ANOTHER day, another pointless protest along the route of the Keystone XL pipeline's southern leg. Meantime, Americans remain supportive of the more controversial northern leg.
Protesters in Oklahoma (but not necessarily from Oklahoma) this week continued their childish antics of fastening themselves to construction equipment, getting arrested for it and — no doubt — tweeting about their heroics. Monday's protest came on the final day of the U.S. State Department's formal comment period for the project.
Also this week, the Environmental Protection Agency weighed in with the dog-bites-man news that it has major concerns about Keystone's link between Cushing and Canada's vast oil sands reserves. And a survey was released showing that nearly 75 percent of Americans support the project. This exceeds the 68 percent support registered in Canada.
While the Obama administration continues to dawdle on the northern leg, the route from Cushing to the Gulf Coast has the blessing of Barack Obama himself. He made a campaign stop near Cushing last year to announce his approval of the project. Yet the protesters keep showing up in southern Oklahoma to take a stand.
This week marked the fifth such effort. One protester said he came from Ames, Iowa, to defend the Red River. Really? Defend it from what? A Texas invasion?
The remark illustrates the mindlessness of this effort. Irrelevant comparisons to a pipeline break in Arkansas are about the only thing the protesters have going for them. We suggest that the Iowan head home and help defend Mississippi River towns from an extant flooding threat.
That would be productive and heroic.
If at first ...
Persistence can be a virtue, especially for those serving in the Legislature. Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, is proving that with legislation to strengthen oversight of school volunteers. House Bill 2228, the “Protect Against Pedophiles Act,” has now passed both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the state Senate. Under the bill, schools could have the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation conduct a criminal background check of all adult school volunteers. The district or the volunteer would pay for the review. Dorman authored a similar measure in 2012 that easily passed the House (where only three lawmakers opposed it), but was then killed in the Senate on a 27-13 vote. HB 2228 must still clear several more legislative hurdles, but this appears to be a good idea that is sadly necessary to protect children. Dorman is to be commended for continuing to work on this issue.
Maybe next year (then again ...)
Oklahoma House leadership clearly wants nothing to do with banning texting while driving. This week the House tabled a ban that came in an amendment to a bill dealing with penalties for reckless driving. Rep. Curtis McDaniel, D-Smithville, originally introduced a texting ban bill that passed through a House committee but wasn't heard on the floor. He also tried unsuccessfully to add the ban as an amendment to another bill. On Tuesday, three tries to get anti-texting language added to legislation were rejected. One would have limited the ban to places like school zones and work zones, and even that got shot down. Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, is among those opposed to banning driving and texting, and so Oklahoma remains one of just 11 states that haven't cracked down on this dangerous and omnipresent practice.
President Barack Obama claims he's for “balanced” deficit reduction that relies on the rich paying just a little more. It turns out Obama defines “rich” to include those earning less than $10,000 annually, based on an analysis of his latest budget proposal by the Tax Policy Center. The center found Americans at all income levels would face 2015 tax increases under Obama's plan — which, we must point out, still fails to balance the budget even with $1.1 trillion in tax increases over a decade. Obama's plan includes a tobacco tax increase, which would fall disproportionately on the poor. While those earning between $50,000 and $200,000 would see after-tax income decline one-tenth of 1 percent, the center estimates those earning less than $50,000 would see after-tax income decline by two and three times that amount. Who knew Obama considered a welfare recipient with a cigarette the equivalent of John Rockefeller?
Two dead but famous Oklahomans are headed home, one literally and the other artistically. The body of athlete Jim Thorpe will be moved from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma if a son prevails in a legal challenge to the removal. In Tulsa, a daughter of Woody Guthrie is among those on hand for this weekend's opening of a center that will house Guthrie's archives. Thorpe and Guthrie were born in Oklahoma but achieved their fame after leaving the state. Unlike Thorpe, Guthrie was underappreciated in his home state because of his political leanings. This has changed. Thorpe has always been an exemplar of athletic prowess, but his widow nixed plans for his burial here in 1953. Sixty years later, he's coming “home” unless the legal challenge stops it. Thorpe should rest on Indian lands. Guthrie fans should plan a visit to the center in downtown Tulsa.
All worked up about ALEC
A two-day conference in Oklahoma City by the American Legislative Exchange Council has local Democrats lathered up. To show their disgust, they're planning a protest downtown beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday, the first day of the ALEC conference. Scheduled speakers include state Reps. Richard Morrissette and Anastasia Pittman, and state Sen. Connie Johnson, liberal stalwarts from Oklahoma City. Attendees are being encouraged to “stop the corporate takeover of our state capitols.” Organizers have labeled this event a “Working Family Rally and March for the Middle Class.” It'll be interesting to see the turnout, given the way Oklahoma's working families and middle class voters marched to the polls in November and solidly rejected the Democratic Party.
An ugly snapshot
The recent death of a 7-month-old boy in Del City has a storyline that, sadly, is all too familiar in Oklahoma. The boy had been badly beaten, with bruising to his abdominal area. X-rays showed separation to the bowel in the abdominal cavity. Paramedics said when they arrived to transport him to the hospital, the infant's limbs had turned blue and he couldn't lift his head. Now facing a homicide complaint is the boy's mother, who is 14 years old. The girl told police she lost her temper and threw the baby into his crib. The father? He's 15. Oklahoma's high rates of teen pregnancies and unwed mothers contribute to any number of other social ills. This is an example of that to the nth degree.
President Obama promised that under the Affordable Care Act, “If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.” But that promise isn't true even for government workers. Washington state officials are considering a proposal to shift state workers out of their current health plans and into those offered through Obamacare exchanges. Because pay for many of those employees is low enough to qualify for federal subsidies, the shift would “save” Washington state government $120 million over two years, shifting costs to federal taxpayers instead. Other states are expected to do the same. The plans offered through exchanges are expected to have more limited provider networks than traditional insurance, so this is hardly a boon to state workers. It's just one more instance where Obamacare is exacerbating problems in health insurance instead of solving them, and shifting costs instead of lowering them.