Archive for September, 2009

>Elections: Present and future

September 30, 2009


Don’t forget the special city council meeting tonight at 6:00 where Earl Cochran, council president says he will set the mayor “straight” on how the city should be run. Tangled up in the mess are the poor dogs housed in the Bessemer Animal Shelter, who have been without food at least 8 times over last few months. Yet the mayor refused to accept a donation of food. That’s bad, but the real question is, “Where did the money go?” The agency is budgeted sufficient funds to pay for food, so why did they not have it? The council also has other issues with the mayor, so it could be a very interesting meeting. Be there.

Be sure and read my Western Tribune column, which follows. Me? A communist?

Congratulations to both Claire Mitchell and Lawrence McAdory who were the top vote getters in yesterdays special election. The runoff will be November 10. Claire Mitchell will win.

Those who are trying to prevent health care reform must be feeling pretty chipper this morning after the Senate Finance committee rejected the public option yesterday. But it’s not over. Readers like Becki who would rather see a gay person with AIDS die without treatment than have government run health care assisting him, think that most Americans agree with them, but they don’t. Sixty five percent of Americans want a public option.

So Michael Moore said it right. He can count on me to join him. This is at 10:50 in the video. But watch it all.

To the Democrats in congress, who don’t quite get it, I want to offer a personal pledge. I, and a lot of other people, have every intention of removing you from congress in the next election if you stand in the way of health care legislation that the people want. That is not a hollow or idle threat. We will come to your districts and we will work against you, first in the primary and if we have to in the general election. You don’t think so? You think we’re just gonna go along with you because you are democrats? You should think again. This is the number one domestic issue on people’s minds right now.

>Western Tribune column September 30 2009 Communism

September 30, 2009

>I wrote this column in response to an accusation made against me in The Western Tribune last week by a reader. I am not going to reprint the 300+ word letter, but what it said, basically was that “Obama admitted to communism…share the wealth” and that he was “selected to be the change agent…by Lord Jacob Rothschild to be president” and that “the name ‘Openshaw’ is degraded…for defending communism…”

The claims about Jacob Rothschild set off an alarm because of the radical nature of the author who is promoting that claim about him and Obama. Google it if you don’t know.

Don’t expect your radical comments to be accepted. Nice ones will, though

Western Tribune column

In my column two weeks ago I wrote of a group of people who want to take us back to an earlier time. While I was referring to the days of segregation, during that same period another ugly idealism developed: McCarthyism, where often unfounded accusations were made against public and not so public figures that they were communists. Apparently there are still those who want to return to that era as well, as if communism is the greatest threat we face today.

These modern day McCarthyists use the accusation of “communist” just as it was used against such noted civil rights leaders as Martin Luther King Jr and Bayard Rustin – to discredit those who are working for equality and progress, including myself.

In last week’s column I mentioned the teachings of Jesus as a reason to support the public option in health care and now that “sharing the wealth” has been equated with communism I want to address that as Jesus might see it also.

Jesus implied without doubt that we are to share the wealth. When he instructed his disciples to feed the five thousand, he didn’t just make some food appear. The charitable actions of the few inspired the others in the crowd that might have had some food to share theirs as well.

Everyone was fed.

But that is just charity, not government distribution, one might argue.

The Bible teaches us to create a just society. We ignore that directive and have created a society that neglects the poor and rewards the rich. Justice would have us provide a decent life for all. Society has had two thousand years to reach that goal, yet still we refuse to see. Is it greed that blinds us? Or maybe it’s just our ignorance that keeps us from understanding.

Ignorance is the evil we face today, not communism. And by that I don’t mean stupidity, I mean those who refuse to educate themselves. Reading a book about conspiracy theories and prophecy does not relieve one of ignorance, in fact it may contribute to it if it prevents one from further investigation of, say, whether the book has any validity or not.

If Obama is a communist, as some have indicated is their belief, then Jesus was too. And if not a communist, he was certainly a progressive liberal. And this is 2009, not 1949.

