The Year of Moving Forward

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

Friday, July 30, 2010



1. any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.

2. strong amorous feeling or desire; love; ardor.

3. strong sexual desire; lust.

4. an instance or experience of strong love or sexual desire.

5. a person toward whom one feels strong love or sexual desire.

6. a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything: a passion for music.

7. the object of such a fondness or desire: Accuracy became a passion with him.

8. an outburst of strong emotion or feeling: He suddenly broke into a passion of bitter words.

There are a few more definitions, mostly relating to Christ, but it is this one, "an outburst of strong emotion or feeling" that we saw yesterday from Rep. Anthony Weiner of NY after Republicans sought delaying tactics over the 9/11 health compensation bill.

From 9/11 health now The bill would spend $3.2 billion on health care over the next 10 years for people sickened from their exposure to the toxic smoke and debris of the shattered World Trade Center.. It would spend another $4.2 billion to compensate victims over that span, and make another $4.2 billion in compensation available for the next 11 years.

Republicans blocked it. Weiner's passion I believe is directed not just at the blocking of this bill, but at the Republican - Tea Party strategy that we have seen ever since Barack Obama was sworn in, and that in to be the Party of No. Last week it was forget the unemployed they are not important. Now it's forget the victims of 9/11 that are still suffering, and that the Republican - Tea party minority does not care about.

An unscientific poll on CNN that I saw a little while ago showed that most responders predict that the Republican - Tea party will not gain control of either house of congress this year.

We can only pray that they are right, because if they do, just look for more suffering, more neglect, greater disparities and less compassion.

No wait, we can do more than pray. We can work to get Democrats elected, we can make phone calls, we can donate money. We can put our passion into action.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Main Entry: dis·cor·dant
Pronunciation: \-dənt\
Function: adjective
Date: 14th century
1 a : being at variance : disagreeing b : quarrelsome : relating to a discord
— dis·cor·dant·ly adverb

It sure seems that we are living in discordant times. There are many examples, but certainly highlighted by the example of Joe Wilson's shout of "You lie," during the president's state of the union address, and Republican Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle urging supporters to use "second amendment remedies" if they don't get their way.

Immigrants are among the targeted. I heard someone on the local radio yesterday telling about watching a soccer game and stating that she "knew" that 95% of the young guys playing were "illegal."

First, there is this:

Second, where does she come up with the 95% figure?

As of 2008 there were 46,822,476 Hispanics in the United States (out of 304,059,728 people). Of these, it is estimated that 11,000,000 or around 23 %, are undocumented. Saying that 95% of the young men in a soccer game are illegal is not only plainly wrong, but it's also misleading and contributes to the discordance in our country.

It results from the xenophobia in our community, and across the nation.

In Birmingham yesterday there was a pro-immigrant rally rally that cheered the judge's ruling on the Arizona law. Isabel Rubio, executive director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama said that officials in other cities in our state are interested in passing versions of the proclamation issued by Birmingham at the rally declaring the city as one that welcomes all.

But the Republican Tea Party loves the controversy. They want to keep us divided, hoping it will allow them to win a few races.

But I have this America-view that we are better than that. I grew up seeing the worst that America had to offer during the 20th century in the worst city be in during the 1960's. (Disclaimer - I lived in Vestavia, but I was close enough to Birmingham to know what was going on and to see it with my own eyes.)

And as a result I can recognize hatred when I see it, or hear it. The Republican Tea Party depends on hatred to survive. And what they want to do to the country is deplorable.

Their platform:

1. Repeal health insurance reform
2. Privatize social security or get rid of it.
3. End medicare.
4. Extend the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy and big oil.
5. Repeal Wall Street reform.
6. Protect those responsible for the oil spill.
7. Abolish the Department of Education
8. Abolish the Department of Energy.
9. Abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.
10. Repeal the 17th amendment (ending the direct election of U.S. Senators)

The Republican Tea Party Contract on America

A vote for a republican, any republican, is a vote for this agenda. Remember this in November.

Sitting at home is a vote for this agenda as well. Remember to vote in November.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Auburn greatness

The 2004 Auburn tigers rocked, winning all 13 games including the Sugar bowl where they beat Virginia Tech.

Now they are likely to be awarded the National Championship for that season, since USC has been sacked with NCAA sanctions for that year and had to vacate 14 wins including the national championship game.

Congratulations, Auburn! A little premature, perhaps.

But there is more to Auburn than football. I'm a product of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. Here's a bit of what's going on with the Vet School.

Canine Detection

Auburn's Canine Detection Research Institute is the largest program of its kind in the nation.
The animals that come out of the program provide protection and security for U. S. soldiers and others in Iraq and Afghanistan by detecting explosives and narcotics.

EcoDogs have been developed for the A. U. School of Forestry and Wildlife Services and can detect scat related to endangered or invasive species, tree fungus and invasive insects that are affecting our habitats.

The Auburn trained bomb sniffing dogs patrolled the NBA All-Star game this year and will provide protection at the 2011 Super Bowl.

They have a Vapor Wake Detection canine team that can sniff body-worn explosives in a person in a crowd.

Auburn is about more than football championships, that's for sure.
But, we'll take it, if they award it.

War Eagle!

