Saturday, September 16, 2023

“We are a nation of laws, not of men.” ~John Adams

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve Fair

     General Douglas MacArthur famously said, “Rules are made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind.”  There are lots of rules in society.  They can be those as important as the laws/rules of how people are governed to rules in fashion and manners.   Organizations, political Parties, governments have rules. If everyone ignored the rules and refused to submit to any authority over them, the result would be anarchy/disorder/chaos.  Three observations:

     First, believers who ignore rules/laws to accomplish their objective reject the sovereignty of God.  They have no confidence the Creator of the Universe possesses the ability to move the heart of the king or change the mind of an elected official.  They believe the only hands, feet, or mouth God has is theirs. In their mind, Yahweh is powerless, unless they act.  The arrogance and pride they exhibit has to be laughable to an omniscient God.  They believe by working harder, jumping higher and running faster, they will change the world.  But these superhumans regularly violate the two great commandments(rules) given by Christ- love God and love your neighbor- in their quest to distinction.  These professors of Christ show little evidence of possession.  They treat those who don’t agree with them with disdain, contempt, and hatred. 

     Second, it can take equal courage and strength of character to follow the rules or break them.  Being a loyal conformist or a rebel can take the same mettle.  It is a misconception that not playing by the rules takes more resolution than not submitting.    Those who thumb their nose at the rules believe they are superior to those who submit.  They fail to see that submitting to authority requires character, humility and meekness- all attributes showing evidence of a regenerate heart.

     Third, there are rules lazy people hide behind.  MacArthur was right that often people lack the courage to challenge the status quo.  Bad rules are often met with apathy or blind compliance.  There are bad rules, but because of passivity they remain in effect.  It’s often because people believe it just isn’t worth the effort to fight.  It’s a lack of involvement, not a lack of courage.  If principled people stayed engaged and involved in their government, those bad rules/laws would fade away like smoke.

     All rules are not equal.  Wearing white after Labor Day is not as great an offense as committing murder.  Both are rules, but one is a subjective guideline- the other a cardinal principle.  But rules are in place for a reason.  They help us maintain a level of fairness, order and justice.  Rules should be based on truth and when they aren’t they create a value system that results in no settled certainty.  Pilate asked Jesus, ‘What is truth?”  Many rule breakers mistakenly today believe there is no truth.

     During the nation’s founding, John Adams said, “we are a nation of laws, not of men.”  Adams was referring to the Rule of Law principle, which was established in ancient Greece.  The principle holds all people are accountable to the same set of laws and equally enforced.  Adams was saying the exact opposite of MacArthur.  Rules/laws are made to be followed.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Why would Free Speech for People care who the GOP nominee is?

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     The 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1868.  It is one of the three amendments in the founding document known as the Reconstruction Amendments.  The 13th amendment abolished slavery, the 14th amendment has what is known as the ‘insurrection/disqualification clause’ and the 15th amendment granted voting rights to citizens no matter their race.  Of the three, the 14th was the most controversial and contested.  The states of the defeated Confederacy were forced to ratify the 14th before they could regain representation in Congress.

     The 14th has recently come under discussion in regard to section 3- the so-called insurrection/disqualification clause as it relates to former President Trump.  Section 3 reads: No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

     Last week, a DC group- Free Speech for People(FSP)- sued to block former President Trump to be included on the GOP primary ballot in Colorado.  They contend Trump violated the 14th amendment’s section 3 provision and therefore cannot hold elective office.  It is likely the first of several similar lawsuits.  The Trump campaign said the suit is stretching the law and has no legal basis.  Three observations:

     First, who is Free Speech for People?  Established in 2010 by John Bonifaz and Jeff Clements, after they lost a case before the Supreme Court (Citizens United vs. FEC), FSP advocates a new constitutional amendment that would clarify the Bill of Rights applies to people, not corporations.  FSP wants to cap the amount of money that can be spent in political campaigns(at least on the candidates they don’t support).  They advocate not allowing corporate contributions to campaigns.  Free Speech for People has also embraced a left-of-center agenda, and lobbied for President Donald Trump’s impeachment from the day he took office in 2017. 

