The Year of Moving Forward

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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Alabama Republicans are a symptom

It's as if someone has brought a really, really sick cat into the vet's office. A good veterinarian will do a thorough examination, probably order some lab tests and/or radiographs, and begin supportive treatment while awaiting results. The doctor and staff will be encouraged by signs of improvement, and will not be dismayed by recurring symptoms of the illness. Rather, they will adjust their treatment plan with confidence, knowing that a successful outcome is probable.

The same is true of Alabama politics. The loudest voices are those of the conservative sickness that represent an era and mindset that we have been trying to overcome for decades.

The rest of the country, and many in our own state, see Alabama as a backward and racist, in spite of the fact that as individuals we are pretty much like everybody else in the country. For instance, we look at evolution as a matter of science , and a necessary part of education and not a political tool. And we get along with our co-workers and neighbors who are of a different race.

But then Republicans and conservative groups open their mouths. You can pick almost any of them, but for the purpose of this blog, I will choose three examples. Just hearing any of these might be enough to make a progressive pack up and give up. But the things we are hearing are just a symptom of a disease that is being defeated.

Jeff Sessions

Yesterday at the opening hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elana Kagan Alabama Republican Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III took shots at the future justice and in doing so (once again) embarrassed all of us from Alabama.

"Ms. Kagan has associated herself with well-known activist judges. She clerked with Judge Mikva and Justice (Thurgood) Marshall, each well known activists. These justices really don't deny their activist ideas, they advocate it. And they openly criticize the idea that a judge is merely a neutral umpire."

Sessions and his Republican counterparts at the hearing referenced Thurgood Marshall (negatively) 35 times. Marshall's son, Thurgood Marshall, Jr, sat in the audience and listened.

Thurgood Marshall is best known as the Supreme Court's first African-American justice, but as a practicing attorney and solicitor general before that he argued before the high court on numerous occasions. The most famous was Brown v Board of Education, the landmark case that did away with separate but equal public education because it could not be equal. He won 29 out of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court.

Here see Sessions and other Republicans criticizing this American judicial hero.

Senator Sessions: the year is 2010, not 1965. Segregation is over. Gone. Done away with. It's not coming back. Give it up.

Unfortunately, Senator Sessions gets to continue his assault today (in fact, as I write this, he is grilling the appointee on her views regarding Don't Ask, Don't Tell).

Rick Barber

Rick Barber is in the Republican runoff with Martha Roby to challenge for the congressional seat held by DINO Bobby Bright of Montgomery. Barber has run ads which have been criticized for advocating gun violence and now is running an ad in which he and an Abraham Lincoln portrayer agree that health care reform is a form of slavery. I won't force you to watch his ad, but here's a screen shot.

Rick: as has been pointed out, President Lincoln imposed the first Federal income tax in 1861 for the purpose of raising money to fight the Civil War. That is not too unlike using tax money to promote the general health and welfare of the nation. And Rick, the south lost that war, and as a result, Barack Obama was able to run for president. I don't think Zombie Abe and you see eye to eye on this issue.

But you did a good job of embarrassing us in front of the rest of the nation.

Christians against Bradley Byrne

I heard a political ad on the radio, in which Republican front runner Bradley Byrne was criticised for promoting evolution, profiting from gambling, and supporting Sunday liquor sales. Then the voice said or indicated that Byrne was (paraphrased) distancing himself from the Bible.

Whoever put this ad out: First, evolution is the accepted explanation for the diversity of life that we find on our planet. Second, show me in the Bible where it says thou shalt not sell liquor on Sunday. Third now explain why your beliefs about such things, based on your biblical worldview, should apply to all of us. Fourth, isn't your entire ad sort of gossipy, and doesn't that sort of distance you from the Bible?

So, these examples of Republican silliness show us that Alabama conservatives want to return us to the good old days. Remember, the Tea Party people carry signs advocating taking the country back, and all indications are that they want to take it back to the 1950's.

But we keep reminding ourselves. This is 2010. These guys are just symptoms of the illness that affected our state a half century ago. An illness characterized by inequality and ignorance.

In reality, we are past that. We are (for the most part) an educated populace that believes in science and equality and celebrates the historical figures that got us here, most notably in this case, Thurgood Marshall.

So as progressives we recognize that these vestiges have a limited life, and we will continue to educate and inform and push our state forward, not pull it back.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Progressive - it's a good thing

I guess I'm a little behind in this because this poll came out in May, but after considering the results I think its worth bringing everyone, including myself, up to date.

Progressivism is a good thing.

A Pew Research poll finds that 68% of Americans react favorably to the word "progressive" and only 23% react negatively.

This is a more favorable reaction than was found toward the word "capitalism" (52% positive, 37% negative).

Even among Republicans a majority (56%) reacted positive to "progressive."

Now it could well be that respondents were thinking of Progressive spokesperson Flo when they answered the question.

Here is a surprising number that might help us to know what to expect in the future. The same percent of young people (ages 18-29) have a positive reaction to "socialism" (43%) as do "capitalism" (43%).

So what is it that progressives want to accomplish? The "progressive agenda" was put forth on Left in Alabama last month, and progressive bloggers got together to map out a course to accomplish some of these things.

