The Year of Moving Forward

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

Monday, March 31, 2008

Murat Kurnaz

This story was on 60 Minutes last night. If someone is not convinced that our military was out of control wait...they are under control...of a devious and lying commander in chief who has no concern about human rights or dignity...anyway here is the story of Murat Kurnaz.

You may already know the story of Kurnaz, a German man who was detained in 2001 (shortly after 9-11) by Pakistani police and given to the US for $3000. He was detained because of racial profiling...he was lighter skinned than the Pakistanis that were travelling on the bus with him.

He was bound and shackled and flown in a U. S. military plane to Khandihar, Afghanistan, where he became prisoner number 53.

He was kept in an outdoor pen, in sub-freezing temperatures and interrogated daily. He of course denied the charges that he was a terrorist.

American troops held his head under water, and hit him in the stomach while his head was submerged in an effort to get information from him ( wait, that's not an opinion, that is a fact.) They shocked him with electricity, and suspended hinm by his arms for 5 days, while a doctor periodically checked him to determine that he could stand to be suspended for longer periods.

When reminded during the interview that the military will deny his charges, he said "It does not matter whatever they will say. The truth will not change."

Other prisoners describe similar treatment and some troops have admitted to those practices.

Then they transported him to Gitmo, where he was forced to go without sleep for weeks among other techniques our guys used to try to make him confess or give information.

In 2004 the U. S. Supreme Court ruled GITMO prisoners have a right to representation and an attorney surprisingly paid him a visit.

The attorney discovered the military had been making up charges to keep him classified as an enemy combatant. The attorney also found a file written within six months of Kurnaz's arrival at GITMO that said "CITF (Criminal Investigation Task Force) has no definite link/evidence of detainee having an association with al Qaida or making any specific threat toward the U. S."

So even though there was no evidence against him, Kurnaz was kept 3-1/2 more years with invented new charges such as a charge that he was picked up near Osama bin Laden's hide out in Afghanistan while fighting for the Taliban. Strange...the U. S. is the one that took him to custody.

A judge ruled that the military tribunals in GITMO were unconstitutional, referring to Kurnaz's case in doing so. He was finally released in 2006, and flown home bound and shackled and blindfolded and denied food and water for the entire seventeen hour flight.

He has written a book "Five Years of My Life, An Innocent Man in Guantanamo". There will be no book signing tour, however, he is still banned from the U. S. and considered by our government to be an "unlawful enemy combatant."

How anyone can support the Bush-Cheney-McCain war is beyond me.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Eric Breidenbaugh

This should never have happened. What follows is from an email I received from the Human Rights Campaign.

Eric Breidenbaugh knew something was wrong.
His partner and his partner's parents were all missing – hours overdue from a family flight aboard a small private plane.

Eric called his local airport, near Pinellas Park, Florida, to see if they had any information. They did, but they wouldn't give it to him. They said he was "not an actual family member," so they couldn't tell him whether his partner was alive or dead.

He searched the TV news, where he soon saw footage of the plane he himself had ridden in many times. That was how he found out that his life partner of six years, Joseph Bellamy, had been killed with his parents in a plane crash.

It's simply wrong that GLBT Americans should be treated like second-class citizens, denied the right to care for their loved ones.

At this site you can see and hear Eric talking about his experience, losing his love and not even being able to talk to medical personel or airport officials about this experience. And what should be done.

Here is the site for HRC. They are fighting, especially in Florida right now, against this type of discrimination. We already have discrimination written into our constitution in Alabama, let's not let it happen in Florida.

OK, after that maybe we need something just for fun. Go to The Georgia Aquarium and you will be watching the web cam from one of their aquariums. Double click on the picture, and it will enlarge to your entire screen. Sit watch and don't get any work done. (Click again to get out).

Soon they will be releasing a loggerhead turtle with a camera attached, and we will be able to see what the loggerhead sees. Cool, huh?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thomas Beatie

I have considered writing about this subject for days, ever since I first read a story in The Advocate about Thomas Beatie, who is transgender. I have a not too distant relative who like Thomas is female to male trangender and I thought about him when I read the article.

Today the Birmingham News had an article about Thomas, but since they could not tell the whole story, here, in The Advocate is a link to it. By commenting on this, I don't feel I am exploiting his situation, since he writes about himself in the first person in the article.

Thomas is legally a male in Oregon and is married, with full rights and benefits to his wife, Nancy. Thomas is now carrying their child. You can see a picture of the pregnant man at the link above. Thomas was born with female reproductive organs, and at the time of sex reassignment did not have those parts removed, although he did have chest reconstruction.

He and Nancy wanted to have a child, but Nancy, due to a medical condition years ago, had a hysterectomy and could not bear children. Thomas stopped his hormone treatments and more than a year later he is pregnant with their daughter.

Thomas says they saw nine different doctors before finding one who would work with them. His own brother questioned "what kind of monster" he might produce.

They realize their situation "sparks legal, political and social unknowns." Still, they also know that their daughter will be born around July 3, 2008, and so far the pregnancy is free of complications.

Thomas and other transgendered individuals deserve the same respect and rights that the rest of us deserve. He has put himself out there for the world to see to make a point, and he does it well.

