About Me

My photo

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.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"FIVE YEARS LATER: The Courage to Love"

This is a condensed version of The Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers sermon on Sept. 10, a reflection on the five years that have passed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

The scripture reading was Mark 2: 1-16

The day after September 11, an American businessman trying to get back home found himself in a cafe in Athens, Greece. When the cafe's customers discovered his nationality, they rose up together and offered him this toast, "As one, shoulder to shoulder till Justice is done." The French periodical Le Mond had as its headline "We all Americans." Now 5 years later, all of those sentiments have disappeared. This is partly due to the fact what we are unable as humans to sustain such sentiments. But mostly this is due to what we did with all those sentiments follwing 9-11.

What we did was 1) Declare war on a people who had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks and 2) Declare that the Constitution was an impediment to our need for security. Civil liberties were declared to be Civil Weaknesses.

Franklin Roosevelt, facing the twin threats of civil unrest due to the Great Depression and worldwide destruction due to the threat of Fascism declared, "All we have to fear is fear itself." In our time the sentiment is, "All we have is fear."
In 1993, the first attempt to bring down the World Trade Towers occured. Our response at the time was to track down those responsible for the attacks without involving those innocent of the attacks by resorting to war.

What we failed to recognize in our rush strike back at someone, anyone in order to appease our need for revenge is the true source of terrorism. Terrorism is the result of arrogance. Terrorism is hatred due to arrogance. Hatred is the enemy, and hatred cannot be overcome by force. Fear and intimidation never wins hearts and minds. The chief result of our violence is to turn Osama Bin Laden into a "rock star" and give him an unending supply of suicide bombers to carry out his missions.

Our need for security always outstrips our ability to provide it. Sadness and grief should not provide us with an occasion for creating more sadness and grief. We must recognize living in fear means we must live outside of love since it is fear, not hatred, that is the opposite of love. We should say, "We have sinned and come short of God's will for us." We need to heed the prophetic voice and quit our national denial. We owe that much to those who died both in the 9-11 attack and in our response to those attacks. We owe them the courage to love.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"Have You No Sense of Decency, Sir?"

By Keith Olbermann
MSNBC Countdown

Tuesday 05 September 2006

It is to our deep national shame-and ultimately it will be to the President's deep personal regret - that he has followed his Secretary of Defense down the path of trying to tie those loyal Americans who disagree with his policies - or even question their effectiveness or execution - to the Nazis of the past, and the al Qaeda of the present.

Today, in the same subtle terms in which Mr. Bush and his colleagues muddied the clear line separating Iraq and 9/11 - without ever actually saying so - the President quoted a purported Osama Bin Laden letter that spoke of launching, "a media campaign to create a wedge between the American people and their government."

Make no mistake here - the intent of that is to get us to confuse the psychotic scheming of an international terrorist, with that familiar bogeyman of the right, the "media."

The President and the Vice President and others have often attacked freedom of speech, and freedom of dissent, and freedom of the press.

Now, Mr. Bush has signaled that his unparalleled and unprincipled attack on reporting has a new and venomous side angle:

The attempt to link, by the simple expediency of one word - "media" - the honest, patriotic, and indeed vital questions and questioning from American reporters, with the evil of Al-Qaeda propaganda.

That linkage is more than just indefensible. It is un-American.

Mr. Bush and his colleagues have led us before to such waters.

We will not drink again.

And the President's re-writing and sanitizing of history, so it fits the expediencies of domestic politics, is just as false, and just as scurrilous.

"In the 1920's a failed Austrian painter published a book in which he explained his intention to build an Aryan super-state in Germany and take revenge on Europe and eradicate the Jews," President Bush said today, "the world ignored Hitler's words, and paid a terrible price."

Whatever the true nature of al Qaeda and other international terrorist threats, to ceaselessly compare them to the Nazi State of Germany serves only to embolden them.

More over, Mr. Bush, you are accomplishing in part what Osama Bin Laden and others seek - a fearful American populace, easily manipulated, and willing to throw away any measure of restraint, any loyalty to our own ideals and freedoms, for the comforting illusion of safety.

It thus becomes necessary to remind the President that his administration's recent Nazi "kick" is an awful and cynical thing.

And it becomes necessary to reach back into our history, for yet another quote, from yet another time and to ask it of Mr. Bush:

"Have you no sense of decency, sir?"

Monday, September 04, 2006

Happy Labor Day!

A little poetry from my union brother, Bob Bearden, a retired Letter Carrier (NALC 458)
by Bob Bearden
Unions have helped bring us overtime,
Family medical, sick and annual leave,
And they have made the workplace safer,
One of many benefits they did perceive.

Retiring has been made much easier,
Because of what the Unions have done,
Just another of the many innovations,
That because of Unions we have won.

Seniors would not have medicare,
And Social Security would not be,
Without the work of Labor Unions,
Who helped give them to you and me.

Labor Unions gave us Labor Day,
We celebrate it each and every year,
So stand up and holler for the Union,
Let's give the brotherhood a cheer.

Bush Nixes Public Access to EPA Libraries!

Is Ray Bradbury's Vision Coming True in Our Time

by Frank J. Ranelli

What has been termed, "positively Orwellian", by PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, is indeed frightening. It seems that the self-appointed "Decider", George W. Bush, has decided to "end public access to research materials" at EPA Regional libraries without Congressional consent. In an all out effort to impede research and public access, Bush has implemented a loosely covert operation to close down 26 technical libraries under the guise of a budgetary constraint move. Scientists are protesting, but at least 15 of the libraries will be closed by Sept. 30, 2006.

"Public access to EPA libraries and collections will end as soon as possible", according to a report found online at PEER, an acronym for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. All total, nearly 80,000 documents, not in digital format, are being boxed up and placed in infinite limbo status by the Bush Administration. The scene from the Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the Ark of the Covenant was wheeled into a massive sea of identical box crates, inside an enormous warehouse, comes vividly to mind.

The suppression of information to the public and efforts to control the flow of information of the sciences has reached critical mass. Shades of the once science fictional book, Fahrenheit 451, are dangerously close to reality and the banning and burning of books looms all to surreal, but are more fact than science fiction now. Who could have ever envisioned that Ray Bradbury's vicious, futuristic, dystopian society would ever come to fruition; but it may indeed have done just that!
Read Complete Article Here

You should write your congressman about this.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Some Facts to Ponder on Labor Day

In 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected president, 84% of American workers in large to medium sized corporations had retirement pension plans. Today, just over 25 years later, only 33% due. It is estimated that 40% of those who are working today will not have enough through either savings, retirement, or Social Security to live above the poverty line.

The Federal Minimum Wage has not been raised since 1997. Despite this fact, and despite the fact that we have record budget deficits, Congress this year voted to give itself a $3,3100 raise. The new pay raise for Congress means the salaries of senators and representatives have gone up by $31,600 since 1997, while minimum wage workers still earn only $10,700 a year.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, seven of every 10 workers who would benefit from a $2.10 increase in the minimum wage are adults.

At the current federal minimum wage rate of $5.15, a minimum wage worker has to work 11.2 hours to pay for one tank of gas.

In 2003, workers paid an average of $2,283 for employment-based family health insurance. That's 20 percent of a minimum wage worker's $10,712 full-time, full-year earnings.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the percentage of businesses offering health insurance to their employees has declined from 69% in 2000 to 60% in 2005. Among those firms still offering health insurance, 20% offer "high-deductible" health plans. Since 2000, health insurance premiums have increased 73% while overall inflation increased 14% and wages increase only 15%.

Some Thoughts From Sunday Services

Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers

I have been neglecting my blog lately. The beginning of school seems to absorb all my time and energy. I thought, however, that I would post some exerpts from my pastor's, Robin Meyers, sermons. I like to take notes when Robin preaches. I find it keeps me focused, and I come away with some good ideas such as these:

"In Christian Art, before Jesus was depicted as being crucified, he was shown feeding the multitudes."

"Jesus is Lord of Culture, not subject to it."

"If Jesus is everything we want him to be, then he is nothing."

"Last year in America, only one person burned a flag. However, 1 out of 5 Americans live in poverty. How come no one is talking about passing a Constitutional Amendment banning poverty?"

"The Church is using the Politics of Purity to shelter its members from the Politics of Compassion."

"Jesus was crucified for the company he kept."

