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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.

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.”

Amen

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?


Sincerely,



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.


Respectfully,


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.

Amen

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