Monday, March 20, 2017

Believers shouldn't rejoice when someone falls!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
SHORTEY’S SHORTCOMINGS
by Steve Fair
     Last week the Oklahoma State Senate unanimously voted to strip Senator Ralph Shortey, (R-OKC), of his privileges as a State Senator.  He can still vote, but he doesn’t have an office, a legislative assistant or a parking place.  Shortey was evidently caught in a motel room with a 17 year old boy and allegedly he wasn’t there to do spiritual counseling with the lad.  The Cleveland County DA charged him with three counts, all involving prostitution.  Social media blew up after the incident was revealed.  Most called for Shortey to resign including the Governor and Lt. Governor.  Others said he should be considered innocent until proven guilty and the Senate’s action was too quick.  Four observations:
     First, those who thump their Bible better be prepared to be thumped harder than those that don’t when they fall.  Shortey claims to be a Christian conservative.  He doesn’t drink and he doesn’t chew and he doesn’t run with girls that do.   His bio says he studied to be a missionary, but abandoned that idea to go into politics.  It seems strange God would lead a man to abandon an eternal calling for a temporal one, but that’s between Shortey and God.  I don’t know Shortey’s spiritual condition before God, but the scripture says there is something known as the ‘fruit of the spirit.’(Gal. 5)  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control flow out of a believer’s heart.   True believers aren’t vindictive, retaliatory, hateful and impatient.  Those actions are the fruit of the flesh.  Sadly, there are more professors than possessors and just because someone says they are regenerated doesn’t mean they are.    
     Second, depravity is universal.  The condemnation of Shortey, by those on both political spectrums reminds me of when the Pharisees brought to Jesus the woman found in adultery.  He told them, “He that is without sin, cast the first stone.”  One by one they left until not one of the Pharisees was there to accuse her because their conscience condemned them of their own sin.  The realized they had a sin nature and except for the grace of God, they were just like the adulterous woman.  Bear in mind, the Pharisees were unregenerate. Even the unregenerate know they are not perfect and that they sin. When Adam fell, all mankind fell.  We have an inherent sin nature and those who claim they don’t sin are either dishonest or ignorant of their very nature.  Depravity manifests itself in many ways and alleged Shortey’s transgression is one that seems particularly grievous, but he that is without sin, cast the first stone.  Depravity misses no man. 
     Third, Shortey should have resigned immediately if the accusations are true.  True Christian believers don’t cover up their sin- they repent of it.  They face the music.  They don’t hire a high powered defense attorney, try to find loopholes and pull legal shenanigans to beat the rap.  They do the right thing and repent.   Everyone sins, everyone misbehaves, but how a person handles themselves when they do is what defines them.   Shortey shouldn’t be concerned about a paycheck or future retirement; he should be concerned about doing what is right.  When professing believers sin and then cover it up, dodge responsibility and act like the world, they hurt the cause of the gospel.  If the allegations are true, he is unfit for office, period.  He should immediately apologize and resign. 
     Fourth, political leaders should be like those described in Exodus 18:21.  Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law gives four attributes of true leaders; able, truthful, those that fear God and hate covetousness.  Most modern day leaders exhibit none of these.  They instead campaign one way and then lead another way.  We need leaders who have conviction and are worried more about the next generation than the next election. 
     Shortey’s situation should humble anyone who is involved in politics- no matter their ideology.  We live in a culture that calls good evil and evil good.  Situational ethics rules the day.  No one should rejoice when someone fails if they recognize they have the same feet of clay.  Shortey should face the consequences for his actions, but the sober man shouldn’t take delight in his shortcomings
 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Long time journalist left great example of how to engage in politics & life!

