The Year of Moving Forward

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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Chicken Soup

The Year of Bessemer Food

This being the last day of the year, and me recovering from a mild case of the flu or a persistent cold, I think it appropriate to share my recipe for chicken soup. It cures.

There are so many flavors in this soup, and it does take a little extra effort, but it is worth it.

To save time, cut up the vegetables and cook your rice while the chicken is cooking.

Chicken Soup

3 chicken breasts, skinless*
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup white wine
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

2 carrots
2 celery stalks
2 small onions (or 1 medium)
1/2 tsp salt
1 can chicken broth

For prepared rice
1/2 cup rice
1 cup water
1 tsp crushed rosemary

*If the chicken breasts are "huge," filet them to make 2 pieces from each, cook all of it and use 1/2 for the soup and the rest for sandwiches the next day.

In a baking pan, whisk together olive oil, wine, salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon, garlic powder and smoked paprika. Coat the chicken in the mixture and lay the pieces in the rest, in the pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or until done.

Peel and slice the carrots very thin. Slice the celery very thin. Peel and quarter the onions, and then slice very thin.

 Prepare rice by bringing 1 cup of water to a boil, add 1/2 cup of rice and 1 tsp rosemary. Reduce heat and simmer until done, about 20 minutes.

Shred chicken with fork or fingers and combine with vegetables in pot. Add salt and chicken broth, and one or more cans of water to make soup the consistency you like.

Add 1/2 cup or so of pan drippings to soup (try not to add too much oil/grease).

Add prepared rice.

Heat to boiling, reduce heat and let simmer for 10 or 15 minutes.


And Happy New Year and have a prosperous and joyful 2013.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Guns don't die; children do

Yesterday another mass killing took place. It really doesn't matter whether it was 27, 7, or one that was killed; it's too many.

And we pray for the victims and their families. The nation is praying.

But I am tired of something. I am tired of every time a well publicized shooting takes place, I hear "This is not the time to discuss gun control."

We heard it the day Gabby Giffords was shot and several of her constituents died. But nothing meaningful was discussed afterwards either.

We heard it when the theater shooting took place in Aurora, Colorado. But nothing meaningful was discussed after that either.

And we heard it today from the President's press secretary.

Well, today we are discussing it. Twenty children died at the hands of a disturbed individual. So did seven adults. For the killer, it must have been easy for him to acquire the guns that he used. That's the way it is in America. That's the way the NRA wants it. That's the way most of the people in Alabama want it. They want mentally ill people to be able to acquire guns, even if it means that on occasion teenagers at a movie premiere or elementary age children in class are killed, because they think that if it is made more difficult for some people to acquire killing machines, then it could become more difficult for them to acquire the same.

If they didn't want it this way, they would fight for change. But they don't.

And here is part of the problem. Let's start with the Bible. Many in our state and around the country think of the Bible as the infallible word of God. Some of us recognize the fallibility in it. For instance, the Bible says to stone a woman who marries who is not a virgin. To me, that is a fail.

I could give other examples.

But regardless of what one thinks about the Bible, it cannot be changed. The way it is interpreted can be changed, but the Bible itself cannot be.

Now; the Constitution. Many Republicans, and some others, think it is also infallible. But we know it had has faults. Slavery...women...were not equal in the beginning of this country. But we corrected that. We are still working on inequality for gays. So...the Constitution can be changed. And even easier, laws can be changed.

No one is calling for banning guns. But let's all admit that when the Second Amendment was written, the object that the early Americans wanted to defend themselves against was the tyrannical government of England . The Second Amendment has nothing to do with hunting or feeding one's family. Tyranny is not something we worry about today (I won't even reference George W. Bush here).

We could easily...easily pass laws that make guns and especially automatic and semi-automatic weapons less accessible to the mentally ill and criminals. We could require background checks.  We could make it so guns could not be sold easily at gun shows and flea markets. I am not a policy maker, but I'm sure there are other steps that could be taken as well.

But the NRA and those who want mentally ill people and criminals to be able to get guns easily will try to prevent meaningful legislation from being passed. And in doing so, they you are just as guilty as the one who pulls the trigger next time a killing like this takes place.

If you are not for strengthening gun laws, and if you contribute to the NRA, you are making it easy for the mentally ill and criminals to get guns. You will have a role in the next mass killing of kids...or shoppers...or office workers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


There I said it.

Well, I wrote it; against the Associated Press's recommendations.

The AP Stylebook is a guide for grammar, punctuation and principles for journalists and editors and writers (and grad students). 

Yesterday it was reported that they no longer want writers to use the word "homophobia."

Technically, the word should mean an irrational fear of homosexuals, or "queer fear."

But the word has come to include all of those who are against gay equality, whether fear is involved or not. And homophobia can be internalized, as when a person who is gay is afraid of their own sexuality and works to hide it or even legislate against their own self interests, in the case of lawmakers such as Larry "I am not a homophobic" Craig. Homophobia can also be institutionalized, as when governments or churches pass restrictions against gay people.

The AP now says that -phobia denotes "an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness." And that to use the term homophobia makes an assumption about the person that may not be true and that we just don't know, like assuming they are mentally ill or irrational.

