The Year of Moving Forward

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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Religious Extremism...It's All Around Us!

This shows how stupid and dangerous some people are. One of the YouTube questions for the Republicans was by Yasmin Elhady, a 21 year old Huntsville law student. Because she asked "What would you do as president to repair the image of America in the eyes of the world?", she has received threats and insults and her religion (Islam) has been blamed for the violence of the few.

Should the entire Christian religion be blamed for the violence that occured during the Crusades? (well, maybe).

Should the entire Christian religion be blamed for the Oklahoma City bombing, carried out by Christian terrorist Timothy McVeigh? (No)

Should the entire Christian religion be blamed for the hatred expressed by the United Church of YHWH in Talledega, who are tryng to "sanitize their hatred" by removing the swastikas from their materials, yet still describe Jews as "enemies of Christ?" (never mind that Jesus was a Jew).

Christian terrorism is alive and well, and is just as big a threat as Islamic terrorism. Not because Christians go around blowing themselves up along with other innocent people, but because reasonable Christians ignore the extremists in their own religion, or just look at them with curiosity while they meet and promote their hatred (like in Athens a couple of months ago). And then they question why reasonable Muslims don't do something about the Islamic extremists.

Thank goodness the FBI, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League monitor such groups. But the hatred of the Muslim religion based solely on the action of a few indicates a larger threat of hatred that could turn to violence if we aren't careful.

If you go to the video linked above and read the comments you will be disgusted. But hey, this is what Christianity is about for those people. The misguided, but very vocal few. Watch out.

By the way, Yasmin, I agree with you that our image needs to be repaired. That is one reason why I am backing Hillary Clinton for president, because she has the best chance at doing this after she is elected. Certainly no republican will do this, as they are scrambling to come up with the best plan for continuing war after war in country after country.

And thank you Yasmin for having the courage to ask this question. I am proud of you as an American, and as an Alabamian, for speaking out. You have already been recognized by being named one of Glamour magazine's Top 10 College Women for your activism. Keep it up, girl.

Gosh, and I haven't even gotten started on the spiritual terrorism committed by Christians toward lesbians and gays. Some other day.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Is Bessemer Opinions "Illegitimate?"

Oh no, another conspiracy theory. But this one is really sweet.

It seems the Canadian divisions of Cadbury, Hershey and Nestle have developed a price fixing scheme in the chocolate bar industry.

This investigation may spread to other types of candy as well.

Does anybody think it is just coincidence that all gum used to be a nickle (later a quarter...and now who knows how much) a pack, regardless of brand, or that all candy bars used to be a dime, (then a quarter, now who knows how much)?

One thing is certain. The cost of litigation to fight these charges will be passed on to the Hershey bar eaters (that includes me) and Nestle Crunchophiles (me as well).

Here's a quote from a local "News" paper, The Western Star, from editor Dale Jones' column..

"Now I will admit, I'm human, and it is a bit frustrating when loud mouth cowards hide behind anonymous names, taking shots at me and making false statements on illegitimate web blogs."

From The American Heritage College Dictionary:

"Illegitimate adj. 1. Against the law; illegal. 2. born out of wedlock 3. Gram. Not in correct usage. 4. Incorrectly deduced; illogical. 5. Biol. Unacceptable as a scientific name because of contradiction to the international rules of nomenclature. "

I did a quick and incomplete web search and did not find a lot of references to Dale Jones on other blogs, and with the reaction I have received from him after previous references I am sure he is referring to Bessemer Opinions. So let me assure you this blog is 1. Not against the law, 2. Not born out of wedlock, 3. Not a grammatical mistake (although it sometimes contains such errors), 4. Not incorrectly deduced or illogical (to some degree a matter of personal opinion, may apply to certain postings but certainly not the entire blog) and 5. Not primarily biological in nature and thus not subject to the rules of scientific nomenclature.

In the past Jones has accused me of hiding behind my blog ("Stop hiding behind this pathetic blog " he once wrote), but I don't see how that is possible, because the blog and it's author are out there for the world to see. And I don't post anonymously so I don't think he is referring to me when he talks about cowards (although he did use "pathetic and extremely GUTLESS" when referring to me once).

So on the same day that I receive numerous congratulations for the success of this blog, it is called illegitimate in a local paper. I just wish he had used the name Bessemer Opinions...with the few additional readers that might have been directed here my rating could have climbed into the top ten! Well, maybe his readers will google his name after reading his column to see what has been said about him, and if so they will arrive at Bessemer Opinions.

Since I did read The Western Star this week, and since the editor does claim to present the news...wait...he actually says "you are going to be reading true, relevant, honest, factual, comprehensive information about what is going on in your neighbohood." In fact, the word "news" is not found in his editorial about his paper.

And he is right. The front page this week has three articles, none of which are news, all of which are community stories. The Western Tribune, on the other hand has two news stories and one community information story on the front page. The "Star" entire front section has only one news story of sorts, and even it is of a religious nature, about Garywood Assembly of God Church moving, so really that is just community news.

In fact, there are no other stories of any kind in the 10 pages that make up the first section. Ads, announcements, continuation of front page stories, editorials, reader's opinions, obituaries, social scene, the religion page and the Southern Styles column are all that is there.

In contrast, The Western Tribune, in addition to the news stories on the front page about the Bessemer City Council and the Mayor and money (something of great importance to Bessemer residents) and the luxury hotel deal that is about to die, has a news story about our water filter plant, news briefs, ads, sports, Chuck's outdoor column, a news story about Larry Langford's replacement, a community story about Festive Church Programs, Bubba's column, and readers opinions, also in 10 pages.

Now, if you want weekly news about what is going on in our community, about what will affect you as a tax payer, where will you turn? The Western Tribune, of course (call 425-7171 to subscribe).

And if you want daily news about what is going on, return to Bessemer Opinions. There you go.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Artur Davis Plays to a Packed House

But first...for this week at least, Bessemer Opinions was recognized as the 11th most influential blog in the state. See the list here. It changes each Sunday. Keep coming back and Bessemer Opinions will move up in the rankings. Bessemer Opinion's ranking will appear over to the left (Blogging Communities) on weeks that we are ranked.

Also, Bessemer Opinions now has a link on the Alabama Democratic Party's page. See the list of links on their page here.

Yes Artur Davis showed up last night, accompanied by his good friend, earliest supporter, and the "first person to give me a $1000 check," (a paraphrased quote), the Mayor of Bessemer, Ed May. The congressman's assistant said there were 122 people present, an SRO crowd.

