Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

Oklahoma Black Elected Officials to Host 4th Annual College Fair Aug. 26 at Metro Tech

OKLAHOMA CITY – The fourth annual Oklahoma County Black Elected Officials College Fair will be held Saturday, Aug. 26 at the Metro Technology Centers’ Business Conference Center in Oklahoma City.

More than 50 universities, organizations and every branch of the military will be at the fair, and Metro Technology Centers will have experts on hand to speak with students about professional licensing and career paths. Continue reading

Press On: Recent Media Coverage of OK Democrats

Democrats in Oklahoma often have to struggle for positive coverage in the corporate media, but here are a few recent news items we found, along with a TV clip featuring Rep. Jason Dunnington, and a letter to the editor.

NEWSPRINT

Former state senator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate talks revenue woes, criminal justice reform – by Carl Lewis of CNHI News Oklahoma, published in Norman Transcript (originally in Ada News), July 21, 2017

Differing shades of Oklahoma Democrats line up to challenge Steve Russell Justin Wingerter, OKlahoman, July 23, 2017.

Which got this reaction on Twitter:

Oklahoma GOP gets head start on 2018 campaigns – Dale Denwalt, Oklahoman, July 23, 2017

House Dems call for contingency plan negotiations, public meeting – by Caleb Slinkard , published in Norman Transcript, July 19, 2017

Virgin: Knocking doors is key to victories – BY Joy Hampton, published in Norman Transcript, July 22, 2017

VIDEO

LTEs

Letter to the editor: A problem only Republicans can fix – By Mary Thetford, in Tulsa World, July 23, 2017

If you found other news items featuring OK Democrats, please let us know.

Welcome to the new Blue Oklahoma

If you have been a previous visitor to Blue Oklahoma, you will find a few changes. Maybe more than a few!

(Scroll down below this announcement for newer posts.)

The site is in new hands, and while we want to build on the powerful legacy left to us by Kurt Hochenauer (who has moved out of state), we also want to turn a page and try out some new ideas and approaches.

More than anything, we want some new voices to populate these pages, and set them to the long-standing mission: examining the many political problems in our great state, and offering ideas for policies that work for the people, instead of the corporations and the small minority of elite power brokers in business and media, and their operatives at 23rd and Lincoln.

If that is something you also desire, I invite you to join us and become a contributing writer. Read more about getting involved.

Please follow us here, on Facebook and/or Twitter, and share our links to your friends and networks.

Please give us your feedback. We would love to hear your thoughts. Use the contact form for a private email message, or comment on any post via your Facebook account (see more about Comment options if you do not have a Facebook account).

Oklahoma Government Could Remain Broke For A Long Time

Looming peak oil demand, a world fossil-fuel glut and Republican tax-cut ideology has structurally changed the state of Oklahoma’s revenue collections, resulting in abysmal and embarrassing funding for education, social services, health programs and corrections.

Renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, continue to grow incrementally around the world, lessening the need for fossils fuels, especially to produce electricity. New oil reserves, such as the tar sands in Canada, have been discovered throughout the world in recent decades. Oklahoma, as we all know, has been sustained by the fossil-fuel industry, which now pays a limited amount of production taxes.

The only thing that could push up oil prices, and thus increase production tax revenue on a major level for Oklahoma, would be a seismic disruption in the fossil fuel supply chain caused by a world war or at least a major conflict involving several countries. Obviously, that’s nothing to wish for, although I bet there are people who have their fingers crossed it will happen.

Meanwhile, most Oklahoma Republican politicians, whether they actually believe it or not, push the idea that tax cuts actually help the economy by increasing state revenues, but that’s not the truth. The truth is the state currently faces an $878 million shortfall in an average budget of approximately $7 billion. The truth is this comes after income tax cuts that primarily benefited wealthy people that then led to huge cuts to state agencies, including our education systems, in recent years. The truth is the state has cut public education funding on a percentage basis the most of any state in the country since 2008.

It’s difficult not to see the state at a huge breaking point. The Trump presidency will make it worse. More deregulation of the fossil-fuel industry and ending particular rules on energy companies related to the environment, which the Trump administration supports, will only accelerate global warming and pollution, and possibly the number and intensity of earthquakes here, while increasing the glut of oil, which drives prices even further down.

Obviously, tax breaks given to oil and gas companies have had a major impact on the state’s revenue collections, and they should be renegotiated, but the larger story is that Oklahoma should never rely again on the fossil fuel industry for its financial foundation, both in terms of tax revenues and employment. Oklahoma leaders need to embrace this new reality. The oil booms, unless created by world calamity, are most likely over or will taper off in weak gasps.

