This is from a special Sunday at our church, where we (and many folks from the local peace and justice community) planted a Peace Pole (also see the Wikipedia article on Peace Poles). Our had the message “Let Peace Prevail on Earth” in 4 languages, English, Spanish (since it OKC’s second most spoken language), Cheyenne (in recognition of the native people of this place, and because of the many Mennonites who are Cheyenne) and Arabic (as a way of expressing the brother/sisterhood we share with those that we are told to see as “enemies”).

Taken from: JoyMennonite.org

. . . here are the photos I took at the planting of the Peace Pole on the grounds of Joy Mennonite Church, at the corner of NE 16th & Lincoln (just south of the state capitol building)



This is an update to an earlier JMBzine post

Well even though I did get my license to practice law a couple of weeks ago (the Bar examiners were super-cool to go ahead and get me admitted as soon as the Oklahoma Supreme Court order went through), I decided to go ahead and participate in yesterday’s admission ceremony at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.

The ceremony itself as a session of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, with all of the justices there presiding (I found it particularly moving to see Tom Colbert there on the bench, the first African-American member of the court, but also sad to see only one woman in the bunch).

They had a few speakers (if I recall the head of the OBA and then the head of the Young Lawyer’s division of the OBA) and then after that read each of the names of the admittees, and had us each stand up when they called our names.

After they administered the oath (which I affirmed instead of swearing) and then everyone went into another part of the church to actually sign the oaths and the register of attorneys’ (which I had already done 2 weeks ago).

This next picture is of my family up in the balcony (you can make out my Dad and my two youngest brothers in this shot)…

Here’s my friend (and NLG comrade) Joe Holman standing when his name was called…

Here’s picture of me taken by me during the ceremony…

Here’s a picture of my mom and I taken at the reception…

Later that afternoon after the ceremony I was in rather funky mood, so I went bike riding and dropped by the Fairlawn cemetery to see my hero Kate Barnard’s grave…

It was good visiting her, because it reminded me that she also worked within a corrupt system for good, and did good despite the corruption (and the eventual destruction of work in many ways), so maybe my role in a system that I struggle to believe in is ok.


Time for reparations


NewsOK/AP: Slave Descendants Try to Revive Lawsuit

. . . JP Morgan Chase has acknowledged it owned 1,200 slaves in Louisiana and accepted 13,000 others as collateral before slavery was abolished in 1865.

Lawyers pushing for the compensation said Wednesday the current day “market value” of the company-owned slaves would be at least $850 million. . .



I haven’t talked much about my TCC classes lately, so here’s a quick update.

I’m about 1/3 of the way through the semester, and thus far have really enjoyed my classes but also have been surprised how much time has been involved in staying up with the classes. The Old Testament class has mostly focused on a literary/historical approach. There is some new ground being covered, but mostly it is review of what I had in my course work at ICC (now Austin Graduate School of Theology), howeve I don’t mind it since I feel like I’m getting more out of the material this second go-round, mostly because I’m more open now to exploring the Documentary Hypothesis (the idea that the Torah was written not by Moses, but rather was compiled from 4 textual traditions — for the most part, the most popular theory by Biblical scholars on the textual origins of the Torah) and the insights it sheds on understanding the Biblical text.

For the Eastern Religions survey course, we thus far have covered the Hindu and Sikh traditions, and now are moving into studying Jainism and Buddhism. The Hindu studies were very new to me (I’ve read lots on Buddhism and Taoism, but not so much on other Eastern religions) and I was struck by the monotheistic nature of Hinduism (the many Gods of Hinduism are in fact seen by Hindus as being only the manifestations of the one Godhead, much like Christians see the parts of the Trinity as being parts of the single Godhead). I also really came to understand the writings of the American Transcendentalists (Emerson, Thoreau, et. al) on a much deeper level as they were very much shaped by the Hindu ideas about the Brahman (the transcendant and divine ground of all existence, or God, depending on how you want to describe it) and the Atman (the individual soul).

Well anyway the work of the classes has been pretty consuming. So far though I’m doing ok in both classes and the first round of tests went much better than expected.

Here are some pictures I took of the neighborhood around the TCC metro campus in downtown Tulsa where I went to take my first test last weekend…



The Harvard Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Law Review: The Great Unobtainable Writ: Indigent Pro Se Litigation After the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 — by Thomas C. O’Bryant

I’m so encouraged to see this article written by a Jailhouse lawyer. It is not the first time (Yale Law Review I think ran an article by Mumia Abu-Jamal awhile back), but it is still refreshing to see.

