Monday, February 29, 2016

Esteem others more than ourselves?? Come on!

Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     Covetousness is defined as a strong desire to have that which belongs to another.  In the Bible, it is listed as one of the most grievous sins.  The opposite of covetousness is contentment in God.  When covetousness for gain increases, contentment in God decreases.  Covetousness is when we start to crave other things- usually those that belong to another- to satisfy the longings of our heart.

     Ambition is a derivative of a Latin word, amberae, which means ‘both or double minded.’  It was used to describe those who were double-minded or two faced.  It was applied to those who have absolutely no convictions, will would do or say anything to gain a selfish goal.  It was the word used in ancient Rome to describe Roman politicians, who would do anything to get votes.  Is ambition bad? Stephen Neill was a Scottish Anglican missionary to India in the twentieth century.  He said this about ambition: “I am inclined to think that ambition in any ordinary sense of the term is nearly always sinful. “  Is he right?  Is ambition to be avoided by Christians?  In a very real sense, Christ came to save us from our ambition, but is all ambition wrong?

     Ambition is defined by Webster as: a strong desire to do or achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.  Synonyms of ambition are aspiration, yearning, longing, goal, aim, drive and force.  Ambition is applauded in the corporate, business and political world.  It is an attribute that most leaders in our world possess.  They are driven, goal oriented individuals who are focused and goal oriented.  Sad to say they are often willing to sacrifice their family and health to get to the next rung on the ladder.  Blind ambition is when ambition prevents people from seeing what’s happening around them.  Secular leaders often view blind ambition as a great trait to have.  Blocking out what is happening around us in order to do what seems impossible sounds like intense focus, but is also a trait for those with blind ambition.  But is ambition an attribute we should seek in a leader?

     Steven J. Law of the C.S. Lewis Institute sums up how Christians should view ambition:  “How do we purse goals in a God-honoring way?  How can we be ambitious without it corroding our souls?  The secret is summed up in how Paul used to describe ambition gone awry, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”

     John MacArthur says the apostle Paul was perhaps the most ambitious man the world has ever seen.  His drive to kill Christians before his conversion was only exceeded by his drive to further the gospel after his conversion.  He made three very long missionary journeys, wrote half the New Testament, and spoke before thousands.  “Paul had three dimensions of godly ambition- he looked upward toward a higher calling, he looked outward to understand this world is temporal, and lastly he was motivated by depth for an eternal purpose,” MacArthur said. 

     Thomas Brooks, a Puritan preacher said this about ambition: “Blind ambition has caused many people to sell their souls, compromise their convictions, if they ever had any, violate their beliefs, sacrifice their character and use everybody in their way. And it is true. Ambition is often associated with pride, with sort of evil aggression, with self-centeredness. Ambition is often associated with people that we call driven people, who are utterly insensitive to the people around them, or anything but selfless servant leaders. Ambition could even be associated with the idea of being careless. And it very often leaves principles lying in the dust.”

     Amberae actually means in Latin(Ambition) to campaign for a promotion.  Politicians, fast trackers and hard chargers in business come to mind when you frame the word in that context.  Secular ambitious people seek power, position, fame, approval, and more money.  They will lie, cheat, steal, backbite, and gossip to win elections or get promoted.  Humility and integrity are not considered positive attributes for the blindly ambitious.   
     There is a fine line between ambition and covetousness.  Great leaders are not blindly ambitious and willing to do anything to get ahead.  As you vote in the upcoming elections, seek candidates who are not covetous, but exhibit the attributes of the leaders Moses appointed in Exodus 18. Those leaders were able, truthful, God fearing and not covetous(blindly ambitious).  Those are the kind of leaders we need in America.

