Monday, November 24, 2008

Weekly Op/Ed Piece
by Steve Fair

Since ancient times, people have harnessed the winds energy. Over 5,000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians used wind to sail ships on the Nile River. Later, people built windmills to grind wheat and other grains. The earliest known windmills were in Persia (Iran). These early windmills looked like large paddle wheels. Centuries later, the people of Holland improved the basic design of the windmill and became famous for its windmills. When my wife and I traveled to Holland in 1988, seeing the size and majesty of the Dutch windmills was amazing.

Early American colonists used windmills to grind wheat and corn, to pump water, and to cut wood at sawmills. As late as the 1920s, Americans used small windmills to generate electricity in rural areas without electric service. When I was a small child in West Texas, I remember going with my Dad to the fields and seeing the windmills turning. They were pumping water for the crops and stock.

If you haven’t seen the wind turbines north of Lawton—near Mt. Scott, you should drive up the hill and take a look. It’s an amazing sight. The turbines are 410 feet tall with huge blades that stretch 150 feet in length. Wind turbines require winds of 14 to 35 miles per hour in order to achieve the optimum efficiency. Each wind turbine has sensors and motors that constantly turn the turbine into the wind in order to optimize operating efficiency. More than 2,400 megawatts of wind generation – enough to serve more than 650,000 average American homes – was installed in the United States in 2005 alone.

According to T Boone, one turbine produces as much energy as 12,000 barrels of oil. OG&E says their Wind Farm near Woodward is producing over 170 megawatts of power—enough to supply 40,000 homes.

Between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, just off Interstate 10 is a huge wind farm. Located in the San Gorgonio Pass area, the farm has over 5,400 acres of wind turbines churning away. That one field alone provides enough electricity to supply 215,000 homes in southern California.

A 2005 Sanford University study said there is enough wind power in the world to satisfy global demand seven times over and that’s with only 20% of the wind power can be captured. T Boone Pickens has spent millions on media pitching “his plan.” He says, “building wind facilities in the corridor that stretches from the Texas panhandle to North Dakota could produce 20% of the electricity for the United States at a cost of $1 trillion.” “It would take another $200 billion to build the capacity to transmit that energy to cities and towns.” “That's a lot of money, but it's a one-time cost.” “And compared to the $700 billion we spend on foreign oil every year, it's a bargain.”

Next week, a two-day conference will be held at the Cox Center on wind energy. Billed as Wind Energy Transmission: Delivering Power to the People, the luncheon speaker will be none other than T Boone himself.

During the conference, Lt. Governor Jari Askins will be moderating a round table discussion on landowner rights. The session will address questions like: Can the wind above your land be considered a resource similar to the mineral resource below your land? How do you know if your land is a good wind site? What are the typical steps leading to a wind site development? What kind of “deal” can you expect from a developer? Are there any potential liability issues or other risks to consider? There will be other sessions on how wind turbines impact wildlife, and how they get the energy from point A to point B.

President elect Obama has publicly stated his support for the development of wind energy. That benefits Oklahoma, but leaders in Oklahoma better make sure Oklahoma is taken care of first. Those who produce the energy should be paying the least for the end product.
We have all read the children’s story, The Little Red Hen. You will recall the little red hen finds a grain of wheat, and asks for help from the other farmyard animals to plant it. However, no animal is willing to help her.

At each further stage (harvest, threshing, milling the wheat into flour, and baking the flour into bread), the hen again asks for help from the other animals, but again she gets no assistance. Finally, the hen has completed her task, and asks who will help her eat the bread. This time, all the previous non-participants eagerly volunteer. That’s called “speading the wealth.” However, she declines their help and eats it with her chicks, leaving none for anyone else. The moral of the story is that those who show no will to help contribute to an end product, do not deserve the end product.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Weekly Opinion/Editorial
by Steve Fair
In the November 17th edition of USA Today, the paper addressed education funding and the shortened weeks that several districts across the country are exploring. According to the paper, “one hundred systems in seven states—mostly rural systems facing stiff fuel costs for buses—have gone so far as to shift to four day school weeks.” USA Today’s editorial board took the position that four days a week is not enough time in the classroom for school children.

According to the National School Boards Association, the four-day week is most popular in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona in mostly small, rural districts with less than 1,000 students. That profile fits a number of Oklahoma school districts and as they deal with budget cuts and higher costs, this option should be on the table.

