Archive for Soonerland

Primary concern

If I’m discharged from the hospital on Tuesday, well, it occurs to me that the polling place for my precinct is on my way home, and if I’m actually able to walk, something I haven’t been in the last few days, I ought to drop in and fill out a ballot. I haven’t missed an election since 1990 or so, and I’d hate to start now.

Before you ask: Early voting started last Thursday; I wasn’t in any condition to leave the house. And earlier on, it would not have occurred to me to ask for an absentee ballot, because I didn’t have any expectations of being absent.

Addendum: Obviously this is not happening.

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Dragged into the next century

From 2010:

Last month, you’ll remember, privately-owned (but Senate-appointed) tag agents registered their displeasure with the state’s plan to process orders over the Web, which might put a dent in their business model.

Displeasure duly noted, the Oklahoma Tax Commission has now opened up that Web site and bestowed upon it the incredibly-obvious acronym CARS, which stands for “Convenient Auto Renewal System.”

At the time, I noted that this wasn’t likely to change my own habits; I have an agent of choice, and I’ve been going there for a decade or so.

Then again, I spent none of that decade in the hospital. And now that I’m at an appalling level of incapacitation, now is the time to learn the online stuff.

Elapsed time: about six minutes. Trickiest bit was on insurance verification, where they have options for either name or NAIC number of insurer: perhaps they never expected anyone actually to have the NAIC number. There’s a $1.50 fee. And some time next week, right about the time the old year tab expires, I should have a new one. I just hope I feel well enough to put it in place.

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Some limit that was

By any reasonable standard, Oklahomans could have been considered enthusiastic for term limits; when State Question 632 made it to the ballot in 1990, it passed with more than 67 percent approval. Has incumbent turnover increased? Not so much:

One knock on term limits is that they artificially remove lawmakers with institutional memory, people who’ve been around the block enough times to anticipate problems. That point is not without merit, but Oklahoma’s 12-year term limit for state legislators is hardly draconian. This year provides a reminder. In the House of Representatives, 19 lawmakers are being forced out by term limits. But another 11 are leaving voluntarily, meaning more than one-third of open seats have nothing to do with term limits. For many people, the allure of legislative office is eventually outweighed by the perceived benefits of running for another office or returning to the private sector well before term limits kick in. This is one reason the Oklahoma Policy Institute found the average length of service for House members was greater in 2014 than in 1990. While term limits may slightly increase legislative turnover, their impact appears marginal.

I wonder how much the fat raise given to legislators in 1997 — they now make $38,400 a year plus per diem — might be a factor; some of these guys, you wonder if they could survive in the private sector.

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Checking one’s hindsight (1)

Note: The following originally appeared in Vent #10, from this week in 1996.

Occasional Baptist counterexamples notwithstanding, the true religion of Oklahoma is football, which explains why two of the state’s Representatives (out of six) are former college football players who have little else to recommend them. The First District’s Steve Largent, recently stroked by America’s leading political magazine — People Weekly — is owned and operated by the Pat Robertson crowd, and this always plays well in Tulsa, which is, after all, Oral Roberts’ home base. Largent, therefore, will probably survive this fall. More troublesome for the GOP is Julius Caesar Watts, installed in the Fourth District seat after spending a couple of years on the Corporation Commission shilling for utility companies. In the House, he rails against all government programs except the one that enabled him to buy a distressed Midwest City apartment complex dirt-cheap. And remember all that yammering about how Congress shouldn’t exempt itself from the laws it inflicts on the public sector? Our friend J. C. has managed to exempt a mere 94 percent of his staff from the Fair Labor Standards Act. (Steve Largent, by comparison, has fully a third of his staff covered, which by this state’s standards borders on commendable. The Tulsa World covered all this during the spring, if anyone is curious.) Word is now out that Watts turned a profit on his investment with Hillary-like speed, which automatically arouses suspicion around Dustbury, and this could well cost him his seat come November.

