The Year of Moving Forward

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Dems Take Control...and Candidate's Faith

There are polls and lists and surveys…everybody tries to find ways to compartmentalize people or rate people, and when it comes to politicians, there is no exception.

So last week’s list of the Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill just adds more floof to the political arena. I mean, we all know that a good looking candidate has a better chance of being elected than an, er, ugly one (we won’t talk about my loss in the city council race here). But back to the list. I was a little disappointed that the list includes staffers as well as elected officials. Who cares? I was hoping that there were at least 50 elected officials considered attractive enough to make such a list, but no.

But of interest, Democrats far outnumber Republicans on the list. Part of that may be that there are many more Democrats in Washington now to choose from. Or, maybe the compilers of the list had a difficult time seeing underlying attractiveness through the ugly policy that Republicans cling to.

Anyway, the Most Beautiful person is Representative Brad Ellsworth of Indiana, and the next elected official on the list is number 4 Nancy Pelosi, both Democrats, of course. Many people had lots to say about a 67 year old grandmother being the best looking woman in congress, most of which I won’t repeat here. In fact all of which I won’t repeat here.

So Democrats control the House and the Senate, and now the Most Beautiful list (both male and female). What more can we ask for? How about the White House?

But when it comes to presidential candidates people aren’t comparing their looks much except to discuss Hillary’s cleavage or Romney’s hair (Boston Globe), neither of which impress me, but they are talking about faith. Seventeen presidential candidates’ (including Fred Thompson and excluding Mike Gravel) religious affiliations are listed in today’s Birmingham News . Catholics (7 total, 4 democrats, 3 republicans) far outnumber the rest, with Baptist coming in second (4 republicans). In addition, there are 2 Methodists (Dems), 1 each of Church of Christ (Dem), Episcopalian (Repub), Presbyterian (Repub), and Mormon (Repub).

I am not at all surprised that all the Baptist candidates are Republican. But I would have thought that Catholics would be more likely to fall on the Republican side with the Baptists. And I would have thought the Presbyterians and Episcopalians would land on the Democrat’s side. Not the candidates, of course, just the denominations, which are a little bit progressive.

This just goes to show that religious affiliation is no great predictor of party affiliation among candidates, and among voters the same is true. Even among Baptists, there are voters who are so disgusted with the republican leadership and who are realizing that things such as the environment are important so are more likely to vote democratic than they were in the past. Even in Alabama, where the democratic candidate could carry the state for the fist time in decades. It could happen! Just wait.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Crumbling Building

I have an exam today and will be spending the morning reviewing material about such things as mosquitos, malaria, water sanitation, and HIV/AIDS. This is in preparation for my trip to Jamaica next month which is part of a course I am taking. We will be addressing these issues while there, all in a public health mindset.

Anyway, so not a lot of time for blogging. But the big news is...most of you have heard...the building that I wrote about here and here has been torn down.

Here are a few pics of the process. I am learning a new skill...making a video for Youtube, so hopefully in a day or two I will have a video of the demolition in action.

This should have happened years ago. More later this week.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Simpson Short...and Western Trib Column

Today is too busy and I don't have much time, so it's Tribune column day. These columns as posted here are not always word for word as to what is in the paper, because of editing and such. Then there's a little Simpson's info following the column.


To my knowledge there has been no response from the city regarding the animal abuse that has occurred in our animal control facility following the story and picture of the burned dog in this paper. The paper reported that the mayor claimed the city does not have an animal problem.

That is true. The animals are not the problem. The problem is with the people who own them and some of the people who are mandated to provide care and shelter for them when they are taken in by the city.

State law requires that the city provide animal control, and there are standards that must be followed. The City of Bessemer is not following these standards both in the care it provides for animals and in the dispensation of animals (whether it is euthanasia or adoption). This is not only a dog health issue; it is a human public health issue.

Last year this was brought to the attention of the Mayor and each city council member by way of a letter from the executive director of the Greater Birmingham Humane Society delivered to each in November. In addition, a plan of action was presented that would have gotten Bessemer on track to correct its problems. The letter was ignored. The director never got a response.

One recommended action was to utilize the services of Kim Staton, a consultant with “Animal Welfare Consultations.” She will visit, assess, and make very specific recommendations to correct the array of problems currently in place. The Humane Society noted in the letter that the fee charged by Ms. Staton was equal to the dollar amount discounted Bessemer by the society for services performed between June 2006 until September 2006, about $7,000. In essence, the Greater Birmingham Humane Society would have paid for the service, and Bessemer would reap the benefits for free.

The Bessemer Neighborhood Association and others are not going to be satisfied with a response of “We can take care of this” because the city has had plenty of opportunity and has not taken care of it. The only acceptable solution is to hire Ms. Staton or a similar outside consultant to evaluate our situation and provide a plan. Any other response reeks of attempting to hide the truth and we as citizens have grown tired of that.


Bart Simpson will hit the Silver Screen all over the country this weekend, but what about Nancy Cartwright?

She is forty nine years old and has been the voice of Bart Simpson since his small screen debut 20 years ago ( in a tv short, the series is just 18 years old).

For the short she was called in to read for Lisa, but like Bart's "devious, school hating, irreverent" characteristics and chose that part instead.

She gets a six figure paycheck for each episode (which takes about 6 hours of work for her each week). It's good work if you can get it.

She's a student of scientology...didn't Bart take on that cult once? I wonder what she thought of that.

Anyway...go see the movie.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cats Make the most Interesting Stories

I woke up this morning thinking it would be a great day, and so far it is, but not what I was expecting. Remember the building on 19th St. S. in Bessemer that I have featured on here from time to time that really needs to come down. Last night I got a phone call that a bulldozer had been unloaded next to the building and that it would come down first thing this morning.

Well it's noon and the bulldozer has not moved, and of course the building has not either.

So I called the number on the side of the machine and spoke with a lady who told me yes it is coming down, but she is not sure if it will be today or tomorrow or when. But it looks like the first objective and the number one priority of the Bessemer Neighborhood Association will be achieved soon.

Next up: animal abuse.

And interestingly enough, the local dog fighting issue has moved from the Western Tribune which first reported it to The Birmingham News where this article describes fighting in Bessemer. Soon the issues of dog fighting and animal abuse will be before the Bessemer City Council and the mayor. The Bessemer Neighborhood Association will not let these issues be ignored any longer.

Two cat stories, sort of. This one, about a cat who curls up beside nursing home residents just hours before they die is wonderful. With great accuracy tthe cat predicts when death will occur, giving a heads up to staff members and families of residents, and even doing better than a doctor at predicting death in at least one instance. story Wonderful because it gives families a chance to know they need to get down there quick.

Now this cat is different. This is an educational cat, of sorts, named Pinkie. Since I was writing about the death penalty yesterday, this is very appropriate, because it shows us who the Father of Modern Capital Punishment is. Thomas Edison Hates Cats There is no cat abuse shown in this video. An elephant maybe, but...just watch.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

BHHA Pool Party

Rarely do I post more than once in a day, but I really need to share this video that Richard created of The Bessemer Historical Homeowner's Association Pool Party.

BHHA Pool Party
See we aren't a bunch of old fuddy duddies. Thanks Richard.

Now scroll down and read today's post.

Death Penalty Revisited

Is it not just a little odd that the dean of Cumberland School of Law at Samford Univerity is named John Carroll, and that John Carroll High School is just a couple of miles away n the same road!