"In the purity system of Israel, shepherds were considered the lowest of the low. However, they were the first ones to get the news of Jesus' birth."

"Religious observance must not interfer with work of the heart."

"Ministers can't stay out of politics as long as politics affects people for whom Christ died."

"It is in service to humanity that service to Christ is proved."

Monday, August 14, 2006

The People of Oklahoma County Need a New DA

We need a change of leadership in the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office. Actually, what we have in our DA’s office is a nearly total lack of leadership. In his tenure as DA, Wes Lane is frequently absent from duty and provides little direction to the assistant prosecutors who have the responsibility of representing the people of Oklahoma County in criminal cases. Due to the rudderless direction in the DA’s office, Oklahoma County has in the last year seen over 50 prosecutors leave the office, many out of sheer frustration. Lane’s predecessor, Bob Macy, never experienced anything near the current attrition rate during his tenure in office. This means that taxpayers have had to pay for the retraining of new prosecutors who lack the experience of those they replace. These new prosecutors receive only the briefest of orientations, and no mentoring, before they are thrown into their important tasks. This often has led to new resignations and the cycle of retraining new prosecutors begins anew.

This has had a detrimental effect on criminal prosecutions in the county. Current, there is a backlog of approximately 14,000 unprosecuted felony cases in Oklahoma County. Cases are taking well over two years to get to trial. This means that criminals able to make bail are out on the street committing new crimes while their trial is repeatedly postponed. Those accused who are unable to make bail remain in the county jail, at taxpayer’s expense, awaiting trial. Imagine if you have been arrested for a crime you did not commit and having to wait 2 years before you have a chance to establish your innocence. Imagine being the victim of a crime and having to go through the trauma of reliving molestation or assault and then finding out that the prosecutor has had to file yet another continuance because a new attorney has had to replace the one who quit. During this time victims are revictimized, memories fade, and errors creep in to the prosecution. All too often the solution to this is for the prosecutor to plea bargain for lesser sentence. Truly justice delayed is justice denied.

Clearly we need a change in District Attorney. David Prater, a former police officer and prosecutor, has promised Access, Accountability, and Action when he becomes our new District Attorney. He will be accessible to his employers, the citizens of Oklahoma County. He believes that the one in charge of the office should accept accountability for the production of that office. He will take action to fix problems rather than just let them slide. Pious platitudes sounded when election time comes are no substitute action and accountability. I urge my fellow citizens of Oklahoma County to vote for David Prater as our new District Attorney so that the people can finally obtain adequate counsel in our criminal courts.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Oklahoma History Center

Entrance to the Oklahoma History Center

Replica of Wiley Post's famous plane The Winnie Mae

Cat and I visited the new Oklahoma History Center on the State Capitol grounds. They did a very good job with the Center. It's a place that all Oklahoman's can take pride it. Cat and I spent 3 hours there and still didn't see everything we wanted to. I expect we will be coming back soon.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Campaign Without Conscience, A Betrayal of

Andrew Rice with his wife, Apple, and their son, Noah

A Campaign Without Conscience, A Betrayal of Faith

I saw my friend, Andrew Rice, in church at Mayflower last Sunday. Andrew is running for the Oklahoma State Senate in his district in central OKC. He told me of a campaign tactic being used, in nearly all certainty, by the Republican Party which reveals a party operating without a regard for morality in its grab for power.

Several of the voters in Andrew's district, Oklahoma Senate District 46, have been getting phone calls whose callers claim that Andrew favors terrorism. First, you have to understand that Andrew and his family are one of the victims of the worst terrorist attack in American history. On September 11 2001, investment banker David Rice was killed when the World Trade Centre collapsed. Later, a group called Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation were contacted by the mother of the alleged 20th hijacker, Zacharias Moussaoui. She had a unique request. She wanted to meet some of the families of the victims and ask for their forgiveness. Andrew, along with several other victims' families, met with, this grieving Madame al-Wafi, who begged their forgiveness for her son's hatred. Andrew forgave her because he felt that to return hate for hate dishonored his brother's "spirit", and I feel Andrew knew he was following the commandment of the man from Nazareth who comanded us to forgive though we are wrong 70 times 7 times and who forgave those who were responsible for his execution.

This act, done in the spirit of Christ, is the very deed this smear campaign is trying to use against Andrew Rice. This damning abuse of our political process is being carried out by some group called RDI, headquartered in Cincinatti, Ohio, because they were paid $300,000 by a shadowy Republican organization. The cry that Robert Welch uttered against Joesph McCarthy echoes down to our time, "Have you no sense of decency?" You claim to be the party that defends the practice of Christianity in the public arena, the party of values, the party of morality. Where are your morals now? In Oklahoma, we have seen candidate after candidate in their political ads extol their Christianity, their time spent teaching Sunday School, their donations of land to build churches. I have no doubt of their personal sincerity, but I demand in the name of the one whom they claim to serve that they denounce this discipable act in no uncertain terms, that they honor this most Christian act of Andrew's, or all their claims of faith ring hollow to me.

Jesus once said, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his own soul." I believe that this applies to this heinous political tactic. Those who have committed it have sold their soul to try to amass power. Shortly before his death from a brain tumor Lee Atwater, who employed these type of tactics to help elect Republicans like Ronald Reagan in an act of repentance, issued a number of public and written apologies to individuals whom he had attacked during his political career, including Michael Dukakis who was a target of several vicious, unwarranted attacks. Of course, by that time, the damage had already been done and it was too late to erase the stain he had foisted on the body politic. Whoever is responsible for this act needs to seek forgiveness and offer restitution before he or she meets a similar fate.

If you wish to read about Andrew's act of forgiveness, you can go to this link to read his remarkable testimony:The Forgivenss Project-Andrew Rice

Sunday, July 23, 2006

My Prayer This Sunday

Mayflower Church

To Learn More About Mayflower Congregational,UCC Church

Note: I was the worship leader this Sunday at Mayflower Church. Our pastor is away for his annual vacation, which this year includes a book tour promoting his new book. Former Oklahoma Governor David Walters was our guest speaker. This was the congregational prayer I gave.

God of all Creation, God of Many Names Honored in Many Ways

We pray first for your blessings on our pastor, his wife and child while they are absent from us. Grant them your protection during this time of rest and renewal. May we ever be mindful of the stresses that are a constant factor in the lives of those called to minister to our needs. May we seek to “Bear … one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

We pray also for our wounded and bleeding world. We have grown too fond of war so much so that we have become numb to its terrible consequences. We have even invoked the name of the Prince of Peace to justify our indulgence in our belligerent nature. We ask for your healing touch on those whom we have called upon to fight our wars. God, forgive those leaders who fight wars with other people’s children and try pay for their wars from the resources of future generations.

We pray for our state, this land of rolling hills, vast plains, woods and rivers. In the coming elections in our state, give us the wisdom as we chose among those participating in our democracy in a personal way by becoming candidates. We honor their sense of devotion, their sacrifice, their labor, and their commitment to service. May we reject all appeals to our prejudices and make our choices based on the demands of justice.

We pray for our church that has become a beacon of hope in our community. We truly are as city set upon a hill. The eyes of all have been set upon us. May we provide a model for what a spiritual community ought to be. May we enjoy each other’s fellowship; make each others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our community in your work, as members of the same body. May our unity be symbolized by our praying together the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever, Amen.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Don't Box Me In!

Dead Big Box Store

I got this from my friend, Anne Feeney, the Union Maid. She wrote it for a group fellow union maids attending the Midwest School for Union Women in Chicago:

I want to roam 'round a town where varieties abound


Buy something chic and unique at a neighborhood boutique


I like to have lots of options - merchants galore

I get Mallzheimer's in a big box store
Here in the Windy City we need more --


Don't want to cry when I buy those sweatshop goods from China


Don't want to shop where workers labor til they drop

DON'T BOX ME IN I want a living wage, and did I mention

A union, health care and a decent pension

City Hall - give me your attention and DON'T BOX ME IN!!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Do you want fries with your season ticket?

There is a report out that the Seattle Supersonics have been purchased by a group of Oklahoma City investors who could move the team to our fair city as early as the 2007-2008 season.

If they do, I already have an idea for the team.

Change the name from the "Supersonics" to the "Sonic" in honor of one of the best know businesses in OKC.

Make the team mascot a large Cherry Limeade.