On the national scene (these are not listed in order of priority because as progressives we believe that more than one problem can be tackled at a time):

1. Campaign finance and lobbying reform

2. Single payer health insurance, public option

3. Clean energy program, moving away from oil dependency

4. Immigration reform (secure borders, path to legitimacy for those here and who want to come here)

5. Infrastructure development program (public transportation, safety, national parks, historic reuse of historic buildings, energy reform and conservation)

6. Withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq

7. LGBT Equality

For the state of Alabama (not in order of priority):

1. A new Constitution

2. Ethics reform

3. Tax reform

4. Set and achieve higher educational goals

5. Infrastructure development program (energy conservation and green building)

6. LGBT equality

7. Moratorium on the death penalty

For the city of Bessemer (not in order of priority):

1. Establish a working relationship between the administration and the business community/ development board

2. Prioritize downtown development/historic preservation

3. Revitalize historic and other neighborhoods

4. Support community gardens project

5. Establish recreational opportunities (rec center, trail from Hall of History to Red Mountain Park using railroad trestle), public outdoor swimming pool

6. Improve and promote recycling options

For both state and local: Quit spending so much time on bingo!

What do you think of the progressive agendas laid out here, especially on the state and local levels? Elections are coming up, you know.

Another progressive posted What We Believe on Left in Alabama this morning.

This video from 21 years ago was recently rated most sexy video on some show I saw while searching for something worthwhile to watch. Chris Isaak - Wicked Game.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A big FAT "F"

In a comparison of the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the United States, Birmingham ranks near the bottom in an index of healthiness.

This was reported in the Birmingham News, and most of this post comes directly from that article.

We ranked 49th, just ahead of Oklahoma City.

In a year, we've dropped from 43rd to 49th. Either other cities are improving and leaving us behind (an Alabama staple in many areas, it seems) or we have just completely abandoned any thought of improving ourselves health wise.

The percentage of our population that is obese is 34.1%. That is more than one out of every three of the people around you. The national average among Metropolitan Statistical Areas is 25.6%, just over one out of every four people.

I think that a large number of people are in denial about their health. Be honest with yourselves, folks.

Your life expectancy, and even more important, your quality of life as you approach the end of it, depend on your attitudes and actions regarding your health.

When it comes to 14 personal health indicators and chronic health conditions, Birmingham ranked dead last.

A couple of statistics give Birmingham a glimmer of hope, though they are nothing to brag about. We are 35th out of 50 when it comes to community recreation, including the number of parks and recreation facilities and the level of state-required physical education programs.

Birmingham has considered closing rec centers, however, and Bessemer has none.

Birmingham ranks above average when it comes to the number of Farmer's Markets, park playgrounds, recreation centers, swimming pools and requirements for physical education in schools, but below average on the number of tennis courts (Birmingham MSA - 1.3%, MSA average - 2.1%), acres of park land per capita ( Birmingham MSA - 2.6%, Average - 10.3%) and percent of people walking or riding their bicycles to work (Birmingham - 1%, Average - 2.8%).

Birmingham spends $37 per capita on funding parks. The average is $102.

Jerri Haslem has taught exercise classes in Birmingham for 20 years. These are sad statistics, she said, calling it the "mindset" of the people and not a lack of opportunity.

If people would use the facilities we have more, then more would be built, she believes. She says a large fitness club might look at our area and say there aren't enough fitness minded people to build here. On the other hand she, says, a fast food company might take a look at our statistics and see a big opportunity. I'm not sure what she means by that.

An opportunity to exploit our "mindset" that propels us to fast food restaurants? Or an opportunity to improve their menus and the quality of food that they serve, so that they do not continue to adversely affect the health of our communities?

Because of $13.3 million in Federal Stimulus money given through the CDC and the Jefferson County Department of Health, many of the issues in the report will be addressed.

Included will be a push for smoke-free air policies in Jefferson County's cities and a requirement that restaurants post nutritional information a the point of purchase. Also included will be working with school nutrition and exercise policies and working with neighborhood development such as requiring sidewalks and building greenways to connect parks .

Other health indicators:

Death rate per 100,000 for cardiovascular disease - Birmingham MSA - 259.3, Average - 212.4

Diabetes - Birmingham MSA - 11%, Average 8.3%.

Here's a link to the full report.

Here's a community action guide that you or me or our group or agency can use to develop healthier communities.

Here's a link to all of Birmingham's statistics in this report (click on the city you want to view).

Housekeeping. I have changed the Facebook share button that appears on each post. By clicking it, you should be able to easily share this or any post with your friends on Facebook.

Coming soon, Twitter share and others. What Share button would you like to see?

Also, Bessemer Opinions is now available in 9 languages other than English. Use the translator at the top of the left sidebar and click on the flag representing the language you want to view. Maybe you can then send the translated post (by copying the link) to your friends that spea that language. Play around with it. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Openly terrific

The President hosted a reception in honor of LGBT Pride month yesterday.

I'm wondering if Rick and Bubba will be able to hold their tongues. They've been warned by their sponsors and by their syndicator to hold down their rhetoric or face the music.

While most of the local community has heard what the sponsors are saying (both Academy Sports and Bojangles Chicken have said they don't agree with Rick Burgess' comments and told the radio hosts as much, and that if they targeted gays or any other group like that again they would pull their sponsorship. The syndicator of the show is unhappy as well, and he doesn't want to hear any more reports of such talk.

Here is the president speaking at the reception. He called Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis, lesbian and gay members of the House of Representative, "openly terrific."

I think that's a great new term for us. Because being gay is terrific.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also spoke at an event celebrating LGBT Pride month.

She was the first first lady to march in a Pride parade.

"Human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights once and for all."

One of my facebook friends, and straight woman who took part in the civil rights struggles during the 1960's posted this comment on one of my facebook posts yesterday.

June is Pride Month. President Obama has called upon all Americans to observe this month by fighting prejudice and discrimination in their lives and everywhere it exists.

    I am so proud of our straight allies and the way they take up for us against the hurtful rhetoric of the right.

    So many people have told me or have posted on facebook that this year's Pride has given them more inspiration than they have felt in years. Polls are showing that Americans are now more accepting of Equality than they have ever been, and many religious groups or individual churches are realizing that LGBT people are created and loved by God just as they are.