Consider the McCray Public School system in Minnesota. They are a large district that buses a significant number of their students to class. They researched the four-day schedule concept and decided to move to it in September. According to Greg Schmidt, the Superintendent of Schools for McCray, they have saved money and increased instructional minutes for students. “McCray students have gained more than seventeen hours of instructional time by adding sixty five minutes to each instructional day,” Schmidt says. “We also expect to save between $85,000 and $100,000 this school year because of the modified schedule,” Schmidt says proudly. The Miami, Florida school district is considering going to a four day a week schedule.

Most often, schools that switch to a four-day week take either Friday or Monday off. Those choosing to close on Friday say that it is best because such a large portion of the student population misses school due to athletic events and other activities on this day. Those choosing to close school on Monday do so because gymnasiums often have to be lit and heated for Friday athletic events and activities, whereas few such activities occur on Mondays. Regardless of which day schools close, the decision to switch to a four-day week should be based on clearly defined purposes and recognition of both costs and benefits.

The system saves on utility bills, teacher sub pay, buses, and building wear and tear. The bad weather days are easier to make up during the year instead of tacking them onto the end of the year and there are fewer distractions because of sporting or other events.

Studies like Litke, 1994 and Grau & Shaughessv, 1987 state the student drop out rate and disciplinary referrals decrease under a four-day schedule. Daly and Richburg in a 1984 study of twenty schools using a four-day schedule said that student achievement was not affected one way or the other under the plan. All of the studies on school scheduling said that morale was better, there was less attendance issue with staff and students under the four-day plan. They also found the system was more efficient because there was less “transition” time (class changes) than with a five day schedule.

According to the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, moving to a shorter week presents challenges. The most obvious concern of a four-day school week is childcare. While some parents like the four-day week because they prefer having to find good childcare one day a week, others dislike for the very same reason. To help, some schools with the four day schedule have worked to “match up” high school students with parents of those that childcare.

Another concern is when the teaching day is lengthened; keeping the younger students engaged is a challenge. McCray has addressed this issue by moving their more academic work to the morning and placing lesser academic work in the afternoon. A related issue is the at-risk student. Some teachers of at-risk students believe the longer school day is too taxing on students who have difficulty with retention.

One of the major arguments against the four day school week is some educators are concerned that a four day week is inconsistent with the new emphasis in education. USA Today, says, “The United States ranks near the bottom on average weekly instruction time in the classroom when compared with thirty nine other developed countries.” By reducing the number of days, some educators don’t believe the material can be covered in the time allocated.

The four-day week will take more of a local community commitment than other schedule options as it can affect daily community routines as well as the children’s'. With education budgeting and funding issues, this option must be on the table for Oklahoma districts.
Education is not received—it is achieved. As Winston Churchill said, “my education was interrupted only by my schooling.” Public education must start thinking outside the box if they are to prepare our children to compete in the 21st century and that may include moving to a four-day school week.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Weekly Opinion/Editorial
by Steve Fair

My favorite movie is The Man who shot Liberty Valance. At the statehood constitutional convention, newspaperman Dutton Peabody is introduced. Peabody is the founder, editor and publisher of The Shinbone Star. Peabody is introduced as a member of the "fourth estate." The phrase "fourth estate" was originally used as a synonym for newspapers. With the advent of broadcast media, it’s meaning has been broadened to include all of what is known as the mass media.

The phrase "fourth estate" has been attributed to Edmund Burke, a British politician who said there were three estates in Parliament, but the reporters in the gallery were the fourth estate and they were more important than the other three. Burke’s premise was the careful, concise reporting of the facts by the media would keep the people informed and serve to hold politicians accountable. Burke said that in the 1790s, but a lot has changed in journalism in the past 200 plus years.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines journalism as the collecting of material for the purpose of writing a direct presentation of facts or occurrences with little attempt at analysis or interpretation. Real journalists don’t "spin" the story. They don’t editorialize on the front page. That’s why it’s big news when a major newspaper admits they were biased for one candidate over another.

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Deborah Howell wrote, "From June 9th until November 2nd the paper ran 946 stores about the election in the Post about Obama and only 786 about McCain." "Readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama." "My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show they are right on both counts." Howell concludes.

