Archive for Soonerland

You’re watching GOTV

Does the process of Getting Out The Vote require that you, you know, actually get out once in a while? I’m one of those weird people who thinks it does.

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A pretty good call

A vision of (some of) the future:

Unfortunately, morning email is still a chokepoint.

Well, at least he didn’t mention flying cars.

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Dust inevitably bitten

Two years ago, three community papers in south Tulsa County — the Bixby Bulletin, the Jenks Journal and the Glenpool Post — were consolidated into the South County Leader.

Today, the Leader retreats:

With this edition, the South County Leader will officially cease publication. The July 31, 2014, Vol. 109, No.23 South County Leader will be its last.

“It is a shame that after 109 years in print we are signaling the end of an era but market conditions in the communities we have served have changed,” said Neighbor News publisher Jamey Honeycutt.

Neighbor News has several other papers in the Tulsa metro, perhaps most notably the semiweekly Broken Arrow Ledger.

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Double non-secret probation

In fact, it’s so non-secret it made the news halfway across the state:

Move-in day at Oklahoma State University is two weeks away, but no one will be moving into the Phi Delta Theta house.

OSU has suspended the fraternity until August 2016, citing multiple violations of university and Interfraternity Council policies regarding alcohol and hazing.

There seems to be one particular class at fault:

Students who will be juniors this fall seemed resolved to cause problems for the chapter… They threw a keg party at the chapter house May 9 — while the fraternity was on deferred suspension for hazing pledges.

So far, no one has announced a really futile and stupid gesture in response.

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Markwayne the Cute-ish

Photo of Markwayne MullinMarkwayne Mullin, thirty-seven, first-term representative from Oklahoma’s Second House District, was named this week to The Hill’s annual 50 Most Beautiful list, and was quoted saying this kind of aw-shucks stuff:

And how would he describe his style? “Awkward,” he replies with a smile.

But there’s one thing he’s certain of, as far as his personal fashion goes.

“The idea of having to match a pair of socks to your tie or to your pants just doesn’t make any sense to me. … With boots you don’t have to worry about it. Nobody sees your socks,” he says.

It’s not because he can’t afford socks, either. From before he was elected to his first term:

A Republican congressional candidate who argues the federal government should rein in spending was awarded around $370,000 in federal stimulus money distributed through a pair of Oklahoma Indian tribes, records show.

Companies owned by Markwayne Mullin, the GOP nominee for a U.S. House seat in eastern Oklahoma, received the money under contracts with the Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) nations, according to documents posted on a government website created to track recovery funds…

“Mullin Plumbing is a plumbing business. When someone hires us to do a job, we don’t ask them where the money comes from,” the [Mullin campaign's] statement reads. “Plumbing is plumbing. These projects were Cherokee Nation projects, and our contract was with the Cherokee Nation. We just performed the services we were hired to do and moved on to the next job, like always.”

Then again, this could be construed as proper preparation for Congress, which never, ever asks where the money comes from.

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Spent thinking

Above the fold in this morning’s Oklahoman:

Oklahoma taxpayers could get a small cut in their state income taxes beginning in 2016, but nobody can say whether that’s even likely to happen.

It’s all based on a complicated revenue-based “trigger” built in to the measure.

So complicated, in fact, that even state Treasurer Ken Miller, who holds a doctorate in economics, said it’s about as “clear as mud.”

“I just don’t understand the logic of a trigger,” he said Thursday. “There’s no economic reason to pass a measure today predicated on a future event, when one can simply wait for that event to occur and then preserve the flexibility. It’s difficult to explain the mechanics of the trigger and it’s certainly difficult to communicate to the taxpayers what their taxes are going to be.”

(NewsOK link once the paywall lets this through.)

But it was deemed necessary to pass the bill, because tax cuts, doncha know. Enough members of the Legislature are emotionally wedded to the concept that they’ll even pass an imaginary tax cut, just to say that they passed a tax cut. This is the next step before you get to Nancy Pelosi’s immortal utterance “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” which, if it isn’t the dumbest goddamn thing ever said by a legislator, is way ahead of whatever’s in third place.

Ken Miller’s a pretty bright guy. If he can’t defend this measure, it can’t be defended. Now situations like this can be avoided by the simple expedient of not passing crappy bills; however, for some reason the electorate, perhaps persuaded by the legislature — or maybe it’s the other way around? — seems to think that passing a bill is almost always better than not passing a bill, despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

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711 craps out

For those around here who might not remember the original referendum from ten years ago, the text of the measure enacted by Oklahoma State Question 711, now picking up speed on its presumably inevitable roll to the dustbin:

(a.) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. Neither this Constitution nor any other provision of law shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

(b.) A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another state shall not be recognized as valid and binding in this state as of the date of the marriage.