    In spite of the vocal frustration with the Obama administration on the slowness of advancement of LGBT Equality, we really should be thankful of the progress that has been made.

    These things come to mind.

    Passage of the (inclusive) Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act.

    Repeal of the HIV ban on travel.

    Hospital visitation for lesbian and gay partners (in hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid.

    Federal employee benefits.

    Broadening of the definition of "son and daughter" so employers would be required to offer workers in same sex relationships the same right to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for partner's newborns or to adopt (announced yesterday by the labor department).

    And the president's call for congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), to pass an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the pending end of Don't Ask Don't Tell(DADT). The House has passed the repeal, the Senate Armed Services Comittee has approved, and the full Senate will vote someday.

    Country singer Chely Wright was at the President's reception.

    Here is her video for "I Already Do."

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    Oil and kudzu

    We (humans) can do little things that become big goofs. Some things look big, but are actually small, but still can be a big goof.

    Two articles in today's Birmingham News show us that this is true.



    One article is about the oil spill. How big is the spill?, the headline asks. Let's put it in context, the headline answers.

    The Mississippi River pours as much water into the Gulf of Mexico in 38 seconds as the BP oil leak has done in two months.

    For every gallon of oil that BP's well has gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, there is more than 5 billion gallons of water already in it. That's 1:5,000,000,000.

    If all the oil that has spilled were poured into the Superdome, it would only fill it one seventh of the way up.

    Kudzu Article

    If you live in Alabama you know Kudzu. The sprawling vine covers 61,295 acres in our state, according to the U. S. Forest Service. The Alabama Cooperative Extension Service estimates estimates over 250,000 acres in our state are covered.

    There are 52,419.02 square miles = 33,548,172.8 acres in Alabama. Using the U. S. Forest Service estimate, that's 1:547 acres of our state are Kudzu covered.

    (Depending on where one looks for information and whether just land is counted or all area, land and water, the number of square miles in Alabama varies, by the way.)

    Kudzu first appeared in the U. S. in 1876, and was used as an ornamental. In the 1930's is was decided it could be used to control another human goof up (soil erosion from improper agricultural practices in the Southeast) and so 85 million (85,000,000) kudzu seeds were shipped to southern landowners.

    Now we learn that Kudzu may be responsible for some of the ground level ozone that affects our air quality and gives people like me fits on days when we are warned not to go outdoors in Jefferson County.

    So, here's my point. Republicans and other contrarians that deny global warming have said that we cannot affect the climate, that human action is too small compared to the expanse of the world and air that surrounds it. Republicans and other petro lovers have said that the Gulf oil spill is not that big a deal and are still screaming drill baby drill. Tony Hayward said the spill was "relatively tiny" compared to the "very big ocean." Technically, as has been shown, he was right.

    There are two kinds of people in the world (really there are many kinds, depending on what one is talking about), those who care about the environment and those who do not. Of the ones who care about the environment there are two kinds, those who understand that little things we do today, can have a huge impact tomorrow, and those whose concern about the environment goes no further than what they see at the moment and their perception of a more immediate future.

    A little ornamental vine that was exhibited at an exposition in Philadelphia in 1876 has turned into a monster that affects our health as a result of human activity.

    The relatively small amount of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico is going to forever change some of the most fragile and important lands in the coastal states, and affect many species in ways we cannot predict yet. The root of this problem is human, also. Human greed.

    Republicans have called for less financial regulation, in the aftermath of a financial crisis that was caused in large part by lack of regulation.

    Now they want to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, and are critical of the president's halt of deep water drilling.

    Here's the deal. America has to wake up. Quit putting off the development of alternative energy sources while saying we have plenty of fossil fuel and time to slowly make the changes. And quit drilling in the Gulf...really forever, but at least until you can assure us that you know WTF you are doing!

    Here's an idea. Add a $4.00 per gallon gas tax and let the proceeds go toward alternative fuel research. We made a drastic and relatively quick change from horse and buggy to steam engine to gasoline powered vehicles and I'm sure the horse traders and horse feed producers didn't like it one bit. The industrial revolution changed the way goods were produced and I'm sure that as the factories were beginning to manufacture what we needed (or wanted) the cottage industry folks were concerned about their way of life.

    It's no different now. A big change is going to come about. It's just a matter of who will accept it and learn to change along with it, and who will be kicking and screaming because they can't adjust.

    PS. The new Share buttons that follow this are probably not working. Why not give it a try and let me know if anything happens? When I click, it does not give me opportunity to share. How about you?

    Saturday, June 19, 2010

    Southern Baptists oppose DADT repeal (no surprise)

    I looked back over the archives of this site and was quite surprised at how seldom I write about Southern Baptists. They are all around me, are mostly virulently homophobic, but in the last couple of years haven't had much to say about the subject.

    Part of that may be because they are realizing that the denomination is shrinking, (an article in the Birmingham News a few weeks ago pointed out that teen baptisms was down and so future growth of the denomination was in question) and during their "strategizing" haven't wanted to seem too mean spirited (but when has that ever stopped them?).

    Anyway, in today's Birmingham News is an article titled "Baptists fear end of Don't Ask" with the subtitle "Chaplains might lose freedom, group fears."

    It seems that Southern Baptists have more chaplains in the military (448) than any other denominations (Roman Catholic - 252, Assemblies of God - 119, United Methodist - 110, Seventh Day Adventist - 43, Mormon - 37, Orthodox - 25, United Church of Christ - 17, Islam -10, Judaism - 21, Buddhist -1).

    The article says there are about 3,000 active-duty chaplains, so those numbers don't add up. I think the "3,000" includes Reserve and National Guard chaplains, and the other numbers are just Department of Defense numbers.

