The Year of Moving Forward

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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Words in Other Languages

If you live around Birmingham and subscribe to the B'ham News and wonder WTF is going on then read the comments at the end of yesterday's post. A small amount of light was shed.

If you listened to the song I posted yesterday you might have noticed some French words spoken at the end.

Ce soir, disons chez moi
Enfin je compte de toi
Je te drague la rose mystique
Tu l'arrose mystique?
Ha, vas-y
C'est mon monde de soleil...

Loosely translated, by Google translator, it says:

Tonight, let me in
Finally I count on you
I'll drag the mystic rose
You water the mystique?
Ha, go ahead
This is my world of sun ...

However, Yahoo's Babel Fish translator comes up with this:

This evening, let us say at home
Finally I count of you
I pick you up the mystical pink
You l' sprinkles mystical?
Ha, go ahead
C' is my sun world…

The point is, not all translations are equal, but isn't it handy to have a free online service like that.

Anyone who speaks French can translate the lyrics and tell us what it really says.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Ramblings and Peter Doherty

"You should feel lucky to have gotten Wednesday's paper."

That's what the woman at the Birmingham News told me when I called for the second time today and told her, like I told the other woman at 6:30, that the paper I pulled out of the plastic sleeve this morning was Wednesday's paper. (Today being Friday).

Then she said they have had "thousands and thousands" of calls and it seems "most of our calls are from the Bessemer area.

But the entire week has been screwy. Tuesday, we received two papers, about an hour apart, both current for that day.

Wednesday we received no paper, and I could not get through to complain (maybe they had "thousands and thousands" of calls that day too).

Yesterday we got the right paper.

Today we didn't get a paper. Oh, wait, I mean we got Wednesday's paper. Surely they aren't trying to make up for me not getting a paper on Wednesday by delivering it today. Old news is not good news.

So, I am about to go out and get a paper, somewhere, if I can find one.

Anyway, yesterday I was in Baldwin county touring the new DHR building with other members of the Public Building Authority and the Director of our DHR here in Bessemer. It's a wonderful facility, and important to us because we have hired the same architect to build our facility.

Other Stuff

With his new exit strategy for Iraq President Obama has painted himself out of a corner. Sure, there's some grumbling from Democrats who want a quick end to the war, but most Democrats realize we can't just pick up and leave. Now he's got support from Republicans too, so there aren't likely to be complaints on down the road. The plan gives commanders flexibility and three more months to draw down, and leaves more troops than many hoped for, but hey, at least it's a plan, and least it has a goal, and at least it will get our troops out of there.

I just heard a thud out front. 9:05 and the paper has arrived. Let's see. Yes, it's today's! I'm going to go enjoy the pitter patter of rain and a late cup of coffee and the paper.

While I'm doing that, here's the new video from Peter Doherty.

"Last of the English Roses" features guys playing football (soccer, really) on a playground, and a (gasp) guy on guy kiss at the end.

Not surprising from Peter, who's pretty gay if past interviews mean anything. Gee, he seems like a character from my book...45 years ago. Well, the songs kind of catchy, anyway.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Busy Thursday, An Uplifting Story

Thursday is a real busy day, so I am actually writing this on Wednesday. I hope nothing superbly interesting happens overnight; I would hate to miss an opportunity to post an opinion on something.

Be sure and read my Western Tribune column that follows this post.

Speaking of opinions, I find it very interesting that many of those who comment repeatedly return to post negative comments on my opinions. That's OK, unless they break the rules. But here is what gets me. Some seem to despise this blog, so why do they keep coming back? Are they closet liberals, and coming to Bessemer Opinions is as close as they can get, what with its anonymity and all. They are particularly negative toward anything gay, to that point that I am becoming very suspicious. You know, the Ted Haggard, Mark Foley sort of thing.

And what I find most interesting is that these right wing conservative readers never (and never is a long time) leave positive comments on the things I write that no one could argue with. What does that tell you? Take for instance the following article. (Maybe this gentle prod will get them reacting in a more positive way. If not, I have access to a cattle prod, which is not so gentle.)

Anyway, not all of you get the West News in the Birmingham News, so I wanted to share a chat that Anne Ruisi had with David Cornelison, a staff nurse in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Princeton Baptist Medical Center. You can read the entire interview at the link, but here is the part that I liked.

What is most memorable about your career?

Where do I start? I remember a teenager I took care of who was in a wreck on graduation night. Bless his heart, he was on a ventilator and had lines (tubes) in him. I know he was in SICU most of the summer, at least eight weeks.

One day, we start pulling the lines out and he was breathing on own. It was a beautiful day outside and I said, `How about we make a trip?' I took him to the first-floor patio. I helped him out of the (wheel)chair. I told him, `Buddy, you got five weeks of summer left. Isn't it time you go home?'

He was out three weeks later. A month or two later, he came back to thank us. You can't put a price on that.

Nurses. You gotta love 'em.

Western Tribune column February 25, 2009

Bessemer needs stimulus in leadership

One online dictionary offers the following definition: Stimulus - noun: something that incites to action or exertion or quickens action, feeling, thought, etc.

