IN an address to the Clinton Global Initiative this week, President Barack Obama announced that he has issued an executive order to strengthen prohibitions against human trafficking in government contracting.
Sadly, the United States has become complicit in the horrendous crime of modern-day slavery through the actions of subcontractors working for the State Department to supply workers to embassies in global trouble spots. Those subcontractors are known to lure foreign workers with false promises and then trap them into servitude at American facilities.
The order is based on legislation authored by U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Edmond, which has already passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support and awaits a vote in the Senate.
While Obama's actions are a nice gesture, Lankford said the problem “can't be solved through an executive order.” In a meeting with The Oklahoman editorial board, he noted roughly 20 previous executive orders on the topic haven't ended the problem. By nature, those orders are temporary; statutory changes have more effect. Lankford's bill would require that U.S. government contracting include worker protections provided even in some Third World countries to prevent human trafficking.
If Obama had pressured Senate leadership to schedule a vote on his bill, Lankford noted, the president “could have had a big bill signing today” instead of announcing a mere order. Lankford's bill is tentatively scheduled for a Senate vote in a November lame-duck session. Here's hoping the president's dedication to this issue extends beyond the desire for one day's headline.
So far, so weird
Two old jokes came to mind when reading that a Tulsa woman accused of pushing her husband out of a high-rise apartment window is suing the apartment building's owners. The first joke is the one about a man who jumps from a high-rise and is asked midway down how things are going for him. “So far, so good” is the reply. The other joke is about the guy who kills his parents and then pleads for mercy based on his status as an orphan. Amber Hilberling is charged with second-degree murder for her alleged involvement in husband Joshua Hilberling's 17-story plunge on June 7, 2011, which prosecutors say resulted from a domestic fight. She's suing the apartment owners, claiming the window glass was too thin and substandard. Her criminal trial is scheduled for next March. No trial date has been set for the civil case.
The driverless car is coming, the Wall Street Journal said in a special report Monday. Driverless cars actually have drivers but the car itself does the hard work with robotics. Why not? We live in a driverless country now. The president is in the driver's seat but hasn't been driving the growth of jobs or foreign policy. Leading from behind on Mideast policy isn't driving. It's abdication. The analogy can be stretched only so far because Barack Obama has been driving the health care reform debate (at the expense of economic expansion) and driving us toward a cliff on the deficit. On energy policy he's driving us in the wrong direction or going 25 in a 70 mph zone when it comes to energy independence. The country needs a new driver. The car of the future may tool down the road while the driver watches a video, but countries need someone behind the wheel who can steer, brake when needed and pass slower-moving vehicles.
Who pays the price?
As head of Continental Resources Inc., Oklahoma native Harold Hamm has been at the forefront of the shale revolution that has turned North Dakota into a boom state. Now Hamm has donated $10 million to the University of North Dakota's school of geology to enhance educational offerings in petroleum geology and related fields. It is the largest gift ever from someone who is not an alumnus of the school. President Barack Obama claims people like Hamm need to pay “a little more” in taxes as a matter of supposed fairness. But Hamm's success in creating jobs and associated philanthropy far exceeds anything done by Obama in spite of the billions he's wasted in stimulus funding. If Obama gets his way, it will be students and job seekers currently benefiting from the vision of the Harold Hamms of the world who will ultimately pay the price.
Kids caught in the crossfire
Two lawmakers have sued to prevent $2 million in state funding from going to the Oklahoma Youth Expo, a private entity. They argue it is unconstitutional because no legislation specifically authorized the appropriation and because public money cannot be used for a private purpose. In past years, lawmakers voted on a specific appropriation for the show. This year, the appropriation was never unveiled publicly, nor was it specifically included in legislation. Many state senators were reportedly unaware that expo funding was part of the budget agreement negotiated behind closed doors by a handful of officials. The legal wrangling now underway is the logical outcome of a secretive budget process. The kids who show livestock at the expo are unfortunately caught in the crossfire. This shows, once again, why negotiations on spending billions of taxpayer dollars should be conducted in the light of day.
America's true pastime
Baseball likes to call itself America's pastime, a nod to its long history in this country. But let there be no doubt about the sport that most consumes us — it's pro football. After substitute officials botched the touchdown call at the end of the Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks game on Monday night, ESPN had its highest-rated SportsCenter telecast ever. The National Football League office received about 70,000 voicemail messages overnight. President Obama and Mitt Romney were asked for their reaction. Packers fan and Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan used the debacle to zing the president. “It's time to get the real refs, and it reminds me of President Obama and the economy,” Ryan said. “If you can't get it right, it's time to get out.” The outcry had an impact — by Wednesday night, the league and officials had reached a deal ending the lockout that prompted the need for replacement refs in the first place.
A shining example
When he came up with the idea, Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan figured using nonviolent offenders to help clean areas of the county only made sense. The work helps offenders reintegrate into society and the county benefits from their labor. The program, called SHINE — Start Helping Impacted Neighborhoods Everywhere — is being noticed. It recently was named one of the nation's “Bright Ideas” winners by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University. And, Maughan says he has heard from several other counties and cities in Oklahoma and elsewhere that are interested in the idea. No wonder. Maughan estimates the county saves $1.5 million per year by keeping low-level offenders out of the county jail.
Another humble hero
We never cease to be struck by the humility displayed by those who have fought for this country. Jake McNiece, 93, made a career for himself as a postal worker in Ponca City. Before that, though, he was a paratrooper during World War II where he saw considerable action including at the Battle of the Bulge. This week he was named a knight of the Legion of Honor — France's most prestigious military award. McNiece led a patrol of paratroopers behind enemy lines hours before the D-Day invasion. He and his men destroyed two bridges and secured another to prevent German reinforcements from getting to Normandy. McNiece led a team of 18 — all but two died during the mission. McNiece's reaction to France's honor? “There were hundreds of other soldiers who were more deserving than I,” he said.