The Year of Moving Forward

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Goings on in Bessemer

Today, if you live in Bessemer and nearby areas of Senate district 19, you need to vote. Polls are open until 7:00. The Western Tribune has endorsed Priscilla Dunn, who has been voted legislator of the year twice (even her opponent voted for her).

Tonight, at 6:30, Mayor Ed May will hold his last (thank God) Town Hall Meeting at the Bessemer Civic Center. (I will probably be late, as I have another event with Earl Hilliard, Jr. to attend).

Congratulations to the Bessemer Police Department. Yesterday, they dedicated the new South side Police Substation (first suggested on Bessemer Opinions on June 26, 2007) and today they dedicate the new E-911 Center. Both of these facilities were paid for with drug money confiscated by the department. That's putting the money to good use. Both of these facilities will contribute to greater public safety, which is needed here. ranks Bessemer as the 9th most dangerous city in America. This was reported by The Western Tribune last week, and comes as a surprise even to those of us who are concerned about the crime rates.

The Mayor and Police chief need to pow-wow and come up with a new strategy to overcome this. The strategy should include informing the public through the Newspapers and through a direct mailing or door to door canvassing that crime is NOT going to be tolerated, and that this includes big crime and little crime. Then, we need to see cops on the beat out of their cars and walking the neighborhoods, because when you walk you can see so much more than when you are driving by (keeping your eyes on the road).

All we want is a safer city. We are not ashamed of our city, as the mayor claimed when we asked about public safety issues. But 9th in the nation? That's something to be ashamed of.

If it quacks like a duck...

President Obama hosted about 250 LGBT leaders yesterday, including Alabama State Representative Patricia Todd and her partner Jen.

During the event, which was streamed live on the White House web site, a duck was heard quacking. Obama reacted, and after realizing it was a cell phone, asked "Where do you guys get these ring tones, by the way?" Trendy Gays, I guess. (Is a duck quack trendy?)

You can read the entire transcript here , or watch...

Obama reaffirmed his commitment to gay equality, had this to say:

We have made progress and we will make more. And I want you to know that I expect and hope to be judged not by words, not by promises I've made, but by the promises that my administration keeps. And by the time you receive -- (applause.) We've been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration.

Then he went on to talk about an inclusive hate crimes bill, ENDA, repealing DOMA (defense of marriage act) and DADT (don't ask don't tell).

He shifts the burden for all of this to Congress. However, he could just say the word and Dan Choi could remain in the service (Choi's trial begins today).

So all is not sweetness and light with the President, but we do appreciate the recognition of our struggle, of the length of time the effort has gone on and of the urgency of correcting the wrongs.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Empire State Building

At the risk of becoming a travelogue, I continue to post pictures of our New York Trip.

But first, I welcome comments that make sense and that support progress, but a couple of days ago I posted one against my better judgment regarding hate crimes. I responded, then another misinformed reader tried to post another negative comment, and I decided just to delete the original and my response and ignore the more recent one.

Before someone gets all up in arms, this is not an issue of free speech. It's an issue of not allowing my effort to educate (and entertain) to be diluted by those who want to do us harm.

That's ridiculous, some might say. How does expressing an opinion different from yours do you (or your cause) harm, you might ask.

This is Joe Holladay, a New York visitor who was beat up by a group of men on the Upper East Side on Saturday.

If I allow people to post comments that might influence someone to be against a hate crimes law, then in a tiny little way, I am contributing to this. In other words, by allowing the voices of hatred to be heard, progress is impeded, and those who act on their hatred feel empowered.

We already had a commenter who rejoiced when a local gay person was the victim of a crime, and that person no longer is allowed to comment here.

If you've been to New York you might have viewed the city from the 86 floor observation deck. Here is a guy on the outside of the deck, doing some work on the building's exterior. Yikes!

Also up there was Lucas Glover, winner of the soggy U. S. Open Golf Championship. He just happened to be touring the city, carrying his trophy around, I guess. I'm not a golf fan, and I had to "use the google" to find his name, but I knew enough to snap a picture.

But you also see views like this.

The little patch of green is Bryant Park, site of the Pride Rally that kicked off NY Pride week. To the immediate right of the park is the library that I wrote about yesterday. And the building with the gold toppers that "cuts" the park in half is the Bryant Park Hotel, which I only mention because it is a really neat looking building and we had coffee and a Belgian brownie at its base.

(This picture came from a hotel review)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

40 Years Ago

Forty years ago today I was most likely at Wald Park swimming pool with my friends and my thoughts were most likely directed toward my upcoming written test and learner's permit that I was looking forward to. Can you say "Ford Falcon?"

But in New York City a landmark event took place on this date in 1969. The Stonewall Riots took place after police raided The Stonewall Inn (sometimes June 27 is named but the response to the raid really began in the early morning hours of the 28th). Here is how the Inn looked this week. It's really an unassuming little place, but it was packed the night we visited.

The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village was a gathering spot for gays, lesbians and transgender people and raids on such establishments were common. Bar owners were often tipped off about the raids, and the lights would come on and customers would stop any suggestive behavior before the raid began. Sometimes.

On this particular night the clientele got fed up and an uprising occurred. This account at Wikipedia is as good as any of what happened, with good pictures and links.

There is no doubt that the actions of those brave men and women began the movement which is finally beginning to see some progress (although slowly) with the Obama administration.

