Monday, August 26, 2013

Don't Cross That Line!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
Back in December of 2010, protests, riots and civil wars occurred across the Arab world.  Rulers were forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen.  Protests against government erupted in Bahrain and Syria.  The western media called the unrest the ‘Arab Spring.’  The term is used to describe what some refer to as a major Arab movement towards democratization.  

There are a number of reasons why the Arab world is rebelling against their various governments and the reasons vary from country to country.  Some are economical, others religious, but the fact is there is significant unrest in the region.  The most recent uprising has been in the nation of Syria.  Syria is about the size of Oklahoma with a population of 22 million- about 6 times the population of Oklahoma.  Syria is a former French colony and gained his independence from France in 1946.  It borders Israel, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan.  Syria has a ‘unitary republic’ style of government, similar to Great Britain.  In a ‘unitary’ style of government, the central government remains supreme and local government is weak.  But recent events have shown the central government is losing control.     

Last week, chemical weapons were used in Damascus, Syria.  Chemical weapons are similar to the old ‘mustard/nerve gas’ weapons used in WWI.  They can cause extreme harm and death to humans.  Doctors without Borders, a humanitarian organization, said three hospitals in Damascus received 3,600 patients with ‘neurotoxin symptoms’ and 355 deaths were reported.   When the United Nations sent in a team to investigate whether chemical weapons had been used, snipers fired at their vehicle.  Bashar Assad, the Syrian President, accused rebels of firing at the team. He labeled allegations that the Syrian government had deployed chemical weapons against their own citizens as “preposterous” and “completely politicized.”   

President Obama 'warned' Syrian a year ago that if they used chemical weapons to still the unrest in their country, they would cross a “red line,” and risk military action by the U.S.  It certainly appears the ‘red line’ has been crossed, but will President Obama deploy military action and why should Americans be concerned by the events in Syria?  Americans should be concerned for three reasons.

First, Syria is strategically located in the Middle East.  Violence in Syria could spill over into Iraq, where we have spent eight years fighting.  Syria also borders Israel, the strongest US ally in the region.  We need stability in Syria in order to keep peace in the region. 

Second, America can ill afford another costly war.  With our struggling economy and out of control government spending, taxpayers can’t afford another war.   Another factor is that war with Syria would impact the supply of oil.  While Syria doesn’t export the amount of oil of Iraq, they are a significant producer and a war with Syria would increase the price at the pump.

Third, Obama’s foreign policy is fuzzy at best.  That is the reason the Syrian government boldly stepped across the ‘red line.’  They don’t expect President Obama to do anything militarily.  The inconsistency in the Obama administration’s foreign policy has sent the message there are no harmful consequences for actions.  This ‘all talk/no action’ attitude has made the Israelis very nervous.
It's time America had a President with the simple objective in foreign policy of President Reagan.  When the Gipper was asked his strategy on the Cold War, he said simply; “We win; they lose.”  The reason Reagan was successful was because foreign leaders and governments knew he meant what he said.  That was a deterrent to foreign leaders to not cross the line.  They knew the ‘red line’ was real, not some hop scotch chalk drawn line that could be erased and forgotten when the game is over.

