It should be obvious to anyone now that The Oklahoman has launched a full-scale political attack against Ward 2 Councilor and mayoral candidate Ed Shadid, using both its news columns and editorial page.
First, the newspaper demanded through its attorney and editor that a judge unseal Shadid’s divorce records, a divorced filed in 2004 that has now been resolved amicably. Both Shadid and his ex-wife agreed to seal the records to protect their minor children from contentious claims typically made in divorce cases.
The divorce records, once unsealed, show that Shadid, a local surgeon, once smoked pot and did harder drugs a couple of times before he entered a rehabilitation center. Shadid had openly discussed these issues for years so that information was extremely public anyway. The Oklahoman, of course, played this information up as if they had somehow scooped other media outlets and tried to cast Shadid in the most negative light possible.
The newspaper intentionally did this with its leadership fully aware of the argument that such sensational coverage of someone’s prior drug use—remember, it was primarily pot—could have a chilling effect on anyone here in recovery who wants to share their story publicly to help others.
Next, of all things, the newspaper went after Shadid for his city election voting record. The point was that Shadid has not voted in city elections as much as his election opponent Mayor Mick Cornett. Again, Shadid has long been open about how he became politicized in the last several years and decided to become part of the political solution in his community. There’s really no story here, except for what has become a common journey for many people from political apathy to political activism. Yet The Oklahoman sensationalized the information by delivering it in accusatory and biased terms. The headline on NewsOK.com read: “Shadid voted in few Oklahoma City elections in contrast to mayor.” Does it get clearer than that in terms of which candidate the newspaper supports for mayor?
Then, the newspaper published a distorted editorial criticizing Shadid for leading a grassroots group that has launched petition drives to place questions on the ballot related to stopping construction of the convention center contained in MAPS 3.
No one would dispute that the newspaper is entitled to its opinion on the issue, but the editorial contained huge omissions related to the issue. Shadid and others believe that voters were misled about the need for a hotel attached to the convention center. That hotel could cost taxpapers an extra $200 to $300 million. Would voters have approved MAPS 3 knowing this was the case? The newspaper ignored this issue in its editorial.
The newspaper also ignored the issue that some experts believe expensive, large convention centers with adjacent hotels are now not financially viable, especially in markets such as Oklahoma City. This was not mentioned in the editorial either The editorial simply argued in the most basic terms: “Vonvention center good; Shadid bad.”
Fittingly, when the Oklahoma City Council recently voted to NOT ask the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce to release a previous study related to the convention center that could shed light on these issues, the newspaper remained silent on its editorial page. Shadid, of course, voted to ask for the study’s release, arguing for transparency.
The Oklahoman has a long history of applying a double standard to politicians and distorting the news to further corporate interests and the careers of ultra-conservative leaders.
Here’s something to note in this regard. Continental Resources CEO and billionaire Harold Hamm and his wife, Sue, are going through a divorce. Hamm is politically involved in the state and elsewhere, serving as an energy advisor for Mitt Romney’s failed campaign and leading Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s re-election effort. Both Romney and Pruitt, of course, are Republicans.
Just a cursory look through a summary of Hamm’s divorce files shows the term “sealed document” more than 100 times.
The newspaper hasn’t brought up this issue even though Hamm, an obvious public figure, has stepped into state and national politics, obviously trying to influence voters to elect conservative candidates he supports. Don’t the voters have a right to know the issues in Hamm’s divorce just like in Shadid’s divorce? With all the money probably at stake in Hamm’s divorce, wouldn’t it at least be an interesting news story? Where’s that “journalistic” outrage now?
The newspaper’s attacks on Shadid about his divorce records were cloaked in sanctimonious language about “freedom of information.” Don’t believe it for a second. The Oklahoman has launched a deliberate attack on Shadid because he challenges the status quo. These types of sustained political attacks by the newspaper have failed in the past. Let’s hope that happens again.
Oklahoma isn’t the only state now dealing with earthquake swarms possibly caused by wastewater injection wells used in the hydraulic fracturing or fracking process.
A recent article in The Kansas City Star outlined how Kansas has experienced a surge in earthquakes, including a 3.8-magnitude quake that struck near the Oklahoma border on Dec. 16. Kansas, according to the report, “is one of five states least likely to experience earthquake damage.” A recent surge in oil and gas drilling might have changed all that.
According to the article, written by Mike Hendricks, “ . . . the December temblor and the smaller ones leading up to it startled flatlanders unaccustomed to the kind of tremors Californians might shrug off.”
