Thursday, December 20, 2012

Your Opinion: Clean Water and Air is for ALL Seasons.

From: Michelle McDonald of Trussville

For years I have read comments and watched the verbal attacks on those who try to protect our natural resources so we may have clean air to breathe and water to drink.They have been called no growthers, tree hugging liberals, and other unjust monikers.These clean water and air advocates are not making mega bucks to do their jobs, they are not living in mc-mansions and more often than not bravely take the arrows the business community and politicians sling their way. These advocates are working to preserve our natural resources because they have a passion and responsibility to all who drink water and breathe air – which is you, me and all MANKIND.
Most every beverage one drinks contains water.I challenge you to count how many bottles or glasses of water you drink or purchase in just a week’s time.I am sure you take fresh water to your jobsite to ensure you do not get overheated when working. Or perhaps you take it for a jog or provide it when your children are playing sports. When you go outside you never consider what you may be putting into your body with each breath you take.You assume the air you are breathing is clean.
The importance of clean water can be traced all the way back to biblical times.Remember Jesus uses water and fish to feed the multitudes. Do you think he took these resources for granted as we do today? Would he have deliberately offered dirty water or contaminated fish to his followers? Do you think he would call those who work to protect our resources fools and or call them names? Do you think Jesus would say money is always the most important aspect of anything we encounter? It has been said people can live off bread and water. In some third world countries they pray each day for just this simple life sustaining gift.
Life should not always be about what we can get, it's about what we can give.Water is for all seasons and we should give thanks for the warriors and advocates who work daily to preserve these precious natural resources for us to give to our children and future generations.Consider this, it does not matter how much money you have, if you do not have water to drink you cease to exist and all that money/greed and name calling will not have made a bit of difference.What would Jesus do?He put us on this earth to be good stewards of what He created.Thank you to the people who work selflessly on our behalf to make sure we honor what God created and we so often take for granted.
-Michelle McDonald

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

To Tell the Tooth

by Jim Reed

My late Dad made this funny sound with his teeth after every meal, thfttt! It was annoying and funny and, ultimately, quite meaningful. Ask me to send you the story.

I used to write a column for the University of Alabama at Birmingham Dental School, called, “To Tell the Tooth” (actually, the final name was “The Wisdom Tooth,” but I always liked this one better). This was way before you were conscious (in the early 1970s). It was a Q&A column in the Birmingham News. Since apparently no-one ever read it, I didn’t receive any Qs, so I made up the questions myself, then conferred with dental faculty to provide answers.

Toothpicks are a way of life in my South, so they provide great spectator sport. My brother Tim and I used to love watching poofed-hair women at Red Lobster pick up toothpicks at the cash register and walk out making our Dad’s sound. Sometimes, to make gentle fun of them, we’d stick five or six picks between our teeth and make a great show of sauntering out, pretending to be the good ol’ boys we never were. thfttt!

Almost everyone lies to dental hygienists about how often flossing occurs. I like Jay Leno’s approach. Right before his teeth-cleansing session, he eats a couple of Oreo cookies. He would have enjoyed my and Tim’s company, had he been our buddy back in the day.

I used to be a Mad Man (a public relations practitioner) forty years ago. First thing I learned was how to show more teeth than I could possibly possess, when smiling at clients. We had to act nice all the time. I still wish that just once, I’d had the courage to stuff my mouth with Oreos before one of my client meetings.

The most excruciatingly painful fun I ever had was having my teeth worked on by dental students—it was cheap but time-consuming, since each step of the process had to be double-checked by dental faculty. Way back then, I lay there, a prisoner of the torture chair, mouth filled with gauze and cotton, observing the students’ gaffs. One self-confident student would carefully wash his hands, then poke them in his pocket, rattling change and keys, while he tried to figure out what to do next. Then, he’d wipe his nose, run fingers through hair, cough into his hands and jam them into my mouth. My gutteral protests were never heard…Besides, I wanted to make no enemies, since I’d be seeing him and his fellow students several more times.

As a kid, the scariest thing I ever read about teeth was a passage in the book Diary of an Unknown Aviator. It described how the earliest parachutists (imagine being the first person ever to use a parachute!) learned their skills. It was important to be able to find the ripcord instinctively, once you leapt from the plane. Someone suggested that no matter how dark it is, no matter how stressed or disoriented you are, you can always find your mouth with your hand…thus jumpers would bite down on the ripcord, confident that at the right time, they’d be able to grab the cord and make a safe landing. What they had not anticipated was the missing teeth that resulted.

The most honest observation I ever heard about teeth came from my then-early-teen daughter Margaret, after she and her friend Jessica returned from their first trip to the Alabama State Fair: “Dad, I’ve never seen so many toothless people!”

Assuming that you and I can only deal with so much tooth at one time, I’ll stop here and urge my Muse to take a nap. If she doesn’t obey, I’ll get her back by writing a story about how she takes her teeth out just before each naptime.

