Category: Politics and Government

Why I wasn’t there

August 24, 2013

Me, holding a sign in the 2011 King Holiday Parade in Oklahoma City.

Me, holding a sign in the 2011 King Holiday Parade in Oklahoma City.

I slept quite a bit later than usual today, thus missing the OKC event marking the anniversary of the MOW in 63. I think my body knew what my brain didn’t (yet): I did not want to go and listen to a lot of chants and speeches, and hear not one goddamn word about war or the warlike violence our nation perpetrates in the name of national security. You know, the shit Dr. King would say, if, by the grace of providence, he was here to mark the milestone with us. I didn’t want to see the JROTC/color guard leading the march like they do the MLK events in January every year, not just in OKC but across the nation. A “tradition” that is an unforgivable perversion of King’s values, and a knife in the heart of his legacy. Or witness the abominable (but very well funded) contingent of military recruiters, whose only goal of participation is to ensnare some poor kids into their crime syndicate.

If I am wrong, and I learn that “war” was uttered at least once, I will be properly chastised and sorry to have missed the historic occasion.

I will also be extremely shocked.

James M. Branum stands beside a Marines truck holding a sign with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. Branum's group, the Oklahoma Center for Conscience, and the Marines were both participating in the 2011 King Holiday Parade in Oklahoma City.

James M. Branum stands beside a Marines truck holding a sign with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. Branum’s group, the Oklahoma Center for Conscience, and the Marines were both participating in the 2011 King Holiday Parade in Oklahoma City.

Photos and report from the 2011 Oklahoma Democratic Party State Convention

May 15, 2011

So yeah, I went to the convention yesterday and I lived to tell the tale!


The Oklahoman story Former state lawmaker to head Oklahoma Democrats describes how a credentialing problem led to a long delay and ultimate redo of the vote for party chair (while taking every opportunity possible to mention the past unsuccessful campaigns of the various candidates.

As my first major party state convention, I thought it was pretty good, except for the excruciating three hour gap of confusion and intrigue (and drinking and other diversions) in the middle. But if the Oklahoman is correct, in 1999 a similar discrepancy was just glossed over and allowed to stand, so with that info, I withdraw all my griping of yesterday, since I don’t think anyone can say the vote wasn’t fair, and I’m quite happy with the outcome, since the Wallace/Orwig team consists of my #1 and #2 picks for chair. I think the party machinery moved significantly to the left, putting it more in line with its grassroots activists, which will hopefully lead to even more contributions from them in time and money, which are needed.

OK County’s original vote count (all these counts are 5th District only since I didn’t realize till later that parts of OK County were being counted in 4th CD):

Troy Green 0
Leroy D Downs 3
Dana Orwig 39
Wallace Collins 38
Mannix Barnes 19
Jed Green 6

On the revote, and after Troy and Jed dropped out and endorsed Collins:

Leroy D Downs 1
Dana Orwig 40
Wallace Collins 47
Mannix Barnes 18

Runoff (voting began at 5:35):

Dana Orwig 44
Wallace Collins 57

Final statewide count (5:50)

Dana Orwig 213
Wallace Collins 326

Wallace gave a simple and blessedly short acceptance speech, we moved on to the election of Vice Chair, but I had already stayed two hours longer than I really could, so I left at that point.

From other online sources, I learned that in addition to Dana Orwig at Vice Chair, David Ratcliffe was elected Secretary and Donna Russel Treasurer. Since I believe this is an all-caucasion slate, the Affirmative Action postitions are all the more important. They are:

Male: Carl Downing and George Young
Female: Denay Burris and Nicole Kirkpatrick

Still haven’t heard about the resolutions.

Update [5/15/2011 8:35pm]:

I have been informed by a member of the Young Democrats that “Resolutions will be heard by Central Comm b/c we lost quorum before they could be considered.”

Pink Wave spreads pro-choice, pro-family message to legislators

May 12, 2011

[For a gallery view of the photos, see my Picasa album.]