Monday, July 26, 2010

A virtual tea bag

I get a little p-o'ed when I receive a tea bag via email. A virtual tea bag.

That is how I refer to the forwarded emails full of lies and propaganda. But usually I use them as a teaching tool and I correct the lies and misinformation and send a response to the person who forwarded it to me, along with every email address in the chain.

So today I sent an email to 90 people who had received an email about congress voting them selves a pay raise and Social Security recipients being denied a cost of living increase and medicare recipients having a premium increase. At the end the email urged the reader to replace all 100 House members and up to a third of Senators.

Here is my response:

Recently I received an email from a friend that urged readers to paste a
reminder on the refrigerator about our congress and what they have done.
Let me respond to each point in the email.

But first a reminder. There is a commandment, number 9 I believe, that says "you shall not bear false witness to your neighbor." On the Internet, we are all
neighbors, and composing the email that I received and sending it out, or even
forwarding it, is bearing false witness. I urge each of you to do some
research before forwarding emails that you receive.

Here are the facts surrounding each point in the email.

1. U..S. House & Senate have voted themselves $4,700 and $5,300 raises. LIE!
This is a 100% lie, made up, assuming you are talking about the current congress. In May 2010 President Obama signed into law a bill passed by both the house and senate that lawmakers passed to opt out of the automatic cost of living increases that they would have gotten. This is the second year in a row that this congress has passed such a bill.


2.They voted to NOT give you a S.S. Cost of living raise in 2010 and

By law, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits increase automatically each year if there is an increase in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), from the third quarter of the last year to the corresponding period of the current year. This year there was no increase in the CPI-W from the third quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of 2009.

Thus, by law, no Social Security Cost of Living increase was implemented, and there never is if there is no increase in the CPI.

Source: Social Security Administration

3. Your Medicare premiums will go up $285.60 for the 2-years.

Most Medicare beneficiaries will not see a Part B monthly premium increase as a
result of a “hold harmless” provision in the current law. This allows for
73 percent of beneficiaries to be protected from an increase raising the 2010
Part B monthly premiums from $96.40 to $110.50. The Administration
continues to urge Congressional action that would protect all beneficiaries from
higher Part B premiums and eliminate the inequity of a high premium for the
remaining 27 percent of beneficiaries.


Items 4 - 7 were just repeats of the first three lies, written in a different

8. Will they have your cost of drugs - doctor fees - local taxes - food, etc., decrease?

This is just a broad condemnation of the congress based on nothing. But, "will they have your cost of drugs decrease? Yes. The Health Care Reform bill is closing the "doughnut hole" that affected many seniors. Many of you have already received a $250 check to help cover the difference until the policy change catches

? Why should they care about you?
? You never did anything about it in the past.
? You obviously are too stupid or don't care.
? Do you really think that Nancy, Harry, Chris, Charlie, Barney et al care about you?

Ok, you just called the reader of your email "stupid." But congress does care. They cared about the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people with pre-existing conditions that could not get insurance. Now...already...children cannot be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Adults will be added in a couple of years.

They cared about young adults that could not afford insurance and who could not
remain on their parents policies. Now they can, until age 26. They cared about people who were being dropped from their insurance coverage after being diagnosed with breast cancer or other serious diseases.
Beginning September 23, that practice will be illegal.

They cared about people who have catastrophic diseases and would reach a lifetime cap on insurance coverage. Beginning September 23, that practice will be

You can read about all of the provisions of Health care Reform that are going into effect this year - Bessemer Opinions - Health Care Reform Provisions

I don't mind when people debate policies and base their arguments on the
facts. I do mind when people base their arguments on lies.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bessemer election primer

Next month Bessemer voters will return to the polls to elect the next mayor and city council and school board.

There is a big grumble among the masses about the local officials, and many are calling for a clean sweep, at least among the races for council and mayor.

This is not the year for incumbency. The entire Jefferson County Commission will be new. Incumbents in state and national legislative positions are in trouble.

Let's bring it on down to the local level.

There are only 4 city council members seeking re-election. Two others are trying to unseat the mayor and one is poised to become a county commissioner.

Only 2 of the 7 school board seats are being contested.

And there are 6 candidates for mayor.

The Progressive Voice of Bessemer has about decided who the best candidates are to lead us into the next decade. These will be announced shortly. In the meantime, join our new facebook group, Progressive Bessemer Coalition. After you join, start a discussion or post a comment on the wall. And invite your friends that want to see some change in our city.

Oh, and about our endorsements. They are based on a candidate's 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.

And remember, candidates, especially those for mayor, these are the things that you need to be concerned about.

Candidates for council should be concerned about 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, respect for retirees, and other issues.

Here are the candidates:

Mayor: Louise Alexander (current city council), Donald Ballard, Darayl Blue, Dorothy Davidson (current city council), Kenneth Gulley, Edward May (current mayor). These candidates are also known as Lu Lu, Don, D.M., Dot, Ken and Ed.

