Sunday, January 10, 2016

Alabamians Break World Record for Most People on One Scale


Today 157 Alabamians stepped on a truck scale and broke the Guinness World Record for the most people on one scale, a record set in 2010 by a British company that succeeded in weighing 130 people at one time.

The Alabama group weighed in at a collective 30,400 pounds and helped kick off the 10th year of the state’s largest weight loss and exercise program, Scale Back Alabama.

“Having this many people come out at the crack of dawn in cold weather was amazing,” said Rosemary Blackmon, Executive Vice President and COO of the Alabama Hospital Association. “But even more amazing is the fact that Scale Back Alabama has lasted 10 years and has resulted in a statewide weight loss of more than 1.2 million pounds.” 





The record-breaking event was held at Sabel Steel in Montgomery and was carefully documented by witnesses and videographers. Even though the Scale Back Alabama world record attempt was pre-approved by Guinness, the official certification of the record breaking will come following submission and review of the event documentation.

“It’s very difficult to quantify the tremendous benefits of Scale Back Alabama,” said Tom Miller, M.D., acting State Health Officer. “The evidence shows that obesity has serious health consequences, and unfortunately, Alabama ranks near the top in terms of adult obesity. However, it’s also been proven that programs like Scale Back Alabama that offer incentives, education and the accountability of a team member go a long way in encouraging healthy lifestyles.”

Registration for the free, 10-week program officially begins on Monday, Jan. 11 at www.scalebackalabama.com. Individuals 18 years of age and older may participate by

completing an online registration and then going to an official weigh-in site during the week of Jan. 25 – 31 to weigh in. The sites will be posted online beginning Jan. 22.

Scale Back Alabama is a public awareness program sponsored by the Alabama Hospital Association, the Alabama Department of Public Health and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why I've Changed My Mind About Cliven Bundy and The Oregon #YallQeada (#YallQueda)

Let me... let us both off the hook before you read any further:

I'm not saying I support what Ammon Bundy and his crew set out to do by taking over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge building in Harney County, Oregon. I'm just saying I have a new perspective on things.

The reason I have changed my attitude is attributable to good old fashioned debate.



Like most, my observations of this situation are dependent on news sources and those outlets I perceive to be credible. And, like most, I took to the social media landscape to express my outrage that a group of terrorist outlaws had taken over a federal building and that, frankly, they hadn't been shot down or choked to death as would be the fate of any of our fellow citizens who happen to have darker skin. 

I was shocked to see such a wide variety of opinions, including some from people I respect who see this situation in a totally different light. 


So, whereas this statement is not to indicate that I have changed my mind about the moral or legal ramifications of any of the events in either Oregon or Nevada, in relation to federal land management tactics or local rancher concerns, I do believe the situation is more complex than many of those claiming to report the facts are giving it credit as being.

A: The Facts

The facts is the facts! Well, sort of. The problem with facts is they are all wrapped up in a fuzzy reality of opinions, bias, where and when the cameras are pointed and what someone decides to say as they pan past something like a burning house, or an injured cow. I've seen the footage of what are supposedly BLM workers setting blazes for controlled burns, the images of cattle with burn marks on them, seared and peeling hides (that's called skin for animals such as humans that have recognized rights or those animals we love and consider pets).

I've seen the image of a farm house burning up as the controlled burn apparently consumes it. I've heard the allegations that some back door shenanigans are feeding some money grubbing politicians' greed. And, I might add, these things all might represent a truth. I've seen ranchers filming flames and smoke rolling across the plains or scorching up the shoulders of roads.

I've seen the news coverage of seemingly harsh sentencing under confusing laws and for seemingly minor offenses. The currently trending issue for the Bundy sedition/uprising/revolution is the seemingly unfair prosecution and consequential mandatory sentencing of the Hammond father and son out of Oregon as a result of a conviction of arson on federal land.

B: What does it all mean?

