Monday, February 24, 2020

Past Criminal Acts should be considered in Sentencing!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
By Steve Fair

     On Saturday, I was approached by a nice looking young man in a Wal-Mart parking lot asking me if I was a registered voter in Oklahoma.  “I am, are you?” I asked him.  “I am registered to vote,” he replied.  “Do you live in Oklahoma?” I asked.  “Yes, I do- in Norman,” he said.  “Would you consider signing criminal justice reform initiative petition #805 and by signing would help get it on the November ballot?” he asked.  “No, I replied.  I am familiar with #805 and do not agree with what it would do,” I said.  “Thank you and have a nice day,” the young man said as he scurried across the parking lot to a couple. Three observations:
     First, I like to see young people engaged in the political process, no matter what their political leanings.  I suspect the young man was being compensated to carry a clipboard and gather signatures, but perhaps not.  We need more young people involved in the political arena, and those who will learn the most will do the ‘boots on the ground’ work necessary to get candidates elected and issues on the ballot. 
     Second, I appreciate that Oklahoma has an initiative petition process.  Less than half the states in the U.S. allow their citizens to initiate legislation through the petition process.  The number of signatures is tied to the total votes cast for governor in the last gubernatorial election.  To amend the state constitution, petitioners must gather 178,000 signatures in a 90 day period.  If they get 95,000, they can have a state statue considered on the ballot.  It is a process that allows the citizen voters in Oklahoma to go around the legislature if they want.  That happened with SQ #640, which most legislators hate, but without it, Oklahoma citizens would be paying more taxes.
     Third, State Question #805 is not right for Oklahoma.  If approved by the voters and became law, it would end ‘enhancement sentencing.’  Enhancement sentencing is an option available to prosecutors in which they take into account a defendant’s criminal history and if a pattern of offenses are found, stricter punishments are sought.
     An example of the impact of SQ #805 would have if enhancement sentencing is eliminated is the driver of the pick-up that plowed into the Moore High School track team that killed three.  If #805 would have been law, the act would not have been considered a violent and the driver would have not faced as severe charges.    Michael Freeman, the father of Rachel Freeman who was killed in the incident, said habitual offenders shouldn't catch a break and that their punishment should grow with each conviction. “Are we going to focus on public safety, or are we going to focus on the prison population?” Freeman said.  That is an excellent question.
     “These are crimes like domestic violence, like child trafficking, like hate crimes, animal cruelty, repeat drunk drivers, drunk drivers who hit and hurt someone causing great bodily injuries. We should not ignore a person who continues to engage in habitual criminal behavior and not consider that when we seek sentencing,” Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks says.
     So when those nice young people seek you out to sign #805,politely decline and attempt to educate them on the ‘unintended consequences’ of letting habitual criminals get by with lesser sentences.  It means they are loose in our communities, not locked up where they belong.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Platforms Show Striking Difference on 2nd Amendment!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution says: A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.  Under attack from liberals in recent years, who believe gun control will reduce mass shootings, the second amendment has become a topic of debate.  Virtually all the Democrat presidential candidates favor gun buyback programs, a ban on assault weapons, and universal background checks to purchase a gun.  But those who would confiscate weapons from law abiding Americans may find it hard to accomplish if local law enforcement won’t cooperate.
     In May 2013, the Carroll County, Maryland Board of Commissioners passed a resolution declaring the county a ‘second amendment sanctuary.’  In part the resolution stated: "The right to keep and bear arms is assumed to be a natural right from God and the Second Amendment is merely a restriction on government, it says to government, 'stay away.'"  In the six years since, many counties in states across the U.S. have followed that lead.  Last week, it was Oklahoma’s turn.  First, Logan County Sheriff Damon Devereaux, in a signed resolution, vowed no public funds will be used to enact policies that restrict the Second Amendment rights of Logan County, OK (Guthrie) residents.  The next day, Stephens County, OK (Duncan) Sherriff Wayne McKinney did the same.  Since that time, a dozen additional county sheriffs across the Sooner state have followed their lead and declared their county a second amendment sanctuary.  Critics claim the declarations are purely for optics and are meaningless, but that is not true because the second amendment is a local issue. Three observations:
     First, passing the resolution sends the message law abiding citizens are count on local law enforcement not being the tools to grab their guns.  Law enforcement who publically takes a stand for the second amendment is standing up for those they are protecting and that is a good thing.
      Second, county commissions should pass the resolution.  That adds teeth!  The sheriff is the top law enforcement officer in the county, but they can’t unilaterally declare a county a second amendment sanctuary.  The commission is the ruling body in the county and they should follow their sheriff’s lead.
     Third, there us a striking difference between the two major political Parties on the second amendment.  The Democrat platform states: “We believe that the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation.”  The Republican platform states: “We uphold the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, a right which antedated the Constitution and was solemnly confirmed by the Second Amendment.”  Quite a difference.
      At the Stephens County GOP county convention last week, delegates unanimously passed the following resolution: Recognizing the U.S. Constitution grants citizens the right to keep and bear arms, we the duly elected delegates of the Stephens County support the designating of Stephens County, OK as a Second Amendment sanctuary county.  All politics is local and the second amendment is no exception.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Iowa, SOTU, & Acquittal Dominate Headlines!

