Iraq War

State Legislation Criticizes Escalation, Occupation

Oklahomans Stand Against Occupation

All Oklahomans need to get behind a state legislative resolution criticizing the continuing occupation of Iraq and the president’s plan to escalate our involvement by sending more American troops to die in his botched debacle.

Image of state Sen. Connie Johnson

The legislation, Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, argues, “the United States government should not escalate its involvement in Iraq and other areas” and “President Bush should obtain explicit approval from Congress before sending more American troops to Iraq and that the United States Congress should pass legislation prohibiting the President from spending taxpayer dollars on an escalation in Iraq unless first gaining congressional approval.”

The resolution is sponsored by state Sen. Connie Johnson (D-Tulsa) and state Rep. Raymond McCarter (D-Marlow), two courageous legislators who run the risk of alienating the state's Bushbots and the neoconservative supporters of our new imperial-presidency form of government.

The bill notes the state’s vested interest in the issue: “Oklahoma is second only to Arkansas in the number of young men and women sent to the Army. Oklahoma contributed 1,296 of the 68,556 recruits signed by the Army in 2006, which represents a rate of more than two per 1,000 Oklahomans aged 15 to 24.”

Image of state Rep. Raymond McCarter

As the bill argues, “recent polls show that the vast majority of Americans do not support increasing the number of troops in Iraq, and that most military experts, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, oppose escalation in Iraq as a strategy. Legal experts on all sides have determined that Congress has not only broad authority, but a long tradition of limiting escalation or forcing redeployment of troops through the constitutionally designated power of the purse.”

The resolution has little chance of approval because it states the truth and this is the George W. Bush era of The Big Lie, but at least it shows there are forward-thinking people here in this state. Contact your state legislator and tell them you want them to support this important bill. Sign this online petition opposing the escalation and occupation.

Meanwhile, the long, gruesome occupation goes on.

Henry Backs Education Proposals

Gov. Brad Henry’s State of the State Address Monday contained strong support for education. Here are some of the highlights:

“We are capable of doing better. This session, I ask you to support tough legislation to ensure that every Oklahoma teenager completes high school. Let us resolve that within five years Oklahoma will boast the highest high school graduation rate in the entire country.”

And then this:

“We must also work toward producing more college graduates. Fortunately, we're making great strides. College enrollment continues to increase, and the number of our college graduates has risen by more than 20 percent since 2002.

“We need to capitalize on that momentum. One of the best ways to do so is through our Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program. Also known as Oklahoma's Promise, it makes a simple, but profound, pledge to eligible students. If you take a challenging curriculum, make good grades and stay out of trouble, the State of Oklahoma will pay for your college education. Students who participate in Oklahoma's Promise are more likely to graduate from high school and go to college. They are less likely to need remediation and more likely to earn a college degree. “

And this:

“Three years ago, we embarked on an ambitious journey to increase teacher pay to at least the regional average. We agreed that no longer would Oklahoma stand by and allow neighboring states to lure away our best and brightest educators. This year we must reaffirm our commitment to our teachers with a pay raise.”

And this:

“And our commitment to teachers must be long-term. All of us know the teachers' retirement system has become a gaping budgetary hole that threatens the fiscal stability of our future. Will Rogers once cautioned that when you find yourself in a hole, the first step is to stop digging. Sensible advice. This year, let's begin serious work to shore up the teachers' retirement system and ensure its future viability for Oklahoma educators. “

It’s especially refreshing the governor is focusing attention on the massively unfunded teacher’s retirement system. Action on this issue is needed early in the legislation session. This is a nuts-and-bolts issue that shouldn’t be politicized.


Fraidy Crats?

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.—from W.H. Auden’s poem “September 1, 1939”

Cool artistic image of W.H. Auden

President George Bush and the United States Congress are ignoring the will of the American people who have spoken clearly they want an end to the Iraq occupation.

Congress must immediately start to cut off funding for the occupation and begin impeachment proceedings against Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, or we will risk losing our democratic structures. So far, incredibly, Congress has ignored the people’s obvious mandate. This is staggering in its implications, and people should be outraged.

Our government is now a quasi-dictatorship ruled by Bush’s personality disorder and a coalition of rich Republicans and Democrats who could care less about what the people think and believe in this country. Congress has abdicated its authority to check the power of the executive branch of government. (Read the previous sentence again.) We are in a constitutional crisis that threatens our democracy. Will we have a system of democratic checks and balances or will we be governed forever in the future by warmongering, imperial presidencies?