Monday, August 19, 2013


Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve Fair

     In November 2010, over 70% of voters in Oklahoma voted to pass State Question 755. SQ #755 amended the state constitution to ban Sharia and International law from being used in state courts. The day after the election, the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations(CAIR) announced a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law.  CAIR officials said the ban on Sharia was unnecessary and discriminatory.  Oklahoma Western District judge Vickie Miles-LaGrange agreed with them and issued a restraining order that delayed implementation of the ban.   
     The state of Oklahoma appealed Miles-LaGrange’s ruling to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals who agreed with the lower court ruling.  Last week. LaGrange issued an order barring the Oklahoma state election board from certifying the results of SQ 755, handing Oklahoma voters yet another defeat in their battle to ban Sharia. 
     The proposed constitutional amendment read, in part: “The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia law.” Oklahoma was the first state in the country to consider a measure to restrict judges from consulting Sharia law when making decisions.  Since that time, more than two dozen states have considered similar measures.  In fact a bill that would ban Sharia law in North Carolina is on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.
     Shariah law is based on the Quran, which Muslims believe is the word of Allah as dictated to the prophet Mohammed.  Under Shariah law, freedom of religion and other civil liberties in the U.S. Constitution – in fact the very concept of man-made law – are incompatible with Islam.  Shariah is not a radical concept in Islam, but a ‘fundamental’ tenet of the faith.  Shariah is held by mainstream Islamic authorities and not just the fringe extremist elements who have supposedly “hijacked” the religion.
     I have three observations on the Sharia ruling:
     First, Miles-LaGrange’s ruling overturns the will of the voters of Oklahoma.  There was a time in America when judges were reluctant to overturn the vote of the people, but no more.  When over 70% of Oklahomans vote to ban Sharia and International law, it’s clear the governed want it banned.  What is unconstitutional about a law that reinforces the ‘exclusivity’ of the U.S. constitution in our courtrooms?  Absolutely nothing!  State Senator Anthony Sykes, (R-Moore) the author of SQ #755 said “One has to wonder how much longer the people will continue to even be relevant in our system of government if we continue down this path. I am a firm believer that all power in government comes from the consent of the governed.” 
     Second, Sharia is a real threat to America!  Read Shariah: The Threat to America, a book that describes in detail precisely what Shariah is and what it means for all of us.  The book uses the illustration of Europe, where a number of nations have integrated Shariah law into their culture and court rulings are often based on Sharia.  Former U.S. House Speaker New Gingrich says, “I believe Shariah is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.   I think it’s that straightforward and that real.”
     Third, Sharia is already being used in America’s courts!  Major Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, attempted to use Sharia law as his defense.  In a New Jersey case, a judge denied a restraining order to a woman who was sexually assaulted by her then-husband on the basis the husband did not have a "criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault" her as the husband was merely under the impression that he was exercising his prerogative as a husband under Islamic law(Sharia).  Recently a Florida appeals court ruled that a lawsuit over a monetary dispute at a mosque can be determined by Islamic Sharia law-in a U.S. court, no less.  Senator Sykes says, “Sharia is a competing constitution and will plunge our Nation into chaos. I cannot understand how an American can look at the government in Iran and what is going on in Egypt today and want that here.”
     An out of control judiciary branch of government is doing more damage in America than the executive and legislative branches combined.  While we argue and bicker, the courts are slicing our liberty and freedom off at a record pace.  We need judicial term limits at all levels in America.

For more information on this subject, go to

Monday, August 12, 2013


Weekly Opinion Editorial

By Steve Fair
     There is little debate that Oklahoma roads and bridges are in need of repair.  After decades of neglect, the state legislature has done a good job at prioritizing the order of repair and providing the funding to complete the job.  The legislature gets most of the money to fix our roads and bridges through state fuel tax. Oklahomans pay only seventeen cents a gallon in fuel tax, 46th in the U.S.  In New York, drivers pay over fifty cents a gallon.  With gasoline and diesel prices at record levels, citizens are not willing to add to the price of the pump even to help pay for repairs to roads and bridges.  That coupled with the fact that more fuel efficient vehicles are generating billions less in revenue each year have presented a challenge to state governments.   
     Technology has compounded the problem of financing roadwork. Cars now get higher gas mileage, use less gas and pay less gas taxes. The new clean fuel-Compressed Natural Gas- (CNG) is taxed at a much lower rate than gasoline.  Electric cars and Hybrids  use little or no gas, but they don’t contribute their share to the cost of maintaining roads.
     Some creative thinkers have come up with a new concept.  It’s called the VEHICLE MILES TRAVELED (VMT) tax.  It is a policy of taxing motorists based on how many miles they travel and replaces the fuel tax.  A VMT charge is implemented using GPS units on board a vehicle to record distance, assign it to the appropriate taxing jurisdiction, and calculate the amount owed.  VMT charges are based on vehicle class, when the vehicle is driven and the type road surface they drive on.  Holland and Denmark plan to implement the VMT.  Oregon is the only state that has said the VMT was viable.  They have asked for 5,000 drivers to volunteer to join the program. We'll see how many citizens want Uncle Sam tracking their travel.