From what I can tell wildfire management is a fairly complex creature. Nationwide it involves multiple federal institutions and trickles down to a multitude of local entities.
This complexity is just a part of the general public's lack of knowledge regarding fire, fire prevention and fire management. Fire often compels humans into a state of uncontrollable, sometimes incoherent fear. Of course it does. Whether you believe the world is six thousand years old or four and a half billion years old, you somehow recognize the power, majesty and potential danger of fire. And smoke... Yes, when fires are burning there is usually smoke.
So as I watch the footage of ranchers driving around in an albeit macho sort of panic for the camera, I don't consider that really adequate evidence from which I can draw any sort of conclusion. Nor do I find the burning of a house particularly compelling.
It might very well be, although the rancher on the camera says "that's so and so's farm house, they aren't even there.. and just look at it burn," that the house going up in flames actually already belongs to the BLM at the time, given that one of the major complaints of the ranchers is their assertion the BLM is coercing land grabs. Perhaps not. But that goes to my point! How am I supposed to know?
I also need to note that I was personally taken aback by the condition of some of the cattle which had suffered obvious burns. But that the apparent attitude of the ranchers toward the cattle and their treatment of living things as mere commodities was evident and telling.
The knee jerk reaction that many will have at the sight of injured animals is one of compassion. To the ranchers, however, it is a matter of "property" rights and perceived "property" damage.
Whether you sympathize with the ranchers in this fight or with the BLM it is sadly obvious on multiple fronts that much of the collateral "property" damage wants to live and breathe, and is caught in between, which apparently includes many turtles, horses, and birds too, as well as apparent BLM proposed culling/killing and selling of animals. It is, of course, part of the job of both ranchers and the BLM to manage animals, which inevitably includes "destroying" animals. But this needs to be remembered as part of the equation.
If you've ever visited a stockyard or slaughterhouse you have an understanding of things. Just remember, these cows are not going to live in retirement on Uncle Jesse's farm.  Someone is going to eat them. Just a reality check.

C: Sources

Since the majority of Americans can only get information about these goings on from news or the Internet, we are dependent on those close by to it to provide us with adequate, pertinent, well rounded, balanced recording and reporting.
I'm not going to list all of the different sources, which range from the Bundys themselves, to right wing news outlets, to those simply copying and pasting information to blogs, or the mainstream media, which to date have not provided me with any information that would vindicate the Bundys' stance or actions.
There are faint whispers of ranchers who wouldn't go so far as to invade a government building but understand the frustrations of other ranchers. There are some grasping to make sense of what the BLM actually is and does. But as with any large, functionally amorphous institution the answers, though possibly atttractive being concisely whittled into a short article, are sure to be more complex in the actual nature of structure, action, use and misuse. This, we must admit, makes unearthing the truth to a mass audience of Americans with short attention spans difficult.
The notion that simple answers can be found, even if we so love the concept, is fairly implausible. I crave that clarity, I admit. I want to be able to kick back and just chop right to the bone, "Go Get Em!" I want that clarity of purpose, of perceived knowledge, of opinion. But seeking true clarity is a fool's errand. Just as the smoke from the BLM fires clouds up the sky, the smoke from this issue, the reporting, misrepresenting...bias clouds the mind.

D: The People and Players

One way we all streamline our assessments of the world around us...is references. "So and so says such and such? Well that's good enough for me!"
If someone we trust, or in many cases simply distrust less than others says something about something... that means something. So we look at the players in most situations and jump over some of the details considering them as read.
Perhaps unfortunately, perhaps as a result of supernaturally devious government manipulation*(1), or perhaps simply as telling evidence of motives and methods those people supporting and surrounding the Bundy revolution happen to consist of a large number of seemingly wacky, crazy, unabashedly violent kooks. Of course some of them are not. But if we look at percentages we can muster up a number of  examples of "bad" people who have either stemmed from or gravitated to the cause.
Knowing more about these people actually goes counter to the strategies of movements of this type. So being intentionally left in the dark, guessing, becomes our only choice.
There have been connections to a couple that went on a shooting spree, killing police in California and leaving a Gadsden Flag and swastika calling card.
There are multiple accounts of white supremacist ties.
The Bundys themselves have made so many inflammatory statements, some regarding race, some their own sense of ordination by divine right, that they are poor PR representatives for any sort of balance or reason.

*(1) Duh! Lizard people!
 E: Tickling Our Revolution Bone
Sure, I and others feel a deep and abiding love for the bravery, wisdom and fortitude of those stouthearted colonists standing up to a vicious and ignoble despot king.
We want to cherish that memory, embrace that spirit.
We want our children to remember revolution, freedom.
It's easy to see why waving the flag of freedom speaks so easily to the passions of any free thinking person.
But these guys ain't them! Some of the issues might even mirror those of our nation's first struggles. But we aren't talking about some king in a far away land taxing and abusing his distant subjects. Though it's nice for them to attempt to spin it that way, we're talking about not abiding by the rules of America.
This is our country.
Do some of those involved want to secede from our country? ...yes. They have been outspoken in their assertions that the laws laid out in the Constitution do not apply to them.
They collectively claim, in some form or another that they are above the law, or outside of our recognized law.
In fact, the management of lands in a non static process of acquisition and controlled dispersal or in continuance of said management has been a role of the federal government since the beginning of our country. Are we required to continue with this concept or practice? NO! But that sort of situation should be decided in the voting booth, not at the end of a gun, a gun I might add carried by anyone, government or citizen.