But homophobia often nearly always  does indicate an irrational fear. Maybe not of an individual gay person, but this.

Most anti-gay (to use AP approved words) attitudes are related to religion. And religious leaders in the anti-gay movement often nearly always say things like allowing gay marriage will lead to the downfall of society and that gay acceptance is angering God and He is retaliating by bringing storms like Sandy and Katrina to our shores.

Now if those are not irrational fears I don't know what is.

And institutional homophobia is based on fear too. Lawmakers fear that voting for acceptance of gays will cause them to lose their position in office. That is irrational. Across the country gay people were elected in record numbers at all levels of government, including our first gay (lesbian) senator, Tammy Baldwin.

Word control

I'm reminded of being told several years ago by a prominent gay leader in Birmingham not to use the word "homosexual" in writing. "Ever!"

This was after I had written about articles (on this blog) about people of his (our) sexual orientation. And when talking about the orientations; heterosexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality, there are no other words to describe them. "Gay" is not an orientation.

And when writing from a historical perspective sometimes it is necessary to use the word as well.

And finally, I am not going to let the religious right scare me into not using the proper term to describe myself, as they had scared that person into denying himself of being a proud homosexual. In fact, I guess that man was a victim of his own internalized homophobia.

Likewise, I am not going to allow the AP to water down homophobia into "anti-gay."

I live with the effects of homophobia every day. I cannot marry my partner. Homophobia. I can be fired from my job (if I had one) for being gay. Homophobia. I can be beat to within an inch of my life because I am gay and it not be called a hate crime in this state. Homophobia. I can be jeered at and taunted for holding my partner's hand walking down the street. Homophobia. I am hesitant to put my arm around my partner's shoulder in church even though I see straight men doing it every Sunday. Homophobia. I can't donate blood even though I am HIV negative and have been in a monogamous relationship for 11 years. Homophobia. I had restricted visitation with my children after my divorce. Homophobia. I was banned from visiting my son for lunch or other activities at Green Valley Elementary School in Hoover. Homophobia.

I could go on.

But with so much homophobia around us, I don't see how we can stop using the word.

(photo from the Wipe Out Homophobia facebook page.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fired up! Ready to keep going!

After digesting the election results last night, I went to bed full of hope (like I did four years ago). But I woke up this morning and checked a few facebook pages belonging to Republican friends and listened for a minute to Fox News and then reality sunk in.

We can hope that cooperation will take place in Washington, but John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are still in charge of their House and Senate caucuses, respectively,  and Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh are still bloviating.

But let's just think about what happened last night.

The United States re-elected its first African-American president.  This is huge!

Here is President Obama's speech from last night (this morning) in case you missed it. You need to listen, because he is YOUR president, and he has your best interests at heart.

Four states voted in favor of LGBT marriage. Maryland, Maine and Washington affirmed same-sex marriage, and in Minnesota a constitutional amendment to prevent it was defeated. This is huge!

Here is a song about marriage equality by Sean Chapin.

The Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, is safe. In 2014 it will be in full effect and people will see that it is a good thing, and by 2016 it will be appreciated.  This is huge!

Here is a video about Health Care Reform through political cartoons.

The Supreme Court will not become more right-leaning over the next 4 years. This is huge!

Here is a video to remind you how crazy the Supreme Court makes people.

And this is Bruce Springsteen from a few years ago, looking good. Springsteen brought some crowds to see the President during he campaign, so he gets a mention here.

So we progressives are still fired up, and we are ready to promote our agendas.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Amendments - how to vote

My philosophy regarding amendments to the Alabama Consititution for years has been to always vote no unless something really, really important to me was being addressed by a particular issue. This is because our constitution is so outdated, and voters need to send a message to the legislators and the other voters that we want a new constitution and we want it now. It's ridiculous that we have to vote on an amendment every time a local water system needs to change (Amendment 5), or a city wants to annex rural land (Amendment 3) or when police jurisdictions are in question (Amendment 11). But in some years, an issue tops my ideology.

This is one such year. Forever Wild, the agency that has purchased 231,000 acres reserved for public use, is funded by revenue from the state's oil and gas trust fund. This amendment allows funding to continue for the next 20 years.

Alabama ranks dead last in availability of public lands for recreational use.

The Birmingham News says "And we will almost certainly still be in last place in 2032," when this will probaby come up for funding again, assuming it passes this year.

So the Bessemer Progressive says to vote "Yes" on Amendment 1.

Amendment 2 is tricky. Some Democrats are saying to vote yes, but I say hold your ground and vote "No."

"Borrow, borrow, borrow," and "cut, cut, cut,"  have been the answers from Republicans when asked about solving our state's fiscal problems. The Republicans refuse to responsibly consider raising revenue to help address our problems, and this is just another example of their philosophy. Vote "No" on Amendment 2.

All of the other amendments deserve a "No" vote for the reason pointed out in the first paragraph.