     Three observations:
     First, while VMT may be a fair and equitable way to impose a fuel tax, it is too intrusive.  We don’t want government placing a GPS tracking devise on our vehicles.  VMT would also penalize rural residents in states like Oklahoma.  The long term affect would be larger metropolitan areas and fewer rural residents.  While VMT is a true ‘use’ tax, it is not the solution to Oklahoma’s road and bridge funding challenges.
     Second, the reason most elected officials ignore roads and bridges is because building them is a long term project.  With term limits, oftentimes an elected official is out of office before a road project in their district is completed.  Politicians like projects that are completed quickly and will help get them re-elected.  Roads and bridges take too long to help with re-elections. 
     Third, a lack of road and bridge maintenance revenue is a very real issue.  Oklahoma takes in about $300 million annually in fuel tax to use on roads/bridges.  That amount has not changed for several years.  With increases in construction cost, revenue is not keeping up with the need.  The simple solution would be to have the residents of the state vote for an increase in the fuel tax, but that is easier said than done.  In September of 2005, Oklahomans rejected SQ #723 by an 87% margin.  It would have increased the fuel tax to twenty two cents a gallon on gasoline and diesel.  It was the biggest defeat of a State Question since 1952 when voters rejected a state sales tax increase.  Oklahomans believe they are already taxed enough and they don’t trust politicians who claim they will ‘earmark’ a tax for a specific purpose.  They have been burned too many times. 
     The reality is Oklahoma got behind on road/bridge maintenance during the nearly 100 year reign of terror when Democrats controlled state government.  During that period(1907-2004), the state’s infrastructure was neglected and ignored.  According to a recent report, 22.6% of the Oklahoma’s bridges are deficient- up from the previous year- and second worst in the country. The same reports ranked Oklahoma 38th in roads. 
     At some point, Oklahomans are going to have we have to face facts and figure out a way to address our crumbling infrastructure and that may include having to vote ourselves a tax increase. God forgive a conservative Republican for even mentioning raising taxes.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fallin & Lamb lead Associations!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     Last week, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin was officially installed as the Chair of the National Governors Association (NGA).  The NGA serves as a key public policy liaison between state government and the federal government.  The NGA provides governors and their senior staff members with services that range from representing states on Capitol Hill (lobbying) to developing policy and best practices reports on state programs and hosting networking seminars for state executive branch officials. 
     Governor Fallin announced that her initiative during her year long term as Chair will be, “America Works: Education & Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs.”  “Improving our workforce and ensuring it remains internationally competitive is an issue that calls for national attention and demands gubernatorial leadership,” Fallin said. “Our future economic security will require significant improvements to our education system and workforce training programs. It also will require closer relationships among our high schools, colleges, workforce training providers and employers.”
     According to the NGA, in the 1960s, 75% of jobs in the marketplace only required a high school diploma, but today that number has dropped to less than 40%.  According to the federal Department of Education just over 75% of public high school students make it to graduation.  While a high school diploma was usually sufficient for our parents’ generation to have access to a good life, today a postsecondary degree or relevant workforce certificate is the ‘new minimum,’” Governor Fallin said. “Failing to provide all of our students with opportunities to successfully navigate postsecondary education will cap far too many students’ potential and limit their access to the middle class.”
     The initiative will focus on what government can do to help public education and private industry prepare students for jobs once they complete their education.  It will also help states identity what their anticipated future labor demands will be and help them plan accordingly. 
     This initiative sounds a lot like School to Work.  School to Work is a system to introduce the philosophy of school-based, work-based, and connecting activities as early as kindergarten to expose students to potential future careers.  I’m not sure I want my grandchildren being pigeonholed into their career path in kindergarten.  I do believe that public education should be training children for life, which includes work.   I’m just not convinced, telling one 5 year old he is going to be a plumber and another a doctor, based on testing, is the job of public education or government.
     Coincidentally, Governor Fallin is serving as NGA Chair at the same time as Lt. Governor Todd Lamb will serve as Chair of the National Lt. Governor’s Association (NLGA).  Lamb was installed in July at their annual meeting held in Oklahoma City.   “Serving in leadership at the NLGA has been an honor and I am humbled that my fellow Lt. Governors have elected me as Chair,” said Lamb. At their meeting, the Lt. Governors focused on response to natural disasters in their states. 
     Oklahoma and America will benefit by having Fallin and Lamb heading up their respective associations.  First, because they are both fiscal conservatives and don’t believe that throwing money at a problem is always the best solution.  Second, both are common sense leaders who understand what it takes to move a state forward.  They both served in the Oklahoma legislature when Democrats ruled Oklahoma with an iron fist and during that reign, the state was near the bottom in per capita income and high in tax burden.  They have been a part of the reason the Sooner state is doing better than other states in recruiting business, reducing the tax burden and improving life for the average Oklahoman.  Let’s just hope the feds listen to them.