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Reposted from Mike Lux by peacearena

In the 1880s and 1890s, a prairie wildfire swept through American politics. The generation of pioneers that had taken the risk to head out west and take advantage of Abe Lincoln’s Homestead Act, where our government literally gave away free land to any poor and working class people, had successfully battled terrible weather and intense loneliness. They had worked their butts off to become farmers and ranchers, and made a good life for themselves. But when railroad barons, Wall Street bankers, and oil monopolists began to squeeze them and make it tougher and tougher to make a living farming and ranching, they rose up and started organizing a populist movement that changed American politics and policies. States like the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma rebelled against pro-big business politicians, and much of what they demanded- breaking up the big corporate trusts, tougher financial regulations, easier credit, Social Security, a minimum wage, an 8 hour work day and no child labor, women’s suffrage, stronger labor unions- eventually became incorporated in the reforms of the Progressive era of the early 1900s and the New Deal of the 1930s.

Eventually, though, those Plains States became much more conservative, and are now among the reddest of the red states politically. Something is going on out there, though. In this strange political year, where most pundits and historical trends suggest that it is likely to be a Republican year, the Plains States are shaking things up. While it isn’t exactly like the Populist movement of old, there is a growing rebellion in these states that suggests the current brand of extreme conservatism may not be going down so well in these normally Republican states.

In Oklahoma, the Republican Governor Mary Fallin is having a surprisingly tough time winning what was expected to be a very easy re-election campaign. In 4 of the 7 public polls taken over the last several weeks, she has been under 50%, and in 2 she has been right at 50%. Her Democratic opponent Joe Dorman has an internal poll out last week showing him down only 2 points, 47-45. And the RGA is worried enough that they have been spending quite a bit of money there.

In North Dakota, where Democrat Heidi Heitkamp shocked the punditry by pulling off a come-from-behind upset in 2012, the House race is one of the hottest in the country, with recent polling from Mark Mellman showing George Sinner up 42-40 over the incumbent Kevin Cramer, who is a far right extremist.

In my home state of Nebraska, the open seat Governor’s race is very competitive, with prairie populist Chuck Hassebrook within 7 points in the latest public poll of close friend of the Koch brothers (He spoke at their secret meeting in June), Pete Ricketts. Hassebrook has spent his career advocating for small farmers and small town businesses at the Center for Rural Affairs, while Ricketts’ Koch-style extremism has gotten him into hot water. (First bias alert: Hassebrook is a long time friend.) Meanwhile, the Democrat running for the House in the Omaha district, Brad Ashford, is in a dead heat race with Republican incumbent Lee Terry.

In Kansas, as anyone following politics has become aware of in recent weeks, both incumbent Republican Governor Sam Brownback and incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts are in very deep trouble, with high unfavorability numbers and trailing consistently in the polls. The Roberts campaign has been awful, but a big part of the reason for the problems these Republicans are having is that Brownback’s extreme tax and spending cut agenda have badly alienated voters.

Finally in South Dakota, in a race long written off by many pundits and national Democrats, support for Republican Mike Rounds has been collapsing in a 4 way race, and Democrat Rick Weiland (2nd bias alert, Rick is also a good friend whose campaign I am helping) is now close enough in the polling that both the DSCC and several progressive groups are putting real money into the state to help him. Rick is running a classic folksy prairie populist campaign against big money, including writing his own lyrics and singing songs like this one on the campaign trail:

That’s 5 hard-red Republican states, with 3 Governor races, 2 Senate races, and 2 House races all closely competitive. At the beginning of this year, not a single one of those races except maybe the ND House race was considered likely to be in play for the Democrats. And this is not in a Democratic tide year like 2006, it is in what is considered by most pundits more likely to be a Republican year.

So what is going on in my home region? I have a couple of observations.

The first is that these Democrats are campaigning with gusto in small towns and rural counties. There is a very large part of America that Democrats can’t win without appealing to rural voters, and as Democrats have become more oriented over the years toward focusing on big cities and the suburbs, they have sometimes forgotten to reach out to folks in small towns and on farms and ranches. That has made red states redder, and it has made it harder for Democrats to win a majority in the House. But Democrats in the Plains States are making campaigning in small towns and rural counties a cornerstone of their campaigns. Hassebrook, as I mentioned, has been an advocate for rural folks his whole career, and had robust, active steering committees set up in every county in Nebraska from early in his campaign. He fully expects to win or come close in a lot of rural counties where the last Democratic candidate for Governor, Bob Kerrey, did not get to 30%. In South Dakota, Rick Weiland made as the centerpiece of his campaign strategy the idea that he would become the first candidate to ever go to all 311 South Dakota towns, making quite a contrast with Rounds who has spent most of his campaign raising money on the east and west coasts. The bottom line is that rural voters are like anyone else: if you ignore them, they won’t like you. National Democrats have been ignoring rural America for too long, but these Plains States Democrats are proving that they can win a lot of rural votes if they just work at it.

