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.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Keith Leftwich DFA Training This Weekend

Opening seminar
for OK Democratic Party Chair, Jay Parmeley talks about fundraising
OCDP Secretary James Baggett with Ron Marlett who is running against Sally Kern for House District 84

I spent a good deal of my weekend in Norman for the Keith Leftwich/Democracy for America Candidate Training seminar. I learned many things about running a successful campaign, but it was very intensive. I didn't make all the sessions, but the ones I did I hope will make me a more effective county party chairman.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

April Fools Day Came Early At My House!


I've already played my April Fools Day prank, a bit early, but so what? My wife loves doing the Crossword puzzle in our local paper The Oklahoman . She does this in the evenings as a way to relax. I am often asked to help on some of the clues, particularly those that deal with sports and history. Friday, I got a copy of the paper in the morning, and I looked up some of the clues I thought she might ask me about. It took a while, but when she asked me where the headquarters for the National Soccer Hall of Fame, I told her it was in Oneota, NY. Then when she asked who the 2-time Jack Nicklas award winner was, I told it that it was Jay Haas. I was really impressing her, but she got rather suspicious when I knew the old name for the capital of Guam was Agana! I then told her, "April Fool!" She had to admit that it was a pretty good joke.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Chess Blog

Bison Chess Club Logo
I came across a blog by Susan Polgar who is a chess grandmaster as well as a four time World Champion. The more I get into chess, the more I find that there is an inexhaustible wealth of material about it. Someone somewhere claimed that there have been more books written about the game of chess than any other game. I find this surprising considering the amount of TV time Poker gets these days.
Chessboard with standard Algebraic nNotation
Mr. Lyle and I are going to begin an after school chess program at OCHS. We simply do not have enough time to do more than play a game in our morning chess session. Sometimes that's not enough. The first thing I plan to teach is chess notation which is a method for recording chess games, much like keeping a scorecard in baseball. (Baseball and chess have much in common. I'll have to explore that in another post.) I've ordered a demonstration board to help teach tactics and strategy. I've been trying to teach myself a little about the game, and I'm fortunate to have Mr. Lyle helping me since he knows more about it than do I.

We start next Thursday. Wish me luck.

Baseball begins this weekend!


There is really nothing quite like Opening Day in all of sports. Perhaps because baseball begins in the Spring when nature renews itself, I feel a sense of renewal each season when baseball begins.

I've become a St. Louis Cardinals fan.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

-in just Spring, Oklahoma Style

State Tree of Oklahoma
Redbud
Hyacinths
Our Redbud tree is in bloom along with some of our Hyacinth flowers. It was in the upper 70s today. Spring has definitely come to the Southern Plains. It reminds me of my favorite poem about springtime by the poet e.e. cummings.

in just-

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's
spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

it's
spring
and
the

goat-footed

balloonMan whistles
far
and
wee

e.e. cummings

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What happens when teachers die?


I got this from my friend, Terry Phelps, who teaches at Oklahoma City University.

A teacher dies and goes to Heaven. When she gets there,she meets Peter at the pearly white gates.

Peter says to her, "Welcome to Heaven. Let me give you an orientation first." So,Peter takes her to some beautiful mansions.

The teacher asks, "Who lives here in these beautiful houses?" "These are for doctors. They did a lot of good on Earth so they get a nice mansion,"
replied Peter.

Peter takes the teacher to some more mansions. These were more magnificent than the first. "Wow, who lives here?"

"These mansions are for social workers. They did a lot of good on Earth but didn't make a lot of money so they get a better house."

Peter took the teacher to some more mansions. These were the most gorgeous homes she had ever seen. They had huge columns, well-manicured lawns, beautiful stained glass windows; the works!

"These are the most beautiful homes I have ever seen,” exclaimed the teacher, "Who lives here?"

"Teachers live here." said Peter, "They did much good on Earth and received very little money so they get the best houses in all of Heaven."

"But where are all of the teachers?"inquired the teacher.

Peter answered, "Oh, they'll be back soon. They're all in Hell at an in-service."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Some Pictures of our Church's "Peace Pole"

I thought I'd so some more pictures of our "Peace Pole," which is planted in the front lawn of our church. The motto on the pole is written in English, Spanish, Arabic and some other language that we think is an African dialect. If anyone knows for certain, let me know so I can tell our pastor what it is.





Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!



Today is my birthday. Not sure what we are going to do about it, but I'm sure Cat will think of something.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Credo

Church Steeple, Mayflower Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
This Easter Sunday, I was the Worship Leader at my church, Mayflower Congregational UCC. Among the duties of the Worship Leader is to deliver some personal remarks during a segment of the service called "Prayers of the People." I decided to offer my personal faith statement or Credo.