Monday, February 22, 2016


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     For the next nine months, much will be said and written about appointments to the Supreme Court.  Already, both political Parties have staked out their positions.  President Obama says he has a constitutional duty to appoint a Justice to replace Antonin Scalia.  The Republicans in the U.S. Senate say they will not approve any appointment or even have a hearing to vote on a nominee until the next president is inaugurated. 
     Just hours after Scalia’s body was found, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, (R- KY), said, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”  In response, President Obama said, "I am amused when I hear people who claim to be strict interpreters of the Constitution suddenly reading into it a whole series of provisions that are not there.  I am going to present somebody who indisputably is qualified for the seat and any fair minded person, even somebody who disagreed with my politics would say would serve with honor and integrity on the court."
     Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said McConnell's move was "outrageous." "Elections have consequences," she said. "The president has a responsibility to nominate a new justice and the Senate has  a responsibility to vote." Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), indicated he has no plans to start up the confirmation process on his panel before next year.  "This president, above all others, has made no bones about his goal to use the courts to circumvent Congress and push through his own agenda," Grassley said. "It only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice.”
     First, SCOTUS vacancies have gone longer than a year in the past.  In 1970, Harry Blackmun replaced Abe Fortas after just over a year.  President Tyler had the most difficult time getting appointments approved by the Senate.  One vacancy was open for over two years.  The Senate rejected a total of nine of Tyler’s appointments to the high court.  A Supreme Court vacancy in the final year of a president’s term is pretty rare.  Since 1900, it has happened only three times.  LBJ, in 1968 after he announced he wasn’t running for re-election.  Both of Johnson’s nominations- one for Chief Justice and another for Associate Justice- were rejected.   
     Second, elections do have consequences.  Secretary Clinton is absolutely right.  Republicans control the U.S. Senate and can block any nomination made by President Obama.  For years, there was an unwritten rule that any ‘qualified’ candidate for the high court would be confirmed.  Their ideology and positions on controversial issues would be secondary to their legal qualifications.  But the Democrats changed that in 1987.  Judge Robert Bork was an accomplished Circuit Court judge when President Reagan nominated him to the SCOTUS.  Within an hour of the announcement, then Senator Ted Kennedy, (D- MA) went on television to accuse Bork of envisioning an America “in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids.” Commercials were run by the Democrats featuring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird attacking Bork’s ideology.  Bork’s nomination was defeated in the Senate 58-42.  The dictionary defines “to bork,” as: “to defame or vilify (a person) systematically, esp. in the mass media, usually with the aim of preventing his or her appointment to public office.
     President Obama has the right to present a SCOTUS nominee to the Senate and the Senate has the responsibility to the American public to put the process on hold until after the next president is sworn in.  This is not unchartered water.  In our nation’s history, appointments to the high court have been a source of great controversy.   Elections do have consequences.  When Republicans took control of the Senate in November 2014, the American people were rejecting the liberal policies of the Obama administration.  Democrats can’t have it both ways.  McConnell and Grassley are right to wait until the next president is in office to make the appointment.  That means this election has more consequences than most.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Antonin Scalia was an ORIGINALIST!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     After the death of Antonin Scalia, the senior Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, on Saturday, politicians from both sides of the aisle immediately begin to stake out their positions on the procedure to replace him and his possible replacement.  Even for politicians their behavior revealed an insensitive streak.  Would it have been too much to ask for a period of mourning out of respect for Scalia?  Couldn’t the politics have waited just a tad before they started talking about replacing him?  Scalia’s death marks only the second time in sixty years a Supreme Court justice has died in office.  He was 79.
     Scalia was a native of New Jersey, and a graduate of Georgetown and Harvard.  He taught law at the Universities of Virginia and Chicago.  He was a federal judge in DC for four years before President Reagan appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1986.   Scalia served thirty years on the highest court of the land.  He described himself as an ‘originalist and textualist,’ which meant he interrupted the Constitution from the position of the original intent of the writers.  Being a constitutional conservative is popular today among many in the Republican Party, but Scalia was that long before it became the rage.  His written opinions were universally viewed as some of the most scholarly in the legal profession’s history.  Scalia often filed separate opinions in many SCOTUS cases and often castigated the Court's majority in his minority opinions, using scathing language.   During oral arguments before the Court, he usually asked more questions and made more comments than any other justice.  The New York Times conducted a study in 2005 that found that Scalia provoked laughter more than any of the other justices- 19 times more than Justice Ginsburg.
     Justice Scalia was a friend to the unborn.  A devout Catholic, he wrote a dissenting opinion in 1992 in Planned Parenthood vs Casey: “The States may, if they wish, permit abortion on demand, but the Constitution does not require them to do so.  The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.”  Scalia’s death comes when a case challenging Texas’ strict abortion laws comes before the high court.  Expected to be heard in March, Whole Woman’s Health vs Hellerstedt will likely deadlock the court 4-4, which means the lower court’s ruling will prevail.
    Scalia believed the second amendment of the Constitution protected the ‘individual’ right to keep and bear arms and was intimately tied to the natural right of self-defense. He wrote the majority opinion in District of Columbia vs Heller:  “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”
      Scalia’s wit was evident in many of his writings.  After the court ruled in favor of the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, he wrote; “Context always matters. Let us not forget, however, why context matters: It is a tool for understanding the terms of the law, not an excuse for rewriting them.  We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.”  In a 2002 case, Republican Party vs White, Scalia wrote, “Campaign promises are, by long democratic tradition, the least binding form of human commitment.”  At a 2003 speech before the University of Chicago Law School he said, “You could fire a grapefruit out of a cannon over the best law schools in the country — and that includes Chicago — and not hit an originalist.”       
     Scalia wasn’t afraid to poke fun at himself as evidenced by this statement at his 1986 Senate confirmation hearing:  “In law school, I never understood [antitrust law]. I later found out, in reading the writings of those who now do understand it, that I should not have understood it because it did not make any sense then.”
     In an interview with Fox News Chris Wallace in 2012, Scalia was asked about his possible replacement.  He said, “Well of course. I would not like to be replaced by someone who immediately sets about undoing what I’ve tried to do for 25–26 years. I mean, I shouldn’t have to tell you that, unless you think I’m a fool.”  Scalia wasn’t a fool. 
      Antonin Scalia leaves behind his wife of fifty five years, nine children, and thirty six grandchildren.   He will be sorely missed by the nation he loved and served.   We should mourn his passing before we talk about replacing him. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

