Archive for April, 2009

>Reaching Out To the World

April 30, 2009

>I looked at the stats on this blog yesterday and learned that there were visitors from 31 states and 21 countries over the last 500 visits. The states with the highest number of visitors (out of the last 361 from the U.S.) were Alabama (70), Florida (58), Georgia (23), Virginia (17), Pennsylvania and New York (14 each) and California (12).

Of those 500 visitors, 361 came from the U. S. and the other 139 came from places including Canada, UK, Australia, France, Hungary, Denmark, Togo, Israel, Serbia, Brazil, India, Mexico, Sweden and more.

Bessemer Opinions reaches the world. What I don’t know is why some of those visitors come to Bessemer Opinions. Are they people with ties here wanting to find out what is going on? Or people who stumble here? Or people researching a subject and find us through google or another search engine?

Whatever the reason, thanks for visiting and check back often.

Another person reaching the world is Jay Bakker, the preacher son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Nice tats, by the way.


Here is part of how he describes his experience on his church web site, RevolutionNYC .

Eventually, Jay was able to conquer his demons and made a personal decision to find out who God really was. What he discovered floored him – God wasn’t some judgmental, condemning deity sitting on a throne waving an angry fist in the direction of sinners – rather, he was an understanding God offering his gift of love and grace with no strings attached. For the first time Jay wasn’t being driven to Christ out of fear; he was being drawn to Christ through love.

Jay recently spoke at another church about same sex marriage.

Here Jay explains to Larry King why he became a pastor and why his views are what they are. He gives a good explanation of why some evangelicals treat gays the way they do. He also says that Christians are the only army that shoots their wounded.

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>My New Job

April 29, 2009

>Food for thought.


I have a new job as Program Coordinator for Alabama Victory Gardens.

Alabama Victory Gardens is a non-profit organization whose mantra is “growing communities – one urban garden at a time.” In response to the food insecurity issue in our part of Jefferson County we have recognized a need to which are responding.

Alabama Victory Gardens will will help to improve our community in several ways. In addition to addressing hunger and food insecurity, we will offer entrepreneurial opportunities by creating sustainable green jobs and will strengthen communities by involving community members in the growing, distribution and preserving of foods.

Community gardening is occurring all over.

This community garden is in West Philly.


We will also introduce youth to Agricultural Careers and provide work opportunities for students.

We plan to return 50% of our produce to the neighbors of the garden in similar form to this box of veggies. This box of produce is in Great Britain.

Like I said, it’s occurring all over. And we need it here.

This project is beginning in Bessemer but already interest is growing in nearby cities in our area. I have a feeling that we will surpass our initial objective of five gardens in Bessemer quickly.

We have a great role model for our efforts. First Lady Michelle Obama helped these kids prepare the vegetable garden at the White House. (They are still talking about this on the Today show this morning).

Within a few days we will have a web site at http://www.alvictorygardens.com/ (the site will be open in a day or two). Until then, for more information contact me. My contact information is in the column on the left.

I introduced Alabama Victory Gardens to the community in my column in this week’s Western Tribune as well. That column follows this post. Or click here.

>Western Tribune Column April 29, 2009 Alabama Victory Gardens

April 29, 2009

>This is my column from this week’s Western Tribune. For more information, contact me.

Alabama Victory Gardens

Recently we learned that donations to area food banks are down at a time when their services may be more in need. As Bessemer’s unemployment, currently at 13.1 %, continues to rise, more people in our area will become dependent on charitable organizations for their food.

Food security or lack thereof, is certainly an issue that is gaining in importance. Food security is defined as the “situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe , and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Charitable food banks help to address this problem.

First lady Michelle Obama has established a Victory Garden at the White House and in doing so has set an example that we should all follow. Many of us have backyard gardens where we grow too many tomatoes and squash for our own families. Through simple sharing or through the development of networks this excess produce could be used to provide nutritious food for our friends and neighbors.

But there is another solution to the problem of food insecurity, and that is community vegetable gardening.

An urban garden is nothing new to the Birmingham area, as Jones Valley Urban Farm has been growing vegetables in downtown Birmingham for years.

But why not empower community members and supply them with the training and resources to establish gardens in their neighborhoods from which they could feed themselves and their needy neighbors?

Alabama Victory Gardens (AVG) is an organization with such a goal. The group plans to establish at least five community gardens in the Bessemer area this year, but has a goal of 100 such gardens within two years.

AVG is partnering with community organizations and faith based institutions to introduce the program and is currently identifying potential garden sites and making arrangements to use the properties.

In addition to providing fresh and healthy food, AVG plans to make these gardens sustainable by selling a portion of the produce. Wouldn’t a Farmer’s Market for local produce be a good idea for Bessemer?

Money raised will help defray the costs of running the gardens.

Alabama Victory Gardens is but one piece of a puzzle that must be completed to solve the problems of food insecurity in our area. Let’s hope the weather cooperates and the harvests are bountiful.

