Archive for December, 2008

>Bessemer Opinions Top 12 for 2008

December 31, 2008

>Be sure and scroll down and read the column from today’s Western Tribune.

For the second annual Bessemer Opinions Top Twelve, the editorial board had a difficult time. Remember, this top twelve is based on stories or opinions posted here, not on the top twelve events in the world. We don’t get to report on everything.

The twelve are not necessarily in order of importance, rather in chrono order.

1. Dominionism and Heath Ledger

This post was important because dominionism will destroy the world as we know it (and it also had that great tribute to Heath Ledger).

2. Happy Valentine’s Day

This post was about heart health and I got several emails thanking me for it. And in the post I said this:

“I have cut down on sugared drinks. Not completely, but cut back to less than half of what I used to drink. I eat a hand full of nuts every day. I’m working on adding more fruits and vegetables. My blood pressure is great. My cholesterol is borderline, and by George I am going to get it within desired range by exercise and diet (I have been on Crestor and don’t like it).”

And I did. My cholesterol’s (good and bad) are now well within normal ranges and I haven’t taken Crestor since February!!!

3. A Plan for Bessemer

Bessemer is in dire need of a plan and people to implement plans.

4. Bessemer Development and Bessemer Beauty (and Beyond)

This was good news for Bessemer, plus, nice pictures.

5. Going to the Chapel

This post was about the ill-fated same-sex marriage rights in California. Equality will occur, however.

6. When Jesus Met a Gay Man

People either love reading about Jesus’ acceptance of those who are different, or they hate being exposed to the truth about him.

7. This entire series on New Orleans counts as one story.

Lower Ninth Ward Part 1 , part 2 , part3 , part4 , part 5 , part 6 .

8. Same for this story on Troy King. And he wants to be governor? Would his “little mister” be the “First Dude” like Todd is in Alaska?

Is King going Down? , Troy King Day 4 ,Troy Day 6 and Mormon Excommunication ,Troy King and Staff ,Troy King’s Response ,Troy King rumors in Tuscaloosa News

9. Oops…I mean big oops

Science is important. Endangered species are important.

10. Not just because he’s my brother, but because we know there are artists, good artists, here in Western Jefferson County. We need art studios and art galleries and art events here.

Art Exhibit Update ,Washing the Dust off Your Soul

There were tons of political stories and opinions during the year, but the win on November 4 was the story of the year.

11. Yes We Did

12. My friend and neighbor’s house burned. this was one of Bessemer’s most recognized historic homes.

Three Things of Significance

13. OK, so I can’t count. This story is # 13, but again, since people either love what I write about Jesus and the Bible or hate learning the truth, I had to include it. Plus, the marriage posts got more comments and emails than any other post during the year, I believe.

Jesus and Marriage , Marriage as Defined in the Bible .

So, there you have it, the year in a nutshell. Of course, there were lots of great pictures of flowers and animals and Olympic champions and hot guys and more…you can explore to find those.

Have a happy and safe New Year.

>Western Tribune column December 31, 2008

December 31, 2008

>Many of us are ushering in the New Year with hopes of a better 2009 in spite of the bad economic condition our county is in. This was evidenced by poor holiday sales at the mall and for the first time Santa’s sack full of toys was not overflowing as usual. At least he saved in energy costs as the reindeer did not have as heavy a load to pull last week.

Yet the mood of people regarding the future is still upbeat. It is becoming more evident that the current presidential administration has affected the mood of the country in negative ways that we did not even realize and that this mood is changing as the inauguration of our new president approaches.

With positive feelings about our country’s future and our own future, we might be more likely to stick to our resolutions for 2009. So let’s resolve to make Bessemer, and the world, a better place.

“Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today.” With this thought the president-elect has asked community members to come together to help shape his health care policies. Such a meeting occurred here in Bessemer on Sunday, and our suggestions have been forwarded to the transition team as requested.

But these words can serve as inspiration to all of us and about more than just health care. The economic conditions will require that each of us continue our spirit of giving and helping past the holiday season and into the New Year.

Helping your neighbor, or a stranger, does make the world a little bit better.