Anyway, John Carroll, the dean, says that Alabama’s death penalty law needs to be studied, and that it has flaws in it that should be addressed. The Story
He was a member of the American Bar Association’s death penalty assessment team for Alabama that in 2006 suggested several reforms. Among them:
Revamping indigent defense services
Providing defense counsel in state post-conviction proceedings (Alabama being the only state that does not do this)
Providing standards for judges in overriding jury recommendations.
Enacting a post-conviction DNA law

Sounds like the time for study is over. The ACLU released a report titled Broken Justice: The Death Penalty in Alabama in 2005. This 27 page report outlines clearly the problems Alabama has with its death penalty laws.

But as Carroll says, attempts to talk with state officials have not been successful.

This is a related story about post conviction DNA testing for Darrell Grayson, scheduled for execution on Thursday. that story

Did you know that in 2005 Alabama sentenced more people to death than Georgia…Mississippi…Louisiana…and Tennessee…combined! Do you think the criminals of our state are really that more heinous than our surrounding states? That doesn’t make sense, when you realize that we are arguably the most “Christian” of all the states. One would think that those values would filter down to would be criminals enough to produce lower crime rates and more civility. I mean, if we have more “Christians” spreading the word of God, with any success one would expect to see lower crime rates and such.

Oh yeah, they believe same sex marriage is the greatest threat. So they ignore their failure to address social issues that really matter. Issues like poverty and hunger, health disparities, after school programs for inner city kids…things that might make a difference in so many lives. Instead they focus on demonizing gays and lesbians and rallying people around hatred rather than love. How refreshing to see an African American pastor from the south questioning the use of scripture to target GLBT people during the Democratic Youtube debate the other night View the question on Youtube . And to hear candidates talking frankly about equal rights. read the transcript on CNN Sorry, but you will have to scroll down to find this question and the candidate's answers.

One can only dream….

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Three Laughs (maybe)

Instead of reporting on the dem’s youtube debate (Other than to say I can’t imagine the republican candidates fielding those kind of “gotcha” questions with the same confidence and poise the democrats showed), or Conyer’s failure to get his additional sponsors in order to bring impeachment charges against Cheney, or the Bessemer Neighborhood Association’s raucous meeting, (for which the mayor was a no-show, but his assistant Camilo Fuller took the heat), I’m just going to comment on our wonderful popular culture. First someone trying to be funny, then a family that really is funny, and finally a comic strip that makes us laugh as we ponder things that are not funny.

Rush Limbaugh was trying to be funny yesterday when I heard this while driving to school. He was commenting on W’s recent colonoscopy during which five polyps were found and removed. He followed that by saying that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and two other democratic leaders 9 (I can’t remember who) were recovering fine. Ha Ha. The sad thing is, that even though these “benign democratic polyps” have been "removed", the malignancies of Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, John Boehner, John McCain and Joe Lieberman (and others) are still embedded so far up Bush’s *** that even a colonoscopy couldn’t remove them.

Linda Evangelista has something that very few characters in The Simpson’s have…lips. Evangelista is the Simpson’s tour guide in Paris as pictured in the August issue of Harper’s Bazaar (and in today’s Birmingham News). I might actually go the “The Simpson’s Movie” when it opens later this month. Never a big Simpson’s fan, but always interested in pop culture phenoms, I’ll shell out $6.50 (discount price). Beside’s, rumor has it the movie might actually lay out a plan to save the earth, something the Bush white house has yet to do.
Simpson's Movie Trailer

And while I am on comics, poor Lisa Moore. Thought of as a breast cancer survivor, now we learn that her cancer has returned and she is dying. But she is a survivor. Being a survivor does not mean one will live forever. It means you lean how to face and deal with what ever it is you are surviving. Then you have beaten it. For those who don’t know Lisa is a character in Funky Winkerbean who developed breast cancer in 1999 and with a mastectomy and chemo seemed to overcome the disease.

Tom Batiuk, the creator of Funky knows from first hand experience, being a prostate cancer survivor himself. His dealing with real life situations helps readers of over 400 newspapers deal with their situations.

This is so you will know why we are going to like our deck. Close to being finished (the paint is being touched up even as I write) they are still waiting on one piece of railing and there is some electrical work and landscaping to do.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Three Things for Monday, and Hairspray!

In no particular order here are three very important happenings today.

First, of course, the meeting of the Bessemer Neighborhood Association is tonight at 7:00. Among other things, we will talk about the animal abuse issue, and we would like as many people there as possible. Even if you don’t live in Bessemer, you should be concerned that a city is sanctioning animal abuse, so you should come out in support. 7:00 at 1829 Dartmouth Avenue.

Of course, you will need to tivo the democratic “youtube debate” on CNN at 6:00 central time. Then you can watch it after the Bessemer meeting.

And by then you should have called your representative in Washington and urged him or her to support impeachment proceedings against Dick Cheney. Today people across the country are being urged to do that…just three more sponsors and Chairman John Conyers says he will begin impeachment proceedings. 202-224-3121 gets you in touch with your representative. Today is the 5th anniversary of the meeting that produced the famed Downing Street Minutes and if you are unfamiliar with this check it out.

Hairspray had a large audience at 2:00 in Hoover, believe it or not. This movie musical about integration in 1960’s Baltimore might be more controversial in Birmingham than Brokeback Mountain was. Of course Brokeback played to crowded movie houses for more than 12 weeks here, and I predict Hairspray will do at least as well.

The biggest surprise was that I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry beat out both Harry Potter and Hairspray over the weekend. I guess too many people stayed home reading the new Harry book…or had already seen the movie since it grossed $139 million the weekend before. I want to hear from people who actually saw Chuck and Larry, because the reviews are awful, but you gotta love Adam Sandler and Kevin James, so yeah, we will got see it, but we aren’t in a big hurry.

The original Hairspray movie from 1988 finds its way to connect to the new production, in the form of John Waters, the writer and director of the original movie, making a cameo appearance as the “flasher who lives next door” during the opening number. Also, Riki Lake who played Tracy in the original appears as a talent scout during the “Miss Hairspray” finale. And, Jerry Stiller who played Tracy’s father in the original plays the owner of Hefty Hideaway.

John Travolta (as Edna Turnblad) and Queen Latifah may have been the big stars, but Nikki Blonsky as Tracy steals the show, and out sings, out dances and out peforms all the big names. Nikki was a singing ice cream scooper at Cold Stone Creamery before she was chosen for this role.

Hairspray may have come in third, but as for musicals it owns the biggest opening weekend in history. Dreamgirls doesn’t come close, nor does Chicago.

Whether it’s inequities of the past as in Hairspray or inequities of the present as in Chuck and Larry, movies that address social issues do well. And history marches on. I'm heading to Cold Stone Creamery.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Spider Martin Photos

Many of you have seen photographs taken by Spider Martin who is best known for his photos of the Civil Rights movement. But other things were going on during the sixties, and Spider’s lens pointed at other subjects as he provided images for magazines such as McCall’s and Playboy.

Spider Martin’s Unseen Sixties” is an exhibit of his fashion photographs taken between 1965 and 1973 on display until August 17 in the UAB Visual Arts Gallery at 900
13th St. S.

Spider’s daughter Tracy Martin helped Brett Levine and Mindi Shapiro select the photos to be displayed, as part of a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love. The images are humorous and representative of the period.

Brett Levine says that this side of Spider Martin for many “will be entirely unexpected.

