The Year of Moving Forward

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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

No Apology

An anonymous comment on yesterday's post reads: I am sick and tired of this so called "blog". This is nothing but a Democratic Lovers page. I used to enjoy reading about news from around Bessemer and such, but now I will not be back to this site.

It is no secret, nor is it anything to be ashamed of, that I support the Democratic Party and its candidates, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, to lead our country. So it should come as no surprise that the blog leans heavily to the democratic side. And if you do not like what I wrote on this blog, I am afraid you will really not like my column in the paper this week. But, as they say, the truth hurts.

"So called blog." What defines a blog? A blog is a "log" or record, of the author's (s) thoughts or writings on the web. So why say this is a "so called" blog?

I do report on news from Bessemer, take for instance the positive posts regarding Colonial Promenade Tannehill. Look at my advocacy and concern for victims of crime in Bessemer. I have posted about Jess Lanier students who deserved recognition. I am for preservation, thus I have posted about Arlington School which the city is doing nothing to save. And more.

Incidentally, Bessemer is mostly Democrat. The mayor is a Democrat. Most if not all of the city council members, and the school board, are Democrats. In the primaries, more people voted in the democratic primary than the Republican primary. In November, Barack Obama will receive more votes than John McCain.

As we approach election day, the choice, if we want to move this country forward, is clear. John McCain and Sarah Palin represent the status quo. Maybe not when you look at her age, gender, "maverick" style and such. But the policies of the McCain/Palin administration have already been outlined and are nothing more than a repeat of the Bush policies. And we are reminded of that this weekend as we see Gustav approaching and remember Katrina 3 years ago.

So I make no apology for supporting the Democrat Platform and dissing the Republicans. And I will continue to do what I can to promote our platform and get Barack elected.

As for the coming week, I was planning to report on the Republican National Convention, and most likely would have been critical of the event. However, Gustav is disrupting the planned events of the convention and my schedule as well. I will know more of my schedule later today, but I am 100% sure that I will be called on to assist with Gustav with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Emergency Programs Section. Maybe from here, maybe from Clanton or Montgomery, or maybe from further south.

I may be able to post daily, and if so, it will be about Gustav and the response. If not, then I will report when I can.

In the meantime, lets all give support and prayers for the people of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama. And lets prepare to offer help for many weeks ahead.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Weekend Follies, Including Sarah Palin

Time for some weekend humor, especially after thinking about John McCain's VP pick for a day. In addition to what I have already said, she wants to treat "creationism" as science, and have it taught in our public schools. Creationism and intelligent design are not science.

Plus, yesterday I was driving to the grocery store, and on WERC 960 on the Dominick Brascia show, his guest Dale Jones and Hunter Ford were discussing politics and the VP choice, and comparing her to Joe Biden. Then they began to criticize Biden, bringing the old charge of plagiarism. Several comments from Jones, and I just started laughing in the truck because of this irony.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

And then, after posting the link to the story about Sarah Palin and the Polar Bears, I see part of an ad, on Fox no less, about Polar Bear extinction and the reality of what is happening, I think from the World Wildlife Fund. Polar Bears in danger, not funny.

I doubt this is the same ad, but it gives the same message:

Anyway, I received a copy of the Republican National Convention agenda for Day 1.

Here it is.

7:00 pm – Ceremonial burning of the U.S. Constitution
7:15 pm – Spiritual Medium Sylvia Browne performs psychic séance in desperate attempt to raise Ronald Reagan from the grave
7:35 pm – "The Pleasures of Adultery" - with Newt Gingrich & Rudy Giuliani
8:05 pm – Gay sex party in Men's Restroom hosted by Senator Larry Craig
8:35 pm - Transvestite Ann Coulter – "My Life as a Man"
8:55 pm – Live satellite feed from Federal Prison – Ohio Rep. Bob Ney Mr. GOP, Jack Abramoff
9:05 pm – Guest speaker ex Florida congressman Mark Foley "Joys with Young Boys"
9:25 pm – Oliver North – "Iran is Evil, but I sold them weapons anyway"
9:40 pm – Bill O' Reilly – "The costs of sexual harassment and phone sex with employees" 10:00 pm – Gay sex party in Men's Room hosted by Ken Mehlman and Geraldo Rivera
10:25 pm – Check John McCain to see if he's still breathing and if his adult diaper needs changing.
10:35 pm – N.R.A. President hosts an assault rifle target practice on Gays and Mexicans.
10:45 pm - Call emergency squad after a drunken Dick Cheney accidentally shoots his friend in the face.
11:00 pm – President Bush performs his hilarious comedy routine where he looks for Iraq's fictitious WMD's under guests tables.
11:15 pm – Governor Mike Huckabee does his famous uncanny imitation of Gomer Pyle.
11:20 pm – Group intervention to get Rush Limbaugh back into drug rehab
11: 45 pm – Go up on rooftop and throw rocks down at homeless Vets sleeping in alley.
12:00 am – Live satellite feed from Federal Prison – California Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham
12:20 am – Convicted felon/Fox News analyst G. Gordon Liddy – Lock picking secrets
12: 40 am – Guest speakers Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz – "How to lie your Country into a War"
1:00 am – Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay – "Tips on Money Laundering"
1:15 am – Hookers arrive for after party

Courtesy of DWT

Friday, August 29, 2008

More on Sarah Palin

Palin? You've got to be kidding (previous post)

Did the McCain campaign not read the news? This investigation will last until the end of October, at least.

From the

Anchorage Daily News

Some call it Troopergate.

Palin's abrupt dismissal of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan is now being investigated by a special counsel hired by the Alaska Legislature as to whether there was any official misconduct.

The Legislature is spending up to $100,000 "to investigate the circumstances and events surrounding the termination of former Public Safety Commissioner Monegan, and potential abuses of power and/or improper actions by members of the executive branch."

The investigation is supposed to wrap up by Oct. 31.

Read the full article here .

She cares not about the polar bears. You remember them, don't you? Well you better remember , because if Palin has her way, they will be gone, gone, gone. Just a memory.