Have all the cheerleaders dressed as car hops and have them do their routines on rollerskates.

Oh the possibilities are endless!

Sonics' future in Seattle in doubt after sale

Monday, July 17, 2006

Impressions of Orlando, Florida

The View from Our Hotel
At the Kennedy Space Center
In the Gulf of Mexico
John's Pass Where We Had Some Terrific Seafood

Cat and I got back to Oklahoma on Saturday following our five day stay in Orlando for the High Schools that Work conference. I post my impression about the conference, which was very good, later. But first, my impressions of Orlando.

The people we met were very friendly. Most were not native to Florida. We met waiters from Cuba, hell staff from Brooklyn, toll booth operators from the Dominican Republic and tour bus drivers from Iowa. However, I believe the motto of the Central Florida area should be "You Wanted to Come here, and You're Gonna Pay for It!" It's nearly impossible to get anywhere in central Florida that doesn't involve toll roads. If you don't have some sort of turnpike pass, you have to stop every mile or so and pony up. Not only is it annoying, but it really slows down your time. Nothing in central Florida is very far away from Orlando, but you have to add 50% more time to your drive time than you normally would estimate in Oklahoma.

Another reason for this is that most of the drivers I noticed tend to drive much more slowly than we do in Oklahoma. It seemed that nearly everyone drove about 5 miles an hour below the posted speeds. Some of the drivers were senior citizens, but even the younger drivers seemed also to drive more slowly. I'm not complaining, but it's somewhat hard to adjust to this when I have been used to being the one everyone else passes on the Interstates.

Orlando seems rather artificial. I guess that's to be expected when pratically everything revolves around Walt Disney World. Everywhere there are amusement parks, "Halls of Fame", phoney pirate ships (pirates are really big now) Much of the time, I wondered if the palm trees were real. When we toured the Kennedy Space Center, I felt like I was in some type of grand commercial because most of the displays hammered home the need and importance of, well, the Kennedy Space Center.

The best part of our time there was when Cat and I snuck off for a little personal time on the Gulf Coast. We found a nice little motel on the beach and deal some swimming and body surfing in the gulf. The water was warm. We were even joined by two dolphins. Later at a restaurant called "The Friendly Fisherman" we had some fantastic seafood served by a great waitress named Lori who was from Maine.

Then we decided to drive up the coast a bit on state highway 699. Not a good idea. The coast in Florida is so heavily commercialized that you can't see a thing but hotel after hotel. The whole thing made me long for the Oregon Pacific coast where all of the beach is public property, and you can see everything.

All in all, we had a very enjoyable time in Florida. It's always nice to get away, but if I had my choice, I'd get away some place where that everyone else isn't there before me.

Maybe that's why I love Oklahoma as much as I do. I can still find places in this state where beauty can be enjoyed in isolation.

Monday, July 10, 2006

My Favorite Symbol


This is my favorite symbol. I have two T-Shirts that display this. The meaning of this symbol is readily apparent. If the little fish encountered the big fish individually, each would be lunch. Not one of them is strong enough alone to oppose the big fish. However, working together in solidarity, they are strong enough to put the big fish to flight.

Too many times I have heard people say, "Unions were okay in their day, but we don't need them any more. I wonder what these folks are thinking when they say this. Unions have never been popular with those in power. Organizing has always been an uphill battle. Workers who wish to organize face losing their jobs on some trumped up pretext. Companies claim threaten to close worksites where an organizing effort is taking place. Even when workers organize, companies try to ignore their union, do bad faith bargaining, or bring in scab workers to try to bust unions.

Is it worth it? You bet it is. I've worked non-union and I now work union. I'm never going back! A worker in a union has dignity and worth. A worker in the union has left the plantation and joined the human race!

So my sisters and brothers, don't just sit around and bitch.


In Solidarity,

Lynn Green
Oklahoma City-American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Son of a Preacher and His Wife

I grew up in a pastor's home, a preacher's kid. My father was always a full-time minister, my mother a full-time mother. Our church, The Church of the Nazarene, was and still is a rather small denomination, a little under 1 1/2 million members now, less than a million when I was a part of it. Then the Nazarene Church was quite conservative: no smoking, no alcohol, no movie theatres, and no social dancing.

Despite this, perhaps because of it, I feel privileged to have grown up in my environment. Even though I no longer observe most of the prohibitions of my former church, I like the fact that I escaped most of the problems many of those in my age group fell victim to during the 60's and 70's. Later, as I grew into maturity, I was better able to choose how I would live my life, and which habits I would adopt or refuse to adopt. I am a social drinker. I enjoy the movies. I have done a little dancing, but don't now due to some arthritic knees. I don't smoke, and glad I never started.

Growing up a minister's son had many other advantages. I grew up in an environment that took faith and spirituality very seriously. Though I am no longer an evangelical Christian, I still am a follower of the Nazarene. I no longer believe that salvation is a through the Christian faith alone, I believe that grace is real. I no longer believe that Jesus was God, but I believe that in Jesus we see what God is like, and that his life is a model for our own.

In my family, learning and study were important. My father and mother were constant readers. They encouraged my own love of literature. TV viewing was limited. Trips to the library were frequent. As a child, my mother subscribed to children's magazines. Once she signed us up for a children's book club. (I still remember three titles from that time: "Elephant for Rent", "On to Oregon!” and "The Perils of Pacifico".) Later as I grew up, my father shared with me books he enjoyed. He introduced me to C. S. Lewis who later became the topic for my M.A. thesis.

Of course, the study of the Bible was paramount. I took part if Bible contests coming in 2nd place in an international competition. The Bible is foundational to Western literature and thought. When I was in graduate school, my professors looked to me to make literary and theological allusions clear to them.

Growing up a preacher's kid encouraged my leadership skills. I was expected to take the lead in Sunday Schools, youth groups, and later denominational functions. I trace my political work to the fact that I was expected to organize programs for the various church functions such as our Sunday night youth program called the NYPS, Nazarene Young People's Society. Presenting Sunday School lessons, providing devotions, offering public prayers, honed my speaking skills.

There were downsides to parsonage living. We moved quite a bit, 6 times in a 9 year span. I had trouble forming fast friendships, and came back to Oklahoma to go to college feeling a bit rootless. I have lived here ever since, a total of 45 out of 54 years of my life. So I can say that I am a "Sooner born, Sooner bred, and (most likely) when I die, I'll be a Sooner dead"(lyrics from the Oklahoma University fight song).

At times, growing up in the church did feel like living in a fishbowl. To his credit, my father and mother never once said to me, "Son, your behavior is making us look bad to the church." This is not because I was a perfect angel. (I once got caught taking a swim in the church baptistery.) The effect came more from the fact that we felt the need to be the example for the rest of the church membership. Typically, we were the first to arrive at all services. I am astounded that mom accomplished this feat with 6 children whose ages covered an 11 year span. I felt I had to be willing to volunteer for any duty. My wife says I've carried this over into my adult years. (I am the recording secretary for 5 different organizations.)

However, I feel the benefits I have gained from being a minister's son are such that if I were given the option of repeating my experience, I would not hesitate to do so. Above all, I grew up in a home where I enjoyed parents of the highest character, who demonstrated genuine love for each other and for us. I grew up in a world where service to others was valued more than material gain, where we loved people and used things as opposed to the vice versa situation I see in so much of our world.

I am proud to say that I was the son of a minister and his wife, an equal partner in their ministry. I am thankful for the lessons they gave me and feel that most of the best part of me is a result of their nurture.

Friday, July 07, 2006

W Pays the Price for Going It Alone

Bush is seeking a unified response from the rest of the world community to North Korea's nuclear program and missile testing. Well, George, it's too bad you have destroyed any credibility you might have had after you cried wolf on Iraq and by passed all diplomatic challenges to play world cowboy.

"You know, the problem with diplomacy is it takes a while to get something done" while "acting alone, you can move quickly," Bush said. Yes, and the problem with "going alone" is that you are, well, alone. Right now the US is hard pressed to keep the tattered remains of the "coalition of the willing" together. Britain is the only ally that has troops of any substance in Iraq, and their withdrawal is simple a matter of time, months in all probablity.