Only by sharing stories such as this will people begin to understand and accept people of sexual minorities. The most recent issue of Out magazine was devoted to Trans issues. I commend the media (at least this part of it) for presenting this information, even when the LGBT rights organizations are sometimes struggling with it. For Thomas, for my "cuz", for the rest of you, I am with you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Plan for Bessemer

Last night the Auburn University Urban Studio architecture grad students' plan for downtown Bessemer was unveiled.


I have high hopes that some of the ideas put forth will become reality, more so than with previous attempts to revive our city center. Part of the reason for this is because five of our seven city council members attended last night and each received a copy of the plan. Past attempts at reviving our city have not garnered this kind of attention from elected officials.

Another reason is the strong showing last night by members of the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association. While rebuilding downtown for the most part is not about preserving old homes, we (BHHA members) see the value in downtown development and how our historic neighbohoods connect to this area. (Especially now that we have seen the plan). BHHA has a diverse membership from throughout the city (and beyond) that will talk this plan up among friends, business leaders and neighbors to increase support.

This plan is not going to be put on a shelf and forgotten. The Bessemer Downtown Redevelopment Authority and the Bessemer Development Board are going to continue presenting the plan to civic groups, associations, schools and any other group that is interested.

Urban Studio has done these projects in over 40 communities around the state. In the past, their presentation has been in the form of an informative map that shows potential improvements and such. But for Bessemer, for the first time, they decided to use both sides of the poster, one for the traditional plan for the future, and on the back side is proposed neighborhood development for several areas and some proposals about Greenways and Trail connections.

We have been trying to get the city interested in connecting to Red Mountain Park for years with little response. This plan shows how it could be done. The land to the west of Red Mountain Park, extending into Bessemer is largely under one ownership, and if this land could be acquired to (or beyond) highway 150, the old rail bed leading to the city along 150 could be made into a connecting trail. This railway passes over the Avenues that enter the historic southside and leads to the (also historic) elevated trestle near Carolina Avenue, which could be part of an extended walkway leading to the proposed RailRoad Park between Carolina and First Avenues. In my opinion this would be the crown jewel of the expanded park system proposed. And it would link Bessemer not only to Birmingham but also to Mountain Brook's Jemison Trail, the Vulcan Trail and Homewood's Shades Creek Greenway that we see when we drive on Lakeshore Drive.

There are people who would love to run such a trail, or ride a bike from Bessemer to Vulcan. Me, me!!!

Other trail connections include extending the Valley Creek Trail from its proposed end in Brighton into Bessemer, along the creek to Powder Plant road and the Alabama Adventure and new high school area. There are other rails to trails type proposals in the plan as well.

My column in The Western Tribune today is about this plan also. Here it is for those of you who do not read the paper (shame on you...just kidding).

On Tuesday the Master Plan for Downtown Bessemer as envisioned by the Auburn University Urban Studio graduate students was unveiled. The public was invited to the reception, and I hope it was well attended.

While our Administration and City Council can not seem to find the wherewithal to work as a team to improve our city, at least those outside of Bessemer can see that its potential lies not only in areas known to the council and local developers by their exit numbers but also in its historic downtown.

As in science where one must work with the evidence that one has in spite of the realization that future findings may lead one down a different path, in historic preservation we do the same. An entire block of historic buildings was destroyed to make way for what looks to be a very ugly courthouse being built. Don’t get me wrong, the courthouse is needed but I have not seen anything that leads me to believe the new building will add to the collection of architectural gems that we have in our city. We need to take advantage of what we still have, before other historic buildings come down.

The Auburn graduate students who designed this plan understand the value of preserving our history, so they have taken that into account as they worked to create this plan. No one will agree with everything they proposed, we already know that from comments made at the meetings where preliminary ideas were discussed. But we can all agree that without a plan, the city center will continue to decline, more buildings will crumble, and customers will leave.

These are not ideas put forth by city leaders; in fact few of them attended the earlier sessions to give input. This is a plan for citizens to embrace and then we must persuade our elected officials to work toward the portions that we as individuals or civic groups choose. Several years ago a plan for our city was developed with community input and that plan has been completely ignored. Let’s not ignore this one.

The Urban Studio Master Plan raises my level of excitement about Downtown Bessemer. Having seen how their plans have helped other cities to take advantage of their forgotten resources gives me hope that Bessemer can do the same.

If you have not seen the plans go by the Bessemer Chamber of Commerce or attend a Bessemer Neighborhood Association meeting to view them. Then get involved.

Other places to see the plan or get a copy include the Bessemer Development Board or give me a call or email. We will get a copy to you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The McCain Girls

Just whose vote is McCain after with this video. "It's Raining Men" is a gay anthem, after all, but these women crucify it.

Just for comparison, here is the original video by the Weather Girls.

You choose.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Healthy Kids... a Great Idea

If Alabama educators could perform simple arithmetic they could add 2 + 2 and get 4, and could see that high school students + physical education = healthier kids who are better able to learn in school.

But they are resisiting a proposal by Rep. Ken Guin to add PE to high school curriculums. Guin says "Alabama is one of the most obese states in the nation. For children born in Alabama in 2000, there is a one in three chance they will be diabetic."

Sally Howard, executive director if the Alabama Association of School Boards says the proposal would cost too much ($47 billion) and take time away from academic courses. Of course, she completely ignores that giving children an opportunity to exercise during the day would make them better learners and that healthier kids who are not missing school due to health issues and who feel better would also perform better.