Billed as a “Pink Wave” because of the color of their t-shirts and signs, supporters of real family values gathered at the Capitol today to address the anti-women and anti-families legislation that is becoming the stock in trade of the Oklahoma legislature. The event was sponsored and organized by the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice and Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma. Participating organizations included Trust Women PAC, Reproductive Health Coalition, ACLU of Oklahoma, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Tulsa Reproductive Services, Sally’s List, Oklahoma Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice, Oklahoma Federation of Democratic Women.

Speakers included Martha Skeeters, Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice; Rep. Emily Virgin; Senator Judy Eason McIntyre; Sen. Jim Wilson; Tamya Cox, ACLU of Oklahoma; Sen. Connie Johnson; Kelly Jennings, Oklahoma Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice; and Joanna Wall, Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice.

Approximately 200 attended the noon event, including mothers of young children, students, clergy, current and retired legislators, public service workers, health care workers, attorneys and veterans.

Going to the Oklahoma Democratic Party State Convention this Saturday

May 11, 2011

I am going to the Oklahoma Democratic Party convention this Saturday as an alternate delegate with a proxy, and thus a vote in the statewide party elections for officers. I am in the Change Oklahoma caucus.

Those who have known me for a while may know that I chose to work within the party here in Oklahoma two years ago, because I see it as currently the only viable way to even minimally advance progressive causes via the electoral process in this state during what remains of my lifetime. You don’t have to provide me with all the ways the duopolistic major party system in this country is problematic; I’m aware, but I am also aware of the need for change here and the political realities in terms of process. So here I am, a Democratic Party “operative.”

So this will be my first major party state convention, believe it or not — I’m a longtime political junkie, but not a partisan. So I’ve tried to observe, talk to people and learn what I can and I have decided to support Wallace Collins for state party chair. The other candidates all have very positive things going for them, but I think Wallace has the background, electoral experience and political connections statewide to build the party in both rural and urban areas. All the other candidates talk about their plan, but hell, I could write a plan. But I couldn’t go out to rural OK and try to sell it to people. I couldn’t get them to give me some money to help implement my plan. I sure couldn’t convince them to stick their necks out in their community. I think that’s what the party chair needs to be able to do. I hope everyone will support the candidate who they think can do that all over the state, not just in urban centers with people like themselves.

That’s my endorsement and my two cents.

Corporate tax dodgers get a tax bill from OKC members

April 18, 2011

MoveOn members and supporters rallied and listened to Frosty Troy and others set the record straight on the so-called deficit crisis, then presented employees at a local Chase Bank with a “bill” for Morgan Chase’s unpaid taxes. has been giving Oklahoma a bit of attention in the past few months, trying to build up their activist “council” in Oklahoma City (the Tulsa council has been fairly well established for a while. A statewide coordinator has been hired, Ali Canada, and local activists like Pat McCauley in Norman have been holding house parties and planning public events (a pro-labor rally at the Capitol on Feb. 26 was one such event).

To join (or start) your local council, start on the MoveOn Political Action Council Home page.

My “local” grocery store is 2.2 miles away, or 4.5+ hours round trip by foot

April 5, 2011

According to Google Maps, I can hop in my car and get to a nice Homeland Supermarket in 8 minutes.

Lucky me.

Not all my neighbors are that fortunate, and I got a real clear picture of that last Friday.

Getting ready for fundraiser on Saturday, on Friday, which was April 1, I headed for the printer and at pretty close to 12:30 pm, on 13th Street N. just east of the 235 overpass, I noticed an older man pushing an empty shopping cart, heading west, as I was. Since I only saw him from the rear, I couldn’t discern much except that some gray hair was visible, and faded clothes. It was just a glance, and while such sights are not completely rare, for some reason I noticed him and gave him a second or two of sympathetic thought. The cart was empty, not like most homeless people, so I kind of wondered what his story was.

Then I forgot about it and continued on with my business of dropping off my last-minute print job.