I was somewhat surprised that not one question was raised during the hour and a half question and answer period about the War in Iraq or about the patriot act. People are more concerned about the economy, gas prices, education, health care and infrastructure. The was one "big issue" question and that was about immigration.

Davis supports tight border security, and a guest worker program. He would allow undocumented aliens that have been in the country working for 7 years to have guest worker status and a path to citizenship that puts them at the end of the line and requires them to pay a fine. For those who have been here 2 - 7 years, he supports guest worker status, but no path to citizenship. For those here less than two years...sorry Charlie, you are out of here. He also favors continuing to allow children of illegals to receive food stamps (the ony benefit they qualify for...and who wants to see kids starve) and attend schools (better to educate them than keep them on the streets from 8 to 3 every day).

A local pastor asked a question about hate crimes, and showed that he has been influenced by the misrepresentations of the legislation spread by the religious right. He said he had heard that preachers would be restricted from preaching about homosexuality and if they did they would be charged with a hate crime. Not so, said Davis, who helped draft the bill that passed the house. Nothing in the bill restricts our first amendment right to free speech. The bill only provides for harsher penalties for physically attacking a person because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.

I raised my hand at every opportunity and was finally recognized for the last question, and I asked about recent vote against ENDA, the Employment Non Discrimination Act, adding that a no vote gives the appearance that everyone should not be given the same rights and protections. He said he agreed that the government should not be making employment decisions based on sexual orientation, but that he doesn't think the government has the right to tell individuals who they can hire and who they can't. He mentioned that churches were exempt, but countered that religious individuals were not, and he thinks they should be.

Of course he didn't mention that it is the churches and the religious individuals who are at fault here for not recognizing that gay people came about just like everyone else and that the church should accept gay people for who they are. Actually, he did sort of allude to that, saying the churches should be more open and not restrict themselves to people who are just like they are...if they do they are missing the point.

I visited with Davis after the event and reminded him that I serve on a committee for which he is the chair (the Health Committee of the Black Belt Action Commission)Commission). He remembered.

I give him credit for the work he has done in helping the Black Belt, but he pointed out that while improvements are being made there (such as unemployment rates in all the Black Belt Counties being in single digits...a change from just a few years back) we are slipping in urban areas when it comes to poverty. The poverty rate in Jefferson County is over 19%. He tied this in with the unemployment rate in Jefferson County, at 2.7% and drew the conclusion that there are a lot of poor people out there who are working.

He might have read my blog yesterday because he mentioned the Army Corp of Engineers as being the most dysfunctional and least efficient government agency known. He was speaking about flood plains and water but levees tie right in there with that.

ENDA passed the house without Davis's vote. He admits that attitudes are still evolving on gay issues and that in a few years as young people grow up and vote that more and more rights and protections will be afforded. It's a shame that he is not on the forefront of that effort, but maybe, as he said, his own attitude toward the LGBT community will evolve and he will see that most gays, like most blacks or most poor or most women, are hard working spiritual people who just want to move forward with their own lives and see our country do the same.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Artur Davis, Don't Ask Don't Tell, and New Orleans Levees

The Birmingham News mistakenly reported that Congressman Artur Davis would hold his town hall meeting at Bessemer's City Council Chambers tonight. The meeting will actually be at the Bessemer Civic Center...from 6 to 8 PM. I spoke to someone in the congressman's office this morning and confirmed that the meeting would indeed be at the civic center. This is a good chance to hear our congressman speak and ask questions and maybe get answers regarding some of his questionable votes. (or maybe you support all of his votes...still a good chance to go and see him).

From The Human Rights Campaign:

Translators fluent in 5 languages. Doctors trained in trauma medicine. Pilots prepared to save lives.

We all know "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is wrong. But do you know just how wrong? In the 14 years since it was introduced, the U.S. military has discharged no fewer than 12,000 American troops under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

This includes hundreds of specialists whose skills are badly needed in our current military conflicts. Their commitment and expertise have gone to waste.

Starting Friday, we're honoring these men and women by placing 12,000 flags on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

See HRC's ad about this event here: One Minute ad


In New Orleans we would hope that recovery is continuing, and with the opening of the St. Charles street car line and tourism rebounding you would think so. But will they be protected from the next storm? The Army Corp of Engineers would lead us to believe they would, but are they the ones we should be listening to?

Dr. Ray Seed, one of the chairs of the Univeristy of California Berkeley committee that is investigating the failure of the levees in New Orleans following hurricane Katrina, has filed an ethics complaint which documents how the Corp of Engineers systematicaly and intentionally hid their mistakes and intimidated anyone who attempted to intervene.

His complaint alleges that this was done with the help and complicity of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). This is the same group the Army Corp chose to review the Corp-sponsored levee investigation. Interesting.

If the Corp was at fault for the condition and/or the design of the levees which failed, why should we believe what they tell us about the levees now?

Concerned goups are calling for an "8/29 Investigation," a truly independent and truly complete analysis of the flood protection failures in metro New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Visit to find out how you can support this effort.

See you tonight at the Bessemer Civic Center!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sacred Places

U. S. News and World Report recently had a cover story titled Sacred Places that explored various sites deemed to be of particular importance to religious or spiritual groups. Included were stories about the Sanctuary at Chimayo in New Mexico, built on a site of centuries' importance to the ancient Puebloan communities; the Kalasasaya Temple at Tiwanacu, Bolivia, a prominent Incan site; along with more traditional sites like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerulalem and The Western Wall in the same city. Islamic and Hindu sites and others are recognized as well, with as much attention given to them as the Christian and Jewish sites.

Their online site, linked above, provides the articles and photos and more, and is worth visiting.

I wonder if Caritas in north Shelby County could be considered a sacred place. Caritas was founded in 1987 by Tony Colafrancesco to promote Medjugorje, the village in Bosnia-Herzegovina where children saw visions of the Virgin Mary.

From The Post Herald : (who knew that the Post Herald articles could still be found online!?)

"The connection between Caritas and Medjugorje was cemented about a year after Colafrancesco created Caritas, in 1988, when visionary Marija Pavlovic Lunetti came to Birmingham to donate a kidney to her brother, Andrija, at UAB Hospital. While in Alabama, Lunetti stayed in Colafrancesco's Bear Creek Road home in Sterrett, where she said she had a vision in one of the bedrooms.

"According to one report, Lunetti had visions of Mary at the hospital while recovering from the operation.