In New York at the Public Library next to Bryant Park is an exhibit titled 1969 The Year of Gay Liberation.

Inside, the exhibit is on the second floor.

Display cases hold letters written by activists and newspaper articles, photographs and mementos of the event and the following weeks. In runs through the end of June.

The Stonewall Inn is on Christopher Street and is across from Christopher Park, where homeless youth (probably kicked out of their homes for being gay) and others hung out. Now the park is clean and is home to George Segal's art piece titled "Gay Liberation" of a lesbian couple and a gay male couple. They are cast in bronze and painted white.

You might remember this park from the movie "Big Daddy." This is the park where Adam Sandler taught the kid to spit. But I digress. (And I will have to watch the movie again to confirm this).

This park has been a gay hangout for decades, and it is said that gay sailors sought R & R here during World War II.

Anyway, today is a day to reflect and to celebrate. We've come a long way, baby, but we've still got a long way to go.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hate Crimes: Sean Kennedy and Jeff Sessions

Remember when I wrote the post about Sean Kennedy? I also referenced it the other day.

To refresh your memory, Sean was killed during a hate crime near Greenville, South Carolina, in march of 2007. He was lured to a car when a guy asked him for a cigarette. Stephen Moller got out of the car and called Sean "faggot" and punched him so hard it broke Sean's facial bones and separated his brain from his brain stem.

A few minutes later Moller left a message on one of Sean's friend's phone: "You tell your faggot friend that when he wakes up he owes me $500 for my broken hand."

Trouble is, Sean never woke up.

Moller received a five year suspended sentence reduced to three years (with credit for time served). Oh, and 30 days community service.

Why bring this up again?

Because I have just read his mother's (Elke Kennedy) chapter in Mitchell Gold's book "Crisis."

She got the 4:30 am phone call. She rushed to the hospital in disbelief that anything could have happened to her son.

"When I finally got to see my son, my knees buckled. He was lying flat on his back, stitches on his upper lip, blood on his hair and neck, hooked up to a respirator."

The last word Sean heard was "faggot."

"At 11:20 pm, beautiful Sean was pronounced brain dead. My baby was gone forever. I would never be able to speak with him again, to tell him I love him."

Even after his death, hate is aimed at his family. How did her church respond?

"After Sean's death we were no longer welcome at our church. church friends stopped calling - they didn't want to take sides! We do not belong to any church now. I have been told numerous times by people calling themselves Christians that my son is in hell and that I will go to hell because I love him and I fight for equal rights for all human beings. Although it hurts terribly when people say these things to me, it is nothing compared to the pain of losing my son."

South Carolina, like Alabama, does not have a hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation or gender identity. Neither does the United States.

We are still waiting to see if an inclusive hate crimes law will be enacted on the federal level, and we can only hold our breath for so long.

Attorney General Holder urged passage of the bill by the Senate, and it could be passed as an amendment to another bill any day. Or not.

Of course Jeff Sessions opened his bigoted mouth during hearings.

But Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the committee, questioned whether data show there is sufficient need to pass hate crimes legislation for LGBT people.

"One of the things that's important is to know do we have a problem of … noticeable number of cases not being prosecuted in state and local government relating to these kinds of issues that we're calling hate crimes," he said."

First of all, Mr. Sessions, it does not matter whether a "noticeable number" of cases are involved or not. One dead man is enough. Sean's case was not prosecuted as a hate crime. What if this had been your son, Mr. Sessions, whose brain "ricocheted in his head."

Secondly, look at the statistics, Mr. Sessions. Yes, hate crimes against gays are up .

This man is dead. He's part of the statistics. But what you are really saying, Mr. Sessions, is that you don't give a damn what happens to gay men or the suffering that their mothers go through. That is shameful. But that comes as no big surprise, that's your party standard.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Back in the Saddle

I take a few days off for a much needed vacation and all hell breaks loose. I mean, I miss out on blogging about two Republican sex scandals, only of interest to me because of the hypocrisy (both of these guys were critical of Bill Clinton for his Monica thing and here they are screwing around on their spouses thinking they are immune to discovery and above the rest of the male gender).

So I'm not even going to write about them, except to say that my interest in South Carolina has been heightened, but for a different reason. That will be revealed over the next few days. Nothing surprising, I just don't have the time right now to write it. And today, I am glad to see the list of potential Republican 2012 Presidential candidates shrinking (my God, it's just 2009 anyway, we can have a lot more candidates emerge and a lot more Republican sex scandals before the next campaign begins).

I miss out on the demise of City Stages, which it appears is done for.

I miss out on Richard Scrushy...oh, never mind...he's not worth five words on this blog.

I miss out on the Jefferson County Commission's hand wringing as they realize that no matter how they twist it and turn it and blame it and point fingers, it's their ball game and everything comes back to them. Don't blame the Alabama Supreme Court. Don't blame the State Legislature. And don't expect any occupational tax to pass the legislature or pass muster unless it treats all workers fairly and does away with the exemption enjoyed by the privileged.

But this brings a sense of urgency. A Gay Exorcism.

This is what your "ex-gay" ministries are doing, but the damage to kids can be much more subtle from the teachings of so many churches.

While in New York we came across this store:

and you recall that a while back I wrote about Mitchell Gold's book, "Crisis".