From the

Fairbanks Daily News Miner

Also, the governor of the only state with polar bears has adamantly opposed listing the animals as a threatened species, despite strong evidence that global warming has devastated their sea ice environment off Alaska’s coast.

“Listing polar bears under the Endangered Species Act has the potential to damage Alaska’s and the nation’s economy without any benefit to polar bear numbers or their habitat,” Palin said, a statement environmental groups call ridiculous.

She has also claimed polar bears could adapt to living on land — a contention most international polar bear scientists find specious, given that grizzly bears already occupy that niche on land and polar bears have shown little ability to feed on land, other garbage or the occasional whale carcass.

And from the same article, about why she was elected:

“Sarah Palin’s chief qualification for being elected governor was that she was not Frank Murkowski,” Cole said of her enormously unpopular predecessor, who lost favor with Alaskans in part because of unpopular budget cuts. “She was not elected because she was a conservative. She was not elected because of her grasp of issues or because of her track record as the mayor of Wasilla.”

Read the full article here .

Palin? You've Got to be Kidding!

Palin's poor record

John McCain has picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin, one of the least known governors in the nation, as his running mate. This is problematic for the Republican’s on several counts.
Her name rhymes with van Halen (news reporters seem to have trouble with the name, she is such an unknown, and are using this to remember her name.)

As a woman, Palin is expected to bring in the Hillary voters who the Republicans think feel snubbed. But Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton. And most Hillary supporters are Democrats, and are not going to support an anti-choice woman who they will recognize was only chosen to manipulate them. One word comes to mind: condescending.

Sarah Palin cannot stand next to Joe Biden as a vice president who is a heartbeat away from being commander in chief of our country. And she in no way has the credentials to match him in a debate on foreign policy.

This is worse than Dan Quayle as a vice president choice.Pat Buchanan says this is the biggest political gamble in American history. Palin has her own problems in Alaska, and some are calling for an ethics investigation of her. While this may not turn out be anything, just the fact that ethics are being questioned before the choice is significant.

I don't have permission to print these cartoons by Dan Darrow from Alaska, but I do have permission to print the thumbnails, click on them and see the full cartoon. Looks like Sarah Palin will attract the Troy King wing of the Republican Party (who is back in the news).

Dan Darrow
Ester Republic and Freelance …
Nov 17, 2006

Dan Darrow
Ester Republic and Freelance …
Sep 16, 2006

I can already see her being depicted on Saturday Night Live. Can't wait.

More on Sarah Palin

Day Four

America has been transformed. And on November 4 American will "stand up and say eight is enough."

There were two stories, of course. The nomination of the first minority as a candidate of a major political party, and the event celebrating the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic speech.

As we were watching, I heard a MAX bus drive by the house, and I thought "There are people working who are not able to watch this event unfold." Nurses, retail, convenience store workers, factory workers (those still in the United States) and others, trying to make a living, might have enjoyed the moment that 40 million other Americans did (that's a generic number, I have no idea how many watched).

So for those who have not seen the speech, here it is.

There is no need to write a long commentary on this speech. It stands alone and it speaks for itself, filling in all the gaps that were supposedly there.

Obama outlined what change means, he challenged McCain's judgement and temperament, he brought middle America back into control of the Democratic party.

Speaking of McCain's judgement and temperament, see here and here and here.

Everyone in America can feel good about this speech, and about this candidate. He leaves no doubt that he is qualified and ready to be commander in chief, and that he is ready to restore the American Dream that has been destroyed by the Republican Party.

Shawn Johnson shined as she led the Pledge wearing her peace symbol earrings. Jennifer Hudson sang the National Anthem. Brooks and Dunn music ended the event. This is middle America, the forgotten America.

As for the historic aspect of the speech and what it means for America, that will come in my Western Tribune column for next week.

In a few minutes we will know who John McCain will choose as his running mate. Expect a post about that soon after. I have an idea. Check back.

Meanwhile, enjoy Will I Am along with John Legend in their performance last night of "Yes We Can," prior to Obama's event. Sing along.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Central Alabama Pride Sues Mayor Langford

Central Alabama Pride has filed a federal lawsuit against Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, citing his refusal to allow city workers to hang banners in honor of Gay Pride this year.

Here is a copy of the suit. Lawsuit

The suit claims discrimination based on the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U. S. Constitution.

Langford says this is a "frivolous publicity stunt."

He should know.

This suit, along with the great success of Pride this year, and the passage last year of the Birmingham Resolution of being an inclusive city, tells me that Birmingham is light years ahead of where we are perceived in the realm of GLBT equality.

Convention Day 3

What a moment! None of the fighting and kicking and screaming that the Republicans were hoping for. The level of emotion was palpable, and many delegates, black and white and tan were seen teary eyes or almost bawling as Barack Obama was nominated yesterday.

But throughout the afternoon, while watching the process, I kept returning to the nominating speech. Michael Wilson, an air force medic, Iraq veteran, (did I mention he's a republican?), had the honor.

Although the economy is now the number one issue to voters, for years the unjust and unnecessary war in Iraq has been the headliner. Here is some of what Wilson said:

"I support Barack Obama because America needs a president who has the strength, wisdom, courage to talk with our enemies and consult with our allies."

"America needs new leadership in the White House and that leader is Barack Obama. A president who has the judgment to use war as a last resort, not as a first resort."

That can not be good for the Republicans, to have "one of their own" nominate the Democrat.

Michael Wilson, thank you for your service to our country, and for having the courage to speak up. We need more like you.

Rock Star

Bill Clinton takes celebrity to a new level. He was allotted 10 minutes to speak, and if you counted the three minutes of raucous applause that greeted him he would have only had seven minutes to speak.

He used about 22 minutes of convention time to make the strongest case yet for choosing Obama over McCain.

"He is ready to lead America and ready to restore American leadership in the world."

And he was followed by VP candidate Joe Biden. Fox must have watched this speech, because Fred Barnes said democrats "got the whole cake" from Biden.

"These times require more than a good soldier. They require a wise leader. A leader who can deliver change. The change that everybody knows we need."


