Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

Inhofe's Radical Environmental Stance Concerns Oklahomans

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U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s abysmal record on the environment is a major issue among Oklahomans and could help pro-environment  Andrew Rice in his campaign against the state’s senior senator, according to a recent article in The New Republic.

The June 3 article, written by Marisa Mazria-Katz, notes how state Sen. Rice, 35, pictured right, has put “environment issues at the heart of his campaign.”

On the trail, [Rice] emphasizes his efforts in the Oklahoma legislature to convert the state’s vehicle fleet to clean-burning fuel and to require public schools to reduce their energy consumption. Rice is hoping his larger agenda of alternative fuel initiatives, which include better harnessing the state’s vast natural gas resources, will appeal to a wide range of voters. “There is a segment of Oklahoma’s population that is willing to swing to the other side for the first time in 20 years,” Rice says.

Rice represents a district in Oklahoma City, but he continues to appeal to state rural voters who are tired of Inhofe’s grandstanding on global warming.  Environmental issues transcend political affiliation and the 73-year-old Inhofe seems out of touch with the latest scientific information about climate change.  Even his own political party’s presumptive presidential nominee has proposed a cap-and-trade system on carbon emissions. The article notes,  

While there are other reasons for Inhofe’s drop in popularity–particularly his mishandling of the state’s devastating ice storm last year–environmental issues have surprisingly risen to the top of many Oklahoma voters’ agendas. According to a TVPoll survey taken in February, 86 percent of likely Oklahoma voters believe that the state and federal government must take a strong hand in tackling environmental issues–and so they’re taking a second look at the Republican Party’s hard-line stance on environmental issues. In the same poll, almost two-thirds of likely voters disagreed with Inhofe’s position on climate change, and almost twice as many believed that the Democratic Party was better positioned to handle environmental issues than the GOP.

Rice’s environmental proposals are measured and thorough even as they promote substantial change in how we view and respond to climate change.  He understands global warming’s particular impact on Oklahoma, and he sees an opportunity for the state in creating new energy sources.  According to his campaign Web site,

…Rice believes Oklahoma is in a unique position to lead the way in research and development of alternative fuels and in promotion of clean-burning energy. Also, because of our state’s diverse wildlife and abundant agricultural resources, our quality of life is at great risk if nothing is done.  Rather than standing as a stubborn obstacle to change, Oklahoma’s U.S. Senator should help his state by taking a leadership role in Congress to advocate for reduced carbon emissions and development of alternative, clean-burning energy technology.

The environment, of course, is not the only issue in which Inhofe is out of synch with Oklahomans.  Inhofe remains an ardent supporter of the Iraq war, for example.  He has offered no major deviation from the Bush agenda if he is reelected, yet Oklahoma has a sizeable percentage of people without access to adequate health care.  His political party has offered no real solutions to the health care crisis, stagnant wages and rising living costs.  It is not political hyperbole to argue that Inhofe represents the status quo in right-wing Washington politics.  He is truly a figurehead of dead GOP ideologies, of the failed neoconservative experiment.

Rice remains the underdog in the race, for sure, in conservative Oklahoma. He has raised more than $1 million in campaign money, but it is only half of what Inhofe has raised.  More importantly, the right-wing corporate media in Oklahoma-led by the ultra-conservative newspaper The Oklahoman-refuses to cover in any depth the growing tide of world leaders who oppose Inhofe’s radical positions on the environment.  Inhofe has brought great embarrassment to the state’s residents, but the newspaper refuses to cover the story.

But this is a year of change. The Democrats have their presidential nominee now, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, who represents the philosophy of change in historic terms, and Republican political strongholds are crumbling throughout the nation.  Rice, an articulate, intelligent progressive, represents a clear break from Inhofe and the past.  He has a strong grassroots appeal as well.  

Rice Liveblogs Firedoglake

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State Sen. Andrew Rice (D-Oklahoma City) will liveblog on the progressive site firedoglake at 1 p.m. Saturday, February 23.

Rice, who is running against U.S. Jim Inhofe this election year, is expected to discuss his campaign and his recent initiatives in the state legislature to bring reform to our health care system. A bill proposed by Rice that would require health insurance companies to pay for costs related to clinical trials recently passed a state Senate committee.

Meanwhile, Rice continues to draw opposition from the bizarre ultra-conservative corporate media in Oklahoma over his reform efforts.  Here is a PeaceArena post on the issue. Here is a DownWithTryanny post about it.

According to his campaign, “Sen. Rice is fighting to move our state forward and improve our current health care status. …Oklahoma last year ranked 47th in overall health and 50th in health system performance – which included a rank of 49th in health system access. The way to change that is not to continue to give the insurance companies free rein; it’s to advocate for reform.”