Gallery hours are 11 to 5 Monday – Thursday, 11 to 4 on Friday, closed on weekends.

UAB Exhibit

Make your plans if you live in Bessemer to attend the BNA meeting on Monday at 7. There will be a very important discussion of the dog abuse issue in Bessemer, and action is about to be taken. We need the support of as many residents as possible.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Body Farm and Dwindling Flowers

It’s better than using human bodies I guess, but Linda Spurlock had to wonder what her neighbors were thinking when she dressed up two dead pigs and buried them in shallow graves in her backyard two years ago.

Kent State students studying anthropology recently went to her home and used their skills to determine where the bodies were buried and then tried to determine how they were killed.

“I think something happened to this pig that is not exactly kosher,” one of the students said.

There was a “GSW to left ribs” and some sharks teeth and cherry pits in the graves.

Read more and see the picture:


Hmmm. We had fetal pigs in high school (Berry High) biology to dissect, but no murder investigation.

But when I lived near Knoxville I became aware of The Body Farm, Dr. Bass’s forensic anthropology plot where he keeps human remains in various stages of decay, maggots and all.

Instead of reading my descriptions, why not tour the Body Farm. This is Dr. Bass’s own page, so it’s “OK.”

Body Farm

After looking at that, here are some nice flower pictures. There is not much blooming these days, with little water and intense heat.

Morning Glorys are not one of my favorites...until they bloom. They appear in such intense colors. This is one that I refrained from calling a weed, and look how it turned out

This is the last sunflower to open, and the most perfect of the group. The others have just about gone to seed, their heads bowing toward the groud, and various birds lurking nearby. I don't know if you can see it in the picture, but bright gold pollen has fallen onto the green leaf below changing its color as well. If I were a bee, I would just land on that leaf and roll in it.

This is Turk's Cap, or Turk's Turban, and hummingbirds love it. I'm afraid the returning hummers are finding a less bountiful supply, as quite a few plants had to be removed to make space for the deck and sunflower garden. Still, I think there are plenty, and I am seeing hummers every day. I will try to get pictures.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Elders...and The Trib

What a group. Jimmy Carter, Bishop Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Mary Robinson, Kofi Annan, Richard Branson. These human rights superheroes have joined forces to form “The Elders,” which takes its name from the elders who lead some African village societies.

The Elders will seek solutions to what seem to be intractable world problems, addressing major issues that are not being addressed now. Issues like the guerrilla fighting in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger River delta or the waste and lack of coordination among aid agencies delivering health care, suggestions made by Branson and Carter.

In prepared remarks Mandela said "This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken. Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair."

Branson came up with idea after persuading Annan and Mandela to travel to Baghdad in 2003 to negotiate Saddam Hussein’s relinquishing power, only to have war break out before they could accomplish their mission. If only…

The Elders have not decided what issues they will address yet, they are in the mobilization and assessment stage. But to have world leaders like this who have individually worked for peace and human rights now banding together to seek solutions that are beyond partisan politics is something this world needs.


If you don’t live in Bessemer (and even if you do) you might be growing weary of news about the Bessemer Neighborhood Association, but my tradition of posting my Western Tribune columns each week continues, and this week the column is about the association. So hear it is:

If you live in Bessemer, you now have a voice that you didn’t have just three weeks ago. The Bessemer Neighborhood Association has formed, with a mission to improve the quality of life throughout Bessemer and its surrounding communities. Too broad, you say? That is purposeful, because with that as our mission statement we can address a variety of issues to make Bessemer a healthier and safer place to live.

This organization was not formed to replace any existing community groups; rather we will work with groups such as neighborhood watch associations, the City Council, the Board of Education, the Mayor’s office, the police department, Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association, local churches, Jefferson County Department of Health and others to improve our neighborhoods.

The Bessemer Neighborhood Association is for everyone. While we are currently strongest on the South Side of Bessemer, we anticipate growing and serving all of Bessemer and surrounding communities. We want you to be involved.

During our first meeting we assessed our community’s strengths and weaknesses, and we are in the process of developing an action plan to build upon those strengths and minimize our weak areas.

Among our goals are such things as increasing our active membership, fighting urban blight and working to beautify our community. Also we will seek to develop programs and activities that will give our youth alternatives to life in the streets and will work with law enforcement to reduce crime throughout our community. Another goal is to increase educational opportunities for all ages.

We even have our first specific objective and that is to work with the city to have the dilapidated building on 19th St. South between Clarendon and Dartmouth Avenues torn down. This structure has been an eyesore and a point of contention in the community for years. We realize the danger it poses to children and others who may try to enter, and that it is a public health hazard to nearby neighbors. Working with the city we expect to have this building torn down within a few weeks.

Other objectives are being planned and will be discussed at our next meeting on July 23 at Broken Vessel Full Gospel Church on Dartmouth Avenue.

This group is made up of neighbors who are intent on helping others in our community to lead a better life.

Learn more about us at Updates of meetings and current projects will be posted periodically.

I hope to see you on July 23.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

BNA Web Site, and ACLU Stands Up for Toddler

The Bessemer Neighborhood Association has a new web site:

There we will post news regarding meetings, goals, accomplishments, etc.

The ACLU of Alabama has issued a press release regarding the banning of the HIV positive toddler from a pool in south Alabama. This is an example of how people need to educate themselves if they are going to be serving the public. Here is part of that release:

MONTGOMERY, AL – The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the owner of the Wales West RV park in Silverhill, Alabama today demanding that it stop discriminating against people with HIV by barring people with the disease from using the swimming pool, showers and other common areas of the park without a letter from a doctor.

“This kind of ignorance and prejudice is unacceptable at this point in the HIV epidemic,” said Olivia Turner, Executive Director of the ACLU of Alabama. “After more than two decades of studying the disease, we know that you can’t catch HIV by swimming next to someone with the disease or using a public shower.”

According to media reports, Dick and Silvia Glover’s two-year-old foster son Caleb was banned from the pool and other common areas of the RV park by its owner Ken Zadnichek after Silvia mentioned to a desk clerk that the boy had HIV. Although Caleb had been looking forward to taking a ride on the park’s two train rides, the couple had no choice but to leave the park.

“Mr. Zadnichek should be ashamed of himself for picking on a defenseless two-year old,” said Christine Sun, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s AIDS Project. “Mr. Zadnichek claims that he was merely trying to protect other campers, but he had nothing to protect other campers against. Ignorance about the disease is no excuse for prejudice.”

The letter sent by the ACLU explains that discrimination against people with HIV is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and demands that the park owner send written assurances to the ACLU that the park will no longer discriminate against people with HIV. The letter also notes that the ADA prohibits businesses from imposing eligibility requirements, such as requiring a doctor’s note, that screen out people with disabilities. The letter quotes information from the Alabama Department of Public Health making it clear that, “[y]ou do not get HIV from an HIV-infected person by working together, playing sports, shaking hands, hugging, closed-mouth kissing, sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils or towels, using the same wash water or toilet, swimming in the same pool, or coming in contact with their sneezes, coughs, tears or sweat.”

“Basic Facts About HIV and AIDS,” available at

Monday, July 16, 2007

To Vote or Not To Vote

In The New Yorker there is a review of Bryan Caplan’s book, “The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Politics,” and while I doubt I will read the book, I think I learned enough from the review. Caplan is an economist, so there. The last book I read by an economist was “Freakonomics” and I haven’t recovered from that reading yet.

