The Last Thing the Internet Needs Now


The Last Thing … Endorses Andrew Rice
November 3, 2008, 4:32 am
Filed under: Oklahoma, Politics | Tags: , , , ,

On Halloween I took advantage of early voting in Oklahoma. If turnout is going to be what is expected, I knew I would not have time to do so Tuesday, and I am glad I did, because if I had not made it to the polls on Tuesday I know I would be guilty forever of not participating in what has to be the most important Presidential election in recent memory.

I got to spend the time in the queue catching up with an acquaintance I’d not seen in nearly a decade, so that helped make the hour go by a lot faster. Nobody tried to suppress my vote, nobody did this, that or the other to make me have second thoughts or anything else. I simply went through the normal polling place procedures, went into the booth, marked the ballot with my choices and put it in the machine and then I walked out into the sunshine of a fall afternoon.

I cast a ballot for the candidates I support and the candidates I hope will win and undertake the process of healing what the last eight years hath wrought. I want to be hopeful that my vote will be one little tiny voice among many others in a mass repudiation of a GOP that has been hijacked beyond most hope of recovery.

How has the GOP been hijacked? For some 30 years by the mindset of, “I’m better than you because I’m a conservative Christian who thinks gays are terrorists and has never had a divorce or an affair. Global warming doesn’t exist but does it really matter because Jesus is coming back soon and will take us all away and leave the wicked to suffer and die here” and other types of extremist crapola that diverts Americans away from real issues — especially economic, energy, and climate issues — that *will* have a significant and measurable impact on the future.

But then again, I’m reminded I live in Oklahoma, where the two major newspapers: The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World — are doing their part to keep with status quo by endorsing, at least in the major races, the McCain/Palin presidential ticket and James Inhofe in the U.S. Senate race. When you have these media juggernauts (yes, even the Tulsa World, which is like the little sibling who always cries “Take me with!” or “Meeee tooooo!!” compared to The Oklahoman) to tell you what to think, what’s the point of trying to convince you otherwise?

In its endorsement of Inhofe, The Oklahoman wrote:

Inhofe is a pro-defense fiscal and social conservative who reflects Oklahoma values. Under Democratic control, Congress has moved far away from those values. Sending Rice to the Senate would do little to put the brakes on that trend.

James Inhofe on the issues

Hey, we might all be scared shiteless in the continuing economic crisis worrying about where our next paycheck/meal/shelter/possible medical care might come from if we did find ourselves downsized/outsourced/just plain shite out of luck. But under the watch of vigilant “values” fans like Jim Inhofe, nobody will burn the flag, gay/lesbian couples won’t get married, and heaven forbid a woman decides what to do with her own body, especially if she becomes pregnant as the result of non-consensual sex. Oh, and forget about teaching people about contraception and general sexual health, which at the end of the day creates more problems than it’s supposed to relieve (allegedly). They’re all about pushing this “abstinence-only” nonsense. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You will not stop people from having sex. This is like laying out a spread of pastries in front of a fat kid and telling him not to touch it. The best you can do is use education to help limit unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STDs.

Values indeed. Values out of whack in the big picture when America faces an uncertain economic climate, a canyon between the haves and have-nots, and also faces the task of undoing eight years of taint on America’s place on the world stage thanks to Bush/Cheney (or should that be Cheney/Bush) foreign policy.

I respectfully believe in my heart of hearts that the vast majority of Oklahomans in their right minds shudder when they hear Inhofe bully his opponent and address him like a snotnosed little kid, as he did in the one debate that Inhofe agreed to do (Rice asked for more, Inhofe agreed to just one), or hear Inhofe use the Senate floor to talk about his family history’s lack of divorce or homosexuality, and generally want to hide their faces in shame almost every other time Inhofe has opened his mouth. Inhofe has his fans, sure, but its a disservice to a state that wants very much to bury old negative stereotypes (Dust Bowl, for instance) and be taken seriously as a player in attracting business, as a player in sports other than college football, and as a contributor to diverse popular culture. Inhofe continues to represent that part of the Oklahoma psyche that is fearful of change, doesn’t come off as all that bright even though they may be, and — unfortunately — might be prone to irrational hatred of people That Are Not Like Them.