The 2nd observation is this: the virulent, extreme form of Southern conservatism that has become the heart of modern Republicanism nationwide is different from the conservatism of the Plains States, and as Southern-style extremists have taken over the Republican party in those states, it isn’t playing well with voters. The politics of Bob Dole are not the mean-spirited politics of Mitch McConnell or Sam Brownback or the Koch brothers, and voters in those states understand the difference and are rebelling this year against that mean-spiritedness.

None of the races I have described are easy pick-ups by any means for the Democrats. These states are all still solidly Republican- they don’t like Obama or what they perceive as big government. But the fact that there are 7 highly contested races in solid red states that few people thought would be competitive is a sign that something unusual is going on the small towns and wide open spaces of the Great Plains. It’s not exactly the populist revolt of the 1890s, but it is making things interesting.

Discuss
Reposted from tmservo433 by peacearena

Oklahoma had a very busy weekend, at least according to the richter scale.

GUTHRIE, Okla. (AP) -- The U.S. Geological Survey has recorded seven small earthquakes shaking central Oklahoma in a span of about 14 hours.

The temblors are part of an increase in earthquakes across Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas that some scientists say could be connected to the oil and gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, and especially the wells in which the industry disposes of its wastewater.

Sunday's quakes ranged from magnitude 2.6 to 2.9 and were centered in the Guthrie, Jones and Langston areas, 15 miles to 30 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. The USGS said the quakes were recorded between 7:57 p.m. Saturday and 9:51 a.m. Sunday. No injuries or damage were reported.

Those follow four other quakes, including a 4.3-magnitude temblor near Langston recorded shortly after noon Saturday. The other Saturday morning quakes ranged in magnitude from 2.9 to 3.2.

http://hosted.ap.org/...

While the media focuses on seven earthquakes in fourteen hours, the state could also be said to have experienced 11 earthquakes in separate regions in 48 hours.

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Reposted from Native American Netroots by peacearena
Traditional Navajo people (Diné) herd sheep, but they are NOT sheep.
Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, a group of Native parents and their allies from across the country were alerted to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin's daughter, Christina Fallin's latest gaff when her band Pink Pony announced via Facebook "I heard Pink Piny [sic] was wearing full regalia tonight." Protestors led by Choctaw musician Samantha Crain staged a protest at the Norman Music Festival in Oklahoma and Native American's reaction via social media was outraged as Fallin wore a Native American-style fringed shawl with the word "Sheep" on the back and performed a fake war dance while her boyfriend Steven Battles ridiculed the protesters and flipped them off from the stage.

Earlier that day, Crain noted on her Facebook page, "Publicity stunt or not, even if they are lying, their attitudes, their insincerity, their irresponsibility, their general lack of caring about anything other than the advancement of themselves deserve a protest. So I will be at the Pink Pony show at NMF tonight. Midnight. black watch stage. Peacefully and quietly picketing with signs to tell them how I feel."

Some of the signs said, "culture is not a costume," "with all your power, what will you do?," "you still owe us an apology," "don't trend on me," "I am not a costume," and "please forgive us if we innocently oppose you". The last sign was a take on Fallin's non-apology after she posted a photo of her self misappropriating Native America regalia reserved for highly honored leaders for a glamour shot to promote her career. Faced with more Native American protests Fallin attempted to have Crain and supporters removed by security, but they were allowed to remain on private land adjacent to the stage.

According to a tweet by Chahta Summer, a Choctaw mother and recent law school graduate Fallin's shawl with "sheep" written on the back was a direct swipe at Native Americans. "Their supporters were calling us sheep the last time, saying we called her out to be PC, not thinking for ourselves."

Cherokee EONM member and blogger Jennie Stockle posted to Pink Pony's Facebook page, "Apathy towards the clear feelings of other people is cruelty. Her apathy based to Native culture is racist. No opaqueness in this issue. It is clear. We will not stand silent while she degrades honored and sacred symbols."

The Fallin family has faced controversy with the Native American community both in Oklahoma and nationally last year when Governor Mary Fallin helped facilitate the forced adoption of a Cherokee girl, Veronica Brown from her Cherokee family who were found to be fit parents by the courts 1,000 miles away to a white South Carolina couple who had used shady adoption practices to dodge the Indian Child Welfare Act that seeks to protect Native American tribe from mass removal of their children, a violation of the Geneva Conventions on Genocide. Oklahoma has one of the largest Native American populations in the country and has 38 federally recognized tribes.

