Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Hern vs. Harris: Observations

The 1st Congressional District debate Friday night, August 17th between Kevin Hern and Tim Harris highlighted the similarities as well as the differences between the two runoff candidates. Here goes:

Reason for Running

Harris feels a calling for public service. He served 16 years as Tulsa County District Attorney, winning four terms. He wants to be the people's congressman, answerable and accountable to
his constituents. He has, as he stated "the heart of a servant."

Hern's motivations are more issue oriented. He wants to help put people back to work. Liberty is best experienced, he says, if someone is working. Then will they respect one another and the property of one another. He hopes to see more people put back to work in the next four years than any time in recorded history.

Support for Trump

Both support Trump, although Harris is a more recent convert. Hern says he has supported him since March, 2017. Harris has become more enthusiastic in the last 90 to 120 days. On tariffs, for instance, he was skeptical they'd work, calling them a form of socialism. Long term, he agrees that they might work, as our economic adversaries give in to Trump's demands for fairer trade deals.

Term Limits

Both want them. Hern is agreeable to six years, which means three terms. Harris has recently  endorsed a twelve year or six term limit. Former Congressman and now NASA Director Jim Bridenstine served (almost) three terms, keeping his original promise.

The Bridenstine Factor

Harris has been endorsed by Jim's dad. He also repeated the criticism Bridenstine leveled at Hern, where he accused Hern of used his name inappropriately to imply an endorsement and that he plotted a campaign against him. Hern replied that he was the only one of the five original Republican candidates who openly supported Bridenstine in each of his campaigns, donating $15,400 and hosting several fundraisers which increased his support in the business community.

The Race for Speaker of the House

A key difference here. Hern supports Cong. Jim Jordan, who co-founded the Freedom Caucus, has a perfect (American Conservative Union) rating, has been a huge supporter of the Trump agenda and an upfront critic of the Mueller "investigation". 
Harris is undecided between Jordan and House Majority Whip, Kevin McCarthy, who is the favorite and has current Speaker Paul Ryan's unqualified support. Harris adds that he wants to be able to work with everyone, and must maintain a more independent mind before casting his lot behind either contender.

If (heaven help us) the Democrats win the majority of seats in the House of Representatives this November, Republicans will vote for Minority Leader, a position Nancy Pelosi currently holds.


Hern has been an extremely successful businessman. He has owned 16 McDonald's stores and once held a prominent national position with the company, where he counseled  franchisees nationwide.
He has also achieved success in real estate development, finance, and is a private pilot. He says there's a surge in entrepreneurs running for public office and that Trump has shown how successful they can make that transition.
Harris has been a private practice attorney, has taught constitutional law, but achieved his greatest success as district attorney, where he served four terms free of scandal.

House Committee Assignments

Both would seek membership on committees that play to their strengths. Harris mentions the Judiciary Committee, where his background would help ensure that federal dollars are spent properly.
Hern prefers either the Finance, Transportation and Infrastructure or the Space Sciences Committee.
Each expressed a desire to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee, a near impossible goal for a freshman congressman.


Hern said he would not take a congressional pension, which any representative is eligible for after serving five years and one month. He said it wrongly incentivizes politicians to continue
running for office, instead of returning to the private sector.
Harris did not take a position on the matter.

Domestic Policy

Both want to repeal Obamacare, erase continuing resolutions and omnibus bills, cut the federal role in education and reduce our debt and deficit. Hern went further than Harris on some of these matters. He wants to audit the Pentagon, which he says should face the same scrutiny as other programs. He's also against earmarks, which former Senator Tom Coburn (Hern's original political inspiration), called "the gateway drug to excessive spending."

Foreign Policy

Both say we can't be the policeman of the world and that we should stand strong with Israel, our greatest Middle East ally. Harris said we should stand strong with all allies and against Russia. Hern didn't mention Russia but did support Trump's policy of putting financial pressure on our adversaries (such as Iran and Turkey) to make them leave areas where they cause havoc.


Both are conservative, and would have similar voting records on most issues. However, Hern may be slightly more so, taking stronger positions on spending, Obamacare, Trump, immigration and the tax code. His unique combination of private sector success, leadership qualities and detailed knowledge of  domestic policies since the Reagan era could qualify him to have a greater, more positive influence than most first term congressmen.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Murphy Makes Her Move for State Superintendent

Linda Murphy threw her hat into the education ring last week when she announced her candidacy for  State Superintendent. She'll face incumbent Joy Hofmeister and Tulsan Will Farrell in the June 26th Republican primary, with the winner opposing Democrat John Cox and independent Larry Huff in the November general election. Hofmeister defeated former state superintendent Janet Barresi in the 2014 Republican primary and Cox in the general election that year.

