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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, January 31, 2008

Oklahoma Methodists Challenge Immigration Law


A United Methodist task force in Oklahoma is calling for reconsideration of House Bill 1804, the 2007 state law on immigration.

The group urges state legislators to revamp the law in their 2008 session and rallies the grassroots to express their opinions at the Capitol.

A formal statement was released Jan. 30, 2008, by members of the Oklahoma Conference United Methodist Immigration Task Force. The statement references biblical examples, Church resolutions, and written policy of the worldwide denomination.


I am glad to see faith groups getting involved in opposition to House Bill 1804 because that law has to be one of the most anti-Spirit of Jesus law ever written. One day we will look back on it and wonder how we could have so betrayed the Our Lord's teachings.

Faith group urges review of 2007 state immigration law

The Return of Tricky Dicky?

Nixon Leaves the White House

First the Republican try to compare themselves to Ronald Reagan, as if that was a compliment. Then they begin to compare each other to Richard Nixon. What gives? Can't any of these guys run on their own legacy?


Romney: McCain used Nixon-like tactics

Dr. Porter and Bill

The famous Chandos portrait assumed to be of William Shakespeare

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater Continues Investigation of John Porter

I guess it comes from being an English teacher, but, as I read the article I linked above, I kept hearing the lines from William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, "The evil that men do lives after them;/The Good is oft interred with their bones."

Nice to be able to show how the Bard still lives.

National Pun Day Is Coming!

Grand Avenue
Frank and Ernest

March 4th

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Real 12th Man/Woman

Sorry, I couldn't find an OU or OSU 12

Here's something a bit different from my usual posts. I had an idea that colleges might adopt to show their fans how important their support is for the hometeam.

Suppose a college were to give their Number 12 on their roster to the fans? No player would wear it; however, it would not be "retired." The roster would list Number 12 as the "(Name of College) Fans." Fans would be encouraged to wear jerseys with Number 12 at the games because they would be a part of the team since their support is needed for the team's victory. (This would not work where "12" had been retired previously.)

Of course, the 12th Man idea is most often associated with Texas A&M, but I've often heard sports announces talk about a tema's fans as the team's "12th Man" in football (and 6th Man in basketball), so the idea is in public domaain.

I've already written to the Oklahoma State athletic department about this since their Number 12 was given to a senior this past year. From the looks of the reception OSU has been getting about its new ticket sales, they could use all the fan support they can get!

Anyway, should any university adopt this idea, you heard it hear first!

Once Again. I Back the Wrong Horse

John Edwards

DENVER - Democrat John Edwards is exiting the presidential race Wednesday, ending a scrappy underdog bid in which he steered his rivals toward progressive ideals while grappling with family hardship that roused voters' sympathies but never diverted his campaign, according to The Associated Press and NBC News.

I wonder if I can get money from a candidate who wants me to kill her/his opponent's chances. All I would have to do is back the opponent. I don't know if the Oklahoma Democratic Party will allow me to support another candidate. Probably not, so there goes my chances to be a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Perhaps he could be the next Attorney General of the United States

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

School Fights



I had to break up a fight in school today. Most of the fights I have had to break up have been between two girls. Some teachers will not step in between two females fighting because they say that girls do not care whom they hit.

I just cannot stand aside and do nothing. So far, I have been lucky I guess.

I wish our students would realize how much they cheat themselves when they mess up like this. They doom themselves and those around them.

The girls were both suspended. One more step to a wasted life.

School Foundation Explains Its Role in Porter Settlement

The Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation issued a communique explaining the part it played in the financial settlement with former Superintendent John Q. Porter. Evidently, there has been some concern that the money used to "pay off" Dr. Porter was taken out of Foundation scholarships and grants.

Below is the text of their letter:

Dear Principals and Teachers,

In the past few days and weeks, you have undoubtedly been reading many stories and hearing many reports about the serious issues between the Oklahoma City Public School District and former Superintendent John Q. Porter, as well as about the settlement of those issues and the role that Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation played in the settlement. Since those public announcements, we have fielded many questions about the Foundation’s role in the process, and we want to give you the facts on the Foundation’s involvement.

