Archive for May, 2010

>Kid stuff

May 30, 2010

>When do people learn to hate gays?

I began to wonder this as I was visiting a household where young grandmother is the caretaker for a 3 year old boy. A 4 -1/2 year old kin was visiting him, and the grandmother described how they greeted each other with baby bear hugs and the older tot told me how he pushed the younger boys hair up and kissed him on the forehead.

I don’t believe any parent, except for the most cynical, would discourage two toddler boys from showing affection. We teach our babies to express love and appreciation, and encourage them to hug and kiss even strangers sometimes.

At some point, such affection becomes “yucky” for some boys. I don’t believe this is a natural change, rather they get signals or direction from their parents or older siblings.

As I watched these two boys play together, I thought about how we hear from right wing Christianists that they don’t want their children exposed to homosexual behavior, or homosexual relationships, or learning about those relationships, in elementary school or elsewhere.

I stood in church during a song on Sunday, and observed an opposite-sex couple in front of me allow their hand to touch, and take hold of each other.

I thought about taking my partner’s hand, and wondered what the reaction of the people behind us would be. There are many children in the church, of all ages, and the youngest had left for the children’s program. Any kid over 8 years of age knows about homosexuals and I doubt they would have been shocked (the church is pretty open in its support of its gay members and visitors), but they may have been surprised.

But not all kids are being raised by supportive parents. And not all school or church environments are tolerant of an adolescent’s growing realization of their sexuality. But most kids at some point deal with gay schoolmates at some point. How they respond depends on many factors. I’m sure books have been written about it.

By the time some kids reach high school, they might react like Finn did when Kurt showed him the room they were going to share when their families blended on the wildly popular Fox show, Glee. This clip (I hope it plays) is an absolutely wonderful portrayal of a situation many of us have lived through.

http://www.hulu.com/embed/etmjcsWe_moIz7ET5moJMg/1518/1745

Of course, not all kids have a father like Kurt’s dad. Some fathers would not make the effort that Kurt’s dad is in trying to accept his kid. In this episode, his defense of Kurt is probably as much a turning point for him as it was an awakening for Finn. And let’s not ignore the effect on Kurt.

Someday, society will be such that I could take my partner’s hand without hesitation, and without having to evaluate the environment we are in to determine if it is proper or not.

The fact is, it is ALWAYS proper to show affection or closeness to someone you love. I’m not talking about PDA, like kissing in public, most people don’t like that from either straight or gay couples. But holding one’s hand or putting one’s arm around their lover should not be a problem.

Should not. But there are, of course, safety issues involved, and that is a subject for another day. But here, I guess I am just wondering aloud and asking myself how a parent can teach a kid that some strangers or even some of their friends are to be hated and thought of as less than themselves. This goes for race and ethnicity, too.

I guess some people just shouldn’t be parents, and it is up to the rest of us to somehow catch the attention of their kids and allow them to learn that we are One Human Family and on that level we are all equal.

Watch the entire episode of Glee here.

Advertisements

>Attorney General and SDEC

May 29, 2010

>Here are some more endorsements and a recommendation.

For Attorney General, there are three good candidates in the Democratic Primary. Of the three, Michel Nicrosi comes across as the most qualified and made the best case for herself. Here’s a video from the recent Madison County Democratic Reunion, recorded and provided by Left in Alabama.

Nicrosi is an experienced prosecutor and she will be able to make a fine case when she runs against the experienced lobbyist in November.

Races for which I am not making an endorsement include Jefferson County Sheriff and County Commission races or State School Board.

On the proposed Constitution Amendment (which would allow members of the propane gas industry to finance promotion programs) vote No. Not that the members of that industry should not be able to levy an assessment on themselves for promotion, but because we are sick and tired of having to vote on an amendment for every little action that an organization or local government wants to take. Sorry propane gas folks, your amendment just came up at the wrong time. Help us to get a new constitution and then maybe you won’t have to be asking the people of Bessemer (and the rest of the state) if you can promote your own industry.

SDEC

Many of you will see these races on your ballot and have no idea of who to vote for or what the position is. The State Democratic Executive Committee is composed of representatives from each house district, a male and a female from each. They do not have to be, and probably should not be, your elected house member.

They compose the governing body of the Alabama Democratic Party. In Bessemer, these positions will be…well, Grover Dunn is running unopposed for the male position, and his wife Priscilla Dunn is being challenged by Marjorie McAdory. The Dunns will win this. I don’t know Marjorie.

