Sunday, April 14, 2024

Israel factors into the end of time!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


END TIMES?

by Steve Fair


     On Saturday evening, Iran launched 300 attack drones and missiles into Israel.  A seven-year-old girl was seriously injured by shrapnel from a missile.  Most of the drones and cruise missiles were downed before they reached the Israeli border.  Some did penetrate Israel’s Iron Dome and struck an airbase in southern Israel, causing minimal damage. American military stationed in Syria got involved by shooting down drones headed toward Israel.  Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon shut down their airspace for several hours.

     Israeli officials pledged an unprecedented response to the attack in ‘their time.’  Iran claims the killing of seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IGC) soldiers, including two generals, in an Israeli airstrike on the Iranian embassy in Syria April 1st justified the attack.  Iran has vowed to respond to a counterattack on a much larger scale, including retaliating against United States military bases.  The White House released a statement saying President[S1]  Biden spent 25 minutes on a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reaffirmed, “America’s ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”  Three observations:

     First, Biden doesn’t support an Israeli counterattack.  He allegedly told Netanyahu the U.S. would not join offensive operations against Iran if Israel launched a retaliatory attack.  He told Bibi to ‘take the win,’ referring to the minimum damage Iran’s drones and missiles caused.   Biden met with the G7 leaders to coordinate a ‘diplomatic’ response to the attack.  Iran has been under strict economic sanctions from most of the world because of human rights violations, but it doesn’t appear to have accomplished much.  The Israeli leadership have never been those who ‘take the win.’  They are more like the ‘never back down from a fight,’ crowd. Israel actually means ‘fighter’ in Hebrew.

     Second, the nations of the world are choosing up sides.  Russia has sent warships to the area, while cautioning both countries to exercise restraint, but Iran is a strong Russia ally.  Iran provides Moscow with drones, ballistic missiles and fighter jets for their war with Ukraine.  Russia doesn’t want their supply chain of military hardware disrupted.

     Chinese leaders said they were deeply concerned by the attacks, but over the past few decades, China and Iran have become strategic strong trade partners.  Iran’s abundant energy resources supply China a significant percentage of oil.

     Great Britian, France, Canada, and most of the western world have lined up behind Israel.  Some are calling this the start of WWIII.  Nostradamus, the renowned 16th century French astrologer known for his prophetic writings, predicted a naval war in 2024 by a ‘Red adversary,’ so there’s that.

     Third, in scripture, Israel factors into the end of time.  What happens to Israel has been a topic of interest and debate among Christian believers for centuries.  Several Old Testament prophets wrote about the restoration of Israel in the end times.  Some prophecies suggest the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem before the return of Jesus Christ.  The promise of God to Abraham and his descendants regarding the land of Canaan (now Israel) is seen as an enduring covenant.  In the New Testament, there are references to the return of Christ that is linked to the restoration and salvation of Israel.  Some believe Israel will embrace Jesus as the Messiah before the end of time.  While there is much conjecture, supposition, and hypotheses about end times, it is clear Israel is an element.

     Since the state of Israel was established in 1948, no nation has been a bigger supporter than the United States.  Through the years, most Americans supported that policy.  As less and less people understand the significance of Israel plays in the plan of God, support has waned.  Israel is not infallible, but they win in the end.  Is this the end?  God only knows.    

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Send the candidates who are hirelings, lackadaisical voters and novices home!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


VET CANDIDATES!

by Steve Fair

     Filing for political offices ended on Friday in Oklahoma.  During the three-day filing period, 285 people filed for the legislature, U.S. House and the open Corporation Commission seat.  This was the lowest number of candidates to file for office in the Sooner state since 2012, when 275 filed.  Three Republicans threw their hat into the ring for the open Corporation Commission seat Bob Anthony has held for 36 years.  The GOP nominee will face a Democrat and Libertarian nominee in the November general election.  That race is the sole statewide race on the 2024 ballot.

     Six incumbent Republican state senators filed unopposed.  There are twenty-six (26) senate districts up for election in 2024.  Forty-two (42) incumbent state representatives filed unopposed.  Over 40% of the 127 legislative seats up for election in 2024 will have no race.   Either lawmakers are doing a bang-up job or no one wants the job.  The truth is voters are apathic about politics.  Most have little idea what is going on in their local and state government. 

     There are four county elective offices up for election in all 77 counties this cycle: Sherriff, County District #2, County Clerk, and County Court Clerk.  The vast majority of incumbents in those races filed unopposed.  Three observations:

     First, unopposed incumbents should not equate not having an opponent with stellar performance.  The truth is the vast majority of the voting public have little idea what their elected officials’ duties are.  Before a politico starts slapping themselves on the back, they need to acknowledge their uncontested race could be that no one wants the job.       

      Second, it is the voter’s job to vet candidates.  This year has attracted a large number of novice candidates In ‘open’ seats (no incumbent).  These newcomers know little to nothing about the issues or the duties of the office they are seeking.  They were recruited by a special interest group trying to buy a seat or a political consultant looking to make a buck.  If the neophyte happens to be elected, they will be trained to do the bidding of those who funded the campaign.  Beware of first-time candidates who have never shown interest in politics, but last week rolled out of bed and filed for office.  Be wary of candidates who have a history of not being a faithful voter.  Voters shouldn’t elect people who have little to no respect for the privilege of voting.  Those candidates may be marketable/electable, but voters can ill afford to train someone on the job. 

