Monday, July 27, 2009

Weekly Opinion/Editorial

I am writing this column while peering out a seventh story window from the Drake hotel in downtown Chicago. The Windy City, particularly the downtown area, is my favorite large city in America. There are great restaurants, plays, museums, Fisherman’s Wharf, and water taxis all within walking distance. But one thing you can’t do in Chicago is legally own a gun. In Chicago, a ban on the sale and registration of handguns has been in place since 1982. Only police officers, aldermen and a handful of others are exempt from the ban. While other firearms can be registered, under current law, handguns cannot be registered and are considered illegal. Several Chicago area suburbs have similar restrictions all in the name of reducing crime. But statistics prove disarming the citizen has not made the city safe.

According to the FBI, Chicago’s violent crime rate is two and one half times higher than the national average and fifty percent higher on crimes against property. Only nine percent of the cities in the US over 100,000 populations have higher crime rates than Chicago, so it is clear that creating gun free zones is not working.

No less than thirty-one states now have conceal and carry laws which allow individuals to carry concealed handguns if they do not have a criminal record or a history of significant mental illness. The high number of law-abiding citizens with permits, the lower the crime rate. In states with conceal and carry, statistics from the FBI show the murder rate declines by 3 percent, rape by 2 percent, and robberies by over 2 percent.

Last June, the Supreme Court ruled the ban on handguns in Washington DC was a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Within hours, the Illinois State Rifle Association filed suit to have the Chicago area handgun ban lifted. The district court in Chicago ruled against the ISRA, saying the second amendment,” does not extend to states and municipalities.” On June 8th of this year, a three judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the initial ruling.

The US Court of Appeals for the Second District ruled in a similar way in January as the Seventh. One of the judges rendering that decision was current Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. This wasn’t her first attack on the second amendment. In 2004, Sotomayor, as a member of a three-judge Second Circuit panel, she issued a short summary order in U.S. vs. Sanchez-Villar, stating "the right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right." In that simple statement, she revealed her intention to be an activist judge, which disqualifies her from being seated on the Supreme Court.

Now thirty three states have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and rule that the second amendment does apply to states. The lawsuit brief says, “The second amendment is a critical liberty interest, essential to preserving individual security and the right to self-defense.” "Yet federal courts of appeals are divided over whether this right fully extends to the vast majority of citizens who live not in a federal enclave, but in one of the several States. Without this Court’s review, millions of Americans may be deprived of their Second Amendment right.”

Oklahoma AG Drew Edmondson has joined in the effort, though most likely because he is running for Governor in 2010. Edmondson has not been a faithful, stanch advocate for states or gun rights. Edmondson’s judgment on when to join lawsuits in the past has been squirrelly at best (the Boy Scout suit), but whatever Drew’s motivation, it was the right thing to do.

If the Supreme Court chooses to hear the case, they could determine if the right to bear arms is a right that “must” be recognized by local and state governments. This end around attack by gun haters should concern all the citizens of the country, not just the gun owners. It is clearly an American’s constitutional right to own a gun and to defend themselves. To interpret the Constitution in less than a literal way will have repercussions on every “right” mentioned in the sacred document.

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was a big advocate of gun control. In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control and from 1929 to 1953 about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and killed. An armed population reduces violent crime for two reasons. First, criminals are uncertain which potential victims can defend themselves, so they often back out of committing the crime in the first place. And secondly, victims who have guns are in a much better position to defend themselves than with a flyswatter.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Some very vocal Americans want to “take their government back.” Some are on the political left. The left wing organization TOGB- Take our Government Back- is a group whose stated purpose is to “provide a means to curb, if not end, to the global destructiveness caused by multinational corporations and the politicians that support them.” TOBF is primarily concerned about the environment, global warming and pollution.

On the political right, you have citizens fed up with paying too much taxes, politicians not listening to them, and a national debt that has increased by over thirty percent since President Obama was inaugurated. These fiscal conservatives have taken to the streets at Tea Parties all across the country with the theme: TAKE OUR GOVERNMENT BACK.

