About Me

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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Consider the words of James Madison, the father of our Constitution: “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.”

10 Good Things About a Bad Year

10 Good Things about Another Bad Year
By Medea Benjamin
t r u t h o u t Perspective

As we close this year, a year in which we were pummeled by the Iraq war, attacks on our civil rights, and Mother Nature's fury of hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis, there is no shortage of reasons to feel bruised and beaten. But to start the New Year with a healthy determination to keep on fighting, we need to reflect on the good things that happened. And there are plenty.
One continent alone - South America - could provide more than ten examples of wonderful progressive victories, but I'll just list some of the highlights.
1. Hugo Chavez has shown how an oil-rich nation can use the country's wealth to provide education, healthcare and small business opportunities for its people - and we here in the US have discovered an oil company we can feel good about buying gas from: Venezuela's CITGO.
2. Bolivians have, for the first time in their history, elected an indigenous president, Evo Morales. The former llama farmer and coca grower has fought against "free trade" and the privatization of his nation's resources, and has brought new hope to indigenous people throughout the continent.
3. Anti-war activists - who once represented a much-maligned minority - now represent the majority of Americans who agree that the war in Iraq was a mistake and the troops should come home as soon as possible. And with Cindy Sheehan and Cong. Jack Murtha, we finally had spokespeople the mainstream media listened to!
4. In an historic blow to the Bush administration's five-year attempt to destroy the Kyoto Protocol, the climate summit in Montreal ended with even stronger measures to combat global warming. At home, nearly 200 cities are taking their own Kyoto-type actions to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
5. The Senate ended the year with a spurt of defiance, refusing to permanently extend the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, blocking the Republican maneuver to attach Arctic oil drilling to a defense spending bill, and passing John McCain's anti-torture amendment.
6. Despite a concerted offensive to lift the president's sagging public support, George Bush's approval ratings are still below 50 percent, his economic agenda (from the privatization of social security to the repeal of the estate tax) has unraveled, key cronies from Lewis Libby to Tom DeLay have fallen from grace, and 2006 might just put impeachment back into the congressional lexicon.
7. Labor, community activists and women's groups have mounted a spirited campaign against the behemoth of behemoths, Wal-Mart. And a California jury awarded $172 million to thousands of employees at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., who were denied such basic rights as lunch breaks, with 40 similar lawsuits pending in other states.
8. With the wild swings in gas prices, SUV sales have plummeted (Ford Explorer down 52%, Chevrolet Suburban down 46%), the sale of hybrids has doubled, and the US House of Representatives actually held a forum on the "peak oil theory."
9. In a great win for farm workers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers forced the fast food giant Taco Bell to raise the price for picking tomatoes (nearly doubling many workers' salaries), and now they're ready to take on an even bigger bully: McDonald's.
10. The global movement for peace and justice proved it was alive and kicking: witness Argentina during the Free Trade Agreement meetings, Hong Kong around the World Trade Organization ministerial, and the ongoing rallies against the war. The steady growth of the fair-trade movement also shows that we are not just protesting, but we're also building a more sustainable economy.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Pure Oklahoma

Anyone can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie.

I am coming to my favorite time of the year, the time just after all the holiday fuss and rush into a time of relative peace. For me, as I grow older, the new year is less a time of celebration and more a time of reflection. I like to reflect on what I have done over the past year and what I must do during the coming year.
I also like to get out into the country, out into Western Oklahoma where the Great Plains begin their calm journey towards the Rocky Mountains. I call this time of the season "Pure Oklahoma" because the state's landscape is laid bare and open for all to see. So I will be taking my mini-trips out west soon. I will stop by the side of the road or travel down rural paths to take in the great wide expanses. And renew my soul for the coming year with its duties and struggles.
May you have the best of years. May we find peace.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Barking Out of Both Sides of His Mouth

Bob Hope, king of the one-liners, once claimed that Lassie was planning on running for public office. "She's learning to bark out of both sides of her mouth," he quipped.

Our own political dog, House Speaker Todd Hiett has learned to woof it both ways. Recently, the state finance director informed the Board of Equalization that Oklahoma revenues estimated to increase 12.9% above the 2005 fiscal year. Hiett barked, ere, said that we should hold the line on spending so as to not make committments we could fulfill in the future.He is right with this. The present boost in revenues is due to increases in oil and gas revenue, and we have learned through hard experience how what is given to us by the oil patch one year can be taken away the next.

However, from the other side of his muzzle Hiett then said that the state should committ itself to "permanent tax relief" through income tax reductions and the elimination of the estate tax, which affects only estates of the ultra rich in Oklahoma. Great move, Todd, this will only asssure us that when the next downturn hits us, as it inevitably will, we will be worse off than we ever were before.

We really aren't having all that much of a boom in Oklahoma. We are really only just now climbing out of the doldrums we have been in since near the beginning of this century. As Senate leader Mike Morgan wisely said, "[I]t is important that we move forward responsibly and take great care as we consider how best to invest this one-time windfall to ensure a brighter future for our state."

Todd, you can't have it both ways. Both permanent spending and permanent revenue reductions are bad for Oklahoma.

Most Outrageous Statements of 2005

Here are the most outrageous statements Media Matters for America has documented this year. From attacks on women, Muslims, and African-Americans to a call for the assassination of a foreign leader to an open invitation for Al Qaeda to "blow up" San Francisco to a claim that gay marriage would lead to unions between "a man and his donkey," these statements acutely represent the extreme conservative speech we found in the news media in 2005.

(We tried to limit the comments to a Top 10 list, but it was simply impossible.)

* Former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett: "[Y]ou could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." [Salem Radio Network's Bill Bennett's Morning in America, 9/28/05]
* Pat Robertson: "If [Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it." [Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club, 8/22/05]
* Bill O'Reilly to San Francisco: "[I]f Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. ... You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead." [Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, 12/8/05]
* Bill O'Reilly, agreeing with caller that illegal immigrants are "biological weapon[s]": "I think you could probably make an absolutely airtight case that more than 3,000 Americans have been either killed or injured, based upon the 11 million illegals who are here." [Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, 4/15/05]
* Rush Limbaugh: "Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society." [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 8/12/05]
* Rush Limbaugh on the kidnapping of peace activists in Iraq: "I'm telling you, folks, there's a part of me that likes this." [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/29/05]
* Ann Coulter: Bill Clinton "was a very good rapist"; "I'm getting a little fed up with hearing about, oh, civilian casualties"; "I think we ought to nuke North Korea right now just to give the rest of the world a warning." [New York Observer, 1/10/05]
* Ann Coulter: "Isn't it great to see Muslims celebrating something other than the slaughter of Americans?" [Syndicated column, 2/3/05]
* Radio host Glenn Beck: "[Y]ou know it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims' families? Took me about a year." [Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program, 9/9/05]
* Tucker Carlson: "Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice, but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada." [MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson, 12/15/05]
* American Family Association president Tim Wildmon: Liberals "don't have the kind of family responsibilities most people have, and certainly not church responsibilities." [American Family Radio's Today's Issues, 5/11/05]
* David Horowitz on Cindy Sheehan: "It's very hard to have respect for a woman who exploits the death of her own son and doesn't respect her own son's life. ... She portrays him as an idiot." [MSNBC's Connected: Coast to Coast, 8/16/05]
* Radio host Neal Boortz on the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams: "[T]here will be riots in South Central Los Angeles and elsewhere. ... The rioting, of course, will lead to wide scale looting. There are a lot of aspiring rappers and NBA superstars who could really use a nice flat-screen television right now." [Boortz.com, 12/12/05]
* Pat Buchanan: "Our guys" in Iraq "have got every right to have good news put into the media and get to the people of Iraq, even if it's got to be planted or bought." [MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, 12/1/05]
* National Review editor Rich Lowry: Given EPA-mandated "small-flush" toilets, "[h]ow is it possible to flush a Quran down the toilet?" [Young America's Foundation speech, 8/5/05]
* Neal Boortz, suggesting that a victim of Hurricane Katrina housed in an Atlanta hotel consider prostitution: "I dare say she could walk out of that hotel and walk 100 yards in either direction on Fulton Industrial Boulevard here in Atlanta and have a job. What's that? Well, no, no, no. ... Well, you know what? [laughing] Now that you mention it ... [i]f that's the only way she can take care of herself, it sure beats the hell out of sucking off the taxpayers." [Cox Radio Syndication's The Neal Boortz Show, 10/24/05]
* Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson: Same-sex marriage would lead to "marriage between daddies and little girls ... between a man and his donkey." [Focus on the Family radio program, 10/6/05]
* Accuracy in Media editor Cliff Kincaid: "Have you noticed that many news organizations, in honor of former ABC News anchorman Peter Jennings, have embarked on a quit smoking campaign? So why don't our media launch a campaign advising people to quit engaging in the dangerous and addictive homosexual lifestyle? ... It appears that the homosexual lifestyle is as addictive as smoking." [Accuracy in Media column, 12/14/05]

