Sunday, July 12, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
RULING DIVIDES OKLAHOMA!
by Steve Fair
Last week, in McGirt vs. Oklahoma, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that as pertaining to the Major Crimes Act, much of the eastern part of Oklahoma remains Native American reservations of the Five Civilized Tribes. They ruled the reservations were never disestablished by Congress as part of the Oklahoma Enabling Act of 1906. The Enabling Act was the law passed by Congress paving the way for Oklahoma to join the union. The Enabling Act gave the tribes ‘suzerainty’ governing rights to handle internal matters for tribal members within the boundaries, but allowed the state to retain jurisdiction for law enforcement and prosecution. This new SCOTUS ruling means Native Americans who commit a major crime in the area formerly known as Indian Territory must now be tried by the federal courts, not the state courts when they commit a major crime. The plaintiff in the case, Jimcy McGirt, an enrolled member of the Seminole tribe, was originally convicted in Wagoner County in 1996 of first degree rape, lewd molestation and forcible sodomy. McGirt, 71, was sentenced to 1,000 years plus life without parole. He argued because the crimes took place on the former Creek reservation, the feds should have had jurisdiction, not the state.
In the majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch, the newest appointee to the court, said the U.S. government had promised the Five Civilized Tribes land forever and that Congress did not disestablish the reservations with the Enabling Act. Gorsuch wrote: “Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.” In the dissenting opinion, Chief Justice John Robert wrote: “None of this is warranted. What has gone unquestioned for a century remains true today: A huge portion of Oklahoma is not a Creek Indian reservation. Congress disestablished any reservation in a series of statutes leading up to Oklahoma statehood at the turn of the 19th century.” Three observations:
First, the implications of the ruling will dramatically impact the Oklahoma criminal justice system. Native Americans who have been convicted on major crimes in state court in the eastern half of the state will have to be reprosecuted in federal court. If the statute of limitation is run out, that could be a problem. If witnesses can’t be located or have died, that could be an issue. There will likely be criminals who get out of prison because of this ruling.
Second, while this ruling focused on criminal law, it opens up a can of worms in tax collection, water rights, land ownership and a myriad of other areas. If the reservations are in fact intact, then what can the state enforce? Can they legally collect state taxes from citizens of another sovereign nation if they can’t prosecute them for a crime? Expect future litigation to cite this landmark ruling to justify not submitting to state laws and rules.
Third, the tribes and state government better work together to protect all Oklahoma citizens. The tribes and the feds don’t have the law enforcement and criminal justice personnel to handle the amount of crime in half the state. Law enforcement is primarily done at the local level in the state. If local law enforcement believes they could be liable for arresting and prosecuting Native Americans in half the state, they could back off and crime will increase. The feds and the tribes better quickly figure out a plan to cooperate with local law enforcement to keep Oklahomans safe.
Prior to statehood, Oklahoma was two territories- Oklahoma territory (western half) and Indian Territory (eastern half). Since 1907, Oklahoma has been one state. If Congress didn’t dot every i and cross every t, when they passed the Enabling Act disestablishing the reservations, then they should fix it. This ruling divides Oklahoma and rolls us back to pre-statehood/territorial days.
Monday, July 6, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
THE ULTIMATE INJUSTICE!
by Steve Fair
On June 9th, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said on his popular show: “No child is born evil and sin cannot be inherited.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi once said the same thing. Both are wrong. Man is born a sinner. He doesn’t become a sinner by sinning- he sins because he is a sinner. The depravity of man is a theological doctrine that is at the foundation of Christianity. Depravity is man’s natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man. Clearly, man could perform more evil acts toward his fellow man than he does, but even that virtue of restraint is evil in the sight of God. Why is the view that man is depraved important? Three reasons:
First, it’s important from a spiritual viewpoint. If man has a spark of good, then he has no need of a Savior. If man can pull himself up by his bootstraps, then Jesus Christ died for nothing. Charles Spurgeon wrote: “As the salt flavors every drop in the Atlantic, so does sin affect every atom of our nature. It is so sadly there, so abundantly there, that if you cannot detect it, you are deceived. The venom of sin is in the very fountain of our being; it has poisoned our heart. It is in the very marrow of our bones and is as natural to us as anything that belongs to us.” The entire person—mind, affections, and will—is polluted and poisoned by original sin. Simply stated, sin is in the heart before it is in the hand.
Second, it’s important from a culture viewpoint. If man has a spark of good, then practicing Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory makes perfect sense. The strong survive- the weak die and man becomes stronger. Humility, meekness, patience, righteous- all virtues found in the Bible- become liabilities and man’s rights become supreme.