But Caplan’s premise is that people shouldn’t be voting, or at least not the one’s who are. First is the argument that there is no reason for any one person to vote. Especially in the presidential election, which will never be decided by a single vote. Spending time and effort educating oneself about different candidates and then driving to the polls and waiting in line (like that really happens) to cast a vote that will not influence the election is not a good investment of one’s time.
And like the author, if I had voted for the other candidate in every presidential election since I started voting in 1972, it would not have affected me or anyone else in the nation one bit (other than the guilt I might have felt…).

He has a point there, and while I know people who adhere to that policy for that reason, I still think people should educate themselves about issues and candidates and take all the time necessary to cast their ballots.

But even more important than the single vote, I think, is the influence an educated (or uneducated) person exerts over other potential voters. Even if I don’t vote, if I convince 23 others to vote for candidate B, and lots of other influencers do the same, then candidate B might win.

That’s boring, isn’t it? But here is what I wanted to say. In the review is a paragraph about the political knowledge of the average (supposedly educated) voter (as opposed to the average supposedly uneducated non-voter). Read this as if it is a test. I hope you feel good about yourself afterwards.

“The political knowledge of the average voter has been tested repeatedly, and the scores are impressively low. In polls taken since 1945, a majority of Americans have been unable to name a single branch of government, define the terms “liberal” and “conservative,” and explain what the Bill of Rights is. More than two-thirds have reported that they do not know the substance of Roe v. Wade and what the Food and Drug Administration does. Nearly half do not know that states have two senators and three-quarters do not know the length of a Senate term. More than fifty per cent of Americans cannot name their congressman; forty per cent cannot name either of their senators. Voters’ notions of government spending are wildly distorted: the public believes that foreign aid consumes twenty-four per cent of the federal budget, for example, though it actually consumes about one per cent."

And these are the people who choose our leaders. But I guess you really don’t need to know any of the above to know which candidate you prefer. At least that’s what the candidates want you believe.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Intolerance v. Acceptance

A few days ago a reader posted a comment at the end of this post about flag burning in which he left the “L” out of “flag” and then typed ‘Oops” and went on typing, rather than erasing the offending word and typing his opinion without conjuring up images of violence against gays. Knowing the person who wrote it, I believe his intention was either to make a cruel joke or even to incite others to violence. But violence against gays is no joking matter.

Does this guy know that a local gay man was beaten and burned to death just a few years ago? And more recently a man in South Alabama suffered the same fate. These horrible murders are still fresh in the minds of gays and lesbians because of constant threat of violence and the hateful rhetoric of people like this writer.

Instead of making jokes about killing gay men and lesbians, why not promote tolerance and acceptance like Abby does. From today’s “Dear Abby”


DEAR ABBY: My husband and I raised our two sons and two daughters. One son and both daughters married well. Our other son, "Neil," is gay. He and his partner, "Ron," have been together 15 years, but Neil's father and I never wanted to know Ron because we disapproved of their lifestyle.
When I was 74, my husband died, leaving me in ill health and nearly penniless. No longer able to live alone, I asked my married son and two daughters if I could "visit" each of them for four months a year. (I didn't want to burden any one family, and thought living out of a suitcase would be best for everyone.) All three turned me down. Feeling unwanted, I wanted to die.
When Neil and Ron heard what had happened, they invited me to move across country and live with them. They welcomed me into their home, and even removed a wall between two rooms so I'd have a bedroom with a private bath and sitting room -- although we spend most of our time together.
They also include me in many of their plans. Since I moved in with them, I have traveled more than I have my whole life and seen places I only read about in books. They never mention the fact that they are supporting me, or that I ignored them in the past.
When old friends ask how it feels living with my gay son, I tell them I hope they're lucky enough to have one who will take them in one day. Please continue urging your readers to accept their children as they are. My only regret is that I wasted 15 years. -- GRATEFUL MOM

DEAR GRATEFUL MOM: You are indeed fortunate to have such a loving, generous and forgiving son. Sexual orientation is not a measure of anyone's humanity or worth. Thank you for pointing out how important it is that people respect each other for who they are, not for what we would like them to be.
You could have learned that lesson long ago, had you and your husband contacted Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) when you first learned that Neil was gay. Among other things, the organization offers support groups and education for parents who need to learn more about gender issues. PFLAG

It is because of people like this writer that we need hate crimes legislation. The U. S. Senate was poised to vote on it this week, but are bogged down in other stuff. Maybe they will get to it soon, it wouldn't hurt for you to call your senator's office at 202/224-3121 and urge them to vote in favor of the Matthew Shepard Act, S. 1105. And contrary to what this same writer has said before, this bill does not muzzle Christians, in fact, over 1300 clergy have issued a letter in support of the bill.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Joe's Theology

Information will be forthcoming regarding the animal abuse problem. We are deveoping a possible solution, but this is going to take time. Don't you hate hearing that?

At the risk of offending Roman Catholics I have to say your pope just needs to keep his mouth shut. Maybe it is best when he issues statements that just repeat old edicts and such, like when he offended the entire Muslim world with his lecture in 2006 in which he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus. The emperor was one of the last Christian rulers prior to the fall of Constantinople to Muslims, so you where where the comments led the first time.

Now he has offended the rest of the Christian world by categorizing their denominations as “defective.” But this too is nothing new; the idea was part of the 2000 Dominus Iesus, written by the pope when he was just a cardinal.

Graduate level theology courses have given me some knowledge of the process of seeking theological understanding and the importance of it. But I also understand that theology, just like religion, is personal. Each person has to come up with their own understanding of God, or Creator, or Supreme Being. Since every person has different life experiences that they draw on to form this understading, every person will have a different perception of God and the relationship they have with God.

I believe that not only are the Christian denominations “defective” but the Roman Catholic Church is as well. They are all defective, because there is no way any set of doctrines can precisely embrace all the true mysteries of the universe. Knowledge will never be complete, and theology certainly relies in part on our knowledge and understanding of nature.

Because not all humans receive and process information in the same way, it is unreal to think that all people can be expected to receive and process spiritual teachings in the same way. In fact, that is probably part of the reason we have so many denominations in Christianity anyway. Too many.

In Bessemer, we have a local paper that recently bragged about being the only paper that has a whole page dedicated to places of worship. Approximately 185 such places are listed. (As an aside, at least one of the churches in the list does not exist, and the phone number given rings at a building supply company, leading me to believe that maybe the editor is inflating the number of churches to make the paper and his city “look good.” Who knows how many more of the places listed are non-existent?)

Bessemer has about 30,000 people, and we know that about 40% of the population attends church on a regular basis. That means 12, 000 people are scattered among the 185 churches, or about 65 people per church. The national mean is 75 people per church, so not too far off considering I estimated some numbers and realizing that some people travel out of the area to attend and that all of the churches in the list are not in Bessemer.

But my point is that if theology were simple and applicable to everyone in a like manner we would not need all these different places and styles of worship. Or, maybe theology is simple, but popes and pastors and priests complicate it and in the process divide us by convincing that their doctrine is the “true” doctrine.

It is not right that the "leaders," whether it is the pope or priest or local pastor, use their position to bring people down because of their understanding of God. What this does is pull us away from God and toward the pastor. Instead these leaders should be building us up and helping us to further strengthen our own awareness of God in our lives.

