This is a blog of populist and liberal information and ideas, advancing the cause of truth and justice while fighting the ugly tyranny of right-wing oppression in Oklahoma and its surrounding environs.

Oklahoman Takes Cheap Shot At Obama

Image of Michelle Obama

Mark Green, a national editorial writer for The Daily Oklahoman, recently took a typical, right-wing cheap shot at Barack Obama’s wife, and it is difficult not to see it as an example of lingering racist attitudes at the newspaper.

The newspaper recently opened a video studio in Washington for its Web site. Ed Kelley, the newspaper’s editor, and Dave Morris, who works as a digital anchor for the newspaper, appeared together in a short video clip announcing the formation of the studio for the right-wing ideologue Green and reporter Chris Casteel, both based in Washington. (Casteel often slants his stories to the right.)

One of Green’s first pieces (you can watch it here) was a bizarre piece of propaganda comparing some recent comments made by Michelle Obama with comments once made by former President Gerald Ford during his campaign against Jimmy Carter.

Green’s thesis is that Ford lost the election to Carter because of a major “gaffe” when he said Poland was not dominated by the Soviet Union. In an incredible leap of logic, Green then speculates whether Michelle Obama’s recent comments about how she is proud about her country for the first time in her life will rank right up there with Ford’s supposed gaffe.

Here is the logic problem: (1) Michelle Obama is not running for president. (2) Her comments were opinion, not a reflection of ignorance about geopolitics. Many people her age—she is 44—share her opinion about the country’s downward direction over the last two or three decades. She was speaking about the country’s political systems. (3) It is ludicrous to claim Ford lost the election to Carter in 1976 mainly because of his comments about Poland. There were other major factors. Is it possible that Green does not know about Watergate and how Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon after his resignation? Most historians would say Ford's pardon of Nixon was a huge factor in his loss. Green does not mention the important information. Leaving this information out is, in Green’s own brilliant words as a hotshot editorial writer, a “colossal booboo.”

Another colossal booboo is Green only identified himself as “with The Oklahoman.” He fails to mention to his viewers that he is an editorial writer. Will this be the new modus operandi (aka the Fox News model) for the newspaper's Web site? Editorial writers will not even be identified as editorial writers just as "with The Oklahoman"?

What would drive the freaky ideologue Green to strain a comparison to the point of absurdity? Could it be because Barack Obama is black, and Green and The Oklahoman do not want a black person to be president? The newspaper certainly has a long history of racism, especially under the leadership of the late Edward L. Gaylord, the newspaper’s longtime publisher. This is clearly documented in the Columbia Journalism Review's series on the newspaper.

Let’s get this straight. The newspaper’s editor makes a big deal about opening up a new video studio in Washington, and one of the first pieces is a cheap right-wing attack aimed at the wife of a black man who is a leading candidate for president. And it is not even announced as opinion or as an editorial. The technology might change at The Oklahoman, but the moral depravity remains the same.

(Update: I have long refused to get behind a boycott of The Oklahoman because of my small voice and fears, but the time is ripe. When I consider an organized boycott of The Oklahoman and its advertisers, I think about this segment of the Rev. Martin Luther King's famous "Letter From Birmingham Jail":

"Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants--for example, to remove the stores' humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: 'Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?' 'Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?' We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change."

It will take Reverend King's type of commitment to change the racist agenda of The Daily Oklahoman.)

Health Reform Measure Advances In Oklahoma Senate

Image of Andrew Rice

“I understand why health insurance companies do not want the state’s elected legislature acting on behalf of our constituents when we believe ordinary Oklahomans are being treated unfairly by the insurance bureaucracy. I just fundamentally disagree with them.”—State Sen. Andrew Rice

A health care reform bill championed by state Sen. Andrew Rice (D-Oklahoma City) has passed a Senate committee.

“Steffanie’s Law,” named after Steffanie Collings, an 18-year-old Noble woman who is battling a brain tumor, would require health insurance companies pick up routine medical costs associated with clinical trials. The Collings family, according to media reports, has accrued more than $400,000 in medical bills because their unnamed insurance provider refuses to pay for routine treatment costs as part of a clinical trial.

Rice, who serves on the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee that passed the bill on a 5-2 vote, recently said, “My bill would not force insurance companies to pay for the clinical trials, which they regard as experimental treatments. We just want them to continue paying for the routine medical care they were insuring before these patients followed their doctor’s recommendations into clinical trials.”

The full Senate will now vote on the bill.