The Washington Post endorsed Obama and ran thirty-two op/ed pieces praising him, but those endorsements ran on the editorial page. When you read it on the editorial page, you assume it’s someone’s opinion and they may be biased one way or another. When it appears on page one, you expect journalistic integrity and not an editorial. It’s not just the print media that has been biased this election cycle.

Hardball host Chris Matthews said on Thursday that his job is to do anything he can to make the Obama presidency a success. "I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work," Matthews declared. "Yeah, it is my job. My job is to help this country, to make this work successfully, because this country needs a successful presidency more than anything right now," Matthews concludes.
Time magazines Joe Klein is absolutely gushing about Obama. "His election seemed like the political equivalent of a rainbow—a sudden preternatural event inspiring awe and ecstasy."

Before Tuesday, Newsweek’s Jonathan Alters said the only reason Obama could lose would be "racism." "The GOP has now completed a sorry transition from the party of Lincoln to the party of cynicism," Alters states. Understand these are not political operatives working for Obama making these comments. These are trained journalists who flunked the ethics class in college. Every piece they write and every word they broadcast should have op/ed written above it.

If you watched NBC’s Brian Williams softball interviews of Obama and the "grilling" he gave McCain and Pallin during the campaign, it gives you an idea of how just reporting the facts is a thing of the past with the mass media.

According to Media Research, a non-profit research and education foundation, the liberal media isn’t fooling the voters. Liberals and conservatives alike recognized that print and broadcast media were pro-Obama. In a survey conducted by Media Research, 77% of those surveyed said journalists wanted Obama to win. In the same survey, by a 5 to 1 margin, the public is convinced that journalists were trying to help Obama get elected.

In a poll conducted by Rasmussen, a 10 to 1 margin of the public believe that reporting in the mainstream media was designed to hurt Sarah Palin’s candidacy. Rasmussen also found that 55% of the public believes media bias is a bigger problem in campaigns than money. Not surprisingly, Rasmussen found that 63% of those who watch ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and MSNBC were Obama supporters.

One of the last scenes in The Man who shot Liberty Valance has the editor tearing up "the true story" of who shot Liberty Valance that night in a dark street. The editor tells the legendary U.S. Senator Ransom Stoddard, "This is the west sir—when the legend becomes fact—print the legend." That is what is happening with Obama—the liberal news media is printing the legend, not the facts.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Boehner Likely to Survive Carnage

That's the title of a Roll Call article written today. But WHY should Boehner survive? After leading the House Republicans to two consecutive cycles of losses, Boehner is not being seriously challenged? Boehner has attempted to blame the losses on RNCC Chairman Tom Cole, but when you analyze the facts, it's clear Boehner is not delivering. There may be some truth to the rumor that Boehner won the Heismann in "pin the tail on the donkey."

No Republican has ever won the Presidency without winning Ohio- Boehner's home state. On Tuesday, Ohio went BLUE. Was that Boehner's fault? Since he lives there, is considered a leader in the state, he must share a part of the blame.

Roll Call reports that House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has scheduled a sit-down with reporters for Thursday morning where he is expected to announce that he will not run to retain his No. 2 leadership post. In the article it mentions that Chief Deputy Minority Whip Eric Cantor from Virginia will run for Blunt's job. Cantor had been mentioned as a possible challenger to Boehner. Congressman Tom Cole has announced he will run for a second term as NRCC Chairman. Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas has announced he plans to run against Cole.

Consider this: With the exception of Cole, ALL THE LEADERSHIP IN THE U.S. HOUSE failed to deliver their home state to the McCain column. Democrats' GOTV efforts were much better executed and effective than Republicans in 2008. In Ohio, Missouri, Virginia and Florida- the home of Boehner, Blunt, Cantor, and Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam respectively, McCain lost by narrow margins due to weak GROUND GAMES.

“It’s time for the losing to stop. And my commitment to you is that it will,” Boehner said in a letter to his colleagues. The minority leader must start by winning over his own state. Oklahoma doesn't just talk about winning- we do it! The nation could learn a few things from the Oklahoma "model" of how to win races. It's not all about fundraising and "branding." While important, those factors are minor compared to grassroots organization and execution that produces results at the polls. Boehner should start "walking the walk" instead of "talking the talk." He should be Tom Cole's biggest fan because without Cole at the RNCC, the losses on Tuesday would have been much greater.