As usual, with only a month or so left in the legislative session, the Oklahoma Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin have yet to offer up a workable budget for next fiscal year. The legislature supposedly wants to raise teacher salaries, but how can that happen with such a major budget shortfall?

Some partial and interim answers to what has become a systemic Oklahoma government revenue problem do exist: Significantly raises taxes on incomes at $250,000 and above on a graduated scale and then tax fossil fuel production at much higher levels. The likelihood of this happening anytime soon is practically nil, but there’s really no other alternatives.

The larger issue, of course, is to diversify the economy with different industries and businesses to boost tax revenue, but attracting such development is difficult in a state in which schools have four-day learning weeks and the college graduation rate is much lower than the national average. Our earthquake crisis, caused by an element of the fracking process used by the oil and gas industry, doesn’t help either. The volatile weather here isn’t a big draw.

What should be obvious to every thinking person in Oklahoma at this point is that the state is broke and broken, and no elected leader has a viable plan or the will to fix it.

Science Education Under Attack In Oklahoma

It took conservatives in the Oklahoma Legislature several years, but they are now likely to pass an anti-science bill, which is a “strengths and weaknesses” measure that will mean schools can dilute the teaching of evolution and other scientific facts in the state’s public classrooms.

Senate Bill 393 has passed the full Senate and a House committee. The House will almost certainly pass it if it comes to a vote. I’m fairly sure Gov. Mary Fallin will sign it into law, but maybe fiscal conservatives can convince her how this bill could hinder economic development by depicting the state, once again, as a place in which many of its residents have a difficult time accepting basic scientific truths.

Here’s the relevant paragraph in the bill, which may seem innocuous, but is really an effort to undermine the teaching of the scientific method in the state’s classrooms:

The State Board of Education, school district boards of education, school district superintendents and school principals shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.Teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.

Previous versions of this type of bill through the years have referred specifically to the theory of evolution and climate change as two of the controversies. The bill’s main sponsor is Sen. Josh Brecheen, a Republican from Coalgate, who has been pushing such legislation for years. Years ago, as The Lost Ogle noted in 2011, Brecheen published an article in the Durant Daily Democrat that included this gem of a paragraph:

If Darwin is right then I am free to be the strongest by eating all in my way (forget “love thy neighbor”). Additionally, we put zero thought to the psychological consequences of low self-esteem as people are taught their existence is as purposeless as their “brother and sister animals.” This produces a value system where protecting beetles is prioritized but unborn children are not.

The literal summary of the paragraph is absurd. It goes like this: The theory of evolution will turn us into abortion-approving cannibals who protect beetles.

The problem with the legislation is that it could have the very real effect of dumbing down our students, making them ill-prepared for college. Oklahoma has a low rate of college graduates compared to the national average, which doesn’t make it attractive for businesses that need an educated workforce.

But that “economic” argument is really secondary to how the bill rejects intellectualism in a state that struggles to fund education at all levels, a state that struggles to pay its teachers adequate wages. That affects our quality of life because leadership roles often go to people like Brecheen, who then impose their narrow views on other people in systemic ways.

Finally, let’s be clear. There are no scientific controversies when it comes to the theory of evolution and climate change. The controversies only exist either on the religious level by creationists or within the fossil-fuel industry, which has a vested interest to deny carbon emissions contribute to global warming. The actual science is proven. The evidence is in front of us. This bill rejects what’s true and embraces mythology and money.

Trumpcare Will Kill Trump Supporters The Most

Trumpcare—for surely we must call it this as our duty now to exercise our historical right to collectively practice ignoramus politicalpsychosis juvenilia—exposes, again, that our new emperor is a liar and a sham populist, but still it’s unsettling and unnerving on a couple of even more deeper philosophical levels.

Perhaps the most philosophically unsettling layer of the new health care plan rollout by Trump and his Republican dumbass mob this week, at least for me, is how it was greeted by feigned and rote media surprise over its dire consequences, which have now been confirmed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Oh really? My, my, who would have even guessed it would benefit the most wealthy in our country? Are you really telling me Republicans want to stop poor people from having medical access? Really? Oh no, I’m going to faint, that just can’t be true.

Eventually, if this repeal of Obamacare gets signed into law, the CBO estimates that 24 million Americans will eventually lose their health insurance or, to put it more accurately, medical access or, well, to put it in reality, they will die. These are mostly people, we can surmise, that either voted for Trump and/or wanted him to win so he could make them poorer and sicker. That they’re sick mentally is a certainty, and, no, no, never try to engage them in their sickness for it will make you sick as well. The time has come for closure with these rubes, who wear their rubeness as badges of honor.

Yet, and here’s my point, what did mainstream media journalists expect in terms of health care from Trump and the charlatan and ever-shifty, slippery, squirmy House Speaker Paul Ryan? Tax hikes on the rich to help the less fortunate? Compassion? Medicare for all? Haha. But the great Harvard/Yale-educated reporters responded with breathless reporting and righteous indignation that just one contrarian article by someone in their ranks will render obsolete in the five minutes it takes to read. It’s what passes as intellectualism in this country these days.

So the script remains the same, and it’s so sad, and that’s not a Trump “sad.” It’s a real, depressing sad that leads to people dying. The Republicans lie about their intentions on any given policy, and well, on everything, under the false rubric of reform, give tax breaks to the rich and take from the poor, and the media then acts aghast and frantic because the GOP and Trump are doing just what they have indicated they will do and have done for decades now. What is new here? Not the media’s response, that’s for sure.

The media script is by now so depressing and so rote it’s become numbing—I actually believe it will lead to an astronomically rise in patients with depression and anxiety—in the era of Trump, which will lead to more deaths. Has the mainstream media become an abusive parent, gaslighting children/readers? I think so. See, we’re supposed to believe we’re the sick ones because we want medical care and decent wages as the media dutifully reports the Republican position.

As I written here several times since Trump’s election, I support the new stated commitment to the truth by such august media outlets as The New York Times and The Washington Post, but it appears they’re slipping back into the old routines of he-said-she-said journalism and mind-numbing breathless horse-race reporting—will the Trumpcare bill get the necessary [insert numbers] votes from these particular senators or representatives [insert names]?—rather than bluntly telling the truth that people will die if this bill is passed.

People will die because of this Republican and Trump initiative. Death of the media. Death of people. It ends together in its symbiotic way.

Trumpcare will kill people. But will the media even call it Trumpcare, even though it didn’t hesitate for one second to adopt the GOP nomenclatures and framing on Obamacare or Hillarycare? Trump owns this legislation. He’s put his full political weight behind a dystopian anti-health initiative that will kill people and transfer money to the extremely wealthy.

What part of the last sentence isn’t clear to mainstream media reporters at the major outlets?

The second point one can make about the repeal effort, and it’s been pointed out by other columnists, is that Republicans have no intention of governing beyond recklessly and intuitively increasing income disparity between the rich and everyone else. That’s what this bill does by granting tax breaks to the wealthy while making it more difficult to get medical care. Academics and writers, such Paul Krugman, who writes for The Times, have pointed this out but basic reporting on this issue has, again, degenerated into the flat GOP script that trickle-down economics leads to shared wealth as an argument rather than a proven lie. The fact the media still debates this is ‘fake news” at its finest.

Until the nation’s reporters take on bolder language to challenge Trump and Ryan on their lies and the world’s neoliberal agenda that has lead to massive corporate wealth and income disparity, this country and the world faces a tragic, dystopian future. The only question is how long can the republic last under the unsustainable model in which the top 1 percent of the richest world citizens accumulate virtually all the world’s wealth while people continue to die because of hunger, disease and lack of medical access. This is already happening throughout the world and even here in this country, and, if passed, the new Trumpcare bill will increased the numbers who suffer and, yes, die lonely, miserable deaths here.

Those homeless people on the streets of our big cities are only going to increase in the Trump era, and now that Trump, and his family, and his Republican surrogates are effectively using the government in a manner to increase their own wealth as despots do, the sham is apparent. We need truth from our reporters, who aren’t the enemies of the people.

Yet I will not believe reporters are truthful if their reporting during the Trump tyranny leads to any normalization of making people poorer and sicker under some type of long-gone, nostalgic journalistic frame of objectivity. Fire all the bigwig editors now, hire people like me, and maybe we can have hope.

But getting back to Republicans. They may hold all power in Washington and in many states now, but their party lacks any substance on a humane policy level; it exists to destroy lives, mostly, and here’s the irony, it’s the destruction of people who vote them into power. It’s not difficult to see how they get people to commit to slow suicides and miserable lives. They lie on the most crass level, use simplistic slogans that appeal to ignorance racists and work to limit the number of votes cast by minorities. It’s not some intellectual strategy or Russian plot.

Trumpcare is emblematic or, more specifically, a rhetorical container of this suicidal destruction. Don’t spend a minute getting lost in the details of this latest immoral Republican spectacle, the “whatever” health care act that should only be called Trumpcare. It’s a disaster, and it can only pass if the mainstream media normalizes it and declines to tell the truth about it.

Will The Planet Survive Views Of EPA Leader Scott Pruitt?

It’s no real surprise, of course, but it didn’t take that long before Oklahoma’s former Attorney General Scott Pruitt, now head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, openly revealed his anti-environment philosophy and his crass and open embrace of the fossil fuel industry.

When asked recently in an CNBC interview whether he thought carbon dioxide had contributed to global warming, Pruitt responded:

I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.

