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.

Willa Johnson For County Commissioner

Where There’s A Willa There’s A Way!

Image of Willa Johnson

Willa Johnson is the clear choice for District 1 Oklahoma County Commissioner in Tuesday’s election.

In her 14 years as an Oklahoma City Councilwoman representing the city’s northeast section, Johnson has demonstrated she can work with a diverse group of people to get things done. She has strong leadership qualities and the ability to understand the “big picture” in terms of developing and maintaining the infrastructure in the OKC area.

She will continue in the reform tradition of Jim Roth, the former District 1 Commissioner who now serves on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Roth redefined “county commissioner” and all that the position signifies in the state’s history. He changed the way many people think about country government. Undoubtedly, Johnson will create her own reformist legacy in the position.

Johnson’s experience with metropolitan issues will allow her to hit the ground running when she takes office. Her opponent, Forrest Claunch, has political experience as a former state legislator, but he lacks the specific experience Johnson can bring to the job. Johnson knows the people that make the metropolitan area work.

Oklahoma County needs someone of Johnson’s caliber in the position. This is an important election, and Johnson deserves your vote.

War Pigs: Imperial President George Bush and Imperial General David Petraeus

(Click here for a short flash movie we put together for you here at Okie Funk. Turn up the speakers. Let's end this botched, senseless Iraq occupation.)

Generals gathered in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
Evil minds that plot destruction
Sorcerers of deaths construction
In the fields the bodies burning
As the war machine keeps turning
Death and hatred to mankind
Poisoning their brainwashed minds . . . —Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”

Image of Bush and Petraeus

President George Bush and his lapdog, General David Petraeus, are despicable liars and warmongers who will spin and distort information this week in order to continue the long and gruesome Iraq occupation indefinitely. The blood of thousands of innocent people is on their hands, true, but national Democrats (the fraidycrats) will fail to speak up in enough numbers as well. The Democrats could stop this occupation, but they will refuse to do so because of political expediency, even though a majority of Americans want it to come to an end. Corporate media reporters—the elite, beltway “infotainers"-will let us down again by serving as stenographers for these two morally-challenged liars.

Only rubes will believe what these two men say about the surge and how successful it is. Only rubes will believe what the corporate media outlets report.

Here is how Tom Engelhardt, writing in Salon.com, puts it: "Why anyone in the media or Congress takes this situation seriously as "news," or even something to argue about, is hard to tell. Think of it this way: The most political general in recent memory has been asked to assess his own work (as has our ambassador in Iraq), and then present "recommendations" to the White House in a "report" that is actually being written in the White House. You couldn't call it a political version of "the honor system"; but perhaps the dishonor system would do. Numbers in Iraq are a slippery matter at best, though again, why anyone pays serious attention to U.S. military numbers from that country is a mystery. On countless occasions in the past, these have been ridiculous undercounts of disaster."

Here is the truth: There will never be political reconciliation in Iraq until American troops leave. Never. Why is that obvious and truthful position still marginalized? Why is that so difficult to understand? Why do corporate media outlets not even consider the idea that once we leave Iraq the country’s factions will be forced to come together for basic survival? A new unity government will then shut down the small number of Al Quada operatives who operate in the country. Al Quada is in Iraq only because Bush and his cronies allowed it to happen, intentionally or not. They could stop support for Al Quada in Iraq by simply withdrawing the troops. This idea certainly has more credibility than the idea American troops would be welcomed in Iraq, as Imperial Vice President Dick Cheney said in 2003, as “liberators.” Those of us against the Iraq invasion knew then what a calculated lie that was. Why do the infotainers, the tanned, made-up media stars, not allow the people who were 100 percent correct about the Iraq invasion and ensuing occupation a voice on this issue?

American people bought into the WMD story, which was a lie. Then they accepted to some degree the “democracy in the Mideast” spin for a year or so, which was a lie. And now Bush and Petaeus will argue that peace in Iraq can only come with more bombs, guns and deaths. But none of this “arguing within the error” really matters. What matters is that the Iraq occupation is a debacle, one of the worst, if not the absolute worst, foreign policy blunders in the nation’s history. Bush and his fellow Republicans, including his puppet general, are 100 percent responsible for this mess.