    Here's the fear.

    "Southern Baptists...have told Congress and the Pentagon that chaplains
    could lose their freedom to preach and counsel against homosexuality if openly
    gay members are accepted by the military."

    I'm thinking that if I'm in Afghanistan and am worried about an IED maiming me or knowing that the next day my unit is beginning a dangerous offensive in which I may be expected to take another person's (terrorist, woman, child) life and I go to my chaplain for counseling, that I want to hear something other than a preaching about my sexuality.

    And under the current policy, since there are no "openly gay" members of the military (wink, wink), and the assumption is therefore that everyone is straight, there is absolutely no reason for a chaplain to be "preaching" against homosexuality anyway.

    "Southern Baptist leaders have warned their chaplains may have to leave the
    military if don't Ask/Don't Tell is repealed"

    So if you can't be over there preaching your intolerance, then you don't think you can be over there making soldiers feel OK about what they are doing? That is weird, man.

    Gays are in the military, and always have been.


    During the Revolutionary War, Friedrich Wilhelm Augustin Ludolf Gerhard von Steuben, who was crucial in the modernization of George Washington's army, stands out.

    This statue of Von Steuben by Albert Jaegers is in Lafayette Park in Washington DC.

    From Gay Military Signal:

    Von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge, that cold winter of 1778, with a young
    French nobleman who was his 'assistant' and lover. As he spoke almost no
    English, Washington assigned two young inseparable officers, who were fluent in
    French and were lovers, to work with Von Steuben to translate his work.
    They were 20 year old Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton (who was also likely to have been this nation's first mixed race officer) and 24 year old Lieutenant
    Colonel John Laurens (who was the son of the President of the Continental
    Congress that year, Henry Laurens). Laurens later died in battle, becoming
    one of America's first Gay heroes. Their love letters still exist.

    So, Southern Baptists, get over it. We were here before you were.

    Friday, June 18, 2010

    Ron Sparks showing leadership on the oil spill

    After Ron Sparks trounced Artur Davis I wrote a column outlining what the candidate needs to do to win the election in November. I made sure the campaign was aware of my suggestions.

    One of my suggestions was about the oil spill:

    He needs to develop a consistent and sound policy about the disaster on the
    Gulf Coast. This will be a major focus of the next governor's term, and Sparks
    can tie his plan for saving the coast with his successful promotion of
    international trade, particularly with Cuba, without "politicizing" the

    Sparks listened. Or maybe he's just already on top of things. As Agriculture Commissioner, he has an interest and a responsibility in dealing with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and its effect on Alabama.

    He wrote a letter to President Obama before the president's latest visit to our state, outlining the devastation that is taking place on our coast and the ways Alabama workers and families are being affected. He also pointed out several of BP's inadequacies in their response, and he listed several items that would enhance BP's payments of claims. Finally he recommended the appointment of Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy and former governor of Mississippi, to head a task force in the region.

    He got tough with the President:

    Mr. President, with the economic livelihood and emotional well-being of
    thousands of Alabamians already being affected – and with more devastation
    to come -- we have no choice but to demand that you take clear and concrete
    action to address BP’s ineffectual and deficient response to the Deepwater
    Horizon Oil Spill.

    Then the President visited. And later gave his first Oval Office Speech.

    Sparks responded to that as well:

    I am heartened by President Obama’s remarks tonight, particularly the
    appointment of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to head up an unprecedented
    program for the recovery of the Gulf Coast states. Yesterday, I met with
    President Obama and I handed him a letter requesting greater speed and
    efficiency for paying claims to Gulf Coast residents and asking for the
    appointment of Secretary of the Navy Mabus to oversee clean-up operations. I
    want to thank President Obama for his leadership in coming down to the Gulf
    Coast and listening to state and local officials and the people on the ground.
    There's no doubt in my mind that by the President coming down to the Gulf Coast
    and seeing the hurt and the pain of the people here that I feel confident help
    is on the way.

    Sparks had already shown his concern and his resolve in dealing with the tragedy, having said this when the oil first began reaching Alabama shores:

    “The catastrophe has begun. Photos of oil on Gulf Shores' beaches
    make me sick and I fear this is the beginning destruction of a way of life in
    south Alabama. I pledge with every ounce of the fight in me, I will make
    BP pay for all damage they do to our state. And they will not stop paying
    until our state, our beaches, our wildlife and our seafood industry are made
    whole again.”

    We need a governor who is on top of things, who knows the industries (remember, Ron Sparks, as Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, has his name on every gas pump in our state), and who can work with the President and federal authorities and not against them in the recovery effort.

    We need Ron Sparks as governor.

    So, what's going on at the beach?

    Everyday, Bruce at the Beach posts a video from Orange Beach. Yesterday he posted this one about a sea turtle who laid her eggs and what was done so save them from the beach activity. Notice, though, that the sands are still sugar white and the water that inviting pale green color. Who's up for a visit to the Gulf Coast?

    Thursday, June 17, 2010

    Why Rick and Bubba matter

    Emails are flying and phone calls are being made to sponsors about Rick and Bubba's anti-LGBT Pride rant. Some are questioning what the big deal is, after all, its a free country and we have freedom of speech here.

    No one denies that. Let the phobic minority spin the scriptures and rally their armies all they want. That's not the real issue.

    On the other side of the country the closing arguments in the Prop 8 trial took place yesterday. By all counts, Ted Olson hit a home run, and the Prop 8 defender Charles Cooper struck out.

    I kept up throughout the day by following the closing arguments on Prop 8 Trial Tracker where live blogging by several fast typists kept me informed.

    Kate Kendall from the National Center for Lesbian Rights was in the courtroom, and in her remarks afterwards, she made a very good point.