As it happens, neither Largent nor Watts had anything to worry about in the ’96 election, or the next two. Largent gave up his seat in 2002 to run for Governor, but was beaten by Brad Henry. Watts left in 2002 to sort of return to the private sector; he’s now CEO of the no-longer-scandal-ridden charity Feed the Children.

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Punchline to the world

Some people think of this state as a laughingstock. Others cry over its failings. Me, I figure what goes around eventually comes around.

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Number deleted

There was some brief outcry earlier this week when Governor Fallin signed House Bill 3167; apparently some people thought this meant that speed limits in this state were canceled. It means, of course, nothing of the sort:

The speed limit set for the turnpikes, interstates and other state highways was erased in a bill, signed by the Governor Monday. That doesn’t eliminate current speed limits, but eliminates the maximum that was once set by law.

House Bill 3167 deletes the section of the law prescribing a maximum speed limit.

It replaces it with the following: “On a highway or part of a highway, unless otherwise established in law, a speed established by the Department of Transportation on the basis of engineering and traffic investigations used to determine the speed that is reasonable and safe under the conditions found to exist on the highway or part of the highway.”

Before that, there was a hard limit: 75 mph and no more.

ODOT, for its part, isn’t suggesting anything:

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation did not request the bill and did not oppose it, said Terri Angier, an agency spokeswoman.

The department has “no intention of raising any of the speed limits across the board on any of the highways, but it allows us to look at specific situations, if requested,” she said.

We’ll see 80 on the Turner Turnpike by this time next year. And the nimrods who currently drive 84 in a 75 zone will — well, actually, I’m not sure what they’ll do. About eight years ago, during a brief blast down a Texas highway posted at 80, I seldom saw anyone going much faster than 82 or 83.

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Dollars here, dollars there

The apparently not-dead-yet Ted Cruz — at least, that’s the name in the From field — has issued this blurb on behalf of Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma’s 1st District:

There are hundreds of congressional races taking place across the country this year, but this election in Oklahoma is especially important.

Jim Bridenstine is one of the top conservative leaders in the House today and he isn’t afraid to stand up to the powerful interests in Washington.

He has fought to stop Obamacare, to defund President Obama’s executive amnesty, and to stop Planned Parenthood from receiving taxpayer money.

Time after time, Jim has stood with me and other conservatives in Congress to defend the Constitution, and now he needs your help.

The Washington establishment has recruited a candidate to run against Jim in the June 28th Republican primary election. He’s a threat to the Beltway insiders so they are determined to defeat him.

*Please join me in supporting this outstanding conservative leader by making a contribution to his campaign today.*

Some of us down here in Soonerland are, shall we say, suspicious of solicitations for out-of-state money. And we know this is going out of state, because Ted Cruz and/or his fellow travelers in this particular PAC didn’t send this to me; it was sent to good old Roger Green in Albany, New York, who isn’t the least likely person on earth to send a contribution to the Jim Bridenstine campaign, but he’s a long way from the top of the list, if you know what I mean.

There is no Democrat running in the First District, which should give you an idea of how this area skews politically. (There is an Independent in the race.) Tom Atkinson, the “establishment” Republican candidate, actually considered running against Bridenstine two years ago, but eventually thought better of it. With Bridenstine vowing to serve a maximum of three terms — he’s completed two — Atkinson may actually get a chance in 2018.

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Didn’t need this after all

From page A5 of yesterday’s Oklahoman:

Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan is giving campaign donors their money back.

The District 2 commissioner secured a third term earlier this month when the deadline passed without an opponent filing for the seat. Maughan says he returned $75,810.11 to 372 donors after deducting expenses.

Maughan had geared up for a challenge after others announced plans to run. Maughan says each donor got back about 79 percent of what they contributed.

I suppose the scary aspect of this is that it takes about a hundred grand to run for County Commissioner, at least in a county this size. (There are 77 counties in Oklahoma, each divided into three districts.)

Still, this is a far better return on investment than a donor normally gets without Actual Graft.

