Here are the week’s most interesting Okie-related stories. Feel free to leave links to what you’ve been reading in the comments below.
- Drama continues to unfold at Chesapeake Energy Corp., which just confirmed an informal SEC inquiry into CEO Aubrey McClendon’s compensation plan. The company’s board of directors, which just removed McClendon as chairman, recently revoked the perk that allowed him to buy stake in the natural gas wells drilled by Chesapeake. Time magazine summarized recent events leading up to the SEC inquiry, and Ben Allen, reporter and host for KOSU radio, Storified national news reports to concisely chronicle the ongoing scrutiny.
- Seems like the best story to come out of Oklahoma this week—according to the dozens of national outlets that picked it up—is the one about two derelict dogs who became best buds. Tanner, a “blind, epileptic golden retriever,” and Blair, “a fearful 1-year-old street dog” that had been shot, were dumped at the same animal clinic and made an “immediate connection,” People magazine reported. Now Blair acts as Tanner’s guide dog.
- The other Oklahoma story to go viral this week was about a portable meth lab exploding in a man’s pants during a “scuffle” with a state trooper. “Although meth was dripping down (David) Williams’ leg, he was uninjured,” Fox News reported. “He was arrested on a complaint of manufacturing a controlled and dangerous substance.” Atta boy, Dave.
- American Electric Power is denying claims by the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council that its plants, two of which are in Oklahoma, released enough air pollution to kill 3,200 people and cause more than 20,000 asthma attacks last year, the Boston Globe reported. “You can use statistics to prove or disprove anything you want, and to be honest with you, we pay little attention to these reports put out by environmental special interest groups like the NRDC,” Pat D. Hemlepp, director of corporate media relations for AEP, told the paper.
- The Oklahoma Supreme Court tossed a ballot measure that would have allowed voters to approve personhood rights for embryos from the moment of conception, saying it’s “clearly unconstitutional” because it would have prevented women from obtaining abortions. “The ruling cited a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court case—Planned Parenthood v. Casey—which centered on Pennsylvania’s attempt to challenge Roe v. Wade, which recognized a constitutional right to have an abortion,” the Tulsa World reported. A similar measure failed in the state legislature last week. Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, which has spent considerable time and money lobbying for legislation in Oklahoma and other states, told The Daily Beast, “I see this as a momentum builder” and that his group plans to appeal the decision and take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.
He said he thinks the court decision will help his group because it “makes people mad.” He added, “It’s making the social tension so extreme. Oklahoma is one of the most pro-life states in America. It’s the Bible belt. This will help motivate the people of Oklahoma to fight.”
- For a “pro-life” state, we sure do kill a lot of people. Reuters reported that Oklahoma, which executes more prisoners per capita than any other state—”Texas has executed more people but has a far larger population”—has only one vial of pentobarbital left in supply following the Tuesday-night execution of 57-year-old Michael B. Selsor. No future executions are imminent.
- Tom Coburn was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Wednesday night to promote his new book, The Debt Bomb. “We at least share half of the blame for the trouble we’re in.” Coburn told Stewart, referring to “we” as Republican lawmakers. “… The position of some on our side is no tax increases. And realistically, that isn’t going to work. We’re going to have to meet in the middle to compromise to solve these problems. The question is, will Republicans or Democrats stand up and do what is right for the country in the long run, even though it might hurt them politically, to get this?”
- Krista Tippett, writing for Religion & Politics, recalled stumbling upon Oklahoma’s socialist history “in a footnote while studying at my college in the Godless East” and spending “one fascinated Christmas break home exploring its original voices in microfiche archives.”
These days, of course, Oklahoma is known as one of the most Republican states in the union. But there is a different story in the DNA of Oklahoma politics. It’s a truly forgotten story in the relatively brief history of this state that people fled the past to create. When the former Indian Territory became Oklahoma in 1907, it had one of the most progressive constitutions in the union, influenced largely by a farmer-labor coalition. Yet small farmers and laborers—75 percent of the population of around two million by 1920—grew less secure and more economically burdened in the early years of statehood, while “New White elites” (bankers, lawyers, merchants and landlords) flourished.
—Holly Wall, News Editor