Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

John Kerry to Speak to Youth on Clean Energy

 Consequences, the youth outreach organization fighting global warming and demanding a sensible solution to the climate crisis, has announced a special conference call next Tuesday with Sen. John Kerry.

According to their email

“Senator Kerry will engage young people across the country to talk about this historic moment in the fight for clean energy. Senator Kerry, the author of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, understands the importance of youth action on the climate issue and wants to hear from us.”

The call will take place this upcoming Tuesday, October 27th at 9pm eastern.  You can RSVP on their website here.

Is Social Security Safe Under Inhofe, GOP Ideology?

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Logo of The Case Against Jim Inhofe

(In the coming weeks, Okie Funk and Blue Oklahoma will set the record straight when it comes to U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe. This blog will be publishing an open-ended series, “The Case Against Jim Inhofe.” The series will comment on Inhofe’s political and business escapades, from his earlier lies about when he graduated from college to the insurance company he ran into insolvency to his dirty campaign tactics. It will show how Inhofe has consistently hurt the state’s image. It will focus as well on Inhofe’s atrocious record on economic, health, energy, environmental, military and government spending issues. Here are the installments published before this post: Part I: “Rice Gains Ground on Inhofe,” Part II: “Character Issue Follows Inhofe,” Part III: “When Inhofe Talks, People Cringe,” Part IV: “Iraq Distortions Cast Shadow Over Inhofe Campaign.”)

“The fundamental business of the country, that is the production and distribution of commodities, is on a sound and prosperous basis.”-Republican President Herbert Hoover, October 25, 1929

The failed economic policies of the Bush administration and the Republican Party have taken this country close to a complete financial collapse once again.

People around the country are now asking these basic questions: Is my money safe in the bank? Will I lose my job and home? Are my retirement funds safe? Will food and energy prices continue to go up? Will I be able to fill my prescriptions this month? Can I help my children go to college?

In a form of corporate socialism, the Bush/GOP ideology rewards the wealthiest in our culture through tax cuts, business deregulation and other incentives. The ideology punishes most everyone else with higher prices, stagnant wages and inadequate health care.

The recent collapse of several major companies tied to the subprime mortgage controversy has shown, once again, the harsh reality behind the Republican trickle-down theory. In the midst of this man-made muddle, there is much to condemn about the GOP’s bogus philosophy that creates the free market as the arbitrator of all American reality.

Yet the crash of huge business titans-Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, AIG-has also clarified for voters, both locally and nationally, the issue of financial security and its relationship to privatization.

Let’s focus on Social Security for a minute. Is there anyone left in America-except for Republican ideologues-who actually thinks we should privatize any aspect of Social Security given the reckless business practices of our banking and stockbroker firms? Should we really trust businesses, such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers or AIG, with our retirement money? Make no mistake about it. These corrupt and ill-managed operations would be exactly the type of companies in control of your Social Security benefits under the GOP-mandated privatization edict. President George Bush has long advocated privatization of Social Security, and his supporters, including U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, have hardly disavowed the president’s plan to take our retirement money and invest it in Wall Street.

In fact, an Inhofe spokesperson, Josh Kivett, indicated Inhofe still supports personal Social Security accounts, According to a Tulsa television station, Channel 8: “…Josh Kivett, a spokesman for Inhofe, says giving people the option of establishing personal accounts wouldn’t jeopardize their Social Security.” Kivett was quoted on August 15, 2008.

Inhofe faces reelection this year. His opponent, state Sen. Andrew Rice, has repeatedly said he would never support the privatization of Social Security.

Americans also face a health care crisis, which creates more financial insecurity. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, wants to implement the GOP plan that one major study says will actually leave 20 million more Americans uninsured. As New York Times columnist Bob Herbert recently wrote, “These are changes that will set in motion nothing less than the dismantling of the employer-based coverage that protects most American families.”

Herbert goes on to say, “The whole idea of the McCain plan is to get families out of employer-paid health coverage and into the health insurance marketplace, where naked competition is supposed to take care of all ills. (We’re seeing in the Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch fiascos just how well the unfettered marketplace has been working.)”

Inhofe almost always votes with the Republican majority, and given his opposition to bills improving and simply maintaining Medicare, Tricare, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Programs in the past, he is most certainly going to favor the McCain plan-if the Arizona senator is elected president-or some version of it. (Click here for Inhofe’s record on health care.)

The ongoing Wall Street crisis continues to clear the campaign fog and silliness on a national and local level. Do we continue on with at least four more years of willy-nilly GOP deregulation and privatization or do we vote in common sense people, who want to ensure regular people can retire and have health care?