Bessemer needs a different kind of stimulus. I don’t mean the kind the president is offering, although that would help too. No, I’m talking about a stimulus of leadership.

City Hall sits in the center of town. Soon it may be in the center of a ghost town, other than the County Courthouse and the numerous law offices that accompany it.

The leaders at City Hall seem to be stimulating their neighbors to leave.

Instead, they need to be stimulating the Presbyterians to stay and more redevelopment for downtown, not less.

First Presbyterian Church, which sits at the same intersection, has plans to vacate its property and move out to Eastern Valley Road. I guess they don’t understand that downtown Bessemer has needs, maybe more so, than the areas outside of town.

We’ve seen what happens to abandoned churches in our area of Bessemer. The former Broken Vessel Church, formerly South Highland Baptist, has gone from being a landmark example of historic architecture to an empty shell after being abandoned twice in the last few years.

Fortunately an individual has plans for that building which would benefit the entire community. Let’s hope her dream is realized.

Next door to City Hall sits another building, the owner of which is abandoning plans to re-develop after what he says is the city’s failure to follow through with CDBG funds that were promised.

Not all of downtown is in a slump, however. The new County Courthouse will soon be complete. Unfortunately, the building has all the personality of a cardboard box. When compared to the historic buildings that were torn down to build it, it just seems utilitarian.

Just a couple of blocks away sits a pile of brick and rubble. Soon this will be cleaned up. Really. A new State DHR building for the Bessemer Cutoff area will be built. The Public Building Authority has chosen an architect that assures us the building will fit in with the style of the city. And I think they understand that our style was established before the new Courthouse was built.

We welcome the federal stimulus, but those of us interested in downtown development would also welcome being incited to action by our local leaders as well.

Lent, Good News and the Speech

Are you giving up anything for Lent?

I thought about giving up blogging, but obviously I reconsidered.

Good news: The Washington Post has granted me permission to use the five articles from 1965 that my book is based on, in the book itself. It's not cheap, but it's worth it, and it means I can move forward. I couldn't complete my editing until I knew exactly what I could use. I also have permission from the estate of Martin Luther King Jr to use one of his speeches. That costs a pretty penny as well. Both of those things are important to the story, though, so its worth the cost.

My observations regarding the President's speech last night.

Supreme court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seemed very surprised and uplifted by the warm reception she got. That was nice to see.

As President Barack Obama walked in, he stopped and spoke with several people, including Richard Shelby. I wonder what they chatted about. I thought I saw Shelby mouth the words "birth certificate" but I'm not sure. I am pretty sure that I saw Obama respond with "I haven't seen yours either."

The lines from the speech that made me grab a pen and write were these.

Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself. It's quitting on your country.

That gives teachers, principals, guidance counselors and parents fresh ammunition in the fight to keep kids in school. Make some posters and hang them in the schools today.

MSNBC had this approval graph at the bottom of the screen, cleverly divided into a red line line for McCain voters and a blue line for Obama voters. Both lines stayed at the top of the chart, indicating viewers liked what they heard.

I think they need sensors in the seats of representatives and senators. That way we could see exactly how bi-partisan the standing up was. It was difficult to tell sometimes, because there are so many democrats that they spilled over onto the republican side of the room.

Little known fact. The seats are not assigned. The senators and representatives who want good seats, and a few seconds of TV time as the president is entering, get there early and save their seats. Some where there as early as 8 in the morning, they said. Shelby had a good seat.

The speech got rave reviews. A CNN poll showed that 68% of people who watched the speech had a very positive response and 24 had a somewhat positive response. 92% positive? Pretty darn good, I'd say.

The same can't be said for the Republican response by Louisiana Gov Bobby Jindal. Did he even listen to the president's speech? I referred to Republican governors as out of touch yesterday, and this just proves it. Keith and Rachel and Chris sum it up here. Rachel Maddow, speechless? Wow.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Mardi Gras!!!

It's Fat Tuesday and we should all be down in New Orleans (Or Mobile if you like things a little more tame) celebrating. Right now I would be standing along the ZULU parade route on St. Charles waiting. The parade never starts on time, of course, which means the Rex Parade will be late also. Watch them live today here.

Maybe next year...sigh. Anyway, Mardi Gras is a great distraction...

...from things like a governor who feels he's not being Republican enough and after meeting with the other out of touch governors decides Alabama doesn't need to help those who are out of work so he's going to reject $66 million in stimulus funds.

"The decision means thousands of out-of-work Alabamians who may have qualified
for the expanded benefits, such as people who worked part-time, will continue to be blocked from collecting unemployment."

And Mardi Gras could distract...

...from a Senator who still feels the need to question our president's legitimacy. It's sad enough that a Cullman resident would even pose the question, but senator Shelby should have just refused to comment.

Alabama Republicans...finding new ways to embarrass us every chance they get.

Yes...Mardi Gras could be distracting...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscars...Go Dustin! Go Sean!

Hollywood was all a-glitter last night as the 81st Academy Awards took place.

The small oscar party that Glenn Shadix attended was here in our den. His Oscar Predictions were right on the money, missing only the Foreign Language film, but that's understandable.

As expected "Slumdog Millionaire" won Best Picture along with seven other awards. If you have not seen this movie, you need to.