We can't tax ourselves into prosperity!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     In 1960, the Democrat platform had a plank under the Fiscal Responsibility heading that said,  We believe, moreover, that except in periods of recession or national emergency, these needs can be met with a balanced budget, with no increase in present tax rates, and with some surplus for the gradual reduction of our national debt.   A lot has changed in 56 years.  The 2012 Democrat platform says Ds support, “making sure everyone pays their fair share of taxes.”  That means taxing more, especially those at the higher income levels.  Fact is, everyone will have to in order to pay for all the free stuff Sanders and Clinton are promising young people.  Here is a short economics lesson:
     First, there is no such thing as free.  It doesn’t exist.  It is impossible to get something for nothing.  Someone is paying the bill.  My economics professor in college said the only thing that was free was sunlight and air, everything else costs.  When Bernie Sanders promises free college tuition, he really means that hardworking Americans will foot the bill.  Somebody has to pay, even it isn’t you.  Professors don’t work for free.  The buildings cost money. It is categorially un-American to eat lunch and stick someone else with the bill, but that is exactly what Sanders and Clinton are proposing. 
     Second, businesses don’t pay taxes.  When politicians tell you they are going to tax business don’t believe it.  Businesses don’t absorb taxes; they can’t and stay in business.  They pass tax increases on to their customers in the form of price increases.  Consumers pay more for food, gasoline, drugs, and services because the business has to charge them to pay the taxes and to stay in business.
     Third, taxing productivity will reduce future productivity.  If the incentive to get ahead is taken away, then the most productive members of society will simply stop producing.  Why work hard to get ahead if the government is going to get the money.  Look no further than Europe where productivity has reached record lows.  In a socialist economy, everyone is equal- they are all poor- with few exceptions. 
     Fourth, the US national debt seriously weakens our nation.  When President Obama leaves office in a year, the national debt will be over $20 trillion dollars.  That is nearly double what it was eight years ago.  He can’t bear all the blame- Congress was involved too, but the reality is the country is broke and we keep spending.  Future generations of Americans will be paying for the reckless irresponsible spending of their forefathers.  In a self-governing system of government, the people can’t blame the elected officials.  They have to take responsibility and recognize they are the problem. 
     Congress should immediately pass a balanced budget amendment and cut spending to the bone.  Desperate times require desperate measures.  Nothing should be spared.  Entitlement spending should be first and by the way Social Security should never be called entitlement spending.  The money I have paid into Social Security has been stolen by the feds and spent on other things.  Madoff is in prison for doing the same thing.  Social Security is a glorified Ponzi scheme.
      The final statement in the 1960 Democrat Fiscal Responsibility heading read, “But man does not live by bread alone. A new Democratic Administration, like its predecessors, will once again look beyond material goals to the spiritual meaning of American society. “ Truer words were never spoken- man doesn’t live by bread alone- but government is never going to be the solution to our problems, economically or spiritually.  Until citizens of this great country rise up in mass and demand government live within their means and support serious cuts to governmental programs and services, we will continue down the road to economic destruction, but we will have free college tuition.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Are there any GENIUSES in Oklahoma?