Meanwhile, George appears hat in hand on the world stage pleading for any cooperation whatsover. George probably did not learn this while in the schools where he partied: Mendācī hominī nē vērum quidem dīcentī crēdimus. We do not believe a liar, though he speaks the truth.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Midsummer Bummer

Scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream

Well, the 4th has come and gone. We had some family and friends over to burn some weenies that day. We enjoyed our "Celebration Without Fireworks."

The day after the 4th is always the worst day of summer for me because it marks the mid-point of the summer vacation. That means that a teacher's mind inevitably turns towards the coming school year. Bummer.

Next week Cat and I will be flown to Orlando, Florida for a "High Schools that Work Conference" with about 50 other high school teachers from the Oklahoma City Public Schools. The conference will take up an entire week of summer vacation. I hope that this conference doesn't turn out to be as "Mickey Mouse" as Orlando's most famous occupant. Some others who have gone report that they got a lot of good from the workshops.

The main thing I have to fight when I go to these professional development activities is an inherent defensiveness. I will hear people get up and proclaim how much success they have had with one technique or another with their "at risk" students. I wish I had similar success stories to report, but I don't. Teaching in an urban school is tough going. I hear them talk about how they have triumphed in the classroom. I feel as if I am not measuring up.

So I want to find reasons to desparage their success and undercut their advice. I think things like, "it won't work with my students"; "their school is not like mine"; "if I had the resources and support they enjoyed"; "if they had to deal with our administration." Excuses are very easy to discover; however, this defensive has the unfortunate effect of blocking the good that I can gain out of their instruction.

One of the best pieces of advice my father gave me was to maintain what he called "a teachable spirit." Be open, he told me, to the ideas of others. Remember you are always in need of learning and capable of growth. Whenever I keep his advice in mind, I find that I do develop and grow.

There is a reason why a doctor says that she "practices medicine." I guess I need to realize that I am a practicing teacher.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Tribute to Clara Luper

On this 4th of July celebration where we laud those who have given us our freedom, we need to remember that not all fights for freedom are fought on the battlefield. Many are fought by those who take courageous stands in our communities, schools and businesses. Meet one such person, one of my heroes, Mrs. Clara Luper

During 41 years as an award winning Oklahoma educator, Mrs. Clara Luper taught history and made history. Born in 1923, Mrs. Luper grew up near Hoffman, Oklahoma. She graduated from Grayson High School and matriculated to Langston University where she earned a B.A. degree. Mrs. Luper received her M. A. degree from the University of Oklahoma and taught school at Taft, Pawnee, Spencer and Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Many know Mrs. Luper as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement. She began the Oklahoma Sit-In Movement, August 19, 1958 when she led a group of students in a sit-in at an Oklahoma City lunch counter. This effort and continuing efforts resulted in restaurants in Oklahoma City and across the state opening their doors to African Americans. This was the first publicized sit-in in the nation. Mrs. Luper led the Oklahoma City Public School integration fight, participated in the historic March on Washington, D.C., Selma, Alabama and every major march in America. She was arrested 26 times in Civil Rights activities. She led with courage and persistence and taught that non-violence activism was the way to freedom.

Mrs. Luper also participated in the first teachers' strike in Oklahoma when she participated in the teachers' strike for a true contract in 1979. She is one of those who "Walked the Line in '79' that gave birth to the American Federation of Teachers union which remains the collective bargaining agent for the teachers of the Oklahoma City Public Schools. I have the honor of teaching at John Marshall High School where she taught for many years.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

How to Fight a War Without a Shred of Conscience

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was asked if President Bush had any reaction to the death toll for U.S. troops in Iraq reaching 2,500.

Q. Tony, American deaths in Iraq have reached 2,500. Is there any response or reaction from the President on that?

MR. SNOW: It’s a number

Me at the Oklahoma City Gay Pride Festival

I'm the One Wearing the Shades

This is a photo of me, in the sunglasses, at the Oklahoma County Democratic Party booth at the Oklahoma City Gay Pride Festival. The theme of this year's festival was "We ARE the People." With me are two friends and volunteers Jim and Lisa. Being there got me to wondering, the Democratic Party has taken courageous stands in its history for workers' rights, civil rights, women's equality, and now for the recognition of the worth and dignity of all Americans regardless of their sexual orientation. When, since the Civil War, did the Republican Party ever take a stand which required from them an ounce of moral courage. In Oklahoma and elsewhere, their motto is: Guns, God and Gays. All of these are popular issues with the dominant culture in America. They are willing to try to pass an amendment on flag burning, but not willing to renew the 1965 Voter Rights Act.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Dare to Be a David

(I was asked to give the invocation for the Oklahoma state AFL-CIO political convention. Here is what I prayed.)

God of All Creation. God of All Human Kind.

You beheld the work of your own hands and said that it was good.

You rested from your labors and blessed your time of resting.

God, look upon the labor of our hands. May we work to bring about a world where work is honored, rest is protected, and all who labor partake in the fruits of their labor through just compensation, safe working conditions, and the recognition that all are equally entitled to human dignity.

God, give us strength for our task. At times, those who work for justice seem small and weak while those who seek to control and exploit seem to be many and powerful. At times we feel that our task is too great, our resources too small.

We are tempted to be discouraged. Oh God, give us courage for our time. Give us the courage of your servant David who said to Goliath, "You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.” In this spirit and with the assurance that we fight for that which is right, may we say, “You come at us with privilege and entitlement, but we come in the name of justice, which you have denied.”

May we hear the trumpets sound that shall never call retreat--the trumpet calling us to a life of sacrifice, a life of involvement, a life lived for the benefit of others.

And may at the end of it all we hear the words “Well done thou good and faithful servant. Enter now into the joy of thy Lord.”


Friday, June 23, 2006

“Anybody who contemplates a decision to use force. . . [assumes] responsibility for . . . massacre[d] civilians.

(Soldiers in urban warfare situations are called upon their governments to perform nearly impossible tasks. When a soldier cannot tell friend from foe, when a soldier is facing death at any moment, when a soldier sees his comrades die in one sneak attack after another, that soldier will reach a pont where he overeacts and takes his revenge on whomever is nearest to her be the person innocent or guilty. Such is the lesson of Iraq, such was the lesson of Vietnam for us, Algiers for the French, Boston for the British, Palestine for the Romans, and thus on and on throughout recorded history. The men and women who "planned", supported and carried out this war were and are short-sighted individuals, most of whom ducked combat when they had their opportunity to serve. They envisioned smiling Iraqis throwing flowers in the path of "liberating" GIs. They envisioned a quick war, "Mission Accomplished" in short order, troops home by Thanksgiving, and a pacified and compliant trading partner throughout the New American Century. The blood of innocents is on their hands, and this includes both Iraqis who are innocent, and American soliders who were innocent a long time ago.)

List of accusations of GIs in Iraq stuns experts
Officials point to stressed troops, greater scrutiny as possible reasons
The Associated Press

The accounts are brutal: An Iraqi man dragged from his home, executed and made to look as if he were an insurgent. Three prisoners killed by their Army captors. A team of revenge-seeking Marines going home to home, shooting down unarmed Iraqi men, women, children.

The recent flurry of accusations against U.S. servicemen has stunned military analysts and experts. Many see a critical new point in the war — though few agree whether it shows the toll of combat stress, commanders resolved to stamp out war crimes, or, as some claim, an overzealous second-guessing of the troops.

But the number and gravity of the latest allegations have drawn the greatest outcry against U.S. military actions since the Abu Ghraib prison abuses.

“All of a sudden there seem to be charges right and left,” said Loren Thompson at the Lexington Institute, a defense think tank in Arlington, Va. “It clearly has happened in some cases. But it’s hard to tell whether this is a pattern of wrongdoing on our part or just a pattern of closer supervision.”

List of alleged incidents
So far, none of the troops accused in the latest cases has even been tried:

On Friday, a Pennsylvania National Guard spokesman said two Guardsmen were being investigated in connection with the shooting death of an Iraqi earlier this year.
On Wednesday, seven Marines and one Navy corpsman were charged in the April shooting death of an Iraqi man in the town of Hamdania. Charging documents claim the man was taken from his home, forced into a hole, shot and left with a stolen AK-47 near him to make it look as if he fought the troops.
On Monday and Wednesday, three soldiers and a noncommissioned officer were charged in the May deaths of three unarmed Iraqis in military custody in Salahuddin province. A Pentagon official told The Associated Press that the detainees were shot while trying to flee.
Those accusations come a few months after another disturbing charge — that in Haditha, a town in the Sunni hotbed of Anbar province, members of a Marine unit killed up to two dozen unarmed Iraqis in and outside their homes after a roadside bomb killed one of the troops. Neighbors told the AP that a small group of Marines went house to house over three hours, while others stood watch.