EONM calls upon the Riverwind Casino, Blackwatch Studios and Christina Fallin and Governor Mary Fallin to apologize for this direct attack affront to Native American concerns regarding the misuse of our culture and purposeful insult to Native Americans in general. Blackface is not acceptable and if Fallin had engaged in it and then derided African Americans' for demanding she stop performing in blackface the Governor would be apologizing on national television. It shows the degree to which racism and caricature of Native American culture is acceptable in the United States to a degree it is not for other ethnic groups. And coming from a member of a family that is supposed to represent 38 Native American communities within the state of Oklahoma this behavior is particularly unacceptable.

Discuss
Reposted from Animal Nuz by peacearena

From the Human Rights Campaign (hrc.org):

Today U.S. District Judge Terence Kern ruled that Oklahoma’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional.  His ruling is stayed pending appeal, meaning marriages will not occur immediately in the Sooner State.

HRC President Chad Griffin issued the following statement:

“Judge Kern has come to the conclusion that so many have before him – that the fundamental equality of lesbian and gay couples is guaranteed by the United States Constitution.  With last year’s historic victories at the Supreme Court guiding the way, it is clear that we are on a path to full and equal citizenship for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.  Equality is not just for the coasts anymore, and today’s news from Oklahoma shows that time has come for fairness and dignity to reach every American in all 50 states.”

Two plaintiff couples, Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin and Gay Phillips and Susan Barton, filed their case, Bishop v. Oklahoma, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma in November 2004.  Lead counsel in the case are Don Holladay and James Warner of the Oklahoma City law firm Holladay & Chilton PLLC.    

http://www.hrc.org/...
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Reposted from Laura Clawson by peacearena
Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma leads Gen. Frank J. Grass, Chief, National Guard Bureau through the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., where seven students were killed during the May 20th, 2013 tornado.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin inspecting tornado damage with National Guard leaders.
Supreme Court decisions or not, Defense Department orders or not, bigots are gonna be bigots. That's the reminder we get from various states' refusals to follow a direct order from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to give National Guard members in same-sex marriages the spousal benefits to which they are entitled. Bigots can take different routes, though. In Texas, they're simply refusing to do it, sending same-sex couples to federal facilities that might be hundreds of miles away. Oklahoma, by contrast, has stopped processing spousal benefits for everyone, apparently figuring it doesn't count as discrimination if you treat everyone equally badly in order to be allowed to treat some people badly.

In an announcement earlier in the month, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said:

FALLIN: Oklahoma law is clear. The state of Oklahoma does not recognize same-sex marriages, nor does it confer marriage benefits to same-sex couples. The decision reached today allows the National Guard to obey Oklahoma law without violating federal rules or policies. It protects the integrity of our state constitution and sends a message to the federal government that they cannot simply ignore our laws or the will of the people.
Actually, the federal government can and often does supersede state laws. That's not generally controversial except among secessionists. For instance, several states have laws on the books saying they don't have a minimum wage, or have one below the federal level of $7.25. Yet despite state law, the minimum wage in those states is $7.25 an hour. Or take interracial marriage. At the time the Supreme Court decided Loving v. Virginia, Oklahoma had a state law against interracial marriage; that law was effectively struck down by the Court's decision. Fallin's implication that it would somehow be unprecedented for Oklahoma to have to do something it doesn't want to do because of the federal government is twisted and moronic, and as Think Progress points out, the vast majority of funding for the Oklahoma Military Department comes from the federal government to begin with.

Meanwhile, of course, the lives of all married Oklahoma National Guards are made more difficult in service of a spiteful bigotry.

Discuss
Reposted from imobannon by peacearena

I live in Oklahoma- think it matters to me? Nope. I voted for the person who best represented what I want my city to do. Norman, Oklahoma- we're at least a bit more liberal than the stereotype our state has earned.

Tom isn't the first gay elected official in Oklahoma, but it is believed that he is the first elected official in Oklahoma to be married to a person of the same sex. And he's my city councilman.

Norman councilor weds longtime same-sex partner.

I'm a U.S. Navy Veteran, I'm also straight- which has nothing to do with this. But I voted for the person who best served our community's interests - I voted for Tom, and I will do so for any office he runs for. (FYI, I also have a respectable Democratic state legislature representative (also a personal acquaintance) who generally thinks along the same lines as me.)

I've been involved in Oklahoma politics for many years and I served on the state's Democratic Party central committee. I love my state and my liberal voting pattern...

And I love that my friends were married (even if in another state), and that one of them is my city councilman.

Congrats Tom Kovach and Will Weir!

Discuss
Reposted from Knowledge Democrats by peacearena

For anyone who lives in Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District and want a change from Rep. James Lankford, Democratic Candidate Tom Guild will be appearing in Brennan Society’s Dinner in Edmond, OK on November 13th.

