The Year of Moving Forward

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

Friday, July 31, 2009

Beer choices reveal...not much

I was going to write on race relations and beer summits and such, but since one meeting between a white cop and a black professor with a President thrown in (and a Vice-President in attendance in case there is a lull in the conversation) isn't going to change the world, I will reserve the topic for my Western Tribune column (unless I come up with something else).

But the beer. What does that tell us?

Blue Moon, the choice of Sgt. Jim Crowley, is brewed by Molson Coors of Canada.

From the label: "Brewed with white wheat and oats, Blue Moon features a crisp wheat finish and the perfect combination of orange peel and coriander. Bring out Blue Moon's natural spices by serving it in a Pilsner glass with an orange-slice garnish."

Some say that coriander increases the level of intoxication.

I've had Blue Moon. I like it.

Samuel Adams Light, the choice of Prof. Henry Gates, is brewed by Boston Beer Company, a publicly traded American brewing company. It is the largest American owned brewing company, since Anheuser-Busch was taken over by Belgian-Brazilian giant Inbev in 2008.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager uses "two row barley, as well as German Noble aroma hops, and is brewed using a decoction mash, a time consuming, traditional four vessel brewing process discarded by many contemporary brewers."

I've had Sam Adams. I like it.

Bud Light, the choice of President Obama, is an American style lager. Budweiser adds rice to the hops and barley, claiming it makes a lighter brew. Bud Light is the most popular beer in America. President Obama is the most popular politician in America. Yes he is.

I've had Bud Light, I like it.

Buckler, a low-alcoholic ( 0.5% abv) brew was preferred by Vice President Joe Biden, due to his designated driver status. Just kidding. It's brewed by Heineken, a Dutch company.

I've never had Buckler.

This video is of the wedding scene in the movie "The Fall." I will add this to my Netflix que. Anyone seen it?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Norfolk Southern, bus transit and elections

Be sure to read my Western Tribune column which follows this post.

The former president of the Metropolitan Development Board, Ted vonCannon, is now a paid consultant for Norfolk Southern. He spoke at the 2oth annual Bessemer Business Awards held at Lawson State Community College. story at

He told the group that he believes that the McCalla residents will eventually see he intermodal project as a positive development.

"It's a project I believe has great merit," vonCannon said. "Is everybody going to be happy? of course not. but I believe there can be a greater understanding."

Monday the No Hub 4 McCalla folks had a meeting and one of their speakers told the group "Norfolk Southern doesn't care about your kids. Norfolk Southern is looking out for Norfolk Southern. It's up to us to look out for ourselves."

Just for the record, Norfolk Southern does care about kids. In 1984 they established a foundation to direct their charitable giving.

From their web site:

The Foundation's intent is to help ensure that:

  • Our region's children are provided with first-class educational opportunities that make them productive and valued employees in the future;
  • Our communities can offer their citizens access to cultural opportunities that make life more enjoyable; and
  • Our communities can provide residential and work environments that are safe, attractive and desirable.

While most of their charitable giving (which is in the millions) toward education is for post secondary scholarships and such, young children benefit from their giving to United Way and other community and cultural recipients.

Larry Langford and upcoming elections

What can I say. I wrote about Al LaPierre's plea agreement yesterday on Examiner. Langford's spin is that this will help him, so it's business as usual for him.

He says the city needs to fix the bus system, or start over.

Here is the future of the Birmingham bus system, as envisioned by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (h/t to Jay). No mention of this by Langford in the article, by the way. Of course, it wasn't one of his grandiose ideas.

After watching that I wonder (?) why don't we have people with an eye on the future in our city government? Why do we elect people who are tied to the past? I love what my friend said the other day, that the past should be a light post, not a hitching post.

I hate that Birmingham is about to get another black eye when the mayor goes on trial. I hate that this is tied to the troubles of Jefferson County, which is sinking faster than the Titanic. What business in their right mind would want to locate in the city or county with what is going on? What family would want to move here?

There is a great opportunity in Birmingham for a new kind of leadership, and city elections are coming up next month. Let's hope that the voters of Birmingham look for young leaders or at least leaders with young ideas that can change the vision from looking backward to looking forward.

The same holds true for Bessemer. Next year we have city elections and will elect a council and mayor. We need new people on our council and a new mayor to project our city into the future. The people of Bessemer and surrounding communities are so disgruntled that only 8 percent voted in the recent special election. We need candidates that excite us.

Oh, and aren't County Commission elections next year also. Please, please, voters, replace them all. I don't care if your favorite commissioner has been on the right side of the bankruptcy argument or the McCalla controversy or what. They are all tainted.

Western Tribune column July 29, 2009

My column from the Western Tribune July 29, 2009.

In spite of the controversy last week following the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates in his own home and the president’s misstatement afterwards, and in spite of the resurgence of the “birthers,” the radical right wingers who can’t believe that a “certificate of live birth” proves the same thing a “birth certificate” does, the week was refreshing.

Refreshing for at least two reasons. First, it was so nice to listen to a president explain his policies during a press conference and not be embarrassed that he is representing the nation. He spoke in clear, complete sentences, and if a listener did not understand the urgent need for health care reform as presented then the person just wasn’t listening.

Secondly, we now have a president who recognizes when he has made an error. Former president George W. Bush bristled when asked to name a mistake during a debate. President Obama called the man he offended and acknowledged that he could have chosen his words better.

As for the birth certificate issue. While I acknowledge that discussing this is a complete waste of my time for writing it, and yours for reading it, I offer this. At some time in the past, I had to order an Alabama birth certificate. It could have been when I was learning to fly, or when I got a passport, or when I applied for a driver’s license, I don’t remember. But what I do know is the folded pinkish piece of paper with the raised seal that I received is in a secure place, and on it is written “Certificate of Live Birth.”