After the last New Year holiday I suggested that on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight that we ring bells for peace rather than fire guns into the air to celebrate, but this suggestion will not solve the problem that puts Bessemer residents on edge each year, in part because those who do not believe in gravity (bullets that go up must come down) probably do not read this column.

But some of us will ring our bells anyway, with a special zeal this year, because our hope for 2009 is so strong.

Have a safe and fun New Year’s celebration and let’s make 2009 a year when hope becomes reality.


December 30, 2008

>It’s not a show I watch with any regularity, but occasionally I watch Intervention.

Last night, the show featured Brittany. As the show progressed, we could tell she was from Alabama, then the Birmingham area, then North Jefferson County. Brittany was addicted to dilaudid and loretab and other things. Watch the preview at the link above.

She really didn’t have a chance from birth it seems. Born 5 years after her 9 year old sister Terry was brutally raped and murdered, Brittany’s mother treated her as if she were sent from God as a replacement for the child she could never let go of. Even to the point of talking to a picture of the dead girl on a regular basis and seeking advice from “Terry” before she sought advice from God.

And it was as if the other older siblings didn’t even exist. Or the dad.

Anyway, if you’ve never watched the show, it follows an addict who has agreed to be filmed for a documentary about addiction. But really they are setting the addict up for an intervention involving family members and a trained “interventionist” with the goal of sending the addict off to a nice recovery center usually in California or Florida.

So mom drives Brittany to buy drugs, because she doesn’t want her “ending up a cold case” somewhere. They show them driving in neighborhoods to drug houses.

Then this morning I see this: Meth lab busted in North Jefferson County.

Could it be that the sheriff was watching Intervention and learned the location of some drug houses? I doubt it, actually someone called in and reported the meth lab.

Brittany’s story will be aired again today at 12:00. But they show them over and over, so I’m sure you can catch it sometime in January.

>Health Care Discussion…Mental Illness

December 29, 2008

>The Obama-Biden Transition Team has asked individuals from across the country to host Community Health Care Discussions during the last two weeks of the year as a way to hear what everyday Americans are saying about Health Care in our country.

I hosted such a meeting last night, to which were invited several Bessemer neighbors as well as health professionals including a nurse manager in mental health, the Dean of the School of Public Health at UAB and a faculty member from the School of Health Professions at UAB. I purposely kept the number of people low to insure that everyone would have a chance to take part in the discussion.

I will be sending a report to the Transition Team which can be used in crafting policy for the new administration.

But here are a couple of things we learned. It’s not news that the “system” is broken, but the degree to which it is broken and the ways in which this affects patient care was surprising.

One problem had to do with insurance coding and billing and how this affects a doctor’s scheduling.

It boils down to: you make an appointment to see a doctor about problem A, and before your scheduled appointment time you develop problem B. When you arrive for your appointment the doctor refuses to address problem B and requires that you schedule another appointment, which may be two weeks or more down the road. What this does to the health of America is it keeps this person (or lots of people, assuming this is happening all over) sick or in pain for an additional two weeks. Or, of course, their condition could worsen.

In other words, the “Health system” is contributing to a “sick nation.” It is contributing to people being off from work. It is costing Americans more.

And that is just one of the problems.

The other issue we discussed was mental illness and how stigma affects the treatment people receive. The stigma associated with mental illness can result in people ignoring symptoms or pretending they don’t exist, and avoiding treatment.

Mental illness stigma exists for several reasons. One is that mental illness is thought by some to be the result of a choice or action of the individual and is perceived to be on a different level than physical illness. In reality, mental illnesses are complex and are due to physical changes in the brain, with or without a genetic component.

Mental illness should be treated with the same degree of recognition and respect as physical illnesses. The American Public should be educated about mental illnesses, and not from commercials on TV about drugs used to treat them. Doctors as well, should be educated and should focus on the mental health of their patients as well as their physical health.

Depression, for example, affects people’s ability to work in a huge way, yet often physicians ignore or don’t take the time to question patients in order to pick up signs that there may be a problem.

Then there is this: 1 in 5 young Americans have a personality disorder, according to a recent study. But less than 25% get treatment.

These disorders include obsessive or compulsive tendencies (different from OCD) and anti-social disorders (which can lead to violence) and paranoid behaviors, all of which can interfere with day to day functioning. That’s 1 in 5 of our future leaders.