But Amendment 4 needs special mention. This amendment removes racist language from the Constitution. But it really doesn't. Alabama's Constitution was written in 1901and amended many times and is peppered with words and phrases that are demeaning to African Americans. If this amendment passes, do those words just disappear?  Will my copy of the Alabama Constitution then have blank lines and pages where the racist language once appeared?

No, the language will still be there, the amendment just says we will ignore it.

As long as the 1901 Constitution is our state governing document, we will live under it's shame, regardless of how many coats of whitewashing are applied.

The rich, white, racist men that wrote the Alabama Constitution in 1901

But this amendment is harmful in another way. It would affirm that the children in Alabama do not have a right to public education.

Here is how Judge Mark Kennedy explained it.

In 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregated schools, Alabama added Amendment 111 to our state constitution. Amendment 111 has three paragraphs: the first eliminated the right to a public education, the second helped start private segregation academies, and the third demanded the segregation of students. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down amendment 111, but it still embarrassingly remains in the state constitution. We tried to eliminate Amendment 111 altogether in 2004, but the attempt failed. The legislature took up the cause again this past year, but the Republican Supermajority decided to only take out the third paragraph and leave the other two in place. If we vote “YES”, we will be reaffirming paragraphs one and two. Why didn’t the Republicans bring up a clean bill that got rid of all of Amendment 111? After their attempts at charter schools, their attacks on teachers, and attempts to raid the Education Trust Fund, you can only imagine what they’re up to.

So vote "No" on Amendment 4.

And vote "No" on all the other amendments, except for Amendment 1.

But most of all, Vote on Tuesday.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mormon takeover

People who know me understand that I am a firm believer in freedom of religion and freedom from religion. I think no more or no less of anyone for what they choose to believe or ignore. Having said that, I do not believe that a president should be elected without some understanding of what they believe.

Uh-oh, now we are mixing religion and politics.

But this is very important.

Mitt Romney is a Mormon. I remember when I was growing up my mother had a Book of Mormon. My parent's bed had a headboard that contained a place for books, and the Book of Mormon sat right there with the Bible, some Dale Carnegie book about winning friends and influencing people and a few other books. But we were not Mormons.

I did ask about the book, and learned way back then that the Mormon religion is a little more science fiction like than the Christian religion.*

*Mormonism is NOT a Christian denomination. Many right wing Republicans are trying to make us think that they are, but they are not. They do not believe in the Trinity and they do not think of God in the same way that Christians do. They do not believe that God and his son are the same, or even that they are equal. They believe that the Son is subordinate to the Father. And they believe that God the Father was once mortal, and after he died he achieved his "god" status. Then he had a sexual union with the Heavenly Mother, and from that all of us human spirits were derived. Jesus was the first born of these human spirits.

Of course, Christianity was founded, I guess by Jesus. Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith, who is pictured below.

And then there's the planet Kolob. This interested me as a kid because I was familiar with other fictional planets such as Krypton, the birthplace of Superman.

They think that in the end times, the earth will be plucked from its orbit and placed near Kolob (since God's throne is near there, I guess, and he doesn't want to travel all the way to our solar system to do his end time things).

Granted, many of the stories of the Bible may seem just as fictional, but I don't believe in a literal interpretation of some of those stories either.

So why am I picking on Mormonism. Because of this.

Mitt Romney is a good and faithful Mormon. He is a Bishop and has been a missionary and a state leader of his faith. Like any good Mormon, he will do what his church asks him. And what might they ask him?

Mormons want control of the government.

Joseph Smith had a supposed vision (prophecy) that one day a Mormon would become President of the United States, FOR THE EXPRESS PURPOSE, of letting the Mormon Church take over the U.S. Government. You can take it to the bank, that if Romney were President, the church leaders would have another “vision,” that a church takeover must happen. By the way, that prophecy was simple revenge for perceived wrongs done to Joseph Smith by the government.

If the church directed Romney to do something, he would do it.

Romney avoids mentioning it, but Joseph Smith ran for president in 1844 as an independent Commander in Chief of an “army of God” advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government in favor of a Mormon-ruled theocracy. Challenging Democrat, James Polk and Whig, Henry Clay – Smith prophesied that if the U.S. Congress did not accede to his demands that “they shall be broken up as a government and God shall damn them.” Smith viewed capturing the presidency as part of the mission of the church. Smith’s insertion of religion into politics and his call for a “theodemocracy where God and people hold the power to conduct the affairs of men in righteous matters” created a sensation and drew hostility from the outside world. But his candidacy was cut short when he was shot to death by an anti-Mormon vigilante mob. Out of Smith’s national political ambitions grew what would become known in Mormon circles as the “White Horse Prophecy” — a belief ingrained in Mormon culture and passed down through generations by church leaders that the day would come when the U.S. Constitution would “hang like a thread as fine as a silk fiber” and the Mormon priesthood would save it. Mitt Romney views the American presidency as a theological office.

This is scary stuff.

And like I said before, I don't care what people believe, but I do care what our President believes.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I will NOT vote for Mitt Romney in 2012

I noticed that 14 of my facebook friends like a page called "I will NOT vote for Obama in 2012."

Well, I will not vote for Mitt Romney and most of those people should not either.

Here is why, in no particular order.

