Sunday, June 30, 2024

Caricatures, distortions, and exaggerations are now the norm in politics!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     Mumbles was one of the featured villains in the Dick Tracy comic strip.  He was a con artist and had a voice that was completely incomprehensible.  Mumbles made an appearance on Thursday evening at the presidential debate and it wasn’t pretty.  

      President Joe Biden and former President Donald took the stage for the first debate of 2024.  It was the earliest general election debate ever.  Most election cycles the debates are in the Fall and much closer to the election.   Thursday’s event was held in Atlanta, moderated by CNN, and had no studio audience.  President Trump spoke 40 minutes, Biden 35 minutes.  Even though both had the same amount of time to respond to questions, they did not have to take all their allocated time.  The rules for the debate required their respective microphones were muted when the other was speaking, preventing their ‘talking over one another.’  Three observations:   

     First, Biden’s performance was dismal.  That critique is universal and bi-partisan.  From the beginning of the debate, Biden delivered hoarse, mumbled, incomplete responses.  A CBS News poll released Sunday found 72% of Americans believe Biden does not have the ‘mental and cognitive health to serve as president.’   Since the debate, Democrat Party leaders have openly urged Biden to withdraw from the race and let the Party convention delegates choose another nominee.  The New York Times editorial board has urged Biden to withdraw from the race.  The problem is Biden is the presumptive nominee with 3,894 pledged delegates.  Until Biden releases those delegates, they are bound to support him for the nomination.  At a campaign rally in North Carolina on Friday, Biden pledged to stay in the race. 

     On Sunday, Sen. Raphael Warnock, (D-GA), and a possible replacement for Biden said bad debates happen and Biden should not step aside.  Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, (D-NY) said Biden will make a comeback at the next debate and that he has his full support.  The second debate is scheduled for Tuesday September 10th.  Time will tell if Biden stays in the race or quits.    

    Second, Trump’s performance was uninspired.  Short on policy specifics and long on generalities, the former president missed a great opportunity to outline what his economic and foreign policy would be if granted a second term.  Ambiguous, inexact answers insult citizens seeking to know what a candidate plans to do if elected.  Until the American public demand to know what a candidate stands for, presidential debates will be nothing short of a reality show: personality and sensationalism will be the order of the day.  Golf handicaps and driving prowess shouldn’t be determining factors in whom one will vote for. 

     Third, the debate format worked.  While both candidates largely ignored the questions posed to them by the moderators, muting the mics was a good idea.  Enforcing allocated time is a good idea.  In 2020, Trump talked over Biden during debates, and Americans were not afforded the opportunity to see Biden’s inability to think on his feet.  That probably cost Trump the 2020 election.

          Much of Thursday’s debate was two candidates accusing each other of being the worst president in American history.  Neither need worry- Jimmy Carter is the undisputed worst.  Caricatures, distortions, and exaggerations (positive and negative) are now the norm in politics.  Policy has taken a backseat to entertainment.  If golf handicaps and driving distance are part of the decision tree for voters, it’s time to yell FORE!

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Liberty is in jeopardy because dodging and sidestepping rules is an artform!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     Parliamentary procedures are the rules, ethics and customs governing the meetings of an assembly or organization.  Parliamentary procedure has been around since the 16th century and is used to bring order to meetings and allow for civil debate. 

     In 1876, Henry Robert wrote Robert’s Rules of Order, the most widely used book on parliamentary authority.  Robert wrote it to address chaotic, tumultuous meetings where no order was apparent.  Parliamentary procedure is supposed to protect the rights of the minority, maintain the rule of the majority, and promote efficient proceedings. 

     Often parliamentary procedure is used by a vocal minority to delay meetings, circumvent the will of the majority, and promote disorder.  Rumor is that could be happening at the upcoming Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

     News sources claim the 43 GOP national delegates from Arizona have hatched a plan to attempt to ‘release’ all 2,429 delegates from their commitment to vote for Donald Trump as the Republican nominee, aka ‘suspend the rules.’  In parliamentary procedure, a suspension of the rules allows an assembly to set aside its normal rules to do something that could not be done otherwise.