Details below:

https://www.facebook.com/...

Tom Guild is the featured speaker for the Brennan Society’s Dinner with Friends at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday November 13, 2013. The Brennan Society is Oklahoma’s premiere progressive organization.

The society meets at Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler located at 33 E. 33rd in Edmond. The restaurant is just east of Broadway. You can arrive at 6:30 p.m. and go through the line to order something to eat or drink or visit or join us at 7 p.m. for Tom’s presentation.

Poll

Tom Guild or James Lankford?

86%19 votes
13%3 votes

| 22 votes | Vote | Results

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Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 07:26 AM PDT

It's OK to hate gays in OK

by vuzvilla

Reposted from News From The Plains. All This Red Can Make You Blue by peacearena
 
News from the Plains: All this RED can make you BLUE

It's OK to hate gays in OK
by Barry Friedman

(Optional musical accompaniment)

So, how hard was this one to get right?

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has ordered the National Guard to stop processing requests for military benefits for same-sex couples, her office confirmed Tuesday, despite a Pentagon directive to do so.
Apparently too hard.
Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said the governor was following the wish of Oklahoma voters, who approved a constitutional amendment in 2004 that prohibits giving benefits of marriage to gay couples.

"Because of that prohibition, Gov. Fallin's general counsel has advised the National Guard not to process requests for benefits of same-sex couples," Weintz said. "Gay couples that have been legally married in other states will be advised they can apply for those benefits on federal facilities, such as Tinker Air Force Base, rather than state run facilities."

Ah, leadership. The governor, who, incidentally, is on her second marriage (as is her husband), will protect the sanctity of the institution, because nothing tears at the fabric of society faster than a gay soldier making his lover a beneficiary on a 401k. Good thing we didn't allow voters to decide on the legality of interracial couples, otherwise Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas and his white wife Ginny would be outlaws.

That constitutional amendment, by the way, in addition to denying benefits to same sex spouses, also says Oklahoma will not recognize same-sex marriages from other states, which is a problem because the United States Constitution says it has to.  

SECTION 1.

Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.

SECTION 2.

The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.

And ... there is the matter of the recent SCOTUS decision stiking down the Defense of Marriage Act (something Justice Thomas astonishingly voted against doing).
This decision means that legally married same-sex couples are now entitled to the same federal benefits as married opposite sex couples.
And ... there is the matter of the makeup of the National Guard.
"Her legal argument is full of holes," said Chris Rowzee, spokeswoman for National Guard affairs for AMPA. "National Guards are not solely state entities; they are a joint entity with the federal government."
And ... there is the matter of the directive from the Department of Defense of the United States of America that benefits be granted to same-sex domestic partners in the military.
The Department of Defense has announced the extension of equal benefits for ALL military spouses, regardless of sexual orientation.
And ... there is the matter of the Oklahoma Constitution itself.
Section I-1: Supreme law of land.

     The State of Oklahoma is an inseparable part of the Federal
Union, and the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law
of the land.

Slowly ... and with feeling: THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATE IS THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND.  It's on page one, for the love of Madison!

This should settle it, right? Aside from being pernicious, heartless, and petty, the governor's decision is legally indefensible. Now if we could just get her to stop confusing Oklahoma with Oklahoma!

This is what she said at the Republican National Convention.

The history of my state of Oklahoma offers a great example of pursuing the American Dream. It was built and settled by pioneers moving West to seek better lives. During the great the Land Run of 1889, thousands of families rushed to put a stake down on empty plots of land. They built tent cities overnight, they farmed the land and they worked hard. And in 1897, eight years after the Land Run, a handful of adventurous pioneers risked their own money – NOT, the federal government’s – to drill Oklahoma’s first oil well, the Nellie Johnstone. Mr. President, we know better. As we say in Oklahoma, that dog won't hunt.
Except, Governor, this isn't the end of the musical where Laurey and Curly ride off in their surrey with the fringe on top without having to register the surrey at DMV--it's a real place where the Morrill Land-Grant, railroad, and homestead acts ... the U.S. Military, meat inspectors, and federal highway money ... hunting licenses, Pell Grants, and U.S. Weather Service--not to mention the $1.35 it gets back from the federal government for every $1 it pays in taxes--all made the state what it is today.

In belonging to that commonwealth, we adhere to its laws--and not just the ones we like.

That's the deal.

Oklahoma is still part of the United States of America. It would be nice if we acted like it.

Ed. Note: That picture above is National Guard Sgt. Heather Britt-Davis, who will soon be returning home from Afghanistan later this month. The woman around her neck is Kasey, her spouse.

This is what a soldier's family looks like.
This is what America looks like.
This is what Oklahoma looks like.
This is what marriage looks like
This is what love looks like.