Barack Obama does not have an easy task tonight. The crowd won't bother him, he's addressed larger crowds than this before. But the pundits are saying he has to make the case tonight. The campaign says this will be a differnet type of speech than what people are used to and expecting.

I have no doubt that Barack Obama will bring the house down. And while waiting on the nominee, 76,000 people will be learning to be activists by calling and texting friends from the stadium.

Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson will lead the convention in the Pledge of Allegiance. I remember thinking when I saw her talking with Bob Costas that she could be a force outside of her sport because she had the guts to wear the peace symbol earrings in her interviews with Costas and others.

And before people start criticizing Obama for speaking in front of Roman columns, take a look at George W. Bush giving his acceptance speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Those look like columns behind him, and besides, don't we have lots of columns all across America?

And the rain that Christian extremists were praying for will stay away. Instead, the big weather story continues to be Gustav heading for the Louisiana coast.

Update: Hurricane (now tropical storm) Hanna will likely be approaching Florida during the Republican Convention.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Day of Mourning

I received the following email regarding the death of Del Martin, a pioneer in the fight for equality for the gay community:

Today, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community lost an iconic leader and a beloved friend. Del Martin, 87, passed away in San Francisco with Phyllis Lyon, her lifelong partner and spouse, by her side. Del was one of the nation's first and most visible lesbian rights activists who dedicated her life to combating homophobia, sexism, violence and racism. Del's many contributions to the LGBT movement will resonate for decades to come.

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were the first gay or lesbian couple to be legally married in Northern California, on June 16, 2008 after 55 years together.

As was her wish, in lieu of flowers, gifts can be made to honor Del's life and commitment by defeating the California marriage ban. To make a gift, please click here: Equality for All No on Prop 8 .

With Del's passing, we mourn the loss of a champion not only for LGBT rights, but also for the basic human rights due to all people. Del will always be an inspiration to those of us who follow the path to equality she blazed. We sincerely thank her for this final, selfless contribution to the rights that she and Phyllis fought so long for.

Del, we will miss you.


Dale Kelly Bankhead

Campaign Manager

No On 8, Equality For All

Western Tribune Column August 27, 2008

Not only have the Olympics in Beijing resulted in greater interest in swimming, but my visit to a local restaurant last week tells me there is a renewed interest in Chinese buffets, as well. The place was packed.

As the second week of the Olympics progressed interest mounted in team sports such as volleyball and softball as well as track and field. Usain Bolt’s terrific world record times in the 100 and 200 meter events and the U. S. sweep of the 400 meter hurdles along with the relays will have those kids not interested in swimming ready to hit the track.

That may be a little optimistic, but it would be nice. Bessemer does produce athletes, no doubt. The success of programs at Jess Lanier and Bessemer Academy is evidence of that. And greater interest in running track will lead to faster backs and ends on the football field.

Last week I mentioned that Bessemer needs a pool and that families can not afford to join the local YMCA. However, I did not consider the policies of the organization in making my statement. The YMCA is a community organization that exists specifically to provide services like aquatics and gymnastics to everyone, even those who cannot afford it.

In Bessemer, the swim team program at the Y was re-instituted last year, just in time for this year’s increased demand.

But as the Olympics end, the real race begins. The headlines shift from sports to politics, and Barack Obama’s selection of Joe Biden as his running mate begins a week of interest in the Democratic ticket.

This week Barack Obama gives his acceptance speech on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s inspiring “I have a Dream” speech. As many people in this country may watch the speech as saw the opening ceremonies from Beijing, because, repeating myself, this is a moment for history.

With Biden on the ticket Obama’s appeal is increased, especially among working class voters and women. And let’s see, between them it is two men, two houses. We will be waiting to see who John McCain picks as his running mate.

Any bets on the total number of houses the two Republicans will own?

Convention Day 2

The Democrats continue to "wow" the voters of the country from Denver. Now I know that not everyone, me included, watches every speech by every democrat, but whatever speech you see inspires and restores faith that our country can return to one with respect and integrity and promise.

Lilly Ledbetter, the Alabama Goodyear worker who was paid less because she is a woman, and who took her fight for equality all the way to the Supreme Court, spoke. While I can't find an embeddable video of her speech last night, here she is explaining her fight. The right wing Supreme Court ruled that she should have filed a complaint within 6 months of her first paycheck that was different from her co-workers. Problem is, there was no way for her to know what her co-workers were being paid. She, and millions of women like her, will never receive the pay she is due.

For a full transcript of her prepared speech, click here.

Shouldn't women who do equal work receive equal pay? McCain thinks not. Obama thinks so.

Brian Schweitzer
is the Governor of Montana. When can we get him as president? This short video is an example of his ability to make a point and entertain at the same time.

"Petro-dictators will never own America's wind and sunshine"

He closed with "That's it baby, let's go win this election. God bless America."

Then came Mark Warner, the former governor of Virginia running to become senator from that state. News anchors were warning he needed to be careful because he needs moderates and conservative votes to win. That may be true, but checking the polls I see that Warner is up by 24, so I think he has some leeway and he let it loose.

Watch his speech here.

Then came Hillary, and the speech the nation has been waiting for. When she entered the arena, I realized that she is as big a celebrity as Barack. But, contrary to what McCain believes, there is nothing wrong with celebrity. America loves celebrity.

Hillary addressed her "sisterhood of the travelling pantsuits" with a sincere and powerful endorsement of Barack Obama, and I truly don't understand those who don't get it. Oh well, they will only have themselves to blame when health care becomes out of reach for even more Americans, Exxon continues to rack up record profits, and we have to start eating grass and pine comes from our backyards. Oh yeah, and when we are fighting wars on so many fronts that it is impossible to win and finish any of them, and their sons and daughters or making their third and fourth deployment. That is the future under John McCain. Oh, and when our science textbooks are written by theocrats that care more about controlling kids than teaching them science. That is McCain.

Wake up people.

While Hillary's endorsement of Barack was anticipated and necessary, her case against John McCain was clear and accurate. Here she sums it up in 56 seconds.

