2016 Okie Funk In Review II

Image of 1984 painting by Jean Michel Basquiat

(I’m running excerpts from posts this week as part of my annual review. This is the second of four 2016 year-in-review posts. Click on the link below the excerpt to read the full post. Simply put, the year 2016, as defined in posts on this blog, now in its thirteenth year, wasn’t a good one for Oklahoma in any general sense. From the state’s continuing earthquake crisis to a state budget shortfall that led to a nearly 16 percent funding cut for higher education to the typical right-wing theatrics of a Republican-dominated legislature, 2016 has become, in my mind, perhaps one of the worst years in state history, culminating in the coming presidency of the authoritarian yet unpredictable Donald Trump. These are not normal times here or throughout the country, and the uncertainty of what might happen in the coming year has many people afraid and depressed. We need independent media voices now more than ever. Thanks for reading the blog, and don’t give up the progressive fight in 2017.—Kurt Hochenauer)

I think there’s a real chance for some progressive gains this election season in Oklahoma for a variety of reasons, but it’s probably not going to happen if liberals spend money and energy supporting The Oklahoma Observer in its present form, or The Oklahoma Policy Institute in any form whatsoever.

One reason for the “chance,” and, yes, it’s just a slight chance, is that the national Republican Party is a real mess right now with the Trump and Cruz spectacles. Many conservatives are bewildered and confused. This confusion may trickle down to minor, local elections in which Democrats and liberals—in Oklahoma, folks, they aren’t the same thing—are speaking out boldly and sensibly about, say, funding for schools or trying to prevent elderly people from getting kicked out of nursing homes.

The other reason for the chance is that Oklahoma conservative leaders have absolutely broken this state with their careless, reckless fiscal policies. The economy is sinking here, the state is in a revenue failure, and we’re facing a $1.3 billion budget shortfall in a tiny overall discretionary budget of less than $7 or $6 billion or so. I know there are some not-so-smart people in the Oklahoma leadership pool, such as David Blatt, but it’s so so obvious the conservatives have damaged this state in a major way. Everyone gets it even if they relish it, like they do at the conservative Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and The Oklahoman. I bet Blatt loves it, too.

The Oklahoma Observer Needs To Modernize; OKPolicy Needs To Go. Leave, Blatt. Go To Wichita. They Will LOVE You There., April 11, 2016

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2016 Okie Funk In Review I

Image of sign protesting earthquake crisis in Oklahoma

(I’m running excerpts from posts this week as part of my annual review. This is the first of four review posts. Click on the link below the excerpt to read the full post. Simply put, the year 2016, as defined in posts on this blog, now in its thirteenth year, wasn’t a good one for Oklahoma in any general sense. From the state’s continuing earthquake crisis to a state budget shortfall that led to a nearly 16 percent funding cut for higher education to the typical right-wing theatrics of a Republican-dominated legislature, 2016 has become, in my mind, perhaps one of the worst years in state history, culminating in the coming presidency of the authoritarian Donald Trump. These are not normal times here or throughout the country, and the uncertainty of what might happen in the coming year in Oklahoma has many people afraid and depressed. We need independent voices now more than ever. Thanks for reading the blog, and don’t give up the progressive fight in 2017.—Kurt Hochenauer)

I know for many people here this seems like a radical idea, but the only way to bring an end to all these earthquakes in Oklahoma is to ban oil and gas companies from using the fracking process to extract fossil fuels in our state.

Obviously, the negative economic impact of prohibiting hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” would be immense here, but it might finally kickstart the state government into truly diversifying the local economy while doing what it’s supposed to do, which is protecting the safety of citizens and their property.

The major 4.3- and 4.2-magnitude earthquakes that recently rocked Edmond just north of Oklahoma City have brought the issue to the forefront. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has tried to micromanage the problem, but we now know the fracking process most likely reactivated a new fault line running from Edmond to downtown Oklahoma City. The lesson here is that Oklahoma, in a basic geological sense, is just not suited for fracking.

Oklahoma Fracking Ban Would Stop Earthquakes, January 6, 2016

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Language Used To Describe Trump Remains Important

Anyone who has been following this blog on my Facebook page knows what The New York Times leading columnist Paul Krugman points out today.

“Authoritarians with an animus against ethnic minorities,” Krugman writes, “are on the march across the Western world.” That, of course, especially includes President-elect Donald Trump and his supporters, who have bombarded my public Facebook page with typical name calling and rants in recent days in what is either a coordinated attack or just the result of misdirected, random anger that has been normalized in our culture. Yet these are not normal times. The “animus” is happening in Poland, Hungary and was obviously a defining factor of the Brexit vote in England, which is now withdrawing from the European Union. It’s happening in Germany, France and Austria. It’s emerging in other Western countries as well.

Somewhere along the way to this frightening moment in history, the word “populism” started getting used to describe this right-wing, worldwide hate spiral, but, as Krugman notes, it hardly applies to Trump, who has given no indication he plans to appease the American masses with any financial benefits or rewards. That the right-wing Trumpians have been bamboozled is no big revelation, of course, and this will become apparent in the coming weeks, but even then it’s unlikely diehard Trump supporters will admit their folly because the psychological investment in hate and anger goes far beyond basic financial considerations or even day-to-day life and routines. It’s about itself. It’s a narcotic that when repeatedly taken turns into an addiction.

Trump has shown by his cabinet picks, for example, that he plans to reward a small oligarch in this country intent on dismantling our nation’s institutions, safety nets and democracy. He has selected Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, for example, to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt’s campaign ties to the oil and gas industry are well established. One of his campaign chairs, Harold Hamm, is the chief executive officer of Continental Resources, an Oklahoma City-based energy company, which helped to ignite the fracking boom. Trump has also chosen the anti-Obamacare U.S. Rep. Georgia Rep. Tom Price to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is the outgoing chief executive officer of ExxonMobil with ties to Russia.

More money for the titans of the fossil-fuel industry, no environmental “protection” at all and less medical access for millions of Americans. That hardly seems like a populist agenda in any normal sense of the word.

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