151 Band

Friday, November 07, 2014

How Safe Are We Really?

I had the honor of working with then Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode on her Congressional campaign and at first, a lot of the topics, the discussions were a little over my head.  Denise is one of those people who is probably too intelligent for her own good, so it took a bit for me to catch up.  However, one of the topics of conversation that recurred regularly was that of "critical infrastructure."  It began to make sense, the picture came into focus and a bright, happy "a-ha" moment followed.  
  1. Critical infrastructure is a term used by governments to describe assets that are essential for the functioning of a society and economy. Most commonly associated with the term are facilities for: electricity generation, transmission and distribution...
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission regulates about 80% of the Oklahoma economy, yet is one of the most overlooked departments in government - unless, of course, you're in the oil and gas industry.  The Corporation Commission has been warning the Legislature for a very long time about needed improvements and safety measures for Oklahoma's critical infrastructure - oil and gas pipeline distribution networks, power transmission lines, etc. but for some reason it just hasn't stuck.  And then, I saw an article this week that not only reminded me of Denise Bode (the head of the American Wind Energy Association now), but her words reverberated in my head and made me ask just how safe we are today, really.

The story was circulating in Washington about malware Trojan horses being used by Russia to potentially attack our critical infrastructure, but in energy producing states like Oklahoma and Texas, there was very little talk about it - if any at all.  Certainly one could expect a candidate for public office at least pretend to address the issue, but sadly, there was nothing.  

States like Oklahoma and Texas must wake up to the reality that there are super bad guys out there who will target our transmission infrastructure and basically cripple us as a nation.  We have become wickedly dependent upon electronics, electric gadgetry and were we to lose access, we would run around like a bunch of chickens with our heads cut off.  It's time to get our legislators to at least discuss this topic and propose some ideas as to how we can improve and prepare for just such an attack.

Denise Bode lost her bid for Congress to now Governor Mary Fallin, and she went on to head up the American Clean Skies Foundation and now, at the American Wind Energy Association.  Her words are ringing true today and we had damned well better pay attention.  Like Denise or not, she was and is right on this issue.

Of course, that's just my opinion and I could be wrong.  But I seriously doubt it.

Ron "Gorilla" Black

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Down At the Political Crossroads

GOP Congressional candidates campaigned on restoring Constitutional consistency, on providing "conservative" answers to President Obama's "failed policies."  Well, according to an article on NewsOk.com, these same Republicans are preparing to work and reach compromises with the Administration they just a few days ago ripped to shreds.  Representative Tom Cole, ever the statesman, provides his always centrist position as stated in the article:
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, who sailed to a seventh term on Tuesday, said, “Voters are going to keep firing people until we can work together. I don’t think they’re very patient with any of us right now, either party or either party’s leadership.”
While I would argue that voters are going to continue to fire people who are willing to compromise and break all of their campaign promises, it's understandable that Cole desires a peaceful arbitration with an otherwise hostile, lame duck Administration.  But it is rather revealing, isn't it?  Here's another gem from the statesman:
Also, Cole said, Congress could give the president more authority to make trade deals. Cole said Obama was not going to repeal the Affordable Care Act but that some changes could be made, including repeal of the tax on medical devices and a change in the way full-time workers are defined.
I am officially confused.  I thought the President was generally incapable of making meaningful decisions in the best interest of this nation and its future, but Cole is saying that Congress could give this President MORE authority to make trade deals?  Really?  What the hell are we missing, kids?  What in the hell did these Republicans campaign on and why is there such willingness to cast aside the hard line stances taken while on the campaign trail only 24 hours after the election?  

Congress has about a 10% approval rating, but we retain about 90% of them.  What in the hell is the EPA putting in our water?

In all seriousness, Tom Cole has built his political reputation on being a statesman and is by far one of the best interviews I ever had on WKY - he doesn't shy away from questions and he has a great voice and understanding of soundbites.   Cole's desire is to see things work in Washington, to avoid gridlock and to actually accomplish something meaningful and shouldn't be faulted for that.  I like Congressman Cole and I believe that he serves his 4th District constituency very well, but I just disagree with his willingness to compromise this early in the game.