So we went in the store, which actually sells furniture, of course, and bought the book. The book shares the stories of about 40 gay people and how the church and society affected them and how they overcame it. Well, the one's who survived. I'm reading it now, and over the next few days will share some of the stories. I have already posted about several of the subjects of the book, and will reference back to them.

Now I hear, too that Michael Jackson has died. What a loss. Maybe not every one's favorite, but a top entertainer never the less.

Here's part of the "Thriller" video, which set the bar high for music videos.

Both Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, who also died today, will be remembered with affection.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How Safe is Bessemer? Western Tribune Column

Public safety is important to families who live in a community, and the issue has been in the local conversation recently following a few high profile crimes. City officials claim that crime rates are decreasing, but a look at the statistics show that this depends on which crime is being measured, and what year is being compared to.

Since the Mayor asked the public to compare crime rates (at a recent Town Hall meeting) we did just that. If we go back to the reports from 2000 (there were no reports submitted for 2001, 2002 or 2003) we see that, yes, homicide, assaults and theft are down. But rape, robbery, burglary and motor vehicle theft are up. If we use the earliest available rates from after he was elected (2004) for comparison, the results are even worse. Murder, rape, assault, burglary and theft have all increased.

Either way, a claim that crime is down is a dubious claim, at best.

But even more disturbing to residents of Bessemer is a comparison to comparable cities. The Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center categorizes cities based on population, and Bessemer is in the 25,000 to 50,000 range. In 2008, there were nine other Alabama cities in that category.

The other cities are Alabaster, Florence, Gadsden, Madison, Opelika, Phenix City, Prattville, Prichard and Vestavia Hills.

If the crime rates from these cities are averaged and compared to Bessemer, one has to agree that changes are needed.
For homicides, in 2008, Bessemer had 5, the other cities average 2. Rapes: Bessemer-27, Others-12. Robbery: Bessemer- 193, Others - 65. Assaults: Bessemer- 354, Others-80. Burglary: Bessemer-1046, Others-348. Theft: Bessemer-2392, Others-911. Motor Vehicle Theft: Bessemer 278-Others-103.

The data does not account for factors such as race, age, economic conditions, etc, and often such factors are considered when performing statistical analysis.

But to use those factors as an excuse for poor numbers is not acceptable. Because race or employment status or other demographic factors should never be an excuse for crime.
The numbers show that in every category, Bessemer is way off the average. No wonder the people of our city are concerned.

The residents of Bessemer deserve to live in a community where they feel at least as safe as the members of similar communities in our state. Anything short of this is unacceptable.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Health Care Poll

In this morning's New York Times are the results of a CBS/NYT poll about Health Care.

Would you favor or oppose the government's offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans?

Favor - 72%, Oppose - 20%.

I favor. Health care is a right not a privilege.

Would you be willing or not willing to pay higher taxes so that all Americans have health insurance that they can't lose no matter what?

Willing - 57%, Not willing - 37%.

I am willing to help those less fortunate than I by paying a bit more in taxes.

Which is a more serious problem right now: keeping health care costs down or providing health insurance for Americans who do not have any?

Keeping costs down - 26%, Providing for uninsured - 65%.
Among Republicans: Keeping costs down 52%, Providing for uninsured - 44%.
Among Democrats: Keeping costs down 15%, Providing for uninsured - 78%.

I believe providing for the uninsured is more serious. It looks like Republicans are more concerned with keeping a buck or two in their pocket than in helping those less fortunate. Predictable. Shameful.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Crime Stats

I want to modify my earlier post. I don't have any direct evidence that the Bessemer Police Department is either homophobic or racist. But I do detect a lack of sensitivity or concern. Of course, this may just be perception, a term thrown around a lot recently.

But crime statistics are not perception.

The Mayor, and the Chief of Police, both have spoken of the reduced crime rates as evidence that public safety is not to be a concern. A little research led to this info. All of the information is available at the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center web site.

The Mayor said, at the Town Hall Meeting on Dartmouth Avenue, to compare current crime rates with past rates. He was elected in 2002, but, oddly enough, Bessemer did not report its crimes to the state that year, or the year before or the year after. Hmmm. That in itself is worth investigation.

So, let's compare to 2000, the last year before the mayor was elected that we have stats for, to 2008, the last year for which statistics are available. We actually went back to 1991, just for fun, but for our comparison, we use 2000. Handy little chart for the crimes that the state keep stats on...

Between 2000 and 2008 Homicide, Assaults and Theft are down. Those are the good stats.

But Rape (21 up to 27), Robbery (174 to 193), Burglary (802 to 1046) and Motor Vehicle Theft (234 to 278) are up from 2000 to 2008.

If you start at 2004, the first year after the election of the current mayor that we have statistics for, we find that Murder, Rape, Assault, Burglary and Theft are all up in 2008, and the other two categories, Robbery and Motor Vehicle theft are down by just 4 and 2 respectively.

So let's not brag too much about decreased crime rates.

But when a guy that's had a couple of semesters of statistics and has a degree in a field that requires a whole bunch of statistics gets on a site with so much information, a little deeper digging is bound to occur.

It did. But you will be held in suspense because it's I'm still working on it. You will probably see it in my column next week in the Western Tribune.

Here is Corey John, of Toronto (where gays can marry), who was assaulted this month.

"My back was turned, I did not see him coming and he hit me with a beer bottle," says John. "I just felt the blood gushing down my face, [said] 'You hit me, dude,' and they all began running up an alley."

(Again, thanks to Andy Towle for the link.)