In addition, does she not realize that not turning out kids with current and future diabetes and hypertension (and other conditions linked to obesity) would save the state millions of dollars in health care costs?..enough I am sure to pay for the cost of PE teachers.

In today's paper also is an expert opinion by Dr. David Calhoun, medical director of UAB's Vascular Biology Hypertension Program. We all know (at least 50 % of us know, according to the article) that hypertension is associated with stroke and heart disease. But 76 % of us are not worried about getting high blood pressure, even though almost everyone eventually gets it.

Dr. Calhoun tells us that high blood pressure is associated with obesity and physical inactivity, and lifestyle changes such as weight loss and increased physical activity are part of our defense against it. But lifestyle changes are difficult to make, and kids who learn in high school that being physically inactive is the preferred lifestyle are unlikely to begin to be active when they enter college or the work force.

I don't know what the chances of this bill passing are, but it would be a shame to miss this opportunity to affect the health of our children and our state by ignoring this issue. Let's push for passage of this bill.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Flowers and the Dove...Revealed

Over the next few months you will from time to time be seeing new pictures of the same plants flowering that were pictured last year. I hope you don't mind.

Over the next two weeks some major changes will be taking place along the 19th Steet side of the property, as we clear out some unhealthy, unattractive trees and (sorry) wisteria (don't worry, there will still be plenty to bloom) and plant a row of Italian Cypress trees along the fence line (inside the fence). We already have a row of Oak Leaf Hydrangeas planted between the fence and the sidewalk, that was "phase one" of the project.

Phase three of this project will be replacing the fence. A normal person might do that first, but ...

In the meantime, this iris is blooming, and I was afraid it wouldn't because we had to move some of them and disturb the rest of them when the deck was built last year.

One of the surest signs of Spring, which is officially here now, is the blooming of the Redbud tree. Last year I mentioned that this one was blooming for the first time, but now it is much bigger and has a wealth of blooms on it. but have you ever looked at the flowers real closely?

Another early bloomer but not as common is the Dwarf Flowering Almond. Here is a close up of the flower. If anyone wants one of these, they produce lots of blooming suckers which I assume can be dug up and transplanted.

And if anyone wants Aloe plants, I am dividing a huge one and will have plenty to give away. Might not be in pots, but they're free.

Those doves that I was watching turn out to be Eurasian Collared Doves, not the Ringed Turtle Doves I was hoping for. Still, it's kind of neat to have these different looking guys visiting (and I believe nesting) nearby. Here is one in flight.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Announcements, Web Sites and Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney shows how little he cares about America at the end of the post.

Drew has established a new web site Historic Homes of America with hopes that the site will catch on all across the country. So far, a few Bessemerites have joined, and you are welcome to join too. Take a look at the great photos of the homes of Bessemer, and invite friends from across the country with historic homes to visit too. Join.

In Bessemer, on Tuesday March 25 at the Downtown Entrepreneurial Center, at 5:30 the Auburn University Urban Studio will unveil their Master Plan for Downtown Bessemer. All are welcome, and the plan in colorful map form will be available for those who attend. If you are interested in downtown, then come to this, because over the next few months and years various groups will be working to implement some of these plans. And let's get our leaders (or elect new ones) that are interested in

In Birmingham, tonight at 5:30, the Alabama Stonewall Democrats will meet at Los Amigos on Clairmont Avenue next to the Pig. If you believe in equality regardless of sexual identity, and think the Democrats are the best bet to bring this about (duh), then you need to be there. Our speaker is Barbara Buchanan, CEO of Planned Parenthood, who is very entertaining and informative. She spoke at one of my classes this month. Plus, you get to order a margarita.

Also in Birmingham, on Saturday March 28 is Birmingham Shout the gay and lesbian film festival. On the list of films this year is Sex Positive, Bi the Way, Chasing the Devil, Shelter and Spider Lilies.

See the web site for information about the films, times and tickets. All showings are at WorkPlay. this is the 3rd year for Shout, remember last year, Jeff Key's Semper Fi premiered here before premiering again on Showtime.

Ok, I promised Dick so here he is, responding to the statement "Two thirds of Americans say its not worth fighting."

"So?" he responds.

That is what he thinks of the American people. And he smirks as he says it.

Someone this morning said they are worried about republicans like Cheney getting pardons for indictments or charges or convictions that may come after they are out of office. He said he would certainly cast his vote for whichever Democrat makes a pledge not to pardon the republicans in this administration for any crimes they may be charged with. Good idea.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Religious Wright

There is certainly no way to predict how this presidential election cycle will turn. Each week, there is another attempt by some in the media and many in the Republican party to destroy to fabric that holds the Democratic party together.

While ignoring the same issues in the Repubican party.

However, John McCain will not be able to capitalize on this because he can't keep his facts straight on the issue he is supposed to be strongest on: Iraq.

He said yesterday that is is "common knowledge and has been reported in the media that Al-Qaida is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran; that's well known. And it's unfortunate."

Trouble is, Iran is training insurgents that have nothing to do with Al-Qaida. Just like Bush, he doesn't seem to know the difference between Al-Qaida and other extremists, or the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Of course, Republocrat Joe Lieberman was there to prop the presumptive nominee up. Watch:

But that is not the issue of the day (especially since the media is letting it slide).