Maughan’s campaign Web site is still up, though it probably doesn’t cost a whole lot.

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Scraping by

And doing it well, one would think:

Custom Dental sign in Newcastle, Oklahoma

Newcastle is the city at the north end of McClain County, Oklahoma; it has about 10,000 people.

(From Dorkly via Miss Cellania. Originally I was going to set this piece to the Bee Gees’ “New York Mining Disaster 1941” — “Have you seen my ass, Dr. Jones? Do you know what it’s like on the inside?” Taste prevailed, kinda sorta.)

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This doesn’t look like a primary

The last two elections, we had more than 50 (!) legislative incumbents returned to office because they didn’t draw any opposition. This year, not so much. There are no unchallenged Senators, and only a handful of House members got a free pass:

  • H22: Charles A. McCall (R-Atoka)
  • H24: Steve Kouplen (D-Beggs)
  • H34: Cory T. Williams (D-Stillwater)
  • H35: Dennis Casey (R-Morrison)
  • H37: Steven E. Vaughan (R-Ponca City)
  • H38: John Pfeiffer (R-Orlando)
  • H48: Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore)
  • H57: Harold Wright (R-Weatherford)
  • H59: Mike Sanders (R-Kingfisher)
  • H68: Glen Mulready (R-Tulsa)
  • H77: Eric Proctor (D-Tulsa)
  • H88: Jason Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City)
  • H90: John Echols (R-Oklahoma City)

Of these thirteen, nine appeared on the 2014 list.

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It’s starting to look like a primary

Collin Walke, who ran for House District 87 two years ago and was beaten by incumbent Jason Nelson, is trying again, now that Nelson’s out of the running. (He left a small flyer on my door some time between 11:30 and 1 yesterday.) He’s the second Democrat I’ve heard from, following the opening salvo last week by Kelly Meredith. And there won’t be any more: no other Democrats filed before the end of the official filing period Friday.

Meanwhile, four Republicans have signed up to take a stab at it, and with this year’s actual recognition of the party, there’s a Libertarian; in fact, the LP has sixteen candidates for 2016, and there will be an actual Libertarian primary, there being two candidates for Senator James Lankford’s seat.

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Greater Scott

Scott Inman is the Minority Leader in the Oklahoma House, charged with keeping the Democrats more or less in line. He has a short bio in Wikipedia, which used to be a lot longer before this section was excised:

Bogus biographical details about Scott Inman

Okay, we get it: Scott Inman is not Aquaman.

Inman’s comment upon reading this:

[M]y friends have a unique and clever sense of humor. And apparently they have a lot of time on their hands too.

(Via Phil Cross at Fox 25. He didn’t do it, I’m pretty sure.)

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Department of Subtle Reminders

For just about as long as I can remember, whenever OG&E has had a rate case pending, there’s been a note stuck into the electric bill with all the other detritus. And yes, there’s a rate case pending; the Corp Comm is scheduled to open hearings on the third of May, and my particular rate class would go up by about 6.6 percent.

Nothing too surprising here, except that on the bill itself, for the first time I can remember, there is a LARGE PRINT statement:

*** PLEASE SEE ENCLOSED SPECIAL NOTICE TO OKLAHOMA CUSTOMERS. ***

(They do have a few Arkansas customers, who would not be affected.) And the notice itself is marked SPECIAL NOTICE, so there’s presumably no excuse for missing it.

The April bill, for me anyway, is typically the lowest of the year, so the rate increase looks like a mere four bucks or so. In August, it’s going to hurt a little more.

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Live with Kelly

Last week, Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City) announced he would not seek reelection:

The Republican floor leader of the Oklahoma House says he will step aside from his northwest Oklahoma City seat after eight years in office.

Rep. Jason Nelson said Wednesday he will not seek re-election to his District 87 House seat in November. The 44-year-old Nelson announced his decision on the floor of the House where he was congratulated by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and Republican and Democratic House members.