But I've been told I am predictable. (Isn't everyone, when it comes down to it?)

So let's talk Sean Penn and Dustin Lance Black.

First Dustin. No comment is needed, as he said exactly what needed to be said in his acceptance speech for his Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for "Milk."
"To all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told
that they
are less than by their churches, by the government, or
by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and
that no matter what anyone tell you God does love you and that very soon I
promise you you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of
ours...thank you God for giving us Harvey Milk."

Sean Penn won Best Actor for his portrayal of Harvey Milk.

"You commie, homo-loving sons of guns. I did not expect this but I wanted to
be very clear that I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me often."

Yeah, well, this win and that performance atones for a wealth of sins, Sean.

There's a lot more I could say about last nights Academy Awards. Maybe later.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Farm Work Day

A Winter Work Day on the Farm

Yesterday was just about perfect for a February work day.

Gardening on a farm (and at home) is a year round deal. This garden will be huge this year, you might can tell from this photo. Here onions and cabbage and collards are being planted. Summer will see fresh potatoes, squash, watermelons, broccoli, tomatoes, okra, peppers, beans and more.

The main project of the day was laying this walkway from the porch to the road.

The "women folk" are spending their cold winter days quilting. There's no comfort like that of a homemade quilt.

This Pecan tree got a trim. Bobby's cutting that little limb growing up in the middle of the tree (not the big branch). We have 2 gallons of pecans from this year's crop in the freezer, just sitting until time to make pecan cobblers, pies, pralines, sweet potato casseroles, and such.

After the work was done, we enjoyed homemade vegetable soup (from last summer's canning) and a fresh peach cobbler (also from last summer's canning), along with some barbecue pork and pintos.

There are always flowers of some sort blooming,for instance, these daffodils.

Farm life in North Alabama is not quite Green Acres, but Park Avenue? Hmmm. I'd do fine in either place.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Follow me.

No, I'm really not getting sucked in. But did you know that the founders of Twitter (Evan Williams and Biz Stone) rejected a $500 million takeover from Facebook. $500 million!!!

They brag that Twitter had the first pictures of the Miracle on the Hudson landing. Well OK, but someone could also post a picture of an alien spaceship landing in Trussville on Twitter, and who would know if it is real news or not. For those who wait another 5 minutes to see news break on CNN or even Fox, isn't it worth it to know that the news is real. Most of the time.

Enough about that.

Alabama mainline Presbyterians (Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley) have voted 77-75 to drop language that requires clergy to "abide by fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness."


173 regional groups like that will vote this year on the issue. Passage by a majority would allow local presbyteries more leeway in ordaining clergy.

This might allow gay clergy who are in committed relationships to be ordained. After all, the clause being debated was added to target gays (in 1997).

So far the national vote is 39-24 against changing the language.


Interesting concepts from today's Dear Abby column.

From Abby: some churches feel so strongly about separating the legal aspect of marriage from the religious that they have voted to only "bless unions," and their clergy no longer sign marriage licenses.

From Rev. M. N. R. in New York: Several couples I know have married without the paperwork because they regard the alternative the same as sitting at a segregated lunch counter, and they are unwilling to support segregation.

From Rebecca in Sunnydale, Calif: When the Bible was written, did they have marriage licenses then?

From God is our Witness in Colorado: Nowhere in the bible does a servant of God ask permission from the government to marry...And while there are references to "what God has joined together," there is no similar praise for what Caesar has blessed.

This 9 minute video explains a lot. And I knew there was a reason I like David Cook.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

If this were Twitter

If this blog were twitter my posts might look like this. Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters.

Based on yesterday's emails and blog history people are more concerned about waste water than Jesus' teachings on homosexuality.

Emails from various elected officials run 2 to 1 in support of my column.

Emails from environmental advocates run 100% in support of my column.

Food World in Bessemer is closing, but will anyone notice?

Get ready for lots more foreclosures in Jefferson County, our delinquency rate is 13.5% compared to national average of 9%.

Jefferson county delegation approved bill to allow county manager in Jefferson!!!

Jeffco has $636 million due Friday, seeks extension. Bankruptcy dammit. I can't get extension after extension on my debts.

Stimulus plan to help winterize homes. How do you get on that list?

Pope shares with Pelosi his anti-abortion rhetoric. OK, so how about comprehensive birth control and contraception!

Linda Nelson says Bayless should not run against Abbott. I sort of wondered myself, hasn't she done a good job?

Burris needs to resign. Burris needs to resign. Burris needs to resign.

AG Eric Holder says the U.S. is "essentially a nation of cowards" on race discussions. Amen, bro.

Now, I don't Twitter, but I have friends that do. I am trying very hard not to get drawn into that well of uselessness. Not when I can do the same thing on Facebook for free (Twitter is also free). I mean, I might would use Twitter if I didn't keep hearing Rick Sanchez on CNN talk about it. They have viewer's Twitter comments crawling across the screen...who cares?

Don't let this happen to you!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Non-User Fees... Western Tribune column

I like it when I can add visuals to my columns, and this week I have.

Think about this when you are in a conversation about the proposed sewer non-user fee.