1. Mitt Romney said that FEMA is immoral. He wants to privatize disaster relief. He said so in a presidential primary debate. In light of hurricane Sandy, and in light of the April 27, 2011 tornadoes that ripped through Alabama, and in light of the Gulf Oil Spill, and in light of Hurricane Katrina, I believe that not having a Federal Emergency Management Agency would be immoral.

Picture credit -  Daily Beast

Some of the people who are supporting Romney (or who are anti-Obama) have experienced disaster and have received help from FEMA, and all are subject to a disaster since we never know when or where they might occur. But I guess they won't mind being told "you are on your own," or "Governor Bentley will take care of you," when their house is blown away.

If you remember, Obama visited Alabama after the tornadoes. And Michelle came back, as promised.

Obama in Alabama - picture credit - Essence
And I think he will do a great job with Sandy. We will see.

2. Mitt Romney flip-flops. All politicians do this to some extent, but he has made a career of it. His views on women's health care and choice and his views on gay rights are just two examples of his pandering to the right to get votes in this election. In 1994, when running for senate against Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, he told a gay paper that he was even more pro-gay rights than Kennedy.

Some of those Romney supporters are women but I guess they won't mind being told by a middle-aged man how to treat their bodies and that they cannot have birth control.

Some of those Romney supporters are gay, but I guess they don't care that he thinks of them as second class (or no-class) citizens. To me, that means that they don't think that much of themselves. But then again, self-loathing has always been a problem among the LGBT community. Mitt Romney says he will reverse the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. He will defend marriage "as between one man and one woman." We need a president who believes in equality, even if it takes some evolution to get there. We need to move forward, not backward.

3. Mitt Romney cannot admit when he is wrong. He pretends that he never said something. Or tries to explain his way out of it. Take the "47 percent" comment. He told it, in private he thought, revealing how he feels about society. Then, when it was made public, he changes the story, as if he never said it. What amazes me is that people still believe he is telling the truth, or will be, if he becomes president. Why should he be truthful? He is being rewarded even now for his Etch-a-Sketch policies.

4. Mitt Romney has no foreign policy. I don't mean a lack of foreign policy experience. I mean he has no policy regarding foreign affairs. At the last debate he agreed with every foreign policy view that Barack Obama spoke of. Do we believe that he wants to stay in Afghanistan and keep troops in Iraq, like he said before?  Or does he want to follow the timeline for withdrawal that he most recently said? Which way is the wind blowing?

5.  Mitt Romney does not believe in fairness. Most Americans agree that the rich should pay more in taxes. Most rich people agree. CEO's agree. Mitt Romney does not.

6.  Mitt Romney is hiding something. It's in his tax returns. After his recent release of a tax return, it was quickly pointed out that he refused to use some deductions that he was entitled to, in order to make his tax rate a "respectable" 14.1%. What a joke. What a hypocrite. What about the previous years? Show us those, Mitt!

7. Mitt Romney believes in privilege. He thinks those who want to go to college should only go where they can afford, or should ask their well off parents for money. Some of us think that those who have the greatest ability and the most promise, should go to college. Oh, and my kids, who may or may not fall into those categories (of course they do).

8. Mitt Romney does not believe in climate change. Or that we need to do anything about it. Or the environment. They can ignore Sandy. They can ignore the tornadoes. They can ignore the oil spill. They can ignore Katrina. But some day it's going to smack them (Romney and his supporters) in the face. Actually it just did, but they will not face reality.

9. Mitt Romney does not love women. He said, "I love women." Was he talking about the ones in his binders? He won't say whether he supports equal pay for women, only that he is in favor of women in the workplace. That's very 1920 of you, Mitt.

10. Mitt Romney does not love cars. He said, "I love cars," when defending his lies about the auto bailout ("Let Detroit go bankrupt). More recently he said that Obama caused Jeep to be sold to an Italian company and that all the Jeep jobs will be going to China. Not true said Chrysler, who owns Jeep. Not true, said Obama, whose first vehicle was a Jeep. Not true said Sergio Marchionne,CEO of Fiat. (This is another example of a lie Romney has been caught in but will not back down from).

Those are 10 of the reasons I will not vote for Romney. But the main reason I will not vote for Romney is that I am casting my vote for Barack Obama. And that is because I believe in him, I believe in his policies, I believe in his results, and I believe in most of the policies of the Democratic Party.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Ignorance: the state or fact of being ignorant : lack of knowledge, education, or awareness

In today's Birmingham News there is a column by John Archibald in which he calls out Birmingham City Councilwoman Lashunda Scales for her reaction to the "Living in Limbo" exhibit at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute earlier this year.

Archibald is correct, and his column is worthy, but he missed a chance to explain the reason for Scales' opinion.

"Scales said she was "floored" when she saw the "Living in Limbo" exhibit," Archibald wrote. he then quoted Scales.

Councilwoman Lashunda Scales

"I didn't choose to be black," she said. "I came here black. That's the difference. I know there's a difference between a choice and being black."

Now those who have kept up with this blog over the years know that my pet peeve is people who say being gay is a choice. And those who do, do so out of ignorance. Or hatred.

