Cover Story: Chicken-Fried News year in review and 2016 predictions! 

(Illustration: Oklahoma Gazette)
  • Illustration: Oklahoma Gazette

Thou won’t believe the year we hath had — 2015 was bananas.

And while the date looks like it’s the future, Oklahoma largely lived in the past — like, the Moses-coming-down-from-the-mountain past.

This was the year our esteemed Gov. Mary Fallin and state Attorney General Scott Pruitt decided, Judge Dredd-style, that they were the law and fought an Oklahoma Supreme Court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Capitol grounds.

You might remember that someone else tried to remove the monument in 2014 by driving a car into it. But a new monument replaced it in January and started the whole kerfuffle again.

We didn’t hate the Ten Commandments monument. If anything, we were just upset that favoritism prevented the erection of competing monuments of Vishnu, Gaia, the Flying Spaghetti Monster and, of course, our beloved goat-headed pseudo Satanic figure Baphomet.

Oklahoma Gazette has, instead, erected its own monument here in these pages. Please welcome the Chicken-Fried News Year in Review: Ten Commandments Edition. Feel free to take a few copies of the paper and leave them at the former monument site at the State Capitol. We’re sure the governor would love to read these.

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1. Thou shalt not pretend earthquakes aren’t caused by disposal wells.

Yea, verily didst the ground commence wiggling time and again in 2015. According to a document from Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS), this year saw more than 5,400 earthquakes and about 800 3.0 or greater earthquakes in the state.

Perhaps that explains the report OGS put out in April — they linked a whole lotta shakin’ to a whole lotta disposal wells.

“The rate of magnitude 3.0-plus earthquakes has increased from one and a half per year before 2008 to the current average rate of two and a half per day, a rate that is approximately 600 times the historical background,” said the OGS summary statement.

Continental Resources founder, chairman and CEO Harold Hamm had a different view — specifically, that the OGS should shut up.

Former Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy Dean Larry Grillot said Hamm was upset with OGS’s findings and wanted staff members removed. Hamm denied the accusations. Grillot left his post this summer.

Not that there’s a whole lot of fighting over Oklahoma’s natural resources at the moment. Oil and gas prices have fallen precipitously, taking plenty of our state’s jobs with them.

2016 prediction: As petroleum prices continue to fall, it actually becomes cheaper to use oil and natural gas to frack the wastewater back out of the ground for use in Oklahoma’s dirty rivers and lakes. Earthquakes become a tourist attraction, drawing much-needed tax dollars into the state.

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2. Thou shalt educate all the kids.

Suspension rates at Oklahoma City Public Schools are high.

“How high are they?”

Suspension rates at Oklahoma City Public Schools are so high, the bartenders at Guyutes know them by name.

Ha ha! We have fun, but seriously, if you’re a former Oklahoma City student, you might ask someone to read this to you, because it’s important. A report from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies earlier this year showed 45 percent of OKC students and 75 percent of African-American students were suspended in 2012. An internal audit showed that suspension rates were still too high in the 2014-15 school year.

Superintendent Robert Neu leads the district as it works on the problem, but there has been pushback from teachers who are concerned that their most potent punishment will be taken away, leaving them at the mercy of that barbarous creature known as The Teenager.

2016 prediction: With continued worries about a crackdown by the federal government, OKCPS will find itself turning to the only men capable of turning around a school system gone awry: actors Jim Belushi, Tom Berenger, Michelle Pfeiffer (not a man) and Edward James Olmos, who were all in movies about school reform.

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3. Thou shalt not let Donald Trump come back to Oklahoma City.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump is already kind of a freak show, so when his “plain talk” arrived at the Oklahoma State Fair in September, we all knew how special it could be.

“We’re going to win so much, you’re going to get tired of winning!” the inexplicable Republican front-runner told an estimated crowd of 5,000, who ate it up like it was bacon-wrapped corn on the cob, dipped in batter, fried and on a stick.

But did we fly too close to the sun with this one? How can the 2016 Great State Fair of Oklahoma compare to hosting Trump?