Here are three seats for which I know the people running and make these recommendations.
Ralph Young – SDEC # 46 male
Stephen Light – SDEC #47 male
Jacquelyn Manner – SDEC # 60 female

These are progressive candidates, and the Democratic Party of Alabama is slowly, but surely becoming progressive.

>Judge not…well, except for these guys

May 28, 2010

>Most people don’t know the people in our county that keep order and administer justice.

No, it’s not the Justice League. Our justice is administered in a different fashion.


There are a bevy of Circuit and District Court judges and several of them are up for election this year, and there are a boatload of candidates.

I heard a number of judicial candidates speak at the Stonewall Democrat’s Wine Loft mixer, plus I have read a bit about them and paid attention to the ratings by the Birmingham Bar Association.

Without a lot of fan fare, here are the ones to vote for. Some of these are just in Bessemer Division, some are County wide, some might just be in the Birmingham Division.

Circuit Court Criminal Division Place 3 – David Carpenter

Circuit Court Civil Court Place 12 – Dan King

Circuit Court Criminal Division Place 14 – Clyde Jones

Circuit Court Civil Court Place 17 – Nikki Still

Circuit Court Domestic Relations Place 20 – Agnes Chappell

Circuit Court Domestic Relations Place 23 – Denise Pomeroy

Circuit Court Criminal Division Place 24 – Stephen Wallace

District Court Civil Division Place 10 – Lynneice Washington

>Jeremy Sherer for State Treasurer

May 27, 2010

>The race for State Treasurer is not a sexy race. I mean, it doesn’t get a lot of attention, there are no controversial racial issues or hateful ads to get the public’s attention. Most of the interest is on the Republican side, because one of their candidates is a Boozer. That’s his name, Young Boozer. I’m going to refrain from making any obvious jokes.

On the Democrat side, however, we have a young progressive candidate and an established party switching candidate. I need to go no further than this quote from Left in Alabama.

It appears that you get a well-connected pol like Democratic candidate for
Treasurer, Charley Grimsley, a guy adept at playing both sides of the political
game. He’s boasted about his friendship with Lt. Governor Folsom while
donating $5,000 to Roy Moore in 2006. He contributed $2,000 to George W.
Bush in 2004 (the day before the election) and $2,300 to Barack Obama last
October.

Grimsley may have been a Democrat when he donated to Roy Moore, but that is an automatic lifetime disqualifier as far as I am concerned.

But even if Grimsley had not drifted to the dark side, I would still be in support of Jeremy Sherer.

Jeremy is an attorney whose career has focused on protecting the rights of consumers. He’s involved with Alabama Citizens’ for Constitutional Reform, and serves on Governor Bob Riley’s Blackbelt Action Commission (as do I).

I’ve heard Jeremy speak and he has good ideas regarding PACT, which has to an extent been rescued anyway, so lets look at some other things. As far as cash management, Jeremy points out that a lot of Alabama is held in banks located outside of our state. About $270 million.

“As Treasurer, I will ensure that state taxpayer dollars are deposited in
Alabama based lending institutions that are good corporate citizens within their
lending communities, by utilizing state resources to grow their local economies
through principled lending practices.”

Jeremy is also concerned about financial literacy and points out that about 20% of Alabama families are dependent on payday loan stores, pawn brokers and refund advance services to get by. These are predatory services. The public needs to be protected from such, and Alabamians need to be educated regarding the financial systems of the 21st century.

As far as openness and transparency goes, Jeremy wants to offer a detailed account of all state financial holdings, expenditures, and investments via an online database. In addition, “I will establish an anonymous whistle blower hot line so that misuse of state funds may be reported,” he says.

Sherer has called for increased fees on our offshore drilling companies. “It is past time that reckless corporations operating off of Alabama’s coast pay their fair share to our state.”

Jeremy has been endorsed by the New Jefferson County Citizens Coalition, The Jefferson County Progressive Democratic Council, the Talladega Daily Home and the Anniston Star. The Mobile Building and Construction Trades Council (composed of 15 labor unions in the region) also endorsed him.

The Daily Home stated:

Sherer’s ideas coalesce into a picture of a forward-thinking state treasurer
who will look for unconventional solutions to existing problems. He’s part
of a new generation of politicians in Alabama, and it’s about time.

Learn more about Jeremy at Sherer in 2010.

>Melanie Bouyer endorsed by Birmingham News

May 27, 2010

>Congratulations to Melanie Bouyer who received the endorsement of the Birmingham News for the District 56 House seat to replace Lawrence McAdory. Oh, McAdory is in the race, but needs to be replaced.

