This is a blog of populist and liberal information and ideas, advancing the cause of truth and justice while fighting the ugly tyranny of right-wing oppression in Oklahoma and its surrounding environs.

Newspaper Gets Gorey

Image of Al Gore’s office

The Oklahoman editorial board has decided former Vice President Al Gore has a “blood vendetta” because he gave his normal speech warning about climate change and putting a price on carbon emissions.

A snarky mini-editorial that appeared Saturday in the newspaper’s Oklahoma ScissorTales section begins with a typical ad hominem attack on Gore and ends with illogical clichés and basic craziness. The writer was apparently reliving the 2000 presidential election that Gore actually won but was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in George W. Bush’s favor. But what does that have to do with global warming and rising sea levels? Nothing. Editorial writers at The Oklahoman don’t want to deal with science and facts when it comes to global warming.

Gore spoke at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival last week, and, as usual, called for putting some type of price or cost on carbon emissions. He also used apparently the word “punish” when referring to politicians and people who deny scientific claims about global warming. This is Gore’s regular speech about climate change. It’s nothing new as far as I know. The right-wing got stuck on the word “punish.”

But this is the way an editorial writer at The Oklahoman saw it:

It’s been almost 15 years since Al Gore narrowly lost the 2000 presidential election. He continues to demonstrate why that was such a positive outcome. Speaking at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, Gore again displayed the blind zealotry that made him unfit for the presidency.

Well, if we want to relive 2000, let’s remember that Gore received the most votes in the election, and he only lost because the U.S. Supreme Court essentially awarded the presidency to George W. Bush, who later began two long and costly military occupations. Who is the real blind zealot? The environmentalist Gore or the warmonger Bush?

The editorial goes on to note:

. . . instead of urging attendees to develop technology that allows people to shift away from power sources that Gore believes harm the environment, he called on them to pursue a blood vendetta and promote high taxes on working people who can’t afford trendy, niche environmentalism.

There’s much wrong with this sentence. First, it’s highly doubtful an editorial writer for one of the country’s most conservative metropolitan newspapers really wants anyone to “develop” anything that would lower the profits of the oil and gas industry. Second, note the term “blood vendetta.” Isn’t that “overkill” in this case? Newspaper hyperbole is one thing; this rises to another level. Third, what in the world is “trendy, niche environmentalism”? I guess the point is to dish up the tired cliché and stereotypes perpetuated by the right-wing about some mythical elite group of people flying around in their fuel-guzzling private jets while trying to save the environment. It’s not based on reality. It’s a lie. Many, many people from all walks of life throughout the world believe in the reality of global warming and want to do something about it.

What IS the reality is that “working people” will be harmed the most if the world does not get serious about reducing carbon emissions because of human migration from certain areas of the planet that become unlivable and widespread economic devastation. Or do you think it would be wealthy politicians, such as U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who would suffer the most if rising sea levels destroy coastal communities?

Gore, who founded the Climate Reality Project and whose environmental efforts were featured in the 2006 award-winning documentary film An Inconvenient Truth, has the stature, intelligence and experience to speak about climate change and suggest ways in which we might address it. The fact that the right-wingers who oppose him consistently rely on ad hominem attacks and hyperbole is telling.

Instead of attacking Gore and cherry picking his speech, why didn’t the editorial writer try to refute the scientific evidence about global warming and the cause for rising sea levels that have already led to flooding in coastal areas? The answer to that should be obvious.

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.

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