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Pompous Chuckles: Newspaper Monopoly Bullies Democrats

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The Oklahoman editorial board issued a snarky piece of commentary Saturday ridiculing state Democrats for no apparent reason other than to ridicule state Democrats.

The ostensible point of the piece, the lead item in the newspaper’s most recent Saturday’s ScissorTales series, seems to be that there are so few Democratic state senators—only seven now out of 48 seats—that they have to serve on a lot of committees and take on numerous party-based legislative leadership roles.

All this obviousness means The Oklahoman editorial board “couldn’t help but chuckle” over the situation, further remarking, “If everyone is a ‘leader,’ who’s left to follow?” Ha ha. Good one. Get it? One plus one equals two. Ha. Chuckle. Chuckle.

The spitefulness and bullying tone of the piece is nothing new for the ultra-conservative newspaper, which often finds mean-spirited delight in its illogical and fallacious editorial stances. Still, it’s worth noting on occasion just how ugly and weird the newspaper’s editorial page can be. It begs the question: What type of people even think up these hateful little missives?

Here are two reasons this specific editorial misses the mark: (1) Different viewpoints about governance are vitally needed in places such as Oklahoma. Democrats have been trounced in recent elections here, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have solid, bipartisan ideas or that they won’t make a comeback in the future. (2) Kicking people—it’s the Oklahoma Democrats in this case—when they are down, to use a cliché, always backfires. It creates unnecessary tension that leads to conflict and revenge. It’s obvious that Republicans completely and utterly dominate state government right now. Why the “chuckle” now? This Republican domination has been the case since former Gov. Brad Henry left office.

I still wonder how the newspaper stays in business with this type of flippant attitude and with the decline of the mainstream media because of the Internet in general and all its fragmentation. Sure, it’s a monopoly newspaper, and that’s one major reason, but there are alternatives now in how people can get local information and news. How soon before the newspaper becomes irrelevant and replaced by a consortium of other news and information outlets? (We can’t help but chuckle at this idea.)

It’s worth noting that there were 885,609 registered Democrats in the state in 2014, according to the Oklahoma Election Board, compared to 854,329 Republicans. Why in the world would any business want to risk alienating 885,609 people with silly ridicule and sarcasm? Undoubtedly, many of these “Democrats” didn’t vote or voted for Republican candidates, but still that’s a large pool of potential customers to risk losing with stupid, petty sarcasm.

Overall, I very much still believe in newspapers and their positive role in informing people, especially when compared to local television news departments. The Oklahoman, however, represents a special case of mediocrity and ideological excess.

Let’s hope right-wing Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, 75, who made his money drilling for fossil fuels, gets tired of his conservative and propagandistic media holdings soon, and sells the newspaper to a company that promotes basic journalistic principles, such as fairness and allowing plural voices on its editorial page.

Another Reason Pruitt Pot Lawsuit Should Go Up In Smoke

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A recent NewsOK.com story noted that Oklahoma ranked twelfth per capita among states in the number of people who died from alcohol poisoning over a two year period.

It was a typical “reportitis” story, which means it summarized yet another negative report about the state, an occurrence all too familiar to people who live here and want to improve the quality of life in Oklahoma. In all, 37 people died directly from alcohol poisoning here from 2010 to 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number, of course, doesn’t account for other types of deaths caused by alcohol, such as cirrhosis of the liver or in car accidents when drinking impairs a driver. It also doesn’t include drug-alcohol combination overdose deaths when drinking contributes to bad decisions about ingesting pain pills. Oklahoma has as much of an over-drinking problem as it does a prescription drug overdose problem.

All these factors about the relationship between drinking and needless deaths are well known. Yet liquor stores do business as usual. I’m writing this on a Friday. Most liquor stores will be busy or busier until the state-mandated closing time of 9 p.m. today. Most people, of course, do drink responsibly, and if drinking helps to relax people during a weekend after a week at work or enhances their lives, then so be it. Wine, after all, has been around for thousands of years. Drinking alcohol is pretty much intrinsic to life and the human experience.

What does bear pointing out, though, against this information is that there has not been one recorded death from marijuana “poisoning” in history nor does cannabis lead to cirrhosis. In fact, marijuana has medicinal value as well, according to droves of people and some medical experts.

That information doesn’t seem to faze Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, pictured right, who recently filed a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against some aspects of Colorado’s new marijuana legalization law. Pruitt wants to shut down that state’s marijuana cultivation and distribution system because he claims some of the pot is making its way into neighboring states, including Oklahoma. In essence, he wants the federal government to step in and shut down what Colorado voters approved in 2012.

