Right Wins Again
It should be increasingly clear by now that progressive commentators, from Sidney Blumenthal to Joe Conason to Hendrik Hertzberg, were duped recently by a simplistic right-wing media effort to manipulate the rhetorical frame of the Iraq war.
The ruse’s successfulness is quite disconcerting, even astounding in its implications. It should make every American progressive wonder if political change is really possible in this country within the current mainstream media discourse.
When the country’s so-called liberal intellectuals can be duped by such obvious political and rhetorical ploys as the Iraq Study Group Report, then it’s seriously time to wonder if our current media system, even our precarious progressive network, has been corrupted or indoctrinated beyond redemption.
As President George Bush prepares his speech in which he will call for adding up to 20,000 more troops in Iraq, the Iraq Study Group’s report, hailed initially by many progressive writers as a huge condemnation of the war, has slowly disappeared from the media landscape. The report, as I wrote soon after it was published, was merely a cover for Bush to add more troops and to escalate the war on his terms until his presidency ends. A handful of other academics, mostly published on Common Dreams and other progressive Internet web sites, also condemned the report as nothing new.
But the elite progressive writers literally gushed their enthusiasm for the report as other liberal voices—myself included, of course—were once again systematically and deliberately ignored.
Here’s what Hertzberg wrote in The New Yorker’s “The Talk of the Town” (December 18, 2006) after the report: “”Given the provenance, authorship, and purpose of the ‘Iraq Study Group Report,' no one need be astonished that it eschews the language of over culpability. But because it does indeed, ‘take the situation as it exists,' and because the present is simply the past’s ever-moving outer edge, it cannot help looking back. The indictment is there to see, and it is devastating.”
Apparently the report wasn’t devastating enough to make anyone in Washington do anything to end the war, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 American soldiers and more than 100,000 innocent Iraqis.
All along the report was designed merely to give Bush more time and cover to wage the war on his terms. Its ideas and “findings” had been discussed for years. When progressive writers—and there were many more than those I mention here—gushed ecstatically over its findings, it allowed Bush the rhetorical space to marginalize it as extreme and then offer his troop-increase plan as a compromise.
If writers like Hertzberg and the legendary Blumenthal, who celebrated the report in Salon.com, would have simply dismissed it for the political ploy it was and called for troop withdrawals, then Bush would have been hard pressed to offer his new plan as anything but extremism in the sense of mainstream media frames about the war.
At this point, only investigations into the Bush administration will offer the country any help in resolving the war in the next two years. As these investigations reveal publicly for the first time the staggering corruption and incompetence related to the war under the Bush administration, the American people may be able to use them as leverage for some type of troop withdrawal plan.
The Gerald Ford Mythology
The recent inane, never-ending, government-promoted mourning over the death of former Gerald Ford is yet another victory for right-wing propagandists.
Here was the Ford story sold to America by virtually every mainstream media outlet in America over the last week or so: Ford was a great man who healed the nation by pardoning former President Richard Nixon.
That story line is a tremendous lie perpetuated on the American people.
Here is the truth: Ford was appointed vice president by Nixon because his first vice president, Spiro Agnew, had to resign because of tax evasion charges in 1973. When Nixon’s own hubris caught up with him, Ford became president and in one of the most dastardly acts in American history, he then pardoned his former benefactor in 1974, thus preventing the American people from immediately learning the full truth about Nixon’s sordid administration.
Millions upon millions of Americans were enraged that Ford and, by extension, the corrupt GOP, would simply sweep away the ruins of Nixon’s corrupt actions through the pardon.
Ford then ran for president and lost. His vice presidential and presidential career was hardly stellar by any definition. In any event, he was actually never elected vice president or president.
Democracies only work when their governments are transparent, but the mainstream media in this country is so lazy and corrupt these days, it presents right-wing storylines and fictions as truth.
To encourage the country to honor Ford in his death in an endless parade of televised media events is a right-wing tactic designed to rewrite a significant time period in American history.
Ford did a tremendous disservice to his country when he pardoned Nixon, a disservice that still affects us today as we contend with yet another corrupt, lying Republican president.