Oklahoma!, DOMA, Governor Fallin

Discuss
Reposted from News From The Plains. All This Red Can Make You Blue by peacearena
News from the Plains: All this RED can make you BLUE

Comparing apples to oranges to bullsh*t
by Barry Friedman

Last week, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak claimed insurance rates would "skyrocket" in the state because of the Affordable Care Act. Doak, a long time critic of ACA, seemed almost gleeful in delivering the bad news.

"Our fears have been confirmed," the press release states. "For some consumers, the cost of health insurance will increase significantly. This is more proof that Obama-Care will hurt Oklahoma families and businesses."
Notice the hyphen, notice how Doak chokes over even having his office use the word, Obamacare, notice how he assumes what he's trying to prove. If Doak spent a little less time in armored cars, pretending to be Hotch, a lot less time being a partisan hack, regurgitating the same GOP invective, and any time dealing with the problem of 690,000 uninsured Oklahomans, we would all be better off. His statement on the effects of Obamacare (see how easy it is to say?) is not only a twisted, tortured, cherry-picked, and deliberately misleading assessment of the potential health landscape, his office is proud of the dodge.

More about that later.

Oh, about his "fears being confirmed"--puhlease.  Doak has been doing nothing but ginning up those fears since ACA was first proposed, so, as the kids like to say, don't even.

First off, as David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, reminds us, these findings, far from being studied and distilled from a disinterested party, came from luft.

His claims are not based on data, but rather on informal conversations that his staff apparently had with some insurance carriers.
And then there's this...
A study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation of California and Washington, D.C., analyzed premiums in 17 states and found that they will vary widely across the country but "are generally lower than expected."

"Most people buying their own insurance will qualify for premium tax credits, which will significantly lower the cost of their premiums," the study states.

ACA, even its proponents will agree, is 4144.4 miles (roughly the distance to Sweden) away from true healthcare reform, but if one woman gets a cancerous mole screened who otherwise wouldn't, good on Obamacare, which is why this manipulation by the commissioner's office is so deceptive and infuriating.

To wit ...

-Doak didn't include the proposed rates from all those companies who will be offering insurance as part of the exchange, which is the whole GOP point about competition.

-Doak doesn't factor in the kinds of coverage that will be offered, so if one coverage includes maternity benefits and one doesn't, it's pointless to compare rates.

-Doak doesn't consider that pre-existing conditions will no longer be excluded, which means better coverage, albeit more expensive and, arguably, worth paying for.

-Doak doesn't mention that low-income Oklahomans will be receiving federal subsidies to cover the premiums.

And this last point is kind of important.

The lower your income, the larger your subsidy. For instance, those making $17,235 a year will pay no more than 4% of income, or $57 a month, while those with incomes between $34,470 and $45,960 will pay a maximum of 9.5% of income, or $364 a month. The federal government will cover the rest.
So, if your premium increases, but you receive a subsidy to cover it (and your hypertension is covered and your kids can stay on your policy and your insurance company has to spend 85% of your premium on care and quality improvement), Doak's argument is not only bogus, it's cynically and deliberately mean-spirited.

Kelly Collins, a spokeswoman for Doak, said that federal subsidies were not included in the assessment, essentially admitting that, yeah, the office just used the numbers it liked.

"It's basically impossible because you're comparing apples to oranges," Collins said in an email to the World.
So you decided to be irresponsible instead.

Affordable Care Act, Oklahoma Policy Institute

Discuss
Reposted from Mikey Weinstein by peacearena

Last week I had the pleasure to speak to Arnold Hamilton, who for years has written for the Oklahoma Observer. As friends tell me, the Oklahoma Observer is one of the last publications in Oklahoma that still practices real journalism and ceaselessly speaks truth to power. I can honestly say that the below article is one of the best articles ever written about the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) that I’ve ever read since we were founded in 2005, hence my republication of it.

NOTE: I’ll be in Tulsa – a ‘Bible Belt’ stronghold – next Saturday, September 21, at an event that will be open to the public. If you’re in the region, be sure to come to the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance’s annual Russell Bennett Award presentation at All Souls Unitarian Church, 2952 S. Peoria Ave. at 2:00 p.m.




GOD’S SQUAD: Military At Risk As Sooner Delegation Helps Tear Down Church-State Wall

BY ARNOLD HAMILTON

Mikey Weinstein lives a day’s drive west of Oklahoma in the mountainous, desert Southwest, but he knows all about the Sooner state.

He knows it has 77 counties, and every one of them voted Republican in the last two presidential elections.

He knows it is a hub of U.S. military operations, including three Air Force bases and Fort Sill.

And he knows it is home to a statistically small, yet rabid – and politically influential – slice of Christian fundamentalism that abhors religious pluralism and pursues a theocracy that mirrors an apocalyptic worldview.