(c.) Any person knowingly issuing a marriage license in violation of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

This is what I said at the time:

Inasmuch as same-sex marriages are already illegal in this state, this measure is superfluous; more to the point, while there are perfectly logical reasons to oppose them which don’t imply that the opponent is necessarily some horrid hidebound bigot, I don’t like the idea of establishing a precedent that in the future could be used by horrid hidebound bigots for some nefarious purpose — this isn’t a chainsaw, it’s a bludgeon — and that reason alone is enough for me to vote No on 711.

That slippery slope can go in several different directions, you know?

Anyway, no licenses are yet being issued, and nothing is final, even by the dubious political definition of “final.”

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Shaking and stirred

Given my stand on energy generally — we need to produce so damned much of it that the marginal cost eventually nears zero, which happy event will bring us closer to utopia than any scheme yet imagined in Washington — I derive no joy from picking on the oil and gas guys that pay a lot of the bills around here. But dammit, there are still some questions that need to be answered:

Are all these recent earthquakes, some in the 4.0-magnitude or larger range, capable of damaging homes over the long term? Could the repeated shaking damage house foundations or window seals or roofs, for example? Can the oil and gas industry be held liable for the damage? What is the possibility of a larger quake in the 6.0- to 7.0-magnitude or larger range? Would lives be lost if the big earthquake hits?

In the absence of definitive data, these are my guesses: almost certainly, almost certainly, they’ll be sued but the outcome is not clear, about even money, depends on where it hits.

What I see as a best-case scenario: the industry, grumbling, revises the fracking process to reduce the threat, and even manages to cut down the enormous water use. Chances of that: don’t bet your life savings on it.

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Watch where you’re pointing that thing

Conventional wisdom holds that you don’t turn away an online ad, because you might not get another. I wouldn’t have turned down this one, but …

And it’s not like nobody at the World has heard of Dong’s, which has been in business since 1946.

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Three questions

The groundwork was laid back in the spring, when Jami Mattox, editor of Tulsa-based Oklahoma Magazine, began following me on Twitter. I couldn’t think of any reason why, but hey, a follower’s a follower, and at least she’s not going to spam me.

Shortly thereafter, I got an email from local writer Paul Fairchild, who had been deputized by Mattox to get an interview with me. After a brief round of “What are you people thinking?” I decided that there were worse things I could do than sit for an interview, and further, that I’d probably already done them.

Anyway, the mag has a department called 3Q, and in the July issue, the three are posed to me. I should point out that about half an hour of chatter was distilled into what amounts to two-thirds of a magazine page, but the quotes are accurate and the picture — yes, they sent a photographer — isn’t at all bad. I still don’t know why their 120,000 or so readers would be interested in my less-than-ranty rants, but as the unpaid wretches at HuffPo say, “Hey, it’s the exposure.”

This is the entire July issue in Issuu. The article is actually on page 18, but the display shows it at 20, mostly because the display includes the cover. There’s a direct link somewhere, but I figured the very least I could do is make you guys look at some of their ads.

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Dead man running

There’s really not much one can add to this:

Political opponents accuse each other of lying all the time, but one Oklahoma congressional candidate took his accusation to a new level this week when he claimed his opponent was actually dead and being represented by a body double.

KFOR in Oklahoma reports that Timothy Ray Murray believes Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), his opponent in the congressional Republican primary, was executed three years ago and is being represented by a look-alike. Because he believes Lucas is really dead, Murray said he will challenge the results of Tuesday’s Republican primary, in which Murray received 5.2 percent of the vote. Lucas won the primary with 82.8 percent of the vote.

“It is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive and has been displayed by a look alike. Rep. Lucas’ look alike was depicted as sentenced on a white stage in southern Ukraine on or about Jan. 11, 2011,” Murray said in a statement posted on his campaign website. The statement claimed Lucas and “a few other” members of Congress from Oklahoma and other states were shown on television being hanged by “The World Court.”

Not that I object to Congressmen being hanged or anything, but “The World Court”? What, did the Illuminati have the week off?

And we’ve had dead people on the ballot before, but you can usually assume that they were alive on the filing date.

