• Labor Day no picnic for millions of Americans

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Sep 1, 2014

    “PICNIC” is a three-act play taking place in a 24-hour period, Labor Day, in a small Kansas town. As the William Inge drama ends, its two principal characters are headed for Oklahoma in hopes of a better life. Labor Day is a national holiday with undercurrents of the same theme — hope for a better life. But this Labor Day, like the seven or so before it, is no picnic for the millions of Americans who can’t find full-time employment. This is a holiday best known for sending up a flare that said summer was over, school had started, Jerry Lewis was having his annual telethon and football season was underway.

  • Whither the U.S. energy boom? Answer may lie in the halls of government

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    WHITHER oil prices? The question is posed here rhetorically, but it’s not an academic question in the halls of commerce and the halls of government. Oil prices are critical to Oklahoma’s economic fortunes and state tax revenues. “Energy price forecasts are highly uncertain, and the current values of futures and options contracts suggest that prices could differ significantly from the forecast levels,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration noted on Aug. 12. In other words, the most reliable answer to the question posed above is, “Who knows?” Indeed, that answer has been apt for decades when the same question was asked. But other answers have never been in short supply. In this area, “experts” abound.

  • 'Local control' not worth much if locals don't participate

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    POPULIST sentiment, which remains strong in Oklahoma, sees local government as most responsive to the people because it’s closest to the people. But as has often been noted, “local control” exists only if people actually participate in local elections. Too often they don’t. Ironically, this means that shifting power to local governments can actually increase the clout of special interest groups. Consider Ferguson, Mo., the riot-plagued St. Louis suburb. Although two-thirds of the community’s residents are black, five out of six members on the city council are white. The mayor is white. Six of seven school board members are white; the seventh is Hispanic. The black residents weren’t denied access to the ballot box.

  • ScissorTales: Oklahoma lawsuit over executions has merit

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sat, Aug 30, 2014

    THIRTEEN minutes into the execution of Clayton Derrell Lockett in April, as Lockett grimaced and writhed, someone closed the blinds on the window that gives witnesses their view of the procedure. Soon after, media witnesses were escorted away. Lockett was declared dead 43 minutes after the execution began. Now a freelance journalist, two news organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union have joined in a lawsuit that seeks to ensure such questionable behavior doesn’t happen again. Plaintiffs want to put in place a restriction on blinds being closed during any execution, and a requirement that the Department of Corrections allow media to witness the IVs being placed in the inmate.

  • USC football player hardly alone in bending the truth

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Aug 29, 2014

    THE truth will make you free, the Good Book says. So why do so many of us choose to stay shackled? The story of University of Southern California football player Josh Shaw has put the art of deception in the news — again. Shaw showed up at the school last weekend with two badly sprained ankles. By way of explanation, Shaw said he had jumped off a second-story apartment balcony in order to rescue his young nephew from drowning in a swimming pool. USC posted the story on its website. Why not? Shaw, a senior cornerback, is a team captain. And college football programs are always glad to promote feel-good stories, particularly given how many of the other kind they deal with. The story of Shaw’s heroism spread quickly Monday

  • The expense of holding runoff elections raises legitimate questions

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Aug 29, 2014

    OKLAHOMA’S recent runoff elections determined party nominees in several races, but they didn’t answer a bigger question: Does the benefit of a runoff exceed its cost? Runoff elections cost the state an estimated $800,000. Voter turnout is typically about half the participation rate of the primary election. This can mean runoff elections draw just 10 percent to 15 percent of eligible primary voters. Also, runoff elections lengthen the campaign season. If Oklahoma had no runoff system, the Aug. 26 election would have been the first of the season, rather than the second of three (primary, runoff and general). Consider, too, that the expensive Aug. 26 runoff featured just two statewide races — the Democratic nominating

  • Effort seeks to give everyday Oklahomans a voice in setting policy

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Aug 28, 2014

    CITIZENS often complain that their voices are ignored by the people who represent them in Washington. How can the average homemaker compete with a K Street lobbyist? A group called “Voice Of the People” wants to do just what its name suggests — provide a voice to everyday Americans regarding important issues such as entitlement reform, defense spending or transportation. Oklahoma is on the ground floor of this effort. It’s one of three states whose residents will be asked to become members of a “Citizen Cabinet” that will study key issues and provide recommendations to members of Congress. Oklahoma will provide a red-state perspective; the other two states are Maryland (a blue state) and Virginia (purple).