  Why would a left-wing organization get involved in a Republican primary?  Why would FSP care who the GOP nominee is in 2024?  Why are they trying to keep Trump off the ballot?  Trump’s ability to energize his base and get his vote out presents the biggest challenge to Biden and the Democrats.  FSP is for neither free speech or the people.

     Second, using the 14th to disqualify Trump would be politically ludicrous.  Trump is charged with 91criminal counts in four different jurisdictions, but none are inciting a riot or seditious conspiracy.  Most legal scholars believe Trump would have had to physically been at the Capitol for the 14th Section 3 to come into play.  If FSP is successful at keeping Trump off the GOP ballot, his supporters might do more than just post on social media.  Politically, using the 14th to prevent Trump from being on the ballot would be devastating for the country.

     Three, GOP voters should be given the choice with Trump on the ballot.  Currently, the former POTUS is polling at 52.7% with Republican voters, but the first primary/caucus isn’t until January 15th.    A lot can/will happen in five months.  Let GOP voters decide Trump’s fate

     In politics, it is common practice to attempt to ‘clear the primary,’ but it is usually Party leaders and large donors doing the screening.  They work behind the scenes to clear the field for their preferred candidate.  They justify their action by declaring an extended primary hurts the candidate in the general election.  Their action cuts out/ignores the voter.  Why would a liberal organization (FSP) go all in on keeping Trump off the GOP ballot?  The same reason- they want to cut out the voter!

Saturday, September 2, 2023

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission used to be more crooked than a barrel of snakes!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     In 2024, Oklahoma voters will elect a Corporation Commissioner.  It is the only statewide race on the ’24 ballot.  The current Commissioner is Bob Anthony.  He is term limited and has served 35 years in the same office.  Anthony, 75, was elected in 1989.  He is the longest serving statewide elected official in the United States (not counting US Senators).  When Anthony took office in 1989, the commission was more crooked than a barrel of snakes.  The other two commissioners- both Democrats- voted in 1989 for a plan by Southwestern Bell- now AT&T Oklahoma- to reinvest a tax windfall in operations instead of refunding the money back to customers.  Anthony was the lone no vote.  Anthony cooperated with an FBI investigation and ‘wore a wire,’ which means he knowingly recorded conversations he had with an AT&T lobbyist. 

     Anthony’s cooperation with the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office led to a 1994 bribery case against fellow Corporation Commissioner Bob Hopkins.  Hopkins was convicted for taking $15,000 cash from a former Southwestern Bell Telephone lawyer for his vote in 1989.  The attorney/bagman, William Anderson was also convicted.  Both were sentenced to federal prison.

     For his cooperation in the investigation Anthony was awarded the Louis E. Peters Memorial Service Award in 1995 by FBI Director Louis Freeh. It is the highest civilian award given to a private citizen by the Bureau. Three observations: 

     First, Oklahoma taxpayers owe Bob Anthony a sincere debt of gratitude.  Commissioner Anthony is an honest and courageous man.  His sense of honor and integrity is to be commended.  He took his oath of office seriously and has been the rate payer’s watchdog in his time on the commission.  No one can doubt or question Bob Anthony’s honesty. 

     Second, Bob Anthony doesn’t work and play well with others.  He has been at odds with his fellow commissioners- both Republicans and Democrats- throughout his 30 plus years on the commission.  Most often it is because of their reluctance to revisit the 1989 SW Bell decision.  Anthony contends the vote should be revisited because Hopkins was bribed and therefore the vote is illegitimate.  Anthony claims AT&T has overcharged Oklahomans $16 billion the last 30 years. 

     Anthony’s most aggressive effort to revisit the ’89 vote was in 2016, after a group of private citizens sued the state, claiming bribed votes should not be binding.  Then AG Scott Pruitt ruled revisiting the decision was not in the best interest of AT&T ratepayers and the Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed with him. 

     Anthony’s disagreement with his fellow commissions isn’t just about the 1989 AT&T vote. Earlier this year, Anthony filed a 180-page dissent opposing his fellow commissioners-both Republicans- for granting rate increases for the state’s three largest utility providers, saying the increases were, “rotting from a putrid core of greed, public corruption and regulatory capture.”  The other two commissioners contend the rate hikes were justified and disagree with Anthony’s viewpoint. 