Western Tribune column February 18, 2009

Sometimes there is a great misunderstanding that leads people to their opinions and this is the case with our sewer debt crisis. A web poll by this paper led me to write this column, which I am sure will be unpopular.

The question was whether non-sewer users should be charged a fee. Conventional wisdom says “Of course not.” But in reality, the benefits of the sewer system to non-users are worth much more than the $20 or $30 proposed fee.

In 1854 in London a cholera epidemic was underway, and a physician named John Snow discovered the source of contamination using epidemiologic methods.

A particular source of drinking water, the Broad Street Pump, was found to be the source, but ultimately the cause was contamination of drinking water with material from a cesspit. Cesspits were dug to collect wastes which were from time to time collected and removed.

Without our sewer system people in our county would be forced to use cesspits or outhouses for waste collection. Have you seen “Slumdog Millionaire?”

In one scene of the movie the waste collection system is seen and it’s not a pretty sight.

Without a sewer system, we might have something like that. Not all land is suitable for septic tanks, nor are they possible in the densely populated areas of the county.

The World Health Organization estimates that over 2 billion people in the world lack proper sanitation. One only has to look at the rate of diarrheal diseases and death, especially among children and women, in those areas to understand the importance of proper sanitation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that “cholera was prevalent in the 1800s but has been virtually eliminated by modern sewage and water treatment systems.” In the past 100 years cholera has not been a threat in our country.

This is because of our sewer and wastewater treatment systems. Plus better understanding and education of the importance of hand washing and other sanitary procedures.

In view of the consequences, it seems that a few dollars is a small price to pay for the assurance that your baby or elderly parent won’t die the excruciating death that cholera causes.

The public, including sewer users and non-users, should reconsider their stance on this issue and be thankful for the benefits our system provides.

Now, about fairness of the current sewer rates, that is another story.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Underwear Police and Spring Is Near

Birmingham mayor Larry Langford has made public statements about the way kids dress, saying he doesn't like seeing their underwear. He wants to send more officers into the schools. If we start sending underwear police out, though, this might happen.

You know that Spring is just around the corner when the crocus flowers begin to appear.

Lenten Rose (Helleborus) is a favorite (and its not a rose).

Remember I said that after a freeze the camellia buds will open. How about this red one just covered with blooms.

And this white one.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Religion in Alabama

The following column was written by Mark Durm, a professor of psychology at Athens State University. The column appeared in The Decatur Daily on Saturday, Feb 14, 2009. (Be warned, you can't read the articles online unless you are a paid subscriber.)

The poll referred to in the column is here. There you can compare the religiosity of all the states.

This interested me because I am so tired of hearing the New England States being criticised for their liberal views and the South, particularly Alabama, being praised for its Southern Baptist values. For all of our religion here in Alabama, what has it gotten us? Never mind our rankings in public education, our drop out rates, our regressive taxes, our rates of disease related to over consumption and smoking. Let's just look at the following:

Just how religious is Alabama?

Mark Durm

I read with interest the article that appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of The
Decatur Daily, “How Religious Are You? Gallup Poll confirms it – Alabama is
highly religious and Vermont is not – but why?” This story reminds me of a
statement by Francis Bacon, “Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be

I argue that if one judges a state’s religiosity by its behavior (its
“walk,” not its “talk”), then Vermont is much more religious than Alabama.

Please understand I am as Southern as one can get; I was born and
raised in the South, and I have attended schools in four different southern
states. We in the South, however, do not walk our religion as well as we
talk it. I offer the following as food for critical thought, not

Let’s compare Alabama to Vermont because that was the case in the
previous article. This comparison will be done by the rate of certain
behaviors per 100,000 population in both states, according to the 17th edition
of “State Rankings,” a reference book published by Morgan Quitno.

An individual is more than twice as likely to get murdered in Alabama
as compared to Vermont. Our state ranks 18th while Vermont ranks

Moreover, a woman is more apt to be raped in Alabama than in
Vermont. Alabama ranks 18th in this category while the New England
state comes in at 41.

Alarmingly, an individual is 11 times more apt to be robbed in Alabama
than in Vermont, and concerning aggravated assault, one is three times more
likely to be assaulted in Alabama.

The property crime rate is almost double in Alabama when compared to
Vermont. Likewise, an individual is almost twice as likely to be
burglarized in our Southern state.

On other personal issues, an Alabamian is three times more likely to
file personal bankruptcy than is a Vermonter. If one is religious,
shouldn't he pay what he owes his fellow man?

The divorce rate is higher in Alabama then the state up North.
Alabama ranks fourth in the nation on divorce while Vermont ranks 21st. If
a person is religious, should not he or she be less apt to divorce?

Moreover, more babies are born to unmarried women in Alabama than
Vermont. Alabama is above the national average on this issue; Vermont is
below it.

Concerning AIDS, living in Alabama poses a threat of getting this
dreaded disease seven times higher than living in Vermont.

Therefore, someone living in Alabama is more apt to be murdered, raped,
assaulted, robbed, have a child out of wedlock, file bankruptcy, be divorced and
get AIDS than if living in Vermont.

So just how religious is Alabama?