Our national “elected” government is corrupt at its very core. It is a dysfunctional, immoral, secretive institution that has sanctioned and even celebrated the torture of war occupation prisoners, the wiretapping of American citizens without judicial oversight, and the slaughter of innocent U.S. soldiers and Iraqis. It is fueled by a massive military-industrial complex that buys off its members with campaign contributions and other favors.

Yet it is obvious our historical democratic structures give us our strength, prestige, and power, not televised military generals lauding the latest tank or missile made by corporate America.

The people, us, we, you and me, by a clear, vast majority want our country’s military out of Iraq. We decided this in the November elections. We are the deciders, not Bush, not Hillary Clinton and her cabal of fraidy cat right-wing Democrats. We decide. The United States is, still on paper anyway, a democracy. You should be tremendously frightened—no matter what your political views—that our country’s government and military no longer function under a framework of democratic ideas.

The civilized, democratic world watches us in horror as it faces the reality the world’s largest super power is systematically destroying its democratic institutions and traditions. We are reviled throughout the world. Every country positions itself now for our obvious downfall. These countries are like a school of sharks swimming around us waiting to pounce.

Clearly, the lesson taught by the inaction of the current Democratic-controlled Congress over the Iraq occupation is that your vote absolutely no longer matters in this country. The privileged elite and the rich politicians of both parties care only about themselves and their careers and, most importantly, their bank accounts.

It is time to hit the streets in protest. It is time to hold more local impeachment hearings around the country. It is time to speak out each and every day in small and big ways to save our vulnerable democracy. It is time for you—yes YOU—to run for office, to confront a corrupt politician with the truth, to create new organizations because the old ones are not working, to join a real democracy movement, to save the United States of America from its corrupt, warmongering, bought-and-paid-for politicians.

I especially call on those country’s intellectuals who have remained on the sidelines during the quasi-fascist regime of Bush to take action now. When will it be too late to speak up? How will you explain to your children and grandchildren you lacked the courage to act as the country lost its democratic structures?


Okie Funk 2006 Review

(Progressives made some strides in Oklahoma this year, but the fight goes on. Okie Funk will continue to serve as a voice for progressive causes in Oklahoma this coming year. Today’s blog contains selected Okie Funk excerpts from each month during 2006.I have updated some of these excerpts with new links. Have a great 2007. Cheers!—Kurt Hochenauer )

Image of Picasso’s Guernica

”Intelligent Design Is A Losing Proposition For Oklahomans,” January 4, 2006

Oklahomans need to look no further than Dover, Pennsylvania when it comes to the state's political movement to dumb down our students with faux creationism or intelligent design.

The newly-elected school board there recently rescinded the board’s earlier decision to include a statement about intelligent design in science classrooms. This comes after a federal judge ruled it was illegal and the community ousted the former school board members who dragged their small district through an embarrassing debacle that will cost local taxpayers there thousands of dollars in legal fees.

The Dover case, and especially the ousting of the school board, has even caused the right-wing’s darling, Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, to back away from intelligent design after becoming one of its most visible, national supporters.

Intelligent design is a religious concept, not a scientific theory, which argues the natural world was created by an intelligent designer or God. It is creationism in disguise. Its supporters are primarily fundamentalist Christians.

”Out of Reach Books,” February 1, 2006

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 Sad, Immoral Trash of Ernest Istook,” March 26, 2006

Oklahomans received their first real glimpse at U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook’s gubernatorial campaign strategy this past week.

If you cut through all his boring, conservative rhetoric about tax cuts, and his sanctimonious posturing, corporate worshipping and hate-disguised-as-policy, here is what Istook really said in Repubcode at a Wednesday meeting of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee in Edmond:

“If elected, I will ensure ultra-rich people get even more tax cuts. I’m against the new lottery, even though everyone in this room knows I accepted money from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who represented gambling interests. I want the state’s energy companies to give me lots of campaign money, and if they do so I will work to ensure they pay less in taxes. Also, Oklahomans should hate Hispanic people.”

Here is a direct quote from his speech, according to a local news account:

"I do not believe that you can tax and gamble your way to prosperity," Istook said. "We do not have leadership in the governor's office. I shudder to think where we would be if it weren't for the oil and gas industry right now that is holding up Oklahoma's economy. ... It's not anything that's been done at the state Capitol."

Do you really shudder Ernie, or do you just want the same local energy company payout that kooky Tom Coburn received when he was running for the U.S. Senate?

