Archive for Soonerland

Hey, small spender

Money, we are told, wins elections. I am always happy to see an instance where it didn’t:

Cyndi Munson easily became the first Democrat to represent Oklahoma City’s House District 85 in a half-century despite raising much less money than her opponent.

Campaign finance reports show Chip Carter, the Republican candidate, pulled in nearly $200,000 in campaign contributions and benefited from $100,000 in independent expenditures.

Munson raised less than $100,000 total, but beat Carter 2,640 to 2,268 Tuesday in a district where Republicans greatly outnumber Democrats.

Two things worked in her favor: she had name recognition in the district — she ran for this seat against David Dank in 2014 and lost — and there is, I think, a tendency among local Republicans to see victory as inevitable except in a handful of heavily Democratic districts. Even Chip Carter saw it coming:

“There was a degree of complacency or something. They thought it’s always been a Republican seat and will stay that way. And my opponent worked her tail off.”

For quite a while, it was a Dank seat: David Dank was the second Dank to represent 85, his wife Odilia being the first. (She was term-limited in 2006.) Both Danks are now deceased.

The GOP majority in the House is now 71-30.

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The wurst that could happen

Excuse me while I wince in pain for a moment, or several:

A woman was arrested after she allegedly tried to bite off her husband’s penis.

Chickasha Police made contact with husband and wife, Jesse and Merci Keene.

“[Merci] took Jesse to the ground and said she tried to bite his penis off,” the incident report said.

From Merci’s account of the incident, Jesse never hit her and only tried to defend himself, the report said.

What brought this on, anyway?

During the course of the investigation, it was discovered that Jesse was holding the couple’s minor daughter when Merci attacked him. According to the report, Merci confronted Jesse after she heard Jesse was allegedly leaving with their daughter.

Something must be missing here, because if Jesse was in a position to lose his sausage, he probably didn’t have his car keys handy, and how does the youngster fit into this scenario?

Result: two charges for unmerciful Merci, booked for domestic assault and battery in the presence of a minor.


Negative charge

There are plenty of people in the area served by Public Service Company of Oklahoma who don’t want those damn newfangled meters, and PSO plans to apply a little, um, persuasion:

PSO won approval from the commission in April to charge customers an extra $3.11 per month to install more than 520,000 smart meters throughout its service territory in eastern and southwestern Oklahoma.

The utility now wants the commission to approve a one-time charge of $183 and monthly fees of $28 for customers who wish to opt out of the smart meter program. The one-time charge would rise to $261 when PSO finishes the rollout of its smart meters.

An Oklahoman editorial says the fees are reasonably debatable. Some of the other objections, maybe not so much, according to one study:

[B]efore smart meters were installed, electrical distribution equipment was associated with residential fires in just 0.4 percent of cases. Following smart meter installation, that figure fell as low as 0.1 percent in 2012 and never went higher than 0.4 percent in subsequent years.

In comparison, cooking was the cause of residential fires in 29 percent of cases in 2011 and 2012, and 34.5 percent of cases in 2013 and 2014. Smoking was the culprit in approximately 17 percent of fires both before and after smart meter installation.

Heaven help you if you smoke while you’re cooking.

I have a smart meter, installed in early 2011. It seems to run up numbers just as fast as the old device with the dials and everything. My major concern — that it would interfere with WiFi in the household — has not materialized.


Climate your own risk

I have often said, only partly in jest, that we have a true nine-season climate. Not everyone accepts this premise at face value:

If we do, about seven of them are too hot in some shape or form. (To me, it feels more like we have four, but two of them — the two best ones, spring and fall — are very short: about 8 months of “way too hot,” a month of “nice” where it is cool and rains a little and if we’re lucky we see the leaves change, two months of freezing rain, and then another month of “nice” and flowers before it gets too darn hot again.)