  • Cancer group misses mark in its critique of Oklahoma

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Aug 28, 2014

    A new report by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network argues that Oklahoma lags in the fight against cancer because the state hasn’t embraced bigger government. This message does a disservice to serious efforts to drive down cancer rates in Oklahoma, including aggressive anti-tobacco initiatives. Among other things, the ACS suggests Oklahoma’s refusal to expand Medicaid under Obamacare makes people more likely to die of cancer. The report states that “providing low-income adults and families access to affordable, comprehensive health care coverage is critical in the fight against cancer.

  • New Oklahoma tobacco compacts a step in the right direction

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Aug 27, 2014

    AFTER nearly a decade of chaos, the tobacco market in Oklahoma is slowly shifting to a rational structure. A new analysis by the Oklahoma Policy Institute indicates that the change is due in large part to new compacts negotiated by the office of Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. In 2004, Oklahomans voted to increase the excise tax on cigarettes by 80 cents, raising the rate to $1.03 per pack, while also eliminating state and local sales taxes on tobacco products. The result was a substantial net increase in tobacco taxes. The revenue generated was largely directed to health care programs. However, significant flaws in state compacts with tribal governments immediately created major problems.

  • A bucket, some ice water and a phenomenon is born

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Aug 27, 2014

    CAN anyone predict when a fad or craze will morph into a phenomenon? Fifty years ago it was the Beatles. This summer it’s the ice bucket challenge benefitting the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named for the Hall of Fame New York Yankee first baseman who suffered, and eventually died (in 1941), from the neurodegenerative disease. This summer also marked the 75th year of his “Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech, when he emotionally addressed a packed Yankee Stadium. For a public relations specialist, the ice bucket challenge is a dream come true. Nearly every day there are film clips or articles about celebrities and politicians who’ve stepped up

  • On energy front, one standard needed for wildlife protection

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Aug 26, 2014

    FANS of the foodie movie “The Hundred-Foot Journey” left the theater knowing that there’s more ways to prepare fowl than roasting or frying and there are more kinds of birds to cook than chicken, turkey, ducks and the odd dove. With its focus on fabulous French haute cuisine, the movie makes a viewer wish the popcorn were a bit more sauced up. Far from the picturesque French countryside is America’s Mojave Desert, where a high-tech solar power plant has been cooking birds by the thousands. Literally. BrightSource Energy’s plant generates heat to a point that birds passing over are ignited. Plant workers refer to the unfortunate birds as “streamers,” supposedly for the smoke plume they create when falling from

  • Oklahoma lawmakers put on notice by state Ethics Commission

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Aug 25, 2014

    Campaign funds need to be spent properly

  • Oklahoma policymakers should give greater scrutiny to tax credits

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Aug 25, 2014

    OKLAHOMA lawmakers don’t know how many recipients may cash in tax credits this year, don’t know the total amount of tax credits that will be handed out in any given year, and don’t know if those tax credits actually generate economic activity. But other than that … No private business would operate this way, yet it remains par for the course in state government. We’ve noted this before, but it bears repeating: State government budgeting is a mess. Lawmakers should consider simple changes that could reduce wild swings in revenue collections — swings that are unrelated to economic downturns. In recent years, the state economy has been growing, but poor financial practices have created artificial shortfalls through

  • Study of Oklahoma quakes must be cautious, responsible

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Aug 24, 2014

    AS you read this, chances are that an earthquake will have rattled some parts of Oklahoma in the past 48 hours or so. The odds of it being a significant quake are quite long, but not nearly as long as they were just five years ago. And also not necessarily any shorter than the odds were in the 1950s. Therein lies a part of Oklahoma’s seismic history that rarely gets mentioned. We have shaken this way before. No one then looked for something to blame other than nature itself. Today, the blame game is apace. The betting is the oil and gas industry is the cause. The narrative is similar to the anthropogenic global warming mantra — speculation turns into theory and theory morphs into “settled science.

