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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Inhofe Likes Taxpayers' $

Give Me Your Tax Dollars!
Oklahoma's should remember this when they go to vote for United States Senator. Jim Inhofe has never voted to raise the minimum wage for working Oklahomans. However, he has voted 9 times to raise his own salary while serving in Congress. Inhofe may not like the minimum wage, but he has no problem with taxpayers paying him the maximum wage.

Last Week Was Pretty Busy

Smith Reunion
Joesph and Marge Reception
seated: Marge and Joesph Burguiere, back left to right: Sand and Art Pilcher, Ed, Cheryl, and Geneva Burguiere
Last week, Cat and I were pretty heavily involved in education institutes and family get togethers. Sunday, we traveled up the Turner Turnpike to Tulsa for the Advanced Placement Institute at Tulsa University. Then on Friday, we traveled down the turnpike because I had to host the Friday Luncheon with Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmundson as our guest speaker. Drew is considering a run for governor in 2010.

That evening we picked up our nephew Joseph and his wife Marge who were returning from their honeymoon in Tahiti. They spent the night at our house and then went to Edmond with us for a family reunion.

On Saturday, Cat hosted the Smith family reunion. These are members of her mother's family. On Sunday, we went back up the turnpike to attend a reception in Broken Arrow at her sister's house for Joesph and Marge. They were married in Los Angeles, and we were not able to go to the wedding.

So, we are dedicating today to R&R. The 4th of July always represents to teachers the turning point away from vacation and back to school. We haven't had much real vacation so far, so this week will be spent as much as possible recouping.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cat and I Taking Classes

I have not been blogging lately because since Monday, Cat and I have been at Tulsa University taking a summer Advanced Placement English Literature seminar. I am doing this despite the fact that I won't be teaching an AP course next year at Centennial. I think though that much of what I will learn can be used in my English courses.

For example, today we did an exercise with writing and painting. The technique actually has a name: Ekphrasis which is defined as the graphic representation of a work of art. An example of this in poetry would be John Keats poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn." We first did a free writing about our childhood and then did a water color presenting our free writing. Then we wrote a "poetic" representation of our writing and painting. Then we did a "free painting" by trying to paint something in 3 minutes. Then we wrote about what we had painted.

I think I can use this.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Another Video from the Pride Parade

In the pickup bed are several of our candidates from Oklahoma County who are running for the legislature: Ed Holzberger running for HD 83, Linda James running for HD 90, and Ron Marlett running for HD 84.

I'm in the trailer with some volunteers for the OCDP and the Stonewall Democrats.

Oklahoma City Pride Parade

Preparing for the Pride Parade On the parade route Friday, I took part in the Oklahoma Democratic Party's entrance in the Pride Parade for our gay and lesbian citizens. I like to remember the words of George Washington in moments like these:
As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Seattle v. Professional Basketball Corporation (Sonics)

Clay Bennett "Halloween Mask"

Right now, the city of Seattle is trying to keep the Sonics at Key Arena for the remaining two years of their lease. The Sonics owners, called the Professional Basketball Corporation or PBC, want to be able to buy out the remaining years on the lease.

The trial is being done in front of a judge, not a jury, so it's hard to tell how it's going. I think the city will win this one, but I also believe that the Sonics will be in Oklahoma City eventually.

I'm following the trial, not because I am a big NBA sports fan, but because points of law like this fascinate me. I probably ought to study to be a lawyer, but that likley won't happen for various reasons mostly dealing with time and money.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

House Divided No More!

Prior to the Oklahoma Presidential Primary, I posted the following picture of our front yard to show how my wife and I were voting in the primary.

Here is the sign in our yard now as we look forward to the election in November. It's time for a real change in our national politics!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Stubborness Is No Virtue, Mr. Inhofe

Sen. James Inhofe, Fool or False Prophet?
Supporters of Sen. James Inhofe like to tout his "stubborness" for refusing to budge from his position that the scientific research pointing to a human cause for global warming, if not global warming itself, is the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." He holds to this despite the fact that all but a handful of the world's scientific community dedicated to studying the problem show him to be dellusional.

The problem with praising stubborness is that it ignores the fact that stubborness is a trait and not a virtue.

When a child refuses to eat his vegetables or go to bed at his appointed hour, his parents do not say to him, "Junior, we admire your stubborness, but we disagree with your decision." Instead, they say, something like, "If you don't quit being to stubborn, we're going to make you wish you had never heard of the word no!"