Here in the Big Town, anyway, there are extended periods of “What, this again?” OKC thirty-year averages bottom out at 39 degrees or less for three weeks (26 December through 15 January), and there’s a whole month of 83-plus (12 July through 13 August). Keep in mind the typical 20-degree spread between high and low on any given day, and feel free to shudder.


Epitomized for your reading pleasure

This probably requires no introduction:

More details from KOTV Tulsa. Oktaha, in case you blinked and missed it, is about 14 miles south of Muskogee.

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The yellow ruse of “Tax us”

At any rate, that’s the vibe I pick up from this:

Well, let’s see. The state charges a uniform 4.5 percent. The city of McAlester collects 3.5 percent. And … hmmm. Pittsburg County, which was 1.0 percent, drops to 0.5 percent effective the first of October. What are they asking? The McAlester Chamber of Commerce was circulating this flyer:

Sales tax proposals in McAlester and Pittsburg County, Oklahoma

The measure passed yesterday will bump up the combined sales tax in Pittsburg County to 9.5 percent; should the October bill pass, the tax rate inside McAlester city limits will be 10.25 percent, putting it on par with Chicago but ahead of New York City.

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It’s all in the games

Say what you will about gamblers, their spending means money for the tribes and for the state:

Tribal gaming contributed $6.3 billion to Oklahoma’s economy in 2014, according to a new study commissioned by the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association.

Tribes put 23,000 people to work at their casinos, the study said. Of those, about 60 percent were non-Indians. Women accounted for 54 percent overall.

What’s more:

Tribal gaming also indirectly supported another 14,000 jobs throughout the state, according to the study.

Wages for all of the directly and indirectly supported jobs totaled $1.8 billion.

The biggest of the bunch is the Chickasaw Nation’s WinStar casino in Thackerville, hard by the Red River, the better to attract Texans, who otherwise have slim pickings.

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A somewhat bigger tent

Last month, Oklahoma Democrats let it be known to all and sundry that they were considering backing away from the closed-primary system by allowing registered Independents to vote in their primaries.

Yesterday, the state convention approved the proposal, 314-137. I asked a local activist if she thought this would be a boon to the party. Said she: “I think it’s worth a try. Status quo not in Dem’s favor.” Which in this state is surely true: registrations are about even, but the Republicans hold almost all the offices.

The GOP, which has already had its annual meeting, has given no indication that it might do likewise, and party chair/loose cannon Randy Brogdon has already poo-poohed the idea once.

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Yeah, good luck with that

One of the candidates for House District 85 is sending out this flyer:

The seat was last won by David Dank, who campaigned to keep it in the family after wife Odilia ran up against term limits. (Mrs. Dank died in 2013; Mr. Dank died this past April.) A special election will be held this fall; four Republicans, including Mr. Jackson, will meet in a primary in July. (Only one Democrat, Cyndi Munson, filed for the seat.) District 85 is generally just north of me.

As for Senator Holt’s observation — aren’t we about to do Civil War II anyway?

(On the nullification idea itself, see Cooper v. Aaron.)

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Dam scary

One of the inevitable effects of nine months’ worth of rain in a couple of weeks:

Says the Corps:

This is a normal occurrence when flood waters are released from the reservoir via flood control gates.

But they also say this:

The vortex is approximately 8 feet in diameter and capable of sucking in a full-sized boat, so please heed all safety buoys and caution signs.

The Black Hole of Texoma!

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Flinging the door open

State Democrats are contemplating abandoning the closed-primary model:

Oklahoma’s 261,000 independent voters would be allowed to cast votes in Democratic primary elections under a proposal state party delegates are expected to support in a meeting next month.

The move is intended to show the party is inclusive of differing viewpoints and is aimed at boosting support for Democratic candidates in a state dominated by the GOP.

I’m not quite sure how this would work to the party’s advantage. Most of the people I know around here who are registered Independent did so because (1) the Democrats weren’t far enough to the left or (2) the Republicans aren’t far enough to the right. (Yes, Virginia, it is possible for Republicans to be even farther to the right, though I believe this is due to repositioning of the center.) Still, that’s more anecdote than data.