2016 prediction: Trump will attempt to return to next year’s fair but will be interrupted by someone even crazier: Kanye West-Kardashian (yes, he’ll take her name next year), who promises to let Trump finish before commandeering the microphone for a filiblistering five hours of Garth Brooks and Chris Gaines karaoke.

4. Thou shalt not botch executions.

Killing people — it’s bad. It’s actually on the list of the Ten Commandments they took off the Capitol grounds, so you know it’s a big one. But despite its inclusion on that notable list, Oklahomans take a somewhat more lax view on the subject for people already convicted of killing people.

But if we get past the whole, “Should we even be doing this?” angle of capital punishment, there’s a general consensus that if you’re going to do a job, you should do it well. In 2015, Oklahoma did not do it well.

Last year, the State of Oklahoma put to death convicted murderer Clayton Lockett, except he died of a heart attack after the lethal injection procedure went pear-shaped. Another convicted murderer who was supposed to be put to death after Lockett, Charles Warner, got a reprieve until January. But if the Oklahoma Department of Corrections thought it had figured things out in the intervening months, it was wrong.

Warner did not writhe on the gurney as Lockett did, but his execution did last 18 minutes, and he told those in attendance, “My body is on fire” and “It feels like acid.”

Turns out the state used an unapproved drug in the three-drug cocktail: potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride. It almost happened again Sept. 30 with Richard Glossip, who was sentenced to die for his role in a murder-for-hire plot.

Now, all state executions are on hold until at least 2016.

2016 prediction: We like to imagine that if Gov. Mary Fallin would just go on and give her blessing already (geez!), Attorney General Scott Pruitt, fed up with having to wait for people to be killed, would hand-sew his own black hood and buy a comically ornate ax, offering to lop off heads.

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5. Thou shalt not pretend a snowball is definitive proof that climate change isn’t real.

“You think Donald Trump looks stupid?” U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe probably asked this year. “Wait until you see what I do!”

Inhofe, the climate change denier in charge of a committee that could actually do something about climate change, decided to show everybody what he thought about so-called “global warming” by bringing a snowball onto the floor of the Senate.

Good one, Jim. That’ll show them eggheads what’s what! Except that it earned him a harsh rebuke from TV weatherman Al Roker.

Look, when a guy who is famous for wishing old people a happy birthday and having accidentally defecated in his pants at the White House (Roker, not Inhofe, as far as we know) starts telling you to stop being a jackass, maybe it’s time to listen.

2016 prediction: In defiance of Big Earthquake, Inhofe proves there’s no such thing as fault lines by bringing in a rock he found in his garden during another of his increasingly beloved Senate show-and-tells.

6. Thou shalt stop having sex in public.

Keeping it local is great. But more importantly, keep it indoors. That’s a message sorely lacking in Oklahoma City in 2015, as multiple couples were arrested for having sex in public.

First, in April, police alleged that a couple consummated their relationship in the front yard with, at the very least, an extreme bump and/or grind. They also were, according to police, intoxicated.

Then, in October, an officer came across another couple that police believed was engaged in overtly affectionate activity. When questioned, police claimed that one of them responded, “I am Indian and consecrating the ground, and this is now Indian land.” So, there’s that.

It’s no secret that Oklahoma is a very sexy state in the middle of the sexiest part of the country, but that’s no excuse for boning in public zoning.

2016 prediction: An enterprising Oklahoman will invent a portable building with noise-canceling insulation for those who just can’t wait to get home before getting it on.

7. Thou shalt not think a food truck festival is immortal.

The crying at the end of H&8th Night Market was heard across social media as people loudly exclaimed that they’d somehow been cheated because they never quite made it to the food truck-packed streets of Midtown.

“Gone too soon,” said everyone who wasn’t involved in putting on the increasingly elaborate monthly event.

“Thank god we only have to do this once a year from now on,” said the people who actually made H&8th happen since 2011.

Perhaps the end of the event marks the passing of an era in Oklahoma City. Maybe more food trucks will take the cue of Waffle Champion, Patty Wagon and Off the Hook and move into a more permanent space.

Or maybe this will just teach people to go to an event while it’s happening, rather than waiting for some mythical future date when they can finally make it. (Hint, hint: Go to Heard on Hurd in Edmond.)