"Once word got out that Lunetti was in the area, pilgrims flocked from all across the country to Sterrett, jamming the Shelby County roads. Thousands of people were at Caritas on Thanksgiving Day when Lunetti claimed to see Mary in the 90-acre field next to Colafrancesco's home.

"In 1999, Lunetti returned to Caritas for a week of worship. At the time, Caritas members estimated the event drew 20,000 to 30,000 pilgrims. "

Lunetti has returned a time or two and when she does, thousands (or tens of thousands) flock to the site.

Of course Caritas has been called a cult and lawsuits filed and accusations made. Regardless of all that, the site has a sacred quality about it. I first visited in the 1990's and returned several times, although not recently. And I have not donated any money. And I don't even know if the place still exists. (Well, the "place" cetainly exists, but maybe not in the way I remember it).

But if someone, in this instance Marija Pavlovic Lunetti, has such a profound spiritual experience there, it is a sacred place. Many places are sacred to individuals, and no one's spiritual experience should be ignored.

All of these experiences: the ones experienced by the ancients described in the U. S. News and World Report articles, the ones in a field in Sterrett, Alabama, and your own experiences as well as mine, are part of the (New Age like) spirit of the world. Hopefully the world balance of spirituality is tilted toward the positive, but sometimes it's hard to tell.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"What Happened" Indeed

Often when Scott McLellan was presiding over daily press briefings as White House Press Secretary it seemed he was lying...and by george (Bush's orders) he was. An excerpt from his book "What Happened," was released, and he says he (unknowingly) told untruths about who leaked Valerie Plames identity. Story on AOL news

Since the president and his cronies lied about this, why should we believe anything they say? Of course, most of us haven't believed a word out of W since the day he smirked into office.

How about Jordan Fox? Billed by the Pentagon asking for $3000 of his $5000 enlistment signing bonus back because he could not serve his full term with the military. Of course he couldn't serve it because he was injured by an IED while on duty in Iraq. The Pentagon letter referred to the "indebtedness due us." No, we the United States, are indebted to this man for his service to our country.

While the Pentagon has reversed course and will not require Fox to repay the money, he says the problem continues for other soldiers and he will work to correct this.

Just a little more evidence that once veterans return home, they are forgotten by our government.

And on the local campaign front, there are 75 candidates running for delegate to the democratic convention. There are a few days left to qualify, until Friday December 7, so probably more will be listed by then. But so far there are 45 running for Hillary Clinton, 12 for Barack Obama, 6 for John Edwards, 1 for Bill Richardson and 11 uncommitted. And the Jefferson Jackson Dinner on Friday, November 30 will feature General Wesley Clark. You can probably still get tickets by calling the party headquarters at 1-800-995-3386 but there are no more tickets online at the Alabama Democratic Party web site.

If nothing shows up here tomorrow, it's because I am stuffing myself with turkey and dressing and plopping in front of a TV. So here is a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Crime and Punishment

There sure is a lot of news about crime these days. Against the backdrop of actual crime, we learn that Birmingham is the nation's sixth most dangerous city. If they ranked "most dangerous suburbs of the most dangerous cities" I wonder where Bessemer would fall?

As crazy (his word, not mine) as Larry Langford's plans may be, at least he is talking about crime. Whether he and his new police chief can do anything about it is yet to be seen. But here in Bessemer, just a gunshot away from the magic city, we hear nothing from the mayor about crime. That's not to say nothing is happening...see the story a few days ago about Operation Blue Thunder. But the mayor should be the voice of the city. Wouldn't this be nice: once weekly the mayor sits down with reporters from the three "papers" for a little Q & A.

Then there is the FBI report that hate crimes are up. Even though we have no Alabama or federal hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation, the FBI still includes bias in this category in its statistics. Crimes against lesbians and gays were the third most commonly reported, at 15.5%, following racial motivation at 62% and religion at 19%. And just so no one feels left out, of the crimes based on sexual orientation, 2 % were against heterosexuals.

Raw numbers reveal 7,722 crimes based on racial, religion, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin and physical or mental disability bias in 2006. That is up from 7,163 in 2005.

In the Hartselle Enquirer a column titled The Alabama Scene had an interesting piece last week by Bob Martin, the editor of The Montogmery Independent. Here is a link to the column but I will just quote some highlights.

In an apparent rush to throw Siegelman in shackles and denying the former governor to even say goodbye to his family following his sentencing, the judge, Mark E. Fuller, a district judge in the Middle District of Alabama, failed to rule on the motion for release, gaveling down Siegelman’s lawyer when she pressed him for a ruling.

Nothing new there. We saw it judge chomping at the bit.

In an interview with the Associated Press following the trial, Robert Sigler, a retired criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama Law School, said that it is “extraordinarily unusual for people like (Siegelman and Scrushy) not to be allowed to remain free and given a reporting date or an appeals bond.” Sigler said it appears that the two were rushed off to prison to ensure that they would receive some punishment, even if their convictions were overturned on appeal. Otherwise, he said, “they might have never gone to prison.”

So...Judge Fuller thinking here...even if Siegelman is really innocent, let's be sure he spends some time in prison to embarrass his party and his family. We want people to think that if you are a democrat you can end up like this.

Then Martin raises questions about Fuller's business interests...that Fuller holds controlling interest over Doss Aviation, which received $200 million in Defense Department contracts while Fuller was presiding over the Siegelman/Scrushy case. The company also has contrcts with the Department of Justice, the prosecutors in the case. Can you say "conflict of interest?"

According to Martin, Fuller also never revealed that he had been a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, which participated in campaigns against Siegelman.

"Equal justice under the law?" Not hardly.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pay Up, Bessemer

More Bessemer money woes. Birmingham News

David Sullivan, the attorney for the Bessemer School Board, is set to sue the city of Bessemer if the city does not pay $3.4 million in sales tax revenue owed for over a year.

Bessemer is having a hard time making payroll, if recent council, city clerk wait, we don't have a city clerk...uh, senior accountant acting as a city clerk... yeah, that's it...anyway, his actions, are any indication. And now we are reminded the city can not meet its obligations to the school system?

Superintendent Deborah Horn says the money would be used to hire extra teachers for music and art. A worthy and much needed use of the money.

This is just one more reason we need an audit of the city's finances done by the state. Why does the city not put this money away as sales taxes are collected, into an account and let it sit and draw interest until the payment is due to the school system. Then the money would be there to make the payment. What a novel idea.