     Third, elected officials should be servant leaders.  In Exodus 18:21, Moses’ father-in-law advises him to seek out servant leaders with four attributes: (1) competence (2) fear God, (3) trustworthy/honest, and (4) not covetous.  In other words, people of action and those with a track record, not those who are self-promoting narcissists seeking office to be somebody, not to do something.

     Sorting through the campaign propaganda is a challenge.  Every candidate says they have the four characteristics described, but few possess them.  Oklahoma requires candidates report campaign contributions to the Ethics Commission.  Who is donating to a candidate provides insight as to where their allegiance lies.  Ask candidates tough questions, and don’t give them the answer you want to hear when asking the question.  Don’t allow them to speak in generalities.  Make them be specific on their position. 

     Campaign signs are already out.  Soon mailboxes will be full with slick printed brochures.  Facebook posts will abound with candidate boasting.  Oklahoma voters should be diligent and vet the candidates in every race.   Send the hirelings, lackadaisical voters and novices back home to a real job.  We deserve better.  The primary is June 18th.   

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Trading government transparency for efficiency is never a good idea.

Weekly Opinion Editorial 


TRANSPARENCY FOR EFFICIENCY?

by Steve Fair

     On March 10th, Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony penned a guest op/ed for The Oklahoman (available online).  In the column, Anthony addressed HB#2367 authored by Rep. Tammy Townley, (R-Ardmore) and Sen. Dave Rader, (R-Tulsa).  The bill is known as the Corporation Commission Efficiency Act.  The bill would exempt the Corporation Commission from adhering to the Open Meetings Act found in Title 25 of the Oklahoma Statutes.  HB#2367 would require the Commission to publish information/documentation on upcoming votes 48 hours prior to that vote.  HB#2367 passed the House 54-32 with 15 members not voting (http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf/2023-24%20SUPPORT%20DOCUMENTS/votes/House/HB2367_VOTES.HTM).  The bill now goes to the Senate.

     Anthony, who has served on the Commission since 1989, says the Corporation Commission is already conducting the vast majority of their business (80%) behind closed doors.  He says the Open Meetings are only held at the agency to cast in-bulk, order-approval votes, calling that a ‘nod’ to transparency. 

     Advocates for the HB#2367l say current restrictions on the Commission have resulted in administrative bottlenecks and long delays in rulings. Three observations:

     First, the Commission needs to be more efficient.  The Corporation Commission does more than just regulate utility rates.  It regulates the exploration and production of oil and gas and how it is transported and stored.  It deals with the rates and services of public utilities.  It is involved in Internet coverage at schools and libraries.  The Commission has lots on its plate and delayed rulings/decision cost companies, and eventually consumers, money.

     Conducting public business in the open is slow and inefficient.  Most of those who attend Open Meetings are people with an ‘ax to grind.’  They question the honesty/integrity of those who disagree with them.  They are somehow able to magically discern the heart/motive of their nemesis.  They believe they are the only honest people in a room.  They can be a drag and irritation, but all Oklahomans, even those described, have a right to know what a powerful agency like the Corporation Commission is doing.  Can HB#2367 make the agency more efficient without damaging its transparency to citizens?  That is the question. 

     Second, what is the objective of the bill?  According to Anthony, the bill is being run to ‘bury the truth.’  Anthony claims Oklahoma electric providers were granted a rate increase in 2021 that was excessive.  After the February 2021 ice storm all electric providers in the state applied for a rate hike with the Commission to recoup their losses and only Anthony voted no.  For over two years, Anthony has been at odds with his two counterparts on the Commission, claiming they have stonewalled his attempts to release records and information.  Anthony sees this bill as an attempt to keep the public from knowing about the 2021 rate hike. 

     People can honestly disagree and not be crooks.  Bob Anthony is an honest man.  That is not in question.  Anthony’s cooperation with the FBI in 1994 (he wore a wire), led to the bribery conviction of fellow Commissioner Bob Hopkins.  No one knows the motive of another person, but its hard to connect the dots that Anthony claims exists.  They may be there, but not everyone who disagrees with you is a charlatan.  Authors of the bill say the motive of the bill is to improve the efficiency/effectiveness of the Commission and that is a worthy goal. 

     Third, HB#2367 is ‘sunset’ in two years.  If it doesn’t work, it goes away, unless the legislature votes to extend.  But who determines if it worked?  If the Commissioners, are the jurists, they will be grading their own test.  If HB#2367 proves to make them more efficient, unclogs the bottleneck and streamlines their workload, they will likely give it an ‘A.”  Oklahomans who conduct business before the Commission might agree with the Commissioners if delays are reduced and decisions timelier. 

     The real judge on whether HB#2367 is good legislation must be Oklahoma citizens.  Before it gets implemented, citizens/voters should ask their legislators: will HB#2367 cloud/hide/obscure the business of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission?  Will HB#2367 make it easier or harder to get information from the Commission?