Scales may be well educated but on the subject of sexuality she is ignorant. I hope that the gay people in her district and elsewhere will contact her and let her know that being gay is NOT a choice.

She can be contacted at

Birmingham City Hall
710 20th Street North
Birmingham, Alabama 35203-2216
Phone: 205-254.2349

This reminds me of when, in 2007, Birmingham was set to pass an inclusion resolution and Miriam Witherspoon made a heartless comment. Other Birmingham Council members joined her in supporting exclusion of gays. Two months later, however, after some education, the council voted unanimously in favor of the resolution.

This state is slow to change. Just look at the struggle black people had when seeking equality. That is why I am "floored" when people who should understand discrimination (and ignorance) fall victim to the same mentality that governed our state during the Civil Rights era.

But, here we are, about to elect Roy Moore defeat Roy Moore in his bid to regain the Chief Justice position. Let's hope Judge Bob Vance can put Roy Moore to rest for good.

And let's hope Councilwoman Scales can evolve on the issue of sexuality.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

BRIMF Ribbon Cutting

Norfolk Southern officials and dignitaries and invited guests were at the site of the Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility this morning as the ribbon was cut to welcome the infrastructure project to completion.

As is typical of Norfolk Southern events and meetings, a safety briefing was offered to begin.  Norfolk Southern is proud of their safety record.

Remember the obstacles that were faced as Norfolk Southern worked to get the project approved?

Local, state and federal agencies and officials came together with Norfolk Southern people to overcome the difficulties, and the result is a beautiful facility just west of Bessemer. (Click here to read everything I've written about this "hub," as it was called.)

This facility will have a profound effect on our community and on the state for years to come, the assembled crowd heard.

It will create about 200 jobs immediately, but has the potential to create or benefit between 8,000 and 9,000 jobs in the area.

By 2020, it will divert 600,000 trucks to rail, and save more than 17 million gallons of fuel by doing so. It will reduce CO2 emissions by more than 190,000 tons. More than $59 million in congestion-related costs will be saved, and over $15 million in accident costs will be avoided. Each intermodal train typically removes 280 long-haul trucks from the highways.

The facility itself is impressive, with an Automated Gate System that shortens the wait time for trucks entering the terminal, which improves driver productivity as well as air quality. This gate system will have optical character capability, meaning it can automatically recognize trailers and containers.

The facility is environmentally designed to minimize light and sound spillover (a concern of nearby residents).

The main administrative building meets LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification standards.

The facility will begin operating in November as existing international Birmingham services are transferred to the new facility.

Full opening will occur in January 2013 with new domestic services, including 20' and 40' international freight service to and from seaports in Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans; and 53' domestic freight service to and from Bethlehem, PA; Greencastle, PA; and industrial markets in Mexico.

Governor Robert Bentley, Representatives Terri Sewell and Spencer Bachus, and numerous state legislators and officials were on hand for the ribbon cutting.

Terri Sewell spoke and delivered what might have been the most meaningful thought of the event.

Speaking of the 7th congressional district, she said, "What we lack in economic prosperity we make up for with heart and spirit." Amen.

I didn't see any elected officials from Bessemer at the event (although I could have missed someone), but Bessemer's business community was well represented, with folks from the Chamber of Commerce and several local businesses on hand.

Let's give Norfolk Southern an official Bessemer Progressives welcome to Western Jefferson County. We look forward to having you and the benefits of your presence here for decades to come.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Coming out

Today is National Coming Out Day.

That means that it is a good day for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people to be honest with themselves and with those around them.

Seventeen years ago on this date I came out to the first non-gay person that I told, an employee who supported me from the beginning.

I had a family consisting of a wife and two children. Coming out is not easy.

Recently our home burned. The rainbow flag survived.  (One day I will write about the house fire and share more pictures. I'm not ready for that yet.)

Among the ashes I found a letter that I had written to my other employees. I want to share some of that today.  Parts of the letter are too personal to make public.

Dear Staff,

I hope that writing this letter is the hardest thing that I ever have to do, I don't think I can go through this pain again. For years I have been living with a terrible burden, with hurt and with fear. You will never understand this because you have not gone through it. I have tried every way I knnow to resolve, to ignore, to change myself, to MAKE IT GO AWAY. But it never will. I now realize that I can't change. It's a part of me that has always been there. I thought I was in charge, maybe I was, but I no longer am.

I am gay. Think back, you won't find it hard to believe. maybe hard to believe that I am admitting it, or that I'm telling you.

Without revealing too much about myself I have known this for 20 years, since I was in college.

(A couple of  "too personal" paragraphs).  
You may not understand what is in me that forces me to be honest with myself and with my world but hopefully you will understand that I am the same person you have known for years. I'm not a bad person, I thought I was doing right then. I know I am doing the right thing now.  
(A couple more "too personal" paragraphs).

One other last thing. A couple of weeks ago B**** asked A**** and me if people just wake up one day and decide they are gay. No they don't. They struggle. They know it. Then one day they realize they have to accept it. It's not easy. But one's sexuality is not a decison. How one deals with it is.
You can see how I struggled. For some it is not as difficult, especially in 2012, with positive gay role models and the internet and facebook and Modern Family. But in 1995, it was a struggle.