The death penalty is a possible punishment in at least some of these cases.

Combat stress theory
One view is that, if proven true, these incidents reflect the toll Iraq has taken on U.S. troops. Since 2003, they have dealt with constant heat and filth, blurred lines between civilian and enemy, and insurgents who rely on dirty tactics like suicide and roadside bombs, lack of uniforms and beheadings.

“This is one of the nastier kinds of fights you could be in,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution. American troops “obviously lost a lot of their own compatriots, a lot of them have been there a number of times. Morale is still pretty strong, but I would think there’s a psychological toll.”

Some say that’s to be expected, but criminal behavior still must be prevented: War crimes are an indictment of leadership.

“It’s symptomatic of a combat stress management system that has failed,” said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, a Washington-based military think tank.

“Anybody who contemplates a decision to use force, anybody who contemplates putting boots on the ground has to understand that part of what they’re assuming responsibility for is stressed-out soldiers are going to massacre civilians. It just comes with the territory.”

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Letter to Congressman Duncan Hunter

(This is a letter I sent to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R. California, after reading a USA Today article on problems associated with the US Missle-Defense system. Some in the Bush administration have discussed the possibility of using the system we have should North Korea carry out its missle launch test.)

Dear Rep. Hunter,

I am writing to you in response to your statements in the June 21st edition of USA Today. The article entitled “U.S. still working kinks out of defense shield”, ends with the following facts:

 Last year, the program exceeded its budget by $365 million.
 It delivered fewer interceptors than planned.
 The interceptors delivered are unproven.
 Their assembly, according to the GAO, lacked adequate oversight leading to the possibility of shoddy parts being used.

You are quoted as claiming that a limited anti-missile capability is better than none at all. In other words, even though the program is over budget and of dubious value, we should be grateful for having it at all.

Fair enough.

Suppose that a report came out that a federal food assistance program had the following problems:

 The program was $36 million over budge
 Despite this, the program helped fewer people than it was designed to help.
 The nutrition the program delivered was inadequate
 The program’s administrative cost exceeded the number of people it helped.

Should this happen, would you be willing to claim that this nation should be grateful that we are trying to do something to help the problem of hunger in America. Or perhaps you would call for the scrapping of a program so inadequate, so inefficient, so mired in problems.

If it works for guns, shouldn’t it also work for butter?


Mr. Lynn Green
The Village, Oklahoma

Friday, June 16, 2006

Monument to W

(Got this from a friend)

Dear Friends and Relatives:

I have the distinguished honor of being on the committee to raise $5,000,000 for a monument of George W. Bush. We originally wanted to put him on Mt.Rushmore until we discovered there was not enough room for two more faces.

We then decided to erect a statue of George in the Washington, D.C. Hall Of Fame. We were in a quandary as to where the statue should be placed. It was not proper to place it beside the statue of George Washington, who never told a lie, or beside Dick Cheney who never told the truth; since George could never tell the difference.

We finally decided to place it beside Christopher Columbus, the greatest Republican of them all. He left not knowing where he was going, and when he got there, he did not know where he was. He returned not knowing where he had been, and did it all on someone else's money.


George W. Bush Monument Committee

P.S. The Committee has raised $1.35 so far.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

God Forgive Us and Give Us Hope

(Note: I was asked to provide the invocation for the Oklahoma Democrat Party's Carl Albert Awards Dinner. This is the Oklahoma Democratic Party's equivalent of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner which our national party and many state party's have. At it, we award the year's top Democrat. This year's award winners were Sandy Garrett, State Superintendent for Public Instruction and Pat Hall, former ODP Executive Director and tireless Democratic Party advocate. My congratulations to two very deserving Carl Albert recepients. The following is the invocation I gave.)

God of all Creation
God of Many Names
Who is worshipped in Many Ways

We first ask your blessing on those whose labor has gone into our meal this evening. May we ever be grateful for those who work and service make possible the quality of our lives.

We ask also for your forgiveness of our many shortcomings.

You are the God of Love
Yet everywhere we see hate and intolerance.

You are the God of Peace
Yet everywhere we see violence and war.

You are the God of Bounty
Yet everywhere we see deprivation and want.

You are the God of Compassion
Yet everywhere we see indifference and persecution.

Yet we remember that you are the God of Hope: the Hope of the Laborer’s Bent Back, the Single Mother’s Aching Feet, the Farmer’s Sunburned Face, the Business Owner’s Worried Brow. You have left unto us the work of fulfilling Hope.

God, may you bless our land and guide the work of the Democratic Party. May we always work to sustain the Hopes of the American People. Give Us the Hope that our labor is not in vain. Give us Hope that in our great land we will one day see Justice for All.


Friday, June 02, 2006

Lest We Forget

"War does not confer a license to kill for personal reasons ... War is not a license at all, but an obligation to kill for reasons of state; it does not countenance the infliction of suffering for its own sake or for revenge."

--Telford Taylor, US chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trial

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Why We Need to Leave Iraq

Iraqi Woman in Labor Tries to Rush to the Hospital. Instead is Killed at Checkpoint.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Two Iraqi women were shot to death north of Baghdad after coalition forces fired on a vehicle that failed to stop at an observation post, the U.S. military said Wednesday. Iraqi police and relatives said one of the women was about to give birth.

A car entered a clearly marked prohibited area near coalition troops at an observation post but failed to stop despite repeated visual and auditory warnings, the U.S. military said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.

“Shots were fired to disable the vehicle,” the statement said. “Coalition forces later received reports from Iraqi police that two women had died from gunshot wounds ... and one of the females may have been pregnant.”

The statement said the incident was being investigated.

“The loss of life is regrettable and coalition forces go to great lengths to prevent them,” the military said.

If You Have Nothing to Hide, Then Don't Worry?

I just love Tom Tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What happened in Haditha?

Witnesses, others tell consistent story as Pentagon investigation continues

By Richard Engel
Middle East bureau chief, NBC News

HADITHA, Iraq - On Tuesday, for the first time, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke about the Haditha case. He said that Iraqi and multinational forces must respect human rights and the rights of Iraqi citizens, and a family cannot be killed because someone is fighting terrorists.

“We have to be more careful,” he said.

Haditha is now the subject of two U.S. military investigations — one into what happened, the other into a possible cover-up.

Witnesses, doctors and an Iraqi human rights group tell NBC News a consistent story, but one we have not been able to verify independently.

A crater is all that's left of a roadside bomb attack on Nov. 19, 2005, but controversy remains over the chain of events it triggered.

7:15 a.m.: A convoy from the 1st Marine Division is hit by a roadside bomb — a Humvee is destroyed, and 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas is killed.

7:25 a.m.: Witnesses say Marines search the area for the bomber. They storm a house directly across from the attack, shooting as they approach.

A video shot by a local journalism student purports to show the bloody aftermath of what happened. Inside are 76-year-old Abdul Hamid — blind and in a wheelchair — his 66-year-old wife and nine of their sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren.

Local coroners’ reports obtained by NBC News say Abdul Hamid was shot in the stomach and head. The reports say his wife and five other relatives were also killed by multiple gunshot wounds.

Four inside the house survived, including 10-year-old Iman.

“The Americans came into the room where my father was praying and shot him. They went to my grandmother and killed her, too,” Iman says.

During the raid, Abdul Hamid's house caught fire. Witnesses say Marines then moved next door to the house of Younis Hamid. Nine people were inside, and eight were killed — five of them children.

Twelve-year-old Safa says she survived by hiding under the bed.

“They came in and shot all of us,” she says. “I pretended I was dead.”

Witnesses say Marines then moves to a third location — a taxi parked by the side of the road. In it, residents say, were four university students and a driver. A witness watching from a nearby rooftop says Marines took the five men out of the car and executed them.

One witness says the driver screamed in English, “Please, please!” but they shot him in the body.

Other witnesses say two hours passed as more Marines and helicopters arrived to lock down the neighborhood.

Around 10:30 a.m., Marines stormed the house of Eid Ahmed, where they allegedly separate his four sons from the women and children — before killing the men.

