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Too Much Oil? Blame Us Tree Huggers

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The Oklahoman editorial board’s take on the oil and gas fracking boom gone bust here is as insanely laughable and ridiculous as it gets. It’s cray cray, people.

Here’s the key point in a recent editorial in the newspaper about dropping oil prices and its impact on the state economy: “. . . populists will join the anti-fossil fuel crowd in cheering the pain awaiting oil company employees and their investors.”

See, it’s all about those crazy “populists” excessively worried, as the editorial notes, about those “obscene profits” made by energy companies, which “has never been matched by reality.” The oil company executives, you know those people with courtside seats at The Thunder games, bless their hearts, have nothing to do with it. They match reality. Populists can’t even match their socks on a good day.

It’s as if the writers and editors at The Oklahoman have never experienced or read about or studied the oil boom and bust cycle that has defined this state, well, basically since its inception by the federal government as one of the last states in the nation. I know 1982, the year Penn Square Bank failed, signaling the symbolic end of a major oil boom, may seem like ancient history to a 20-year-old getting ready to take finals next week, but it isn’t to those of us who lived here as adults that year.

Then, as now, “populists” and those people the newspaper refers to as the “anti-fossil fuel crowd” have absolutely nothing to do with the steep drop in oil prices. It’s the oil and gas companies themselves that are completely and entirely to blame, and it’s related directly to greed and immoral, ruthless, awful business practices and non-planning.

Here’s a basic refresher on the oil boom and bust cycle: Oil companies go crazy when prices are up and over drill and over leverage themselves during boom times knowing full well the bust is as inevitable as death and taxes. They take the money and run. That’s the definition of Oklahoma. It has happened before, it’s happening now, and it will happen again. Yet we love us our unethical oil barons. We even name our hockey team after them.

Us hippy tree huggers have absolutely nothing to do with this unbelievably stupid system. The negative aspects of the human condition—greed, the desire for undeserved and corrupt power, lying, fraud, basic immorality—are the culprits. Laugh at us for hugging our trees and singing clichéd campfire songs, but don’t blame us for sin, sloth and gluttony, please, Oklahoman editor Kelly Dyer Fry, who is a member of the newspaper’s extremely prestigious editorial board and, in full disclosure, the mother of my two children.

It’s the OIL COMPANIES that caused the glut through over drilling using hydraulic fracturing or fracking techniques. It’s the OIL COMPANIES that are causing the earthquakes that shake it up for us on a daily basis while polluting our water supplies. It’s the OIL COMPANIES that don’t care one iota for this state, its people, its children and its future. Oil barrel prices have dropped from about $100 a barrel to nearly $60 a barrel in just a few months because of OIL COMPANIES, not sarcastic college English professors, who are NOT dancing around the campfire because many people here may well lose their jobs in the coming months.

The top executives of oil companies pay themselves exorbitant amounts of money during the boom times, but when the boom goes bust who gets hurt the most are the ordinary workers, like oil rig employees and geologists. They lose their jobs. It’s tragic, and not good for an energy state, such as Oklahoma. No, it’s downright terrible and sad. I have known, and I know, and I will know in the future people who lose their jobs because of this style of oil-company immoral greed the newspaper editorial board supports as some type of Biblical mandate handed down by that oil driller himself, the baby Jesus.

Again, the recent editorial has the audacity to actually claim, “. . . the populist view that energy firms make obscene profits has never been matched by reality.” Really? Harold Hamm, chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based oil company Continental Resources, has at one time reportedly been estimated to be worth around $17 billion. THAT IS OBSCENE. There, I said it. Again. THAT IS OBSCENE. Expect me to be tarred and feathered and sent off in one of Hamm’s 14 private jets and deposited like a baked, unplucked turkey on the streets of New York City where them liberals belong.

Get some tissues before you read the rest of this paragraph. Hamm is worth considerably less now that oil prices are plunging because of The Oil Glut. Bless his billionaire’s heart. Poor Harold. (His divorce settlement isn’t going to help him either.) But what’s a few less billion dollars to a non-obscene, money making oil executive? His socks match because his 387 personal servants make sure they match.

So this is what that GOP’s “drill, baby, drill” dogma gets you: An Oklahoma economy threatened by mythical American fossil-fuel independence. Thanks, Sarah Palin. Can I state the obvious? When you drill and drill and drill, you get oil and oil and oil. When you get oil and oil and oil, you get gasoline prices below $2 a gallon, which is extremely wonderful for the nation’s economy, but not so good for an energy state like Oklahoma. People lose jobs here during bust times. It’s tragic. Tax revenues plunge. Oklahoma’s education funding gets cut by the highest level in the nation. Wait, that happened before the bust.

Let’s pause and rephrase. The Oklahoma power structure—the Hamms, the Frys, the Fallins, [insert different names over the years here]—don’t give a damn about education and never will. The oil boom gone bust just gives them another excuse to castigate those stinking liberal tree huggers, see, that just don’t get it. It gives them another excuse to demean overworked teachers for trying to teach children on shoestring budgets.

Of course, Okie Funk called this bust a long time ago, but Kelly Ogle and Amanda Taylor, News 9 anchors, have great hair, and that’s what matters in the media here in Oklahoma, right? That, and the craven members of the state’s largest newspaper’s editorial board, who think logic is a dirty, four-letter word.

Norman Case Far From Over

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Although an arrest has been made in connection with a widely publicized Norman High School rape and bullying case, it doesn’t mean that the overall issue of harassment in our schools here and elsewhere has even begun to be resolved.

I won’t rehash the arrest details, which you can find here.

