Progressives Were Right About TABOR
An Oklahoma Supreme Court report severely criticizing an outside group for its tactics in gathering signatures for the failed TABOR petition several months ago brings up the question again of Oklahoma’s ideologically conservative and recalcitrant leadership.
As many of us warned months ago, the group, National Voter Outreach, probably violated rules governing initiative drives by employing out-of-state signature gatherers. But conservative mouthpiece The Daily Oklahoman told us on its editorial page to withhold our criticisms and let the issue come to a vote of the people. The court’s report said the group employed 60 out-of-state workers. You must be an Oklahoma resident to collect signatures for a state initiative petition drive.
Progressives also warned how the petition workers often distorted the TABOR “story” or lied or withheld information about the impact of the measure in Colorado when they approached people. In essence, paid operatives from outside Oklahoma came into the state and tried to swindle voters. To its credit, the court stopped them.
TABOR, or the so-called Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, is the idea that states need a constitutional amendment to reduce spending. TABOR would require that the growth of state spending become tied to a formula related solely to population growth and the inflation rate.
A state that passed a TABOR amendment, Colorado, recently voted to rescind it because it had decimated the quality of life in the state through cuts in education, health care, and road maintenance.
The report issued this week was scathing in is criticisms of NVO, according to news reports.
Yet the larger question remains: Why did it take so long for the power structure to oppose TABOR? Business bigwigs in the state—executives from Kerr McGee, Devon, and Chesapeake, for example—eventually filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of the petition. The Oklahoman, in a rare break with extreme GOP ideology, then began editorializing against the petition.
The power structure in this state, if Oklahoma is to thrive, needs to become more open-minded to ideas and positions from progressives. We were exactly right about TABOR, but don’t count on the right-wingers to admit their mistakes or their own complicity in the issue. Look at the Iraq debacle.
Another question looms about what whether the upcoming legislature will pass a TABOR-like bill cutting funding to education and not allowing the state to catch up from its position as a state possessing one of the lowest per student funding rates in the nation. The House has a majority of Republicans, and the Senate is equally divided between the two major parties.
Could a TABOR bill make it through?
Senate Democrats Must Save State
Oklahoma Senate leaders have decided to share power now that the legislative body is divided equally between Democrats and Republicans. As lieutenant governor, Jari Askins, a Democrat, will cast any tie breaking votes if needed.
The question for most progressives is what will happen to the kooky, religious-driven legislation the House passes and sends to the Senate. State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) is still in the House, for example, and she or other religious ideologues may well bring up the intelligent design issue again. Intelligent design proponents want to make Oklahoma students study creationism in schools under the guise of a “science” that argues an intelligent designer (or, in their view, the Christian God) created the world. These ID proponents are right-wing, Christian extremists who hide their real interests behind their fake science in order to dumb down Oklahoma students to their own intelligence level.
Will Senate Democrats fight the religious fanatics on this issue and others? This may well shape the state’s economic development for years to come. Radical religious legislation mandating intelligent design and prayer in school and outlawing abortion will only make the state’s residents seem even more narrow-minded as political moderates and progressives prevail nationally. Who but religious extremists would want to raise children here? What types of businesses would want to locate here? The obvious disparity between new Democratic control of the federal legislative branch of government and Oklahoma’s right-wing political nutcases—from Kern to U.S. Sen. James Inhofe—will hurt the state immeasurably. It’s up to the Senate Democrats to save the state from itself in 2007.
The Sally Kern Cult Club
A bill that will allow neocreationism to be taught in Oklahoma schools has passed through the House without major dissent. This is extremely discouraging news for our state.
Not one Oklahoma politician has come out forcefully and presented counter legislation that would stop the religious freaks from embarrassing our state, damaging our economy by branding us with the “ignorant hick” logo, and turning our schools into quasi-churches.
Not one Oklahoma politician in this state has stepped up and said “enough is enough,” championing the cause of intellectualism and rationalism and logic and medical science, the hallmarks of modernity and enlightenment.