But, then, recalling Bacon’s words, maybe Alabama prefers to believe
what Alabama prefers to be true.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentines, Birds and a Tree

Happy Valentines Day to all. This is a cake I made by request. I was told it was good.

I hope you are all doing your bird counts this weekend. Visit GBBC for details. This pair of doves was in love. Really, just after this picture they consummated their love, but my pictures were blurry. Sort of like the celebrity tabloid pictures we sometimes see.

Tree Cutting
I hated to see the tree cut, but it wasn't my call. But seeing the men at work was, uh, interesting, to say the least.

You can see how big this tree was in this picture. The wood was taken to a sawmill, and the scrap and unusable wood is converted into pellets or some form that can be used to produce energy. Better than sending it to a landfill.

Just before impact. When this hit the ground, the whole house shook. Really shook. Notice traffic is stopped becasue there is a rope tied to the tree and a truck pulling it to make sure it fell precisely where they wanted it to. Although the tree had been trimmed so that it did not reach the street, the truck was in the middle of the road.

But before they did that, they had to do this. They took the tree down limb by limb.

Now would you hang from a tree with a chain saw 50 feet or more up? Hmmm.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Evolution and Constitutions

Yesterday was Darwin Day (along with Lincoln's birthday) and in view of that, Wayne at Niches posted a link to this video from Seed Magazine. It portrays the 4.6 billion years of our planet in 60 seconds. Things really get cranking at the end, when evolution was facilitating changes from things like blue-green algaes and eukaryotic cell organisms to the first vertebrates and finally (don't blink) Homo erectus and Homo sapiens and domesticated dogs and writing (stop the video close to the end and look at what is going on). It only lasts a minute, worth watching.

We, and all our ancestors, are significant only in the last teeny bit of earth history.

It was during that teeny bit of time that the 1901 Alabama Constitution was passed. It's odd, when you think about it, that a milliblip in time could hold so much suffering and despair as was caused by that document. And when one looks at the entire universe, and the entire expanse of time, is that suffering really significant in comparison?

You're damn right it is.

The 1901 Constitution was written, as the Choctaw Advocate wrote, "by white men, for white men." The paper also urged whites (men) to "stand together".

A lot has been said and written about the 1901 Constitution and how it unfairly burdened blacks and elevated whites, and how blacks were not "at the table" when the document was written.

Let's list the others who were not at the table. Women, poor whites, Native Americans.

It is often brought up that voter fraud is what allowed the 1901 Constitution to be passed. Vote totals for passage in several counties was greater than the total number of registered white voters in those counties.

So a suit has been filed to declare the 1901 constitution unratified and to order a new vote, or a constitutional convention to write a new constitution. Good idea.

If there was a re-vote and the current constitution failed to pass, would that mean we would be operating under the Constitution of 1875 until a new one was passed? That would be interesting.

1875 Constitutional Convention

To find out more about what is wrong with Alabama's constitution and what is being done about it (there is some good news) click here. And follow the suggestions to help us get out from under this burden.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Trees, Grapes and Stopping the Hate

I'm a bit nervous today as my next door neighbor is having a tree removed.

It's a huge tree with big branches, branches big enough to be trees unto themselves. One of these branches comes out over my property, over my wrought iron fence, over my Japanese cherry tree.

Way up in a bucket with a chain saw. Yikes!

In fact, I had talked with my neighbor a couple of years ago about removing just that limb in order to allow more sunlight to reach the cherry tree, but we never moved on that. But now the cherry tree will be happier, I am sure.

Anyway, about 8 or so years ago a man fell asleep while driving in this direction on my street and swerved across the street and into the fence, after bouncing off another tree (that the city wants to take down). The man was not seriously injured, and neither was the fence. So maybe all will go well with this project.

And in the house I have this grape vine that needs to be planted because it has started growing while still in its package. I guess it likes the warmth. I read up a little on grapes and learned that the first growing season you don't do anything. No pruning, no staking. Then in winter you start deciding which branches to keep, etc. That gives me time to build the structure that my grapes (yes, there will be more than one vine) will grow on.

Stopping the Hate

As a result of a huge effort by the Human Rights Campaign the anti-gay hate group American Family Association has been stopped from showing their hate film infomercial "Speechless: Silencing Christians" in Michigan.

The TV station's general manager said this:

"Our station is being bombarded with calls and messages, and we find ourselves
in the middle of someone else's fight. Ours was a fair offer and we are removing
ourselves from this matter."

HRC President Joe Solmonese said this:

"I am so proud of our members who answered the lies and distortions of the
AFA and stopped this campaign of hate and deception. Our community stood up
and would not let those lies stand.

"This should be our wake up call. We are poised to make real progress, for the first time, for millions of LGBT Americans. We know it and so do our opponents. We must stand guard and not allow them to stop these overdue, basic protections by rolling out the same, tired script albeit in new packaging. Today's action proves we have the voices and the power to demand a fair fight and a fair debate."

The fight goes on.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Three Reasons that Bessemer is Hot

Be sure to read my Western Tribune column for the week, posted just below this.

There are many reasons to move to Bessemer. More bang for your buck when buying a home. Convenient shopping with Watermark Place and Colonial Tannehill right here, and the Galleria and Patton Creek just a couple of exits down the Interstate.