Callers From India

Just got another call from a phone salesman, woman in this case. I always ask them which country they are calling from. Nine out of ten it's India. I tell them, "Well, this is an American family. Tell your boss that if your company wants to talk to us, they will hire Americans to do so."

Monday, December 19, 2005

One of this year’s most popular holiday toys—the $120 Roboraptor—would cost a parent earning the minimum wage three days’ wages, said congressional backers of an increased minimum wage at a news conference Dec. 14 in front of the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree. The federal minimum wage has been $5.15 an hour since 1997 and congressional Republicans have blocked repeated attempts to increase the wage, most recently in October. "If we value the Christmas tree, the menorah, the crescent, it’s the very least we ought to do," said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Two bills (H.R. 2429 and S. 1062) would increase the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour over two years. Meanwhile, union, community and religious activists in several states are mobilizing to boost their state’s minimum wage. Arizona and Arkansas activists are working to put wage increases on next November’s ballot. In New Mexico, a broad coalition of groups is gearing up to win support in the 2006 legislature for a bill to raise that state’s minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.50 an hour, said Christine Trujillo, president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor.

Bush's Speech Reveals How He Manipulated Intelligence

If you want know how Bush and his cronies manipulated pre-war Iraqi intelligence in order to justify his preemptive invasion of Iraq, you need look no further than the speech he gave Sunday justifying our continued presence there. In his speech, the Liar-in-Chief claimed that "more than 50 [Iraqi battalions] are taking the lead [in fighting the current insergency]." Clearly, he wished to give the American people the impression that these battalions were operating on their own, fighting for their country. But in fact, according to Pentagon reports, only 1 battalion (approximately 600 men) is capable of action independent of US support. (Source: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-troops19dec19,1,6386049.story?coll=la-headlines-nation)

Bush also quoted an ABC/Time Magazine poll that claimed that 7 in 10 Iraqis say their lives are "going well" and 2/3rds expect things to improve.

This, as Paul Harvey is fond of saying, is the rest of the story from that same poll:

--Fewer than half of Iraqis — 46% — say their country was better off than it was before the war

--50% say it was wrong for the United States to invade in 2003

--2/3rds say they opposed the continued presence of U.S. troops

--Nearly 50% say they would like to see U.S. forces leave soon

Clearly, anyone capable of going before the American people to attempt to mislead them the way Bush did Sunday is equally capable of misleading those in his administration, misleading Congress, and probably misleading himself into believing that all is well in Iraq if we just "stay the course" and not listen to "defeatist" i.e.: those of us trying to get the truth out. An objective look at the facts mean nothing to this individual.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Dingell's Holiday Jingle for Bill O'Reilly and the House GOP

Washington, DC - Congressman John D. Dingell (MI-15) recited the following poem on the floor of the US House of Representatives concerning House Resolution 579, which expressed the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected.
“Preserving Christmas” has been a frequent topic for conservative talk show hosts, including Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly:

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the House
No bills were passed ‘bout which Fox News could grouse;
Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheer,
So vacations in St. Barts soon would be near;
Katrina kids were nestled all snug in motel beds,
While visions of school and home danced in their heads;
In Iraq our soldiers needed supplies and a plan,
Plus nuclear weapons were being built in Iran;
Gas prices shot up, consumer confidence fell;
Americans feared we were on a fast track to…well…
Wait--- we need a distraction--- something divisive and wily;
A fabrication straight from the mouth of O’Reilly
We can pretend that Christmas is under attack
Hold a vote to save it--- then pat ourselves on the back;
Silent Night, First Noel, Away in the Manger
Wake up Congress, they’re in no danger!
This time of year we see Christmas every where we go,
From churches, to homes, to schools, and yes…even Costco;
What we have is an attempt to divide and destroy,
When this is the season to unite us with joy
At Christmas time we’re taught to unite,
We don’t need a made-up reason to fight
So on O’Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter, and those right wing blogs;
You should just sit back, relax…have a few egg nogs!
‘Tis the holiday season: enjoy it a pinch
With all our real problems, do we honestly need another Grinch?
So to my friends and my colleagues I say with delight,
A merry Christmas to all,
and to Bill O’Reilly…Happy Holidays.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

More Republican Corruption

AP: Frist AIDS Charity Paid Consultants
[Another day, another Republican leader found out to be a hiding behind a moral mask while he runs a scam operation. When will the American voters say, "Enough is Enough!"]

By JONATHAN M. KATZ and JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writers

WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's AIDs charity paid nearly a half-million dollars in consulting fees to members of his political inner circle, according to tax returns providing the first financial accounting of the presidential hopeful's nonprofit.

The returns for World of Hope Inc., obtained by The Associated Press, also show the charity raised the lion's share of its $4.4 million from just 18 sources. They gave between $97,950 and $267,735 each to help fund Frist's efforts to fight AIDS.

The tax forms, filed nine months after they were first due, do not identify the 18 major donors by name.

Frist's lawyer, Alex Vogel, said Friday that he would not give their names because tax law does not require their public disclosure. Frist's office provided a list of 96 donors who were supportive of the charity, but did not say how much each contributed.

The donors included several corporations with frequent business before Congress, such as insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield, manufacturer 3M, drug maker Eli Lilly and the Goldman Sachs investment firm.

World of Hope gave $3 million it raised to charitable AIDS causes, such as Africare and evangelical Christian groups with ties to Republicans — Franklin Graham's Samaritan Purse and the Rev. Luis Cortes' Esperanza USA, for example.

The rest of the money went to overhead. That included $456,125 in consulting fees to two firms run by Frist's longtime political fundraiser, Linus Catignani. One is jointly run by Linda Bond, the wife of Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo.

The charity also hired the law firm of Vogel's wife, Jill Holtzman Vogel, and Frist's Tennessee accountant, Deborah Kolarich.

Kolarich's name recently surfaced in an e-mail involving Frist's controversial sale of stock in his family founded health care company. That transaction is now under federal investigation.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Green Lantern of Justice

"In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power, Green Lantern's light!"
--Thanks to "Mitch" a frequent poster on the OK Yellow Dog (http://okyellowdog.com/)
Enough is Enough!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Stealing Christmas

One of the big battles in the "culture war" is taking place over those who object to other's use of the inclusive greeting "Happy Holidays" over the use of "Merry Christmas." I find this rather silly. I also find those who whine about this "offense" rather ignorant over their own history.

