(Will the Oklahoma Legislature pass a law, proposed by state Rep. Sally Kern, that could allow students to refuse to do routine school work based solely on their religious beliefs? Read DocHoc’s commentary this week in the state’s finest alternative weekly, the Oklahoma Gazette.)
(Kudos to Phototune for creating the image to the right.)
Is this the year Oklahomans get tired of kooky U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe?
Inhofe, one of the world’s most reviled politicians for his pro-oil company stances on climate change and gas prices, has shown again how much of a fringe, outcast politician he has become in Washington.
The Republican voted with only three other Senators this week to deny home energy assistance to low income people. The Low-Income Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides help to approximately 116,000 Oklahoma homes, but Inhofe is against it. According to state political observers, he has voted against the popular program six times now.
"Thousands of Oklahoma families benefit from home energy assistance every year, yet James Inhofe voted with a miniscule minority against increasing funding for this vital priority," Democratic Party Chairman Ivan Holmes said in response to the vote. "Inhofe turned his back on his colleagues, but more importantly he turned his back on the people of Oklahoma who were looking to him for help."
Holmes went to say Inhofe’s vote came only one day after he announced his opposition to clean air standards.
“This shows not only how out of touch he is with Oklahomans but with the rest of America," Holmes said.
Inhofe apparently no longer feels any responsibility to represent the interests of Oklahomans. He, along with U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, another Republican, has made himself a contrarian clown on national issues, bringing much embarrassment to the state.
Inhofe’s weird views on climate change, for example, have made him the target of environmental groups throughout the world. Inhofe insists global warming is simply a liberal political movement. He argues this view rudely, as a bully, without any consideration for the backlash back home in Oklahoma. He comes across as a real kook on the national stage.
Inhofe also continues to support the Iraq debacle, which has costs thousands of lives, shattered even more lives and depleted the nation’s treasury.
Fortunately, Inhofe is up for re-election this year. His only announced opponent so far is Democratic state Sen. Andrew Rice (Oklahoma City), who promises to be part of the change that is coming to Washington this coming November.
As Inhofe clowns around, Rice has been diligently working on health care issues this year in the state Senate. His bill requiring health insurance companies to cover routine medical costs related to clinical trials has passed the Senate. The bill, titled “Steffanie’s Law,” was inspired by 18-year-old Steffanie’s Collings, a young Noble woman battling brain cancer. Her family ended up in steep debt because of medical bills not covered by health insurance.
Steffanie died yesterday, a day after the bill passed. Her family said she was aware the bill had passed.
We can only hope state Rep. Sally Kern’s latest documented rant means the end of the political vitriol aimed at gay people in this state.
Unfortunately, corporate media outlets here—led by the right-wing The Daily Oklahoman—continue to support politicians who use gay people as scapegoats to win the radical, right-wing religious vote in this state. As long as this dynamic continues, as long as the newspaper’s top editors support these politicians, the Kerns, Coburns and Inhofes will dominate the public dialogue about gay rights.
Kern, a Republican representative from Oklahoma City, was taped recently giving a speech in which she compares gay people to terrorists. She said gay people represent the biggest threat to America these days. Here is the audio file. Listen for yourself. The tape has sparked a national outcry from gay and lesbian groups and rational people throughout the world.
Kern, who is married to a Baptist minister, validates the Oklahoma radical right-wing religious folks. Even as her tape became public, she was pushing to pass legislation that would allow students to express religious views at schools even if not applicable to coursework and assignments. The bill she pushes is another attempt some say to bring creationism into schools and challenge established scientific principles. (Read my recent article in the Oklahoma Gazette.)
But do not ask The Oklahoman for any real help on the issue. This is the newspaper’s lame editorial response to the Kern debacle. Here is the telling paragraph in the editorial: "Kern has been bombarded with e-mails and phone messages, many of them hateful and ugly. But she's offered no apology, saying she was talking about gay activists who target conservative Republicans. (Those activists, it should be noted, often resort to similarly extreme and incendiary arguments, usually without recrimination.)" See, according to the newspaper, we should "note" all those terrible gay activists fighting discrimination and bigotry, people like television star Ellen DeGeneres, who tried to call Kern to talk to her about about the issue.
Sadly, Kern’s crusade—turning public schools into theocratic fortresses and inciting hatred against gay people—continues to win support throughout the state. Gov. Brad Henry, the most popular governor in the state’s history, says Oklahomans are tolerant, but how can they be tolerant when only the ultra-conservative view of reality is given space on the editorial page of the state’s largest newspaper?
Oklahoma, without a doubt, is in a time warp, NBA team or not.
Think back at Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett’s positions on gay people as he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress, or what about U.S. Senators Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe? These are the little darlings of The Oklahoman. Certainly, The Oklahoman in recent years has supported openly gay politicians, such as Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth, and has opposed religious intrusion in schools, but it is simply not enough.
What about supporting an ouster movement against Kern? What about refusing to support the candidacy of Inhofe, 73, the gay-bashing curmudgeon running for re-election against a progressive Democrat, state Sen. Andrew Rice?
As true as red dirt, Oklahomans will continue to vote ugly, hateful politicians into office as long as corporate media outlets here explicitly and implicitly sanction their actions.
Here are excerpts from some recent Okie Funk posts:
Oklahoma City is hard hit by rising gasoline prices. The metropolitan area encompasses a large geographical area. Many vital institutions, such as major hospitals and medical offices, can be miles away from residential areas and rural communities. For example, the Oklahoma Heart Hospital in north Oklahoma City is approximately 30 miles and more away from Norman neighborhoods.
Local officials need to continue planning to improve and increase mass transit. Undoubtedly, there will come a time when mass transit and energy conservation will become emergency issues. Is Oklahoma City ready? Is the state ready?
March 3, 2008
Coburn, a Republican, recently put a “hold” on legislation known as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The bill, authored by U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-New York), prohibits employers from discriminating against anyone for their genetic predisposition. Recent advances in DNA research have made such a law crucial. This is a pressing contemporary issue.
The bill is nonpartisan and has overwhelming support. It passed the House on a 420-3 vote and passed on two Senate votes by 95-0 and 98-0 margins. The Bush White House has issued statements of support for the bill.
February 27, 2008
Let us all hope the civil rights lawsuit filed this week against the Oklahoma Department of Human Services will open up a real dialogue here about how to solve the state’s massive socioeconomic problems.
Children’s Rights, a child advocacy group based in New York, has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order reforms to the state’s child welfare system because, as a spokesperson for the group puts it, “Oklahoma has long maintained one of the most dangerous and badly mismanaged child welfare systems in the nation, and thousands of children have suffered under nightmarish conditions for years as a result.”
February 15, 2008
The hunger issue in Oklahoma is a serious one, and it takes a heavy toll on individual lives. It also, unfortunately, echoes the state’s Dustbowl history. During the 1930s, there was massive hunger and poverty in the state and many Oklahomans migrated to California and other states. Oklahoma should show the nation it takes the hunger issue seriously in 2008.
Everyone should donate what food and money they can to local food banks to help alleviate the problem. But growing hunger and poverty in this country demands more action by the federal government. We need permanent solutions. Food banks alone are not the answer. People need decent jobs and health care.
January 31, 2008