Inhofe Rewrites Iraq History

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inhofewarlies

(In the coming weeks, Okie Funk and Blue Oklahoma will set the record straight when it comes to U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe. This blog will be publishing an open-ended series “The Case Against Jim Inhofe.” The series will comment on Inhofe’s political and business escapades, from his earlier lies about when he graduated from college to the insurance company he ran into insolvency to his dirty campaign tactics. It will show how Inhofe has consistently hurt the state’s image. It will focus as well on Inhofe’s atrocious record on economic, health, energy, environmental, military and government spending issues.  Here are the installments published before this post: Part I: “Rice Gains Ground on Inhofe,” Part II: “Character Issue Follows Inhofe,” Part III: “When Inhofe Talks, People Cringe.”)

(A different version of the below post was first published May 7, 2007.)

“Our intelligence system has said that we know that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction — I believe including nuclear. There’s not one person on this panel who would tell you unequivocally that he doesn’t have the missile means now, or is nearly getting the missile means to deliver a weapon of mass destruction. And I for one am not willing to wait for that to happen.”–Jim Inhofe on Meet The Press, 2002)

U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe’s bizarre comments last year on the Iraq occupation completely contradicted what he said during the time period leading up to the invasion.

In a Tulsa World article (“Vice President Visits Tulsa: Cheney, Inhofe blasted Democrats’ plan for Iraq,” April 27, 2007), Inhofe claims the reasons for the gruesome Iraq occupation initially had nothing to do with finding weapons of mass destruction.  Inhofe actually blamed the press for the so-called “mischaracterization.”

This was not simply political spin on Inhofe’s part.  This was a calculated lie by an angry warmonger intent on rewriting history to cover his errors and misjudgment.

Here’s what Inhofe said, according to the article: “The whole idea of weapons of mass destruction was never the issue, yet they [reporters] keep trying to bring this up.” That’s right.  His argument is that weapons of mass destruction were never used as “the issue” for the country’s invasion of Iraq.

But this is what Inhofe himself said on Meet The Press in 2002: “Our intelligence system has said that we know that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction — I believe including nuclear. There’s not one person on this panel who would tell you unequivocally that he doesn’t have the missile means now, or is nearly getting the missile means to deliver a weapon of mass destruction. And I for one am not willing to wait for that to happen.”

Here’s what President George Bush said on March 3, 2003: “”Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament.”

Here’s what the president said on March 22, 2003: “”Our cause is just, the security of the nations we serve and the peace of the world. And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.”

(The above Bush quotes were taken from the Think Progress blog.)

We can’t forget then Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations before the war in which he claimed the evidence was clear Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.   The whole idea behind Powell’s speech was to convince a skeptical world that Hussein had such weapons and could possibly use them.  Powell said he now regrets making the speech.

Here’s what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said about the Iraq invasion in 2003: “Let us be very clear about why we went to war against Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein’s regime posed a threat to the security of the United States and the world. This was a regime that had pursued, had used, and possessed weapons of mass destruction.”

Inhofe must think Oklahomans are too stupid to get online and find the facts or read a credible newspaper about the issue.  The state’s press has done a miserable job challenging Inhofe’s bizarre statements. His bizarre statements should be a major issue in the press here.

Is there not a reporter at one of the big, corporate newspapers in the state who has the guts to challenge Inhofe’s?  Will the editors not print the truth? This reporter would be backed by thousands of Oklahomans and millions upon millions of Americans and world, citizens who are sick of Jim Inhofe and his lies about the war and global warming.

The issue also shows how Bush and his supporters like Inhofe cannot be trusted to tell the truth about Iraq.  The right-wing war machine disavows historical accuracy, and it manipulates the masses with cultural wedge issues.

When you can’t trust your United States Senator to tell a simple truth about an issue as important as a military invasion and subsequent occupation and when your local media will not hold important politicians accountable for obvious lies, then democracy is threatened.  People throughout the country are realizing this and are now working outside the corporate media system to bring about real change.

Meanwhile, Inhofe has recently launched attacks ad against state Sen. Andrew Rice, his opponent in his reelection bid.  As expected, these ads are as credible as his distortions on Iraq.

When Inhofe Talks, People Cringe

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Image of The Case Against Jim Inhofe logo

(In the coming weeks, Okie Funk and Blue Oklahoma will set the record straight when it comes to U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe. This blog will be publishing an open-ended series titled “The Case Against Jim Inhofe.” The series will comment on Inhofe’s political and business escapades, from his earlier lies about when he graduated from college to the insurance company he ran into insolvency to his dirty campaign tactics. It will show how Inhofe has consistently hurt the state’s image. It will focus as well on Inhofe’s atrocious record on economic, health, energy, environmental, military and government spending issues.  Here are the installments published before this post: Part I: “Rice Gains Ground on Inhofe,” Part II: “Character Issue Follows Inhofe.”)

There are few states in this country that suffer more from image problems than Oklahoma.

From the lingering memories of the Dust Bowl to decades-old poverty to the perception of its residents as uneducated hicks, Oklahoma gets kicked around as a butt of jokes, and, as a result, it often gets passed over for economic development.