While many disparage Jailhouse lawyers, I believe that they serve a critical (and tragically needed) role in the criminal justice system, by proving legal assistance to inmates who are denied any other access to justice. And I’m very proud to be part of the National Lawyers Guild, one of the only bar associations that admits Jailhouse lawyers as full members (as well as legal workers).

Here’s some more discussion of this story from other sources…

Talkleft.com: Inmate Writes Harvard Law Review Article

Sentencing Law and Policy blog: New Harvard CR-CL issue on prison litigation

CapitalDefenseweekly: Thursday, August 03, 2006 – weekly email edition (short blurb talks about the article)



Here’s a letter to the editor I submitted to the Tulsa Community College student newspaper, The TCC Connection:

Dear editor,

I am writing in response to the Sept. 13th issue’s series of articles “One Bad Scene.”

I thought this was a college newspaper, but instead what I see is something that would have made a great ABC after school special back in the 80’s.

Let’s see, you have the cautionary tale by Kyle S. Steenveld about the TCC student busted for dealing marijuana (with little question of the real tragedy, that this student is facing these harsh consequences not because of drugs but because of drug laws), the sidebar by Jennie Lloyd about the dangers of drugs (without any sense of balance to discuss the health benefits of the moderate consumption of alcohol and marijuana), or the preachy “stories” by Ralena Pinson-Gantz and Toni Hill about the dangers of inhalants and tobacco.

Come on folks, you can do better than this. Instead of being a propaganda tool for the modern police-state, instead why don’t you answer the real questions…

1. Why is marijuana illegal?

2. What possible justification is there for the barring of federal financial aid to students who are busted for drug “crimes”?

3. Why have Americans allowed the Bill of Right’s 4th Amendment to be trashed in the drug war?

4. Why is it that over 70% of those incarcerated for drug “crimes” are Black or Hispanic? (see http://www.drugwarfacts.org/racepris.htm )

The truth is that the real danger we face is not drugs, but drug laws. If students want to join the fight to end oppression and restore freedom, I would encourage folks to contact the Oklahoma Drug Policy Forum (www.dpfok.org))or Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (www.ssdp.org).

James M. Branum
TCC Distance Learning student (Religious Studies major)


Kick*** local musicians


Myspace.com: BuffaloFitz — I heard these guys at a party this weekend (out at the Living Kitchen farm, out towards Bristow and I was just blown away. They can play old timey music like nobody’s business with such heart. Definitely recommend them.

Also while I’m thinking about local music, I got a plug another rootsy local Carter Sampson who is about as cool as it gets.


My neighborhood has a website


LincolnTerrace.com – Lincoln Terrace Neighborhood Association



MSNBC/AP: U.S. fatalities in war exceed those from Sept. 11 — Military deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan reach 2,974

Even if you still think that Iraq was somehow connected to 9/11, this war has exceeded all measures of proportionality. Certainly the American deaths are tragic, wasted and wrong, but even worse are the numbers of Iraqi civilians who have been killed as a result of the American intervention (according to the very conservative, verified count of Iraqbodycount.org as of today we are looking at a minimum of 43,269 civilian deaths.

I don’t often talk on this blog about the numbers of the dead, the stupidity of this war, the inept leadership of our country, the growing move towards fascism in this country, the total loss that has no rationalization and is such a waste, because frankly I can’t delve into this truth very deeply without sinking into an incredible black hole of despair and depression. I wish so badly that God would do something, that those who claim to listen to him would act to stop this ungodly war, but wishing and praying so far hasn’t stopped anything.

I guess it comes back to the fact that we each have to do what we can, to keep doing our little bit to end war, to keep praying, to keep hope, but there are some days that I find it hard to find the faith and love to do it, particularly when my hate towards our leaders enflames my own heart. I know this hate doesn’t do anything to bring about a more loving and peaceful world…

Anyway I’ve rambled on long enough. Things just seem so dark right now, it is hard to feel hopeful.



CNN: Pope invites Muslim envoys to meeting

. . . The pope, who on Sunday said he was “deeply sorry” for the reaction to comments he made, said Wednesday the emperor’s words did not reflect how he himself felt. He said the intent of his remarks were to call for a dialogue on the role of religions in modern life.

“I hope that in several occasions during the visit … my deep respect for great religions, in particular for Muslims — who worship the one God and with whom we are engaged in defending and promoting together social justice, moral values, peace and freedom for all men — has emerged clearly,” Benedict said during his weekly audience at the Vatican.

“I trust that after the initial reaction, my words at the university of Regensburg can constitute an impulse and encouragement toward positive, even self-critical dialogue both among religions and between modern reason and Christian faith,” the pope told thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square.

On Sunday the pope said he hoped his remarks and the Vatican’s explanation Saturday were enough to “appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.”