On balance, given the generally horrible way the state treats independent candidates, the widening of the Democratic tent might prove to be a good thing in the long run, provided the GOP doesn’t get the same idea, and I’m thinking they won’t:

Randy Brogdon, the tea party favorite who is chairman of the state Republican party, has no interest in allowing independents to participate in GOP primaries.

“A majority of the independents have come from the Republican party primarily because we haven’t done an excellent job of promoting Republican principles of limited government and lower taxes,” he said. “We want to give them a reason to come back.”

I’ll give Brogdon this: he’s right about the lack of excellence. And there’s an issue for the GOP at the national level as well:

Whereas the Democrat Party is run by people who actually share the same beliefs as the people who vote for the Democrat Party, the GOP is run by people who do not remotely give a fuck about GOP voters. Karl Rove hates Republican voters. All elite GOP operatives share a profound disdain for the party’s grassroots electoral base.

There’s one tent that won’t be expanding.

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Controlled chaos

If the mere thought of going to the Department of Motor Vehicles fills you with existential dread, you could always move here, where you’ll only have to do that sort of thing once. Maybe.

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Hey, it works in Nebraska

Gary Jones is pushing the notion of switching to a unicameral legislature:

The state auditor has a controversial plan to save millions of dollars by combining the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma Senate.

State Auditor Gary Jones says it may be time for a change.

“Just because we’ve done it that way doesn’t mean that’s the best way of doing it. If we believe in smaller, more efficient government, I think that government itself is what we need to look at,” Jones said.

Jones says each year, between offices, salaries and staff, the Oklahoma Senate alone costs the state between 15 and 20 million dollars.

This prompted some derision, mostly justified, from Patrick at The Lost Ogle:

I’ve asked Ogle Moles in the past why we have a bicameral legislature, and none of them really have a good answer. Even though it’s a dysfunctional mess, I can see why you’d want to have a Senate and House of Representatives for a Federal Government comprised of 50 states, but why does a state need one? It’s not like each county gets two state senators to balance out the population advantage of cities. Senate districts are determined by the same imaginary gerrymandered lines as the House of Representatives. It’s redundant. Right? Or am I totally wrong?

Well, no, he’s not totally wrong. As to those Senate districts, I refer you to a 2014 scheme specifically to abolish the Oklahoma House by Senator (of course) Patrick Anderson (R-Enid):

Anderson says he wants to save a few bucks, not the worst idea in the world, though it would have been nice if he’d said something about Reynolds v. Sims, in which the Supreme Court decided that legislative houses in the states had to be divided into equal population districts. (Before this 1964 decision, each county would have at least one House member, regardless of population.) In effect, this makes one chamber in each and every bicameral state legislature — all 49 of them — largely irrelevant. Then again, Reynolds was decided three years before Anderson was born, so it’s probably not uppermost in his mind.

And Patrick doesn’t think the Jones scheme has any future:

Obviously, our hypocritical small government state lawmakers want nothing to do with it, and I doubt the political parties want a unicameral legislature either, so this will need to be championed and passed by the people. Since the proposal has nothing to do with discriminating against gays or letting people bring guns to music festivals, I doubt anything will happen.

He’s probably not wrong about that either.

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Two bucks chucked

I am seldom happy to see something from the Oklahoma Tax Commission in the day’s mail, especially since the one thing I can expect from them in June — the card for this year’s vehicle registration — showed up promptly on the first.

I slit open the envelope. and there it was: the green debit MasterCard the state uses to dispense income-tax refunds. Well, okay, fine, but I wasn’t anticipating a tax refund; in fact, I sent them a check for a sum in three figures back in the spring.