City Council District 1: Ronnie Johnson, Temike Reasor, Robert A. Thomas, David Vance

City Council District 2: Albert Grant, Chester Porter, Sherrina V. Rice

City Council District 3: Sarah Wallace Belcher (incumbent), Jessie Burrell

City Council District 4: Ralph Hodge, Donna Thigpen

City Council District 5: Ron Marshall, Albert Soles (incumbent), Robert Dale White

City Council District 6: Jesse Matthews (incumbent), Edward E. May II, Dock Scott

City Council District 7: Earl J. Cochran Sr (incumbent), LaBrenda Marshall Jones, Cleo King

Board of Education District 1: Vera M. Eades (incumbent)

Board of Education District 2: Earlean B. Cochran, Lester S. Mulligan Sr., Janet A. Ruffin

Board of Education District 3: Renna Soles Scott (incumbent)

Board of Education District 4: Samuel Morris (incumbent)

Board of Education District 5: Darlene Perkins (incumbent)

Board of Education District 6: Christine Knight (incumbent)

Board of Education District 7: Hattie J. Aikerson (incumbent), Elvira Kidd, Wanda Faye Thomas, Carolyn Wilson Hudson

I ran into current school board member Bessie Pippens (District 2) at the grocery store yesterday. Ms. Pippens has been a prominent figure around the Bessemer political scene for a long time and I believe she was the first female city councilor. She will not be running for school board this election as she has other priorities that must be tended to. I am sure the school board will miss her cool-headedness and her leadership.

New on Bessemer Opinions are the reaction buttons, and the new share buttons below. You can express your like or dislike or other reaction to each post and easily share a favorite post on facebook, twitter, or a number of other sites.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Standing in the school house door

One hundred and three students will be denied their scholarships as a result of Governor Bob Riley's raid on Greentrack earlier this month.

This information comes from The Tuscaloosa News.

The scholarships provided between $500 and $900 each semester to the students.

“This governor, in 2010, is standing in the schoolhouse door,” Rev. John Kennard said. “He is standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent 103 of our children from furthering their education, and we’re not going to take it.”

Kennard is vice president of the group, Clergy Who Care.

Several students attended a rally organized by Kennard. They seem determined, in spite of the governor's action.

Governor Riley's office issued a statement yesterday about the VictoryLand profits that actually reflect his beliefs about bingo in general, thus, also about this issue in Green County.

“The casinos mislead people into believing they’re helping charities. But the reality is, the only people who actually benefit from it are the casino bosses and their cronies.”

So, the governor does not consider these students as "people," I guess.

Governor Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door on June 11, 1963. He thought he was big stuff, but that attempt to preserve his way of life looks pretty foolish now, doesn't it.

And remember, Republican candidate for Governor Dr. Robert Bentley wants to do away with electronic Bingo too. So he would leave these students out in the cold as well.

This is not about looking for other sources of funds for each student to continue his or her education. The students are doing that, and let's hope they are successful.

No, it's about stripping away a source of college education funds that the students already had secured and on which they were depending.

It's about making things more difficult for students of color.

It plays right along with this undercurrent of racism that has swollen into a torrent over the last two days following the release of an edited video by a right wing blogger meant to further divide our nation and remind white people that they are supposed to be afraid of black people.

Rachel Maddow tells how white voters are being targeted to be afraid of black people.

Part 1, where she talks about George Wallace, and shows a comic book he used during a campaign to promote his views, and the "southern strategy" for winning political races by making white people be afraid of black people. Wallace used it in the 60's, and it is still being used today.

Here's part 2 of Rachel's segment.

How long will the real racists, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Andrew Breitbart, Fox News, who are among us be allowed to control the news in this way? How long will we (the big we...the media, the White House, the bloggers) continue to be fooled in this way?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bessemer city council: a day late and a dollar short

The Bessemer City Council is truly a comedy of errors. It's not all the fault of the current council president, because I have witnessed this in the past (at that link I also made a reference to what I would like to do now: unseat all the current city council members).

Please set aside a Tuesday morning or evening, when the council is meeting, and come and see for yourself. For the real show be there for the "pre-council meeting," which in the distant past only took an hour, (because the real meeting was aired live on the radio, and had to start on time), but since we've been taken off the radio, can last two hours or longer, with as much bickering and infighting as one might see at a Kentucky family reunion after the Hatfield-McCoy wedding.

Yesterday was no exception. Often this council is recognized for not acting on issues of importance in a timely matter. Look how they stretched BINGO along for months. Look how they often don't introduce or approve a budget. Look how long it took to get paving started (conveniently just before an election). Look how long it took to pass the anti-smoking ordinance.

Yesterday, item number 12 on the agenda was "An Ordinance to Prohibit Electronic Messaging While Driving." The item was deleted from the agenda. A question was raised as to the origin of the ordinance; as to whether it came from the Public Safety Committee (headed by Jesse Matthews, I believe) or not. It did not, and it was decided that the item be sent to the Public Safety Committee, where it will probably languish for a while before being returned in the same form. Who knows. Let's just hope and pray that a high profile traffic accident does not occur on a Bessemer street and someone be killed because a driver was texting. No, I'm not naive enough to think an ordinance would prevent everyone from texting, but passing it would allow an educational effort from the city, and some publicity, and maybe a life would be saved.

And remember National Night Out, that oft criticised event that is supposed to bring residents onto their lit up porches and to their fences to talk with their neighbors? But that in the city of Bessemer means spending money for community events that draw people away from their homes and neighborhoods in the evening with the promise of free stuff.