The issue is Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his anti American tirades and Obama's response to the hoopla. The issue is also how the media jumps on this, because it is about a black man and race, yet igonores McCain's association with right wing hucksters like John Hagee who calls the Catholic Church the "Great Whore". We heard Wright's "God damn America" a hundred or more times on TV over the last few days, how many times have you seen this person:

I am not a fan of the Catholic church or the pope, but I am just pointing out that this divisive message has not been shown across America.

McCain also has as his "spiritual advisor" Rod Parsley, who gave us these gems:

  • called hate crimes legislation a "deceptive ploy of [the] liberal, homosexual agenda."
  • advocated criminal prosecution of adulterers.
  • compared Planned Parenthood to the Nazis.
  • declared "I came to incite a riot! Man your battle stations! Ready your weapons! Lock and load!" at a "War on Christians" conference.
  • urged voters to "let the Reformation begin! Shout it like you're going to carry the blood-stained banner of the cross of Christ the length and breadth of the Buckeye State!" at a political rally.

Brent Childer's of Faith in America has written an excellent article in which he points out that if Americans are asked to consider what Obama heard coming from the pulpit, it should also "consider how many times the Religious Right, from its pulpits, has stated that America is damned because of policies aimed at protecting gay and lesbian Americans from hate crimes and discrimination? How long have Americans, former presidential contenders and presidents sat in front of that pulpit?" Read Brent's article here.

He also questions "A nation where corporate greed holds sway over hard-working Americans? A nation that goes to war under false pretense? A nation in which political forces cater to prejudice and racial division? A nation in which gay and lesbian teenagers are being sacrificed on the alter of religion-based bigotry."

Rev. Wright is no more hateful or divisive than the preachers that millions of Americans sit before (in the sanctuary or in front of the flat screen) and soak in every week. The white guys can say whatever they want and condemn whoever they choose, and nobody seems to care.

It is not the religious Wright that is the problem, it's the religious right.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Florida Democrats Pick McCain

They might as well hand the presidency over to John McCain. By announcing that there will be no re-do in the state, the Florida Democratic Party will end up making so many democratic and wanna be voters mad that they won't even show up in November, effectively giving Florida...and the election to McCain.

Oh blame the voters themselves...that is what Karen Thurman, leader of the state party did. "The consensus is clear: Florida doesn't want to vote again. So we won't."

Florida democrats that I have heard on radio programs were not part of that consensus. I doubt the majority of Florida voters said "Let's leave everything in limbo and wait until the convention and see what happens."

Of course this all started because the state Republican controlled legislature changed the date of the Florida primary. The republicans saw an opportunity to screw the democrats, and now the democrats are just going to lie there and take it.

And now Florida Republicans are smiling:

"Former Gov. Jeb Bush has weighed in on the Democratic Party do-over dilemma in Florida, as well as several other topics, in an interview with Florida Baptist Witness Given the anger over the 2000 vote and the mantra of "count every vote,'' Bush said he finds it "ironic beyond belief" the battle over the Florida vote and said the Democratic Party created a hole of "their own doing."

"My thoughts are filled with irony that every vote should count," Bush said with a broad smile. “I mean this brings back memories of hyperbole and anger, mock anger …. It was a political circus for several years running, people trying to stoke the anger of a group of voters."

Come on Florida. Demand a solution from the national party, or create one of your own. "Throwing up you hands" is not a solution.

And in the garden:

Tulips are blooming.

For years I have trying to get a good Carolina Jessamine or Jasmine (I see it referenced both ways) to grow, and fiannly this one I planted two years ago is blooming. Just when I am making plans to replace the wire fence it is on, but we will be very careful...the vine will survive.
It is early for azaleas, but these two are jumping the gun. Notice the little bug peeking over the white one.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

More on Sally Kern

It seems that Ellen Degeneres has learned about Oklahoma Representative Sally Kern's homophobic tirade (from this blog, no doubt)...and she made a phone call.

And...get this...Kern has a son who is gay ...and she and her Baptist preacher hubby have dis-owned him. And removed him from her web page. How is that for practicing Christian love?

Now various blogs and papers in Oklahoma have stories about this, some of which quote Jesse as denying to be sexual in anyway, and choosing to be celibate (can you not be celibate and still be gay?), instead being metaphysical (? OK, you got me there). Anyway, gay or not, he does have a record of being busted years ago in a way that makes me think of Larry Craig. Like a comment I read elsewhere said, I am sure his mother has made his life miserable, and she didn't help him one bit by spreading her hatred around. Jesse, you can be whatever you are and it doesn't bother me, just be careful spreading that metaphysicality around, especially indoctrinating the two year olds. And please, avoid your mother. You need better karma.

Friday, March 14, 2008


First an update on the fire of yesterday. A neighbor told me that in addition to two humans that three dogs also perished in the blaze. Investigation is ongoing.

This may not excite too many people but I am wondering if Ringed Turtle Doves are visiting my backyard. I first became aware of this pair of birds last spring, and day after day I heard a dove sound that was not the familiar Mourning Dove "coo-ah, coo, coo, coo."

Eventually I saw the two birds, a little larger than a Mourning Dove, lighter in color and with a distinct black collar on the back of the neck.