Eventually every juggler drops a ball, and it looks like the jesters in city hall who are juggling the city finances have done just that. And while court jesters' roles were to entertain the king, when the king becomes the jester the entertainment stops. You don't see anyone laughing, do you?

(the painting is by Mateo, an artist friend in Mobile)

As much as education is talked about. With Jess Lanier High School being labeled a dropout factory. And then we expect improvements to be made with $3.4 million in funds being withheld from their budget?

Maybe it 's not the school board's fault that our schools are not up to standard. Maybe it is the city council and mayor's fault for not suporting the board and the system.

Oh, and the school system also has not received property tax payments from earlier this year. I wonder how much that is?

I know council president Jesse Matthews is getting the message. Unless he has something to hide, he should be calling for an audit soon.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Taxing Larry...and Hillary's Momentum

I'm making up the number, but Patrick Cooper's support for his lawsuit to try to disqualify Larry Langford just increased 7 fold. Who knows, really, but Langford has been in office about two days and has proposed a 1 cent sales tax increase to build the dome.

There will be a revolt in the streets of Birmingham if this tax increase passes. He already passed the 1 cent sales tax for education as a county commissioner without a vote of the people.

Ed May and his lodging tax increase proposal...just about as bad. They think hotel guests don't look at that kind of stuff, but believe me, business travellers do. And the last lodging tax increase was passed to go to the Chamber of Commerce for promotion of tourism, with the blessing of hotel operators. But then the city took the money from the chamber for their own use leaving the chamber high and dry. Hotel operators are against this increase.

So I say...No to the lodging tax in Bessemer. No to the sales tax in Birmingham.

Hillary Clinton, who regained her momentum at last night's debate in Las Vegas, received another endorsement last night in Alabama. The Alabama Stonewall Democrats met and voted to endorse Hillary for president.

This meeting was at Los Amigos mexican restaurant, and the chips and little bowls of salsa reminded me of something I read in Parade Magazine this week. Professor Nancy Zeller of American University in D. C. tested whether double dipping is bad. "The professor and her students dipped, double-dipped , then triple dipped chips into salsa, guacamole, soft cheese and a spinich-cream spread. Surprisingly, after one hour, the salsa and guacamole had virtually no bacteria. The other two dips, which contained dairy, had some bacteria - but not as much as Professor Zeller, a microbiologist, had expected. 'Commercial dips have a fair number of preservatives,' she notes. 'In this case, that may have been a good thing.' " your double dipping in private, please.

Hillary's greatest line last night in Vegas was, "They aren't attacking me because I'm a woman, they're attacking me because I'm ahead!" True.

And 39 drug and weapons arrests were made in and around Bessemer this week. Operation Blue Thunder on Channel 42. Bessemer was working in cooperation with DEA and AFT agents. Lt. Mike Roper said "We're not going to let up. We're taking back the streets of Bessemer and aggressiviely attacking the drug problem."

Let's just hope the police continue their efforts. The Bessemer Neighborhood Association gave the police department the benefit of the doubt when we were addressing crime and violence, in hopes a joint effort was being undertaken, and we were right.

More arrests are on the way, they say.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Intelligent Design is Not Science

A reader suggested that I provide the link to the organization that is providing the laptops that Larry wants the Birmingham schoolchildren to receive. The group, called One Laptop Per Child, can be found here and from here you can donate for one laptop and they will match it with another.

Tuesday night there was a program on NOVA that I wish I had urged readers to watch. The show was about the controversy in Dover PA regarding science teaching, where evolution went on trial once again. You know the story: religious conservatives wanted to teach creationism in schools, so they found a book that touted "intelligent design" and weaseled it into the schools.

Parents objected, the ACLU took the case. The judge was a Bush appointed conservative republican, intelligent design was ruled "not science" and the entire slate of pro intelligent design candidates for school board lost their election. Nova produced a show. The Christian judge was called an athiest and received death threats.

Apparently there was no "intelligent design" to the case that the conservatives tried to make in defense of the non-theory. Advocates for true science were able to find a newspaper article from the 1980's where someone wrote about a book being written that presented creationism along with evolution. Drafts of the book which later became "Of Pandas and People" (the book the school board distributed) were requested, and in an early draft Barbara Forrest found the following definition: "Creation means that various forms of life began abrupty through the agency of an intelligent creator with the distinctive features already intact--fish, with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, etc."

At that time in 1987, the U. S. Supreme court ruled in a case that creation could not be taught in schools, and in the next draft of the book, the definition was changed to the following: "Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact,--fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, etc."

For the proponents of science, this was the single best piece of evidence that the Dover school board was thrusting religion into the curriculum.

Forrest also discovered that when they were "cleaning up" the draft of references to creationism, they improperly replaced the word "creationist" with "design proponents" in one instance, forming the phrase "cdesign proponentsists" instead. Certainly a lack of intelligence there, as they formed the "missing link" between "creationism" and "intelligent design" that would later prove their hypocrisy in promoting the idea as a science.

Here is Barbara Forrest talking about evolutionary theory, and why it is science, and intelligent design "theory", and why it is not science (or even "theory"). Barbara Forrest (2 minutes)

There are more audio and video links on the Nova site of scientists and philosophers talking about what is science and what is not . Scientists .

Beginning tomorrow you can watch the entire show , called "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial." It is two hours long, but it is worth watching both for a better understanding of science and evolution, but also to see how tricky the right wing is in trying to deceive the public. Remember, this is during the time of an administration that redfines science and edits scientific testimony and reports before they are released. Watch their every move!

I love science, by the way, in case you couldn't tell.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 really is OK (if you ignore the negatives)

Maybe I should say "If you address the negatives."

I get a lot of email from readers of my columns in The Western Tribune and readers of this blog (from people who do not want to post comments). Most of it is supportive, but some is not. One question I hear from time to time is why do I focus so much on negative stuff about Bessemer.

So I went back through the archives a few weeks, and while I admit some things may be negative to me and positive to others, and vice versa, it comes out about even. I mean, a column about a shooting could also have information about efforts to reduce is that a positive or negative article about Bessemer?

Anyway, "negative" stories usually reveal some type of inappropriate activity, be it crime or hypocrisy or plagiarism or inaccurate reporting by newspapers, and those types of activities need to be made public. Not reporting on these types of things is equal to participating in it. That is why The Western Tribune out performs the Western Star in every instance. If you report "news" in Bessemer, which is what "newspapers" should do, there are going to be "negative" stories. At least there are stories...