And those who admire Inhofe's intranscience should look at Inhofe's motives. He wants to lull us into a comforting belief that if we just keep on doing what we have always done, we will somehow magically get something different from what we already have. If we just drill some more as we have drilled before, we will have more oil and lower prices. Of course, this ignores the simple economic fact that we will never drill enough to supply our ravenous appetite for oil. And even if we do tap some of our reserves, other countries will just pump less canceling out any savings we might get from spoiling the last pristine areas in nature and further exacerbating the problem with CO2 emissions.

Be afraid, very afraid of the man who tries to tell you that you can get everything you want without a price, without sacrifice. The Bible called such a man a false prophet, not a public servant.

We can do what we have always done and expect not to get what we always have gotten. We have to change which is scary and sometimes painful. But as St. Paul said to the Romans:
[W]e also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us. . . (Romans 5: 3-5).

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Two Oklahoma County Democratic Candidates Win Their Challenges

Last week, those who wished to be candidates for office in Oklahoma filed with the Oklahoma Election Board in order to be on the primary and general election ballot.

An inevitable follow-up to the filings are challenges to the legitimacy of their challenges by their opponents. Usually these involve issues such as residency and party affliation. For example, according to Oklahoma election law, one must be a resident in the district for which one is running at least 6 months before filing. One must also be registered as a member of the Democratic, Republican or Independent political party six months before one can file as a candidate for that party. (Technically, "Independent" is not a party, but the same rules apply.)

These challenges can be very messy since one is challenges the veracity and the ethics of a potential opponent. But the challenge system is usually a necessary evil to insure that those who seek public office do so legitimately.

Sometimes, though, challenges fall out of the realm of "necessary" evils and become, well, something bad. Such was the case with one challenge to an Oklahoma County candidate.

The two challenges we had to our candidates involved the candidacy of David Castillo running for House District 93 who was challenged by Mike Christian who is running for the Republican nomination for that district. This was a straight forward challenge to his residency, no problem with that. The challenge was overturned and David will be on the ballot for the Democratic primary along with Wilfredo Rivera.

The other challenge was against Linda James who runs LL James Printing along with Jack Farley. She is running for House District 90 in western Oklahoma County. Linda's challenge was a lot more nasty. Rep. Charles Key, the incumbent, did not challenge her residency. He challenged the legality of her dwelling place. Linda has for 3 years lived at her business address with the full knowledge and consent of her landlord. Her business is zoned for commercial use, but she also used it for living quarters. Rep. Key went a step further with his challenge and arranged to have Linda evicted from her dwelling place!

To me, this is out of bounds. It is one thing to call into question an opponent's residency. It is quite something else to try and order her to vacate her home in 10 days.

The story has a happy ending for Linda. She has managed to secure new digs within her district, and the Election Board threw out Key's challenge on the grounds that he could not deny the fact that she had lived in the district for the required residency period.

Key, by the way, is an ardent believer that the US government was responsible for the Murrah Bombing and not Timothy McVeigh. He deserves to be thrown out of this race by his own party.

In a follow-up to this story, 3 Oklahoma County House District representatives and one county official were re-elected to their offices by virtue of having no opponent. Rep. Richard Morrissette and Rep. Rebecca Hamilton both had no opponet file against them. Rep. Al McAffrey filed a challenge to his opponent who tried to run against him as an independent on the basis that the opponent filed to change his affliation as an independent 6 months prior to the filing date. Oklahoma County Court Clerk Patty Preseley also did not have an opponent file against her despite the fact that she switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party back in 2006.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Following the Harvest

I just finished reading a novel by former Oklahoma Senator Fred Harris entitled Following the Harvest. The novel is set in the summer of 1943 and follows the experience of a 16 year old boy named Will Haley as he works on a harvesting combine crew that goes from his home in southwestern Oklahoma up through the Texas Panhandle, eastern Oklahoma, Wyoming, finally ending up in North Dakota.

I have always enjoyed "coming of age" stories like this. Seeing a young protagonist go from youth and innocense to maturity and experience seems to me to be the very essense of our lives. The novel also has a real feeling for setting, of time and place. I grew up in or near many of the places described in the novel. Harris has a good "writer's eye" for geography. His description of the Caprock region in Texas matched my own feeling for the area's atmosphere and mood.

I would recommend this book for a pleasant reading experience.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Values v. Ideology

Reading The Audacity of Hope

I just finised Barack Obama's book The Audacity of Hope which I found to be intelligent and insightful. Obama clearly understands that there are no easy answers to the problems we face in this country. He recognizes that conservative, liberals, libertarians, greens all have points of view that need to be considered when we formulate policies and laws in our republic.

