Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

Injecting In Large Quantities

Image of Mary Fallin

“The active ingredient is potassium, which, when injected in large quantities, stops the heart . . .”—Gov. Mary Fallin, as quoted in The Oklahoman, October 8, 2015

In their relentless and ruthless quest to kill people, some state leaders here are obviously exposing the brutality and arbitrariness of the death penalty in this country.

Lethal injection was invented in Oklahoma and first legalized here, and this is where it’s eventually going to come to an end. Even the person who pushed for its legalization thinking he was ending gas chambers and electric chairs, the late Rev. Bill Wiseman, died in a 2007 place crash with tremendous regret over the issue.

The latest news is that the last inmate executed here, Charles Warner, was given a wrong drug in what state officials call “the protocol.” Warner was given potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride, which isn’t an approved drug for lethal injection in Oklahoma. As he died on the gurney last January, he cried out, “My body is on fire.”

The inmate killed before him, Clayton Lockett, writhed around groaning on the gurney for about 45 minutes when he was injected by the state on April 29, 2014.

Now, the state has halted at the last minute the execution of Richard Glossip, who has maintained his innocence in the crime for which he is accused, and all other death-row inmates until it supposedly gets the drugs right, which will never happen. But to someone like Gov. Mary Fallin, pictured right and quoted above, it’s just a matter of stopping the heart, and potassium in either form will do the trick in “large quantities” by putting someone in cardiac arrest.

Everyone personally involved in this dark slapstick comedy of horror needs an attorney now, and Fallin has already hired one. Who can blame her? Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt says he’s investigating it all, but what does it matter now? He has an obvious conflict of interest because of his obsessive political support for the death penalty. He needs an attorney, too. So does Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.

There’s only one answer: End the death penalty, which the U.S. Supreme Court will likely do as Oklahoma continues to expose its gruesome details and randomness.

Lockett and Warner were convicted of heinous crimes, but Glossip hasn’t actually ever killed anyone. You can read about his case here and here, which I’ve written about for several weeks now. Combine the drug mix-ups, the painful deaths and the ambiguity surrounding how to determine the severity of the crimes leading to a death penalty sentence, and it’s almost impossible to think the high court will allow the death drama to continue at least in this backwoods place.

Much of the civilized world already thinks the death penalty and it practitioners are barbaric. To continue to torture people to death now that it’s all been exposed on the world stage would obviously be in violation of the U.S. Constitution and all human rights accords throughout the world.

The lawsuits are coming around the mountain here in Oklahoma in droves. Some leaders in Oklahoma, in their incompetence, mediocrity and, I guess, self-righteous love of revenge or, perhaps, myopic ideology and political pandering, have inadvertently started the beginning of the end of the death penalty.

What just happened here? That’s a question people like Fallin, Pruitt and Prater will be asking in the months to come as they scratch their heads in dumfounded Okie bewilderment. But the answer to that is clear as well.

The death penalty, in its organic state as a practice, is a human error of immense proportions, an error that can never be rectified once it occurs. Do away with it, and all this madness goes away. Keep killing and the madness continues.

Blue Oklahoma Making Some Changes

Hi, everyone. As you can see, Blue Oklahoma has migrated to the WordPress platform and is undergoing a makeover. I’ve decided to leave the site up through the mess of all these changes for the next few days in order to continue to post. You will note, for example, I posted today on University of Oklahoma President David Boren’s sales tax proposal that would boost education funding, which I support.

Thanks for your patience during this process. You can also find my posts on Okie Funk.-Kurt Hochenauer.

P.S.: Amazingly, Blue Oklahoma still contains all of its posts dating back to 2006 under “ARCHIVES” in the right sidebar.

Boren Plan Deserves Serious Consideration

Finally, a prominent Oklahoma leader has come up with the barebones of what I view as a workable and perhaps revisable plan to help bolster education funding in the state.

University of Oklahoma President David Boren has proposed a ballot initiative to allow voters to raise the state’s sales tax by one cent to help increase Oklahoma’s dismal funding of education.

Boren, according to news reports, said the increase would raise $615 million a year, and that $378 million could be used to give public school teachers a $5,000 raise. Oklahoma has some of the lowest average teacher salaries in the country and currently faces a major teacher shortage because of it. The state also ranks 49th in the nation in per pupil funding.

Boren said the additional money, among other things, would go to fund incentive pay for teachers, an issue pushed by conservatives. Some of the money would also go to higher education to limit tuition increases.

One of the first and somewhat negative reactions to the proposal came from the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a Tulsa progressive think tank, which argues the tax, if voted into law, would hurt lower income people the most because sales taxes, as we all know, are regressive. OKPolicy did note it supported more funding for education overall, but, as usual, it seems to want to have it both ways when it comes to funding education. It’s for it, but, well, there doesn’t seem any way to get it done. Parse through the lines in this final sentence of its statement about the proposal:

Oklahomans urgently need real tax reform to create a tax system that does not put the greatest burden on those who can least afford it and that collects enough to meet critical needs of Oklahoma families — not just for education but also health care, safe communities, and other public services to ensure a stable economy and strong quality of life.

Translation: We’re probably not going to support this proposal and we know there’s not one iota of chance for “real tax reform” right now in our conservative-dominated state government. Also, education is important, but, well, is it AS important as, say, health care?

Watch for OKPolicy and the right-wing Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs to join together again to defeat another education funding proposal if Boren goes forward with it.

It seems to me that one obvious solution to the “regressive issue” when it comes to the sales tax increase would be to make it more progressive by exempting lower-income and middle-class income people from all or some of the “education tax” through income-tax credits or rebates. This might complicate the language on the petition drive to put the measure on the ballot, but at least it’s worth considering.

As it stands now, the state faces what will likely be a $1 billion shortfall next fiscal year, and state agency heads are getting informed that they could face cuts in their budgets. This complicates the ballot initiative even further.

If Boren and any type of coalition he helps to put together go forward with the proposal, those circulating the petition would need to collect 65,987 signatures in a 90-day period for the November 2016 ballot.

Sure, I agree that the tax proposal, as it stands, is regressive, but that can be fixed with credits and rebates in the tax code, and, it’s only ONE CENT. Even if the proposal stands as is, I would support it and urge other voters to do the same. We shouldn’t forget that lower-income people would benefit by better schools. This could enable them to raise their incomes. It goes together.

If this is what it takes to improve education funding, then we need to get behind it. We face a real emergency here when it comes to education funding. Let’s do something about it.