Last year the council voted to give each council member $8000 to spend on their district's celebration, it seems. This year times are tough, and the amount agreed on was $2000 per district "pending identification of funds." In other words, as at least two council members mentioned, they have no idea how much money is in the general fund, so they cannot make a commitment to fund anything. Oh, and side-stepping a little bit, that includes Item 21, which was also deleted, which was to purchase "Two New (Trucks) for the Department of Public Improvements." This was dropped because, again, they did not know how much money they had or where the money would come from.

But, here is the news I wanted to report. In today's Birmingham News is an article headlined "Bessemer misses tax holiday deadline." The article explains that the deadline for a city or county to notify the department of revenue about participation was July 7, 2010.

The council yesterday, always a day late and a dollar short, passed item 22, A Resolution Authorizing a Sales Tax Holiday during the first weekend of August 7, 2010, and in Accordance with Act No. 2006-574, State of Alabama.

If course, it was not in accordance with the act because it was not filed on time.

So I called Carla Snellgrove at the Department of Revenue and asked her if the city could still participate. She told me that the city would not be able to be placed on the web site list of participating cities, and that there was a reason for the 30 day period, i.e., to allow time to do the web posting and to give retailers (who have to submit the tax payments) and consumers time to prepare and advertise and all.

If you look at the official list, you will see the dates that complying cities sent their notifications, and by "Bessemer" you will see a big blank line. Embarrassing, for a city whose residents probably need the tax break the most.

Ms. Snellgrove did say that the city could still decide not to collect the tax, but that it could not be added to the list.

In doing this, the council acted irresponsibly and unfairly to our local retailers, as even if the stores are allowed skip the tax, they will certainly lose sales to other cities that are on the official list.

There was much more that I had to withhold a snicker at during yesterday's pre-council meeting. I recorded much of it, and will save it for a day when I'm feeling down. Or, maybe I will make a short highlight reel for public display.

Bessemer mayor treading on thin ice

Last Thursday I took the mayor up on his invitation, left on my gate the week before:

Mayor Edward E. May invites you to:

The Mayor's Town Hall Meeting
Canaan Baptist Church, 824 15th street North, Bessemer, AL 35020. Thursday, July 15, 2010 6:30 pm

Come and Share: What is happening? What are your concerns? What can we do to make Bessemer better?

Come, and together we can make it happen.

There was a terrific thunderstorm at 6:20 that evening, and only about 10 people showed up for the meeting. Because there are people who would like to hear what the mayor has to say, and because often it seems unusual things happen at these meetings, I took my camcorder.

Before the meeting began the mayor came and sat down across the table from me, and asked me who I was representing now. He was aware that I used to write an opinion column for his media nemesis, The Western Tribune. I told him that we had a lack of media coverage in the city, and that I was representing myself and the people of Bessemer who are unable to attend his meetings. He replied that we didn’t need any more media, in fact there is still too much media.

I began to record when the meeting began. About 10 minutes later, this dialogue occurred (emphasis mine):

Mayor: I would appreciate it if you would not record that. I would appreciate it if you would not record it.

Joe: If I would not record. If I would not record?

Mayor: Yes.

Joe: Can I ask why?

Mayor: You can, but you're recording what we're saying right now. But I would appreciate it if you would not record it. This is inviting of the public, but it’s not a public forum and quite frankly I'm concerned about your motive for being here and the intent that you have of the recording.

Joe: Ok, I'll turn it off and leave.

I was not asked to leave, but I left of my own accord because I was trying to process what I viewed as an attempt to censor the media by a public official. I remembered that the Alabama Open Meetings Act included this statement in Section 6:

" A meeting of a governmental body, except while in executive session, may be openly recorded by any person in attendance, by means of a tape recorder, or any other means of sonic, photographic, or video reproduction, provided the recording does not disrupt the conduct of the meeting."

Was this a public meeting? I went home and did some research, then composed and sent this letter to the Western Star. The letter may be printed in today’s newspaper (I haven't seen it yet).

Dear Editor:

I attended the mayor’s town hall meeting on July 15 but I only stayed for about 10 minutes. I brought my camcorder with me, and was recording the meeting so that those who were unable to attend could hear what the mayor had to say. Elections are coming up, and we have very little recorded media here in Bessemer.

After speaking for a few minutes, the mayor asked me to turn the recorder off. I asked why, and he wouldn’t answer other than to say he questioned my motives. But he did add, “(this meeting) is not a public forum.”

“Town hall meeting” is defined as “an informal public meeting” where “everyone in a community is invited to attend, voice their opinions, and hear from public figures and elected officials.”

Just a week before I had attended a town hall meeting for Terri Sewell in West End where video was recorded by a progressive blogger, a Birmingham News reporter, and a television crew. This candidate, with nothing to hide and full of confidence, welcomed the media.

The mayor questioned my motives. I question his; wanting to keep the public from hearing what he has to say. One thing we know, this candidate does not believe in openness or transparency.

Joe Openshaw

This is not the first time the mayor has shut me up. At a council meeting in 2007 I stood before the group with pictures of abused dogs that had suffered while under the care of the Bessemer Animal Shelter. (Information here) I still have the pictures, (an you can see some of them here ) if anyone wants to see.

