Month: May 2014

Coastal changes are caused by Mother Nature, not man-made climate change

People frolick at the beach on Dauphin Island last year. (File) My boyhood memories of Dauphin Island are mostly populated with two things: its people and its sand. I loved the character and simpleness of both. Now when I go back I'm happy to see that the people haven't changed a bit, but all of the sand seems to be in different spots. During my lifetime Dauphin Island's public beach expanded, shrunk, and expanded again. The far west-end grew, withered, grew again, and then changed completely. Sand bars vanished one year, only to reappear the next. While it's a little unsettling to see the places you love washed away like footprints in the sand, we've long known it's normal. Dauphin Island is a barrier island, and every few years it shifts, shakes and remakes itself like Mother Nature's personal Etch-a-Sketch. Seen from above, the precarious position of the island is evident: it's a razor-thin strip of sand on the edge of a whole bunch of water. It's going to be completely submerged at times. It's natural. Bloomberg News wants us to think differently, though. It's not the same wind and water that's been moving the little island around for centuries. It's man-made abrupt climate change. "Alabama avoids preparing for rising seas menacing Mobile," reads the headline of an article in early May from the New York-based news service. The article explained how data from a federal study showed how Dauphin Island would be under "waist-deep water" more frequently during the…

Home-schooling skeptic has a change of heart

Around this time last year my wife said she wanted to home-school one of our daughters. "No way," I said. "Not my children." When I was growing up, I didn't know many families that home-schooled. I figured those who did were probably religious zealots or weird hippies. Those were ignorant assumptions, in hindsight. In recent years I've gotten to know many home-schooling families and they've been models of American values. The children are mature, smart and well-adjusted. The parents are as normal as anyone else. The only abnormal thing about these families, that I could see, is that they appeared happier and healthier than the rest of us. Still, even with those examples, my past ignorance kept me skeptical. Besides, our daughter was enrolled in a great private school. There wasn't really a need. But when my wife persisted, I did voice some more reasonable concerns: What about socialization? What about extracurricular activities? What about the quality of the education? After weeks of discussion I finally agreed to try home-schooling for a year, based mostly on trusting my wife's instincts and wanting to support something she felt strongly about. In the back of my mind, though, I thought it'd be a failed experiment. Boy, was I ever wrong. I was wrong about the whole socialization concern and whether she'd have access to extracurricular activities. Businesses and other organizations have responded to the growing market of home-schoolers. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Education showed that the number of…

We should ignore the Supreme Court’s permission to pray

Hoover Schools Superintendent Andy Craig and members of the Hoover Board of Education bow their heads in silent prayer before Monday night's. The board hadn't held a prayer before a meeting in four years, but did so Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled prayer before public meetings were constitutional. (Jon Reed/jreed@al.com) Conservatives are still celebrating a recent Supreme Court ruling that permits prayers at the start of city council meetings to mention the name of Jesus Christ rather than just general terms like god, lord or creator. "Americans are free to pray," said David Cortman, an attorney who argued on behalf of a New York town that was sued because its public meetings began with mostly Christian prayers. That's nice to hear, but were we ever not free to pray? Our freedom of worship and our liberty to publicly pray are natural rights that weren't invented by our Constitution, and they certainly cannot be regulated by the government it established. Simply put, the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over this part of our lives; therefore its ruling on the matter should be ignored. But instead of stating that courts have no right to meddle in the prayers of free people, the Supreme Court said we're kind-of-sort-of-free to say some types of prayers at some types of public forums. They said it's okay to begin a city council meeting with a brief ceremonial prayer that mentions Jesus Christ, but it isn't okay for that prayer to denigrate non-Christians or attempt…

Coastal Alabama hurricane veteran learns a lesson about upstate tornadoes

Limestone County, Ala., tornado damage recorded April 30. As the EF3 tornado cut through Limestone County last month, my family sat huddled in the community storm shelter near Madison. My wife cradled our restless newborn while I distracted our other children with homespun fairy tales and waited for the worst to pass. It was crowded and uncomfortable, but safe. Thunder rumbled, the lights blinked and I asked my children how they were doing. "This is fun," said my seven-year old son. His eight-year old sister added, "Yeah, this is so exciting." I was worried sick, of course. Still, their youthful exuberance in the face of the tornado brought back memories of my childhood weather threat – hurricanes. I was four-years old when Hurricane Frederic struck Mobile in 1979, hammering my hometown with its category four winds. The aftermath was a grown-up's nightmare – modern life's conveniences were lost overnight. But it was a little boy's paradise. We cooked dinner in our fireplace, my days were spent climbing along fallen pine and oak trees, and my nights were filled with storytelling by the light of kerosene lanterns. There were even horses in my neighborhood, pulling trees from streets in Country Club Village that remained inaccessible to heavy machinery. Best of all, for little boys, there was nothing to do but explore and play in a world made new. The years passed and I gradually gained an appreciation for the destructive power of wind and rain. I covered the approach of hurricanes…