My advice: seek God and spiritual fulfillment in your own way. Take what any pastor or priest tells you with a grain of salt. Remember Ted Haggard, the evangelical leader who fell from his lofty perch after it was revealed he was paying a male prostitute for sex? People in his mega-congregation were quoted that they would have to find a new leader, implying they were followers of Ted Haggard, when they should be following Jesus and his teachings. What they should have said was they needed to find a new “pastor.”

So wouldn't it be best to leave the pope to his Prada shoes and Serengeti sunglasses, and the pastors to their various sordid secrets, and just concentrate on our own relationship with God. Otherwise we will always be wondering and setting ourself up for disappointment. Do it and we might just find what we’ve been missing.

Sorry, I almost got in to my preaching mode. I am a southerner, you now.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Western Tribune Column re: Animal Abuse

The Bessemer Neighborhood Association met last night and I will be posting some information about the meeting in a day or two. In the meantime, here is my editorial response to the animal abuse that is ongoing in Bessemer. Please forward this link to any animal lovers, especially those who would be willing to take part in a protest in front of city hall with their dogs on leashes. I am not sure that is the route we will take, but it is an option. There is a meeting tonight of local veterinarians and others with Jacque Meyer of the Greater Birmingham Humane Society. Something will be done.

Animal Abuse Won't Be Tolerated Here

Recent revelations about the abuse of animals in Bessemer’s Animal Control facility should spark outrage in our city. The horrible picture of the burned pit bull in last weeks edition of this paper only reinforces my assertion that widespread crime is being ignored here. This fighting dog was set on fire by a rival gang member, a gang that also raises dogs to fight.

But we also know that dog fighting has close ties to illegal drug use, prostitution and violence. More dog fighting problems are reported here in Bessemer than in any other part of the state. This demonstrates a lack of morals and ethics in this city.

Let me be clear. Dog fighting is animal abuse. Animal abuse is a felony. Even owning, keeping or training a dog with the intent to fight is a felony.

From the community standpoint, this is a moral problem. Nobel Peace Prize recipient and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer said “Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives,” and statistics back this up. One study shows that animals were abused (usually by a parent) in 88% of homes where children are abused, and another study shows that 71% of women (who also had pets) seeking shelter at a safe house reported that their partner had threatened, hurt or killed their companion animals.

From the city’s standpoint, this is an ethical problem. When the department head in charge of Animal Control ends their lives by shooting them rather than by humanely euthanizing them he is acting unethically. When he commits acts such as allowing the burned dog to lie in pain without treatment or relief for 24 hours, he is acting unlawfully. This is 2007, and using the Wild West tactics of shooting an animal when other more humane options are available is unacceptable. Allowing an animal to lie in pain is unconscionable. And to ignore the problem, as the administration has done, is also a breach of ethics.

As a veterinarian, I am appalled that there is not better oversight of Animal Control operations, but as a human being I am disgusted that the problem has been overlooked for so long. Anyone interested in helping to solve this problem let me know. The Greater Birmingham Humane Society and local veterinarians will use their power and resources to help reverse this problem. Dogs and cats are to be loved and cared for by their owners, and many are looked upon as members of the family. That is how is should be. That is how it will be.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Barack Obama: Not an Idiot

Is Barack Obama an idiot? No he is not, but a local newspaper editor says so. More on that later. The star of this post is Barack Obama, who appeared in Birmingham yesterday evening before in a ballroom full of people. Black and white, young and old, all that.
Fellow bloggesr Kathy from Birmingham Blues was there, as was Dan from between the Links. Other bloggers probably were as well, but it was difficult to see everyone.

Barack was preceded by a nine year old local girl who read a letter she had written, and who has more wisdom than anyone in the current administration, and then this Phi De I drum line. I apologize for the quality of my pictures

Then the round mound and self proclaimed future governor superstar NBA player Charles Barkley spoke in support of Obama. Barkley also assured us that we have his word that he will be running for governor, in response to an audience member’s shout urging him to do so.

The next superstar was Congressman Artur Davis, who represents us here in Bessemer. He also was mentioned as a future governor of Alabama, so the field might already be getting crowded.

You hear this every election, about almost every candidate, but I think Obama is being successful in bringing people back in to politics as well as bringing new mostly young people into the mix. There were quite a number of young people, some of course preparing to vote in their first election next year.

I think the crowd was about 50% white, and this speaks well for the candidate. I would like to see Hillary under the same circumstance, $25 and without husband Bill, and see if she would draw as big a crowd and as a diverse a crowd. My prediction, Hillary would bring in less white women, and less white men. In fact, I think she would draw less of every group.

Obama spoke about working as a community organizer in Chicago and realizing that there were lots of ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things. I am hoping his campaign will inspire ordinary people here and around the country to continue to do extra-ordinary things as well. The country is beaten down and a lot of positive community capacity is not being tapped because people don’t feel good about the situation our country is in. Our children are being left behind, our administration ‘lied’ us into a war that has turned in to a debacle. Gas prices are affecting us all, but for some are enough to really affect their lives. Barack said, “We have so much dysfunction” when talking about Washington, but that dysfunction filters down to communities and families.

But he also said “People have just said, ‘Enough’.” People have had it with the ineptness in Washington and could choose this man, described as a “uniter” by Barkley, to be the person to mend this broken nation.

I believe a lot of change is going to take place over the next 2 years, in the nation but also in our community. Maybe there is a similar feeling in communities across the nation, but in talking to people over the last few weeks promoting our Bessemer Neighborhood Association, I depict a cautious optimism and hope among people that I haven’t recognized before. I think people are beginning to see an end to the war, whether sooner or after the next election, and also have hope regarding the violence that grips our own community. They see that presidential candidates are actually offering solutions to the problems in our nation and that members of their own community are seeking solutions for the community.

Oh yeah, the “idiot” comment. Newspaper editors have a responsibility to keep discourse civil and should hold themselves up to a high standard in order to gain and keep respect for them and their paper. Dale Jones, the editor of The Western star in Bessemer, in a column on June 27 called Obama’s statements idiotic, but on this blog he called the candidate himself an idiot. Here is his quote from the comments from this blog (June 28, 2007, Does Faith Unite Us? Do Republicans Divide us?) :

"It is true, Joe, that Obama is opposed to same sex marriage, but does indeed support civil unions and also in giving same-sex couple full rights. What an idiot! "

It is one thing to disagree with a candidate’s positions, but quite another for a newspaper editor to resort to name calling. Oh I know I have called Bush, Cheney, Rummy and others names, but they have proven their ineptness and certainly deserve any criticism I or anyone else offers. Obama’s positions serve to unite our country and lift people up; the administration’s policies have divided the nation and beaten people down. But that is the Republican way, isn’t it.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Alice Ragsdale Norton, 1905-2007

On Friday, July 6, 2007, Bessemer lost one of its oldest and most revered citizens, Mrs. Alice Ragsdale Norton. Mrs. Norton was a friend and neighbor of mine, and was 102 years old when she died. Those who knew her were aware, but for those who did not, she was the organist for the First United Methodist Church in Bessemer for 75 years. Yes, that is correct. I last heard her play at the church last summer.

Mrs. Norton also amazed me when last year she told me she had lived in her house on Arlington Avenue for 100 years. Actually I know she lived away from there for a time, but she did live there 100 years ago, and she lived there when she died.

Mrs. Norton knew every owner of our house, which is also around 100 years old. Can you imagine Bessemer 100 years ago, when these fine old homes were first built, and baby Alice playing in the yard of her parents Victorian home, when the trains that ran so close to her home were in their hey day. Her parents would have just a few years before been a part of Bessemer’s New Year’s celebration when the new century began. Just after the next century mark, I moved here and immediately became aware of Mrs. Norton and her contributions to this city.