All of which makes Oklahoma a near-perfect locale for Weinstein – founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation – to make his case first-hand that “fanatical religiosity” within America’s armed forces is threatening national security.

“Give me 300 seconds – one for each of the Spartans killed at the Battle of Thermopylae – and I don’t know how you can possibly be against what we’re talking about,” says Weinstein, an Air Force Academy honors graduate.

“We’re a very aggressive and militant organization, but our militancy and aggression is in support of the Constitution.”

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Reposted from Knowledge Democrats by peacearena

Hello fellow Kossacks,

Recently I had published, oh behalf of my Knowledge Democrats group on Daily Kos, the number of Democratic candidates running against incumbent GOP Congressmen/Congresswomen or towards open seats (as well as a listing of no Democratic challengers to date in certain Congressional Districts).  That diary you can read here:

http://www.dailykos.com/...

In one of the states which is getting Democratic challengers to incumbent Republican U.S. Representatives, Oklahoma right now has two Democratic challengers:  One in Oklahoma's 4th Congressional District and the other in Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District.  Aside from Congressional races, there is a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, Matt Silverstein, who is running against Senator James Inhofe.  There seems to be a bit of activity going on in Oklahoma and this early in the election cycle as of August 2013.  Whether that translates into much change or activity within the state is a question to be debated.

Tae Si, the current Democratic candidate running in Oklahoma's 4th Congressional District against Rep. Tom Cole, is the first announced Democrat to be running in the district.  As I was doing some research on races going on in Oklahoma, I stumbled upon Tae Si's campaign website and found him to be an interesting Congressional candidate.  Si comes from a software engineering and programming background and is at a young age of 26.  Not exactly a typical background most Congressional candidates have but then again, unusual candidates can become effective U.S. Representatives.  

Take a look at Congressman Rush Holt who has a Ph.D in Physics and is considered one of the most progressive Democrats in Congress.  Computer Science and Physics are of course two different areas of science but they are science and therefore, it's possible a Congressman/Congresswoman from a science background can be very knowledge-based and analytical-minded as opposed to how most politicians generally are (not to say career politicians don't believe in knowledge to justify their legislation or policies when in office).

I have taken the liberty to interview Tae Si and to get some insight on his background, where things are looking in his campaign and where he stands on the issues.  This should be looked at as a good starting point for you to understand him and his campaign since we're still in August 2013 and we've got a ways to go until the November 2014 midterm elections.

The interview was done by me but on behalf of the Knowledge Democrats group which is based on Daily Kos but expanding its presence beyond the Kos community.  Our goal is to provide coverage and gain insight in Congressional Districts across the U.S., particularly those red district-based races that don't normally receive much coverage.

For more insight and information on the Knowledge Democrats group, reach out to me or Augustin on Kosmail or e-mail us at knowledgedemocrats@gmail.com

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  Give a introduction to yourself on your background, where you come from, etc.  What has motivated you to run?  You may be the first software engineer that has run for Congress.

TAE SI:  I was born in Seoul, South Korea. My family moved to the U.S. when I was a kid. Most of my childhood was spent in Georgia. I was a gameplay programmer for a few years in Florida. One game I worked on was The Clique: Diss and Make Up for the Nintendo DS. I then moved to Norman, Oklahoma where I worked for the University of Oklahoma as a software engineer developing a research tool that would help mitigate cognitive biases. I decided to run for Congress because the future the country is heading towards is awful. Another recession is coming and nothing will change if the same people are in charge. I’m 26 years old, but I can solve problems and get things done.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  Oklahoma is being known as one of the reddest states in the United States and has not exactly been friendly to the Democratic Party for a long time.  What is your view of residents in your district and even the state?  How have they reacted to your campaign?

TAE SI:  There are a few people that don’t even give me a chance to speak once they find out I’m a democrat. However, most people who listen do like what I have to say. It’s not a matter of blue or red. Once people hear my message, people tend to agree. The problem is how I can spread my message across the 4th congressional district.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  What are some issues facing the OK-04 Congressional District, particularly ones that are more local-based issues?  Do you believe they are being addressed or is there a need for better outreach?

TAE SI:  Issues facing OK-04 are similar to the ones facing the nation. More local issues include funding for storm shelters in schools due to the tornado, increase in teachers’ salaries as they had no pay increase in years, and the governor turning down the Medicaid expansion. People are doing their best to address the issues, but I see no signs of a resolution anytime soon.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  On education, is the U.S. government (whether local, state, federal) doing enough to improve education and if not, what do you believe can be done?

