaway of Morris, C. Ward of Alabaster, J. Williams of Homewood, and R. Wood of Anniston. If one of these people represents you, you need to call them and let them know that they missed an opportunity to make something positive come from the murders of Scotty Joe Weaver and Billy Jack Gaither. If you live outside of the Birmingham area, find out how your representative voted and let them know how you feel about it.

Those who are reading this may not be gay. But you might have a son or daughter, or brother or sister, or cousin or other relative who is. Whether you know it or not, chances are that you have a gay relative. And there still are a number of people who hate gays; such talk is heard everyday from pro basketball players to rappers to certain Baptist preachers and to those we elect to serve us. A very few carry their hatred to extreme, sometimes influenced by alcohol, resulting in violence. Others exhibit their hatred in more subtle ways such as by pushing a button while voting on a piece of legislation.

All of those listed above who voted no are republicans (no surprise). All the "yes" votes in our area came from democrats. They are: M. Coleman of Midfield, P. Dunn of Bessemer, E. Hilliard of Birmingham, M. Moore of Birmingham, D. Newton of Birmingham, O. Robinson of Birmingham, J. Rogers of Birmingham, R. Scott of Birmingham, and P. Todd of Birmingham. Let these representatives know you appreciate their efforts.

Lum Weaver, Scotty Joe's older brother, who is also gay, said "They think this is going to drive us away, but it only makes us stronger" when talking about the murder and a previous attempt to strengthen the Alabama hate crimes law. That is true, and this year more representatives voted for the change than ever before. The fight will go on, in the chambers of the Birmingham City Council (and possibly in Bessemer, stay tuned), on Goat Hill and on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Tell the Whole Story, Dale

I posed the question “Who will be next?” to leave in the Bush administration and now we know: Tony Blair, announcing today that he is stepping down as Prime Minister. I have to admit, I’m not sad to see Bush’s lap dog go.

And in Bessemer, we have someone ready to make a run at replacing Tony Snow as President Bush’s press secretary if such an opportunity arises. Dale Jones, the editor of The Western Star, has once again misrepresented the truth regarding the war in Iraq as to leave no doubt that he could handle the job. Remember early this year he made the assertion that every person who has served would “return to Iraq in a second” while we all know of such veterans who have denounced the war and are working to get us out of Iraq.

This week, in his weekly editorial titled “Our Fight is against Al-Qaeda, not Iraq” Jones once again shows his willingness to twist the truth to fit his message, much as the White House does through its press secretary. He says:

Al-Qaeda was formed in or around 1988, twelve years before Bush went into office.

Ollie North testified before (the) Senate. He told Senator Al Gore that Osama bin Laden, the force behind Al-Qaeda, was the one man that he was most afraid of.

We’ve had opportunities before Bush to make a difference, but our “leaders” seemed too busy dealing with interns in the oval office.

Let’s remember, that twelve years before Bush went into office, when Jones says Al-Qaeda was formed (1988), Ronald Reagan was president (1981 – 1989) and during the next four years while Al-Qaeda was gaining strength, daddy Bush was president. And let’s not forget where Osama bin Laden got his inspiration.

When the marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, were destroyed by a suicide bomber in 1983, killing 241 American servicemen, Reagan was president, and did he retaliate? No. After initially pledging to keep a military force in Lebanon, he quickly changed his plans and withdrew. We did nothing to retaliate. Cutting and running, we were unable to get out of there fast enough. The success of that attack led to a sharp increase in suicide bombings across the world, and such bombings were later adopted by Al-Qaeda as an often used tactic. Bin Laden himself has indicated that the bombing in Beirut and the U. S. unwillingness to respond was inspiration for him.

So don’t blame the Clinton administration for the rise of Al-Qaeda. Jones is right, we have had opportunities before Bush to make a difference, in fact, Al-Qaeda might never have come into existence if Reagan had stood up to the terrorists in 1983. Tell the whole story, Dale.

And some roses.

The fence surrounding the back of our property is covered in vines and shadowed by trees, but as we have begun to clear it off, surprises have been revealed. These roses are two of several that remain, that the former owner must have had covering the fence decades ago. If we can get more sunlight onto the fence area by trimming some scrubby trees back, I’m hoping the roses will flourish once again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Bessemer Shines, Alabama House Bill 482 Does Not

Great news for Bessemer. As expected, U. S. Pipe is announcing today to build their new plant here. Robert Gordon reports that the plant will bring $23.7 million to the economy of the city. Myla Choy, a U. S. Pipe attorney said, “This is very much in line with everything going on in Bessemer. This is one piece of the Bessemer rebirth story.”

