Archive for August, 2010

Such Short, Short Memories

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2010 by rottenart

Why in the world would conservatives be giddy about shutting down the government?

There are a lot of reasons why it would be a terrible idea, starting with the fact that government spending is the only thing keeping America afloat at the moment. Big Business is holding us hostage over the prospect of a tightened regulatory environment following the ACA  and Financial Reform and until Democrats figure out a way to entice them into hiring workers, federal funds are going to shore up state after state. Here in OK, a proposed Grand Prix deal was nixed by the city council, mostly because the city has already slashed its budget and can barely afford teachers, let alone pothole repair. In fact, many recent improvement projects have been finished on time only because of stimulus money. If the government shut down, those projects, along with similar projects across the country would come to a grinding halt.

But the practical implications of such a stunt notwithstanding, it’s unfathomable to me how Republicans can’t remember the outcome the last time they tried it.  Actually, some do, yet they seem to think it would be different this time around. The truth is, it’s liable to work out a lot worse for them now. Americans aren’t interested in a government that does nothing, despite what conservatives say.

Personally, I’d be tickled pink if the first thing a new Republican congress did was to codify their image as completely out of touch and bereft of ideas. Watching them effectively resolve to do nothing would be entertaining though likely catastrophic for the average American. In some ways, if the public were short-sighted enough to hand Republicans control after the past ten years, then I think they would deserve every calamity that might befall them. However, despite all the ranting, I am an optimist. I think the public remembers just how traumatic the Bush years were. I think they might even remember how good things were under Clinton’s watch and how childish Newt’s class of ’94 was for thinking a game of political chicken was what the country needed or wanted.

I’m pretty sure a majority of the American public remembers all that. The question is: why don’t the Republicans?

(cross-posted on Examiner.com)

No Wonder Hispanics Are Demonized in OK

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2010 by rottenart

To hear Oklahoma’s representatives tell it, illegal immigration is one of the roots of all evil. Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe have both come out swinging on the issue, offering up the standard conservative dogma about “amnesty to illegals” and lining up proudly behind HB 1804, the state’s controversial anti-immigrant measure, enacted in 2007. Coburn even goes so far as to say that Obama’s immigration reform plans are part of a political ploy to attract Hispanic votes. The OK legislature is poised to further marginalize immigrants with another planned immigration measure, based on Arizona’s infamous SB 1070, that would go even further, allowing for state seizure of property. It seems that no matter who represents OK, either at the state or federal level, they’re always ready and able to bash brown people.

Which is why this story is so interesting. It seems that in addition to all the alleged crime, drugs, rape and pillaging perpetrated by immigrants in the state, they are also a huge cash cow for state budgets. According to the article, transportation and detention brought $6 million to the Tulsa County sheriff’s department alone during an 18 month period.

Keep in mind that this is money that comes directly from the federal government. Nearly 45% of ICE’s $5.7 billion budget goes to local law enforcement for detention and transportation as well as paying for facilities. That’s around $2. 5 billion that flows from DC to the states every year. I’m not suggesting that states should bear the responsibility for a federal issue, which immigration certainly is (in fact, it’s the reason Arizona’s law was largely nullified by a judge a few weeks ago).  But remember those numbers when your local teabagger starts yammering about federal spending.

In any event, it’s clear that the passion over immigration is not solely based on ideology. Garvin County Sheriff Steve Brooks evidently knows which side his bread is buttered on:

“This contract stimulates our budget and gives jobs to the community,” Brooks said. “We don’t use county funds to do federal business, but the money brings something here.”

(…)

“We’re not going to get rich doing this, but we’re not going to go broke,” he said. “It makes things better for the citizens of Garvin County.”

Brooks said he’s often confronted by those who don’t believe the program is humane. The irony of the job also isn’t lost on him: if all the illegal immigrants were gone or no longer illegal, his budget and his roster would shrink again.

“I guess we’d have to figure something else out,” Brooks said. “Right now, we’re upholding the law.”

Upholding the law while staving off painful budget decisions on the backs of immigrants, that is. I don’t necessarily fault local law enforcement. When the budget comes down, I’m sure they’re grateful for every job they can save, even if it means destroying others (and let’s face it, immigrants do a lot of work in OK). My only wish is that when our elected officials grandstand on immigration reform, they should come right out and tell people the truth about their motives. They may be ideologically opposed to illegal immigration but their states are benefiting financially from the demagoguery.

All I’m asking for is a little honesty.

(cross-posted on Examiner.com)

Xenophobia in Oklahoma City Threatens Mural

Posted in Art, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2010 by rottenart

In a story that has been generating some discussion in local circles the past few days, a new mural hanging at the capitol is being threatened with removal by some lawmakers. The piece in question, “Beyond the Centennial” by Oklahoma City native and Mexican immigrant Carlos Tello, depicts the state’s history and future in a vibrant and colorful fresco. As the above video notes, lawmakers have gone out of their way to insist that their displeasure with the work is purely aesthetic and has nothing to do with the painter’s nationality.