Some weeks ago, Rev. Meyers called for a renewal in the Christian church “comparable with that of the Reformation.” Consider this my own modest, very modest, contribution to that reformation. Don’t worry, I don’t have anything like "Ninty-Five Theses", just a brief testimony of my faith.

I believe in God because it seems to me that there must exist a Freedom that allows all other freedoms to exist, a source of Love that makes all love authentic. I don’t know if God is a person, but because I respond best to people, I regard God as a person. This makes my responsibilities towards God personal.

I do not believe that Jesus is God. I think that we can take a cue from our Muslim friends who affirm that there is but one God. I believe that Jesus was a man sent by God to show us what God is like and how we should live as children of God. Now, I may be wrong about this, and if I get chance to meet Jesus some time, some place, I’ll offer him my sincerest apologies. But I have a feeling that he would say something like, “That’s okay. That wasn’t the important thing anyway.” For it seems to me that too many people worry more about who Jesus was than they do what he taught about how we should live. Many say they want to be like Jesus, but not a lot of us seem to want to live like him.

And as far as I have been able to figure it out, the way we are supposed to live involves living lives of righteousness on a personal level and lives promoting justice on a social level. I do believe in good and evil. I believe that I have a moral responsibility to live in a right relationship to God and God’s universe. One family motto my wife and I have goes, "Life is a work in progress. (We hope!)" Righteousness is my personal responsibility, and I have an equal moral responsibility to Justice, to end or at least mitigate social sins, those evils that deny others their right to human dignity, evils like greed, intolerance, and racism. This is what I pray for when I repeat that part of the Lord’s Prayer calling for God’s rule on earth as it is in Heaven. I pray also for the courage to act on my convictions.

So there you have my Credo, not as dramatic as Martin Luther’s statement before the Diet of Worms. (I first heard that name when I was a child, and I’ve always loved it.) But this is the best I’ve been able to come up with so far, until I make more progress. I hope

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring Comes to Oklahoma City

One of the earliest signs of spring in Oklahoma City is when the pear trees start to flower. In fact, these trees will flower at the first sign of warm weather. Of course, we are still capable of having a cold front run in from the north, but right now we are having a spate of warm weather which signals that winter is loosing its grip on the Southern Plains.

The pear trees, like all the other trees in the state, have taken a bit of a beating from the winter ice storms we had. But I think they look lovely still the same.




Friday, March 21, 2008

"What Kind of Prophet?"

Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago

Note: Your author is a member of the United Church of Christ.

The Rev. John H. Thomas, United Church of Christ general minister and president, released a statement on March 17 on the rhetoric of preaching, in light of recent news coverage of Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., and Chicago's Trinity UCC. His statement, entitled "What Kind of Prophet?", does a good job of outlining the prophetic tradition in preaching which runs through American sermons like those of John Winthrop and Thomas Hooker, all the way back to the ancient Hebrew prophets like Jeremiah and Amos.

Many commentators have been "shocked, shocked" that a pastor like Rev. Wright would dare to discuss the social sins of our nation. As Rev. Thomas says:
Maybe they prefer the false prophets with their happy homilies in Jeremiah who say to the people: “You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you true peace in this place.” To which God responds, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name; I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. . . . By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed,” (Jeremiah 14.14-15).


Jesus, too, condemned the sins of society during his ministry even more than he condemned personal sins. As Thomas notes:
The gospel narrative of Palm Sunday’s entrance into Jerusalem concludes with the overturning of the money changers’ tables in the Temple courtyard. Here wealth and power and greed were challenged for the way the poor were oppressed to the point of exclusion from a share in the religious practices of the Temple. Today we watch as the gap between the obscenely wealthy and the obscenely poor widens. More and more of our neighbors are relegated to minimal health care or to no health care at all. Foreclosures destroy families while unscrupulous lenders seek bailouts from regulators who turned a blind eye to the impending crisis. Should the preacher today respond to this with only a whisper and a sigh?


The problem we have in the church today is one which the German minister and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace." By that Bonhoeffer meant "justification of sin without the justification of the sinner." Grace that allowed the Christian to "live like the rest of the world. . . ."

In politics, cheap grace is matched with "cheap citizenship" whereby we are told that we can fulfill our responsibilities as citizens to each other and our world without having to sacrifice our self-satisfying lifestyles or deny ourselves any form of instant gratification. Witness the call of the current administration which told Americans that the most patriotic thing they could do in response to the "War on Terror" was "go out and shop."

