Thursday, November 18, 2010

Friday Post: "Compassion" and "Sensitivity" are Partisan Issues in the Oklahoma House

The swearing-in ceremony for the recently-elected state representatives was held at the Oklahoma capitol this week, and a reverend from Shawnee, Dr. James Hewitt, was asked to perform the invocation. This invocation is getting some coverage in conservative blogs this week because of some statements that Rev. Hewitt made, such as the following:

- "Give wisdom, sensitivity to curcumstances, and compassion to our legislators for these who labor and live among us without appropriate authorization"

- "May Oklahoma become a model for our nation of just, fair, and functional policies for immigration."

The minister also asked that God enlighten the legislators so they don't victimize the tribal peoples of Oklahoma.

These statements apparently made some legislators, including Representative Randy Terrill, a little bit peeved. But these legislators didn't want to present their grievances to the new speaker-designate Kris Steele (R-Shawnee) because, as it turns out, Kris Steele is an associate minister at Rev. Hewitt's church, and they feared retaliation by Speaker Steele in making his House committee assignments. So they got together and bitched to a conservative talk radio reporter instead, I guess.

Some of Randy Terrill's friends' complaints are that the invocation is supposed to be neutral, and that they're not supposed to refer to any issue before the legislature. Which means, apparently, that "victimizing" the tribal peoples of Oklahoma and creating disfunctional policies for immigration are two agenda items on the legislative agenda next year. Not surprising.


Ladies and gentlemen, the most ridiculous letter to the editor in opposition to Muneer Awad's well-publicized lawsuit against State Question 755, entitled "Banning Sharia Law Similar to Banning Polygamy":

Muneer Awad referred to Sharia as a set of rules that “guide” the daily life of Muslims. He further said that no government should “intrude on any religious
community's right to practice its faith.” Would this exclude a ban on polygamy? Should Kalona, Iowa, allow Amish law? Should the Wiccan community be as respected as the Muslim community?

The Constitution wasn't written to protect minority (or community) rights. It was written to protect individual rights. I can no longer exercise the way of life in which I grew up. I can't smoke where I please. A child can't ride on his mother's lap in the front seat, as I did. I have to turn packages in stores around to read the English labels. Rarely can I eat in restaurants for the spices in the food, adapted to accommodate alien palates. People neither dress nor act in the decent manner expected when I was young.

I had to adapt to the society around me. So should Awad.

The Constitution certainly does get in the way of individual rights, doesn't it? Like the right to endanger one's own child, the right to not be confronted with Spanish, the right to inflict carcinogenic pollutants on your fellow diners, and, most importantly, the right to eat bland food, dammit!


Lastly, an amazing map of Oklahoma City's racial segregation.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Post: Simpson-Bowles Report

The Simpson-Bowles report: I don't know what to make of it. Would it be better used for toilet paper or for firewood kindling?

Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles are co-heads of a bipartisan commission set up by President Barack Obama to find some unpopular ideas to reduce the federal deficit, and the draft report they released is actually intended for debate with the other members of the commission; in other words, the report isn't yet a policy idea. The reason for convening this fiscal commission, if I recall, was so that the commission would develop a plan to deal with an unpopular problem, and so that legislators could then merely "sign on" to the plan, rather than having to "debate the merits" of action or, even worse, be forced to "grow a pair" and make a plan themselves. In order for the Simpson-Bowles plan to have worked, it would have had to make cuts in spending AND raise tax rates in roughly equal proportions in order to be bipartisan. But bipartisan it most certainly is not.

The draft report makes a lot of cuts in spending, and even tinkers with social security. But it fails to make tax increases. In fact, as Paul Krugman points out, the goals of tax reform according to the report are primarily to lower tax rates across the board. Deficit reduction, what I thought was the whole purpose of this commission, is relegated to an afterthought. While it lowers the tax rate for the poor from 10% to 8%, it lowers the tax rate for the rich from 35% to 23%. That's two percent for the poor and 12% for the rich.

The commission, ostensibly all about deficit reduction, also fails to talk seriously about the rise in the cost of health care, which is the reason that Medicare and Medicaid expenditures will rise sharply in the future. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones makes the point that any deficit reducing commission without a proposal to deal with Medicare and Medicaid cannot be taken seriously, becuase it isn't federal employee salaries or admission prices to the National Zoo that's causing our future debt problem.

