(Here are the obvious solutions to the teenage pregnancy problem in Oklahoma: (1) Establish more comprehensive and required sexual education courses in public schools starting in early grades that continue through high school. (2) Offer students at an appropriate age free contraception, including Plan B and condoms. (3) Ensure women here retain the right to have an abortion. (4) Stop electing right-wing politicians who oppose these sensible ideas.)
It should come at no surprise that Oklahoma continues to have one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the nation.
But a story in The Oklahoman about the issue omits this crucial factor: It’s the right-wing religious folks here who oppose appropriate and extensive sexual education that goes beyond abstinence-only dogma. Until public schools can offer more required courses that directly and explicitly address sex and its ramifications, and even offer birth control to students at an appropriate age, Oklahoma will continue to struggle with this problem, which obviously costs taxpayers.
Let’s be real. Oklahomans elect numerous right-wing Christian politicians who profess themselves to be deeply religious. These politicians, using their religious beliefs, prevent the state from realistically addressing the state’s numerous social problems, such as the state's high teenage pregnancy rate.
The Oklahoman, of course, endorses many of these right-wing politicians or supports their overall ideology on its editorial page.
The story in The Oklahoman was written by Jaclyn Cosgrove, described somewhat redundantly as a “Medical and Health Reporter” on NewsOK.com. She does a thorough job presenting the statistical information. Oklahoma had the second highest teenage pregnancy rate in the nation in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It had the highest rate among women 18 and 19 years old. The story does, indeed, quote a couple of experts that argue for more sexual education. This is a long, tragic story in the state.
Here’s what’s so bad about teenage pregnancy, according to the site StayTeen.org:
More than half of all mothers on welfare had their first child as a teenager. In fact, two-thirds of families begun by a young, unmarried mother are poor.
Children who live apart from their fathers are 5 times more likely to be poor than children with both parents at home.
The daughters of young teen mothers are 3 times more likely to become teen mothers themselves.
The sons of teen mothers are twice as likely to end up in prison.
Cosgrove’s story doesn’t really delve into these issues, though it does quote the CDC report about how daughters of teenage mothers are more likely to become pregnant as teenagers themselves. The accompanying video for the story does a good job presenting basic facts.
But by omitting the crucial political and religious reasons for the teenage pregnancy problem in the state, the story is basically unhelpful and perhaps even untruthful on one level. We have a problem in this state with teenage pregnancy. There’s a reason why. It’s because the right-wing religious folks and the politicians they elect oppose comprehensive sexual education in our schools. The story doesn’t really address it. To be fair to Cosgrove, her editors undoubtedly wouldn’t allow such blunt realism.
The Oklahoman has always been a major part of the problem when it comes to the state’s numerous social problems, which along with a high teenage pregnancy rate include overall poor medical outcomes and access. On the one hand, it reports the dismal information in a grave, hectoring style. On the other hand, its editorial page supports politicians and ideology that ensure the state remains backwards.
Here’s some information from the news organization Oklahoma Watch that should simply astound and shock everyone:
Among the state’s five largest districts, the largest, Oklahoma City Public Schools, provides no sex-education classes to students at any grade level, although the district used to offer a comprehensive program two decades ago.
Here are the obvious solutions to the teenage pregnancy problem here: (1) Establish more comprehensive and required sexual education courses in public schools starting in early grades that continue through high school. (2) Offer students at an appropriate age free contraception, including Plan B and condoms. (3) Ensure women here retain the right to have an abortion. (4) Stop electing politicians who oppose these sensible ideas.
The media coverage of the 4.3-magnitude earthquake that shook central Oklahoma Tuesday was complacent and routine.
That’s probably just what the oil and gas industry wants.
A glance at online reports about the quakes from The Oklahoman, News 9, KOCO/Channel 5 and NewsChannel 4 shows they didn’t even mention how scientists claim the dramatic surge in earthquakes here are caused by the oil and gas drilling process known a hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
The rhetorical structure of how the local media now covers stronger earthquakes has become a pattern: Note the magnitude of the earthquake, quote the impressions of people who felt it and then offer up some video of stuff shaking on the walls, ceilings and shelves.