Hate Crimes

Update: Please read this post where I modify what I said in this one.

Be sure to read my Western Tribune column, which follows this post. It is on a related subject.

While I am pleased that a Federal Hate Crimes bill including sexual orientation might soon become a reality, down here in the real world things are not so encouraging. The images you will see here are disturbing, and let's be glad that they don't come from Bessemer. But let's not wait until one of our friends is pictured in this way (or worse) before we do something about it.

I am really concerned about my community. For the most part, a community can only be as strong as its leaders. That is unfortunate when the leaders are complacent about crime after two home invasions, both targeting minorities. You may get tired of reading about this, but until the Mayor of Bessemer (Ed May) and the Bessemer Police Department (led by chief Nathaniel Rutledge) realize that the white people and the gay people and the Hispanic people deserve the same protections and respect as the rest of the residents, I will keep the conversation going.

This is Ronnie Robertson, a 31 year old man from Ohio who was attacked last month after answering a question ("a mix of gay and straight people chose Tabby's to play sand volleyball - but were harassed by a man who continued to ask who in the group was gay and who wasn't & her brother finally answered. 'When he admitted that he was, they lost it, went crazy and started attacking my brother and pushing him out of the bar.")

From what I heard last night, had this crime occured in Bessemer, it would not have been investigated. The victim would have been called a liar by the police. The victim would have been accused by the Mayor of being friends with his attackers. The police department would be criticized by other law enforcement agencies for ignoring the evidence and turning a blind eye.

This is Eric Patten, a 20 year old man "charged with assaulting two young gay women in Provincetown," last month.

While he is the one charged, he obviously picked the wrong lesbians to attack.

"At around 1:08 a.m. Saturday morning in Provincetown pedestrians alerted police to a fight on Commercial Street at the Post Office Café, an eatery in the center of town. Police saw Patten punching a woman on the ground, according to police Sgt. Carrie Lopes. The victim was one of two women, ages 22 and 23, who were allegedly assaulted by Patten. He is accused of punching one of the women with his right fist and calling the two women “faggots,” thinking they were gay men."

Had this attack occurred in Bessemer, I do not have confidence that an arrest would have been made. If a report was even filed, it might have said "criminal mischief" or some such bull crap.

The Mayor and Chief cite statistics that crime is down. But their statistics are based on reporting. And when a man's door is broken in an attempt to gain entry, something more than "criminal mischief" has occurred.

This is Lance Neve, who in March, 2008 was assaulted in Rochester, NY

"According to Ogden police, Lance Neve, 26, was with his partner, Osbert Maldonado, 28, of Rochester, and another friend at Snuggery's Bar in Spencerport the night of March 7. They allegedly were subjected to derogatory comments throughout the night from Jesse D. Parsons, 24, of Spencerport. About 1 a.m. on March 8, Parsons apparently asked to shake Neve's hand because he had never shaken a gay man's hand, said Ogden police Investigator Scott Okolowicz. Neve refused, and Parsons then allegedly grabbed Neve and beat him up. When police arrived, Neve was unconscious. He was transported to Strong Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for a fractured skull, nose, left eye socket and upper jaw bone and blood on the brain, Okolowicz said."

His attacker got 5 1/2 years and has to pay over $24,000 in medical expenses. Had this attack occured here, Neve probably would have been out of luck. I say that, because there are indications that while individual police officers are fine men and women, the Police Department has an undercurrent (or tidal wave) of homophobia.

It will take more than a statement from the Chief to counter this. Evidence of qualified diversity training which includes sexual orientation and evidence of a policy which shows respect toward the LGBT community might do it.

h/t to Andy Towle at Towleroad for the pictures and quotes.

Western Tribune Column June 17 2009

(The photos were taken from an Iranian friend's Facebook page)

In Iran last week Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s early claim of victory following the presidential election sparked some degree of protest and unrest. As I write tensions are still high and it is unknown what will happen in that country. Young people who overwhelmingly supported Ahmadinejad’s rival Mir Hussein Moussavi are in disbelief that their candidate lost.

Iranians in this country and in England are just as disappointed and while violence was unlikely, protests still occurred in areas where the Iranian population is significant.

(An elderly Iranian woman defending her vote)

I wonder what the reaction of young Americans would have been if Barack Obama had lost the election in this country. Many of his supporters, young and old, would have been shocked and some degree of protest would have occurred, no doubt, but it’s unpredictable whether it would have been to the degree that was seen in Iran.

Oddly enough, in spite of having a president who wants to unite people and bring the country together, it seems that in the United States that those who harbor hatred have also been inspired. Recently, a women’s health care provider who performed abortions for women with health problems was murdered in his own church. And just last week an African American security guard was killed at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.

People who track hate groups say that more incidents are likely.

The hatred that certain right wing fanatics have for certain minorities is only strengthened when they see the results of other lunatics. And they are further inspired by right wing talk show hosts like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh who demean our leader and others with what could be classified as hate speech. They need to realize that their hateful words have consequences.

Here and in Iran it seems that the majority of people, led by the young, want a peaceful world where everyone is accepted and respected. The United States and Iran are in different stages of this progression, yet in spite of the problems in both countries, it seems inevitable that progress will be made.