That is what one receives from the state when one requests a birth certificate.

Likewise, in Hawaii, after such a request a “certificate of live birth” is sent. But the birthers will have none of that. They want the original. Sorry, guys, it just doesn’t work that way.

On Wednesday after the president’s press conference 8 year old Ciana Pelekai appeared on America’s Got Talent and stunned the judges with her rendition of “At Last.” Little Ciana is from Honolulu, Hawaii, or so she says. She could have been born in Kenya, and if so, should be performing on Kenya’s Got Talent. This could just be a conspiracy set in place 8 years ago to assure her the $1,000,000 top prize.

No, she’s like President Obama, born in the USA.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A good story from McCalla and more COPS for Bessemer

The truth about the "birther lady" is at the end of this post. Whacko.


Fred and Reneea Ross of McCalla are raising money for orphans who have outgrown their orphanages in Romania.

The fundraising is part of a larger, sustained effort by Fred and Reneea Ross to help orphans in Romania, where they say poverty, discrimination and national policies contribute the abandonment of many children in the east European nation.

The Bessemer Rotary Club, the Adamsville Lions Club and others are also working to raise $10,000 to help complete the House of Hope home in Campulung, Romania.

The Rosses and the civic clubs are selling $1 tickets for a chance to win a $500 gift card. They hope to find organizations willing to donate matching funds. The drawing will be Aug. 25.

The Rosses spent a month in Romania last year and worked at the House of Hope. They had also visited Romania in 2005 and were already working to raise awareness for the plight of abandoned babies in the country.


In Bessemer, a $705,250 federal grant will allow the city to hire 5 new police officers. Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder announced the grants yesterday. The COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) grants will fund the officers for three years and the city must fund the fourth year, under the terms set forth. Story at

This is stimulus money, so take notice all you anti-Obama readers. Mobile got $2.5 million and Huntsville 2.6 million. Tuscaloosa got 2 million. Across the state 114 new police officers can be hired because of this stimulus grant.

View the announcement and all of the Alabama cities here.

Birther Lady

And remember the birther lady who stood up and made a fool of herself. Well, here's the truth about her. She's known as "Crazy Eileen" in Delaware, and is a regular caller to talk radio. Unfortunately you have to endure the ranting again (or forward to the 1:39 mark on the video).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Governor Riley supports railroad hub in McCalla

Governor Bob Riley supports the $112 million project and says the concerns of residents can be addressed. Story at

"This could have huge economic consequences for this entire part of the state," Riley said in an interview.

"I've met with the railroad and I've met with some of the people who live out there," Riley said. " I understand there is always going to be some things people are not going to support. To be honest with you, I've had more calls in support of it than I've had people against."

Riley said he believes the railroad can take action to calm the fears of the community.

"I not only understand their concerns, I have told the railroad that most of the concerns they've articulated I think could be resolved," Riley said.

Norfolk Southern has scheduled its own public meeting from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 18 at the Bessemer Civic Center.

On a related note, McCalla resident Carl had a letter in The Western Tribune last week in which he outlined reasons not to build the hub. In it, he addressed my column from the previous week, which supported the hub. In it, I wrote:

"One hundred and fifty years ago, Tannehill Ironworks was an industrial site in the area. I assume that the ordinance and other products made for the Southern Army were distributed by trains. While not intermodal shipping in the current sense, it was early precedent for what is to come."

In his letter, he wrote:

First, for Openshaw's edification, Tannehill was truly an industrial site by 19th century standards. However, there was no railroad or large community surrounding the site. Material, namely pig iron, manufactured at Tannehill was transported by animal drawn conveyance to the rail head in Montevallo, thence to Selma.

My information came from the Encyclopedia of Alabama.

A foundry at Tannehill manufactured eating utensils, pots, and skillets for the Confederate Army, but most of the pig iron was sent by rail to the Selma Arsenal and Gun Works to be cast into munitions and iron plate for battle ships.

In addition the article explains that the first blast furnace at the site was built by ironmaster Moses Stroup, who built the first railroad iron in Georgia. And earlier than that, iron had begun to be manufactured at the Hillman Bloomery at the site. Daniel Hillman had been "enticed" to build at the site by Abner McGehee, a railroad investor from Montgomery. It seems that with that much railroad influence, a rail line might have been built to the site.

But whether the rail line came all the way to Tannehill or not, intermodal transport was occuring, and manufactured materials were transferred from wagon to train.

The article was written by James R. Bennett.

As for the concern about deisel fuel pollution from the trucks, if the people of Alabama, including the people of McCalla, had been concerned about air quality and how it affects their children, and shown some concern about the environment, they could have passed legislation similar to what California passed which will require old trucks to be replaced with cleaner trucks or to retrofit them with diesel exhaust traps and then everyone, not just the kids at McCalla, could have cleaner air.

And if they were really concerned about out state's air they would have been voicing their complaints against Alabama Power, which ran the number 1 power plant mercury emmitter (in 2007) in the nation (plus numbers 8, 25, 28). Read more about Alabama Power's dirty plants here.

Heck, the prevailing winds are going to blow all the pollution into Bessemer and Birmingham anyway. So for the kids at our Bessemer schools, as well as the ones at McAdory, lets clean up everyone's air.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bountiful harvests

Visit Birmingham Gay Community Examiner and read how Walter Cronkite came around on the gay rights movement.

Visit Bessemer Science and Nature and help me identify a plant from the farm. Help.

These grapes are plentiful on the arbor. By tomorrow there will be homemade grape jelly. Today I have peas to can.