And then, there's Senator-elect James "the Baptist" Lankford.  Read this part of Casteel's story very, very closely.
Lankford said that would be a mistake, that the U.S. Constitution was framed to require the legislative and executive branches to have their respective roles. The president has been far too reluctant to engage on legislation and far too ready to issue executive orders, Lankford said.
“You can’t do this solo,’’ he said. “If he continues to do that, it sets a bad principle for where we’re going.”
"Sets a bad principle for where we're going."  Tough words?  Not so much.  It's tantamount to a parent telling his/her child that if they keep acting up, they are going to continue to be told not to act up, damn it.  Look, Congress has dropped the ball on immigration issues and continues to drop the ball and part of the reason is limp wristed responses like Lankford's to the Administration's complete lack of concern for the Constitution.  

I'll say it again: Congress has dropped the ball on immigration and the issue SHOULD be handled by Congress.  But do you really want to know why there's nothing but rhetoric on this issue rather than action?  Here it is in a nutshell:

Republican Chamber types don't want real reform because big business gets cheap labor.  Democrats don't want change because illegal immigrants add to their voting base and will continue to do so.

Down at the Crossroads...
Senator-elect Lankford is a swell, guy, I'm sure.  We elected him to Congress where he did nothing about immigration and now, in the Senate, he'll do the same.  So, the next time you hear blather about compromise and "shame on you" stump speeches, remember exactly what they've said when the next election cycle comes along.  

It's understandable that everyone wants to get along on the playground that is Washington D.C., but it does make one wonder if there isn't a Crossroads Demon lurking somewhere...

That's just my opinion, and I could be wrong.  But I seriously doubt it.

Ron "Gorilla" Black


Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Election Result Hangover

If you were looking for upsets in the state of Oklahoma on election night, you probably went to bed not feeling so good.  On a Judicial level, there were a few minor tremors, but nothing earth shattering.  So, let's take a look, shall we?

Governor Mary Fallin defeated former State Representative Joe Dorman in a race that was a little closer than  most pundits imagined.  I believed that Fallin would win by at least 20 points and that is not because of anything horribly wrong about Joe Dorman, but rather because Governor Fallin's campaign staff are some of the best in the business and they simply don't lose.  Joe made some mistakes, to be sure - like having a staff of relative newbies to the statewide political game, young people with a ton of energy but not a lot of experience. When facing a formidable opponent like Governor Fallin, without the best of the best, you're showing up to a gun fight with a spaghetti noodle.

Lt. Governor
Todd Lamb defeated Cathy Cummings.  No surprise.  At all.  Except that she garnered 30% of the vote.  In four years, look for Lt. Governor Lamb run for the Governor's Mansion. 

Superintendent of Public Instruction
Joy Hofmeister fought a hell of a fight against the outgoing Superintendent and faced a pretty tough opponent, however, her biggest opponent was really the negative press that her consulting firm received.  When Chad Alexander got arrested, the media was quick to jump all over it and they hung it around her neck.  And then there's the ethics investigation by the District Attorney...who knows where that will end up?  Her Democratic opponent ran a pretty clean race, and only brought up the issues that the media had already addressed.  It was a tight race for much of the evening, but she pulled it out in the end.  And yes, she is super attractive.  That didn't hurt her at all.

Labor Commissioner
Snooze City.  Costello (R) defeated a morbidly under funded Workman.  This race is emblematic of the problems in the Oklahoma Democratic Party.  The Democrats on a national level have pretty much written off Oklahoma as the northernmost suburb of Texas and just isn't financially supporting the party enough for Democratic candidates to gain any traction in statewide elections.  This is an indicator of things to come for the Oklahoma Democratic Party.  In order for the ODP to maintain any sense of relevancy in Oklahoma, it must embrace its Blue Dog roots, otherwise they may as well close up shop.