In June 2007, during the Democrat Presidential primary campaign, President Obama delivered a speech in New Hampshire entitled, "Taking our Government back.” Obama quoted Republican President, Teddy Roosevelt, in the speech, who said, "The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us, and therefore in public life, that man is the best representative, whose endeavor it is not to represent any special class or interest, but to represent all --by working for our common country." Trust me, the Roughrider wasn’t a socialist, so the “spin” Obama put on Teddy’s original message was far from accurate.

Who took our government from us in the first place? If we, as American citizens, have to “take it back,” then how did we lose it? The obvious answer is that political apathy and disinterest has placed America where she is now. We don’t like to blame ourselves, but it’s true.

A comic strip character named Pogo is credited with saying, "We have met the enemy and he is us." Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian novelist said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Tolsoy was simply stating that real reform starts with individiuals taking ownership of their own behavior. What can the average American citizen do to “take back their government?”

First, we can take our government back by taking equity in our government. That can’t be done just by simply protesting on a street corner with a sign twice a year or yelling at the TV or the newspaper. Like an effective diet plan, taking our government back requires a complete “lifestyle” change. It means paying attention to what is going on with our government. It means attending town hall meetings, educating oneself on the political process by learning all the details of how people get elected. It involves staying engaged even in “off election” years. It means having to sit through some boring speeches instead of relaxing at home after work. It requires taking some of your hard earned money and investing it in good government by supporting a candidate with your same convictions. Adlai Stevenson, the liberal Democrat, was right when he said, “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.” Americans have poor government because they allow/tolerate/empower poor government.

Second, we must start by recruiting “citizen” legislators and leaders who are willing to sacrifice a few years of their life helping lead our country. We have too many elected officials and politician types whose “life experiences” are completely within politics. They have never done anything other than politics. Elected officials should be in touch with their constituents. Butchers, bakers and candlestick makers will make the conversion to effective legislators, in spite of what the career political types say. What they may lack in political savvy will be more than compensated for in common sense and real world experience.

Third, Americans must recognize that changing government starts at the local level. Former Democrat Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil said, “All politics is local.” He correctly recognized that government is influenced from the bottom up. Too often, citizens focus on what is happening in Washington DC when they should be paying attention to what is happening right in their own back yard. Fewer people vote in municipal and school board elections than any others, yet these elected officials make decisions that impact our children’s lives and us. When people start taking equity in their local government, the federal government will be impacted. The influence will flow upward and we will get better government.

How many citizens will it take to “take back our government?’ The late Congressman Jack Kemp said, "The power of one man or one woman doing the right thing for the right reason, and at the right time, is the greatest influence in our society." It just takes one! Are you the one?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

President Obama in a speech in Prague on April 5 stated “I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”. He went on to split the goals into short, medium and long range, adding that “a world without nuclear weapons” won’t be reached soon, “perhaps not in my lifetime”.

In Moscow this month Obama signed a joint understanding with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with a “new START” by the end of this year, setting targets for sweeping reductions in the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.

The understanding gives negotiators the mandate to reduce the number of strategic warheads from the current maximum of 2200 each down to between 1500 and 1675. More important are the strategic delivery vehicles which will fall to a range of 500-1100, down from the 1600 allowed today. As of January the U.S. reported in had about 1200 delivery systems, and Russia claimed about 800. The U.S. total of 1200 includes the long range bombers, submarines and missiles that are an important part of a far superior American conventional arsenal.

This “new START” between two presidents sets the stage for another controversy, and the proposed new treaty may not pass the Senate in coming months. The administration took this step before completing the review of nuclear strategy mandated by Congress. The White House Czar for Weapons of Mass Destruction, Security and Arms Control, Gary Samore, said last week that the Administration may have to enact certain provisions of the treaty by executive order and on a “provisional basis” to meet the December deadline.

Provisions of the 1991 START treaty allow it to be extended for five years from the arbitrary deadline of December, 2009, and that’s the recommendation of former Defense Secretary and CIA chief James Schlesinger. Further discussions with the Russians on arms control are highly desirable, according to Schlesinger, but need more time for public and Senate scrutiny than it is currently receiving.