Third, it’s important from a political viewpoint. If an elected official or a body of legislators believe man is born with a spark of divinity, they logically will do all they can to fan that spark to become a flame. Providing a hand up to the downtrodden and lowly becomes their goal. Spending tax dollars on programs that rehabilitate evil doers becomes their ultimate mission. But until God regenerates man’s dead, depraved heart, any rehabilitation or rejuvenation will just be behavior modification.
The Bible clearly teaches man is born with sin. All who believe otherwise are wrong. Much of the anarchy and social unrest America is experiencing today is because the truth of man’s sinfulness and depravity has not been taught in America. It is not taught in homes or churches. Children are taught to stand up for themselves, be proud of who they are, bow to no one, and to right injustice. Pride is put on the throne, but the Bible says pride is a sin. Gentleness, humility, meekness, and patience, all Biblical traits, are viewed as weakness.The goal of many in our culture is to ‘undo the past,’ but few want to confront the past of Adam’s sin before a holy Creator. It impacted all of mankind. It was the ultimate injustice performed by all men, that can only be righted by one man
Sunday, June 28, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
DON’T BE A LOW INFORMATION VOTER!
by Steve Fair
There are four months until the November general election. That is an eternity in politics. This election cycle has been challenging for candidates and voters alike. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face campaigning has been virtually non-existent. Direct mail and social media have been the vehicles of choice in a quarantine environment. Sorting through the campaign rhetoric has always been a challenge for voters, but in 2020 is especially difficult. Here are four tips:
First, every candidate puts their best foot forward. They paint themselves as trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent- all traits in the Boy Scout oath. They shy away from controversial issues. So long as the voter understands that and doesn’t accept the candidate’s brag sheet at face value, no harm is done.
Second, pointing out how a person votes or conducts themselves in office is not dirty campaigning. An elected official’s voting record is fair game. They should be willing to defend their voting record and explain their conduct. Any elected official/candidate that is unwilling to defend their vote or position on an issue is not worthy of your vote.
Third, candidates often attempt to define their opponent in an unflatteringly way. In this COVID-19 climate, candidates are sending more ‘defining pieces’ to voters about their opponents than ever. The pieces usually include some unflattering photograph that ties the opponent to an unpopular political figure or group. Often the piece contains some truth, but it is so exaggerated/caricatured it is hard to take seriously. Politicos like to say that dirty campaigning works only when you are ahead, behind or even in the polls. The reason they are used is because low information voters are influenced by them. Don’t be a low information voter.
Fourth, don’t put a lot of stock in endorsements. Every candidate has them. Trusted, prominent community leaders are often included in campaign materials, touting the virtues of the candidate. But like a job reference, it’s no guarantee the candidate can/will perform the job. Take celebrity endorsements with a grain of salt.
Here’s how to avoid being a low information voter: (1) Know the issues the candidate will encounter if elected. A county elected official will encounter different issues than a state legislator or a Congressman. Know the difference. (2) Seek out the candidates and personally ask their position on issues important to you, (3) Ask knowledgeable people you personally trust who they are supporting., (4) Recognize that Party affiliation does help. While it is not absolute, generally Republicans are more conservative and Democrats more liberal.
One hundred years ago, the U.S. faced a similar pandemic. Between 1918 to 1920, one in three people were infected with the Spanish Flu worldwide. Estimates are that 5% of the world’s population died. The Spanish Flu was the greatest tidal wave of death since the Black Plague, but people voted. The Republic continued. COVID-19 won’t kill America, but low information voters who pay little attention to their government may. Don’t be a low information voter.
Sunday, June 21, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
TRUE DEMOCRACY IS MOB RULE!
by Steve Fair
As the story goes, Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone asked him, ”Dr. Franklin, what have we got- a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin supposedly responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” 233 years later America may be losing the republic Franklin and the founders crafted.
A republic form of government is one where elected individuals represent the citizens and exercise power according to the rule of law under the Constitution. In America, those representatives are democratically elected. In a ‘direct democracy,’ the citizens directly deliberate and decide on legislature. When elected officials in a republic abrogate their responsibility, citizens often take matters into their own hands. True democracy is ‘mob rule.’ Based on the recent civil unrest, the U.S. is looking more and more like a true democracy.
Some believe the United States has moved from a republic to an oligarchy. In a study by two political scientists; Martin Gilens, (Princeton), and Benjamin Page, (Northwestern), they concluded the wealthy have a disproportionate amount of influence in politics. Gilens and Page write; “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” Gilens and Page are liberals and clearly had a predetermined outcome, but they are correct the wealthy are more engaged in politics than the poor. But no oligarchy can survive mob rule. The numbers just won’t work. So how does America get back to a representative democracy? How does the United States get back to the form of government the founders intended? Three ways:
First, the average citizen must actively engage in their government. They have to do more than vote. They must pay attention to what is happening all the time, not just every two years at election time. That involves attending meetings, getting to know their elected officials, helping candidates, and contributing money. The reason big money has taken over politics is because so few average people are engaged in the process.