(A protester in Iran killed trying to defend his vote)

Let’s just hope that in both cases, cooler heads (and enhanced security measures) prevail and the radical elements on both sides are subdued. Of course, that might require doing something about those radio talk shows, too.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran, Pride and Sisters

Many Facebook profile photos have changed over the last few days to this, in support of the protests occurring in Iran.

A friend from Iran is reporting that the hard line government is planning to kill more protesters, like 400 or so, today, to put a stop to the unrest. People are being urged not to attend the rally. Intimidation is what the government is trying, and it might be working, if it keeps people from gathering.

Right now, militia members are beating protesters with sticks and foreign reporters have been ordered to quit reporting (that will never happen).

What I am wondering is why didn't we react this way in 2000 when the hard line government gave the election to George W. Bush. I mean, protesting in the streets. I don't think the government here would have attacked us. Wait, Dick Cheney was coming into power. Maybe they would have.

We had to wait 8 more years for change. Let's hope Iran doesn't have to wait that long for the change they desire.

But regardless of the outcome, Iran, and other suppressed countries, will not be the same.

More Pride

As promised, here are some more pictures from Birmingham's Pride Celebration.

Here's a crowd shot, though not the best. But even cowboy's enjoy drag.

This is Dominique Divine, Miss Rising Star.

These are members of Magic City Sisters, a group that raises money for various charities, and 100% of the money raised is donated. (Can you recognize the two who are former residents of Bessemer? Yes, we have Sisters here in The Marvel City.)

From their web site:

More simply put: we make people happy, stamp out guilt brought on by a judgmental society and help various organizations and charities, etc .... Our goal is to embrace our gay and diverse selves and each other as we are today, as we were born and as we are meant to be. Our goal is to share kindness, love and laughter with those we have met, those we meet today and those we will meet tomorrow as a source of personal empowerment and pride. If we can do this while raising money for charity and being our natural fabulous selves, then there is room for YOU to be as fabulous as you are and as you were meant to be.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Celebration Overcomes Adversity

If the rains had persisted I imagine that the gay haters would have said it was God preventing the gays from having a successful Pride Parade and Pridefest. But on Saturday the skies cleared and the parade was fabulous, with hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators cheering us on. Then on Sunday, after the rain and winds blew over vendors' tents and tables during set up, when it was time for the event to begin, the skies began to clear and the crowds came out.

I wonder if those same people who believe that God uses the weather to direct events will agree that God must have been watching out for the gay community and blessed us with good weather.

I don't have pictures of the parade entries (there were 55-60, I guess) because I was driving, but I took pictures from the cab of the truck during the parade.

View all my pictures of Pride here. ( Or wait, more will be posted on the blog later in the week.)

Among the spectators was a group of two or three protesters, who I have dubbed the "haters."

As believers in Free Speech most of us agreed that these guys (who hid behind their signs when they saw my camera) had a right to be there. But the next day, we were reminded what their hate speech represents.

Mr Gay Pride Andrew performed his powerful interpretation of the killing of Matthew Shephard...

And then rose to perform "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables"

I don't have Andrew's performance on video, but to remind you of the song, here's Michael Ball performing:

The response to Andrew was as strong as that in the video. Gay people, and our allies, know loss. We've had friends (or ourselves) beaten or killed (Billy Jack Gaither, Scotty Joe Weaver, and Sean Kennedy ) or who took their own lives ( Bobby Griffith ) because of hatred. We know loss because we've had friends and loved ones die from a disease that was ignored by a president (Reagan) who cared less about gays than he did about smuggling arms and cocaine.

I am reminded of the Bible verse, "Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

There is so much hatred in our country, as evidenced by certain high profile killings, and in the world right now. My column in the Western Tribune this week addresses that, you will see it on Wednesday.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Multilevel Regression and Candy

I love multilevel regression and poststratification. Even if I have forgotten some of what I learned. Go here to see the graph and explanation...

...but basically, it shows that states which are gay friendly are moving quicker toward support for gay marriage than states that are gay hateful. Notice Alabama is 3rd from the bottom.

Is that a surprise? Not at first glance, but statistically it is unusual.

"I was stunned when I saw this picture. I generally expect to see uniform swing, or maybe even some "regression to the mean," with the lowest values increasing the most and the highest values declining, relative to the average. But that's not what's happening at all. What's going on?"

Possible explanations, the authors explain, are:

1. Tipping point. As gay rights become accepted more gays come out of the closet. More gays out of the closet means more straight friends and family understanding and wanting to support.

2. Politics. As a state turns more blue, it becomes wiser for a politician to support progressive issues.

More explanation is at the site, take a look.

Or, how about some Candy.

I just bought some candy to throw to parade viewers tomorrow night. I will have State Representative Patricia Todd and Jen riding in the truck!

And here is Paolo Nutini, singing "Candy."

Gossip. Because Bessemer Opinions Readers want to know.

Paolo is Scottish, and you can catch it in his voice. Nice. It seems that every artist has the gay question. His is kind of funny. From StarPulse:

He says, "When I first started gigging, people were giving me all of these words of advice. They said: 'Find a girl in the audience and sing to her, let her be the focus of the song.' But once when I did it a guy came up to me later and said, 'I saw you looking at me throughout that song.'

"I said: 'I'm sorry man, I think there was a girl right beside you,' And he went: 'Aww, it wasn't me?'

"It was the most awkward moment. He said: 'So you're not gay?' And I said: 'No.' The dude walked away then came up again and shook my hand. He sort of went, 'I'm sorry about that see you later.'

