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Symbols of Error

The Guardian on the Oklahoma State Capitol building

Let’s be clear that the unfinished American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma expresses two gigantic negative symbols in the state that will be remembered for years.

First, it symbolizes the continuation of racial abuse by government officials of indigenous people here and elsewhere that really begins with the western European colonization of what became the United States. People will accuse me of hyperbole, but it’s difficult to imagine an unfinished oil baron museum in Oklahoma or an unfinished “settlers” museum, isn’t it?

Second, it symbolizes the failure of state government—and in particular Republicans here—to govern effectively. Finishing the AICCM has been an issue for the last several years at the state Capitol, but lawmakers have failed to act. Construction stopped on the project in 2012. The state needs to come up with $40 million that will be matched by private donations. It hasn’t done so. It’s the Republican-dominated government that has failed on this issue.

I weigh in on the issue once more because the state’s two largest newspapers published editorials about the issue this week.

The Tulsa World is adamant. “For some time,” the newspaper snorts in pompous and unidentified journalistic “we” language, “we have maintained that the state should not spend another penny on the cultural center, especially not in bond debt.” (We, we, we, all the way to wrong as you can get.) There’s not a lot of ambiguity here, folks. I guess we must allow for the Tulsa and Oklahoma City rivalry here, and the unfinished AICCM IS in Oklahoma City. But the editorial fails to note the importance of the center and its relationship to native people here. Instead, it bellows: “We urge the Legislature to use what money is available for what really matters — schools, roads, public safety and mental health . . .” Of course these things matter greatly, but so does the AICCM, which is directly related to schools and education. Imagine all the field trips, the research, the scholarly activity and the critical inquiry that will be created by the AICCM.

The Oklahoman has actually supported the AICCM project and continues to do so. “A bond issue should be considered for this project,” according to the newspaper. But the newspaper’s editorial offers little hope anything will be accomplished. “However, the 2015 session ends in a few weeks, and most of that time will be spent ironing out the budget that’s $611 million smaller than a year ago. Given that dynamic, it’s perhaps wishful thinking to believe the AICCM will be addressed.”

Of course, the newspaper’s support for the project seems more rooted in financial development in Oklahoma City than the loftier goal of providing an extremely small sliver of reparations for native people, who endured removal from their homes and lands under the genocidal President Andrew Jackson in the nineteenth century. He’s still on the twenty-dollar bill, one of our nation’s most common currencies. Ever get $100 out of an ATM?

One plan is for Oklahoma City, which gave the state the land for the project, to take it over and try to finish it. Perhaps, it could get wrapped up in another MAPS project. At this point, if state lawmakers don’t provide the additional funding, it might be the last-ditch plan. Right now, the state pays $6 million a year to maintain the AICCM and pay its debt service from a previous bond issue. It’s remarkable to me that Republicans are just throwing away this money while calling for government fiscal responsibility.

I realize the state faces a budget shortfall, as The Oklahoman noted, but this is a major museum built to Smithsonian standards that will draw people here from around the world. It seems obvious that it will eventually pay for itself. It’s an investment.

But this is about way more than money, which the state’s two largest newspapers fail to note in any adequate manner. It’s about a major part of the state’s history because, as we know, President Jackson moved many Indian people from the south right here to Oklahoma, at least those that could survive the Trail of Tears. It’s time to finish this project.

Obama Melts Ice Cream Cone

Obama by La Criatura on Flickr The Commons

A recent ludicrous editorial in The Oklahoman basically arguing against providing health care to impoverished people through Medicaid used a report to make a point and then bashed the same report.

Believe this part of the report. Ignore this other part. That’s some stellar argumentation there. (Wait. If this part of the report is wrong then . . . oh never mind. It’s The Oklahoman.)

The Sunday editorial, using the “O” word, is titled “Obama tactics reveal Medicaid expansion danger,” and it’s a solid example of exactly why the newspaper’s commentary has no credibility just in terms of basic logic. That’s not even to mention its crass, suffocating right-wing ideology, which I believe is one of the reasons for the newspaper’s continuing financial demise.