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     On Monday, the Oklahoma State legislature convened.  They will consider 921 filed bills on the House side and 704 on the Senate side.  In addition, there were a total of 73 Joint Resolutions filed between the two chambers.  The number of bills is down substantially on the House side- down by 25%, but slightly up in the Senate compared to last year.  This session will be a challenging one for legislators.  Tax revenue is down, due to the declining price of oil.  They face not only the prospect of cutting next year’s budget(a projected $1 billion dollar decline from last year), but trimming the current fiscal year budgets to match the projected shortfall.  But with every challenge comes an opportunity.  For years, legislators have campaigned about streamlining government and trimming waste.  There is no time like the present to put their money where their mouth is.  Governor Mary Fallin told The Oklahoman editorial board last week: “It's a time for us to be bold, to do things that we talk about doing, we need to do, but we just haven't done as a state.” Here are a few things that could/should include:
     First, every Oklahoma tax payer dollar should be justified by those spending it.  Instead of state agencies simply taking their current budget and adding/subtracting from that number, they should start at zero and justify why they are getting money.  It is called zero based budgeting(ZBB).  ZBB is a repeatable process that many companies use to review every dollar in a budget and build a culture of cost management.  In a recent survey of 138 CEOs of public traded companies, 21% were using ZBB in their companies.  The food industry has embraced ZBB with zeal.  Perhaps because food processors traditionally have to deal with lower profit margins than other industries.  ZBB forces everyone in an organization to watch costs.  Major food companies currently using ZBB include Nestle, Kellogg, and Con Agra. “ZBB provides people the opportunity to challenge how we have done things and drive activity out that isn’t benefiting the consumer,” Kellogg CEO John Bryant says.  In tough times, just appropriating money to an agency because it has always gotten the money isn’t good enough. 
      Second, there must be a commitment to finding waste in Oklahoma government.  There can’t be any sacred cows.  As late Labor Commissioner Mark Costello said, “The sacred cows belong next to the mashed potatoes.”  Every expenditure must be scrutinized.  No agency or appropriation can be left out.  That includes common and higher education, corrections, and transportation.  So how do we find the waste in government?  The Oklahoma constitution sets forth the duties of the elected office of the State Auditor & Inspector.  The State Auditor and Inspector is supposed to have access to all books, accounts, reports, vouchers and other records of information in any department, institution or agency.  When the legislature cuts the State Auditor’s budget more than other agencies, they are not serious about finding waste in government.  Proposals to expand the reach of the State Auditor’s office to include auditing tax credits has failed in the legislature.  Until the legislature commits to funding and empowering the office of State Auditor, their talk of finding waste in state government is sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.  How can you cut waste if you don’t fund the state’s watchdog agency?  It’s political double talk and is an example of cowardly leadership.
     Third, consolidation of services must be on the table.  That means consolidation of agencies, education administration and governmental functions.  No legislator or elected official likes to use the word consolidation.  That likely involves jobs being eliminated, or a school consolidation, but Oklahoma’s education model is from the 1950s with too many buildings and infrastructure.  Few businesses are operating in the same way they did 60 years ago, yet government hasn’t streamlined and changed their operating model.  The primary reason is that lawmakers lack the political will to take on the bureaucrats.
     Abigail Adams said, “These are the hard times in which a genius would wish to live. Great necessities call forth great leaders.”  The 2016 legislative session will soon reveal if Oklahoma has great leadership.