But here are some other reasons .

Jess Lanier High School

Education is often mentioned as a reason families avoid Bessemer. Soon there will be a new high school for our students. No one can deny that Jess Lanier has improved over the last few years, but now U. S. News and World Report high school rankings have recognized this with a Bronze medal award (Jess Lanier in U. S. News). Other schools that were recognized were Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills, which received Silver medals. Pretty good company, huh? (Story in Bham News)

Public Safety

Perceived public safety issues keep some people from coming to Bessemer. Bessemer has seen a drop in violent crime over the last year. (Story in Bham News) Homicides dropped from 16 in 2007 to 8 in 2008. Rapes were down from 40 to 36. Bessemer police chief Nathaniel Rutledge says a lot of factors contributed to this, among them the department's public meetings which are held monthly for residents to meet with police and talk about crime prevention and address specific issues. The next meeting will be Monday, March 2 at 6 pm at Hopewell Church of God, 8100 Hopewell Road.

Also, the department has a created a tip line for residents to call with leads on crimes. The callers remain anonymous and the number is 428-3541.


Bessemer is fortunate to have a first class news outlet, The Western Tribune, which keeps citizens up to date on both news items and community news. Read exclusive news articles (and cutting edge opinions) in each issue. This issue is at newsstands now.

Did you see Julio Osegueda and Obama yesterday?

He's an excited kid, no doubt, and his enthusiasm has already landed him a job announcing the first Fort Myers Miracle baseball game this year.

Here he is immediately after the event. Go Julio!!

Western Tribune Column February 11, 2009

Today's Western Tribune (Bessemer, AL) Column

In February the cold weather often keeps us indoors but there is an activity coming up that can keep you connected to the outdoors without having to step outside.

It’s the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by Cornell University Ornithology Lab and the National Audubon Society.

We can worry about stimulus packages and state budgets during the week, then on the weekend relax by doing a little bird watching.

The instructions say that we can do this in as little as fifteen minutes on one or all three days, but I find it hard to restrict my participation to a quarter of an hour. When I begin watching for birds, they seem to be everywhere, and in more varieties than one would suspect.

And you don’t have to be an expert either. There is plenty of information to help in identification of birds, and those who participate identify their level of expertise, so if you are a complete amateur, that’s OK.

Last year there were 22 reports with 48 species reported from Bessemer, and 8 reports with 47 species from McCalla. Hueytown had 2 reports and 15 species.

The most common bird in each of those areas was the American Goldfinch.

The reports are important because together they present a picture of bird populations that change from year to year due to weather patterns or other natural or manmade factors. Of interest locally, and noted on their website, is the expansion of the range of the Eurasian Collared Dove which was reported from Bessemer last year.

Information and reporting sheets can be found at Join this effort and let’s double the number of reports from our area. The event takes place in your backyard February 13-16.

Birds in cages don’t count by the way, so the exotic birds that were the focus of a story in last week’s paper can’t be added to the totals for Bessemer.

Also coming up of course is Valentine’s Day which falls on a Saturday this year. That means that for most people who celebrate with their spouse or lover, they will have the whole day to spend together in romantic bliss. Just be sure to take a break for the birds.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


There once were two adjacent kingdoms, a Blue Kingdom and a Red Kingdom.

The Blue Kingdom had a great diversity of people, with rich people and poor people. The Red Kingdom lacked such diversity, and consisted of mainly rich people.

The rich people in the Blue Kingdom had lots of friends in the Red Kingdom, and decided they would like to become a part of the Red Kingdom.

They could abandon the problems of the Blue Kingdom that they helped create. They could be around people more like themselves. Most of all, they could forget about the poor people in the Blue Kingdom.

For years, decades, they had tried to forget about the poor people.

“If we don’t see them, we won’t feel guilty about not helping them,” they said.

Years ago walls of separation had divided the rich people from the poor people, but the walls had been removed. The rich people missed the wall.

“If we become part of the Red Kingdom, it will be sort of like having the wall again,” they said.

The poor people in the Blue Kingdom heard of the plans of the rich people, but they just laughed.

“The rich people will never leave their homes that overlook us,” they said as they looked up at the mansions on the mountain.

“That is good, because their taxes are helping to build our schools and pave our roads,” they said.

But the rich people in the Blue Kingdom heard this.

“Why should we care about schools and roads for the poor people? We can concentrate on better schools and roads in the Red Kingdom, and our lives will be better,” they said.

But the rich people did not have to leave their mountaintop homes to join the Red Kingdom.

Instead they just voted to take their homes and land with them. They could stay in their homes and continue to look down on the poor people.

“This is almost like having the wall again,” they said.

That made the rich people happy.

Not really, but they thought it did.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Grammys Wow!

Sometimes the Grammys are kind of boring (not really) but last night's Grammys were exceptional.

Congrats to Jennifer Hudson and all the winners!

Performances by Coldplay! Katy Perry! Adele (with Sugarland!)! Radiohead!

Katy Perry

Sugarland and Adele:

Cold Play: Lost! and Viva la Vida.

