Where the oak and blackjack trees
Kiss the playful prairie breeze
And I feel back in those hills
Where I belong—from Woody Guthrie’s “Oklahoma Hills”
(The only hoax in these Oklahoma hills is U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe. Sign this petition urging state Senator Andrew Rice to run against Inhofe in 2008.)
It should surprise no one that Oklahoma City now has the dubious distinction to be known as the fast food capital of America. Just look around.
A California-based marketing firm, Sandelman & Associates, recently compiled data showing the city to be home for more “heavy users” of fast food than any other city in the country. We even made it on the CNN Web site.
The data shows Oklahoma City diners visited fast food restaurants an astounding 21 times a month on average. Oklahoma City didn’t top the list overall, but it has consistently been in the top ten list, thus earning it the distinction as fast food capital.
The two reasons given for Oklahoma City’s fast food ranking are the area’s low incomes and the abundance of fast food restaurants. This only makes sense. People are looking for inexpensive food because they have less money than people elsewhere in the country. The big fast food chains are more than happy to provide a place for them to spend a few bucks.
Another problem is the area’s dearth of independent restaurants. There are some wonderful, notable exceptions, of course, but the Oklahoma City restaurant scene is dominated by chains. These chain restaurants group together—some fast food, some not—and limit people’s choices. They can drive independent competitors out of business.
There is also the problem of education about this issue. Do our students realize the calorie and fat content of a Big Mac? Should they be aware of the health risks associated with unhealthy eating habits? How can our culture here make this an important issue? What needs to be done?
The state's power brokers, in recent years, have promoted a culture of celebrating the "corporate model." This makes Oklahomans unaware how big food companies promote unhealthy eating for big profits. It’s great, for example, that Sonic has it headquarters here and contributes to the local economy, but it doesn’t make its food any healthier.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett has announced the Mayor’s Fitness Challenge to raise awareness of the area’s high obesity rate and the need for exercise. The area needs more programs like this.
(U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe has tarnished the state’s image for years. His outrageous public comments have made the state’s residents seem ignorant and intolerant. Take a few seconds to sign this petition urging state Sen. Andrew Rice to run against him in 2008.)
As expected, the propaganda ministry of big corporations, The Daily Oklahoman, is urging Gov. Brad Henry to sign Senate Bill 507, a measure that could limit the amount of money individuals can receive in a civil lawsuit.
In an editorial (“Standing tall: Ada lawmaker deserves hand,” April 23, 2007), the newspaper praises state Sen. Susan Paddock for voting in favor of the bill. Paddock broke ranks with her fellow Democrats on the measure.
Here are two points about the editorial:
(1) The newspaper simply has no credibility when it comes to this issue. It has been a supporter of big corporations over individual rights since its founding. Edward L. Gaylord, who ran the newspaper from 1973-2003, in particular, ensured the newspaper’s columns were filled with articles and editorials celebrating big business over the individual.
This is an ideology. Essentially, the newspaper’s bigwigs believe big corporations should dictate our realities. Big companies know best about what’s good for society and the culture, they argue. The principal owners of these companies should decide everything within the society through their politicians, such as President George Bush. Individuals should have fewer rights in the culture so these owners can make more money.
(2) The editorial argues that Paddock voted the way she did because she is a physician’s wife. “The wife of a physician,” the editorial claims, “she has seen the effects of a system skewed to the point that many doctors, especially those in high-risk fields, are moving elsewhere or cutting back their services because of the threat of lawsuits.”
But what about the big insurance companies that are raking in the dough from doctors? How come they get a pass from The Oklahoman? And where are the specific examples and statistics supporting the claim about doctors moving elsewhere? And why can’t we separate medical liability and corporate liability? They are not the same. Medical science and research should always be encouraged in our culture. Financial and legal obstacles that truly prevent the advancement of medicine should be removed. Obviously, big companies don’t want to separate the issue because of the sanctity of the patient/doctor relationship. It weakens their case. But, perhaps, we can find creative ways to reduce liability insurance costs for doctors as we maintain individual rights if we take big corporations out of the equation.
Robert Hunter, Director of Insurance for the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Federal Insurance Administrator under Presidents Ford and Carter, held a press conference at the capitol today to urge Gov. Brad Henry to veto SB 507, according to the Oklahoma Center for Consumer and Patient Safety. Senator Andrew Rice also participated in the conference.