Building permits and fees alone will generate $450,000 for the city on the $45 million project. Ray Torok, company president, says, “This is a statement of commitment by U. S. Pipe to the Bessemer Community. No one is going to wake up one morning and worry that U. S. Pipe is leaving Bessemer, and in this day and age, that is no small gift.” Neither is the $116 million total annual economic impact that U. S. Pipe, with its current plant and the new one will generate for the city once it opens.

For Bessemer, named in 2002 on the Woodrow Wilson International Scholar’s dead cities list, the resurrection continues.

Stop House Bill 482

Today the Alabama House Education Policy Committee will take up HB482, the Christian heritage bill. This piece of legislation would designate the first scholastic week in November each year as Christian Heritage Week in public K-12 schools and would require daily instruction during that week on the influence of Christianity on the history and heritage of the United States. House Bill 482 singles out the influence that the Christian religion has had on our history and heritage. This is a promotion and endorsement of a particular religious belief in violation the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and numerous Supreme Court decisions, including Lemon v. Kurtzman.

The bill’s authors have made a number of findings in support of a HB 482 that are extremely misleading. For example, the Christian heritage bill states that the U.S. Supreme Court in Holy Trinity Church v. Unites States determined that the U.S. was a Christian nation. Their interpretation of this ruling is wrong. Although the court expressed its support of religious freedom when writing the opinion, the ruling is not about the First Amendment at all. Holy Trinity is a case about the importation of foreign laborers.

There are other misleading statements in their support for this bill. Email me for more information. The House Education Policy Committee should reject House Bill 482. It’s unconstitutional, and will likely lead the state into costly litigation if adopted. Public schools should seek to create an environment conducive to learning by all students and not advocate religious or anti-religious beliefs.

I am all for religious instruction and training of children in religious tradition and heritage. At home. At church. Not in our public schools.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

September? Not What the Voters Were Hoping For!

These are the headlines as they appeared on aol this morning: (I disabled the links).

Huge ExplosionWows Scientists
Expert Says 'This Was the King'
See What Astronomers Found'

Blast Kills Worker in Las Vegas 'Unusual' Murder at Famed Casino

So did the stellar explosion kill the worker in Las Vegas?

Now the democrats in congress are considering a plan to fund the war through September, and maybe a good number of republican lawmakers will go along with that. However, waiting almost a year since the November 2006 election before something is done about the war is not the message the American voters sent. Democrats in congress are being pushed back, but there is no corner they are being backed in to from which they will attack back, and no cliff they will stumble off of as they retreat from the will of the voters. They are just retreating and allowing American service members to be at risk for a few more months while Bush and Petraeus roll the dice hoping for some measure of success. Trouble is, we still don't know what success is, we still don't know who the enemy is, we still don't know why we are there, and we don't know what victory is.

I gave Wolfowitz three weeks and it looks like his removal is being negotiated by European countries as they agree to let the U. S. choose the next World Bank president if the current president steps down. A World Bank commitee has found him guilty of breaking rules and there is no way they will allow him to stay on. Who's next?

Monday, May 7, 2007

Bessemer's Western Tribune; The Queen and Bush

The readers of this blog who live in Bessemer or are interested in Bessemer should call The Western Tribune at 205-425-7171 and enter your subcription today. Rumor has it that some of you who were hoping for a new paper have still not subscribed. The first edition will be published next week, so don't miss out, if for no other reason, you don't want to miss my column!

Will the Tribune be covering this? The president is welcoming the Queen for a visit and for a formal state dinner tonight. My only question: hasn't Karl Rove been to dinner there before?

I just can't imagine the brush clearing president knowing how to behave in the presence of the queen (Elizabeth, the one from England). And Nancy Pelosi will be there too. Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall...

This climbing rose is Red Cascade and it is growing up a dead cedar tree.

Baskets like this hang in front of the house.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Reaganfest 2007 continued

Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor who is running for president says he "misinterpreted the question" when he said an employer should be able to fire an employee if they learn he or she is gay. His spokeperson says Thompon does not believe any kind of discrimination in the workplace is justified, and that his record (I guess as governor) reflects that belief.

I wonder how Bush is going to respond when the Employment Non Discrimination Act is presented to him, hopefully in the not too distant future. The administration has already indicated that Bush will veto the Hate Crimes bill passed by the house last week. That's interesting, and I will bring this up again if he vetos the bill, but I see where Bush has signed the Dog and Chicken Hate crimes act (actually a worthy piece of legislation, the Animal fighting Prohibition Act that makes dog fighting and cock fighting a federal crime and strengthens law enforcement's ability to put a stop to this form of animal abuse....

