Monday, June 30, 2014
Weekly Opinion Editorial
THE DUST HAS SETTLED!
by Steve Fair
The dust has settled after last Tuesday’s primary election. The voters have spoken and with the exception of a few run-offs GOP voters in Oklahoma selected the nominees for the general election November 4th. In the aftermath of an election, there is no shortage of self proclaimed political experts who dissect the election and offer their analysis of the who, what and why. I am no different- here are my observations:
The voter turnout in the primary was shameful. Only about 25% of those eligible bothered to vote. 31.2% of Republicans voted- 18.9% of Democrats. The races on the GOP side were certainly more exciting, but regardless of your Party affiliation, you should show up to vote. As George Allen said, “The world is run by those who show up.”
All candidates, whether they won or lost, deserve our admiration and respect. It takes courage to sign up to run for office. Many of them spent their time, talent and treasure to run and fall short. That doesn’t mean they are losers- it only means they lost. Giving the citizens a choice is important. Having candidates in a race that raise the level of dialogue to one of issues is critical if we are to be effectively self governed. Incumbents often say, “it’s my seat,” but it’s not. The seat belongs to the people and sometimes it takes a challenge to jar an incumbent back into the proper mindset.
The U.S. Senate race in Oklahoma never got that negative. If you want to see negative, there were several races across the country where personal attacks on opponents were relentless and brutal. To be sure, there were some ads that ‘caricatured’ a candidate’s stance, but for the most part the race was conducted in a civil manner. To be clear, pointing out how a person voted is not ‘going negative.’ The public has a right to know and a candidate should be willing to defend their voting record. Negative campaigning is when attacks are personal in nature and irrelevant to the race. Often its not the voting record that becomes the focus of an ad, but the ‘spin’ on the voting record. It’s the job of the voting public to sift through the rhetoric and find the truth.
T.W. Shannon has a bright political future. Shannon is a fine young man with strong convictions. If T.W. chooses to return to the political arena in two years, he will do well. He is intelligent, articulate, and principled. His concession speech was done with class and humility. I don’t know what his plans are, but I doubt the voters of Oklahoma have heard the last of T.W. Shannon.
Common core was Janet Barresi’s downfall. The incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction finished third in a three person race. In recent memory, no incumbent has ever been defeated by this wide of margin. To her credit, Janet Barresi has courage. She struck by her decision on Common Core well after it was apparent it was not popular with the GOP base. We should always admire elected officials who are willing to take a stand, even when they disagree with us. Barresi attempted to get back into the good graces of the GOP primary voters when it became apparent she was in jeopardy of losing, but it was too late. Opposition to Common Core is in the platforms of the Republican Party at both the state and national level. The results of the Superintendent’s race just goes to show you the ‘folks’ pay attention.
The Oklahoma Democrat Party is in trouble. Nearly 100,000 more Republicans showed up to vote in the statewide primary than Democrats. Democrats didn’t even bother to field a candidate in four statewide races. A perennial candidate who never campaigns- Jim Rogers- is in a run-off with State Senator Connie Johnson for the Democrat nomination for U.S. Senate. Not only are Democrats not showing up to vote, they are obviously uninformed when they get there. Johnson is a viable candidate- Rogers is not. For there to be a run-off in that race sadly defines the state of the Oklahoma Democrat Party- disarray.The statewide run-off is on Tuesday August 26th. Republicans do not have a statewide race in the run-off, Democrats have two. Steve Russell and Patrice Douglas will square off in the 5th Congressional district run-off for the GOP nomination. Check with your local county election board for primary run-off races in your precinct.
Monday, June 23, 2014
Weekly Opinion Editorial
GIVE ME MY MONEY!
By Steve Fair
In 1989, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission voted on a proposal for Southwestern Bell Telephone to refund $30 million to their Oklahoma customers. The overcharges resulted when the corporate income tax in Oklahoma was reduced by 25%. Back in 1989, the members of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission were Jim Townsend, a former state legislator and three term member of the commission, Bob Hopkins, another former state legislator, and newly elected Commissioner Bob Anthony, a department store executive who had served as an OKC city council member for a decade. Anthony was the only Republican. The phone company argued that refunding the money to the customers wasn’t necessary and instead proposed they upgrade their infrastructure instead. The vote was 2-1 to not refund back to the customers with Anthony casting the lone nay vote.
