Monday, October 16, 2017

Hillary in 2020! Trump says BRING IT ON!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

    “I was recently asked if Crooked Hillary Clinton is going to run in 2020?  My answer was, "I hope so! President Trump tweeted out Monday morning.  Later that day at a news conference at the White House, Trump again urged the former Secretary of State to tee it up.  “Hillary, please run again,” the president said with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell standing behind him.  Trump was responding to Clinton’s recent criticism of his handling of North Korea and talk that she is considering running for POTUS again in 2020. 
     Last week in London Clinton was asked if she was worried about Trump launching a nuclear attack, she responded:  “I’m worried about that now. I had big differences with so many of the other people who have been president during my lifetime, but I never worried about that.”  Apparently her husband, former President Bill Clinton was worried about North Korea developing nuclear weapons as has the last three US presidents. 
     In 1994, Clinton sent former President Carter to offer $4 billion worth of economical and nuclear energy technology in exchange for North Korea to halt the development of a nuclear weapon.  North Korea violated the agreement and in 2006 successfully completed a nuclear test.  President Bush negotiated an agreement in 2007 in which the US would send North Korea $400 million in food and fuel in exchange for their shutting down their main nuclear reactor.  In 2009, shortly after President Obama took office, North Korea conducted another nuclear test.  Obama sent diplomats to North Korea and asked Kim Jong II to stop.  The talks went on for three years until in 2012, Kim agreed to stop the nuclear tests in exchange for more monetary aid. But he didn’t stop development or testing.  Kim has consistently maintained the aggressor is the United States, not North Korea and development of nuclear weapons is essential for his country’s national defense.  Never mind that he has vowed to use his nukes on the U.S.  Obama convinced the United Nations to impose sanctions on North Korea’s coal exports, but that doesn’t appear to have slowed Kim and his pursuit of a long range nuclear warhead. It is now estimated he has upwards of 60 plus nukes under his control. 
     It is clear the days of negotiating- aka paying off- North Korea are over.  President Trump recently warned Pyongyang they would face ‘fire and fury,’ if they continued testing missiles near US allies and threatening to attack.  Secretary of Defense Gen. James "Mad Dog Mattis  said, “The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”  After that public exchange, Kim appeared to have backed down.  He likely realizes that Trump and Mattis aren’t like the three previous POTUS. 
      If Hillary Clinton wants to ‘tee it up’ in 2020, she had better be prepared to address her weak stance on North Korea and how ineffective the Obama administration’s (while she was SOS) strategy was in dealing with their nuclear development.  Trump ‘trumps’ Hillary every time on North Korea.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Obama's Rules Rolled Back!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
     In 2015, President Obama and the EPA put into place his ‘Clean Power Plan.”  It placed federal standards on the amount of carbon emissions from power plants.  The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, struck down the regulations.  Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: “It is not rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits. Statutory context supports this reading.”    Obama, in a parting shot at the coal industry, signed an executive order placing stricter regulations on the coal industry regarding waterways and streams. That regulation was through the Department of Interior.  Clearly the former president was no friend to the coal industry, but he never said he was going to bankrupt the coal industry as is widely reported.  Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, did say she was going to put coal miners out of work by moving America to renewable energy. 
     Currently 65% of the electricity generated in the United States is produced from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, petroleum).  Coal is nearly 40% by itself.   20% is produced from nuclear energy. 15%  is from renewable energy (wind, solar), both of which fail when policymakers decrease government subsidies.  Most wind and solar operations are not economically viable on their own.  They have to have taxpayer support to be profitable.  Great Britain has pulled their subsidies for renewable energy- and America should!
     On Monday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said, ”The war on coal is over,” after declaring he will sign a new rule overriding Obama’s Clean Power Plan.   “No federal agency should use their authority to declare war on any sector of our economy,” Pruitt said.   Environmental groups immediately said they would challenge the rule change in court. When he was AG of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt sued the federal government to stop the overreaching EPA regulations.
     Pruitt’s action is the fulfillment of a promise then candidate Trump made during the campaign.  Appearing with Pruitt in Hazard, KY at the announcement of the rule change, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky) said "A lot of damage has been done. This doesn't immediately bring everything back, but we think it stops further decline of coal fired plants in the United States and that means there will still be some market here."
     The fact is coal, as a generating source for electricity, has been steadily losing annual market share to natural gas and nuclear.  But coal is still is the most used source for electric generation.  The future for coal fired plants doesn’t appear too bright, but Pruitt is correct- no industry should be targeted by the federal government.  Picking winners and losers is not the job of the government. 
     In a capitalist economic system, the free market dictates the winners and losers, not bureaucrats with a pencil.  Pruitt’s rule change puts the free market back in control. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Democrats engage in GROUPTHINK!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
Fractured Caucus!