At almost 5 pm, I headed out the same route as before, to pick up the job before they closed. Remarkably, at almost the same spot — a bit further east but not much — I saw a gray-haired man pushing a shopping cart eastward, this time with 5 or 6 full plastic grocery bags in the cart. I’m convinced it was the same guy, and he had just spent 4 1/2 hours (at least, since I don’t know exactly where he lives) getting groceries, probably with his monthly check. I suspect he went to Homeland on Classen and 18th; from my apartment in Lincoln Terrace, that’s 2.2 miles away. That doesn’t sound far to a car owner, does it?

If I had not had to get to the printer post haste, I would have stopped at offered to drive him at least the rest of the way to his destination, but the pick up at the printer took longer than I would have liked, and when I went back along that road there was no sign of him — hopefully because he had made it home and was resting his poor feet. As I drove slowly along 13th, to see if there was any sign of him, I imagined picking him up and driving him to the store every month. He might be a Vietnam Vet, I thought, or maybe he digs Willy Nelson, who he kind of reminded me of. Maybe he would have refused my offer, maybe it would need to be arranged to seem less like charity for a proud man to accept such a suggestion from a stranger. Maybe a local church could institute a shuttle. Well, my imagination started churning out a dozen remedies to this unacceptable situation in the city I’ve adopted and historic neighborhood I love.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like living in a neighborhood and city where some old man has this task to look forward to every month so he can eat on his meager income.

Now let me say that it’s great that there is an expanding and thriving medical complex two blocks from me. It’s pretty damn handy if I accidentally try to cut off my finger (which I kinda did a couple months ago, though I didn’t end up having to go to the emergency room), and it’s contributing a great deal to the economy and academic development of the city and state.

But really, how can you hold your head up as a medical community, a civic entity and a decent neighborhood when a poor old guy has to spend 4 and a half hours getting a few groceries that might last him two weeks if he’s lucky or, more likely, really careful.

You can’t, that’s the answer to that question, not while meeting any standard of civilized behavior.

Now let me say a few words about the OKC City Council. It is and has been for some time made up of probably nice enough people who think they are doing right by giving tax breaks and outright bribes to corporations and sports owners to get them to locate here or stay here. I’m sure all the people they see at church and social events they attend are pretty jazzed about their public service. But there is more to living in and managing a city than corporations and rich people who cater to them.

Maybe Charlie Swinton would feel a heart tug seeing that old guy. But would he talk about him at a council meeting and try to convince his colleagues to help a small but health-conscious grocery go up somewhere in the shadow of OU Medical Center? I can’t conjure up that picture in my mind. Not his ward, you know. There are some really good banks right there, though, he might say.

But I don’t have to use any imagination to see Ed Shadid doing that. I know for a fucking fact it would happen, and it wouldn’t have to wait for the eve of the next election when he’s looking to work up some warm fuzzies.

Ed Shadid cares about PEOPLE, and especially about the people that live in his city. He cares about their kids, and about their grandparents. He doesn’t just look at people for what they can do for him, he SEES and HEARS them and what they love, what they might fear, and what they might need. ALL OF THEM, not just those who need bankers.

Please help get Ed Shadid elected today. Somebody’s quality of life depends on it.

Correx: Added missing work to the third paragraph to make it read “NOT completely rare.”

Citizens United comes to the heartland

April 4, 2011

In their decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the Supreme Court of John Roberts twisted the knife in for the kill of representative democracy in this country. Literally giving paper entities, corporations, more rights than actual persons by allowing unlimited, unregulated and unsourced money into political races resulted in political carnage in federal and gubernatorial races across the country in 2010, as pro-corporate and anti-worker candidates won the race for money and the election.

The aftermath has been a rampage of laws and deregulation that, without CU, might have taken a decade or more to accomplish. In quick order, the corporate money backed candidates have been gleefully wrecking rights that past generations struggled to gain — their actions running the gamut from disempowering unions to “just” dehumanizing and demoralizing them.