Anthony, who had been approached by the lobbyist for Southwestern Bell and offered a bribe to vote their way, went to the FBI and told them of the possible corruption at the Commission. He wore a wire and both the lobbyist for Southwestern Bell and Hopkins went to jail. For his efforts, Bob Anthony was awarded the FBI’s highest civilian award. Anthony continues to serve as a Corporation Commissioner. He won his fifth six year term in 2012.
In 1992, when the members of the Commission were Cody Graves, J.C. Watts, and Anthony, they voted unanimously that the actual overcharge to Oklahomans by Southwestern Bell in 1989 was $100 million dollars, not $30 million. As to why the $100 million wasn’t refunded at that time is the $64 dollar question, but it wasn’t. Instead the phone company was once again allowed to keep the ‘excess revenue.’
Last week, two Oklahoma consumers- Sody Clements, the Mayor of Nichols Hills, and Richard Burpee, the former commander of Tinker AFB- filed a $14 billion dollar lawsuit on behalf of Oklahoma Southwestern Bell customers. The suit states the ruling by the Commission in 1989 was null and void because Hopkins had taken a bribe for his vote. They believe the phone giant (now AT&T) owes Oklahomans billions of dollars, after interest, and should be held accountable. “Although the facts in this case may seem complex, it is really just about doing the right thing for the customers in Oklahoma,” Clements says.
Clements, who served as Anthony’s Executive Assistant for two years after his election, is a close friend of the Commissioner. Burpee is also a close friend of Anthony. Basically, Burpee and Clements want a do-over vote by the current Commission. They want the 1989 ruling to be declared unconstitutional and voided. "If you were in a murder trial and found out that one of jurors had been bribed, they would throw the verdict out," Clements said.
AT&T obviously doesn’t agree. According to Marty Richter, an AT&T spokesperson, "This issue has been thoroughly reviewed and resolved numerous times by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. This should be a closed issue." Three observations:
First, this only involves land lines. It doesn’t involve cellular phones. So if you didn’t have a land line in 1989 in Oklahoma, this suit doesn’t involve you.
Second, determining who is entitled to the refund will be difficult. Many of those land line customers from 1989 have moved or died. Locating those who were overcharged will be a difficult task, but it should be attempted. With compound interest AT&T will owe many Oklahoma consumers over $1,000.
Third, this suit reveals a larger problem. Oklahomans have no way of knowing how much they have been overcharged for utilities through the years. How many millions of dollars were Oklahomans overcharged by utility providers in the years before 1990 because some corrupt politician was brought off? There shouldn’t be a statue of limitations on overcharging rate payers. Why can’t other decisions that were made by previous commissions be revisited? The legislature should take the initiative to investigate. Contact your legislator and ask them to support such action. Public corruption, fraud and consumer overcharging shouldn’t just result in a short jail sentence- it should result in giving the money back to those who were overcharged.
The Corporation Commission bribery scandal resulted in the obvious overcharge of every Oklahoman with a Southwestern Bell land line telephone in 1989. It should be finally resolved. I want MY money back, with interest!
Monday, June 16, 2014
Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
Former first lady/Senator/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has released a new book entitled, “Hard Choices.” In the book, she claims to give a behind the scenes look at the Benghazi situation and other matters during her tenure as Secretary of State. The title implies she had to make some ‘hard choices.’ as the nation’s highest diplomat. She also claims when former President Clinton left office, they were broke. She has since attempted to retract that absurdity. Even her supporters found it laughable. She ends the book by saying she is still ‘undecided’ as to whether she will run for the Democrat nomination in 2016.
First, the book, “Hard Choices,” is bland and boring. Clinton wrote this book to enhance her image- nothing more or less. According to the New York Post, Clinton wrote “a careful book” – reviewer code for boring. “Judged as a political document, the book will probably serve Clinton well. It includes a forceful defense of her role in Benghazi, along with many believable passages about her enduring love for her sometimes faithless husband, Bill. There’s nothing here that seems likely to get her in trouble with anyone, which is doubtless good politics but a bad thing to say about a memoir,” The Post concluded. Even the NY Times, a bastion of liberalism, said the book contained, “nothing new.”
