THE misery index loves company.
Actually it's the heat index, that measure of temperature mixed with the humidity. But with recent heating, the temperature is becoming a master over the moisture. Lower humidity may help 98 degrees feel more like, well, 99 degrees, but it also increases fire danger. That's misery wrapped in a cocoon of concern.
The miserable company Oklahoma is now keeping is the 72 percent of the country labeled by the U.S. Drought Monitor as being in the “abnormally dry” category or worse. This is the largest geographic extent of drought or pre-drought conditions recorded since the Drought Monitor began in 1999, according to Associate State Climatologist Gary McManus.
“Odds favor more drought development as summer trudges ahead and a dry Oklahoma looks with anticipation toward the fall rainy season,” McManus noted this week in an Oklahoma Climatological Survey press release. Nearly half the state is already enduring drought conditions, he said, with the remainder “abnormally” dry, a precursor to outright drought classification.
Given the misery of the summer of 2011, this is discomfiting news. We've gone from “Surely it can't be as bad as last year” to “Here we go again!”
At least the economic misery index (adding the unemployment rate to the inflation rate) doesn't yet have the firefighters on high alert.
Rising from the rubble
When an F5 tornado hit Moore on May 3, 1999, it did $800 million in estimated damage to that community's neighborhoods. Today, Moore is one of Oklahoma's fastest-growing cities. Recent Census Bureau figures ranked Moore among the top 100 cities with 50,000 or more people based on its growth. The community added 1,234 people from 2010 to 2011 (2.2. percent growth). Oklahoma City and surrounding suburbs have all enjoyed growth in recent years. The Census Bureau found that Oklahoma City's population increased by 2.1 percent from 2010 to 2011, while Mustang and Yukon experienced population growth greater than 3 percent. Yet Moore stands out because of its not-so-distant tragic past. Recalling the horror of 1999 and the broad path of rubble the tornado made of buildings and people's lives, Moore's growth has been a remarkable achievement — and a testament to the perseverance of Oklahomans.
Didn't school just end?
For kids, the end of the school year is still a recent memory and thoughts of returning are far from their minds. Not so for retailers. The Wall Street Journal reports many sellers have already begun their back-to-school push. Oklahomans may face weeks of temperatures near or above the century mark, but summer clothes are already on markdown. Students obviously find it jarring to be reminded that their freedom will soon end, but even many parents are disturbed by the shift to ever-earlier sales efforts. The reason for the move is simple: “Back to school” is the third-largest sales period of the year with an estimated $70 billion in sales at stake. Add to that the growing competition from online retailers, and you start to understand why stores are so eager to shift focus to the classroom, even if the kids aren't.
Scrubbing the dirt
We recently argued that state ethics rules shouldn't allow ethics complaints to be filed close to an election, which prevents the accused from clearing their names. We were pleased to learn Ethics Commissioner Jo Pettigrew has now called for a blackout period on filing complaints to end the problem, rightly noting the unfairness of the system. Shortly before the June 26 primary, state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, filed ethics complaints against several state lawmakers based on contribution reports. Reynolds was campaigning for a primary challenger of one of the men he accused of violations. When the Ethics Commission met after the primary, seven complaints were dismissed because no violations occurred. As expected, they were simple reporting errors. A blackout period is a good idea; we hope the commission quickly adopts this common-sense proposal. Ethics complaints shouldn't be a venue for campaign dirty tricks.
Just plain silly
Cole Butler had campaign funds left over from his run for Rogers County sheriff, and figured one way to get rid of them was to pay for a partial recount of the June 26 election. And so employees of the county's election board went back and counted the ballots in question, and sure enough, Butler picked up a vote and the incumbent, Sheriff Scott Walton, lost a vote. That swing was enough to bring Butler within 1,285 votes of the winner. That's right — Butler demanded a recount despite getting smoked on election night. This didn't cost the people anything, other than the time spent by the election board. And we don't need another law on the books, saying recounts aren't acceptable unless the vote is close. But by any measure, this exercise was just plain silly.
Crossing the line
Coal is becoming a harder cross to bear. It won't get any easier with stepped-up government and advocacy group hostility toward fossil fuels in general and coal in particular. Now comes word that Al Armendariz, the former administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency region that includes Oklahoma, has joined the Sierra Club's strident anti-coal campaign. Armendariz resigned from the EPA after he was caught on tape comparing his enforcement philosophy to imperial Rome's use of crucifixion to terrorize the population. The Sierra Club has targeted coal-fired power plants in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. So much for the liberal complaint about regulators jumping ship to work in an industry they formerly regulated. The Armendariz move is just as cozy. The Club for Ungrowth is a powerful lobby and now has a Roman centurion in its ranks. Had a Bush administration official done what Armendariz did, no conservative advocacy group would have touched him with a 10-foot rood.
Hallmark of decency
Two things stand out about “The Andy Griffith Show,” whose namesake star died this week at age 86. One is that even today, the series that ran from 1960-68 is still funny because its humor was timeless. There were no topical jokes that require an understanding of events of those times. Instead the laughs stemmed from the various adventures of the characters — Andy, Barney, Opie, Aunt Bee and the rest. The other takeaway from the show was the decency of Griffith's character, Sheriff Andy Taylor. Andy always found a way to make others feel good, even if they had done something hurtful to him. The episode where Barney runs for sheriff is a prime example. Griffith had film success before the series debuted, and more TV success with “Matlock” afterward. But nothing approached “The Andy Griffith Show.” Longtime friend Craig Fincannon said the role of Sheriff Taylor “put heavy pressure on him because everyone felt like he was their best friend.” Not a bad legacy.