Truly, we need heed the prophets of our day as much as ancient Israel needed to listen to the prophets of their day.

Here is a link to Rev. Thomas' entire message.

Rev. John H. Thomas: "What Kind of Prophet?"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Can One Hate the Gay Agenda and Not Hate Gay Citizens?

Is Sally's Politics Endorsed by God?
The Oklahoman did a feature article on Sally Kern and her now infamous speech on "the gay agenda". She claims, rather passive-agreesively in my opinion, that her talk was in opposition to the "gay agenda", a rather murky reference to the sort of hidden threat that the far right in the 1950's used against the threat of "international communism." She states:
"The very fact that I'm talking to you like this here today puts me in jeopardy,” she said in her speech. "So, so be it. I'm not anti, I'm not gay bashing, but according to God's word, that is not the right kind of lifestyle. It has deadly consequences for those people involved in it. They have more suicides ... there's more illness. Their life spans are shorter. It's not a lifestyle that is good for this nation. As a matter of fact, studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it's the death knell for this country. I honestly think it's the biggest threat that our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam, which I think is a big threat.”


Nice to note that Sally equates being a follower of Islam with being a terrorist and that both Islam and being homosexual is a threat.

Now honestly, how can one call something a "threat" and at the same time claim that one does not "hate" it. And when someone says that the "gay agenda" not gay people are bad, isn't that the same as saying, as was done in the Civil Rights movement, that one did not dislike black people ("Some of my best friends are black."), but thought that their leaders, like Dr. Martin Luther King, threatening the American Way of Life.

Truly, William Faulkner, as noted by Barack Obama, was correct in saying that the past is not "dead and gone" it's not really even in the past. Bigotry never dies. It just mutates.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Barack Obama: A More Perfect Union


I have read Barack Obama's speech on race relations in America. I feel that it was a great speech addressing a topic most of us do not like to talk about. The thing that struck me is he choose not to blame those who feel, in his words, that "your [black American's] dreams come at my expense." Instead, he challenged us to rise above the distractions of those who would use our angers for their benefit which would include politicians of all races. Here is a link to the speech:

Obama on Race

More Photos from Tulsa Trip

Native American Clown Figure
Roadrunner
Polar Bear
Skylar Meets a Friend
Scarlett Ibis

Trip to Tulsa

Cat and I went up the Turner Turnpike to Tulsa. (Can this get any more alliterative?) We went to see Cat's son, John and his family. We decided to visit the Tulsa Zoo which Cat and I found to be delightful. They have several "Living Museum" exhibits showing animals and cultures from different geographical regions of the world. My favorite was the desert Southwest. I don't know just why, but the desert has always been my favorite type of landscape from the time I was a boy till now.
American Bald Eagle
Devin and Cat look at an exhibit
Tulsa Zoo Train Ride
Chimps
Catfish

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Necessity of Newspapers


It's always flattering to have readers. The Oklahoma County Democratic Party was noted in a part of our city's daily newspaper, The Oklahoman, in part of their Saturday editorial. Their concern was our recent Medallion Dinner and the live auction we had at the end of it. They note as follows:
What a hoot
Those Oklahoma County Democrats, they've got quite a sense of humor. At the group's recent Medallion Awards Dinner, Labor Commissioner Lloyd Fields served as auctioneer. In a message to members posted on the group's Web site, Chairman Lynn Green saluted Fields for "being such a good sport when a guitar was presented as an auction item.” Recall that Fields was taken to the Oklahoma City police detox unit last month after allegedly having a few too many at a party and then trying to walk off with someone's guitar. We assume he handed this one over without incident.


Of course, the above is a good example of a "left-handed compliment", but it is flattering that someone on the Oklahoman's editorial board is playing attention to what goes on with the OCDP. (There, I have paid back the compliment in kind with a pun in the bargain.)

Of course, I fully subscribe to what the founder of the Democratic Party, Thomas Jefferson, had to say about the press:
Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

Shame on Sally Rally

Shame on Sally Rally
Shame on Sally Rally
Me Speaking at the Rally
On Friday, there was a "Shame on Sally Rally" at Memorial Park located at NW 36th and Classen Boulevard in Oklahoma City. I attended the rally and was asked to say a few words during the event. "You Tube" Video of the "Shame on Sally Rally" in OKC

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sometime a Pun Makes a Good Point

Frank and Earnest by Thaves

Aristotle said that the logic of an argument must be apparent to the audience. Puns can make logic apparent by making it easy to grasp.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why Sally Did Wrong


Rep. Sally Kern’s recent recorded condemnation of the so-called “gay threat” has attracted nation-wide attention due to the fact that, unbeknownst to her, someone recorded it and made it a popular Internet download. Many have condemned the speech, and others have wondered what the big deal is all about. After all, wasn’t Sally simply exercising her right to free speech by expressing a personal opinion?