When a larger, frightening earthquake strikes these days we end up reading quotes like this: “My dad said maybe the good lord was trying to tell someone something, and I said if he was talking to me, I sure got the message.” Here’s another one: “The hummingbird feeder on the front porch was moving and a swing seat on the porch was rattling pretty good.” Colorful, right?
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with these standard person-on-the-street statements, of course, but they are presented with a gaping lack of context.
I want to point this out in harsh terms. The local corporate media coverage of our state’s earthquake problem and the problems inherent in fracking is biased and unethical. If and when a major earthquake strikes here causing large-scale damage and bodily harm, the corporate media will be as much to blame as state leaders who have failed to act with urgency to address the state’s obvious earthquake emergency.
Any media outlet reporting on an earthquake here that’s 3.0-magnitude or above should at the very least mention the growing scientific evidence that it was probably caused by disposal wells used in the fracking process. The failure to do so is a cover-up for the oil and gas industry.
So let me reiterate. Fracking is a drilling process in which water laced with chemicals is injected underground into rock formations, releasing oil and gas from crevices or veins. The wastewater is then injected by high pressure into what are called disposal or injection wells. The disposal well process is what scientists believe is causing the hundreds of earthquakes the state has experienced in the last few years.
The numbers are staggering. Here’s just one: Reuters recently reported that there have been 292 earthquakes of a 3.0-magnitude or higher so far this year in Oklahoma, but that was at least a week ago. The number is surely close to 300 or more by now.
There have been some recent developments about growing protests against fracking. I wrote about those developments here.
The corporate media here is undoubtedly dependent on the oil and gas industry for advertising dollars. The oil and gas industry political lobby is large and well funded here and elsewhere and that plays into the media’s complicity as well.
It should be a no-brainer that state Sen. Constance Johnson is the clear choice in the Aug. 26 Democratic runoff election for the U.S. senatorial seat vacated by Tom Coburn.
It’s important Democrats, for the sake of the state party and its future direction, get out the vote next week and select Johnson to face Republican U.S. Rep. James Lankford in the general election.
The Oklahoma City progressive faces what the state media calls “a perennial candidate” in the primary race. The 79-year-old Jim Rogers apparently makes it a hobby to run for political office in the state and does little campaigning when he runs. He managed to pull out more than 57,000 votes in the June primary election, a setback for the state’s Democratic Party.
The 62-year-old Johnson, on the other hand, is an accomplished state senator with bonafide progressive credentials. She’s running a credible and viable campaign with volunteers and donors. She may face an uphill battle against the better-funded Lankford in the general election, but this runoff election is simply a waste of Democrats’ time and money. They need to come out in big numbers Aug. 26 to support Johnson, and that means party workers at all levels throughout the state need to work to get out the vote for her.
The governing board of the Oklahoma Democratic Party has rightly endorsed Johnson in the runoff election.
Johnson is well known in the Oklahoma City area as an advocate for corrections reform, reproductive rights for women and wider medical access. While some Democrats have either lost their voice during the recent conservative wave in Oklahoma or given up the political scene entirely, Johnson has been an unwavering fighter for economic equality and the rights of women and minorities.
In a recent Tulsa World article, Johnson put it this way: “I think we’re seeing Democratic candidates who are unashamedly and unabashedly Democrats. When we stand up and speak to our base, we will see a resurgence of the Democratic Party in Oklahoma.” There are many Oklahoma Democrats who believe this, often arguing it’s better to lose elections without violating basic principles than lose elections while pandering to conservative voters.
Johnson served on the state Senate staff for 24 years before her election in 2005.
Here are two more of Johnson’s positions: (1) She wants to outlaw the death penalty. (2) She wants to legalize marijuana. These positions might not find support among ultra-conservatives here in Oklahoma, and that’s why I mentioned them, but they are becoming more and more accepted throughout the country. Six states, for example, have abolished the death penalty in recent years. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Johnson’s position on these and other issues are far more mainstream and enlightened than some of the wackier extremist legislation offered up by Republicans in recent years at the state Capitol.
The Lankford camp will undoubtedly try to demonize Johnson as a “liberal” in the general election and assume victory in conservative Oklahoma. That’s far better, and maybe even instructive for future races, than Lankford and his crew laughing all the way to Washington at the Oklahoma Democratic Party if Rogers wins the runoff.
Again, Johnson is the clear choice for the U.S Senate in the Democratic primary Aug. 26.