The paper points out Bouyer’s “can-do” approach that has guided her, as mayor of Lipscomb, through some tough times in the city. “She understands the need for more money for services such as transit, as well as tax incentives and work force training to attract businesses and jobs,” the paper says.

Other priorities identified by Bouyer are:

Tax Exempt Groceries – I will support a tax bill that removes taxes from groceries.

Alabama Constitution Reform-I will support a new constitution.

Funding For Our Schools – I will support a bill to increase funding for our schools.

Fair and Equitable Tax Structures – I will support bills that encourage fair and
equitable tax structures.

Melanie has also been endorsed by the Jefferson County Progressive Democratic Council, and the Alabama New South Coalition.

Visit Elect Melanie Bouyer for more information about Melanie.

>Cleo King kicks off his campaign

May 26, 2010

>We haven’t even casts our votes in the state and county elections and already the local candidates for council and mayor are forging ahead with their campaigns.

Cleo King kicked off his campaign with an event at Nukes Sports Grill on 19th Street in Bessemer yesterday evening. A few dozen people dropped in, some to show support, others curious and anxious to meet the young candidate.

Here is King (in the dark suit) addressing potential voters.

Excuse the poor quality of the photos…cell phone.

Cleo King is flanked by his staff; Sheila Walker, campaign treasurer and Prince Cleveland, campaign manager.


The crowd was entertained by musicians from Neo Jazz School of Music. (Later yesterday evening I saw these guys addressing the Birmingham City Council on the meeting replay)


Cleo King is a newcomer to the Bessemer political scene, but that is exactly what we need. He’s running in District 7.

Cleo recognizes that Bessemer is in a funk. Or, as he puts it, “Bessemer has become fatigued with the internal bickering and slow resolution of issues that face the city.”

That’s putting it mildly.

Bessemer needs a new council and a new mayor. Even the current council president agreed when he told me a few months ago that the voters should replace them all.

Among the items in Cleo’s Action Plan (and my comments) are:

  • Support initiatives to protect neighborhoods against crime. Cleo has been a victim of crime in Bessemer, so he has a perspective that others may not share.
  • Stimulate economic growth in under served areas of Bessemer. I would think this includes the 7th district, where there are few economic opportunities. A neighborhood coffee shop here and there would be a good start in this residential district. Visit the the Marigny neighborhood in New Orleans to see how that works.
  • Support neighborhood beautification and downtown revitalization. Downtown is about to get a shot in the arm, with the groundbreaking for the new DHR building scheduled to take place on June 4. The city should follow with more downtown activity.
  • Encourage consensus among city leaders.Consensus” may be asking a little too much, How about civility. We’ve had recent Town Hall meetings where microphones were jerked from the speaker’s hand and voices were raised by elected officials. This results in a turning away by citizens who are both embarrassed and repulsed by what they see. What we need to do is act in ways that encourage citizen participation.
  • Support programs to develop and cultivate the talents of Bessemer’s youth. Do you think Bessemer will ever have a rec center for kids and seniors? I’ve lived here for a decade, and every candidate mentions “rec center” in their platform. Please, council of 2010 and new mayor, find a way to build a rec center. Maybe this could be a new project for the Public Building Authority to undertake?

Other candidates will be filing to run in this and other districts, and the August 24 election is 2 months away, so it’s too early to compare King to other candidates. But he’s running ahead of the field as it stands now. Check out Cleo King and learn more, at his web site.

>Sewell surging in polls in AL-07

May 20, 2010

>A new poll shows Terri Sewell surging in the polls, jumping from 9% in January into a tie for the lead with 22% now. Sheila Smoot also has 22% (down from 29%) and Earl Hilliard has 20% (down from 25%). The poll numbers were released by the Sewell campaign this morning.

With Hilliard and Smoot both falling in the poll and Sewell on the rise, it appears she will at least head into a runoff with the lead.

Terri is the only candidate currently running television ads.

She still lacks name recognition, and some people don’t know much about her. Left in Alabama interviewed her and here is some video. In this clip Terri talks about her background, growing up poor in Selma, and her education and early experiences outside the classroom, and what a “public finance lawyer” is.

You owe it to yourself to watch these videos. It will take a little time, but we all need to be informed about who we send to Washington.

Here, Terri discusses her priorities, including investing in infrastructure, investing in human capital and workforce development, investment in small businesses, investment in technology, including alternative energy sources. Job creation and better educational opportunities are desperately needed in the 7th district.