     While the Grand Canyon state delegation’s objective hasn’t been publicly revealed, some believe their end game is to have a continency plan should Trump be sentenced to prison.    Reportedly, they want to have retired General Michael Flynn in the queue for nominee should that happen.  They plan to ID each other by wearing black jackets. 

     Under RNC rules, a motion to ‘suspend the rules’ requires the majority of delegates from three (3) state delegations to get a motion and second to move it for a vote on the floor.  Currently, it does not appear other state delegations are signing on to the scheme.   Three observations:

     First, most delegates are bound.  Oklahoma GOP delegates are bound by Party rules and State law to vote for whom they are bound.  Oklahoma held a presidential preference primary on March 5th.  The result of the election binds delegates to a candidate.  40 of Oklahoma’s 43 national delegates must vote for Donald J. Trump at the convention so long as he remains in the race.  They must sign an affidavit affirming that fact.  The three RNC members from Oklahoma are not bound and can vote for whomever they wish.  If the bound delegates refuse to fulfill their duty, they are removed and an alternate then fulfills the will of the primary voters.  Even if the RNC voted to suspend the rules, the Sooner delegates would still be bound until Trump exits the race. 

     Second, the national GOP convention should be about trying to unite, not divide.  Due to the binding of delegates, the modern political Party nominating convention has become a coronation.   But it is an excellent chance for Republicans to point out President Biden’s failed economic policies, which have resulted in record inflation.  Instead of grandstanding and showboating, highlighting Biden’s immigration and foreign policy failures should be at the forefront.  Americans want substance, not sensationalism, tangibility not theatrics. 

     Third, Donald Trump is the 2024 GOP nominee.  He has 2,260 delegates to Nikki Haley’s 97 and Ron DeSantis 9.  Wasting time and energy on a foolhardy plan hurts the cause.  The focus should on winning in November and not aliening like-minded voters in a close election.  But stunts and antics are the order of the day, so watch for the black jackets July 15-18 in Wisconsin to frustrate the process. 

     Henry Robert paraphrased Proverbs 21:12 in the preface of Robert’s Rules: “Where there is no law(rules), but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty.”  Liberty in America is under attack because rules and laws are not considered absolute.  Liberty is in jeopardy because dodging and sidestepping rules has become an artform.  All you need is a black coat.

Sunday, June 16, 2024


 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     How did America get in the shape it is in? $34 trillion in debt ($103,065 per person), government interference and regulations that intrude on citizen’s lives.  Elected leaders who regularly violate the founding document they are sworn to uphold.  

     Americans are increasingly disgusted with their elected officials.  Over 25% of voters polled in May by Pew Research had a negative view of both political Parties.   The source of these problems has to be the work of the establishment, but just who is ‘the establishment?’

     In 1841, Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a speech to the Masonic Temple in Boston entitled, ‘The Conservative.’  Emerson described those in control of government, ‘the establishment,’ and concluded the speech with; ”amidst a planet peopled with conservatives, one Reformer may yet to be born.”  We need a true reformer!      

       In the 1960-70s, the establishment was ‘the man.’  Vietnam draft dodgers and anti-war activists used ‘sticking it to the man’ as their battle cry.

     Fighting for Barry Goldwater in 1964, Phyllis Schlafly wrote, A Choice, not an Echo,” a series of anecdotes illustrating how the GOP had a group of kingmakers who had chosen moderate presidential candidates for seven election cycles and state primaries, while held, were largely ignored.  It was the beginning of the end for the Eastern elite who controlled the Republican Party.  Schlafly called the elitist ‘the establishment.’  Goldwater won the nomination and broke the establishment’s hold over the Party.  The GOP has never been the same.