Mental health parity is the first step in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.

Parity would require insurance plans to treat mental health patients on par with those who have physical ailments. No more higher copays or deductibles for the mental health treatments. No more limits on visits to the doctor that differ from the caps for other patients.

A mental health parity bill was tacked on to the big bailout passed in October, but that bill is not complete and parity involves more than just payments, it also involves doctor’s attitudes and education. But…it’s a start.

>Birmingham News Christmas Pictures

December 26, 2008

>Here’s a link to the pictures of our Christmas decor to go along with the story below:

Christmas Trees and more.


December 26, 2008

>Merry Christmas.

I hope yours was a great as ours. Of course, what’s Christmas without a little drama. Minutes after arriving home from Christmas dinner at my brother’s house, my daughter called to tell me she and my son were minutes from the house,returning from Christmas in Tennessee. That was my clue to get their wrapped presents out and under the tree and all, and then we heard the crash. A wreck in front of the house. Again! The kids? We rushed outside calling 911 and were relieved to see it was not them. But a distraught young woman and her kids, 2 toddlers, were crying. She held one, used our phone to try to call her mom, and I knelt down and held the other, little girl, close as she pulled her jacket up over her head to avoid seeing her car, the police lights and to drown out the sirens. She had the green light, the mom said.

No serious injuries, but a ruined Christmas for sure. My son and daughter got home during the confusion, and after all was calm we went inside and celebrated Christmas… those ribbons and bows I wrote about yesterday. After all that, we heard another crash. A car had hit the damaged car, giving a matching torn up front quarter and broken headlight to the one on the opposite side. “I didn’t see the car. I didn’t have my lights on,” I heard him say as I was going out the door. The police were still there finishing up the first accident. I bet they had fun with that one.

The Birmingham News ran a story about our Christmas Trees on Christmas Day. It was the “Obama Tree” that got their attention. Part of the story is printed online.

In addition there is supposed to be a “gallery” of pictures online, but it’s not there. Maybe they will post it later, if so, I will paste a link.

Here is the entire story, as printed in the paper.

Every year, Joe Openshaw fills his home with themed Christmas trees, including a patriotic tree trimmed in silver ornaments; red, white and blue icicles; and soft blue lights.

But when U.S. Sen. Barack Obama cinched the presidential election in November, Openshaw, 54, decided to give this year’s patriotic tree a twist.

In addition to the regular trimmings, the tree also holds Obama campaign buttons; pictures of Obama and the Obama family that Openshaw’s daughter, Marlow, printed off of the computer, laminated and adorned with ribbons; and a ticket Openshaw and partner, Bobby Prince, received to stand on stage with supporters and Michelle Obama as she made a speech in Las Vegas on Nov. 3. Nearby, are newspapers touting Obama’s win, and small replicas of the Statute of Liberty and Santa Claus in American colors.

The “Tribute Tree to Our President-elect,” which stands in Openshaw’s 18-year-old son Daniel’s bedroom, won’t come down until after Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

“It makes me think about what our country has said to the world and to ourselves. It represents a great change,” said Openshaw, a retired veterinarian.

Openshaw said he knows that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, but the Obama tree is just another way to further celebrate.

“Christmas is fun. I have an enjoyment of it, and it gives other people enjoyment ,too,” he said.

Celebrating Christmas with more than one tree has long been a family tradition. When Openshaw aw much younger, his mother had Christmas trees in the dining room, living room and den of their Vestavia home.

As he got older and started living on his own, he began putting a Christmas tree in different rooms of his own home.

Besides the patriotic tree, Openshaw has 10 other trees in his 1895 Bessemer home this year.

They are: a Victorian tree in the library, a pink tree with pink ornaments in a hallway; a 1950’s aluminum tree in the office; two Santa-themed trees with over 200 Santa ornaments positioned in front of two upstairs windows; a “skinny” tree with gold and burgundy ornaments in the dining room; a red miniature tree in the kitchen; an elf tree in the den; a three-foot tall Norfolk pine tree with multiple silk balls in a back upstairs area; and an 11-foot tall tree decked out with family and vintage ornaments in the parlor.