Weekly Opinion Editorial

A TRIBUTE TO MIKE MCCARVILLE!
by Steve Fair

     Last week Mike McCarville died.  Mike was a long time Oklahoma journalist who maintained The McCarville Report blog.  He had been involved in Republican politics for decades.  He worked for President Reagan, U.S. Senator Dewey Bartlett and others.  Mike was a long time radio broadcaster, hosting Open Mike Live on KTOK for years.  He used to say he had a face made for radio and that he never had a bad day.  I met Mike many years ago for lunch at 50 Penn Place.  At that time, I was co-hosting a weekly radio talk show with former State Representative Dennis Johnson.  The two hour show was broadcast on Saturday mornings on two stations in southwest Oklahoma.  Mike had heard about it and wanted to meet me and offer a little advice.  He gave me some sage advice that day over lunch- ‘have fun on air while educating the public.’  The “Darrell & Leonard’ show heeded that advice- we took the cause seriously, but not ourselves.  Mike graciously agreed to call the show periodically and offer his take on what was happening in the world of politics- always with a pinch of humor and always with common sense insight.  He continued calling in even after Dennis left the airwaves and Georgia Williams replaced him and the show rebranded as ‘The Grapevine.’
     After five years, I left the airwaves and started a blog.  Mike was already online with the McCarville Report.  One day, he contacted me and asked me if he could put a link to my blog on his site.  I was honored.  The McCarville Report was and is widely seen as the source for insider political news in Oklahoma.  I put a link to his site on my blog as well.  Periodically he would post a link to an op/ed I wrote on his site,
     Mike and I were causal friends, not close friends, but we had a kindred spirit because we both believed that being engaged in the political process doesn’t mean you have to walk around with a sour expression on your face.  You don’t need to look like you were weaned on a dill pickle and have the seed hung in your teeth.  Mike had fun.  I have always maintained that if you take the fun out of politics, you lose people who are the most needed in politics- people who are well rounded and understand they aren’t going to get out of life alive.  Two important principles we could all learn from Mike’s life:
     First, he believed in civil discourse. Mike wasn’t afraid to tee it up with you on a controversial subject.  In fact, he loved to debate, but he was always civil, respectful of another’s opinion, and fair.  Far too many journalists, activists, and political leaders believe it is us vs. them.  Debating to them is not quietly listening to another person’s perspective and then presenting your viewpoint, but rather interrupting, yelling and belittling the other person’s view instead of presenting the merits of your own argument.  I was taught when selling my product to sell the features, advantages and benefits of the product, not run down the competition.  Comparison selling was considered a breach of civility.  Civility in our society is being lost because winning has become more important than principle.  Winning is important, but how you win is important.  Mike was unwilling to lie, cheat and steal to win.  He had to win on principle.
     Second, he believed in having fun.  When he was on the radio, he coined clever nicknames for his news anchor, his traffic reporter and producer.  He was jovial, enthusiastic and engaging on air.  McCarville drew people to him because they knew he was having fun.  In our current political environment, people aren’t having fun.   You ask the average citizen about the political climate and ‘fun’ will be the last adjective they will use to describe it.  Some mistakenly think people like McCarville can’t be taking the cause seriously if they are laughing and joking, but nothing was further from the truth.  McCarville’s decades long commitment to conservative causes in Oklahoma is undeniable and while he labored for the cause he was having fun.
     Few too many of our elected officials and Party leaders fail to understand the simple principle that you can take the cause seriously and still have fun.  You can still present your side of the story and be respectful of others who disagree.  Mike McCarville mastered that balance. Please pray for Mike’s wife, Ann, and the rest of the family during their time of loss.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Evil will not be put back in the Box!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING!
by Steve Fair
     According to President Trump, Trump Tower phones were bugged- by the government- just before the election.  The mainstream news media immediately said Trump’s claim was hyperbole and another in a long line of exaggerations.  But it appears there was an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing some form of electronic surveillance related to Trump and his associates.  Trump’s top lawyer- Donald McGahn – is working to get access to the document.  If in fact the document exists, it would be unprecedented for a judge to allow that without proof that crimes were being committed by the person being bugged.   If it was purely for political purposes, heads should roll.  Four things to consider:
     First, big brother is watching.  In George Orwell’s novel, ‘1984,’ Big Brother is a fictional character who is the leader of Oceania, a totalitarian state where the citizens are under constant surveillance by the government.  We are there in America, but without the telescreens (as of yet) that were described in the novel.  When you post on social media, purchase goods and services with plastic, send an email or go to the doctor, all of that data is collected (mined) and becomes accessible to the government- and others.  Much of the loss of our privacy happened under President Bush’s watch, immediately following 9/11.  The Patriot Act, in the name of keeping Americans safe, sliced American liberties.  As it has happened many times throughout our nation’s history, government took the opportunity after tragedy to expand their powers. 
     Second, we willingly gave much of the information big brother has about us.  The government hasn’t mandated everyone join Facebook or Twitter, use Amazon Prime to ship products, get a loyalty card at a major retailer, or force you to get a credit card, but the vast majority of Americans willingly participate in the information gathering.  Rest assured, not just the government is mining your data- political Parties, retailers, consumer goods companies, and service industries spend billions trying to find out what motivates you to spend your dollars.  While the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of privacy-4th,5th, and 9th amendments- when we willingly give them information, where is the crime?
     Third, big brother will only get bigger.  Those who think we will be able to put the evils back in the jar will be about as successful as Pandora was getting them back in her jar.  The government will continue to use electronic data gathering and surveillance with the citizens willingly participating.  Americans love them mobile electronic toys.  Trump may be able to slow down the speed, but the train will continue down the track.  Some electronic data gathering- like your spending habits- can have a positive purpose if the retailer or manufacturer doesn’t sell your data to other retailers or to the government, but most do so be aware that loyalty cards are not exclusively for your benefit.
     Fourth, many of those who decry the constant surveillance and data collection of government are the first to pull out their cell phone, video private meetings and post the video for the world to see- all in the name of protecting liberty.  They violate the very privacy they claim they want to protect.  They are constantly on social media attacking the overreach of government, seemingly oblivious they are helping big brother keep a watch on them.   
     In a Twitter post, President Trump called President Obama a ‘sick’ man because he tapped his phones.  Yep, Obama is sick but that description fits any man.  All mankind is born with a sin nature, but we aren’t sick- we are dead spiritually.  Like Pandora, we only have hope left- and that hope is not in the integrity of government or electing more conservative leaders.  The only hope of America is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.   