Here is a small part of a talk I gave in Oklahoma City last week about the coming neofascist state in America:

” Let me take you into your very possible future. It’s September 6, 2009. Fred Thompson is president and the House and Senate on both the federal and state level have clear Republican majorities. The Iraq occupation drags on with no end in sight, and now we’re fighting in Iran, too. Every aspect of our private lives—our phone calls, emails, personal conservations—is scrutinized by Republican government operatives. More people are without health insurance than ever. The richest one percent of Americans own even more of the wealth and land in the country. American and foreign prisoners are routinely tortured on the slimmest evidence of wrongdoing. In Oklahoma, government has become completely privatized. Our bridges are collapsing and huge potholes on our highways go unrepaired, causing accidents that kill and injure. Gasoline is $10 a gallon. National Guardsmen patrol state borders and make sure everyone has a long-list of required documents proving they are citizens. If you do not have the required ten documents then it is off to jail with you for some good ol’ American torture complete with sexual humiliation and waterboarding that may or may not result in your death.”

Hyperbole?

Our war pig president and his war pig general are going to lie without any major repercussions this week about the country’s five-year military occupation of another country. A clear majority of American people and a vast majority of world citizens will know they are lying. The corporate media war pigs will not call the liars on their pigshit. Yet you still believe our democratic structures are not in danger? SOOooiee!

Oklahoma Corporate Power Structure Versus Working Poor

(Read about Frederick Douglass and building strong children this week in DocHoc's commentary in Oklahoma City's finest alternative publication, the Oklahoma Gazette. Please vote Oct. 9 in favor of the bond issue to improve Oklahoma City schools.)

Corporate Flag

Imagine an Oklahoma City grocery store named “Dumb Okies." Its windows are filled with signs and advertisements calling Oklahomans “hicks” and “rubes.” The store’s employees—underpaid and without health insurance—berate its customers by calling them names and making fun of them. The store’s prices are exorbitantly high. It is a scene right out of The Grapes of Wrath.

Beyond the novelty of such a place for masochists, what would be the only reason to shop there? The answer is, of course, you would shop there if it was the only place to buy food in town. You would shop there because you were hungry. You would shop there if you had to shop there to survive.

The description above describes the entrenched Oklahoma corporate power structure, which has enormous political influence in the state. This includes corporate media outlets and energy companies, such as the Oklahoma Publishing Company, Devon Energy Corporation, and Chesapeake Energy Corporation. It also includes the local cable and telephone companies.

These monopoly companies and others in the state have no human connection to the people who live here. The Oklahoman sells its ads at some of the highest rates in the country because it has no competition. Whether you are poor or rich, you are going to have to pay high rates for natural gas to heat your home. You do not get to choose your company. Even if you are poor, you still pay the same amount as rich people for a gallon of gasoline. How many cable companies can you choose from in Oklahoma City?

This lack of connection to people is precisely why the state has a soaring poverty rate. What is in it for these big corporations to help improve living conditions here? Nothing. You have to use their products because they are the only game in town. The Oklahoman actually consistently harasses thousands upon thousands of Oklahomans—teachers and state workers—on its editorial pages by begrudging them health insurance and decent wages. Yet these people make up a substantial part of its potential customer base. The newspaper is a perfect example of the “Dumb Okies” grocery store that berates and overcharges its customers.

All this comes to mind because of The Oklahoman’s recent unsigned editorial on the state’s skyrocketing poverty rate. The editorial (“Our challenge: Easing poverty a second century goal,” September 2, 2007) argues: “To say the state doesn't care about its poor or its uninsured is hogwash. The state cares a lot and it spends a lot.”

But no one really argues “the state” does not care about its poor citizens. People argue the ideology that creates and sustains monopoly companies and right-wing initiatives, such as tax cuts for rich people, hurt the poor and is, indeed, uncaring. The editorial is disingenuous and only gives perfunctory lip service to an important structural problem in the state. Does The Oklahoman really care about soaring poverty here? Yeah, right.

