Balmy Holidays?

Oklahomans may well be in shorts and t-shirts grilling their favorite foods this coming Christmas day, but no one will be showing Facebook images of the barbecues on the U.S. Senate floor to prove manmade global warming does, indeed, exist.

No, the right to frame careful scientific studies and measurements based on one-weather event stunts on the Senate floor is the purview of Oklahoma’s own U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who can be seen in the above video doing what he does best. Inhofe, perhaps the world’s most infamous denier that carbon emissions accelerate global warming, brought a snowball to the Senate floor last February to DISPROVE things are heating up unnaturally on the planet.

The recent warm weather here, the forecast of a Christmas day in the 70s, and, yes, the recent Paris Climate Accord among countries to limit the rise of global warming below 2 degrees Celsius reminded me of Inhofe’s stunt. I think those of us in Oklahoma concerned about global warming should record ourselves on social media enjoying our balmy Christmas day and flood Inhofe’s inbox with the truth.

The truth is that one single weather event doesn’t indicate anything substantial about the overall climate or its patterns or its trajectories over a long period of time. While it’s true that a series of unusual weather events over a long time period can, indeed, contain valuable information about the climate, one snowball or one barbecue in isolation tells us nothing significant.

Manmade global warming through carbon emissions is simply a fact. Carbon emissions accelerate the greenhouse effect. This increases the planet’s overall temperature artificially and leads to the melting of arctic ice, rising sea levels and severe weather events, such as prolonged droughts. Rising sea levels are already putting some coastal cities on the brink of disaster, which could lead to massive population displacement around the world.

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Masters of Disasters

Image of satirical Dickens film photograph

The entirely expected announcement that Oklahoma faces a current revenue failure and is predicted to have an approximately $900 million budget shortfall next fiscal year should dispel the myth that tax cuts lead to economic growth and adequate funding for government.

I use “should” because it’s highly unlikely that Republicans, who control the state government here, will drop the pretense and start leading the state with prudent and sensible financial policies. There are some exceptions, such as Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller and State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, but it’s highly unlikely conservatives here will break with the GOP tax-cut orthodoxy, which benefits the wealthiest among us at the expense of school children and other vulnerable Oklahomans.

Since 2004, Oklahoma has enacted income tax cuts that have dropped the top rate from 7 to 5.25 percent. Another tax cut, amazingly enough, is going into effect this coming Jan. 1 when the top rate will drop to 5 percent. Republicans will point gleefully to the fact that former Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, was in office when the tax-cutting carnage began, but that doesn’t mean it was right or that the mythology that tax cuts lead to economic growth is true. Henry was also trading tax cuts for increases in state funding for various entities, such as education.

But, yes, it’s also true that since the 2008 recession, Oklahoma has cut education funding the most of any state in the nation on a percentage wise basis and continues to lag behind in funding for mental health services. The state faces a teacher shortage because, among other things, it pays teachers some of the lowest salaries in the nation. The expected cuts in mental health will probably leave thousands of Oklahomans without medical care.

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Planned Parenthood Deserves Continued State Support

Image from Rally for Planned Parenthood Funding NYC 2/26/11 from Flickr

It's difficult not to view Gov. Mary Fallin's efforts to defund Planned Parenthood on a state level as a political gesture based on conservative ideology.

Fallin wants to terminate the state Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma, which provide women with reproductive-related health care and screenings. The organizations don't perform abortions here. Fallin claims an audit has shown there have been billing errors made by the two organizations, but the reported information has been extremely vague.

An attorney for the Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Tamya Cox, recently claimed she has provided information to the state showing the billing errors are substantially lower than the audit claims. Here's a story about the issue

What we do know for sure is that some Republicans, including U.S. Sen. James Lankford, have been viciously attacking Planned Parenthood on a national level after heavily edited, fake videos surfaced supposedly showing Planned Parenthood officials "selling" fetal tissue for research. Planned Parenthood doesn't sell fetal tissue. It has, in the past, charged money for preparing and delivering medical specimens used in stem cell research to recoup expenses. Planned Parenthood has since announced it will no longer accept money for providing the fetal tissue.

Generations of Oklahoma women have used Planned Parenthood for contraceptive services and health screenings. Many of these women turned to Planned Parenthood because they couldn't find other access to reproductive services or they felt more comfortable going to one of its affiliates rather than a primary care physician or other types of physicians. Anti-abortion extremists have been attacking the organization for just as many generations. Many people have suggested or posed the idea that the recent shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs that killed three people is related to the recent anti-abortion rhetoric generated by the fake videos and used by prominent, conservative politicians in this country. That would definitely include Lankford.

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