A Republican sweep in Oklahoma.  If you are surprised by that, you're an idiot and probably can't read this anyway.  It is significant to note that for the first time in God knows how long, Oklahoma has sent a Veteran to Washington rather than some entitled career politician - and we've sent a war veteran.  Perhaps now we can see some movement where revitalizing the Veteran's Administration is concerned. 

U.S. Senate
Senator Inhofe won, again, and replacing Tom Coburn is none other than James Lankford.  One can only hope that he's more effective in the Senate than he was in the U.S. House.  Senator-elect Lankford is a nice man and he received a lot of support from the Oklahoma GOP - just as he did in his House race. 

The one race that I watched for the Bench was that of Judge Roger Stuart.  Stuart narrowly defeated Amy Palumbo by 1% of the vote - and no doubt the Palumbo camp will ask for a recount.  Stuart was and is one hell of a good Judge.  He handled one of the toughest courtrooms in all of Oklahoma - the Juvenile Court.  Tragic stories, one after another, and this man handled it with grace and common sense.  Why Palumbo even ran against him is a mystery. 

What did we learn?
The electorate is really, really pissed off at this administration and it looks like the GOP Congressional victories are evidence therein.  For a President whose administration saw the killing of Bin Laden, it's unbelievable the backlash that has been unleashed in Washington.  And yes, this mid-term election was and is to be considered somewhat of a referendum.  2016 is going to be wickedly entertaining.

We also learned that Oklahoma is still, and will continue to be, a very red state.  The GOP owns this place and will continue to for the foreseeable future. The GOP inertia was begun by Gary Jones, and under his leadership, the Republicans took the State House for the first time in like a million years and after him, Matt Pinnell rode the wave and helped even more candidates see victories in otherwise Democratic districts.

What can we expect?
You can expect another push at hardcore tort reform.  You can also expect to see another push to change the worker's compensation laws.  And of course, there'll be more pro-Jesus legislation to come out of the House because of the number of pastors or wives of pastors who reside there.  We can also expect to see one hell of a push by the State Chamber to quiet the voices who have strongly advocated for immigration reform on a state level - the big guns of the Chamber membership consider that to be no bueno (for obvious reasons).  

You can NOT expect to see any movement toward ballot access or legalization of medical marijuana.  Even though the uber-conservative Colorado (home of Focus on the Family) has legalized marijuana, don't expect the Sooner State to do so anytime soon.  If Oklahoma were to do something as radical as that, the earth would probably stop spinning on its axis and Pastor Paul Blair would convert to Catholicism - neither are very likely.

Ron "Gorilla" Black

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

These Truths...

Truth is truth and no matter how we try to mask it, cover it up, dress it up and put lipstick on it, we can't avoid that reality.  For me, there are some realities in politics that hold true and cannot ever be disputed.  The following is a compilation of truths that for me, cannot be argued nor will I ever be moved away from them.

Evil exists in all parties.  Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and Libertarians have both good and bad in their parties.  When we try to label someone predicated on their political party affiliation, we make ourselves out to be idiots.  I once had a zealot Republican tell me that no matter what, he would vote for a Republican over a Democrat.  To me, that's just plain stupid.  And you know what they say...you can't fix stupid.

Single-issue candidates will always cause more problems than they will solve.  As a pro-life individual who has come full circle on the issue of the death penalty, I see candidates whose only talking point is that of abortion.  Or guns.  Or immigration.  Or Obamacare.  These are people from whom we must keep a safe distance because they are usually completely ignorant on the other issues that impact us on a daily basis.  Like the tax code.

Political consultants are a big problem.  I say this because I have consulted on a number of successful campaigns, yet I have seen some exceptionally dark personalities permeate the fabric of the Oklahoma political scene.  It's all about cash flow for these bottom-feeding creatures who parade candidates out there, let them get shot at, meanwhile they hide behind the "I'm just a consultant" mantra.  Beware of these men and women.