As an actual resident of District 87, I am of course interested in Nelson’s successor. And the first flyer has arrived, on behalf of Kelly Meredith. Her political affiliation is not disclosed, but let’s read between the lines, specifically these lines from the flyer:

Kelly will bring her experience as a strategic planner, an educator, and a mother to the Capitol. She is tired of seeing reckless budgeting, wasteful legislation, and political games that hurt our children and our state.

Got to be a Democrat. (Republicans have a 70-31 majority in the House, so at least two of those charges will presumably be blamed on the GOP.) Which means I will eventually meet her; in the 12 years I’ve lived in 87, every single Democratic candidate — and no Republican — has come out to knock on my door at a time when I could conceivably have answered it.

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When things get complicated

Middle of the morning, I got a note from a neighbor via Nextdoor: “I am going to close your garage door.” This, of course, leads to the obvious question: why in the fark is it open? I contemplated several possibilities, the most unnerving of which was the chance that someone might have figured out the Double Super Secret Code that runs the remote. This particular garage-door opener dates back to — well, not the Pleistocene, exactly, but it’s old enough to have its code set by a row of jumpers, the sort of thing we haven’t seen since we got rid of master and slave drives in PCs. I put in a call to William of Ockham, who noted that I happened to be carrying two remotes, one in the car, one on my person, and if I started the process with the former and inadvertently engaged the latter while turning away from the house, I could easily have created this situation myself. I argued that I didn’t think the secondary remote had that kind of range, but to no avail. I arrived back home about 11:30, and everything seemed to be in order.

And it is an election day, so I figured I’d take care of that detail on the way back to work. Turnout was expected to be light, given the single race on the ballot: finishing the unexpired term of Oklahoma County Court Clerk Tim Rhodes, who resigned last year to take a job at the Corp Comm. I did not, however, imagine it to be this light: at a quarter to twelve, four hours and forty-five minutes into the session, I was preceded by a mere 23 voters. There are more than 1500 registered voters in this precinct.

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The phrase that pays

The original Vision 2025 sales-tax scheme in Tulsa County has come to an end, and with the horror of losing that 0.6 percent staring them in the face, the powers that be have assembled a wish list for a renewal of the scheme. One of the bigger items on that list is a pair of low-water dams on the Arkansas River to supplement the existing Zink Dam. And those dams are on the list, apparently, because it is assumed the suckers will vote for them even if they’re not actually going to be built:

According to emails obtained by FOX23 News and videos of city council committee meetings being held throughout the month of February, city officials were aware the south Tulsa-Jenks dam was falling through and began to set up “contingencies” where voters would approve the two low-water dams, but the money raised from the sales tax, at least on the City of Tulsa side, would go to improving the Zink Dam, setting up a maintenance endowment for the Zink Dam, and then distributing what was left of the two dam plan’s funding to various projects throughout the City of Tulsa, some in council districts nowhere near the Arkansas River.

Cynical in the extreme, even by Tulsa standards.

The vote comes Tuesday, 5 April. In the meantime, expect to see these sprout up:

No More Dam Taxes

(Via BatesLine.)

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I don’t want no damage

But how’m I gonna manage this?

North-central and northwestern Oklahoma are among the highest risk areas in the country for damage from earthquakes, according to an updated earthquake hazard report released by the U.S. Geological Survey on Monday.

The report marks the first time the USGS hazard map has included risk from both natural and human-induced earthquakes.

“By including human-induced events, our assessment of earthquake hazards has significantly increased in parts of the U.S.,” Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project, said in a statement. “This research also shows that much more of the nation faces a significant chance of having damaging earthquakes over the next year, whether natural or human-induced.”

The fracking problem apparently isn’t actually fracking, per se, but the disposal, via injection, of waste water.

The probability diminishes the farther you get from Fairview, which endured a 5.1 quake in 2011, though there are areas of concern in Dallas and in northern Arkansas. Biggest ever in the state: 5.6. Now how big is 5.6? This big, at least in Big D:

If a 5.6 magnitude quake were to happen, northwest Dallas, West Dallas and downtown would bear the brunt, according to the U.S. Geological Survey ShakeMap included in the FEMA report.