So in his mind (and the minds of legislators who voted for this bill and against the Hate Crime Bill) the chickens and dogs are more worthy than the homosexuals.

That's Bush for ya.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Reaganfest 2007

Last night I subjected myself to political torture by watching the Republican presidential debate (delayed). I will offer the following comments.

Reality is often much less impressive than fantasy, and apparently every one of the republican candidates is living in the fantasy of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Media reports state that Reagan’s name was mentioned 19 times, but I think they lost count (just like trying to count Alberto Gonzales’ “I don’t recall”

Anyway, the reality of Reagan’s presidency is budget deficit spending, deconstruction of American social programs, cutting and running after the Beirut Marine barrack’s bombing, and the ignoring of the new and growing AIDS epidemic such that research was stymied and many more lives were lost. His legacy is continued reduction in spending for those who need help the most.

They can live in that fantasy if they want to, but it’s not going to get any of them elected president. Howard Dean said it best… “(the debate) confirms that a Democrat will be elected in 2008.” Side note…Howard Dean is coming to Alabama for fundraising, I will keep you posted.

We have pretty good resolution on our TV, but I never did see Rudy Giuliani’s eyes. I want to be able to look someone in the eye, and actually see them. He will drop in the polls after his answer on abortion, “It would be OK to repeal it…” he said, referring to Roe v Wade. Others used such phrases as “Glorious day of human liberty and freedom” (Sam Brownback) and “I changed my mind” (Romney). ‘Liberty and freedom’ when the individual rights of women to control their reproductive health is taken away from them?

Three of the candidates raised their hands when Chris Matthews asked who did not believe in evolution, Mike Huckabee, Tom Tancredo and Sam Brownback. So these three ascribe to the Antonin Scalia view of science (“Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I’m not a scientist” he said during oral arguments in the recent U. S. Supreme Court case on carbon emissions and global warming. In other words, if we don’t understand science, and since we are not going to make any effort to understand it, let’s just ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist.)

Last week I gave my view on who looked the most presidential (Hillary Clinton). Well, this week I say none of the ten looked presidential. Not just because I don’t like their policies and what they stand for, they just don’t look like someone who commands a presence and who we want to look at on the tv for the next 4 years. Mike Gravel said last week that some of his fellow democratic candidates “frighten” him, well most of the republican candidates make you want to go hide under a rock.

My prediction, Romney will move up a little in the polls, at both McCain’s and Giuliani’s expense. The others will continue to flounder in extremist neverland.

Whoever can tell me where these pictures were taken and who the artist is wins the imaginary prize.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Prisoners Roaming the Streets and Roses and Buntings

So yesterday I leave my house, turning on to Dartmouth Avenue, and am immediately surrounded by prisoners in orange and white striped and solid orange jump suits, on both sides of the road. Meandering along, they seem to be picking up trash. Last summer the men from The Foundry picked up trash along the streets of Bessemer.

Years ago there were complaints when the prisoners were roaming the neighborhoods and I thought the policy had been changed. Does this bother anyone? What presents a better image to people driving through our neighborhood, littered streets with no prisoners or clean streets with prisoners?

You will never, never catch me on a ladder this high, like this painter at the Broken Vessel Church. I need him over here to paint this house.

Yesterday I saw an indigo bunting in the backyard. Ted reports seeing them in Lipscomb, but this is the first one I have seen here. So, here is a fact, from The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: "Indigo Buntings have no blue pigment; they are actually black, but the diffraction of light through the structure of the feathers makes them appear blue.” They are this bright color in sunlight, but are drab or black looking otherwise. Who else has seen indigo buntings?

You know we have lots of “redbirds” or cardinals around here, and this one little “blue bird.” Sort of like the political climate here, our indigo is a bright blue dot in a red state!


This is Blaze, so I am told, it blooms all summer

The Green Rose is kind of an oddity, having been around since 1845, the "petals" have reverted back to leaves. Some have speculated that the "stationmasters along the Underground Railroad might have used boutonnieres of the Green Rose as a covert sign to others transporting their perilous cargo northward " (from 100 Old Roses for the American Garden, Clair G. Martin, Smith & Hawken).

New Dawn claims the distinction of being U. S. Plant Patent No. 1, the first rose patented under federal regulations.

The peonies just don't last long enough, but wow!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Bright Star Turns 100 as Bessemer Grows

Today The Bright Star is 100 years old, and the oldest restaurant in Alabama is celebrating today from 3-7 pm. They are even blocking off 19th street in front of the restaurant.