Unlike Barresi, Murphy enters the race with a long list of education credentials and
accomplishments. She graduated magna cum laude from Southwestern Oklahoma University and has been a certified teacher for 30 years in Special Education and Elementary Education. She's served as Education Advisor to former Governor Frank Keating, was Deputy Commisioner of Labor for Workforce Education and Training under then Commissioner of Labor Brenda Reneau, and nearly upset incumbent State Superintendent Sandi Garrett when she ran for the seat in 1994.

She has spoken to literally hundreds of groups of parents and teachers about education, child development, vision and perception problems (her specialty), education and politics. She received a statewide award from the State Optometric Association for her work with learning problems associated with the visually impaired. In a April 17th speech to the Tulsa Area Republican Assembly, she described one particulary rewarding moment in her career:

                        "When I started this campaign, I received a wonderful message from 
                          a former visual therapy student who at 9 or 10 years old, could not
                          read. He would cry a lot and felt like a complete failure in life. His
                          mother brought him to me and I worked with that boy. He started 
                          reading, and his life turned around. The day after I filed, he sent me
                          a message and asked me what's the maximum amount he can con-
                          tribute. Today he's a successful, prosperous businessman in southern
                          Oklahoma. But at 9 or 10, he couldn't read."

Murphy's political career began in the early 1990's when U.S. education policy began to radically
change.  Outcomes Based Education (OBE) was one such plan. Initiated by the federal government,  it flipped the purpose of education from providing equal opportunity for all students to producing equal outcomes. Faster learners were not allowed to progress and were given busy work or "horizontal enrichment" until the slower learners caught up. As one writer observed, "if OBE were applied to basketball, the basket would have to be lowered so all could score equally."

OBE had other problems: 1) it changed how children read from the traditional phonics method
 to the  "whole language" word-guessing method,  2) it tightened federal and state control at the expense of local and parental control, and 3) it involved high costs for administration and
 retraining of teachers in an entirely new system, and 4) it replaced academic and factual
 subject matter with vague subjective learning outcomes, such as "self-esteem".

Murphy helped lead a statewide grassroots effort to repeal OBE. She was successful, with Governor Keating signing such repeal into law in 1995.

Then came School-to-Work or school-to-career programs, which centralized control of workforce development. They divided students into predetermined categories of where each one should fit into the work environment. It was classic social engineering -- with "experts" deciding what
students should do with their lives and how they can live better lives.

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) brought more federal intervention. Under this 2002 law, states were required to test students in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

Common Core followed. It's national standards in English and math were dumped on American schools beginning in 2010. Once again, Murphy helped lead the repeal, which Governor Mary
Fallin signed into law in 2014.

Problems persist, she says, with public schools under mandates, controls, system programs and forced to implement unworkable ideas. Teachers are unfairly held accountable for poor reading and math scores, which declined between 2015 and 2017, according to new data released last
week. She added:

                       "What we have got to do is have a mission of excellence in education and it
                         won't come from these federal controls and programs. We have to sit back,
                         look at the philosophy, look at the big picture, and fight for local control of 
                         public schools and for educational excellence, which many teachers want as
                        well. Don't punish those that want to teach."

Murphy says the great lack of leadership shown by Joyce Hofmeister as well as our political leadership have prompted her to run. She says Hofmeister has an agenda of putting us in a system tied with the federal government, with national testing coming from the Department of Education. 
"That's not what Oklahomans want," she says. She says we have a lot of good teachers and a lot of good administrators that are eager for a change. She's been encouraged by many of them
 to add her name to the ballot once again.

                        "I'm old, I have other things to do. But I can't just sit there and watch this. 
                         If I can stand up, I'm going to have my part in this battle."            

Murphy advocates a more positive, get-back-to-fundamentals approach that most seasoned teachers already know. She summarizes it with a simple acronym : L-E-A-R-N.

                                    L - for Local Control. Those closest to students know them best
                                    and can make the best decisions regarding their educational needs.

                                    E- for Education Excellence.   Excellence is achieved individually,
                                    one student at a time. Teachers are the key to excellence in each
                                    classroom and must be allowed to use their expertise.

                                    A - for Academic Standards. Standards should be set but not used
                                    as punishment. Teachers must be free to teach and help students
                                    to succeed without forcing upon them a rigid system of tests.

                                    R - for Return Funds to Classroom. More learning, discussion and
                                    debate about local and state funding for education is needed to 
                                    return funds where they're needed most.