>Unnatural Acts

April 27, 2009

>This is the short post of the day. The long one follows.

Much has been said by Paul (the Bible guy) and other more recent jabbers who leave comments on this blog about “unnatural acts” and how they were the cause of the destruction of Sodom and will be the cause of the destruction of our country or the world.

Think for a minute and answer this question. What unnatural act is likely to result in a great catastrophe?

A. Sex between two men.

B. Boarding an airplane and flying.

It is not natural for man to fly, but it sure is a way to get swine flu from one country to another.

Now, continue reading…

>Thou Shalt Not Love

April 27, 2009

>This is the long post of the day, at least if you watch the videos.

Here is what many Christians seem to be saying to members of the LGBT community.

A few days ago an attempt was made to put a link in a comment that would have directed readers to NARTH, which should stand for National Association of Reparative Therapists and Homophobes, but in reality stands for something else.

NARTH promotes ex-gay therapy, which has been denounced by every credible medical and psychological organization on the planet, and which should be outlawed, except for we do have freedom of speech in this country, even when your speech drives people to commit suicide.

Daniel Gonzales actually lost 2 1/2 years of his life because of NARTH and founder Joseph Nicolosi, but realized that the group was doing nothing positive for him. He founded ExGayWatch.com.

Here’s a link to an article in the New York Times concerning bullying and gay teen (or younger) suicide. The two kids in the article did not identify as gay, but that does not matter now. As the author wrote, “Whoever they would have been is forever lost to the grave.”

Please don’t try to post links to quackery and foolishness.

>Art of All Types

April 27, 2009

>Be sure and read my Western Tribune column from last week, which follows this. It’s a prelude to this week’s column, which will be in Wednesday’s paper, avaliable Tuesday.

The Magic City Art Connection is over but the art lives.

This drawing of our current president and a former president was on prominent display at Magic City Art Connection. Steve Shepard’s art work often carries a message.

This one says;

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of Obama’s fateful win, He has trampled down the Bushes who we’ll never see again. He has loosed the fluid lightning of his mightier swift pen: Torture and War will end!!

Barack Obama Hallelujah. Barack Obama Hallelujah. Barack Obama Hallelujah. His change will save us all.”

I own one of Steve’s drawings of Barack Obama. Steve told us yesterday that he is a cousin of Shepard Fairey, who painted the famous Obama Hope painting. Talent, and politics, run in the family, I guess.

Now what is this? These colorfully costumed ladies were gathered near the fountain in Linn Park yesterday.

Just as colorful was the most expensive piece of art work that I saw there: this collection of insects. All of the insects are accurately painted on paper by Jennifer Ivory. She uses mylar, horsehair, feathers and other materials in her work.

This collection was priced at $35,000. All I have to say is, it beats capturing poor little butterflies and murdering them with chloroform or whatever. I was guilty of that as a kid.

One other artist of note was Karen Elise Cohen whose computer generated paintings are both thought provoking and eye catching. Although created on a computer they are difficult to reproduce on a computer, as she admits on web site. My favorite is “For Love” but I couldn’t get a good image of it. Here’s a detail from it, though. Click on gallery and figurative to see “For Love”and click here to see the Rebecca Series for some really “wow” paintings.

>Western Tribune Column April 22, 2009 Earth Week

April 27, 2009

>This week we celebrate Earth Day and events are scheduled around the county that provide education and promote Earth friendly policies.

In a recent letter to The Birmingham News Lewis Fuller, Chairman of Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse, wrote “there’s no such thing as global warming,” claiming the concept was “invented by self-interested Al Gore.”

He then goes on to provide anecdotal evidence such as a snowfall in Mexico City to support his view.

A recent lecturer at UAB warned against using weather events to support or deny climate change. The best support is found by looking at trends; trends of temperature over the past hundred years and trends of CO­2 concentration in the air and such. There is not enough space in this column to provide all the overwhelming evidence that supports global climate change (and man’s role in it).

But Earth Day is about more than climate change. It’s about respecting the Earth.

If one is a Christian that means respecting God’s creation.

Christian or not, “it is, after all, the stuff of which we are made, from whence we have come, and to which we shall return,” a fellow blogger recently wrote, referring to the soil upon which we walk and from which we grow our food.

And whether we look at this from a religious or non-religious viewpoint, we must realize that the intricacies of nature were present before we were, and there is a balance that must be preserved in order for our existence to continue.

We, as humans, are not “apart from nature.” We are “a part of nature.” In Faith Seeking Understanding theologian Daniel Migliore wrote that humans are “standing in organic relation to each other and to the world of nature.”

More people are returning to gardening this year than in recent years. In part this is due to the current economic state and desire to reduce food expenditures but for many it represents a desire to eat fresher, healthier foods. Many are choosing to garden using organic methods so as not to adversely affect the earth and the food they are producing.

