(Be sure to read DocHoc’s upcoming commentary this week in the Oklahoma Gazette. The issue hits newsstands Wednesday.)
Have the editorial writers gone sane over at The Daily Oklahoman?
First, they come out against TABOR, and now they come out against intelligent design legislation and a bill that would pull funding from libraries that provide regular access to gay-themed and sexually explicit books.
Let us picture two or three Oklahoman editorial writers running around high-fiving each other in the Gaylord fortress on the Broadway Extension, yelling, “Free at last! Free at last!”
One writer, a dashing, young Murrow-like newshound with Marlboro Light, fedora, pen and notebook, says, “And George Bush IS a liar and HAS broken the law, and he SHOULD be impeached. Can I write about that, too? Please.” His editor gives him a really cool thumbs up.
All form a conga line and dance through the building, and other writers and editors join them. Music blares. Everyone at the newspaper suddenly becomes honest and decides to provide fair news coverage. The newspaper’s top editor, quoting George Orwell, says, “’During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.’ We are going to start telling the truth. We are the revolution. It starts here today in Oklahoma, and it will spread like wildfire throughout the country.”
Okay, that’s probably an exaggeration, you think? But, come on, it’s nice to think about, and there are always a few secret liberals at The Oklahoman, getting clips, and looking for other jobs at newspapers concerned with fairness and reporting the truth.
The newspaper does have a logical reason for supporting intellectualism, which it does in the two editorials. Intelligent people read. Newspapers must have readers or they do not exist. The two editorials support intellectualism and thus reading. So it is all in its business interests, right?
In a March 9 editorial about the intelligent design bill titled “’Academic freedom’ bill unnecessary,” the newspaper argued, “This proposed law is unnecessary. Teachers are free to have discussions with their students, to help them think critically about important issues.”
The bill would make it legal for Oklahoma high school teachers to present neocreationism as a counter argument to the scientific theory of evolution.
The newspaper argued, “Oklahoma students are struggling enough with science without getting sidetracked. Teachers shouldn't feel like they have to change the amount of time they dedicate to evolution just because some lawmakers would like to see more emphasis on the alternatives.”
(On December 4, I wrote, “If mandated for the Oklahoma classroom, intelligent design will weaken the very notion of scientific methodology and experimentation and inquiry, which is responsible for, among other things, all real advances in medical science. It will teach our students to distrust real science. It will make them dumb and lazy. It will make our state look backwoods and ignorant.”)
The bill, sponsored by religious zealot Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City), recently passed on a 77-10 (yes, that’s the correct number) vote in the House. The Oklahoman urged the Senate to kill the bill and even gave Governor Brad Henry its permission to veto it.
In a March 10 editorial titled “Don’t legislate library book access,” the newspaper argued, “A bill that could strip public libraries of state funding if they fail to cater to a legislative whim deserves to end up in the trash can, not the law books.”
The bill would require libraries to shelve books with gay or sexual content only in special adult sections. Libraries would have to show they are in compliance with the law or lose funding.
This is another Sally Kern freak show, of course. Under Kern’s bill, even a novel like John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath could be put out of the reach of young readers. And we certainly want to keep classic literature away from young people in Oklahoma, don’t we? Who do people think we are? Fools? Of course, we don’t allow our kids to read in this state.
I agree with the two editorials, and also the anti-Tabor editorial it recently printed, and I appreciate them, but one has to wonder why the newspaper has waited so long to speak out against these measures. I have been writing about Kern’s Christian crusade and TABOR for months on Okie Funk and in the Oklahoma Gazette, and so have many others.
Now the bills are passing, and all we get is after-the-fact remarks from the state’s largest newspaper. If the newspaper would have been running regular commentary of liberal writers during the past few months, then the public would be more informed. Maybe the bills would have died an early death.
Maybe it would have helped legislators find the guts to stand up against Kern’s crusade
Maybe The Oklahoman ownership and editorial board knows this and is just trying to have it both ways.
Maybe there is no thinking or logic or reason at all behind this short streak of sanity on the newspaper’s editorial page.
But the question remains: Does the newspaper want Oklahoma City to be a real major league city or just another weird, stinky truck stop on the way to Somewhere Else, USA?
Why won’t the newspaper really attack Kern’s overall religious-intrusion-in-government agenda? Why won’t the newspaper open its editorial pages to real, local progressive commentary? If The Oklahoman really wants to cultivate readers and expand its advertising base in an era of declining newspaper circulation, now is the time to diversify its editorial page.
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.
The Carnival of the Absurd, known around here as the Oklahoma Legislature, will soon begin its 2006 run. In order to accommodate all the carnival facts and information, along with other news of interest for progressives Okie Funk will post news briefs under the Noodling title whenever necessary.
Christianity, Not Science, In The Oklahoma Classroom
Yet another bill that would allow Oklahoma teachers to teach Christian creationism in public science classrooms has been introduced in the legislature.
State Senator Daisy Lawler (D-Comanche) has introduced Senate Bill 1959 that would allow public school teachers “to present information and allow classroom discussions that provide for views that may pertain to the full range of scientific views in any science course.”
What this means is that Oklahoma teachers would be allowed to present neocreationism, known as intelligent design, as a competing theory to evolution in the state’s public classroom. Right-wing, fundamentalist religious zealots want to use intelligent design, which is not a scientific theory or even a significant scientific view, to dumb down our students and make everyone accept their narrow-minded, archaic versions of reality.
(I have written about the bogus science of intelligent design extensively here and here. Also, check out the Oklahoma Evolution List Serve, which has done an excellent job monitoring this important issue.)