    Exempting a state agency from Open Meetings laws is a slippery slope and should never be done to improve government productivity.  Trading transparency for efficiency is never a good idea.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

A closed primary is logical, rational, and sensible!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

CLOSED PRIMARIES ARE FAIR!

by Steve Fair

 

     There are three types of political primary elections: open, closed and blanket(jungle).  In an open primary, each voter, regardless of Party affiliation, determines which Party’s primary they want to vote in.  Republicans can vote in Democrat primaries and Democrats can vote in Republican primaries.  In a closed primary, only voters registered in the Party can vote in the Party primary.  Republicans vote for Republicans- Democrats vote for Democrats.  In the blanket/jungle primary, all candidates, regardless of Party affiliation, are on the same ballot and all voters, regardless of Party affiliation, vote on the same ballot.

     Oklahoma Republicans have a closed primary system.  Oklahoma Democrats have a semi-open primary.  They allow Independents, but not Republicans, to vote in their primary.  

     An Oklahoma group plans to circulate an initiative petition to let voters decide if they want to go to a blanket or jungle primary.  Oklahoma United claims the current system disenfranchises voters and by changing the primary process elected officials would be accountable to all voters, not just those in their Party. 

Three observations:

     First, open primaries promote deceit.  If GOP voters could vote in the Democratic primary or visa versa, the temptation to use that vote to pick the weakest general election opponent exists.  That is playing with their vote.  They don’t really support the candidate and their stance on the issues.  By voting for the weakest candidate in the other Parties’ primary, they help their Party and candidate.  A person’s vote should be considered sacred and shouldn’t be trifled with.  Political hacks may view voting as a simple numbers game and treat the vote in a causal and frivolous way, but true patriots don’t play with their vote.  We have enough chicanery in politics, without open primaries.

     Second, blanket primaries promote confusion.  The Republican Party dominates voter affiliation in Oklahoma.  Every statewide elected official is Republican.  All federal elected officials are Republican.  Republicans hold super majorities in both chambers of the legislature.  The likely result of a blanket/jungle primary would be two Republicans running against each other in the general election.  The major difference in the jungle and a closed primary is the more liberal, middle of the road Republican would prevail, resulting in a less conservative Oklahoma government.   Because the voting pool would include liberals, the more liberal of the Republicans would win.  The only people not confused by the blanket/jungle primary are the liberals.  Their goal is to wrest control from conservatives in the state and a blanket primary is just a tool to get that done.

     Third, closed primaries are fair.  It’s not unfair to exclude those unwilling to align/join/position with an organization to not have a voice in how the organization makes decisions.  Churches don’t allow non-members to vote on their clergy.  Civic clubs don’t let non-members vote in elections for their officers.  No one considers that unfair, because it isn’t.  If a voter wants to vote in the Republican primary, register Republican.  It’s that simple. 

     Why would a political Party want those who are not outside their Party help select their nominee?  Because they are losing elections!  For decades, Democrats in Oklahoma held closed primaries and it wasn’t an issue, because they dominated elections and Oklahoma government for over a century.  That view changed when Oklahoma voters aligned with their values and changed their Party affiliation and Republicans started winning.

     A closed primary allows each political Party to determine their own nominee, not outsiders, and the nominees meet in the general.  A closed primary is logical, rational, and sensible.  Out of state liberals are expected to pour millions into the initiative petition process to get it on the ballot.  Republicans- don’t sign it!  It wouldn’t unite Oklahoma, it would divide.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

HOUSE GOP NEEDS TO FLY IN FORMATION!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?

by Steve Fair

 

     On Friday March 22nd, the federal government could initial a partial shutdown of some federal departments.  Legislative negotiators are working around the clock to avoid a shutdown.  60% of civilian federal employees could be affected.      

     This is the fifth time since September 2023 that Congress has faced a funding deadline.  The first four times, including once earlier this month, Congress acted just in the nick of time to avoid a shutdown.

     The U.S. House of Representatives are considering six spending bills, which fund the Defense, Homeland Security, and Health & Human Services (HHS), and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) departments.  If no agreement is reached by the 22nd, furloughs and shutdowns could happen. 

     On Wednesday March 6th the House passed a $450 billion funding package by a vote of 339-85, with 207 Democrats and 132 Republicans voting for the six bills.  Those bills provided funding for Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Justice, Commerce and Energy.  The six bills being considered now are more difficult to get passed because conservatives (Freedom Caucus) in the House want their demands taken seriously.  They insist border security be addressed and agency funding cuts be done before they will support passage. Three observations:

     First, Americans view a government shutdown as failure.  They blame every elected official, regardless of Party.  Shutting down the government is politically dumb.  Since 1976, the government has ‘shut down’ twenty times.  Just four of the shutdowns were multiday, with the longest being 35 days.  It is difficult to calculate, but contingency plans cost money and private contractors factor the possibility of a shutdown into their pricing, a government shutdown may actually cost, not save taxpayers money.  A 2019 U.S. Senate report found three shutdowns (2013, 2018, 2019) wasted $4 billion of tax dollars.     

   Second, some of the government should be permanently shut down.  Is a government position classified, ‘non-essential,’ needed?  That is a good question.  Essential vs. non-essential, when it comes to government jobs, means does the job involve safeguarding life or property?  Air traffic controllers safeguard life and are designated essential.  The entire Federal Trade Commission (FTC) doesn’t safeguard life and those positions are considered non-essential.  Not every non-essential position should be eliminated, but every government position should justify its value to taxpayers or be cut.  That should be an ongoing process and not something done through government shutdowns.

