Out of Reach Books

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.

Cover of King & King

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.

Photograph of Todd Hiett

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.

Okie Barons Come Out Against TABOR

Goodbye TABOR

When Oklahoma’s richest, most powerful business people come together with the state’s intelligentsia to form a quasi-political coalition, you know, well, you know pigs are flying and armadillos are directing traffic, right?

Poster from

But a group of business people the Associated Press described as a “Who’s Who” of power brokers in the state filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the TABOR initiative petition that would put a constitutional measure limiting the growth of the state budget on the November ballot.

Most educators and state educational organizations, from the Oklahoma Education Association to the Oklahoma Conference of the American Association of University Professors, have been outspoken in their opposition to the measure for months.

The new lawsuit claims the submitted petition is “deceptive and misleading” and does not include enough valid signatures. The protest was filed against the Oklahoma Supreme Court and Rick Carpenter, of Tulsa, who led the drive locally with out-of-state money.

Carpenter, a “right-wingnut” (see image above), says the lawsuit will have no effect on the petition’s validity, and that TABOR will be on the November ballot, according to local news account. The petition needs 219,000 signatures.

If the TABOR constitutional measure is approved, the state budget’s annual growth would be tied to the inflation rate and population increase. Any money leftover after this formula is applied would have to be given back to taxpayers.

The one state that has adopted TABOR, or the so-called Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, was Colorado. Voters there recently rescinded it because it had devastated that state’s educational systems and economy.

But the Colorado experience did not stop out-of-state elites from coming into Oklahoma and literally buying enough signatures to put the TABOR issue on the ballot. These people figured Oklahomans were so stupid, they could come in here and lie and manipulate, and no one would care,

But we did care, and we stood up. Meanwhile, Okie Funk and many others were wondering when the state leadership would stand up to really fight this issue.

How could they just stand by and watch the disgusting spectacle of out-of-state, ultra-rich, elites with nothing but an ideology and a whim destroy the state’s economy, educational systems, and infrastructure? How could they stand by and watch Grover Norquistand his crowd use Oklahoma as an experiment in their quest to transfer as much money as possible to the wealthiest people in our country at the expense of elementary schools.

On Wednesday, that all changed. The group of business people who serve as “protestants” (i.e. protestors) against the petition include Clifford Hudson, CEO of Sonic Corp and chair of the Oklahoma City School Board, Aubrey McClendan, CEO of Chesapeake Corp, J. Larry Nichols, CEO of Devon Energy, and Luke R. Corbett, CEO of Kerr-McGee Corp.

That’s right . . . Sonic, Chesapeake, Devon, Kerr-McGee.

And another protestor is Clayton Bennett, who is an extremely powerful, local businessman married to Louise Gaylord Bennett, a daughter of the late Edward L. Gaylord, the longtime publisher of The Daily Oklahoman. Louise Bennett assists her sister, Christy Gaylord Everest, in running newspaper these days, according to Wikipedia.

Count on The Oklahoman coming out against the petition soon, though its editorial page has leaned heavily in TABOR’s direction, criticizing those who spoke up against the lies of those people gathering signatures for two dollars a name. Its mantra then was that everyone should just step aside and let the petition go forward, so we could vote on it in November. As I recall, according to one editorial, people like me who spoke up were trying to stop American democracy or some nonsense like that.

Also, local civic leader G. T. Blankenship and Tulsa businessman John Brock signed on against the petition. Both are listed as trustees of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a local, conservative think tank which has been highly supportive of TABOR. I wonder what OCPA leaders Max Nichols and Brandon Dutcher think about the lawsuit? So far there is nothing about it on the OCPA Web site.

Other local people of interest on the lawsuit include V. Burns Hargis, vice president of the Bank of Oklahoma, and Kirk Humphreys, Oklahoma City’s former mayor.

What is especially interesting about the lawsuit is that it pits some powerful right-wing business people against others in their camp who share their basic ideology and reality about the world. What is going on here? Is there a split among the cut-taxes-for-the-rich-no-matter-what crowd? It there trouble in Rich City, folks?