You know he had to leave Texas but he won't say why
he owns a quarter section up by Lake Eufaula
caught a great big ol’ bluecat on a driftin’ jugline
sells his hardwood timber to the chippin’ mill
cooks that crystal meth cuz his shine don't sell
he cooks that crystal meth cuz his shine don't sell
you know he likes that money, he don't mind the smell--“Choctaw Bingo,” songwriter James McMurtry
The way things look now Oklahoma’s centennial year will be marred by hateful, narrow-minded, right-wing initiatives courtesy of its Republican dominated legislature.
Get ready for a freak show, folks. The state’s business bigwigs and the religious fanatics, cheered on by the ultra-conservative propagandists at The Daily Oklahoman, are on the brink of getting their quasi-fascist desires fulfilled: Complete control of state government
By the time State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) and company get done with this upcoming session, Oklahoma will probably be viewed as the first true theocratic state in the union, Hispanic people will no longer be welcomed here, women will have to leave the state to get even basic care related to reproductive issues, and the state’s energy companies will be completely tax exempt.
Republicans now control the Oklahoma House, and have an equal number of state senators as the Democrats. Throw into this mix some of our state’s ultra conservative Democratic legislators, and what you get is right-wing extremism. When the country went left in recent elections, Oklahoma went right. This trend doesn’t appear to have lost its momentum.
Here is what you can expect from the GOP legislature this upcoming session:
(1) Reducing Reproductive Rights. Kern and others will lead a charge to take away as many reproductive rights as possible from women. Kern has already introduced a bill to limit the number of doctors who could perform abortions in the state. Her bill will ensure rural women, in particular, are denied convenient access to doctors who perform the procedure in the state. Watch as well for legislation that would completely outlaw abortion in the state. Watch as well for proposed legislation that would restrict access to Plan B, or the morning after pill.
(2) Attacks On The Hispanic Community.State Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson (R-Oklahoma City) has proposed a bill that would make English the state’s official language. This would primarily hurt Oklahoma’s growing Hispanic population. Some state services, like driver’s license tests, are now offered in Spanish, for example. The Department of Human Services often gets request for language assistance in Spanish. Will Spanish-speaking people still have access? In addition, other GOP legislators will undoubtedly try to pass legislation cracking down on undocumented workers, even though it was the failure of the GOP on the national level that created the problem. In addition, a relatively small number of children of undocumented workers are allowed to pay in-state tuition for college if they meet certain strict criteria. Watch for the GOP—in an act of petty hate and spite—to eliminate this pro-education state program.
(3) Religious Intrusion In Government.Watch for more bills promoting so-called intelligent design theory in schools. Intelligent design theory, or neocreationism, advances the idea that the world is so complicated, a “designer” or, wink, wink, the right-wingers’ Christian God, designed the universe. The aim is to eliminate the teaching of evolution, which is the foundation of medical science. The aim of the medieval-like fanatics is to stop scientific inquiry and eliminate advances in medicine. The religious fanatics in the legislature will also probably try to pass prayer-in-school legislation.
(4) Tax Cuts For Rich People.The GOP here will follow its recent successful strategy of cutting taxes for rich people on a huge scale as it gives token cuts to the middle class and poor. State revenues are up, and the rich people here probably believe they alone deserve the extra money. Watch for TABOR (Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights) initiatives in the legislature and corporate tax cuts, especially for energy companies.
The upcoming GOP legislative onslaught will all be done under the guise of populist rhetoric in the George W. Bush era of The Lie and Irrationality and Hatred of the Other. A lot of people here are still stupid enough to fall for the scam. Modernity, rational, intellectual thought, and a recognition of advances in science have been replaced here with religious fanaticism and greed.
Unfortunately, just as Oklahoma City appears on the brink of making it into big-city status with a prospering Bricktown and the NBA’s Hornets, among other things, the Christian fundamentalists have been put in charge of things. Behind the curtain, the state’s rich people pull their strings.
Progressives need to fight the fanatics at every turn by speaking the truth. They need to pressure the state’s media to offer varying opinions about the state’s central issues. If this doesn’t work, and chances are it won’t, they should create their own media to offer the balance the state will need to thrive in the twenty-first century. They need to pull Democrats away from the so-called center because in Oklahoma centrists are often just right-wing Bushbots in disguise.