”Toby To State: Read Y’All White Trash Okies,” April 15, 2006

Oklahoma’s library poster child Toby Keith has come out with a recent album, and its title is sure to make the “official” intellectual community here proud the musician claims the state as his home.

Library officials, in particular, will be extra proud they selected Keith for a recent poster campaign to promote reading in the state.

Copies of Keith’s “White Trash With Money” should be given out to all Oklahoma school children, many of whom have already encountered Keith in his pornographic pose in the “Read Y’All” library posters plastered throughout the state.

When teachers pass out the free cds maybe they can then begin a discussion on the term “white trash” and its use.

Here is how such a discussion might go:

Teacher: Would someone define “white trash”?
Student: It means an inhabitant of Oklahoma.
Teacher: Okay. Anyone else?
Student: Doesn’t the word “white” in the term “white trash” mean that people of other skin colors are automatically trashy people. Isn’t that racist?
Teacher: Yes, it is racist, but you know we can’t criticize Toby Keith.
Student: Why?
Teacher: Because he will put a boot in our . . .ahem . . . bottoms.

I want to put a too fine of a point on it here. The term “white trash” does make a linguistic claim that “white” is somehow special to someone trashy. In other words, the prevailing culture’s language has to qualify “trash” with “white” because it is somehow so unique that a white person could be trashy. I realize the term is commonly used to signify someone without culture, and some may argue the term is not racist. But there are trashy people with all types of skin colors. Why use “white” to modify “trash”?

”Okies Protest Bush,” May 7, 2006

Nearly 600 protestors, including students, military veterans, and peace activists, showed up to express their disapproval of President George Bush Saturday in Stillwater.

Bush gave the commencement speech in Boone Pickens Stadium at Oklahoma State University. He was flown in by helicopter at approximately 10 a.m. after landing in Air Force One at Vance Air Force Base in Enid.

As Bush flew in, protestors shook their fists at the sky and chanted, “Bush lied, thousands died.” The chant grew louder and louder during Bush’s speech as well. Sometimes, chanters just yelled, “Liar” over and over, or “1, 2, 3, 4, we don’t want your stupid war. 5, 6, 7, 8, stop the killing, stop the hate,” or “Impeach, indict, imprison.”

Bush lied the country into the immoral, illogical war in Iraq, sanctioned the torture of prisoners in American custody, and ordered the illegal wiretapping of American citizens. All these acts are impeachable offenses. Bush does not face any real investigations into these acts because the Republican Party, with its majority in Congress, has placed partisan politics above the country’s interests. Meanwhile, Bush approval ratings continue to drop, even in Oklahoma.

”State Newspaper Omits Essential Information,” June 23, 2006

The Daily Oklahoman published an unconscionable editorial this past week, criticizing state lawmakers for giving teachers a $3,000 across-the-board raise. It leaves you wondering why even a biased, right-wing newspaper would want to alienate those very people who could train and inspire people to read its product.

But then this is Oklahoma, the surreal graveyard of obvious contradictions.

Titled “Lawmakers cave to union demands” (June 22, 2006), the editorial argues the raises should have been distributed disproportionately to veteran teachers and that the Oklahoma Education Association’s “focus on money is out of control.”

What the newspaper fails to tell its readers is how Oklahoma teacher salaries often rank last or near to last in the nation. What the newspaper also fails to tell its readers is that our educational systems have been chronically underfunded for decades to the detriment of the state’s economic development and quality of life.

Instead, it talks about the OEA’s “clout” and Senate Democrats’ “refusal to be reasonable.”

”Voters Offered Clear Choice In Governor’s Race,” July 29, 2006

Brad Henry is a popular governor. Some polls show his popularity in the state at 70 percent. He was instrumental in steering the state through a budget crisis after the September 11, 2001 attacks. He has cut taxes and raised teacher salaries. He has given the state a lottery that helps fund education.

Istook, a Mormon, will almost certainly use wedge issues, such as abortion, intelligent design, or illegal immigration to try to rally the Christian right-wing in the state in order to defeat Henry. This is his only chance. Ultimately, the election may well be a mandate on how far the Christian right can push its theocratic philosophy in a state filled with religious fundamentalists.

The clear choice in the race is Henry, a centrist Democrat, who deserves another term. Voters here should reject Istook’s religious extremism, which hurts the state’s national image.