Listen at:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Confessions of the Last Liberal

by Carl Beck Sachs

At last, my fellow citizens, rejoice and step out into the crisp air barely warmed by the autumnal sun, for our long national nightmare is over: the 2012 election is now over and done.  Though the wounds incurred to the national psyche by the last two years continue to ooze pus of resentment, there are bigger fish to fry. And by “bigger fish” I mean some highly opinionated, totally biased, and of course completely objective ruminations.

Post-2012 election assessment: ah, what a strange time to be alive, when privileged, erotically disrupted white men are finally revealed to be the whining, petulant, and entitled minority they’ve always accused other groups of being. To them I say, “Welcome to the 21st century, assholes, hope you enjoy your stay.” And they accuse us of being “special-interest groups”?  To hear their side of it, one might almost get the impression that non-whites, non-straights, non-Christians and women are treated like second-class citizens. Ok, so much for the low-hanging fruit; a few other remarks, in no particular order.

Demographics: The much-touted “red state/blue state” (one state, two state) jargon is slowly easing up, as better data visualizations reveal what everyone ought to pretty much know already: that Democrats and Republicans, like most Americans, live everywhere.  Exit polling data at the county-level shows that there are considerable pockets of conservative voters in “blue” states and considerable pockets of liberal voters in “red” states, i.e. We Are Already Among You.  Apart from that, it seems that Obama (surprise, surprise) did pretty well assembling a broad-based, multi-racial coalition and Romney (surprise, surprise) did not. Obama also did quite well among voters between 18 and 29, garnering 60% of their vote, suggesting that kids are either gullible and easily manipulated, or the opposite. But what really interests me is the rural/urban split: that Obama did extremely well in pretty much every city (including Birmingham), whereas Romney did well in the more rural parts of the country. The red/blue dichotomy is really a rural/urban continuum, with suburbs and exurbs falling out in different ways in different places. Why this is, is an interesting question, on which I shall offer only the flimsiest of hypotheses: that urban life is less amenable to the rampant xenophobia upon which the far-right echo-chamber feeds.

Campaigning: Conceivably, Obama won because he ran a better campaign than Romney did. As Mario Cuomo once put it, “politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose,” and Obama is very likely one of the finest orators of our time. Both campaigns were noticeably short on substance, with major issue after major issue being tabled before, during, and after the presidential non-debates. My sense of the situation is that it’s not that the Democrats did anything particularly good or right, but that the Republicans seemed unable to stop shooting themselves in the foot.  The problem with shooting yourself in the foot is that, afterwards, you’ve got a hole in your foot.  Romney seemed unable to convey much genuine human emotion, because he spent so much energy tailoring his personality to whatever audience he was speaking to at a time. Of the Tea Party and their inability to stop talking about how women should be shamed for having sex, the less said, the better.

Voter Turnout: 50.6% of the popular vote is not exactly a mandate, as such things are reckoned.  With voter turnout at 57.7% of “eligible voters” (itself a significant category, if one considers the injustice of disenfranchisement laws), just under one-third of all votes cast by eligible voters. This is not to undermine the legitimacy of his victory, since most recent presidents have governed perfectly well with a similar margin. However, low voter turnout does reveal a more serious problem concealed amongst the tattered remains of American “democracy”: that so many people have lost faith in it.

Does Either Party Have Much a Future?  Since 2008, the Republicans have had a single goal: to prevent Obama from being re-elected. To that end they have done everything within their considerable power to prevent him from succeeding. And in that fanatical pursuit of that single goal, they failed. And that means that the Republican party is done. That they weren’t able to accomplish this task—with all their fear-mongering, obstructionism, conspiracy-theorizing, and transparent lies —means that they’ve got nothing.  Certainly the Republican Party will continue to be a major political force in the South, as the Know-Nothings once were (were!) in the Northeast.  But it has moved so far to the right that I simply cannot see how it can govern at a national level. It will be a strong regional party for a long time, and of course continue to have a lot of power in the House, but I have to say, I don’t see control of the Senate or the Presidency shifting back to the GOP within the next ten or so years, if it doesn’t do some serious house-cleaning and soul-searching.  And that would be a disaster for the country, because our political discourse is nurtured by the respectful exchange of ideas.

Thus, one might conclude that this is a good time to be a Democrat, but if it is a good time to be a Democrat, it is not a good time to be liberal. The most serious issues that we face as a society—unchecked and permanent war, climate change, massive economic inequality, an unsustainable ‘bubble’ in higher education, and a general inability to recognize that “the dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present”—will not change because an African-American man was re-elected to the highest office in the land.  If anything, I suspect that they will change, if at all, only because of political pressure coming from the left, from the Occupy movements and those aligned with them. We will not see, within the political system, anything like respect for the rule of international law, the safeguarding of civil liberties, the protection of unions and worker’s rights, strengthening of the social-safety net, environmentally responsible policies that are strictly enforced, strong financial regulation, and the refusal to engage in unjust war.  For those of us who, like myself, have grown up as “liberals,” hoping that such ideals could be realized within the political system, we may be the last of our kind. Obama’s victory, however laudable and worth celebrating, does little, if anything, to change that.