I criticized Pruitt’s lawsuit decision here because he’s not fully proven that Colorado marijuana is flooding into Oklahoma, where it remains illegal, or that it presents any sort of problem if it is. I also criticized the decision because it contradicts Pruitt’s obsession with states’ rights when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, which he opposes with a legal vengeance.

So let’s add this further criticism about Pruitt’s decision: It’s widely established in the health care and scientific community and to those people who just believe in common sense that marijuana is less harmful physically to people than alcohol. (I’m not saying pot is completely harmless.) One might argue that pot is a gateway drug or that it’s often combined with alcohol in abusive ways, but it’s not as bad for you—in the strictest bodily sense—as drinking alcohol.

This is yet another reason why Pruitt’s decision is baffling.

Another interesting point to stress in this argument is that even if it’s true that Colorado-cultivated marijuana is making its way into Oklahoma for use or sale then at least the pot is NOT coming from a violent drug cartel. It removes a major criminal component from the use or sale of pot here. Wouldn’t it be better for Oklahoma, in general, that its pot comes from a legal, regulated market than from a bunch of armed criminals who also sell harder drugs like crystal methamphetamine and heroin?

Better yet, why not just at least decriminalized marijuana here and take care of the matter entirely? Right now, 27 states and the District of Columbia have legalized or decriminalized marijuana to some extent. Alaska and Oregon recently joined Colorado and the state of Washington in full legalization of cannabis.

Obviously, there is a growing trend in this country to legalize marijuana, which makes Pruitt’s lawsuit seem even more pointless and misguided. Alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related deaths here are a far more important issue than meddling in the marijuana law of another state.

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Where The Earthquakes Come Rumbling Down The Plain

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Oklahoma experienced more 3.0-magnitude or higher earthquakes last year than it did in the past 30 years combined, as reported by the Tulsa World, but don’t expect much action on the issue by state or local governmental authorities.

Those 567 earthquakes helped to make Oklahoma the leader now among the lower 48 states in earthquakes, a new dubious and weird distinction that not only threatens the welfare of the state’s residents and property but also tarnishes the state’s national image. Tornadoes AND earthquakes? People will flock here in droves.

As scientists have argued for some time now, the reason for the dramatic surge in earthquakes can be found in the hydraulic fracturing or fracking boom here that has led to a world glut of oil and gas.

In the fracking process, water laced with toxic chemicals is injected into rock formations, which release fossil fuels. The wastewater is then injected by high pressure underground into what are called disposal or injection wells. Scientists believe the injection well process causes instability or shifting along fault lines triggering earthquakes.

Oklahoma has experienced a fracking boom in recent years, but the boom here and elsewhere has led to an oversupply of oil and gas, driving down prices and slowing production. This slowdown, which was predicted and easily foreseen months if not years ago, has already negatively impacted the Oklahoma economy.

Let’s be clear: The state’s boom and bust cycle is based on making money not on sensible state and national energy policies. The modus operandi for oil and gas companies has always been and will always be to get as much money as they can when they can and then let the public and their laid-off workers deal with the aftermath in terms of economic and environmental duress.

Meanwhile, many Oklahomans have had to adapt to the new earthquake reality, which means spending more money on home insurance and, at least for some people, living in fear that a major earthquake will destroy their property or cause them bodily harm. In May, the U.S Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey issued a warning that another major earthquake of 5.0-magnitude or above is a real possibility in the state.

A 5.6-magnitude earthquake rumbled near Prague in 2011 causing property damage. It seems inevitable that the lack of governmental regulation and the basic greed of the oil and gas industry will lead to another larger earthquake here again. The question is one of liability. The oil and gas industry, as a collective whole, has argued in the past that there’s no definitive proof that the injection well process causes earthquakes, but the evidence mounts against this position.

A study published in Science last summer offered probably the most clear evidence so far that the injection well process has caused Oklahoma’s surge in earthquakes. A co-author of the study called the rise in earthquakes here “unprecedented.” The study argues that injection wells could lead to earthquakes a long distance away from their sites and throughout the state.

Government officials here have done little on the national, state or local level to deal with the issue. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has required injection well operators to keep more detailed records but the idea of a moratorium on such wells has never been really considered. The oil and gas political lobby remains a powerful force in Oklahoma.

As I’ve argued in the past, it will probably take a major earthquake that causes massive damage and injuries before government officials and the political establishment here are forced to take action. That doesn’t mean citizens should remain silent about the issue, but it is a cause for frustration and incredulity.

Overall, the larger solution to the problem and other problems caused by the extraction and burning of fossil fuels is the continued development of renewable energy sources, including wind and solar power.

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