I guess what they said in 40 YO virgin was true. Liking Coldplay is a sign!

Radiohead (with members of the USC Marching Band - how cool)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Congratulations to Hank Tyler, fellow columnist for The Western Tribune for picking up the Charles A. Long Outstanding Civic Award at the Bessemer Chamber of Commerce Banquet last night.

Picture Credit: The Western Tribune

President Barack Obama established (yesterday at the National Prayer Breakfast ) his office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Read what Obama said including his testimony at the link.

Read the press release and learn who some of the members of the council are here.

This will be a little more in line with the U. S. Constitution than W's effort, which seemed to put a condition on helping that you believe certain beliefs and share those beliefs with those you are helping or don't help them at all. Something like that.

Anyway, this office will reach out to charities and organizations "no matter their religious or political beliefs" and will be "making community groups an integral part of our economic recovery and poverty a burden fewer have to bear when recovery is complete."

Joshua DuBois, a 26 year old Pentecostal minister, will head the effort. "We're also going to make sure we have a keener eye toward the separation of church and state," he said.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Don't Ask Don't Tell...Hmmm

Supporters of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and allowing gays to serve openly in the military are wondering "What's the holdup?".

Gays are in the military now, alongside heteros. Gays have been fighting for our country since the Revolutionary War. Gays are willing to put their lives on the line for our country. The first soldier wounded in Iraq, Eric Alva, was gay. Here he is testifying before a house committee last year.

Now these army guys claim to be straight. But at least they can have a little fun while deployed. Plus, the music is Journey and who doesn't like them. From my friends at OMGblog. Be sure to see the credits at the end.

Don't ask, don't tell for sure!

I'm pretty sure they aren't gay. At least, not good gays, judging by the mess in that room! But with a little training...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bessemer in 1965

Be sure to read my column from this week's Western Tribune, following this post, for my take on the current Alabama legislative session.

Doing research for a historic novel uncovers all kinds of interesting stuff. Since my novel takes place in 1965, I have some memories of my own. But old newspapers tell a lot also. Sometimes they reveal more by what they don't report than by what they do.

In 1965 Bessemer had two newspapers, much like today. The Bessemer Advertiser and the Bessemer News. You know, in today's Bessemer, there are some who do not like to see the truth printed in Newspapers. Any criticism of local officials is considered to be in bad taste.

I think I know where this attitude comes from.

In 1965 Viola Liuzzo was murdered on a highway between Selma and Montgomery while transporting marchers (a scene which is recounted in my book). It was quickly learned that the 4 men who did this were members of the Bessemer Klavern of the KKK. This was announced on nationwide TV by President Johnson. I have spoken with a man who as a child in 1965 was sitting with the son of one of those KKK members when the announcement came on TV. That is a whole different story, but it does tell me that there is no doubt of a Bessemer connection.

Was there any reporting of the murder or the arrest of Bessemer KKK members in those papers? No. Now, you may say they were just local papers, but the story became local when the perps were named. Also, the papers, especially the Bessemer Advertiser, did report every week for a while on what Senators John Sparkman and Lister Hill were saying about the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (they, and the paper, repeatedly called it "the so-called voting rights bill). And the Advertiser printed articles against the actions in Selma and the "outsiders" in our state.

So maybe those papers or their publishers tried to hide what was really happening in our community and state from their readers, or maybe they were afraid of the Bessemer Klan so they avoided the subject. At any rate, the truth was not printed.

The Bessemer News did report in February 1965 that Negroes in Bessemer were suing the federal government, petitioning it to cut off funds to the city since we had not desegregated in the 9 years since the 1954 decision ordering it. "The city of Bessemer is said to be the most segregated city in the world, including Johannesburg, South Africa," the paper reported.

They danced around that issue, and later that year, Bessemer Schools were (barely) integrated (against the opinion of the paper).

They did find the space to report on issue of great importance, the Beatles Atlanta concert that year. The Bessemer News reported that Mary Charles Essman, Carolyn Virciglio, Patsy Schilleci, Alecia Hull, Sue Williamson, Norma Jean Williamson and Judy Lint all attended the Beatles concert. I would have gone, that's for sure.

I didn't do quite as good last week when I saw the BeatLads in Birmingham. I took this video with my cell phone, so the quality is not great (and its loud) but here are the BeatLads.

One last tidbit, surely to interest those of you who are crying "socialist" in regards to the president. According to the 1965 Bessemer News, in 1903 the "Southern Socialist" was printed right here in Bessemer. Now before you get all excited, the group was not about joining the commies (the Russian Revolution had not even happened by then), but was a labor movement hoping to gain better wages for workers.

The things we learn by studying history.

Western Tribune Column February 4 2009

This is my column from today's Western Tribune.

Update: The Michael Phillips Compassionate Care bill (medical marijuana bill), which I mention in this column, will be before the Judiciary committee Thursday. Go to the link to see how you can support this effort. Priscilla Dunn of Bessemer is one of the members of the committee. Urge her to support the bill.

The political arena will be more active than usual over the next few months, as potential state senators scramble for the seat recently vacated by E. B. McClain. And when the special election is over, there may be a vacant state representative or Bessemer Council seat to fill. And if a certain state representative wins, a certain Bessemer council person will most likely run for that seat.