Levees and dams could collapse. About 80,000 buildings would be at least slightly damaged, causing $9.5 billion in “direct economic losses.” Some 290 area bridges — those with a “10 percent or greater chance of exceeding slight damage” — would need to be inspected to make sure they didn’t crack or buckle.

I suspect some of us will crack or buckle when the ground shakes.

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It could only happen here

Or at least, that’s the impression we’d like to give:

A man and a horse were shot in a Thursday night drive-by shooting in northeast Oklahoma City.

About 10:20 p.m., Frederick Leon Jackson, of Spencer, and Carlos Romon Miles, of Jones, were riding their horses back from a rodeo arena, off NE 50 and Post Road, when they stopped in front of a church off NE 41 to smoke a cigarette.

Miles told police he saw a red car approach and someone in the car started shooting as the car passed by, according to a police report.

Jackson was hospitalized with a bullet wound to the calf; his horse caught a round in the upper right shoulder.

This is a pretty remote area — the Spencer post office actually delivers the mail this far out — and definitely not the sort of place you’d tend to expect a drive-by shooting. I suspect the occupants of the vehicle were, um, somewhat impaired at the time.

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The levers we pulled

The State Election Board has released preliminary precinct-level counts for Tuesday’s primary, and, well, I’m not above grubbing up a spreadsheet to look at my local numbers.

Democrats: Sanders 271; Clinton 227; others 11.

Republicans: Rubio 163; Trump 112; Cruz 102; Carson 19; Kasich 17; others 6.

Which is a total of 509 Democrats and 419 Republicans.

Countywide totals:

Democrats: Clinton 34,255; Sanders 32,368; others 1,716.

Republicans: Rubio 29,030; Cruz 26,912; Trump 22,117; Carson 4,992; Kasich 4,007; others 1,351.

Should anyone care, he who garnered the fewest votes was Lindsey Graham, with 49.

Note: Democratic totals may include independents invited to participate.

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Formerly freewheeling

When the news came down, I was even more startled than I might have expected to be, mostly because I’ve visualized this scene so many times it seems like part of the background now: pretty much any time the phrase “bridge abutment” occurs on this site, there’s a thought of crashing into one for some reason.

And really, if your destiny lies in the concrete on the underside of an overpass, that might well be the one you’d pick: genuinely sturdy — the Turner Turnpike sits on top — and far enough out in the sticks that you wouldn’t be noticed quickly. We’re talking Midwest Boulevard between 122nd and Memorial Road, from which Aubrey McClendon’s crushed Chevy Tahoe was extracted earlier today. Was this deliberate? For what it’s worth, he wasn’t buckled in.

Then again, “restraint” wasn’t in McClendon’s vocabulary; the man built a remarkable empire on a perfectly ordinary commodity. More than once he ran afoul of protocol. When Clay Bennett’s syndicate, of whom McClendon was a member, purchased the Seattle SuperSonics, it was McClendon who let slip the destination of the team, which everyone knew but which everyone was bound to deny. (The NBA fined him a quarter of a million dollars, which would be like fining you or me a Quarter Pounder with cheese.) In Michigan, McClendon tangled with conservationists, and did not prevail. In 2013, his own board of directors sent him packing. Undaunted, he set up a rival firm just down the street from the Chesapeake campus where he’d once ruled. That campus, incidentally, was another bit of McClendon willfulness: while other oil barons went vertical downtown, he built horizontally out towards the ‘burbs.

And the day before yesterday, a little incident from his Chesapeake days came back to haunt him, in the form of an indictment: during the acquisition of new oil and gas leases, said the Feds, he’d engaged in a sneaky form of bid-rigging. Whatever he’d been doing, it must have worked; at one point, Chesapeake was the largest natural-gas producer in the nation.