December 25th, the day the Christian church celebrates Christmas, was chosen because of some very interesting parallels between the church's teachings concerning Jesus and the Indo/Persian god Mithra who was becoming very popular in the Greco-Roman world.

Mithra was believed to have been the son of God. According to Persian tradition, Ahura Mazda sent his son Mithra to defend humanity from evil and from the Adversary, Ahriman. Mithra was also believed to have been incarnated in human form, born from the immaculate conception of his Virgin Mother, Anahita, and around 200 BC had a last supper with his 12 apostles before he died for the sins of humanity. Mithra was born on December 25th as an offspring of the Sun.

Christianity has had a long history of co-opting local customs and cultures. One need only look at gospel music to find Christian rock, Christian rap, Christian soul, Christian country and so forth. So it should not surprise us that 2000 years ago, the church looked at a popular religion and decided to "convert" it to the church's use.

So, if Christians complain about the secular world "stealing" their holiday, they need only realize that "turnabout's fair play."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Need a Union

Another night, another day
Of livin' tight, from pay to pay
And here's the reason my life ain't easin'
Ain't got a union.
I go to work when work is there
I never shirk, I do my share
It doesn't matter, my wallet's flatter
Without a union.
break: Sometimes I sit and daydream,
Thinkin' how things could be,
Silly to some it may seem
I'd like seniority, and
Grievance procedure, when things ain't fair
Vacation leisure, without a care
Benefit fringes, I know it hinges
On bein' union.
Sisters and brothers, hear what I say
We need each other, there's just one way
We've gpt to realize, we've got to organize
Into a union.
From magazine Talking Union, edited by Schniderman
tune: Makin' Whoopee

Prayer for Christmas

[From Mayflower Church's "Prayer of Confession" for December 11, 2005]

Lord of Life, help us to remember who is at the center of our faith. Not our politics, not our ambitions, not our personal agendas--however important they may seem. At the center of our faith is a human being who fulfilled the promises of the prophets, and became the face of God in our midst. If we do not listen to him, we simply borrow his name, then we are in danger of mistaking our desires for God's promises. As the celebration of the birth of Jesus draws near, help us to remember that we may have heard all about him, but have yet to be formally introduced. In Christ's name we pray, Amen.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Yours in Solidarity Posted by Picasa

Open Letter to the Oklahoman newspaper

Dear Oklahoman Editors:
Your lead editorial on Dec. 8, 2005 was entitled "Garbage barge". The title is aptly descriptive of its contents. In it, you decry the attempt by the Oklahoma Education Association to forewarn its members about the evils of the so-called Taxpayers Bill of Rights petition now being foisted on the public.

Have you no shame? You call these teachers lawful participation in the political process "gutless." No, what is gutless is to stand by passively while the enemies of public education pay carpetbaggers to deceive the general public and foist upon us an expensive election which would ruin Oklahoma's quality of life for the benefit of the rich and powerful.

As a proud member of the American Federation of Teachers, I say that we will no longer allow people like Brandon Dutcher and his goons to continue to abuse the political process for their own personal gain. We will simply ask the public to think before they ink, to consider the implications of a law that trades a few dollars for the reduction of their services. We will challenge the carpetbaggers at every available opportunity.

Perhaps you fear an educated and aroused public. The promoters of this positive evil seem to hope that they can fool the public at least one more time. This at least seems to be the agenda of their lackeys in the local press. But they will not do it without a fight from beginning to end.

Sincerely and in Solidarity with those who fight for social justice,

R. Lynn Green
American Federation of Teachers, 2309
Secretary of the Oklahoma Democratic Party

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Professor "D", My Mentor

During the 80’s, I pursued a doctoral degree at the University of Oklahoma. I never caught it. My Ph.D., for various reasons, mostly my fault, got away from me before the decade ended.

Recently, I reconnected with one of my favorite former professors from that era of my life whom I will call Prof D. Most my profs at OU were good teachers, a few went through the motions, a handful were outstanding. This made OU about on par with other academic institutions with which I have been associated. Prof. D was the best; in fact, more than a teacher, a true mentor. Prof D taught British Literature mainly the 17th Century writers like the poets Milton and Donne and the dramatists Beaumont and Fletcher.

Some graduate teachers act as though they are some kind of "gateway guardians" for their particular discipline. In their classes, poor novitiates must show they are worthy before they are allowed to enter the halls of academia or at least one particular closet of learning.

Prof D made us feel welcome in her world. She had very high standards, and yet made us yearn to meet them. She did so foremost by making us feel as if our knowledge and our backgrounds were truly useful to us. In my case, she showed me how I could use my religious and theological background to enrich my understanding of literature. My undergraduate work had been in religious education. Prof D used my ability to articulate Christian theology—the intricacies of Calvinism, free will, "justification by faith", Wesleyanism and the like—to provide insights into Milton, the Metaphysical Poets and Restoration poetry. I became her "go to" guy for questions in the class regarding faith.

She did this for all of us. One by one she found our strengths and made us play up to them. She showed us how we could use the same methods we had used to build our strengths to also improve our weaknesses. For me, she showed me how reading the Bible to better understand my faith provided an equally valid method, with some adaptation, to do close readings of literature. Because of her guidance, I learned how to read like a scholar.

Prof D left OU while I was still a graduate student there. Oklahoma found itself deeply mired in recession during the mid 80’s. Oklahoma colleges faced massive cut backs in funding, and many professors had to take positions elsewhere. She left the University of Oklahoma for a better opportunity in the upper Midwest. Recently, I checked to see if Prof D was still teaching at this college, and to my delight, I found that she was.

For the most part, we have maybe 5 or 6 teachers who have made big impacts on our lives. I call them "mentors" meaning that they go beyond teaching knowledge to affecting lives. If I am able to be a mentor to some of my students, it is only because I was lucky enough to have mentors like Prof D in my life. Thanks, Prof, you made me a better man than I could have been without you.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Today, I was leaving the drug store when a woman got out of an expensive sports car to enter the pharmacy. On her car bumper, she had a sticker that said, "Put Government on a Diet." I said to her, "Put government on a diet? That's how you get New Orleans!" She very intelligently replied, "Huh?"

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Wages of Teaching

I came across this article by Anna Quindlen of Newsweek Magazine

No school administrator should ever receive a percentage raise greater than the raise teachers get. Neither should state legislators

Nov. 28, 2005 issue - A couple of years ago I spent the day at an elementary school in New Jersey. It was a nice average school, a square and solid building with that patented classroom aroma of disinfectant and chalk, chock-full of reasonably well-behaved kids from middle-class families. I handled three classes, and by the time I staggered out the door I wanted to lie down for the rest of the day.

Teaching's the toughest job there is. In his new memoir, "Teacher Man," Frank McCourt recalls telling his students, "Teaching is harder than working on docks and warehouses." Not to mention writing a column. I can stare off into the middle distance with my chin in my hand any time. But you go mentally south for five minutes in front of a class of fifth graders, and you are sunk.

The Right People

The Right People v. The Wrong People: An Appeal to Young Voters
(Whatever their ages may be)

As with many fairy tales, there are different versions of the "Red Riding Hood" story. In some stories Red discovers that she is dealing with an "imitation grandmother" too late, and is eaten. In the version I grew up with, Red detects the phony and is saved, (along with Granny) by a woodsman who arrives in the nick of time.

