Monday, August 13, 2018

The real problem is the GOSPEL VOID, not CIVICS VOID!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
     On Saturday, the SW Oklahoma Republican Women held their annual Beans & Baskets fundraiser in Altus.  The keynote speaker was Nick Adams, a 33 year old Australian native, who has written four books on American exceptionalism.  Adams is a Fox News commentator and a highly sought speaker.  President Trump is one of his biggest fans.  The POTUS has twice tweeted that out his admiration for Adams and has been photographed carrying one of Adams’ books aboard Air Force One. 
     Adams heads up a 501c3 organization- FLAG- that is publishing America’s founding documents, The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, in simple easy to understand formats for elementary students.  Adams claims over 500,000 students in all 50 states have copies of their version of the Constitution.  Adams is a very organized, articulate, polished, impressive speaker.  His analysis of what is wrong with America- in particular the ‘political correctness’ movement- is right on target.   Adams believes restoring ‘civics’ to America’s classrooms will save the country.  While commendable, expanding civics and stopping political correctness will not save America.
      America school children should study civics.  Civics is the study of the rights and duties of citizenship.  If you are a citizen in a country, you should know something about the country’s founding, the system of government the country uses, and how it works.  Sadly, many schools across America do not teach civics and if they do, it has a liberal slant.  That has resulted in widespread ignorance in millennials.    In 2006, The National Assessment Governing Board, found that only 24% of fourth-graders, 22% of eighth- graders and 27% of twelfth graders were proficient in U.S. history and had working knowledge in how America’s government works.  In a more recent study carried out in 2015 for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), more than 80 percent of college seniors at 55 top-ranked universities tested on their knowledge of American history and government received grades of D or F.  It’s tragic that we have failed to teach a generation of children anything about our country.
      Adams also advocates for the teaching of American exceptionalism.  The concept of American exceptionalism was first mentioned in 1831 by Alexis de Tocqueville.  Exceptionalism is a concept that the United States is founded on principles of personal liberty, capitalism, and a belief that all rights are God given, not granted by the government.  As long as it is understood that every American, like every other human being is a fallen creatures and fallen creatures create flawed systems of government, it’s fine to refer to America as exceptional as compared to other nations.  The problem is many who talk about American exceptionalism are talking about patriotism, not our system of government. 
     Nick Adam’s assessment of what is wrong in America- apathy and political correctness- is right, but his solution treats the symptom, not the disease.  The only thing that truly will change America is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The real void in this country is not the lack of teaching of civics in the classroom- it’s the lack of preaching of truth from pulpits.  Americans want their ears tickled, but not their hearts pricked and consumer driven churches have accommodated them.  Until that changes, it won’t get any better.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Board of Health repeals regulations!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     This week, the Oklahoma Board of Health voted unanimously to repeal some of the regulations passed just three weeks ago.  They voted to eliminate the ban of smokeable marijuana and the requirement to have a pharmacist on site at dispensaries.  They also removed the limitation on THC content, the requirement to have a pregnancy test before getting a license, and to lower the age of workers at dispensaries from 21 to 18. 
    Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of over one hundred chemical compounds found in marijuana and is clearly the most potent.  THC reaches the bloodstream more rapidly when smoked than when ingested.  When ingested as an edible, the effects of THC take longer but tend to be stronger and last longer than smoking.  THC is activated by heat, either by smoking or the cooking process. 
     By voting to remove the THC potency limit in marijuana sold in Oklahoma, the board of health likely created potential problems down the road.  According to a Dutch study, conducted over a sixteen year period, the more potent the pot, the more people sought treatment for marijuana-related problems.  The study found that 15% THC was the highest level that should be sold because higher levels resulted in addiction and health issues.  In a February 2018 editorial, the Washington Post, citing the Dutch study, said marijuana potency should be as regulated as drugs and alcohol potency. 
     Ron Durbin, the attorney for Green the Vote, the Oklahoma group who ran SQ #788, said the health board’s changes were worse than the previous rules.  “Lack of careful attention to detail has created these problems. These regulations are worse than the old ones,” Durbin said.  Durbin has asked Health Department interim commissioner of the Health Department to hold off a week so the so-called ‘rule conflicts’ are addressed.  Durbin has sued the state, claiming the health board commissioners violated Oklahoma’s Open Meeting Act by having secret discussions in regard to how SQ #788 will be implemented. 
     The real ‘lack of attention to detail’ was those who ran SQ #788.  By being vague in their language, they granted the legislature and state government a great deal of latitude in how medical marijuana will be grown, sold and used in Oklahoma.  Make no mistake Green the Vote knew what they were doing.  By cloaking #788 in a ‘medical marijuana’ package, they gained the support of many who suffer from chronic pain or have family who do.  When you couple that with the opioid epidemic in Oklahoma among the elderly, it gave medical marijuana justification in many voters mind.
    On Thursday the Health Department posted applications for licenses to grow, sell and use medical marijuana.  No application can be submitted until August 25th.  Licensees must be Oklahoma residents and no more than 25% of their company equity can be held by non-Oklahoma residents.  Legal medical marijuana sales reached nearly $10 billion last year in the U.S., so it is big business and there is no doubt there will be no shortage of applicants to grow process and distribute.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Koch to back Democrats if Republicans won't do what he wants!

Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve Fair

     Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a political lobbying group (501 C-4) founded in 2004 by Wichita, KS, businessmen Charles and David Koch.  AFP’s stated goal is to recruit, educate, and mobilize citizens in support of the policies and goals of a free society at the local, state, and federal level, helping every American live their dream – especially the least fortunate.”  AFP claims over 2.5 million members and over $85 million in annual revenue.  They have over 700 donors who contribute more than $100,000 annually to the organization.  AFP was instrumental in the growth of the Tea Party movement and have always politically leaned libertarian/conservative. 
     Two of President Trump’s former key political campaign operatives have an AFP background.  Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager, and Stuart Jolly, his first National Field Director, were state directors for AFP-  Lewandowski in New Hampshire, Jolly in Oklahoma.
     Since their inception, AFP has almost exclusively backed Republicans, but that may be coming to an end. On Sunday, Charles Koch, 82,  told a group of AFP donors that working with Democrats who want to reduce financial regulations and government spending is on the table.  He admitted that might be uncomfortable for some die hard Republicans in the room.   Koch, said he regrets supporting politicians who "say they are going to be for these principles we espouse, and then they aren’t.  We are going ... to hold people responsible for their commitments.” This was clearly a departure from Koch’s normally ‘back the ‘R’ in the race’ strategy.  
     On Monday, AFP announced they do not plan to back the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in North Dakota- Kevin Cramer- because he supports President Trump’s trade policies and hardline stance on immigration.  The ND seat is one where Republicans are hopeful they can defeat a Democrat incumbent.  Koch’s support was considered crucial for financing Cramer’s bid.  Three observations:
     First, AFP has never been a true grassroots organization.  While marketed as one, AFP’s primary goal has always been to push AFP’s agenda by using the established GOP network of Party leaders.  Republican volunteers have been siphoned off from the traditional Party infrastructure by AFP, often times with the cooperation of GOP leadership.  AFP donors and leadership have been willing to use the grassroots GOP and help fund Party activities so long as it furthered their agenda, but when President Trump announced trade politics AFP doesn’t agree with, the loyalty ended.
     Second, AFP has clearly contributed to the ‘too much money in politics’ problem.  Campaigns cost money and GOP candidates at all levels run to AFP with their hand out hoping to get a check.  AFP was willing to give it out and help finance slick marketed campaigns, knowing someday they would collect on their investment. 
     Third, candidates should recognize every donation comes with strings.  When Koch says he will hold people ‘responsible for their commitment,’ he means he will withhold campaign donations from those who don’t do his bidding.  It’s his money and it’s his right to withhold it, but do we really want elected officials- of any political persuasion- to be so obligated to their donor base?  If so, they have become no more than a puppet and the donor, the puppet master.
     Since AFP plans to start working with progressives, time will tell whether AFP will be as successful infiltrating the Democrat Party as they have the Republican Party.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Misbehavior is non-partisan!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