I was reporting to the council that the actions of the shelter management were afoul of the law, and at the mention of "Rev." Eades (the department head that oversees the facility) the mayor stopped me right there and I was not allowed to speak any more.

This is typical of the mayor who operates under the premise that if the people don't know, there is no problem.

The same thing happened earlier this year when the mayor refused to accept a check for dog food from a bingo operator (story at the second link above) even though dogs were starving in the shelter. The mayor said there had never been starving dogs there (although I have documentation that there has).

Were the mayor's actions at the Town Hall meeting illegal, according to Alabama law? I don't know, but when I said in my letter that this mayor does not believe in openness and transparency, I meant it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bessemer Downtown south getting a facelift

There are some good things going on around Bessemer, not the least of which is our upcoming elections. Here's hope for a clean slate of elected officials. Hey, Jefferson County is going to start afresh, why can't Bessemer?

Elections are August 24. Just a few weeks of skirting this issue and grandstanding on that issue, for those already in office and seeking re-election. I ran into some of that recently.

In the meantime, on the southern edge of downtown:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

New Health Care Reform provisions being unveiled.

Support for Health Care Reform is increasing, as provisions of the act begin to become reality for people and they see improvements in their own health care situation and yet the world has not collapsed around them.

In the news today is that the Obama administration unveiled new rules about preventive services, which will be free. This means cancer screenings, counseling for overweight kids, diabetes and cholesterol screening, mammograms, flu shots and more.

But did you know that there are many more provisions of Health Care Reform being implemented this year?

Here are the provisons of the Affordable Health Care Act that are being enacted in 2010.

Prohibiting Denying Coverage of Children Based on Pre-Existing Conditions. The new law includes new rules to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to children under the age of 19 due to a pre-existing condition. Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010 for new plans and existing group plans.

Prohibiting Insurance Companies from Rescinding Coverage. In the past, insurance companies could search for an error, or other technical mistake, on a customer’s application and use this error to deny payment for services when he or she got sick. The new law makes this illegal. After media reports cited incidents of breast cancer patients losing coverage, insurance companies agreed to end this practice immediately. Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010.

Eliminating Lifetime Limits on Insurance Coverage. Under the new law, insurance companies will be prohibited from imposing lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits, like hospital stays. Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010.

Regulating Annual Limits on Insurance Coverage. Under the new law, insurance companies’ use of annual dollar limits on the amount of insurance coverage a patient may receive will be restricted for new plans in the individual market and all group plans. In 2014, the use of annual dollar limits on essential benefits like hospital stays will be banned for new plans in the individual market and all group plans. Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010.

Appealing Insurance Company Decisions. The law provides consumers with a way to appeal coverage determinations or claims to their insurance company, and establishes an external review process. Effective for new plans beginning on or after September 23, 2010.

Putting Information for Consumers Online. The law provides for an easy-to-use website where consumers can compare health insurance coverage options and pick the coverage that works for them. Effective July 1, 2010.

(New on Bessemer Opinions is the "Read More" feature. Just click on "Read More" to see the rest of the article, which in this case reveals many more Health Care provisions.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bessemer politics move toward city elections

Politics never ends. Last night we celebrated a huge victory for the people of the 7th Congressional District and today we are right back at it beginning our coverage of the Bessemer municipal elections. Voting will take place August 24, as we select a mayor and council and school board members.

But first, a big congratulations to Terri Sewell. Terri won 8 of the 12 counties in the district, including Jefferson, where she trailed in the June 1 primary election.

Congratulations also to Lawrence McAdory who won another term as State House 56 representative, and to Annetta Verin who beat Dan King in the Circuit Court 12 race.

A call for leadership in Bessemer

In one of the more recent Birmingham mayoral elections (and there have been several) the Birmingham News published an editorial describing the characteristics their next mayor should have.

Let’s suppose that any mayor of any town should have those characteristics, and thus apply them to Bessemer.

1. We need a mayor who understands city finances and how to take control of the budget.

Bessemer’s finances are a mystery. For years there have been calls for an audit that would reveal where the tax money that the citizens of Bessemer fund the city with actually goes. The next mayor must not be shy. He or she must agree to a forensic audit. He or she should also present the budget to the council in a timely manner each year.

In 2008 the city council requested an audit. Then again, in 2009 the city council again requested an audit.

Time and time again, after such requests, nothing has happened.

Let’s just be blunt. The people do not trust the current administration, and it acts as though it has something to hide. Usually when someone acts as if there is something to hide, there is.


An audit of the city finances in 2002 showed that the city was $600,000 in the red at the end of the fiscal year. By 2006, according to these articles, the city’s debt had mushroomed to $2.7 million. The citizens wonder what the financial situation is now.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ron Sparks on today's election

This is a first. I am blogging from my cell phone, at Thompson Manor in Bessemer, where crossover voting is not occuring. Democrat ballots are running 5 to 1 Republican as of 2:00 this afternoon.

I just received an email from Ron Sparks about today's election. Here it is, in part:

Today the Republican Party will choose its nominee to oppose us this fall.  I want you to know where I stand in that race and on the issues.  No matter who wins the Republican primary, Alabamians will have a clear choice in the governor’s race.  Both Republican candidates could not be more different from me.