The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that is governed by a Board of Trustees; it is not a part of the School District nor is it governed by the School District. However, the Foundation’s entire reason for existence is to support the Oklahoma City Public School District – our mission is to facilitate collaboration between the community and the schools and to improve the quality of education for all students in the District.

Foundation programs, such as, Great Idea Team Grants, Student Scholarships, Arts Education Grants, National Board Scholarships, Stars of Education, Student InCENTives, or any other Foundation programs have not been affected in any way by this settlement agreement.

Donations received by the Foundation, both in the past and in the future, will continue to fund these vital educational initiatives for the educators and students in the Oklahoma City School District.

The Foundation did not specifically solicit donors to help the District fund the settlement agreement. During the week of January 7, several private donors approached the Foundation to ask whether the Foundation could play a role in facilitating a settlement between the School Board and the superintendent. Those donors assured the Foundation that they would fund any amounts needed for the settlement process that were in excess of amounts the School Board could pay, and the donors further assured the Foundation that these donations would be over and above the regular gifts that they give to the Foundation.

As stated in the Foundation’s press release, no donations or pledges previously made to the Foundation for other purposes were used to assist the District in finalizing the settlement. Only new monies that were donated specifically to fund the settlement process were used.

We hope these facts will answer any questions that you may have had. We are honored to serve the teachers and students of Oklahoma City Public Schools. We look forward to continuing opportunities to work with you in the future. Please contact us at (405) 879-2007 or at ocpsf-mj@swbell.net or ocpsf-rh@swbell.net if you have any further questions.

Very truly yours,

Mary Marks Jenkins,Executive Director
Robyn Hilger, Partners in Education Director

Margaret Truman Dead at age 83

Dressed for a concert appearance

This last summer I read Margaret Truman's biography of her father, Pres. Harry S Truman. I really enjoyed getting a personal insight into the man who has become my favorite president. During our honeymoon, Cat and I took a tour of the Truman Presidential libary in Independence, Missouri. Only a couple of Yellow Dog Democrats would consider that a romantic vacation spot!

Truman's only child dies at 83

Lance Cargill Resigns

Former Speaker of the House Lance Cargill

Lance Cargill has stepped down as the Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Lance has suffered a series of bad publicity news over his failure to pay property taxes on time.

Every time a new bunch takes over a government, they always promise to bring a reform in the way that government is done. However, Morality has no party registration. Humans are the same despite lables and affiliations. If we wonder why politicians are corrupt, it is because they are just as we are. As St. Paul said, "We hold the treasure of our soul in cracked pots." (My translation of II Corinthians 4:7)

Monday, January 28, 2008

George and the Groundhog


Separated at Birth?

George is giving his "State of the Union" message just prior to Groundhog Day. This is an interesting and, in many ways, an ironic juxtaposition: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication, and the other involves a groundhog.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Democrats Beat The Other Guys in SC

Barack Obama speaks to supporters in South Carolina

from MSNBC National Affairs writer, Tom Curry, "There were two true stunners Saturday night: the size of Sen. Barack Obama’s margin of victory over Sen. Hillary Clinton — 28 percentage points — but just as significant this number: Total turnout for Democrats in their primary was greater than the turnout for the Republican primary in this state, which is one of the most loyally Republican in the nation. [emphasis, mine]

One cannot read too much into this. It was a primary and not the national election, but I think it at least indicates how enthused the Democratic Party is about its candidates compared to the other party. We have pretty consistently outpolled them in all the primaries so far. We must work hard to keep this momentum rolling.

Obama would make a great candidate. I love the way he has the young people of this country charged up, including those in Oklahoma, . The way the young have responded to his campaign feels like the way that the young responded to Kennedy in my parents' day (though not my parents themselves), or Eugene McCarthy in my generation. (Though again, not me, I supported Nixon in those days of ignorance.)