And why do social (or Christian) conservatives have a monopoly on “values”? Don’t we all have a set of values? People’s values might be different from person to person, but they are still values. George F. Will (of all people!) asked “who isn’t a values voter?” over two years ago in a Washington Post column:

This phrase diminishes our understanding of politics. It also is arrogant on the part of social conservatives and insulting to everyone else because it implies that only social conservatives vote to advance their values and everyone else votes to . . . well, it is unclear what they supposedly think they are doing with their ballots. …

———–

Conservatives should be wary of the idea that when they talk about, say, tax cuts and limited government — about things other than abortion, gay marriage, religion in the public square and similar issues — they are engaging in values-free discourse. And by ratifying the social conservatives’ monopoly of the label “values voters,” the media are furthering the fiction that these voters are somehow more morally awake than others.

Today’s liberal agenda includes preservation, even expansion, of the welfare state in its current configuration in order to strengthen an egalitarian ethic of common provision. Liberals favor taxes and other measures to produce a more equal distribution of income. They may value equality indiscriminately, but they vote their values.

Among the various flavors of conservatism, there is libertarianism that is wary of government attempts to nurture morality and there is social conservatism that says unless government nurtures morality, liberty will perish. Both kinds of conservatives use their votes to advance what they value.

And this is how I see it:

One set of “values” is about making America a society where the planes of economic stratification are accessible as stair steps rather than discouragingly divided, and not about getting all up into your personal life with respect to your choices and beliefs. This set of values, to me, encourages Americans as human beings deserving and worthy of that which all human beings deserve: To be treated with dignity and equality regardless of their race, ethnic makeup, sexuality, income level, or religious beliefs — even if they are non-Christians or even non-theists.

Another set of “values” is about getting all up in your personal business and your beliefs, and keeping the planes of economic stratification spread far and wide with not much hope for those on a lower plane to advance higher, no matter how hard they work to achieve such advancement. They also talk about treating all Americans with the dignity they deserve, but for some reason this irritates the lunatic fringe on the far reaches of this political spectrum. People like this, perhaps, who’ve become associated – fairly or unfairly – with the Republican half of the Presidential ticket.

The kind of order that James Inhofe endorses does not speak for all Oklahomans, and is in fact a disservice to Oklahomans who desire the forward progress of our state and its profile and standing in the rest of the nation. With that, The Last Thing … endorses Andrew Rice for U.S. Senate.

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Did Kern Get Death Threats or Not?
March 13, 2008, 9:37 am
Filed under: Media, Oklahoma, Serious stuff | Tags: , , , , ,

The Tulsa World (amazingly, a major metropolitan newspaper in Oklahoma not owned by anyone named Gaylord) is reporting that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is now sifting through the thousands of e-mails Kern has received in the wake of her homophobic tirade released last week by the Victory Fund via YouTube.

[OSBI Spokeswoman Jessica] Brown said Tuesday, “There are a lot of e-mails to the representative that say, ‘You ought to die,’ rather than, ‘I am going to kill you.’

“I wouldn’t characterize them as death threats,” she said.

But Brown said OSBI computer analysts are working to find the senders and that some might be interviewed to assess their intent. She said it’s possible that the OSBI will refer some to district attorneys for prosecution.

So, what was it? An unintentional exaggeration to rally her side to her cause? Kind of a disproportionate version of a little kid telling her parents that the big mean bullies were out to get her? Who knows, but — if I’m reading the Tulsa World correctly, if she wasn’t wholly forthcoming about receiving death threats, I think that’s kind of sorry.

But keep firmly in mind: Death threats are in and of themselves inappropriate, even if they’re aimed at someone like Sally Kern. Sad to say though, that which should take place of death threats and other petty bullshite — i.e. open communication and rational adult dialogue about issues — are things that I seriously doubt that Kern and those of her ilk would have any interest in seeing as how their minds are pretty much made up and absolutely positively nothing will change them.

(Hey wait — rational adult dialogue? Does someone who equates homosexuality with terrorism sound like a rational adult? What the hell am I saying?)

I felt like poking around sites such as the American Family Association, the Eagle Forum, and Focus on the Family to see where Kern lifted some of her talking points … but I had just eaten a (rather lousy) chicken parmesan TV dinner and I felt it starting to come back up, so I stopped, not wanting to exascerbate the nauseated feeling.

What’s really sad for me is that I’m so caught up in the Kern thing that it’s diverted my attention from that which keeps me going in March: The buildup to the NCAA Tournament. All five of my dear readers know how much I love the roundball. But it’s hard to ignore this state embarassment in light of how badly Oklahoma wants to play with the big boys (including the possible acquisition of an NBA team whose Oklahoma City-based ownership group wants to move them here). Remarks like Kern’s don’t make the rest of the nation want to let go of those dated, negative stereotypes about Oklahomans that have nauseated me and so many others for years. The timing is just horrible on a lot of levels.