Monday, February 27, 2017

The World is ruled by those who SHOW UP!

Weekly Opinion Editorial


COMMITMENT NEEDED TO MAKE LASTING CHANGE!
by Steve Fair

     On Thursday March 2nd, the Stephens County Republican Party will hold precinct meetings and a county GOP convention for the purpose of electing local county GOP leaders.  The meetings will be at the Red River Technology Center, starting at 6pm.  All registered Republicans in the county are encouraged to attend.  Why should registered Republicans attend their precinct meeting and the county convention?
     First, if you are a Republican, it’s your Party.  People who get involved in Party politics are always more knowledgeable on the issues and have a better understanding of the political process than those that aren’t involved.  They have more influence with elected officials and they impact public policy more than the average voter, not because they are more intelligent, but because they are more engaged.  If you don’t like the direction of the GOP, then get more involved- and stay involved.  Showing up for one meeting and never going back will likely not change anything.  The world is run by those who show up and the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.  If the Party is not in agreement with your values and convictions, you need to be showing up at the meetings and voicing your opinion. 
     Second, all politics is local.  Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil, a Democrat, famously said that and it’s true.  The most effective, efficient government is that which is closest to the people.  The long term solution to changing America is to change from the bottom up and that requires lasting political infrastructure. That means local people showing up at monthly meetings and helping raise money by frying fish and dipping chili.  It means local volunteers getting involved in local campaigns.  It might surprise you to know that local county GOP organizations in Oklahoma don’t get one penny from the state GOP or national GOP to run their operations.  They raise their own money.  The GOP headquarters you see in the county is paid for by the local Party raising the money.  The local GOP is headed by volunteer leaders, who receive not one cent of enumeration- in fact it costs them to serve.   Many people get excited about what is happening at the state and national level, but have no clue who their school board or city council members are.  They watch Fox News or MSNBC religiously, but never attend a local town hall meeting or a GOP Party meeting or event.  They bemoan the fact they have no influence in the political process.  A simple question: If everyone took the same amount of equity in the local GOP organization as you do, would the local county have a headquarters each election cycle?  If the local organization was dependent upon your financial commitment, would there be money to educate voters on issues by publishing issue oriented material?  Ben Franklin said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain - and most fools do.” The fact is, everyone has a right to complain- even if they didn’t vote- but taking action requires commitment. 
     Third, getting involved in politics is the duty of people in a self-governed system of government. America’s political leaders are a reflection of those engaged in the political process.  If you don’t like what is happening, you need to become engaged.  Being involved is not optional- it is mandatory.  Involvement can take many courses and commitment levels, but if everyone just let someone else do it, our self-governing system will fail.  Some would say that is what has happened after the recent national elections, but the fact is President Trump is the first ‘outsider’ elected to the presidency in over a century.  His supporters are those who got engaged- many for the first time in their lives.  Their involvement changed things.      
 Fourth, you should be involved for your children and grandchildren.  If we do nothing, we risk leaving America in worse shape than we found it.  The national debt is out of control.  Our productivity rate is the lowest in a century-less than 50% of the nation’s population is working.  We abort 700,000 children in America each year.  Our individual liberties and freedoms are being eroded as the state and federal government regulates and restricts more and more of our lives.   The next generation could grow up in an America that looks more like socialist Europe than capitalist America.  You might say you are just one person and can’t make that big of impact, but Margaret Mead, a well known liberal anthropologist in the 1960s famously said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
     For more information on the March 2nd precinct meetings and county GOP convention, contact Republican Party Chairperson Hope Sutterfield at hopecsut@gmail.com.   


