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.

Son of Shame

Image of Randy Terrill

(Okie Funk again dedicates Steve Earle's song "City of Immigrants" to state Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, who authored House Bill 1804, the anti-illegal immigration bill wreaking havoc in Oklahoma right now. Give it a listen. Turn up the speakers.)

It may sound like a parody, but the “son of 1804 bill” is coming to Oklahoma this next legislative session, according to state Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore). But this is no Saturday Night Live skit, folks.

Terrill, who authored House Bill 1804, which gave Oklahoma some of the strictest anti-illegal immigration laws in the nation, has started publicly calling his next initiative “son of 1804 bill” in a political stunt that can only be viewed as calculated and mean-spirited. People’s lives are at stake here. Maybe we should ditch the colorful nomenclature.

The new laws essentially make it illegal for anyone to help an undocumented person and cuts off state aid to anyone here illegally. Under Terrill’s new, proposed initiatives, English would become the state’s official language, law enforcement agencies could seize assets used to help undocumented workers and school districts would have to provide more extensive reporting on students here illegally.

Terrill, pictured right, is sure to have support in the legislature for his measure. Let’s face it. Terrill is on a roll. The Daily Oklahoman, which has editorialized against HB 1804, recently ran a story that called Terrill’s new initiatives “reforms.” As long as the newspaper clings to GOP rhetoric in its news columns about this issue, its editorial stance will fall on deaf ears. The newspaper tries to have it both ways. It gives Terrill plenty of news space for his initiatives under the rhetorical frame of “reform” and then criticizes this so-called “reform.”

Where all this is going to lead the state is the Mississippi Burning question. Certainly, undocumented workers are not welcome here. It would be personally unethical (and perhaps illegal) to encourage someone here illegally to stay in Oklahoma. The local Catholic Diocese and other religious leaders have called the new laws “immoral,” but it was too little and far too late to have any meaningful impact. The loss of undocumented workers in the state will, of course, affect the business and agricultural communities. That is a certainty. How much effect will it have? It is really anyone’s guess at this point.

Where was everyone some two years ago when the first anti-immigration bill was introduced? (It was later killed.) Some of us were personally attacked for our stances against the measure back then. Since then, many others have stepped forward to argue for a reasonable approach to the illegal immigration problem, which is a federal issue. But this is mostly after the fact.

One looming question is whether the new and proposed laws will decimate the Hispanic community in the state. All local Hispanic people, citizens and others, have a right to be worried about racial profiling at this point, not just by law enforcement agencies, but also by some of their neighbors and maybe even educators in days to come. This is most unfortunate. It is ugly and unnecessary.

There are more reasonable ways to fix the illegal-immigration problem, which is a very real and important problem. But it all starts on the federal level. Oklahoma does not exist in a vacuum. Our new laws solve nothing on a larger scale when it comes to the millions of undocumented workers in this country. Meanwhile, the new laws make the state seem intolerant and unwelcoming.

Survival Of The Richest

Image from oldamericancentury.org

(Okie Funk dedicates Steve Earle's song "City of Immigrants" to state Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, who authored House Bill 1804, the anti-illegal immigration bill wreaking havoc in Oklahoma right now. Give it a listen. Turn up the speakers.)

Oklahoma residents continue to rank excruciatingly low in overall health, and it is long past time for the state leaders to launch major programs to fix the problem.

These programs may well have to challenge the status quo and Republican mindset about making profits off people’s misery. But it needs to be done. The health care system in Oklahoma and this country needs massive, sustained reform. The GOP on the federal level is not going to do anything now or in 2008 as long as Imperial President George Bush has veto power. Wider Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and a Democratic president beginning in 2009 will begin to solve the issue.

The latest report showing Oklahoma ranks low nationally in overall health comes from the United Health Foundation. (Here is a “snapshot” of the report.) The report concludes Oklahoma ranks 47th in the nation in overall health in 2007. Last year, it ranked 44th. One of the main problems, according to the report, is that Oklahomans have limited access to primary care physicians. Yeah, no s...

The report also concludes Oklahomans have a high rate of heart disease, smoking, and poor mental and physical health days.