“Poverty Rate Rises in Oklahoma,” August 30, 2006

Poverty continues to rise in Oklahoma and income levels remain stagnant for the middle class, but do not expect our state leaders to do anything about it soon. Helping the poor and middle class does not translate into short-term political expediency these days.

The Community Action Project (CAP) recently issued a news issue brief showing that poverty rose from 11.8 percent in 2003-2004 to 13.2 percent in 2004-2005. Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s median income declined slightly to $39,292 for 2004-2005. The agency based their analysis on recent U.S. Census figures. Oklahoma remains the fourth highest in the nation in residents without health insurance.

The statistics show what many of us see everyday. Unfortunately, we never openly discuss these issues because the mainstream media no longer provides significant and meaningful news coverage.

”Oklahoma TABOR Threat Is Gone For Now,” September 2, 2006

Here are the two remaining questions about TABOR after the Oklahoma Supreme Court last week ruled the constitutional amendment limiting growth of state government could not be placed on the ballot in November:

(1) What type of legislation will Republicans try to pass this coming session that will resemble TABOR, the so-called Taxpayers' Bill of Rights, and can Democrats stop it?

(2) Why did it take so long for the business power structure in Oklahoma to come out against TABOR, which would have devastated our school systems much like it did in Colorado before voters there rescinded it?

”Who Will Speak For Oklahoma’s Poor?,” October 1, 2006

Oklahoma residents continue to slip into poverty in increasing numbers as the state leadership stands idly by and does nothing. Here’s the question everyone is afraid to openly ask as the centennial year approaches: Is the state currently experiencing the largest increase in poverty since the Great Depression?

The most recent statistics show a 34 percent increase in the number of people requesting food stamps from 2002 to 2005, according to a local newspaper article. As I wrote recently in the Oklahoma Gazette, the U.S. Department of Census has reported overall increases in poverty here in the last few years. Currently, 16.5 percent of Oklahomans live in poverty. Oklahoma remains second in the nation in the percentage of children without health insurance. Recent studies show the state is number one in hungry families.

“Oklahoma, where hungry, poor families without health care are getting poorer.” Can you fit that sentence on a bumper sticker? Maybe the Oklahoma Centennial Commission can use it for a poster campaign sponsored by Chesapeake Energy.

”Oklahoma Progressives Lose A Champion,” November 22, 2006

The Oklahoma progressive world lost one of its true champions when political activist Keith Smith died Monday. Smith, 51, died of pneumonia at Integris Baptist Medical Center, according to newly-elected state Senator Andrew Rice.

Smith was a tireless activist for equal rights in this area of the country, and he was known to everyone in Oklahoma political circles.

Fighting the conservative juggernaut here in Oklahoma can be a thankless task. The state’s power structure—the Republican business people and the religious rubes they manipulate through cultural wedge issues—has been a formidable opponent for years in this state. Smith stood up and fought.

As the Christian right flourished in Oklahoma, Smith went on championing those causes that granted dignity and rights to all people in our culture. He did so with class and intelligence.

“Keith’s most endearing attribute was that he never admitted defeat. He might lose one battle, but he always bounced right back strategizing on how to win the war,” Rice said in a written statement about Smith’s death.

Oklahoman Should Issue Mea Culpa, December 4, 2006

“Anyone seeking to understand what has become the central conundrum of the Iraq war—how it is that so many highly accomplished, experienced, and intelligent officials came together to make such monumental, consequential, and, above all, obvious mistakes, mistakes that much of the government knew very well at the time were mistakes . . .”—Mark Danner, “Iraq: The War of the Imagination,” New York Review of Books, December 21, 2006

“As has always been the case, the only option for the United States in Iraq is victory. Yet more than ever before, the real responsibility for victory rests with the Iraqis themselves.”—Unsigned Editorial, “Victory Plan: Iraqi government must take charge,” The Daily Oklahoman, December 2, 2006

The Daily Oklahoman has failed Oklahomans miserably by not providing comprehensive commentary of the Iraq War, a debacle that will go down in history as perhaps the worst presidential deception ever.

The newspaper’s editorial board needs to immediately issue a mea culpa about its radical pro-war position and then allow alternative views on its opinion pages. By keeping readers oblivious to the war’s facts and by framing the war with the propagandistic rhetoric of President George Bush on its editorial pages, the newspaper duped thousands of Oklahomans.

What the newspaper will not give its readers is the type of information contained in a recent article by Mark Danner in the New York Review of Books. Danner outlines mistake after mistake (these mistakes have been recorded here on Okie Funk) made by the Bush administration in regards to the war.