Nine-year-old Khalid was in the house.

“This is my father!” he screams. "God will take my revenge!"

In El Paso, Texas, the Terrazas family has made a memorial to Miguel Terrazas, but they told NBC News their grandson cannot rest in peace with so many unanswered questions remaining about the hours after his death.

NBC News asked the U.S. military to comment on this report. So far, the U.S. military here in Iraq only said that it takes the allegations seriously but cannot comment on ongoing investigations.

© 2006 MSNBC Interactive

© 2006 MSNBC.com

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13053200/

What Goes Around

Do we wonder why the world see us as hypocrits?

Dubya Admits He May Have Made a Mistake

Nothing to Worry About?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Pray for the Dead and Work for the Living--A Memorial Day Thought

On this Memorial Day observance, we Democrats do well to remember that for soldiers, a war is never over simply because the last gun has been silenced. Soldiers truly never leave their battlefields. We should this day pray for the dead and work for the living and for their families.

A country has a spotty history at best when it comes to caring for those who have borne the battle. However, as Democrats, we have reason to be proud of some landmark achievements to aid our men and women in uniform. On June 22, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the "Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944," better known as the "GI Bill of Rights." The famed legislation for World War II veterans has since been recognized as one of the most important acts of Congress. This act made it possible for the United States to escape some of the problems veterans had faced after World War I when they returned to civilian life. Later, U.S. Rep. Gillespie V. Montgomery, a Democrat from Mississippi, was responsible for an active duty GI Bill which bears his name.

I want to share with you a poem written by good central Oklahoma Democrat, Bob Bearden

Our Honored Dead

Family and friends go off to war,
Some never come home again,
Each of us have lost loved ones,
From our family and our friends.

War is not what they wanted,
But, they were proud to serve,
Many have sacrificed their lives,
And not once lost their nerve.

No matter how we may perceive,
Nor abhor the horrible act of war,
We cannot ever forget their sacrifice,
Nor how they stood straight and sure.

If wars were fought by our leaders,
Then all wars would be ended today,
Sadly they yet still send our children,
To go and fight and die in harm's way.

So let us each honor those who died,
Fighting for what they believed was right,
With the last full measure of their devotion,
They kept to their honor and freedom's light.

Amen, Bob, may we continue to be a party that honors its soldier in its deeds rather than in its words alone.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

George MacDonald's Testimony

Note: My parents sent me this exerpt from the 19th Century Scottish Writer George MacDonald.

George MacDonald, From the book George MacDonald, Scotland’s Beloved Storyteller by Michael Phillips

(This is a letter responding to a lady who questioned his faith.)

“Have you really been reading my books, and at this time ask me what have I lost of the old faith? Much have I rejected of the new, but I have never rejected anything I could keep…With the faith itself to be found in the old Scottish manse I trust I have a true sympathy. With many of the forms gathered around that faith, I have none. At a very early age I had begun to cast them from me; but all the time my faith in Jesus as the Son of the Father of men and the Savior of us all, has been growing. It is were not for the fear of its sounding unkind, I would say that if you had been a disciple of his instead of mine, you would not have mistaken me so much. Do not suppose that I believe in Jesus because it is said so-and-so in a book. I believe in him because he is himself. The vision of him in that book and, I trust, his own living power in me, have enabled me to understand him to look him in the face, as it were, and accept him as my Master and Savior, in the following whom I shall come to the rest of the Father’s peace. The Bible is to me the most precious thing in the world, because it tells me his story; and what good men thought about him who knew him and accepted him.

But…to those who hold to the common theory of the inspiration of the words, instead of the breathing of God’s truth into the hearts and souls of those who wrote it…..are in danger of worshipping the letter instead of living in the spirit, of being idolaters of the Bible instead of followers of Jesus…it is Jesus who is the Revelation of God…Jesus alone is The Word of God.

With all sorts of doubt I am familiar, and the result of them is, has been, and will be, a widening of my heart and soul and mind to greater glories of the truth…the truth that is in Jesus…not in Calvin of Luther or St. Paul or St. John, save as they get it from Him, from whom every simple heart may have it, and can alone get it. You cannot have such, proof of the existence of God or the truth of the Gospel story as you can have of a …chemical experiment. But the man who will order his way by the word of the Master shall partake of his peace, and shall have in himself a growing conviction that in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

One thing more I must say; though the Bible contains many an utterance of the will of God, we do not need to go there to find how to begin to do his will. In every heart there is a consciousness of some duty or other required of it; that is the will of God. He who would be saved must get up and do that will….if it be but to sweep a room or make an apology, or pay a debt. It was he who had kept the commandments whom Jesus invited to be his follower in poverty and labour…

From your letter it seems that to be assured of my faith would be a help to you. I cannot say I never doubt, nor until I hold the very heart of good as my very own in Him, can I wish not to doubt. For doubt is the hammer that breaks the windows clouded with human fancies, and lets in the pure light. But I do say that all my hope, all my joy, and all my strength are in the Lord Christ and his Father, that all my theories of life and growth are rooted in him; that his truth is gradually clearing up the mysteries of this world…To Him I belong heart and soul and body, and he may do with me as he will…nay, nay…I pray him to do with me as he wills: for that is my only well-being and freedom.”

(Personal Note: I particularly like this statement: "though the Bible contains many an utterance of the will of God, we do not need to go there to find how to begin to do his will."

We get so caught up in faith statements and creeds that we forget that most of Jesus teaching was that we were to be doing the good that God wants to see done in the world. In fact, little of Jesus teaching was new. Most of it can be found in earlier religious teaching. (the Golden Rule had been uttered by earlier Rabbis and can be found as a part of practical every religion in the world as C. S. Lewis pointed out.) When people ask me, "Are you a Christian>" (Or more often these days "Are you saved?"), they usually mean have you followed a set formula, said the right words, been baptized the right way, think the right things. Usually I answer, "I am a follower of the man from Nazareth." That satisfied 99% of them. What I mean is that I want my life to pattern his life, his teaching, and his sacrifice. This, I hope, is pleasing to God.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"Have You Been to Jail for Justice?"

(I really recommend you buy this album: HAVE YOU BEEN TO JAIL FOR JUSTICE?

© 1998 Anne Feeney (BMI)

Was it Cesar Chavez? Maybe it was Dorothy Day
Some will say Dr. King or Gandhi set them on their way
No matter who your mentors are it's pretty plain to see
That, if you've been to jail for justice, you're in good company

Have you been to jail for justice? I want to shake your hand
Cause sitting in and lyin' down are ways to take a stand
Have you sung a song for freedom? or marched that picket line?
Have you been to jail for justice? Oh, you're a friend of mine!

You law abiding citizens, come listen to this song
Laws were made by people, and people can be wrong
Once unions were against the law, but slavery was fine
Women were denied the vote and children worked the mine
The more you study history the less you can deny it
A rotten law stays on the books til folks like us defy it

The law's supposed to serve us, and so are the police
And when the system fails, it's up to us to speak our peace
It takes eternal vigilance for justice to prevail
So get courage from your convictions
Let them haul you off to jail!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It just gets worse and worse.

Is privacy becoming passe' in the United States?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Stalemate in Ramadi

(In the 18th Century, Great Britain discovered in American Revolution that it was too costly and highly ineffective to remain for long where they were just plain not wanted. We discovered the same thing in Vietnam. The Russians learned this in Afghanistan. Looks like History is about to deliver the same lesson to us again.)

from the Associated Press

RAMADI, Iraq - Whole neighborhoods are lawless, too dangerous for police. Some roads are so bomb-laden that U.S. troops won’t use them. Guerrillas attack U.S. troops nearly every time they venture out — and hit their bases with gunfire, rockets or mortars when they don’t.

Though not powerful enough to overrun U.S. positions, insurgents here in the heart of the Sunni Muslim triangle have fought undermanned U.S. and Iraqi forces to a virtual stalemate.

“It’s out of control,” says Army Sgt. 1st Class Britt Ruble, behind the sandbags of an observation post in the capital of Anbar province. “We don’t have control of this ... we just don’t have enough boots on the ground.”

(Another article I read said that the old Cold War word "containment" is making its rounds in the White House. Mission Accomplished?)