One important insight he had has to do with those who govern by their ideologies and those who govern by their values. He clearnly prefers the latter. He uses as an example a time while he was in the Illinois state legislature. A bill had been proposed to provide school breakfasts for pre-schoolers. A fellow member of the Illinois Senate, a Republican, opposed the bill in debate over it claiming that it "would crush their [the pre-schoolers'] spirit of self-reliance." Obama tried to point out that few of the 3-5 year old set were self-reliant, but the man would not be moved. The bill was defeated though a version of it later passed.

Obama writes:
[M]y fellow legislator's speech helps underscore one of the differences between ideology and values: Values are faithfully applied to the facts before, while ideology overrides whatever facts call theory into question.

I think this is a valuable lesson we all could learn whether our ideology comes from the left or the right. I may dislike certain aspects of business: the tendency to view human beings, especially workers, as merely figures in the ledger; the disregard for the environment; the encouragement of conspicuous consumption. However, when it comes time to discuss economic policies, I must recognize that the business owner is also the job producer, and capitalist societies allow us to enjoy lives of dignity better than state socialist societies. If I ask my conservative friends to consider the facts, the so must I.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Expensive Night Out

(Thanks to my friend, Debbie Hogue-Downing for sending this. Debbie and her husband Carl are long time stalwarts of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. Debbie has served in various party offices over her long involvement in politics. Carl brings food to our county meetings.)

Last night, my wife demanded that I take her out to "someplace expensive." So I took her to our neighborhood filling station and bought a full tank of gas!

Remember, when W first took office, gas was $1.46 a gallon. He also claimed that Iraq would be able to pay for its reconstruction after his invasion through their oil revenues.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Free Obama Sticker

MoveOn.org is offering free Obama stickers at the following link: Obama '08.

You can get more with a samll donation.

Consider the Lilies of the Backyard

A year ago, I brought home some Easter lilies from church. Cat waited till the blooms fell off and then replanted the plant. This summer they bloomed for the first time in our backyard.
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.--Matthew 6:28-29

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Dirty Tricks Alert!

Who is this guy, and what is he doing at the Oklahoma candidate's filing office?

This picture is from Glenn Hightower. The man is John Angier, campaign manager for Randy Terrill the author of HB 1804 considered by many to be the worst bill on immigration passed by any state in the Union. Angler is allegedly photographing every Democratic candidate filing for office for the benefit of the Oklahoman Republican Party.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

RIP Whiner

Whiner with our friend, John Thompson

Today Cat and I had to fulfill a painful responsibility for all pet owners and lovers. We had to have our cat named "Whiner" euthanized.

Whiner was part of Cat's house when we "blended" our houses together. Orginally, his name was "Prince", but soon afterwards Cat changed his name due to his constant meowing, usually for food.

Whiner was about 12 years old, but had been declining lately. He also wasn't taking care of himself at all. He had lost a lot of weight and was having trouble getting around. It got to the point where keeping him alive was cruel.

So we took him to the vet who advised us to end his suffering. So we acted in his best interest. He now rests in our back yard where he enjoyed laying out in the Oklahoma sun.

Goodbye our friend and companion.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Bush Economy Fails Us

Today, the United States jobless rate jumped to 5.5%. John McCain has been a big supporter of the failed Bush economic policy. Can we afford a 3rd term with these economic policies still in place.

Oh, and oil prices surged higher up to $139 a barrell.

The linked article below includes a quotation from an Oklahoman:

Cheryl Williams, who lives in the Tulsa, Okla., suburb of Broken Arrow, has been looking for work for two years after losing her job as a certified nurse's aide. The 37-year-old relies on $225 a month in welfare and odds-and-ends jobs to support her two kids.

"I have job searched and job searched and job searched," Williams said. "I would like to have a real job."

It's time for change we can believe in.

Biggest Jobless Jump Since '86

Barack and Michelle "Fist Bump"

Barack and Michelle Obama

I not certain why Obama has gotten so much good press over a simple gesture, but politics is a very funny thing. I'm just glad the nomination process is over.

Barack Obama will be a great president, and Michelle will be great as First Lady.

The Obama's "Fist Bump"

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tonight is a History Making Night

Sen. Barck Obama, presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States
Barack Obama, an African American, became the nominee of a major political party in America. Tonight I have been a witness to history.

Truly, the torch in America has been passed to a new generation.

Sen. Obama made a great speech to an jam-packed auditorium in St. Paul, Minnesota, the site of this year's Republican nominating convention. Over 17,000 listened to him inside the auditorium and another 15,000 were outside viewing a broadcast of it.

At the Technology Conference

HuiChen Durley taught the blogging workshop
Right now I'm at a technology conference run by the district. At this moment I am taking a workshop on how to use blogging in the classroom. Since I alreadyhave a "Blogger" account, I am going to use this blog for the activities the teacher, HuiChen Durley, is trying to teach us.