In order to understand problem with Sally Kern's speech; let's put the shoe on the other foot for a second. Suppose a gay politician got up and said that the "straight agenda" was a greater threat to America than terrorism. Or that "straight people are trying to "indoctrinate" our two year olds. Or straights had "infiltrated" our city councils. Surely, people would think that they are listening to a nut who deserves to be ignored and certainly should never be trusted with a public office. Well, now may know how gay people feel when someone sees them as a "threat" for asking for the same human rights we all enjoy.

One might say, though, that while the speech might be offensive, it would not constitute threatening "hate speech." Straight people might be insulted or angered by such talk, but certainly not threatened. True, but then again straights are in the majority in our society. So let's change our hypothetical situation a bit.

Now imagine that a white couple, living in some country where they are a definite minority, say some place like Zimbabwe, were to hear a recording of a black politician from that country expressing similar views to Kern's. However, this time instead of using the words "gay" or "homosexual", he uses the word "white." Now "white people are greater threats than terrorists" and "white people must not be allowed to indoctrinate our children" or "the white agenda" must be rooted out and opposed by all available means. Wouldn't in this case the reaction go beyond merely being offended? Wouldn't the fact that these words might incite someone take direct action against this "threat" cause the white couple to feel what gay Americans feel when they hear a politician in Oklahoma make these statements?

I think they would, and this is why Rep. Kern should realize that words have consequences, especially when they come from someone involved in serving all the people.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Kern Claims Homosexual "Agenda" worse that Terrorism

State Rep. Sally Kern
A speech by State Representative Sally Kern has been gotten a lot of hits on You Tube, but not for reasons that the Oklahoma City politico might like. Kern is heard saying,"The homosexual agenda is destroying this nation; it's just a fact." One of Kern's most controversial claims is that homosexuals and homosexuality is "more of a threat to the United States than terrorism." Kern really is only saying aloud what the rest of her ilk think in private. She represents House District 84 which is located in the Bethany-Warr Acres part of Oklahoma County.

Here is my response to Ms. Kern:
Sally Kern is unworthy to represent the good people of House District 84. Her recent ravings about the “homosexual agenda” being a bigger threat to America than terrorism reveal a woman who has a sick soul. As far as this writer can tell, gay Americans want the same things all Americans want: liberty of conscience, freedom of speech, equal economic opportunity, and security for their lives and property. I wonder which of these rights enjoyed by all Americans does Kern find threatening? Which of these would she deny her fellow Americans? And since she specifically condemned Islam in her speech, how many other Americans would be denied their human rights in Ms. Kern’s world? The Americans in Kern’s district should be the ones feeling threatened by Ms. Kern’s agenda. They should deal with that threat by removing her from office.


Sally Kern was once a social studies teacher at Northwest Classen High School where my wife is currently a teacher. Students frequently complained that their grades often depended on whether or not they agreed with Ms. Kern's political viewpoints. One student in particular found herself at odds with Ms. Kern because the student was Jewish and did not go along with Kern's fundamentalist views on American history and culture. The student's mother had to intervene on behalf of her daughter; otherwise, Kern's grade would have seriously impacted the student's GPA.

I guess being a bigot affects every facet of one's life and work.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Did A Little Home Improvement This Weekend

Hebe, cupbearer to the gods
I got a home improvement project done this weekend. It was a project of long-standing as my home improvement projects are wont to be. We have a corner of our front yard that tends to stay shady making growing anything there nigh to impossible. So we thought it would look nice to build a little platform of paving stones and put a statue we have of the goddess Hebe there. Hebe was the cupbearer to the Greek gods, and she is considered the goddess of hospitality making her a great figure to great our guests as they come to one of the dinners my wife and I like to host.

Cat has had Hebe for several years, and the old girl has had an accident or two in that time. Cat has talked about replacing this Hebe with another one, but I kind of like her the way she is. She really looks like she could be one of those ancient statues they have in museums. She has dirty feet right now though because she has been standing in our garden for a long time before we put her on pavement.

