ERAD on hold in Oklahoma… for now

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin put a temporary hold on the use of the ERAD system by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

KFOR news reports:

On Friday, Gov. Fallin directed her Cabinet secretary of safety and security to delay the use of the devices.

“The Department of Public Safety needs to formulate a clear policy for using this new technology,” said Fallin. “It can be a viable tool for law enforcement only if authorities are able to ensure Oklahoma motorists and others driving through our state that it will be used appropriately.”

I thought this announcement might be coming since several groups opposed the current use of these devices by the OHP.

While this might not be a clear victory, it at least will slow the process and allow the people to have a better look at what Oklahoma law enforcement is doing.

Groups ask Oklahoma Governor to rein in the Oklahoma Highway Patrol

The ERAD credit / debit card reading system being tested by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol is coming under more scrutiny. A group of 7 lawmakers and organizations have sent a letter to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin asking her to issue an executive order to stop the Oklahoma Highway Patrol from further use of the ERAD system until the legislature can address the issue.

According to the Tulsa World, the letter’s signatories include:

… Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City; Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater; the ACLU of Oklahoma; the Oklahoma Policy Institute; the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs; the NAACP of Oklahoma City; and the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association.

Of particular note is the fact that the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association signed on to the letter. Is a deeply conservative state like Oklahoma, they are more likely to be able to sway Governor Mary Fallin’s decision.

The letter states such things as:

“The use of these devices’ full capabilities, unless done with the authorization of the card owner, is unlikely to survive a constitutional challenge,” the letter says. “Moreover, it is illegal.”

And also notes that:

In addition, the Department of Public Safety significantly overpaid the company for ERAD’s software and services, the letter alleges.

While I would contend that anything paid was too much considering the questionable legality of such devices as well as the complete lack of oversight against misuse.

Politics truly does create strange bedfellows.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s talking point is indistinguishable from a lie

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) has been pushing the talking point that they can’t get access to your personal banking account or credit card account through the use of their renegade asset forfeiture program called ERAD. They further imply that the people who are talking about how the OHP might have been able to take your money were spouting propaganda, one assumes, in an attempt to discredit the ERAD program.

I, along with most people who gave a detailed accounting of how the program worked, tended to take the OHP at their word that they couldn’t gain access to your bank or credit card account; they could only gain access to the money stored on the prepaid credit/debit network card. The ACLU of Oklahoma points out that, while technically true, it is only because the company that provided the ERAD system couldn’t provide that information for them. The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS) tried to get this access, but the company that provided the system informed them that it would be illegal without a court order.

The Oklahoma ACLU reports:

However, buried deep in the 199-page contract, a section shows that DPS officials explicitly asked the ERAD Group, a Ft. Worth, Texas, company to provide a means of accessing individual “banking information (account number, routing number)” and for the ability to freeze or seize the money in the account.

I don’t know about you, but this certainly doesn’t fill me with confidence that the Oklahoma Highway Patrol isn’t trying to push for totalitarian control over anyone that happens to pass through this state, not to mention the residents that make their home here.

Fortunately, it this seems to be such an egregious program that it isn’t a partisan issue.

Cory Williams (D-Stillwater) said:

Several state lawmakers have called on DPS to stop using the card readers. In a media statement, state Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, likened the use of the system to government robbery.

“This is deplorable,” Williams said. “The State of Oklahoma is allowing the OHP to swipe money from a card even if the trooper has no solid proof that the money in the card holder’s account was acquired illegally. The government is robbing its people.”

And Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City)  said:

State Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, said the card reader program was a dangerous, unconstitutional tool. Loveless said the fact that DPS officials initially sought access to banking information shows the program was just another method to take money.

“We’ve seen this time and time again,” Loveless said. “Now we see they were trying to get that type of information. This shows this isn’t about identity theft, drugs, or crime or ISIS, it’s just another method to take innocent people’s property.”

Hopefully this disastrous situation will gain enough attention from the Oklahoma people that it can be stopped before it becomes truly embedded in the culture of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Mr. Brady Henerson of the Oklahoma ACLU said:

Brady Henderson, Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said Thompson and others weren’t telling the whole story about the ERAD contract.

“The only reason they didn’t get access to personal banking information was that the company told them ‘no,’” Henderson said.

It is too dangerous to leave such technology in the hands of people who have to be told by a company that they aren’t allowed to break the law.

Alcohol plus woman = free oral sex

I can’t believe this isn’t some kind of sick joke.

In Oklahoma, for the time being, all you have to do is find someone that is too drunk to say “no”, and you can have all the oral sex with them that you want. Essentially, the court ruled that intoxication isn’t legitimate grounds to claim oral sodomy.

From The Guardian:

Benjamin Fu, the Tulsa County district attorney leading the case, said the ruling had him “completely gobsmacked”.

“The plain meaning of forcible oral sodomy, of using force, includes taking advantage of a victim who was too intoxicated to consent,” Fu said. “I don’t believe that anybody, until that day, believed that the state of the law was that this kind of conduct was ambiguous, much less legal. And I don’t think the law was a loophole until the court decided it was.” To focus on why the victim was unable to consent, he continued, puts the victim at fault.

For some reason, I doubt that this would hold true if the victim were male. But then again, since this is Oklahoma, I guess anything is possible.

Norman OK extends helping hand to LGBT Oklahomans

I am proud to say that there is a town in my state that was willing to stand out in this Christian, Republican stronghold and take a stand for the protection of minorities. While protecting people and providing them with equal rights shouldn’t be divisive, there are still way too many people in Oklahoma that are willing to do everything in their power to make life as torturous as possible for the people that they don’t like.