I would like the full commission to keep one key tax increase in the proposal: the gas tax. It is a tax that is badly in need of not only an increase, but also to be indexed to the actual price of gas so that it can do what it was intended to do: pay for highways without an expenditure from the general treasury. It's an idea whose time, I hope, has finally come, for more than just personal reasons.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Script Font and Republican Women

The three campaign signs/emblems above all share a few things in common. All three were election signs I saw over and over in the runup to the election. All three candidates (Mary Fallin for governor, Janet Barresi for state schools superintendent, and Sharon Parker for state senate district 16) are women. All three are Oklahomans. All three are Republicans. And all three use a script font for their first names.

I have a tendency to pay attention to yard signs. I like noticing the color combinations of signs, and I commend those who use colors other than red, white and blue. I like examining the candidates' choices of fonts. We had two district judges in Norman this year who used an all-caps Gotham font with a blue background, consciously evoking the campaign signage of Barack Obama. So I took notice when I saw yard signs for the above campaigns that featured script font, which is an unusual font for campaign signage.

Yard signs generally try to convey a simple message with words: candidate name, office the candidate is running for, and occasionally party affiliation. Everything else on the sign is meant to convey a characteristic that the candidate is going for: bold, strong, effective leader, patriot, statesman. This is why few campaign signs stray from red, white and blue colors, and even fewer stray from strong easily-readible fonts. But the Fallin, Barresi and Parker campaigns strayed from the norm and used script font. Script font gives the impression of femininity and elegance, which can be a nice change of pace in a genre that tends to reward masculinity and bluntness.

Mary Fallin and Janet Barresi were matched up against Democratic women: Jari Askins and Susan Paddack. Neither of their Democratic opponents used script font on their yard signs, although from the picture to the right, it does appear that Susan Paddack had some kind of script font thing for her first name on larger signs, although it's so tiny I don't know why she bothered.

Republican Sharon Parker's opponent was male (he didn't use script font), but running for the state house seat in Norman was female Democrat Emily Virgin. Virgin also refrained from script font. Did they not feel the need to convey to voters their femininity?

This got me thinking: are Republican women more likely to use script font than Democratic women? The answer: yes!

Republican Sharron Angle, candidate for U.S. Senate in Nevada, used an array of fonts on her signs, but her first name is in a script font on top of her angled "ANGLE".

Republican Jan Brewer, governor of Arizona, scripts the "Jan".

Republican Carly Fiorina, candidate for senator in California, did not use a script font, but she does use a skinny-letter lowercase sans serif that conveys the image of "fashion magazine".

Republican Kristi Noem, congresswoman-elect from South Dakota, uses a very modern fashionable font for her name, but girlies up the "for Congress" part of her sign. I found quite a few campaign signs that had a script font for the "for" part of their sign, which was used by both Democrats and Republicans, but no one else had the balls to use script font for "Congress".

Washington Republicans - congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers's signs feature the name "Cathy" scrawled across the top half of the sign. This photograph found on McMorris Rodgers's website features two other Republicans with script font, senate candidate Dino Rossi and some county commissioner named Mark Richards. This picture must have been taken in the 2008 campaign, because Dino Rossi is listed as running for governor and not senator. He has since changed and modernized his typography.

I can't find any other examples of script type face in political signage from this most recent election, but I think it's strange that it's Republican women who are almost exclusively the candidates to use it. By no means are script-font-users the majority among women candidates or even Republican women candidates, but I would like to know why there are more Republicans who use it than Democrats.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Friday Post: the Red Shift of 2010

In 2006, Republicans were melons being evaluated for ripeness. In 2010, Democrats were given a floor treatment to seal out moisture. But instead of accepting the defeat and moving on, some Democrats are finding small victories on which to console themselves. Ooh, many (not all) of the Tenthers (Republicans who think that most things the federal government does is unconstitutional) lost! Hey, Jim Inhofe said Republicans were going to control the U.S. Senate. Joke's on you! The Tea Party actually cost Republicans control of the Senate! And look, now we don't have to worry about pacifying those pesky blue dogs anymore!