Think of all the changes Bessemer has seen in her 102 years. Some good, some bad, but all bringing us to the point we are at today. Bessemer is coming back, and I know from previous conversations that Mrs. Norton would be pleased with that. And I believe she died confident that the city she loved and knew so well would return to its former glory.

Alice, we will miss you. And the music you provided.

If you would like to honor Mrs. Norton you can do so by supporting the Alice Ragsdale Norton Music Scholarship at Birmingham Southern College.

Cheney's Day's Numbered? Plus Live Earth

Schools across the nation will soon be changing their lesson plans for American government. I believe it was in the 11th grade that I had the subject and learned how our government functions, er, functioned. Now they must be changing the textbooks so that students can learn about the four branches of government. You remember; the executive, the legislative, the judicial, and the cheney branch.

Without the addition of the cheney branch of government, we could not have all the checks and imbalances that we have now. Things like the monopoly “get out of jail free” card for your friends. The outing of covert (oh yes she was) CIA agents (and the endangerment of all the people she associated with in her “job” at Brewster Jennings or wherever else she worked).

Manipulating intelligence. No, I don’t mean working with the president’s intelligence, although what little he has needs manipulating. I’m talking about national security, that kind of intelligence. Manipulating intelligence and purposely deceiving the congress and citizens of the U.S.

We can help prevent the cheney branch of government from taking over by urging his impeachment. Read Robert Greenwald of The Huffington Post and view the number one youtube video that outlines the articles of impeachment.

Huffington Post

Saturday was Live Earth and if you didn’t watch parts of the event you missed out. Great music, from all over the world, and to bring awareness to a cause that only those with no concern for our world would chose to ignore, or even deny, and that is global warming. Events from all seven continents, including Antarctica, where a few scientists performed for the cameras and some penguins, made for a day that hopefully will be turning point in the battle to save our planet as we know it today.

Visit Live Earth and you can watch and listen to all the artists that performed. Snow Patrol, Madonna, Joss Stone, James Blunt and more. Of course you can also learn more about the climate crisis and environmental issues, and there are links to SOS, The Alliance for Climate Protection and National Geographic’s environmental sites.

It is beyond me why some would want to ignore this looming crisis. While there really is no real debate that our planet’s climate is changing, and if you look at the science, no debate that humankind is playing a major role in this, some chose to fight efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for example. They would rather sit back and criticize science while the flooding of places like Bangladesh and South Beach looms in the not so distant future. They think the world is in chaos now, just wait until millions and millions are displaced by slowly rising waters and mass migrations are occurring forcing people to areas already overcrowded and stressed to the limits.

Not only people will be affected, and I’m also for saving the polar ice so that the polar bears up north and the penguins down south will have habitats in which to live as well.

And I have children who will be living in the world that we leave for them. Let's all do our part.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Honoring the Troops and the Tribune Column

Last Friday evening at the opening ceremonies of the Alabama Sports Festival, veterans and active duty armed service members deployed since 9-11-01, from Alabama, were honored and each received a medal during the ceremony. Those who have lost their lives were also honored.

Bobby's nephew Jeff, a former U S Marine, was one of the honorees and here is a picture of his medal.

It was dark, but the crowd was very sincere and did not hold back in showing their support.

A member of the Gardendale First Batist Church carried a lit candle for each troop killed in Afghanistan or Iraq, and they marched single file into the arena. There have been more than 80 casualties from our state, and that number really seems big when they are marching single file and lining the floor of the BJCC arena. It is a big number. ( I am not sure where they got their number, but regardless of the true number, it is too high).

The Bessemer Neighborhood Association has a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July 10, 2007 at Broken Vessel Full Gospel Church. During this meeting we will finish up some tasks such as developing our mission statement and setting our goal and objectives.

The proposed Mission Statement is broad: The Mission of the Bessemer Neighborhood Association is to improve the quality of life throughout Bessemer and its surrounding communities.

But the goals and objectives are clear and precise. I will post those later, after the meeting, during which we will also be setting into motion our Action Plan to accomplish our goals.

There is at least one Bessemer elected offical who is not too happy about our groups efforts, and at least one police officer who has been critical of my involvement.

Here is my column from The Western Tribune on July4, addressing crime.


Bessemer is in a crisis situation, and not a word is said. Not the words the community wants to hear, anyway. Statistics released in mid-May reported violent crimes were down during the first three months of the year but we have had at least half a dozen murders since that time.

Three women, one teenage boy, and two men were killed within a matter of weeks. In my community, residents are unsure of their safety. A rally was held during which community leaders were asked to speak to give encouragement to the community and to offer solutions to the problems that lead to this type of violence.

Or so I thought. There was no police presence at the rally to offer support and encouragement. Two elected city officials spoke, Mayor Ed May and Councilman Earl Cochran, but both turned to their preaching skills rather than their problem solving skills. Several preachers also spoke. No one said that the city was making any kind of assessment of the conditions that lead to violence, or making recommendations to control it.

I also was called to speak, without advance notice, and I brought up a second tragedy that is gripping our city as a result of the multiple murders. Residents are afraid to come out of their homes. Being confined in your homes by fear, whether justified or not, is bad for your health. Residents who should be out enjoying healthy activities like walking or gardening are instead sitting inside with increased stress levels, further affecting their quality of life.

Why was there no mention of what the city is doing to combat crime? Should we assume that the city is not concerned? The meeting seemed more a photo op than a problem solving rally. Neighbors on Dartmouth Avenue were disappointed, and have their own ideas of what the problems are and how they can be dealt with. A meeting was called that will have occurred by the time you read this, to which every resident living on Dartmouth Avenue was invited to give their input. An organization was formed, and an assessment of the problems has begun. Because our city is not taking action, outside experts will be called in to help insiders find solutions.

Prayer is good and can be a useful tool in changing people’s attitude and outlook. And faith can bring us together. But action is also required. Faith without works is dead and to only offer prayer as a solution does nothing to increase our safety. If that were so, we could just pray the prisons empty and the battlefields cleared as crime and terrorism would no longer exist.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fireworks a Blast, Production a Dud

What a show!!!
Fireworks are the star attraction, and the blasts were spectacular, and because of that I hope no one went away dissapointed.

Taking fireworks pictures with a digital camera is a challenge. I miss the days of my Minolta 35mm slr camera.

I commend the mayor for getting a permit to produce the fireworks show, and the Chamber of Commerce for pulling it off. To the chamber's defense, the Tribune did report that they were asked at the last minute to put on a pre-show program. But the paper did not say that there would be no pre-show program. No speeches, no music, no shaved ice, no moon walk. Just free watermelon from Bessemer Opinions. And thanks to The Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association (whose members were there in mass) for donating one of the 4 watermelons we distributed.

It was easy to see that this is not an election year. Only two elected city officials were present, that being Sarah Belcher and Jesse Matthews. (I admit others could have been there without me seeing them). The biggest city event of the year, and the most patriotic day of the year and the majority of council members stay away. I would have thought someone would have made a speech. I would have!

Many people complained of ants and at least one woman said she was not picking her toes, she was removing ants that were biting her. Recommendation: On July 3, 2008, spray the park for ants.

This picture reminds me of something I saw on the video screens in arcade games in the 80's.