In a July 11 op/ed in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Schlesinger outlines issues leading to his opposition to the proposed new treaty and why he believes it would make the U.S. less safe than it is today.

North Korea, Iran and non-state terror groups are not going to be deterred by the possibility of a nuclear response to actions they might take.

More than thirty countries world-wide rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella in the event of an enemy attack, including Poland. If they lose confidence in the U.S. deterrent or in Washington’s ability to protect them, it could set off a new nuclear arms race. Ichiro Ozawa, Japan’s opposition leader and likely its next Prime Minister said in 2002 that it would be “easy” for Japan to make nuclear warheads and that it had “enough plutonium to make several thousand weapons”.

Dr. Schlesinger worries about Iran, “We’ve long talked about Iran as a ‘tipping point’ – if it is successful in developing nuclear arms, it might induce Turkey, which has long been protected under NATO, and Egypt and Saudi Arabia to respond in kind”. An alternative would be to extend the U.S. and NATO nuclear umbrella to the Middle East.

Schlesinger worries too about the safety and reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons, all of which are over twenty years old. The U.S. is the only major nuclear power that is not modernizing its weapons. The Russian nukes have a shelf life of ten years, so they are constantly replacing them. The British and the French stay up-to-date. China and India continue to add to their stockpiles.

The U.S. Congress has consistently refused to fund warhead replacements. Schlesinger warns “we need to be much more vigorous about life-extension programs” for our weapons.

The probability of a nuclear exchange between major powers has largely gone away in the past twenty years. However the likelihood of a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States is greater. In the 1960’s, Dr. Schlesinger recalls, we were working on mitigating the possible effects of a nuclear attack using civil defense strategies and training.

In the next few years one or more American cities may get hit with a nuclear attack from an unknown source. We should be working now to minimize the effect of a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States. Our rapid response capability is not as well organized as it should be.

Schlesinger sees a fundamental difference between now and when he started in the business. “Public interest in our strategic posture has faded over the decades”. In the Cold War it was a most prominent subject. Now, much of the public is barely interested in it. And that has been true of Congress as well, and has led to reduced funding in the annual budgets for missile defense and nuclear modernization. This is unfortunate in a very unstable world, and cries out for effective national leadership.

George Porter is a retired insurance company executive and a fellow Duncan Banner columnist. He can be contacted at

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekly Opinion/Editorial
by Steve Fair
Fresh off a victory on Cap and Trade, Speaker Pelosi’s next objective is to tackle government run health care. There is no denying the price for health care is up, but much of that is due to a third party paying the bill and the insured paying the health care costs for the uninsured.
According to a poll conducted last year by the Center for Disease Control, forty four million Americans or about fifteen percent do not have health insurance. According to Health Affairs, seventy five percent of all health care dollars are spent on patients with one or more chronic conditions, many of which can be prevented, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, lung disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. Studies have shown that when patients with chronic diseases focus on their health and get involved in their own care, their health improves and health expenses decrease.

Government requires providers treat medical emergencies, so no one is turned down if they need health care, so many Americans roll the dice and let the government- you- pick up the tab when they go to the emergency room. Last year, the government paid over one third of the health care dollars spent in America. If effect, we already have a major segment of the population on government run health care.

To fully understand the health care industry problem, you need some history. In 2007, Jonathan Cohn, a senior editor at the liberal New Republic, wrote a book entitled, Sick: The untold Story of America’s Health Care Crisis- and the People who pay the price. Cohn’s conclusion, which is shared by most liberals, is, “capitalism cannot deliver decent health care.” Cohn is wrong, but he does provide an interesting history of Blue Cross in the book. The “Blues.” were essentially nonprofit health insurers who provided catastrophic health care coverage for a tax break. They kept premiums reasonably low and charged everyone the same. But private insurance saw a huge market and jumped in during the 1940s, which has created the third party billing mechanism mentioned earlier.

