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Showing posts from June, 2020

Filling the Truth Vacuum Regarding COVID-19

With COVID-19 heating up again, and the resumption of societal shutdowns in other states, a pandemic strategy never seen in modern times, it seems appropriate to post facts with appropriate recommendations for action independent of politicized governmental institutions. Providing this information, along with relevant context, is the purpose of the new “ COVID-19 ” webpage on the 1889 Institute’s website .   With the recent widely-reported surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the impression created is that the pandemic has spiraled out of control. Therefore, our first factual installment is the following figure, which shows the number of daily new cases and the number of daily new deaths from COVID-19 in Oklahoma. Seven-day moving averages are also illustrated in order to show trends.   Source: The Covid Tracking Project ( ), which assembles data daily from the Oklahoma Department of Health (OKDOH). OKDOH does not provide longitudin

Whether in the Streets or on a Court, Chaos Results when Words Lose Their Meaning

“There’s a sign on the wall, but she wants to be sure, ‘cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.” - Robert Plant Words have meaning. This allows us to communicate with each other. Suppose you and I are having dinner. If I ask you to pass me the salt, meaning the seasoning commonly applied to food, and you have decided to redefine the word “salt” as an explosive device activated by pulling a pin and releasing a handle (or what I would call a hand grenade), it's not difficult to see why you would be very worried, and why I (having asked for a common seasoning) would be surprised by your concern. If words mean whatever the speaker decides in the moment, then we lose even the most basic ability to communicate with each other.   In light of the continued debate over whether "defund" means “end all funding for” or “reduce funding for,” and especially in light of last week’s Supreme Court ruling, I am reminded of Genesis 11's account of the Tower of Babel. The s

Think Carefully before Voting on SQ 802

So we vote next week on whether or not to expand Medicaid according to Obamacare’s provisions. A vote “Yes” on State Question 802 would expand Medicaid to able-bodied adults above the poverty line. A vote “No” would keep the status quo, with taxpayers buying health care under Medicaid mainly for poor children and pregnant mothers. But as with just about anything proposed by initiative, State Question 802 is not really that simple. For one thing, it forever entrenches a federal program, which can be changed by Congress at any time, in our state’s constitution, which is not so easily amended. Obviously, the proponents of SQ 802 want to set the terms of the Medicaid expansion permanently, sidestepping our constitutionally instituted legislature, which is supposed to react and adjust to existing circumstances. SQ 802 would take that flexibility away. A consequence of that reduced flexibility will likely be sacrifices in other state-financed programs such as public education, both in the n

New Oklahoma Bar Association Rules Are a Step in the Right Direction for Free Speech

The Oklahoma Bar Association has gone half way towards respecting its members’ First Amendment rights. It should go the rest of the way. Lawyers in Oklahoma are forced to join and pay dues to the OBA in order to keep their license to practice law. The OBA uses that dues money for many things, including political activity like advocating for or against public policy proposals. The result is that lawyers are forced to fund political speech they may disagree with as a condition of continuing to earn a living as a lawyer. This is called a mandatory bar association, and many of us contend that it fundamentally infringes lawyers’ First Amendment rights. The United States Supreme Court agrees. About 30 years ago in a case called Keller v. State Bar of California , the Supreme Court held it unconstitutional for a bar association to use compelled dues from lawyers to engage in political speech without providing meaningful procedures for lawyers to “opt out” of funding the speech. Exactly what

Lawmakers Foul Out on Occupational Licensing—Again

Oklahoma’s got a bad occupational licensing problem, worse than other states. We don’t just regulate too many occupations (almost as many as Kansas and Missouri combined), we also overregulate; our licensing laws are the 11th most burdensome nationwide. What concerns me most isn’t either of those points, though. It’s that many of our harshest, most suffocating regulations target occupations that no thinking lawmaker should be legislating about in the first place. To illustrate this prevalent and truly bizarre phenomenon, take 1889’s latest report , which examines the Therapeutic Recreation Act. The report finds that the Act, which mandates getting government permission to sell or advertise recreational therapy services, is flagrantly unjustified. The practice targeted by the law simply isn’t dangerous or technical enough to warrant a license, not even close. If any reader is clueless, such as a lawmaker, rec therapy is an allied healthcare profession whose specialists promote the healt

America’s Public Schools Fail Black Children, School Choice Empowers Them to Overcome

A consistent feature of racists through history is that they have fully understood the power of education, or the lack of education, as a tool of oppression. Extraordinary efforts were taken to keep black slaves illiterate, including killing those who deigned to learn to read. After the Civil War, black schools were frequent targets of attack. It should be no surprise that the longest and hardest fight in the Jim Crow South was over public school segregation. Segregationists worked to keep African Americans from lunch counters and in the back of city buses, but they fought like hell to keep black kids out of white schools. As our nation convulses with discussions of systemic racism, nearly all of the focus has been on questions of policing and the use of force. This is appropriate, of course. But I’d like to highlight a less discussed institution for which a strong case can be made that systemic racism prevails: public education.   An accepted definition of “systemic” or “structural”

Hey Minnesotans: Come To Oklahoma; Police Disbanders: Get Serious

I’d like to take this opportunity to invite anyone from Minnesota, especially those from Minneapolis, to come to Oklahoma. Here's the thing: you’d better come fast. Once your police force is dismantled , and unless it is immediately replaced by another suitable law enforcement organization, how long do you think will it be before your city will quickly resemble a third world country, a dystopian hellscape, or perhaps the mythical old west? It’s not difficult to imagine, in a city with no police force, a scene from The Dark Knight Rises becoming a reality.   Oklahoma is far from perfect. Our police are far from perfect, just like our citizens. We’re trying to be a top ten state. We haven’t met that goal in all areas yet. But we are also not in danger of declaring the rule of law dead and buried. We realize that lawlessness and anarchy are not better for society than even an imperfect police force, especially one constrained by law and disciplined by courts. Our police have made mi

Breaking the Unjust Shield: Fix Qualified Immunity

The United States has a policing problem. The protests over the death of George Floyd are proof of that. Perhaps qualified immunity, the judicial doctrine that usually prevents police officers acting in the line of duty from being held accountable in court, contributes to the problem.   Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine created by the Supreme Court. It provides protection to government officials who have violated a citizen's constitutional rights unless a “clearly established” right has been violated. To show that a right was “clearly established,” the victim must be able to point to a previously decided case that involves the same “specific context” and “particular conduct” as their current case. If he fails to do so, the offending officer is granted qualified immunity. In George Floyd's case, his family would have to point to a case where a cop suffocated someone with his knee in the street and went to trial for it. If no case like that exists, then Floyd's family ca