     Third, House Republicans have to learn to fly in formation. The current breakdown in the House is 219 Republicans and 213 Democrats.  The GOP has a razor thin majority.  42 of those 219 GOP members are members of the Freedom Caucus.  41 others are members of the Republican Governance Group, a moderate Republican caucus.  Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, (R-LA) has to have both groups in order to get anything done, which is why so little gets done.   When 40% of your total caucus are diametrically opposed to each other, Johnson and the House leadership are hard pressed to getting legislation passed.

     In Top Gun, Pete Mitchell (Maverick), while a great pilot, wasn’t a team player.  He was a renegade and mutineer, often rebelling against authority and ignoring rules.  Pete wouldn’t fly in formation and hated the routine and mundane.  Iceman famously told him it wasn’t Maverick’s flying skills that were the issue- it was his attitude.  Because Pete wouldn’t adhere to holding in the pattern, he put the mission at risk.  Ice asked Mav- “whose side are you on?”  House Republicans, on both ends of the political spectrum, should ask themselves the same question.    

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Truth-in-labeling laws should apply to politics!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

CHIPS!

by Steve Fair

 

     President Biden delivered his fourth State of the Union (SOTU) address to a joint session of Congress Thursday evening.  The discourse was more appropriate for a campaign rally than a SOTU. Conveyed in a rapid fire, angry, irate manner, the speech lasted 67 minutes.  Biden’s message reassured the Democrat base he is up to the task for a long general election campaign.  In Biden’s oration he never mentioned President Trump, but called him ‘his predecessor’ thirteen times.  Biden was definitive in his support for abortion on demand and gun control.  He blamed the border crisis on Republicans.  Biden stated he wanted to increase taxes on corporations and the rich, stating they don’t pay their fair share.  Three observations:

     First, corporations don’t pay taxes, people do.  Companies consider taxes a cost of doing business and simply pass the tax along to the consumer in the form of a price increase.   Companies are not sponges.  They don’t ‘absorb’ costs.  They pass through increases to stay in business.  It is fundamental economics.  The current tax code benefits some large corporations, but taxing them more will result in higher prices for consumers. 

     Second, shrinkflation is not the fault of manufacturers.   Shrinkflation is the practice of reducing a product’s amount or volume per unit while maintaining the same price.  Biden used potato chip companies downsizing of their products (9.75z to 9.25z) as an illustration in the SOTU.  It’s highly doubtful Biden has seen the inside of a supermarket in years.  His implication was the manufacturer’s motivation behind the downsizing was greed.  He insinuated the consumer was being deceived.  Downsizing is lazy marketing, but it is not dishonest.  With government mandated truth-in-labeling laws, American consumers have more information on size, ingredient and nutrition than ever before.  Consumers have no excuse to not know they are getting less for the same money.

     Americans are paying +21% more for groceries than they were in 2021.  Since 2021, Biden has tried to blame shrinkflation and food processors, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, product downsizing plays only a minor role in food prices.  Increases in ingredients, labor, and freight have created the high shelf prices and placed a strain on food processors.  According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), publicly traded packaged food companies were among the most notable underperforming stocks of 2023.  The volatility of their costs to produce and the delay in getting those costs passed on have hurt profitability in the industry.   The result has been less processors and a strain on overall capacity.

     Third, the economy is not performing well.  In the SOTU, President Biden touted his economic record (jobs, unemployment), but the fact is Americans are paying higher prices at the grocery shelf (+21%) and gas pump (+38%) than they were four years ago.  Wages have lagged behind inflation, which is at a 40 year high.  Americans have lost money in their retirement accounts since Biden has been in office.  Credit card debt is at an all-time high.  Interest rates are high.  Most Americans don’t agree with Biden.  82% of Americans believe the country is economically headed in the wrong direction.

     It’s too bad the truth-in-labeling laws food processors must abide by doesn’t apply to politics.  If candidates had to disclose the truth like chip manufacturers, Americans could see what was really inside.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

It took 25 years, but Republicans finally fulfilled the promise to eliminate food tax!

Weekly Opinion Editorial


HIDE THE PEA!

by Steve Fair

 

     According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average Oklahoma family spends about $240 per week on food.  Oklahoma citizens are paying about $600 in state sales tax each year when they buy groceries.  Last week, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed HB #1955, which will eliminate the 4.5% state sales tax on groceries.  It will not go into effect until August 2024.  The grocery sales tax cut is estimated to reduce state government revenue by $418 million. 

Governor Stitt and Speaker of the House Charles McCall, (R-Atoka), are advocating a ¼% reduction in the state income tax, but Senate President Pro-Tempe Greg Treat, (R-Edmond) says the Senate won’t agree to that proposal this year.  Three observations: 

     First, eliminating the grocery tax makes sense.  Oklahoma is one of only thirteen states still taxing food.    Because people have to eat, taxing food tends to hurt poor people more than the rich.  Poor people spend a larger percentage of their income on food.  Texas, New Mexico and Colorado don’t tax food, Kansas is eliminating their grocery tax, and Arkansas taxes food at 1.25%. This action just gets Oklahoma in line with bordering states.

    Citizens in Oklahoma have been lobbying the legislature for years to stop taxing food.  In the late 1990s, former State Rep. John Sullivan, (R-Tulsa) ran a bill for three straight sessions to eliminate the tax on food.  With tax and spend Democrats in the majority, Sullivan’s bill received little traction.  During the push by Republican in the early 2000s to win legislative races, elimination of the grocery tax in Oklahoma was a mainstay on most candidate push cards and campaign material.  It took just 25 years, but Republicans finally fulfilled the promise.