Before the Dems start nationalizing the health care industry, they should keep in mind that personal responsibility is the real long-term answer to the health care cost issue. People should be responsible for purchasing their own health care, not the government or their employer. If they have to write a check every month to the insurance company and to the doctor for what the insurance doesn’t cover, they will take more equity in their health.

State legislatures should pass bills that would allow the creation of private health non-profit co-ops to be formed-assistance clubs or a similar option for those so inclined. Oklahoma just passed some measure of tort reform, but we need one with penalties for frivolous lawsuits and the loser paying some of the costs.

In May, US. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC) and U.S. Representatives Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Devin Nunes (R-CA) introduced health care reform legislation called “The Patients’ Choice Act of 2009.” The act would encourage prevention by requiring the CDC to promote healthier lifestyles. It would also create an incentive for states to reduce their rate of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

Dr. Coburn said, “As a practicing physician, I have seen first-hand how giving government more control over health care has failed to make health care more affordable and accessible. The American people deserve health care reform that will work, not another round of so-called reform that repeats the same failed policies of the past. Congress and the administration have the opportunity to pursue bold reform and a fresh start. The Patients’ Choice Act will provide every American with access to affordable health care without a tax increase, more debt and waiting lines.,”

Coburn and Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) are the only two physicians in the Senate. They have an on-line video on the health care debate which can be accessed at

The Democrat plans for health care reform are cost centered as opposed to patient centered and will cost much more than Speaker Pelosi, Senator Reid and President Obama will admit. Their solution for everything is to add another entitlement program. With a national debt that has increased by thirty percent in less than six months, we can ill afford government run health care.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's
hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far
from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now
commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee
again of this matter So Paul departed from among them. (Acts 17:22-33)

In the above thirteen lines, I have reprinted Paul’s entire message on Mars Hill. It is short, and to the point, yet one of the most comprehensive messages ever delivered by any man, on any subject. This Athenian problem, of nearly two thousand years ago, is America’s problem today. Many Americans ignorantly identify, and ignorantly worship, or refuse to worship, God. Even today’s widespread, open insistence on atheism, is quite often, really nothing but brazen hypocrisy.

Their weak attempt to deny God’s existence, is their easiest way to justify their open rebellion against Him. Their reasoning is that if He is not real they are not responsible to submit to Him, or His instructions. They conclude, that if He does not own us, He has no right to govern us. Their understanding of this matter is equal to that of the little child, who closes his eyes, believing that if he refuses to see, no one can see him. Paul accurately describes their situation in 2Th 2:10-12 "And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

Two hundred thirty-three years ago, the people who pioneered what was to become the United States of America, declared independence from the British King. These people were not rebels, but people who genuinely believed that this was the only way they could walk in the fear of God and live in peace. Those men who signed the Declaration Of Independence, and those who followed them, dedicated all they had for the cause, and most of them eventually gave their
lives for it. It is sad to say, but today most of the children up and down our streets, and many of their parents, pop firecrackers, and have backyard barbecues, and cannot even tell you what the USA is celebrating on the fourth of July. To them it is just a holiday, The Forth Of July.

There is much fear that this country, which has become the most powerful and compassionate nation ever known to occupy a portion of the earth, has seen its best days, and that a gloomy future lies before us. We live in a dark time right now, with high unemployment, terrible inflation with worse to come, a national debt great enough to destroy the entire world’s economy, and people, rich and poor, lined up to get more government aid, which can only make it worse. Abraham Lincoln questioned whether a nation dedicated to the principles of our Constitution could long endure. The great argument today seems to be what political philosophy, which political policies, or which political party, can lead us out of this mess. Are we so foolish as to seek the solution to a problem that we will not even identify?