I feel a little bit like Red when I hear the Republicans trot out their ideas on education, Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, environmental quality and so forth. After years of bashing public schools, public health, entitlements, and "tree huggers," they suddenly say, "We were with you all along."

When I realize what the Republicans mean when they say they are "for" all of these ideas, first thought up by Democrats, I worry about which version of the story America is living now. Will we discover that when the wolf claims to be "for" these great ideas, he really means he is for them if the "right" people are involved in them?

The Republicans say that they are "for" education. Of course, what they also want is the money that has been going to public schools to go to schools run by the "right" people with the "right" ideological bend who will give students the "right" way to think. Of course many of the "wrong" students, special needs children, behavior problems, learning disabled, will be shut out of these "right" schools.

They say they are "for" Medicare, "for" prescription drugs for the elderly. "All you have to do," they claim, "is make sure that the "right" people get seniors needing drugs into corporate HMO’s, so that the "right" people are selling them the drugs - which cost far more in this country than they do in any other. Never mind the fact that HMO’s keep raising their rates and narrowing their coverage.

They say they are "for" Social Security. They simply want the "right" people to manage all that lovely government money just lying there for the taking. These "right" people want to manage the government’s pension fund because suddenly the money they had to play with in corporate pension accounts, IRAs, and the stock market just isn’t there anymore.

They are "for" environmental quality. Of course, the best way to do this is for the "right" people to "thin out" (read: denude) the forests and get government subsidies for fuel schemes.
In addition to this, the "right" people need to get tax breaks, bailouts, bankruptcy protection, charitable choice - the list goes on and on.

Let’s be fair. Many of the ideas Republicans come up with are original and effective. The only trouble is that their original ideas are not effective, and their effective ideas are most definitely not original. This is the same thing the Republican Party has done since it turned its back on Lincoln and turned its eyes toward the moneyed interests.
Young people remember this:

According to the Republicans,

If you work for wages, you are not the right sort of person.

If you make less than $50,000 a year, you are not the right sort of person.

If you work the land on the farm you own to provide for America the abundance it enjoys on its table, you are not the right sort of person.

If you own a small business where you expect to compete on a level playing field with any other honest business owner, you are not the right sort of person.

And if your business fails, it better be the "right" business because the "right" sort of business will be able to get government welfare assistance. If you have to declare personal bankruptcy, then there will be no relief because you are the "wrong" type of person to declare bankruptcy.

If you believe that your place in this republic of ours is the equal of anyone else regardless of how much you make or how you conduct your own private affairs, you are definitely not the right sort of person -- according to the Republicans.

Remember also that when Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson founded the Democratic Party, they did so for the interests of the worker, the farmer, the small business owner against the interest of the wealthy, the privileged, the elite.

In over 200 years, the two sides have made many changes, but that fundamental difference remains the same – which party considers you to be it’s kind of person.

That's My Weakness Now

As a child, I was a fairly "fussy" eater. I disliked the usual things kids dislike: okra, beets, spinach, and so on. I had a few atypical dislikes. I didn't like ham for the longest time. Once, my father used a de-icer on our car windshield with me inside. The sickly sweet smell reminded me of cherries, and for the longest time, they were on my off list.

Over the years as my palate matured, my list of food rejections grew smaller and smaller. Once I married Cat, it is practically a null category. One of the longest on the list and the latest to go is greens. Just the sight and smell of greens were enough to kill my heartiest appetite at one time. The smell was only part of the problem. Greens don't look good to me. (I am speaking of the food not the family, of course.) They look limp and soggy. Well, they are limp and soggy. That's seldom and appealing quality in food.

Cat, on the other hand, loves greens. She takes any opportunity to fix them. They were featured on our Thanksgiving table this last holiday. I gave in and tried them, and found to my considerable surprise that I liked them. I think this is attributable to a couple of things. First, Cat is a great cook. That's one of the many benefits I have gained from being married to her. I find it delightful to be in a relationship with a partner who calls our local restaurant supply outlet her "Toy Store."

As good as that is, I think that one must not overlook the power that being in love has to favor any dish. The fact that she wants to try new things for me makes me want to give what she prepares fair trial, perhaps even more than a fair trial. I am rather prejudiced in her favor. She has yet to disappoint me.

So, I feel that I can adapt the old Tin Pan Alley Song and say:

She likes Turnip Greens.
I never cared for Turnip Greens,
But she likes Turnip Greens,
And that's my weakness now.

Family and Medical Leave Act Threatened

FAMILY LEAVE THREATENED—The Department of Labor is widely expected to cut back protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that has helped tens of millions of workers since it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Big business groups—including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers—are pressing to limit workers’ ability to take time off without pay for the birth or adoption of a child and to care for a sick loved one or for their own illness. In its recently released regulatory agenda, the Labor Department said FMLA changes are among its regulatory priorities and could come as early as December. But unions and other groups have urged the Labor Department to keep the current FMLA regulations intact. Read more about corporate attacks on family leave at the AFL-CIO’s Point of View webpage:
and at the following addresses
We cannot overcome terrorism by using the tactics of oppressors.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

With Striking Albertson Workers in Hemet, California

Cost of Health Care Rising 3 Times Faster Than Wages

The Kaiser Family Foundation has done a national survey on the availablity of health insurance for working Americans. What they found should shock us all:

1. Only 60% of American employers offer any kind of health benefits for their employees. This is down from 69% just 5 years ago.

2. Of those offering health benefits, they found that about one-fifth of employers now offer high-deductible health plans. The plans, known as ''consumer-driven health plans," are intended to reduce consumers' use of healthcare services by shifting more costs to employees through high deductibles and co-payments.

3. The survey said premium costs are rising at about three times the rate of increase of the average worker's earnings and at about two-and-a-half times the rate of inflation.

4. The annual health insurance premium for a family of four is $10,880, the survey found, which is more than the yearly pay, before taxes, of a full-time worker earning the minimum wage.

The last stat really got to me. Imagine a single mother with 3 children (not atypical in our society). If this mother worked TWO full-time jobs making minimum wage, more than HALF of her wages would go to provide health care for her children and herself if she could even get it.The case for a Living Wage and Health Care for All has never been clearer.

(Thanks to Nancy Van Orden who sent me the article from Boston Globe writer Jeffrey Krasner from which I extracted the above facts.)

Do We Need High Speed Pursuits?

A week ago Saturday, a member of my church lost his life when a criminal fleeing police ran a red light through the intersection that the car he was riding in just entered. He had justed finished a day of working at the church installing some outdoor lighting.

I believe that we need to take a very hard look at police policy on high speed pursuits in urban areas. Recently, a police officer in our city lost his life engaged in such another high speed pursuit. I am not critical of the police. But I wonder what we gain when we endanger the lives of the innocent in pursuit of the guilty. We would not call it even if someone dropped a bomb on a house that held 2 innocent people just to kill the criminal who is with them. And while I would want police to pursuit a kidnapper who had his victim in his car with them, I think that we need to exercise some discretion about who get pursued and the risks we are willing to take.
We need to have a study done on this matter.

I know one thing. I will never be able to watch a high speed pursuit on televison or at the movies without thinking of my friend.

Me with the Love of My Life

Always There
by Lynn for Cat

You have burned your image into my world.

I’ve studied every line of your face, every glance of your eyes so much that each face I see is merely a variation of you.

I know the pitch, the timber of your voice so well that I hear it in the lyrics of a singer, the conversation of passers-by, the laughter of those in love.

I sense the pace, the motion of your walk so that I note when pedestrians walkers imitate you.