Second, Clinton is running for President. In fact, she has never stopped. Every move she has made in the past ten years has been to enhance her electability- either for the Senate or the nation’s highest office. She is a politico- that is her career. She doesn’t even attempt to hide her ambition. This book and every speech she makes and every book signing she is doing is focused with the goal of getting her the Democrat nomination in 2016. She’s running- make no mistake about it. If there is one choice she has every made that wasn’t hard for her, it was running for President.
Third, Hillary is much more liberal than Bill. Bill Clinton was more obsessed with power than he was policy. He could (and did) change his position on policy to stay in power. Bill could be a liberal or a conservative, depending on which way the winds were blowing that day. Strong convictions are not his strength. Bill could work with Republicans. He actually did some things that would be considered more conservative than either of the President Bushs, but Hillary is not Bill. She believes the liberal agenda is the right one for the country. Hillary met the radical socialist Saul Alinsky when she was only fourteen. Alinksy, who wrote, ‘Rules for Radical,” is also a favorite of President Obama, but Clinton idealized Alinksy. In fact her senior thesis in college was entitled, “There Is Only the Fight . . An Analysis of the Alinsky Model.” Hillary believes government is the answer for everything. She was attempting to push socialized medicine down the nation’s throats years before ObamaCare. I’m not sure our country could survive back-to-back socialist leaders.
Fourth, Hillary is electable. To my conservative friends who disagree, I merely point out that she has a base of support among women no Republican has at this point. Hillary Clinton could be our next President. There are almost enough people who believe that government needs to be bigger and that we are not taxed enough, for her to win. She is not likable, but she is electable, make no mistake about it.
The 2016 election is not just about leadership of our country- it’s about surviving as America. I’m talking about the America the founders envisioned, not the America that has evolved after a century of government growth and giveaways. We need a ‘risk taker’ in the Republican ranks who is willing to tell the truth about our fiscal condition and our failed foreign policy. We need a leader who will stress personal responsibility and not government intervention. Pray that God will raise up such a leader. If He doesn’t we are doomed.
Monday, June 9, 2014
MILITARY’S MISSION IS NOT BABYSITTING!
by Steve Fair
It appears the Obama administration plans to house young illegal immigrant children at Fort Sill. It’s unclear exactly how many kids are involved, but 600 were supposedly placed at Sill yesterday. Most of the minors are 13 to 17 years old and generally come from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala. Many are here because they already have a parent in the U.S. — and who also crossed the border illegally.
Congressman Tom Cole, (R-Moore), is opposed to the idea as is U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, (R-Tulsa). Neither of the two lawmakers was given advance notice by the Department of Homeland Security of the plan to bring illegals to Fort Sill.
Cole said he was "astonished and upset” with the lack of communication from the Obama administration. "The manner in which we have been informed of this decision allows almost no time to protest its implementation, to consider alternative solutions or to prepare for the arrival of hundreds of illegal aliens at a facility that is neither intended nor designed for their use," Cole said. "This is incredibly unfair to the American military."
Senator Inhofe said, "America has an immigration problem and a national security crisis, but I don't believe the answer is for our military facilities to be transformed into a center that houses, feeds, and cares for illegal immigrants."
In a bizarre twist to this story, Attorney General Eric Holder announced late last week a joint project between the Justice Department and AmeriCorps to recruit 100 lawyers and paralegals to help the minor children through the immigration system. Think of that- your tax dollars are being used to provide legal advice for someone who has zero respect for our laws.
First, America has to secure our borders! This issue has been debated for years and frankly nothing has been done. There needs to be a wall built and those who scale it are sent back immediately. When we accommodate those who enter our country illegally we encourage more illegal immigration. If the Obama administration wants to use the military for a legitimate purpose, have them secure the border.
Second, Fort Sill- and every other military installation’s- mission is to defend the country! Being babysitters to kids who have crossed the border illegally is not the mission of the American soldier. A military installation is a highly secure area that has a specific purpose and it’s not housing illegal aliens. This President has done everything in his power to transform the American military mission from one of a fighting force to one similar to the Peace Corp.
Third, what type of person would send minor children across the desert in a foreign country? If a parent or grandparent will send their kid across the border to travel hundreds of miles alone, they must either not really love the child or they are desperate. It’s clear that America has something the world wants, but the amount of illegal immigration is placing a strain on our economy. The American taxpayer can’t pay for everyone in the world to come here for free food, clothing and shelter.