This very important “no” contradicts his agency’s own web site and his earlier comments at his confirmation hearing in which Pruitt conceded “. . . the climate is changing, and human activity contributes to that in some manner.” For the record, there is no question among numerous and credible scientists that carbon emissions accelerate global warming through the amplification of the greenhouse effect.

But let’s be clear again that Pruitt is a halfway decent manipulator of the political landscape, and his ongoing and intentional slippery comments about global warming are aimed at financially benefiting the oil and gas industry, which has openly funded his campaigns and endorsed him for years. His comments, which drew swift condemnation, are not at all surprising for anyone following his political career in Oklahoma.

So just to state the obvious: President Donald Trump appointed Pruitt as head of the EPA and Republicans confirmed his appointment to dismantle environmental protection and to give a financial boost to the oil and gas industry, which is in a major slump, maybe even a permanent realignment. Given that knowledge, there seems to be little point beyond creating a spectacle in teasing Pruitt into making outlandish comments about climate change and global warming.

Pruitt will absolutely continue to make outlandish and goofball comments, which always pass for intellectualism and leadership in Oklahoma, but what matters more, all hyperbole aside, is the damage he will inflict on the planet as the top EPA administrator.

What might conceivably save us, however, is that that the world’s oil barons—from Continental Resources Chief Executive Officer Harold Hamm to the Saudi Arabian monarchy—have created such a major fossil-fuel glut that the oil and gas industry is resetting itself. This is combined with the growth of renewable energy and the implementation over the years of fuel efficiency standards. The oil market, as prices continue to show, has imploded on its own excess.

Have we reached peak oil demand? Will carbon emissions start to recede as the use of wind and solar energy grows geometrically? Have we reached a point of no return in terms of global warming?

Those will never be the questions Pruitt will publicly address or even maybe even privately consider. What Pruitt will do is sell a program of relentless drilling for fossil fuels and favorable terms for those companies which do so even as the glut continues. His absolute last concern will be global warming. Only a major catastrophic global warming event would demand or create any action on his part. Pruitt has the best job in town these days because he’s getting paid for doing nothing.

Pruitt, it should be noted once again, is closely tied to the oil and gas industry through campaign donations, which have obviously made him a surrogate for its interests. That’s no exaggeration. The majority of voters in Oklahoma—there was little local vocal protest against Pruitt’s anti-EPA and anti-Obama agenda when he served as the state’s attorney general—are now also directly responsible for enabling him. Anyone in the world concerned with the environment should realize that these voters and even some Oklahomans who incredibly self-identify as Democrats or even progressive gleefully want Pruitt to dismantle the EPA for simple ideological reasons if nothing else or are so apathetic and self-loathing they simply don’t care.

Oklahoma is also home to U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, perhaps the world’s best known denier of the impact of carbon emissions on global warming, which continues to generate extreme weather patterns, melting Arctic ice and rising sea levels. Hamm, who I mentioned earlier in this post, has served in some capacity—most likely just as a figurehead billionaire—as an advisor and supporter of Pruitt, presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma’s overall right-wing extremism and political apathy among its intellectuals has turned the state into an environmental wasteland caused by the negative impact of hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The storage of the wastewater related to the fracking process, scientists confirmed, is responsible for the numerous earthquakes the state now experiences, some of which have caused damage to property.

Pruitt and Inhofe, who have done nothing to stop the earthquakes here, have enjoyed political success among the state’s vast number of religious fundamentalists, who have a narrow and reductionist anti-abortion agenda and are urged through the pulpit to support Republicans no matter how much the GOP as a political party works against their economic interests.

Oklahoma is a case study in right-wing extremism, which isn’t exactly startling news, but it does beg some outside scrutiny now that Pruitt has taken control of the EPA to effectively change its mission to the polar opposite from protecting the environment to allowing the oil and gas industry to further damage the environment. Anyone who believes in Pruitt’s claims that there’s a balance in supporting the financial interests of the fossil-fuel conglomerates while also protecting the planet needs to spend some time in Oklahoma.

What Pruitt, Inhofe and other Republican leaders in the state of Oklahoma are hiding right now is that the state itself is collapsing into economic and budgetary chaos created by their own disinterest and ideological blindness. Why slash the taxes of millionaires and billionaires, for example, while cutting funding for public education the most of any state in the nation on a percentage basis over the last several years? It a slow suicide that now threatens the state’s viability.

As I’ve written before, Oklahoma has come to Washington D.C., and it isn’t Woody Guthrie’s Oklahoma, folks. It’s a hillbilly oligarchy, which fits perfectly with a president who tells fibs, big and small, spews hate, and is vested in making the rich richer while convincing the rubes through tweets he’s on their side.