Inhofe Linked To Alleged Terrorist Supporter

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Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is listed as a prominent reference on the Web site of a consulting firm operated by former Congressman Mark Siljander, who has been charged in connection with allegedly helping an Islamic charitable organization with ties to terrorists.

Siljander, a former Republican Congressman from Michigan in the 1980s, has been charged in federal court with 42 counts alleging he helped funnel money to an al-Qaida supporter “who has threatened U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan,” according to a media report.

Inhofe’s name appears on a “List of References” given by Global, Strategies, Inc. Siljander founded the Washington, D.C. area firm, according to the site.  Inhofe’s name appears on the top of the list, which includes several politicians and leaders.

The indictments, according to the media report, allege Siljander lobbied senators “on behalf of an Islamic charity that authorities said was secretly sending funds to terrorists.”

Here is Michelle Malkin’s take on the issue.  Here is what Down With Tyranny has to say about it.  Here is the Department of Justice press release on the issue.

Siljander represented a district in Michigan from 1981-1987. He was a delegate to the U.S. General Assembly from 1987-1988.

Rice: It Can Happen To You

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This is from state Sen. Andrew Rice (D-Oklahoma City), pictured right, who is running for the U.S. Senate this year against Republican incumbent Jim Inhofe:

My wife Apple and I were recently reminded why so many Americans are frustrated and anxious about health care.

Our 11-month old son Parker was hospitalized here in Oklahoma City for three days last November with pneumonia.  He received excellent care and, like most youngsters his age, he has rebounded very quickly from what was a scary time for all of us.  But, that is only half the story.

One month later we learned that our health insurance company was refusing to pay the $10,000 hospital bill because they said our baby Parker had a “pre-existing condition.”  I’m not kidding. When we argued that baseless reason away, they changed their excuse to “improper notification” by the treating physician, and said it was not a big deal because the hospital would just “write it off.” They don’t think it is a “big deal” to avoid providing the coverage we pay them for every month, and instead have the Oklahoma taxpayer foot the bill. That tells you something about how they see the world.

Not until they learned that Apple is a physician did the insurance company bureaucrats finally admit they had made a mistake and agreed to pay the legitimate claim.

It is a personal experience that too many Americans face every day, and it symbolizes why I’m running to be your next U.S. Senator.

The career politicians in Washington do not have the courage and integrity to reform this system, while 47 million Americans go uninsured and those of us who are insured must fight a system that is structured to deny claims first and ask questions later!

I want to be your U.S. Senator so I can take some Oklahoma common sense and values to Washington and change the culture of special interests that see everyday Americans as numbers and obstacles to their priorities. My background in Asia and Africa helping the poor and people suffering from HIV and as a divinity school student has guided my principles to stand up for the common good and be a voice for those who are invisible to the interests who think they own Washington.

I am dedicated to reducing the cost of health care and improving access.  When Washington failed to pass S-CHIP into law that would have expanded health insurance coverage for low income children, I worked in the Oklahoma State Senate to expand health coverage to 38,000 children from low-income families.  In the U.S. Senate, I will continue this work and make health care more affordable for all.

I invite you to go to http://www.andrewforoklahoma.com and support my campaign.  I’m in an uphill fight to change the status quo and I cannot do it alone. I also ask that you forward this email to at least 3 friends or colleagues, ask them to sign up to receive our emails, and help spread our campaign for reform. As we are seeing across the country, people are hungry for change, but the status quo is not going to go away easily.

My best to you and your family,

Andrew Rice

State Senator

P.S. I would like to hear about your experiences with your health insurance company. Please send in your story! And do not hesitate to visit my campaign website and sign up to volunteer or contribute.

Grist Interviews Andrew Rice

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State Sen. Andrew Rice (D-Oklahoma), who is running for the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Jim Inhofe this year, was recently interviewed by Grist, a prominent online magazine dedicated to environmental issues.

Here is the interview.

In the interview, Rice, pictured right, discussed his campaign against Inhofe, who once called global warming a hoax and fights against any federal legislation addressing climate change. Rice also discussed how fighting climate change could benefit the Oklahoma economy.

Rice said, “This is a win-win for Oklahoma, particularly around wind energy. We’re really in a position to be able to provide clean, renewable energy [to nearby states].

“I’ve got two bills [in the state Senate], one that’s going to be converting our state vehicles to alternative fuels, and another that’s going to be doing an energy-efficiency study of our schools and state buildings, trying to find ways to save money. I have rural Republican state Senate colleagues who were very supportive of these ethanol, biofuel, wind-energy initiatives we have; it’s not a partisan issue for them, because they have constituents in their communities poised to benefit from developing these programs.”

Rice’s positions on climate change are reasonable and responsible and stand in marked contrast to Inhofe’s over-the-top, anti-environment rhetoric, which has embarrassed the state.

Click here to get involved with Rice’s campaign.