    She said,

    "...Yes, people feel uncomfortable about gay people. Yes, people may be nervous about, gosh, if their kids think its ok for gay people to marry maybe they'll think about being gay. But you know what, we just have to deal with all those issues. We have to have those conversations. We have to show them real data. And people have to understand, it's OK to be gay. And that was really the central thrust of what Ted Olson was saying....The entire push behind Prop 8 was to say that being gay is not OK. Its bad, its something to be afraid of, its something we don't want our kids to be exposed to. and it was that motive, those emotions, that voters brought with them to the ballot box when they passed Prop 8."

    Hear her comments following the closing arguments, including the part I quoted.

    That pretty much explains why combating Rick and Bubba is important.

    Attitudes in this state need to change. People here in Alabama agree with the 2008 voters in California.

    It is not OK to be gay.

    And Rick and Bubba perpetuate this message. Rick Burgess may claim that the message was to his like minded Biblical World View Christians.

    But the airwaves reach mom's of gay children driving in their cars. Quite possible a questioning kid is in the back seat hearing it. "It's not OK to be gay", the mom and her son hear. The son decides to hide his feelings from his mom. He has no one to turn to.

    Whether one is a progressive Christian or is not, we should not accept the hurtful (notice I said "hurtfull", not "hateful") message of religious right wingers to spread their message unchallenged.

    Changing the conversation from, "It's not OK to be gay", to "It's OK to be gay," is the name of the game. And Rick and Bubba win the game, if we don't fight.

    And if we lose the fight, the young man who feels that he can't talk to his mom, may end up like Bobby did in Prayers for Bobby. (A true story)

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    About Jesus

    Yesterday Jesus burned.

    Lightning struck a 6 story statue of "Touchdown Jesus" and it burst into flame.

    Whether this statue was considered a graven image depends on how literal you take the Bible. Rick and Bubba, for instance, might think God smote the image of Jesus cause we just ain't supposed to do that. This video is loud, but short.

    UPDATE: here's the song that clip comes from:

    At any rate, while on the subject of Jesus, my blogger-friend Michael Bayly has brought up that Jesus really was a sissy. So many of us get called sissies, I guess if Jesus was one, it's OK for us, too.

    Michael's post was actually based on a lecture by Dr. David Rankin from the 1980's he heard on tape, which he transcribed and took excerpts from. Now I'm doing the same to Michael's post, but it would be worth your time to read it yourself. Jesus was a sissy.

    Jesus was able to feel and express a wide range of tender emotions. He wept
    without shame, even raved and screamed and moaned and won no battles. He was an intuitive thinker, often the victim of wild imaginings and flights of fantasy.
    He responded to beauty, embracing the birds of the air and the lilies of the
    field. He nurtured little children, relating to them in the manner of a mother.
    He freely touched other men and kissed them.

    Rankin continues,

    Does Jesus really fit the American ideal of manhood?” Rankin asks. Can we
    imagine Jesus as a United States Marine? As a linebacker for the Detroit Lions?
    As the Marlboro Man? “By almost every standard in our culture,” concludes
    Rankin, “Jesus was a real live honest-to-goodness sissy.

    Michael, and Rankin, point out that Sunday School teachers and some preachers portray Jesus as a warrior. Rankin says they were right in saying we should be more like Jesus, but wrong in their reasoning.

    A man who walked around the countryside without position, without
    possessions, searching for the meaning of life. A man who lingered lazily in the
    fields in order to study the flight of a bird and the petals of a flower. A man
    who embraced the lowly and the outcast and the leper and the stranger while
    protesting their condition. A man was so physically frail that he could not even
    carry a wooden cross to the top of a hill. A man who suffered a humiliating
    defeat while blessing the enemies who had arranged his death. A sissy. One of
    the greatest models in religious history was an honest-to-God, real live,
    long-haired, soft-bodied sissy.

    So why am I sharing this?

    There is a link between Rankin's words and today's society. Michael quotes from Matthew Fox's book, "The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine." (Emphasis mine)

    Homosexuals offer humanity certain vital gifts that society would be
    foolish to refuse. [One of these is] a flexible perspective on gender [which]
    provides a kind of bridge between men and women. Heterosexuals in particular can become stuck in their society-created gender roles, and homosexuals remind everyone that sexuality exists in the realm of metaphor and not literalism.

    When one’s sexual role is not determined by one’s body parts, life, imagination, and passion come alive. David Deida observes that “the gay and lesbian community is acutely aware that the sexual polarity is independent of gender. But you still need two poles for a passionate play of sexuality to persist in a relationship: masculine and feminine, top and bottom, butch and femme – whatever you want to call these reciprocal poles of sexual play.”

    Gays and lesbians have much to teach the straight world about sexuality and about restoring passion to relationships. . . . [Also] there is a long history in many cultures of homosexuals as spiritual leaders. Many years ago, a Native American woman took me aside and said to me that it is well known among Native Americans that gay persons have always been the spiritual directors to their great chiefs.

    Homosexuals, it seems, don’t just bridge male and female worlds, but human and
    spiritual worlds. A homophobic society deprives itself of a deeper spirituality.
    This same woman (who was also a Catholic sister) said: “When I give retreats to
    gay people, it is always a deeper experience than just giving a retreat to a
    mixed and mostly heterosexual crowd.”

    No one knows about the sexual orientation of Jesus. But we do know many of his traits, and many homosexual men share them.

    Jesus: God-like. Son of God. Or God. It doesn't matter. It was his mild, peace-loving, nature-admiring, male-bonding demeanor that made him like God. God is love, after all.

    And it is what connected him to the Father.