Oklahoma, which is known as the fast food capital of America, continues to have high rates of obesity. The obesity rate, according to the report, has risen by 11.6 percent since 1990. Nearly 29 percent of the state’s population is considered obese. That is a staggering number. Nearly 20 percent of Oklahomans live without health insurance. That, too, is a staggering number.

The solution is clear. Oklahoma needs major public health initiatives that focus on both preventative and primary care. (You can say this, of course, about the country as well.) Some of these initiatives should be free or low cost. Obviously, the insurance companies and doctors are not going to do anything to help fix the problem. The Republican hyperbole is that any type of public health initiative is really socialized medicine in disguise. But the bottom line is that big insurance companies continue to make profits off the misery and even the deaths (“sorry, we do not cover that preexisting condition”) of hard-working people. Do people become doctors these days to help people or is it all about how much money they can make? I believe most medical schools these days train students to make money first and practice medicine later.

We have the technology, medicine and knowledge. We have the doctors, and we can even produce more. Why do we not provide adequate health care to people? It is a cold, calculated ideology that denies health care to children so rich insurance company executives can live a life of luxury. But this is where we are in 2007.

Do not forget that Oklahoma’s entire Congressional delegation, with the exception of U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, the only Democrat, voted against expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The expansion of the program would have meant some 40,000 Oklahoma children would have had better access to health care. A majority of legislators voted in favor of the bill; it took a Bush veto to squash it.

Here is the bottom line: Oklahoma’s overall health quality will continue to decline as long as the president and conservative Republicans have the power to veto health care legislation.

The state itself should launch its own public health initiatives, but it will have to fight a Republican majority in the legislature and the corporate bigwigs, who believe in a survival-of-the-richest ideology when it comes to health care. But Oklahomans’ poor health influences us all in terms of work productivity and quality of life, and it clearly inhibits economic development. When will these people wake up?

GOP, Inhofe Will Not Run On Record

Image of Andrew Rice

The state GOP, unable to tout anything significant Republicans have done for Oklahomans or Americans under Imperial President George Bush, has predictably turned its sights on state Sen. Andrew Rice (D-Oklahoma City).

But the attack, in the form of a Web site, is actually a huge advertisement for the young Democratic senator, who is trying to unseat U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe in the 2008 election. The site shows how Rice, pictured right, and those organizations which he founded or others which may or may not support his candidacy stand for social justice, fair wages and improved health care for Oklahomans and Americans. These are just basic Democratic Party principles.

The site also contains a flattering photograph of Rice in sunglasses. (Are sunglasses a “liberal” thing?) One has to wonder what possessed the GOP bigwigs to highlight Rice’s political energy and youthful charisma, which is diametrically opposite to the cranky, I’m-always-right Inhofe whose continued fall from power and voter support reads like a Shakespearean tragedy. Inhofe now serves as the biggest symbol in the country of everything that is wrong with Washington and why we need to change direction.

(Here is Kos’s take on the issue.)

Inhofe, who denies climate change exists, has embarrassed the state recently with his windy harangues and hectoring against science so the GOP has to go on the attack. It is impossible for Inhofe to run on his record, which shows he absolutely supports higher gasoline and health insurance prices. (You want to pay $10 a gallon for gasoline? Then vote for Inhofe. You want your kids to go without adequate health care when they are sick. Then vote for Inhofe.) He supports these higher prices because his political career has been devoted to ensuring big corporations make more and more profits on the backs of hard-working Oklahomans.

In addition, Inhofe’s unconditional support for Bush and the Iraq occupation has become stale to Oklahomans, who have shown their disapproval of the president in recent polls.

The neoconservative game is over, but no one has told Inhofe, who continues with the crazy talk and big-oil worship, and the state GOP is running attack ads that only flatter Rice. Winds of change are blowing over the prairie, folks, and the “official” Republicans are running scared. In any event, it should be an interesting election, a real Okie spectacle. Stay tuned.

Oklahoma needs a U.S. Senator like Rice to help restore the state’s image, which has suffered incalculably under Inhofe’s reign of lunacy. If the state chamber of commerce types really wanted to improve economic development in Oklahoma, they would get behind Rice today.

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