Not one Oklahoma politician has said figuratively and loudly to our college graduates now leaving the state in droves that the fight for intellectual freedom can be waged even in one of the reddest of red states.
Here is the bottom line: State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) and a few other right-wing politicians, including some Democrats, are on a Christian crusade to ensure we bow down to their narrow-minded, medieval worldviews. Her legislation, House Bill 2107, would allow teachers to present intelligent design “theory,” or neocreationism, in courses dealing with “biological or chemical origins of life.”
The Okie theocrats are emboldened by a presidential administration that sanctions religious intrusion in government institutions.
If the bill, which passed on a lopsided 77-10 vote, makes it all the way through the legislature and is signed into law, many Oklahoma students will be taught creationism instead of evolution and scientific principles. It is that simple.
Kern says the bill does not address religion, but everyone knows its intention is to challenge evolution with a “scientific” version of the Biblical creation story. Kern has to distort and lie to get the bill passed for legal and political reasons. She lies and distorts because her own religious views apparently allow deceitfulness and thus immorality in evangelizing. In my view, this immoral evangelizing makes Kern’s brand of religion a cult.
One Democrat who voted in favor of the bill said that if legislators voted against the measure, “…people will see this vote as a vote for evolution and against God,” according to a story in The Daily Oklahoman.
Intelligent design theory, or neocreationism, which is advanced only by fundamentalist Christians, argues the natural world is so complicated it had to be created by a designer, or, wink, wink, the Christian God. Evolution makes no claims about religion. It argues the natural world, as we can observe it, has evolved or changed over time. Evolutionary science remains the foundation of modern medical science and the scientific principle.
(Check out the excellent cover article, “Holy War,” in this week’s Oklahoma Gazette. The article gives an overview of the issue of religious intrusion in Oklahoma’s government institutions.)
University of California Professor Robert Bellah, the noted sociologist of religions, recently said, “It’s as if the Scopes trial is never over—we’re back in the 1920s. It’s unbelievable. And, again, it’s so depressing because you could not find anything like this in any other advanced country in the world. What has happened in this country?”
Well, what has happened in Oklahoma is that not enough intellectuals (professors, doctors, teachers, writers, corporate managers, medical professionals, lawyers, etc.) have the guts to stand up for what is right and moral and life affirming.
I ask those enlightened Oklahoma people who are sitting this out on the sidelines: When will it be too late to speak up? What are you waiting for?
(At least check out the Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education site and sign the online petition.)
Bush Should Be Impeached
Okie Funk keeps it local, but on occasion it behooves us to speak out on a national topic. This is one such occasion.
Salon.com has an excellent article on the growing movement in this country to impeach President George Bush. He has committed major impeachable offenses at least three times. 1. He lied the country into a war we have now lost at the expense of thousands upon thousands of innocent lives and billions of dollars. This is the most previous offense a president can commit. 2. He sanctioned the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bayin violation of America laws and the Geneva Conventions 3. He ordered illegal wiretapping of American citizens.
These are serious, major offenses that threaten the democratic structure of county. As I and others have argued for months now, there must be some type of reconciliation, some type of reckoning, for Bush’s lies and illegal actions or our country could be operated by totalitarian governments in the future.
For some Republicans, especially the ultra-rich and the Christian fundamentalists, Bush’s disregard for the law might seem convenient now, but political tides do change. Once this disregard for law is embedded in the country’s political structure what we will have is one junta after another running the country through illegal executive directives without any congressional checks and balances.
It is really quite serious. In fact, it may be too late.
In a recent meeting of impeachment advocates in New York, there was much talk about why to impeach but little talk about how to impeach. That is because the political climate right now in Washington, D.C. is not conducive to it. Yet that does not mean we should get discouraged and drop the idea. If we give up we lose the democratic ideals and vision that have made America up until now the great, world bastion of hope and freedom.
Top Shelf Truth
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 committee wants the books placed on “high shelves,” according to news reports.