While that is certainly an admirable and politically expedient move, it just doesn’t pass muster. After all, this is also state that is going out of its way to prove its xenophobic bona fides, seeking to one-up the recent draconian anti-immigration law in Arizona. Indeed, State Rep. Randy Terrill, noted anti-immigration demagogue and author of previous legislation to strip immigrants of basic health care, would like to mimic Arizona’s law with the added provision of property seizure. In a Republican dominated legislature, his plans may actually come to fruition.

Now it may be that OK lawmakers truly don’t like the mural because it “doesn’t fit in with the other art” at the capitol. Most of the pieces at the building are straight-forward, figurative depictions of Oklahoma’s historical figures. Tello’s more stylized mural is certainly more eye-catching than the others, utilizing not only a bright color palette, but a fracturing of the picture plane and forced perspective that owes much to the Mexican muralists, most notably David Siqueiros. Carlos is a self-taught artist and the work has a style that also brings to mind some of the more detailed and ornate examples of Outsider Art.

Disliking the mural on grounds of taste might be one thing. But the anti-immigrant fever sweeping the nation and some quarters of the capitol is hard to overlook as possible motive. Would the mural be generating the same response had the artist been a native (read: caucasion) Oklahoman? If the politics of Oklahoma were dictated by inclusion and open-mindedness, these unnamed detractors might be forgiven for their artistic ignorance. After all, it is a very intriguing piece and very much sums up the spirit of Oklahoma: unique, spirited, and a little off-kilter. But the xenophobic fog that clouds the mind of Terrill and his cohorts is as myopic as it is disturbing. Rabid anti-immigrant conservatives tend to see the specter of the evil Other around every corner. Given their track records, its difficult to believe that Mr. Tello’s fresco is any exception to their thinly-veiled hatred.

(cross-posted on Examiner.com)

Tom Coburn’s Scattershot Wisdom

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2010 by rottenart

As the old saying goes, a stopped clock is right twice a day. Or, to put it another way, if you kill everyone in the room, you’re bound to get the one bad guy. This is the approach to government spending favored by noted lesbian hunter, Dr. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma’s slightly less wing-nutty junior senator. He spoke to a town hall in Wagoner, OK and made clear that he thinks the government should not be spending money on things like over-priced F-35 aircraft that the military doesn’t want. Which is good.

Of course, in the same town hall, he also claimed that health care reform and the Dept. of Education are also examples of bad government spending. Which is idiotic. He’s just so enamored with his image as “bulwark against DC pork” that he casts a net over every single thing the government does. There’s a reason he’s earned the nickname “Dr. No”. And it just wouldn’t be a Republican gathering if there wasn’t some requisite poor-bashing, with the good Dr. and his constituents alike bemoaning how generous welfare benefits are and how “no one ever got a job from a poor person”. This all plays quite well in conservative, rural OK, even though Oklahoma ranks high on the list of receiving federal welfare. It’s been noted before, but look at how many of the states who pay the least in taxes and get the most back from DC happen to be Republican red states. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.

This is the problem with Coburn’s (and most of the rest of the Republican line, including the misguided caterwauling of the Teabaggers) logic concerning spending. While his desire to spend less on waste can be helpful when applied to actual waste (like the aforementioned F-35), his adherence to a “no spending whatsoever” mantra would result in a national calamity, including in Oklahoma. One wonders whether he sees his own senatorial salary and benefits package as unnecessary too. It’s no surprise that he offers this anti-government boilerplate to his faithful base back home. They have been conditioned since the Reagan years to think the government is the source of all their ills when the truth is that government spending is crucial to our economic survival. To just paint all spending as waste, especially in the areas of health and education, is lunacy aimed only at driving the vote in November.

You can see from the comments on the Tulsa World article that many Oklahomans buy the snake oil Coburn and others are selling. Until the brainwashing of our populace is effectively countered, then voters will continue to be blissfully unaware of how much they depend on Washington even as they gleefully bash it all day long. Tom Coburn is undeniably targeting some of the bad guys when it comes to spending. The problem is that his solution is to shoot all of us in the hunt.

(cross-posted on examiner.com)

Oklahoma City Maybe… Possibly… Finally Gets It?

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2010 by rottenart

An interesting story out of the Oklahoman today about construction around the Deep Deuce area of Oklahoma City. It seems a team of real estate developers and architects have ideas about how to make the neighborhood more livable, sustainable, and scalable. As anyone who has visited the area knows, the idea is one that should be copied throughout the city. I’ll admit, I only recently moved back to OKC, but it seems the problems it faced haven’t changed much.