Reports tell me that the Ringed Turtle Dove has lost almost all of its fear of larger animals but these did not want to be photographed, and besides, it was before I had my "good" camera. From time to time, over a period of weeks, I saw or heard the pair.

Two days ago, I heard, and then saw them again. But (damn) the battery in my camera was dead.

I have read that they cannot survive without human handouts, so I will continue to feed the birds with dove attracting food and really to hope to get a picture.

This site says "The species is not on the Alabama Bird List for this reason and any reports of Ringed Turtle-Doves would have to be substantiated by an ornithologist or recognized competent field observer to be accepted by the Alabama Bird Records Committee."

The other possibility is the Eurasian Collared Dove, similar in appearance, but with a three syllable "coo COOO coo" instead of the two syllable "coo croo" of the Ringed cousin. Four of these guys were reported in Bessemer by one observer (not by me) during the recent Backyard Bird Count. I'm hoping for the Ringed Turtle Dove.

Really all I need to do is listen more carefully, I guess. And get a picture. The camera is charged.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fatal Fire in Bessemer

Last night a fire occured three blocks from our house, and two people died. They are identified as David Dudley and Sherry Morris. The house was in the 700 block of 19th Street South. The cause is thought to be electrical, but investigation is ongoing.

The Sewer. What a Mess

There are not many options for Jefferson County to get out of the Sewer Mess (aren't all sewer's a mess?) but it is going to take a lot of convincing to get me to support taking money from education as has now been proposed. First a 1 cent sales tax hike for education that the citizens didn't even get a chance to vote on, and now a proposal to use some of that tax money for a purpose other than what it was passed for. (Can you say "Bessemer property tax passed for library expansion?")

If I am not mistaken this tax is supposed to be repealed in 12 years or so. Now if money is shifted from the you think the tax will be repealed? Taxes, once levied, have a habit of remaining, so here we go.

I wonder how many people have considered the huge debt that the residents of Jefferson County will ultimately be paying one way or another, and coupled with the 329 % increase in sewer rates over the last 11 years, are thinking that moving out of Jefferson County might be a good idea.

The thought has crossed my mind. I don't mind living in a state where the political climate is such that those in power are opposed to just about everything I believe in. In that situation one can stay and fight for what they believe in.

But in times of a floundering economy, with rising gasoline prices and grocery bills, can we afford to pay for the mistakes (criminal, greed or stupidity) made by elected officials? When we could just move a few miles away and save a wad of money? Of course, we wouldn't be in this historic home in this historic area, but it is something to think about. And if we moved further away gasoline expenses would go up since we would be driving more.

Oh well, still something to think about.

And will new people be considering moving into the county with this debt looming over them? Just things to think about.

This video is populations and technology and jobs and shifts in perception and reality. I only wish that the new fiber optic capabilites that are mentioned would be applied to Bessemer where dsl must stand for "damn slow lines". Is it just me or is anyone else who has AT&T (formerly Bellsouth) broadband seeing their service get slower and slower?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Evangelicals Changing Their Stripes

I made a statement a couple of days ago: Now if only they will recognize the truth about poverty, gays and lesbians, war and such. For this I am not holding my breath.

Well, even if I were holding my breath, I might take in a fresh breath of air. I read this today: New Evangelical Leaders Said Less Interested In Battling Gay Rights.

James Dobson is wondering "Who will defend the unborn child in the years to come? Who will plead for the Terri Schiavos of the world? Who's going to fight for the institution of marriage, which is on the ropes today."

Hey Dobson...Why don't you fight for the born children who are living in poverty and without healthcare and education? You should have stayed out of Terry Shiavo's business. And gays are the ones fighting for the institution of marriage, which you are trying to horde for the heteros.

People like Dobson and Sally Kern of Oklahoma are quickly learning that they are mis-representing the bible, and mis-stating the truth, mis-interpreting the will of the American people.

"Christian activists and other observers of the movement say that the next generation of leaders isn't as interested in polarizing debates and wants to broaden the evangelical agenda beyond divisive issues like abortion and gay marriage." Those aren't Dobson's words, those are out of this article.

Oh, and you can email Sally Kern about this at

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eliot Mess

Why would a smart, good looking man take part in risky behavior? Risky to his health, his relationships, his career and his dignity?

Well "we are all human" is the easy answer. But in a way, we are all encouraged to take risks, from early childhood on. If you don't take risks, you aren't going to get anywhere. It's just that some risks can lead to success, others can destroy you. And of course, we are not (or should not) be encouraged to engage in illegal risky behavior.

Bill Clinton's infamous explanation "Because I could" probably sums it up. People in power feel they can get away with anything. Presidents. Governors. Jefferson County Commissioners. Bessemer City Council members. Federal prosecutors in Alabama. But like Eliot Spitzer, they will learn.

Is prostitution really such a big deal? I mean, it is after all legal in two states. (According to wikipedia, “In Rhode Island the act of prostitution is legal as long as it happens indoors. Street solicitation is therefore illegal. Operating a brothel is also illegal. Prostitution is not regulated by the state of Rhode Island”. Of course, prostitution is legal in most counties in Nevada (not in Las Vegas or Reno, however, in spite of how it appears on CSI).
So it's not like prostitution is such a big bugaboo that no one considers it OK.