Fruit basket turnover.

Then, this month, Artur Davis is expected to announce his run for Governor. Various office holders, including one who is planning to run for McClain’s seat, have expressed interest in that office as well.

In the meantime, the Alabama legislative session begins this week. Last year, the senate shut down, who even remembers why? What we remember is a group of elected officials putting their differences above the interests of the people they represent.

As of this writing, 216 bills have been pre-filed in the house, and 59 in the senate. This includes a bill that would prohibit the cloning of humans as well as one that would require the owner of dangerous dogs to post warning signs on their property.

Wouldn’t it good to add this: prohibit the cloning of dangerous dogs, and require dangerous humans to post warning signs on their property?

A bill will once again be introduced to outlaw salvia, a little known plant that has even littler effects. As Loretta Nall says, if they want to go around outlawing problem plants, let’s start with kudzu.

Seriously (if the Alabama legislature can be taken seriously) there are some important issues that will be addressed during the session. Budgets and taxes and things like that. Let’s hope the legislators will be big boys and girls and play nice.

A bill that would legalize medical marijuana will likely be introduced. The American Medical Association recommends relaxing restrictions on the medical use of the plant, and science backs this position.

Marijuana is already the biggest cash crop in the state, with almost three times the production value as the runner up, cotton, according to the most recent numbers I found. We might as well regulate it. And put it to good use.

Other bills that should be passed include a hate crimes bill that includes sexual orientation and an anti-bullying bill that would protect kids in school. Our streets and schools need to be safer.

The upcoming weeks promise to be interesting.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Racism Still Hanging On in Birmingham

Racism is still a presence in the Birmingham area (see the picture below).

We spent Saturday at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the 16th Street Baptist Church at "Celebrate Unity," the New Baptist Covenant event, where we heard Wayne Flynt speak and lead a discussion on the origins of poverty in Alabama and in the world. Later we heard President Jimmy Carter speak and remind us that if we, as individuals, would just love God, and love the person standing in front (or beside) us, then the world would be a much better place.

The New Baptist Covenant is all about bringing black Baptists and white Baptists together to address the problems that face our country today. Poverty, for instance. As an example of working together, 16th Street Baptist has paired up with Vestavia Hills Baptist and share in worship and ministries.

You cannot go into the 16th Street Baptist Church without being reminded of the history of the place. Even if the four girls were not killed there the building would still be a historic site, being the oldest black church in the city and a place where numerous meetings occurred during the civil rights struggle.

Here is a picture of the stained glass window, which, had the face of Jesus blown out during the bombing.

So in Birmingham the Baptists are promoting unity, but a day of celebration cannot hide the fact that racists are still among us. This was photographed recently where it could be seen from I-65 near Green Springs Avenue.

One person's comment in the email that I received this in was "Some of these idiots still show their cowardice ignorance by hiding behind sheets and cloaks of darkness....."

There is still so much work to be done. One thing we can rely on, though, is that the old racists are slowly dying off. The young people, for the most part, reject the hatred of the previous generations. The world is becoming a better place.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Michael Phelps and Jeff Sessions

What do Michael Phelps and Jeff Sessions have in common?

Michael Phelps took a hit and now he's taking a hit. Maybe we should just charge this off as youthful indiscretion. I mean, the guys 23 years old. Who, by that age, has not taken a hit off a bong? You don't have to answer.

Now we really will remember Michael for his stellar performance at the 2008 Olympics and, well, his human beauty. I mean, just watch. The music, coincidentally, is Contagious (key phrase, "You make me feel so high") by Avril Lavigne.

Jeff Sessions, on the other hand is much older. He doesn't have the excuse of being youthful as a reason for making a stupid statement. And I am pretty sure he has been doing it since his 20's.

Anyway, he said, in referring to the New Deal, "It didn't work. Unemployment was as high after they started all these make-work programs as it was before. Now people liked it, and they felt Roosevelt had done something, but the long-term bitter fruit of it was not so good."

Check your facts, Jeff. Unemployment dropped from 24% to about 14% between 1933 and 1940. I don't think the families of those who went from having an unemployed provider to an employed provider would consider that "bitter fruit."

So, which long-term bitter fruit is he referring to?

TVA? this still exists, making it "long-term." My power comes from TVA, as does a lot of people's in North Alabama. Nothing bitter there.

WPA, PWA and CWA? Well the agencies are not still around, but the infrastructure projects that were completed while providing jobs to millions are still around. Many of those projects need repair, like bridges and such, but the bitter fruit is that Sessions and other Republicans won't vote for it.

FDIC? Still around. As banks are folding people who have deposits in them might appreciate the FDIC.

Social Security Act? First payments were in 1942, but the Agency was created in 1933. I know a lot of people who depend on their social security check to survive. I doubt they are bitter about that.

Fair Labor Standards Act. Still around. gives us the 40 hour work week.

So, what do Michael Phelps and Jeff Sessions have in common? Nothing, but give me any excuse to feature Michael Phelps on this blog and you will see him here. Maybe the same could be said for any opportunity to point out the stupidity of Jeff Sessions.