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Frederick Press-Leader - 2/26/2017

Enid News and Eagle

“We will never forget.”

Oklahomans made that solemn pledge after the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Originally assumed to be the work of foreign terrorists, the ammonium nitrate truck bomb detonated by Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh is now the subject of an American Experience film titled “Oklahoma City.” The documentary (aired) … on PBS following its world premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the documentary “is accurate, revealing, smart in its analysis.”

As the film ruminates on the motive for McVeigh, much of the background in “Oklahoma City” predates the Murrah bombing. The documentary provides insight on how the New York native was enraged by the 1992 Randy Weaver incident.

McVeigh planned the OKC bombing to occur on the second anniversary of the deadly Branch Davidian raid at Waco, Texas. The documentary includes footage of the 24-year-old Army veteran selling bumper stickers with pro-gun and anti-government messages.

“At its heart, ‘Oklahoma City’ is about the dangers of conspiracy thinking — of each side demonizing and exaggerating the threat posed by the other,” said director Barak Goodman.

A disillusioned veteran angered by Brady Bill registration, McVeigh carried the racist novel “The Turner Diaries” written by white nationalist William Luther Pierce. It served as a blueprint to accelerate armed militias nationwide in the 1990s.

“(McVeigh) thought he was starting the next American Revolution,” said Ben Fenwick, a journalist who covered the McVeigh trial. “I think he did exactly the opposite because he showed the human face of what it really means to attack a government — a government of the people.”

Interestingly, McVeigh’s lead defense attorney, Enid’s Stephen Jones, is not mentioned in the documentary, but his likeness is seen in several courtroom sketches.

While co-conspirator Terry Nichols is serving a life sentence as an accomplice, McVeigh was convicted and executed for killing 168 people and injuring more than 600 others.

“To me it was a counterattack, the war had already started,” McVeigh said in a jailhouse interview before being put to death. “You think you can be ruthless? Let’s see how you like it when the fighting is brought to you.”

Ultimately, “Oklahoma City” serves as a timely cautionary tale. The SPLC, a nonprofit advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation, claims 548 militant white supremacist groups are currently active in America.

“When you hear someone using the same kind of rhetoric that McVeigh uses, that should be cause for a gut check,” Fenwick told the Enid News & Eagle. “When you hear others verbally attacking normal, helpful, government institutions like HUD (Housing and Urban Development) or Social Security or welfare, just remember, the next step was what McVeigh did, and he was emboldened by such talk. And if you hear people say such things about those of another race, nationality or religion, McVeigh thought that too.”

While the threat of radical Islamic terrorism is very real, we should never forget that homegrown, extreme ideology fueled the worst domestic terror attack in U.S. history.

The Oklahoman

Fighting in vain for job

only cost him credibility

Dan Kirby has resigned, for a second time, from the Oklahoma House of Representatives and may wish he had decided the first time to leave well enough alone. Fighting for his job only wound up casting him in a much poorer light.

Kirby, a Republican from Tulsa, initially resigned in December a few days after news broke that the House had quietly paid $44,500 in state funds to settle a wrongful termination claim involving alleged sexual harassment filed against Kirby by a former legislative assistant.

Kirby quickly rescinded his resignation, then became the subject of an investigation by a special House committee. During that process, the committee heard from a second former legislative assistant who alleged that she also was the target of sexual harassment by Kirby.

The testimony from that woman, Carol Johnson, included suggestive text messages between she and Kirby, including photos of her topless. The committee, which met privately, reported that Johnson testified that if she didn’t comply with Kirby’s requests for the photos, he would make her job difficult.

Kirby, 58, admitted to much of the conduct, including requesting topless photos and inviting her to a strip club, but said the two were friends since 2011 who had a consensual relationship. The committee didn’t buy that, and in recommending his expulsion said Kirby’s behavior was “completely inappropriate” and “disorderly.” That’s putting it mildly.

The report underscores how out of touch Kirby was with the notion of a proper workplace. The committee said when Kirby was asked whether it was wrong to receive topless pictures from an aide, he said it would depend on when he received the picture. “He explained that most of the pictures were received either after business hours or while the House was not in session,” the committee said.

In other words, as long as he wasn’t on the clock at the Capitol, there was no problem. That’s ludicrous, as the committee made clear in its report.

The nine-member committee had seven active members, six Republicans and a Democrat. They all agreed Kirby should be expelled. Barring that, they recommended he be stripped of his committee chairmanship and removed from any other committees. Kirby decided a fifth term in office would prove to be a waste of his constituents’ time, so he resigned again Saturday (Feb. 4).

In doing so, however, Kirby maintained a defiant tone. The committee “chose to treat a consensual relationship far too harshly,” he complained, while another House member received “a slap on the wrist.” Yet the alleged actions involving Rep. Will Fourkiller, D-Stilwell, didn’t compare to Kirby’s in any way.

Kirby was right to resign. Perhaps this sordid chapter will prove to be beneficial by reminding every legislator, as the 2017 session begins, that character matters, too. It matters.

Tulsa World

Collecting retail taxes

is the right thing to do

Amazon, the online retail giant, decided to do what Oklahoma politicians have struggled to achieve for years. On March 1, the company will begin collecting use taxes on sales to Oklahomans.

Federal law says that retailers who don’t have a brick-and-mortar presence in a state don’t have to collect use taxes on sales there. They can do it voluntarily, but many take advantage of the effective 9 percent to 10 percent cost discount to lure customers from traditional retailers.

Cities and towns in Oklahoma rely heavily on retail tax collections for operating expenses. As we have experienced in Tulsa, when retail tax revenues go down, services suffer. Although the state is less dependent on sales and use taxes, they are a critical part of its revenue too.

Following almost a year of negotiations with Gov. Mary Fallin, Amazon announced that it would begin collecting use taxes and remitting them to the state. The process was helped along by legislation passed last year that required certain e-tailers to either collect the tax or contact consumers and tell them of their responsibility to pay it on their own.

The Amazon announcement is great news. Congratulations to Fallin and everyone involved in this victory for retail equity and efficient collection of long-existing taxes.

While Amazon is the biggest target, the fight is not over. The Oklahoma Tax Commission is working on the 500 largest online retailers to get greater use tax compliance.

While Amazon taxes won’t solve the state’s budget hole of at least $868 million, it is a step in the right direction. Civic Economics, a local economic development consulting firm, said that if Amazon had been collecting Oklahoma sales taxes in 2015, it would have collected $56.6 million$29 million to the state and $27.6 million for local governments.

As important, if the No. 1 online retailer in the United States comes in from the cold, others may follow.

Amazon’s decision is welcome, and we thank it for being a good corporate citizen. We look forward to other e-tailers joining those ranks in the future.

 
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