    Fox says,"Homosexuals, it seems, don't just bridge male and female worlds, but human and spiritual worlds. A homophobic society deprives itself of a deeper spirituality."

    Native Americans recognized it. Our culture has become so far removed from the nature and teachings of Jesus, that we can't see that. But we are learning. We are progressing. We will get there.

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Rick and Bubba and LGBT Pride

    In an email from Rick Burgess of the Rick and Bubba show, the holy man states that what I called a 'rant' was actually a "presentation of BIBLICAL truth about sexual sins for those of us who claim a BIBLICAL world view."

    I normally refuse to engage in debate with people like him, but what he said was so offensive that I felt compelled to send him an email. After all, this is LGBT Pride Month, according to 40 year tradition since the first gay pride march in 1970, and according to the proclamation by the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

    In fact, that proclamation was what got Rick all hot and bothered. Here's the video of his rant.

    Now, I do not enjoy criticising people because of their faith, because I actually feel a bit sorry for them. Well, maybe there is some enjoyment, because possibly they are becoming educated.

    People with a "Biblical Worldview" think that the world is only about 5000 years old, that people lived with the dinosaurs (think "Flintstones"), and that Noah had a mosquito net and caught two Anopheles gambiae mosquitos, (the ones that transmit malaria, responsible for infecting over 200 million people and killing 1 - 2 million per year) along with a couple of Onchocera volvulus worms (the ones that cause river blindness in about 18 million people) and a pair of the Simulium black flies that spread the debilitating disease. (Try keeping those, along with thousands of other arthropod and worm species alive for 40 days on an ark.)

    I could go on but you get the picture, I hope.

    I have written enough on this blog about the Bible that I don't need to repeat the passages here that are affirming to the LGBT community. Just look to the left, and you can see some links to popular posts about the subject.

    But Rick did say this in his email. "...we gain control over our sin through the power found in
    CHRIST who then changes our desires when we love him enough for HIS grace and MERCY to obey HIS commands as he calls us to do in several places in the BIBLE but none more simple than JOHN 14:15 if you love me then obey my commands."

    The truth is, Jesus did not say one word about homosexuality. Nothing that could be mis-translated, or mis-directed, to condemn homosexuals. Nothing, Rick!

    He also says this in more than one email that I have seen "...I felt that i was born as most straight men with a disposition to sleep with several women other than our wives" and that he overcame that desire through Christ.

    Fine. Even though this just seems a little creepy as well as bragging (like "I wanna make sure you know I had a lot of sex before I found Christ, ladies") it seems a little strange that one would need to call on God to do what should just be the decent thing to do. Are you that depraved? Well, he would say "yes," because of "sin".

    That is just a big fat excuse. He can think about adultery all he wants without acting, call on Christ to keep him from falling, but if he does fall, "Oh, it was just sin that made me do that. Let me play my "get out of hell" card and start over."

    Rick also said in that video clip that President Obama didn't observe the National Day of Prayer, and I heard that same lie from other right wing talk show hosts. Rick said, "I would love to have seen a nice long letter on the National Day of Prayer but we didn't get that."

    If you had been paying attention, Rick, you would have seen this "long letter", the proclamation released by the Obama administration on April 30, 2010, which included this:

    "NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 6, 2010, as a National Day of Prayer."

    Rick Burgess, and others like him, ride the high horse of the Biblical World View, and talk about living a moral life and all, but have no reservations about telling lies and distorting the truth for the sake of bringing down our president, and getting higher ratings for their radio show.

    I have a little proclamation of my own.

    Now, therefore, I, Joe the blogger, do proclaim Rick Burgess and his sidekick Bubba Bussey as Alabama redneck trash unworthy of lending an ear to, and an embarrassment to our state. I forever ban them from my radio.*

    *I do reserve the right to watch their Youtube videos in order to monitor their hate speech.

    Happy LGBT Pride, all my Alabama brothers and sisters, and do not let the words of this man or anyone else dissuade you from enjoying this celebration of your being and your life.

    Here's short video of the start of last year's Central Alabama Pride parade, including the Alabama Stonewall Democrats truck, which will be in this year's parade with the message, "Together we can..."

    Come out Saturday night near Five Points South and celebrate with us!

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    South Bessemer gets more good news

    More good news for Bessemer's south downtown.

    Boateng's Cajun Creations Restaurant will open on the South side near the railroad tracks on 19th Street in this building in mid-July.

    The owner is interested and committed to keeping the historic nature of the building.

    Many of us have been wishing for something to go into this historic former gas station. What better than a Cajun restaurant?

    The restaurant owner plans to have some outdoor seating in the front, but maybe not at opening. There will be seating for about 48 indoors, with some booth seating and tables.

    Boateng's was formerly at Watermark Place. Here are owners Carolyn and Graham Boateng.

    Picture credit Birmingham News

    Here's a review of their food when it was at Watermark.

    Improvements are being done by Darden Contracting and Remodeling. I had a conversation with contractor Willie Darden. Willie sees great potential for downtown Bessemer, and has an eye for historic buildings and such. Between he and I, we had the south area of downtown made into a showcase. We can dream, can't we?

    I can walk to this restaurant and really am looking forward to it opening. Who wants to go on opening night? Stay posted to Bessemer Opinions for the latest.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    McCalla leaders call for boycott


    In protest over Bessemer's annexation of 350 acres in the vicinity of the Norfolk Southern Intermodal hub facility a boycott of Bessemer has been called.

    McCalla organizers are urging their supporters to shop in Hoover instead of Bessemer.

    The nearest Hoover stores that compare to Target and Publix and Piggly Wiggly in Bessemer (near McCalla) are the Target at the Grove and the Publix nearby.