by Steve Fair

     Last week’s news headlines were historic.  On Monday, Iowa held their quadrennial presidential caucuses.  Both the Republicans and Democrats use the caucus system in Iowa.  A caucus is an indirect election. Instead of registered voters going to their normal polling place and casting a secret vote in a voting booth, in a caucus system, registered voters meet and publicly vote and the results determine the number of delegates each party's national convention will receive from their respective state. 
     There are strengths and weaknesses in both the presidential primary and caucus systems.  Some GOP activists in Oklahoma would like for the Sooner state to return to a caucus system.  Tuesday morning’s headline wasNo Results Available from Iowa.’  Using an app to count votes that appeared to fail, the Iowa Democrat leadership could not provide final results until late in the week, which means Iowa may not be going first in the presidential process in four years. 
     After 72 hours, it appeared former South Bend, IN Mayor Peter Paul Buttigieg, 38, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-VT) tied in the Hawkeye state.  Former Vice President Joe Biden finished a distance fourth.  After Buttigieg and Sanders’ victory and Biden’s poor showing, James Carville, a well-known Democrat operative said: “The turnout in the Iowa caucus was below what we expected.  Trump’s approval rating is probably as high as it’s been.  This is very bad and now it appears the Party can’t even count votes. The purpose of a political party is to acquire power. All right? Without power, nothing matters. We are talking about the wrong things,” Carville concluded.
     On Tuesday evening, President Trump delivered what could be his best speech ever at the State of the Union.  Under indictment by the U.S. House with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sitting directly behind him, Trump stuck to the teleprompter and masterfully presented the case for his re-election.  But Pelosi dominated Wednesday’s headline after she ‘ripped up’ a copy of Trump’s speech.      
     Thursday’s headline was Trump Acquitted,’ after Wednesday afternoon’s vote by the U.S. Senate vindicated the president on two counts; abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.  The vote was along Party lines with only Sen. Mitt Romney, (R-Utah), voting with the Democrats on the abuse of power charge.  Three lessons from this week’s news banners:
     First, it is past time to rethink Iowa kicking off the presidential cycle.  Rotate the starting state around.  And if Democrats can’t count votes, how are they going to govern?
     Second, Pelosi’s stunt was beneath the dignity of her office and will probably not appeal to the swing voters Democrats need to win close elections.  So much for going high when your opponent goes low.
     Third, the impeachment/trial process is political, not legal.  The Democrat leadership knew they could not remove Trump from office when they started this boondoggle, but they plowed ahead anyway.  
     Will Rogers said, “All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.”  This week news readers had historic headlines to keep them ignorant.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Democrats running for President should recluse themselves for Wednesday's vote!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     The vote to remove or acquit President Trump on charges he withheld aid from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into Joe Biden’s son has been scheduled for Wednesday February 5th.  After voting to not call witnesses on Friday evening by a vote of 51-49, with two Republicans (Romney and Collins) joining all 47 Democrats, the impeachment of Trump is about to come to an end.  Senator Charles Schumer, the minority leader of the Senate said: “To not allow witnesses or documents in an impeachment trial is a grand tragedy, one of the worst tragedies that the Senate has ever overcome. America will remember this day — a day when the United Senate did not live up to its responsibilities, turned away from truth and instead went along with a sham trial,” he said.  On Monday, closing arguments are scheduled to begin.  On Tuesday, the president is scheduled to deliver the State of the Union address.  President Trump will still be under the cloud of impeachment, which seems bizarre, but this whole process has been bizarre.  Four thoughts
     First, the real ‘sham’ trial was in the U.S. House.  President Trump wasn’t allowed to call witnesses in the very partisan process.  The president’s defense team wasn’t allowed to question the Democrat witnesses.  The outcome was predetermined.  That is a real tragedy.
     Second, Senators Romney and Collins (both Republicans) should pay the price for voting with the Democrats.  Romney represents conservative Utah and isn’t up for reelection until 2024, but his constituents should force him to explain/justify his ‘no witnesses’ vote.  Collins represents middle of the road Maine, so her vote will not be as big of a political issue in her home state, but she is up for reelection in 2020. Collins, 67, is running for her 4th six year term and faces little opposition in the primary, but the Democrat Speaker of the House in Maine is running against her in the general.  Cook Political Report has moved the race to a ‘toss up’ from solidly Republican status.   
      Third, when the trial vote is taken on Wednesday, expect at least two Democrats to join the Republicans to acquit. Senators Sinema, (D- AZ), Manchin, (D-WV), Jones, (D- AL), and King, (I, ME) are the ones most likely to join Republicans to acquit, but expect all Republicans to vote to acquit.  Two of the senators represent states President Trump carried in 2016.   
     Fourth, there are four U.S. Democrat Senators running for President who should recluse themselves from voting on Wednesday.  That is highly likely to happen, but it should.  Senators Bennet, (D-CO), Klobuchar, (D-MN), Sanders, (I-VT), and Warren, (D-MA) are all seeking the Democrat Parties nomination.  Voting on whether their political opponent can remain in office and stand for reelection or be removed and sent home just isn’t right.
     Don’t expect Wednesday’s vote to end the circus and send the carnies home.  They will dismantle the tent, haul it to the next town, set up and start the process again.  And the people’s business will go to the back burner.