>Historic buildings in Bessemer

September 29, 2009

>Have you voted? The unscientific Bessemer Opinions poll has Claire Mitchell winning the district 56 primary without a runoff! Low turnout is expected, so your vote could really make a difference. Go now!

I don’t know the history of this building. I don’t know when it was built. I don’t know what it’s original purpose was.

I do know that it is one of Bessemer’s historic buildings.

But there’s no preservation going on here. Yesterday the building came down, as you can see in this picture from the rear.

This is unrelated, but just a block away, the remains of this building sit on this corner for months. Why hasn’t this been cleaned up?

Three blocks away, a burned building sat for months before the lot was cleaned off. And that didn’t happen until the city decided to build the new DHR building there. Click here to see how the DHR building will look.

This building had an advertisement painted on it. The Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association is interested in it. More on this in a few days.

Bing Perrine of Billings, Montana collapsed last year because of congenital heart problems and needed open heart surgery. Can you imagine holding bake sales to fund your life saving surgery? That’s what our country has come to, and that is what the Republicans (and Max Baucus) are fighting for. The status quo.
I’m fortunate, I guess. I know how to bake.


September 28, 2009

>New Rule for Bessemer Opinions.

No comments will be allowed that use the word “communism” or any derivative of the word, unless the original post was about communism. The same goes for socialism, fascism, and Nazism.

Remember, this is not a forum for spreading hatred or lies. I know you “haters” will claim this isn’t fair and will let me know by trying to say so in a comment, but those won’t be posted either.

This is an action shot of a butterfly I was chasing around the back yard last week.

Finally I got the money shot. This is a Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae. Butterflies are making a comeback, it seems.

These brilliant butterflies can be found far out over the water at times, but its range extends to Baja California, north to San Francisco, the southern U. S., Mexico, and emigrating northward into the Great Basin, Rockies, Midwest, Great Lakes and mid-Atlantic States. See more pictures at Bessemer Science.

This tree is in a bad place in my back yard and for 8 years I cut it down each spring when it was just a little twig trying to recover. This year I didn’t, and discovered it is Koelreuteria bipinnata or Chinese golden-rain tree, also known as Bougainvilla golden-rain tree. The orange or salmon colored fruit capsules will persist into fall.

This are different than Koelreuteria panniculata, the golden-rain tree that is more common along my street and known for the showy yellow flower clusters.

Here is one of the fruit capsules from the Chinese golden-rain tree.

Speaking of nature, Ken Burns PBS series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea premiered last night. I’m recording it because we weren’t here to watch it, but here is the (extended) preview.

Remember, Tuesday, September 29, 2009, to vote if you live in District 56. And Wednesday, September 30, 2009, at 6:00, City Council meeting.

>I got a feeling…

September 25, 2009

>I’m ignoring the crisis in Iran (because I have confidence in our president) and all other crazy news because I have a huge project to complete today.

This video by Black Eyed Peas will get me started. At first I just someone had too much caffeine…

UAB has taken a huge step, but the right step. UAB creating a climate of equality.

I watched the PBS Health Care Reform Special last night, and am more convinced than ever that health care reform with a public option is needed. Watch it here. It’s over an hour long, but worth the time.

OK, let’s get to work…

>Crazy in (Bessemer) Alabama

September 24, 2009

>My letter was posted on Equality Across America!

OK, Bessemer is just turning into the strangest place in Alabama. Here’s just a sampling of the craziness. All of these stories come from the Western Tribune. Mostly.

1. Heard during a city council meeting last week, from a preacher addressing the council: “I don’t know why they are upset. Prostitutes are in the neighborhood late at night and they go to houses to give oral sex.”

“They” are residents on the street where his “church” is. “Church” is in quotes because…

2. A church is not a church if it doesn’t have a steeple, according to mayor Ed May. Of course, the number of storefront “churches” without steeples in Bessemer is only outnumbered by bail bondsmen and payday loan stores. And the largest churches on the historic southside, the Methodist Church and Visionary Ministry, formerly South Highland Baptist, don’t have steeples, so I guess the gig is up.

