Armadillo Summer Days

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(Here are some excerpts from recent posts on Okie Funk. I will resume regular posting on Sunday. Thanks for reading the blog.—Kurt Hochenauer)

Unless there’s another energy boom soon in Oklahoma, the state will continue to experience slow population growth because of its current political milieu and anti-education bias.

For some Oklahomans, that might be fine, but for those interested in ensuring the state remains viable, slow or no population growth will mean a stagnant tax base and a stagnant business climate. This will only lead to less population growth, and the problem will only become larger.

These ideas should be placed into public discussion because the U.S. Census has released preliminary population estimates for 2009. As of July 1, 2009, the state had a population of 3,687,050, which is only 236,396 larger than 2000. At that growth rate, the state will only top 4 million around 2020. That’s not dynamic growth to say the least.

Does Extremism, Anti-Education Bias Slow Population Growth?, June 29, 2010

The Oklahoman editorial page published a snarky, hateful piece of commentary Saturday that criticized state Sen. Jim Wilson, who is running against U.S. Rep. Dan Boren for Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District seat in the Democratic primary.

Apparently unable to make a rational argument to support Blue Dog Democrat Boren, the ultra-conservative newspaper resorts to demonizing. Ironically, the act of demonizing is its formal complaint against Wilson.

The unsigned editorial ("Jimmie Wilson’s war,” July 3, 2010) stated:

In demonizing Boren, Wilson, a Democratic state senator from Tahlequah, demonizes the oil industry, as well

Somehow, for Wilson, the Gulf oil spill threatens the pristine parts of Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District. Boren, he says, stands up for "big oil.” Imagine that! An Oklahoma politician caring about a major economic engine! Wilson's election would be a dream come true for Nancy Pelosi but a nightmare for most Oklahomans.

Note the Pelosi and "dream come true" reference. Imagine that! Demonizing the first woman in history to become Speaker of the House of Representatives in an editorial criticizing political demonization.

Demonizing Editorial Criticizes Demonization, July 4, 2010

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn has been in Oklahoma recently terrifying what he calls his “petrified” constituents.

This is because, well, among other things, “She (U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan) is scary. She believes precedent trumps original intent. That really scares me. That says our wisdom is so much greater now that we don't have to pay attention to the founders.” These remarks (“Americans are petrified about their future,” July 11, 2010) were given to The Oklahoman editorial board recently. The board serves as a de facto propaganda ministry for Coburn.

So, in essence, Coburn meets with his constituents in town hall meetings, scares them with right-wing anti-Obama hysteria and fear mongering—“that really scares me”—and then tells the media how scared everyone has become. Now that’s a political trick to be scared about.

Coburn told The Oklahoman:

The emotion in the country is really interesting. You hear a lot of people talk about anger. It's not anger. It's absolute fear. People are petrified about the future about everything from health care to judicial nominees.

Are conservative people really “petrified” here about judicial nominees given recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions supporting the Republican agenda from gun laws to allowing corporations more influence in the political system?

Fear and Deception: Coburn Scares Petrified Americans, July 11, 2010

The Oklahoman editorial page’s recent spiteful “good riddance” to Wayne Rohde, who has fought intensely and bravely for a health insurance mandate here that would cover treatment for autistic children, is a new low in its pro-health insurance company agenda.

The editorial (“Movin' on in: State loses some, gains even more,” July 13, 2010) also cites an article by two “Research Fellows” with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), which makes dubious claims about population growth in the state.

OCPA is an ultra-conservative think tank that engages in faux, GOP-sponsored intellectualism that gives newspapers like The Oklahoman a way to attack decent Oklahomans and further its destructive, anti-middle class agenda. In the OCPA and The Oklahoman world, the rich can do no wrong and are the only group deserving of decent health care.

The gist of the editorial is that it doesn’t matter that Rohde has announced he and his family are moving to Minnesota so he can get treatment coverage for his son, Nick, because, well, the state is gaining more residents from other places than it loses residents to other places. The Oklahoma Legislature has declined to make insurance coverage available for autism despite Rohde’s intensive, articulate campaign.

The editorial included this little nasty paragraph:

Other families with autistic children may also leave. People move for a variety of reasons — jobs, cost of living, safety, etc. — and more people are coming to Oklahoma than leaving it.