      Second, Oklahomans will still pay sales tax on food.  HB#1995 eliminated only the state portion of the sales tax (4.5%).  Municipalities, cities and counties will still assess tax on food.  In many cases, that amount is as much as 5.5%.    Those entities are not likely to follow the state’s lead in removing the tax on food, because they depend on the tax revenue to provide basic services. 

     Third, a consumption tax is a fair way to tax.  The grocery tax was a consumption tax. A consumption tax taxes people when they spend money.  The state (and Federal) income tax is assessed when you earn money, or get interest, dividends, or capital gains.  Consumption taxes are paid as retail sales tax, excise tax, use tax and import duties.   It isn’t regressive and has few ‘loopholes’ or codes.  Consumption taxes encourage saving and not spending.  

     Oklahoma government will still get a large percentage of revenue from sales tax.  The state gets a large amount of funding by taxing the oil industry (gross production tax).  Governor Stitt wants to eliminate the state’s 4.25% state income tax.  If that is done, how will Oklahomans fund state government?  Where would state government get money?  Will Oklahomans give up basic services to pay less taxes?  Is Oklahoma state government so bloated that state employees and services can be eliminated and no one notice?  Probably not. 

     No one likes taxes, but they are a necessary evil.  Knowing when you are paying tax is crucial and Oklahoma just eliminated a transparent one.  The grocery tax was the devil you knew. No one liked paying grocery tax, but they understood it- it wasn’t hidden.  Will state government have to make up the loss of $418 million each year, and if so how?  Taxpayers beware! Let the hide the pea game begin!    

 

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Exploiting people of faith is nothing new!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


MISBRANDED!

by Steve Fair

 

     Is America a Christian nation?  According to a Pew Research poll October 2022, 60% of U.S. adults believe that was the founder’s intent.  76% of Republicans and 47% of Democrats hold that view, but the poll found only 34% of Americans believe the United States is actually guided by Christian principles.  A February 2023 NPR poll found 50% of Republicans believe the country should be governed by Christian principles.  Only 23% of Democrats wanted the country governed by biblical principles.

      Christian nationalism is defined as a society or government that legislates civil and criminal laws reflecting views of Christianity.  Christian nationalism is under attack by liberal critics- and some conservatives- who declare it a threat to democracy.  Are Christian political activists a threat to America?  Three observations:

     First, faith not practiced isn’t faith at all. Many branded ‘Christian nationalists’ are believers who got fed up with getting the same old thing (lies/unfulfilled promises) from their government and decided to engage in the political process.  The vast majority of these recent activists hold to a pluralistic worldview and believe their fellow Americans have a right to worship as they please- or not at all.  They aren’t trying to establish a state church or a theocracy.  These patriots just want a government that reflects their values and not the convictions of faithless, agnostic, godless secularists.  Liberals have no issue with Christians, so long as they don’t practice their faith.  It’s when believers start to apply biblical principles in their life and live out their faith that liberals feel threatened and cry foul.  Liberals preach tolerance, but rarely practice it. 

     Second, the walk must match the talk.  A person’s walk talks and their talk talks, but their walk talks more than their talk talks.  When a believer’s actions don’t square with the commands of Christ, their motivation should be questioned.  The two great commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor.  When so-called conservative Christians use liberal tactics to further a political agenda, they fail to manifest the fruit of the spirit.   The Creator will fight battles more effectively and timely than His creatures.  Violating Christian principles and practicing situational ethics to win a temporal political victory is short-term thinking.  Those misguided people hurt the cause more than help. 

     Third, exploiting faith is nothing new.  In the last 50 years in the United States, faith-based voters have been collocated, organized, and immobilized to vote as a bloc.  Candidates pander to the bloc by telling voters what they want to hear.  After getting elected, the charlatan’s actions don’t match their words.  The over-trustful don’t follow-up and the cycle continues.  Because many churches have abandoned the message of the true Gospel and preach political relevance, they are looked at as political depots and not centers of worship.

     America was founded on Christian principles.  The founders were predominately Christians and they were not afraid to admit it.  The countries’ two founding documents (Declaration of Independence/Constitution) contain multiple references to the Creator and explicitly declare all freedom, liberty and rights come from God, not from government.  What liberals truly fear is America returning to governing as the founders intended. They misbrand that ‘Christian nationalism.’ 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Recognizing risks of an Article 5 is not trepidation or fear!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


ARTICLE 5 STILL BAD IDEA!

by Steve Fair

     The U.S. Constitution allows for amendments in two ways: (1) a 2/3 approval by both Houses of Congress and ratification by ¾ of the states or (2) a convention called by 2/3 of states (34 of the 50) and amendments then ratified by ¾ of the states (38 of the 50).  An Article 5 convention has never been used to amend the founding document.  All twenty-seven (27) amendments to the Constitution have been proposed by Congress and ratified by the states.

     In 2015, Citizens for Self-Governance launched a nationwide effort to call for an Article 5 convention.  As of 2024, 19 states, including Oklahoma, have agreed to participate in a Convention of States.  Fifteen more states need to agree to participate before the Article 5 convention is a reality.  The Article 5 is currently being debated and considered in Idaho and Ohio’s legislatures. 