     Anthony’s stubbornness and persistence has created hard feelings with other commissioners during his tenure on the commission.  Because of it, he has had to survive a couple of close re-election campaigns with his fellow commissioners campaigning for his opponent. 

     Third, Bob Anthony will be hard to replace, but not impossible.  He is not the only honest person in Oklahoma.  But few have Bob’s tenacious, unshakeable resolve. 

     Thankfully, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is not the den of corruption it once was.  When January 2025 comes around and Bob Anthony leaves the Corporation Commission, Oklahoma rate payers will have lost a dependable, reliable guard dog on the commission.  His replacement has big shoes to fill.  He has been a good steward of Oklahoma taxpayer/ratepayer’s money.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

“Us vs. Them,’ mentality reigns in tribal America!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     In 1988, a Frenchman named Michel Maffesoli wrote, “The Time of the Tribes: The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society.”  Meffesoli predicted modern culture would decline to the point that society would look back on ‘the good old days,’ and form ‘tribes.’  These groups would engage in group think, reject ideas that weren’t consistent with the tribe’s dogma.  Maffesoli asserted tolerance for other tribe’s opinions would decline.  He predicted looking back at the principles from the distant past would guide tribes- individual thinking would be discouraged- an “Us vs. Them,’ mentality would reign.  Welcome to tribal America!  Three observations:

     First, tribes have no respect for a differing opinion.  That is true in the two major political Parties, in families, churches, civic organizations, or in social situations.  The First Amendment guarantees free speech, but many believe that it only applies to them and not to those who don’t hold their same views.  The First Amendment is used to justified attacking, insulting, or shouting down those who disagree with them.  Civility and respect for a counterview is seen as weakness.  That has occurred because of the decline of individualism. 

     Data from the General Social Survey (GSS), which has been run for a half century, show Americans in the past were more likely to meet people different than themselves.  That interaction created the opportunity for dialogue and promoted compromise (a dirty word in today’s culture).  GSS found the number of people who identify as conservative or liberal has changed little over the past 50 years.  But conservatives have migrated to the GOP and liberals to the Democrats.  The tribal mentality doesn’t allow for a liberal R or a conservative D. 

      Second, the general public is weary of the polarization in politics.  Fewer and fewer citizens engage in political activism.  They cite the nastiness, unkindness and foulness of those who disagree with them in their own Party.  According to Pew Research, 62% of Republicans view Democrats unfavorably and 54% of Democrats feel the same way about Republicans.  That is three times more than 30 years ago.   

     Political scientist Lilliana Mason makes the point that most modern-day voters pull the lever for a Party, not a candidate.  Elections have become about numbers- about growing the tribe, and not about solving problems.    

     Third, groupthink and tribalism discourage creativity, individualism and personal responsibility.  Standing alone on conviction or principle in modern tribes is not tolerated nor respected.   Tribes require complete solidarity.  Members who don’t conform face shunning and possible expulsion. The intolerance of the tolerant reins!

     The founders of the United States were willing to work together for a common good.  The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were a diverse group from varied backgrounds.  They negotiated, compromised and hammered out founding documents that have served the nation well for nearly 250 years.  In 1776, there was only one tribe- all pulling on the same end of the rope at the same time. 

     Ed Goeas wrote in his book, A Question of Respect, the political pollster wrote: “We Americans have an urgent decision facing us.  We must decide whether to build upon a foundation of mutual respect or live in a fractured society, where division rules the day.”  Until Americans actually respect other citizens right to have a different opinion (and be wrong), the country will stagnant.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Trump-less debate is an opportunity for the other candidates!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     The 2024 Republican presidential primary starts this week.  The first Republican primary debate will be aired by Fox News and held on Wednesday August 23rd, at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It will be moderated by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum from Fox.     