Although Oklahoma has made some progress in the last decade to change its reputation, one leader in particular continues to harm the state when it comes to its basic image.  That leader is U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican whose outrageous, public statements taint us all with the “hick” label.

Some in the GOP will argue that Inhofe is only colorful and obstinate, that the state’s image matters little to economic development. But that argument is undercut by former and contemporary state leaders-in the private and public sectors-who have consistently realized how important public relations can be to a state like Oklahoma.  Even with its now thriving energy sector, the state is part of a larger global business community.  The state must welcome different types of people with different types of views and skills or our standard of living and quality of life will suffer.

Yet we know this:  When the intolerant 73-year-old Inhofe opens his mouth, people cringe and Oklahoma suffers.

I think it is fair to argue Inhofe is one of the most despised American politicians in the country’s history. Oklahomans have continued to elect him to office for a variety of reasons, but outside the state and throughout the world he is loathed as a dangerous kook.  Certainly, George Bush, the most unpopular president in modern history, beats out Inhofe in terms of disapproval rankings, but Oklahoma’s senior Senator’s antics have long made him seem like an angry, stubborn fool to much of the world.

Here are just three examples of how Inhofe has embarrassed the state and, in the process, damaged its image:

(1) Inhofe is perhaps best known for his outrageous comments on global warming, which he calls the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” No one can fault Inhofe or anyone for reasonable skepticism about any issue, but this statement goes well beyond rational consideration.  It is a statement of paranoia and conspiracy, not of a rational leader.  The scientific community overwhelming believes global warming exists, and it has presented much evidence to support it.   Inhofe, meanwhile, has continued the rhetoric.  He has compared people who believe in global warming to Nazis. He has acted boorish and hateful to former Vice President Al Gore, who won an Academy Award for his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, which is about global warming.  (Watch this video clip.)  All this bating, ridiculous rhetoric has made Inhofe seem like a fool.  This directly reflects on the state.

(2) Inhofe once disparaged gay and divorced people on Senate floor. On June 6, 2006, in an act of narcissism, Inhofe pointed to an oversized photograph of his family and said, “As you see here, and I think this is maybe the most important prop we’ll have during the entire debate, my wife and I have been married 47 years. We have 20 kids and grandkids. I’m really proud to say that in the recorded history of our family, we’ve never had a divorce or any kind of homosexual relationship.”  Inhofe’s actions were widely mocked in the blogosphere and media.  Some felt his remarks proved his mental instability.  What type of person bases his pride, his self-worth, on the sexual orientation or marital status of family members?  Oklahoma has long possessed one of the highest divorce rates in the country.  Gay people here, such as Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth, have contributed greatly to the state’s recent efforts to change its image.  Inhofe makes the state’s residents seem narrow-minded and foolish.

(3) On May 11, 2004, in response to the atrocities committed by American soldiers against prisoners at Iraq’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison, Inhofe said, “…as I watch this outrage — this outrage everyone seems to have about the treatment of these prisoners — I have to say, and I’m probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment.” He went on to blame politics for how we even discovered the pattern of Bush-sanctioned torture. Inhofe, a staunch supporter of Bush and the Iraq occupation, was more outraged by the publicizing of the events than the events themselves.  The problem is not the torture, then, but the revealing of the torture, according to Inhofe’s warped logic. This goes along with Inhofe’s support of the Bush agenda to make government as secret as possible.  Oklahomans, meanwhile, are made out to be callous hicks filled with ridiculous political conspiracies.

There are more examples, for sure.  Inhofe once suggested that God allowed the September 11, 2001 attacks because the United States did not give enough support to Israel. In 2002, Inhofe said, “One of the reason I believe the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the United States of America is that the policy of our government has been to ask the Israelis, and demand it with pressure, not to retaliate in a significant way against the terrorist strikes that have been launched against them.”  As David Corn wrote then, “Inhofe’s remarks are reminiscent of the ravings uttered by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson days after the awful attacks. The pair accused the ACLU, abortion rights advocates, feminists, gays and lesbians, and People for the American Way (a liberal interest group) of degrading the nation and thus pissing off God.”

Inhofe faces reelection this year, and he currently leads in polls.  Part of the problem is the right-wing corporate media in Oklahoma, led by The Oklahoman, will not report extensively about Inhofe’s gaffes and their effect on the state’s image.  The newspaper serves as a propaganda ministry for extreme Republican ideology.

Inhofe’s opponent, state Sen. Andrew Rice, has promised to promote the state’s image and serve as a rational and welcoming ambassador for Oklahoma.  Rice has a healthy skepticism about issues and politics, but he will express it intelligently and without absurd theater, either from the left or the right viewpoint. That alone sho
uld be enough for Oklahomans to vote for Rice.

Inhofe's Radical Environmental Stance Concerns Oklahomans

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Image of Andrew Rice

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.  

Grist Interviews Andrew Rice

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Image of Andrew Rice

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.