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Dollars of darkness

A chap named “badanov,” and I presume he is, left this comment at The Other McCain, riffing off a Molly Ball piece for the Atlantic that McCain linked to for background:

T. W. Shannon may have received endorsements of Freedom Works, Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, but what Miss Ball failed to note is that Shannon was supported by a galaxy of democrats as well as liberal republicans. No one in Oklahoma thought those endorsements were carefully considered; I certainly didn’t think so. Those endorsements were all head scratchers, endorsing a politician with such little experience.

So when the head of the PAC which was the first in line to give Shannon money was busted for drug possession, a pattern emerged that those endorsements were poorly considered. Despite the star power of all those endorsements, they couldn’t hide the stink, and so Shannon went down harder than an Obamacare website.

Shannon has a promising future if he carefully considers who [his] paymaster is, and he stops taking dark money without considering the source. This election cycle he didn’t and he thankfully got caught.

There are those who think all money in politics — except, of course, funding from their friends — qualifies as “dark,” but this is hardly their sole delusion.

Incidentally, this was Ball’s conclusion on l’affaire Shannon:

The race was expected to be close, but it was not. Lankford ran away with it, taking 57 percent of the vote, crushing Shannon by more than 20 points and avoiding a runoff. The very conservative voters of Oklahoma, a very conservative state, wanted the candidate with conservative positions but a responsible profile — someone who doesn’t want to burn Washington down and might see fit to vote some other way than “no” once in a while. What Republicans want isn’t more Thad Cochrans. It’s more James Lankfords.

She says “burn Washington down” like it’s a bad thing. Then again, I didn’t vote in that race, for the most obvious of reasons. (Hint: closed primary.)

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Turned out like before

There wasn’t much on the Democratic ballot in today’s primary, rather a lot more for the GOP; in fact, signs were posted to the effect of “REPUBLICANS USE BOTH SIDES OF BALLOT.” I showed up at the two-precinct polling place at 4:52 pm and cast what appeared to be ballot #408. Behind me were two Republicans: a pretty young lady and a grizzled old man. (Now that’s a coalition.) I was back in the parking lot before 4:56. Overall, nothing seemed out of the ordinary; this is normally a semi-slack period, with things getting busy after 5:30 to 6 pm. (Polls close at 7; there’s also a rush first thing in the morning for the 7 am opening.)

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Some semblance of a ballot

Oklahoma Democrats are in about the same sad state as California Republicans: outnumbered and then some in state offices, they’re more than decimated but less than demoralized. Maybe. At any rate, Tuesday’s primary gives me, as an actual Oklahoma Democrat, a very short ballot to contemplate.

Four Democrats — and, for that matter, two Republicans — would like to chase Janet Barresi out of the Superintendent of Public Instruction office. Of the four on my ballot, I’m leaning toward Freda Deskin, who founded a charter school (ASTEC) in the east end of the old Shepherd Mall back in 2000. It’s not a selective school, either: “ASTEC does not test students for admittance, require only students eligible for AP courses or ask students to leave if test scores are low. We believe all students can grow from where they are.” Evidence of same: the middle school gets a blah D-plus on the most recent state ratings, but the high school scores an A. At some point, it appears, they’re indeed growing.

For US Senator (Unexpired Term) — in other words, Tom Coburn’s seat, Dr. No having decided to retire two years early — we have three candidates, one of whom (Jim Rogers) I’ve seen on a ballot before. My pick here is Connie Johnson, who just finished up her fourth full term representing Senate District 48, on the city’s northeast side, mostly because she’s pretty good at thinking outside the box. (She worked to knock down one of the state’s perennial Fetus Personhood bills; I generally tend to favor such things, but the amendment she offered was a classic of its kind. That bill never made it to the House, let alone the governor’s desk.)

For House District 5, vacated by James Lankford, who’s running on the GOP side for Coburn’s old seat, we have three Democrats. From the Old Guard, there’s Tom Guild, retired college professor, making his third try; from the Far Corner, there’s Leona Leonard, chair of the Seminole County party apparatus; and somewhere in between, there’s Al McAffrey, who served three terms in the State House, representing District 88, and then a term in Senate District 46. Truth be told, what I’m hoping for is for McAffrey to prevail in the primary and then take on Republican Patrice Douglas, former Edmond mayor most recently on the Corporation Commission, just to see who gets the most out-of-state money.