Watch the full speech here.

Immediate reaction was positive, from every news site except Fox, who obviously lost the feed from the convention floor and did not see the speech. That is the only explanation.


Rachel Maddow: She just nailed it


Anderson Cooper: Electrified everyone, and got them out of their seats.

David Gergan: Her finest moment in politics.

Then Fox:

Bill Kristol: Shockingly minimal endorsement.

Mort Kondracke: Agreed with Kristol.

Fred Barnes: I think the Obama people will complain.

Next time guys, watch the speech before you comment on it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Republican Worry

Note: I have updated the storm track picture to reflect the national Hurricane Centers latest (as of Wednesday morning) prediction.

One name should be striking fear into Republicans. Barack? No. Hillary? No. Bill? No.

Gustav ? Yes.

By the time the Republican convention convenes Hurricane Gustav could be approaching the Gulf coast. Category 3, at least.

It could make landfall anywhere, and while not directly affecting the site of the convention, the news outlets might be forced to choose between giving life saving advice or covering a major speech.

And of course, anything reminding Americans of Katrina can't be good for Republicans.

Let's hope the storm track takes it elsewhere, for the sake of the U. S. coastal communities.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Convention Day 1

Delegates to the Democratic National Convention are diverse. About 3% of the delegates are Native American. 5% are Asian and Pacific Islanders. 6% are Gay or Lesbian. 24 % are African American. >50% are Women. 100% are Patriotic Americans.

John Legend sang. Will the boss? Rumor has it.

Ted Kennedy was wonderful. His doctor and his wife advised him not to go, and even after arriving in Denver, it was not clear that he would be able to speak.

But his address was vintage Kennedy. And he pledged to be there in January and to work with Obama on Universal Health care.

Michelle Obama, a woman full of compassion, which she got from her father, was introduced by her brother Craig Robinson, who happens to be head basketball coach at Oregon State.

And to carry the basketball analogy that Craig used in describing Barack a step further, Michelle Obama hit a 3 pointer from the half court line with her speech.

As she said, when Barack Obama is elected, our children will be able to say, "This time, we listened to our hopes instead of our fears."

Watch her speech here.

If Michelle Obama's job was to make Americans realize that all of us are alike, it worked.

As she spoke of her family, I thought of my mother and what I learned from her, my father and what he taught us, my kids and what I have taught them, my brothers and how we grew up.

My family, like her family, had obstacles and we overcame them.

It is the great American story.

Michelle Obama will make a great first lady.

New From Bessemer Opinions

You can park on Bessemer Opinions in the morning and be set for the day. To the left, find current weather and local radar (you can animate the radar and see where the rain is going).

Then catch the local news top stories from NBC 13.

Keep up with news from the Democratic Convention with the feed from the DNC blog. (after the conventions this will change to National News).

And as always, news of interest to the GLBT community from 365 Gay.

Remember to use your back button to return to Bessemer Opinions from these feeds.

Return frequently during the day to catch headlines or weather...all in one stop...Bessemer Opinions.

Golden Boy 3

My post about Matthew Mitcham was incomplete. Here you can watch all 6 dives, see his expression of excitement after each, watch the medal ceremony, and see him run up in the stands and kiss his partner and hug his mom.

Technical note. this video does not always load, but you can click on the link beneath it and see the video.

Matthew Mitcham Médaille d'or
Uploaded by GayClic

Read why its OK to shed a tear while watching that video.

And NBC has no excuse for not mentioning Matt's sexuality. Oh, they tried, but as Jim said, they get 1.0’s across the board for a belly flop.

Thoughts Before the Convention

As the Democratic convention begins, I have a few thoughts:

Joe Biden: A good choice, although several others would have also been good. But that does not matter, what is important now is what Joe Biden brings to the ticket. Which includes a type of stability. Barack is all about change, but too much change makes people nervous. Had he chose a total outsider there are some voters who would have thought that was too much change.

Blue collar guys. Biden is a friend of the lunchbox crowd, as they say. He can bring in votes in working class neighborhoods in Pennsylvania, Ohio and other areas.

Comfort. Older women in Florida ( and elsewhere) might be more comfortable with Biden on the ticket

Experience. Biden's foreign policy experience surpasses any that McCain has, and while Biden is not at the top of the ticket, it still is an assett.

Homes. Biden has one. Only one.

Hillary voters. They say 27% of Hillary supporters are saying they will vote for McCain. How could Hillary voters cast a vote for McCain? Are they more concerned about their self interest and egos than the future of our country. I hate to be critical, but do they not care about our children, about bringing soldiers home, about choice, about the environment, about the economy? I really believe they will re-think a foolish choice.

Polls. About that 27%. That is just ridiculous the way the TV pundits are saying this pushes Pennsylvania and Ohio to McCain's column. here is their logic. Real Clear Politics today has Obama up 48 to 42 (rounded) in Pennsylvania. Worry warts say that the 27 % changes things and McCain is leading. But if they are already saying they will vote for McCain, aren't they already included in the 48-42 totals? The news guys are counting them twice.

Local talk. The right talkers must not have much to say about Biden as the choice for VP. On the Steve and Leah show this morning, Leah was ranting about Obama and Biden wearing shirts and ties without jackets for the announcement. For 10 minutes at least, that's all she could come up with. I admit I only listened for 15 minutes, but 2/3 of the time was taken up by that? Vice presidential announcements should be done wearing a jacket, she said. Emily Post?

Stay tuned.

Golden Boy 2

I wrote about a Golden boy yesterday, and while in the quiet zone preceding the Democratic National Convention, I am remembering another Golden Boy, a song actually, by Freddie Mercury. In particular, the video of he and Montserrat Caballe performing in a celebration of the Olympic flag arriving from Seoul prior to the Barcelona 1992 Summer Olympics (so there…a tie in). Any excuse to see Freddy Mercury. The festival was called La Nit, and took place October 8, 1988 (the DVD says 1987, but I believe this in in error).