I am the candidate who has created the most jobs for Alabama.  As a direct result of my leadership at the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries, Alabama is the leading exporter of timber and poultry to Cuba which alone added $350 million into the pockets of Alabamians.  I also opened the first Alabama trade office in India, led the first Alabama economic trade delegation to Africa, and led a delegation to South America to study their great success at generating and utilizing alternative fuels.I am convinced that if every single person in Alabama learns of the success we’ve had growing jobs in agriculture, our state’s biggest industry, I’ll be elected Governor!

I am convinced that if every single person in Alabama learns of the success we’ve had growing jobs in agriculture, our state’s biggest industry, I’ll be elected Governor!

I am also the only person in this race who supports an education lottery that will send our kids to college, will keep them from moving to other states, and will pay for pre-k for our four year olds. Both Bradley Byrne and Robert Bentley oppose a lottery and would ban all gaming in Alabama -- further weakening our economy.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tomorrow's election

Tomorrow is primary runoff election day.

Turnout will be low. Very low.

Some Democrats will be switch hitting.

That is why it is so important for you to go to your voting place and ask for Democratic ballot and vote. Here are the recommendations for the progressive Jefferson County and Jefferson county - Bessemer Cutoff voters.

All video and audio is by Left in Alabama.



Attorney General - Giles Perkins

"The only progressive in the race."

Federal District

AL-07 - Terri Sewell

Still refuting the lies spread by her opponent.

But there is more to Terri. Listen to her talk at the West End town hall meeting, about what we need to do, and how we can get it done. "Investing in human capital." Opening the doors so that "all of us have those opportunities."

Plus, hear what those in the community say about her.

And she does a good "Shirley Chisholm".

State District

56 - Claire Mitchell

I have personally spoken with Claire and she is the most progressive, and remember, her opponent voted against constitutional reform and when I asked him about it, his answer was not satisfactory.

County Commission

District 2 - Gary Richardson

District 3 - Ron Yarbrough

Jefferson County

Circuit Court Place 12 (Bessemer cutoff) - Annetta Verin

Judge Verin's opponent has some ethics issues that are being looked in to. Plus, there are people in Bessemer who are recommending voting for him for precisely the wrong reason. I won't name names, but it might be the usual suspects.

Circuit Court Place 17 (Remainder of county) - Nicole "Nikki" Still

Circuit Court Place 23 (Remainder of county) - Denise J. Pomeroy

Sheriff - Willie Hill

Friday, July 9, 2010

Terri Sewell: the honest candidate

What is worse, a thief or a liar?

Sheila Smoot is a liar. At least, her campaign is lying when they made this claim about Terri Sewell: "She didn't even cast one vote in Alabama until 2008."

And this one: "Sewell never even voted in Alabama until 2 years ago. ... She never even bothered to vote and now she wants to represent you in Congress. ... Sewell doesn't even vote, but she attacks Shelia Smoot's record?"

This would mean that Terri had never voted for her mother when she ran for city council.

Here is Terri's voter registration from Dallas County in 1984.

Sewell has said this, in a statement about the matter: She "went on to vote in multiple local, federal, and state races in Alabama's 7th district, often casting absentee ballots while away at college. She spent many long hours campaigning for her mother, who was the first African-American woman elected to the Selma city council, and always made a point to cast a vote in support of her mother."

So last night as I was leaving Sewell's town hall meeting in West End, a vehicle with speakers attached to the outside was broadcasting "This is a warning," followed by these lies and others, with a booming, authoritative voice, to people in the community.

If Smoot will lie to get into office, what will she do once she is elected? We don't need an embarrassment in Washington, D.C. We need a person who can relate to the big wigs there, but can also relate to the people, all of the people, in her district.

Read more about Smoot's ads at Left in Alabama, where Smoot has been asked to pull the radio ads and to apologize.

Terri Sewell is poised to become the first African-American woman elected to congress from Alabama. She was recently named one of the Next 10 Women to Watch in Politics. She is in a list with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and in my book there could be no better comparison.

At the Town Hall last night, Terri shared her policy views, but she also shared the connection she has with individuals in the district. People from the West End area who had answered a knock at their door and opened it to find Terri were there and spoke highly of their conversation.

Terri also spoke of people that she thinks about on a daily basis during this campaign. One was a seven year old girl who dreamed of being the first African-American female astronaut (Terri gently informed her that Mae Jemison had been the first, this little girl might be the second). But she reminds Terri that every child should be able to dream, and dream big. Terri herself came a long way and she feels everyone should have that opportunity.

Another person that Terri mentioned was a contractor whose business has been affected by the economy. Terri understands the hardship that people are undergoing (including the people in Green County that Terri said unfairly lost their jobs when the Governor's Task Force closed Green Track).

I asked Terri about her positions on two issues of great importance to the President: the moratorium on deep water drilling and the lawsuit against the state of Arizona over their immigration law.

I could tell that Terri has put a lot of thought into both of these issues, because there are valid arguments on both sides. But her answers showed me that Terri's views are truly progressive and I agree with her. She supports the moratorium on deep water drilling since we don't know how to stop a leak like the disaster that is taking place right now. Shallow water drilling, and production from deep water wells already in operation, can continue.

As for the immigration lawsuit, she backs the President and sees the law as discriminatory.