My rule for County Commissioners has been honed down over the years to “Is the incumbent under indictment?” Willa Johnson, who came to District 1 after years on the City Council (Ward 7), is not under indictment, and I know from nothing about her opponent, one Ron Henry from Luther, so Johnson gets the nod.

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No, a fence intended

Municipalities in this state have always been fond of the process known as “fenceline annexation,” in which the town surrounds an otherwise unincorporated area by a narrow strip of land within the corporate limits, thereby blocking other towns from annexing the area themselves. The high, or low, point of this exercise came in 1999, when Seminole annexed a strip of land along the west side of OK 99 to the right-of-way of I-40, a strip approximately ten miles long and three feet wide, which drew a lawsuit; Seminole was eventually forced to back off, and the state started tightening the rules after that.

Which is not to say that the practice is obsolete or anything:

The Town of Slick has begun proceedings to create its own fenceline annexation in an effort to circumvent and nullify the City of Bristow’s annexation made this past March. At a press conference held Friday afternoon, Clayton McKinzie, the chairman of the Citizens Against Annexation announced that shortly after Norman attorney William Dill filed a class action law suit against the City of Bristow, it was discovered that there was a “hole” in Bristow’s legal description of its newly annexed lands, which left a physical gap in Bristow’s line. The fenceline annexation has been described by Bristow officials as a protective border around the unincorporated boundaries of the city to protect from annexation from outside entities. Officials say that the “fence line” would protect potential growth areas or areas where the city already has substantial investment, for example a new water line. According to the Citizens against Annexation, this is exactly what they want to prevent.

And water, not surprisingly in Oklahoma, even the relatively damp-ish eastern half, is the issue:

According to McKinzie, the CAA is concerned that the annexation makes it possible for Bristow to start drilling wells and pumping water out of the area which could affect the area’s water table. As a result, the CAA filed a class action lawsuit in April to stop Bristow’s annexation. It was then that the hole in the fence was discovered. Attorneys for the Town of Slick drew up their own version of a fenceline annexation, slipping their boundaries in through the hole in the Bristow fenceline and creating a line just inside the City of Bristow’s, essentially cutting Bristow out of its own annexation and nullifying its line.

They don’t call that town “Slick” for nothing.

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Avoiding transparency

One thing Oklahoma County does well, says Tulsa blogger Michael Bates, is that full disclosure thing:

Oklahoma County’s total budget [pdf] for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 covers $180.7 million: $132,019,665 in revenues, $48,712,216 in beginning fund balance, $149,331,246 in expenditures, and $31,400,635. Tulsa County’s budget for the same year was $83.6 million. Why is Oklahoma County’s budget twice as big as Tulsa County’s budget? Because Oklahoma County budgets all funds, all sources of revenue, and all expenditures, even if they involve earmarked revenue sources. Tulsa County’s budget includes only the bare minimum required by law. Previous year surpluses in non-appropriated funds, some of them under the sole control of an elected official, can be kept off-budget and out of the budget book.

Population comparison: Oklahoma County 755,245; Tulsa County 622,409 (2013 Census estimates). And here’s the punchline:

I would link to the newly adopted budget, but I can’t find it online.

That figures.

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Burrage is found in unlikely places

Last time I had any particular reason to mention Sean Burrage was way back in 2006, when he was mounting his first campaign for state Senate, and was running one of those grating gawsh-jus’-folks ads. (Well, there was this one piece of legislation.)

Burrage, the Democratic floor leader in the Senate during the last session, may have felt somewhat frustrated, what with the GOP holding three-quarters of the seats. Whatever his motivations, though, he isn’t waiting for term limits to kick in:

The Regional University System of Oklahoma Board of Regents has named Sean Burrage as the 20th president of Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

In a special meeting Thursday in Oklahoma City, the Board interviewed five candidates and then voted to hire Burrage, a Durant native who is completing his second term as an Oklahoma State Senator (District 2). He also serves as Democratic Floor Leader. Last November, Burrage announced that he would not seek a third term in office.

Burrage replaces Larry Minks, who will remain at Southeastern as President Emeritus and Distinguished University Professor of Leadership, and will become the director of the school’s new Center for Buzzword Development Transformational Leadership.

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Grand Old Pillpopper

More than once I have wondered just how much the state of this state can be explained by political operatives who were totally out of their gourds. This doesn’t help:

Chad Alexander, a prominent lobbyist and former chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, was arrested on drug complaints after a traffic stop in Oklahoma City in which police officers said they found cocaine and pills.

Cocaine and pills? Holy flurking schnitt, it’s a double dipper!

