Blogs

No Relief From The Heat

Scientists throughout the world have issued another report about the growing threat of global warming on the planet, but here in Oklahoma at least some of our conservative leaders, such as U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, deny it or simply just don’t care.

The “State of the Climate 2015” report used the contributions of more than 450 scientists. It was published as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. It notes that greenhouse gases, global surface temperature and sea surface temperatures were the highest ever recorded in 2015. Meanwhile, global sea levels rose to a record high and the arctic continues to warm as well. The report was led by the National Centers for Environmental Information at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations.

You can find the report here and in the above tweet. According to the report, “The year’s exceptional warmth was fueled in part by a nearly year-round mature El Niño event . . .”.

The report goes on to note, “The year 2015 also marked the first time the global average surface temperature reached more than 1°C above the average of the mid- to late-19th century, a period in which temperatures are commonly taken to be representative of pre industrial conditions.”

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Message of Retribution

Image of David Prater

I have meant for some time to revisit some courtroom statements made by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater in a case in which a man was recently sentenced to death. I thought about it again after attending last night’s meeting as a board member of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The man Prater’s statements referred to is Albert Ray Johnson, 49, who was convicted in June of raping his girlfriend and her friend, beating both of them, and then killing his girlfriend’s friend. He was sentenced to death by a jury for the murder. The late Oklahoma County District Judge Donald Deason formally sentenced him to death in July. Johnson also has previous felony convictions for violent crimes, according to one media report.

As reported in the media, one of Prater’s arguments in the case was that this was a strong one for the death penalty. During arguments, as reported, Prater said, “Whether this defendant is incarcerated or out, he is a very dangerous human being. It's time to look at what he did. If you give him life without parole, what's the message?" Prater continued to tell the jury, “You will not have a stronger case to consider the death penalty on.”

It’s true that it’s difficult to make a strong if any case for Johnson’s rehabilitation given his history, violent nature of his crimes and age, but I’m opposed to the death penalty even in cases like this. Johnson will end up in an appeals process that will take years and will be paid for by taxpayers. It’s even quite possible the U.S. Supreme Court could abolish the death penalty while Johnson awaits his fate on death row, meaning the taxpayer money spent on his appeals to reverse the death-penalty decision will be for nothing. In addition, it’s unlikely that Johnson will receive adequate mental health services, which could create problems for correction officers. At the trial, his public defender conceded Johnson killed the woman—the crime for which he received the death penalty—but argued Johnson suffers from mental illness.

The meme goes something like this: “We kill people to show people that they shouldn’t kill people."

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Progressives Need To Go Beyond Usual Political Language This Year

The writer Glenn Greenwald, who ruthlessly analyzes American politics as he pinpoints its disappointments and foibles, probably has the best take so far on the current and changing political milieu in the world, and it could apply to the current conservative moment in Oklahoma as well.

Greenwald, who has written for Salon and other publications and sites and helped found Intercept, said in a recent interview with Slate that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is a dangerous politician but the response to his threat and support have been somewhat misconstrued. In the interview, Greenwald notes:

Do you think the people voting for Donald Trump because they feel their economic future has been destroyed, or because they are racist, or because they feel fear of immigrants and hate the U.S. elite structure and want Trump to go and blow it up, give the slightest s—about Ukraine, that Trump is some kind of agent of Putin? They don’t! Just like the Brexit supporters.

The interview, which I linked to above, is wide-ranging and nuanced. Greenwald devotes a lot of his words to the recent Democratic National Convention email hack release by Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, but I want to focus on the above quote because I think it can be applied here in Oklahoma as well.

Too often, the national media and even progressives think that by simply calling out someone as a racist, sexist or liar will have some type of impact on changing people’s minds or on an election. There have been some cases, usually involving scandal, where that has been the case, but, as Greenwald notes, Trump supporters just don’t care about the larger ramifications of his presidency. They just want to “blow it up” in the figurative sense and see what happens.

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