No, all of that stuff isn't important. The 2010 midterms showed that the country was unhappy with Democrats generally. The top two issues were the economy and the new federal health care law. We lost because the economy sucks and people are scared of Obamacare.

Here's the actual good news for Democrats: the economy will get better, and most of the health care provisions will be tough to repeal. The economy is already getting better, as evidenced by this morning's jobs report. The results until now had been less noticeable because it is harder to perceive benefit from a saved job as it does from a created job, even though they both take the same amount of capitalistic energy.

And as we've all heard, the individual provisions of the health care law poll much better than the comprehensive, easy-to-slander whole. Lawmakers will tinker with it, because that's what lawmakers do. But now that it is law, it will be very difficult to find enough votes to take away key provisions like policy rescision, college students on parents plans, and the closing of the prescription plan doughnut hole. And if future speaker John Boehner is serious about closing the deficit, he won't be able to rescind or delay the mishmash of taxes and spending cuts that make Obamacare a net surplus for the country. Two years of legislative dominance for Democrats clearly wasn't enough, but it's not like those two years didn't bear any Progressive fruit.

And now that the Republicans have gained a chamber of Congress, they will have more stake in governing. They won't be able to simply snipe from well-secured positions in the bunkers of Fox News anymore.

Perhaps the best news of all: Republicans don't actually control much. President Obama still wields executive control and with it a veto pen. Harry Reid will amazingly still be majority leader of the Senate and will use his power to schedule bills for a floor vote like Project Runway contestants use the wall: thoughtfully. Most likely any successful legislation that comes out of the House of Representatives will have to be either a) moderate, or b) mostly irrelevant. Which means sweeping legislative change is probably out for the next two years. And if it leads to questions like "what the fuck has Obama done so far?", well, there's a website that can answer that.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Vote for the Chicken!

I was looking at my sample ballot today from the Cleveland County Election Board website so I could get a handle on the myriad statewide races that I have not bothered to look into yet.
First thing I noticed was the choice between the flying eagle (Republicans) and the strutting chicken (Democrats) for the straight party voting option. In almost every other state, the official image for the Democratic Party is the donkey. Oklahoma is one of only a few states to use a rooster as the Democrats' symbol, which apparently has a long and storied history that I read about here. As we are a change-averse state, it doesn't surprise me to see an icon from a different time still surviving on our ballots.

Anyway, here are the choices for elected offices on my sample ballot.

Mary Fallin - Republican
Jari Askins - Democrat

The highest profile of all the races, I won't waste time talking about them here.

My vote: Askins

Lieutenant Governor:
Todd Lamb - Republican
Kenneth Corn - Democrat
Richard Prawdzienski - Independent

Todd Lamb and Kenneth Corn are both in the state legislature. Richard Prawdzienski is actually a Libertarian. In an Oklahoma Gazette profile, Corn emphasized jobs, education, and lobbying reform, while Lamb emphasized jobs, economic development and tort reform. In a League of Women Voters profile, Prawdzienski emphasized limited government, business creativity and liquor store reform. Corkscrews for the people!

My vote: Corn, but without much enthusiasm.

State Auditor and Inspector:
Gary Jones - Republican
Steve Burrage - Democrat

Steve Burrage is the incumbent State Auditor, having been nominated by Brad Henry to fill a vacancy caused by corruption charges. Steve Burrage got the endorsement from Brad Henry, of course, but also from the Daily Oklahoman, a newspaper whose editorial board usually recommends Republicans. His challenger is Gary Jones, who has unsuccessfully run for this office two other times. Apparently this campaign is nasty, according to Jones and the Republican news site The McCarville Report. Among Jones's claims is that Burrage said he was thrown out of office by the voters. Jones retorts that he merely lost an election. Hmm.

My vote: Burrage. If a Democrat can get an endorsement from the Oklahoma, they must be doing something right.

Attorney General:
Scott Pruitt - Republican
Jim Priest - Democrat

My vote: Priest.