I cannot scream it loud enough, local Dems: Bail, bail on Bush and the war and make the local GOP pay for supporting a lying, corrupt presidential administration. Do not take what you might sincerely believe is a centrist position. Every Kern move, for example, should be met with massive resistance and dissent not only because her particular legislation is anti-woman, anti-freedom but also because Kern represents all that is terribly wrong with the GOP these days. The GOP may be on the rise in Oklahoma, but its ideology is dead throughout the country and world. If the Kerns are going to take our state down into their freakish, ugly world of religious fundamentalism while the country gets mired further in Bush’s Iraq debacle, then at least we should fight it.
What progressive politician will stand up this session and speak the truth? If no one is brave enough to do so, the state’s new bumper sticker will be this: “Oklahoma: Land of Religious Fanatics, Meth Addicts, Greedy Corporations.”
(Progressives made some strides in Oklahoma this year, but the fight goes on. Okie Funk will continue to serve as a voice for progressive causes in Oklahoma this coming year. Today’s blog contains selected Okie Funk excerpts from each month during 2006.I have updated some of these excerpts with new links. Have a great 2007. Cheers!—Kurt Hochenauer )
”Intelligent Design Is A Losing Proposition For Oklahomans,” January 4, 2006
Oklahomans need to look no further than Dover, Pennsylvania when it comes to the state's political movement to dumb down our students with faux creationism or intelligent design.
The newly-elected school board there recently rescinded the board’s earlier decision to include a statement about intelligent design in science classrooms. This comes after a federal judge ruled it was illegal and the community ousted the former school board members who dragged their small district through an embarrassing debacle that will cost local taxpayers there thousands of dollars in legal fees.
The Dover case, and especially the ousting of the school board, has even caused the right-wing’s darling, Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, to back away from intelligent design after becoming one of its most visible, national supporters.
Intelligent design is a religious concept, not a scientific theory, which argues the natural world was created by an intelligent designer or God. It is creationism in disguise. Its supporters are primarily fundamentalist Christians.
”Out of Reach Books,” February 1, 2006
Imagine a library in which all the truthful and most important books are placed on high shelves out of your reach. You want to read those books, but you cannot reach them, and the library staff will not help you. In fact, they have been ordered by “officials” not to help you. They are also scared to help you because they could lose their jobs if they do so.
The books you can reach are filled with right-wing religious and nationalistic propaganda. You know, everyone knows, the truth is in the books on the top shelves. But you cannot reach them. Since they are books without readers, they do not exist in a crucial sense.
Sound like a scene from George Orwell’s 1984? Well, actually this top shelf policy may well be coming to a library near you soon.
A committee of the Oklahoma County Metropolitan Library has voted to place truthful, important children’s books on shelves so high the kids cannot reach them. The committee voted to create special parenting sections filled with children’s book about child abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism, and, of course, the real reason for the policy, homosexuality.
”The Sad, Immoral Trash of Ernest Istook,” March 26, 2006
Oklahomans received their first real glimpse at U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook’s gubernatorial campaign strategy this past week.
If you cut through all his boring, conservative rhetoric about tax cuts, and his sanctimonious posturing, corporate worshipping and hate-disguised-as-policy, here is what Istook really said in Repubcode at a Wednesday meeting of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee in Edmond:
“If elected, I will ensure ultra-rich people get even more tax cuts. I’m against the new lottery, even though everyone in this room knows I accepted money from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who represented gambling interests. I want the state’s energy companies to give me lots of campaign money, and if they do so I will work to ensure they pay less in taxes. Also, Oklahomans should hate Hispanic people.”
Here is a direct quote from his speech, according to a local news account:
"I do not believe that you can tax and gamble your way to prosperity," Istook said. "We do not have leadership in the governor's office. I shudder to think where we would be if it weren't for the oil and gas industry right now that is holding up Oklahoma's economy. ... It's not anything that's been done at the state Capitol."
Do you really shudder Ernie, or do you just want the same local energy company payout that kooky Tom Coburn received when he was running for the U.S. Senate?
”Toby To State: Read Y’All White Trash Okies,” April 15, 2006
Oklahoma’s library poster child Toby Keith has come out with a recent album, and its title is sure to make the “official” intellectual community here proud the musician claims the state as his home.
Library officials, in particular, will be extra proud they selected Keith for a recent poster campaign to promote reading in the state.