The Oklahoman: Hurray, we’re only getting the healthy people now. Hurray, “families with autistic children may also leave”! Let’s just hope none of these new people have kids with illnesses, especially autism. Well, shoot-fahr, maybe we can just run them out, too!

What About Nick? The Oklahoman Editorial Page Sinks To New Low, July 15, 2010

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Who Can Beat Fallin?

Image of Jari AskinsImage of Drew Edmondson

Who has the best chance against U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin in the state’s gubernatorial general election: Lt. Gov. Jari Askins or Attorney General Drew Edmondson?

It’s a question vexing and dividing many Democratic political observers, who mostly like and admire both candidates, but there’s wide agreement that this year’s governor’s race is about as crucial as it gets. Republicans are expected to retain majorities in the House and Senate, and only a Democratic governor can bring much needed balance to Oklahoma government.

So what if Fallin, who is leading in the polls, wins? What will happen to the state’s educational systems under the Republican agenda? What about the impoverished, the hungry? Will our prisons get more crowded? Will new tax cuts for the state’s wealthiest citizens force even more draconian cuts in state government? What about quality of life issues and the state’s national image in the land of state Reps. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) and Randy Terrill (R-Moore). Will the state lose even more progressive people?

Republicans here are running on anti-government hysteria and Tea Party rhetoric. Their strategy is to create unfounded fear in voters. Let’s face it, that’s what many Oklahomans are buying into these days. Which candidate, Edmondson or Askins, has the best chance of countering the right-wing extremism and winning votes in the November general election?

As a liberal, I want to vote for the most progressive candidate in any race, but in Oklahoma you sometimes don’t even get a choice. Both Askins and Edmondson can't be described as liberal in any rational political sense, though the winner in the Democratic gubernatorial primary will undoubtedly be labeled by Fallin’s camp as a President Barack Obama-supporting socialist or something along that line. But we can try to limit the damage of the Republican agenda by supporting a Democrat for governor. That’s the reality here for liberals. Another option, of course, is to work outside the two-party system.

Askins and Edmondson are both accomplished people, who, if elected, would serve the state well as a centrist to sometimes centrist-right governor, much like Gov. Brad Henry. There’s little doubt about that among many Democratic leaders, but who can win against Fallin, a telegenic candidate with good funding, national endorsements and name recognition in the most anti-Obama state in the nation? That’s the main question as the primary approaches.

In Oklahoma, the conservative juggernaut, cheered on by The Oklahoman and other local corporate media outlets, continues unchecked. A Democratic win in the governor race this year would be a huge victory for those trying to find some political rationality here beyond Tea Party rants and hateful vitriol about the first African American president in the nation’s history.

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Liberal Mary?

Is U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin a liberal? Incredibly, that’s apparently what one of her Republican opponents in the upcoming gubernatorial primary wants Oklahomans to ask themselves.

State Sen. Randy Brogdon (R-Owasso), who is running against Fallin, has been airing an advertisement (see the above video) attacking her for making “liberal compromises.” The ad may or may not be effective among Republicans, but it does symbolize just how conservative the political discourse has become in Oklahoma.

Remember, Fallin has the endorsement of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Here’s “liberal” Mary in action:

The Brogdon/Fallin race—there are also two other Republicans running—might put some state progressives in a particular, ironic position. Fallin leads the gubernatorial candidates in recent polling and thus remains the clear front-runner. But what if Brogdon’s political tactics actually worked? Wouldn’t it be better if the winning Democratic candidate, who will be either Lt. Gov. Jari Askins or Attorney General Drew Edmondson, faced Brogdon instead of Fallin in the general election? Liberals for Randy?

Meanwhile, Scott Cooper published an insightful article in the Oklahoma Gazette this week that highlighted the campaign differences between Brogdon and Fallin. It also showed Brogdon’s Tea Party connections. There was this gem of a quote from Brogdon: “People better be scared, because we are living in some perilous times. We are on the brink of losing our country.”

The real concern should be about a conservative extremist, such as Brogdon or Fallin, actually becoming governor with Republican majorities in the House and Senate, but here amid all the anti-Obama hysteria and the political distortions of the corporate media, it increasingly seems like a distinct possibility.

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