Lyrics by Paul Hipp | Music by Hank Williams

You call your sweetie on the phone
There's breathing on the line
Don't worry, that's the NSA
I'm so loathsome I could spy

Don't bother me with FISA courts
I haven't got the time
I bend the law until it breaks
I'm so loathsome I could spy

Why can't people trust in me
I'm such a stand up guy
Just ask Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson
I'm so loathsome I could spy

Verizon, Bell South and AT&T
Know the enemy is nigh
Tens of millions of Americans
I'm so loathsome I could spy

To doubt my intentions is un-American
And to question me is a lie
Haven't I won your trust so far?
I'm so loathsome I could spy

Friday, May 19, 2006

Some Thoughts from Rev. Robin Meyers, my pastor

"Religion cannot be personally redemptive without being socially responsible."

"The 'Health and Wealth' Gospel asks its followers to change nothing about the way they live. In place of the Jesus who preached the Sermon on the Mount, they substitute a Jesus who boosts their present lifestyle somewhat like a religious STP added to their spiritual gas tank."

"The cause of violence is self-interest. Only a reverence for the other can end violence."

"Most Christians know more what the church taught about who Jesus was than they know what Jesus taught about who we are and what we should be doing about it."

Robin Meyers book, Why the Christian Right Is Wrong: A Minister's Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, Your Future , has just been published by Jossey-Bass
Why the Christian Right is Wrong

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Circular Reasoning in the Immigration Debate

A circular argument makes a conclusion based on material that has already been assumed in the argument:

"The study of literature is worthwhile because great literature repays close reading."

The argument sounds convincing until you realise that it could be phrased thus:

"The study of literature is worthwhile because literature is a worthwhile subject."

The statement does not raise an issue or allow for argument.

Q. Why are these workers "illegal aliens"?

A. Because they have broken the law.

The real question is, why does the law exist? Is the law a practical law? Is it a just law?

It was illegal for women to vote. Some women did vote and went to prison for it. Theirs was not an overnight stay. They suffered because they did something illegal.

While the actions of illegal immigrants does not rise to the level of true civil disobedience, their action and the problems we have in finding a just response to their actions, should cause us to question the basis for our present immigration policy.

I don't know the answer, but I do know one thing, we will never take care of this problem by attacking it on the supply side. As long as employers are allowed to hire such workers, there will be a steady supply of them brought over here by any means available.

No fence, no National Guard at the border, no jail, no waste of taxpayer dollars will be able to stop them.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

For the Common Good

In his Annual Message to Congress on December 1, 1862, Abraham Lincoln said these famous words in his conclusion: "In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free--honorable alike in what we give, and we preserve."

What Lincoln means is that what when we recognize and perserve the dignity of others, we perserve our own dignity as well. For "slave" and "free", substitute the pair of terms "male" and "female" or "gay" and "straight" and you begin to get a true vision of why civil rights and justice are so important.

(I know that some would also pair up "unborn" and "born". I will reserve my thoughts on this matter for another post.)

Big Brother's Listening to You?

NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls By Leslie Cauley, USA TODAY
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans - most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added.

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made - across town or across the country - to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Feasting on Diego Cuervo

Feasting on Diego Cuervo
by Lynn Green

Gov. George Wallace addressed the Democratic National Convention in 1972. That year Wallace ran for the Democratic presidential nomination until he was shot and crippled by a would be assasin. He addressed the convention while in his wheel chair. While he was speaking the camera panned several black delegates who listened to Wallace in polite but stony silence. Afterwards, one of them was asked what he thought of Gov. Wallace’s speech. The man replied, “This is the same thing that we heard in the South for decades: politicians giving poor white people Jim Crow for supper rather than a real meal.”

The hot issue today before Congress is “immigration reform”. Hearing some politicians talk one would think that illegal immigrants (or undocumented workers) are the cause of most of our country’s ills. Immigrants cause unemployment, create low wages, overburden the social system, increase crime rates, threaten our security, endanger marriage (oops, wrong scapegoat!), and cause a host of other social ills. I think that soon someone will blame them for global warming and ozone depletion.

Pardon me if I doubt the sincerity of these concerns. First, I am certain that if we didn’t have these workers, the rest of us wouldn’t be living as well as we presently are. Imagine an America where we had to rely solely on documented American citizens perform all our services. I think the first thing to go would be every restaurant and every hotel in America. Then, things would be a lot, and I mean a whole lot, more expensive. That ugly beast, inflation, would rear its ugly head only much uglier than ever before. We would face the problem of getting exactly what we wish for.

Second, if those who are wringing their hands so much over this issue were really sincere, they would be attacking this “crisis” from the demand side rather than the supply side. As long as there is a demand for aliens willing to work for low wages, there will be a supply of aliens who have no choice and will risk all to get those jobs. Why haven’t we heard more about prosecutions of those companies who hire undocumented employees, more about huge fines for companies who hire illegals? Why is everything about building walls, building jails, hiring guards? Why isn’t there a discussion in this country about raising the minimum wage to the point to where working low level jobs is actually attractive? You don’t suppose that, just maybe, someone knows that we need people working for crappy wages so the rest of us can live a little better than we otherwise would?

I smell red herring here. I hear the bleating of a scapegoat. I think the con is on. Maybe those who raise the specter of illegal immigrants “invading” our sacred soil want us to focus on something other than the fact that we haven’t raised the minimum wage in this nation in nearly 10 years, that our public health system is the worst in the industrialized world, that we have cut social service funding 6 straight years, that the gap between the bosses and the workers is larger than at any time in our nation’s history. Maybe they hope that a good healthy serving of Diego Cuervo (Jim Crow in Spanish), will keep us satisfied and distracted, away from seeking real answers to why we feel so bad about things.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Workers Earning $20,000–$40,000 Likely Don’t Have the Health Care They Need

Bush's Solution is for Workers to Pay More; Corporations to Pay Less
by Tula Connell

Yesterday, union members in Wisconsin succeeded in introducing commonsense legislation that would ensure all state residents have access to quality, affordable health care.

But the rest of the nation isn’t so lucky.

Not only are uninsured rates among U.S. adults rising, but there has been a marked jump among people with modest incomes, says a new study by The Commonwealth Fund.

According to Gaps in Health Insurance: An All-American Problem, prepared for the fund’s Commission on a High Performance Health System:

Two of five working-age Americans with incomes between $20,000 and $40,000 a year were uninsured for at least part of the past year—a dramatic and rapid increase from 2001 when just over one-quarter of those with moderate incomes were uninsured, according to the new report,

The survey finds that most of these individuals are part of working families: Of the estimated 48 million American adults who spent any time uninsured in the past year, 67 percent were in families where at least one person was working full-time.

In his State of the Union address last January, President George W. Bush proposed so-called Health Savings Accounts—a program that would cost consumers more while offering less health care.

Making workers pay more and corporations pay less is Bush’s answer to the nation’s health care crisis—like his answer to so many of the other disasters piling up under his administration.

Of the nearly 46 million Americans without health insurance, nearly one-quarter—or more than 10 million—are children.

Something needs to be done. The AFL-CIO supports universal health care. But as AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says:

Until we have a new administration and a new Congress that give a damn about the people of this country, we’re taking the fight for affordable health care to the states.

Wisconsin is just the beginning.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

New WH Policy Chief Was "Brooks Brothers" Rioter

Bush's "Brooks Brothers" Riot in Dade County, Florida,
November 22, 2000. To intimidate the Dade County
election board, Bush's campaign flew in Republican
House and Senate staffers who staged a fake riot and
shut down the recount

By Justin Rood

The man Bush tapped to fill Karl Rove's spot as his policy wizard is none other than Joel Kaplan, who took part in the infamous "Brooks Brothers riot" of 2000. That's when a bunch of Washington GOP operatives, posing as outraged Floridians, waved fists, chanted "Stop the fraud!" and pounded windows in an effort to intimidate officials engaged in the Florida recount effort.

In George Bush's Washington, there's no shame in staging a fake protest to undermine a democratic election, apparently: last year, the Washington Post's Al Kamen noted that "the "rioters" proudly note their participation on resumes and in interviews." Kaplan was even the one to cheekily dub the fracas the "Brooks Brothers Riot."

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Decision to invade Iraq was an intelligence failure not a policy failure--Senior CIA Official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA had evidence Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction six months before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion but was ignored by a White House intent on ousting Saddam Hussein, a former senior CIA official said according to CBS.