     This week, Oklahoma legislative leadership (Speaker of the House & Senate President Pro Tempe) appointed five Senators and eight Representatives to a working group for drafting a statute for medical marijuana.   There are nine Republicans and four Democrats in the working group. They are scheduled to meet for the first time on July 25th.
    The group that funded the Yes campaign for SQ#788 has drafted a 270 page working draft of legislation.  They say it incorporates regulations used by other states.  Working Group Co-chair and State House Majority Leader Jon Echols, (R-OKC) says "The legislature has to both come up with a good product that everyone has signed off on and have an open and transparent process. It’s not going to be a top down process. It’s the legislature working with the drafters behind 788."
     The Democrat caucus has called for a special legislative session to address the statue.  Governor Mary Fallin has said she will not call for a special session, but Echols said the working group may consider that possibility.  A special session of the legislature can be called by joint order of the Senate President pro tem and the Speaker of the House, without the approval of the governor.  Three observations:
     First, State question #788’s approval by voters has made for some strange happenings.  This week, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said the state board of health overstepped their authority in issuing rules.  Hunter said that implementing a statute is the legislature’s job, not the appointed boards.  Also this week, the state board of health’s general counsel(their top legal counsel) resigned after being charged with using a computer for the purpose of violating Oklahoma statues, falsely reporting a crime, and preparing a false evidence.  Ezell allegedly set up a fake email account and sent herself fake threats from medical marijuana proponents.  She was given personal security because the health department believed she was in danger.  Ezell also was exchanging texts with the executive director of the Oklahoma Pharmacy Board, Chelsea Church.  The OSBI, at the request of Oklahoma DA David Prater, is investigating if Church offered Ezell a bribe to include the inclusion of a licensed pharmacist at every medical marijuana dispensary. Church allegedly offered Ezell a higher paying position at the Pharmacy Board than what Ezell had at the Health Department.  Two observations:
     Second, misbehavior, corruption and graft are non-partisan.  They are rooted in human nature and not political Party affiliation.  If Ezell and Church were in fact doing what they are accused of (and they deserve their day in court), then they should be punished.  Far too many political types justify the actions of their own, but condemn everything the other side does.  Mark Twain said, “Loyalty to country always- loyalty to government when it deserves it.” 
     Third, the ambiguity of State Question #788 had made it difficult for lawmakers.  Echols says the working group will listen to those that drafted #788, but the vast majority of the legislature did not support its passage.  It is ironic that a body of people who didn’t want the legalization of pot will now draft regulations to dispense it.  It is certain whatever they recommend will be controversial and will please few.
     Just a reminder- if you are not a registered voter, the last day to register is August 3rd if you want to vote in the August 28th primary runoff.  You cannot change Party affiliation from April 1st until September 1st on election years.