The family’s Christmas decor also includes wreaths, a collection of Santa salt and pepper shakers, reindeer and garland. In the library is a 1917 picture of Openshaw’s father’s first Christmas tree, and on display in the parlor is a Christmas Card that his father gave his mother before he was born.

“I love it. I love having my house full of Christmas in every room,” said Marlow Openshaw, 22. “If he stopped decorating, it wouldn’t feel like Christmas anymore.”

She especially liked the Obama tree, which she’s not shy about protecting.

“My best friend told me she was going to put a McCain ornament on there. I told her you go ahead and do that and we’ll see how long it stays.” she said.

>Christmas Eve…Western Tribune Column December 24 2008

December 24, 2008


When you think about it, Christmas Eve is a much more interesting day than Christmas…assuming one is not immersed in last minute shopping. There’s anticipation, there’s reflection, there’s wonder.

Anyway, here’s my column from the Western Tribune on this Christmas Eve:

We hear a lot about the “magic of Christmas,” but by Christmas Day much of the magic is gone. For many families that celebrate Christmas the day begins in a whirlwind of ribbons and bows as kids rip open presents, and ends driving home from Grandma’s exhausted and full of ham and coconut cake.

There is nothing magic about that. It’s fun and it’s heartwarming, but not magic.

No, the magic has already happened, and like good magic, you don’t see it. In fact, magic may be the wrong word to describe it. “Wonder” is a better word to describe Christmas Eve.

For children, they know the next day will be full of surprise, and they go to bed full of wonder, listening for sleigh bells and the patter of feet on the roof, a sound that any other night of the year would result in a 911 call.

For adults there is a bit of scurrying to do after children go to bed, but then it’s time to relax and wonder.

With or without spiked eggnog, this can be done by lowering the lights and staring at the Christmas tree, reminiscing about our childhood Christmases or thinking about loved ones who for one reason or another will not be here to celebrate with us.

Others might sit outside and stare at the heavens and wonder how shepherds might have reacted long ago on a cold night when a star seemed to explode in the sky.

That same night Mary’s heart and mind were certainly full of wonder as the pains of her labor began.

She knew that her baby would be precious, as all mothers do, but she had been told with certain authority that her child would reign over a kingdom that has no end. Can you imagine?

As Joseph held his baby son, he had to wonder what his role would be, how a simple man like himself could raise a king, how he could be a father to the son of God, when the child was not even of his flesh. We would all put greater effort into raising our children if we took to heart what Joseph did.

The wonder of Christmas, that a baby could change the world. A glorious light has dawned indeed. That’s something worth wondering about.

>Getting Serious About Christmas

December 23, 2008

>Check out Lipscomb Bohemian, a new blog by a visitor to Bessemer Opinions that will feature art and relevant topics.

Speaking of Lipscomb, their Christmas parade was Saturday. Here are a couple of pics…

Fairfield was generous enough to allow Santa to ride on their truck.

Christmas and war just don’t go together, although, as it seems, there is always a war going on at Christmastime. I was listening to Reg’s Coffee House in the car Sunday and heard a song.

I’ve missed Reg for a year or two, and was happy to rediscover him on Live100.5, the best (only) “adult alternative” (whatever that means) station in the area. Listen here (after a couple of clicks and advertisements).

Anyway, Brett Dennen, wrote this song a few years ago, and Reg said he wishes a holiday season would pass without him being able to play this song, but…not this year.

The Holidays Are Here (and We’re Still At War)

Or, the “Shot live by YouTube” version (lyrics are easier to understand):

Why does it seem that a song written a few years ago is still so relevant today? The problems are all still here.

My favorite Southern Baptist preacher, James Evans, wrote this prayer several years ago. Like the song, the themes of this prayer are just as meaningful today as when it was written. It hangs in my house, and has appeared in at least one state newspaper already this year.

Yuletide Prayer
Lord, first of all, thank you for the careful and creative way in which you have designed this world. You have made this planet a marvelous place, filled with life and beauty. It is a privilege to recognize that we humans are a part of your amazing invention.
Having said that, it is necessary to also say we are sorry. We are sorry for our poor stewardship of the Earth. We have not been very careful with the air and the water. We have also not been very careful with certain forms of life. We have acted as if ours was the only existence that matters. Apparently we forgot what Jesus said about you and the sparrows.
We have also not been very good stewards of the resources which sustain life. Many of us living in the developed nations have become a highly acquisitive people. It’s almost as if we believe that the purpose of our humanity is to get our hands on as much stuff as possible. There are many who look to their earthly treasures as the true source of their security and meaning. You used the word idolatry to describe that kind of thinking.

