Another Inhofe Stunt

Image of Jim Inhofe

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe continued his surreal anti-environment antics this week by supporting a Republican boycott of a committee considering a climate change bill.

Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, threw his fit because he wants a cost analysis of the bill, according to media reports. This analysis has already been conducted on a bill that was 90 percent similar to the one now under consideration, but that fact hasn’t stopped Inhofe from complaining. He, and other Republicans, simply didn’t show up for work when they didn’t get their way.

Inhofe will not vote for the bill anyway, no matter how much the bill is analyzed.

The committee needs at least two Republicans present to get the bill through markup and only one Republican member showed up Tuesday. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, the committee chair, has told reporters she might find a way to get around the boycott, but she didn’t offer specifics. She also said another cost analysis at this point in the legislative process would be a waste of taxpayers’ money and that another study could come later.

According to Josh Nelson, who blogs at, Inhofe actions are “pathetic.” Nelson recently wrote:

This is nothing more than a shameless attempt to obstruct and delay clean energy legislation. Both on the EPW Committee, and in the full Senate, the numbers are on the side of passage. Senator Inhofe knows this, so he is throwing one last hail-mary in an attempt to stall the process. I don’t expect better from him, but it is still pretty pathetic.

Inhofe, who has called global warming a hoax, has become a political spectacle to a majority of the country and world. He may have strong support in Oklahoma and especially among energy companies tied to fossil fuels, but the damage he has done to the state’s image through the years is incalculable. He continues to make Oklahoma seem like a backwards place. Is this what the state’s political and business leaders want?

Global warming caused by human activity is a reality accepted by leading international scientists. Inhofe is not a scientist. He’s simply a shill for the oil and gas industry as the nation and the world turn to renewable and clean energy sources.


Obama’s Secrets

Image of Barack Obama

On May 5, 2006, I published a post about an upcoming protest of former President George Bush at Oklahoma State University. The post mentioned illegal wiretapping and impeachment.

Here is part of the post:

The imperial Bush lied this country into a botched war, sanctioned torture of people in American custody, and ordered illegal wiretapping of American citizens. All of these acts are impeachable offenses, and they threaten our democratic structures.

I stand by this argument. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama has continued Bush’s state secrets policies, using much of the same national security rationale as Bush. This should be, as blogger Glenn Greenwald points out, a big disappointment for those of us who spoke out against Bush, and it is.

Greenwald writes:

All of this vividly underscores a vital point. There is simply no way that a person with even the most minimal levels of intellectual integrity could have objected to these actions during the Bush years yet defend them now that Obama is doing them, or even refrain from objecting just as loudly. What would it say about a person who spent years warning of the dangers posed by these very policies, yet found ways to excuse them now that there's a new President who is affirming and further institutionalizing them?

I agree with this assessment, and I hope more people who criticized Bush for his state secrets’ policies will now criticize Obama for retaining them.

Last March, I posted a piece about the issue of Obama’s embrace of secret government. It included this paragraph:

It’s really bad news, but it doesn’t come as a surprise. When Congress failed to check the executive powers of the Bush administration, it became clear that future presidential administrations—Democratic or Republican—could easily claim the same powers and even broaden them. That’s exactly what has happened and will continue to happen. Why would anyone willingly give up power? That’s why many of us in recent years were so adamant about calling for thorough investigations into who was wiretapped and why under the Bush administration. It’s an issue that transcends political parties.

I stand by that statement, too. Democracy is dependent on transparency and openness. Obama has chosen the wrong path, as Greenwald points out, and it threatens to solidify presidential dictatorial powers. People should protest just as much as they did when Bush was president.

Greenwald references a New York Times editorial, which also criticizes Obama for continuing what it calls a “cover-up.” According to the editorial:

The Obama administration has clung for so long to the Bush administration’s expansive claims of national security and executive power that it is in danger of turning President George W. Bush’s cover-up of abuses committed in the name of fighting terrorism into President Barack Obama’s cover-up.

I was overjoyed when Obama was elected president, and I support his overall domestic policy agenda. I hope he can help pass a health care reform bill. But his refusal to reverse Bush’s secret government policies deserves aggressive criticism. The nation can survive financial crises. Can it survive lingering, institutionalized government policies that remain the antithesis of democracy?


Teacher Protection

(How could the so-called “Obama effect” influence Oklahoma’s 2010 elections? Read DocHoc’s commentary this week in the Oklahoma Gazette, the state’s finest alternative newspaper.)

Image of Picasso Painting

Looming, “devastating” financial cuts in education is yet another reason the Oklahoma Legislature should meet in a special session to craft a new budget strategy for this fiscal year and to tap into the state’s $600 million Rainy Day Fund.

On Thursday, the State Board of Education learned that an important source of funding for public education—the revolving 1017 fund, which accounts for more than 25 percent of all school funding—is almost empty of reserves, according to the Tulsa World.

Overall, state revenues are in a serious decline, coming in way below estimates for the first quarter of this year. State leaders expect tax revenues will continue to slide. Most state agencies are now experiencing a five percent or more budget cut on a monthly basis. This has affected many state programs. For example, the state’s senior nutrition program, funded through the Department of Human Services, has experienced a $7.4 million cut.

According to the World, State Superintendent Sandy Garrett had this to say about potential cuts in education:

Our concerns are: If the general fund revenue is being reduced by 5 percent each month and we potentially have another reduction, we think that will be devastating to our schools. We just ask them (local school boards) to look very carefully at their budgets and try to protect that teacher in the classroom. But when it's that much of their budget, that's hard to do.

It’s vitally important, as Garrett suggested, to ensure teaching positions are not cut during this financial downturn. Teacher layoffs, if widespread, would obviously hurt student-learning outcomes. School children would lose out. Oklahoma already has underfunded schools, which has helped create low college graduation rates here. More cuts would be absolutely devastating. That’s not hyperbole

As I wrote in my previous post, the Oklahoma Legislature could meet in a short special session to deal with anticipated revenue declines, protecting, as much as possible, education, health programs and social services from deep cuts. State leaders could craft a new budget strategy for this year, taking a proactive rather than reactionary stance. The legislature could also use some of the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help shore up the finances of vital institutions, such as the state schools. As it stands now, the legislature will not meet until February.

Declining energy production tax revenues and recent tax cuts passed by the legislature that primarily benefited the state’s wealthiest citizens have created a real budget crisis for the state. Obviously, tax hikes are out of the question in Oklahoma because of its conservative politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, but at the very least state leaders could come up with a more specific and targeted plan to meet the current crisis.