Real world experience matters.  There was an independent candidate for Congress a few years back that represented everything I believe in for a political candidate.  A Navy SEAL, an inventor, a patent holder, a small business owner and a fiscal conservative.  He chose to run as an Independent because he saw the corruption in the GOP political apparatus and didn't want to be a part of it.  Sadly, he was convinced to drop out of the race before the public really got to know him.  He had real world experience that would have served Oklahoma well, but instead, well...you know the rest of the story.

The two party system in Oklahoma is ridiculous.  We have heard the arguments about the cost of opening up the election process to more than the two parties we have now, blah blah blah.  But every couple of years, we really don't get much of a choice and the arrogance of party leadership on either side of the aisle to exclude even Libertarians is appalling.  It's time to fix that.

So, there you have it.  A thumbnail sketch of my general thoughts on politics.  We are in the middle of one great big mess in this country as well as in this state.  We can fix it, we can solve these problems.  We just have to sack up and tell the status quo to kiss our collective asses.

Ron "Gorilla" Black

Election Day Blues and Tuesday Tackiness

Election Blues
We have been given an amazing right in this country to cast a vote for those who will lead/serve us as government employees - and let's make sure that we understand it correctly:  They are government employees.  Period.  Many have come before us to lay down their lives for this incredible right and freedom to cast our vote, but when we really look at the field of candidates I find myself wondering if this is what our Founding Fathers really had in mind.

I would argue, probably not.

Career politicians who have made the cut long before the ugliness of campaigns tarnished their initial entrance into this disaster called "politics," want-to-be career politicians who have no real world experience whatsoever in the private sector, and religious zealots who have forgotten that the Constitution has never been before any Council and deemed to be canon.  It's a disaster, it's a mess, and it's a mess that we can fix - if we really cared enough to fix the mess.  But we don't.

And that's okay too.  Being part of a free society affords us the right to vote or not to vote, to elect douchebags or not to elect douchebags.  The difficulty lies in our ability to determine what individual candidates are one or the other.  During the campaign, candidates often portray themselves as saintly little angels who are running for elective office simply to improve our quality of life and fight for freedom.  But behind the scenes, and more accurately once they are elected, they are ravenous piles of flesh eating bacteria whose only goal is to protect their own asses.  One only need look at the number of Oklahoma's term-limited legislators who run for other offices such as County jobs or even statewide posts just to maintain that connection to the taxpayer teat.

But I digress.

Housing Alarms
When I worked with the Trinity Foundation on the Oklahoma Project, one of the causal factors for the project itself was this unimaginable problem with affordable housing.  The Trinity Foundation (unfortunately best known for investigations of fraudulent televangelists) determined that for every homeless person or family, there exists a church, mosque or synagogue in this country.  Now, with those numbers in mind, if each of those faith communities took in one family or person, provided adequate housing, transportation and even a chance for work, homelessness as we know it today would be eradicated - something we read about in our history books.  Now, there will always be the chronically transient, but it is significant that the problem itself could be so impacted.

And we haven't even begun to discuss the number of veterans who are struggling with housing issues.  The VA tries, the Salvation Army tries, but unless you're a drug addict, severely medicated, chronically transient, or have a drinking problem, it's not as though you're going to be at the head of the class.  The process is horrific and intensely slow and God help you if you're marginally coherent and need help.  In essence, bend over because you're about to be f...

I've recently had experiences to ensure that it is solidified in my brain that housing is and will continue to be an issue impacting the problem of poverty.  And the problem isn't going away anytime soon.  The cost for multifamily housing is increasing, the cost for utilities are increasing and the deposits alone can preclude the poorest among us from obtaining adequate housing.  And this whole "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mantra that has been adopted by my political party (GOP), is bullshit.  It's an excuse to ignore the problem and do nothing about it themselves.  But that's a whole different topic...

Well, those are my thoughts for the day.  Get out and vote.  Or don't.  It's your choice.