But those days are gone, natural gas is selling for a comparative pittance, and McClendon burned up a few BTUs of it this morning to get to the last place he’d ever get to. The unraveling will fill several books: if there’s anything to that indictment, perhaps several sets of books. One should be written, I insist, about how Aubrey McClendon left his brand all over this town, and how we’re a better place for it.

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Meanwhile down at the precinct

Thinking that this might be close to a record year for turnout, given the sheer nastiness of the campaign so far, I decided to close up shop early and beat the after-work crowd. Arriving at 3:50, I noticed a small lake where I used to park: there had been about 0.4 inch of rain last night. Not a problem.

When I reached the line, there were five in front of me: two Democrats, two Republicans, and one slightly baffled Independent, who could receive a Democratic ballot but who apparently was hoping to get one for the GOP. And there was a youngster on the way out the door, wearing a grey Trump T-shirt.

Nine minutes to take care of business and cast ballot #656. I was really expecting more like #800, but then I was earlier than I usually am for these things. The polls will remain open until 7 pm.

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Out from behind the desk

Earlier this month, a brief (1:15) video surfaced, featuring Tulsa news reporter Lori Fullbright mostly from here down, and scores of shoes she’s worn over her many years in T-Town media. The Lost Ogle happened upon it, and, as TLO will do, made fun of it. And it was, I think, a bit on the silly side.

The video, posted to Vimeo, was gone by the following morning, but its deletion apparently wasn’t because TLO had made anyone uncomfortable. Fullbright herself sent a note to the site:

Just so you know, News on 6 did not create or release that shoe video as a promotional tool.

I was asked to emcee the Pinnacle Awards/Women of the Year banquet and those putting on the event, the YWCA Tulsa and the Mayor’s Commission on the status of Women, asked me to create a fun video that was light hearted to show at the event. They suggested something to do with the shoes I wear and sometimes post, as a break from all the serious, tragic and heartbreaking news I cover on a daily basis on the crime beat. Our team created that video at the request of those agencies to show at their fundraising event, which it did, last Friday night. It was not something that aired on News on 6 or was put out there to market me to a larger audience in any way. I take my role as a journalist seriously and believe my reputation for excellence, fighting for victims and teaching people how to stay safe from crime speaks for itself.

“Light hearted?” Were it any lighter, it would be approaching escape velocity.

That said, there is precedent for this sort of thing. Jeanine Pirro, host of Judge Jeanine on Fox News, often posts shoefies to Twitter and Instagram before the show airs, and I suspect she has a higher wardrobe budget than anyone on Tulsa television.

And that said, whoever picks out Fullbright’s shoes is at least charmingly eccentric, though I did actually like these, courtesy of that now-deleted video:

Lori Fullbright's metallic T-strap sandals

The delta between these shoes and “wretched excess” is vanishingly small, but this is one of those cases in which I don’t care.

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Quote of the week

The billion-dollar hole in the state budget has brought out the usual “No! No! Cut THEM!” calls from various state agencies and their clients. No shortage looms larger than the one presented to the state education system, but as the Friar notes, the solution is not exactly cut and dried:

The problems with salaries and school funding are real: Our teachers are not paid what they should be, nor are our schools funded at the level they should be.

The problems with the revenue stream are real: The tax cut was an iffy idea at best considering how hard it would be to go back to the higher rate when need arose. And it made no sense whatsoever to tie the triggers to projected future income instead of to past or current income or to an average of them over several years.

But the problems with a 19th century educational system are real too. It’s organized for an agrarian culture without the ability to artificially cool buildings during summer. Its funding and governing structures assume myriad small populations near to but mostly isolated from each other by slow travel. Its methods and instruction principles have as much to do with the Procrustean production of two-legged voting and tax-paying citizen widgets as they do with educating students for their own growth and flourishing as thinking human beings. That many teachers manage to bring about 21st century people testifies to their ability to work in spite of the system that employs them, not because of it.