“I understand why health insurance companies do not want the state’s elected legislature acting on behalf of our constituents when we believe ordinary Oklahomans are being treated unfairly by the insurance bureaucracy,” Rice said. “I just fundamentally disagree with them.”

The bill is important because it represents a serious local attempt to reform one aspect of the broken health care system in this country. In some respects, it is the result of the same frustration people might feel about the illegal immigration issue. The broken health care system and the broken illegal immigration system are the products of a “politics as usual” mentality and pro-corporation ideology, which has dominated state and national government in recent years.

Nearly 47 million people are without health insurance in this country. Those with health insurance now face staggering co-payments for routine tests and care. Insurance rates continue to climb. Insurance companies are routinely indifferent to people’s suffering. The vast majority of Americans are one illness away from financial ruin.

Now is the time to reform this country’s health care system. Both Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have made health care reform an important part of their candidacies.

Rice, who is running for the U.S. Senate this year against Jim Inhofe, has also championed a health insurance program for Oklahoma veterans, and he is opposed to a recently passed House bill that would actually make it harder to create coverage mandates for insurance companies. The idea that these mandates would result in higher insurance costs is “bogus,” Rice said.

State Sen. Jay Gumm (D- Durant) has also proposed health care reform legislation. Under “Nick’s Law,” health insurance policies in Oklahoma would have to cover costs associated with autism.

McMahan Must Go

Image of Jeff McMahan

Can Jeff and Lori Defend Themselves?

State Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan needs to explain to Oklahoman voters why felony charges against him are bogus or resign his position.

The argument that he should not talk about the charges publicly because of his personal legal problems is specious and absurd. The voters deserve better. He was elected by the people, and the people need to know the truth.

McMahan, a Democrat, pictured right, has been charged with receiving excessive campaign contributions in 2002 from a businessman identified in the media as Steve Phipps. In return, McMahan did special favors for him as auditor, the charges allege. McMahan’s wife has been charged with him, and they face a total of 135 years in jail.

Phipps is a longtime business associate of former state Sen. Gene Stipe, a Democrat, and has pleaded guilty to mail fraud and paying kickbacks to three state legislators. Stipe pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2003 for funneling illegal campaign contributions to Walt Roberts, who ran for a congressional seat in 1998.

Unfortunately, the charges fuel the narrative that it is still good ol’ boy politics in the Oklahoma Democratic Party. Is it true? Where is the party leadership? When the charges were first announced, Gov. Brad Henry appropriately called for McMahan to take an administrative leave. New information related to the charges surfaced later, however, that clearly demands McMahan resign his position unless he can bring forward a convincing argument to Oklahoma voters.

Did McMahan and his wife accept money, jewelry and trips from someone who then received political favors? Again, if there is clear evidence the charges against McMahan are untrue, he needs to share that information with all of us. If not, then Henry, perhaps the most popular governor in the state’s history, should publicly call on McMahan to resign.

McMahan has apparently turned over his duties to others in his office, but that simply does not cut it. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma House is proceeding with an impeachment investigation. To their credit, Democratic legislators are supporting the impeachment proceedings, but this should not be necessary, and it only draws out the painful spectacle.

This election year promises to be a good one for Democrats on a national level, but McMahan’s problems have the potential to affect local races here. Democrats who want to get elected this year should distance themselves from the Oklahoma Democratic Party if it will not vigorously call on McMahan to step down or explain himself. Democratic Party Chairperson Ivan Holmes should be unequivocal on the issue.

Riding the Bull: Lloyd Fields’ Guitar Caper

Here is another reason state Democrats should be worried about the party’s image problems: Labor Commissioner Lloyd Fields.

Fields apparently did a ten-hour stint in an Oklahoma City detox center after he was nabbed for taking a performer’s guitar at a Saturday after party for a local bull riding event. Fields later apologized and called the guitar incident a “practical joke.” Of course, it was no joke that he chose to go to a detox center after someone tackled him as he was leaving with the guitar. Well, I guess it depends on how you look at it, right? This one will surely make it into the Okie Spectacle Hall of Fame: Alcohol, bull riders, a "gee-tar," and a leading, statewide public official who ends up sleeping it off in a detox center.

Fields was elected Labor Commissioner in 2006. His campaign manager was Ivan Holmes, chairperson of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. Again, the Oklahoma Democratic Party faces image problems going into the 2008 elections. What about all the people who have worked diligently against the right-wing juggernaut here for years? Do we all just have to stand by and watch it all be for nothing in a good national year for Democrats because of alleged political corruption and Fields’ silliness and Democratic legislators who cannot file their taxes on time and whatever is to come?

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