So I am going to comment on this report aired last night on Fox 6. It is about Donald Moulton, who already has a breach of contract suit against him filed by a former business owner in Homewood, and federal charges of identity theft and mail fraud as reported on Bessemer Opinions and now theft of services charges filed by former employees at the Broken Vessel Church.

I still have hopes that this church can become a postive thing for the community, but not under his "leadership." A prominant area pastor is considering taking over the ministry. I have not said this about the church before, but let's just hope that whoever takes it over will be open and accepting of all the communities of Bessemer, including the gay community. Maybe that is why the Baptist church there dwindled, because "they" pick and choose who God should love (although in their case it had more to do with racism than homophobia).

Another community that is picked on is the latino community. My column in The Western Tribune today is about immigration, and here it is, minus possible editing. Stop now if you want to wait and read it in the paper. I refered to testimony of Sam Brooke in the column. If anyone wants to read the entire testimony I will email it to you.

This could easily have been an 800 word column, and been more informative, but space restrictions limited it.

Immigration is a hot topic but wouldn’t it be nice if everyone knew the facts before forming opinions and voicing them on talk radio and such?

The state’s Joint Interim Patriotic Immigration Commission held a public hearing recently and some little known facts were revealed during the testimony. Sam Brooke, Law Fellow with the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, took the opportunity to dispel several myths, as the following examples from his testimony point out.

One myth is that immigrants without legal status cause a rise in criminal activity. The fact is that an increase in immigrants – with or without legal status- generally causes a reduction in crime. This was proven in court in Hazelton, PA, when anti-immigrant ordinances were being challenged, and testimony brought the true facts out.

In addition it has been shown in our own state that immigrants are more likely to be the victims rather than the perpetrators of criminal activity. We only need to look as far as Lipscomb where Hispanics were recently being targeted to realize this, but an article from the Montgomery Advertiser (October 16, 2007) also backs this up.

Another myth is that immigrants drain public health dollars and put a strain on medical services. A recent study in Georgia estimated that undocumented immigrants contribute between $215 and $252 million to the state’s coffers, and in Texas it is estimated they contribute $380 million more than they use in relation to state-provided services. While similar numbers are not available for our state, it can be concluded that immigrants who lack legal status do not cost our state money.

Immigrants without legal status have been made scapegoats over these issues. To combat this, the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice and the ACLU of Alabama are encouraging the Immigration Commission and our Legislature to treat immigrants with respect and dignity as they find solutions that are inclusive of this growing community.

And they should remember that only the federal government can regulate employment and presence of immigrants. Laws in other states that have attempted to challenge this authority have not been upheld. It would not make sense to have a hodge-podge of laws that differ from state to state regarding who can come into our country.

The federal government has failed to address the immigration issue, but that does not mean we should attempt to solve the problems on a state by state basis. Rather, we should be encouraging the Congress and President to find workable solutions without stereotyping or making scapegoats of people. Solutions that allow well intentioned immigrants to live and contribute to our society as they move toward full citizenship are solutions we can all live with.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Larry Throws Money Around, Bessemer Throws It Away

Here is one of those roses making a last ditch effort at blooming. More pics below.

Anyone going to read "Rhett Butler's People" by Donald McCaig. McCaig spent 12 years writing this book, and has written other Civil War era novels. In an interivew in today's Birmingham News he is asked a few questions, and in one of his answers he asks the interviewer, "Can you imagine any other (than Gone With The Wind) love stories set in the middle of the Civil War?" Well, I am sure there were many.

"Cold Mountain" by Charles Frazier comes to mind. Most of you probably saw the movie...if not..put it on your Netflix queue. But the book that the movie was based on was good too, so much so that I bought "Thirteen Moons" also by Frazier. Still waiting to be read, though.

Personally I enjoyed "The Wind Done Gone" by Alice Randall, billed as The Unauthorized Parody that tells the story of Cinnamon, or Cynara, daughter of a white plantation owner and his black slave, who narrates the love story. "Georgia is dirty laundry what needs washing," she tells "R". I have the book, it's only a couple hundred pages long if anyone wants to borrow it.

Jesse Matthew's Bessemer City Council is pressing the mayor for financial reports and may bring in auditors to assess the financial situation of the city. The mayor said the council could have had a report last week but "a change in the numbers is delaying the report." (Quote is from the Birmingham News, not the mayor.) Council member Jimmie Stephens said, "He (the mayor) has not been forthcoming with financial figures. If nothing is wrong, then this gives the appearance that something is wrong. The longer this goes on, the more dubious it becomes."

Dubious indeed. A half million taken from the TIF fund for payroll. Rumors of vendors not getting paid and demanding payment when services are provided. City funds being used to bail out homeowners? Just a rumor, but where there is smoke...

Larry Langford will be sworn in today, and says he has reached an agreement with the One Laptop Per Child Foundation to provide 15,000 laptops to Birmingham students. Larry must have read my blog yesterday about education...just kidding. And it's not really Birmingham's money he's throwing around, it's the foundation's.

The foundation provides laptops to children in developing countries. Birmingham schools are on par with developing counties, I guess. Bessemer better get busy, or our children will be left (even further) behind. Providing laptops for Bessemer students has been kicked around since at least last summer, but no one really seems to understand the importance. City wide wi-fi has been discussed too, but again, who cares? Not the mayor or council, apparently.

This is the Green Rose at its best.

And here is a little dish garden with pansies blooming.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Education Should Be A Hot Topic

The Birmingham News will win a Pulitzer Prize for its series "At A Crossroads" which continued in Sunday's paper (A Learning Divide). This was the 7th in a series exploring the challenges facing our metropolitan area. Sunday's installment looked at education.

Saturday evening after those awful football games four of us had a conversation about education, and came up with parental involvement (or lack thereof) and disparities in funding as the major contributors to differences in education around here. Seems we were right.

Things like expectations and goals relate to those two factors. It's easy to see how funding plays a role, as the figures are out there for all to see. So when a school can not afford computers, the kids learn (or assume) that computers must not be important in their education. You have kids like Elicia Person, a 4th grader at Gate City, who said about computers "It's not a subject, so it's not important." Compare this with Will Royer, a 4th grader at Crestline, where each child uses their own laptop, who says "Everyone needs to learn how to use a computer in order to get a good job."

Which attitude will land the child a better job, with insurance and information about health care and a healthier life?