But if you thought that corporations were only interested in federal and state government for their takeover, or thought that it might take a campaign season or two to work its way down to the city level, well, I’ve got some castles made out of red dirt to sell you.

Tomorrow, April 5, there is a runoff election in Ward 2 of Oklahoma City for a seat on the eight-member city council. How much do you think that seat is worth? Well, if you are among the regular power players in Central Oklahoma, apparently the answer is: half a million dollars.

These folks are used to getting their way around here for a lot less, I assure you. But they hit a little road bump back in March when their favored candidate in Ward 2 failed to get more than 50% of the vote in a six-way election. Instead he, Charlie Swinton, a banking lobbyist (yes, really), was put in to a runoff against the second highest vote getter, Dr. Ed Shadid, a spine surgeon (and cousin of journalist Anthony Shadid).

The runoff race has really pealed back the pretty facade of corporate benevolence to reveal an ugly reality — they want their selfish deals with decisionmakers kept secret in the back rooms and out of the media (which the local press, with rare exceptions, is quite content to allow). They know that Ed Shadid, even if if his sole vote can’t stop such shenanigans, he will bring transparency and outside voices to the process.

So a lot of money has been funneled into shadowy 527s and paid for mailings and push polls with distortions, lies and twisted reality that would be funny if it wasn’t so deadly serious. Shadid is a vegetarian! He believes in sustainabilty and community gardens! Heavens, hide the children!

Fortunately, in response to this deluge of political spin, and sniping within both the Democratic and Republican parties about this non-partisan race, there has also been a groundswell of grassroots and sensible voices responding and fighting back, and it’s been a wonder to behold in this conservative region.

Here’s a sampling from local bloggers:

Kurt Hochenauer (who runs Blue Oklahoma web site)

I had intended to remain neutral in the Ward 2 Oklahoma City Council race between local physician Dr. Ed Shadid and Charlie Swinton, but that was before a shadowy, secret group started viciously attacking Shadid with bogus, clichéd right-wing mailers.

I urge everyone in Ward 2 to vote for Shadid on Tuesday, April 5 for many reasons, but mainly because at least we know who has supported him and what he stands for. We know who he is. At this point, Swinton and some of his major, anonymous backers, don’t pass a political “smell” test when it comes to transparency or openness.

Basically, some undisclosed people spouting the right-wing mantra want Swinton elected and are willing to spend money to make sure it happens, using their money to fund typical fear-mongering tactics that denigrate some basic Democratic Party ideals and positions. The only possible reason they’re doing this is they believe Swinton will do their bidding. What else could it be?

Doug Loudenback, chronicler of all things Oklahoma City on his blog Doug Dawgz

MAPS 3. I want it to be done, and I want ALL of it to be done. I don’t want city council members even saying that a MAPS 3 project should be changed (like Pete White did in December 2010 and early January 2011). I want council members to regard the concurrent City Council resolution which was impliedly but not legally a part of the MAPS 3 ballot to be regarded as sacrosanct — don’t tread on me. I want MAPS 3 to be done exactly as the voters were promised and with maximum citizen input and transparency. No deals behind the scenes and no secret handshakes.

OKC “enthusiast” Nick Roberts

Dr. Shadid talks about bringing a unique perspective the other 7 can’t offer onto the “horseshoe” — that of a physician. He talks about his insight into OKC’s health and lifestyle problems, and how OKC needs to focus on not being dead last on almost every health index of major U.S. cities. Or even 500 cities in the case of walkability..
2. Dr. Shadid talks about being an advocate for BUY LOCAL and truly supporting small business, not just throwing government money at big businesses in the name of “subsidies.” He talks about the harm it does to the local economy and local business when we throw money and advantages at these out-of-state businesses and retailers (i.e., BASS PRO). He cites the difference of 70/30 and 30/70; the ratios of money reinvested locally when you buy local! That is refreshing for a candidate to proclaim because it is so true.