Here is a view of part of the garden. In the bare part, if you look closely, you can see that peas are sprouting. That is the area where 50 pounds of seed potatoes were planted and around 200 pounds of potatoes were harvested. Crop rotation, good for the soil.

Behind the pea patch are speckled butterbeans. I brought back a mess of those. They will be producing for a while yet. Several rows of tomatoes and corn are behind that.

In the other part of the garden the cabbage is about done, but a few heads remain. Squash and cucumbers, more tomatoes, Fordhook beans, and green beans are all coming in. The green beans just keep on producing. You can see the edge of one of the grape arbors on the right margin of the picture.

When you have a garden like that, you get a cupboard like this. By the end of the week, there will be green beans, more pickles and okra, tomatoes and or salsa and more. By the end of the summer, they may have to build on another room.

This is a great example of a family working together. Three siblings, their spouses, an aunt, a grandmother. Everybody pitching in and doing what they can.

Communities can do this too, and should. We are seeing this come together in the form of community gardens in Bessemer. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Video contrasts

Some things just make me want to pull my hair out. I keep it short, so it's hard to grab.

Why does a country like the United States give any cred to G. Gordon Liddy. For those too young to remember, he was the mastermind behind the break in at the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel in 1972. Can you say "Nixon?" Can you say "prison - 4 1-2 years." Now he has a talk show and is one of the leading birthers.

In this video, he shows just how out of touch he is, claiming that President Obama is an illegal alien and should be "picked up." Maybe they can send a cop from, I won't even go there.

When I watch something as ridiculous as that I have to counter it with something calming. This video from Kuroshio Sea in Japan, the world's second largest aquarium will do it, the music is "Please Don't Go" by Barcelona. Aquatic zen. h/t Andy

Or, just watch 8 year old Ciana Pelekai on America's Got Talent. Wow. Warning though, the last part of the video is a loser.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ron Sparks video from DFA

Left in Alabama posted a video of Ron Spark's remarks at the DFA Social last week. Keep in mind that we were in a noisy hotel lobby next to a bar, so the sound is not perfect. Transcript follows.

Here is a transcript of the video. Emphasis is mine.

I want to be your governor. I want to be your governor because I want to lead Alabama in the right direction. I've laid out a plan. You know, we've got some tough decisions to make in Alabama.

And I can tell you right now, when I become the governor of Alabama, the first day I'm in office we're going to start appraising your property every four years instead of every year. We're going to take the tax off of food. And those who are making their living in gambling in the state of Alabama, we're going to tax it. We're going to tax it, control it and we're going to regulate it.

And I can tell you we're going to use that money for Medicaid, the special Education Trust Fund -- put some relief on the General Fund. We've got some tough decisions to make in Alabama.

And I'm also going to put forth a LifeStart Education Lottery. Folks, people all around us are educating their children. We need to be educating our children, in Alabama, with Alabama dollars. And with your help, we're going to move Alabama to the highest level it's ever been.

I've won two state races. 62 out of 67 counties I've won in Alabama, tied two and lost three.

It's not about me. It's about you. It's about the courthouses. It's about local races. It's about winning.

Thank y'all very much.

This is not an endorsement of Ron Sparks, by the way. It's way too early for that.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The birthers are back

Be sure to read my Western Tribume column which follows this. Bingo!

First this crazy lady who obviously is off her meds gets up. "I want to know. I have a birth certificate here from the United States of America"...rant, rave..."he is not an American citizen, he is a citizen of Kenya"...rant, rave...make yourself feel good by reciting the pledge of allegiance.

Then this enabler from California, Rep. John Campbell, makes a fool of himself.

Now I know none of my readers are this loco, but just in case...

These people make me want to pull my hair out. With the problems we have in this country, uninsured people, unemployment, wars, and these people spend their day, and can't sleep at night, worrying about how to get the black man out of office.

A bunch of racist idiotic raving lunatics. And there may be one right beside you!

Western Tribune column, July 22 2009, Bingo!

It seems that some things are coming whether we like them or not. Some call it progress, some call it, well, other things.

Take bingo, for instance. Both Birmingham and Bessemer are on the path to allow electronic bingo in their cities (as if gambling is not already present).

Bessemer’s Mayor Ed May said, “I do believe that having such facilities will erode the morals of the people on the western side of Jefferson County…because they have to deal with this foolishness.”

Undoubtedly his views are based at least somewhat on his biblical interpretations and religious views.

And I think his denial of crime in our city is religion based also, or at least the solution is, as he once said we could just tell the bad folks about Jesus and the problem would be solved.

In Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford can’t wait to hear the bells ringing as he asked for larger bingo halls (rather than many small ones) and is hoping the city can sue itself to determine whether the machines are legal or not. Now that’s a novel idea.

But wait. Langford put his religious views on display when he appeared in sackcloth, ashes and Rolex to champion the plight of the poor. Or the watch-less, I can’t remember which.

And he used religion to deny Central Alabama Pride their rainbow flags before gay pride last year. When faced with a federal lawsuit over the matter he responded "If I had issued such a proclamation, I would in essence be saying that God's position is wrong and I wouldn't dare take a position against God. So as opposed to suing me, they need to be suing God, and the last time I checked, he can defend himself.”

“I wouldn’t dare take a position against God.” So which part of Jesus’ teachings does Langford take his position on gambling from?

Well, it doesn’t really matter. What’s going to happen is going to happen and the two mayors will just keep on entertaining us.

So I’ll just go collect my quarters and play some bingo while I wait for the bingo halls to open. Hey, something doesn’t sound right there. Oh well. In these two screwed up cities in this screwed up county, what does it matter?

