Listening To Fred Harris

Politico published an excellent article on Oklahoma’s former senator Fred Harris a few days ago, and for those of us old enough here, it overwhelms the senses with nostalgia, bringing back a time when truth still matter at least somewhat in the political realm and when a person defined as a populist really described someone who cared about working-class people.

Harris, 86, who represented Oklahoma in the U.S. Senate as a Democrat from 1964 to 1973, was and remains a true populist, and he laments both the election of President-elect Donald Trump and how the word “populist” is often twisted and distorted to describe him. In Harris’ view, according to the article, “Populism is simply about voting for your own interests instead of against your interests—with the knowledge that your interests are the same as the interests of everyone else.” None of that describes Trump, who is self-interested to the brink of narcissism and will work to protect the interests of fellow millionaires and billionaires. Maybe he’ll give his base supporters a war to feed their nationalistic cravings, but that’s about it on a major level, in my opinion.

Richard Linnett, who wrote the article, describes the argument over the word populism like this:

When Harris looks at Donald Trump’s campaign, he sees a vision of populism fundamentally opposed to the way he saw the movement. In the 1970s, Harris aimed to build political clout by creating new coalitions across boundaries of race, gender and class, uniting people on the basis of their shared struggle.

I don’t envision Trump building “new coalitions across boundaries of race, gender and class.” In fact, I see Trump obviously dividing people along those boundaries, and I also view him as a misogynist, who objectifies women based on their physical appearance. His supporters apparently don’t care about this aspect of his nature when it comes to women, or agree with it, or think it’s just locker-room banter.

Linnett goes on the describe Harris’s 1976 run for the presidency in which he ran a truly grassroots populist campaign, staying overnight at people’s houses while campaigning across the country. Many people here, especially younger folks, don’t realize that Oklahoma was once a populist bastion that produced such heroes as Will Rogers and Woody Guthrie and, of course, Harris himself, who is retired now and lives in New Mexico.

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2016 Okie Funk In Review IV

Image of Picasso work

(I’m running excerpts from posts this week as part of my annual review. This is the fourth of four 2016 year-in-review posts. Click on the link below the excerpt to read the full post. Simply put, the year 2016, as defined in posts on this blog, now in its thirteenth year, wasn’t a good one for Oklahoma in any general sense. From the state’s continuing earthquake crisis to a state budget shortfall that led to a nearly 16 percent funding cut for higher education to the typical right-wing theatrics of a Republican-dominated legislature, 2016 has become, in my mind, perhaps one of the worst years in state history, culminating in the coming presidency of the authoritarian and unpredictable Donald Trump. These are not normal times here or throughout the country, and the uncertainty of what might happen in the coming year has many people afraid and depressed. We need independent media voices now more than ever. Thanks for reading the blog, and don’t give up the progressive fight in 2017.—Kurt Hochenauer)

It seems like once we get rid of some ridiculous law restricting reproductive rights for women here in Oklahoma, another law emerges that's even more crazier than the last one.

So it goes in Oklahoma.

The good news is that the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled invalid or "unconstitutional," whatever the means in this weird place these days, a new law that would have required physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. It was a slam dunk 9-0 decision and follows a similar ruling on a similar Texas law by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was never about women's health. Anyone who says that is a liar. Doctors or anyone can dial 911 just like anyone else, and emergency medical situations rarely come up at abortion clinics. This law created by the Republican-dominated legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin was to restrict abortion in the state. That was its only purpose. Anyone who says otherwise is lying or perhaps not very bright.

Fallin basically admitted this in a statement about the ruling:

The Sign Says More Trouble Ahead For Oklahoma Women, December 14, 2016

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2016 Okie Funk In Review III

Image of the elephant Bamboo

(I’m running excerpts from posts this week as part of my annual review. This is the third of four 2016 year-in-review posts. Click on the link below the excerpt to read the full post. Simply put, the year 2016, as defined in posts on this blog, now in its thirteenth year, wasn’t a good one for Oklahoma in any general sense. From the state’s continuing earthquake crisis to a state budget shortfall that led to a nearly 16 percent funding cut for higher education to the typical right-wing theatrics of a Republican-dominated legislature, 2016 has become, in my mind, perhaps one of the worst years in state history, culminating in the coming presidency of the authoritarian and unpredictable Donald Trump. These are not normal times here or throughout the country, and the uncertainty of what might happen in the coming year has many people afraid and depressed. We need independent media voices now more than ever. Thanks for reading the blog, and don’t give up the progressive fight in 2017.—Kurt Hochenauer)

A petition that asks the Oklahoma City Zoo to send one of its older female elephants to a sanctuary now has more than 165,000 signatures, and the number continues to grow.

I wrote about the elephant Bamboo here on Aug. 22. The 49-year-old Bamboo, obtained along with the now deceased elephant Chai from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle last year, has apparently had problems integrating into what zoo officials call a “herd.”

Bamboo has apparently been bitten on the tail and suffered a gash on her trunk when she was attacked by another elephant. She has also apparently attacked another elephant and has been isolated at times from other elephants.

The zoo has called the process of Bamboo’s integration with the other elephants “normal,” a claim strongly rejected by many animal welfare advocates and many of those people who have circulated and signed the petition. The zoo recently tried to put up obstacles to make it more difficult for media outlets and animal welfare advocates to retrieve records about the health conditions of its animals but has apparently relented on this issue.

The issue of how the zoo deals with open records requests, however, is a developing story. The zoo has at least one open records request pending—I placed it—and it remains to be seen how it will process it.

Petition Grows To Free OKC Zoo Elephant Bamboo, September 12, 2016

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