F: Bureau of Land Management Abuses

Has the BLM abused its power?
I don't really know.
Although assertions of government abuse are being made by people to whom I give little credit for veracity, they may be spot on.
Or we may simply be seeing, as has been the case many times over throughout history, opportunists who have glommed onto a real issue for their own gain.
I would hate to think of some poor, middle income ranchers, if the BLM is truly guilty of widespread abuse, having their wounds further salted by glory hounds.
I would hazard to guess that no matter what information is uncovered something will get whisked away in the unfortunately muddled waters. It certainly has been the case many times before that officials in the public trust, charged with carrying out the will of the American people have acted in less than good faith.
There was and will be heated debate about this topic for sure. Conversations in which I took part took many winding roads, indicating that this subject is in fact multi faceted and complex. Land rights, labor rights, race relations, gun control...like it or not, the Bundys have put themselves sqaure in the middle of current affairs.

Although I would love the clarity of hating Cliven and sons, even they represent something that, at bare minimum, reflects an unanswered question.  

As a country and a people we need to look past the flashing lights, co-opted rallies and spinning agendas to see what is really besetting our people and neighbors. 

That's why my opinion has changed. I was lucky enough to have some level headed friends with different opinions and assessments of things. I can't honestly say my opinion has changed greatly, as evidenced by my leanings against the Bundys. But I have, at least opened my mind a bit to other ideas, which we should really all do.

I severely dislike the actions of the crew holding up in Oregon. But so many of us in this world are the horses not the riders. 

That's why we actually need a strong federal government, well under our control, that is able to combine the good will of Americans into action. 

Unfortunately that's what so many fight daily to dismantle. And unfortunately though having been promised, that is also not what we often get. 

But the alternative of local warlords or roaming rebels controlling swaths of our country using fear, intimidation and weaponry is a far step in the wrong direction. And let's not kid ourselves. When the guns come out, instead of people turning out to march, or vote, that's where things are headed.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Armed Militia in Oregon Part of Long-running, Right-wing Fight Against Public Lands

An armed militia has taken over a federal building in southeastern Oregon as part of a long-running campaign of violence, intimidation and right-wing paranoia that has festered for decades in the West, most recently with the standoff with Cliven Bundy in Nevada in 2014. Among the demands at the latest standoff is to shut down Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which provides crucial protections for wildlife, especially birds that migrate through the area.


“This is the latest in a long string of armed, right-wing thugs attempting to seize America’s public lands and enact their paranoid, anti-government dream bought by guns and intimidation,” said KierĂ¡n Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ve seen it with pipebombs planted on wilderness trails and sent to the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. We saw in 2014 with Cliven Bundy and his racist and violent rhetoric in Nevada and now we’re seeing it with his sons in Oregon.”

Bundy stopped paying the federal government for the privilege of grazing his cows on public lands in Nevada and owes about $1 million to taxpayers. Bundy, who was quoted in an interview with The New York Times wondering whether black people were better off as slaves, was the center of an armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management in April 2014 that ended with the BLM backing away and Bundy’s continued trespass on federal land. Among the anti-federal government militia who were defending Bundy at his ranch was Jared Miller who just three months after the standoff at the ranch went on a shooting spree with his wife that included the ambush-murder of two Las Vegas police officers as they ate at a restaurant. They draped the officers with a Gadsden flag — a symbol of liberty used by both the antigovernment “Patriot” movement and members of the Tea Party movement. 

The latest standoff near Burns, Ore. followed a judge’s call for additional prison time for a father and son – 73-year-old Dwight Hammond and 46-year-old Steven Hammond – who prosecutors say lit a fire on federal land in 2001 to cover up the illegal slaughter of a deer herd. Both were convicted of arson and are scheduled to report to federal prison on Monday.

The wildlife refuge’s headquarters was seized by Bundy’s sons and others on Saturday. The men are armed and say they are willing to occupy the building for years if needed. According to the Oregonian, Ryan Bundy said that they're willing to kill and be killed if necessary. Also among the armed occupiers of the wildlife fefuge building is Jon Ritzheimer, an infamous anti-Muslim activist who has repeatedly threatened violence.

“Despite their flags and patriotic overtures, don’t mistake this standoff for anything than what it is: An attempt to use guns to seize control over what taxpayers own and bully the government into acquiescing to their demands,” Suckling said. “But there’s a larger context here. What’s happening in Oregon is a logical outgrowth of right-wing rhetoric that demonizes even the concept of federal land – places like national parks and forests — and villianizes those who believe that publicly owned land should be more than just a source of profit for ranchers and corporations.”

There’s been a growing movement among politicians in the West to seize control of federal lands and hand them over to state and local government, where they’re more likely to be logged, mined and drilled for profit.

“These are special places that deserve protection for values that we all hold dear: clean air, water and refuge for wildlife,” Suckling said. “Americans, collectively, have decided that these public lands need and deserve protection. That shouldn’t be undone at the behest of men with guns and a dangerous view of how a government should be run.”