Ever since condos started appearing in Deep Deuce, people have asked how to make the area inviting. Certainly, the lack of any real public transportation is one huge hurdle. At the moment, residents are forced to drive anywhere they need to go, including most grocery shopping, and have limited options for parking their vehicles. That doesn’t even begin to address the rent situation, which also keeps a lot of diversity away. In short, the current development scheme gets some things right while getting lots of other things wrong.

One of the key components would be a light rail system allowing residents access to other parts of OKC and Bricktown without relying on automobiles. Of course, the current powers that be in the metro aren’t having any of it, despite lip service and a slew of studies to point out the obvious: OKC needs commuter rail. No, much more important is the fealty to the NBA. Granted, the Thunder, OKC’s new professional basketball franchise, has been successful but the money spent to acquire it could easily have been invested in an infrastructure that would have doubled its success. How many more people from Midwest City and Edmond would be willing to come downtown if they knew they didn’t have to worry about driving?

Another problem seems to be the lack of organic growth. Bricktown is full of gargantuan spaces that the average local retailer or shopkeeper can hardly afford. Allowing for a subdivision would allow entrepreneurs to develop at their own pace, as opposed to relying on grandiose, all-or-nothing blocs of developer planning. The success of the rapidly growing Plaza District could point the way , proving that small, local businesses can thrive if nurtured in the right way. Allowing more mixed use structures, with owners frequently living in the rear of their spaces, could go a long way to attracting more sustainable growth.

The development of the new apartment complex, including the developers’ planned focus on walk-ability and livability, is a huge step in the right direction. I applaud the steps OKC has taken towards urban density, as this is what makes cities exciting, affordable, and inviting. I only wish we would stop moving forward with one leg stuck in the past.

(cross-posted from the examiner.com)

Ken Mehlman Is Finally Sorry

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2010 by rottenart

Unless you’re an avid political junkie (guilty!) you probably don’t know the name Ken Mehlman. He was the manager of George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign and chairman of the RNC from 2005 to 2007. During this time he was also gay as hell. This would not have been a problem, or even a big deal, except for the fact that both those former positions allowed him to demonize gay people relentlessly to drive the homophobic Republican base to the polls. Remember all those anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives during the 2004 campaign? All part of Mehlman’s nefarious design.

Yesterday, he came out of the closet to much fanfare and shouts of “FINALLY!” from the press because it has been something of a non-secret around DC for years that Ken liked dudes. On NPR yesterday, Marc Ambinder said Mehlman even received a call from W stating his support and asking if there was anything he could do. That is so sweet. The president who made a platform out of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is so compassionate with his buddies! It’s almost as if the demagoguery about gays was just a lot of wacky rhetoric and when it comes down to it, being gay really doesn’t have any bearing on anything. Strange.

Of course, the gay community is having none of it. As the Mike Rogers article above makes clear, Mehlman has some pretty serious atonement to make for his previous work if he wants to become an advocate for gay rights, which apparently he thinks is possible. Hey, at least he wasn’t beating the gays straight with tennis rackets, right?

I must admit, as much as I’m a live and let live sort of guy, I agree with Mike Rogers on this one. It’s a great thing that Ken Mehlman has finally decided to live his life openly. It’s also a good thing that he sees the injustice in denying equal rights based on sexual orientation. However, he spent way too much time doing just that for political gain. I’m sure the self-loathing he felt was excruciating but he did get paid pretty well, so I guess money isn’t as homophobic as the GOP. Add Ken’s name to those of Roy Ashburn, George Rekers, Mark Foley, Ted Haggard, etc., etc., on the list of “gay Republicans who demonized gays and don’t get to make it go away by just saying sorry”. The statement by Mehlman is a political calculation, plain and simple, and while it happens to be on the right side of the issue, that doesn’t make it any less craven or cynical.

I’m happy for your new-found self-affirmation, Ken, but why don’t you take the Mark Foley route and retire quietly to an antique store somewhere. The gay rights movement has been doing just fine without your help, even way back when it was you they were fighting against.

(cross-posted on the examiner.com)

Just So You Know, Fox Funds ‘Terrorism’

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2010 by rottenart

Jon Stewart, either hilariously or depressingly, is one the best news guys out there. In another stellar bit of reporting/comedy, he points out to us that the terrorist radical Saudi prince who all the Fox talking heads insist is funding the Park51 community center single-handedly, personally recruiting for Hamas, and shoving Sharia Law down Real America’s throat also just happens to be the biggest shareholder in News Corp.

In fact, for all the chumminess ascribed to Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal and the Cordoba Initiative’s Feisal Abdul Rauf, there seems to be a little love for Uncle Rupert too. I wonder why in the world Fox News wouldn’t mention this new media venture in that freedom loving democracy, Saudi Arabia?

I can’t imagine it needs repeating, but Fox News wouldn’t know credibility if it came crying to them with photos of the holocaust and a big, confusing chalkboard.