The Oklahoman’s Hate Machine
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.”
It is absurd there is any question about increasing the overall wage structure for teachers here as much as possible whenever possible. The state spends tons of taxpayer money educating teachers who then leave the state and teach in places like Texas or New York or Nevada. (I personally know Oklahoma-educated teachers in all these states and more.) They leave Oklahoma because of low salaries and because the rich power structure in the state—the owners of The Oklahoman, for example—does not appreciate their meaningful contribution to our society.
The Oklahoman editorial page only gives lip service to improving the educational systems in this state. It wants to help keep people stupid here so it can continue its reign-of-terror as the worst newspaper in the nation.
Beauty And The Beast
Angelina Jolie presented a compelling case for ending the Iraq occupation in a recent television show that featured the actor’s efforts to help refugees in Africa and other places throughout the world.
Although the show did not focus on the disconnection between the type of work Jolie does for refugee victims and the occupation, it did bring to light a different philosophy in approaching geopolitics in today’s turbulent world.
Jolie’s philosophy is altruistic, inclusive, and hopeful. She has adopted two refugee children and plans to adopt another. She recently gave birth to a baby girl in Namibia, Africa. When she helps people in other countries, she sends a compelling message about our country, its democratic structures, and the American Dream.
Our current government under the leadership of President George Bush sends quite a different message to the world through its botched occupation of Iraq. It is a message of hate, intolerance, and death. It sanctions torture and physical violence, and it ignores suffering in places such as Africa.
Do you bomb and kill to create democracy and functioning governments or do you reach out and build bridges between cultures and people?
Life And Deatherage
The blog Life and Deatherage recently published an insightful post about The Daily Oklahoman’s news coverage of the state budget agreement. The post dissects the newspaper’s coded political leanings and doublespeak paragraph by paragraph. Check it out.
Who Is Really Against TABOR?
So where does the state’s right-wing power structure really stand on the TABOR issue?
U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, who is running for governor here, recently came out for the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights’ measure that would limit the growth of the state government’s budget to a formula tied to inflation and population. A similar measure decimated the Colorado economy and education systems, and voters there recently rescinded it.
Meanwhile, what the Associated Press termed a “Who’s Who” of Oklahoma business people, many with ties to conservative politicians and causes, filed a lawsuit weeks ago to keep a TABOR amendment off the November ballot in Oklahoma
Istook, according to a news article on his Web site, speaking to a group of Republicans Saturday said he supported the philosophy of TABOR and would lead efforts to ensure the measure is on the ballot in the future. Istook made the remarks as he criticized the budget agreement recently announced by state officials, according to the story.
A petition drive to put the measure on the ballot has been completed, but the business big shots have filed a lawsuit against it challenging its validity. The big shots include the chief executive officers of Kerr-McGee, Devon, and Chesapeake. One Chesapeake executive, Aubrey McClendon, once donated $250,000 to a group that helped get Republican Tom Coburn elected to the U.S. Senate.
In addition, The Daily Oklahoman’s editorial page has come out against the proposed TABOR measure, and the conservative Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) has stopped making it one of the organization’s premier issues as it once did.
So here are three speculations about Istook’s statement: (1) Istook knows he is not going to get major campaign support from the business people who signed onto the lawsuit to stop TABOR, or (2) he is trying to have it both ways in terms of political support from the state’s power structure and those Okie Republican extremists who think any form of government, including education, is communism in action, or (3) many of those named in the lawsuit really do not care about the issue, and it matters nothing to them what Istook says about it.
The reality is that Istook’s support for TABOR shows just what will happen if he is elected governor. The Republicans now hold a majority in the House, and they expect to win the state Senate this year. With the TABOR-supporting Istook as governor and with a Republican-dominated legislature, it will only be a matter of time before the state adopts some type of measure that will prevent the adequate growth of the state budget. This is in a state that has chronic education and infrastructure underfunding.
Add this to Istook’s ideas about intertwining government and religion and you have a full-fledged Okie disaster on your hands. What a spectacle it could all be and just in time for the Oklahoma Centennial, too.
Guarantee Oklahoma Teacher Raises!
The Oklahoma Education Association wants to make sure teachers are guaranteed the $3,000 raises that are part of the recent budget agreement.
According to the OEA Web site, “If the salary increases go through the state funding formula, districts which pay above the state minimum will not be obligated to meet the mandate. That’s why the Legislature needs to approve a budget with guaranteed raises.”
OEA has a legitimate argument. Legislators need to make sure the raises are guaranteed. The state needs to make a consistent effort—year-after-year—to raise teacher salaries to at least regional averages. These should be across-the-board raises that help lift the overall wage structure for teachers.
Okie Funk hereby decrees that teachers, not oil or natural gas reserves, remain the state’s most important natural resources.
