Grades and Quakes

Image of end racism now by Michael Thompson

Be sure to catch my post this week on The Lost Ogle in which I grade some of the responses to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon racism controversy at the University of Oklahoma.

As you recall, some SAE members were caught on a short video a couple of weeks ago in a racist sing-along on a chartered bus. The song included the n-word and made an implicit reference to lynching.

In the post, I discuss the freedom of speech issue that has emerged from the incident after OU President David Boren expelled two SAE members and ordered a complete eviction of the fraternity house members. Is racist speech affiliated with a public university protected speech? I also have this to say:

By far, the best response, and this included Boren and Striker as well, came from the non-violent protestors that marched on the university campus right after the incident to send the message that racism would not be tolerated. This type of non-violent protest is not only guaranteed by the First Amendment, but also is crucial in advancing the larger awareness about the existence of racism in our culture and in supporting the academic mission of OU or any university.

Also, check out this article in the Tulsa World about the relationship between the dramatic surge in earthquakes in Oklahoma and the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process.

I’ve now written about this issue for years. Scientists and geologists continue to point out the earthquakes are triggered by the wastewater disposal process used in fracking. Now they point out that this process may have “reawakened” underground faults in the state, and that even stronger earthquakes are a possibility here.

What’s important to remember is that the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Oklahoma rumbled near Prague on Nov. 5, 2011. That earthquake, which caused damage, was measured at 5.6-magnitude on the Richter scale and was later connected to the injection well process by scientists. Note the date.

We’ve been dealing with this earthquake issue for years now, but little has changed in how the oil and gas companies frack and dispose of wastewater. Now there’s a world oil glut, a down-size in the state’s oil and gas industry, which means layoffs and lower tax revenue, and we’re still stuck with earthquakes. Even if a large earthquake—say in the six-point or higher range—doesn’t hit the state, what are the culminating effects of thousands of smaller earthquakes over a several-year period? What about the foundations of buildings and houses? What about the state’s bridges?

Is Oklahoma A Bad Place To Retire?

Image of the word retire

Oklahoma has received another poor state ranking from a media outlet.

This time around it’s for retirement. According to Bankrate, Oklahoma ranks in the bottom ten for states in which to retire. The site noted the state’s high crime rate and health care issues. Overall, the state came in eighth of the lowest ten states.

Although this isn't new material, it's worth discussing. These types of rankings are not based on tons of evidence, and are usually designed to get clicks, but it’s difficult to just shrug them off because the state is often ranked low in socio-economic categories and health. Its funding for education on the per-pupil spending level is also often near the bottom of all the states.

My point is the larger story of the state’s history. Oklahoma, with its boom and bust oil cycles, is often considered a poor state in terms of its national image. Its annual poverty rate, right now at around 15 percent, is almost always in the bottom ten of all the states. Its annual household income ranking has been below the national average for decades.

That doesn’t tell the entire story, however. The state does have a low cost of living and offers affordable housing. A $350,000 house in Oklahoma would cost well over $1 million in certain areas of the nation, and I’m not just talking about Malibu. There’s also land and wide open spaces. Both Oklahoma City and Tulsa have been rejuvenated in recent years, even though OKC’s urban sprawl, in particular, remains problematic. I can attest that our state’s health care systems have improved over the years as well. Things are getting slowly better. Perhaps, that’s how it will always be here.

So is Oklahoma a bad place to retire? That remains entirely subjective and extremely personal. It can be related to family geography and income level. One non-scientific ranking doesn’t mean much, but the larger story does tell us we do need to improve the quality of life here.

Another Angry Oklahoma Bigotry Bill

Image of wedding cake decoration from Flickr’s The Commons

Well, if gay people are allowed to get legally married to one another in Oklahoma then no one will be allowed to get legally married. So there. Haha. Gotcha.

That seems to be the playground mentality of state Rep. Todd Russ, a Cordell Republican, and 66 of his fellow legislators in the Oklahoma House of Representatives who voted last week to essentially end the marriage-license process in Oklahoma.

House Bill 1125 passed on a 67-24 vote last week. The bill was written for discriminatory purposes, it’s sexist, it’s unconstitutional, it could open up unintended possibilities, including the denial of federal rights and benefits for married couples, and it’s another embarrassment for a state right now in the glaring national spotlight for an ugly act of racism on the SAE hate bus.

HB 1125 is another deliberate act of bigotry that is getting widespread national attention. Fittingly, the bill is so confusing, it might actually help solidify same-sex marriage in Oklahoma, but its intention and possible consequences render that a moot point.

The bill would abolish the marriage license process in Oklahoma and replace it with marriage certificates that would be filed with the government AFTER a clergy member or anyone allowed by law to perform marriages does so. So county clerks or the government would still be involved in marriage regulation, but in a rather ambiguous and unsure manner.

Russ, who has made it clear the bill reflects his stance against same-sex marriage, has been obfuscating with the media about his reasoning behind the legislation. He says the state’s county clerks are caught in some type of “middle” when it comes to same-sex marriage, which is now legal in Oklahoma. What that middle is seems very vague. Is it that they don’t want to issue marriage licenses to same-sex partners? That appears to be Russ’s argument. Oh those poor, poor county clerks. So which clerks and employees in their offices don’t want to do issue marriage licenses to same-sex partners? I want to see the list.

Never mind. See, these clerks and their employees have to issue the licenses. That’s the law. They would have to file the certificates after the marriage so what’s the point? What does Oklahoma County Clerk Carolynn Caudill think about all this?

Here are some obvious problems with the bill. (1) It would put into jeopardy or at least confusion the legality of marriage in Oklahoma. (2) It’s inherently sexist because mothers and children might not have protection or could wind up with less protection under the law. (3) The federal government and other states might not recognize the certificates as binding, and thus everything from filing “married” and claiming dependent children on tax returns to moving away from this bigotry to California could get extremely complicated.

All for those poor county clerks caught in the muddle or do I mean middle? This bill is a joke, right? No, folks, it is an actual bill that passed that Oklahoma House of Representatives as the state pretty much made the national television news each night last week for its bus of bigotry.

Russ blusters, “Marriage was historically a religious covenant first and a government-recognized contract second. Under my bill, the state is not allowing or disallowing same-sex marriage. It is simply leaving it up to the clergy.”

There are plenty of Oklahoma clergy members and other people who can legally perform marriages that will marry same-sex couples, which makes Russ and those legislators who voted for the bill seem terribly petty and bigoted.

And, yes, the government eventually became involved in the marriage licensing process for a number of reasons, including the legal protection of dependent children. In addition, marriage licensing in Western culture has been around at least since the fourteenth-century in England. Prior to licensing there were marriage banns, which was the public announcement of a marriage. Even churches long ago recognized the “public” side of marriage.

If signed into law, it will be ruled unconstitutional by courts just based on its intention and its violation of the Establishment and Equal Protection clauses in the U.S. Constitution. How much will that lawsuit cost taxpayers?

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