Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
Tulsa World, April 19, 2013
Lawmaker's ethnic slur gets official dust-off
Two offensive acts were committed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday.
The first was when Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, during floor debate on whether small businesses can compete with big-box retailers, said customers "... might try to Jew me down on a price."
The second was when House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, failed to condemn or even criticize Johnson's slur. Shannon said, in a statement issued by a spokesman after the session, that Johnson "is not the first person to make a comment they regret. The chamber accepted his apology and has moved on."
Johnson apparently was not aware that he uttered the offensive remark. When it was called to his attention he said, "Did I? I apologize to the Jews. They're good small businessmen as well."
A video of the House session reveals that Johnson laughed as he made that "apology" and that there was scattered laughter from the House floor.
The 59-year-old Johnson, a high ranking member of the House Republican leadership, said later that the offensive term was one he often heard as a child and it "was just something that came out from the wrinkles of my brain."
"Jew me down" is a clearly derogatory phrase that perpetuates an ancient stereotype that Jewish people are cheap or unscrupulous in business dealings. There is no place for it in today's society and certainly not in the seat of Oklahoma's government. Johnson's casual use of it is repugnant and Shannon's casual dusting off of the incident is perhaps more disappointing.
It's likely that many if not most Oklahomans, especially older ones, often heard racially or ethnically inappropriate language when they were children. But most, as adults, have taken care to eliminate those words and phrases from their conversation.
The Oklahoman, April 23, 2013
'Enemy combatant' tag could pay dividends for this country
Boston returned to somewhat-normal on Monday, one week after the Boston Marathon bombings triggered a series of events that kept the area on edge until the second, surviving bomber was captured Friday night. The question facing authorities now is, how best to proceed legally?
After 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was apprehended, some in the media questioned law enforcement about the fact Tsarnaev hadn't been read his Miranda rights. A public-safety exemption to Miranda allows for questioning for a brief amount of time, but regardless, there is a wealth of other evidence available to prosecutors, including video of the Tsarnaev brothers at the scene of the bombings.
The bigger question was whether the administration would name Tsarnaev an enemy combatant, which would have allowed for extensive questioning without a lawyer. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out in an editorial Monday, the goal should be preventing a future attack, and questioning allowed under the enemy combatant umbrella could help to that. "Especially because President Obama has barred enhanced-interrogation techniques, such long-term psychological pressure can be crucial to learning if the brothers worked with anyone else, if they received terrorist training, and more," the Journal wrote.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., urged the president to do so. Some parties on the left, and a few libertarian Republicans, who don't believe the war on terror is being waged in this country were sure to protest such a designation, but Obama should have taken this step.
Instead the White House said Monday that Tsarnaev wouldn't be tried as an enemy combatant. Coming from an administration reluctant to even use words such as "terrorist," the move was predictable but still disappointing. King is correct when he says America "is part of the battleground." The sooner our leaders realize that the better.
The Norman Transcript, April 23, 2013
State should control water
The sprawling growth of north Texas residential communities can't continue without additional sources of cheap, fresh water. For years the thirsty communities north of Fort Worth and Dallas have coveted the fresh water that flows in southeastern Oklahoma.
Under a 30-plus-year-old agreement, four states have a right to some excess water that ends up in the Red River. But whether Texas can take it directly from the Oklahoma creeks and rivers as before it hits the Red River and turns salty is in dispute. Only Texas is asking but Arkansas and Louisiana could be bound by whatever the court rules.
That dispute will play out in the U.S. Supreme Court this week. A decision is expected before the court recesses this summer. Lower courts have upheld Oklahoma's rights to control the water within its borders.
Oklahoma was able to put off the issue for several years. First, a statewide water needs study was done. Second, lawmakers and Native American tribes got involved, further stalling the debate.
The 1980 agreement doesn't specifically address one state taking its allotment before it reaches their borders. Lawyers for Oklahoma interests argue that it should be a given: States only have access to water within their boundaries unless otherwise specified.
Allowing one state access to water inside another state's borders would open up an entire new area of water law. A group of law professors, the tribes and state officials are hoping to make that point this week. We hope the high court gets it.