Newspaper Bashes Obama

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The GOP propaganda ministry—The Oklahoman—was in full swing over the weekend, bashing President Barack Obama with hasty generalizations and contradictions in an editorial.

But it was the obvious omission that seems the most absurd. Here is a newspaper, which has consistently supported the no-fault ideology of big corporations, criticizing a president, who has bailed out Wall Street to save the country’s banking system.

The gist of the editorial, titled “Obama policies are target of voters’ dissatisfaction” (January 24, 2010) is that the recent election of a Massachusetts Republican to the U.S. Senate shows how much everyone is angry at Obama policies. According to the editorial:

. . . Massachusetts elected Brown to be the decisive vote against health care, to help rein in government spending, to cut taxes and to stop the kind of back-room dealing Obama promised to end during his ’08 hope-and-change campaign.

Unfortunately, the pattern during Obama’s first 12 months has been him finding fault with everyone except himself, with George W. Bush the most useful scapegoat.

Some things come to mind here. Scott Brown voted in favor of universal health care in Massachusetts as a state senator. The current government has spent billions of taxpayer dollars nurturing the ideology that has given us huge, monopoly corporations. The current recession is completely the fault of the previous administration. This historic recession will always be the fault of Bush's inept leadership, no matter how much The Oklahoman and other right-wing media outlets try to distort the issue.

The editorial also doesn’t really consider how weak the Democratic candidate was in the Massachusetts election.

Yes, there is a lot of populist anger today, and, yes, Obama needs to pay more attention to it. But its main target, from both conservatives and liberals, are the big corporations, and this includes media companies, that got us into this financial mess in the first place. Americans know they’re getting a bad break, but The Oklahoman editorial page would be the last place in the world that would sympathize. It supports huge corporations and free-market fundamentalists, not regular Oklahoma families trying to make it through these hard financial times.

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Local Summit Focuses On High Female Incarceration Rate

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An upcoming summit will tackle the issue of Oklahoma’s nation-leading female incarceration rate.

The summit is part of Oklahoma Christian University’s Complex Dialogues series, and will be held at the campus on Tuesday, Jan. 26. The George Kaiser Family Foundation and Don and Donna Millican are helping to sponsor the event.

This is an important issue for Oklahoma, and one that I’ve been writing about for a long time. Last September, I published a commentary in the Oklahoma Gazette that began by asking a couple of basic questions.

Why in the world does Oklahoma lead the nation in the number of women incarcerated on a per capita basis? Do state leaders really want that distinction?

The numbers, as I pointed out in the article, reveal flaws in our state’s overall justice system.

The numbers tell a truly sad story: There are approximately 2,600 women imprisoned in Oklahoma, which reflects a rate of 131 per 100,000 residents. The national average is 69 per 100,000 residents. This makes Oklahoma No. 1 in the nation for female incarceration, which is a dubious ranking.

Most of the women incarcerated are serving sentences for non-violent crimes, many of them related to drugs.

Does Oklahoma have a cruel system when it comes to female incarceration? If so, does this cruel system only increase social problems when the children of incarcerated women find themselves without their mothers for extended periods of time? How does the system affect the state’s image?

The high cost of incarceration compared to other types of sentencing is another pressing issue, especially given the state’s current financial crisis. Parole and treatment programs are less expensive and help keep families intact.

The main problem, which the summit is sure to address, is that no one—prosecutors, judges and politicians—wants to appear to be soft on crime. How can the state reconcile the issue? What can it do to depoliticize some aspects of the system? Obviously, the system can never be completely depoliticized, but locking up women at the highest rate in the nation means something has gone awry here.

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Autism Coverage Fight Continues

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A proposed legislative bill would allow Oklahoma voters to decide if insurance companies should cover treatments for autism.

State Rep. Mike Brown (D-Tahlequah) has filed House Joint Resolution 1068, which if approved, would ask voters to add this amendment to the state constitution: “Any health insurance provider offering comprehensive coverage within the State of Oklahoma shall provide coverage for neurobiological disorders such as autism.”

The issue of providing coverage for autism has been a contentious one. Last year, Republicans killed “Nick’s Law,” a bill named for an Edmond youth with autism. His father, Wayne Rohde, and some legislators, had pushed for the legislation. But the bill was killed in a legislative committee.

Requiring insurance companies to cover autism is the right thing to do and some states already require such coverage.

The state GOP leadership argues this mandate could sharply increase overall insurance costs, but that’s not true. That argument is simply a distorted projection. Those who support coverage for autism argue that the increase costs would be minimal, which has been the case in other states.

Here’s a decent report on the cost issue.

Will the Republican leadership oppose Brown’s resolution? If the resolution passes, will the vested interests—primarily the health insurance industry—throw a lot of money into an election fight in order to deny coverage for those who suffer from autism?

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