By The Associated Press
Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
Examiner-Enterprise, Jan. 5, 2013:
In the wake of the horrific mass shooting at Newtown, Conn. in December, which claimed 26 lives including 20 small children, many a grandstanding politician and reactionary media voice has come to the unsubstantiated conclusion that the lawful possession of firearms, guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is to blame.
Apparently in keeping with this shallow brand of knee-jerk analysis, The Journal News, a newspaper serving Westchester and Rockland counties in New York, used its powerful voice to publicly point a finger at legal gun owners in its own readership area.
Under the state's freedom of information laws, the newspaper was able to obtain a list of all legally permitted handgun owners. The records are a matter of public record. However, it was what the Journal News did with this sensitive information that has caused a nationwide uproar.
In an extreme example of guilt by association and a gross misuse of its public trust, the newspaper chose to publish the entire list of 44,000 handgun permit holders — their names, their addresses, and even an interactive map to aid in locating them.
We are compelled to ask, what legitimate public interest was served by doing so?
The newspaper offered a baffling lack of context or rationale. The terse response issued by the Journal News appears to indicate nothing more than it is a public record, therefore they were entitled to publish it. The real question is not whether they can publish it, but whether they should have published it.
Condemnation has been swift. Outraged citizens and even some respected media observers have been sharply critical. Without any real benefit to the public good, the newspaper's decision appears gratuitous and sensational at best. At worst, it was irresponsible and possibly dangerous.
The perverse logic of publicly "outing" thousands of law-abiding citizens, including many law enforcement officers and battered women seeking asylum from their would-be tormentors, is difficult to fathom. These people's property and even their very lives may have been put at risk.
Seeking to exact some revenge, one clever blogger posted the names and addresses of Journal News editorial employees, along with his own interactive map showing where they lived. In response to the public outcry against it, the newspaper saw fit to post an armed guard at its offices. The irony is rich.
A lesson here is that the news media bears a responsibility to balance the publication of sensitive information against the potential harm it may cause. The Journal News failed in this regard.
Muskogee Phoenix, Jan. 7, 2013:
General humbly served U.S.
Retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf left a legacy of quiet service that many of us should learn to copy.
Schwarzkopf died Dec. 27 at the age of 78.
Schwarzkopf was a hero. He will be remembered best as the commander of the United States-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait in 1991.
Schwarzkopf was introduced to the masses during nearly daily media briefings throughout the campaign. He was part of the decision to halt hostilities when it was the humane thing to end the rout of Saddam's forces. He was in charge of one of the most successful military campaigns in our nation's history.
And yet, he kept a very low public profile after the first Gulf War ended.
He did not choose public life though he was asked to run for office after the first Gulf War. He pretty much kept out of the limelight until he retired. He did not seek to capitalize on his moment in the sun.
As a nation, we too easily choose celebrity over substance.
We too quickly assume an athlete's accomplishments say something about his or her character.
Schwarzkopf was different. He did his job.
He served his country — quietly.
There are not enough people — given a podium or a spotlight — willing to serve without fanfare. In the social media age of "hey, look at me," Schwarzkopf taught us what unassuming heroes can achieve.
The Oklahoman, Jan. 8, 2013:
Facts, not hyperbole, will decide Texas water district's lawsuit against Oklahoma
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether a federal compact signed in 1980 gives the state of Texas the right to use water that flows out of Oklahoma. The court will weigh the facts of the case. The hyperbole will be left to everyone else — and there will be plenty of it between now and whenever the court issues its ruling.
Most of it will relate to the drought that Oklahoma and much of this part of the country has been experiencing the past two years. Indeed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt noted that the Obama administration, in requesting that the high court hear the case, had been "conspicuously silent about the historic drought Oklahoma is suffering, in which 90 percent of the state — including the Kiamichi River region — is under extreme drought conditions."
Pruitt's visceral argument packs a punch around these parts, where we've seen stock ponds and creeks dry up and lake levels fall steadily. But the state wasn't in severe drought the whole time in which this deal has been pending, and Oklahoma's current drought status isn't relevant to the legal arguments.
What is relevant is the compact among Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. The compact apportioned the Red River and its tributaries based on geography and flow rates in the Red River basin's waters. One section of the compact gives the four states equal rights to water runoff in a part of the basin when the flow of the river reaches a certain rate.
The Tarrant Regional Water District says that section of the law gives Texas the right to its 25 percent share even if it has to get the water from Oklahoma. The Justice Department agrees with the water district, arguing that section of the compact doesn't make any reference to state boundaries.
For several years, the water district has been interested in buying water that runs unused out of Oklahoma into the Red River and piping it to the Fort-Worth Arlington area to help that part of Texas continue its growth — growth, we've noted in the past, that benefits businesses and other interests in southern Oklahoma. The Tarrant proposal has been met with stiff opposition in southeastern Oklahoma (although there are some voices there who have tried to strike a deal), and by the Legislature.
The water district sued the state of Oklahoma in 2007. Two years later, lawmakers passed a bill that said the sale of water to any out-of-state interests would have to be approved by the Legislature — essentially ensuring that no such sales will ever be made. Tarrant contends that the bill violates the compact.
The water district has fared poorly in court thus far. In 2010, a federal judge in Oklahoma City dismissed the district's lawsuit. The following year, a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld the lower court's dismissal. One month later, that court denied a request for rehearing before the full court.
The district may stumble yet again with the Supreme Court, which is expected to hear arguments in April. If Tarrant is unsuccessful, it won't be because Oklahoma is or isn't experiencing a drought. It will be because Texas officials lost in a court of law, not the court of public opinion.Tags: