Keating Gets It All Wrong On Blaine

Keating Gala from Flickr The Commons

An op-ed about the Ten Commandments monument controversy by former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating has an illogical premise and contains distorted historical information.

One question is whether the distortion is deliberate or just based on a basic lack of knowledge about the state’s history, a lack of a careful consideration of logical human behavior and, well, a lack in understanding just how the concept of time works.

The commentary, which basically argues voters should repeal a section of the state’s constitution so the Ten Commandments monument can remain on state Capitol grounds, appeared recently in The Oklahoman. The newspaper’s editorial board has also urged a repeal of the section.

Keating and the newspaper are obviously free to argue for a repeal of Article 2, Section 5 of the constitution, of course, but they should be called out on their faulty logic. Let’s call it what it is: Keating and the newspaper’s editors want an undeniably religious and exclusive monument supporting the Judeo-Christian tradition at the Capitol. They apparently don’t care that if their argument prevails the state will no doubt face an expensive lawsuit at the federal level.

Here’s the language of the constitutional section in question:

No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.

In a recent 7-2 ruling, the Oklahoma Supreme Court argued that the section means the monument must be removed. The court has upheld its ruling. The monument was put up in 2012 and paid for by the family of state Rep. Mike Ritze, a Republican from Broken Arrow and a Southern Baptist ordained deacon and Sunday school teacher.

Ritze and others have made the strained argument that the Ten Commandments monment represents an historic legal framework for Western culture and so that’s why it belongs at the Capitol. They have also said the monument is similar to the one at the Texas state Capitol. The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote has ruled that monument can remain in place.

First, the Oklahoma monument is obviously religious. The Ten Commandments come from the Bible. Placing such a monument at the Capitol obviously is in violation of any reasonable reading of Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Second, the Texas case is not at all similar to the issue in Oklahoma. The monument in Texas went legally unchallenged for 40 years thus solidifying a peculiar but specific historical claim to legitimacy, one with which I don’t agree but have to accept. It’s also part of a larger display of other monuments and markers. That isn’t the case in Oklahoma. The motivation for the monument here is singularly religious-based on the Bible and exclusive of other religious and secular traditions and beliefs.

Now some state leaders, along with Keating and The Oklahoman, want voters to repeal Article 2, Section 5 in the constitution. Keating and the newspaper make the argument that the section is based on the failed Blaine Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in the late 1800s. Many states adopted similar language in their own constitutions. Some considered the Blaine Amendment to be an anti-Catholic schools measure at the time, but that obscures the issue of the separation of church and state and the issue of providing free public education to all children. Those were two basic intentional concerns of the amendment as well.

Thus, Keating argues:

A second suspect minority that came into the sights of our early Legislature was my faith community, Catholics. About the time that legislative Democrats were passing odious “Jim Crow” laws and attempting to restrict the public use of alcohol so that consumption of wine at the Catholic Mass would be discouraged, Oklahoma’s constitution mirrored those of 34 other states by including a simple proviso intended to retard the further spread of Catholic education and Catholic values.

Keating is entirely wrong. Go back and read the section of the state constitution I cited. It contains no mention of Catholicism. The section has more in common with the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution and separation of church and state than any concerted effort to specifically “retard the further spread of Catholic education.” The implicit comparison of Article 2, Section 5 to Jim Crow laws in Keating’s commentary is itself “odious” and repulsive. Just a cursory look of Keating’s biographical history shows he grew up with and has benefited from white privilege. Does he really want us to see him as a victim of discrimination? Keating’s argument also presupposes that those people who put together the state constitution were so dumb and such extreme anti-Catholic bigots they didn’t understand the sweeping nature of the language in Article 2, Section 5, which is simply false. This is actually a tremendous insult to those who met in 1906 to put together the Oklahoma Constitution. Keep in mind, the Blaine Amendment was initially proposed in 1875. That’s a 31-year difference between that event and the initial work on the Oklahoma Constitution. It’s obvious that three decades later the intention and language of the section, no matter what its first roots, would have been completely separate from what was going on in 1875.

But it’s the argument’s overall premise that should really make people cringe. Here’s Keating’s simplistic premise: Article 2, Section 5 was based on discrimination against Catholics and so therefore we should do away with it and allow a religious monument to be erected on the public square under the same right-wing Protestant view that generated such discrimination in the first place. Southern Baptists, in particular, were widely known to be at odds with Catholics in this country until even the 1980s. That’s well established and was even an issue in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

Southern Baptists and Catholics now share a right-wing political agenda in this country, officially opposing abortion, for example, so Article 2, Section 5, even if it were initially and entirely based on an anti-Catholic school sentiment, now has actually united the two religious denominations in opposition to it. In other words, Keating’s take on the history of the so-called “Blaine Amendments,” even if it were true, which it isn’t, is no longer applicable. Ritze, a Protestant, and Keating, a Catholic, want the same legal and/or voting outcome. There’s no operative discrimination in place specifically against Catholics because of Article 2, Section 5. How can anyone with Keating’s educational background not understand that?

It’s all enough to make your head hurt if you think too much about Keating’s tortuous argument.

The bottom line is that Keating and the newspaper want an exclusive religious monument at the state Capitol to promote and publicly sanction the Judeo-Christian tradition. That’s the real discrimination going on here.

Manufactured Indignation: Lankford, Inhofe Lead Attack On Planned Parenthood

Image of James Lankford

It appears members of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation are a major part of the current orchestrated attack on Planned Parenthood.

Right now, the obvious question seems to be whether U.S. Sens. James Lankford and Jim Inhofe knew beforehand about the so-called “sting” videos produced by an anti-abortion group that show Planned Parenthood officials speaking about fetal tissue used in stem cell research.

In other words, have they and other Republican political leaders been in on the video sting, or manufactured scam, from the beginning and are just now feigning surprise and indignation? What did they know and when did they know it? Don’t expect corporate media outlets here to do any digging to answer that question.

Lankford has helped to author a Senate bill to supposedly defund Planned Parenthood. Inhofe has presented a bill that would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the organization. For good measure, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine wants to pass legislation prohibiting any companies that donate to Planned Parenthood to receive federal contracts. (Wouldn’t that be a violation of the First Amendment?)

All of this is because these Republican politicians and others are against abortion, which is only a small fraction of the procedures Planned Parenthood actually performs in its clinics. In fact, Planned Parenthood performs ZERO abortions in Oklahoma. That’s right. None.

So let’s be clear: Planned Parenthood provides vital reproductive and health care primarily to women in our communities throughout the nation. These services include providing birth control and conducting screenings for breast and cervical cancer. The abortion procedure accounts for only 3 percent of its overall work.

This non-controversy centers around videos secretly recorded by a group called Center for Medical Progress, a shadowy anti-abortion group. They show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue used in important stem cell research. For the record, Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization. It does not profit from selling fetal tissue. It only recovers minor costs for preserving and transporting medical specimens.

The videos, according to Planned Parenthood and other officials, have been selectively edited to sensationalize the issue. The point of the videos is to create visceral reactions and give politicians like Lankford and Inhofe cover to attack Planned Parenthood. Embryonic and fetal stem cell research has been going on for years. The videos reveal nothing new.

It’s true that a majority of Lankford’s and Inhofe’s constituents are undoubtedly opposed to abortion, but, again, Planned Parenthood performs no abortions in Oklahoma. Their efforts, if successful, would not change the availability of the abortion procedure here in Oklahoma. Eliminating Planned Parenthood’s ability to collect Medicaid dollars for its services will not end abortion in this country nor will it mean the overall demise of the organization. It will only make it more difficult for women to receive vital reproductive health care.

Lankford, Inhofe and Bridenstine are directly attacking women in their legislation. Their legislative efforts are utterly sexist at their core and especially cruel to impoverished women. The so-called Republican “war on women” is more than just sloganeering. These patriarchal extremists and their fellow chauvinists are using the non-controversy for personal political gain and to promote their religious beliefs.

In the end, it’s highly unlikely any of this legislation will get signed into law. It’s certain at this point that President Barack Obama would veto any bill based on secretly recorded videos representing the work of fanatics and impostors. Obama has expressed his strong support for Planned Parenthood in the past.

It’s certain as well that this manufactured controversy, fueled now by overwrought and sanctimonious indignation, will backfire on Republicans in the 2016 general election.

Oklahoma Earthquake Crisis Grows In Intensity

Fracking In Karnes County on Flickr The Commons

Here in Earthquake Central, OK it keeps getting worse.

When will the shaking and rattling finally wake people up to the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in populated areas?

Do people here feel so beaten down by the prevailing political power structure and the oil and gas industry they will actually allow their homes to be damaged and possibly even destroyed to line the pockets of millionaire energy executives? Will they even risk the safety of their children?