This all started when State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) began her personal crusade against Oklahoma gay people. She demanded last summer the local libraries keep gay-themed children’s books out of children’s reach or she would try to pull some state funding for the libraries. So far, library officials have given in to this anti-intellectual, religious zealot’s extortion.
These gay-themed books, such as “Heather Has Two Mommies” and the “King & King” are non-sexual and perfectly appropriate for children. They allow children to understand the world around them. The library already a system in which parents can prevent their children from checking out books they do not want them to checkout.
The full library commission will vote on the issue Feb. 16. I still think there is a chance this proposal could fail because it is so open-ended and could bring about big legal problems later. But then Okies are use to paying the legal costs for defending some government official’s personal religious agenda.
This whole issue echoes the ongoing right-wing attack on intellectualism in this state. When will the Sally Kerns in this country start dictating what adults are allowed to read in the library and elsewhere? How high will the shelves be then? Do not say you were not warned.
Helping Rich People Get Richer
There is no such thing as a “tort reform” movement in Oklahoma or elsewhere. What we have is a movement to reward rich people at the expense of ordinary, middle-class Okies, who, if this movement is succesful, will no longer get fully compensated for injuries due to negligence.
The Daily Oklahoman’s darling lil’ boy, House Speaker Todd Hiett (R-Kellyville) is going around speaking to rich people about those awful trial lawyers who are trying to take their money. Just recently, according to news reports, he spoke at an event filled with doctors and business types to argue there should be severe restrictions on what someone can receive from a company or doctor due to negligence.
So expect drastic legislation this upcoming legislative session dealing with limiting how much regular people can get when they sue for negligence. Rich people win again; middle-class people lose.
The bottom line is that if you get hurt on the job or a doctor makes a huge mistake in treating you, then you can only be compensated so much because, well, it is bad for the bank account of the doctors and business people. In addition, business people and doctors will not have to change their harmful actions. They can keep maiming and killing people all they want because, well, they need that extra house in Malibu or that extra month-long vacation in Europe each year.
Trial lawyers, one of the most maligned groups in America today, serve the interests of ordinary people each and every day. They hold the bigwigs accountable. They speak for you and me.
There is no such thing as “tort reform.” That phrase is a lie passed around by the Republican Party to make sure rich people get even more money. If you buy into it, you are only hurting yourself and family.
Wake Up Okie Progressives!
Where oh where are the progressives in Oklahoma? Why can’t we network? Why can’t we pull it together? Why can’t we show up? As someone asked me recently, “What does it mean to be a progressive in Oklahoma.”
I know there are progressive folks doing wonderful work here, but if the low turnout at the Peace Walk last Sunday in Oklahoma City is any indication, the progressive movement needs rejuvenating. I estimated around 100 people showed up, and most of those people were older.
Does everyone feel defeated by the conservative juggernaut, especially here in Oklahoma, where there is a systematic marginalizing of anyone who does not profess Christian fundamentalist dogma and hatred against gay people?
I know the feeling all too well.
Things do not look bright on the national level either. Democrats Al Gore and U.S. Rep. John Murtha are speaking out, but obviously that is not enough. Beyond Sen. Edward Kennedy, other Democratic leaders are staking out “centrist” positions. It appears the Republicans will make abortion illegal soon, and women will be denied other reproductive rights as well. We are fighting a lost war created by Republican policies. The Republican do not care about the environment, and it has to be obvious at this point to everyone they want to eliminate the separation of church and state.
Remember, what is called centrist now was once right-wing extremism. We are at a point now in which people describe themselves as “centrist” while advocating theocracy, an unjust war, and unlimited spying on American citizens.
Listen. This time next year, Oklahoma could have a freaky right-wing religious fanatic as its governor, schools and universities will face drastic cuts because of new tax laws favoring a small group of rich people, and creationism will be taught in our science classes, not evolution, not proven scientific methods and principles.
The only thing that can stop these things from happening is us.