The biggest fiasco was at the clubhouse. The public restrooms were locked. Oops. But there was an event going on inside the clubhouse, surely they would let watermelon-logged patriots in to use the facilities. Nope. The clubhouse event PIC (peson in charge) stood her ground with arms crossed while kids stood theirs with legs crossed. The PIC threatened to call the police. Jesse Matthews called the parks director. The convenience store restroom (across dangerous Highway 150) offered relief. The police asked the PIC to allow the restroom to be used, but the PIC stood firm. A true patriot. Really makes you wonder: what were the PIC and her cronies doing in there that they would not even allow the police to come in.

As it turns out, the clubhouse has not been rented out on the 4th of July for as long as anyone can remember. The parks director said that it is not supposed to be rented out on that day. So who goofed up and rented it out?

But Hispanics, blacks, whites, young and old, gay and straight, enjoyed watemelon and fireworks, because those in attendence were not going to let the bullheadedness of one individual (the PIC)or the confusion wrought by the LIC (leaders in charge) ruin their day.

Thanks Jesse and Sarah, for taking part in this years Independence Day Big Show.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day

Number one and most important: the Bessemer Fireworks Show is on! Roosevelt Park on 14th Street (Highway 150) at 9:00, but come early and enjoy free watermelon provided by Bessemer Opinions! At 7:30 or so.

I have known for days what I wanted to put on this site on Independence Day, and then I had to go and see Sicko yesterday, and it all changed. What I was going to say about patriotism has to be modified after seeing that movie. This is coming from me, not as a liberal, or a democrat (I’m not registered with any party) but as someone who is concerned about health care costs and insurance costs, and from someone who pays a bundle for what is so far the best medical coverage someone could ask for. Also someone who has two children who are going to have to deal with escalating health care costs a lot longer than I will.

That being said, it is embarrassing to be in the most developed country in the world, and have a worse infant mortality rate than El Salvador. To have a health care system ranked 37 in the world, just above Slovenia. To have greater life expectancies in Canada, Britain, France and Cuba, the counties that Michael Moore visited, than in the U.S. To learn by listening to Americans in those countries that the inferior care and extended wait times for care that we have heard about for years just is not true.

As a former (veterinary) care provider I have certain ideas about certain words and phrases, and to me the term “medical loss” brings up an image of a dead patient, someone who has died from a medical condition, as opposed to a surgical loss, someone who died during a surgery. But in this movie I learned that in the insurance industry, a medical loss is the term thrown out when an insurance company has to pay a claim. In cases where the company could not find reason to deny a claim, or deny a procedure, they call this a loss, a medical loss. The movie shows how they are fighting at every opportunity, and if the opportunity is not there, they create one, to deny approving a procedure or to deny paying a claim, such as revoking a policy retroactively after a costly claim was submitted because the patient had not reported a previous yeast infection (totally unrelated to the current procedure) years before.

Anyway, back to patriotism. The movie told how in Great Britain, immediately after world war two, that citizens of England began to realize that if they could find money to kill people (as in war) then they should be able to find money to help people. So they developed the National Health Service. During the same period to the present we began developing the most expensive health care system in the world. But not the best, remember, we are ranked number 37.

If we are truly being patriotic, shouldn’t we be proud of our country. But how can we be proud when our system allows mentally ill patients who can not pay to be transported from the hospital in a taxi wearing a hospital gown and dumped in front of a shelter with hope she can find her way inside? How can we be proud when the system allows a patient with cancer to die without treatment while the hospital board (where the patient’s wife works) controls the insurance and determines who gets treated and who does not? How can we be proud when 9-11 rescue workers can not receive health care in this country, the country that is providing free, state of the art health care to Gitmo prisoners, but in Cuba these same rescue workers receive free care and affordable medicine and are treated as heroes for their service rather than being left behind as they were in New York by a system that does not provide for them?

True patriotism would look at our system, then look at the systems that work in other countries, and adapt from these systems policies and procedures that would provide universal coverage. That would be good for the U. S.

True patriotism would value the life and health of every American, regardless of their social status or ability to pay. That would be good for our citizens.

True patriotism would involve not criticizing other countries whose system happens to be better than ours, but learning from the success of others.

True patriotism would have us quickly develop a system with true regard for what is best for the citizens of the country and less regard for the industries; medicine, pharmaceutical and insurance that currently control healthcare.

This is a non-partisan issue for our country, and the blame is easily spread among the congress, the lobbyists, the present and former administrations, the medical profession and the insurance profession and the drug (legal) industry.

One more thing. We got to the theater about 10 minutes early and there were already several people sitting. 10 were older than us (seniors), and 5 were younger than us. Is this because seniors are getting screwed more than others? While we waited I would say more older moviegoers came in than younger.

You have seen my flag collection before. I have added two new ones, the first of which is a civil war era flag. Interestingly, the flag changed several times during the civil war, as states continued to be added in spite of the conflict. Also note that of course no stars were removed to honor the secession of the confederate states.

The civil war era flag is behind the other historic flag in this picture. It is the one that flew during WWII, and I wanted it because my father fought in that war, both in Europe and in the Pacific. That flag has 48 stars, before Alaska was added in 1959 and Hawaii in 1960.

One other flag I am thinking of adding is the flag with 23 stars that flew for two years after Alabama and Maine were added, from 1820 to 1822.

An interesting fact for this Fourth of July holiday is that since 1818, whenever flags were modified by adding stars, the new flag has always been flown beginning on July 4th of the year it is introduced. Also, designs for up to 56 stars, which would represent 6 new states, are already in place. (Don't tell president Bush, he'll pick some more countries to invade).

This was not purposeful, but these flags represent periods during which we were at war, and we made it through those often dark times, and that realization gives me encouragement that we can make it through this time, what with the war, the attacks by the administration on our constitution, the hateful anti-immigration rhetoric that I hear. And when dissent and opposition is categorized as unpatriotic, I wonder what they understand about our Bill of Rights and our history.

Remember the other day I said to be patriotic and fly your Stars and Stripes but to also fly a rainbow flag? In this past Sunday’s Parade Magazine there was an article titled “Time for a Family Reunion!” which, in the paper edition (not online), has a photo of the author’s husband’s family reunion which is held every Fourth of July. With an American flag draped behind them, a few dozen patriotic picnickers wearing flag bandanas and Uncle Sam hats are also backed by a rainbow flag, indicating the inclusive family pictured. Thank you Parade Magazine and thank you Lynn Schnumberger. Happy 4th of July!!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Homosexuality and the Bible, and More Lipscomb Troubles

In Lipscomb another city official is in trouble. This time it's the fire chief, but the Jefferson County Sherrif's Deputy who was quoted in the Birmingham News said he did not know what the warrant was for. Seems like that would be easy enough for the guy to find out, if he was being interviewed, but that is not the story. The story is a city with a complete lack of leadership, in every major department. The mayor, the "police commissioner," the fire chief. I hear that the sheriff's department has been itching to get in there and clean things up.

Driving through Lipscomb on Avenue K you see a couple of new signs erected. I don't often give free pubicity to attorneys, but here is the sign. You can read about the blasting and damage in the first few issues of the Western Tribune in May.

How about a sign that says:

Incompetence Damage

If you are damaged from lack of leadership in this area, please call...

Homosexuality and the Bible

Well here goes. I already know that certain individuals will say I am “spinning” the Bible verses to suit me, but no, what I have done is research. Some of you have heard this before, so sorry for the repeat.