by Steve Fair

     The special session of the Oklahoma legislature is on hold.  After it was determined the state House would not have the votes to pass the $1.50 cigarette tax by a 75% majority, Speaker of the House Charles McCall, (R-Atoka) said the session would be halted.  "We have our members lined up to support this measure on the floor vote. However, we do not have a commitment or confirmation from the minority Democratic Party of the House that they will deliver 75 percent of their caucus to pass this measure," McCall told The Oklahoman.  Seventy-six votes are needed to satisfy the constitutional requirement of a revenue bill passing both chambers with a 75% margin.  There are currently 72 Republicans and 28 Democrats in the House.  There is one vacant House seat that will be filled in a special election on November 14th, most likely with a Republican.  So instead of taking a vote he knew would fail, McCall suspended the special session

     If McCall was able to get the entire GOP caucus to support the tax increases (and he can’t), he would still fall four votes short of a supermajority.  Some Democrats must join the Rs to get over the ¾ line and Minority leader Rep. Scott Inman, (D-Midwest City) is using that leverage.  Inman said, "They told us for weeks that they (House Republicans) had a plan. And we asked for it; it was never presented to us. And finally, today, when they had their opportunity to roll out their plan to balance to budget, increase funding for core services, they punted.” Inman is an announced candidate for the Democrat nomination for governor.

     The special session is there to consider how to fill the $215 budget hole created when the Supreme Court said the cigarette tax was a new tax and had to clear the ¾ majority threshold.  Inman and his caucus have vowed to not vote for the cigarette tax without the Rs supporting raising the gross production tax and giving raises to Oklahoma teachers. Three observations:

     First, Democrats stick together better than Republicans. Perhaps it’s just the nature of the beast, but Republicans don’t work and play well with each other.  McCall has to keep the libertarians, conservatives and the moderates pulling on the same end of the rope at the same time and not wrapping it around each other’s necks.  

     Second, the D’s solidarity illustrates how wrong people are when they say: “I vote for the man, not the Party.”  Business in a legislative body is conducted via the Party caucus system. In reality, they are voting for a Party, not just the man.    
     Third, this illustrates the importance of effective infrastructure within the Republican Party.  In the past year, Oklahoma Democrats have flipped three state legislative seats from R to D.  In every one of those races, GOP voter turnout has been dismal.  Without grassroots infrastructure, Republicans can expect to continue to lose elections.

Monday, September 25, 2017

There is a RIGHT time & a WRONG time to protest!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     African-American males comprise only 6% of U.S. population, but nearly 70% of National Football League (NFL) players.  A recent demographic study found the fan base of the NFL is 83% white and 64% male.  The NFL is a profitable business and according to Commissioner Roger Goodell revenue for the league in 2017 will reach $14 billion.  Forbes reports NFL teams can afford to pay the player salaries thanks to the “wheelbarrow of TV money the 32 NFL teams get each year.” CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN/ABC paid roughly $5 billion last year for the rights to NFL games and cable providers kicked in another $2 billion. The average NFL team makes over $100 million annually and the average team is valued at over $2 billion dollars. The average ‘rookie’ in the NFL makes $365,000 a year and the average overall salary for an NFL player is $1.9 million annually.
     Last season, Colin Kaepernick, then quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, took a knee during the national anthem.   "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said. The movement has spread throughout the NFL- particularly with African- American players.  On Sunday dozens of players from several teams refused to stand or take the field during the playing of the national anthem.
     On Friday at a rally in Alabama, President Trump said that NFL players who kneel or protest during the playing of the national anthem should be fired.  On Sunday, Trump tweeted that fans should boycott NFL games unless the league fires or suspends players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.  “Players must stop disrespecting our flag and country. If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend.” the president wrote.
     Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, agrees with the president.  "I just feel so strongly that the act of recognizing the flag is a salute to our country and all of the people that have sacrificed so that we can have the liberties we have.  I feel very strongly that everyone should save that moment for the recognition of the flag in a positive way,” Jones said on a Dallas sports talk show.
     The NFL’s non-response to this issue is hurting the marketability of their product.  A significant percentage of the NFL’s customer base is offended by these player protests and may very well heed Trump’s call to boycott.  A widespread boycott would result in a decline in revenue, impacting player salaries.  It is not likely these protesting players have ‘connected the dots,’ but their actions could result in lower pay or no pay.  
     In our nation’s history, 1.2 million Americans have died in the defense of our country.  They died for the right of these highly compensated NFL players to exercise their right to disrespect the flag, but they also died for the right of those to not buy their product.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Trump at the United Nations!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     President Trump is at the United Nations this week in New York City.  On Monday as he addressed the General Assembly he noted the UN “has not reached its full potential because of bureaucracy and mismanagement.  We seek a United Nations that works to regain the trust of the people around the world,” the president said.  "I encourage all member states to look at ways to take bold stands at the United Nations with an eye toward changing business as usual," Trump said.  The president also said that no one member should be shouldering a disproportionate share of the burden- militarily or financially.  Of the 193 members, the United States taxpayer is the largest provider of financial contributions to the United Nations:  twenty two percent of the total UN budget and twenty eight percent of the peacekeeping budget.  Japan contributes the second highest with 9.68%, followed by China (7.921%), Germany (6.389%), France (4.859%) and UK (4.463%) round out the top five. Russia contributes about 3%- same as Canada. 
     The fact is the United Nations has been a very ineffective body since its inception in 1945.  It is only as powerful as her members want it to be, because it doesn’t have any real enforcement power.  It operates on the idea of consent, not force.  If a member government doesn’t want to allow UN peacekeepers to do inspections, they simply tell them to take a hike.  The ultimate goal of the UN is to blur the lines of sovereign nations and establish a global governing body.  Charles de Gaulle, former president of France, famously called the UN, “the thingamabob,” saying it should work to facilitate defense treaties between countries and not create a global security alliance. 
     Trump’s primary reason for going to the UN is to rally support among member nations for dealing with North Korea.  North Korea keeps testing missiles and nukes despite tougher UN sanctions.   He is hopeful the UN will vote to enact sanctions on oil exports from North Korea.  By doing that it would pinch Kim Jon-un’s revenue stream. But no matter what the UN does or doesn’t do will likely not impact what Trump will do in regard to North Korea.
    President Trump has been very critical of the Obama negotiated Iran nuclear deal since he was candidate Trump.  He has said that he doesn’t believe Iran is complying with the spirit of the deal and favors more sanctions on Iran or renegotiation.
     As world leaders gather together this week at the UN, they will see a reduced presence of high level US officials at the meetings.  Normally there are over one thousand diplomats attending the week’s meetings.  Trump has reduced that number by several hundred. Politico reports that Trump said he wants to leave a ‘toe print, not a foot print’ at the UN meetings. That sends the message the president doesn’t believe the UN has America’s best interests at heart.  He’s right!  Trump once said the UN was, “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”  The sad part is the American taxpayer are paying the club dues.     