Here is a link to the MSNBC article:

Why Obama won and what his win gets him

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bush Biskits

A friend sent me a link to a site where you can buy doggie munchies in the likeness of Dubya.





Bush Biskits

Oklahoma Immigration Laws Lead to Death of 10 year old

Mother and Child

from MNBNC:
TULSA, Oklahoma - Edgar Castorena had diarrhea for 10 days and counting, and the illegal immigrant parents of the 2-month-old did not know what to do about it.

They were afraid they would be deported under a new Oklahoma law if they took him to a major hospital. By the time they took him to a clinic, it was too late.

A ruptured intestine that might have been treatable instead killed the U.S.-born infant, making him a poster child for opponents of a bill months before it was enacted as the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007.

Complete Article Here:
.Oklahoma Law Blamed for Death of 10 Year Old Child

I know that there will be many who will make the False Analogy between illegal immigrants and felons such as rapists and murders. How they can equate families who have come to this country in search of a better life (remember the Pilgrims?) and those who commit violent crimes against their fellow human beings, is beyond me.

To my way of thinking, the statement, "Illegal is Illegal." merely begs the question. Why are these people forced to use illegal means to better themselves? What is it about our immigration "policy," if we can be said to have one, that has created this problem?

For if you do much research into the history of immigration laws in America, you will find that they have been based, for the most part, on race and religion. Once we tried to exclude Germans and Irish because they were thought to be too Catholic for Protestant America. We also tried to exclude Asians during the so-called "Yellow Peril" because, as Pres. Woodrow Wilson believed, they never would be able to assimilate into American culture.

We need to step back and take a long, hard look at ourselves. I don't think we will like what we see in our attitudes towards those different from us.

Hope



"Hope is the one thing for which there is no acceptable alterntive."--Robin Meyers

Friday, January 25, 2008

Large Crowd at Our Friday Luncheon Hear About Presidential Bids

We had a great crowd at the Oklahoma County Democratic Party's Friday Speakers' Luncheon. In spite of being in the "Big Room" at the Boulevard Cafeteria, we had to keep running chairs in so we could seat everyone! Kay Floyd spoke on behalf of the Senator Hillary Clinton campaign, Rep. Ryan McMullen spoke for Senator Barack Obama's bid, and Rep. Jerry McPeak spoke on behalf of John Edwards. It's an exciting time to be a Democrat!





Porter and the School Board as Tragedy

Tragic Mask

I had hoped for some type of conciliation between Porter and the board. I imagined a scenario where wrongs would be righted, lessons would be learned, and all would be reconciled one with another.

I knew the scenario was almost impossible, and it was: the board settled with Dr. Porter and he, along with school board President Cliff Hudson, resigned. The outcome I hoped for only really happens in comedies. What happened was a tragedy, but that doesn’t make it all bad if we understand what a real tragedy is.

In literature, a tragedy, and I’m talking about those found in the works of Sophocles and Shakespeare, often comes about because good people do bad things because they are human and therefore flawed. I believe that in this case, we had many people, basically good, who made bad mistakes. The school board made the decision to hire Dr. Porter believing that he would be able to continue the progress begun with the MAPS for Kids project. Dr. Porter came in and made decisions based on flawed assumptions of board policy. He also made enemies unnecessarily because of his personality and management style.

Both can be blamed for their errors, but I believe both parties acted in good faith. Both exercised the best judgment each had. Both suffered the kind of fall that happens in a tragedy. Those of us given the awesome responsibility of educating the children who are our students must pick up the pieces and go on.

So, where do we go from here? In a classic tragedy two things happen which may provide us a model for how we must respond: recognition and catharsis. In a tragedy, those involved recognize their faults and take responsibility for the situation those faults have created. School board members, administrators, principals, teachers, and school patrons must recognize how we got here and how we can move forward. Ignoring the lessons taught by a tragedy catch one in a tragic cycle.

