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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.

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."