    That means shoppers would be driving an additional 9.48 miles one way to buy milk and bread, or school supplies and lawn umbrellas and Ipods, even further if they go to the Galleria area. Twenty miles round trip.

    Now let's go back a bit to when the issue of the railroad hub first came up. Concerned McCalla residents tried to use the impact of the hub on the environment to stop the project.

    Yet here they are, willing to waste a gallon or more of gasoline per trip to the grocery store in order to make a point. Does this mean that they really don't care about the environment?

    I mean, what's a gallon of gas when we're trying to save the planet and watching the Gulf fill with petroleum?

    What's a thousand gallons of gas when 1000 people make the trip to Hoover each day?

    Hey McCalla people, there's a BP station at the same exit in Hoover where Target and Publix are located. Be sure to give them your support as well.

    And at the same time, if successful, their actions could cause some of their own residents to lose their jobs at the Bessemer businesses they are boycotting.

    Boycotts are almost never well thought out, and are often knee-jerk reactions when things aren't going your way.


    Last night on Glee, one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite movies was performed.

    "To Sir With Love," if you've never seen the movie, Netflix it today. Here's Lulu, singing the song in the movie from 1967. I was 13 years old and impressionable.

    The Glee version was good as well. Maybe I'll post that clip tomorrow (it's not available yet on Hulu).

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Pride Week in Birmingham

    While awaiting the results of today's elections in other states, I'll fill you in some area "goings on."

    Quick update. the Bessemer City Council voted today to annex the 350 acres I wrote about here. The vote was 6-1. As expected, Jeffco Comm candidate Jimmie Stephens, looking for votes, voted against the annexation rather than voting in the interests of the citizens of Bessemer.

    But this is a Big Plus for Bessemer as it will allow a developer to build warehouses and such near the Norfolk Southern Hub. Things are rockin' in the Bessemer area.

    This is Pride week in Birmingham. That includes Bessemer, as we don't have our own Pride celebrations here. Yet. Someday. Here are some pictures from the last Pride or two.

    On Wednesday the film, Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride, will be showing, and a short panel discussion will follow. What is the local importance of Pride? What should the message be? I will be on the Panel, representing Equality Alabama.

    On Saturday the Pride Parade takes place, and once again I will be driving the Alabama Stonewall Chevy pickup. Our guys will be blowing bubbles and tossing out candy and maybe some beads. Step-off is at 8:30 at Five Points South.

    Bubbles and jewels help make the night beautiful.

    Last minute adjustments before the parade.

    Patricia Todd and Jennifer rode on our truck last year!

    The mis-informed haters are sure to be there.

    Sunday is Pridefest at Sloss Furnace, beginning at noon. I'll be there as well, promoting and signing my book, Those Others: Navigating the "Riddle of Homosexuality" in 1965 , promoting Terri Sewell for congress and helping with the Equality Alabama table.

    Lamar was one of the performers at last year's Pridefest.

    Libertee Belle and Z at Pridefest last year.

    Come and join in the fun. More information on these and other events can be found here.

    Monday, June 7, 2010

    How Ron Sparks will win in November

    People aren't giving Democratic nominee Ron Sparks much of a chance to win in November, regardless of who his opponent is.

    I disagree. Not that it's going to be easy. But there are things Sparks can do, and there are factors that people aren't considering.

    First of all, why believe the polls?

    They were wrong, oh, so wrong, about the primary election with their predictions of a Davis win and a poor Sparks showing. Ron Sparks proved them wrong.

    Or, should I say, the voters proved them wrong.

    So, ignore all future polling data on this race.

    Of course, we don't know who the Republican candidate will be.

    We don't know how much crossing over will take place in the runoff.

    We don't know if the Republican Party will accept the results. They could screw up like the Democrats did in 1986 (Graddick/Baxley).

    Now, consider a few things.

    Republicans love to gamble. They bet on the Alabama/Auburn game. They buy lottery tickets in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and other states. They travel to Silverstar in Philadelphia, Mississippi and to Biloxi to the Casinos there.

    They might not be crazy about Milton McGregor, but they love to gamble.

    Trouble is, many are in the closet. They don't want the people who sit on their pew at the Baptist Church to know they play the slots. Or the tables.

    So they gamble on the downlow.

    And put a Byrne or James or Bentley sign in their front yard.

    But when they go into that voting booth, they could easily fill in the Ron Sparks oval rather than the Bradley Byrne/Robert Bentley/Tim James choice. The voter knows that their ballot is secret. They can vote to allow the regulation of gambling in this state, to allow the state to reap the benefits of gambling rather than sending all those dollars to Mississippi and Florida.

    Conventional wisdom (and a lot of people) tells us that Alabama Black voters wanted Artur Davis to learn a lesson. That you don't take them for granted. Conventional wisdom might also tell us that the voters feel they have done just that, and that they won't be excited to come back out in November to vote for Sparks.

    But I've spoken with a number of Blacks in the Bessemer area and not one has led me to believe that they will sit at home in November. Sparks will hold on to that support.

    Ron Sparks needs to do three things. Everyone now knows that he is the only pro-gambling candidate.

    1. He needs to stress his views on ethics reform. Summarized at Left in Alabama is this editorial Sparks wrote last year about ethics and restoring trust in state government. The highlights:

    • Ban PAC-to-PAC transfers
    • Campaign contributions will be transparent, clearly identifying the individual contributor
    • Federal "office holder" fund transfers to State campaigns will have the same transparency
    • Lobbyists will report "every penny"
    • Lobbying the Executive Branch will have the same transparency, and lobbyists will be required to register

    Please read the entire editorial.

    2. He needs to develop a consistent and sound policy about the disaster on the Gulf Coast. This will be a major focus of the next governor's term, and Sparks can tie his plan for saving the coast with his successful promotion of international trade, particularly with Cuba, without "politicizing" the disaster.