The more one examines education and the effects it has on society, the more challenging it seems to be. The problems seem insurmountable, given the partisanship and cronyism and unethical practices and racism that we see everyday in local and state government (and boards of education).

I think the Birmingham News article did not focus on parental involvement enough. One short article that did not really examine why parents might not be involved or why their involvement is important. Many children in poorer school systems, including Bessemer, are being raised by their grandmother, or people other than their parents. These substitute parents may not have the emotional involvement to be as involved, and in the case of grandparents, may not have the energy...or may not be educated themselves, so they might not sit with the children to do math problems or read to them from the time they are born. In additon, those who are being raised by a single parent may have a parent who is working two jobs, or works an evening shift, so is not there to participate in their child's education on a regular basis. Difficult situtations to address, and I do not have the answers.

This is shameful, but I have heard from teachers that they are teaching African American kids whose parents actually discourage them from learning, telling the children it's white people's education and they don't need to learn things that will only help them work in the white world for white people. In my opinion, those parents have no business raising kids and it is just as shameful as seeing white kids at Klan rallies in little white sheets with pointed hats on their heads.

So...Max Micheal, the Dean of the UAB School of Public Health, and Huw F. Thomas, Dean of the UAB School of Dentistry, wrote a paper titled "The Roots of Health" in which they explored health behaviors and health outcomes and causes. They make a statement, "If at the dawn of the next century the health gains of the twenty-first century are to be comparable to those of the twentieth century, we as a nation need to undertake a more aggressively active role in addressing the health of all the different communities and neighborhoods that make up our larger community."

Education is one of the keys to addressing the health of communities, along with income inequality (directly tied to education) and social capital (which declines as income declines and can be tied to social mistrust)...See the Birmingham News installment in this series called Can We Trust One Another published on April 29, and mentioned in Bessemer Opinions Archive from April in part because the article included comments from Bessemer resident and Hoover teacher Erica Young.

"Every year of education children receive reduces by eight percent their eventual mortality." A person who is educated competes for higher paying jobs, with more access to health information and most likely, insurance.

"It is hard to imagine what seeds for morbidity and mortality we are planting by allowing an environment where our urban schools are graduating less than forty percent of the students."
Dr. Michael, at a forum on campus on the subject, led a discussion on healthcare focusing on the current political debate about national health care programs and insurance. He surmissed that putting the amount of money being talked about for a national health plan ($75 to $100 billion) toward education would have a greater impact on the health of America than would insuring everyone. He may be right, as insuring everyone gets them (in theory) treated when they are sick, while educating everyone (in theory) teaches them life skills and allows them to earn an income that will help keep them from getting sick.

I say "in theory" because there is little evidence to me that those of us who are educated are using that education to keep us from getting sick (or obese, for example, one huge contributor to illness). Education does not make us exercise or for the most part, eat less red meat and more brocolli. At least not yet. Seeing our reflection in the mirror or huffing and puffing when we walk up the stairs are the greater motivators to getting in shape.

But these issues, and the links between education and social capital and health are complex, and one quick fix attempt like national health care or reforms in education will not solve the problems. Multi faceted problems require multi faceted solutions.

Solution starter? Let's find $200 billion, so we can institute national health care and at the same time reform education so that all our kids recieve education that will change their lives.

(Oh, away with racism... corruption ...racism... cronyism... racism... partisanship ... etc.)

Friday, November 9, 2007

More Violence...and Good News for Gays

More Americans than ever are supportive of civil unions for gays and lesbians, while the majority are still against full marriage rights. 55% believe rights equal to those afforded to opposite sex married couples should be given to same sex couples, accoding to an ABC News/ Washington Post Poll.
Article . Artur, take note.

A 16 year old Bessemer kid has been charged in the most recent shooting in Brighton. Related to the other recent shootings in Brighton? Probably. Tied to Bessemer violence? Probably.

I had a column in The Western Tribune about youth violence, that I don't think I posted on here. In the column, I offer to lend out a DVD about Youth Violence produced by June Mack about the roots of youth violence and solutions. No one has contacted me...does that mean that youth violence is not considered a problem? (No comments about no one reading my column, please).

Here is the column:

I spent a day last week at UAB attending a seminar on Understanding Youth Violence. Several members of the Bessemer Neighborhood Association were able to attend thanks to cooperation between the organization and councilman Earl Cochran.

Several well qualified speakers presented results of studies and research involving students from Birmingham, Bessemer, Shelby County and other school districts. They also presented programs that can be delivered through schools and in counseling along with evidence that these programs work to lower rates of violence in families, schools and communities.

While some of their results were expected, some were surprising, such as fifth grade students in Shelby County being more likely (28%) to be a victim of violence than fifth grade students in Birmingham (20%). But what was not surprising is that violence among children spreads across all demographics, and Bessemer is no exception. The perception, and the reality, is that violence among youth in Bessemer is too common, and several shootings over the last few months provide evidence of this. In fact, the Bessemer Neighborhood Association initially formed after one such shooting in order to bring attention to violence and to seek solutions to the problem.

The program included a presentation by filmmaker June Mack whose two films The Voices of Youth Violence and Youth Violence: Inside the Skin explore violence through both a documentary approach and a dramatic subjective approach.

For the documentary Mack and her students interviewed gang members, incarcerated youth, innocent students, police, parents, teachers and psychologists. They used these “voices” as the basis for the dramatic story of the other film.

The makers of the film are part of a Birmingham organization called The Youth Violence Project, and are planning to use the films in workshops in various communities.

Bessemer should be one of these communities, and the Bessemer Neighborhood Association will be inviting June Mack and her group to visit our city for one of their two day workshops.

In the meantime, we will have a copy of the DVD, and will share it with other community groups, schools or churches that want to view it. To reserve the movie contact me through the web site listed below or by calling this newspaper.


So, don't you think June and her group, and this movie, could be beneficial toward reducing violence in our community?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

News from Bessemer, the U. S., the World, the Universe

Boom Boom, a little before noon yesterday. I looked out at the intersection to see who had run the red light and gotten hit. But before I got to the window, I realized it was the space shuttle Discovery cruising overhead toward a landing.