A police report indicates Alexander was arrested on complaints of possession of 3.35 grams of cocaine and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, which consisted of nine pills. His 2014 Mercedes-Benz was searched after he was pulled over at 7:20 p.m. at NW 36 and Western Ave. because his vehicle was “straddling lane lines,” according to a court affidavit. The affidavit stated the controlled substance was the pain-killer oxycodone.

Let’s hope he was actually on 36th, because the lanes on Western — both of them — are seriously narrow.

And, as is de rigueur these days, he’s on his way to rehab:

“I regret to inform you that I will be taking a leave of absence from my personal and professional obligations for approximately the next 28 days,” he said in [a] statement. “I am leaving immediately for inpatient care at the Santé Center for Healing.”

Some Democrat ought to make hay with this, inasmuch as the Santé Center is out of state, specifically in Argyle, Texas. “Don’t we have enough rehab facilities?” My guess: he’s had them on speed-dial for some time, though I suspect not for himself.

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An awful lot of this going on

And by “this,” I mean incidents like this:

A Kellyville English teacher has been arrested for second degree rape in connection to an alleged inappropriate relationship with a high school student.

Kalyn Darby Thompson, 25, resigned from her position at Kellyville High School in April, an arrest report states. She turned herself into authorities Monday morning.

You know it’s serious in Oklahoma when they report all three names.

I wasn’t up on the rape laws in this state — “second-degree”? — so I chased down the pertinent statute (§21-1114):

A. Rape in the first degree shall include:

    1. rape committed by a person over eighteen (18) years of age upon a person under fourteen (14) years of age; or

    2. rape committed upon a person incapable through mental illness or any unsoundness of mind of giving legal consent regardless of the age of the person committing the crime; or

    3. rape accomplished with any person by means of force, violence, or threats of force or violence accompanied by apparent power of execution regardless of the age of the person committing the crime; or

    4. rape by instrumentation resulting in bodily harm is rape by instrumentation in the first degree regardless of the age of the person committing the crime; or

    5. rape by instrumentation committed upon a person under fourteen (14) years of age.

B. In all other cases, rape or rape by instrumentation is rape in the second degree.

The lad in question is reportedly 18.

And I wonder if this is where the secret was exposed:

The arrest report states that the student was flunking English last semester but currently has a 98 percent grade point average.

Technically, that’s not a GPA, but it does look at least slightly suspicious.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Delivery manifest

This song came out 46 years ago; for some reason, it clicks with me more me now than it did then, though I’ve never been to the part of Manhattan that it celebrates.

Zip Code, postman says it’s faster
This way I know it won’t get past her
Zip Code, make it get there better
1-double 0-3-6 on the letter

“Zip Code” was the third of three Top 40 singles in 1967 by The Five Americans, the biggest band ever to come out of Durant, Oklahoma. “It happened,” said the song, “in New York City,” and specifically in this part of New York City:

10036 ZIP Code Map from Google Maps

The Americans’ first really big hit was “Western Union,” which hit #5 in Billboard early in ’67; after “Sound of Love” stalled at #36, they were persuaded to do another song about, um, communications. “Zip Code” climbed all the way to, um, #36.

Probably not by coincidence, 1967 was the year when the Post Office (not yet the Postal Service) mandated ZIP usage. And the “official” ZIP Code song was a lot less interesting than what the Five Americans came up with.

One other song seems to be ZIP-oriented, though I’m not sure if it’s intentional: the Guess Who’s “Sour Suite,” from their So Long, Bannatyne album, which has several lines about being “back here in 46201,” which would be on the near-east side of Indianapolis, which makes no sense in connection with the Guess Who, who were from Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Bannatyne Avenue is a street in central Winnipeg which is on my list of Places I Must Go Someday, precisely because of this album. I’ve already been to Indianapolis but am not averse to going back.) Then again, the Guess Who recorded for RCA, who had a record-pressing plant in, yes, Indianapolis, at one time located at 501 North LaSalle Street, 46201.

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Meanwhile, back in the desert

This statistic is startling, not least because it has the ring of truth to it:

They’ve been saying on the local news that this has been the driest January to May period since 1936.

Since the Dust Bowl. That’s scary.

I’m a bit to her north. Let’s see what kind of numbers we have:

    January: normal 1.39 inches, actual 0.07.
    February: normal 1.58, actual 0.36.
    March: normal 3:06, actual 1.26.
    April: normal 3:07, actual 1.00.
    May so far: normal 0.85, actual 0.00.