You will either love or hate this video by MIA. Bingo

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dunn "wins" again and Bingo does as well

If you are at all interested in what's going on in the gay community or in the Episcopal Church or in what Artur Davis and Ron Sparks said, click on over to my page on and read some of my writings. Day after day, even though I have only been reporting for a week, I am the most popular examiner and I get 5-10 times the number of hits that the average Birmingham examiners are getting. On Examiner, you can click on "subscribe to email" and you will get an email whenever I post. I do not know who my followers are on Examiner, so you can subscribe and I won't even know about it. Be sure your GLBT friends know about the site, too.

Priscilla Dunn

Priscilla Dunn had been scheduled to run again on August 18 against no one. There is no Republican in the race, however, so that allows Secretary of State Beth Chapman to cancel the election and issue a certificate of election (remember, the race between Dunn and Merika Coleman was a Democratic primary runoff). Dunn could be sworn in by August.

Story on

This will save the county $100,000, by not having to fund another election. A drop in the bucket of good news for Jefferson County, but a drop, nevertheless.

This creates an unwelcome (for Democrats) temporary power shift, however. During the probable upcoming special session which would deal with the Jefferson County occupational tax, the county House delegation will have a Republican one seat majority, because Dunn's seat will not be filled by that time. The House delegation currently is evenly split with nine Democrats and nine Republicans.

However, it may allow the County delegation to actually get something done. I mean, whether we agree with whatever action the County delegation recommends, and the special session takes up, something needs to be done.

And the governor needs to call a special election soon. We will need a representative in the House next year.


The Bessemer Council approved the Bingo ordinance this morning, as expected, and mayor Ed May has reaffirmed that he will veto it.

article on

Voting for it were council members Louise Alexander, Sarah Belcher, Dorothy Davidson, Jesse Matthews and council President Earl Cochran.

Opposed were council members Jimmy Stephens and Albert Soles.

If May carries out his veto, the council can vote to override him at a subsequent meeting. An override would require votes from five of the seven council members.

This is interesting.

Asked how the post (VFW Post 1762) was able to operate the machines without an electronic bingo ordinance, Calhoun (Paul Calhoun, commander of the Post) said the city had not bothered the operation (which has been operating electronic bingo machines for about a month in the shadow of City Hall).

Be sure to read my Western Tribune column tomorrow. It's about Bingo, mostly. And mayors.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Artur Davis falling out of favor

This was a big weekend for the Democrats, what with the DFA training and all.

Oh, and the DFA social. That's where the news came from. Read what Mooncat wrote.

Memo to self: Remember, it began way back here and continued here.

Memo to Artur Davis: when you are in a hole, quit digging.

Memo to Artur Davis' campaign staff: don’t advise your boss to throw a group of politically active, DINKs and SINKs with plenty of disposable income under the bus.*

Memo to a particular staff member after our conversation yesterday: No, the fact that Artur Davis does not support gay marriage does not mean he could “never” get the support of the gay community, even if he hadn’t reversed his position on hate crimes. Remember Barack Obama? Remember his statement on same-sex marriage. Remember how gays supported him with money, time and votes?

Memo to that same staff person: This is the worst explanation for your bosses vote that I have ever read. Adhere to the constitution and what is "in your heart," not what a few constituents say. BTW, remember the 1960's? Civil Rights? Legislators taking risks voting against their constituents wishes?

Memo to progressive democrats: Artur Davis has calculated that if he loses the gay support, so what. Remember, we stick with you on your issues.

Memo to Ron Sparks: Thanks, that was the best response I could have imagined.

Memo to Ron Sparks’ campaign staff person: The offer still stands.

Memo to Democratic voters: stay tuned.

*Double income no kids and single income no kids. Gays are (from this Bessemer Opinions post):

  • More than twice as likely as the national index to be professionals or managers.
  • 3.4 times more likely as the national index to have incomes over 250K.
  • Twice as likely to have graduated from college

Friday, July 17, 2009

Heads in the sand

Check out Bessemer Science for a report on hurricane killers.

Check out The Examiner for my report on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The Western Tribune has a front page article this week "Bessemer caught by surprise on crime stats."

Are we surprised? Take the poll on the Tribune site.

This blog and The Western Tribune have had no problem learning about crime rates and clearance rates in the city.

Have heads been stuck in the sand?

Maybe this is a better picture.

From the Western Tribune:

"Councilwoman Dorothy Davidson has been depending on (Mayor Ed) May for her news about criminal activity in town, saying that she was shocked at the news.

"No, I had no idea," Davidson said.

Council President Earl Cochran said he didn't know anything about it until he read the story in the Tribune.

"The mayor always wants to bring off how good we are and trying to say we don't have a problem," Cochran said....

(Councilman Albert Soles says), "There is a large sector of the people who don't read and are not informed but the ones who read know."

As for the mayor, Soles says he figures that if he doesn't say anything the people will forget."

I think the people of Bessemer will be more informed than ever before when election time comes next year.

Charity begins at home.

"What they're talking about and wanting to dub as charitable bingo is backed by organized gambling, and it has nothing to do with charity other than charity begins at home."

That's what Mayor May said as he promised to veto the Bessemer bingo ordinance if passed.

"Foolishness," was the word he used to describe it.

Comments run in favor of electronic Bingo, or at least in favor of allowing people to determine how to spend their own money, on

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A quiz

Some of you receive an email when I post on this site. Do you still want this? Let me know, I am considering doing away with the service. I mean, you already know the importance of checking Bessemer Opinions daily. No? Let me hear from you.

Here is a quiz.

1. Name the country that accords natural rights to the environment in its constitution?

2. What is the most ridiculous, unfounded fear to come out of the Intermodal Facility debate as of yet?

3. Name the country music star who has a new video featuring a man in drag in a bar.

4. What is my new writing venue?


1. Ecuador. "Nature or Pachamama...has the right to persist, maintain, and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions, and its processes in evolution." The New Yorker

The Galapagos Islands (and the Galapagos turtle) are probably part of the reason for this. It's a good thing.