Hunter discussed a recent CFA study that showed insurance companies in Oklahoma earned record profits in 2004 and 2005. He also submitted a letter to Gov Henry.
As I wrote in my previous post, Gov. Henry should veto this bill.
(Update: Kudos to Henry for vetoing the recent anti-abortion bill passed by the legislature It takes courage in today’s political climate to stand up for medical science and basic logic when it comes to this issue. Kudos also to The Oklahoman, which supported the veto as well in a recent editorial brief, “Difficult Choice,” April 21, 2007.)
An Opportunity To Get Involved
I received this email from Sarah Burris recently:
I was born in Oklahoma but have since moved on to work for a foundation in Silicon Valley that is working to fund organizations across the US that engage young people to only register to vote and get out and vote - but actually to stay involved after the election in some form of civil service/civic service or government participation.
I secured Oklahoma as a target for our next round of grantees for the Go Grant from our organization that will give a quarter of a million dollar grant to start up a new organization that specifically targets young people or under served communities in creative ways.
If you know of any young people who have organizing experience and a passion to do a project like this please feel free to pass this along to them.
Further, my family still lives in Oklahoma, and I'm always happy to be of service to any organization, class, department or group that could use advice or lecturers or guidance on anything pertaining to fundraising or the new world of "new media."
Feel free to check out our website about the Go Grants here.
View our Daily Kos post here.
Director of Development
Skyline Public Works
(Are you sick and tired of U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe’s outrageous public statements about climate change and the environment? Take a few seconds to sign this petition urging state Senator Andrew Rice to run against Inhofe in 2008.)
(The basic philosophy behind Oklahoma Senate Bill 507, a GOP bill designed to take away your legal rights, is this: Corporations should be exempt from responsibility for the safety of their products, and Oklahoma citizens should be denied access to the legal system as much as possible.)
Imagine your loved one lying comatose in Integris Baptist Medical Center after eating some manufactured food tainted by poison. The bills are mounting, and doctors say there’s no hope of recovery. You’re emotionally devastated and angry at the food company. Dozens of others across the country are either comatose as well or dead after eating the same food.
Does this sound far-fetched? It won’t if you’ve been paying attention to the news and know just a little about the recent history of corporate farming and food production in this country. Do you think the bigwigs at big food corporations and corporate animal operations care one bit about your safety and overall health? Do you think they care whether you live or die?
But at least, you might think, the American legal system will ensure you get compensated for medical costs and loss of wages, right? Well, increasingly, corporate America and the Republican Party are taking away your right to obtain monetary compensation for negligence.
The basic philosophy behind Oklahoma Senate Bill 507, a GOP bill designed to take away your legal rights, is this: Corporations should be exempt from responsibility for the safety of their products, and American citizens should be denied access to the legal system as much as possible.
Under the bill, which some might call the “Corporate Immunity Act,” state residents will be denied basic constitutional rights to sue for appropriate damages. The Senate this week passed the bill, 25-23, and it will now go to the governor’s office, according to news reports. Gov. Brad Henry should veto this bill.
According to the Oklahoma Center for Consumer and Patient Safety (OCCPS), “The legislation contains many provisions that will strip away individual constitutional rights in the interest of providing immunity for corporations.”
OCCPS points out three particular corporate-windfall portions of the bill: (1) It contains caps on so-called “non-economic” damages that could be rewarded. Punitive damages would only be allowed if an individual can show gross negligence. It caps pain and suffering damages at $300,000. (2) Products eight years or older would be exempt from liability even if the manufacturer knew such products were not safe. (3) It eliminates the collateral source rule, which basically prohibits a defendant, say a big corporation, from arguing the person suing might be reimbursed for injuries through other means, such as insurance. By eliminating this basic law, some companies could escape any legal responsibility for their actions.
Some Democratic senators also complained about a provision in the bill that would make it difficult for people to use information about particular incidents in nursing homes or other health facilities in a civil lawsuit.
Why in the world would we reward big corporations at the expense of regular people? The lucky ones who own these companies are filthy rich. They don’t care about you. They care about how much money they make. You’re nothing to them but a revenue stream.
Watch The Daily Oklahoman crank up the propaganda on its editorial page and in its news columns about this bill. It’s all about itself. It will be a big corporation speaking up for all big corporations.
Democrats should not concede the language about this bill. To call this “reform” is ludicrous and ironic. This bill promotes corporate immunity at the expense of basic individual legal rights. Don’t let the people get duped again. Call it what it is.