Monday, September 11, 2017

Get on board or lose your seat! Trump is making deals!

Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     In 2018, 33 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats are up for election.  Twenty three Democrats, two Independents, and eight Republicans currently hold those thirty three seats.  Seven of the eight Republican seats are ‘safe’ seats, meaning they are in decidedly Republican states.  Ten of the Democrat seats are in states that President Trump won in 2016, so many political insiders expect Republicans to gain seats in the Senate in 2018. 

     All 435 members of the U.S. House are up for re-election every two years.  Republicans currently have 241 seats in the House, Democrats 194.   FairVote, a non-partisan election reform advocacy group, says that 368 of the 435 districts (84%) are truly safe for incumbents.  They project only 24 House districts are true ‘toss-ups,’ (only 5% of the total 435 seats).    “Of the Republicans' 245 seats, we project 205 are virtually certain to be retained, just 13 short of an absolute majority. Democrats start with only 163 near certain winner,” FairVote says.  FairVote has an amazingly accurate track record on election projections.  In 2014, they correctly predicted 361 races in the U.S. House.  But not everybody agrees Republicans will keep the House in 2018.

     Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones says the job approval rating of the president is a major factor in mid-terms. "Since 1946, when presidents are above 50% approval, their party loses an average of 14 seats in the US House in the midterm elections, compared with an average loss of 36 seats when presidents are below that mark,"  Jones says.  President Trump’s latest job approval rating was in the mid-30s according to Gallup.

     Historically, the Party of the president in office loses seats in the mid-term elections.  In the last twenty midterms, the Party that controls the White House lost an average of thirty three seats.  But the political environment has changed.  A true political outsider was swept into the highest office in the land by non-political people.  Those people don’t watch fake news, read political commentaries, or attend activist meetings.  They go to work, raise their family- and vote!  Trump’s message resonated with them.  If those same people show up in the mid-terms, and vote to send the president Trump the help he needs to get things moving in Congress, then Republicans will likely gain seats.
     Since January, Republicans have controlled the federal government, yet Congress has accomplished little.  Sadly, some Members of Congress are content to get nothing done than something.  Moderate and conservative Rs refuse to come to a consensus and neither dare compromise.  Both loudly proclaim to their base they held the line and got nothing done.  They should read “The Art of the Deal.” This president is a deal maker and will partner with whomever it takes to get the deal done, as evidenced by the funding bill for FEMA.  He worked with Democrats, because some Republicans refused to help.  Some conservative and moderate Rs better wake up.  They risk losing a seat at the table when deals are being made.  Gridlock and doing nothing is not Trump’s style.