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.

Fracking Threat: It Gets Worse

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Feel that 3.0-magnitude earthquake Tuesday morning in central Oklahoma?

Well, here’s something else to shake things up even more in the growing case to be made against hydraulic fracturing: Possible nuclear disaster.

The site Truthout recently published an article in which experts argue that a cavern that stores radioactive waste near Carlsbad, New Mexico could be threatened by nearby hydraulic fracturing or fracking activity. Energy companies, according to the article, are drilling and establishing fossil fuel wells within five miles of the site.

According to the article:

Given that it is already well known that fracking causes earthquakes, it is clear that the nuclear waste storage site is now in danger of having its structural integrity compromised.

The site is part of the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP), which was established to store radioactive waste. It’s one of the deepest and largest such facilities in the world.

Could a major leak of that radioactive waste make its way to Oklahoma?

Of course, here in Oklahoma we know all about fracking, a process in which chemicals and water are injected by high pressure into the ground to release oil and gas. Our new and growing earthquake problem, though, appears to be caused by the injection wells that store the wastewater from the process, according to scientists.

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake rumbled Edmond Tuesday morning, but that’s nothing unusual anymore. It’s all just part of our reality now in a state once known more for its killer tornadoes than its seismic activity.

Oklahoma was ranked second in the nation among the lower 48 states for earthquakes 3.0-magnitude or higher in 2013. The state has already surpassed that total this year.

Oil and gas industry leaders continue to argue that there’s no definitive proof that their drilling processes are causing the huge number of earthquakes here and elsewhere in this country’s current fracking boom, and state leaders and a complacent corporate media are happy to oblige their argument.

Here are some questions: Are we going to experience a major earthquake soon in this area that causes massive damage? Will that wake up our state leaders? What is the structural impact of so many repeated earthquakes on our property and buildings? What are the legal ramifications of human-caused earthquakes?

Not So Fast

Oklahoma State Capitol

A couple of close friends brought up some arguments about my recent post condemning a new requirement that forces divorcing parents to take a class that deals with the effect of divorce on children while suggesting reconciliation as an option.

My overall point is that the new law, passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin, is simply a personal intrusion and could have unintended consequences. Could the requirement intensify an already intense situation during a divorce?

One friend, who is involved in family law, made the point that many couples could benefit from the class and consequently he sees no problem with it. He deals with the reality of the issue everyday. He might agree with me on some abstract level, but he also knows that some divorcing people need to know basic information such as this: If you are ordered to pay child support, you really must pay child support. What’s wrong with that?

Many divorces go smoothly, he notes, but some turn into wars. A class designed to defuse tension or refocus it on helping children cope can he helpful, he suggests, noting such classes already exist in some counties.

My other friend, who has been a long time advocate for decreasing domestic violence here, wondered why I hadn’t mentioned in the post that Oklahoma has a high rate of violence committed against women. Just last year, for example, a report showed that Oklahoma ranked third in the nation in the number of women killed by men. Many women seek divorces to get out of abusive situations for themselves and children, she said, and anything that creates an obstacle for that to happen should be carefully considered.

The new law, however, does only apply to couples divorcing on grounds of incompatibility. But her point is well taken, and is perhaps the most crucial issue in the entire debate.

Overall, divorce is an important and serious issue in Oklahoma. I’ve written about the issue for many years, and I still contend deep-seated conservative cultural factors here prohibit people from growing up with realistic ideas about marriage. Changing that culture through education is where the answer remains.

I also believe our notions of what now constitutes a family has been broadened for the better. Same-sex marriage has been legally sanctioned in places throughout the country and this will continue despite minor setbacks along the way to equality. The advent of same-sex marriage has the potential to change how we might view our overall political structures and institutions and even our own cultural identities.

Personal Intrusion

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A new law requiring a counseling class for divorcing couples with children is yet another unnecessary conservative-backed personal intrusion into people’s lives here.

The main purpose of the law seems to be to remind divorcing parents that they are about to commit an atrocious and horrible act that’s sure to hurt their children and then to push the couple to reconcile for their sake. The bill seems based on the logic that people should stay in lousy marriages for the sake of their children. Wasn’t that myth destroyed a long time ago?

Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law this week House Bill 2249, which requires parents divorcing on the grounds of incompatibility take a class that, among other things, focuses on “short-term and longitudinal effects of divorce on child well-being” and “reconciliation as an optional outcome.”

In other words, the class will undoubtedly try to shame a divorcing couple over how they are supposedly hurting their children and then try to get them back together. Here are some questions: What if the couple doesn’t want to even talk about reconciliation? What if only one of the spouses wants to talk about reconciliation, and he/she uses the class as a way to harass the other spouse? (This will surely happen.) What if the couple has been separated for a long time and the children are already adjusted?

Let me throw out a suggestion: People who stay in terrible marriages for the sake of children often have as many anxieties and regrets as people who divorce and establish new blended families. I don’t have any statistical evidence offhand that this is the case, but growing up in a household war zone or in a home without expressions of love and compassion takes it own little nasty toll on children.

I will grant that the new law might seem innocuous and benign to some people. Pay for and complete the class and go about the business of getting a divorce. No big deal, right? But this class could create even more emotional tension between couples during a time period of great stress and anxiety. It presupposes that reconciliation is the answer.

For a long time, Oklahoma has had one of the highest divorce rates in the country, providing the fuel for the social-conservatives who want to engineer our lives with their own narrow worldview abut the sanctity of marriage. Oklahoma is a deeply, right-wing religious state and thus many of our children here grow up with false, idealistic ideas and expectations about marriage and having children. They are taught to find a “soul mate,” not a friend, a “spiritual family leader,” not a partner, “a wife to honor,” not a confidante. A child is a “blessing,” not a responsibility. It’s all coated in religious symbolism and made manifest by the grand wedding spectacle. It has very little to do with the day-to-day life of living with someone and raising children together.

Moreover, children in Oklahoma can get legally married at 16 with their parents’ consent, but we still absurdly deny same-sex couples who have been in stable relationships for years any opportunity at all to legally sanction their partnership, a prohibition that will hopefully change in the near future because of federal court rulings.

We need to one day finally and completely remove the stigma of divorce here and mandate more realistic sex and home-life/home-economics education classes—including discussions about different sexual orientations—in our public schools. That would do far more to lower our divorce rate than haranguing stressed out couples about reconciling.

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