State Treasurer:
Ken Miller - Republican
Stephen E Covert - Democrat

How unfortunate for the Democrats to have a candidate named Covert. If they try to donate to his campaign, the headlines will surely read "Democrats Fund Covert Operation". Perhaps a lack of funding explains why Covert's official website looks like a Geocities page from 1996. Ken Miller, a state legislator, is well-funded and has a professional website proclaiming his dislike for spending of any kind, and he will let his conservative values guide him. Current state treasurer Scott Meachem, a Democrat, is not running for another term and has endorsed Miller, a Republican. But Stephen E. Covert is the only one to point out the constitutional limitations on the office of the treasurer, pointing out that his opponent is going around acting like he can make policy. And Covert is, as he puts it, the only CPA in the race, even if his low-technology style does give his official campaign photo a passing resemblence to the stapler guy from Office Space. Can't you just picture Covert fondling a Swingline in his left hand?

My vote: Covert

Superintendent of Public Instruction
Janet Barresi - Republican
Susan Paddack - Democrat
Richard E Cooper - Independent

Barresi is the founder of two successful charter schools and is also a dentist. Paddack is a state senator from Ada and a former science teacher. Cooper is an educator also from Ada. Barresi is for expansion of charter schools, testing reform, and local control of schools. She is adamantly opposed to State Question 744, although she does misrepresent its accountability measures (Barresi thinks there will be no invoice telling how the money is spent, but one of the few things SQ 744 does mandate is that there will be a report published telling how the money is spent). Paddack is hard to pin down. She has refused to take an official position on SQ 744. Cooper is all for SQ 744. According to this Oklahoma Gazette profile, none of them seem to have a response to the perceived exodus of teachers to other higher-paying states (Paddack: Please stay! Barresi: We'll get rid of some onerous rules for you. Cooper: We'll get creative about job titles.) I heard part of a debate among the three candidates this past week as I was waiting for a tow truck to show up, and I found Paddack and Barresi to be well-spoken and assured, even though it was still hard to determine exactly what Paddack was for. For what it's worth, Paddack has the endorsement of Brad Henry and the Norman Transcript, while Barresi has the endorsement of Senator Jim Inhofe and the Oklahoman.

I think there are lots of reasons to vote for any of these candidates. I like Barresi's "research-based" strategies and her openness to merit pay for teachers, but I also like the fact that Paddack is less likely to be in favor of vouchers and "local control". It seems that conservatives really like Barresi, which I think is enough to turn me to voting for Susan Paddack.

Commissioner of Labor
Mark Costello - Republican
Lloyd L Fields - Democrat

Lloyd Fields famously ended up in the detox center in Oklahoma City after a night where he "attempted to steal a professional bull rider's guitar". He also has been sued for "political harassment" and back child support. Republican Mark Costello has jumped all over this story. He got the professional bull rider to support him. He made a Jib-Jab-like video of all of the rest of Fields' misdeeds. And he even found time to record a jingle for himself to the tune of Mellow Yellow, with the lyrics "Vote for Mark Costello (labor commish!)/ He's the right fellow (that's right!)". What this all has to do with the Department of Labor, I don't really know. The Norman Transcript supports neither candidate.

My vote: Costello

Insurance Commissioner
John Doak - Republican
Kim Holland - Democrat

Kim Holland, the only Democrat to be leading in the polls for statewide office, is more of an independent than a liberal. She is racking up endorsements from all over the political spectrum, including the right-leaning Daily Oklahoman (her website* lists them all). John Doak is obsessed with getting rid of the new federal health care law. He has joined a federal lawsuit against it. He has made an ad where all he does is talk about how much it removes choice. He is spearheading a yes on State Question 756 campaign (the one that says no to ObamaCare). He has even tied Holland to Obama in another ad (She was a delegate! How awful!).

My vote: Holland

*Note: If you're stumbling around online for information about the race for insurance commissioner, perhaps while making a blog post, don't decide to bypass the convenient Google search toolbar in the upper right corner of your screen and type in instead to see if there's anything there. Because there is something there, and it is incredibly NSFW.

U.S. Senator
Tom Coburn - Republican
Jim Rogers - Democrat
Stephen P. Wallace - Independent
Ronald F. Dwyer - Independent

I'm not going to vote for Tom Coburn, so this section will be about all those other guys. Today I ran across a piece written for by Josh Fruhlinger, who also happens to run another of my favorite sites, the Comics Curmudgeon. The Wonkette piece is entitled "Grizzled Old Coot Will Be Oklahoma's Next Democratic Senator". Among the many theories about how Jim Rogers, the White Alvin Greene, got to be the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate was that voters may have thought he was related to Will Rogers.