I’ve memorized the shades and textures of your skin so that each sunrise takes its hues from you and the earth takes its shades from you.

I feel all the swells of your body, all your curves so deeply that I feel the hills and the valleys are but an extension of you.

I feel as though you are with me at all times and in all places that I find you in the rush of fleeting impressions.

Friday, November 25, 2005

At the Oklahoma State National Honors Society Convention in the beautiful town of Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Tahlequah High School put on an excellent state convention! Thanks, guys.

How I Met My Wife

My wife, Cat LaFlamme, is my soul-mate. She is a high school English teacher just like me. We share the same liberal Democratic politics. We share similar views on spirituality. I find it a real kick to have someone who is intelligent, who has similar tastes in books (we both adore science-fiction and fantasy), who was born the same year I was, and who loves camping just as I do.

I love having a wife who understands my jokes. It's a real kick to be able to say to her, "What Donne has done is done and cannot be undone," and hear her laugh because she gets it. (If you don't get it, look this up under a bio on the life of the 17th century English poet, John Donne.)

I love telling a story that happened early in our relationship. We were working on a political campaign together for the AFL-CIO. We had traveled out to a neighborhood where we were going door-to-door to get out the vote for an election. I had recently become single again. We had known each other for a while through our work for our union and for the Democratic Party. I was interested in her, but each time I had called about political work, a man had answered the phone. Was he her husband? boyfriend? son? I had to find out.

I came up with a very clever method to answer my question. As we drove home, I asked her if she would be available for our next outing. She said that she probably would.

"I'll give you a call later this week to find out," I promised.

"Good," she responded.

"By the way," I said, "it's all right if I leave a message with that man who usually answers the phone, isn't it?"

"What man?"

"Well, I usually get some man when I call you."

"Oh, you must mean my son."

"So, he's your son, okay."

"Yes, he's my son."

I silently congratulated myself on my ability to ferret out this information. A couple of weeks later we went out on our first date. A couple of months later, we were engaged. Some time after this, I asked her if she recalled our conversation of that day.

"Recall?" she said, "Of course, I recall it. That's the day I knew I had you."

I was had before I even knew it.

Wanna stay "had" too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Mother Jones' Grave

Grave of Mother Jones in Mt. Olive, Illinois.

My Prayer

I first gave this prayer at the Oklahoma State AFL-CIO Convention in 2005

God of all humankind, God of many names, honored in many ways.

Your prophet Amos told the people of his nation, "Hear this, O ye who swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail. . . . I will turn your feasts to mourning and your songs to lamentations.

As your prophets long ago called their nation to repent of their sins against your justice, may our nation in our time hear your prophetic voice call us to repentance.

Lord forgive us.

For we have failed to pay too many workers a livable wage so that they and their families must live in poverty in our land of wealth and plenty.

We have treated health care, not as the right it is, but as a commodity for our profit, so that now 40% of all American companies offer no health benefits at all for their employees because employers cannot afford to do so.

We have denied the workers of this great land their right to free association by allowing those in power to harass and intimidate workers who wish to form unions, even to the point of denying them their constitutional right to organize at all.

We have denied our fellow Americans their right to dignity. For Lord, when we try to call human rights, "special rights", we merely seek to justify our fears and excuse our exploitations.

Lord, forgive us for our sins, for we have truly done what we ought not to have done, but, what is worse, we have left undone those things that we ought to have done. May we not grow weary in our labors to bring about your justice and mercy to our land. For in these times, your work must truly be our own.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Beautiful Mother Jones Monument in the Mount Olive, Illinois, Union Miners Cemetery

Mother Jones and Me

I had the priviledge of attending the "Mother Jones Memorial" observances in Illinois this past October. Here I am with a Mother Jones reinactor.

Congress Raises Its Pay But Won't Raise Minimum Wage

MORE FOR US, NONE FOR YOU—The Republican-controlled Congress, which has blocked a raise in the minimum wage three times this year, voted Nov. 18 to give itself its eighth pay raise since the minimum wage was last raised in 1997. While millions of minimum wage workers continue to struggle on $5.15 an hour, the congressional pay raise, approved as part of the fiscal year 2006 Transportation-Treasury Appropriations bill, will give lawmakers a $3,100-a-year pay hike. Minimum wage workers who work full-time earn just $10,700 a year. Members of Congress, though, will be making $31,600 a year more than they did in 1997. Congress is home for a long Thanksgiving Day recess. Call your lawmakers’ local offices and send them a message that you are outraged by their priorities. You can find the local office numbers for your U.S. representative at http://www.house.gov and for your senators at http://www.senate.gov.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Tribute to Raymond Rank, my father in law.

I would like to honor Raymond Rank. Ray became my father-in-law when I married Catherine Ann Rank, better known to her friends as Cat LaFlamme, my wife.
Ray was not the kind of man who got his name in the papers. He was the kind of blue- collar worker who provided the muscle and backbone the rest of us depend on, but don’t think too much about as we go about our lives. He was a construction worker, primarily a carpenter and cement finisher. We often don’t consider the human factor involved in the buildings we live and work in, but without men like Ray, these structures wouldn’t exist.
Some of the buildings Ray worked on were:
The State Capitol Complex
Baptist Hospital
Deaconess Hospital
St. Anthony’s Hospital
The Physician’s Building
Oklahoma State University
Northwest Classen High School
John Marshall High School
The Murrah Federal Building
Southwestern Bell
The Patio Building
The United Founders Tower
The General Motors Plant
Dunlop Tire Factory
OKCPS Maintenance Facility
Swann Rubber, Stillwater
The Gold Dome Building
We also don’t consider the suffering that all too often is a part of those buildings. In 1970, while building the Ralston Purina silo in Edmond, Ray fell 35 feet on to a concrete floor, an accident that disabled him for the rest of his life.
Ray was a union man and because of his union pension, Social Security, and workman’s compensation, he was still able to live a modest, basically middle-class life for his remaining 35 years. He raised 4 daughters, bought a home, and still managed to keep up with his carpentry work, even helping his daughter Catherine remodel the home she and I live in in The Village till age and the effect of his injuries caught up with him. He died on April 2nd of this year 2 days after his 77th birthday.
Ray didn’t want a funeral, so we held a celebration of his life here at Mayflower. Turns out that Ray had a connection to this congregation, because as an infant, Ray was christened in the old Pilgrim Congregational Church on 16th St. His wife Donna, Cat and I plan to take his ashes to one of his favorite fishing spots to give the fish a chance to get back at him. Ray would have liked that idea. He didn’t want any gravestone to mark his passing.
In St. Paul’s Cathedral, there is a plaque to its architect Christopher Wren that reads, "If you seek his monument, look about you." So as you go through the city this Father’s Day, you will see monuments to Raymond Rank, and the countless men and women who have built Oklahoma.