I will start with the story of Sodom. The sin of Sodom was not homosexuality; it was their behavior and callous indifference toward the weak and vulnerable. Read Ezekiel 16: 49-50 (Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.), and all the other verses in the Bible that discuss Sodom and you will see that not one of them mentions homosexuality. In Ezekiel the abominable things are listed, and they are pride, attitude and refusal to help the needy. Sure, irresponsible sex is one of the elements of the story, but I hardly think God would have approved what the men of Sodom were doing if the angels had been female, so it is not just a homosexual thing. This story does not condemn homosexuality as an orientation, nor does it condemn or even speak of committed loving same sex relationships.

To follow up on Sodom, read Jude 7 ( Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example suffering the vengeance of eternal fire). Many assume that “going after strange flesh” must mean homosexuality, because it seems unnatural to them. But in that time, according to Genesis 6, “Sons of God” (angels) took the daughters of humans as wives. Most people think this is what sealed Sodom’s fate. Jude was talking about "heterosexual sex" between human women and male angels (pretending to be humans), or strange flesh, not sex between two men.

Everyone has heard the verses in Leviticus that are used to condemn homosexuals, but let me put them in context. Leviticus 18:22 (Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination) and 20:13 (If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them) should be understood after considering what was going on at the time. Three different times we are told that these and other rules in those chapters are meant to prevent the Israelites from doing what the Egyptians and Canaanites did, in this case, homosexual temple prostitution. Many sexual practices, along with other things, are mentioned in these chapters, and these are practices that were going on in the other cultures as parts of fertility rituals and a desire for immortality (semen was thought to be the essence of life, and depositing semen into the body of one of the priests was believed to gain the favor of the goddess of love and fertility, Ishtar or Astarte, to guarantee immortality.) This is not a condemnation of homosexuality in general, or of loving same sex relationships, this is a condemnation of practicing temple prostitution to seek the favor of a false god.

Even more commonly used as a condemnation of homosexuality are Paul’s writings in Romans 1:21-28 (because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up into vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not covenant.). Briefly, Paul is addressing people who refuse to acknowledge and glorify God (v. 21), who began worshiping idols (v. 23), and were more interested in earthly pursuits than spiritual pursuits (v. 25), and gave up their natural, or innate, passion for the opposite sex in an unbounded search for pleasure (v. 26-27) and lived lives of covetousness, malice, envy, strife, slander, disrespect for parents, pride and hatred of God (v. 29-31). The model of homosexuality that Paul addresses is associated with idol worship or temple prostitution and people who in their search for earthly pleasure broke away from their natural sexual orientation and participated in promiscuous sex with anyone available. He does not address people whose natural orientation is homosexuality, or their willingness to enter into committed relationships.

The last two verses that are often used against gays are 1Corinthians 6:9-10 (Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.), and 1 Timothy 1:10 (for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for men stealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine). The Greek word in 1 Corinthians used to refer to homosexuals is malakoi, and is translated “effeminate” in the King James Version. Some theologians think this word, taken in the context of the time it was written, meant soft, like a woman, or traits like vanity and self indulgence, traits unacceptable to men at the time. Others carry it further, thinking the term refers to male prostitutes. Another Greek word used here and in Timothy is arsenokoitai, a combination of two words meaning “bed” and “male.” In other writings of the time that discuss homosexual sex, or one of the partners in gay sex, this word was never used, and other words were used. Paul would not have needed to resort to this ambiguous compound word, which other writers used to describe instances when one male used his superior power or position to take sexual advantage over another. Newer versions of the Bible seem to suggest that to commit the sin referred to in 1 Corinthians one must use homosexuality in an aggressive or offensive way (NIV - “homosexual offender” and NRSV - “sodomite” and as we have seen, the men of Sodom were the ultimate example of sexual aggression and oppression.).

These verses have been mistranslated, misinterpreted, misapplied, and mistakenly singled out as proof that God does not approve of loving and committed same sex relationships, where in fact, none of those verses address the subject, rather they address particular sexual acts committed by certain people who have turned away from God, or who are seeking favor from other gods.

Want to hear more?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Bessemer Neighborhood Association

The comments continue to pile up on my post about Faith and Republicans. Check it out. Because one commentor (guess who) is so critical of Christians who want to be inclusive and of homosexuals for demanding equality, in a few days I will make a series of posts about the Bible and homosexuality. Many of you have seen this before, but apparently he has not.

Last night there was a meeting of Dartmouth Avenue residents and others who are interested in organizing in such a way as to work toward making our community a safer place and improving our quality of life. One thing I learned…people are not going to get to a 7:00 meeting at 7:00, as we didn’t begin till about 7:15, allowing some extra time for late arrivals. But there were still people coming in at 8:00. In the end, there were more people present than at last weeks Vigil/Rally at the same location.

The second thing I learned was we can not (or should not) restrict our efforts to Dartmouth Avenue or Bessemer’s south side. The problems we will be addressing are not restricted to this neighborhood, or even to the city of Bessemer (as we had at least one Lipscomb resident present). And many of the solutions will be city wide in their scope. However, I hope that our group will realize that if this group encompassed all of the frustrated citizens in Bessemer, that no church or building in the city could hold us all, and if every angry and frustrated resident of Bessemer was allowed to express their opinions, we would still be over there listening.

Not to say that everyone’s opinion is not important, I’m just saying that to be effective, this group has to concentrate on the problems of our community and neighborhoods, and I hope that as more people from other parts of Bessemer come, they will return to their neighborhoods and form their own “subgroups” of the Bessemer Neighborhood Association.

We did not elect leadership, but we did name block captains for certain blocks that were represented. While the responsibilities of the captains have not been identified yet, one thing they will be doing is distributing information about future meetings to people on their block (and surrounding blocks until we have captains throughout the area). As for leadership, Elvira, Susan and I will remain as a “steering committee” until officers are named. And since no other leaders were named, we will take it upon ourselves to develop some operating rules so that the meetings might have a better flow and our time might be better utilized.

Here are some important points from the meeting. We are (at least starting out) using the MAP-IT model, so we will Mobilize (get people involved), Assess (the situation, including naming our strengths and resources as well as our problems and weaknesses), Plan (that begins next week), Implement (carry out our plans) and Track (our progress).

Here are some random thoughts. We need to take a multi-pronged approach to the problem of violence. Some of these solutions may be reactive, such as increasing police patrols or placing a sub station in the area. I say reactive because this is to fight the criminals that are already present (but they are also proactive in that they will help to deter crime). Other solutions are proactive, in that they might help to prevent young people from turning to drugs and crime. Examples are building a recreation center, having quality after school programs for youth, and offering quality pre-kindergarten for all kids. Statistics show that these types of efforts reduce future crime rates by certain percentages.

We are thinking outside the box. For instance, fighting crime does not just involve arresting the bad guys. Things like tearing down abandoned buildings, a noise ordinance, litter control programs and beautification projects all help to make an area less attractive to criminals. They show that the residents are in control and that the residents take pride in their community and have respect for their neighbors. So our organization will not just be another neighborhood watch group, but we will be developing goals that improve our quality of life in many ways.

One thing that I hope will be a side effect of this effort, is that it will lead to the formation of neighborhood associations in each district that are funded by the city, like Birmingham has. For instance, I envision District 7 having two associations, divided by 14th Street. Just something to anticipate, not something we are focusing on now.

Our next meeting is Tuesday, July 10, at 7:00, at Broken Vessel Full Gospel Church.