Do you think the local corporate media, which includes conservatively biased publications like The Oklahoman, care one iota about your safety and property? Corporate media outlets here care about one thing: Advertising dollars. In fact, The Oklahoman is owned by Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, who made his money in the drilling business. He dabbles in the media business so he can support right-wing causes, such as fracking near people’s backyards to make more money for rich people like himself. When I refer to rich people, of course, I’m not talking about hard-working roughnecks who work under dangerous conditions and are used up by the energy industry as expendable costs per unit. I’m talking about predominately rich white men, who wear suits and ties to work and flaunt their power because they earn their millions of dollars or even more destroying our environment and now our sense of safety and security in our own homes.

Here are some questions for every homeowner in central Oklahoma: How much damage have the earthquakes induced by fracking caused to your home and other buildings on your property already in the last few years? (I know my house has suffered damage because of the earthquakes. Can I prove it, though?) Do you really think the oil and gas industry is going to pay for repairs and replacement? Do you REALLY think the state government here, led by Gov. Mary Fallin right now, is going to make the energy industry pay up for its negligence?

All this comes to mind because of a series of earthquakes that hit near Crescent in central Oklahoma starting on Sunday. According to one media report, there have been nine earthquakes in all since Sunday around Crescent, including 4.5-magnitude and 4.0-magnitude quakes on Monday that caused minor damage. Crescent is about 38 miles north of Oklahoma City and only 27 miles or so from Edmond.

If you live in central Oklahoma, which I do, most likely you felt the biggest quakes. The 4.5-magnitude earthquake in particular felt like it was never going to stop. I was in my house. I made a dash for the door, which is apparently not what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to find cover under a sturdy table or desk when the roof caves to protect yourself from the falling debris. All this for natural gas, folks. This is what it has come to in Oklahoma these days. Have you taught your kids what to do when an earthquake caused by fracking starts shaking the house?

The scientific evidence shows the wastewater injection process used in fracking is the root cause for the ongoing earthquake emergency crisis here. The evidence is so settled that two injections wells were shut down after the Crescent earthquakes, and one reduced its injected wastewater volume amount. But that action is not nearly enough. It’s not even a minor dent in the problem. The massive number of earthquakes here will continue for the foreseeable future, and your safety and property are in serious jeopardy.

Here is the explanation paragraph I write for all of these earthquake posts:

In the fracking process, water laced with toxic chemicals is injected into rock formations to create fissures to release natural gas. The wastewater from this process is then injected by high pressure back into the ground for “storage.” Scientists have determined the injection well process creates instability along fault lines, which triggers the quakes.

The oil and gas industry is increasingly unable to deny the connection, which has been its stance until recently when the evidence became overwhelming. The industry flacks and hacks make the argument now that fracking has been around for decades without major problems and that it’s not really fracking, really, but the injection well process that has been identified as the problem, as if that really matters. It’s all part of fracking.

The oil and gas industry flacks think you’re stupid. Fracked wells have been around for decades, true, but not anywhere close in the numbers we’ve witnessed recently under the “drill, baby, drill” mentality brought to you courtesy of the Republican Party. In addition, the fracking boom has brought this dirty, environmentally damaging process to populated areas. Literally, it’s going on near people’s backyards. What about the toxic fumes from the chemicals alone?

There’s also the issue of the connection between fracking and water contamination. Read this post about a Stanford University study and water wells near fracking sites. Read this post about a possible connection between the fracking process and radiation in creek water in Pennsylvania. This is just recent information. People have been linking fracking to water contamination for years.

There are sensible ways for our country and, really, the entire world to achieve energy independence, which includes investing more in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power that do less damage to the environment. There are probably even more sensible ways to dispose of fracking wastewater and to locate injection wells to limit or entirely prevent earthquakes, but that might mean a small cut in pay for Oklahoma’s worshipped oil and gas barons, whose publicity agency is and since its inception has been The Oklahoman.

It’s simply incredible. Oklahoma now leads the contiguous United States in the number of annual earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or higher. What’s frightening is the earthquakes are growing in their numbers and intensity, and state leaders aren’t doing much to respond to the crisis.

This IS an Oklahoma crisis. This IS an Oklahoma emergency. It may not feel like the aftermath of a Moore tornado, folks, but that’s only because this is a tragedy stretching over years and the corporate media outlets here are complicit with the oil and gas industry.

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