Perplexed, I dialed up the inevitable 800 number and went through the entire activation sequence. Apparently on Monday the state decided to credit me with $2.00. I don’t know why; I didn’t make any computational errors on my return. The Tax Commission’s Web page was down yesterday for maintenance and supposedly hasn’t been modified since late May, so I’m betting a finger on some unsteady hand pressed the wrong button and sent out several thousand of these to unsuspecting taxpayers, and no one has figured it out yet.

In the meantime, I have $2 on this card. I think maybe I’ll buy a couple of non-current MP3s with it.

Update, 21 June: I spent it on this eight-minute track:

I’m thinking a companion piece to FGTH’s Two Tribes.


Jailarity ensuing

Kurt Hochenauer of Okie Funk sums up the mess at the jail:

The U.S. Justice Department found 60 civil rights violations [pdf] with the jail back in 2008, and essentially put county officials on notice that they needed to either fix the problems or face a federal takeover.

The county has, indeed, fixed most of the problems outlined in a 2008 report, which included high rates of violence between inmates and guards yet the basic design of the jail itself creates some of the problems. That means the county has to massively renovate the jail or build a new one, which makes the most sense. Each approach would cost millions upon millions of dollars and require some type of tax increase. The federal government, according to media reports, has apparently signaled it was moving forward with a lawsuit to force the issue.

In the past, Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel and other county officials have promoted a small increase in the county sales tax of only half-a-cent or less, but that hasn’t proven to be popular with voters. If the feds take over, homeowners would automatically face high property taxes to pay for the project. Something has to give eventually.

Part of the resistance to “a small increase in the county sales tax” is that Oklahoma County actually levies no sales tax at all, an anomaly in that we’re surrounded by counties that have enacted sales taxes, ranging from 0.25% (Cleveland) to 1.0% (Pottawatomie). I’m not a fan of higher taxes generally, but I’d rather see Oklahoma County add another buck to my grocery shopping every week than to have them jack up property taxes, which are already bumping up against historical highs.

Doc Hoc’s prescription:

Lower incarceration rates through drug courts and creative sentencing and vote to invest in a new jail through a small tax increase that allows for rehabilitation to reduce recidivism.

I can get behind that, I think.


Getting all Zippity

I am one of several bazillion Wikipedia editors, though I have made only a few edits, mostly to the pages on Oklahoma City, The Oklahoman, and Megan McArdle. In fact, pages that cite something I’ve written as a source far outnumber pages to which I’ve actually contributed any text.

That said, I was peeking into some [hide]-type zones, and found this on the OKC page:

Wikipedia list of ZIP codes for Oklahoma City

This is mostly correct. There once was a 73161 code, but it was eventually merged into 73141. However, 74013 doesn’t exist anywhere in the 405; it is, in fact, a boxes-only ZIP for Broken Arrow. Someone, and by this I mean “someone other than myself,” mucked this up.

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Screaming deal silenced

One of the regular items on my grocery-shopping list has been the sausage biscuit offered by Durant, Oklahoma’s J. C. Potter, a box of six — three sleeves, two to a sleeve — for, lately, $3.99.

When I ran out earlier this month, I hit up the store and found no boxes. However, there was a bag of 24 — 12 sleeves, two to a sleeve — for $7.98. Four times the product for twice the price? Shut up and take my money.

Eventually, though, those ran out, and I decided to buy more. The store, or Mr. Potter, or someone, has evidently come to its senses: the bag is now $11.98. Still thrice the product for twice the price, but not so compelling a deal, especially given the speed with which I must consume these little darbs to beat the pull date. (One can eat only so much sausage and so many biscuits without affecting one’s internal workings.)


Spend it anyway

Michael C. Carnuccio, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, throws shade on the already obscure budgeting process in this state:

[L]egislative leaders announced by press release that in a year when lawmakers may have $611 million less to appropriate, they appropriated $17 million more than last year and suspended the rules that required the budget to be available for public review before being adopted by lawmakers.