You can read the entire Roll Call article at:

Monday, November 3, 2008

House GOP’s fate tied closely to McCain
By Aaron Blake of THE HILL
Facing double-digit losses on Tuesday, Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) said Monday that House Republicans will rely heavily on presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), adding: “We certainly won’t do well if he doesn’t.” The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said on MSNBC that recent polling has given the GOP some optimism, but that it needs McCain’s help. “We’re linked pretty closely to John McCain,” Cole said, according to a transcript. “He rallied a little bit last week, closing the polls in a lot of places. That’s extraordinarily helpful to us. We certainly won’t do well if he doesn’t.”

The NRCC has relied on McCain at the top of the ballot, because it hasn’t been able to spend nearly as much money on individual races as its Democratic counterpart.
The vast majority of those races are being contested in districts that went for President Bush in 2000 and 2004.

The head of the Republicans’ Senate campaign committee, Sen. John Ensign (Nev.), has been critical of the McCain campaign for its handling of economic issues and its usage of vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Weekly Opinion/Editorial
by Steve Fair
(Written on Monday 11/3/08 for 11/5/08 editions)

The 2008 election cycle is over! Congratulations to the winners of yesterday’s election. Now it’s time for those elected to office to begin the job of representing “all” of us. Too often elected officials, on both sides of the aisle, forget they represent all the electorate, not just those that supported and voted for them. It’s human nature to be bitter and angry toward those who didn’t support you, but it’s wrong. In Romans 12, and many other passages, Christians are told to love their enemy. While no candidate would admit publicly their political opponent is their “enemy,” no process creates more hard feelings than the political arena.

All Christians in the country should be praying for all elected officials that won yesterday, regardless of their party affiliation. Romans 13:1 says, “ Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” A sovereign God is in control and that should comfort, humble and challenge Christians who are involved in the political process. They should recognize it isn’t about them. Christians must be gracious in victory and defeat.

Forgiving and forgetting is a hard thing to do when you have gone through a political campaign. When your opponent has tried to “define” you as someone you’re not. When they have deliberately misrepresented your accomplishments and exaggerated their own. When your character has been attacked so effectively it has those who know you best questioning whether they really know you, it’s hard to let bygones by bygones.

Some elected officials can’t let go of what happened in the campaign. They can’t make the conversion from candidate to representative of the people, but if they want to be the best representative they can be, they have to. Once the votes have been counted, elected officials should take off the campaign hat and put on the representative hat. They should work to represent all the people. While it’s nice to be important, it’s also important to be nice.

A major reason that some elected officials can’t make the transition is the constituents who supported their opponent in a political race. These are the people who ignore the results of an election and treat the person who won the race with no respect. They attempt to undermine their work and render them ineffective. They could care less if their actions hurt the whole district the elected official represents. They are bitter because “their” candidate didn’t win. They simply endure the term of the winner until the next election. If they do have contact with the elected official, it’s to criticize or beret them. They use poor manners and are disrespectful when they talk to the elected official.

They attempt to intimidate elected officials into agreeing with their position. These people are in constant confrontational mode. They believe they can “nag” the elected official to accept their ideas and their lobbying is nothing short of out and out harassment. If these tactics were used in any other part of society, a protective order would likely be issued against them, but this is politics.

Some constituents harass the elected officials they didn’t vote for just for sport. They call them to complain in the middle of the night. They think it’s fair game and acceptable to heckle elected officials or poke fun at them at public events or forums. They try to embarrass elected officials with trick questions. They ambush elected officials with their pet issues at public forums. That behavior is inexcusable and childish and “defines” the constituent as immature and pathetic.

No matter our party affiliation, we should respect the office and recognize that any rebellion we exhibit towards an elected official is really rebellion against God- see Romans 13.

Elected officials who will not communicate with constituents who supported their opponents are being rebellious toward God as well. They are not being good stewards of their office. Elected officials and constituents who supported their opponents are often on opposite sides of an issue. If a Democrat is elected, it’s likely most Republicans are not going to agree with what the Dem will do while in office. But many times, they do agree and when they cooperate, everyone benefits. While it’s tempting to “pay back” those who didn’t support you in your election, it’s not the best strategy. Barry Goldwater said, “To disagree, one doesn't have to be disagreeable.” Some irrational people can not bring themselves to a place where they can agree to disagree.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Honest statesmanship is the wise employment of individual manners for the public good.”