This is a blog of populist and liberal information and ideas, advancing the cause of truth and justice while fighting the ugly tyranny of right-wing oppression in Oklahoma and its surrounding environs.

Sarcasm Not Science

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The Oklahoman editorial page continues to describe the growing environmental movement in this country with self-righteous, smirky sarcasm while ignoring the scientific basis for claims about the threats of climate change and fracking.

This means The Oklahoman puts forth arguments like this about the recent People’s Climate Marches across the country on Sept. 21: “. . . marchers aren’t just useful idiots for the millionaires fighting for a cleaner environment from the comfort of their private jets but simplistic as well . . . ” or “ . . .some of the highest-profile participants in the march — movie stars and politicians — claim we’re destroying the planet but notably refuse to give up their private jets, multiple cars and giant houses.”

Note the fixation with the upper class and private jets. Isn’t The Oklahoman, and I say this with absolutely no sarcasm intended, the mouthpiece for the rich? The quotes I used in the above paragraph came from smaller editorial briefs under the newspaper’s Scissor Tales series. These editorials mock and stereotype. What they don’t do is focus on scientific claims about global warming and the damage done to our planet by the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process.

The newspaper’s main counter argument to the 400,000 people who marched in New York, and the thousands more who marched in other cities, including Oklahoma City, seems to be this: People who fly around in private jets shouldn’t be able to speak up against the threat of global warming. That’s nonsensical on two levels. First, the vast majority of people who marched on Sept. 21 don’t fly around in private jets. Second, such reductionist arguments—even if you agree with the accusation of hypocrisy—only try to shift attention away from scientific claims.

The internet and our public libraries abound with credible scientific information about the reality of global warming and the environmental dangers of fracking, which include water contamination and earthquakes. Instead of digging through this information and responding to it, the newspaper’s editorial writers deploy sarcastic ad hominem attacks against people through stereotyping and mocking. This, then, is presented as “argumentation” in the wider culture in Oklahoma. That’s a shame.

One of the latest claims emerging from new studies is that trying to reduce our carbon imprint through a carbon tax and developing cleaner renewable energy sources would actually create more jobs and help the world economy. Don’t expect The Oklahoman to weigh in on this issue, in particular, with anything but sarcasm.

Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, of course, is famous for denying manmade global warming while arguing that a carbon tax or cap-and-trade for certain industries would eliminate millions of jobs. If Republicans take over the Senate, Inhofe, who is expected to win reelection, could become chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and then scientific truth won’t matter at all.

Oklahoma is an energy-producing state, and the oil and gas business is important to the economy. There’s also nothing wrong with healthy skepticism. Even allowing room for those two caveats, The Oklahoman, the largest newspaper in the state, doesn’t even begin to deal honestly with the developing science about global warming and fracking. This is not good for the state’s long-term welfare. What happens, for example, when the fracking boom plays out?

Blame Shame

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This country’s prisons are filled with self-professed Christians who have committed heinous acts of violence, but few Oklahoma politicians will want to note this obvious fact.

Instead, right-wing politicians here distort and cast aspersions on one of the world’s largest religions, Islam, based on the extremely non-religious and unholy actions of one solitary person.

Why not blame all of Christianity for Timothy McVeigh, the maniac who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in 1995, killing 168 people? Some people argue he was influenced by the extremist Christian Identity Movement, and he grew up as a Catholic. But that’s different, right?

Alton Nolen has been charged with murder after police say he decapitated a worker last week at Vaughan Foods in Moore. Nolen, who had just been suspended from his job at the company, had supposedly tried to convert a fellow worker to Islam and had photos of Osama bin Laden and a beheading on his Facebook page.

Some right-wingers here immediately called the case an act of terrorism without any regard for simple logic. What would be gained by Islamic terrorists, for example, by killing people at a company in, of all places, Moore, Oklahoma? Can you imagine terrorist group leaders in Syria or Iraq ordering Nolen to kill his fellow workers if he ever got suspended or fired from his job? None of that makes any sense, and the FBI is treating the murder as a case of workplace violence.

But Nolen’s professed Islamic beliefs—he converted to the religion apparently while in prison—was enough to fire up the anti-Islam crowd here.