Terri takes a stand on the issues, including health care (a robust public option), equal pay for women (she has been endorsed by Lilly Ledbetter), a woman’s right to choose while making abortion rare and safe, opposing discrimination against gays and lesbians, respecting states rights to determine gay marriage (she understands the issue is a tough one, but at the very base of it, it’s a “civil rights” and “human rights issue”). Also, financial reform and Wall Street are discussed.

Finally, Terri makes her case. Here is why you should vote for Terri Sewell.

It’s time to send a woman to Congress. Why Terri? Watch.

As I watch these videos once thing I notice is how calm, yet confident Terri is in conversation. She seems like the type of person who can get into the conversation in Washington beginning on day 1.

In personal conversations with Terri I have found her to be one of the most informed and personable people in politics I have met in a long time. I believe she is the best candidate for the job.

Thank you Left in Alabama for creating these videos.

>New Orleans

May 19, 2010

>

We recently visited New Orleans where I took part in the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, a new experience for me. I read from my novel (Those Others) and I sat on a panel that discussed incorporating history and activism into our LGBT writing.

While there, the Louisiana coastline was beginning to be affected by the BP oil spill. I wrote a short piece yesterday about the effect on the marshland at Bessemer Science and Nature.

Of course, any trip to New Orleans includes some wandering and picture taking.

We need a coffee shop that advertises in this way here in Bessemer

Here are three colorful roosters.

The river is peaceful. Every time I see the Mississippi river in New Orleans I am reminded of my great uncle who drowned in the river. Some say there was some scandal involved, (that it may have followed him from Birmingham to New Orleans) and that possibly the drowning was not accidental. This was decades ago, before I was born.

Some (maybe all) of the streetcars have been painted.


After your beneigts and coffee at Cafe du Monde a ride around town is in order.

And lunch at Clover Grill (with the staff wearing “Clever Girl” t-shirts) provided the best hamburger (cooked under an American hubcap) I’ve had in months.


We stayed in the Faubourg Marigny (we usually do) where the sense of neighborhood is strong and where coffee shops and small cafes are found on every other street corner in the otherwise residential area.

The historical marker says the area was created in 1805 when the Baron de Marigny began the subdivision of his plantation. Immigrants and free persons of color settled the area.

This picture was taken on our trip a few months after Katrina. The tree is in the pool area of the bed and breakfast where we stay.

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the world. I could imagine relocating to there (no, there are no plans in the works). But how does “New Orleans Opinions” sound for a blog name?

>Immigration

May 13, 2010

>This is my 1001 post on Bessemer Opinions. That’s a lot of opinionating. Sometimes, opinions need to be re-stated, for one reason or another, and this is one of those times.

Immigration

I am in America because of illegal immigration, and that is part of the reason I have such strong opinions about it. My ancestor came to this country from Great Britain illegally. But he was able to “melt” into the “pot” we call the United States and make babies and such and here I am.

I agree that current immigration policies need fixing, but rather than working toward actual solutions we hear hateful rhetoric and pass laws that disrespect humanity and tear families apart.

Here’s a video that’s a couple of years old, but points out the ignorance of some people (like you don’t speak to Koreans in Japanese and expect them to understand), and the realization that you don’t just come to this country and immediately know English. And, of course, that not all immigrants (legal or illegal) are Hispanic. There is a huge Vietnamese community on the Alabama coast that could be affected adversely if, say, drivers licenses were restricted to those who already know English. (That didn’t come from this video, by the way).

Here is a column I wrote for the Western Tribune, oddly enough, the same month that video was produced (November 2007).

Immigration is a hot topic but wouldn’t it be nice if everyone knew the
facts before forming opinions and voicing them on talk radio and such?

The state’s Joint Interim Patriotic Immigration Commission held a public
hearing recently and some little known facts were revealed during the testimony.
Sam Brooke, Law Fellow with the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, took
the opportunity to dispel several myths, as the following examples from his
testimony point out.

One myth is that immigrants without legal status cause a rise in criminal
activity. The fact is that an increase in immigrants – with or without
legal status- generally causes a reduction in crime.

This was proven in court in Hazelton, PA, when anti-immigrant ordinances
were being challenged, and testimony brought the true facts out.

In addition it has been shown in our own state that immigrants are
more likely to be the victims rather than the perpetrators of criminal
activity.
We only need to look as far as Lipscomb where Hispanics were
recently being targeted to realize this, but an article from the Montgomery
Advertiser (October 16, 2007) also backs this up.