Everyone comes out in their own time, when they are ready. For me, it was October 11, 1995. But even a week or so later when this letter was written, you can see that I was not entirely comfortable with who I was. But I have grown. I have educated myself.  I have become an advocate, and an activist. And my, how things have changed in the past 17 years. We now have a president who supports marriage equality for gay people!

Happy National Coming Out Day, 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

From the Bessemer Courthouse to the Supreme Courthouse?

Concerned attorneys, elected officials, candidates, business owners, residents and others gathered at 11:00 on the steps of the Justice Center in Bessemer to show their opposition to the proposed closing of the courthouse.

Approximately 60 people heard Bessemer Mayor Ken Gulley, "I don't think the Constitution of the State of Alabama allows the commission to close this courthouse."

Mayor Gulley said he was ready to take the issue all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court if necessary in order to keep the courthouse open.

He said he was tired of our courthouse being treated like stepchildren.

(I'm sure he meant no harm to the multitudes of quality step-parents out there.)

But he's right. Remember when Commissioner Bettye Fine Collins questioned whether or not the court house should be built?

''Is Bessemer growing residentially that it needs to serve more people? No,'' Collins said. ''We've got a courthouse satellite in Forestdale, we've got one in Center Point, we've got one in Homewood and now one in Gardendale. Why in the world are we building a $100 million deal in Bessemer?''

Of course, as was brought up at today's protest by Sylvia Blackerby (the organizer of the event) the Bessemer Justice Center serves more than just the residents of Bessemer. The fastest growing area of the county, McCalla, along with Fairfield, Brighton, Lipscomb, areas of the county, parts of Hoover, are all served here.

Ms. Blackerby also noted that among those affected by the closing would be the victims of crimes who would then have to travel to downtown Birmingham for legal proceedings.

And she reminded the crowd that there are 5 elected officials that were voted for in that building, and that by closing the facility, they are taking away our voting privileges.

Attorney Aaron Killings also spoke, sending a message to our commissioners that people are very disappointed that they want to disregard Bessemer.

Commissioner Jimmie Stephens spoke up and wanted clarification that not all the commissioners were in on that, and that he was in favor of keeping the courthouse open.

After Mr. Stephens  spoke a retired Jeffco worker got in his face with her concerns about the commission firing or forcing retirement on so many people.

If this courthouse closes, more people will lose their jobs. Some inside the courthouse but many outside the courthouse as well. Attorney's offices might cut back, restaurants (including the Bright Star) will see their clientele diminish in number.

People were watching from across the street (no, those bars aren't part of the jail).

And what about these people. This is part of the line of people waiting to get tags today. These are not all Bessemer residents. But what if they were?  So what? This courthouse is here because...

 The Bessemer Division of the Jefferson County Circuit Court was established in 1915 and the old courthouse finished in 1920. So for almost 100 years the people in the Western part of Jefferson County have traveled to Bessemer to conduct business. If this courthouse were to close, or to move out of the downtown area, the city center of Bessemer would become a ghost town.

Let the commissioners know what you think.

Commissioners are:

David Carrington: Phone (205) 325-5503

George Bowman: Phone: (205) 325-5504

Sandra Little Brown: Phone: (205) 325-5074

Jimmie Stephens: Phone: (205) 325-5555

Joe Knight:  Phone: (205) 325-5070   

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Supreme Court race in Alabama

We now have a clear choice in the race for Chief Justice in Alabama.

Judge Robert Vance is now the nominee for the Democratic Party, and ousted former chief justice Roy Moore is the Republican nominee.

I was not able to attend the Over the Mountain Democrats meeting this week where Judge Vance spoke, but my friend Regina did and she sent me this picture. 

Judge Robert Vance speaking at Over the Mountain Democrats

The prior Democratic nominee was Harry Lyons, and he was removed from the ticket last week at a hearing that I attended. The  removal was brought about after Lyons posted inflammatory and bizarre remarks on his Facebook page, and it was decided that his comments violated judicial canons that justices should adhere to.

Vance threw his hat in the ring after the ouster, and he has only a few weeks to build a campaign and convince voters that he is the better alternative.

"My message to voters is simply I am here as an alternative choice, as someone who will focus on the real problems facing the state, facing the court system and someone who will run a positive, honorable campaign," said Judge Vance regarding his campaign.

Vance is a Circuit Judge in Jefferson County, having been elected in 2004 and in 2010.

Vance has not had much to say about his opponent, Roy Moore, other than this.

"I have grave concerns based on his last tenure as chief justice," Vance said.

But I have something to say about the disgraced former chief justice.

Roy Moore was removed from office when he was Chief Justice for failing to obey a federal order that he remove the washing machine sized 10 commandments monument that he installed during the dark of night in the Alabama Supreme Court building.

As if that isn't bad enough, he advocated violence and death against gays and lesbians in an opinion he wrote in a custody case.