     The Convention of States has proponents and opponents on both ends of the political spectrum.  Liberals and conservatives fear the possibility of a ‘runaway’ convention and the current document being scraped and a runaway convention resulting.

     The late U.S. Senator Dr. Tom Coburn, (R-OK) supported an Article 5.  He said, “I think George Mason was prophetic that we would devolve to where the federal government became too powerful, too big and too unwieldy.  That[S1]  is why he put Article V in the Constitution.  I think we ought to have a balanced budget amendment.  I think we ought to have term limits.  I think we ought to put a chokehold on regulation and re-establish the powers of the Congress.”  Coburn’s lobbying of the Oklahoma state legislature in 2017 resulted in passage of SJR3 and the Sooner state became the 7th state in the country to call for an Article 5.  Three observations:

     First, Coburn’s observations about government were/are correct.  The government is too big and unwieldy.  The government spends too much money and career elected officials often spend decades in politics.  Term limits and a balanced budget amendment would fundamentally change America.  Even when Republicans control government, the national debt continues to climb and term limit legislation is ignored.  Those two issues are addressed only when it’s primary campaign season. 

     Second, there is no way to know what would happen at a Convention of the States.  No radio host, former elected official, Constitutional lawyer, oracle or soothsayer can definitively know what would happen at an Article 5 convention.  There are differing opinions and educated guesses, but since it has never been used to amend, it remains a mystery what might happen.  If an Article 5 did spiral out of control, it could destroy America.  If it worked, it could save America.  The issue is there is no guarantee only term limits and a balanced budget amendment would be the only issues considered.  The convention itself would control the agenda, not Congress or the states.  A runaway convention is a risk America should not be willing to take. 

     Third, desperate times require rational action.  Desperate times don’t require desperate measures.  That is irrational.  Level headed thinking is critical in times of chaos.  Throwing the baby out with the bath water is not wise.  Recognizing the risks of a Convention of States is not trepidation or fear- it’s reasonable and sensible.     

      Nine years ago, I wrote an op/ed titled, “Article 5 Convention is a Bad Idea.”  You can read it here: https://stevefair.blogspot.com/2015/02/article-five-convention-is-bad-idea.html The column triggered a series of opposing editorials written by then Senator Coburn.  We engaged in a months’ long back and forth op/ed battle supporting our opposing positions on an Article 5.  Dr. Coburn told me I would eventually come to support the idea of an Article 5.  Perhaps he was right, but not yet.  Nine years later, an Article 5 convention remains a bad idea.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Selective enforcement of the law is a breeding ground for corruption!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

CONTRADICTORY  STANDARD?

by Steve Fair

         On Thursday, Special Counsel Robert Hur released his report on President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents.  After a yearlong investigation, Hur said there was evidence Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials when he was a private citizen.  The report took aim at President Biden’s memory and mental capability, saying: “We have also considered that, at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”  Apparently, Biden couldn’t remember dates and major events in his life during the interview process.  This should not come as a surprise to Americans who have been paying attention.   

     Biden held a news conference attacking Hur’s statement on his mental health, but during the presser appeared confused and befuddled, doing little to contradict the special counsel’s report.  Hur, a Republican former U.S. attorney appointed by President Trump, did not charge Biden in the mishandling of documents. 

      President Trump has been charged by Special Counsel Jack Smith for his handling of classified documents.  Hur’s reluctance to charge Biden invoked comparisons in the two cases.  Hur attempted to preempt comparisons to the Trump case from the Biden case by stating, “Unlike the evidence involving Mr. Biden, the allegations set forth in the indictment of Mr. Trump, if proven, would present serious aggravating facts.”  Three observations:

     First, Hur’s comparison between the two cases proves the political nature of the charges.   It was highly inappropriate for Hur to mention the Trump case in his report.  Hur was not charged with investigating Trump and his commentary was political, not legal.  Which raises the question: if Biden’s actions didn’t warrant charges, what did Trump do to justify his?  Some claim the difference is Biden cooperated with Hur and Trump didn’t gee haw with Smith.  But Americans are guaranteed equal protection under the law.  In the United States, there is a rule of law and due process and a citizen’s constitutional rights are not based on their willingness to cooperate with authorities investigating them.   

     Second, liberals seem to avoid charges more than conservatives.  Biden wasn’t charged by Hur.  Back in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wasn’t charged by James Comey in her mishandling of classified documents, even though Comey criticized her actions.  Enforcing the handling of classified documents laws equally doesn’t seem to be case in the U.S. 

     Third, Hur’s comments on Biden’s mental health hurt his reelection chances.  “Well meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,’ doesn’t inspire confidence and will raise a red flag to voters this year.  Paul Begala, a Democrat political strategist who ran Bill Clinton’s campaigns, called Biden’s Thursday press conference attempt to discredit Hur’s observation, ‘terrible for Democrats.”  The president’s age has been cited as an issue by over 60% of voters and Hur’s report does little to help.

     Selective enforcement of the law is a breeding ground for corruption.  The law in America is not to be administered at the discretion of the enforcer.  Enforcement should be absolute, rigid, and inelastic.  Applying contradictory standards to the law undermines America’s system of government and way of life.  If evidence shows Trump violated the law, then the same law should apply to Biden’s case, no matter how muddled his mental state.   

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Oklahomans want their change back!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


LIGHTNING COULD STRIKE TWICE!

by Steve Fair

     The special legislative session called by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt began on Monday.  Stitt wanted the legislature to pass a ¼ percent income tax cut.  The state House convened and passed HB#1002 71 to 20, along Party lines on Wednesday.  The state Senate convened on Monday and then adjourned after just fifteen minutes.  The vote to adjourn was 30-13 with 5 not voting.  All 13 nays were Republicans.  Go to https://oksenate.gov/sites/default/files/2024-01/Adjourn.pdf to see how your lawmaker voted on the adjournment motion. 

     Calling a special session immediately before a regular legislature session hasn’t been done before.  The state Constitution mandates the Oklahoma legislature is in regular session from the first Monday in February until the last Friday in May each year.  Special sessions are called by the governor to deal with a specific issue.  Stitt called this session because he, Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, (R-Edmond), and Speaker of the House Charles McCall, (R-Atoka) have been bickering and squabbling over giving taxpayers a tax cut for two years.   Three observations: 

     First, calling a special session was a waste of taxpayer dollars.  Stitt knew Treat and the majority of the Republicans in the Senate were lukewarm to his tax cut proposal.  In a press release last week, the [S1] governor lauded McCall and criticized Treat because he said he wouldn’t take up tax cuts in a special session.  The Senate’s action wasn’t a surprise.  Until a collaboration or compromise had been agreed to by all parties, a special session should not have been called.  Using Oklahoma taxpayer’s dollars to make another politico look bad is foolhardy.   

     Treat has said the Senate will entertain tax policy in the regular session, after the State Board of Equalization approves the amount of money the legislature has to spend this fiscal year. 

     Second, taxpayers are due a tax break.  Oklahoma government is flush with money and has been for the past three years.  When you send your kid to the store with $5 to get something and it costs $3.50, you expect change back.  You wouldn’t be very happy if they refused to give you back your change.  Stitt wants to eliminate tax on groceries and reduce the income tax rate to a maximum of 3.99% (it’s currently 4.75%).    Treat says he doesn’t oppose a tax cut, but it is premature to do it before fiscal information is known.   It makes no sense to give a tax cut and then have a budget shortfall the next fiscal year, but why can’t state government ‘reduce’ spending according to income?  Republicans campaign on that principle, but never practice it.       

     Third, term limits, by necessity, should be linked with recall.  Oklahoma passed term limits to keep elected officials from making politics a career.  But those who pushed for term limits failed to foresee a need for recall.  Oklahoma state wide elected officials (Governor and 8 others) serve eight-year terms.  Legislators serve twelve-year terms.  Stitt, McCall and Treat are all termed out of their respective offices.  They will not be on the ballot again for the office they hold. That’s not to say, they will not seek another office (most likely all three will and that is what a lot of this political positioning is about). The constituents that put all three in office-those who hold them accountable- have no real recourse if they disagree with their actions.  They have to wait it out until they ‘term out.’  Recall would give voters the ability to hold their elected officials accountable. 

     There are two ways for recall to happen in Oklahoma; the easiest way would be for a courageous legislature to pass a Joint Resolution (JR) putting it on the ballot.  Not likely!  The second way is the Initiative Petition process.  172,000 Oklahoma voters would need to sign a petition to get recall on the ballot.  Clearly, voters are fed up with being burned by arrogant, term-limited politicos who thumb their nose at their constituents in their last term.  Recall might just happen this year.

     In 2018, the Republican-controlled Oklahoma state legislature passed the largest tax increase in Oklahoma history.  The next couple of election cycles had many of those legislators paying the price at the ballot box and were defeated.  If 2024’s legislature session results in no tax cuts for hard working Oklahomans after record income, lightning will strike twice and the kids who wouldn’t give back the change will pay the price.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

AMERICA UNDER INVASION! TEXAS DEFIES SCOTUS RULING!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

SOUTHERN INVASION

by Steve Fair

 

     Up until the early 20th century, the United States had nearly open borders.  Between 1890 and 1924, only about 1% of those trying to immigrate to America were rejected, usually because they failed a mental or health test.  Until The Naturalization Act of 1906 was passed, individual states determined what constituted American citizenship with standards varied state by state.  The federal bill standardized requirements to be a citizen and established the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to manage immigration. 

     Illegal immigration started to became an issue in the 1950s when the U.S. economy was booming and immigrates were drawn to America for a better life.  Quotas (visas and citizenship) established by Congress and enforced by the INS created bottlenecks for immigrants trying to achieve legal status.  Because the legal process was long and cumbersome, many abandoned trying to achieve citizenship, but stayed in the U.S. anyway.   

     In 1986, President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act which allowed illegal immigrants to apply for legal status, provided they paid fines and back taxes.  Three million illegals paid $185, vowed to learn to speak English and demonstrate good moral character.  In exchange, they were given a path to citizenship.  The unintended consequence of Reagan’s action was it encouraged more illegals to come to America.  The population of illegals has risen from 5 million in 1986 to an estimated 11.1 million today.  Three observations:

     First, America is under invasion.  What is happening at the southern border is not immigration, it’s invasion.  At least two million people are illegally entering the United States annually at the southern border.  The storming was triggered by President Biden.  In his first 100 days in office, Biden stopped the construction of the border wall, halted deportations, and cut border security funding.  The action resulted in a marked increase in illegal border crossings, creating not only a security crisis, but a health one as well. 