Fourth, not immediately deporting these kids who come here illegally is really ‘de facto’ amnesty. America should return these kids to their homeland as quickly and humanely as we can. If we don’t we will be encouraging more minors to cross the border illegally. In just the last year, it is estimated that over 100,000 minor children have illegally crossed the southern border. That is just over ten fold in just three years.Some argue America has a moral obligation to accept those seeking asylum in our country, no matter what? Really? That has not always been the case. In 1939, the MS St. Louis, a German ocean liner loaded with 1,000 Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany, sailed to Florida, but the passengers were not allowed to immigrate to the United States. They hadn’t properly applied to immigrate to the U.S. FDR said they had to apply legally, just like everyone else. He wouldn’t make an exception. The father of the New Deal said no deal. Even a liberal like FDR understood the importance of securing the border.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Weekly Opinion Editorial
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM!
by Steve Fair
HB #3399 is sitting on Governor Mary Fallin’s desk. She has until Saturday June 7th to either sign the bill or veto it. If the Governor signs the bill, Common Core is scraped and Oklahoma schools would revert to teaching to the pre-2010 standards for math and reading- the No Child Left Behind standards. Steve Crawford with Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration says if that happens, ‘chaos’ would ensue. Crawford claims he has 2,500 school administrators across the state calling Fallin encouraging her to veto the bill and keep the Common Core standards. On the other side of the issue, thousands of opponents to Common Core are writing and calling the Governor urging her to sign the bill. HB #3399 passed both chambers of the legislature with veto proof margins, but the legislature is not in session so Fallin’s veto couldn’t be overridden immediately.
Common Core is a divisive issue, but here are some areas most Oklahomans agree on:
First, Oklahoma students should be subject to high standards. It is not unreasonable to expect third graders be able to read and do simple math. If they can’t then they should be held back for their own good. As many educators have said, “up until the third grade, you learn to read- after that you read to learn.” For years schools have just passed students onto the next grade who couldn’t do the work. That should stop. Passing a student just because we are more concerned about their self esteem than we are their education is a short sighted approach to education and life. We all agree that standards need to be set and enforced. Where we disagree is who sets them and enforces them. With Common Core, it is the federal government and the federal Department of Education who is setting and enforcing. The federal Department of Education has a track record of destroying everything it touches.
Second, HB # 3399 has broad based support among the people of Oklahoma. Perhaps not everyone would agree with that statement, but when both chambers of the legislature pass a bill by a wide margin, which usually means the bill is supported by the people. Lawmakers- in particular the House members- are closer to the people. House members face voters every two years and are more sensitive to what the people want than the Senate. It is very clear that Common Core is not popular with most Oklahomans. The reason is the issue of federal control. Oklahomans don’t like the federal government to overstep it’s authority in any area. Common Core takes a great deal of authority and independence away from local school districts.
Third, we can always spend more on education. This year the Oklahoma legislature approved $80 million more for common education than last year. But Oklahoma’s issue in education is not about money. Just once, I would like to hear an educator/administrator talk about education without bringing up money. Why isn’t more done by common education to encourage parents to take equity in their children’s education? That doesn’t cost money- it costs time and effort. Why can’t more classes be taught online? That is more cost effective and efficient. Let’s get creative and think outside the box when it comes to education in Oklahoma. When you consider that over 52 cents of every dollar spent on education in Oklahoma goes for non-classroom activity, it’s time we started thinking differently.
Fourth, the real issue with education in Oklahoma is we are not getting money to the classroom. Everyone knows that and every year the legislature and educators haggle over money and every year less than half of it gets to classroom. Why is that? Oklahoma has more school districts than the state of Texas- an average of seven per county. The legislature can’t even agree to let school districts share administrators. The fundamental issue is we can’t get more money to the classroom so long as we are spending so much the education dollar on infrastructure and administration. Until that is addressed, the legislature is nibbling around the edges and ignoring the elephant in the room.
HB 3399 is a good bill that basically tells the federal department of Education to take a hike in Oklahoma. It calls for the Oklahoma Department of Education to establish standards for math and reading in Oklahoma schools. No one is against standards- we are against an intrusive, overreaching, federal government telling us how to educate our children in Oklahoma. Call Governor Fallins office at 405.521.2342 and encourage the Governor to sign HB #3399.