So instead of the ten inches we should have had so far this year, we’re below three. This isn’t creating a water-supply issue yet — last year, we had over fifty inches of rain (normal is about 35), and we’ve had watering restrictions for over a year — but it’s probably just a matter of time. (Meanwhile, Wichita Falls proposes to recycle wastewater.)

What I find remarkable is that the winter of 2013-14 (defined as December through February by meteorologists) was the ninth driest on record — 1.69 inches — and yet we had over eight inches of snow. (Plus an inch and a half in March, which counts toward spring.)

This does not bode well. Drought depresses me, the long string of rainless cloudless days, and also the worry about what will happen to my trees (my lawn, I’ve given up on). The constant unending days of heat. I know people in northern climes complained about this winter, but honestly, for me, the four to six months of summer is worse than any winter — in winter, you can bundle up and go outside for 20 minutes or so and come back in and make tea and feel grateful. In summer, here, I can never get my house quite as cool as I’d really like it to be, and while it is a relief to come back into the house after being out in the heat, it’s not quite as GREAT a relief.

The wide swings perplex me. Wettest August ever was 2008 (9.95 inches); 2009 followed with 5.74, good for 7th place; and then 2010 dropped a mere 0.48 inch on us, tied for fifth driest, and just 0.02 inch above the entire summer of 1936.

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Shake it up, baby

Well, we’ve finally caught up with the Golden State, kinda sorta:

Mile for mile, there are almost as many earthquakes rattling Oklahoma as California this year. This major increase in seismic shaking led to a rare earthquake warning today (May 5) from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

In a joint statement, the agencies said the risk of a damaging earthquake — one larger than magnitude 5.0 — has significantly increased in central Oklahoma.

This is, perhaps not incidentally, the first time the USGS has issued a warning for an area east of the Rockies.

Should you be thinking “fracking,” it’s a definite maybe. Maybe. Thay came up with a model that resembled one particular result. Interestingly, it’s not the extraction of fuel that’s the suspect: it’s the disposal of the wastewater after drilling.

And there’s this:

“We don’t know if this earthquake rate is going to continue… It could go to a higher rate or lower, so the increased chances of a damaging quake could change in the future.”

Which also sounds like a definite maybe.

Addendum:

Just in case you were headed to the shelter.

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SLAPPed around

SLAPP is a term we hear entirely too often, simply because the procedure it describes is used entirely too often. Let Michael Bates explain:

In a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, a plaintiff seeks to punish the defendant for expressing his opinion or stating a fact he doesn’t like aired publicly by subjecting him to a costly legal process. The SLAPP plaintiff can achieve his objective — silencing criticism — even if he ultimately loses his case in court. The cost in time, money, and anxiety of defending the lawsuit will deter the defendant from future criticism and may also deter others from speaking out.

This sort of behavior is intolerable, and we can expect more of it — in some of those other states, maybe. Oklahoma, meanwhile, is discouraging it:

The Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act authorizes a special motion to dismiss to be filed and heard early in the process. The motion must be filed within 60 days after the suit is filed, and discovery is suspended until the court rules on the motion. The hearing on the motion must be held within 60 days of its filing, (The time may be extended to 90 or 120 days under special circumstances, but 120 days is the limit.) After the hearing, the court has 30 days to rule.

The defendant must first establish that the suit is based on, relates to, or is in response to his exercise of his freedom of speech, freedom to petition government, or freedom of association.

In response, the plaintiff must establish “by clear and specific evidence a prima facie case for each essential element of the claim in question.” The defendant can obtain dismissal of the case if he can establish “by a preponderance of the evidence each essential element of a valid defense” to the plaintiff’s claim.

What makes this different from an ordinary motion to dismiss is that the judge can go beyond “the four corners” of the complaint. The court doesn’t have to take the plaintiff’s charges at face value.

If the court dismisses the case, the court is required to award court costs, reasonable attorney fees, and legal expenses as well as sanctions “sufficient to deter the party who brought the legal action from bringing similar actions.”

If the motion to dismiss is “frivolous or solely intended to delay,” the court may award costs to the plaintiff.

The Act was signed into law by Governor Fallin last week, after passing both houses with not a single Nay vote. Typically for Oklahoma legislation, it goes into effect on the first of November.

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A semitonic for the troops

Not that I’m going to turn it down or anything — what, are you nuts? — but I’m just not the kind of guy who jumps up and down yelling “Tax cut! Tax cut!”