I think the answer must start with identifying the problem! This nation, at large, has declared independence from God. Human rights has become the great issue for consideration, and the more it is considered, the farther we get from those rights, or the answer. If we, by God’s grace, could seek what is right, instead of our rights, we would soon find that the answer was right before our eyes all the time. If we could see that we have not built this great nation by our wit and labor, though those are certainly elements, but elements granted by the God who created us. "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him,"

If we could find in our hearts the determination to seek The Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, human rights would take care of themselves more quickly than we could ever imagine. Oh how great it would be if we could rise up each morning blessing, and thanking, God for all he has given us up until this time, and praying that He would lead us uprightly today, and give us grace to follow. I pray that we can learn to vote and live for issues of righteousness, according to God’s Holy Word, and not for the hope of personal economic advantage. We desperately need independence, but that need to be independent from government and covetousness, not from God.

Dr. Forrest L. Keener served as pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Lawton, Oklahoma for over forty years. He is currently a Missionary/Evangelist preaching under the authority of Sherwood Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. You can reach him by email at

Weekly Opinion/Editorial

Governor Sarah Palin, (R-AK) resigned her office on Friday. The announcement stunned the political world. Palin said she had decided she was not going to seek re-election in 2010 and she didn’t want to be a “lame duck” Governor. "Many just accept that lame duck status, and they hit that road," Palin said. "They draw a paycheck. They kind of milk it. And I'm not going to put Alaskans through that." But “lame ducks” still have authority and govern, so why did Palin, the 2008 GOP Vice Presidential nominee, resign as Governor?

Critics say she quit because there have been no less than fifteen ethics complaints brought against her in Alaska. But what they will not tell you is that all but two were dismissed with no findings of wrongdoing, so it’s not likely Sarah quit due to ethical issues.

Others say it’s because the media was so tough on Palin, 45, and her family. No public figure, in recent memory, has endured more mean spirited attacks than Palin. Palin and her family have been a frequent target of TV late show hosts and the mainstream media. Just last week in Vanity Fair, “unnamed campaign aides” (aka non-existent sources or cowards) said that Palin was not really prepared for the presidency. The article also implied that Palin’s success was due primarily to her looks.

The Vanity Fair article took a shot at Palin for creating a PAC –Sarahpac-with the help of John Coale, a prominent Democratic trial lawyer. It failed to mention that Coale is married to Greta Van Susteren of Fox and a consistent supporter of conservative causes. The current head of Palin’s PAC is Pam Pryor, former Chief of Staff for J.C. Watts. Pryor said the group saw an up tick in contributions Friday afternoon after the Governor made her announcement. In spite of all the media criticism and trash talking, that doesn’t appear to be the reason Palin resigned.

Some speculate Palin may be gearing up for a 2012 run at the GOP nomination and statements made by her staff and others indicate that may be true. Palin's spokesman, David Murrow, said, "She's looking forward to serving the public outside the governor's chair." Senator John McCain, (R-AZ) said, "I have the greatest respect and affection for Sarah, Todd, and their family. I was deeply honored to have her as my running mate and believe she will continue to play an important leadership role in the Republican Party and our nation." Some believe Palin resigned to run for the US House or Senate from Alaska, but whatever Sarah’s motive for resigning, it was the wrong decision for two reasons.

First, Palin was elected by the people of her state to serve for four years. When she bailed out at two and one half years, she revealed a character flaw that leaders cannot have. Elected officials must not quit mid term for their comfort or convenience. They should serve out their complete term with no time off for good behavior. Quitting is not a trait that is compatible with leadership. In his most famous speech, Sir Winston Churchill said, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Palin should not have quit no matter how low her poll numbers dropped or how unpopular her positions were. Leadership requires tenacity and perseverance. Palin has portrayed herself as a Pit bull in lipstick, but her resignation makes her look more like a scared Chihuahua in blush.

Second, Palin needs more governing experience. Granted, being a small town Mayor and the Governor of the largest geographic state in union gives her more experience than the current occupant of the oval office. But honestly, neither of them have the experience necessary to do a good job. Palin gave up a great opportunity to gain that experience under tough circumstances by remaining “lame duck” Governor of Alaska. To give up the opportunity to learn, perform and grow as a leader reveals selfishness and a deficiency in Palin’s character not apparent before.

Only one American president, Richard Nixon, resigned while in office and that was under a cloud of scandal. We don’t need leaders who have learned to quit. Vince Lombardi said, “once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”