Monday, February 20, 2017

Oklahoma needs a better long term budget plan!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
LAMB’S MOVE TOOK COURAGE!
by Steve Fair
     Last week, Lt. Governor Todd Lamb resigned from Governor Mary Fallin’s cabinet, where he served as the Small Business Advocate.  Lamb will still be Oklahoma’s Lt. Governor.  The cabinet position and the Lt. Governor’s job are separate.  Lamb said he couldn’t support Fallin’s plan to increase taxes on services that are currently not subject to state taxes.  Fallin plans to start taxing plumbing, barbers and attorneys and 160 more services. 
     Lamb said: “Governor Fallin deserves to have someone in her cabinet who can be a strong advocate for her agenda, and that is something I am unwilling to do.  While I respect the determination with which Governor Fallin met her obligation to present a balanced budget to the legislature, I cannot support her proposed tax increases.  This proposal will adversely harm Oklahoma’s small businesses and families, especially those in our service industry.  While Governor Fallin and I have disagreed on issues from time-to-time, our differences on this important topic are so significant they preclude me from continuing to serve on her cabinet.”
     Fallin responded by issuing the following statement:  “I was disappointed and surprised to learn from a press release that Lt. Gov. Lamb had decided to quit serving as a member of my Cabinet.   I have always valued Todd’s independent voice. I valued it when we first came into office when we dealt with a similar financial crisis and I value his independent voice today. I’ve never been afraid to have dissenting voices at the table. I think the people of Oklahoma benefit from that. There will always be a seat at the table for his independent voice.  Leading a state is never easy, especially when there are so many challenges and we are faced with a prolonged economic downturn. But through ideas, hard work, long hours and making tough decisions, we can find solutions to those challenges our state faces. We have to.  As governor, I have provided a reality check of doing the same thing over and over with the structural deficits of our budget and expecting a different outcome. If we want to educate our children, a teacher pay raise and ensure the health and public safety of our citizens as well as improve our roads and bridges, we must fix the structure of our budget so we don’t keep having budget shortfalls and uncertainty.”  Word is that Fallin’s Chief of Staff met with Lamb’s Chief of Staff before the press release and told him Lamb was resigning from the cabinet, so evidently there is a communication breakdown in the Guv’s office.  Three thoughts:
     First, Lamb’s action took courage, a trait rare for politicos.  He could have simply skipped the meetings, or sat quietly while Fallin pushed for more taxes. Resigning the cabinet position took guts.  Lamb is the preemptive favorite to be the state’s next governor and no doubt he believes staying quiet about Fallin’s tax plan wasn’t going to help his cause among primary voters in two years.  2017 is going to be a historically difficult budget year in state government and going along to get along would have been the safe play.  Lamb proved he doesn’t always play it safe- he takes risk.  The only leaders who ever make meaningful change are risk takers. They lead when everyone else follows.    
     Second, legislators have been talking a great deal about the revenue side of the ledger and not enough about the expenses.   It appears little effort has been made to actually ‘find the waste’ in Oklahoma state government.  Instead of trying to find ways to get more taxpayer money, there should be a full blown blitz to find where cuts can be made.  Churchill famously said: “We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”  Oklahoma needs bold leadership, not the same old tax and spend strategy.
     Third, the legislature should craft a long term funding mechanism that takes the peaks and valleys out of the revenue stream.  Oklahoma state government has been operating hand to chin too long.  Texas deposits 75% of their oil and gas tax revenue in their Rainy Day fund and only appropriates 25%. Oklahoma government spends every dime of oil and gas production tax every year. 
    By quitting the cabinet, Lamb proved he is willing to be against increased taxation.  Now he just needs to outline his plan to balance the budget.
 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Politicos pay attention to those who are paying attention!