Oklahoma, of course, has become earthquake central in the last two or three years or so. Hundreds upon hundreds of earthquakes, most of them small, have struck the state since an increase in fracking. Two earthquakes hit Oklahoma on Friday and Saturday with no reported damage.
In the fracking process, wastewater is eventually placed underground by high pressure into injection wells. Scientists believe this destabilizes rock layers, causing shifting, which can lead to earthquakes. One study concluded that the 5.7-magnitude quake near Prague in 2011 was likely connected to oil and gas activity.
According to the Earth Institute at Columbia University:
Felt as far away as Milwaukee, more than 800 miles away, the quake—the biggest ever recorded in Oklahoma--destroyed 14 homes, buckled a federal highway and left two people injured. Small earthquakes continue to be recorded in the area.
Is this the cost of supposed American energy independence?
The official state response to the surge in earthquakes can only be described as minimal. The Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner has urged state residents to get earthquake insurance for their homes, but no state leader seems ready to champion stricter regulations about wastewater injection wells or to eliminate them altogether.
On the national level, two U.S. Representatives have called for a hearing on the unusual spike in seismic activity in Oklahoma and other states and its relationship to oil and gas activity. No one in the Oklahoma Congressional delegation has publicly supported them.
Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry is important to the state’s economy, of course, and many of its politicians, such as U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and House Speaker T.W. Shannon, receive significant campaign donations from the energy lobby. This makes it difficult to even have a public discussion about the issue.
The state’s largest newspaper, The Oklahoman, a mouthpiece for energy corporations and right-wing politicians, has argued on its editorial page “that in the absence of compelling evidence that a natural phenomenon was caused by human activity, we should assume it was caused by nature.” In other words, it’s all just nature doing its thing.
The bottom line seems to be that it will take a major earthquake in Oklahoma that causes significant damage or a seismic shift here in the political landscape to get stricter regulations.
A better approach, of course, would be to focus on creating renewable energy sources.
State Rep. Sally Kern, the infamous, nationally-known legislator who claims homosexuality is more dangerous than terrorism, has introduced a bill that would allow students to brandish “a pastry or other food which is partially consumed in such a way that the remnant resembles a weapon.”
No, the above paragraph is not from The Onion. The quoted language is actually in the bill.
The bill, if passed and signed into law, would also allow students to bring toy guns to school, simulate gunplay with their fingers, imitate gun sounds and wear clothing supporting gun rights. It would also allow students to draw or possess images of guns and other weapons or use “a pencil, pen or other writing utensil to simulate a weapon.”
Bang bang, shoot em up, kids. You’re so incredibly adorable when you fake like you’re killing someone. The Lost Ogle has an lively take on the issue.
House Bill 2351, introduced for the upcoming legislative session, has drawn a lot of media attention, of course, because it's just so weird and unneeded and shows just how senseless and useless some elements of the Republican-led legislature have become.
The bill could also have unintended consequences by blurring the lines between hostile, potentially violent students and Kern’s fanatical support for guns, which is shared by many of her Republican colleagues. What if an 18-year-old high school student, for example, forms their hand into a gun and points it menacingly at a teacher? Should that not have a consequence?
Kern, an Oklahoma City Republican, pictured right, has dubbed her bill the Common Sense Zero Tolerance Act, saying it was prompted by a case in Maryland in which a 7-year-old student was suspended from school for two days for chewing a Pop Tart into a gun shape. In response to the suspension, the National Rifle Association awarded the boy a lifetime membership and the gun fanatics in that state made a big deal about it.
Was the suspension a mistake? Who knows? I do know that it really isn’t a local issue and that a plethora of school shootings in recent years have made teachers and administrators justifiably paranoid in adopting no-tolerance rules about guns and their facsimiles.
Kern’s bill is a huge overreach and presupposes a problem that doesn’t exist here. It also, in theory, promotes child “gun play” at schools by codifying such activities into law. Why not also introduce a bill that allows students to play kickball during a recess or draw dinosaurs or play math games in classrooms?
This is a bill that needs to be withdrawn or die in the committee process. If it makes it to a full House vote, however, it will probably pass. I’m unsure how the state Senate or Gov. Mary Fallin might respond to it.
Republican leaders, including Fallin, should put pressure on Kern and other fanatical elements of the legislature to put a lid on their ideological nonsense for this upcoming session. The state faces numerous problems, including catastrophic underfunding for education. Making sure school kids can kill people—all in jest and great fun, of course—is as ridiculous as it gets.