Sustainability advocate Shauna Lawyer Struby

I’m voting for Ed because our democracy was founded on “we the people.” That’s not “we the people with a lot of money and power,” but “we the people” with no regard for how much money any of us have. “We the people” is working families just barely scraping by. It’s the just-out-of-college young adults who can’t find decent jobs, and lonely seniors who can no longer drive and have no safe place to walk or a grocery store to walk to. It’s moms and dads working multiple minimum-wage jobs just to make ends meet. It’s people living in neighborhoods with bars on their windows and doors where it takes 45 minutes or more for the police to respond to an incident.

“We the people” is kids who go to schools without working kitchens, where the lunch menu is high-fat, high-sodium, processed foods; kids who — unless we change the school food system — are far more likely to become the first generation to die at a younger age than their parents. It’s the poor, the tired, the huddled masses yearning to get a decent, well-rounded education, make a living wage, take care of themselves and their families, be happy. “We the people” is me, you, us.

GI Rights lawyer and radical Mennonite James Branum (member of the small Green Party of Oklahoma)

Ed Shadid’s campaign is based on a hopeful vision of what OKC could be. Charlie Swinton’s campaign is based on fear and paranoia.

And the Shadid wave issn’t just limited to academics and treehuggers, as it was joined by self-described “right-of-center” (what passes for moderate in these parts) blogger Charles G. Hill who runs the universally popular blog, Dustbury.

The Ward 2 runoff is Tuesday, and I can hardly wait: it will mean an end, at least for the moment, to some of the nastiest politicking in the history of the state, and if you’re familiar with the history of the state, the bar for Nasty has been set pretty high.

The Minority Leader in the Oklahoma Senate, Democrat Andrew Rice, used his Twitter feed to make his endorsement for Shadid when the shady money led to Swinton, an avowed Democrat, becoming BFFs with some of the most grubby Republican operators in the state.

Other Democrats followed, like up and comer Brittany Novotny (who ran last year for state house against homophobe Sally Kern)

We talk about the need to become a more business friendly environment and to be able to attract the 21st century jobs that will diversify our economy. Yet, we are so far behind on anything resembling protections for our LGBT citizens, that we have actually had companies indicate that they were passing on Oklahoma City because they want to choose a location where they feel all of their employees are safe.

I’ve talked at length with Ed, and I know that he is someone who truly believes in making Oklahoma City a great place to live for all of our residents. He has told me that he won’t just guarantee to vote for LGBT protections, but he will be an advocate on the Council who will do the heavy lifting to make it happen.

I join this wave and say, vote Ed Shadid if you are so fortunate as to live in Ward 2 and thus have this unique opportunity to give all of our city’s citizens a real champion for democracy and justice on the city council.

Update: This just in, another blogger joins the wave:
James Cooper of U-Out a most excellent film and culture blog.

This Tuesday, the young people of this city—my friends, my neighbors, and my classmates—have an amazing opportunity to set aside their cynicism, to set aside their apathy.


One month ago, only 32 voters between the ages of 18 and 24 voted in the City Council election for Ward 2. 73 percent of voters were over 50 years old. In other words, that 73 percent determined the election.

James ends his post with some important info that I neglected:

Where to vote (enter your name and location in form)

OKC Ward map (Ward 2 in green – just a coincidence, I’m sure LOL)

Update 2: From spoken word artist Lauren Zuniga, on Facebook:

I have seen Ed at every important community gathering. From the Local Food Meet and Greet to the Women’s Bodies, Women’s Freedom Poetry Show we did at Church of the Open Arms. The only time I have seen Charlie Swinton is at the Capitol where he works as a lobbyist. I am not sure how Swinton would be able to help me and my neighborhood if the only time he visits is on a cardboard mailout bashing Ed Shadid. We need someone who cares. We need Dr. Ed. If you are an Oklahoma City Progressive who threatens to leave every week, now is your chance to take action!