  • The Oklahoman endorsement: Patrice Douglas is our pick in 5th District race between two good candidates

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Aug 24, 2014

    CONSTITUENTS in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District are losing an excellent representative in Republican James Lankford. After two terms in the House, Lankford has his sights set on the U.S. Senate. The House seat he will vacate is considered “safe” for Republicans. The good news for GOP voters is that two strong candidates are on the ballot in Tuesday’s runoff election. Former state Sen. Steve Russell and Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas were the top two vote-getters in the six-person primary in June. Russell won 26.6 percent of the vote, Douglas 24.5 percent. Tuesday’s winner will face either Tom Guild, a retired college professor, or state Sen. Al McAffrey, who are meeting in the Democratic runoff.

  • ScissorTales: Separatist movements in vogue

    The Oklahoman Editorials | Published: Sat, Aug 23, 2014

    CALIFORNIANS may vote in two years on a proposal to split the Golden State into six parts, each with its own capital and congressional delegation. Even if the measure passed, Washington would have to approve it — which isn’t likely. Periodic rumblings have been heard about splitting Texas into multiple states or parts of Oklahoma joining parts of Kansas and Texas in a separate state. Won’t happen. In Scotland, though, it is happening. A vote on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom is set for Sept. 18. Polling shows no clear favorite for an outcome. Separatism movements are also alive and well in other parts of Europe, including Spain. There, a vote may take place later this year on separating Catalonia from the

  • Attention Oklahoma lawmakers: Aging prisoners come with a high cost

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Aug 22, 2014

    OKLAHOMA lawmakers through the years have burnished their tough-on-crime bona fides through legislation that helps ensure offenders get locked away for a long time. Most sessions of the Legislature are light on corrections reform measures; instead, bills that create new punishments, or expand punishments for existing crimes, are the norm. There are near-term consequences for this approach. One is that Oklahoma’s prisons stay at or near capacity, leaving corrections offers badly outmanned most of the time. The crowding is increasing as the head of the Department of Corrections tries to save his agency money by removing state inmates from county jails. A significant long-term result of the status quo is that more inmates stay

  • Conservative calls for GOP to use Obamacare as reform tool

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Aug 21, 2014

    OBAMACARE — from its Democratic-only approval in Congress, to its botched rollout, to the president’s many unilateral deferrals of some pieces of the law — is the gift that keeps on giving for Republicans. Senate Democrats are distancing themselves from the law as they seek re-election this year, and Obamacare is sure to be central to the 2016 presidential race. Yet one prominent conservative believes Republicans are taking a bit of a risk if they focus solely on trying to repeal the law. Avik Roy, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, notes that by 2016 (according to the Congressional Budget Office), 34 million Americans will be on Obamacare-sponsored health insurance, either as part of Medicaid

  • OKC Zoo: Proof that good things can happen when a community bands together

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Aug 21, 2014

    WHEN a community bands together for a common good, greatness can happen. Perhaps nowhere is that more obvious than with the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, a community project that sometimes flies under the radar but is really a remarkable story. This is highlighted with the August release of the book “Oklahoma City Zoo: 1960-2013.” The author is Amy Dee Stevens, who also wrote “Oklahoma City Zoo: 1902 to 1959.” As Stevens points out, the zoo is an important part of the community’s history. “Nearly every school child in Oklahoma has memories of visiting the zoo on a field trip,” she said, “and zoo photos can be found in thousands of family and corporate photo albums.

  • Want salt with that food fad?

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Aug 20, 2014

    Sodium has been under assault for years. Fast-food chains have been peppered with criticism over high-fat, high-calorie offerings that, when seasoned with a toy giveaway, supposedly put children on a path toward poor health. What’s a fast-food company executive to do these days when: Researchers suddenly proclaim low-salt diets aren’t optimal to health? Burger King’s healthy choice “Satisfries” are so unpopular that they’re yanked from the menu? The same chain’s chicken fries are brought back by popular demand? Not all Burger King outlets are dethroning Satisfries, but enough are to make a splash in the frying vat.