     Many of those involved in politics have been sticking it to the man for years.   They were toiling in the trenches alone while their fellow citizens were paying no attention.  They were talking about out-of-control spending, an expanding government footprint, and too much money in elective politics.  They kept on keeping on, even when they lost most elections.  They celebrated small incremental gains.  They unselfishly invested their time, talent and treasure for a cause.  But now those grey hairs are branded political establishment and their ineffectiveness is the reason America is in the shape it is in.   What a crock!  America is in the shape it is in because of three things:

     First, Americans are apathetic and indifferent.  The number of candidates for elective office who don’t vote is staggering.  President Trump had not voted in a primary election for 21 years before he ran for president.  Governor Stitt had never voted in a primary before he ran.  People roll out of bed and decide they want to ‘get involved’ in politics, but shouldn’t involvement start by showing up at the ballot box before your name is on the ballot?  Not voting used to be a kiss of death to a candidate, but Americans don’t care anymore, because they vote with less frequency.  Reliable, faithful voters are ignored by candidates, because those voters pay attention and they vet the candidates themselves.  In today’s America, apathy is justified and celebrated and dedication and commitment is for fools.

     Second, Americans major on the minors.  When citizens do politically ‘wake up,’ they are often monolithic.  They tend to focus on one issue that is important to them.  Few are concerned about major issues like the national debt and the size of government.  Republicans campaign as fiscal conservatives and after getting elected spend more money than Democrats and no one blinks an eye. 

     Third, Americans are polarized.  There is no unity.   Devil Anse Hatfield and Ole Ran’l McCoy agreed more than Republicans and Democrats.  Within the Parties themselves, ideology purity is required.  Tolerance for a differing view is considered weakness.  Voting records and policy positions are distorted and caricatured.  Faith and religion are exploited for political gain.  Secret handshakes and code words help identity the like-minded in order to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Respect for the independent thinker is non-existent.  It is unsustainable-a house divided against itself cannot stand.

     The problem in America is not the establishment.  In a self-governing system of government, Americans get the government they deserve.  They stuck it to the man, but unfortunately the man is us!

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Oklahoma legislature fails to pass state income tax cut!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     The Oklahoma legislature adjourned sine die the Thursday before Memorial Day.  The state legislature is required to complete their business by the last Friday in May and the lawmakers just made it.  After a very public budget process instigated by Governor Kevin Stitt, the budget was finally agreed upon at the last minute.  Stitt attempted to get public sentiment stirred up for a cut to the state income tax by holding public negotiating sessions.  Senate President Pro Tempe Greg Treat, (R-Edmond) opposed the cuts and ultimately Stitt agreed to back off for the cut and sign the budget.  Treat termed out of the Senate.  Speaker of the House Charles McCall, (R-Atoka) is also term limited, so the legislature will have new leadership next year.  Here are three pieces of legislation they passed this session.

     First, impermissible occupation is now a crime in Oklahoma.  HB 4156, authored by Treat and McCall passed the House 77-20 and the Senate 39-8.  It is similar to Texas Senate Bill #4 which permits local police to arrest people they suspect may not have legal immigration status.  Treat and McCall say Attorney General Gentner Drummond wanted the legislation to help crack down on illegal marijuana grows and human trafficking.  Many of the state’s law enforcement community oppose HB#4156 because revenue to add manpower to enforce the law wasn’t included.  It is an unfunded mandate.  It is set to become effective July 1st.  The federal government has threatened to sue the state if they don’t agree to not enforce the law.  AG Drummond says he welcomes the lawsuits. 

     Second, Stitt did get concessions from Treat.  To get the governor to sign the budget, the legislature agreed to (1) give District court judges a +7% salary increase- from $145,567 to $155,756 annually, (2) appropriate $20 million to the Quick Action Closing Fund, a slush fund used by the governor to convince companies to move to Oklahoma, (3) keep funding the State-Tribal Litigation Fund, (4) Implement a task force to potentially a business court system in Oklahoma. 

     What are business courts?  Good question.  Senate Bill #473, authored by Sen. Lonnie Paxton, (R-Tuttle) creates an 11-member task force to study implementing business courts in OKC and Tulsa.  Over half the states have business courts that specialize in resolving business disputes.  Stitt contends corporations tend to not locate to states without business courts and they are needed to compete for new businesses. 