And just as Terri has been able to communicate with and inspire the people she has met on the campaign, she will be able to do the same with members of congress. I could picture her last night meeting with Nancy Pelosi or Alan Grayson and having productive conversations with them, and actually getting things done for our district and for our country.

If Terri does not win this election consider it stolen. That's where the "thief" question comes in.

But Terri will not lose. She will win on Tuesday. She is upbeat. I am upbeat. Her supporters are upbeat.

See you at the polls on Tuesday.

There is beauty in the world.

Macy Gray thinks so. Here she sings "Beauty in the World"

Here's the remix, if you prefer that dance beat.

Headed toward marriage equality

Yesterday was a banner day for equality, and two stories in The Birmingham News reflect this.

On the front page is the story about the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voting to allow non-celibate gays to serve as clergy.

Actually what they voted for was to evaluate candidates on the basis of "calling, gifts, preparation and suitability."

There is no mention of sexual orientation or sexual ethics in the proposed language.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is the nations 10th largest Christian church in the United States, with 2.8 million members.

A majority of the church's 173 U. S. presbyteries still must approve the policy change. Two years ago, 94 presbyteries voted against the change.

Here is the news as reported on the church web site.

The church did, however, vote to retain their discriminatory definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

But progress is slow, especially in churches, so let's celebrate this small (huge) victory.

In an unrelated action (but related to yesterday's post), the Presbyterian assembly voted to "refrain from holding national meetings in states where travel by immigrant Presbyterians or Presbyterians of color might subject them to harassment due to legislation."

Good for them!

In other marriage related news, and probably the biggest story, is that a federal court has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. The ruling only applies to Massachusetts, which challenged DOMA on the basis that it forced discrimination on the state's same sex married couples. But it gives encouragement to other states that permit same-sex marriage, and gives heart to the LGBT community at large.

It is unclear as to whether the ruling will be appealed. The U. S. Justice Department would file the appeal, but President Obama has stated that the law is discriminatory and wants it overturned. So let's just see how that plays out.

Here is the DOMA decision. You can click on "full screen" to read the entire thing.

DOMA Decision

Here are reactions from pro-equality organizations.

Equality opponents are blaming SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan (who filed a brief in the case for upholding DOMA when she was solicitor general) for deliberately sabotaging the case.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dear Mexican,

Dear 'Mexican',

Be careful out there. In spite of what you might hear from the Irondale City Council, you have been targeted.

In the state of Alabama, there is a strong history of hatred, and your group is just the latest in a long list of people targeted because they are different. Our state history of hatred has been displayed on television for decades primarily by the images of fire hoses and police dogs that targeted peaceful blacks during the 1960’s.

More recently we’ve heard the hatred against gays as Republican former candidate for governor Roy Moore suggested using “the power of the sword” against “homosexuals” in an opinion he wrote while serving as Chief Justice of the Alabama supreme court.

But hatred against Latinos has been documented in our history as well. In 1921 a Puerto Rican man named Pedro Gussman was married to Ruth Stephenson by Father James Coyle at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Birmingham. Ruth’s father, Rev. R. E. Stephenson, was a Methodist Episcopal Church minister, and also a Klansman, and he gunned down Father Coyle on the steps of the Catholic parsonage on August 11, 1921 not long after his daughter was married.

Father James Coyle

Now this has long been viewed as an anti-Catholic act, and the race of the murderer’s son-in-law has been mentioned as secondary. Stephenson was acquitted, and Catholics were targeted by the Klan for years to come.

But this incident underscored that both racial and religious differences were not going to be tolerated in our state.

During this same time period and for decades leading up to it, Blacks in Alabama were being targeted in much the same way Hispanics are being targeted today. The records from courthouses across our state demonstrate the capture and imprisonment of thousands of random indigent citizens under inconsequential charges or in some cases, for violations of laws specifically written to intimidate blacks (vagrancy, riding freight cars, loud talk with white women) and then held and “sold” for cheap labor for years in order to pay off their trumped up fines. This re-enslavement of blacks is documented in Douglas Blackmon’s book, "Slavery by Another Name".

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the whites in power rarely openly voiced their intent or their hatred of blacks and others (other than when disguised by wearing their white robes and hoods). The same is true today. The lawmakers may not admit to their hatred of you, but when we listen to the rhetoric of their like minded constituents who make the assumption that, for instance, all construction workers are illegal (rather than all construction workers are Hispanic), it’s easy to determine their mindset. “There’s a building going up nearby and all the workers are illegals,” they might say on local talk radio.

If I were stopped in Irondale for speeding, I wonder if the officer would ask for proof that I’m a U. S. citizen? He would see my driver’s license and my insurance card. Neither of those proves citizenship. But I probably look like him, or like other officers on his police force, and I talk like a southerner, so he probably wouldn’t ask.

If you were pulled over for speeding, you would be more likely to be asked about your origins.

But the Irondale immigration resolution says “nothing in this resolution requires, condones, or approves any profiling based on race, creed, color or place of origin.” As Irondale Council person James D. Stewart (who is black) said, the resolution would not need to include that language if the rest of it was designed to prohibit profiling in the first place.

Odds are that this law will be struck down just as the discriminatory Arizona law will be, and legal groups are looking at the Irondale resolution now. But it could take months or longer for the legality of the laws to be determined.