Monday, December 10, 2012

An Apology to the President of the United States of America

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to you in regard to certain actions taken just now by certain citizens here in the State of Alabama. It seems they have joined citizens in more than thirty other states in “peacefully” requesting your permission to secede from The United States of America. While I assume they know that this is largely a symbolic request—you’d never grant such an absurdity—I feel compelled to speak on behalf of those of us who regard this as a more serious matter.

What is being proposed here is that these individual states be allowed to legally separate from the Union and form their own sovereign governments. This is no doubt due to the fact that the policies enacted into law over the past four years are seen as so egregious as to be unbearable for some. If asked, I imagine many of these seditionists would say that Obamacare, certain executive orders regarding immigration (etc.), and (misperceptions of) current and past events warrant their stance.

Amongst many in my state, you are somehow seen to be “other” than what our traditional Presidents have been. You have an Arab name, are non-Caucasian, and advocate for progressive policies that the right-wing entertainment media complex has convinced them are “socialist” or “Marxist.” While I am certain that the first two of these descriptions of you are quite accurate, the third is definitely not.

For me personally, I love the reforms that are provided in the Affordable Care Act—no pre-conditions, no caps on benefits, premium rebates if my insurer doesn’t spend enough of my dollars on actual healthcare, and the coming exchanges—and there is nothing at all socialist about any of that. And I love that you refocused our efforts against radical Islamist militants on the militants themselves, not on your predecessor’s policy of nation building in Arab lands. I love that you rescued America from falling right off the economic cliff into a depression in 2009—something that your opponent in that election stated he would not have done. I love that you established the Consumer Protection Agency, disabling much of the abuse that banks and credit card companies routinely inflict on us. I love that you are proposing a balanced approach of increased revenue plus cuts to solve our growing fiscal problem. I love that you are proposing reasonable adjustments to Social Security and Medicare, instead of the Draconian ones your opponents in this recent election were proposing. I love that you instituted some regulation on Wall Street and the banks, making it much more difficult for them to gamble with America’s wealth and collapse the economy again. I love that you are in favor of all Americans having the same rights to marry, or to worship (or not worship) as they choose. I especially love that you regard war as an absolute last option, ensuring that the very brave men and women in our military are put in harm’s way only in the most critically necessary of circumstances.

If you were to grant secession to my state, I have no doubt I would lose a great many things that I do not wish to lose—federal interstate roadways, clean air and water, the protection of the U.S. military, the Medicare and Social Security that I have long paid into, legal equality of all races and genders, federal regulation of an increasingly narcissistic business community, FEMA help for our fairly frequent natural disasters, and other federal benefits too numerous to mention.

But many of my state’s residents don’t see any of these benefits that have been guaranteed to them by your presidency and the Constitution. They are ill-informed, and/or misinformed by such right-wing extremists bearing the names of Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, Drudge, Breitbart, and others. The venom spewed by these types is believed by hordes of my state’s residents, either because they are severely uninformed or because a long-entrenched popular ideology disposes them to do so—an ideology that renders them nostalgic for supposed earlier and better times when white people were dominant and the public square was mostly inhabited by “Christianity.” Many believe that you favor a dependent society where “free stuff” is the order of the day and they are the ones paying for it—despite the fact that you have praised individual initiative and reject helping those who will not help themselves (in fact, your own story is the epitome of individual achievement). And despite the fact that requirements to access entitlement benefits remain unchanged from your predecessor’s administration.

Much of this is driven by both racial/cultural biases and by fundamentalist religious ideology. But I also believe that the populist neo-libertarianism that has recently sprung up is the result of misperceptions by many about their perceived loss of liberty. When I ask such Alabamians which liberties they have lost, they really can’t name any.

So, Mr. President, please don’t grant this absurd and insurrectionist request to secede from these great United States—not that you would anyway (e.g., The Constitution provides no legal path to secession for any state)—because 4 out of 10 of us here in Alabama believe you are doing a very good job of navigating us through some fairly difficult times. And because we believe that secession would permit those who are running this state to immediately thrust us back into the 19th century, when only the privileged could enjoy a chance at living a prosperous life. This is not speculation, as the powers in Montgomery have already passed racist and economy-harming bills like HB 56 (which, thank Heaven, the Supreme Court mostly struck down), our attorney general joined with other states to have the Affordable Care Act struck down, and of course most recently certain citizens have submitted this un-American request to secede.

So I apologize for my state, and want you to know that many of us here in the Deep South believe that you have done an excellent job, and are optimistic that the next four years will bring us even more reasons to be glad that the recent election turned out the way it did.

Sincerely, and with great respect,
Jim Hoffine
Birmingham, AL (11-12-12)