We must also rid ourselves of the angers and animosities this situation may have created. That’s what catharsis means: cleansing and renewal. We will have new leadership in the district. We should not saddle that person with our old divisions. Instead, we must take upon ourselves the responsibility of being agents of healing and change, For Our Children’s’ Sake.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dr.John Q. Porter Resigns

Not a good day

After just 207 days on the job, Dr. John Q. Porter has accepted a settlement from the school board and the Oklahoma City Public Schools foundation and has turned in his resignation. The Foundation is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with the school district to improve educational quality.

My sources tell me that the money was raised by members of the community who feared that the Porter v. Board fight would imperil the upcoming March 4th vote to extend the life of a penny sales tax to help improve the Ford Center so that the Seattle SuperSonics will relocate to Oklahoma City. The sales tax was originally approved by voters to help improve schools in Oklahoma City, both in the OCPS district and the surrounding innerurban and suburban districts.

The source told me that those interested in the Sonics relocating had commissioned a poll to see how big a problem the situation with Dr. Porter was creating for the vote. Judging from the size of the settlement, $255,000 from the foundation and over $71,000 from the school board, I guess their polling data looked pretty worrisome.

I post my reaction to this ending, clearly not the "Win-Win" outcome for which I hoped and prayed, later. School Board President Cliff hudson also resigned from his position. So right now, this looks as though it is a "Lose-Lose" for everyone, except perhaps for the incompetent principals and administrators of our district.


Link to Oklahoman article

Porter, Hudson resign

We are a House Divided!

Divisions in the Greenflame Home?

Well, not really. Yes, I am planning on voting for John Edwards, and Cat will vote for Hillary Clinton in Oklahoma's February 5th Presidential Primary, but we will be happy with whomever the Democratic Party nominates because we know the nominee will way better than anyone the other guys will be able to scrape together.

Will the House GOP Agenda Create a Meaner Oklahoma?

Who Would Jesus Exclude?

The Oklahoma Republican Party has announced its agenda for the coming legislative session. Their goals include the abolition of the Human Rights Commission, the "protection" of religious speech [Note: How can you 'protect' speech that is not threatened?], and a furthering of the restrictions in last session's HB 1804.

It seems as if the self-styled "Party of God" sees its mission as one of enforcing its own Purity Code on the citizens of our state. Their message is simple: "If you measure up to our standards, you are 'IN'. If not, you are 'OUT'." Why do we need to be known as the mean state, the angry state, the state that excludes rather than the state that includes?

The good people of this state must see their agenda for what it truly is: the old Divide and Conquer. As long as they can keep our eyes focused on "the enemy", and it this case the enemy truly is us, they can keep on keeping on with the same old economics, same old entrenched power structure, same old "we have ours" attitude.


Wake up Oklahoma, or our next license plate motto will be: Oklahoma--We Probably Don't Want You Here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

OK GOP Plans to Abolish the OK Human Rights Commission



The Oklahoma GOP House(Oxymoron Alert) leadership has proposed abolishing the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission as a "government efficiency" measure. Their plan would to turn over all duties of the HRC to the Attorney General. This would insure that enforcement of human rights in Oklahoma would be a political football. Imagine any politician wanting to get on the bad side of the so-called "special rights" issue.

Abolishing the Human Rights Commission is a sure way to tell businesses that their employees will face bigotry and discrimination in this Oklahoma. Intolerance is the most anti-business condition ever conceived.

House GOP consolidation plan outlined

Another Great Grand Avenue Cartoon

Grand Avenue

I love the values this cartoon promotes.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pictures from the OKC Martin Luther King Day Parade

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade was held in downtown Oklahoma City. The weather was cold and blustery, but there was a large contingent of Democrats in the parade.

Oklahoma Young Democrats

It was a cold day, but the Oklahoma Young Democrats were out in force.

