- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Tulsa World. Oct. 22, 2017.

The citizen panel that sets salaries for state legislators is considering a pay cut for Oklahoma’s lawmakers.

That would be emotionally satisfying for Oklahomans who are frustrated by legislators who earn more than public school teachers and repeatedly fail to solve the state’s problems.

The status of the current do-nothing special session is Exhibit 1 in that argument: Entering its fifth week, the session has accomplished nothing. Meanwhile, the real implications of the budget hole - the loss of critical services for the state’s most delicate citizens - is becoming more and more threatening.

But emotionally satisfying choices are not always good policy choices.

Here are three reasons why the Legislative Compensation Board should not cut lawmakers’ pay:

1. If you cut the pay of lawmakers, you get lawmakers who don’t need the money. A cheap Legislature is a club for the independently wealthy, the job-shoppers and the corruptible. Bankers would qualify. Lawyers? No problem. But what about working people? The current salary of $38,400-a-year plus per-diem expenses is enough to support modestly middle-class legislators, and we need more of those, not fewer.

2. A good legislator doesn’t work four months a year. If that were true, lawmakers’ salaries would be a genuine outrage, but it isn’t. In our experience, the ones who are worth their salt are constantly working on behalf of their constituents and the state. If you’re frustrated by the results of the Legislature, that’s not an indication that the good lawmakers don’t earn their keep; it’s an indication that we have too many bad lawmakers.

3. Cutting legislative pay won’t improve the quality of the Legislature. If you don’t have enough of a good product, economics say the price should go up. Cut the price and the supply and the quality will decline.

Oklahoma deserves a better Legislature, but the solution to that problem stares every voter in the face when they look in the mirror.

If you don’t like your legislators, don’t vote for them.

Cutting the salaries of lawmakers won’t improve the quality of the people running for and winning legislative seats, it won’t save a significant amount of money and it won’t solve any problems.


Enid News & Eagle. Oct. 23, 2017.

It should come as no surprise that Johnny Cash’s scribbled phone number can be found inside The Bob Dylan Archive.

In 2016, the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Tulsa acquired the Dylan archive, which is permanently housed in Tulsa under the stewardship of TU’s Helmerich Center for American Research at Gilcrease Museum.

Some of the collection’s highlights could move eventually downtown to a Bob Dylan Center, according to the Tulsa World.

The Dylan archive is near the Woody Guthrie Center in the Brady Arts District. The Okemah native’s archive was purchased by the George Kaiser Family Foundation five years ago and moved from New York in 2013.

The primary phase of Dylan, the hard-traveling troubadour, was heavily inspired by Dust Bowl balladeer Guthrie. The Woody Guthrie Center also houses the archives of folk singer Phil Ochs.

Next on the agenda, The Washington Post reports that Kaiser’s quest to make Tulsa a music mecca could include the Johnny Cash archives. Heirs of the frequent Dylan collaborator are in discussions about basing the Man in Black’s collection in Oklahoma, which would “make Tulsa the headquarters of Americana music,” Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley said.

This synchronicity would make sense. Dylan and Cash collaborated on the country crooning “Nashville Skyline” album in 1969.

When Cash died at age 71 in 2003, Dylan thought about writing a piece called “Cash Is King” because that was how he felt. He penned a few words for Rolling Stone about the artist he considered the guiding “the North Star” and among the greatest of all time.

“Truly he is what the land and country is all about, the heart and soul of it personified and what it means to be here; and he said it all in plain English,” Dylan wrote in Rolling Stone. “I think we can have recollections of him, but we can’t define him any more than we can define a fountain of truth, light and beauty. If we want to know what it means to be mortal, we need look no further than the Man in Black. Blessed with a profound imagination, he used the gift to express all the various lost causes of the human soul. This is a miraculous and humbling thing. Listen to him, and he always brings you to your senses. He rises high above all, and he’ll never die or be forgotten, even by persons not born yet - especially those persons - and that is forever.”

The Cash collection would be the perfect addition for Tulsa. That would help T-Town become, as Kaiser told the Post, “more energized, a draw for talented younger people, the next cool city.”


The Oklahoman. Oct. 24, 2017.

A recent court ruling in Maryland declared that a nearly century-old monument to World War I soldiers “entangles the government in religion” because it’s in the shape of a cross. This case shows some people will see government-sanctioned religious coercion around every corner, even if they have to ignore countless signs to the contrary.

At issue was a 40-foot monument erected in 1925 by the American Legion. It sits in the median of a highway and honors 49 men from Prince George’s County who died in World War I. The property where the monument sits was acquired by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in 1961, and the monument stood in place without problem for the better part of a century before the American Humanist Association sued in 2014.

A lower court ruled the monument was not an unconstitutional establishment of religion. But a divided panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled otherwise in a 2-1 decision. The dissent authored by Judge Roger L. Gregory, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, highlights why the majority’s ruling was such a stretch.

Gregory noted the American Legion’s symbol is displayed “in the middle of the cross on both faces.” The cross includes a plaque listing the names of the 49 who died. That plaque also states, “This memorial cross dedicated to the heroes of Prince George’s County Maryland who lost their lives in the great war for the liberty of the world.” A quote from former President Woodrow Wilson is also included on the plaque.

Each face of the memorial’s base is inscribed with one of four words: valor, endurance, courage and devotion. The park where the memorial is located includes numerous other memorials that similarly commemorate those lost in military conflicts, including a 9/11 Memorial Garden, a World War II memorial, a Pearl Harbor memorial and a Korea/Vietnam Memorial.

“Since the Memorial’s completion, numerous events have been hosted there to celebrate Memorial Day, Veterans Day, the Fourth of July, and the remembrance of September 11th,” Gregory wrote. “These ceremonies usually include an invocation and benediction, but the record demonstrates that only three Sunday religious services were held at the Memorial - all of which occurred in August 1931.”

When efforts were begun to erect the World War I memorial in 1918, the fundraising flyer stressed patriotism and loyalty to the nation, not religious messages.

To declare the memorial an unconstitutional establishment of religion, Gregory argued, the majority “subordinates the Memorial’s secular history and elements while focusing on the obvious religious nature of Latin crosses themselves; constructs a reasonable observer who ignores certain elements of the Memorial and reaches unreasonable conclusions; and confuses maintenance of a highway median and monument in a state park with excessive religious entanglement.”

Most people viewing a memorial honoring fallen soldiers, covered with nonreligious materials and a secular quote, in a park full of similar memorials, at a site routinely used for July 4 events but not religious services, would not conclude it was primarily a religious monument. Yet to some judges, such common sense only proves the vast majority of Americans are not “reasonable.”

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