More importantly, what were the political tradeoffs on this deal, and how will these tradeoffs affect ordinary people like you and me? Are more tax cuts for the rich forthcoming this legislative session? Count on it.

Oh yeah, the lawsuit was filed by the Crowe & Dunlevy law firm, one of the most prestigious and powerful legal firms in the state.

What is encouraging about this lawsuit is that it means the rich and powerful in this state do have a breaking point when it comes to ensuring we provide our children and college students here a decent education. This is not the typical, conservative lip service about improving schools with assessment tests and school choice and vouchers and No Child Left Behind. This is real action.

So, my fellow Okies, don’t be surprised when you look up today and see the state’s pig-filled sky or when an armadillo waves you through an intersection that has a broken stoplight.

Sally Kern’s Christian Crusade Continues Onward

Okay, the bigwigs have come out against TABOR and The Daily Oklahoman has come out against the teaching of intelligent design in our science classrooms.

So when will the state leadership come against the continuing Christian crusade of State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City)?

Kern’s latest attempt to ensure Oklahoma becomes the first theocratic state in America is her “Student Freedom of Religious Expression in Schools Act.” Yes, you read that title correctly, and the bill did pass out of a House committee Wednesday.

House Bill 2428 would allow students at schools to pass out religious material, pray, express their religious viewpoints, and be absent from school for religious events. Of course, the bill says “religious” not “Christian” (wink, wink).

Everyone knows this is bill and others like it pending in Oklahoma and elsewhere across the country are part of the Christian right-wing theocratic agenda.

Can you imagine what it would be like at state high schools if this bill gets passed?

I picture students accosted in the hallways by religious zealots and teachers of all disciplines unable to present material that might go against Christian viewpoints.

I imagine large groups of intolerant Christian students intentionally excluding people of other faiths in activities. I see a group of students holding hands in a classroom praying loudly and openly before a test, daring the teacher to say something, anything that might be construed as anti-Christian.

Our schools will become freaky, religious enclaves in violation of basic founding principles separating church and state.

The bill lacks commonsense as well. It would create all types of problems. How can anyone support such a weird, murky measure that does not take into account its real-world ramifications? How will the bill affect high school classrooms, the hallways, the lunchroom, the parking lots, etc.?

In today’s volatile world of religious extremism and religious-inspired violence, the last thing we need is to add religious tension in our high schools.

Maybe we could just build a chapel in each state high school, pass a “Christian Students Do No Have To Go To Class Freedom Act” and allow students to spend ALL school hours praying and discussing the Bible, especially Genesis. Then we could create and build secular charter schools for everyone else. These schools would honor strict limits on separation of church and state. They would promote the study of science and math, English, technology, and other real academic subjects, not fundamentalist Christianity.

This is from Okie Funk’s “No Hyperbole Zone”: If Kern’s act passes and holds up in the courts, it could become impossible to get a real high school education in this state.

Religious moderates and secular people need to speak up. And where is the state leadership on this bill and on all the freaky religious legislation proposed by Kern and others? When will they truly come out against crackpots like Kern and say enough is enough? If Kern’s bill passes, then, really, so what if TABOR becomes law? Who wants to fund religious extremism in our schools, anyway?

Kern's Deceitful Bill Makes It Through Committee

More On Kern’s Oklahoma Religious Act

State Rep. Sally Kern’s “Oklahoma Religious Act” was approved by a House committee this week without much fanfare.

The act is part of the Oklahoma City Republican’s ongoing crusade to bring her own theocratic brand of doublespeak, deceitful Christian morality to the state.

Photograph of Sally Kern

In its story about the bill, The Daily Oklahoman did not even quote a single Oklahoman educator. It referred to the bill in vague, general terms using only Kern’s frame of reference. The religious zealot Kern got to speak in the state’s largest newspaper but not anyone opposed to the bill. Has the paper sold out intellectualism and real science instruction to support this religious zealot?

Kern has called her deceitful legislation (HB 2107) the Academic Freedom Act. It would allow, among other things, public teachers to present intelligent design theory, or neocreationism, as a competing theory to evolution. It also states that students cannot face punitive action for bringing up such theories in the classroom.

Even a cursory reading of the bill shows it would allow students to dismiss real science methods and principles in favor of religious dogma. If teachers bring this issue to the students’ attention in any unfavorable way, they could be punished, even possibly fired.

The bill is deceitful because it never directly mentions intelligent design, only that a “full range of scientific views” can be presented “when topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological or chemical origins of life” (wink, wink, intelligent design).

This is really an insidious bill that, in my mind, goes way beyond the two other intelligent design bills that were introduced in the legislature earlier. Educators at all levels throughout the state should be petrified about this bill because it shifts classroom control of established scientific theories from teachers of any disciplines to religious students with agendas.

One of those intelligent design bills, which was proposed by State Rep. Abe Deutschendorf, (D-Lawton), was dropped in order to allow Kern’s bill to get through the committee. Deutschendorf now will support Kern’s bill, according to the Web site of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education. (Be sure to sign the petition.)

Photograph of Thad Balkman

Another intelligent design bill (SB 1959), introduced by State Sen. Daisy Lawler (D-Comanche) is pending in the Oklahoma Senate.

And a pending House Concurrent Resolution (HCR 1043), which would not have the power of law, would encourage the State Board of Education to revise its curriculum to allow for presenting theories that run counter to evolution.

This one is sponsored by Kern, State Reps. Thad Balkman (R-Norman) and Paul Wesselhoft (R-Moore), and State Sen. Randy Brogdon (R-Owasso).

It is difficult to imagine the enlightened people down in the university town of Norman will continue to reelect Balkman after his statements about intelligent design and his support of an anti-intellectual agenda.

When will a Democrat step up and introduce legislation (“Science Freedom Act,” “Science Bill of Rights,” etc.) that will defend real science instruction in our schools?

Laurel: To Frosty And Helen Troy

Frosty and Helen Troy’s The Oklahoma Observer has fought against the immoral conservative juggernaut here in Oklahoma for decades, and it continue to do so.

The Observer’s most recent issue included a cover story about Sen. Stratton Taylor’s plan to increase funding for teacher salaries and education and other articles of astute interest to Oklahomans, especially progressives during this election year.

Photograph of Frosty Troy

And then there is this classic gem in the issue by Frosty:

“If some Democrats are going to join in destroying the Party, we’re going to be there to tell you exactly what happened—from the sell-out of Congressman Dan Boren to the pathetic leadership of State Senate leader Mike Morgan.

“If you’re going down, for God’s fight all the way to the bottom.”

You can get a one-year subscription to The Oklahoman Observer, which is published every two weeks, for only $30. Send your check and address to The Oklahoma Observer, P.O. Box 53371, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

You can also listen to Frosty’s commentary on KOSU (91.7 FM, 107.5 FM) at 7:35 a.m. and 4:44 p.m. on Fridays.

Anti-Abortion Bills Pass Though Committee

Four House bills that will make it more difficult for women to get abortions and for doctors to perform them have been passed through the Health and Human Services Committee.

All of the bills intrude on women’s reproductive rights. They can be seen as yet another attempt of religious intrusion into secular government. The bills would do nothing to reduce abortions.

If you want to reduce abortions, you need to provide appropriate sex education and easy access to birth control. These bills do nothing but harass vulnerable women and doctors.

Collectively, the bills would require doctors tell women they have the option to view the fetus through an ultra sound, require minors get parental consent in order to get an abortion, require women are told the fetus may experience pain during the abortion procedure, and require doctors who perform abortions to fill out more reports.

The legislation is sponsored by Republican State Reps. Kevin Calvey (Del City), Odilia Dank, John Trebilcock (Broken Bow), Susan Winchester (Chickasha).

I guess some people here might even be happy that Oklahoma will not be one of the first states, at this point, that will try to ban abortion outright and test the 1973 Roe V. Wade case now that the right-wing, anti-abortion judge Samuel Alito is on the U.S. Supreme Court.

But, hey, do not count out our freaky right-wing politicians intent on making everyone bend to their theocratic ideas about government.

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