Wallace Collins, Ivan Holmes

State Representative Walllace Collins from Norman and Ivan Holmes, Oklahoma Democratic Party chairman braved the weather.

Obama Mobile

Barach Obama supporters turned out in good numbers.

ODP banner

Walking the parade route.

Entrance to the National Memorial

We walked past the National Memorial



Near the end.



At the end we were tired, more than a little chilled, but very glad to have taken part.

From One of My Favorite Cartoon Strips

Grand Avenue by Steve Breen

Wise indeed.

Today, We Honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. King in a pulpit

One of the many things I appreciate about the fact that we honor Dr. King's memory this time of year is that we have a holiday in honor of a preacher. Having grown up in a parsonage, I am glad that we honor a representative of the ministry. Of course, we don't do this primarily because King was an ordained minister, but we should not forget this aspect of his life. His "I Have a Dream" speech is better term the "I Have a Dream" sermon. For that is what it is, a sermon to the nation. It is, in fact, an evangelical sermon, a "National Call to Repentance" because you can see all the marks of the "Come to Jesus" sermon in it. Identification of sin, the call to Repentance, the Hope of Grace, the Need for Attonement, the Opportunity for Reconciliation can all be found in the speech's stirring words.
"I Have a Dream" Text and Video

John Winthrop

King was one of many prophetic voices throughout our history who have called the nation to live up to its promise. Another favorite of mine is John Winthrop's "A Model of Christian Charity" which contains the phrase "We shall be as a city set upon a hill." Though Winthrop was a layman, his speech was organized in the manner of the Puritan sermons of his day. Winthrop, first governmor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, gave his sermon to the Puritan colonists in transit over the Atlantic. In many ways, Winthrop set the tone for how we see ourselves as a nation and our place in the world.
"A Model of Christian Charity" Speech

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Historical "What If?"s

Proposed State of Sequoyah

One of the little known facts of American history is that the U.S. almost had a Native American state admitted into the Union. Native American leaders living in what was "Indian Territory" in the eastern part of what is now Oklahoma, met in Muskogee on August 21, 1905, wrote a constitution, and petitioned for admission to the Union as the State of Sequoyah, named for the Cherokee member who created an written alphabet for his language.

Theodore Roosevelt ruled the petition invalid, largely because he did not want to have two western states added to the Union who would have almost certainly sent Democratic senators to represent them in Congress. He stated that Indian Territory would have to merge with the western Oklahoma territory to become a state. This happened in 1907, just over 100 years ago. The constitution written for the abortive state of Sequoyah became the basis for the constitution adopted for the new state of Oklahoma at the constitutional convention in Guthrie.

I wonder what would have been the result of having a largely Native American state in America. Would some of the problems that have continued to plague Native Americans in our time been adverted due to the presence of a voice for Indians in our Congress? Or would things pretty much have remained the same?

Interesting to consider, in any case.

My Candidate for President

John Edwards for President


Just thought I'd let you know.

Be a Thermostat not a Thermometer

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"The church is not merely a thermometer that records the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it is the thermostat that transforms the mores of society.”--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

John and Ivan

John Edwards and Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Ivan Holmes, Photo by Glen Hightower

Here is another picture taken at the John Edwards rally. Glen Hightower is the more or less the "official" photographer of the Oklahma County Democratic Party.

A bit of a coincidence here. John and Ivan, in reality, have the same first names. They come from the same base names, just different cultural backgrounds. That's not important to anyone, except perhaps me.

Clinton Wins Nevada

Hillary Thumbs Up!

New York Senator Hillary Clinton wins in Nevada. I would be very happy to have Sen. Clinton win the White House. However, I worry about her ability to attract independent voters over someone like McCain or Romney. I also feel that having her on the ballot will make it difficult of Oklahoma Democrats in the November elections.

As usual, the man I favor, John Edwards, came in a distant third. His candidacy is struggling. Perhaps I ought to tell everyone I'm supporting a Republican this year. My support always seems to be the kiss of death. Last time around I support Dick Gephardt and then switched my support to Howard Dean.