    3. Every other word out of his mouth should be "jobs". He has worked in a factory. He has promoted jobs in agriculture during his two statewide elected terms as Agriculture Commissioner. The Democrats brought in the automakers. Yes they did. Autoworkers know that the Democratic governors have been pro - their industry. Teachers should know that the Democrats support them (and that the Democrats in Washington are saving their jobs).

    Ron Sparks can win in November. The issues that Alabama cares about are not how strongly a candidate believes in science, or in God, or in both, or how many guns a Governor totes. But even for the gun toting, beer drinking, hunting and fishing voters of the state, Sparks is their buddy.

    With Ron Sparks' Black support and pro-ethics reform and gambling and good ole boy identity and union/workers support we can look forward to taking the Governor's mansion in November.

    But we won't take anything or anyone for granted. Artur Davis taught us that.

    Saturday, June 5, 2010

    Farmers market and politics

    We are getting good response to our request for progressives to join our group. Anticipate some changes in Bessemer.

    Join us.

    I spent the morning at the Bessemer Farmers Market at Watermark Place. The weather was perfect, and I had my camera. But I was carrying others folk's cameras as well, and taking pictures with all. In all that, I didn't get a good picture of the produce with my own camera!

    But I did take a picture of the goodies I bought when I got home. The blackberries are going in a cobbler, and there will be cornbread to accompany the rest.

    Blackberries, rattlesnake beans, fresh pintos, new potatoes and green tomatoes

    The day started out cloudy

    Virginia Ward, the banana man and Toni Hendrix, market director

    The clouds began to part and the people began to pour in.

    Buy fresh, buy local

    Commissioner of Agriculture and Democratic nominee for Governor Ron Sparks showed up

    Councilman Jesse Matthews, Commissioner Sparks, Anthony Underwood and John Willoughby (State of Alabama, Farmers Market Authority)

    Cooking demonstration by Ron Cook of Bessemer

    Ron serving up some chicken

    The event brought out many politicians in addition to the ones above

    City council candidate Cleo King with Commissioner Ron Sparks

    City council candidate Sherrina Rice, councilor and mayoral candidate Louise Alexander and Council candidate Cleo King

    Other elected officials who were seen were councilor and mayoral candidate Dorothy Davidson, and State Representative Lawrence McAdory and mayoral candidate Ken Gulley and councilman Earl Cochran.

    Mr. McAdory tried to explain to me his vote to prevent constitutional reform from advancing. Was he successful? I'll let you know later.

    Next Saturday there will be a health fair and senior citizen nutrition coupons will be distributed.

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    Time for a change in Bessemer


    The recent election has made it clear to progressives in Bessemer that we need to get our message out. The Alabama Democratic Conference distributed a ballot of endorsements for our area, and the Concerned Citizens of Bessemer Cut-Off did as well.

    Most of the progressives in the area are dissatisfied with some of the endorsements we saw.

    With city elections coming up, (as well as the democratic run-off) we have decided its time to group together to evaluate and promote candidates based on their progressive platforms, their level of education, and their response to the pressing issues rather than on money given to the group, old friendships, pay backs and expectations.

    Let me know, either through email, phone call, facebook or twitter if you want to be a part of the progressive movement in Bessemer.

    Progressive voters have different interests depending on whether the issues are national, state, or local.

    National (members of congress, president) - health care (with a public option), environment, LGBT equality, peace, national security, immigration reform, workplace equality for women, preserving a woman's right to choose, and other issues.

    State - ethics reform, tax reform, constitutional reform, environment, LGBT equality and others.

    Local - historic preservation and restoration of neighborhoods, ability to work with the business community, plays well with others (ability for the council and mayor to behave like grownups), community garden support, finding a way to build a rec center for teens and seniors, and other issues.

    Those are just some of the issues we will be evaluating candidates on.

    Again, contact me if you want to be a part of a new direction in Bessemer.

    Some of us, or people we know, fought for the right to vote. Some of us, or people we know or have written about, died for that right.

    Picture credit- Bruce Davidson

    People did not die so that those who came after them could behave in an embarrassing manner locally, tax the poor and reward the wealthy and pass money around secretly on the state level, or get elected and abandon those who elected you on the national (or any level). Elected officials, you know who I am talking about.

    At the polling place the other day this was discussed among the supporters of different candidates who were there all day promoting our favorites. Though we were differing in opinions of who we wanted in office, we all agreed that people should be voting, and and voters should be informed.

    Join our effort. Contact me.

    Hydrangeas at the Oasis

    I don't remember posting many hydrangea pictures, so here are a few. They are one of the highlights in the Oasis during the month of June.

    All of these except for the Oak Leaf Hydrangeas and possibly the last picture came from Aldridge Gardens Hydrangea Sale over the years.

    DHR Groundbreaking

    The groundbreaking ceremony for the new DHR building took place this morning.

    This building is going to turn a neglected corner in Bessemer into a showcase.

    The crowd that gathered included all 7 Bessemer City Council members and at least one announced council candidate, local and state DHR officials, the president of the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association, Bessemer Chamber of Commerce officials, the architect and others from his firm, the contractor, Fire Department officials and other city officials.

    From left to right - Ron Gilbert, city engineer; Aaron Killings, attorney; Anthony Windsor, Public Building Authority (PBA) President; Mayor Ed May; Joe Openshaw, PBA Vice President; Sadie Harris, PBA treasurer

    Council Members, PBA members DHR personnel and Mayor Ed May and city engineer Ron Gilbert playing in the dirt

    Construction will begin within a couple of weeks and progress will be recorded on this site. In a year, DHR will be moving into their new facility!