Another myth is that immigrants drain public health dollars and put
a strain on medical services
. A recent study in Georgia estimated that
undocumented immigrants contribute between $215 and $252 million to the state’s
coffers, and in Texas it is estimated they contribute $380 million more than
they use in relation to state-provided services. While similar numbers are not
available for our state, it can be concluded that immigrants who lack
legal status do not cost our state money.

Immigrants without legal status have been made scapegoats over these
issues. To combat this, the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice and the ACLU
of Alabama are encouraging the Immigration Commission and our Legislature to
treat immigrants with respect and dignity as they find solutions that are
inclusive of this growing community.

And they should remember that only the federal government can regulate
employment and presence of immigrants. Laws in other states that have attempted
to challenge this authority have not been upheld. It would not make
sense to have a hodge-podge of laws that differ from state to state regarding
who can come into our country
.

The federal government has failed to address the immigration issue,
but that does not mean we should attempt to solve the problems on a state by
state basis
.

Rather, we should be encouraging the Congress and President to find
workable solutions without stereotyping or making scapegoats of people.
Solutions that allow well intentioned immigrants to live and contribute to our
society as they move toward full citizenship are solutions we can all live with.

In the meantime, in Arizona:

>Maine bumper sticker: OMG GOP WTF

May 12, 2010

>And the whole country is wondering.

Republicans in Maine, where both the senators (Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe) are pretty moderate on issues and at times act in cooperation with Democrats (in a bipartisan fashion), this week voted overwhelmingly to replace their party platform with the Teabagger platform.

The document calls for the elimination of the Department of Education and the
Federal Reserve, demands an investigation of “collusion between government and
industry in the global warming myth,” suggests the adoption of “Austrian
Economics,” declares that “‘Freedom of Religion’ does not mean ‘freedom from
religion'” (which I guess makes atheism illegal), insists that “healthcare is
not a right,” calls for the abrogation of the “UN Treaty on Rights of the Child”
and the “Law Of The Sea Treaty” and declares that we must resist “efforts to
create a one world government.”

The entire platform can be read here.

Here are some highlights.

“Oppose any and all treaties with the UN “

“No amnesty, no benefits, no citizenship -ever- for anyone in the country illegally. Arrest and detain, for a specified period of time, anyone here illegally, and then deport, period.” (Maine, by the way, is 97 % white, it seems, and the Maine teabaggers are unlikely to understand what diversity is. To them, a black person, or even a southerner, might be deemed an “illegal.”)

“Reassert the principle that “Freedom of Religion” does not mean “freedom from religion”. (To my atheist and agnostic friends – your beliefs or lack of beliefs are threatened)

“Discard political correctness” (So we can all speak in hateful, bigoted language like you do?)

“Pass and implement Fed bill #1207 (Introduced by Ron Paul), to Audit the Federal Reserve, as the first step in Ending the Fed.” (Ending the Fed? Yeah, that would create stability now, wouldn’t it?)

“Investigate collusion between government and industry in the global warming myth.” (Myth? Myth? What rock do you people live under?)

“Prohibit any further stimulus bills.” (Even though the stimulus bill was part of what saved this country from the policies of republican leadership in Washington, and if I searched, I’m sure I could find where Maine specifically benefited.)

“Espouse and follow the principle: It is immoral to steal the property rightfully earned by one person, and give it to another who has no claim or right to its benefits.” (Does this mean they want to do away with Medicare and Medicaid? – yes!)

“Clarify that healthcare is not a right.” (Yes it is. Period.)

“Eliminate Dirigo” (Dirigo is the Maine health initiative to provide all citizens with affordable health care coverage. Dirigo is also the motto of Maine, meaning “I direct” or “I lead.” I’m not sure which one they want to eliminate).
 
 
“Eliminate the Department of Education.” (A favorite target of teabaggers).

This video shows the excitement generated by the passage of the platform.

 

Maine has been referred to as the “South of the North.”

One comment points this out:

It’s a sea of white hair in the video above. Almost all recipients of SS checks
and Medicare coverage. In other words, they are on welfare. “Health care is not
a right!” they bellow as they receive hip transplants, heart valve replacements,
and other life-saving operations on the public dime. “Socialism is evil” they
wail while waiting to cash their Social Security check.
Selfish, small-minded, ignorant hypocrites.

I wonder what Snowe and Collins think of their party’s new platform? I wonder what they think about their chances of surviving when their Senate seats comes up for re-election (Snowe in 2012, Collins in 2014). I wonder what they think about switching parties.