Being hopeful, alas, is not part of the mix:

I also fear that if the state somehow manages to find a Peter with a wallet fat enough to let Paul boost teacher salaries and per-pupil expenditures from their rank in the high 40s to the low 40s or even high 30s, the people who can make that change happen will smile and wave and say they’ve handled things and la-la-la-la their way long enough that when the problem reappears they’ll be sipping retirement coffee and shaking their heads at what the world is coming to and why their barista can’t make change.

I am generally inclined to dismiss rankings: no two states have exactly the same circumstances, and the Wobegon Factor, which afflicts too many of us, demands that everyone be above average, because fairness. But at headline level, only one metric seems to matter.

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Half-chewed bullet

The Attorney General offers to take one for the state, kinda sorta:

Attorney General Scott Pruitt sent a letter Monday to Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders, asking that about $6 million in state appropriations for his office be withheld in the next budget in view of financial problems affecting the state.

A hole of about $900 million is expected in the next state budget as revenues have fallen because of a downturn in the oil industry.

Asking for a decrease in the budget? Unpossible!

But that’s not quite the whole picture:

The current fiscal year appropriation to the attorney general’s office is more than $13 million, but the office’s overall budget exceeds $40 million when federal grants, revolving funds, case settlements and legal counsel contracts are considered.

The money Pruitt asked to be withheld represents operations expenditures. This year, operations funds totaled $6.4 million in his budget.

“We’re able to absorb the loss of that appropriations through cost savings in the office,” said Aaron Cooper, a spokesman for Pruitt. He said no salaries would be cut.

The fun part of this, apart from the spectacle of an actual state official asking for less funding, something you don’t see too often, is imagining Mary Fallin’s reaction. I mean, what’s she gonna do, turn Pruitt down?

Note: This was in the Tuesday Oklahoman, page 3A, but I couldn’t find it on NewsOK, and while I am a subscriber and can get through the Oklahoman paywall, you probably aren’t.

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Rickety curriculum

Regular as clockwork come the newest examples of unintelligent design:

The first state bills of the year that would interfere with science education have appeared in Oklahoma. There, both the House and Senate have seen bills that would prevent school officials and administrators from disciplining any teachers who introduce spurious information to science classes.

These bills have a long history, dating back to around the time when teaching intelligent design was determined to be an unconstitutional imposition of religion. A recent study showed that you could take the text of the bills and build an evolutionary tree that traces their modifications over the last decade. The latest two fit the patterns nicely.

The Senate version of the bill [pdf] is by State Senator Josh Brecheen, a Republican. It is the fifth year in a row he’s introduced a science education bill after announcing he wanted “every publicly funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution.” This year’s version omits any mention of specific areas of science that could be controversial. Instead, it simply prohibits any educational official from blocking a teacher who wanted to discuss the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories.

We are on record as describing Senator Brecheen as “not the sharpest tool in the shed.”

Meanwhile, in that Other Chamber:

The one introduced in the Oklahoma House [pdf] is more traditional. Billed as a “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act” (because freedom!), it spells out a whole host of areas of science its author doesn’t like:

“The Legislature further finds that the teaching of some scientific concepts including but not limited to premises in the areas of biology, chemistry, meteorology, bioethics, and physics can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on some subjects such as, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

Do I really have to tell you who came up with this bill? No, you were right the first time, it’s Sally Kern. This is her fourth such bill. And really, “human cloning”? I can see a debate over “global warming,” inasmuch as the temperature of the globe isn’t exactly fixed and never has been, but what’s with the Clonus Horror?

If these two knuckleheads want to do the schools a favor, let them craft a measure to tell the US Department of Education to go fart up a flagpole, and then fill the existing funding holes, already fairly deep, with local money and local control.

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Only a light possibility

You can’t pass a bill without introducing it, and Rep. Harold Wright (R-Weatherford) has prefiled this for the 2016 session:

A. The standard time in Oklahoma shall be known as Central Standard Time.

B. This section shall not be construed to affect the standard time established by United States law governing the movements of common carriers engaged in interstate commerce or the time for
performance of an act by an officer or department of the United States, as established by a statute, lawful order, rule or regulation of the United States or an agency hereof.

