Monday, October 14, 2019
Weekly Opinion Editorial
780 & 781 NEED TO BE
by Steve Fair
Oklahoma has a higher crime rate than the national average in 2018. In recently FBI data, the Sooner state had higher rates of crime in murder, rape, aggravated assault and property crime. The only category where Oklahoma was lower than the national average was armed robbery. Crime was up +1.9% over last year in Oklahoma and the violent crime rate was 466 incidents per 100,000 people. Nationally, violent crime declined -3.7%. According to Christopher Hill of the University of Oklahoma Sociology department the higher crime is a regional issue with states with higher poverty rates having higher crime rates.
Five metropolitan areas in Oklahoma were tracked in the report- Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Lawton, Enid, and eastern Oklahoma/Fort Smith, AK. Tulsa had the highest murder rate; Lawton the highest rates of rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and burglary. Enid had the lowest crime rates among the four MSAs. Three observations:
First, unfortunately crime follows poverty. That doesn’t mean that poor people automatically turn to crime. Most poor people don’t commit crime just because they don’t have enough money, but some do. Drug use and mental illness, which is higher among lower income earners, are contributors to the higher crime rates as well. The study also found that crime victims in Oklahoma are also at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. Poor people tend to prey on poor people. Oklahoma ranks in the bottom third of states in per capita income. We remain a poor state.
Second, the report should generate concern. In 2016, Oklahoma voters approved SQ 780 and SQ 781 that reclassified simple drug possession and some property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Proponents were trying to address Oklahoma’s non-violent incarceration rates. Decriminalizing or reclassifying was their solution. The measures went into effect on July 1, 2017. 780 and 781 has tied the hands of law enforcement and prosecutors and resulted in the opposite effect- higher crime. Oh, the peril of unintended consequences.
Third, the solution to reducing crime is multi-faceted. Getting people good jobs would help, but recruiting business to a state and asking establishing business to expand in a state with high crime rates is a challenge. Addressing mental illness and drug use by the legislature and the private sector is long overdue. Rolling back the unintended consequences of 780 and 781 would be a place to start, The impact of 780 and 781 on Oklahoma’s crime rate has had the exact opposite effect it was aimed to do. Instead of reducing crime, the declassifying of certain crimes has resulted in little deterrent for criminals. Felony charges were down -28% across the state in the first six months after implementation of 780 and 781. While that did result in less people in prison, the unintended consequences are more criminals on the street.
Violent crime in the U.S. has fallen steadily since the early 1990s and according to criminologists it is due to higher incarceration rates and improvements in the economy. Oklahoma has moved the opposite direction. There is little doubt the motives of those pushing 780 and 781 were pure, but the results have been polluted. ‘Do the crime, do the time,’ was an effective deterrent. Remove it and crime increases.
Monday, October 7, 2019
Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
The impeachment train seems to be moving down the tracks and it does appear the U.S. House will move forward with impeachment of President Trump. This weekend, there were several new developments. On Friday, a deadline for turning over documents to the House by the State department passed. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his office will “obviously do all the things we are required to do by law.” Also on Friday, Speaker Pelosi subpoenaed the White House for documents regarding the phone call Trump had with Ukraine President Zelensky. On Saturday, President Trump tweeted that Senator Mitt Romney, (R-Utah) should be ‘impeached’ after Romney criticized the president. Members of Congress are not impeached, but removed and it is done by the body in which they serve. Removal requires a 2/3 majority of the body. On Sunday, the lawyer for the ‘whistleblower’ who first came forward regarding the Trump/Zelensky phone call said he was also representing a second whistleblower. No details on what that whistleblower claims Trump did. Also on Sunday, a former Trump company employee said she thought he might resign rather than face impeachment. “He does a lot of things to save face. My gut instinct is he’ll leave office, he’ll resign or make some kind of a deal to avoid impeachment,” Barbara Res said. Res is a former VP of the Trump Organization and has been critical of the president since his election. Three thoughts:
First, impeachment that doesn’t result in removal from office is risky for the Democrats. It will obviously further polarize the country. It will energize Trump’s base. It runs the risk of damaging one of their frontrunner candidates (Biden) in a Senate trial. It puts the people’s business on hold for a year. When House Republicans impeached Bill Clinton in 1998, knowing there was no chance of his being removed from office, they failed to see the backlash from citizens who saw the process as a waste of time.
Second, Trump might resign rather than have impeachment on his resume. He takes great pride in his ‘brand’ and impeachment is a stain on his legacy. Only two presidents have been impeached- Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. That is not something presidents want to be remembered for. Res, a disgruntled former employee who worked for Trump a decade and does have some insight into his personality, could be right. At some point, ‘the juice may not be worth the squeeze,’ and he may let Vice President Pence finish his term.
Third, the most likely scenario is Trump will fight to the death. Backing down is not his style. Negotiation and compromise are part of what he does, but he prides himself on winning the haggling. He is a risk taker, seldom proceeds with caution, is spontaneous and decisive. He doesn’t second guess his judgment or decisions. He doesn’t tolerate fools. He doesn’t start fights, but he doesn’t back down when attacked. Folks like that don’t go ‘gentle into that good night.’Impeachment is all the media has covered the past two weeks. A trade agreement with Japan, Trump’s individual meetings with a dozen world leaders at the UN(unprecedented), and good economic news for the U.S. went unreported. A decade ago, the media attempted to hide their bias, but no more. They have become nothing more than echo chambers pushing their political values. Time will reveal how this will turn out, but the polarization of America continues.
