Go Wireless OKC!

(Go Wireless OKC is a series of blogs dedicated to creating a wireless Internet movement in Oklahoma City. On occasion, Okie Funk will blog from unique wireless locations in Oklahoma City and the surrounding area. Have a wireless location you want Okie Funk to visit? Leave a comment on this blog.)

Sliding ladders, books, tables, and chairs create friendly, intellectual pathways that take you around the full circle of western civilization and philosophy on this first summer day of the year.

A small coffee shop and café, with wicker chairs and wooden tables, is next to a beautiful patio that overlooks an I-44 junction in midtown Oklahoma City and a chain restaurant. People eat sandwiches, drink coffee, and write as others handle with care the objects of wonder that bring us to this wordy place.

The barista makes someone an iced drink. Two of us sit in front of laptop computers. Scribbling away on a notepad, one man looks up as an employee walks into the next room. Here are some signs on cases: “Foreign Language References,” “Plays/Drama,” “Romance,” and “Performing Arts.” I see a young women looking over an African map as the barista walks around from the corner to the front of the store.

Got it yet? That’s right, I’m blogging today from the incredible Full Circle Bookstore at 50 Penn Place, right across from Penn Square Mall. This bookstore is an Oklahoma City treasure. As a forerunner within the city’s intellectual community, it has free wireless access.

As regular readers of Okie Funk know, I think Oklahoma City needs to launch a major wireless initiative in the tradition of cities such as Philadelphia. I think every home, business, and institution should have access to inexpensive, high-speed, wireless Internet. This one movement would drastically increase the overall academic and intellectual infrastructure of our city and make it known as a place user-friendly to smart people.

Speaking of summer, the first Clean Air Alert this year has been issued today for the Oklahoma City area. This is when the exhaust of gasoline engines combines with the depleted ozone on hot, no-wind sunny days to cause problems for people with respiratory problems and other health concerns. This is our contemporary world, of course, and it is only going to get worse and worse if we remain tied to Bush-era philosophies about energy.

The alert comes just a couple of days after a recent editorial on the The Daily Oklahoman online site (“Deep throes: Controversial incentives justified,” June 19, 2005) which shows just how shameless the local right-wing has become in doling out corporate welfare to local energy companies and destroying the environment.
In one of its classic, illogical editorials, The Oklahoman lauds the Oklahoma legislature for passing a bill this past 2005 session giving Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy and other companies $62 million in tax breaks to fund the deep drilling of natural gas wells in the state below 15,000 feet. This payola is in despite of the fact that the country’s energy companies are reporting staggering profits under Bush-era anti-environmentalist polices. Chesapeake’s top executives stand to make the most from the public boondoggle because the company does much of the deep gas drilling in the state.

The editorial is a classic Double D's (Daily Disappointment) hatchet job because there is really no reason for it, except to gloat and try to mock reasonable, decent people who have the vast majority of Oklahomans at heart when they argue the tax breaks are terribly unfair to ordinary, hard-working Oklahomans trying to send their kids to decent schools and eke out a living here on the prairie. We are taking money from schools to give to rich energy company executives. That is the point. That is the fact. There can be no disputing that point. In its Orwellian fashion, the newspaper calls those who opposed the handout to Chesapeake “irrational.” As usual, the newspaper omits major facts when presenting its argument, and thus itself becomes the obvious voice of irrationality.
Here are two facts you will not find mentioned in the editorial:

(1) Energy companies such as Chesapeake continue their relentless onslaught on the environment. Accepted studies have shown that, among other things, deep gas and oil drilling disrupts the land, causes surface and ground water pollution, causes air pollution with Co2 emissions, can cause property damage, and certainly disrupts natural wildlife. Under Bush era energy policies, not only do energy companies have less pollution restrictions, but they actually are rewarded with tax cuts for destroying the environment. This is not a partisan issue. This is about saving the planet for future generations. As Chesapeake and other companies drill deeper and deeper, more and more ecological issues will surely develop. Just like with the Iraq war, we have no plan. Our current government is an immoral steward of the planet.

(2) The tax cuts effectively avert money to damaging, immoral technologies. The more tax breaks, the more public money, we give to companies such as Chesapeake, the less the nation and Oklahoma has to invest in developing alternative, renewable energy sources or developing new methods to conserve fossil fuel use. Those two issues deserve public financial support, not a profitable Oklahoma energy company. We teeter precariously close to a major energy and financial crisis as the cost of oil and natural gas skyrocket. (Oil is almost at $60 a barrel.) We are engaged in an immoral war because of this looming crisis, a war in which innocent people have been killed and wounded by the thousands. Companies such as Chesapeake are tied to archaic methods of energy production, and, as of now anyway, their business philosophies are tremendously short-sighted. They care about short-term profits, not long-term viability.

To the newspaper’s credit, it does mention how politically active Chesapeake is in Oklahoma politics, but, of course, there is no direct mention of how two of its top executives recently donated $250,000 a piece to U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s campaign. There is not one Oklahoman who does not know that this political money buys votes and influence. It is legalized corruption, and our democracy is threatened because of it.

Perhaps, the most irrational part of the editorial, though, is the argument that the tax cuts for Chesapeake are in the “long-term” interests of the state. Nothing could be further from the truth. These tax cuts are about rewarding filthy-rich energy company executives at the expense of our environment and our children’s future. It would in the long-term interests of the state to develop a diverse economic infrastructure that did not rely so heavily on a handful of energy companies.

Energy companies are moving to Houston from Oklahoma, and they will continue to do so. When the last drop of oil, when the last cubic foot of gas, is extracted at a profit from the state’s red dirt, the energy companies will leave here and laugh all the way to the bank. Their history here will be a nasty blip, much like the Dust Bowl. Those who supported them politically may be able to buy their way into the Oklahoma history books for a while as sympathetic characters, but eventually they will be labeled as corrupt, greedy, and immoral.

And Chesapeake is not a “great corporate citizen” because such a thing does not exist in twenty-first century America. Does anyone, either on the left or right, really think there is such a thing as a “great corporate citizen” these days? Chesapeake executives give to charities for the same reason they donate money to politicians. They want influence and power, so a relatively small handful of people can get rich on the backs of hard-working Oklahomans. They do not care about you or your family or your friends, and you are an ignorant rube if you think they do. They might donate some money to a cause or organization you think is worth supporting, true, but they only do it for the tax breaks and corporate influence.

Ultimately, though, the editorial is just part of a larger movement to shift money into the hands of rich people as it shrinks the middle-class and annihilates the poor. Our state legislature has been swept into this right-wing madness for a number of reasons, but perhaps the main cause is how the so-called mainstream media in the state will only allow right-wing views and corporate worship in their columns and on their stations.

This complete and utter monopolistic disregard for freedom of expression is coming back now to haunt the media as more and more people, both liberal and conservative, turn to alternative media sources on the Internet and elsewhere. Let us hope the mainstream media here crashes down sooner than later to save our state from immoral and reckless policies that dictate our state government gives public money away in the form of corporate tax breaks and income-tax rate reductions to a handful of the richest citizens in Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, someone once wrote, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,” and I bet you can find that line in a book or two in this bookstore. (First one in with the poet and poem gets the usual bonus points.) It is not difficult to feel that way in today’s world, is it?