GM Closing Lays Bare the Lies

Greetings Fellow Democrats:
The closing at GM has laid bare the lies foisted on the state by those who claimed that passing anti-worker legislation such as "Right to Scab" and "Taxpayer Bill of Goods" will bring prosperity and high paying jobs to the Sooner State. This announcement coming just before the holiday season shows us that we must all summon our courage and stand together or else we will fall victim to those who through their access to the available means of power can, at will, toss men and women on the scrap heap.
Many voices will try to blame unions such as the UAW for this event just as they attempted to blame the victims of Katrina for their suffering. They will say, in effect, you wanted too much. You should not have desired a decent standard of living, a home for your family, adequate health insurance for you and your family. You should be willing to accept the sort of marginal living in those in the countries that now have your jobs are willing to accept. Shame on you for wanting too much of the American dream.
I have no solution for this. If there were easy answers, quick fixes, we would have discovered them long ago. Besides we have seen how far the quick fix has gotten us in this state. My thoughts and prayers are with the men and women of the UAW who worked at GM many of whom are my good friends. I also pray that our leaders will display wisdom and courage for these times. We face difficult times ahead, but if we keep our focus on what is just, right and fair and not on what is personally convenient, we will triumph

The Oil Man and the Farmer

The Oil Man and the Farmer

The other day, I was watching one of the news channels where they reported the congressional investigations into high oil prices and enormous oil company profits. One by one oil company executives defended their business practices by claiming that oil was a commodity and that speculators, not they, were responsible for high prices, and besides that’s just the way the economy works.
The whole show minded me of a story I heard about a wheat farmer living out in western Oklahoma. This old boy was good at what he did. He had prospered at what is at best a very chancy sort of business. However, this one year, he had really done well. Most of the time when he had had a good crop, his neighbors had done well also and that depressed the prices they all got for their grain. But as can happen in farming, he had done extremely well, but his fellow farmers saw their fields ravaged by a freak prairie fire. This meant that he had a bonanza on his hands. His grain was worth five times its usual price.
Now, in addition to his neighbors’ bad luck, the rest of the country was in pretty bad shape also. For a variety of reasons, the nation faced a real wheat shortfall. Now, the worst of this hadn’t hit yet, but this farmer could tell it was coming. What was now a good deal promised to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, excusing the fact that common folks would be spending a lot more to put bread on the table.
So being, the smart fellow he was, the farmer knew that if he could only hold on a little bit longer, he would be set for life. So he said, "This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods." But that night he had a dream, and in it he heard a voice that said, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"
Well, I guess you know where I’m headed with this. The smarter ones of you were on to me from the start. This story isn’t original with me. A guy named Jesus of Nazareth told it a long time ago. I guess the point I’m trying to make is this: what may seem right and normal and "just the way things are" from our point of view, may be something entirely different once we see them the way God might. We might think that big money from a needed commodity is just business. God might wish us to consider the moral implications of a few of us doing very well while many of us suffer. In any case, this ought to give us pause to consider the old question, just what would Jesus do? After all, Jesus seems like a right smart fellow.

My Reply to Tom Lindley

Note: This was in response to an article that appeared in The Oklahoman newspaper in which columnist Tom Lindley interviewed some Oklahoma World War II vets. Of course, the subject of Iraq came up.

Dear Mr. Lindley,
I read your interview with several Oklahoma heroes of World War II in Sunday's paper. At one point you state, "One of them is afraid that every soldier's death on the front page of hometown papers across Middle America will wear and wear on our sense of resolve until it takes the heart out of our will to fight." Another added that though we have lost over 2000 soldiers and counting in Iraq "we've got to remember that terrorists killed more than 3,000 civilians on 9/11." The gist of your column is that we, in our time, seem to be lacking in our ability to finish the war on terrorism compared with these men of the greatest generation.
I can only respond from my perspective as to why public attitudes towards the war in Iraq have taken such a nosedive in recent weeks. My belief is this: we went into Iraq on a lie and that lie is sapping at our national soul and weakening our resolve.
Your article in several places equates the war in Iraq with what we are doing in Afghanistan seeing them both as part and parcel in the war on terrorism. They are not. Afghanistan was the home base of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Our military effort augmented the local insurgency. Few who I know in the current anti-war movement disputed the need for our efforts there.
Iraq has been another matter. We were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that he was in league with Al Qaeda, that he aided in 9/11, that defeating him was necessary to defeat terrorism, and that we would be welcomed by an Iraqi population making our stay in Iraq short and our casualties there light. All of this has been proven to be a deception.
Hussein was a tyrant, who we at one time supported, and the fewer tyrants we have the better, but that doesn't remove the fact that we began and have continued to fight this war under false pretenses. To fight a war based on a lie does something to our national soul.
Mainly fighting this war on such a basis makes us grow more and more doubtful of our sacrifices in it. We know that the young men and women who sacrifice their lives and their bodies are our heroes, as great as any American who ever sacrificed his or her life on the field of battle.
But their sacrifice does not sanctify the lie for which they have fought any more than the heroic sacrifices by the brave Americans in General Lee's army sanctified, in the words of General Grant,"the worst cause for which anyone ever fought".
So the fading support for the war in Iraq is not, in my opinion, due to any lack of national character. It is, instead, due to the fact feeling we feel less confidant that we are fighting this war on a moral basis. No country can claim moral authority when has it deceived itself. No country will long sacrifice the flower of its youth for such a deception.
Actually, I am not at all pessimistic about our battle with terrorism. I think that we have a great capacity to recognize our mistakes even when our leaders are horribly blind to them. But the present war in Iraq does not bring us closer to that goal. It has done quite the opposite. Before our invasion, there was no connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Now there is. And if we think for a second that this means the terrorists will stay there, we need only look to Madrid, London and elsewhere to end that self-deception.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

My Tribute to My Father

I delivered this as a part of my worship leader duties at Mayflower Congregational Church, but I don’t think I got around to typing this up and distributing it. I recently uncovered it from a pile of papers on my desk.

In February 1951, my father, Robert H. "Bob" Green, took the position of Youth Director at Bethany First Church of the Nazarene. Last month, he retired from the full-time ministry completing 52 years 11 months of service to the Nazarene denomination. Around 400 people a retirement service and reception in his honor. Dad said that he had "never seen so many people in one place for the purpose of seeing a guy quit."

His last act as a full-time minister was to speak before 40 or so men at a downtown Seattle mission. I asked him about his progress from one of the largest congregations in the Church of the Nazarene to a skid-row mission. He laughed and said, "Yeah, I’m sorta like the guy who started out with a fortune and ran it into a shoe-string."

That bit of self-depreciating humor is very typical of my father. He once gave me this bit of advice. "Never take yourself seriously, but always take other people very seriously." Would that our world learned such wisdom.

In his nearly 53 years of ministry, Dad was associated with 9 different congregations, 5 times as senior pastor and the other times as associate minister. He was, in fact, one of the first full-time associates in the history of his denomination. He estimates that he has participated in 10,000 church services. "I should have gotten how to do them straight, by now," he told me. One highlight of his ministry was his 10 years as the director of Golden Bell, a Nazarene campground in Colorado mountains in the shadow of Pike’s Peak. Camping was big with Dad, and through it he influenced an entire generation of young people.

He did a lot of building too. He built the gym at 39th Expressway and Willow in Bethany still in use today. And it seemed to me that wherever we went we were building gyms, education wings, camp cabins. Dad said that ministers like building things. "You know that when you put a nail in a 2x4, it’s gonna stay. That’s not true about the people in your congregation."
He developed a variety of other ministries: church sports leagues, after school programs, summer youth activities. For 7 years, he took members of his congregation in Seattle, Washington downtown every Sunday to feed the street people. On average, they served 300-400 a week a hot meal. I asked him if he ever tried to "save" any of the people he fed. He just shook his head, no. "Sometimes it’s just enough to give a cup of cold water in Jesus name," he explained. That was a command he took to heart. One of my best memories comes from a time when I went "to the street" with him on Sunday. A man approached him complaining that he didn’t have a good pair of shoes. Dad looked down at the man’s cracked and worn out shoes, sized up his feet, and then took off his own shoes, gave them to the begger, and spent the rest of the afternoon serving food in his stocking feet.