While rains and flooding are washing out roads and bridges across the state, lawmakers chose to divert $100 million from roads, bridges and maintenance so they could continue irresponsible funding for rodeos, roping contests, festivals, an aquarium, attempts at space travel, losses on golf courses, taxpayer-subsidized horse racing, state-subsidized TV, undisclosed political earmarks, agency swag and organizational memberships that total more than $50 million per year.

I suspect they’d already decided to tap the road funding long before the consequences of the Rainiest Month Ever were known.

Still, Carnuccio’s been here long enough now to realize that when you hold Oklahoma legislators’ feet to the fire, they increase spending on protective footwear.


He remarked dryly

Here we have snapshots from the US Drought Monitor for the last four and a half years:

Despite tons of rain this month, we’re not out of the choking dust just yet.

(Via Becky McCray.)

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Just say Charge It

The infrastructure of tomorrow — okay, the day after tomorrow — is here today:

Says Tesla: “Tesla Superchargers provide 170 miles of range in as little as 30 minutes.”

If there’s another set just this side of the Red River, there’s your 170-mile fillup. And there is: it’s in Ardmore, outside the Interurban Classic Grille.


Plagues upon us

You name it, we got it yesterday: torrential rain — normal May rainfall is 4.65 inches, which we got in a couple of hours — randomly-appearing tornadoes, mostly, as usual, on the southside; and tigers.

Wait, what?

The tigers were rounded up before midnight — they say.

Pharaoh was not available for comment.

(Here be tigers.)

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I don’t think that’s snow

The National Weather Service will be deploying new icons later this year, which is a Good Thing if this one strikes you as absurd:

Screenshot from NWS Norman 8 pm 6 May 2015 showing snow/ice

Then again, what is a May in Oklahoma without Mother Nature throwing one (or in this case, several) of her hissy fits?

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N₂ darkness

Attorney General Scott Pruitt remains convinced that midazolam is the sedative of choice for executions:

Pruitt’s office will argue to the Supreme Court justices on Wednesday that the drugs Oklahoma used in Clayton Lockett’s execution in April 2014 met the test established when the high court upheld Kentucky’s lethal injection method in 2008.

There is not, the state contends, an “objectively intolerable risk of harm” when midazolam is used as a sedative, even though the drug does not have the same properties as the barbiturates that have been administered previously.

And, Pruitt said, inmates challenging the state’s use of midazolam must show there is a “widely available alternative” that would pose less risk of harm.

Speaking for myself, I’ve had exactly one dose of midazolam, and I’d say it was a pretty darn good sedative, but that’s just a single data point, and besides, they weren’t putting me to death, or at least they said they weren’t.

Then again: “widely available”? How about “all over the place”?

Before the first Shuttle launch, some ground crew died in the engine compartment of the orbiter, because they were in there during a nitrogen purge. They apparently never knew they had a problem, but simply passed out. If there’s a CO₂ buildup, the body knows it’s asphyxiating, and tries to do something about it, but no such warning mechanism has ever developed for a pure nitrogen atmosphere, because no animal would have ever encountered such an environment in nature.

So why not simply bring back the gas chamber, but instead of a toxin, simply remove the air and replace it with nitrogen? I’m sure there are other examples, but I fail to understand why this is such a difficult problem.

Governor Fallin has signed a bill to do essentially that as the state’s official backup execution protocol. I suspect the only reason it’s not moved to the head of the list is the fear of legal challenges — as though there weren’t legal challenges by the score already.

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Less than nothing left

Picher, Oklahoma, to borrow a Pythonism, is an ex-town:

Picher is a ghost town and former city in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, United States. Formerly a major national center of lead and zinc mining at the heart of the Tri-State Mining District, over a century of unrestricted subsurface excavation dangerously undermined most of Picher’s town buildings and left giant piles of toxic metal-contaminated mine tailings (known as chat) heaped throughout the area. The discovery of the cave-in risks, groundwater contamination and health effects associated with the chat piles and subsurface shafts — particularly an alarming 1996 study which showed lead poisoning in 34% of the children in Picher — eventually prompted a mandatory evacuation and buyout of the entire township by the State of Oklahoma and the incorporation of the town (along with the similarly contaminated satellite towns of Treece and Cardin) into the Tar Creek Superfund site.