Friday, January 18, 2008

John Edwards visits OKC

JOhn Edwards Speaks in OKC

I attended a rally in Oklahoma City to hear Presidential candidate John Edwards. It was held at the local Teamster Union Hall. We were pretty well packed in.

Ex-Lucent Worker Holding Sign

A former Lucent employee shows his opinion about the way he's been treated post plant closure.

The crowd in front of me.

Short people really get no love at these things.

John Edwards

More of a closeup.

Education Week Reports on Porter Situation

The situation with Dr. Porter has been reported in the education journal, Education Week by one of their reporters, Lesli Maxwell. Ms. Maxwell interviewed me and quoted some of my thoughts on the situation.

You can read Ms. Maxwell's article here:
Education Week Article

Tim O'Connor Re-elected AFL-CIO Central OK Labor Fed Prez



Last night, Tim O'Connor was re-elceted at the president of the Central Oklahoma Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. This was the first contested election we have had since I became a member of the COLF 8 years ago. (Yours truly was re-elected be acclimation as the recording secretary along with the rest of the officers.) This is a difficult time for labor in Oklahoma as it is in the US. The old manufacturing jobs are leaving, and they are being replaced by service jobs, many which pay poorly with few benefits.

We have a big need for Labor Unions at a time when unions are being weakened by job exportation, outsourcing, predatory business practices, and a hostile administration. People such as Tim need all the support they can get.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dr. Porter Situation Made the Washington Post

This article discusses Porter's employment in the Montgomery County, Maryland school district as well as his situation in Oklahoma City.

Washington Post Article

Is the Case Against John Q. Porter a Matter of Personalities?

Oklahoma City School Board President Cliff Hudson

When one examines the allegations against Dr. Porter presented by Mr. McCampbell, the investigative attorney hired by the board, one sees that the allegations bascially fall into two categories: financial and personal. The financial allegations deal with reimbursement expenses Dr. Porter submitted which the board counsel considers unjustified and a large contract for a reading program Dr. Porter ordered without seeking competitive bidding. The rest deal with complaints by administrators and principals about how Porter has treated them.

The State Department of Education has affirmed that the reading program contracted by Dr. Porter is a "sole-source" program meaning that Dr. Porter entered into the contract in good faith believing that he was acting rightly. He can't be accused of "bid rigging" or graft in this matter. In other words, the dispute is a procedural one, not one of wrong doing.

The reimbursements have already been dealt with in this blog and in other venues. Porter can explain most and has accepted fault for the others. But again, the matter is one of policy and procedure invovling a man who has been in the district less than a year. In other times and places these have been matters of a reprimand at the worst and not an outright dismissal.

To me, that leaves only the matter of Porter's treatment of those he has been given the responsibility of directing. One person, in an anonymous interview on one of the television stations, spoke of Porter getting angry and using profanity against him. Other principals have spoken of being confronted by Dr. Porter in a demeaning manner.

Here is a man brought into the district for one main reason: save the MAPS for Kids project. The problems at the new John Marshall High School. This was brought about largely because of the MAPS for Kids committee boneheaded rush to open New JM when it was half finished. The principal and the staff where woefully unprepared to deal with the problems associated with bringing students from two widely different racial and socio-economic groups together in such a facility. Dr. Porter's first move was to deal with John Marshall, and by all indications, the moves he made were the right ones.

The problems in the district are not isolated in John Marshall. Porter has also confronted problems of long standing in our district. In doing so, he has created enemies, needlessly perhaps, but often necessary.

The problem of personalities is not solely within the schools and sub-ordinate administration. There are rumors that some board members dislike of Dr. Porter for their own personal reasons. One in particular is said to have soured on the superintendent because the member felt that Dr. Porter was "insincere" in his support near and dear to the member's heart.

This leads me to believe that the financial issue have less substance to them than we have been led to believe and that the case against Porter is a subjective one.