Ten Commandments Mess Waste Of State Resources

Prominent leaders, such as Gov. Mary Fallin and Attorney General Scott Pruitt, continue to agitate for religious intrusion into state government, and the legal cost and damage to Oklahoma’s worldwide image continue to mount.

Now that the Ten Commandments monument has been removed from the state Capitol grounds and installed at the headquarters of the right-wing Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Fallin is actually urging voters to change the state’s constitution to bring it back.

Yet, even if this were to happen, the monument’s placement on government property would likely still face a challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court and even more state taxpayer money would be wasted fighting a lost cause. The U.S. Constitution clearly draws a line between church and state when it comes to such blatant acts of religious intrusion.

Pruitt, of course, was adamant that the Oklahoma Supreme Court made a mistake when it ruled that Article 2, Section 5 of the state constitution prohibited the placement of the religious monument at the Capitol.

Pruitt looks ridiculous on this one. Here’s the language to which the high court referred:

No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.


Potassium In Large Quantities

“The active ingredient is potassium, which, when injected in large quantities, stops the heart . . .”—Gov. Mary Fallin, as quoted in The Oklahoman, October 8, 2015

In their relentless and ruthless quest to kill people, some state leaders here are obviously exposing the brutality and arbitrariness of the death penalty in this country.

Lethal injection was invented in Oklahoma and first legalized here, and this is where it’s eventually going to come to an end. Even the person who pushed for its legalization thinking he was ending gas chambers and electric chairs, the late Rev. Bill Wiseman, died in a 2007 place crash with tremendous regret over the issue.

The latest news is that the last inmate executed here, Charles Warner, was given a wrong drug in what state officials call “the protocol.” Warner was given potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride, which isn't an approved drug for lethal injection in Oklahoma. As he died on the gurney last January, he cried out, “My body is on fire.”

The inmate killed before him, Clayton Lockett, writhed around groaning on the gurney for about 45 minutes when he was injected by the state on April 29, 2014.

Now, the state has halted at the last minute the execution of Richard Glossip, who has maintained his innocence in the crime for which he is accused, and all other death-row inmates until it supposedly gets the drugs right, which will never happen. But to someone like Gov. Mary Fallin, pictured right and quoted above, it’s just a matter of stopping the heart, and potassium in either form will do the trick in “large quantities” by putting someone in cardiac arrest.

Everyone personally involved in this dark slapstick comedy of horror needs an attorney now, and Fallin has already hired one. Who can blame her? Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt says he’s investigating it all, but what does it matter now? He has an obvious conflict of interest because of his obsessive political support for the death penalty. He needs an attorney, too. So does Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.

There’s only one answer: End the death penalty, which the U.S. Supreme Court will likely do as Oklahoma continues to expose its gruesome details and randomness.

Lockett and Warner were convicted of heinous crimes, but Glossip hasn’t actually ever killed anyone. You can read about his case here> and here, which I’ve written about for several weeks now. Combine the drug mix-ups, the painful deaths and the ambiguity surrounding how to determine the severity of the crimes leading to a death penalty sentence, and it’s almost impossible to think the high court will allow the death drama to continue at least in this backwoods place.

Much of the civilized world already thinks the death penalty and it practitioners are barbaric. To continue to torture people to death now that it’s all been exposed on the world stage would obviously be in violation of the U.S. Constitution and all human rights accords throughout the world.

The lawsuits are coming around the mountain here in Oklahoma in droves. Some leaders in Oklahoma, in their incompetence, mediocrity and, I guess, self-righteous love of revenge or, perhaps, myopic ideology and political pandering, have inadvertently started the beginning of the end of the death penalty.

What just happened here? That’s a question people like Fallin, Pruitt and Prater will be asking in the months to come as they scratch their heads in dumfounded Okie bewilderment. But the answer to that is clear as well.

The death penalty, in its organic state as a practice, is a human error of immense proportions, an error that can never be rectified once it occurs. Do away with it, and all this madness goes away. Keep killing and the madness continues.


Spinning The Budget Cuts

This is (a) low budget artwork by Duncan Hull on Flickr The Commons

I’m sure some will see this argument as trivial, but Gov. Mary Fallin’s praise of next year’s fiscal year state budget seemed overly hyperbolic and ignored a couple of key points.

In a June 1 news release about the recent legislative session, Fallin noted the $7.1 billion approved budget was “a fiscally responsible blueprint.” She also made sure everyone knew just how much money is going to education in Oklahoma:

I’m proud legislators and I were able to pass a budget in challenging times that shields common education, our largest and one of our most important expenses, from budget cuts. Under this budget, approximately 51 cents of every dollar appropriated by state government will continue to go toward education. . . .

I’m assuming that “51 cents of every dollar” has clear evidence behind it, but what Fallin doesn’t mention in the news release is that Oklahoma from 2008 to 2014 cut education funding by 23.6 percent, the most in the nation. Shielding our K through 12 educational system from budget cuts is a lot different than really investing in education and raising teacher salaries from their dismal levels. Those low salaries have helped lead to a teacher shortage here. Fallin also mentions agencies that received funding boosts, but the budget also slashed some agencies by 7.25 percent and cut higher education by 3.5 percent, which could lead to tuition hikes. The budget also uses one-time money to make ends meet and that portends a potential for another budget shortfall crisis again next year.

I realize Fallin’s statement was typical rah rah, but it’s just this type of perfunctory rhetoric that inhibits change in how we fund the state’s most important core services.

I went through the release fairly thoroughly and even did a word search of “tax,” and I could find no mention of the income tax cut from 5.25 to 5 percent that is going into effect this coming January because of a flawed budget forecast triggering system. Some estimate that cut will cost the state more than $50 million this coming fiscal year. Meanwhile, the state is cutting higher education, slashing funding elsewhere and making a big deal out of the fact it didn’t cut common education. All that is part of the state’s “fiscally responsible blueprint.” Right.

Again, I understand that some end-of-the-legislative-session praising is customary, especially when you’re the de facto Republican Party leader in a state government completely dominated by Republicans, but Fallin puts an overly joyful spin on budget cobbled together with cuts and one-time money sources. That’s the reality.