Second, the American system of government must be taught to the next generation. Most millennials have little knowledge of our system of government and the genius of the founders. Pew Research, in a March 2020 poll, found two thirds of millennials want the Electoral College eliminated and the president be elected by popular vote. They fail to not understand the EC is a fundamental principle of a representative democracy. Eliminating the Electoral College will result in large states having more and more control. The genius of the Electoral College is it gives power to individual states and not just population centers.
Third, Americans must commit to a democratic republic. The mindset to understand the importance of being involved in a republic is critical. Without wide-spread commitment from individual citizens taking equity in their self-governing system of government, America will not survive.
The U.S. Constitution’s first amendment guarantees the right of citizens to peacefully assembly, but not to destroy private or public property. What we are seeing in America is mob rule because some elected leaders capitulate to a mob. Until citizens hold them accountable at the ballot box, America’s system of government is doomed.
Sunday, June 14, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
SQ#802 IS BAD FOR OKLAHOMA!
by Steve Fair
State Question #802 will be on the June 30th primary ballot. It is an initiative petition supported by those who want to expand Medicaid program for low income Oklahomans whose income does not exceed 133% of the federal poverty level. If passed, it would become a part of the state Constitution.
Oklahomans Decide Healthcare is the group supporting SQ #802. They contend that expansion of Medicaid will make Oklahoma families heathier and the economy stronger. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs(OCPA) opposes SQ #802, partly because federal bureaucrats set the federal poverty level. Governor Kevin Stitt opposes SQ #802 saying, “If SQ#802 passes, our state agencies will experience deep cuts because the ballot measure offers no mechanism to pay for it.” Four observations:
First, health care funding should not become part of the state Constitution. That is the primary fishhook in SQ #802. There are those who support expansion of Medicaid who oppose having it into the state Constitution. Having it in the Constitution forces the legislature to fund it, no matter what. Bad idea.
Second, Oklahoma taxpayers can’t afford Medicaid expansion. With the downturn in the oil and gas industry, gross revenue tax revenue is down. Unemployment is up in the Sooner state and couple that with the pandemic, it is certain that other sources of revenue will be down as well. Oklahomans Decide is wrong- putting more tax burden on hurting, struggling people doesn’t strength the economy, it cripples it.
Third, the federal matching funds are not guaranteed to be there forever. OCPA says, "Oklahoma would be obligated to provide medical assistance to adults at or below 138% of the federal poverty level regardless of whether Congress continues to pay a large portion of the costs. Congress would dictate how much money actually leaves Oklahoma’s treasury.” Congress currently appropriates the federal matching funds for Medicaid, but they can quit at any time. With SQ #802 in the Oklahoma state Constitution, Oklahoma taxpayers will have to pick up the slack if Congress quit funding the expansion
Fourth, it is still unclear how many are eligible and will sign up if Medicaid is expanded. State health officials estimate that 220,000 will be eligible and 180,000 would sign up. In several states, the actual numbers who signed up for Medicaid expansion was much higher than the estimates and created funding issues.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), healthcare spending in the US is estimated to grow by 5.4% annually for the next eight to ten years. Projections indicate health care spending will cost an estimated $6.2 trillion by 2028. Much of that is due to the aging population in the US. Healthcare will continue to be a topic of discussion for the foreseeable future and Medicaid expansion may be necessary in Oklahoma, but SQ #802 is not the way to do it.
Vote no on SQ #802 for the following reasons: (1) Healthcare funding should not be a part of the state Constitution, (2) It is an unfunded mandate. It doesn’t increase taxes to pay for the expansion- it just mandates it, (3) Oklahoma taxpayers simply can’t afford it.
Sunday, June 7, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
RELEVANCE SEEKERS ARE IRRELEVANT
by Steve Fair
On Saturday, the New York Times reported former President George W. Bush, former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice along with Utah U.S. Senator Mitt Romney will not support President Donald Trump’s re-election. The article implied former Speakers of the House Paul Ryan and John Boehner will not vote for Trump. They also said that up to four other GOP U.S. Senators plan to not support the president’s re-election. Four observations:
First, a vote isn’t about personality- it’s about policy. When President Bush and the others oppose the president of their own Party, they reveal their lack of commitment to the conservative movement. Trump’s abrasive personality is polarizing, but as Dr. Gerald Beasley once about an abrasive elected official: “We send them up there to vote. Little else matters. Watch how they vote, not what they say.” That is great advice. It’s about the cause, not the person.
