CALIFORNIANS may vote in two years on a proposal to split the Golden State into six parts, each with its own capital and congressional delegation. Even if the measure passed, Washington would have to approve it — which isn’t likely.
Periodic rumblings have been heard about splitting Texas into multiple states or parts of Oklahoma joining parts of Kansas and Texas in a separate state. Won’t happen. In Scotland, though, it is happening. A vote on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom is set for Sept. 18. Polling shows no clear favorite for an outcome.
Separatism movements are also alive and well in other parts of Europe, including Spain. There, a vote may take place later this year on separating Catalonia from the rest of the country. Catalonia is already a semi-autonomous region with its own capital, Barcelona. Spain’s prime minister, Mariana Rajoy, opposes the vote.
USA Today reported this week on other separation anxiety. Activists in the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium are hot to trot out their own country by jettisoning the French-speaking part. Rumblings are also being heard in northern Italy about splitting off from the southern part of the boot.
There’s a name for this trend. It’s Balkanization, or breaking a larger region into several smaller ones. That’s what happened in 1993 when Czechoslovakia was spliced into two countries.
California has passed this way before. Geopolitically, it was once two regions under Spanish rule — Alta California (north) and Baja California (south). Alta California’s territory ended up comprising parts of present-day California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
Gun cleanup on aisle six
The efforts of gun-control advocates are becoming increasingly lame. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America now wants Kroger supermarkets to expressly forbid customers from legally carrying a firearm in a store. The group’s pressure tactics consist mostly of social media postings and occasional protests. But Kroger already has a gun policy: Its stores operate in compliance with state and local gun laws. Basically, people allowed to legally carry a weapon are legally allowed to carry a weapon in Kroger. That seems to have worked well, because there’s been no rash of shootings, or even gun sightings, in Kroger stores. A company spokesman told The Wall Street Journal, “We know that our customers are passionate on both sides of this issue and we trust them to be responsible in our stores.” It’s almost as if Kroger officials believe their core business is selling groceries, not placating online activists. Imagine that.
Compelled to run
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe might be headed for retirement today if the 2012 elections had gone differently. Inhofe, R-Tulsa, says he seriously considered not running for a fourth full term (this is his 20th year in the Senate), but decided differently when President Barack Obama won re-election and Democrats retained the Senate. He had expected, and predicted, the opposite to happen. In a meeting with The Oklahoman’s editorial board this week, Inhofe said he told his wife on election night that he needed to stay in Washington to keep a spotlight on three major issues — the shrinking U.S. military, increasingly burdensome regulations by such agencies as the Environmental Protection Agency, and the liberal push against fossil fuels. Inhofe, who turns 80 in November, waxed four opponents in the Republican primary. He faces a Democrat and three independents in November, and is expected to cruise then as well.
Steeped in delusion
Give Sooner Tea Party co-founder Al Gerhart credit: If nothing else, he’s a master of political spin. You’ll recall Gerhart was convicted of blackmail after he tried to intimidate a state senator. Gerhart wanted Sen. Cliff Branan, R-Oklahoma City, to allow a vote on a bill. He sent an email threatening the senator and his family. Branan turned the email over to police; a jury ultimately decided Gerhart’s actions crossed the line separating political speech from blackmail. Branan subsequently ran, unsuccessfully, for Oklahoma corporation commissioner. Now Gerhart claims credit for Branan’s loss because his group supposedly campaigned against Branan. “If someone hits us, we hit them back 10 times harder,” Gerhart said. Yet Branan narrowly lost the race against another solid opponent. Gerhart’s impact was negligible. Branan’s refusal to buckle to Gerhart’s threats surely didn’t cost him many votes. It likely increased support for his candidacy.
An honest effort
Honestly, a news release this week left us feeling a little better. Honest Tea, a company that makes organic beverages, conducted a “social experiment” designed to gauge people’s honesty. For a month this summer, the company set up unmanned racks of cold Honest beverages at sites in every state and the District of Columbia. The drinks were offered for $1 on the honor system. Observers noted the number of people who paid or didn’t. The experiment also included an online component this year. The results? An honesty rate of about 95 percent nationwide. The folks in Honolulu were found to be 100 percent honest — no other city had a perfect score. Oklahoma City came in at 89 percent. “The 95 percent honesty rate that we saw this year suggests that Americans are a lot more honest than we give ourselves credit for,” company co-founder Seth Goldman said.
A lasting legacy
This has been quite a summer for the legacy of Lou Gehrig. First came homage from the sporting world to the 75th anniversary, on July 4, of his famous “Luckiest Man” speech, on the day he formally retired from baseball stricken by the fatal disease that ultimately carried his name. The speech is considered one of the best in sports history. Then came the current “Ice Bucket” challenge, in which participants — young and old, famous or not — agree to the cold dump atop their head to raise millions of dollars for awareness and research on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. We can’t help but think Gehrig, a great player on the field but shy and humble off it, would be grateful if the publicity from summer 2014 helped eventually find a cure for ALS. It killed him just shy of his 38th birthday.
Allowing same-sex marriage in Oklahoma could be … great for business? Yes, according to researchers at the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. They cite 2010 Census figures (the latest data available) showing 6,134 same-sex couples living in Oklahoma. Researchers estimate that half those couples would choose to marry in the first three years after same-sex marriage is granted. This would add about $20.5 million to the state and local economy, via spending on wedding arrangements and tourism by couples and their guests. That in turn would generate $1.8 million in sales tax revenue. And, spending related to these ceremonies and celebrations could create 224 full- and part-time jobs. Who knew?
Banking on success?
State Rep. Joe Dorman has had a good few months, capped by news this week that his campaign for governor raised more money than incumbent Republican Gov. Mary Fallin during the most recent filing period. Dorman said he’s “excited about the momentum and support we continue to see from people across the state …” Yet it’s also true that the ability to raise money doesn’t guarantee anything. Kathy Taylor clearly attracted anti-incumbent enthusiasm and money in raising huge sums for her Tulsa mayor’s race in 2013. Yet voters weren’t so moved: Taylor lost by a wide margin. Fallin remains popular among conservative voters, and there’s generally much to be said for the power of the incumbency. Her campaign is tracking Dorman’s gains, of course, but isn’t likely to push the panic button. Nor should it.