What I wonder the most is why it has taken so long for charges to be filed, and, more to the point, did it take the public outcry by the local organization #YesALLDaughters to make it happen? Rape is a crime. It shouldn’t take public protest to remind police and prosecutors of that fact.

We also know there have been allegations of other potential victims and that these victims have allegedly faced bullying at Norman High School when their claims went public. Note the word “allegations” and “allegedly.” This is how bullying works. The bullies are always the ones who get the benefit of the doubt, never the victims.

As someone who has faced years of bullying acts in the workplace, let me suggest a simple narrative: The bully after choosing his victims methodically and often aided by friends, commits his abusive acts. Once those victims stand up, the bully’s friends and the entrenched power structure—supervisors at schools or colleges, for example, or legal personnel—do everything in their power to protect the rights of the bully. The bully’s victims are systematically ignored and isolated. Thus, they are bullied again. Meanwhile, the bullying continues. The bully laughs behind the backs of his victims after they report him. He lurks, ready to pounce again, and he does over and over.

Here’s some of the language the bully’s victims face:

Why are you making such a big deal of this? He was just teasing.

He’s my friend, and I don’t believe you.

Sure, you can make a formal complaint. Let’s have a meeting in the next two weeks or so. You will need to fill out a long report, gather together your witnesses and be ready for intensive interrogation. Or, maybe, just maybe, we could just talk to the person and get him to stop. (Of course, the bully will never stop unless he faces real punishment.)

It’s hard to believe he would do something like that. Are you sure?

Maybe you’re just being too sensitive.

Why did you go to that party? Why did you dress like that? Why did you talk to him? Why did you believe him?

I believe you, but the [insert institutional rules here] just don’t allow us do anything about it.

I might also suggest two other points in relation to bullying: (1) More bullying cases are getting reported because there is more advocacy for victims these days. That’s a good thing. It’s a tremendous problem at schools and even universities, maybe even the worst problem these institutions face. Yet there is systemic apathy among leaders to address the issue. (2) Perhaps, in bygone eras, more bullies were stopped in informal ways. I’m thinking here, just for an obvious example, of the playground bully who finally gets what’s coming to him under the swing set. Consequently, he stops because he faced real punishment.

Getting back to the Norman controversy, I want to note that this case is far from over. There are other allegations that have not been resolved. I urge #YesALLDaughter not to take these charges as too much of a victory. The accused hasn’t gone to trial. The charges could get dropped any day now. The accuser will be relentlessly interrogated and perhaps even demeaned by opposing attorneys. I could go on and on.

Bullying is a major problem that manifests itself in nefarious but sometimes complicated ways. People who don’t want to do anything about it should NOT be allowed in positions of power at our schools and colleges.

Norman Allegations Part of National Trend

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(#YesALLDaughters plans a candlelit vigil tonight, Monday, Dec. 1, starting at 4:45p.m. at the Norman Schools Administrative Services Center, 131 S. Flood.)

The student walkout at Norman High School last Monday, followed by a rally that called attention to rape and bullying allegations at the school, has become, intentionally or not, part of a larger movement to eliminate sexual harassment.

#YesAllDaughters sponsored the walkout, which attracted hundreds of students and supporters. I wrote about it here. The event did draw local and national media coverage, but I think the local coverage downplayed the severity of the issue and seemed to take at face value the position of the Norman Schools administration, which is that it’s safe for the girls who have made allegations to return to school.

Do the girls feel safe? That’s the most important question. In my post, I argued that Norman Schools Superintendent Dr. Joseph Siano and Norman High School principal Scott Beck should step aside at least until after a criminal or other investigations have been completed. I have also urged the Federal Bureau of Investigation and federal Title IX officials to investigate.

I also made a formal request under the Federal Freedom of Information Act or Oklahoma Open Records Act for copies of any documents related to the allegations with the understanding that some information would need to be redacted to protect the privacy of the students. That request has been granted, and I expect to receive the documents in a few days. We’ll see if they shed any light on the thinking and deliberation process used by school officials to deal with the situation. I’m unsure if any other media outlets have asked for the information.

My arguments about the case are mine alone, and I sense the people involved with #YesALLDaughters are fully competent to bring about justice. I listed its extensive demands in my last post about the issue. Its Facebook page is now followed by more than 14,000 people. The organization plans a candlelit vigil tonight starting at 4:45p.m. at the Norman Schools Administrative Services Center, 131 S. Flood.

I can also understand why some people, especially in Oklahoma, dislike federal intrusion, but sometimes it takes people removed from the local political scene to make sense of complicated yet disturbing allegations.

The issue of sexual harassment in our public schools is important, and the Norman case seems to be representative of a national trend. A recent journalism project, conducted by Mandy Van Deven, in conjunction with Newsweek, points out one study that shows, “ . . . 66 percent of the 1,198 middle school students (ages 11 to 18) surveyed said they’d been sexually harassed at school. One in four reported being harassed daily.” That’s a surprisingly high number that should worry us greatly.

Deven writes, “Sexual harassment is so ubiquitous in schools that students and school officials have begun to view it as a normal part of the educational environment.” I can’t verify this statement in any quantifiable sense, but I do think new technologies and devices, social media outlets and other internet interaction have created additional opportunities for harassment and bullying. Of course, it’s not the fault of the technology itself; it’s how that technology gets used.

She also writes, “many school administrators do have their students’ best interests in mind.” I hope this is the case with the Norman administrators, but the issue needs to be fully vetted publicly not just for Norman school students but also for students at schools throughout the state. Do the specific girls feel safe? The fact we even have to ask such a question should make us all skeptical.

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