And one of the groups of people that they don’t like are members of the LGBT community.

The city council in Norman, Oklahoma has taken a stand to provide the members of the LGBT community with the protections that are still desperately needed in many parts of Oklahoma.

One of our local TV stations, News 9, reported the following:

Norman is now the first city in the state to pass inclusive protections for the LGBT community.

Supporters called Tuesday’s vote historic.

“It should have been done a long time ago,” said Troy Stevenson, Freedom Oklahoma director.

They’re inclusive protections that are intended to match those already in place for minority communities.

Stevenson said this has been an ongoing fight for years.

“This is actually one of the most important fights that’s going on in the state of Oklahoma,” Stevenson said.

Norman, Oklahoma is one of the college towns in Oklahoma. Being a college town, there is naturally a more diverse and well educated population that makes it easier to pass legislation for minorities than in many of the other municipalities around the state. But even these little progressive havens around the state can demonstrate the need for such legislation.

It was in the same city in 2010 that the dialog was so toxic that it contributed to the suicide of a young gay man.

Here is a reminder of that time frame as reported by Queerty. I wouldn’t recommend following the link unless you are ready to experience flashbacks to the times when people were more prepared to wear their hate on their sleeves.

Zach Harrington, a 19-year-old in Norman, Oklahoma, attended a City Council meeting Sept. 28 where council members were asked to simply recognize October at LGBT History Month in the city. In a 7-1 vote, the council approved the resolution — but not before three hours of incensed debate back and forth between members of the public during an open comment period. It was this “toxic” exchange among neighbors, railing against the recognition of queers’ contributions to society, that led Zach to take his own life a week later, his family says.

 Since Norman is the first town in Oklahoma to approve protections for the LGBT community, we still have an enormously long way to go to reach equality. Still, it is nice to see that we are making progress even in the reddest of states.

Oklahoma shake and bake

It’s no secret that the people that share my fine state aren’t entirely convinced about global warming. Much to my chagrin, we even keep electing a full blown science denier to to US Senate. But that doesn’t mean that all the people of Oklahoma are clueless. In fact, our universities are working diligently to educate the public about the problems that humanity will face in the future.

US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse wrote in the Tulsa World:

Oklahoma’s Climatological Survey statement on climate change is straightforward: The Earth’s climate has warmed during the last 100 years; the Earth’s climate will continue to warm for the foreseeable future; and much of the warming we have seen over the last 50 years can be attributed to human activities, particularly those emitting greenhouse gases.

And here’s what your agency says Sooners can expect: crops maturing earlier, leaving them more vulnerable to spring freezes; increased frequency and severity of drought; drier and warmer conditions, increasing wildfire risk; and more intense rainstorms, with more runoff and flash flooding. Dr. Mark Shafer, a researcher at the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, told The Oklahoman that in a few decades, Oklahoma could see an entire month of 100-plus-degree temperatures every summer. By century’s end, Oklahoma’s daily high temperatures could top 100 degrees for the entire summer.

Hopefully Oklahomans will work to change this future before it gets here instead of after we are already dealing with it.

So we know that if we continue on our present course of action that Oklahoma will bake. What I find so disturbing is the fact that the same people that are responsible for the baking are responsible to the shaking that has been going on in Oklahoma recently.

Yet some in Congress still cling to a small fringe who deny the established scientific consensus. This fringe group has two notable characteristics: They tend to avoid the scrutiny of scientific peer review, and they tend to have financial ties to the fossil fuel industry. Dr. Riley Dunlap of Oklahoma State University researches the effort by fossil fuel interests to distort public opinion with bogus information on climate change — what he calls the “organized climate-denial machine.” Dunlap and a colleague found that nearly 90 percent of the books questioning climate change science published between 1982 and 2010 were tied to “think tanks” funded by fossil fuel interests.

Those are the same fossil fuel interests that have been running injection wells at pressures high enough to produce earthquakes. And even when they were presented with the science that they were causing earthquakes, they refused to do anything to mitigate the risk until they were forced to.

Come on, Oklahoma. We deserve representation that doesn’t treat the people like idiots. We deserve representation that will stand up for the life that we lead as well as the life that our progeny will lead. It’s time that our Senators and Representatives stop ignoring the problems that Oklahoma faces. Everyone deserves a future better than these elected officials have planned for us.

It’s true: some injection wells cause earthquakes

Living in Oklahoma, I have become very familiar with earthquakes over the last few years. Right it wrong, we associated the earthquake increases with increased oilfield production. We were right.

[R]esearchers have found that the rate at which we dispose of … liquid may greatly impact the chance that [an earthquake] will occur. The faster we inject this water into the ground, the higher likelihood of induced Earth rumblings.

Why this happens has been known to geologists for a while.

Whenever fluid is added to or withdrawn from the ground, the state of stress on the crust changes. And if that fluid pressure changes inside a fault, friction can decrease, causing the two sides of the fault to push away from each other. Wastewater and fluid injection, dam and reservoir construction, mining, and hydraulic fracturing all contribute to these pressure changes


But this isn’t an all out nothing problem. Oil has been extracted from Oklahoma and Texas for a long time without increased seismic activity. What could be changing it now?

Weingarten and his research team catalogued the production rates of 180,000 injection wells located between Colorado and the East Coast. They found the wells that pumped more than 300,000 barrels of wastewater into the ground per month were statistically associated with earthquakes.

We seem to be closing in on the culprit responsible for the increase in earthquakes. This knowledge, along with future scientific research, should help us make a better decision regarding risk assessment with respect to increased oil production.