Lawler’s bill come after similar bills were filed by State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) and State Rep. Abe Deutschendorf (D-Lawton.)
What is especially perplexing and frightening to me about Lawler’s bill is that it shows this issue, as of now, is nonpartisan. Surely, a majority of Democrats in Oklahoma recognize, if nothing else, what slippery legal ground these bills inhabit, given the recent decision by a federal judge in Dover, PA, that intelligent design could not be taught as a competing theory to evolution.
Obviously, all these intelligent design proposals, and more are expected, could become melded into one, hideous anti-intellectual bill.
When will a Democrat stand up on this issue?
UCO Christian Morning Radio Show
And speaking of the coming theocracy in Oklahoma . . .
I try diligently not to write about the University of Central Oklahoma, where I teach, but sometimes that becomes impossible, like last year when the UCO College Republicans embarrassed the university on a national level with its hateful tactics targeting gay people for ridicule.
This time it is a case in which there seems to be a clear violation of the constitutional separation of church and state on campus.
The campus radio station, KUCO-FM, operated by students, has launched a show initially titled “Christian Morning Radio.” It airs at 8 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday. You can listen to the show here.
Here are some quotes gleaned from the campus newspaper, The Vista, by the students who are running the show.
“We thought it was about time we had a Christian segment on the radio station.”
“We try to play the top songs on Christian radio now.”
“I think it a really good chance for people to know what’s going on in their area with Christian concerts and organizations.”
And then this keeper:
“We felt this was a really good way to spread the word of God to UCO students that might listen to morning shows on the radio but don’t necessarily like going to church.”
I do not see how anyone, except fundamentalist Christians, could not see these statements as a clear-cut violation of the legal separation of church and state. UCO is a public, taxpayer-supported university, not a private Christian university. It also has a diverse student body, including international students, many of whom hold much different beliefs than those held by evangelical Christians in this part of the country. Many UCO students and faculty believe in a higher power but do not practice an organized religion or they are agnostic or atheist.
The show’s purpose, "to spread the word of God" as stated by one of its hosts, could be offensive to many people on campus, and it certainly violates academic integrity. The mission of public universities is to teach critical inquiry, not to convert people to Christianity.
The station’s faculty advisory, Dr. David Nelson, published a letter in The Vista the following week stating the show was only meant to be “inspirational.” In addition, Nelson writes, “To clear up any false impressions about the purpose and content of the show, a name change is forthcoming.”
He admits that “because the station is in a public university setting, the show cannot and will not promote a particular religion.”
All that is great, but Nelson has still not cleared up the discrepancy between his carefully-worded comments about the issue and the public comments of the students running the show. The students’ comments alone should dictate the show is immediately pulled from the air.
I have already called on Nelson and thus the university, in the spirit of academic integrity and the ideals of tolerance and diversity, to pull the show from the air. This would send a clear sign to its faculty and students, the state, and the nation that the university is not in the business of promoting evangelical Christianity on the taxpaper's dime.
Oklahoma Media Watch, a companion blog to Funk, will be monitoring the show.
More Tax Cuts Could Be Coming For Oklahoma’s Ultra-Rich
And, tell me, what is fundamentalist Christianity in these parts without your tax cuts for the super wealthy? Why, it’s like peanut butter without jelly, or catfish without cornmeal and hush puppies.
The Republicans in the legislature are brewing up some more tax cuts for the ultra-rich this session.
House Speaker Todd Hiett (R-Kellyville) says he wants to cut the state income tax rate again from 6.25 to 5.85 percent, eliminate the estate tax, and offer a tax credit for stay-at-home mothers because in his medieval view we should encourage women to forgo college and careers to become baby factories for undereducated Oklahoma men. (Look at the gender breakdown of college enrollment in Oklahoma and across the country these days. It is overwhelmingly female.) His cuts will cost $235. Hiett is running for lieutenant governor this year.
Not to be outdone, another Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, State Senator Scott Pruitt (R-Tulsa), who is listed on his state Web site as a managing partner of the Redhawks baseball team, would cut the income tax rate to 4.9 percent (yes, you read that right). His cuts would cost $481 million.
These income tax cuts primarily benefit the rich. The more money you make, the larger your tax cut.
Essentially, this Republican carnival trick is the same. The middle-class gets small tax breaks as heating, gasoline, health care, and college tuition costs skyrocket. The increasing costs are far more—double, triple, even more—than the tax break, but you have to add them up yourself. The neocons rely on the fact that you are so stupid you will not add it up. Meanwhile, schools and universities go underfunded as fees and tuition skyrocket. You pay more and get less.
And you better not get too sick or your kid better not get too sick or you are completely doomed financially even if you have health insurance.
But rich people get more and more and more; your kids get an underfunded education.
Under Republican ideology, the middle-class cannot get ahead because increasingly there are fewer adequate and affordable educational opportunities. In addition, public schools are so chronically underfunded in this state now; one wonders what type of education some students can get when schools do not even have enough textbooks for their students.
The Republicans then award huge tax cuts to big corporations so the tax base shrinks even more. These big companies then make token donations to some charity and then Republican politicians and, I am sad to say, some Democrat politicians, fall all over themselves congratulating the corporations for their benevolence when the companies are only giving back a miniscule fraction of what they got in tax breaks. What a shell game.
These neocons are perhaps the most anti-family, pro-corporate politicians in the history of the country.
As I have argued before, this time next year the state could have theocrat Ernest Istook as its governor, a TABOR law that will completely devastate funding for public education, especially higher education, more tax cuts for the super wealthy and corporations, and laws mandating we eliminate the teaching of real scientific methods and principles and replace them with neocreationism.