So could something positive could come out of this scandal? For one thing, David Paterson could become governor of New York. The current lieutenant governor would be only the second black governor of a state since reconstruction. In addition, he is legally blind (but can still play basketball? That, according to MSNBC this morning. Now what does this tell you about the innate abilities to play hoops based on race, but let’s not get into that?)

Paterson would be great for the GLBT community. As far back as 1987 he favored a hate crimes bill that included protections based on sexual orientation. He has supported marriage equality since 1994.

While Spitzer is also gay friendly, even before this scandal he carried a lot a baggage that affected his ability to get certain things done, and Paterson does not bring that hindrance with him.

The big lessons we should learn from this scandal is that poor judgment easily crosses party lines, and that disability does not hinder one from becoming an effective leader and a successful person.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Baptists and Global Warming

In a shocking...shocking development ...Southern Baptists are urging a fight against global warming.

After years of denial a group has released a declaration, signed by the president of the denomination Frank Page and other natables, including Timothy George of Samford University's Beeson Divinity School, and heads of other seminaries, that says they have been "too timid" on environmental issues and that the denomination has a biblical duty to stop global warming.

The declaration stated that the Baptists may have been "seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed." Yes sir, good observation.

Because just last year this was their message: "The Southern Baptist Convention rejected scientific claims that humans are to blame for global warming and dismissed the governmental efforts to reverse it. "

They now seem to be in agreement with Bessemer Opinions that humans have a responsibility to care for God's creation, as was posted on Earth Day 2007.

Or maybe they read the Bible, rather than just picking and choosing which verses they can use to hurt other people.

At any rate, better late than never, although I imagine many Baptists preachers will "go down " kicking and screaming over this. Of course, individual churches and pastors are not bound by this declaration anyway.

But it is encouraging. Now if only they will recognize the truth about poverty, gays and lesbians, war and such. For this I am not holding my breath.

That being said, I do have some good friends and in-laws that are Baptists and who are concerned about the environment and climate change, so there is hope.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

This is not Gay Bashing

That is what she says.

This is Representative Sally Kern of Oklahoma.

This Oklahoma state legislator says gays are for early childhood education so "we" can indoctrinate children.

She says we are infiltrating city councils to promote our agenda.

She says we are a greater threat "than terrorism or Islam" (apparently she thinks all of Islam is a threat, but that is another story).

She says she is not gay bashing. I'm about to throw up. Seriously.

She compares having gays in the community is like having cancer in your big toe, and will spread and destroy our nation. Listen

And I thought Alabama republicans were bad. Good Lord.

Friday, March 7, 2008

I Learned Why I Am Not a Math Guy...and Lot's More

Camellias just refuse to give up.

But I am glad, especially on cold, gray days like today. This picture was taken yesterday, and it is not a great picture, but I wanted to show how big and full of blooms this shrub is. It is about 15 feet tall and 15-18 feet across.

Close by, actually in its shadow, I discovered this pink camellia, which I did not even know was there until yesterday.

This white camellia is just beginning its bloom cycle. It was blooming in late March 2000, when I first looked at this house. It will bloom until sometime in April.

And this one is in front of the house, and has the most perfect blooms.

There was an article in last weeks New Yorker that explains in part why I am not a math person, and consequently why statistics is killing me this semester. Also it explains why Terminal 2 at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris is so confusing to people. I often wondered.

Anyway, I feel better about my math challenges and the trouble I had with the division tables in elementary school (multiplication was not a problem). Numbers Guy

The new issue has a column about the Dream Team of Obama and Clinton or Clinton and Obama, but not as running mates. More about our dreams... McGrath.

And I have to disagree whole heartedly with my editor in this week's Western Tribune. Sorry, but dissing global warming because we are having a cold winter is like thinking the economy is in good shape because the Dow Jones rose 41 points a couple of days ago. And it is not really science to recognize that it is cold this winter. It is just an observation. This winter's data becomes science when it is added to the data collected in the past.

Remember three points.
  • All scientific work is incomplete
  • All scientific work is liable to be replaced
  • We have an obligation to use what we have at the time

I have no problem with someone not recognizing that climate change is a serious problem, but when they use that belief to encourage others to keep their "large SUV" and fill up their tanks and go for a spin, thus wasting precious oil (gasoline) and furthering our dependence on foreign energy sources. Not to mention creating more greenhouse gases (that they don't believe in anyway).

Climate change will be the focus of a meeting at the Birmingham Zoo this weekend. Well, the meeting is actually at the Sheraton Birmingham, but will host about 350 members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Dr. James McClintock of UAB and Antarctica fame, will be the keynote speaker.

This may be hard for the non-believers to understand, but McClintock uses penguins as an example of how global warming is damaging nature. Because there is more snowfall, a species of penguin's eggs are not hatching like they did years ago.

"More snow? But...". Calm down. It is snowing more because the warmer air in Antarctica holds more moisture.

This story was in the Birmingham News, but as is often the case, no link.

And speaking of snow, they just changed the forecast and Birmingham can get as much as 1.5 inches of snow tonight. Enjoy!!!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ethnic Cleansing, coming to a town near you

After three weeks of examining html and deleting widgets and replacing templates...the comments are finally open again. I hope.