In 2002, in the case of D.H v H. H. he wrote the following (the bold highlight is mine):

"To disfavor practicing homosexuals in custody matters is not invidious discrimination, nor is it legislating personal morality. On the contrary, disfavoring practicing homosexuals in custody matters promotes the general welfare of the people of our State in accordance with our law, which is the duty of its public servants... The State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle... Homosexual behavior is a ground for divorce, an act of sexual misconduct punishable as a crime in Alabama, a crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one's ability to describe it. That is enough under the law to allow a court to consider such activity harmful to a child. To declare that homosexuality is harmful is not to make new law but to reaffirm the old; to say that it is not harmful is to experiment with people's lives, particularly the lives of children."

Could a gay or lesbian person get a fair trial in Justice Moore's supreme court?

But let's look at another issue. Todd Akin, the Missouri Republican senate candidate, has brought rape and abortion into the conversation, so let's see what Roy Moore has to say about the subject.

Most rational All rational people would say that in cases of rape or incest or when the mother's life is in danger that the option of terminating the pregnancy should be available. Republicans like Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are changing their positions on this issue so quickly and often that I am not going to quote either of them.  They are not the concern here.

But Roy Moore wants abortion outlawed and does not believe in any exceptions. He wants all abortions outlawed.

In 2009 the candidates for governor were interviewed by the Birmingham News.

(Bill) Johnson, (Tim) James and (Roy) Moore called for a complete ban on abortion, with no exceptions. Johnson said that medical science has progressed to the point where there are almost no cases in which abortion is necessary to protect the life of the mother. If a woman is raped, he said, "it is possible to prevent conception and, therefore, there is no need for an abortion."

 James and Moore said abortion is an all-or-nothing question; either a human being is created at the moment of conception and must be protected, or it is not, they argued.

  "You have to declare whether it's legal or illegal to kill a child in the womb," Moore said.

No one is for abortion. But most women, if raped, might want the option of terminating the pregnancy, and not having to carry a reminder of the violent act for nine months and then raise it, being reminded of being raped every time she saw her child.

So Roy Moore takes the most extreme view on abortion, and promotes violence against the gay and lesbian citizens of our state. If that isn't enough to withhold your vote from him, I don't know what is.

Democrats now have a solid choice in Robert Vance for Chief Justice. And Republicans have an option, in Robert Vance, that they can vote for with the realization that a fair minded experienced judge will be leading the state judiciary.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lipscomb - Jeffco's "best kept secret"

One candidate for mayor of Lipscomb who was born and raised there proclaims that "There is no doubt in my mind that Lipscomb is Jefferson County’s best kept secret."

That should be your first clue that Deborah Miller is the person to vote for on Tuesday, if you live in Lipscomb. Deborah has lived in Lipscomb all her life, and raised her children there. She understands the values of the community, things like knowing your neighbors by name and looking out for one another. And she has respect for everyone.

She understands that Lipscomb faces serious challenges, and realizes that the Mayor and Council must work together, and must include citizen input in decisions that are made.

Deborah was elected to the City Council in 2004, and in 2007 was appointed Mayor by Governor Bob Riley when the position became vacant. She served for one year and achieved financial stability for the city by paying debts that the city owed. Crime statistics improved during her short term.

This experience in the city government of Lipscomb gives her a heads up in how to manage through these tough economic times. She will not have to learn on the job the basics of running City Hall (which, she says, will be accessible to the public).

Deborah remembers the time in Lipscomb when there were two grocery stores and gas stations and places to eat. But she does not want to go backward. She wants to carry Lipscomb forward, and in doing so will seek to bring those amenities back. Currently the citizens of Lipscomb have to travel outside of the city to obtain groceries or gas or to eat out.

She realizes that in order to bring businesses into Lipscomb that it must be a safe and secure place for people to invest in. Police and fire protection and safety are two of her priorities because without these, business owners will be reluctant to locate to Lipscomb. And recruiting business is important because of the tax money that can generated.

I don't live in Lipscomb but I live on a street that is a main thoroughfare between Bessemer and Lipscomb, and I travel through there frequently on the way to Birmingham or Red Mountain Park or other places.

Once, a few years ago when Lipscomb was having serious leadership problems I suggested making it a part of the city of Bessemer. But I wondered then whether the residents there would want become a part of the Marvel City, because I learned that Lipscomb’s per capita annual income is about $1300 higher and household income about $7000 higher than Bessemer's.

That suggestion was made in 2007 because there was no suggestion that anyone in Lipscomb was willing to assume the type of leadership position that was needed. Soon after that, Deborah Miller was appointed mayor by the governor, and things began to improve.

So we know she has the leadership abilities, we know she has the passion, we know she has the experience needed, and we know she cares for her neighbors.

Bessemer Opinions endorses Deborah Miller for Mayor of Lipscomb. Vote "Deborah Miller" on August 28.

 Learn more at Elect Deborah Miller for Mayor

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Yesterday while enjoying our walk at Roosevelt Park in Bessemer, I observed something that I think should be addressed.

It's about how we raise our children.

It has to do with fences. Fences are supposed to serve a purpose. That purpose might be to keep people out, to create a sense of order, to keep a tennis ball from bouncing out of the court area, or other purposes.