     At least seven GOP candidates are expected to be on stage.  As of this writing, the participants will be DeSantis, Ramaswany, Haley, Scott, Burgin, Pence and Christie.  Former President Trump has announced he will not be there and will instead hold an exclusive interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.  He refused to sign a ‘loyalty’ oath (pledging support for the nominee) the RNC required for participation.  Former Vice President Mike Pence says he thinks Trump may show up at the last minute, but that is unlikely.    Three observations:

     First, Trump is not a good debater.  In the 2016 GOP primary debates, he was entertaining, insulting and loud toward his fellow Republicans.  He was scarce on substance and long on denigration during each forum. His positioning of himself as an ‘outsider’ was appealing and resonated with voters, who were sick and tired of politics as unusual and that strategy worked. 

     In 2020, Trump’s ‘debating’ with Biden hurt his campaign and many pundits believe was one of the primary reasons he lost.  Instead of letting Biden talk during the ’20 debates, he repeatedly interrupted him.  Instead of Americans seeing Biden as a weak communicator, they saw him as a bullied browbeat man who wasn’t given the chance to say much.  Trump failed to give Biden enough rope to hang himself- a missed opportunity. 

     Trump lacks the discipline to seriously debate.  In the 2016 GOP primary Houston debate, former Gov. John Kasich was presenting his well thought out and substantive plan to balance the federal budget.  The other debate participants responded to the plan-Trump choose to made fun of how Kasich was dressed.  While that may have worked in ’16, it probably won’t in ’24.     

      Second, minds are rarely changed by a debate.  That is why Trump’s team isn’t worried about him skipping the debate.  They know his supporters will support him regardless of his debate performance.  Debates rarely move the needle.  Parties conduct them because they raise a lot of money on debates.    

     Third, the Trump-less debate is an opportunity for the other candidates.  They are all dark horses.  Trump has a seemingly insurmountable lead, but the first primary is six months away.  Some of the candidates are virtually unknown and this is their chance to introduce themselves to America.  Each of those on stage want to be the viable alternative should Trump falter.  

     Thoughtful GOP primary voters should be listening for well-thought solutions for America’s fiscal issues.  They should not be as impressed by a well-delivered zinger, one liner or quip as they are with componence in budgeting.  America’s monetary house must be put in order or the country will fail.  Until voters recognize that, then the debates are little more than a spectacle.

     Pundits are predicting Tucker’s interview with the former POTUS will have twice as many viewers as the debate.  Even though he isn’t attending, Donald Trump will be mentioned many times during the debate.  Some of the candidates will tell the audience how much they are like Trump.  Others will tell you how much different they are.  The elephant NOT in the room on Wednesday will be addressed.        

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Hunter Biden is a lot more than a black sheep!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     On Friday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden’s financial dealings.  This comes on the heels of what appeared to be a resolution of charges just weeks ago.  Biden,53, has faced questions about tax evasion and a gun charge since 2018.  Hunter is the youngest son of President Joe Biden.  He is a Yale law school graduate. 

     Hunter served on the board of BHR Partners, a Bank of China private investment fund.  BHR helped finance the purchase of Tenke Fungureme Mine in the Congo, a cobalt operation.  Cobalt is the raw material used in electric vehicles and has been a point of contention between the U.S. and China in recent years.  BHR’s attempt to ‘corner the market’ for China on cobalt is an issue Biden hasn’t been held accountable for.  Three observations:

     First, President Biden knew who Garland was going to appoint.  In spite of mainstream media calling the special counsel appointment a ‘surprise,’ odds are the POTUS was consulted before the move.  The appointment of David Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware, as special counsel looks suspect.  Weiss, a Trump appointee, has been investigating Hunter Biden since 2018 on potential violation of tax and gun laws.  Weiss has been criticized for his patsy handling of Hunter.  Hunter was prepared to plead out the charges two months ago, but a Trump appointed judge threw a monkey wrench into that.  Some believe Garland is wagging the dog by appointing Weiss special counsel. 

     Second, the investigation does have risk for President Biden.  If an investigation balloons beyond the tax and gun charges Hunter faces, it could implicate the POTUS.  If it ever makes it to trial, the identity of ‘the Big Guy,’ referenced on Hunter’s laptop could be revealed.   The investigation could cast a shadow on Biden’s 2024 re-election campaign.  Some believe Garland appointed Weiss special counsel to help keep Biden from getting the nomination.  Not likely.

     Third, 2024 could be the year of the indictees.  President Trump has been indicted twice and faces a third indictment in Georgia.  Biden could be indicted if Weiss links Hunter’s misbehaviors to him. Does indictment or even conviction disqualify someone from being POTUS? 