It is clear that Mercury and Montserrat truly enjoyed performing together, and as the soprano was born in Barcelona it seemed only natural to have her team up for this event. To learn more about her, click here.

And while this post is really about him and Montserrat, I will post a video of one of my favorite Queen songs at the end, for pure enjoyment.

The album, Barcelona, has this cute picture of the two on the back.

Here are the two performing "Barcelona" which became the theme of the 1992 games.

The must own DVD of Queen videos (Freddy Mercury The Video Collection) includes another video from that event, plus several others. Included is this, arguably one of the best videos ever produced. 1000 dancers with pink plastic corsets and sharpened breastplates, and a classic piano scene where Freddy pauses to tickle the ivories and chocolates rain down.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

When Gold and Gay Go Together

NBC, along with most of the rest of the media, provides glimpses of the families (Michael Phelps) of athletes, the soap opera romances (swimmers Federica Pellegrini of Italy and Laure Manaudou of France and their love triangle with Italy's Luca Martin), love interests (Sanya Richards and her fiancee). They even focused on the lost (and found) wedding ring of Kerri Walsh.

Then along comes the biggest story in diving, where the Chinese aspired to and were expected to go 8 for 8. The divers and the press were not expecting China's Zhoe Luxin to flub his final dive, nor Australia's Matthew Mitcham to score perfect 10's on his final dive to overtake the favorite and win gold in the 10 m platform.

Photo from yahoosports

While NBC announcers seemed in awe at Mitcham's accomplishment, they completely ignored that he is the only out gay male competitor in the Olympics, they ignored his partner sitting in the stands cheering him on, and they ignored the problems Mitcham had in getting his partner to Beijing.*

Some will say it is not the story, the athletic accomplishment is the story. But because the stereotype of gay men does not involve athletics (although the fantasies of gay men might...but that is a different story), and he breaks that stereotype, it is a story. A big one.

So Matthew, even though you said (in an article in The Advocate), "I just want to be known as the Australian diver who did really well at the Olympics," and I am sure that the people of Australia are thrilled at your capture of the gold medal, for gay people all over the world you an icon.

Why? You also said "It's everybody else who thinks it's special when homosexuality and elite sports go together." You are right. We do. Thanks for providing.

Here is Matthew, his mom and his partner after the win. Watch and hear how describes the win.

Matthew's partner Lachlan was able to travel to Beijing courtesy of a $5,000 travel grant from Johnson and Johnson's Athlete Family Support Program. His mom got there because Sydney gay men and lesbians offered to cover her expenses, according to the Advocate article linked above.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gold Medal in Voodoo

"Maybe someone has a voodoo doll of me."

Photo David J. Phillips Associated Press via MSNBC

That is what Lauryn Williams, the anchor leg of the women's 4 x 100 relay, who could not hold on to the baton pass from Torri Edwards, said. The yellow baton is about to hit the ground, behind both runners. The same thing happened four years ago in Athens, when Marion Jones and Williams couldn't make the exchange. Of course, we are trying to forget Marion Jones anyway, since her performances were enhanced by steroid use...and any medal that the relay team might have won in Athens would have been revoked anyway.

You would think the women would have been especially careful, since the same thing had just happened to Darvis Patton and Tyson Gay on the last hand off of their relay. You would think they were passing off a stick of dynamite or playing a game of hot potato.

Photo from Outsports

No doubt Tyson Gay is one of the top sprinters in the world, but he is also the biggest disappointment for the U. S. Track team, having not even completed a final in any event, much less winning a medal.

Well if the relays are a metaphor for life, we've all fumbled the baton on the final pass at one point or another. But gee whiz. These guys are supposed to be larger than life.

Anyway, Anthony Lane of the New Yorker reveals that the balance beam is the Official Olympic Human Life Metaphor in his article on the first week of the games, writing about Olympic shortcomings. (Great read, very entertaining, though long*).

The same thing happened with artistic gymnastics on the opening weekend, during the team qualifying rounds; as the Americans flipped and twisted on the central floor (whose surprising bounciness is apparent only when viewed from above), there was an empathetic moan to my left. One of the Italian girls, Francesca Benolli, was up on the balance beam, better known as the Official Olympic Human Life Metaphor. She was standing sideways on it, having a wobble. For a few seconds, she was no longer one of the master race from the Olympic Village, spotless in a silver leotard; she was all of us, gloved and scarved, flapping dumbly on our front paths on an icy morning.

Well. if we must be Francesca Benolli, or Tyson Gay when they flub up, then we can also be beach boys Todd Rogers or Phill Dalhausser, who celebrated after eating the team from Brazil up in the third set to take the gold yesterday in beach volleyball. Photo from

Or fellow Americans Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor who won the gold for the women in straight sets.
Photo from New York Times

The Olympics are full of highs and lows. Just like life.

* Lane also explores politics and the Olympics and says "the attempt to keep as futile as trying to keep the sweat out of sex..." The article really is worth reading.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bits and Pieces for 1000, Alex

Alabama Stonewall Democrats will meet tonight at 6:00 at Logan's Roadhouse near Crestwood Blvd. Everyone is welcome, we will be discussing the Democratic platform, in particular how it relates to GLBT issues.

Newspapers across the country are printing wedding or commitment ceremony announcements for same sex couples. How do the Alabama papers measure up?

GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has published a list of papers in every state. Of the major papers in the state, The Birmingham News will print an announcement if it is legally recognized, and has done so in the past. According to the site: The meaning of "legally recognized" varies from paper to paper, but usually means either that the couple's union was legally recognized by some authority (i.e. obtained marriage license in Canada, Massachusetts, California or Spain, or obtained domestic partnership that is recognized by a state authority).

The Mobile Press Register will do so on a case by case basis, but has not printed one in the past.

Fifteen papers are included in the list. You might be surprised to learn which papers will print an announcement and under what circumstances.

MSNBC will have a new show following Countdown with Keith Olbermann, with Rachel Maddow as its host. Maddow is a Rhodes scholar with a Ph.D. in political science and according to The Advocate she may be the first openly gay woman to host a prime time show.