Prepare yourself for a long, hot summer of despair as the Iraq occupation continues to worsen. The death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi means nothing to the insurgency’s strength despite what you see and hear on television these days. The Iraq debacle will live in historical infamy as one of America’s worst foreign policy endeavors ever.
Meanwhile, American soldiers and innocent Iraqi citizens will continue to die on a regular basis this summer, Cindy Sheehan will set up a Camp Casey in Crawford, and the Bush government and the Republican-dominated Congress will refuse to listen to a vast majority of American citizens who have had enough with the occupation. Oh yeah, more information about the massacre at Haditha will emerge, other atrocities committed by American soldiers will be reported, and the Guantanamo Bay torture facility will continue to be in the news.
All of this—plus those skyrocketing gasoline prices and growing inflation—has been brought to you by the GOP.
More American soldiers and innocent Iraqi citizens continue to die for a war the president refuses to justify beyond hollow and propagandistic metaphors about “freedom.” Meanwhile, Bush continues his five-week, rich-man’s vacation this month with corporate-media bicycling tours on his 1,800-acre ranch in Crawford, Texas.
But there is good news for anyone with even a small bit of morality.
The country seems to be coming to its senses. Polls show a majority of Americans no longer support the war or Bush or his administration. A majority of Americans now accept the president lied about the reasons for the war. The national peace movement is growing. Cindy Sheehan’s war protest has become the major story of this summer.
Even Oklahoma has a vibrant and growing peace movement.
Our position as one of the extremist of extreme red-states makes the peace movement here tremendously significant on a local and national level.
On Tuesday, a group of protestors gathered outside the Back Door Coffee House at 31st and Classen Avenue, holding up signs protesting the war and asking for Bush’s impeachment. This group has been protesting at this area on Classen from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday for a few weeks now. The group’s numbers are growing as has the support from those driving by who honk their horns and wave.
Two leaders of this group, Tara Feuerborn and Lisa Ghariani, say most people driving by these days are either neutral or support them. On Tuesday, only a couple of drivers showed support for Bush. They were far outnumbered by people honking and showing support for signs calling for Bush’s impeachment.
Ghariani just recently came back from Crawford, Texas, where she met with Cindy Sheehan. Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, has camped outside the president’s ranch. Sheehan has this question for Bush: Mr. President, for what reason did my son die so young. Bush refuses to talk to Sheehan.
(Sheehan left Crawford Thursday to be with her mother who suddenly suffered a stroke, but she vowed to continue her vigil.)
Ghariana said Sheehan continues to inspire people from around the country. Sheehan’s message is a very personal one, and more and more Americans are relating to it as the war continues to claim innocent lives and the president refuses to discuss what the country hopes to accomplished with the war.
Local war protestors are also organizing a “Caravan to Crawford” on August 23-24 to support Cindy Sheehan. The group will meet at 9:30 a.m. August 23 at The Peace House, 2912 N. Robinson, drive to Crawford, and then spend the night there. (For more information, contact Nathaniel Batchelder, firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Meanwhile, Oklahoma groups continue to protest the war on a regular basis. Democrats for Peace hold weekly vigils on the downtown corner of Park Avenue and Robinson Street at noon on Mondays. On Tuesdays, from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., anti-war groups gather at Villa and Northwest Highway.
In addition, a vigil will be held in Lawton for three imprisoned conscientious objectors at 1:30 p.m., Sunday, August 28th. The conscientious objectors are Blake LeMoine, Dale Bartell, and Neil Quentin Lucas. Those who want to attend the vigil should gather at 1:30 p.m. at The Peace House, 2912 N. Robinson. The group will drive to Lawton, and hold the vigil from 4 to 6 p.m. outside Fort Sill. (For more information, call 405-476-5620.)
And on, Saturday, September 24, area peace activists will hold an “Anti-War FAIR” from noon to 4 p.m. at Memorial Park, NW 36th Street and Classen Boulevard. This will correspond with a national peace demonstration in Washington, D.C. There will be music, speakers, booths, and a children’s area. For more information contact Lisa Ghariani , 524-1846, email@example.com, or Tara Feuerborn 528-9999, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The number of peace activities and the growing numbers of people at these Oklahoma events show there is major discontent with Bush’s war policies even here in the belly of the right-wing beast.
Now is the time to get involved if you want to be on the moral side of history.
As Camilo Mejia, an Iraq War veteran who is now a peace activist, said: “You can either support the troops or you can support the war. But you can’t do both.”
The emerging war resistance and peace activism cannot come soon enough. Four more American soldiers were killed yesterday. That followed three car bomb attacks that killed 43 Iraqis and injured nearly 90 others in Baghdad the previous day.