TAE SI:  The government, on all levels, is doing almost nothing to improve education. Many of the people in charge are looking out for their own interest. I recently graduated out of the educational system and know firsthand what the problems are. There was an article in the December 2012 issue of The Elementary School Journal about the redundancy in mathematics. The article points out that there is about 60% of instructional redundancy at each grade on content taught in previous grades in elementary school. Middle school is even more redundant. That’s just mathematics. I was assign to read and do a report on the same book for the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade. It’s no wonder most adults read at the 8th grade level and why many dropouts say the curriculum is not challenging or relevant.

By consolidating the curriculum, we can get rid of redundancies and start offering college credit by the 8th grade. I will also push for a school voucher system endorsed by both Senator Elizabeth Warren and free market economists Milton Friedman, to help families escape failing schools.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  What's your feeling about the economy?  Can more be done to improve it?

TAE SI: I know for a fact the economy is going to turn for the worst. We have 1 or 2 recessions every decade. There were laws in place that lessen the pain of the recessions of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Thanks to the deregulations, the recent recession became a lot more painful. History says another recession is coming, and it just might turn into a depression as nothing has been done to fix the problems. The Dodd-Frank Act is a joke. We need to reinstate Glass-Steagall. We need to stop putting the taxpayer in debt to big banks. We need to replace the corrupt lawmakers that are funded by Wall Street. Lots of things must be done.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  Income equality.  Do you believe this is an issue that needs to be addressed?

TAE SI:  There is income disparity based on gender and race. However, the biggest gap is between the middle class and the rich. My top priority is to restore the middle class. The middle class is losing wealth. According to the Global Wealth Data Book, the median wealth for an adult is $39,000. The median wealth for an adult in Spain, a country with higher unemployment, is $53,000. Australia’s median wealth is $194,000. The U.S. middle class is regressing. I will reverse this course.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  How are the Newton massacre, Aurora Colorado massacre and other related incidents affecting OK-04 residents? Should Oklahoma have more gun control (background checks and such) or can the issue be addressed on matters besides gun control?

TAE SI:  Guns are very popular in Oklahoma. The majority of the residents are fighting against gun control. The 2nd amendment does give people the right to bear arms. However, the first part of the 2nd amendment doesn’t say unregulated. It says “well regulated.” Background checks won’t stop all the people that will misuse guns, but it will stop some and hinder others. Just because we can’t completely stop gun violence, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  Do you believe Citizens United should be overturned?  Are money and special interests having too much of an influence in politics?

TAE SI:  I believe Citizens United should be overturned. Corporations do not have 1st amendment rights as they are not people. They cannot go to jail nor have human traits. Money and special interests have great influence in politics. Political corruption didn’t start with Citizens United, but it did add to the problems.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  Do you believe safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare need to be cut to address the U.S. deficit and debt (i.e. chained CPI) or are there other ways to address the deficit and debt?  Should raising the retirement age factor in as well?

TAE SI:  There are ways to eliminate the deficit and reduce the debt without cheating the taxpayer out of what they are owed. Money got taken from Social Security and Medicare to fund wars and other destructive activities. To say there is no money so the people have to cut back is a scam. We need to cut the destructive activities and completely revise the tax code.

We can cut $400 billion from the Defense Budget, or what I like to call the War Budget, to help balance the deficit. By cutting the War Budget, we no longer have to pay for the defense of other countries. This increases our defense as we bring our soldiers home and leave the other countries that might attack us weaker. We will still be number one in defense spending.

Another way to balance the deficit and reduce the debt is to stop giving taxpayer money to multibillion dollar corporations.  This isn’t raising taxes. Facebook made a billion dollars in profit last year but paid no federal or state income taxes. Instead it got $429 million from the government and will get millions more next year. That’s just one company out of hundreds of corporations that pay no taxes and gets billions of dollars from the taxpayer.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  On voting rights, how is that issue affecting people in the OK-04?  What was your feeling when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the critical portion of the Voting Rights Act?

TAE SI:  I felt a little uncomfortable when U.S. Supreme Court did what it did. However, I don’t see people in OK-04 being affected by the decision. I have been registering people to vote. Many are apathetic towards politics. The people’s attitude is not surprising given the low voter turnout rate. A strong candidate is needed to inspire people to take action.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  If elected to Congress, do you believe your role should be more on checks & balances in general or to make decisions only because they are politically feasible?

TAE SI:  If elected to Congress, my role is to stop the madness. All branches of the government think the same way and that is to give the people’s wealth to the super rich and apply laws only to certain segments of the population. Things are done because they are politically feasible. The only checks & balances that exist are to make sure the people don’t get any economic or social leverage. The government is a well oiled machine for Wall Street and a bunch of red tape for everybody else. The reverse must be true. Red tape for Wall Street and a government that works for the people must be put back in place.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  On matters regarding the NSA, do you believe the agency has been more transparent or less?