I asked him what he is going to do now that he is retired. On the day I called he said that he was going to teach an adult Sunday School class and then preach at the church in Seattle where my sister works because they are between pastors. He promised that he wouldn’t be one of those people who claim they are busier after they retired than they were while working. "I always wonder about those folks. How hard were they working before?" He said that he is determined not to get lazy, however. "I will never sleep past 11 A.M." He acknowledged that this will be something quite different for him, "I’ve always been good for something. Now, I will just have to be good for nothing."

After I gave my presentation, my pastor, Robin Meyers, said, "You may tell you father from our congregation, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’" The congregation then rose and gave Dad a standing ovation. >

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Bush's Problem with Cindy

The problem that Bush and others of his ilk are havingwith Cindy Sheehan is that she trumps them in herethos or character. As Aristole and all others afterhim have noted, unless the person attempting topersuade us is seen by us as a person of goodcharacter with credibility. We will not be persuaded.Bush told us we needed to go to war because Iraq possessed WMDs and was in league with those whocarried out 9/11. He was in charge of those whogathered this information. Whether he manipulated itor not, and I believe the preponderance of evidence isthat he did, he is responsible for acting upon it.Fairly or unfairly, the buck stops with him.The facts have proven out that he was wrong. We launched a premptive attack on false grounds.Therefore, Bush has lost credibility in the eyes ofthe world, and now in the eyes of a growing number ofAmericans if the polls are to be believed.

Ms. Sheehan's credibility lies in the fact that shehas paid the highest price a parent may pay for Bush'sfolly. She has sacrificed her son on the altar ofpersonal politics. Her son died so that Bush couldgain a measure of revenge.So it is natural that those who see the threat willattack and seek to discredit her ethos becausefrankly, they have no other course of action. It isnecessary for them to destroy Sheehan. They cannotdismiss her, she by her sheer presence has becomesomeone they can no longer ignore.To them to continue their course, Cindy, or moreproperly, Cindy's character, must be destroyed.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

I am a candidate for Oklahoma Democratic Party Secretary

I have decided to run for the position of Secretary for the Oklahoma Democratic Party

I will be glad to answer any question you may have, but here is the gist.
1. OK County Secretary--2003 to present
2. Central Oklahoma Labor Federation, AFL-CIO Recording Secretary--present
3. American Federation of Teachers 2309--Political Director--Present
4. House District 83 Chairman--Present
5. Precinct 398--Vice Chairman--Present
6. John Marshall High School English instructor since 1994.
4th Generation Oklahoman
Member of Mayflower Congregational Church
Chaired Steering Committee to grant Church of the Open Arms a charter to become a United Church of Christ Congregation
As county secretary and, I have been fortunate to have the help of many, many good people. (I tried to start naming them, but there are so many, I realized that I would leave too many out.) Together we have increased communication and awareness of Democratic activities in central Oklahoma through our listserv service and web page. I'd like to start doing this on a statewide basis.
I see my main task as being the communication officer for the state party. I would like to create methods of getting out action alerts, campaign news, and candidate information to our Democrats. I want to increase communication with the county officers and other activists so that we are dialoging, networking, encouraging, and inspiring each other. Too often I hear stories about how isolated we feel as Democrats when we have majority registration in this state.
I also have a love of words and language. I would like to apply that love in this office. We have allowed ourselves to be defined by those who oppose us. We have the just, the moral, the right message. We simply need to find the best available means of communicating that message to the great people of the state of Oklahoma.
Well, that's enough for now. Drop me a line with your questions. I will tell you the truth as best I know how. You can write me at greenlynndemocrat@yahoo.com. Feel free to spread the word. I am running for this office because I love my party, and I especially love the people in it. So if you want me, I will do the best job I know how to do. If not, I am still at your service and at the service of this great party.
Yours in Complete Solidarity,
Lynn Green, Democrat

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

My Election Day 2004 Story

Election Day 2004 found me standing at the corner of May Ave. and West Britton Road in Oklahoma City holding up a sign which read “Sportsmen for Brad Carson.” Brad Carson was the Democratic nominee for US Senate that year, and I, being the good Yellow Dog Democrat that I am, waved at the morning commuters encouraging them to get out and vote for Carson. (He lost.)

The reason I used this particular sign was that it was the only one I had. At one point I looked down and noticed that the "O" in the name "CARSON" was shaped like a target. So I became a bit more cautious as to where I held the sign in front of me.

But that's not my story.

My story starts after I had come home around 3:30pm that day. After my street corner time, I spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon walking in North Oklahoma City, an area filled with pricey homes and gated communities. The area reminded me of a statement my papa, the preacher once made. He observed that the poor live in groups while the rich build wall: usually the richer the neighborhood, the taller the walls. Obviously, this was not prime Democratic territory, and I felt worn out from much walking with little to show for it.

I really needed a quick nap before hitting the election night watch parties, but my conscience would not let me rest. I just had to make one more try for this election. I remembered that I had a list of Democrats who lived on my street in The Village, so I got up, dressed myself once again against the cold, and took off in search of Democratic voters. I knocked on the doors on the list, introduced myself to those at home, and asked each if they had voted.

After I had done about 4 blocks, I came to a door that was answered by an elderly woman whom I shall call "Betty". I went into my spiel.

“Good afternoon, Mam,” I said. “My name is Lynn Green. I am your neighbor down the street. Today is Election Day, and I am visiting Democrats in the neighborhood. Tell me, have you been able to get out and vote yet?”

“No,” she replied, “I can’t drive, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to vote today.”

“Well,” I told her, “I would be more than happy to give you a ride to the polls if you need it.”

Betty thanked me profusely. She invited me in her home while she got her coat and her voting card. She got the card out first and then went to look for her coat. I glanced casually at her card. Right then I knew that we were in trouble. Her voting registration was years out of date: 1980's out of date. The precinct number was very old, and the voting location printed on the card didn’t exist anymore. Still, we got in my car and set off to exercise her American right.

I knew where she needed to go to vote because she was in my precinct, so I gave her my arm and together we drove over to our polling place. While with Betty I found out she was 95 years old, still very "spry" as we often say. She had lived in her home in The Village for 27 years having moved from Philadelphia where she had taught at a private school run by the Quakers. In fact, I found out many things about Betty and her family, daughter a teacher and son an engineer, because we ended up spending a lot of time with each other that day. Somehow I knew that enabling her to vote was not going to be the matter of a moment.

When we got to the polls, I found her a place to sit while I stood in line for her. When I got to the poll watchers’ table, I explained to them Betty situation. They checked their voters’ rolls, and, sure enough, her name was no where to be found. A precinct worker, showing tremendous patience and understanding, explained to Betty that the best she could do was cast a "provisional" ballot. This meant that Betty and the precinct worker would have to fill out some paper work for a chance to have her vote counted.Betty wanted to vote, but the forms were a bit beyond her, so with the precinct official sitting on one side of her and me sitting on the other, we moved gamely on. We did our best to get her through the forms.

This was not easy work. Betty did not have some of the information the forms called for. She had not brought her Social Security card, couldn’t remember the number, and hadn’t had a driver’s license in over a decade. However, we finally got to the payoff: Betty was about to cast her ballot.

Now, about this time, I was feeling pretty good about myself. Here I had found a Democrat, and I had personally taken a couple of hours of my time to make sure she got a chance to vote.

And vote Betty did. Voted a straight Republican ticket. She explained to me, “I’ve always be a registered Democrat, but this time I really want to vote Republican for a change.” So I watched, tongue firmly set in my jaw, and re-learned the great moral truth about no good deed going unpunished. Just for good measure, she also voted against every incumbent judge on the ballot.