Cooking demonstrations at 4:00
Magic show at 5:00 for kids
John Ed Willoughby at 5:30 (giving away $100 gift cards to those who can prove they are over 100 years old.

Here’s the odd thing. They are serving Bob Sykes Barbeque.

There are gifts and appetizers and entertainment.

Jeff Key is returning to Hollywood today, after seeing his movie (or rather, the movie that documents his life) take the Best Documentary Award and the Audience Choice Award at the Shout Film Festival. And almost as exciting for Jeff, he enjoyed dinner last night at The Bright Star before leaving town. For those who did not get to see Semper Fi you can see it on Showtime beginning June 25. Continue the good work, Jeff.

Dirt is still being moved around Highway 150 and Lakeshore, but U. S. Steel is being tight lipped about what is coming in, according to the Birmingham News. They say just infrastructure work is being done now, but that the first phase of the development will be a retail center, possibly anchored by a grocery store, taking about 30 acres. Light industrial will occupy the other 100 acres. U. S. Steel owns 800 acres along Lakeshore in Bessemer.

Whatever businesses locate there, Bessemer has entered into a revenue sharing deal for the next 15 years where the city gets 30 % of any sales, property or occupational tax revenue and U. S. Steel gets the other 70% until they are paid back for their initial investment for installing the infrastructure. Those property taxes designated for schools are not included.

Bessemer also entered into a deal with U. S. Pipe (we must like companies with “U. S.” in their names) promising $1.25 million in incentives to lure the new plant to Bessemer. Here’s Mayor Ed May, “The only thing that could hold this up now is an act of God or contamination being found on the site. Notwithstanding those two things, it’s a done deal.” I am interested in hearing more about the environmental considerations for the new plant, and am glad to learn that the current plant will also receive a $7 million emissions control upgrade. This comes a good news, as bad news about Birmingham’s air quality is released, naming Birmingham among the worst in the nation for particle pollution. Birmingham ranks 4th worst for year round particle pollution and 6th worst for short term particle pollution. The American Lung Association says that particle pollution can shorten life spans by 1 to 3 years, and cause premature births, worsen asthma, trigger heart attacks and strokes.

Larry Langford seems disappointed that the plant will not be located in North Birmingham, part of the county that is included in his district. However he at least realizes one thing: “Bessemer didn’t leave the county. Bessemer is in the county.” One by one our county commissioners are coming to this realization. First, Bettye Fine Collins, now Larry Langford.

Two new things, you can see the cost of the war in Iraq growing over to the left, and can click below the numbers for information about how it costs our community. Also, a new link, to Blue Sparks in Alabama, an unofficial site promoting Ron Sparks for senator.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished

I’ve taken one final exam, two to go. But by Bush’s standards, I can proclaim “Mission Accomplished” like he did four years ago on the USS Abraham Lincoln, even though the fighting continued and the insurgency was already underway. To Bush, “Mission Accomplished” doesn't mean the task is finished; it’s just something to say to make yourself feel better.

Don’t tell me he really didn’t mean the war was over, or the banner was put up by the ship’s crew about their mission and the president didn’t know anything about it.

3351 U. S. service members are dead. The surge continues.

January, 83 dead. February, 80 dead, March, 81 dead, April, 104 dead. Like I said, the only thing surging is American and Iraqi casualties.

Let’s look at Iraqi deaths for the same period.

January, 91 police/military dead, 1711 civilians dead, February, 150 police/military dead, 1381 civilians dead, March, 215 police/military dead, 1674 civilians dead, and April, 158 police/military dead, 1482 civilians. Mission accomplished?

These statistics come from the Department of Defense, and they admit that the numbers are not complete for the Iraqi deaths, so the numbers are actually higher.

And Bush wants more money to continue this war indefinitely.

56 % of Alabamians disapprove of Bush, according to Survey USA poll reported last week. And across the nation, over 60% disapprove of the president. Americans went to the polls in November and overwhelmingly told congress to get us out of Iraq. Today the congress will present the president with a plan to do just that. As Barack said, we are just one signature from beginning to bring our troops home.

According to the Bush administration we shouldn’t even have to be paying for this war. Remember when Paul Wolfowitz was Deputy Defense Secretary in September 2003 and said, “There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”

Here is the current cost of the war, over 400 billion dollars. See the total rising here:

So, Wolfowitz was off in his calculation by over $400 billion, and now he’s president of the World Bank? He's supposed to be good with money? I'll give him 3 weeks, not for this but for his cronyism as he got his girlfriend a promotion and a big pay raise. Bush is standing behind him, just like he stands behind Alberto Gonzales. The dominoes continue to fall. Who will be next?