     Third, Oklahoma will not be using ranked voting.  HB 3156, authored by Sen. Brent Howard, (R-Altus) prohibits the use of ranked choice voting in elections at any level in Oklahoma.   Nine other states have similar laws.  Ranked choice voting is a system in which voters rank candidates in preference from their first choice to last.  Advocates say it eliminates runoffs and saves money.  Critics point out the person who gets the most votes could actually lose and the process itself is too complicated.

     Oklahoma taxpayers received tax relief when the legislature and Stitt agreed to eliminate the sales tax on groceries (HB#1955).  The cut only applies to the state’s 4.5% state sales tax, so consumers will still pay the local sales tax, which is as high as 7% in some municipalities.  The cut goes into effect in November. 

     The 2024 legislature failed to (1) identify government waste, (2) implement zero based budgeting, and (3) return the excess revenue collected to taxpayers.    

     All in all, the legislature earned a B.  Until they get serious about rightsizing government and remembering the taxpayer, that is a generous grade. 

     Will Rogers once said about the Oklahoma legislature: “When those boys are in session, neither man, beast or property is safe.”  Okies are safe until February 2025.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

When the rule of law is ignored courts become marsupial!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     For the first time in American history, a former president is a convicted felon.  A Manhattan jury found President Donald J. Trump guilty on 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up an affair with Stormy Daniels.  Judge Juan Merchan set sentencing for July 11th, just days before the GOP nominating convention in Milwaukee.  Trump faces the possibility of prison time, but more likely will get probation. 

     “This is long from over,” the former president said moments after the jury’s decision was announced.  In a YouGov survey 50% of Americans agreed with the jury’s decision, 30% didn’t agree and 19% had no opinion.  YouGov is a UK based polling group that has faced allegations of poll manipulation in the past, so their work should be taken with a grain of salt.

     Trump’s conviction does not prevent him from running for president.  The only U.S. Constitutional requirements are the candidate (1) be over 35 years old, (2) a natural born citizen, and (3) been a resident of the U.S. for 14 years.  It would not be the first time a felon has run for president.  Eugene Debs, the Socialist Party candidate in 1920, was in prison on sedition charges when he won 3.4% of the popular vote.  Like Debs, Trump could be running the White House from the Big House.  Three observations:

     First, it’s not certain Trump received a fair trial.  That doesn’t mean he didn’t, but the criminal justice system in America is not flawless.  Innocent people are convicted and guilty ones walk every day in the courts of the United States.  Trump claims the trial was rigged, but he claims every battle he loses is rigged.  He also claims President Biden has weaponized the justice department and he is being unfairly targeted. 

     Most legal experts believe the prosecution’s theory Cohen’s payment to Daniels was a de facto donation to the Trump campaign is a stretch.  They contend Trump was targeted for political reasons and the reason was to prevent him from winning the election.  Expect the appellate courts to determine if the trial was a fair one.    

     Second, the influence of the conviction on the 2024 election is yet to be seen.  It could help Trump, or it could hurt his candidacy.  In a Reuters/Ipsos poll, 10% of Republicans claimed they are less likely to vote for him after the conviction.  56% of GOP voters said it had no effect on how they would vote and 35% said they were more likely to support him.  The 2024 race is expected to be very close and a few thousand votes in five states could determine who wins.  Trump has used the convictions to raise a ton of money, so it could also get him votes.  

     Third, no one is above the law.  If Trump broke the law, he should be held accountable.  It is unfair and ironic the Clintons, Bidens, and others have skirted the law for years.  Prosecutors have turned a blind eye to their shenanigans for years, but that is no excuse to break the law.  If Trump broke the law, he should pay the price. 

     Written above the main entrance of the U.S. Supreme Court Building are the words: “The republican endures and this is the symbol of its faith.  EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW.” 

     Americans should expect all citizens, regardless of their Party affiliation or political views, will be treated equally in the judicial system.  When misbehavior is excused, and the rule of law ignored, there are no rules and the courts become marsupial and the republic succumbs.