2016 prediction: Sensing a need to be filled, Del City will bulldoze an abandoned stretch of land to create enormous festival grounds where Oklahomans will continue their inexplicable habit of driving to eat at a food truck.

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8. Thou shalt not pass so many dumb laws.

Supposedly, there’s a state law that says you’re not allowed to take a bite of someone else’s hamburger, though we have yet to actually find it.

There is a law against “the presence of horsemeat mixed and commingled with the meat of cattle, sheep, swine or goats in hamburger, sausage or other processed meat products.” So, that’s cool.

But why rely on old, possibly fake dumb laws when our state legislators are so excited to introduce new, absolutely real dumb laws for us to bemoan? This was a banner year for stupid legislation. Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, introduced a bill this year that would protect Oklahoma teachers who want to say “Merry Christmas,” despite there being no documented account of a teacher being punished for saying “Merry Christmas.”

Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, wanted to repeal the bill that named the watermelon as our state vegetable. Sure, a watermelon is a fruit, but using precious time repealing a bill that matters to 0.0 percent of our residents is pretty fruity, too. (It didn’t pass, by the way.)

Then there’s Sen. Joseph Silk, R-Broken Bow, who authored the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015, which would legalize discrimination based on sexual orientation. Jesus, Joe. Get a hobby.

Fallin signed Senate Bill 809 to prevent any municipality from unilaterally banning fracking. Sorry about those quakes, folks.

You know Fallin, right? She’s the second-term governor and former Representative who couldn’t recall the three branches of government during a speech at the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce.

But we did get around to increasing the average age of volunteer firefighters, removing the requirement to list a Social Security number when purchasing a firearm, doing something to promote healthy bees and making it illegal for a foster parent to have sex with foster children 19 years old or younger — okay, that last one is good.

2016 prediction: As the state faces a $900 million budget shortfall, we can be sure that our lawmakers will cut it out with all these frivolous laws and concentrate on what they do best, which is cutting taxes. (Womp, womp.)

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9. Thou shalt watch out for tornadoes full of tigers.

God bless our local meteorologists. Whether it’s accidentally directing people to flee into the path of a tornado or taking a normal winter storm and calling it a snowpocalypse, they always find ways to entertain us.

And this year, in the midst of a particularly rough stretch of severe weather (Don’t worry, Inhofe; there’s no way climate change has anything to do with record flooding!), we were treated to something far better than the Gary England Drinking Game or Mike Morgan’s sparkly tie.

We got a tigernado.

When a twister hit Tiger Safari in Tuttle, police cautioned that wild animals might be on the loose, and local news outlets absolutely lost their minds. For nearly a half hour, they indulged in an improvised casting call for the next big Syfy channel original movie.

Of course, there was no tigernado. The animals were quickly rounded up with nary a mauling to report.

2016 prediction: After a disposal well is placed too close to the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter building, we finally will experience a Kitten Quake!

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10. Thou shalt not build an entire economy on oil and gas.

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” goes the old saying.

Forget eggs. Oklahoma has been piling chickens, henhouses and pretty much everything else we own into the oil and natural gas basket, and its bottom is falling out.

The state’s economy shrank in the second quarter, in part due to energy losses and a whopping 4 percent reduction in the gross domestic product.

Oklahoma workers already were making less money than almost anyone else, but now they’re losing jobs, too. Powerhouse employers like Chesapeake Energy Corporation and Devon Energy Corporation laid off workers as prices for natural gas plummeted to 1999 levels. And oil is trading below $37 a barrel, which we haven’t seen since the 2009 recession.

Fewer jobs mean fewer taxes and an increased need for government services, potentially putting an already-strapped-for-cash state in the crosshairs of a serious meltdown.

2016 prediction: Oil prices go up! Jobs return! Wages increase while inflation stays neutral! Trucks drive around distributing free iPhones! We will finally defeat death and become immortal!

Well, we can hope, right?

Print Headline: The 10 Commandments of 2015 (and 2016 predictions!)

Editor's note: This story was updated June 1, 2017, to remove names from a satirical Chicken-Fried News item, "Thou shalt stop having sex in public," which lampooned police and news reports citing a couple's arrest for a complaint alleging disorderly conduct. 

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