Incorporated in 1918, Picher once had a population near 10,000; it is now somewhere around 6. From the Insult-to-Injury Department:

One of the few last remnants of an abandoned mining community in Ottawa County was destroyed by fire, said Sean Harrison, a Quapaw Tribe spokesman on Wednesday.

The Picher Mining Field Museum caught fire late Monday night or early Tuesday morning, he said.

The museum was on the National Register of Historic Places and was not demolished in a federally funded Tar Creek buyout.

“The roof had already caved in and there had been no attempt to preserve the building,” Harrison said.

The contents of the museum had long since been moved away, so nothing was lost except a piece of skyline that hardly anyone will ever see.

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Not that I care

Who didn’t see this coming?

Apathy discussion marked by lack of interest

(Another joyous clipping from Bad Newspaper, found, from the looks of it, in the OU student paper. Oh, and that should be “fewer than 15 people.”)

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Unmagical realism

For those of you who might have thought that academia is overrun with sexual non-binary types and other individuals hard to characterize, well, that might be true in the Ivies, but it doesn’t work out here on the Plains.

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Policy wonks may be excused

In fact, they may be escorted to the border and left there:

[W]hat’s a non-politico to do during election season? Here’s an idea: Escape to Oklahoma, the best state to get away from the political circus.

Oklahomans consistently rank near the bottom on a variety of measures of political obsession — or engagement, depending on your perspective. Only two states saw a smaller share of eligible voters cast ballots in 2012, and just seven states had a smaller share of residents registered to vote, according to census data. People in Oklahoma were 10th most likely to say they never vote in local elections, 11th most likely to say they infrequently discuss politics with family and friends, and 14th most likely to say they don’t express their political or community opinions online, according to data collected by the census in 2013.

A major benefit of this disengagement:

You won’t just be avoiding conversations about the presidential election in Oklahoma, you’ll also be shielded from campaign ads. During the seven months leading up to the 2012 election, the major parties spent just $1,300 on ads in the state, according to FairVote, a nonprofit that promotes fair elections.

There are people who truly believe that there is no higher calling than politics. In this state, there is no higher calling than making banana splits at Braum’s, and we don’t give a flying feather about the machinations of those retards at 23rd and Lincoln or of the criminals in the District of Columbia: worthless, the lot of them. And you think we’re going to get out the vote for such pinheads? Life is too short to encourage people who can’t even make proper banana splits.

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Dumb, dumb filter

This is why filtering for Improper Strings is ultimately a losing game:

Screenshot from OKCTalk 25 March 2015

I suppose it’s a good thing this happened on Wednesday and not on Sa****ay.

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The kind of evening it was

This picture almost says it all:

What this doesn’t tell you: KOMA (the AM side, anyway, which now uses a different call) is 50,000 watts directional, and to achieve the proper nulls — they must protect WWKB in Buffalo — they used three such towers.

Two of them are lying on the ground at this moment.

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Narrowish broadcasting

The FCC will put 131 vacant FM allocations up for auction on the 23rd of July, including four in small Oklahoma towns.

Minimum bid is $1,000 for a class-A (6,000 watts maximum) slot in Clayton (Pushmataha County) on 100.3. It will cost you at least $5,000 for a class-A slot in Hennessey (Kingfisher County) on 97.9. (Don’t even think of trying to move it to OKC.) Twenty-five thou might bring a class-A in Waukomis (Garfield County) on 106.3, or even a class-C2 (25,000 watts maximum) in Millerton (McCurtain County) on 100.9.

Elsewhere, minimum bids of as low as $750 are sought; a handful will command $75,000 or more.