Whether through the individual efforts of local gardeners or by policies developed by our government, caring for our Earth is everyone’s responsibility. Our Earth is a beautiful place in its present condition. Let’s be sure we would recognize it when our grandchildren inherit the responsibility for it.

>Art, Love and Torture

April 24, 2009

>See some pictures of an interesting rose and more at Bessemer Science and Nature.

Lots to choose from for lovers of art this weekend. Today through Sunday is the Magic City Art Connection at Linn Park in Birmingham. In Bessemer, on Saturday, is Art at the Tracks at the Hall of History, from 9:30 to 4:00.

At Linn Park yesterday I was helping someone to set up, and we were near this guy building this. I didn’t get his name, but he says there is no plan to building this. He just does it.


Near the fountain is the art of Paul Cordes Wilm. Paul is a twin (the second), plays softball and likes abandoned houses and rivers. This is a series of his artwork. You can buy it. It follows the theme that I have been following. Love is love and is real and is significant regardless of who it is between and regardless of what detractors of love say. Thanks, Paul.


You might remember this cover from Black and White (February) that Paul did.

Jonathan Mann is writing a song a day. For this one, he took the lyrics directly from the “torture memos,” the legal justification for torture that the Bush administration used and for which no one has yet to be prosecuted. Thanks, Homer (and Jonathan).

>The Future and the Present

April 23, 2009

>Here is the future of same sex marriage state by state, as predicted by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight and mapped by Chachy at The Map Scroll.

The years indicated are those by which a gay marriage ban would be defeated by voters in a given state, according to a regression model designed by Silver. His model included three variables: the year in which an anti-marriage amendment was voted on, the percentage of adults who said religion played an important part in their lives, and the percentage of white evangelicals in the state.

In some states a ban would already be expected to fail; New England and New York and some Western states. There is more explanation at the link above. Where Alabama stands is below.

The Winner Answers the Question
Miss USA 2009 Kristen Dalton was on the Today Show yesterday and was asked the same question that Miss California was asked during the competition. Granted, Kristen had time to think about it, but…

The Present

Here is some information about same sex couples in Alabama, from Williams Institute. Here is the Alabama Snapshot. This information is based on 2005 data, so there are probably more same sex couples now.

My comment, up front, is that the actual numbers of same sex couples and GLB individuals in the state are probably higher, since a number of people still tend to hide or deny their sexual orientation, yet I doubt many lie and claim to be gay when they are not.

There were 8,602 same sex couples living in Alabama in 2005. There were 94, 639 gay, lesbian or bisexual individuals (single or coupled) in the state. That’s about 2% of the population.

The demographics are interesting. Individuals in same sex couples are, on average, 41 years old, and are significantly younger than individuals in married opposite sex relationships. Does that mean that gays are able to fall in love and commit to one another at an an earlier age than straights (or does it mean that we break up earlier, which could be in part due to lack of legal recognition and the sense of permanency that goes with it)?

Same sex couples live in every county in the state, with Jefferson County having the most (1488 couples, 0.57% of all households), followed by Mobile County (800, 0.53%), and Madison County (430, 0.39%).

Here’s a surprise: the counties with the highest percentage of same sex households are Perry (0.72%), Hale (0.64%), Choctaw (0.63%) and Bullock (0.63%).

Individuals in same sex relationships are more likely to be employed (66%) than individuals in married opposite sex relationships (63%).

Individuals in same sex relationships are more likely to have a college education, (23%) compared to married individuals (21%).

Individuals in same sex relationships are less likely to have served in the military (7%) than married individuals (17%).

About 25% of same sex couples are raising children under the age of 18, (about 3,309 children).

Conclusion

Same sex couples are a significant part of Alabama demographics and will eventually have their relationships recognized. I predict it will be sooner than the 2024 prediction by Silver.

>Tidbits

April 22, 2009

>There’s too much to offer opinions on and too little time to do it.

It’s Earth Day. We have a responsibility. You may get tired of me saying the same thing over and over, but that’s what I do. Finally, you get it. Today Earth premieres. In Birmingham, it’s playing at Rave Patton Creek and Carmike Summitt 16. Much of the footage has been seen in the Discovery Channel/BBC series “Planet Earth.” Worth seeing again on the big screen.

The EPA is back on the job, according to Lisa Jackson, who heads the agency. Good.

Birmingham Councilwoman Miriam Witherspoon passed away yesterday morning. 48 is too young to die. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.

Acting Freddie Mac chief David Kellermann is dead, suicide suspected.

Pandora’s box has been opened. President Obama will not stand in the way of an inquiry into the use of torture. Some officials are saying the techniques worked. I say investigate!

Right wing extremist Representative Jay Love of Montgomery has introduced a resolution in the Alabama House that praises Carrie Prejean for speaking out against equal rights. How sad. And what a waste of time in a legislative body for which the clock is ticking.