2. "My children go to school at the elementary school it will be next to. Not only are you talking about hazardous materials traveling by them every day, but also lots of employees (of a transient nature like truck drivers) within walking distance to them." In the comments on this article and reflected in The Western Tribune, "Then there were other safety sexual predators taking jobs at the planned container loading terminal so that they could be close to the children who attend McAdory Elementary School."

Are these people afraid of their own shadow? Transient truck drivers?

You know, I heard Rep. Pat Moore ask the Norfolk Southern people last week if they were going to put up a fence near the school. "They've been wanting a fence." For the record, Norfolk Southern indicated they would, and maybe all elementary schools should have a fence around them for a variety of reasons, but if you all are going to be fearful of rail road workers and truck drivers for getting jobs so they can abduct your kids, then you must also be fearful of your next door neighbors who might have bought homes near the school so they could abduct kids.

Run, hide, crawl in a hole.

3. Phil Vassar. Bobbi with an 'I'. Not good drag, mind you. But for country music, this is a big step.

Recognize the non-drag friend? Desperate Housewives? Read about the video here.

To see Vassar in all his cuteness watch this video, "This is my life."

4. I am the new Birmingham Gay Community Examiner at Most of my gay related postings, unless they pertain to Bessemer or are big, big news, will be posted on Examiner. At Examiner, you can "subscribe to email" and get an alert when I post a new article. That way, you will be up to date on GLBT issues affecting our community. As of now I have two articles, one regarding the newly enacted Harassment Prevention Act and the other about Alabama Stonewall Democrats and this week's opportunities. Coming up, an Episcopal Church update and Birmingham candidate profiles. Check it out, and spread the word about the site to all you GLBT and GLBT friendly friends.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Intermodal Update

Be sure and read my Western Tribune Column which follows this post, where I come out in support of the intermodal facility and give my reasons.

No Hub 4 McCalla is determined to stop the rail road giant, as reported in the Birmingham News. The group plans to file an injunction against Norfolk Southern, and the fight promises to be expensive.

Photo credit Norfolk Southern

The most recent meeting of residents was held Monday night at Lakeview Town Hall and around 100 to 125 people attended to discuss their options.

Terry Finch, a resident of the Sadler Ridge subdivision adjacent to the
planned hub site and a leader in No Hub 4 McCalla, said the group is developing
a game plan to try to fight the project on legal, environmental and regulatory
"We don't think we're beat yet," he said in an interview. "There
are a lot of avenues we can pursue. We just want to fight it as long and as hard
as we can so that we know we did all we can do."

Photo credit Norfolk Southern

It seems that misinformation is still being spread, and intentional or not, this is not going to help the efforts of the nohubbers. And while no one would expect them to sit around until the August 18 meeting at McAdory Elementary School, they really need to focus on gathering accurate information and sharing it.

Photo credit Norfolk Southern

Comments on articles about the proposal on run heavily in favor of the facility, as one has to assume that people without property interests see the economic benefits and the reduced truck traffic through Birmingham as reasons to support the hub. And it has been pointed out that every development affects someone, I mean, there were complaints when the Flying J was being built, when Letson Farms was being developed, when Colonial Tannehill was being considered.

But development next to an industrial park, adjacent to an interchange, close to a major auto plant (which is expanding and re-hiring workers), is expected.

Photo credit Tamika Moore Birmingham News

Speaking of Mercedes, some parts are now unloaded from trains in East Birmingham, and after the intermodal facility becomes operational this freight could be unloaded in western Jefferson County, taking all that truck traffic off of I-20/59 in Birmingham and Bessemer. That is good news.

Western Tribune column July 15, 2009 Intermodal

Picture Credit Bham News

“Not in my backyard,” McCalla residents proclaimed on Thursday, referring to the Norfolk Southern intermodal facility that is coming to their area. Thankfully, on Friday, Norfolk Southern assured us that the facility will not be in anyone’s backyard.

Much of what has been promoted by those who oppose the facility is false information, beginning with a photograph of a rail yard and ending with fears of toxic chemical spills.

Much will be written and said before the facility is constructed, but let me replace what has been said with some facts.

The facility will be built on land that is at least 800 to 1000 feet from Eastern Valley Road, and will be separated from residential and public facilities by natural topography and an earthen berm with trees planted on it. In fact, the facility will not be visible from the areas that surround it.

This buffering will also help to mitigate noise, which is not actually an issue, since the operations will not include switching and coupling or train whistles blowing.

Photo credit Norfolk Southern

Toxic chemical spills are not a concern because intermodal shipping does not include inhalant hazards such as chorine.

Fears of light pollution are lessened as well because Norfolk southern will use hooded lights that are focused and directed on the areas where work is taking place.

Four intermodal trains currently operate in the area, and this will increase to six trains, so increased train traffic is not a concern either.

The only problem I see is the increased truck traffic at Exit 104 and McAshan Drive, and the road in question may need to be upgraded or widened.

Residents will have the opportunity to hear for themselves in August that this will be a modern, environmentally friendly facility that will not affect their way of life, as has been suggested.

I personally would not consider moving away if I lived in the area and would not hesitate to buy property nearby if I were looking.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Tannehill Ironworks was an industrial site in the area. I assume that the ordinance and other products made for the Southern Army were distributed by trains. While not intermodal shipping in the current sense, it was early precedent for what is to come.

This is an important facility for Western Jefferson County, and the McCalla “way of life” will not be affected when it is in place.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Wise Latina Woman...