So the seemingly big point of the editorial is that the federal government—i.e. “President Barack Obama”—has “threatened” to stop funding “uncompensated care pools” in some states for uninsured patients unless those states expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Those states being “threatened” personally by Obama don’t include Oklahoma so one has to wonder what the big point is anyway, but then the editorial makes its big move.

See, Oklahoma is one of those states that chose not to expand Medicaid under the ACA because, as the editorial claims, it would eventually cost the state $850 million, according to a Leavitt Partners report. The report by the Utah-based firm also argued the expansion would add $400 million to the economy, but all that’s nonsense to The Oklahoman.

Here’s the key paragraph:

Somehow citizens are supposed to believe that if government takes $1 from taxpayers and spends it, then it will have greater economic impact than if that $1 was spent by taxpayers. Obviously such claims are bogus, which is why the Leavitt report’s estimate of an $850 million state cost should be taken seriously while purported “savings” can be ignored as accounting fiction.

I hate to even use the clichéd term “cherry picking,” but then I’m writing about a clichéd newspaper that publishes clichéd editorials supported by a clichéd ideology that’s dying on the vine, on its last gasp, kaput, finito, going, going, gone. This editorial is the picking of cherries at its most exquisite.

Let me clear this up. Somehow citizens get two ice cream cones for $1 but then one of them melts. This isn’t right. Obama made that ice cream cone melt by shooting laser beams from his eyes while wearing his “O” cape. It’s an ice cream cone fiction. Believe that the lime sherbet ice cream cone melted but that the orange sherbet ice cream cone didn’t. Get it?

My point is that it doesn't matter where that $1 is coming from that's going into the economy in terms of basic mathematics. Also, shouldn't The Oklahoman be in favor of the federal government spending less money on health care? It contradicts itself.

The bottom line is that The Oklahoman editorial board, which is pretty much a local propaganda division for the Republican Party, could care less about poor people. The newspaper’s editorial writers apparently want to live in a world where fellow citizens suffer, and they will dispense with logic and morality to make sure that happens here.

Fallin Disregards EPA Rules

Calfing Glacier - Global Warming? By Len “Doc” Radin

Gov. Mary Fallin’s so-called “executive order” last week that informs the federal government Oklahoma will not comply with Environmental Protection Agency rules is yet another example of how she and her fellow Republicans disregard the environment here.

Our planet is facing a major crisis because of global warming caused by manmade carbon emissions. Rising sea levels due to the melting of planet’s ice caps already threaten some coastal communities, but here in land-locked Oklahoma we don’t care, right?

At issue are new EPA rules that seek to curb the carbon emissions at coal-fired energy plants in Oklahoma and elsewhere. These rules, supported by the federal Clean Air Act, aim to cut carbon emissions from energy plants 30 percent by 2030. The rules are hardly draconian and would help the planet, and we do live on a “planet,” not just in Oklahoma.

Here’s part of Fallin’s Obama-bashing statement about the her actions:

President Obama and the EPA are fighting a politically charged war against utility consumers across the country. While the environmental benefits of these regulations will be minimal, the economic devastation of these overreaching and unrealistic regulations will be very real. The order I signed today makes it clear the state of Oklahoma has no intention of implementing new regulations that run directly contrary to the interests of our citizens and our state. We will continue to stand up for Oklahoma families and businesses by fighting this overreach and bad policy in court.

How is disregarding environmental devastation not standing up for Oklahoma families? Fallin’s statement seems backwards to me. The idea that utility rates will soar because of the new rules isn’t feasible because government heavily regulates energy plants, which is a good thing. If rates do skyrocket, it will be because regulators and lawmakers here let that happen, not because we have a cleaner planet.

Fallin’s order also asks Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to “take such action as is necessary to enforce the rights of the State of Oklahoma and its citizens from such federal actions as may impact the freedoms of its people.” In other words, sue the federal government again and again, which is Pruitt’s trademark.

Oklahoma’s ongoing war with the federal government during the Obama era has done nothing for this state in real, tangible terms. It has only cost taxpayers money because of senseless and theatrical lawsuits.

All this anti-federal government nonsense might make some people here feel good momentarily, but it’s dumb and makes the state look bad to the rest of the world. Let’s hope we can restore some sense of reality to our state government here in the future.

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