Weekly Opinion Editorial

STAY ENGAGED!
By Steve Fair
     In Las Vegas, at the annual meeting of the National Grocers Association, former Speaker of the House John Boehner said helping run his parent’s bar prepared him for politics; “You have to learn to disagree without being disagreeable and you have to be nice to every jackass that comes through the door,” Boehner said to laughs.  Bounced from the U.S. House Speaker’s chair eighteen months ago, by what he called ‘right wing knuckleheads,’ Boehner said that neither he nor President Obama could find common ground because of the political extremist factions in both parties.   He predicted Speaker Ryan will have an easier time holding the House GOP caucus together because President Trump did so well in the ‘knuckleheads’ districts.  “They are going to have a hard time going against the POTUS and that will force them to support some legislation they have been railing against because I can assure you Trump is not as conservative as some believe,” Boehner said
     When during Q&A, a questioner railed on Trump’s choice of Betsy Devos as Secretary of Education instead of asking her question, Boehner interrupted and said, “I know Betsy Devos and have worked with her.  She is an excellent choice.”    When asked by another grocer if he supported term limits for Congress, he said no.  “We have term limits every two years-they are called elections.  When you have term limits, the staff and bureaucrats run government and not the elected officials.  If someone doesn’t like the way I represent them, they have the ability to support someone else and kick me out,”  Boehner said.  In theory, the Speaker is right, but it doesn’t work in practice. 94% of incumbents are reelected.  Money and power flows to the incumbent, making sending incumbents home very difficult.  Term limits have worked in Oklahoma and they would work at the federal level.     
     When asked about the top three issues he believes will be the most important Congress and President Trump will address, Boehner said the mounting national debt, the Affordable Care Act, and tax relief.  “We can’t keep spending more than we take in- we have to get spending under control.  Expect the replacement for the ACA to be later rather than sooner, but I do think Congress and the President will get tax relief passed,” Boehner said.  His answers were short, concise and to the point.  He seemed relaxed and unencumbered.
     When asked about former President Obama, he said their relationship was workable and cordial but not warm.   “Obama loves to lecture, instead of discuss.  I have never labored under the delusion I was the smartest man in the room, but that is who he believes he is.  When I was ousted as Speaker, he called me and said: ‘Boehner, I’m going to miss you,’ and I said, ‘Yes, you are.’  In spite of our deep ideological differences, we were trying to find common ground, but it was next to impossible because of the political extremists in both Parties,” Boehner concluded.
     “Watch what politicians do and not what they say,” he admonished when asked about Trump’s rants on social media.  “Trump is a populist- he isn’t a Party guy and this is the first time in a long time that we have ever had a POTUS who has no respect for or history with politics.  It should be interesting, because he understands how to make a deal and the fact is, politics involves making deals,” Boehner said.  
     “Will he drain the swamp?” a grocery retailer from Michigan asked Boehner.  “I don’t really know what ‘drain the swamp’ means.  I mean I know what some people think it means, but in Trump’s case I think that is just something he says to energize his base,” the former Speaker responded. 
      I have heard Boehner speak a number of times, but never as ‘unplugged’ as he was at the NGA’s annual meeting.  His candor was refreshing, his insight logical.  Instead of playing to his audience, he spoke his mind.  During the Q&A, Paula Deen (yep that one) came to a mic in the aisle and said she wasn’t political, but she loved Boehner’s wife.  He graciously accepted the compliment for his spouse, then said accurately said; ‘everyone’s political.’
     The final question for the former Speaker was from a grocer in his home state of Ohio who asked him; ‘How do we make a difference?’  “Stay engaged, not just in a civic club or charitable organization, but in a political Party.  Pay attention to what is going on around you.  I can assure you elected officials pay attention to those who pay attention,” Boehner said.