Oklahoma’s poverty rate in 2005-2006 stands at 15.5 percent up from 13.2 percent in 2004-2005 and 11.8 percent in 2003-2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. An average of 537,000 Oklahomans have lived in poverty the last two years. Oklahoma County has the highest rate in the state with a staggering 22.2 percent of its residents falling below the poverty line. The U.S. Census Bureau's poverty line is around $20,000 or lower for a family of four.

Certainly, OPUBCO has been the source of money for donations to get the Gaylord’s family name on state landmarks. (The Gaylord family owns the company.) Thus, we have Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.

As I wrote in previous post, “Do you want to go see the Oklahoma Sooners play football? Well, you have to go to The Gaylord Family Stadium. Cowboys fan? How about your Boone Pickens Stadium? Want to take in a RedHawks game, then buy a ticket into SBC Bricktown Ballpark. Want to go see a $100 concert? See you at the Ford Center or the Cox Convention Center? Or, hey, shall we go workout at the Devon Fitness Center at the Edward L. Gaylord Downtown YMCA. It goes on and on. It is suffocating.”

Unlike small businesses, monopoly companies have no or very little interest in promoting true economic growth in Oklahoma. They simply sell their products in other states that have more people. There are a finite number of people who do or who will live here. Everyone knows that, and everyone knows there is nothing intrinsic in the profit motive for OPUBCO or Chesapeake to improve living conditions for the working poor here. OPUBCO just starts another company in Tennessee or wherever. Chesapeake sells natural gas wherever it can. Unfortunately, these companies exert a huge amount of power on the political process here. They want tax cuts for rich people and corporate immunity from lawsuits. But, do not fool yourself, the very last thing they care about is poor people or the uninsured.

State Poverty Rate Soars

grapeswrath
Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free
No one's paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget's stretched so thin
And there's more comin' home from the Mideast war
We can't make it here anymore—James McMurtry’s “We Can’t Make It Here”

Where is all that Bush prosperity? The poverty rate in Oklahoma is soaring as the disparity between the incomes of the nation’s richest and middle-class citizens continues to widens

Oklahoma’s poverty rate in 2005-2006 stands at 15.5 percent up from 13.2 percent in 2004-2005 and 11.8 percent in 2003-2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. An average of 537,000 Oklahomans have lived in poverty the last two years. Oklahoma County has the highest rate in the state with a staggering 22.2 percent of its residents falling below the poverty line. The U.S. Census Bureau's poverty line is around $20,000 or lower for a family of four. Here are the poverty thresholds for 2006.

The Community Action Project (CAP) in Tulsa, an agency that fights poverty in the state, commented on the soaring numbers this way: “These numbers should sound the alarm that our economy, while continuing to show signs of overall strength, is leaving far too many Oklahomans behind. We hope that state policymakers will ask the tough questions about why families are failing to earn a decent living and will undertake an aggressive effort to bolster assistance and expand opportunities for low- and moderate-income families.”

In addition, 650,000 Oklahomans or 18.7 percent do not have health insurance.

“Being without health insurance leaves families one medical emergency away from falling into poverty,” according to David Blatt, director of public policy for CAP. “It is now especially urgent that the President and Congress find a way to reach agreement on expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to avoid even more children being left without access to health care.”

In another bit of staggering news, the census figures show Oklahoma’s median income at $38,276, which is $10,175 or 21 percent below the national average.

Nationally, the poverty rate declined a small amount, though more people are without health insurance, the figures show. Other studies show that the richest 1 percent of all Americans are now receiving their highest share of income since 1928, an ominous fact that threatens the country’s democratic structures.

Oklahoma has a long history of poverty, of course, and many structural problems, such as an uncaring, recalcitrant corporate power structure, have contributed to the dilemma. The state’s underfunded educational systems also contribute to poverty levels as well as local corporate media outlets, which adamantly refuse to report the reality of how poverty affects people.

It is difficult to dispute the George Bush years have been a disaster for lower-income and middle-class Oklahomans. Ironically, the state’s citizens voted for Bush and his reckless economic and war policies in overwhelming numbers in the last two elections. The big question is this: Would they do so today? The only way to change things here is by voting the neoconservatives and corporate toadies out of office and restoring sanity to our nation’s overall financial system.

Late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said it best: “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. But we can't have both."

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