"And then he left his number in my hand! Ten out of ten for trying but ever since then I've not run the risk again!"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Who's Got the Power?

More about him later.

After last night's event there should be no doubt among candidates for offices in Birmingham or Jefferson County (that includes Bessemer) that support from the gay community is important.

It was shoulder to shoulder at the Wine Loft last night as candidates addressed the crowd. Here's who seemed to make the biggest impressions: Priscilla Dunn, running for Senate District 19, Howard Bayless, running for Birmingham City Council, Elisa Burns-Macon, running for Birmingham School Board, Earl Hilliard, Jr., and Shelia Smoot, both running for U.S. Congress.

However, all of the candidates who showed up (and there were almost 30) proved to us that they believe in the issues important to us and don't think that goes unrecognized. All the candidates there had their supporters as well.

It is good, too, to see that the GLBT community has come to the realization that politics is an important facet of our community. There are two ways that America, and Jefferson County, will progress. First, by changing the hearts of our co-workers and neighbors. Polls consistently show that people who know gay people are much more likely to support equality, so get to know those around you. Second, through legislation (and sometimes legal avenues), and this can only be done by electing those who believe in the common humanity of all regardless of race or sexuality. Pretty much, that means Democrats, and Alabama Stonewall Democrats is leading the way.

Watch for our truck Saturday Night at the Parade, which begins at 8:00. Here is where I was going to put a picture, but no, you have to wait until the event.

So instead, I'll give you a real treat. The Killers.

Here's the link to their (official) video for A Dustland Fairy Tale. A good song.

Or, watch the viewer made video (with lots of shots of Brandon Flowers).

Gossip. Because Bessemer Opinions readers want to know. Brandon is Mormon. He is opposed to his church's stance on gays rights issues. The band used to play in a drag club. He is married to his long time girlfriend, has one kid and another on the way.

Now wouldn't you rather me post a video like that than spend time commenting on Sarah Palin (whiney, whiney poo) or Carrie Prejean (bye, bye).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Your Big Chance

Be sure to read my Western Tribune column that follow this post. The issues in Bessemer are becoming very serious. Even more so after last night's Town Hall, but the column refers to the one last week.

How often do you get to meet and talk with elected officials and candidates in a casual setting. You have that opportunity tonight, as Alabama Stonewall Democrats hosts "Meet Your elected Officials," a meet and greet event at The Wine Loft located at 2200 1st Avenue North in Birmingham. the event lasts from 5:30 to 7:30 PM.

This is not just a "gay event" even though it is happening during Pridefest 2009. These candidates want to represent everyone (in their districts) and everyone is welcome.

Among the 20 something confirmed officials and candidates are:

Senate district 19 (Bessemer Area) candidate Priscilla Dunn

Congressional (to replace Artur Davis) candidates Earl Hilliard, Jr., and Shelia Smoot

Several Birmingham Council candidates, including Howard Bayless.

Several Birmingham School Board candidates including Elisa Burns-Macon.

Several sitting judges at different levels and elected office holders including State Rep. Patricia Todd.

Again, this event is not just for GLBT folk, or Democrats for that matter. All are welcome, and all would benefit from this event. See you there.

In the meantime, chill down on this hot day with Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

Public Safety: Western Tribune Column June 10, 2009

Just hours after, and a few blocks away from, the Mayor’s town hall meeting on Bessemer’s south side last week perception occurred. That’s what the Mayor attributed the insecurity to that many residents are feeling since another home invasion and abduction occurred in the area two months ago.

He said that the perception that public safety is a problem is based on historical crime rates and high profile crimes such as the bombing at City Hall that took place in 1979. Bessemer’s reputation as an unsafe place stems from that era, he said.

Although the victims of several crimes pressed the Mayor for an appropriate response he never really answered the questions posed, instead choosing to shift the focus to those who aired their concerns. After all, perception can just be a figment of the mind. Is the crime around us just our imagination?

Ask the seven Hispanics whose home was invaded the night of the town hall meeting. One of the victims is pregnant and was told her baby would be killed. The victim of the other home invasion was told he would be killed, and was fortunate to escape. Perception is reality for these people.

I don’t have an answer for the crime problem in Bessemer, if I did, I would be the mayor. But those of us who vote expect our elected officials to come up with solutions to problems, not to ignore them, and not to demean those who are concerned by claiming they are ashamed of Bessemer and are part of the problem because they are spreading negativity. That is the perception I came away from the meeting with.

Unlike the previous home invasion, this crime was in the news within hours. Did circumstances dictate the publicity (did a news crew happen to be nearby) or has the police department learned from the strong response from the public after the first home invasion was kept out of the news?

And speaking of the first home invasion, surveillance photos were eventually released and seen online and in the newspapers and on television. There is an indication that the criminals are from the area because of something they said. Someone knows who they are, but are not telling.

Those are the people who are contributing to the reality that crime is a growing problem here, not the home and business owners who voice their concerns about their safety.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Are we sitting ducks?

Busy Day.

Interesting Tweets.

Adam Lambert reveals he's gay. Now that didn't take a rocket scientist.

No wonder Angelina has a difficult relationship with her dad .

The Republican party is male, pale and stale.

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

And in Bessemer:

I am not the only voter (and that's what we are,voters) who feels that public safety is being ignored. A voter friend of mine sent an email to the chief of police. He gave me permission to print it. I am leaving out some identifying parts. Emphasis is mine.