A Memorable Medallion

Corporation Commissiner Jim Roth addresses the 6th Annual Medallion Dinner crowed
We had an outstanding Oklahoma County Democratic Party Medallion Dinner Saturday night. Once again, the great Democrats we have in Central Oklahoma came through for us. Jim Roth, newly appointed member of the Corporation Commission and former Oklahoma County Commissioner, gave a speech that was touched with greatness. I hope to have a copy of his message to post on this blog. He spoke of our need to respond to the attempts to close us off from the rest of the world through our fears and intolerances.

A highlight was the auctioning of a chair donated to the Medallion by state representative Al Lindley. The chair was one used by Lindley during his time in the legislature. When all the chairs in the House chamber were recently replaced, Al purchased the chair he sat in and donated it to the county. State Sen. Debbe Leftwich was high bidder, and she then promptly donated the chair back to Al in honor of his many years of service to the people of Oklahoma.

Around 200 people attended and all gave the event rave reviews.

Thanks everyone for making this a memorable Medallion!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Should OHLAP Pay For Remediation? Are We Begging the Question?

Oklahoma's Promise
Today's Oklahoman had an editorial concerning the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program known as OHLAP. The editorial criticized the fact that some OHLAP funds, less than 2%, are being used for students in need of college remediation courses which typically carry no college credit. Many people question why students are in need of such remediation. To me, and to many high school teachers, this begs the question as to why we feel that all students should be given a college preperatory curriculum when many do not want to go to college and perhaps should not, at least not right out of high school. Below is my response to the editorial:

To the Editor:

Recently, you criticized the use of OHLAP scholarships to pay for remedial college courses. You feel that taxpayers should not pay for "high school courses." You also state these students have been "short changed" in high school.

OHLAP makes no distinction between those high school students who have prepared themselves for college and those who have not. High schools do not make a distinction between students wanting to go to college and those who do not want this or are unwilling to do the preparation needed. Why don’t school allow students to make this decision for themselves? Students who wish to prepare themselves for college and do the work needed would be enrolled in college prep classes. Those who do not can take a general curriculum along with career tech classes to gain needed work skills. Oh wait, that would be tracking! Bad teacher! Bad teacher!

Friday, March 07, 2008

District Attorney David Prater Reports on Porter Investigation

David Prater, Oklahoma County District Attorney
District Attorney David Prater's office released the results of his investigation into the allegations made by the Oklahoma City School Board against Dr. John Q. Porter. The DA's investigation cleared Dr. Porter of all allegations of criminal wrongdoing by Dr. Porter. DA Prater's statement reads,
"The evidence uncovered during the investigation failed to prove that Dr. John Q. Porter committed any crimnal act. In fact, an number of documents discovered in possession of the school district tended to exculpate or explain away most of the allegations made against Dr. Porter."

While this statement would give support to those who feel that Dr. Porter has been exhonorated and the victim of a "palace coup" as I have alledged elsewhere in the blog, a report on interviews done with 19 administration employees and board members, including former board president Cliff Hudson, paint a picture of a superintendent who acted as a "bully" and tended towards paranoid behavior. One example of this is a report by school board member Gail Vines who said that Porter told him that people in the school administration offices were "ratting on" him. Porter also, some claimed, instructed his employees never to use e-mail or written notes to communicate with him insisting on phone or personal conversations. Porter, himself, claimed that there were "moles" in the administration who reported on him to Cliff Hudson among others.

In the end, the Dr. Porter's supporters and detractors will probably read into this report what they want to read. I am more inclined to feel that Dr. Porter's resignation was a "necessary evil" due to the fact that any hope of a good working relationship between him and the board was impossible.

I also think this strengthens my claim, one shared by many in the district, that the next superintendent should be an "insider" whom we know and whom we feel has credibility. At the least it can be said that Dr. Porter felt isolated having come from a far different environment, and it would seem that his management style in the administration building did not allow him to build kind of ethos he needed to lead the district and make the changes we all know need to be made to lift our district to a higher level.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Apt Metaphor

Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller

Many of us can relate to this one.

Thanks for the Chess Donations


Recently, I have had some generous people step forward and donate money for our students' chess club. I will now be able to purchase T-shirts for our club members. We will hold our first intramural tournament sometime after Spring Break, and all those who participate will be given a free T-shirt. We may even have money left from this to buy some needed equipment to help students learn and play the game. Thank you generous people of Oklahoma.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

National Pun Day a Success!


We had some fun with our National Pun Day. Students, of course, mainly were interested in the "rewards" I had (small bags of chips and candy bars), but when I told them the rules for winning the rewards, they gave it there best.

The best pun I got was, "What do you call a deer with no eyes?" Answer: No Eye Deer!

I plan to do National Pun Day again next year. I am trying to make this a farce of habit!