...knows how to handle a foolish, white racist.

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

Jeff Sessions' past use of the words "boy" and "white folks" (read this) takes me to the "wayback" when I already knew not to use such terms, but apparently he was comfortable with them.

And this? "Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he ‘used to think they [the Klan] were OK’ until he found out some of them were ‘pot smokers.’"

In an interview prior to the hearings Sessions said (referring to the upcoming hearings), "I hope the people of Alabama feel like I conducted myself in way they can be proud of, a fair way, but in a way that didn't shy away from defending the great legal principles that made America the freest and most prosperous country in the world. It's difficult to do."

Nothing you do makes us proud, Senator. Including, well, you know.

Earlier nominee Sotomayor had addressed the Wise Latina comment...

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

She is sailing through the process, but it is still informative to watch. I don't have time to watch it all, but it sure is interesting.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Surgeon General Nominee Regina Benjamin

In a rose garden ceremony today President Obama nominated Bayou La Batre physician Regina Benjamin as Surgeon General.

Photo credit Paula Burch

Dr. Benjamin probably wouldn't know me from Adam's house cat but we served together on Governor Riley's Black Belt Action Commission, (she as technical advisor, me as commissioner)and in fact, probably more than any one person she would be responsible for my interest in rural medicine which led to my interest in Public Health.

For an informative story about her clinic and what happened following hurricane Katrina click here.

In this video she talks about Health Information Technology, or electronic records, and how the need was demonstrated after Katrina and again after the fire that destroyed her clinic.

These are just some of her accomplishments.

Dr. Benjamin is former Associate Dean for Rural Health at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine in Mobile where she administered the Alabama-AHEC program and USA Telemedicine Program. In 1998 she was the United States recipient of the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. In 1995, she was elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees, making her the first physician under age 40 and the first African-American woman to be elected. She also served as President of the American Medical Association Education and Research Foundation (AMA-ERF) and is a current member of the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs. In 2002 she became President of the Medical Association State of Alabama, making her the first African American female president of a State Medical Society in the United States. Dr. Benjamin is also co-author of the book "How's Your Health? What You Can Do To Make Your Health and Health Care Better."

Her proposed solution for our health care problems include societal change: an overhaul of policies, broader insurance systems, and better distribution of physicians nationwide.

But of course, as Surgeon General, she will be promoting President Obama's ideas, but I'm sure hers are in line with his.

Update: I just listened to her remarks and yes, her policies reflect his.

She was described on CNN as a "rural, way rural" doctor. I like that. She described the way preventable health issues affected the lives of her family members, including a brother who died of HIV related illness. She also spoke of the effort she puts into serving a population with many uninsured people, and noted that it should not be that difficult.

She will help to bring the change that is needed to our health care system, and I predict that we will be proud of her.

Bayou Clinic is her clinic web site. Congratulations, Dr. Benjamin.

Friday, July 10, 2009


This is not about the food stores.

Sacha Baron Cohen's movie "Bruno" opens today, and naturally people in Alabama are featured. More on that later.

Roger Ebert give the movie 4 stars, saying "here is a film that is 82 minutes long and doesn't contain 30 boring seconds."

Cohen holds nothing back in this effort, which the gay community and the rest of the world doesn't yet know how to take. I mean, it is said the movie will make straight homophobes uncomfortable and make them re-examine their prejudices or something like that, but that is making an assumption that straight homophobes will go see the movie.

OK, I know. Some will, because of their secret desires and fantasies, but still, I think the majority of the audience will be Cohen fans, mostly young people who already support gay equality.

Anyway, after watching the trailer, I think I will have to see it.

Playing at Alabaster, Lee Branch, Patton Creek, Summit, Tannehill, Trussville and Vestavia Hills. See ya there!

As for the Alabama connection, Birmingham Youth Pastor Jody Trautwein is featured when Bruno goes to him seeking counseling to become ex-gay. I think the ex-gay, let me re-phrase that. I know the ex-gay movement is a sham.

Here's how a commenter (bdavis95) on put it:

"As long as we have people like this pastor who lead organizations whose sole purpose is to maintain discrimination, bigotry and hate, we will continue to be made fun of."

But Trautwein is not put off by this, in the article he says he thinks this will be used to bring people to Jesus.

Actually it will bring more people to the movie.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Arc of the Moral Universe

Many in the GLBT community feel that two of the many issues facing us are the most important: equality in marriage and repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell."

Favorable outcomes are inevitable, the only question is when? "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," to paraphrase abolitionist Theodore Parker (1853) (A phrase made famous by Martin Luther King, Jr in 1967, echoed by Barack Obama in 2008).

Three items of interest that make me think sooner rather than later.

1. Rep. Patrick Murphy D. PA) says it is his job to "quarterback" the effort to pass legislation to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. He has 152 co-sponsors (and need 218 votes to pass). Murphy is an Iraq veteran and a blue dog democrat and recognizes that over 13,000 troops have been discharged, not because of sexual activity but because of sexual orientation.

Like Rachel says, he's the right guy to be leading this fight.

2. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has filed a suit in federal court seeking to void the Defense of Marriage Act. She says DOMA is discriminatory and puts her state in conflict with the Federal government.

"Among many of its arguments, Coakley's suit argues that DOMA requires Massachusetts to violate the constitutional rights of its citizens by treating married heterosexual couples and married same-sex couples differently when doling out Medicaid benefits and Social Security payouts to spouses. Coakley brought up another example: Massachusetts is given federal money to maintain a military cemetery that doesn’t allow the same-sex spouses of fallen soldiers to be buried there."

My prediction, given the slow pace that lawsuits take, is that congress will overturn DOMA before the lawsuit does. Or, given the slow pace that congress takes, they may sit on their thumbs and wait to see how the court handles it.