Not for this pittance, anyway:

Senate Bill 1246 will gradually lower Oklahoma’s top income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 4.85 percent over several years. The cuts are dependent on revenue triggers, meaning general revenue in Oklahoma must see an increase before the cuts take effect.

“This is a responsible, measured tax cut that will make Oklahoma more economically competitive while providing much needed tax relief to working families,” said Fallin. “If Oklahoma wants to attract and retain good jobs — rather than losing them to neighboring states — we must improve our tax climate. I am proud that the Legislature has taken action to do so and I am happy to sign this bill into law.

“This tax cut will put more than $200 million annually into the economy and make Oklahoma a better place to do business, meaning more opportunities and jobs for Oklahoma families and more revenue for core government services.”

You know who’s going to be most impressed by this? Characters who can’t afford to move from where they are but still fantasize about packing their bags, and who spend several hours a day looking at infographics and other crap in an effort to find the Absolute Best Place that they’re never actually going to live.

Oh, and Grover Norquist.

My usual complaint about the state income tax follows:

SB 1246 affects Oklahoma’s top income tax bracket, which applies to individuals earning more than $8,700 a year or couples earning more than $15,000 a year.

No way on God’s semi-green earth should someone making a quarter over minimum wage be in the top bracket.

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Sun tax error

Roger sent me this, and I imagine he was shaking his head as he read it:

Oklahoma residents who produce their own energy through solar panels or small wind turbines on their property will now be charged an additional fee, the result of a new bill passed by the state legislature and expected to be signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin (R).

On Monday, S.B. 1456 passed the state House 83-5 after no debate. The measure creates a new class of customers: those who install distributed power generation systems like solar panels or small wind turbines on their property and sell the excess energy back to the grid. While those with systems already installed won’t be affected, the new class of customers will now be charged a monthly fee — a shift that happened quickly and caught many in the state off guard.

You can read the measure in its current form here. This is how I replied to Roger:

I admit to not knowing what Ann Griffin was up to when she wrote that bill. (Most Republicans in the OK Senate have at least decent ratings from the Sierra Club; Griffin rates a 93% on their scale.)

The bill provides for a surcharge limited to “that required to recover the full costs necessary to serve customers who install distributed generation on the customer side of the meter after the effective date of this act,” which date is the first of November. However, it also expects the utilities to determine the amount of those costs, and implement the appropriate tariffs by the end of 2015. Typically, a tariff has to be approved by the Corporation Commission, and they will generally open a period of public comment before issuing a decision. So this may not be the done-est of deals.

And I’m thinking that, once actually imposed, this fee will probably be on the same scale as what I pay to support the state’s first wind farm. Ten years ago, it was a buck and a quarter a month; revised tariffs make it a bit more variable, but my most recent electric bill, for $56.95, included a “net wind cost” of $3.39. I’m betting they ask for about twice that, and the Corp Comm will approve half of it, and everybody will pretend to be happy.

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Incumbency ho!

When people say they can’t stand the Legislature, what they really mean, often as not, is that they can’t stand your legislator; their legislator is just wonderful.

Which may explain why so many members of the Oklahoma legislature drew no opponents this fall. Half the Senate (24 of 48) and all of the House (101) must be picked, and these incumbents will be automagically returned to office:

  • S2: Morty L. Quinn (R) Claremore
  • S10: Eddie Fields (R) Wynona
  • S16: John Sparks (D) Norman
  • S24: Anthony Sykes (R) Moore
  • S30: David Holt (R) Oklahoma City
  • S34: Rick Brinkley (R) Owasso
  • S38: Mike Schulz (R) Altus
  • H2: John Bennett (R) Sallisaw
  • H4: Mike Brown (D) Fort Gibson
  • H8: Ben Sherrer (D) Chouteau
  • H11: Earl Sears (R) Bartlesville
  • H13: Jerry McPeak (D) Warner
  • H15: Ed Cannaday (D) Porum
  • H18: Donnie Condit (D) McAlester
  • H19: R. C. Pruett (D) Antlers
  • H21: Dustin Roberts (R) Durant
  • H22: Charles A. McCall (R) Atoka
  • H23: Terry O’Donnell (R) Catoosa
  • H24: Steve Koupien (D) Beggs
  • H25: Todd Thomsen (R) Ada
  • H30: Mark McCullough (R) Sapulpa
  • H33: Lee Denney (R) Cushing
  • H34: Cory T. Williams (D) Stillwater
  • H37: Steven E. Vaughan (R) Ponca City
  • H39: Marion Cooksey (R) Edmond
  • H42: Lisa J. Billy (R) Lindsay
  • H44: Emily Virgin (D) Norman
  • H47: Leslie Osborn (R) Mustang
  • H48: Pat Ownby (R) Ardmore
  • H50: Dennis Johnson (R) Duncan
  • H51: Scott R. Briggs (R) Chickasha
  • H52: Charles Ortega (R) Altus
  • H55: Todd Rush (R) Cordell
  • H57: Harold Wright (R) Weatherford
  • H58: Jeff Hickman (R) Fairview
  • H59: Mike Sanders (R) Kingfisher
  • H60: Dan Fisher (R) El Reno
  • H64: Ann Coudy (R) Lawton
  • H66: Jadine Nollan (R) Sand Springs
  • H67: Pam Peterson (R) Tulsa
  • H68: Glen Mulready (R) Tulsa
  • H70: Ken Walker (R) Tulsa
  • H71: Katie Henke (R) Tulsa
  • H72: Seneca Scott (D) Tulsa
  • H73: Kevin L. Matthews (D) Tulsa
  • H74: David Derby (R) Owasso
  • H75: Dan Kirby (R) Tulsa
  • H77: Eric Proctor (D) Tulsa
  • H78: Jeannie McDaniel (D) Tulsa
  • H80: Mike Ritze (R) Broken Arrow
  • H81: Randy Grau (R) Edmond
  • H84: Sally Kern (R) Oklahoma City
  • H90: Jon Echols (R) Oklahoma City
  • H92: Richard D. Morrissette (D) Oklahoma City
  • H94: Scott Inman (D) Oklahoma City

That’s 55 seats with no race, out of 125. For an angry electorate, we sure are complacent.

(A similar list from 2012.)

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Up is not given

From this very site, November 2012:

Last time we heard from former County Commissioner, occasional money-grubber and comic-book publisher Brent Rinehart, he was trying to ease his way back into public office.

Truly, the man is nothing if not persistent:

Former Oklahoma County Commissioner Brent Rinehart, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor campaign contribution violation in October 2009, filed Friday to run for the Oklahoma House.

Rinehart, a Republican, is seeking to replace Rep. Charlie Joyner, R-Midwest City.

I don’t live out that way, and I don’t have a problem with Joyner being primaried, particularly, but drawing Rinehart for an opponent — well, if Joyner has the normal complement of brain cells, he should be able to dispatch Rinehart with little difficulty.

(And yes, Rinehart can run despite his record: it’s a misdemeanor that did not involve embezzlement.)

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Some renaissance this is

The Friar drops in at Norman’s Medieval Faire, and spots a rolling anachronism:

A local TV station’s “storm chaser” truck and weather frou-frou display, because heaven knows we don’t have enough reminders that we’re entering storm season in Oklahoma and that if we watch some other channel we’re all going to die.

The least they could do is give the guy — they never seem to send the women for some reason — a proper broadsword.

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One impossible thing before breakfast

The state treasurer is requesting a budget cut — again:

For a second consecutive year, State Treasurer Ken Miller is asking the Legislature to cut appropriations for his office. And for the second year in a row, he is the only agency head to do so.

Miller said his request for a five-percent budget cut is made possible by focusing office operations on core treasury functions. He also requested and was granted a five-percent appropriations reduction last year.

Staff inflation? Not here:

Prior to the last recession, the treasurer’s office had 72 employees working in three locations in Oklahoma City, including two leased offices. Now the staff is 40 percent smaller and all treasury employees work in one location in the State Capitol Building after closing external offices.

If everybody got a 5-percent budget cut — but forget it. Just under 100 percent of all agency heads will tell you with a straight face that cutting spending at a time like this is immoral.

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Just below bronze

Insurance Commissioner John Doak’s Friday announcement, complete with vaguely petulant grumble:

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak announced Friday that health insurers may continue to renew policies not meeting Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements through 2016.

“The continued twists and turns related to Obamacare confuses consumers and frustrates businesses,” said Doak. “The extension is not a universal remedy for concerns about access and affordability. This change won’t prevent price increases, nor will it ensure that provider networks will stay the same for the next two years. We have decided to leave the renewal decision up to the insurers because of the difficulty they face in trying to adapt to these constantly changing market rules, which I’m sure we haven’t seen the end of.”

Not before January 2017, anyway.

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