Occasionally you come across a fence that seems to have no purpose.

This section of fence stands in the playground area at Roosevelt Park. I am sure it has or at one time had a purpose, but I don't know what it is.

This fence stands near a church on Dartmouth Avenue. other than acting as a support for the vine that is growing on it, I cannot imagine the purpose of this fence.

The fence in this picture surrounds the tennis courts at Roosevelt Park.

 In spite of the signs on the fence that say the courts are for playing tennis only, there is a group of young girls practicing cheerleading under adult supervision.

As we walked around the track, we noticed all of the participants returning from another area of the park, and they each entered through this hole in the fence (I have put an oval around the hole in the picture). This was also under adult supervision. Click on the picture and you can see the hole better.

 On our next trip around the track, we noticed several gates at the other end of the courts. 

So here is my question.

Why are we teaching the kids to disrespect the purpose of the fence? Someone disrespected the fence in our backyard once and came onto our property without our permission and stole some stuff. I wonder where they learned not to respect fences?

These girls (and the boys that were with them) could just as easy use the gate to enter the practice area. In fact, the practice session could just as easily be held at the end of the courts where the gates are, so they wouldn't even have to walk the length of the area to get to practice.

This may seem small. But in raising children, the little things count. And they learn respect for people and property at an early age.

And we wonder why we have problems in the Bessemer Schools with discipline and respect.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Smoking and guns

I have written several times about guns and gun control. I live in Bessemer, AL, on what was once described by a local television station at "the most dangerous street in the state." Here are some thoughts from that period in 2007, after a spate of murders occurred just blocks from here.

I want to present a suggestion that we change the dialogue around gun violence. I wrote just the other day following the Aurora mass murders about some changes that I believe would benefit society. But just talking about these changes still leads to the same arguments about 2nd amendment rights and such.

Let's look at this from a public health standpoint. I am not presenting results of research or offering interventions, rather I want to generate some questions and change the dialogue.

Let's treat gun violence like the pubic health issue that it is. What we want to do is change people's behavior.

But first let's look at how society has handled another public health issue: youth smoking and smoking in general; and how we changed people's behavior regarding that issue.

Let’s do a simple review.

In 1965 about 45% of Americans smoked, and kids could go into stores and buy their parents cigarettes (and buy for themselves out of machines or from stores as well). My father often sent me into Shelby County where cigarette taxes were lower to the Smoke Shop to by his cigarettes. My friends and I would go to movie theaters and buy cigarettes out of the machines in the lobby. I saw the Marlboro man and wanted to be like him (and be with him, but that is a different story).

Picture credit:

Research proved the dangers of smoking and over the years efforts were undertaken to counter the high number of young people that took up the habit.

Some of the efforts included a ban on minors buying tobacco, restrictions on advertizing, public service announcements regarding smoking dangers, movies shown in health classes showing damaged lungs and sick people, warnings on cigarette packs, even more graphic public service announcements showing tracheotomies and such, absence of smoking in movies and on television, and more recently, smoking bans in public places.

Results; smoking is currently practiced by around 20% of adults, and less young people are smoking (leading to less adults smoking).

Now, think about murders. 

The homicide rate in the United States is basically the same as it was in the 1960’s:  5.1/100,000 in 1960 and 5.0/100,000 in 2009 (you see different statistics depending on how the data are categorized. The number is not really important here; this is not the beginning point of a study).

There is a perception that violent crime is rising, but the reality is that now violent crime is reported, and sensationalized, to such an extent that we think it is more common than it is. Micheal Moore's movie Bowling for Columbine points that out (linking news and entertainment shows such as COPS as guilty in over reporting crime and pointing toward dark people as the criminals).

Regardless, if we treated it as a public health issue we might come up with a plan to reduce it.

Let’s just do what we learned could work with regards to smoking, another public health issue.

 Lets reduce access (like they did with cigarettes), reduce advertising (like they did with cigarettes), create public service announcements (like they did with cigarettes), show movies in middle school and highs school of the dangers of gun ownership (like they did with cigarettes), put warnings on ammunition (like they did with cigarettes), create graphic public service announcements with pictures of dead people shot up (like they did with cigarettes), reduce gun violence in movies and tv and video games (like they did with cigarettes), and ban guns in public places (like they are doing with cigarettes).

Picture credit: London Metropolitan University

Use this as a starting point. Set some objectives, develop interventions (plans) to reach those objectives. 

Someone in public health needs to take this and run with it.
Within a few years we will begin to see the gun murder rate drop, and within 40 years we would see a significant drop.

We know that nothing is going to cause an immediate drop in gun violence. And we realize that certainly, some bad people would still obtain guns and use them in spite of laws and restrictions, just as young people continue to get cigarettes. But we need to look at trends and statistics and projections and start somewhere.

The current dialogue and discussion is getting us nowhere. Take it out of the political arena and put it in the public health arena.  Of course, the CDC has some information about gun violence and statistics. But they are weak on developing and implementing a plan to significantly reduce deaths.

This is unscientific, and done with very little research. It is just an idea I had and wanted to share.