Chief, what is being done to curb violent crime in our city? There have been two successful home invasions and several that have been attempted. It is true that some crime has been on the decline. It seems crimes against people have been on the increase in recent months. Whether or not the slumping economy has anything to do with recent events is irrelevant to the people who reside in your jurisdiction. We must be protected!

**************************************************. We spend alot of time outside and rarely see police cruisers patrolling the area. I come home from work between 12 and 1am every day. At least 3 days out of the week there are 2-4 patrol cars sitting at the Kangaroo on hwy 150. You told me in a sit down that we had that businesses have to be checked also at night. 90% of them are closed at night.

If everyone moves from the city for fear of being shot, robbed or burned in their car where will the revenue for the businesses come from? It seems that as a public official that the best interest of the the citizens would be your priority, not businesses whose owners mostly live elsewhere. I for one will protect my family with any force necessary. *********************************** It is a helpless feeling when things are occurring all over the city and you know your family is a sitting duck.

The city of Bessemer could be a great place to live, like it was long ago. The city needs help from the police to be the city it once was. I think I speak for most law abiding citizens of Bessemer when I beg you to increase patrols and enforce speeding and sound ordinances in residential areas. If the police become a nuisance to criminals hopefully they will avoid our city when looking to commit crime!

I hope the chief and mayor and council members get it. So far they haven't.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Billy Elliot won 10 Tony Awards last night including Best Musical but Hair won Best Revival of a Musical. We have tickets to see it when we go to New York.

Did anyone see the original Broadway production in 1968 (it ran for 4 years)? Remember this poster (and album cover)? Hair did not win a Tony back then, although it was nominated. (Hair premiered on Broadway in 1968, but too late to be nominated that year, so it was nominated in 1969, meaning this year's award comes 40 years late).

During my early attempts at art I copied the poster in watercolor. I don't still have it. Wish I did.

I also recall seeing the touring production at Boutwell Auditorium. Does anyone else remember it coming here. I know there was some controversy, but I don't remember the details. After all, I was just a teenage hippie wanna-be wanting to see some anti-establishment, anti-war, free love kind of theater that featured nudity and an integrated cast. And I remember I wasn't disappointed.

But I'm sure it had to do with the obscenity, the nudity or the desecration of the flag. There was a statement to be made back then.

And there's a statement to be made today, too. I guess that's why the current production is so successful.

Producer Oskar Eustis made a statement as he accepted the award last night.

"Peace now, freedom now, and [indicating his ring finger] equality NOW. Justice forever!" (Thanks to JoeMyGod for the pic and quote).

Here's the cast of the Broadway revival on David Letterman. I don't think I will be disappointed this time either.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Post Town Hall Stress Disorder

There was a Town Hall meeting in Bessemer last night. Now I understand why Barack Obama did not favor Town Hall meetings. Neither do I. At least not the type that we had last night.

I will let those of you who were there come to your own conclusions what I mean by that. Those of you who were not there, you have two hours of your life that were not wasted.

Seriously, it's hard to get my brain working this morning.

(Update: another home invasion in our neighborhood) today!!!

I mean, we are supposed to feel safe and secure because:

A) a bomb has not gone off in city hall since the May 1979 explosion (there is not a lot of information online about that event, but here is a case from the Court of Appeals 11th Circuit where Thomas Fullman [who was acquitted of murder, mayhem and assault related to the bombing of city hall in his second trial] sued 15 public officials, witnesses and a bank for conspiracy afterward). This to me is like the claim by certain Republicans that America is safer because we've had no terrorist attack since September 11, 2001. I know, I've made this connection before, but...

B) You can get shot (or murdered, I can't remember which word was used) in church! I don't know if that is in reference to the murder of the abortion doctor in his church last week or not, but since Bessemer has a church on every corner...well, you do the math.

OK, I know I'm being cynical. But I was not the only frustrated person there. Maybe some good music will help.

Anyway, I will change direction. Remember this column from the Western tribune where I recommended Bessemer attract the Creative Class. My column was based on research from a few years ago.

Now the Williams Institute has released a study, which shows that in Massachusetts, same sex marriage has attracted the Creative Class and lots of bucks.

Reuters reported the story and said:

The spread of gay marriage could serve as a recruiting tool for universities, health care companies and financial services firms that dominate the region's economy, experts said.

"It will be a selling point when it comes to trying to lure people with same-sex partners who are being wooed for a job," said M.V. Lee Badgett, a University of Massachusetts economist who studies gay and lesbian issues.

Same-sex couples in the so-called "creative class" were 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts in the three years following the approval of same-sex marriage than they had been in the three prior years, according to a study released in May by the Williams Institute of the University of California.

So, while Bessemer may not yet be on the cutting edge, Bessemer Opinions (by reporting on the creative class), certainly is. (Certain) people should listen.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

5 X 10 (It's a New England Thing)

I think it's good to get the views and opinions of locals when commenting on a story, and here is how the Union Leader reported the signing into law same sex marriage rights in New Hampshire.

Picture credit AP

The governor of New Hampshire is a democrat, John Lynch, who personally opposes same sex marriage.

"Today is a day to celebrate in New Hampshire. Today should not be considered a victory for some and a loss for others. Today is a victory for all the people of New Hampshire, who I believe, in our own independent way, want tolerance for all," he said.