At any rate, something will happen.

3. Steve Hildebrand said in an interview with Rex Wockner that President Obama is listening and is on top of things with the gay issues.

Photo Credit Rex Wockner

Openly gay Steve Hildebrand was Barack Obama's deputy national campaign director. He has spoken with the president in the last couple of weeks. Here are some highlights.

Regarding the justice department brief that upset so many gays: "he did not read the brief in advance but he subsequently has read the brief and was not happy at all with both the direction as well as the language that was used -- and that he expects much better from his administration."

On Don't Ask Don't Tell: "Barack Obama as president and commander in chief is, and will continue to go through, a process, methodically, to get the ducks in a row in order to get the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell done in a successful way that isn't just going to happen overnight."

On the power of the gay community: "I think too many people in the gay community do not push their elected officials as hard as they should. If you had 20 gay people together in a room and asked how many of them actually have reached out and either called, e-mailed or sent a letter to their member of Congress over the last two months, I would say the vast, vast majority of them will have done nothing...We need more voices, we need louder voices, and we need to tell politicians at every level we're not willing to take their excuses anymore."

On gay frustration with the president: "He can't change the world overnight and -- I'm doing my best to say this without providing excuses -- but this is a president who was handed a larger number of really big issues to deal with at the beginning of his presidency than any other president in history. He's got to get an economy moving, he's got to get the troops out of Iraq, there's a lot of big, big problems. At the same time, he is working within his administration to try and get in a position to get some meaningful things done to help the gay community achieve equality."

On Artur Davis (well, not by name, but): "... for too many decades now of people who say, "Yes, we support equality," but then they go to Washington and they don't do anything about it. They're too wrapped up in figuring out how to win their next election and they're not concerned enough about doing what's right for the American people. "

So, these three items give me confidence that the arc of justice is getting shorter, as my patience is extending a little bit.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

McCalla: NIMBY

I will be objective.

McCalla residents are upset that Norfolk Southern might be planning to build an intermodal facility in their area. nohub4mccalla

Estimates are that the facility could spur job growth to the tune of 8,000 jobs, which are sorely needed in Western Jefferson County where the unemployment rate is approaching 30%.

While no one wants industrial facilities in their backyards, let's look at this objectively.

The facility would be on land near the Jefferson Metropolitan McCalla Park, where there is lots of warehouse space and other sites for development. One might expect an intermodal facility to locate there. And it is close to I-20 with an exit already in place. Here's a GoogleEarth shot. The yellow outline roughly shows the area of interest, between McAshan Drive and McAdory Elementary School, and between the railroad and Eastern Valley Road. Of course the facility would not take all of that space. Between the yellow line and 4th Avenue (Old Tuscaloosa Highway) is mostly land belonging to the Jefferson Metropolitan McCalla Park. I-20 is just northwest of the area. The elementary school is down at the lower southwest part of the area.

What is an intermodal facility anyway? Well, it's not a rail yard, in the traditional sense. Intermodal shipping is generally recognized as the future of shipping, because of its efficiency. Cargo is not handled directly, and security is improved, damages and losses are reduced, freight is transported faster, and pollution is reduced. The facility will move cargo from truck to train and vice versa, and long distance shipping will be done via train rather than truck.

This facility could remove as many as 300,000 trucks (and their fumes) from Alabama's interstates.

Details of Norfolk Southern's plans have not been released, so there is a lot of speculation about what the facility might be. And speculation often uses fear to make its point. The information I have seen contains misleading assertions. But I am sure the railroad people will address those concerns when they meet with the neighborhood. Their spokesperson (Rudy Husband) has said that they reach out to neighborhoods close to their sites. But when, because apparently they haven't yet.

"At the appropriate time, we will meet with concerned residents about the terminal and try to answer all of their questions," he said Tuesday.

"We have participated in public meetings to respond to concerns residents may have about the construction and operation of our intermodal facilities." (at other sites)

Bessemer is desperate for jobs, and things are about to get so bad in the county (when the Jefferson County Commission runs out of money at the end of this month), so its going to be hard to convince the powers that be that this facility should not be built. In fact, some of the people fighting it are already conceding defeat, it seems, citing the power of the railroad and a scheduled announcement, they say, by Governor Riley on July 16 about the project (from their web site).

There are a lot of new businesses in the area that I am sure would like to see 8,000 additional people eating at their fast food restaurants, buying groceries on the way home, purchasing gasoline. And most of those businesses are in Bessemer, so that's tax money for our city.

Throughout history, industrial facilities have been located in poor areas and adjacent to black communities. One only has to look at North Birmingham to realize this. But those residents did not have voices that were heard by decision makers.

The McCalla residents are making their voice heard. There is a Jefferson County Planning Commission meeting tomorrow, Thursday, July 9 at 1:00 PM at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham (you would think they might meet out here, but no) where this issue will be addressed.

It seems the business community and the leaders of the community are all for this. Economic development and all. Let's see what happens.

Western Tribune column Clearance Rates and Public Safety

There are a number of people concerned about crime in our city who are not swayed by the illusion of safety that the mayor extols. Two weeks ago I shared information which compared Bessemer’s crime rates with other similar sized cities in our state. Bessemer didn’t look too good.

But what about response to crime? During this decade, has Bessemer’s “clearance rate” improved? A crime is considered cleared when enough evidence is found to charge a suspect and take him or her into custody. Clearance rate is the number of clearances divided by the number of reported crimes.

Bessemer’s clearance rates are down, in some categories, significantly. For rape, the clearance rate dropped from 38% to 15% between 2000 and 2008. For assault, the drop was from 35% to 12%. In all categories except larceny clearance rates dropped.

