About Me

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

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.