3. Three years after the last election the city council is finally about to grow some (no disrespect to Louise Alexander, Dorothy Davidson or Sarah Belcher). After council members were prevented from collecting their mail…well, actually, after they discovered their mailboxes were gone and “no one knew where they were”…they got riled. Council president Earl Cochran said he would ask the council to censure the mayor. But it’s not just the mail issue. It has to do with changing locks and not getting the state forensic audit of city finances the council requested and…

4. The animal control issue will not go away. Hmmm. Let me just leave it at this. On Wednesday September 30 at 6:00 PM there will be a special meeting of the city council. Be there, if for no other reason, to be a witness.

Maybe, just maybe, a bit of the truth will be heard that night. Then there is this…

5. Red Scare!!!! That we have uneducated lemmings in Bessemer really surprised me. We had a discussion last night, and it was agreed that the enemy is not communism. And this is not 1950. I might reveal the true enemy in my column next week. Here’s a hint: if you don’t know what it is, you might be part of it!

>Western Tribune column September 23, 2009 Public Option

September 23, 2009

>This is my Western Tribune column for September 23, 2009. As I have said before, it’s nice when the media and pop culture combine to produce videos that support my views.

Here’s the column:

There are many reasons to support health care reform with a public option and here are three of the most obvious.

The constitution supports it.

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It would be hard to say that the “general welfare” of our country is not promoted by our government assuring that everyone has access to affordable, quality health care.

It’s the Christian thing to do.

Many faith traditions support caring for the sick but for Christians this should be a no-brainer. Jesus spent a lot of time and devoted many words to healing the sick and advocating for the unfortunate. The story of the Good Samaritan and others remind us that we are to care for others – we are our brother’s keeper. We should help to shoulder the burdens of others and this is what a public option would do. Medicare for all is a good way to put it.

A public option is the only way to bring down insurance costs.

Remember, insurance companies exist for one reason – to make a profit, which they do very effectively by collecting premiums and denying coverage.

Here is the total compensation for several insurance executives for 2008.

Ron Williams – AETNA, $24,300,112; H. Edward Hanway – CIGNA, $12,236,740; Stephen Helmsley – UnitedHealth Group, $3,241,042; Phillip Pope – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, $2,950,000; UnitedHealth Group deserves special mention because in 2005 their CEO, William McGuire, received compensation totaling $124,774,000. That’s 124 million dollars and it takes a lot of guts to make that kind of money off of the illness (and sometimes denial of treatment) of Americans.

Can we honestly expect the “for profit” insurance companies to police themselves and bring down costs? Of course not. A public option managed by a not for profit government agency is the only way to assure cost reductions and fair coverage for all Americans.

Those who argue otherwise might want to review the Constitution and the Bible and reconsider. Otherwise they are just as much to blame as the CEOs who are robbing the American people at the expense of the uninsured and under insured. And that could be any of us.

As if on cue, Will Ferrell, John Hamm and Linda Cardellini and others made this video as celebrities weigh in on the health care debate. from Funny or Die.

And former insurance executive turned whistle blower Wendell Potter shows up on Bill Maher’s Real Time, which we finally got around to watching last night.

>Comedy among the pols

September 22, 2009

>On my site I’ve posted an open letter explaining Why marching in Washington is important. Please feel free to forward the link or the letter to those you know.

Who knew that Congressman Barney Frank was such a comedian. He appeared on Jay Leno’s 10 @ 10 last night. Rush Limbaugh deserved this.

And President Barack Obama showed his lighter side as well, on Letterman. (Sorry about the ads)

OK, I agree, the president was black before the election (and still is), but remember, 30 or 40 percent of people didn’t vote for him, and it’s from those people that the vocal racists are emerging.

My column in tomorrow’s Western Tribune gives three reasons we need to support the public option in health care. Here’s a clue, one of them has to do with Jesus.

>Equality Weekend Gala with John Lewis

September 21, 2009

>What an evening the Equality Weekend Gala Dinner turned out to be. I was able to spend a minute or so with Congressman John Lewis and thanked him for all he has done for our country, and for our community.

There were several hundred people at the event, which featured a silent auction, awards presentation, performances by the Magic City Choral Society, a scrumptious meal and dessert and of course, the address by Congressman Lewis.