     Fentanyl is coming into the U.S. in record amounts.  According to the DEA, fentanyl is made by cartels in Mexico with chemicals from China.  Last year, the Border Patrol seized over 11,000 lbs of fentanyl at the border, which is equivalent to ½ million lethal doses.  Overdoses of fentanyl are now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18-45. 

     Second, President Biden should immediately secure the border.  He opened it with an Executive Order(EO) and it can be closed with an EO.  On Friday, Biden promoted a bipartisan Senate bill, authored by U.S. Senator James Lankford, (R-OK), that pairs southern border enforcement with Ukraine aid.  If the bill makes it through the Senate, it is not likely to go anywhere in the House.  Lankford has taken a lot of heat from Republicans for championing the bill.  He has urged lawmakers to refrain from passing final judgment on the bill until they see the actual text of the bill.  Lankford claims some conservative media are ‘spinning’ what is in the bill.  Former President Trump has attacked the bill and claims it is a gift to the Democrats.  Biden’s support of the Senate bill does raise a red flag since he ignored Congress back in 2021 when he created the current chaos by signing the EO. 

     Third, Texas isn’t waiting on the feds.  The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled 5-4 last week Texas had to remove razor wire from Shelby Park in Eagle Pass.  The park is a popular crossing spot for illegals from Mexico.   Governor Greg Abbott says Texas has a right to defend itself from invasion and defied the ruling.  Texas National Guard and state troopers continue to roll out wire and prevent federal agents from accessing the park.  Abbott has vowed to ‘hold the line.’  He has been applauded by every Republican governor in the country, including Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt. 

     Kicking the illegal immigration issue down the road has been a bi-partisan practice.  Congress has been relucent to take on the hot button issue, so each president, from both Parties- via Executive Orders- has dictated America’s immigration policy.  It is past time for Congress to address immigration.  It’s a matter of national security.       

Sunday, January 21, 2024

AMERICAN POLITICS HAS BECOME AN ECCCHHHOOO CHAMBER!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial 


WHO DEFINES EXTREMISM?

by Steve Fair

 

     Wasteful government spending is not new or a surprise.  The Heritage Foundation says the federal government has lost almost $2.4 trillion in simple payment errors over the last twenty years.  Improper/incorrect payments cost taxpayers $247 billion each year.  From 2011-2014, the late Senator Tom Coburn, (R-OK) published “The Wastebook.”  Coburn found taxpayers funded an $856,000 federal grant to train mountain lions to walk on treadmills.  During the war in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense erroneously bought $28 million dollars of forest camouflage uniforms to be used in the deserts of Afghanistan.  Opps! Squandering taxpayer money by not being a good steward is one thing, but when the government uses taxpayer money to attack political ideology and free speech, that’s something else.

     In February of 2023, the University of Rhode Island’s Media Education Lab (URIMEL) was awarded a $700,000 federal grant by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) counterterrorism program to use propaganda to attack conservatives.    “Propaganda can also be used for socially beneficial purposes,”  URIMEL’s grant application read.  “The U.S. has long made use of beneficial propaganda during WWI, WWII, and the Cold War.” 

     URIMEL has used the grant money to write blog posts attacking former President Donald Trump and his supporters.  They conduct seminars (Courageous RI) for the stated purpose of countering disinformation, enhancing civic participation and improving media literacy.  They used tax dollars to pay young people to post on social media attacking conservative policies.  Three observations:

     First, tax dollars used to attack free speech should be a non-partisan issue.  No matter what political ideology, all Americans should be outraged their government is using tax dollars to attack free speech.  In America, a fundamental basic right is for each citizen to have a right to their opinion/values/convictions.  Their view may be wrong in other’s eyes, but the right to be wrong should be respected.  URIMEL’s stated mission is to prevent rising violence and extremism in Rhode Island with authentic and respectful conversation.  But who determines what is extreme?  What is considered authentic, respectful conversation and who makes that judgment?  If it is the Party in power, then extremism changes with who is in charge. 

      Second, it is not government’s function to dispense propaganda.  In America, government’s job is to make laws, implement and execute those laws and adjudicate them as necessary.  Government’s purpose doesn’t include publicizing a particular political point of view, promoting a political cause, or attacking fellow American’s perspective.  Governing policies may contradict one another from administration to administration, but using taxpayer dollars to brainwash fellow citizens is improper. 

     Third, politics has become an echo chamber.  Americans live in an environment where they encounter only beliefs and opinions that coincide with their own.  Alternative views are never considered.  Graciously allowing someone to disagree with a viewpoint is considered weak and lacking in character.   People are placated and told what they want to hear by media and politicos.  Considering a differing view could be right is considered sacrilegious and inexcusable.  People who agree 80% of the time are political enemies because they focus on the 20%.  Nothing gets done because no one will concede any ground or barter. 

     Edmund Burke said, “All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.”  Compromise and barter are dirty words in modern American politics.

      Taxpayers should be up in arms tax dollars are being used to attack conservatives.  The URIMEL grant should be revoked/repealed/canceled and the DHS officials who approved it should be held accountable.  Those bureacrats are the extremists.