C. As authorized by the Uniform Time Act of 1966 as amended and notwithstanding any other provisions of law to the contrary by the United States government relating to adoption of daylight saving time by all of the states, the State of Oklahoma elects to reject such time and elects to continue in force the terms of subsection A of this section relating to standard time in Oklahoma.

If passed, this measure would become effective on the first of November, five days before DST ends for this year.

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The relocated malcontent

In fact, the Local Malcontent may already be moving:

[We] have sold our home in Yanush to a lovely, young, immigrant Muslim couple from Qatar and Pakistan, and we two+ are going to move into a newer, larger home in LeFlore County, Ok.

Effective late January.

So I will be away for awhile, until AT&T U=verse connects us to the InterWebSuperHighway — they claim it will be on February 2 … but they wouldn’t say which year.

(Emphasis added.)

The community of Yanush isn’t big enough to be mentioned in Wikipedia, though it does have a Facebook page.

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This might be stretching it a bit

Lynn looks inside Spanx and finds a silver lining of sorts:

In 2010, an Oklahoma woman wore Spanx over her head while she robbed a McDonald’s. Oh that is so Oklahoma. I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed. Robbery is definitely not cool but it goes to show that we could come up with better uses for Spanx. It could be up there with duct tape and WD-40 in the Stuff With 1001 Uses category.

I dunno if you could come up with a thousand and one, but even just one — other than “medieval torture device,” that is — might be worth the effort.

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So basically, just another year

“The most perverse weather this side of Baffin Bay,” I once said, and the year just completed gave me no reason to change my mind:

I don’t actually think in millibars, so I did the conversion to mercury: 31.05 inches. Now that’s some serious pressure.

And about that dew point in Webbers Falls:

Those accustomed to continental climates often begin to feel uncomfortable when the dew point reaches between 15 and 20 °C (59 and 68 °F). Most inhabitants of these areas will consider dew points above 21 °C (70 °F) oppressive.

So I imagine 83 °F was probably excruciating. (I can’t remember personally experiencing anything much over 79.)

If there’s any comfort to be found on this map, it’s that none of those extremes came within fifty miles of me. Then again, through Christmas Day, we were on pace in Oklahoma City for the second-warmest December on record, behind only the fluky 48.7 degrees of 1965. (For warmenists: nine of the top ten are before 1965.) Then the snow and the rain and several days of cloud cover, and the best we could do was a tie for fifth at 45.3. I did manage to be present for three of the coldest Decembers, including the heinous 1983, a feeble 25.3 degrees for the month. (The coldest days around here, statistically, are in early January, at an average of 38.7 or thereabouts, though the coldest day EVAH was 12 February 1899, at a Dakota-esque 17 below.)

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And then it was gone

We all waited impatiently for the return of Blue Bell Ice Cream after the Great Listeria Scare. And now that it’s (mostly) back — a few flavors at a time — a local supermarket chain is, for the moment, dropping the line for “unfair pricing.”

This isn’t the first time Crest Foods told a food producer to take their product and shove it, either:

A few weeks back, Nick Harroz’ Crest Foods in central Oklahoma posted a notice beside the pasta-sauce shelf to the effect that they would no longer be stocking the Classico and Ragú brands, owing to large price increases by Unilever, owner of those brands, which the store did not wish to pass on to shoppers. It’s easy enough to be cynical about this sort of thing, but Harroz has done this before, and almost invariably he’s gotten his way, or a reasonable fraction thereof, which is how he manages to keep his prices around the Walmart level without going all, well, Walmartish on us: he’ll take on anyone up to and including mighty Coca-Cola.

Harroz died last year at 94, but it’s pretty clear that the store plans to follow his plan. And this, too, shall pass, once Blue Bell gives in — which they almost certainly will.

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