Still, the event had its consolation. When I got home, I found my wife sitting in her rocking chair doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. I got to tell her my story, a story I am sure I will be telling the rest of my life. She looked at me sympathetically and said, "Honey, you have built up some serious Karma for yourself!"

I wonder if she means good Karma or bad?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A High School Teacher’s Caveat

The nation’s governors have been meeting at the National Education Summit to hear alarming accounts of the state of American high schools. “We can’t keep
explaining to our nation’s parents or business leaders or college faculties why these kids can’t do the work,” said Virginia Gov. Mark Warner who was chiefly responsible for the summit taking place.

The governors attending heard report after report on how high schools fail their students (as opposed to the usual vice versa experienced by their teachers).
The facts they site include the fact that out 100 ninth-graders beginning high school, only 68 graduate on time and only 18 make it through college on time.
Once in college, one in four students at four-year universities must take at least one remedial course.

The governors heard Microsoft chairman Bill Gates claim, “America’s high schools are obsolete. By obsolete, I don’t just mean that they’re broken,
flawed or under-funded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools — even when they’re working as designed —cannot teach all our students what they need to know today.” Gates and others called for tougher courses for students and to have their graduation requirements match the expectations of colleges and the business

As a high school English teacher, I believe that I speak for the vast majority of my colleagues when I say that we will take whatever educational policy
comes to us and work to the best of our abilities to make it succeed, just as we have always done. However, allow me to add a caveat to all the heated
rhetoric from those who by and large have never spent a single year in an American high school as an administrator, teacher or janitor for that matter. Be
sure that you pick our educational policy ruts carefully for us because not only will we be in them for a long journey; we need to be certain we like our destination.

First, let’s look at the claim by Bill Gates, a college dropout, that every student needs to be prepared for college. America is just about the only industrialized country where the mantra “all students need to go to college” is repeated so often that we don’t even question its validity. I remember when the high school where I teach did a student exchange with a group of teachers and students from Germany. During one of our faculty meetings, the German high school teachers gave us an overview of their high school system. First, unlike America, the school system is run by the German federal government, something that would raise howls of protest from American conservatives.

Then, in Germany, there are three different types of high schools: Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnasium. Each one educates its students to the level of their ability. The Hauptschule is the lowest level of education. It lasts from the 5th grade up to the 9th grade and after the 9th grade they achieve the lowest certificate of education. In the Realschule there are those who learn faster and they are taught until the 10th grade.

Gymnasium is for the college bound and includes a 13th grade. All the teachers visiting us were Gymnasium teachers. All of their students were potentially
college bound and therefore their standards matched the ones that Gates and the governors call for. One can easily see why. One teacher told me personally, “I could not imagine teaching in a school where you have so many different levels of intelligence as you have in your classrooms.” The German system of education matches those in other European countries as well as those in Pacific Rim countries like Taiwan and Japan.

We do it differently in America. Sure, we could maintain standards simply by teaching only students willing to meet those standards as do the Germans. However, this would go against our American democratic education traditions that require every child to be educated on an equal basis regardless of aptitude or ability. In America, we want to have all children to have a college prep education despite the fact that not every child wants or even ought to go to college.

Yes, we need engineers, business executives, doctors, teachers and lawyers (well, maybe not), but we also need plumbers, electricians, builders, contractors and other skilled workers. And who was it that decided
that we need to fill all empty desks in our colleges other than college administrators who may have to face the fact that we continue to build and maintain more colleges than we actually need? Is it any wonder that we have high school students taking remedial courses when colleges will admit nearly anyone who walks through their doors with sufficient available financial resources?

Not long ago, achieving a high school diploma was as far as one could reasonably expect in this country. College was for the very few. Then along came the GI Bill which brought in a different kind of collegiate and helped to fuel the boom of the 50’s both by educating a new generation of Americans and, not coincidently, keeping them out of the job market till it could absorb them. Then came the 60’s with its Pell Grants and National Student Defense Loans (both now woefully inadequate) which paid for Baby Boomers’ college expenses. All of these helped to create a beast which high school teachers are called on increasingly to feed.

Of course, jobs once available to drop outs have been shipped to third world job
markets, but this is not the fault of our high schools, only the corporations whose heads call us “failures.”

America needs to decide what kind of education system it wants, but we teachers ask them to remember that we didn’t create the beast, we merely are given the responsibility of tending it in its cage.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Me at Home Posted by Hello

Terri's Tragedy

I suppose that I ought to comment on the Terri Schiavo tragedy that is being played out on the news, the internet, and on thousands of blogs across the country.

These are some of the relevant facts about the case.

1)This is not something that has suddenly sprung up overnight. Terri has been hospitalized for 15 years now.

2)The case has been endlessly adjudicated in state and federal court. They have decided that Michael, her husband, has guardianship of Terri. He has testified under oath that she did not want her life artificially extended, and would wish a dignified death rather than mere existence.

3) This is at its heart, a family matter. The parents have squared off against the husband. Had they agreed on her death or her continued care, none of us would have heard of this.

4)In order for us to live dignified human lives, we must have a right to privacy. Without this right, we are really not fully human.

Therefore, it seems to me that justice demands that we honor the wish of the husband who wishes to carry out what he believes is his wife's intentions to die with dignity.

I believe that the strongest argument for the husband's position is the fact that he has NOT divorced his wife. That would be the easy way out for him. Then his parents would take over guardianship, and they would act as they wish to in regards to Terri. The fact that Michael has decided to remain her husband, in spite of the fact that he has attempted to go on with his life, adds credibility to his claim that Terri would not want to have her life prolonged any longer than it has been.

Respectfully, we should honor her wishes and butt out of this.

Above all else, this has spurred me to get a Living Will. The last thing I would want for myself is to become what Terri has become: a poster child for the Religious Right and a chance for politicoes to grandstand before the public and improve their election chances.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

OK House Republicans Hate the Teachings of Jesus

"A poor man pleads for mercy, but a rich man answers harshly." Proverbs 18:23

In his "Sermon on the Mount", Jesus of Nazareth taught us, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Recently, the certain Oklahoma House of Representative members showed that they think very little of the Nazarene's words. At issue was HB 1699, which would have brought victims of rape and domestic violence under the protection of the Family and Medical Leave Act. As many of you know, this law,passed during the administration of Pres. Bill Clinton, grants employees up to three weeks of unpaid leave from their jobs when they have to deal with situations such as the birth of a child or the care of a seriously ill family member. Victims of rape and domestic violence often have to deal with a host of problems ranging from hospital and medical care, meetings with law enforcement officials, and relocation to safer living quarters.

Several women, victims of violence, had stepped forward to testify about their experiences with employers who were less than sympathetic to their plight.These courageous women were not so much as granted the courtesy of a hearing due the actions of the House members of the committee considering the bill. Their objection centered on the fact that such protection would place an "undue burden" on employers, ignoring the burden such victims would face from the loss of a job. Some members suggested that these victims could very well use their "vacation time" in such a case. Rep. Guy Liebman complained that the reference to "rape" in the bill's title was distasteful to him. He asked if another more suitable name could be found.

I can think of some suitable names for Rep. Liebman, but Christian charity forbids that I use them in public. I would only pray that he learn the true moral value of such charity, and remember that Jesus told us that relief of human suffering was a true mark of any citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.I would urge all of you to contact your representative and ask them to consider the words of the Nazarene who told us, ""Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! . . .you have neglectedthe more important matters of the law-justice, MERCY, and faithfulness." Matthew 23:23 (emphasis added)