Jim Rogers is not in fact related to Will Rogers, although he is like Will Rogers in that he doesn’t have a website. But who needs a website when you have an enormous sign that you can hold up in the direction of oncoming traffic — a sign that, as near as we can tell, declares that “US MILITARY PD TINKER AFB USPS VETERANS FDX UPS TAX PAYERS OHP TRUCKERS OPE [...] CHURCH?”

As for the other two candidates, they both appear to be conservative Republicans in disguise. Tulsan Stephen P. Wallace actually has a website: he is for abolishing the "death/estate tax", a "fiscal freeze" on all federal branches of government, and "Constitutional Amendment for Balance the Budget." Ronald F. Dwyer, another Tulsan, is even more mysterious and, if possible, more grammatically incorrect. I have scoured the internet for some record of this Ronald F. Dwyer person, and all I can find is this statement he gave to the Oklahoma Prosperity Project, an organization tied to the Chamber of Commerce.

I have a program to be put into federal law that can increase the monthly income by $4,000+ of every man, woman and child in Oklahoma; Every business, company, organization, church, charity, etc. My program will eliminate unemployment, welfare programs, etc. My program will provide a new way to finance government (at all levels) by helping people make money instead of taxing (taking money) from the people. 'Welcome to the Golden Age!'

Oklahoma does not allow anyone to write in a candidate for office, unlike most other states. This proves to be a problem for me in this U.S. Senate race. I'm not going to vote for Coburn, Dwyer or Wallace, and I don't want to reward Jim Rogers for lucking into the Democratic nomination. I may just leave this one blank.

Judicial Retention

Supreme Court
Stephen W. Taylor
James R. Winchester

Both of these men are highly qualified. Taylor is a Brad Henry nominee, and Winchester is a Frank Keating nominee. I'm going to vote to retain both.

Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals

Deborah Barnes
Doug Gabbard III
John Fischer
Larry E. Joplin

Muskogee Politico
, a right-wing blog, suggests voting no on retention of these judges because they were appointed by Democratic governors, and their vacancies would be filled by Mary Fallin, presumptive governor-elect. This is the reason I am going to vote to retain all four of these judges.

State Senator, District 16
Sharon Parker - Republican
John Sparks - Democrat

My vote: Sparks

State Representative, District 44
Kent Hunt - Republican
Emily Virgin - Democrat

My vote: Virgin

County Treasurer
Jim Reynolds - Republican
Mona Nelson - Democrat

The Norman Transcript has an article about this race
. Mona Nelson is a deputy county treasurer with 25 years of relevant experience. Reynolds is a state senator who is campaigning on being a conservative, and he hopes you'll agree with him that we need conservatives in all parts of the government.

My vote: Nelson

County Commissioner, District 3
Rusty Sullivan - Republican
Jim Robertson - Democrat

The Norman Transcript also has an article about this race. Jim Robertson, a "graduate of life experience," is challenging Commissioner Rusty Sullivan, a Republican with endorsements from local Republicans and some local Democrats. Jim Robertson wants to stand up to unspecified "men in suits" responsible for certain misdeeds in the county. Both men want to build roads.

My vote: Sullivan

District Judges

Tracy Schumacher
Jonathan Nichols

Norman Transcript article.

Schumacher has experience as a defense attorney. This simple fact has caused her to be labeled "soft on crime" by Nichols, a Republican state senator. But this world needs more defense attorneys as judges.

My vote: Schumacher

Greg Dixon
John Mantooth

Norman Transcript article.

Mantooth is able to self finance most of his campaign. Dixon was a former football player for Barry Switzer. Neither of these facts really sway me that much.

My vote: Dixon

Jeff Harley Bryant
Tom Lucas

Norman Transcript article.

Lucas has apparently been there for a long time and is competent and well-liked.

My vote: Lucas

Charles L. Broadway
Lori Walkley

Norman Transcript article.

Charles Broadway has been adding little stickers to his signs all over town stating that he is the "true conservative".

My vote: Walkley