After getting over the realization that only 15% of rapes are solved, we compared clearance rates to the other cities of similar size.

Bessemer has the lowest clearance rate for assault, and the second or third lowest for all other crimes when compared to the other cities. And since the year 2000, our ranking compared to those cities has gone down in every category except rape, which remains unchanged.

The data from which these comparisons were made are available from the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center at their web site (Alabama Criminal Justice Center).

The scary thing about this is that when confronted with the facts, some of our leaders either ignore or purposely disregard them. What they do not realize is that their indifference is putting the citizens of their city in continued danger.

We are publicizing these statistics not to embarrass city officials or the men and women who protect us; rather it is out of concern for our families and neighbors. We realize that the police officers do not make policy and we see them doing their duty diligently every day.

Our city has a reputation that in the past I have refuted, but now I am beginning to think the reputation may be deserved. To overcome this, we need a paradigm shift in the way our city is led, and in the way we approach public safety.

But after attending several Town Hall meetings and listening to our mayor, I guess we will have to wait until 2010. Voters, get ready.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Levi Update and Flag of Equal Marriage

Someone said I have been "curiously silent" in covering the Michael Jackson circus. I've just been watching the media (and the public) make a fool of itself and was especially amused when on CNN some anchor type led a discussion as to whether the media was devoting too much time to the story and making the claim that their 32 seconds of Iraq coverage was balance.

But I do wonder, is the interest in today's memorial service that people are showing based on some kind of true connection, or is it just that they want to be part of a phenomenon or what? I mean, if Michael Jackson (or Elvis) unleashes the kind of response we are seeing among people who do not really know the man, then it seems that something is really missing in their lives. I mean, he's filling a void that should really be filled by something else.

OK, that's my take.

Levi Johnston is trying to return to normal life, after visiting New York ("I don't like New York. There's too many people.")

He gets to see son Tripp a few times a week and plans a book because "there are still many untold stories about the Palins," according to his bodyguard and publicist, Tank Jones.

Photo from GQ

Levi is probably the only sane one of the bunch and my former criticism of him had more to do with his association with Sarah Palin than him being a self described "F*ckin' redneck." I mean, we deal with "f*ckin' rednecks" on a daily basis down here. And apparently his attitude toward children has changed (fatherhood does that), so maybe he listened to me.

This is pretty neat. The Flag of Equal Marriage.

They are adding a star to represent each state that assumes marriage equality. The stars represent the states in order of admittance to the union, beginning in the top left corner. On the most recent flag the stars are: Massachusetts - #6 - May 17, 2004, Connecticut - #5 - Nov 12, 2008, Iowa - #29 - Apr 24, 2009, Vermont - #14 - Sep 1, 2009, Maine - #23 - Sep 14, 2009, New Hampshire - #9 - Jan 1, 2010.

If the flag had been around in 2008 we would have seen California's star (#31) light up and go dark again during that year.

It might be a long time before Alabama's star is lit, but we are #22, and would appear just before Maine.

We want the flag of equal marriage to be complete, with all 50 stars lit up. We see three ways equal marriage, as we define it, could be achieved:

  • Every individual state could pass a law allowing same-sex marriage.
  • The federal government could repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and allow same-sex marriage at the federal level, overriding all state-level bans.
  • The term "marriage" could be removed from state and/or federal laws, turning all "marriages" into civil unions in the eyes of the government. PLUS, same-sex civil unions would need to be recognized in all 50 states or at the federal level.

Our protest flag helps you track our progress toward completion of one of these three goals.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Diversity Education for Kids

An article in Sunday's Birmingham News described a new video that will be used in Birmingham Schools. The video was produced by Leadership Birmingham and features kids from area schools including Epic School and Alabama School of Fine Arts and Shades Valley High School.

The video will be used in a character education program to help teach values and morals.

Diversity is about more than just race, according to these children, who included sexual orientation and social standing and language differences as some of the issues that should be included when considering diversity.

"Diversity, I think, is too often confined to the limits of race and class," said Anna Turkett, a student at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and member of Birmingham's Youth Leadership Forum. "Racial differences these days don't mean as much anymore."

"We wanted a tool for teachers to have classroom conversation about diversity," said Howard Bayless, a member of the leadership team who is corporate director of development for Bradford Health Services as well as a member of the Birmingham Board of Education. "Children typically listen to other children before they listen to adults."

Diversity video to be used in character ed project for schools

The group donated enough copies of the video for every school in Birmingham and plans to distribute copies to all surrounding school systems in Jefferson County.

"We hope they will choose to use it in their character education program as well," Bayless said. "It can be the start of a great classroom conversation."

Let's hope that Bessemer uses the video in their school system, where it seems from anecdotal reports that homophobia is common among the students. Well actually, the student's parents, but everybody could use some education and diversity training it seems.

Sixth of July

While some Americans celebrated the Fourth by attending Teabagging parties (which should have been in honor of John Ensign and Mark Sanford this time after they admitted to extramarital teabagging), we spent the day with family celebrating in more traditional ways.

A cookout with ribs, burgers,hot dogs and corn, with potato salad in which the potatoes, onions, peppers and homemade pickles all came from this year's garden followed by kid's entertainment (who entertained who?) and fireworks. Oh, and some four-wheeling.

Here's Lola guarding the tire swing.

The littler kids played bust the pinata. Josh was successful. Astute readers will notice that the star is being recycled from an earlier parade. Actually some of the candy was left over from that event as well.

Our fireworks began sort of "light"..

but ended in a "grand finale."

So we missed the Bessemer fireworks this year. I hope that event was as good as it usually was. How was your Fourth? Leave comments in the "comments" section, especially if you went to the Bessemer fireworks.