Copies of Keith’s “White Trash With Money” should be given out to all Oklahoma school children, many of whom have already encountered Keith in his pornographic pose in the “Read Y’All” library posters plastered throughout the state.
When teachers pass out the free cds maybe they can then begin a discussion on the term “white trash” and its use.
Here is how such a discussion might go:
Teacher: Would someone define “white trash”?
Student: It means an inhabitant of Oklahoma.
Teacher: Okay. Anyone else?
Student: Doesn’t the word “white” in the term “white trash” mean that people of other skin colors are automatically trashy people. Isn’t that racist?
Teacher: Yes, it is racist, but you know we can’t criticize Toby Keith.
Teacher: Because he will put a boot in our . . .ahem . . . bottoms.
I want to put a too fine of a point on it here. The term “white trash” does make a linguistic claim that “white” is somehow special to someone trashy. In other words, the prevailing culture’s language has to qualify “trash” with “white” because it is somehow so unique that a white person could be trashy. I realize the term is commonly used to signify someone without culture, and some may argue the term is not racist. But there are trashy people with all types of skin colors. Why use “white” to modify “trash”?
”Okies Protest Bush,” May 7, 2006
Nearly 600 protestors, including students, military veterans, and peace activists, showed up to express their disapproval of President George Bush Saturday in Stillwater.
Bush gave the commencement speech in Boone Pickens Stadium at Oklahoma State University. He was flown in by helicopter at approximately 10 a.m. after landing in Air Force One at Vance Air Force Base in Enid.
As Bush flew in, protestors shook their fists at the sky and chanted, “Bush lied, thousands died.” The chant grew louder and louder during Bush’s speech as well. Sometimes, chanters just yelled, “Liar” over and over, or “1, 2, 3, 4, we don’t want your stupid war. 5, 6, 7, 8, stop the killing, stop the hate,” or “Impeach, indict, imprison.”
Bush lied the country into the immoral, illogical war in Iraq, sanctioned the torture of prisoners in American custody, and ordered the illegal wiretapping of American citizens. All these acts are impeachable offenses. Bush does not face any real investigations into these acts because the Republican Party, with its majority in Congress, has placed partisan politics above the country’s interests. Meanwhile, Bush approval ratings continue to drop, even in Oklahoma.
”State Newspaper Omits Essential Information,” June 23, 2006
The Daily Oklahoman published an unconscionable editorial this past week, criticizing state lawmakers for giving teachers a $3,000 across-the-board raise. It leaves you wondering why even a biased, right-wing newspaper would want to alienate those very people who could train and inspire people to read its product.
But then this is Oklahoma, the surreal graveyard of obvious contradictions.
Titled “Lawmakers cave to union demands” (June 22, 2006), the editorial argues the raises should have been distributed disproportionately to veteran teachers and that the Oklahoma Education Association’s “focus on money is out of control.”
What the newspaper fails to tell its readers is how Oklahoma teacher salaries often rank last or near to last in the nation. What the newspaper also fails to tell its readers is that our educational systems have been chronically underfunded for decades to the detriment of the state’s economic development and quality of life.
Instead, it talks about the OEA’s “clout” and Senate Democrats’ “refusal to be reasonable.”
”Voters Offered Clear Choice In Governor’s Race,” July 29, 2006
Brad Henry is a popular governor. Some polls show his popularity in the state at 70 percent. He was instrumental in steering the state through a budget crisis after the September 11, 2001 attacks. He has cut taxes and raised teacher salaries. He has given the state a lottery that helps fund education.
Istook, a Mormon, will almost certainly use wedge issues, such as abortion, intelligent design, or illegal immigration to try to rally the Christian right-wing in the state in order to defeat Henry. This is his only chance. Ultimately, the election may well be a mandate on how far the Christian right can push its theocratic philosophy in a state filled with religious fundamentalists.
The clear choice in the race is Henry, a centrist Democrat, who deserves another term. Voters here should reject Istook’s religious extremism, which hurts the state’s national image.
“Poverty Rate Rises in Oklahoma,” August 30, 2006
Poverty continues to rise in Oklahoma and income levels remain stagnant for the middle class, but do not expect our state leaders to do anything about it soon. Helping the poor and middle class does not translate into short-term political expediency these days.