Tyler Drumheller, who headed CIA covert operations in Europe during the run-up to the Iraq war, said intelligence opposing administration claims of a WMD threat came from a top Iraqi official who provided the U.S. spy agency with other credible information.

The source "told us that there were no active weapons of mass destruction programs," Drumheller said in a CBS interview to be aired on Sunday on the network's news magazine, "60 Minutes."

"The (White House) group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested," he was quoted as saying in interview excerpts released by CBS on Friday.

"We said: 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said: 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change'," added Drumheller, whose CIA operation was assigned the task of debriefing the Iraqi official.

He was the latest former U.S. official to accuse the White House of setting an early course toward war in Iraq and ignoring intelligence that conflicted with its aim.

CBS said the CIA's intelligence source was former Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri and that former CIA Director George Tenet delivered the information personally to President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top White House officials in September 2002. They rebuffed the CIA three days later.

"The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy," the former CIA agent told CBS.

U.S. allegations that Saddam had WMD and posed a threat to international security was a main justification for the March 2003 invasion.

A 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, to which the CIA was a major contributor, concluded that prewar Iraq had an active nuclear program and a huge stockpile of unconventional weapons.

No such weapons have been found, however, and U.S. assertions that they existed are now regarded as a hugely damaging intelligence failure.

But Drumheller, co-author of a forthcoming book entitled "On the Brink: How the White House Has Compromised American Intelligence," rejects the notion of an intelligence failure.

"It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it's an intelligence failure," he told CBS. "This was a policy failure."

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Taking a Stand Against Theocracy

In February 2006, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock ruled that a Maryland state law banning same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. In response to that decision, state lawmakers opposed to same-sex marriage introduced a resolution to impeach Judge Murdock (a move which was defeated in the Judiciary Committee) and a bill calling for the amendment of Maryland's constitution to prohibit all same-sex marriages. Although the bill failed to garner sufficient support for passage, it was reintroduced in a version that would define marriage as a union between a man and a women only but would still allow for civil unions. The latter bill was being debated by a Senate committee on 1 March 2006, when, according to the Baltimore Sun, "Clergy, constitutional law experts and children of gay parents were among those who packed the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee room to speak out on the issue."

Part of that debate featured some give-and-take between Nancy Jacobs, a Republican state senator, and Jamin Raskin, a professor of constitutional law from Washington's American University over the influence of the Bible on modern law. The Sun reported the following exchange taking place between the two:
"As I read Biblical principles, marriage was intended, ordained and started by God — that is my belief," [Jacobs] said. "For me, this is an issue solely based on religious principals [sic]."

Raskin shot back that the Bible was also used to uphold now-outlawed statutes banning interracial marriage, and that the constitution should instead be lawmakers' guiding principle.

"People place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution; they don't put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible," he said.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Free Abdur Rahman, NOW!

I find the silence from the religious right on the fate of Abdur Rahman very curious. Rahamh is the Afghan who faces the death penalty in Afghanistan for converting to Christianity. The Afghan consitution, based largely on Shariah law and which stipulates that no law in Afghanistan can contridict the Koran, apparently allows the death penalty in cases of "apostacy". Apostacy in Muslim countries means that once you convert to Islam, you cannot change your mind about your faith.

As I said, the "Religious Right" has been rather silent on this. I checked the web site for the Christian Broadcasting Network which Pat Robertson founded to counteract the "secular humanist media" has nothing about this on their front page. When I did a search on the name "Abdur Rahman", I got this as the result:

Your query [Abdur Rahman] returned [0] results.

You would think that a case where a Christian who was facing martyrdom for his faith in an Islamic country would be cause célèbre in the evangelical world, but apparently when the cause is caused by Mr. Bush's war, the right wing is not so, well, célèbre.

We liberals are often accused of being such relativists that we see nothing as immoral. We are condemned when we discuss cultural values for denying absolute truth. Yet here is a case where, if some moral value is not being violated, then one would think that no moral value can be absolutely firm.

This liberal, at least, see something very immoral over the fact that Rahman faces even the remotest possibility for being punished for his decision to adopt a new faith. I'm sure that I am not alone among my fellow liberals for thinking this. And I am looking beyond the fact for a moment that I consider any application of the death penalty immoral.

Rahman should be a free man. Free to walk the street of Kabul unmolested, free to adopt his faith, free to proclaim his faith to anyone who cares to listen. That's what we call freedom of conscience, and any society, any culture, any government that does not uphold it cannot be called a free society. That's why I thank God, and I am a praying man, for the fact that we have separation of church from state in America. I praise the Lord that the founders of our nation, the writers of our remarkable Constitution, wanted to create a secular government. A secular government is a moral government because it is the only type of government that can secure justice for all.

But back to Rahman, Afghanistan, and the government there, a government that exists only because our soldiers are still fighting and dying over there. Our president has said that he is "concerned" over Rahman's fate. Concerned hell! Supposedly, the reason we went into Afghanistan was that we thought the Taliban had created an oppressive dictatorship. Yes, we wanted to find Osama bin Laden and serve justice on him, dead or alive. But when we didn't get him, some say because we took the units necessary to complete the task out of Afghanistan and sent them to Iraq, we stayed around to defeat the rest of the Taliban and set up a better, a more just government in their place.

Look what we got for all our casualities, billions of dollars, and continued presence! I repeat, "Concerned Hell!" Our "leader" should be saying to the Afghan courts and government, you let this guy go about his business or we outa this place. We didn't give you the flower of our youth just so you could perpetuate the same system you complained so much about before.

I would say, "Free Rahman now, or we are already gone."

How about it, evangelicals? Time to stick up for what is right, what has been right, and what always will be right. Justice for all or you're on your own, Afghanistan.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

On Birthdays and Baseball

On Sunday, I am the worship leader for our congregation. The worship leader leads the congregation in our "Prayer of Repentence" which the entire church says in unison. The WL is also responsible for presenting a little talk before calling for the offering called "The Prayers and Thoughts of the People" which is our church's attempt to have the laity add something to the worship experience. The WL can talk about anything. This is what I am presenting tomorrow.

On Birthdays and Baseball

Tomorrow, around 12:26 in the afternoon, Spring begins. A few days after that I will be my birthdate. I’m not telling you this to get sympathy or presents. I simply wish to talk about the fact that as a child, I was happy that my birthday fell a few days after the beginning of Spring because that meant I could usually persuade my parents to give me some type of baseball equipment for my birthday. Sometimes it was a new bat or glove. Sometimes it was simply a new baseball. Having a baseball in my neighborhood was very important because that meant that you could always get into a game regardless of your playing ability.

Once I was privileged to live in a city that had a major league team. For a couple of years in the early 60’s, my family lived in Kansas City where the Kansas City Athletics played in old Municipal Stadium. One game I particularly remember happened in August of 1961, the year of the Maris/Mantle homerun race when I got to see the New York Yankees play. Roger Maris hit his 51st homerun of the season in that game.

My clearest memory of that day came before the game when I got to go down into the box seats to see the players during batting practice. That’s when I stood no more than 6 feet away from Elston Howard, the Yankees’ All-Star Outfielder/Catcher, and their first black ballplayer. I did not know then that Howard once called Municipal Stadium his home ballpark having played there for the Mighty Kansas City Monarchs, probably the greatest team in the history of the Negro Leagues. Elston had played with legends like Buck O’Neil, Cool Papa Bell, and Satchel Paige.

The baseball has taught me many lessons. While I won’t say that "Everything that I needed to know, I learned from Baseball", the great American Game has, at least, taught me this much:

1. If you are going to get anywhere in life, you have to leave home and get out there where it’s not so safe. But, do take advantage of the safe places when you can.

2. No one succeeds all the time. In baseball, if a player over the course of a career fails two out of three times at bat, you know what happens to him? They put him in the Hall of Fame.

3. Life doesn’t always play it straight, so be prepared for when Life throws you a curve, or even a slider. Above all, look out for the screwballs.

4. It’s possible every now and then to hit a homerun, but more often, you’re going to need to have someone help you around the bases. In fact, baseball is one of the few sports where assists, know as RBIs, are a more important statistic than Runs scored.

5. Every now and then, you will be called to sacrifice yourself for the good of the team.

6. If all goes well, and if you work together with your team, you will be finally brought home in triumph where everyone will be very glad to see that you made it back safely.