I know that xenophobes will slam me on this, but maybe some state senators have seen the light. Bham News "Some senators skip immigration bill talks"

The immigration bill that is (not) moving through the Alabama Senate amounts to nothing more than legalized ethnic cleansing, much like the bill that has taken effect in Oklahoma.

Mis-statements such as this "Supporters of the bill said Alabama is spending too much money on health care, education and law enforcement because of a steady flow of illegal immigrants," fuel the flames of hatred and prejudice.

Sworn testimony before the Joint Interim Patriotic Immigration Commission states " it is now clear that the exact inverse is true: recent immigrants are less likely than natives to be involved in criminal activity, and an influx of immigrants—with or without status—generally causes a reduction in crime" and "A recent study in Georgia estimated that immigrants without status contribute $215 to $252 million to Georgia’s coffers, and Texas estimates that immigrants without status contribute $380 million more to the state coffers than they use in state-provided services." I can provide more information about the basis for this testimony, but the point is there is no reason to think that immigrants in Alabama affect our economy or safety any more than any other state... Alabama xenophobes would rather rely on hype and sterotype than facts and research.

Here is an editorial from the Anniston Star, printed in its entirety.

Commission’s proposals fuel racial intolerance in our state
By Allison Neal Special to The Star

Since this nation’s founding, more than 55 million immigrants from every continent have settled in the United States. Yet every wave of immigrants has faced fear, discrimination, hostility and stereotyping.

We are currently witnessing such a period, as evidenced by the recommendations issued earlier this month by Alabama’s Joint Interim Patriot Immigration Commission. If the Legislature follows these recommendations, it will come at the unacceptably high cost of sacrificing the U.S. Constitution and our American ideals of equality and fairness. As such, the ACLU opposes these attempts to establish and enforce immigration policies at the state and local level.
The commission’s recommendations attempt to legislate locally in the area of immigration law. This is a violation of the longstanding constitutional principle that immigration regulation is the sole jurisdiction of the federal government.

The United States makes immigration a federal responsibility for good reasons. Localized attempts to control immigration do not take into account the complexity of existing federal law. Instead, they create a patchwork of differing standards across the country, which leads to confusion and can place individuals in the impossible position of trying to comply with two sets of incompatible rules.

Many of the commission’s recommendations also fuel racial intolerance and discrimination. For example, expanding the role of state and local law enforcement to apply immigration laws invites discrimination against individuals who “appear” or “sound” foreign.

In this country, we value fairness and equality. Racial profiling violates our nation’s basic constitutional commitment to equal justice under the law, and stands in direct contravention of 14th Amendment mandates.

Additionally, law enforcement policies primarily designed to scrutinize members of ethnic, racial and religious groups are ineffective, illegal and may subject Alabama to costly litigation.

A number of the commission’s recommendations appear to be based on pervasive myths concerning the immigrant population. For example, one recommendation would require a person to show lawful presence in the United States in order to receive public benefits from the state of Alabama. This is a non-issue. Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for the vast majority of state and federal benefits and are only eligible for those that are considered important to public health and safety, such as emergency medical care.

Additionally, it is unclear from the recommendations what sort of documentation would be necessary to prove lawful presence. If the proposal is interpreted to require all persons to show government-issued ID cards prior to receiving benefits, vulnerable populations such as the elderly, who are less likely to have access to these ID cards will be disproportionately impacted.

Another recommendation, described as a proposal to ensure public safety, would expand the so-called 287(g) program and “educate, train and equip local and state law enforcement on how to properly enforce current laws.”

To label this as a public safety measure is extremely misleading. According to a publication by New York University press, a higher immigrant population either has no effect on crime or is associated with lower levels of crime and violence.

Furthermore, state and local police already have the tools they need to arrest and detain criminals, including the full power to arrest noncitizens involved in criminal activity.

Using state and local police to enforce civil immigration law puts everyone’s safety in jeopardy and is a bad use of public resources. Police officers depend on the cooperation and trust of immigrants to carry out their jobs. When immigrants do not feel safe to come forward when crimes are committed against them and their families, this cooperation and trust evaporates.

In addition, requiring police officers to enforce federal immigration law would strain already scarce law enforcement resources.

Immigration, along with the American ideals of equality, fairness and social tolerance have built the political, economic and cultural strength of this country.
Because immigrants are politically disenfranchised in the United States, they are an especially vulnerable group and an easy target for political leaders who often blame them for causing or contributing to the social, economic and political ills of our society.

We must remember that the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection apply to all persons in this country, not just U.S. citizens. Divisive and inhumane immigration laws are unjust, legally suspect, and contrary to our national interests and core American values of fundamental fairness and equality.

By eroding the fundamental rights of immigrants, the Joint Interim Patriot Immigration Commission’s recommendations threaten the rights of all Americans, while further reinforcing the second class status of non-citizens.

We at the ACLU of Alabama oppose these recommendations, and the very notion of a two-tiered justice system. We hope that the Legislature works instead to ensure that immigrants, like all other persons in this country, receive the constitutional protections to which they are entitled.

Allison Neal is staff attorney of ACLU of Alabama. Web site: ACLU of Alabama

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Bessemer Circus

The circus has come to town.

I have to retract a statement I made in a Western tribune column recently.

After a recent meeting when tempers flared and harsh words were exchanged, one councilor admitted she was embarrassed and another indicated he would be more diligent in making sure that our cities finances were handled with more accountability. The new council president shows signs of realizing the council is accountable to the citizens.