Sadly, our pursuit of things has also created a dismal state of affairs in our relations with each other. We’ve got it all backwards from what you intended. Instead of loving people, as you taught, we use people to get what we want. Instead using things to make life better, we love things and cling to them as if they were life itself.
This tragic reversal has had dire consequences. Our greedy consumption has created a world of poverty for millions — as our wealth grows, so does their poverty. And we keep fighting one bloody war after another, taking the lives of your children, trying to protect our stuff.

In fact, that touches on one of our most difficult problems — our love of violence. We treat violence in our culture as if it were a sacred rite. We believe in violence. We cherish it, we celebrate it. We teach it to our children as if we were passing along a spiritual heritage. We have endowed violence with a trust and a hope that should be reserved for you.

We believe violence can conquer evil. We believe violence can make peace. We believe violence can end violence. You would think that 50,000 years of human experience would convince us otherwise, but not yet.

That is why Christmas is so important. The birth of Jesus represents the supreme effort on your part to reshape our flawed humanity back into your own image. If we would only accept as true the things Jesus had to say to us, what a different world this might be.

Somewhere along the way this Christmas we will hear the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A child shall lead them.” We are drawn to the innocence of the nativity with a sense of wonder and longing. We believe that Jesus is that child.

But he cannot lead us if we do not follow. And he cannot change us so long as we insist on having things our own way.

Help us this year to finally admit that our way is not working and for once, just for once, try doing things his way.


>Science and Sexuality

December 22, 2008

>I have a few thoughts about sexuality and science. A person who comments on this blog keeps trying to say that there is no scientific evidence that homosexuality is anything but a choice.

Let’s start with some visual evidence:

Here are Roy and Silo, the most famous gay penguins.

Homosexuality is well documented in penguins and other animals.

Do oysters make a choice?

While not saying that an oyster is gay, they do change gender once or more times during their lifetime. (And, as an aside, as the article asks, how hungry did someone have to be to eat the first oyster?)

Back to the subject. The oysters aren’t gay, but they are an example of the sexual diversity that exists among the animal kingdom.

Reproductive diversity in the animal kingdom is present in seahorses as well. Again while not addressing sexuality, the fact that the male gives birth reminds us that among animals, fish in this case, things are not so simple. Watch the male having babies.

Let’s see. Same sex behaviour is observed in over 1500 animal species. I won’t post a video of every species, but this video contains images from a documentary, “Out In Nature: Homosexual Behaviour in the Animal Kingdom”.

Now lets move to human research. Here is the first sentence and the last sentence of an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, by Dick Swaab (PNAS July 29, 2008 vol. 105 no. 30 10273-10274).

Current evidence indicates that sexual differentiation of the human brain occurs during fetal and neonatal development and programs our gender identity—our feeling of being male or female and our sexual orientation as hetero-, homo-, or bisexual.

Neurobiological research related to sexual orientation in humans is only just gathering momentum, but the evidence already shows that humans have a vast array of brain differences, not only in relation to gender, but also in relation to sexual orientation.

This is but one paper from recent research that explores human sexuality from a scientific standpoint. The paper (as most scientific papers do) asserts that more research is needed, and of course, this is happening.

I only wanted to give an example showing there is evidence, contrary to what the commenter said, that sexual orientation is not a choice.

Non-human animals don’t really have the option of choosing. Or do they? If you say yes, then that gives them a quality that once was reserved for humans. It makes us just a little more close to the rest of the animal kingdom than some Christian conservatives would like. But if they don’t have a choice, then it must be science that is making them behave in the ways they do.

I could go on and on about science, but that is enough for now.

Research is in our favor. Science is in our favor.

>It’s Getting Close

December 21, 2008

>And I will start my shopping today.

Here are some Santa’s from around the house. All done by local (or local at the time) artists.

I drew the design for this one.
This Santa has that classic, “gotcha covered” look.

This is Santa with a rocking horse, by my friend Phyllis.