Olympic shot of the day has to be Usain Bolt of Jamaica, who now has world records in both 100 and 200 meter races. 19.30 in the 200!!!

And speaking of Jamaica, a year ago today I returned from that island after being pounded by Hurricane Dean. And here is how we kept in touch.

Here are some shots of Jamaica after the hurricane.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Western Tribune Column and Olympics

Be sure to read the post below this one about Henry Cejudo, winner of Gold.

Everyone in the world must be happy for Shawn Johnson after her performance on the balance beam. Wow. She has been a delight to watch throughout the Olympics, her ever present smile (except those rare instances when she is wondering what she could have done differently to get a gold instead of a silver).

I mention her and Nastia Liukin, along with swimmers Michael Phelps and Kirsti Coventry, in this column which was written before the four athletes had completed their events, and I am just as impressed with all of them as I thought I would be.

How about Kirsty Coventry, winning 3 silvers and a gold, representing her native Zimbabwe. Coventry is one of many swimmers who attend or attended Auburn University, and in fact, said her decision to attend Auburn was the best decision of her life. Read about the Auburn swimmers here, in the B'ham News. And here, on Auburn's Olympian's page. Auburn's 2008 Olympians represent Australia, Bahamas, Croatia, Brazil, Jamaica, Hungary, Trinidad and Tobago, Zimbabwe, France and United States.

What a boost for the Auburn swimming program.

I have inserted a video about John Stephen Ahkwari, which, of course, was not in the paper.

Western Tribune Column

Since childhood I have been a huge fan of the Olympics. I remember as a teenager donating money to the U.S. Olympic team and receiving Olympic belt buckles in return.

Olympic athletes were my role models. Athletes such as Tanzania’s John Stephen Ahkwari, who, after finishing the marathon in 1968 an hour and a half behind the winner, bloodied and bandaged, explained why he kept going, saying, “You don’t understand. My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start a race; they sent me to finish it.”

And Mark Spitz, who though disappointed in his 1968 performance (two team golds, a silver and a bronze), returned to the Olympics in 1972 and won 7 gold medals.

Now we have new stars to watch. And for young people, athletes such as gymnasts Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, and swimmers such as Michael Phelps and Kirsty Coventry, show what determination and perseverance can lead to.

There are news reports of how kids (and adults) are responding with increased interest in swimming and gymnastics. While this is good, and may actually do something to get kids away from the video games and allow for some physical activity, the story as reported is not complete.
Children watching in Bessemer may want to swim or tumble, but without the facilities to do such, they are left behind. While we do have a YMCA with a pool and gym most families in Bessemer cannot afford to be members. Kids might have a dream, but they have to wake up and face their own reality long before that dream is realized.

The Olympics also remind us of the differences in cultures, and none are more striking than those between the United States and the host country, China. Our society has an individualist mentality and theirs has a collective mentality. In their society, if you have talent, and are chosen, you will be set on the path to a gold medal. And you learn to accept your role because it is what is best for society.

In our country, in spite of our individualist leanings, it really does “take a village” to raise a child. But the villagers in Bessemer decided years ago to fill in the public pool here to avoid integration. Because of past racism, local kids have not had the opportunities that others might have.

It’s time for a change. It’s time for the villagers in Bessemer to find a way to provide a recreation center and swimming pool for our children.

This Gold Will Irk the Xenophobes

You know, those who demonize the immigrants.

Henry Cejudo won the gold medal in 121# wrestling.

Photo from Outsports Daily Dozen

Henry is of Mexican descent, born to undocumented immigrants who entered the country well before he was born in Los Angeles.

Of course Henry is a U. S. citizen. He was raised in poverty and bypassed college to concentrate on the Olympics. His mother raised 6 kids on low paying jobs, and at times the family slept 4 to a bed.

"This is cool. Coming out of a Mexican American background, it feels good to represent the U.S.," Cejudo told the L. A. Times. "Not too many Mexicans get the chance to do that."

"He has done an unbelievable job coming from the environment that he came from," his coach, Terry Brands, said. "Could be in prison. Could be a drug runner. Could be this, could be that. He's done an unbelievable job of not being a victim."
Yet here he is, gold medal winner.
Congratulations to Henry Cejudo, the latest American Dream-maker.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

China and the Olympics

As I watch the Olympics and see records being broken, sweeps in the hurdles and American team sports moving toward medals I try, as the athletes must, to avoid letting the policies of China spoil the games.

All in all the production is great. Credit the Chinese government for that, along with NBC sports. Even the fake "footsteps" and singing in the opening ceremonies were so overshadowed by the 2000 drummers, printing blocks and other effects that it doesn't seem to matter.

There is an image in my mind (and on my DVR) that shows a proud young Chinese woman, carrying the sign announcing her country's team, followed by Yao Ming and little nine year old hero Lin Hao. This is the China we are supposed to remember. The new "chairman" Yao, a tiny hero, the future, and elegant grace, proud and traditional.

But outside the Bird Nest and the Swim Cube, there is a lot going on. Or not.

The Chinese government set up three areas for protests to occur, but there are no protests going on.

There are reports of would be protesters being arrested when making application to protest.

China will learn that it can't have it both ways. They cannot have their cake and eat it too.

Either you allow freedom of speech, or you don't.

Either you allow freedom of expression, or you don't.

Either you respect human rights, or you don't.

I think the Olympics are bringing attention to the problems in China. Will the attention bring change?

Monday, August 18, 2008


Because of a chicken little anonymous troll I am having to resume approving comments before they are published. Sorry for the inconvenience, but don't let it stop the normal people from commenting.

For those who have never left a comment, now is a good time to start. Just click on "comments" at the end of the post, and follow the instructions. You can remain anonymous (but understand that anonymous posters are often found to have ulterior motives).

The Lower Ninth Ward, Part 6: Spreading the Health

This is the final chapter of this series. To read the previous installment, Lower Ninth Ward, Part 5: Swamps, click here.

To start at the beginning of the series, click here. And if nothing else, be sure to watch the music video at the end of this post.