In the meantime, be very careful when in Irondale. You or your friends or family members could disappear, just as the blacks did in and around Birmingham a hundred years ago. You are dealing with xenophobic people in Irondale, and elsewhere.

No todos los residentes de Alabama son así. No todos tienen el odio en nuestros corazones. Agradecemos el trabajo que haga y las contribuciones que hacen a nuestra sociedad y nuestra economía.Tenga cuidado ahí fuera.


Bessemer Opinions

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Progressive Bessemer endorsements

Qualifying begins today for the Bessemer municipal elections and we already know who most of the candidates are. One candidate for mayor either needs to correct the spelling of his name on his signs, or inform the Birmingham News how to spell his name, because they do not match.

But we return to the polls before the August 24 contest. The state primary runoff's are a week from today, on July 13, and here are the progressive recommendations for the Democratic Party from Bessemer Opinions.

This may seem unusual, but you may see a different candidate recommended than was endorsed in the June primary. This can be due to various factors, but in no way is money or payment of any kind involved. Unlike the other political groups in the Bessemer Cutoff, we do not accept money or gifts of any kind from political candidates, and we do not endorse our cronies or friends.

Our recommendations are based solely on the candidates academic and professional credentials, track record, political views, plans for the future, and answers to questions that have been proposed to the candidates. Not all of the candidates in this list have completed questionnaires, but the candidates were studied enough to allow an informed opinions to be formed.

The most important recommendation is to ignore requests to vote in the Republican runoff. Some Democrats are urging others to vote in the Republican governor's race to oust a particular man, but the truth of the matter is, they are both bad for the state, and bad for education, and we need to focus on getting the best progressive candidates into office.

And some of these races will be very close, and the candidates listed below need every vote, so stick to your party, and vote progressive on Tuesday, July 13.


Attorney General - Giles Perkins

Federal District

AL-07 - Terri Sewell

State District

56 - Claire Mitchell

County Commission

District 2 - Gary Richardson

District 3 - Ron Yarbrough

Jefferson County

Circuit Court Place 12 (Bessemer cutoff) - Annetta Verin

Circuit Court Place 17 (Remainder of county) - Nicole "Nikki" Still

Circuit Court Place 23 (Remainder of county) - Denise J. Pomeroy

Sheriff - Willie Hill

Friday, July 2, 2010

Economic outlook for Alabama looks good!

On Facebook I have friends of all stripes, even teabaggers. One, whom many of you know, is particularly critical of our president and his policies. I'm not going to call him out by name, but here are some of the comments he's posted on my Facebook page.

"This administration is THE WORST we have EVER had. It won't matter WHO runs against BHO in 2012, he doesn't have a CHANCE! THANK GOD! "

"It's NOT getting better. The economy is down, the jobless rate is not improving, the housing market has crashed."

"Not ONE SINGLE PROGRAM that Obama is trying is working. "

"Economic numbers & approval rating numbers will show you that we are worse off than we have EVER been & we aren't happy about it. There is nothing this moron has done that has even begun to turn this country around."

Let's look at some trends. When coming out of a recession, or a depression, trends are more important than individual numbers because factors that may cause a temporary rise or fall are more easily identified. Plus, you get a sense of where things are heading.

These figures are from Gallup.

Here's a chart that shows job creation for the last 7 months. The per cent of employers that are hiring is indicated by the dark green line, and the per cent of employers letting people go is indicated by the light green line.

Clearly, these trends are both moving in the right direction. Almost one third of employers in the U. S. are hiring right now. About one in five are still having to lay off or fire people.

Surely we need even more improvement in these numbers, but the trend is favorable.

Here is a chart that indicates underemployment in the U. S. for the last 7 months. Underemployment includes the unemployed and those who are employed part-time but want to work full time. These numbers were released by Gallup earlier this week and based on their findings they predicted unemployment numbers released today to be 9.5%.

Notice, again, the trend. Underemployment is declining.

When the unemployment numbers were released this morning, 9.5 was the figure. Pretty good prediction, Gallup.

Here's the unemployment chart released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Not a great drop in unemployment, but better than most analysts (except Gallup) predicted, and certainly a move in the right direction.

Let's bring the economic news home to Alabama.

In this morning's Birmingham News,in the money section,was this headline and story:

State gains solid ground on recovery, UA survey says.

Alabama business leaders believe the state has turned the corner on a meaningful economic recovery, according to the results of a University of Alabama survey released this morning.

The Alabama Business Confidence Index, derived from responses from 345 business executives across the state, indicates expansion for the second quarter in a row, after 10 consecutive quarters of contraction. "Given the successful forecasting history of the index, this should be a good indication that the recovery has taken hold," officials at the university's Center for Business and Economic Research note in a report.

All elements of the confidence index scored in positive territory this quarter, meaning expectations are growing for increased hiring, sales and profits in coming months. "The operating environment for Alabama businesses should be much improved," the report says.

So, it looks like the situation is improving and is poised for further improvement here in Alabama.

If my friend who can't see the forest for the tea leaves would keep up with the news and what is going on, instead of only listening to Faux Network, he would realize that President Obama is doing as good as could be expected with congress so divided as it is. That's a whole different story, for another day.

There are other indications that the president is doing a good job and that the things he is doing are working, but this is enough for today.