Monday, September 30, 2019
Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
Impeachment of President Trump appears to be on the horizon. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who has opposed impeaching Trump in the past, said, “We could not ignore what the president did. He gave us no choice. So it wasn't any change of mind. I always said we will follow the facts where they take us. And when we see them, we will be ready. And we are ready.” According to a CNN poll of U.S. House members, a clear majority- 223(all Democrats) of the 435- support impeaching the president.
Impeachment does not remove the president from office. In our nation’s history, only two presidents have been impeached- Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Neither were removed. Impeachment is the process by which a legislative body levels charges against a government official. It is the equivalent to an indictment in criminal law, and thus is only the statement of charges against the official. If the House votes to impeach, a trial will take place in the U.S. Senate, where a 2/3 majority is needed to remove from office. With Republicans having 53 of the 100 members, getting to 67 is a tough hill to climb.
First, Pelosi and the Democrats are not concerned with facts. In spite of her claim the House will conduct a fair and through investigation into Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president, their track record indicates otherwise. The Democrats- in lock step- have opposed everything Trump has done. They practice ‘group think’ and are blindly loyal to their cause. They are willing to excuse bad behavior in the name of unity, which is a form of collusion- the very thing they condemn in Trump. It is true that no one is above the law, but Pelosi seems willing to turn a blind eye to misbehavior on her side of the aisle.
Second, the Senate trial could hurt Biden and Democrats more than Trump. With Republicans in control, they will likely investigate Hunter Biden’s association with the Ukrainian company and if he violated any U.S. laws. If they go back far enough, they could look into Joe Biden’s brother, James and Hunter purchase of a hedge fund-Paradigm Global Advisors in 2006. According to an unnamed executive quoted in Politico, James Biden told employees the first day: “Don’t worry about investors. We’ve got people all around the world who want to invest in Joe Biden. We’ve got investors lined up in a line of 747s filled with cash ready to invest in this company,” At that time, Joe Biden was months away from becoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and launching his second bid for president. Was the purchase made to work around campaign- finance laws?
Third, the 116th Congress will not get much else done in 2020. Expect the impeachment and subsequent trial to consume the legislative calendar. The people’s business will be pushed to the next year. That could backfire on the Democrats in the 2020 elections.Citizens of all political stripes are fed up with the bickering, polarizing, positioning, partisan behavior on both sides. Their predictability is boring and doesn’t move the country forward. Expect it to get worse before it gets better.
Steve's note: A reader said Pelosi's statement reminded him of the scene in Thelma & Louise where they drove off the cliff. For those who haven't seen the movie, here is a clip:
Monday, September 23, 2019
Weekly Opinion Editorial
AMERICA NEEDS SOME DISRUPTION!
By Steve Fair
A whistle-blower is a person who exposes information or activity deemed illegal, unethical or not above board within an organization. It can be activity that violates company policy, the law, or general moral code. There are a number of laws that protect whistle-blowers from retaliation from those they expose. In early August, an unnamed whistle-blower allegedly said President Trump encouraged Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter for money laundering and implied that federal aid might be withheld if Zelensky didn’t comply. Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson(a Trump nominee) found the whistle-blower’s complaint credible and sent it to Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence. When Maquire didn’t report it to the House and Senate Intelligence committees, Atkinson wrote a letter directly to the committee chairs advising them of the complaint.
Trump has admitted he discussed Biden with Zelensky, but said he didn’t violate the law. Democrats have seized the opportunity and are calling for Trump to release the recordings/transcripts of the phone conversation. "It will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness" if the resistance persists,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA) said. Some Democrats see blood in the water and are calling for hearings and some want to impeach. Three thoughts:
First, Trump’s ‘word to the wise’ was not unfounded. Rudy Giuliani, who now serves as President Trump’s private legal counsel, alleged on Twitter Hunter Biden was “making millions on the board of one of the most corrupt companies in Ukraine.” He also hinted that the younger Biden’s company laundered $3 million by transferring the money from Ukraine to Latvia, then to Cyprus, and finally to the U.S. Democrats haven’t talked much about the apparent Biden corruption and there is no talk of holding hearing or investigating the allegations.
Second, there is no evidence of quid pro quo(Latin meaning: something for something). Trump flatly denies that he offered $250 million in military aid in exchange for an investigation, but even if he did that it still would not violate the federal bribery statute, which prohibits public officials from taking or soliciting bribes. While it may be bad judgment for a POTUS, who just underwent a three year investigation for Russian interference in an election, to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political foe, it is not illegal. Donald Trump does push the envelope.
Third, Trump loves to disrupt the status quo. Giuliani says he wakes up every day planning to disrupt. Four years ago, he disrupted the GOP primary. In his first term, he has disrupted the political process. He has disrupted China, Iran, North Korea and the established foreign policy. Some of his disruption has been good- others not so good, but America could use some disruption. We are drowning in national debt, a growing government and a political class that is out of touch with normal people. Disruption can divide and separate, but rest assured, Trump is not doing business as usual.Time will tell if Trump’s disruption tactics will work with voters in 2020 or if he pushed the envelope too far in his conversation with Zelensky. Right now, his Democrat opponents can only attack his tactics, because his policies are working.