There should never have been any doubt that New Orleans would recover, and though I have focused on the Lower Ninth Ward, similar efforts have taken place in other areas of the city. The French Quarter recovered quickly, as did the adjacent Faubourg Marigny district where we often stay.

In spite of the huge inadequacies of the government response (at all levels) New Orleans began recovery efforts almost immediately following Katrina. Here, 7 months after the storm, and just weeks before the 2006 hurricane season began, Father Michael Jacques of St. Peter Claver Church in New Orleans and others speak of the response by faith based organizations and community organizations that got the ball rolling. He speaks of the spirit of the people of New Orleans, and says their spirit was not broken.

Through epidemics of yellow fever and malaria in the 19th century and numerous fires and floods throughout its history, the city has always come back. The spirit that Father Jacques referenced, which has developed over the history of the city, is the reason.

And the residents of New Orleans are not selfish with their spirit. While we were there in July, the people of Iowa were experiencing sever flooding that destroyed towns and areas of several cities. Volunteers from New Orleans were in Cedar River, Iowa north of Cedar Rapids, helping Iowa flood victims to gut and repair their homes. An Iowa resident called the experience "trauma-bonding" and recalled how Iowans travelled to New Orleans following Katrina in 2005 to offer assistance.

In addition, a group of New Orleans nurses had travelled to Iowa carrying supplies they had gathered.

"When they pulled up to St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids, the Iowa nurses started clapping.
The Louisiana nurses started crying."

"It was moving, almost spiritual, to see folks who had gone through a very similar set of circumstances reach out to us in our time of need," said Ted Townsend, the CEO of St. Luke's.

A truck load of surgical scrubs, Hubig's pies, Abita beer (and more) and a wealth of moral support was much appreciated by the Iowa nurses, but was also therapeutic for the nurses from New Orleans.

Hug a nurse. And be thankful.

So, I have shared what I learned about New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward and the levees (as well as bit about the swamps near the city) and a little about the people of the city. The city is recovering, the Lower Ninth is recovering. The Marigny is full of music and bohemian fun. Go visit and enjoy.

This music video by SONOMA (Spirit of New Orleans Music Alliance), sung by Romy Kaye backed by Craig Cortello on guitar, is a good place to end this series.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Sewer Mess

The Jefferson County Commission has passed a resolution that will allow questions regarding the $3.2 billion sewer debt to be on the November ballot (thus creating longer lines and frustrated voters dealing with an issue that should have been solved long before the election).

This county commission does not inspire confidence. I went to the public hearing Wednesday night in Bessemer, with Bobby Humphryes and Jim Carns and here is what the title page of their power point presentation looked like.

Jefferson County, AL


Now I admit that more often that I like I misspell words on this blog, but when preparing a power point presentation I take extra steps to assure my spelling is correct. Presenation? Jeffrson?

Of the 150 or so people at the event, only a handful, probably less than 10, (other than elected officials) were black. Why? Because the event was sponsored by white Republican commissioners? Because they realize that their opinions do not matter to the commissioners that are supposed to serve them?

And probably less than 20 were under 35 years of age, and most were of retirement age. Why? Because everyone is affected by this, even those who are not rate payers. The cost will trickle down to everyone, in one way or another. Was it because young people do not watch the news? Or feel disenfranchised by the whole commission, which, unlike the mayor and council, seem far distant and in their own little world?

Anyway, now the commission has put forth a resolution which will allow the voters of the county to answer questions in November. This problem can not wait until November. But the questions will be there anyway. There is a poll over to the left where you can vote on these questions in essence. Please participate, voting is anonymous. Comments are welcome.

FIRST QUESTION Jefferson County confronts a crisis involving a sewer debt of $3.25 billion that was incurred under court order pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act. Which of the following courses of action should be taken by the county? Select One:

Attempt to implement a plan under Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy law that would repudiate all or a significant part of the sewer debt.

Default on the payment of the sewer debt and accept the appointment of a receiver for the sewer system with power to raise sewer rates within the limits of the law to remedy such default.

Pay the sewer debt in full by reducing the amount payable from sewer revenues and using various tax revenues to pay a portion of the debt.

SECOND QUESTION The Jefferson County sewer system benefits the entire county by preventing the contamination of streams and assuring the sanitary treatment of waste in accordance with the environmental standards of the federal government. Health and recreational benefits accrue to citizens who do not directly use the system as well as to those who do. Is it fair for only those citizens directly using the sewer system to bear the entire burden of the cost?:



THIRD QUESTION The Retirement Systems of Alabama ("RSA") has publicized a proposal that calls for Jefferson County to attempt the implementation of a plan under Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy law which involves the repudiation of a major portion of the sewer debt and the sale of the sewer system to RSA.

(A) Since lowering the price to be paid by RSA will increase the remainder of the $3.25 billion in sewer debt that must be repudiated, what is the price that should be paid by RSA?:

$1 billion or more but less than $2.0 billion
$2.0 billion or more but less than $3.0 billion

(B) Should there by any restriction on the subsequent right of RSA to sell the sewer system to a private company?



(C) Should the county require indemnity from RSA or any subsequent purchaser for future liability arising under federal or state environmental laws?



Thursday, August 14, 2008

GLBT Equality, Highs and Lows

The next congress under the new president could be a banner session for equality for the GLBT community. I've had a peek at the portion of the proposed Democratic Party Platform to be presented at the convention that deals with equality, and here are some highlights.

  • A united, comprehensive strategy on ENDA that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • An end to the failed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy
  • Security in adoption rights for all caring parents
  • More inclusive Census reporting
  • Passage of Hate Crimes legislation
  • A National HIV/AIDS strategy
  • Opposition to the "Defense of Marriage Act" and similar initiatives
  • Opposition to voter ID laws which unfairly target transgender voters

At the same time, I am a little dismayed that the American Family Ass. is continuing its campaign of deception and hate by asking for a boycott of McDonald's because of their support for diversity. Thanks Tom, for alerting me to this.