Space is fascinating. Yesterday on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer was a report about a new planet discovered in a distant (but near, by cosmic standards) system (I don't like to call it a solar system because I thought "solar" referred to "sol," our star, and the planets that revolve around it). Anyway, Geoff Marcy (smart guy from U. C. Berkley) explained how they learned about the planet and why they suspect it might harbor life. One thing...they have been looking at about 50 stars, and out of them several stars have a few out of the 200 billion stars in our galaxy, there must be billions of planets, and some of those (like the one in question) are in habitable zones that could support life. He said NASA has three missions planned to try to find planets and life...including one called the Terrestrial Planet Finder that will try to take pictures of planets, hopefully a blue one like earth. Listen to the report...fascinating.

Then back here on earth...Aqua Dots just sounds like something to be eaten. I am glad my kids are old enough that the things they get that are made in China (like electronics) are not likely to be eaten. I mean, eat a toy and end up in a coma from a date rape drug? Could you make this stuff up?

So what is going to affect Christmas shopping more...refusal to buy toys and products from China or rising gas prices that affect the amount of money consumers are willing to spend on Chirstmas?

And in Bessemer, the smoking ban takes effect immediately. According to the Birmingham News Sandy Bright, the owner of the Stadium Grill, where "nearly all of her customers smoke," is worried. I think she will see business increase, though, because their burgers really are the best in the area. Really they are...and now, more people will try them.

Bessemer also passed the noise ordinance this week, but I am not sure if it goes in to effect immediately or not. But every time you hear a car stereo that makes your windows rattle call the police. But don't use 425-4211. Even though they probably will not get there to address the problem, at least they can know that the public is aware of the law and expect it to be enforced. Program 425-4211 in to your cell phone as "Bessemer Police" so you can call whenever you hear "boom boom" and it is not a space shuttle.

Now to the water bond issue. Word is it did not pass because attorney Harris (the city council attorney...not the city attorney) has a fee associated with it that went from $20,000 to $72,000. There is the whole issue of why the hell does the Bessemer City Council need their own attorney anyway, and why he thinks he can have anything to do with running the city's business when it is the "city attorney" who has to be involved in these things, and whether he is billing us for the 4 hour trip up and the 4 hour trip back to Mobile each time he makes an appearance, and why even if they did need their own attorney they had to go to Mobile to find one...but I digress.

I think the council is right to refuse to pass that bond deal, and with Bill Blount's shady dealings being revealed and Gardnyr Micheal's problems mentioned in this blog a few weeks ago, the city shouldn't do business with either one of the firms. There are plenty of bond dealers out there, some of whom might even be reputable.

The mayor should just borrow the $5 million to complete the Alabaster project, then come back later and try to restructure the 5 million and the other 20 million using a different firm. Don't give any more business to either of those firms. And check out new firms before giving them our business.

And last, I must state my dissapointment in Artur Davis. I didn't lose faith when he wrote me a letter explaining his support for the federal marriage amendment, and I tried to hold on during that habeas corpus deal that he couldn't explain his way out of, but now that he voted against (along with every other Alabama congressman) the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) which extends protection against employment discrimination to lesbians and gays, he is off my list (and on another one). He claimed to be friend of the gay community but he sure doesn't show it. He is acting more like a republican every day. And it is precisely because of people like him that laws like ENDA need to be passed, and why LGBT people need to be involved in politics.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New Uses for Cat Poop! And More

Now that our government has told us how to dispose of old medicines ,
we all must have a cat. Mix your old Vicodin with cat poop, they say, and dispose of it. Druggies would never sift through cat poop to find pills. Dont' be too sure...have you smelled a meth lab? And aren't these the same guys that smoke mushrooms collected from cow poop? (No pictures with this story).

From Bessemer...a progressive ordinance was passed as the council last night banned smoking in public places including restuarants. Some say this is not a sign of progress, but I say that which promotes public health is progress. However...still no passage of a water bond. More on the council meeting tomorrow.

And from the Clinton campaign:

Alabama Leaders Endorse Clinton
The Clinton Campaign today announced the endorsements of seven Alabama community leaders from across the state.
“Hillary is ready to lead on her first day in the White House and immediately begin delivering the change this country needs,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Sparks.
“Hillary is passionate about helping people, it's at the root of who she is,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot. “She doesn't change with the wind, she’s always working on our behalf to make a difference. America will be a better place with Hillary as our President.”
“I am grateful for the overwhelming support I’ve received in Alabama,” Clinton said. “With the help of these local leaders, we’ll take our message of change across the state and this nation.”
Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Sparks
Public Service Commissioner Susan Parker
Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot
State Senator Linda Coleman
State Senator E.B. McClain
State Representative Priscilla Dunn
State Representative Alvin Holmes
Bessemer Opinions Joe Openshaw (actually I just added that one).

My bid to become a delegate is going to be tough. There are 7 delegates to be elected from this district (congressional district 7), 3 males and 4 females, and well known public figures have already qualified. Here's a list of name is not on the list yet, but my form is on the way. However, a number of delegates will be added after the election, and Hillary (when she wins) will have some say in that...and word is they have inquired about gay or lesbian delegates, as the democratic party seeks to be inclusive. So if I can't get more votes than Earl Hilliard, Gover Dunn and E. B. McLain, I may still be able to become a delegate. It is an interesting process.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Planet Hater Rush Limbaugh, and Antarctica Stuff

Rush Limbaugh has to be one of the most irresponsible people on the planet. Yesterday he had one of those little fits he sometimes has, this time about global warming and MSNBC. Limbaugh was critical that NBC and all the little NBC's are going green, and in particular he didn't like Bob Costas bringing this up during the NFL pre-game show.

Limbaugh said he didn't think politics was supposed to be brought into sports, since his Donovan McNabb incident a few years ago, but that NBC is doing it.

Rush...heads up. This is not a political is an enviromental issue.

Limbaugh then went on to show his lack of knowledge and understanding of science in general and climate change in particular, and is just another planet hater. (Similar to the editor of the Western Star, except Limbaugh knows not to plagiarize).

My mother used to use an expression something like "cutting off your nose to spite your face," and Limbaugh did just that when he said he said turtle season was over so he turned on all his outside lights, more than usual, and left them on to counter the effects of those turning off their lights to conserve energy.

Why don't you leave your car running all night too Rush, or leave the windows open when you run your air conditioner? Conservative is supposed to mean conserving (that includes energy), and you promote wasting? Oh, just like the republican led congress and president did with our money prior to 2007.

Any normal and responsible person, even if they were not aware or convinced of climate change, would still want to conserve energy and work to improve the enviroment.

NBC has sent the Today Show's Ann Curry to Antarctica, and Matt Lauer to the Arctic to report on climate and environmental issues.