He realizes that his personal views have nothing to do with making sure equality is recognized in his state.

And beyond.

Lynch said that New Hampshire has done all it can to ensure marriage equality. He said changes need to be made at the federal level next. The Defense of Marriage Act reserves federal benefits such as Social Security and federal tax breaks for traditional marriages between men and women.

Even though New Hampshire is the sixth state to currently allow same sex marriage, it does not mean that GLAD's 6 X 12 campaign has been won. GLAD's "6" means the 6 New England states, and "12" means 2012 and Rhode Island may be a tough sell. Iowa, while allowing same sex marriage, is not a New England state. They do share that early caucus/primary thing with New Hampshire, but that's about all.

Meanwhile, in Bessemer, hatred is once again raising its ugly head. Which is why you need to attend tonight's Town Hall meeting and the "after meeting."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Town Hall Meeting: Western Tribune column June 3, 2009

A series of Town Hall meetings is underway in Bessemer in which the Mayor is informing the public about what is right with Bessemer as the residents try to point out what is wrong with the city.

Somewhat predictably, at the first Town Hall the mayor spoke of decreased rates of crime and increased new businesses in town and how blessed we are as a city.

But when we compare our neighborhoods to how they appeared five or ten years ago, we have to wonder.

Burned-out buildings and vacant houses dot the community. Sidewalks are empty, as fear keeps adults inside and adults keep their kids inside. Even with crime rates decreased in certain categories, with the types of crimes that are occurring, some are wondering about their safety inside their homes.

Some crimes may be related to the economy, but there is an underlying condition that contributes to crime and that is hatred.

People can like or dislike whoever they want and hatred itself is not a crime. When I was campaigning for city council I was amazed at the level of hatred that some voters of both races displayed as they told who they may or may not vote for and why.

Our president said during his campaign that “race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now,” and “that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.” He called for a national discourse on race. Let’s start now, in Bessemer.

When hatred is based on underlying characteristics, such as race or sexuality, and crimes are committed where that as part of the basis, whole communities are affected and the result is fear which leads to stagnation. People won’t invest if they don’t feel secure.

A loose knit group named Bessemer Equality on the social networking site Facebook has a vision of a community that values all of its residents. Those who are not Facebook members can become part of this movement as well.

One way would be to show up at the Town Hall meetings and let the mayor know that public safety and the image that Bessemer projects are much more important than ribbon cuttings and the never ending debate over pot holes in our roads.

End of column.

The Town Hall meeting will take place at Visionary Ministries at the corner of Dartmouth Avenue and 19th Street, at 6:30, on Thursday.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Another Threat to Gays

This threat is not just an idle threat. Roy Moore, in the decision of DH v HH in 2002, said the state has the power of the sword to use against homosexuals in his written concurring opinion..

"To disfavor practicing homosexuals in custody matters is not invidious discrimination, nor is it legislating personal morality. On the contrary, disfavoring practicing homosexuals in custody matters promotes the general welfare of the people of our State in accordance with our law, which is the duty of its public servants... The State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle.."

As if the threat in Bessemer is not enough, let's make sure that this dangerous homophobe does not get elected Governor. He announced he is running for Governor. Lord help us.

Of course, I can predict who will respond in support of Moore. But I will not post their comments. But I will ask: is someone who supports Roy Moore also guilty by association of supporting executing gays?

Monday, June 1, 2009


"You don't hear politicians give a one word answer much, but its yes."

That was incoming Press Secretary Robert Gibbs response to an online question asking whether President Obama would overturn Don't Ask Don't Tell back in January before the swearing in.

Watch here, and go to the 4:17 mark.

But since the president has been in office, Gibbs has handled the issue like its a hot potato.

Some, including me, have said to be patient, to just wait and things will come to pass. Some, also including me, have been reminded of what Martin Luther King, Jr. said regarding waiting for civil rights.

Now we are told that some major announcements will come from the White House in June regarding GLBT issues.

Next month the administration will apparently be presenting a package of pro-LGBT announcements. I’m not sure all of what will be included in that package, but I’m waiting to see if it will be enough. Will anything that doesn’t address “don’t ask, don’t tell” and full marital rights satisfy the masses, who have shown increasing unrest lately?

The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld, who wrote the story, makes a good point. Because the President is dragging his feet on every gay issue, we won't be as satisfied with, say, support for ENDA (if that were announced), as we would have been had it been announced in January, when we could have taken it as an indication of things to come. Now our indication has been that we will be ignored, so it's going to take something major to satisfy.

But my little re-activism to being ignored is this. Until yesterday I was still getting emails from the Obama people and the Democratic Senate campaign and others who want both support and money. I emailed them all and told them that until I see some evidence of support from both the President and the Congress that I don't want to hear from them. Heck, everything they send me I've heard about on the news before I get their emails anyway.

They may hear more from me and other GLBT supporters and they should welcome the input because it you watch the rest of the video at the link above, he urges us "to push your lawmakers and to push this new administration to do what you know is right."

So, push.

Rob Thomas, (the singer in that video, for those who don't know) has A Big Gay Chip On My Shoulder. And he's not even gay.

"I believe the fact that an atheist, who doesn't believe in God at all, is allowed to enter into the holy land of marriage while a gay Christian is not, shows that this law is arbitrary."

He makes other good points in his post. Thanks Rob. And when are you coming back to Birmingham. You know that we gave you your start. Well, sort of.