TAE SI:  The NSA has been less transparent. The government going after Edward Snowden is evident the NSA is not going to change. Congress passed the Patriot Act to spy on citizens. The government as a whole is corrupt and secretive.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  What's your stance on the issue of abortion?  Should the government step in or step away from this matter?

TAE SI:  Everyone has their own beliefs when life starts. I am pro-choice. Abortion is a privacy issue. The government has no right to invade the privacy of the people.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  How do you see the immigration issue being addressed?

TAE SI:  Every generation always had people against immigrants. I’m for a more open border policy. I am for a path to citizenship. The U.S. is the land of immigrants. When the Berlin Wall fell, the East German government had no one to terrorize and fell apart. A peaceful and easy way to end tyranny around the world and at the same time make the country stronger is to invite the huddled masses to our country.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  On the issue of climate change and global warming, do you consider it a grave threat that needs to be addressed or a hoax?

TAE SI:  Climate change is real. However, poverty kills a lot more people ever year than the estimated damage of global warming will do. Climate change will need to get addressed, but my top priority is to restore the middle class.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  On healthcare, what do you think about the Affordable Healthcare Act?  Should there be a push for a universal healthcare system?

TAE SI:  The Affordable Healthcare Act is a step in the right direction. If even Rush Limbaugh loves the universal healthcare in Costa Rica, then I see no reason why we shouldn’t move toward universal coverage.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  Do you see yourself a blue dog democrat or more of a liberal/progressive fighter who has no intent on saying one thing as a candidate and doing another in Congress?

TAE SI:  I’m somewhere between moderate and liberal. I am going to do what I promised as a candidate. I have no proof I won’t go back on my word once I’m in congress. I will let the voters decide if I should represent them.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  Do you believe there's been efficient enough justice on the crimes in Wall Street pertaining to the Great Recession (i.e. subprime mortgage crisis) or does there need to be more oversight?

TAE SI:  There has been no justice. In fact, the American people are in debt to Wall Street because of the bail out. Taxpayers owing money to Wall Street is insane. The banks bought government bonds that gave a higher rate of return than the interest on the bailout. During the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve gave the banks $16 trillion. There is a bigger problem than the national debt if trillions of dollars can be given away like that. When I get to congress, justice will be served.

KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS:  On energy-related projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline and off-shore drilling, do they do any good for the U.S. or economy?

TAE SI:  Energy-related projects are good for the U.S. and the economy. That said, projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline do more harm than good. The Keystone XL Pipeline is filled with corruption. The government helping rich oil barons kick people out of their homes is not what the U.S. is about.

Note that if you have additional questions or concerns (particularly if you're a resident of the OK-04 Congressional District), feel free to address them here in the comments section.
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What issue would you like Tae Si to focus on more as a Democratic candidate (particularly if you're based in OK-04)?

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| 12 votes | Vote | Results

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Judge Lisa Davis granted a temporary injunction, blocking a law preventing over-the-counter sales of emergency contraceptive

A report from the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice:

On Monday, District Judge Lisa Davis blocked a law that made emergency contraception less accessible to women in Oklahoma.

Passed by the legislature with bipartisan support and signed by Governor Fallin this spring, HB 2226 made Oklahoma the only state with a law keeping the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step behind the counter.  The law requires that all women show identification to a pharmacist and teens have a prescription in order to purchase the contraceptive.  

Because of the judge’s temporary restraining order, this law does not go into effect on Thursday as planned and the drug will be available for sale like all other over the counter drugs.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights  were the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, an advocacy group, and Jo Ann Mangili, an Oklahoma mother of a teen daughter.

HB 2226 began as a bill concerned with regulating health insurance benefit forms, but came to include the unrelated and discriminatory provision concerning Plan B One-Step. David Brown, attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, argued that the law contravened the Oklahoma Constitution’s requirement that a law contain only one subject.

OCRJ President Martha Skeeters said, “The judge’s ruling today is good news for women and teens in Oklahoma, who deserve the same access to emergency contraceptives that women in the rest of the country have.”  The FDA has ruled this contraceptive safe and effective for all ages.  It is most effective the sooner it is taken and effective only up to 72 hours.  So its timely availability is extremely important.  

Skeeters added, “The legislature needs to be more concerned about the far-reaching effects of unintended pregnancy on the health and safety of Oklahomans and refrain from passing unconstitutional bills aimed at restricting accessibility to contraceptives.”
Oklahoma’s rate of births from unintended pregnancy at 48% is much higher than the national rate of 38%.  And Oklahoma ranks seventh among states in teen birth rates.  In 2012 the state settled a lawsuit which alleged among other things that children in the DHS foster care system were being mistreated.  Unfortunately the state has been unable to reach goals set by that settlement to improve the treatment of children in DHS care or to increase the number of social workers.

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