The so-called Counterterrorism Caucus in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives called for “public discussion about potential terrorists in our midst and the role that Sharia law plays in their actions.” Those who signed off on the statement were state Reps. John Bennett (Sallisaw), Sean Roberts (Hominy), Lewis Moore (Arcadia), Dan Fisher (El Reno), Mike Ritze (Broken Arrow), and Sally Kern, Mike Christian and Mike Reynolds, who are all from Oklahoma City.

Let’s be clear: Sharia Law, which is essentially an Islamic moral code, does not condone murdering your fellow workers once you get suspended from your job. Does that even need to be stated?

Bennett, it should be noted, has made controversial statements recently about Islam and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) even before the killing in Moore. His recent comment that Islam “is a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out” has drawn national attention and condemnation from CAIR.

Even Gov. Mary Fallin, who is up for reelection this year, decided to weigh in on the murder case with some typical fear mongering when she issued a statement that said “it is unclear at this time whether the crime was an act of terrorism, workplace violence, or a gruesome combination of both.” She also urged “Oklahomans to remain alert and report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement.” In other words, people, be scared.

There are more than 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and only a tiny fraction of them distort their religion to support violent acts of crime. There is also a long history of violent extremists who have distorted or used Christianity to support their violent acts. What about The Crusades or the Salem witch trials or David Koresh? What about the former but deep support for slavery among American Southern Baptist Churches? Doesn't slavery meet the definition of "terrorism"?

Do religions, in general, create hardened dichotomies of thinking among some people that turn into vitriol when those dichotomies get challenged or are not accepted? That’s the real public discussion we should have, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon in Oklahoma.

Obamacare Obsessions

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How much money are Oklahoma’s taxpayers spending in order to prevent people from getting health insurance?

That’s one obvious question that should be asked after a reprimanded federal judge in Muskogee—in what I believe is a crass political ruling—agreed with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, pictured right, that federal subsidies shouldn’t be allowed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in states that haven’t set up their own health insurance exchanges.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Ronald A. White of the Eastern District of Oklahoma ruled in favor of Pruitt’s lawsuit. After the health law was signed into law in 2010, the IRS implemented a rule that allowed federal exchanges to award subsidies under the ACA, which was the obvious intent of the law. Pruitt and other right-wingers, however, argue that IRS rule is unconstitutional, and they’re trying to get the U.S. Supreme Court to eventually side with them.

A federal appeals court in Virginia has upheld the IRS rule, and another appeals court in Washington D.C. initially sided with the anti-Obamacare crowd but has since vacated the decision. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the overall constitutionality of the ACA in 2012. The right-wing is now simply trying reduce the effectiveness of the law.

Here are some points to consider about Tuesday’s ruling:

(1) White was nominated by former Republican President George W. Bush in 2003 and has been reprimanded for misconduct in his tenure. According to one 2011 news story, the Tenth Circuit Court in Denver reprimanded him after an “investigation found White used his power to appoint friends to be special judges in settlement proceedings even though they were unqualified.” It’s not difficult to see White’s decision as politically motivated given the president who nominated him as judge and his past judicial behavior, which indicates a problem with impartiality.

(2) Pruitt and Gov. Mary Fallin both hailed the political ruling as a great victory, but a ruling from a red-state obscure judge with apparent past ethical problems is hardly a panacea for those people who want to deny health care to low-income people. Fallin claimed that “Oklahomans won a major victory” because of the ruling, but that’s an obvious sweeping generalization. What about the Oklahomans who are benefiting from the law?

(3) As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has noted, Obamacare has been an overall success, and especially in those states that have embraced the obvious intent of the law and tried to get more people insured. This is a story pretty much ignored by the corporate media here and elsewhere. It’s much easier to report the reductionist doomsday predictions of right-wing politicians than to take a serious look at the growing numbers of people with health insurance in this country.

Meanwhile, Pruitt continues his relentless pursuit against Obamacare. How much is his obsession costing Oklahoma taxpayers? Are other issues, such as consumer protection, taking a backseat to Pruitt’s politically motivated agenda? My answers to those two questions: Too much. No doubt.

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