Seated at our table were Birmingham School Board candidate Elisa Burns-Macon and her partner Donna, congressional candidate Terry Sewell and two of her campaign staff members, Alabama Stonewall Democrats president John Smallwood and Congressman Lewis’s driver. Pretty good company, huh?

Decor was provided by Confero Productions. Thank you Christopher.

You can view the video of Congressman Lewis’s speech here. The speech is about 18 minutes long. Thanks Pam for sharing this.

He began the speech by reflecting on raising chickens as a child, and how he used to practice preaching to the chickens. Some would bow their heads, he said, some would shake their heads, but they never quite said “Amen.”

“But I am convinced that some of those chickens that I preached to in the 40’s and the 50’s tended to listen to me much better than some of my colleagues listen to me today in Congress. As a matter of fact, some of those chickens were a little more productive.”

He want on to recount some of his experiences as a Freedom Rider and his thoughts as he sat and watched Barack Obama’s inauguration. John Lewis was the first person Obama greeted as he came out of the Capitol that day, and he asked for Lewis’s prayers. Lewis assured him.

He urged the LGBT community, just as Martin Luther King urged the black community in 1963, that “You cannot wait, you cannot be patient. You want your freedom and you want it now.”

“Discrimination is discrimination. No government, be it federal or state, should tell a person who they can marry or who they cannot marry. People have a right to fall in love and get married.”

“I do not understand. Two men, two women, fall in love and get married. Whose marriage is being threatened?”

He compared the fight for same sex marriage to the fight for interracial marriage.

Some day we will look back and laugh at ourselves, he said. “The stars didn’t fall over Alabama because people fell in love and got married.”

Thanks, Equality Alabama, for hosting this event. Like the congressman said, we will change the south, we will change America, and the country will be a better country.

>Congressman John Lewis headlining Equality Weekend

September 18, 2009

>Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) will be the keynote speaker at Equality Alabama’s gala tomorrow night.

Equality Weekend begins today and lasts through Sunday. You can still register for the event. The seminars and workshops on Saturday are free. Such noted speakers as blogger Pam Spaulding and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Mandy Carter and others will offer their insight for free. For some events, including the Gala, there is a fee.

Congressman Lewis, an Alabama native, is a hero to the GLBT community as he is to the Black community and for that matter, all of America. He was a participant in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march and has fought for equality all of his life.

Here is part of an interview of Rep. Lewis.

“It is unfortunate that a segment of our society fails to see that we all should be treated like human beings, that we all are citizens of the United States of America. I’ve taken the position and I’ve long held this position that I fought too long and too hard against discrimination base on race and color not to stand up and speak out against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

It doesn’t matter if someone is gay or straight or whether someone believes in a different philosophy or different religion. We’re one people, we’re one family, and we’re one house. There is not any room in American society for discrimination based on sexual orientation. It doesn’t matter whether someone is gay or happens to be lesbian or transsexual. We’re one people; we’re one family, the American family. You call it what you want, discrimination is discrimination and we have to speak up and speak out against discrimination.

You have too many people in this society saying they’re against same-sex marriage. If people fall in love and want to get married, it is their business. Martin Luther King Jr. use to say races don’t fall in love in love and get married; individuals fall in love and get married. So if two men or two women want to fall in love and get married it’s their business. Some people say it is a threat to the institution of marriage, and some of these people who go around saying that same sex marriage is a threat to the institution of marriage, which marriage or what marriage are they talking about? Some of these same individuals have had several marriages and I don’t think individuals that happen to be gay are a threat to anybody’s marriage.

Love is love. It is better to love than to hate, it is better to be together than to be divided.”

Congressman Lewis is a graduate of American Baptist Theological Seminary, and he gets it. Make plans now to hear this great man tomorrow.
PS. As a side note, Congressman Lewis has agreed to accept my pre-publication manuscript of my book, Those Others , which includes a great deal about the Selma to Montgomery march. It will be interesting to learn what he thinks of it. I plan to publish late this year or early 2010.