Second, a vote is always the lesser of two evils. Until Jesus Christ is on the ballot, we are always voting for a fallen human being. In every election, voters make a choice between the lesser of two evils. They should base their decision on which candidate they believe will govern or implement policies most closely aligned with their convictions, values and political philosophy. President Trump has appointed more conservative judges, cut taxes and cut government regulation more than any president- Republican or Democrat- in modern history. Vice President Joe Biden has said he will do the exact opposite- raise taxes and appoint liberal judges. Trump’s personality and may be course and blunt, but his policies are conservative- Biden’s will be liberal.
Third, this fight/conflict is really over economic globalism. Every Republican mentioned in the Times article believe all the countries of the world should collectively operate as one system. President Trump has vocally opposed America being dependent on foreign manufacturing (much of which happened during the Bush presidency) and has encouraged manufacturing to return to the U.S.
Fourth, the rank and file Republican base remain behind Trump. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, the George Floyd incident and the protests, Trump supporters are firmly supporting the president. That is the good news. The bad news is Democrat conservatives, many of them union workers, who supported the president in 2016 are not as enthusiastic about Trump, but aren’t in Biden’s corner yet either. With five months until the election, a lot can change- and will.
When candidate Trump was running in 2016, he promised, if elected, to ‘drain the swamp.’ That meant he wasn’t going to go along to get along. He vowed to be unconventional and to govern different than tradition dictated. That is why he makes career politicians and bureaucrats nervous. The Washington establishment, including many elected Republicans, have opposed his governing style and policies since his election. No president in modern history has been criticized, critiqued, and condemned more.
The fact is, none of those Republican listed in the article have enough influence to sway the election to Biden. They lose all creditability with conservative Republicans when they say the prefer Biden over Trump. Conservative Democrats won’t listen to them either. They have lost their relevance.
Monday, June 1, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
LAW ENFORCEMENT SHOULD POLICE THEIR OWN!
by Steve Fair
On Memorial Day evening, an African American man named George Floyd died during an arrest in Minneapolis. Four police officers were arresting him for allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a deli. According to police, Floyd resisted arrest and would get into the car. Ultimately he was cuffed on the ground and Officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee into his neck. A bystander recorded video on their phone and Floyd is repeatedly heard saying on the video he can’t breathe and begging Chavin to not kill him. Chavin had his knee in Floyd’s’s neck for nearly nine minutes and did not remove it until the ambulance arrived. Floyd was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Charges of third degree murder have been filed against Chavin, who was fired the next day along with the three other officers.
On Tuesday, peaceful protests were staged in Minneapolis, but since that time, they have escalated to violent and destructive protests. Protesters have burned the Minneapolis 3rd police precinct building, looted several businesses, including a Target store and according to The Minneapolis Star Tribune, an estimated 255 businesses have been vandalized or entirely destroyed in the Twin Cities area. On Saturday and Sunday, protests sprang up at more than 100 cities across the world, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa. In downtown OKC, two restaurants were vandalized. All stories are like a pancake, there are two sides, but this incident should cause all Americans to be outraged. Three observations:
First, overzealous law enforcement should not be tolerated. The deli manager called 911 and described George Floyd as drunk and trying to pay with a fake bill. Floyd wasn’t threatening the deli manager, didn’t have a weapon, but it appears the Minneapolis police dispatcher sent four officers to the scene, including one(Chauvin) who has a history of complaints against him for overzealous enforcement. Law enforcement leadership know there are some in their midst that ‘love the action’ and often will try to create some ‘action.’ Chauvin appears to be one of those and his superiors knew it. By not dealing with him earlier, they bear some of the blame for Floyd’s death.
Second, two wrongs don’t make a right. Peaceful non-violent protests are sometimes appropriate, but when thugs co-op a tragic event, use it as an excuse to loot and destroy private property, they do the cause harm. Looting a Target isn’t protesting- it is larceny. Torching a public building owned by taxpayers isn’t complaining- it is arson. Tossing a brick through a plate glass window isn’t objecting- it is vandalism. Destroying other people’s property is not peaceful assembly, it is a riot.
Third, all Americans should be morally outraged by Floyd’s death. Righteous indignation is anger fueled by divine or moral law. Aristotle called righteous indignation a mean between envy and spite. Believers can and should be angry over the exhibit of depravity and inhumanity on the video, but it should never lead to more violence- it should lead to thoughtful action to punish the evildoers, which in this case includes not only the four officers but those who left an overzealous officer on the street.
America is a nation of laws and when laws are broken- by an overzealous police officer, a looter or an arsonist, that person should be punished. God ordained human government to do just that- punish evildoers and reward those who do good. Violent, destructive protests do nothing but continue the cycle of violence and destruction. America, we can do better. Pray God changes hearts.