But did you know that UAB has a connection, a major one, to Antarctica? In fact, an island has been named for two UAB researchers , Charles and Margaret Amsler?

UAB has had scientists in the frozen land doing research. Look at this video's just a couple of minutes long. See who, from our community, is involved in this important work, and hear them tell us why.


One thing I like about fall is seeing certain flowers make their last effort at blooming before cold weather sets in. The little noisette roses that I have pictured before are doing just that.

When really, they should be satisfied with already producing numerous bright orange rose hips like these.

Dogwoods are known around here for their flowers in the spring, but in the fall they produce vibrant leaves and bright red berries.

And mums come in all colors, but look at these. They came from the Publix on Highway 150, if you want one.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Depths to Which Humans Can Sink

Once again John Davis of Athens, AL has an opinion published in the Sunday Birmingham News. Good job, John...this time he's writing about torture. He explores a common theme that is debated frequently, whether torture works or not. But more revealing are his thoughts about what inflicting torture does to the torturer.

He references how the American interrogators "broke" the Nazi generals and scientists without using any controversial techniques.

He quotes the Washington Post which quoted 90 year old Henry Kolm: "We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture."

Another interrogator, 87 year George Frenkel, said , "I'm proud to say I never compromised my humanity." Davis then goes on to describe the difficulties that people who torture have throughout their lives. They become sociopaths, alcoholics and drug users to hide their pain.

And we have a nominee for attorney general who does not "know" if waterboarding is torture. What this really means his heart he knows it is torture (anyone would know this) but he has not been told by George Bush (Dick Cheney) how to answer the question.

Those who inflict torture (and those who order it) sell their soul to Satan, and for what? Nothing...because the techniques do not work. All the while ignoring methods that could use their minds and their intelligence, not their brawn. What ever respect the United States still has in the world is further diminshed whenever Bush - Cheney proxy torture is considered. When the United States inflicts torture, the president should be held accountable (my thoughts, not John's).

For further information, read John's editorial.

And to further explore the depravity of humans inflicting pain on others, read about the infamous Milgram study, which showed how human beings might act in the presence of an authority figure (such as an educator...or a president) urging them on.

We (the human race) need to act in ways that lift one another, and the entire species, up. It is so easy to sink to the lows that would allow one to inflict pain or torture on another human being...when you have lost your conscience. But our souls tell us this is wrong. If Michael Mukasey is confirmed as attorney general, we admit that we among the worst the world has ever seen. That can be, should be, prevented (now), or corrected (in 2008).


I was really surprised when I discovered this camellia blooming this weekend. I am not sure this one has bloomed since I have been here. We have several different camellias and there will be blooms of one or more from now until March.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Consider this an Announcement

I will be a candidate for delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. And I am pledging my support for Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton for President

Hillary News at Hillary Hub

Now...I have not turned in the required form yet...just as several candidates for president that we know are running have not turned in their forms to get their names on our ballot yet either. Heck, Hillary is just today turning in her papers to run in New Hampshire. But I will do that in the next week or so.

Some of you may have thought I would support another candidate, and I did consider several of the well qualified Democrats. But as time has gone on, I realize that Senator Clinton is the most rounded with the most experience in both domestic issues and international issues. Hillary will be able to (quickly) restore the respect that the U. S. has lost around the world during the Bush administration, and this is critical both for succesful security and economic growth.

During the debate the other night, as fellow democrats attacked her as if she were the Republican nominee, I confirmed that I could not support democrats who spoke in such a way about the likely candidate. As Bill Richardson said, those kinds of words can hurt the party and hurt the democrat's chances of winning in 2008.

As president, Hillary Clinton will work to strenghen the middle class, take on issues like energy independence and global warming, work to provide affordible and accesible health care, and very important, she would begin to bring an end to the war in Iraq.

From her web site: Her three-step plan would bring our troops home, work to bring stability to the region, and replace military force with a new diplomatic initiative to engage countries around the world in securing Iraq's future. Hillary has been fighting every day in the Senate to force the president to change course. And today she described how she would bring the war to an end. For details, see Hillary on Iraq.

Gee, I wonder if the endorsement of Bessemer Opinions will be added to the long list of endorsements she already has listed.

And don't worry, this blog will not become a Hillary every day blog. I will still be monitoring the news (and newspapers) in Bessemer. Go Tigers (Jess Lanier...and Auburn!)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Fair(er) Treatment for HIV Inmates

Here is what goblins and ghouls saw when they approached the house last night.

Here is what they saw when the door opened.

Halloween is fun and the kids (and adults) loved it.

HIV Prisoners in Alabama

One group of people that could be thought of as the most forgotten is prisoners with HIV. In Alabama male prisoners who are HIV positive are kept at Limestone, and females at Tutwiler. Up until the present, the prisoners have been treated differently because of their HIV status, with no medical reason to do so.

For instance, female prisoners were not allowed to eat or socialize with the other female prisoners. They could not attend worship services with the others, or sing in the choir.

When the HIV positive women left their cells, to go to the library or prison post office, for example, all other prisoners were locked in their cells.

The other female prisoners had large areas available for visiting with family members and their children, the HIV postive prisoners had to visit in a tiny room.

An article in today's Birmingham news tells us that HIV inmates are being granted more social freedom.

They will now be allowed to visit with family members more openly, and will be able to attend religious services and eat with with other inmates.

But the Birmingham News does not tell the whole story. They make it sound as though the prison commissioner, Richard Allen, came up with these improvements out of the goodness of his heart. The truth of the matter is the ACLU of Alabama has been applying pressure on the corrections departments for a long time to get these changes in place.

Until this happened, Alabama was the only state in the nation that segregated prisoners with HIV from the general population for participation in rehab and other programs. HIV postitive prisoners are barred from participation in work release programs or prison factory jobs based solely on the fact that they have HIV. They were denied opportunity to exercise.

For months the ACLU of Alabama has been interviewing prisoners and workers at Tutwiler and Limestone to gather information. Only because of the threat of litigation did the commissioner make these policy changes. And the changes that have taken place do not address all of the problems in the prisons regarding HIV. More work is being done to see that these prisoners are not further stigmitized because of their HIV status.

This is just one of the areas that the ACLU of Alabama is working. Often the work is that which no one else would do, looking our for those that some would call "the least of these" that society is neglecting. Why that sounds like Jesus talking! The ACLU, thinking like Jesus!

Be thankful that the ACLU of Alabama is here, to protect the constitutional rights of us all.