     Richard Hasen, a University of California law professor, says a convicted felon could assume the office of POTUS.  “The Constitution has very few requirements to serve as president, such as being at least 35 years of age.  It does not bar anyone indicted, convicted, or even serving jail time, from running for president and winning the presidency,” Hasen said. 

     Democrats claim the only voters who care about Hunter’s crooked dealings are those who wouldn’t vote for Joe Biden anyway.  Matt Bennett, a Democrat Party operative says: “There are plenty of things that keep Democrats up at night when it comes to 2024, and this(Hunter Biden) is not one of them.  Billy Carter is not the reason Ronald Reagan won 49 states in 1980.” Sarah Longwell, a Republican consultant agrees saying that ‘every family has someone like this, a black sheep.” 

     Hunter Biden is a lot more than a black sheep and his dealings go beyond trying to sell a bad beer like Billy Carter did.   IRS whistleblowers told Congress there was ‘political meddling,’ into Hunter’s tax issues- probably by Weiss.  Hunter’s business dealings are more than shady. The newly appointed ‘special counsel’ should prove he isn’t a lackey stooge and can conduct a thorough investigation into both Hunter and Joe Biden’s financial dealings with foreign governments.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Time will reveal who faces doom from indictments!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     This week, former President Donald Trump was charged in federal court with four counts of conspiring to subvert American democracy in association with the January 6th attacks on the U.S. Capitol.  Jack Smith, the special prosecutor investigating January 6th, is relying on three criminal statutes; (1) conspiring to defraud the government, (2) conspiring to disenfranchise voters, and (3) conspiring to obstruct a congressional proceeding to prove Trump was trying to supplant democracy.

     In the indictment, Smith describes six of the former POTUS’ associates as ‘co-conspirators,’ but they are not named nor charged.  It remains unclear if they will eventually face indictment if they do not cooperate. 

     The former POTUS appeared before a federal judge in Washington DC on Thursday and pled not guilty to all charges.  An August 28th preliminary hearing is scheduled.  This was the third time in four months Trump has faced indictments.  The federal charges are the most serious with Smith’s star witness expected to be former Vice President Mike Pence.  Pence says Trump asked him to break the law and not certify election results submitted by certain states.  Pence contends the U.S. Constitution precluded that action.  Three observations:

     First, many losers of presidential elections have disputed the results.  In American history, at the presidential level, serious allegations by top officials the election was "stolen" were made in 1800, 1824, 1876, 1912, 1960, 2000, and 2020.  Trump isn’t the first to claim he was cheated.  Vice President Aaron Burr killed Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton in a famous duel because of Hamilton’s part in the outcome of the disputed 1800 election.  The award-winning musical Hamilton tells the story. 

     Trump’s opponents, the special prosecutor and the media claim Trump’s unwillingness to accept defeat is unprecedented, but that is not true.  What is true is none who claimed they were cheated have convinced a majority of the American public to buy into their conspiracy.    

     Second, Trump was indicted, not the American people.  The former POTUS zealously uses[S1]  the indictments for fundraising and campaign promotion.  He contends solicitors are after the American people when they charge him.  He professes he is merely a surrogate and being unfairly treated.  When the Clintons and Hunter Biden skirt serious charges and Trump is charged it is a valid point, but it’s a stretch to paint Trump as being a scapegoat.   Trump is being charged for his own actions.  A jury will determine whether those actions rise to the level of criminal.

     Third, the trials give Trump a unique opportunity.  The former POTUS can publicly present his case in regard to the 2020 election.  The defense is expected to cite Trump’s right to free speech as justification for his actions.  Former AG Bob Barr says free speech doesn’t give Americans the right to engage in a fraudulent conspiracy.  But all true conspiracies were initially dismissed as fraudulent, so there’s that.  The challenge Trump’s team faces is proving to the jury their claims of a stolen election are fact. 

     In the musical, “Hamilton,” Aaron Burr sings about Alexander, “Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room?/Soon that attitude may be your doom.”  Burrs point?  Pride goes before a fall.  Time will reveal who faces doom from these indictments.