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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.