The Community Action Project (CAP) recently issued a news issue brief showing that poverty rose from 11.8 percent in 2003-2004 to 13.2 percent in 2004-2005. Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s median income declined slightly to $39,292 for 2004-2005. The agency based their analysis on recent U.S. Census figures. Oklahoma remains the fourth highest in the nation in residents without health insurance.
The statistics show what many of us see everyday. Unfortunately, we never openly discuss these issues because the mainstream media no longer provides significant and meaningful news coverage.
”Oklahoma TABOR Threat Is Gone For Now,” September 2, 2006
Here are the two remaining questions about TABOR after the Oklahoma Supreme Court last week ruled the constitutional amendment limiting growth of state government could not be placed on the ballot in November:
(1) What type of legislation will Republicans try to pass this coming session that will resemble TABOR, the so-called Taxpayers' Bill of Rights, and can Democrats stop it?
(2) Why did it take so long for the business power structure in Oklahoma to come out against TABOR, which would have devastated our school systems much like it did in Colorado before voters there rescinded it?
”Who Will Speak For Oklahoma’s Poor?,” October 1, 2006
Oklahoma residents continue to slip into poverty in increasing numbers as the state leadership stands idly by and does nothing. Here’s the question everyone is afraid to openly ask as the centennial year approaches: Is the state currently experiencing the largest increase in poverty since the Great Depression?
The most recent statistics show a 34 percent increase in the number of people requesting food stamps from 2002 to 2005, according to a local newspaper article. As I wrote recently in the Oklahoma Gazette, the U.S. Department of Census has reported overall increases in poverty here in the last few years. Currently, 16.5 percent of Oklahomans live in poverty. Oklahoma remains second in the nation in the percentage of children without health insurance. Recent studies show the state is number one in hungry families.
“Oklahoma, where hungry, poor families without health care are getting poorer.” Can you fit that sentence on a bumper sticker? Maybe the Oklahoma Centennial Commission can use it for a poster campaign sponsored by Chesapeake Energy.
”Oklahoma Progressives Lose A Champion,” November 22, 2006
The Oklahoma progressive world lost one of its true champions when political activist Keith Smith died Monday. Smith, 51, died of pneumonia at Integris Baptist Medical Center, according to newly-elected state Senator Andrew Rice.
Smith was a tireless activist for equal rights in this area of the country, and he was known to everyone in Oklahoma political circles.
Fighting the conservative juggernaut here in Oklahoma can be a thankless task. The state’s power structure—the Republican business people and the religious rubes they manipulate through cultural wedge issues—has been a formidable opponent for years in this state. Smith stood up and fought.
As the Christian right flourished in Oklahoma, Smith went on championing those causes that granted dignity and rights to all people in our culture. He did so with class and intelligence.
“Keith’s most endearing attribute was that he never admitted defeat. He might lose one battle, but he always bounced right back strategizing on how to win the war,” Rice said in a written statement about Smith’s death.
Oklahoman Should Issue Mea Culpa, December 4, 2006
“Anyone seeking to understand what has become the central conundrum of the Iraq war—how it is that so many highly accomplished, experienced, and intelligent officials came together to make such monumental, consequential, and, above all, obvious mistakes, mistakes that much of the government knew very well at the time were mistakes . . .”—Mark Danner, “Iraq: The War of the Imagination,” New York Review of Books, December 21, 2006
“As has always been the case, the only option for the United States in Iraq is victory. Yet more than ever before, the real responsibility for victory rests with the Iraqis themselves.”—Unsigned Editorial, “Victory Plan: Iraqi government must take charge,” The Daily Oklahoman, December 2, 2006
The Daily Oklahoman has failed Oklahomans miserably by not providing comprehensive commentary of the Iraq War, a debacle that will go down in history as perhaps the worst presidential deception ever.
The newspaper’s editorial board needs to immediately issue a mea culpa about its radical pro-war position and then allow alternative views on its opinion pages. By keeping readers oblivious to the war’s facts and by framing the war with the propagandistic rhetoric of President George Bush on its editorial pages, the newspaper duped thousands of Oklahomans.
What the newspaper will not give its readers is the type of information contained in a recent article by Mark Danner in the New York Review of Books. Danner outlines mistake after mistake (these mistakes have been recorded here on Okie Funk) made by the Bush administration in regards to the war.