McDonald's was a sponsor of the Out & Equal Summit which offered diversity training and such to corporate types. American Family Ass. claims that the summit's "primary purpose is to train employees how to aggressively promote homosexuality within the company they work for..."

No, they promote tolerance and understanding. Here is some of what Out & Equal says on their website:

"We advocate building and strengthening successful organizations that value all employees, customers and communities."

"(We) champion safe and equitable workplaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people."

So, McDonald's chooses to value all of its employees and American Family Ass. says "No, discriminate against those who are different."

American Family Ass. is living in a parallel universe, where the bigotry and hatefulness of the 1950's that was directed at African Americans in this country still exists, with new targets, the GLBT members of our society. They are a hate group and should be recognized as such.

This is a comment I posted on a previous post that gives examples of their hatred:

This is hatred:

Scott Lively, California chapter director of the AFA, is co-author of a book titled, The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality and the Nazi Party, in which he claims that “homosexuals [are] the true inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities.” Lively makes explicit links between his claims about the Nazi party and the modern gay equal rights movement, claiming that “From the ashes of Nazi Germany, the homo-fascist phoenix has arisen again, this time in the United States.”

This is hatred:

From their website, a page called Homosexuality in America: Exposing the Myths (I refuse to link to a hate group):

Among homosexual lifestyle and sexual practices are included: "sex with boys... eating and/or rubbing themselves with the feces of their partners... urinating on or in their partners... sadomasochism... bondage... sex with animals."

What a bunch of lying propaganda.

Why the Southern Poverty Law Center has not named AFA as a hate group I do not understand.

Time for a Big Mac and fries.

Lower Ninth Ward, Part 5: Swamps

To read the previous chapter, Lower Ninth Ward Part 4: Levees, click here.

To start at the beginning, click here.

Just as the neighborhoods of New Orleans are proving to be resilient, the surroundings swampland is bouncing back also. One cannot visit New Orleans without at least being curious about the swamps, and swamp tours are offered on almost every street corner in the French quarter. (Free publicity for Cajun Encounters ).

We took a tour of the Honey Island Swamp and found that the swamps were not as adversely affected as one might think. This is as opposed to the wetlands south of New Orleans which were severely affected and remain under threat from future storms.

Our guide told us that things are pretty much normal in Honey Island Swamp. One of the effects of Katrina was that most of the baby alligators were killed. But the overall alligator population seems to be OK.

Here is a vertical lift drawbridge built in the 1930s. The bridge is still functional but requires a 4 hour notice if one needs it lifted.

Here's a scene along the river.

This gator came right up to the boat, lured by tasty marshmallows. The gators are accustomed to the tour boats and Captain Nolan knows them by name.

Here is a great blue heron, one of several that we saw.

Kelly Ripa, of Regis and Kelly fame, took the tour post Katrina and was so impressed that she talked about it on the show. Here is a video clip of that portion of the show. Her tour guide was Captain Nolan, the same person that took us through the swamp.

Here are some more pictures of the swamp.

Here is Captain Nolan.

Sunset in the swamp.

And out of the swamp.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Olympic News and Photos

Along with news feed from the Obama Campaign and 365 Gay, Bessemer Opinions now offers a feed of latest Olympic News. This temporarily replaces the picture at the top of the column at the left.

The Olympics are important enough to gain top billing of Bessemer Opinions news feeds. As for doing away with my previous picture, click on the Olympic links and there are plenty of pretty pictures ...such as Michael Phelps (Getty Images/Shaun Botterill, via sportmiguel),

or Jonathan Horton (via whatshot).

Or you can just go to's Olympics photos page.

Western Tribune column August 13

This column from today's paper is about the sewer crisis. FYI, today there will be a "public hearing" in Bessemer about the status of the sewer deal. This ought to be interesting.

Hosted by
Commissioners Bobby Humphreys & Jim Carnes

A public hearing will be held on
Wednesday, August 13
7 p.m
Bessemer Civic Center

The reference to "encyclopedia" in the column refers to a letter printed in last week's Tribune from Dr. Doug Smith of Bessemer, who recommended an encyclopedia to check my facts regarding drilling for oil. Of course he offered no facts of his on. This is the same right winger who compared me to Neville Chamberlain, and to which I defended my opinions here.

Western Tribune column

I sometimes comment on Larry Langford even though he is not my mayor because he is so funny.

For instance, asking for the price of a Cadillac Escalade and then throwing a two year old hissy fit when questioned about it. "I resent how we focus on the mundane and the stupid…” he said. Like Olympics in Birmingham, perhaps?

And now that Langford is no longer on the Jefferson County Commission, I rarely comment about them either, other than Bettye Fine Collins. She sometimes deserves special attention. Like when she commented on our new courthouse, “Why in the world are we building a $100 million deal in Bessemer?''

But this commission is costing me, and you, a lot of money.

Things may change before this is printed, but as it stands now the commission wants Governor Riley to call a special session so legislators could enact their latest scheme that would raise taxes and extend them for a long, long time. I think the three commissioners who favor this plan are hoping the increased taxes will be blamed on the legislature and voters and not themselves. Sly.

Bankruptcy is the other option. Alabama pension fund chief David Bronner has proposed the county file bankruptcy on the system, and let Retirement Systems of Alabama (or another entity) buy it for a couple of billion dollars. Creditors would still be in the hole for over one billion dollars, but could pursue money from the bond insurers.

But, no new taxes for residents.

The commission has been dodging payments for months and has dangled gambling (which, if you think about it, is what got the county into this mess) and pilfering (the school tax) as a solution, but those did not fly.

I sure don’t have a solution but there is one plan they haven’t considered yet. Develop a “sewage to bio-diesel” program, modify county vehicles to run on it, and use the money saved to pay down the debt.

According to an “Encyclopedia” (which apparently is the only source of information some people understand), I have learned that the Department of Energy says algae grown on sewage retention ponds yields 30 times more energy per acre than soybeans. And next month’s Popular Mechanics magazine, while not mentioning sewage, has an article that says several “algae to fuel” facilities are scheduled to come on line by 2012.

Now if we can just do something about that exhaust.