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None December 4th, 2012

Oklahoma Gazette provides an open forum for the discussion of all points of view in its Letters to the Editor section. The Gazette reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity. Letters can be mailed, faxed, emailed to pbacharach@okgazette.

Oklahoma Gazette provides an open forum for the discussion of all points of view in its Letters to the Editor section. The Gazette reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity. Letters can be mailed, faxed, emailed to pbacharach@okgazette. com or sent online at okgazette.com, but include a city of residence and contact number for verification.

Secede? We already have

In response to Mike Brake’s Nov. 21 Oklahoma Gazette commentary, the headline, “Oklahoma’s postelection rise,” is quite accurate. In my opinion, the rise started long ago, and Oklahoma is now proudly known as the reddest state in America. I would say the social dynamics of the Old South that many states have worked hard to eviscerate from their history are now proudly resurrected in Oklahoma.

Mr. Brake, Oklahoma is on the rise in many enviable categories thanks to our current leadership: the number of citizens with zero to marginal health insurance, poverty, child hunger, racism, high obesity, diabetes, and smoking rates, high teenage pregnancy rates despite intense fundamentalist religious dogma, restrictive reproductive laws, a low-skill workforce, outrageous incarceration rates in general and specifically for women, pro basketball and college football, to name but a few. I know, the last two don’t really fit, but they are certainly priorities in this state to the exclusion of other sensible expenditures that would elevate us all.

I’m sure Mr. Brake, based on his editorial, is all for states’ rights. Some states — like, say, Massachusetts — choose to elevate their state in the form of socialized health care, education, same-sex marriages, medical marijuana and have said that no, corporations do not get to claim “personhood.”

Our state chooses a governor who boycotts a presidential visit and then petitions the Federal Emergency Management Agency for financial aid after fire and tornado disasters. FEMA being yet another example of a federal program that Mr. Brake and our governor claim that we can no longer afford to fund.

I think New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had his mind changed about FEMA funding by a little storm called Sandy. How ironic.

So, by God, let’s just “secede from the Union” so we don’t have to play by any rules except what our state leaders dream up. Folks, we already have.

—Ron Ferrell Oklahoma City

Misleading figures

Holding up California as an example of a failed state government is a mistake. Yes, there is outmigration from California, but their population density is still 241 people per square mile; Oklahoma’s is 55 So as bad as Mike Brake (Commentary, “Oklahoma’s postelection rise,” Nov. 21, Gazette) claims Californians have it, multitudes more are staying than are leaving. California private-sector employment has averaged over 20,000 new jobs per month since 2010; Oklahoma has managed about 3,000 per month over the same period. Californians voted to raise their own taxes this year, very likely for the same reason that MAPS was approved by the citizens of Oklahoma City three times — they were smart enough to recognize that the government needs to do some things that the private sector can’t or won’t do, especially in the area of social safety nets and quality-of-life improvements.

And your statements about the 46 percent who have no federal tax liability and the amount of taxes paid by the top 1 percent, while true, are abstractions that make good sound bites, but mean something much different once one looks into them. Everyone who works for a job where he or she gets a payroll check, or a Social Security check, has federal taxes withheld. The fact that they may end up with no tax liability is simply because they don’t have enough taxable income. These people pay all sorts of other taxes, so they aren’t freeloading on the American economy.

The top 1 percent may pay 37 percent of all federal taxes, but they have 35 percent of all the income and 43 percent of all the wealth (according to Forbes magazine). I expect that someone with an average income of $717,000 could live quite well and still pay a few percentage points more in taxes.

And as for this myth about “job creators”: People create jobs when there is a market for what those jobs produce. If the market is unhealthy — i.e., if there is no demand to satisfy — no jobs will be created. U.S. corporations are sitting on over $1 trillion in cash. They aren’t doing anything with this cash that is creating jobs, because the economy has currently achieved a sort of equilibrium of supply and demand with about 8 percent unemployment. How would giving them an extra trillion make them more likely to create jobs?

Oklahoma’s relatively favorable business climate has everything to do with natural gas exploration, the significant U.S. military presence in the state and the fact that housing is cheap because we have a low population density.

—Jon Trushenski Oklahoma City

Climate change and logic

While it is certainly nice to see someone invoke actual science in the discussion of climate change, much of what Mike Brake wrote (Letters, “Rational on climate change,” Oct. 17, Gazette) deserves further scrutiny. In short, discussions of the Medieval Warm Period (which was a regional, not global, phenomenon), solar variations and Milankovitch cycles are merely red herrings used to deflect focus from the uncomfortable, yet undeniable, evidence supporting anthropogenic climate-forcing.

Let’s consider the most basic of facts.

In 1804, the world human population met a milestone of 1 billion people. It didn’t double again until 1927, yet doubled again to 4 billion in 1974. By 2012, the world human population surpassed the 7 billion mark with over half of the world’s population living in urban areas.

This rapid growth has corresponded with amazing technological achievements and dramatic changes in the Earth’s environment. For instance, it is estimated there are now over 1 billion automobiles, most of which have internal combustion engines, in operation on roads worldwide; each day there are an estimated 90,000 commercial flights; the amount of land currently in agriculture production is 1.5 billion hectares (about 12 percent of the land surface); there are some 50,000 power plants worldwide, of which 2,300 (consisting of 7,000 individual units) are coal-fired; and during the first decade of this century, deforestation — largely due to land conversion for agriculture — occurred at an estimated rate of 13 million hectares per year.

All of these anthropogenic activities, as well as many more, contribute to changes in biogeochemical cycles. In particular, they have contributed to changes in atmospheric chemistry, from the local (e.g., photochemical smog) to the regional (e.g., acid precipitation) to the global (e.g., Antarctic ozone depletion).

What discussions of Medieval Warm Period, Milankovitch cycles, solar variations, and/or past glaciation ultimately show is something quite elementary. Climates are naturally variable and have fluctuated between cool and warm periods during the Earth’s long history. However, this simple fact doesn’t preclude anthropogenic contributions to climate change.

Indeed, the mechanisms responsible for the heating of the lower troposphere have been understood for some 188 years. Certain atmospheric constituents are transparent to short-wave incoming solar radiation, yet opaque to outgoing long wave terrestrial radiation. This differential transmissivity, known as the greenhouse effect, results in higher surface temperatures than would occur absent these gases.

It is incontrovertible that anthropogenic activity during the last couple of centuries has contributed to increased concentrations of various gases responsible for this differential transmissivity.

If a lifelong smoker was diagnosed with lung cancer, an oncologist may be interested in the patient’s genetic predisposition to cancer. However, simple parsimony would likely lead the oncologist to consider the smoking history as the contributing factor to the disease. Similarly, we know that a multitude of human activities, from the burning of fossil fuels to the clearance of forests, alter atmospheric concentrations of so called greenhouse gases. We also know that variations in concentrations of these atmospheric constituents result in changes in tropospheric temperatures.

At some point, both logic and indisputable empirical evidence can lead us to only one conclusion: We, as a species, are drivers of environmental change, including but certainly not limited to climate change.

—Todd Fagin Oklahoma City

Attaboy!

In response to the Nov. 21 commentary by Robin Meyers (”The land of Bibles and bigots,” Gazette): Well stated, Rev.

—Merle Wright Oklahoma City

Opinions expressed on the commentary page, in letters to the editor and elsewhere in this newspaper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ownership or management.

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