It’s that last sentence. Last night the ringmaster (AKA council president) Jesse Matthews headlined a show that embarrassed many in attendance for several reasons.

First, a public hearing had been advertised for 6:00, and because the Agenda had the most anticipated item that had been advertised (Water Supply Agreement) as item 5, he decided to move it up to item 1 (impossible because item 1 was Call to Order/Invocation and had already taken place) so that those who had come to attend the hearing would not have to wait. This was around 6:25. But we “wouldn’t have to wait.”

Now often the clowns are involved in pre-council meetings prior to the actual council meetings that delay the start, but that was not the case last night. There was no pre-council meeting. Three council members were in the conference room at 6:00. Trouble is, no one seemed to know where the meeting would take place. We were moved from the conference room to the “chamber” around 6:10, because there is more seating. That didn’t last long because the air conditioning was broken, and people were beginning to get faint. And this was without all the hot air that was to come.

The Ringmaster abruptly adjourned the meeting and said we would re-convene downstairs in the auditorium. So the 6:00 hearing finally began around 6:50 (so the people would not have to wait). The clock on the wall said something around 4:00. Reminds me of the clock on the tower on the building that also does not work, a point I made during my campaign comparing our broken city government to the tower clock. I was to attempt to fix both, but…I digress.

Back to the circus. First, all who support GUSC taking over the water supply contract speak. W. W. Ledbetter (one of the GUSC board members) spoke, but did not use his allotted three minutes wisely and was cut off when the timer sounded. No one else spoke in favor.

Next, those who were against GUSC and favored the city taking over the contract were allowed to speak. Rev. Chakahier Oliver spoke first, eloquently outlining the faults of GUSC continuing to carry the contract. Elvira Kidd spoke, outlining the Bessemer Neighborhood Association's opposition to GUSC, asking for accountability regarding the missing $3.7 million, and voicing concerns about a 3 member board having so much control with no citizen oversight. One by one, a couple of dozen other citizens voiced their support for the city having control.

Eddie Cooper , the mayor of Brighton, addressed the council on behalf of the 3600 residents of his city, 1200 of which are on Bessemer Water Service. Gary Richardson, the mayor of Midfield, did the same for the 5635 residents of Midfield.

A Bessemer citizen presented a petition with over 1000 names on it. The head of the local NAACP spoke in support of the city.

Shan Paden, attorney for GUSC, sauntered up to the microphone and began speaking. Oops. Point of Order. The GUSCies have already had their turn.

Pow Wow. A bevy of lawyers and a couple of council members with the mayor listening in circled up and whispered at one another for about 10 minutes before Chief Jesse…oh wait, Ringmaster Jesse decided to re-open the floor to those in favor of GUSC.

Well Paden did nothing to address any of the concerns that had been brought up, instead using his time to talk in circles and raise his voice a little. He did let us know that he is not a rate payer, and lives in Verbena, AL, and that he "probably owns more property in Bessemer than any of us out there!" (not a direct quote, but woo woo, I'm impressed).

What about the $3 million, Shan? What about the need for GUSC to continue in existence anyway, Shan? What about the $131,000 (a good bit of which is paid to you) that the city would save if GUSC was gone, Shan?

Over 1000 people in favor of the city. A pittance in favor of GUSC.

I know when I have been to the circus there is a lot of elephant poop. Same here.

When everyone had jumped through their hoops and the dust settled, the mayor’s resolution to allow the city to take over the contract failed (2-4) and the resolution to allow GUSC to have the contract passed (4-2). Councilor Belcher (who during the meeting said she was sick of us and was ready to go home), Councilor Soles (who said the hearing was a waste of his time, his mind was made up before the meeting), Councilor Stevens (rumors are swirling) and Ringmaster Matthews (who, relating back to the beginning of this post, is now showing absolutely NO sense of accountability to the citizens) voted for GUSC.

Councilor Alexander (who admitted to not being accountable with earlier votes regarding GUSC, but ready to be accountable now) and Councilor Cochran (who was the councilor referred to in the Tribune column that stressed accountability) voted for the city. Councilor Davidson was not present.

This is not the first time that those four councilors have gone against the will of the citizens, and I predict there will be great effort in unseating each of them in 2010.

Not one gave a valid reason (or any reason, really) for voting for a board that has not been a good steward of money made available to them and for which there is no reason for them to exist.

The Public’s eyes and ears are open. And with so many eyes and ears open, things are being discovered that the Ringmaster and clowns might wish were never uncovered.

Bow-wow for now. Hmmm. Someone at a BNA meeting once said it all comes back to the dogs.

Maybe it does.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Important Happenings in Bessemer

Read it at Bessemer Neighbors (the web site for Bessemer Neighborhood Association) and come to the hearing on Tuesday evening at 6:00 at City Hall.

And our council is considering limiting or completely taking away the right for citizens to speak at this and other meetings (but this is not the focus of Tuesday's meeting).

Sunday, March 2, 2008

We Need to Change the Message

Ellen Degeneres discussed the murder of a fifteen year old boy named Larry in California because he was gay.

The 15 year old boy who killed him did so because Larry asked him to be his Valentine.

Please America, stop the hatred, stop the abuse, stop the killing.

Thanks Ellen