Monday, July 16, 2018

State Board of Health's action should concern all Oklahomans!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
     SQ#788 supporters are up in arms because the Oklahoma state health department voted last week on the rules for medical marijuana in Oklahoma.  The board voted to limit the amount of THC in certain products, restrict the location and hours that medical dispensaries can operate, require a licensed pharmacist to be on duty at the dispensaries, and prohibit the sale of smokeable marijuana.  The board acknowledged their guidelines will likely be challenged in court and several groups have already announced their intention to sue the state.  Some say this has taken the most liberal medical marijuana law in the country and made it one of the most restrictive.  Three observations:
     First, SQ #788 was poorly written.  The language gave great latitude to the legislature and governor in how marijuana was to be dispensed and regulated.  Who knows what the 500,000 Oklahomans were thinking when they voted yes, but that really doesn’t matter.  It matters what the bill actually said and #788 had more holes in it than Swiss cheese.  If the proponents of #788 wanted smokeable marijuana, they should have been more specific in their language.  Unintended consequences are common in legislation and this is a classic example.
     Second, the board of health and governor’s action should concern every Oklahoman.  SQ #788 was approved by the people.  Many of those who voted for it may not have understood all the implications of what they were voting for, but #788 did pass.  When government works to protect ourselves from ourselves, we have a major problem.  If this can be done on this issue, it can be done on others.  No matter your political leanings, reining in the overreach of government is more important than this one issue.  Republican gubernatorial runoff candidates Kevin Stitt and Mick Cornett both said they disagreed with the health department’s rules vote and believed the board was circumventing the will of the people. 
     Third, the battle over marijuana is not over in Oklahoma.  A group known as Green the Vote is in the process of circulating a petition to get recreational marijuana on the ballot.  As of last week, they lack 20,000 signatures and have until August 8th to complete the initiative petition.  No doubt they will get on the ballot, but it will not likely be in November.  The governor establishes when a state question is voted on and Governor Fallin is not likely to place it on the 2018 general election ballot.  Recreational marijuana will be voted on in Oklahoma- it’s just a matter of time.  Currently nine states and Washington DC have legalized recreational marijuana.  It would be ironic if red state, conservative, Bible belt Oklahoma joined them.
     Oklahoma is changing.  While still a political conservative stronghold, changing demographics and an overall lack of conservative leadership has moved the Sooner state into one where libertarians and progressives have made inroads.  The passage of SQ #788 is a perfect example.  While thirty states have some form of legalized medical marijuana, who would have thought Oklahoma’s would be the most liberal.   But in a state with more slot machines per capita than any place on the planet,  perhaps it’s not so surprising. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Pruitt's political future yet to be determined!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
     When EPA Administer Scott Pruitt resigned last week, he cited the ‘unrelenting attacks’ on himself and his family as the reason.  The attacks were coming from the liberal left and they were brutal.  Pruitt was pushed out of the position because of the Trump administration’s environmental policies.  While Democrats might claim they were outraged by Pruitt flying first class, handing out raises to his staff, building a secure phone booth at the agency, and trying to buy a used mattress, that was a smoke screen.  Pruitt’s effectiveness at undoing the crippling regulations on the fossil fuel industry implemented under the Obama administration was the real reason for his resignation.  Three observations on Scott Pruitt’s resignation:

     First, conservatives can be fickle.  As Pruitt faced more and more ethics investigations in DC, his supporters began to abandon him.  Make no mistake, there is no excuse for misbehavior, but many Congressional Republicans and the POTUS abandoned Pruitt because it became politically expedient.  Liberals won because conservatives wouldn’t ignore the noise and stick together.  As Pruitt’s issues played out in the media, his position became untenable, not because of the Ds, but because of the Rs.  Pruitt likely should have been investigated.  People in positions of power should be accountable, but he should have counted on conservatives to not fold under public pressure and to play out the hand.

      Second, Pruitt should have anticipated the scrutiny.  The EPA, under Republican and Democrat presidents, has been an agency whose regulations have hurt the U.S. economy more than any other government agency.  While Oklahoma’s attorney general Pruitt sued the EPA a number of times.  After appointment as EPA administer, he immediately reigned in the agency’s overreach, which outraged the left.  Pruitt should have known the left would try to find anything they could to under mind him.  His primary mistake was thinking the left played fair and that the right had his back.  Did Scott Pruitt make mistakes in judgment?  Sure, but who doesn’t.  Were his mistakes exaggerated, caricatured and blown out of proportion by the media?  Absolutely!   Pruitt should have expected it.  What he shouldn’t have expected was conservatives abandoning him. 

     Third, Pruitt’s political future is yet to be determined.  Some so-called political experts say he has no political future- others say he does.  Fact is, no one knows, but Scott Pruitt, the voters, and God, not necessarily in that order.  But if Scott Pruitt’s political future hinges solely on what happened during his tenure at the EPA, his accomplishments far overshadow his poor judgment.  If voters will think in a rational and not emotional way in the voting booth, Pruitt will be just fine.  Pruitt did an outstanding job at implementing Trump’s de-regulation policy.  Those actions positively impacted the economy.  Pruitt’s challenge will be explaining in a 30 second TV spot or on a push card how his problems at EPA were solely over policy.

     Of all members of President Trump’s cabinet, none reversed previous administration policy like Scott Pruitt.  The EPA’s overreach was being reigned in under his leadership.  Regulations that crippled industries, cost American jobs, and forced Americans to pay higher fuel costs, were dialed back.  The left couldn’t have that and Pruitt gave them enough ammunition to force him out with the right’s help.