                                    N - Now. Resetting Oklahoma on the right path needs to start now!

She concluded her remarks to the Republican group with this:

                             "There's a real radical element that will come in and control public educa-
                               tion if we're not focused on preserving what's there to make it the best 
                               it can be. We have a lot to clean up and a lot to drive out. Let's work 
                               together, drive out the outside influences, and give Oklahomans the 
                               education they want and need."

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Poem About Robert "No E" Lee

Have you heard of Robert Lee? No, not the Confederate general whose reputation and statues are being torn down by the social justice warriors. But the Asian-American sportscaster who was scheduled to call an upcoming college football game in Charlottesville, Virginia for ESPN. Well, ESPN decided that posed a problem. They feared his name would offend some people watching the game. So they pulled him from the broadcast and reassigned him to the Youngstown State-Pittsburgh contest.

That might have pleased the sensitive snowflakes among us, but it caused outrage and disbelief to many others. "ESPN must think we're so stupid," said editor Raheem Kassam, "that we can't tell the difference between one Lee and another. They might think a Confederate general is calling the game."

However, Kassam did make light of the matter, composing the following clever poem:

There Was A Young Man Named Robert Lee
Who Ended Up Being Set Free

From Calling A Game 
To Spare Offending 

Lee Shared A Name
With Another Chap
About Whom the Country
Is In a Big Flap

The Left Wonders Why
We Think They're So Nuts
When They've Got Their Heads
Right Up Their Butts

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

An Hour with Congressman Jim Bridenstine

On May 11th, I attended a town hall meeting whose special guest was Oklahoma 1st District Congressman Jim Bridenstine. The event was sponsored by AMAC, the Association of Mature American Citizens, and was attended by about 100 people, most of whom were senior citizens. This gathering was devoid of the rancor which plagued his recent town hall meeting at Oral Roberts University, where pink-shirted progressives shouted down any statement from him or his supporters which met with their disapproval.

He began by by discussing the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a Obamacare), which was the previous president's signature domestic "achievement". Oklahoma, he said, is down to one insurer -- -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield. In 2017, premiums have increased an average of  76% in the individual non-subsidized market. We need more competition and health care options, he said, along with high risk pools, which were terminated in 2014 when the ACA became fully operational.

An Obamacare repeal and replacement bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on May 4th by a vote of 217 to 213, with all Democrats and a small handful of Republicans in opposition. Bridenstine voted yes. He said it wasn't a bill he would have written, but is a significant improvement over current law. Contrary to Democrat and mainstream media belief, he added,  "this legislation does cover pre-existing conditions every which way possible.. No one will go without health care."

One attendee complained that the federal government shouldn't be in the business of passing health care coverage laws for 320 million Americans, He said it violates Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which enumerates the few, very specific areas for which Congress has
authority.  Rep. Bridenstine did not disagree with that assessment, but indicated current legislation is the best we can hope for, under present circumstances. "We're a long way away," he added, "before final passage of any health care law becomes reality."

Rep. Bridenstine also mentioned the little-known provision of Obamacare that allows congressmen and their staffs to opt out of this coverage and choose the lower cost, more generous, federal employees' health care coverage program. Commendably, his staff voted to forgo this option and live with the law that plagues most Americans . Some were reduced to tears and had to quit. One staffer's family saw their annual cost of coverage increase from $6,000 to $18,000.

He also expressed general support for President Trump's tax reform plan, which proposes to lower the capital gains rate from 35% to 15%, cut individual rates, reduce the number of tax brackets, double the standard deduction, expand child care credits, and eliminate both the estate (death) tax and the alternative minimum tax. Once again, he said, final passage won't be easy but is certainly possible later this year. 

Mr. Bridenstine also thinks the President's foreign policy is a big improvement over that of his predecessor. He cited the strike against Syria's chemical weapons facilities, the dropping of MOABs (Mother of All Bombs) in Afghanistan terrorist enclaves, and the pushback against North Korean aggression as prudent uses of presidential power which thankfully fall far short of nation building. 

He said the previous President thought if we were nice to everyone in the world, they'd be
nice back. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out that way.  "Deterrence works, " he added. "Weakness is provocative. War happens when good people do nothing."

Near the end of his speech, which was following by a question and answer session, he lamented the changed culture he's seen in his four and one-half years in Washington D.C. "We used to believe in absolute truth -- -- good and bad, right and wrong.  Now, everything is relative.  Since many people no longer believe in truth, they don't know when they're lying."

The congressman also reiterated his original pledge to the voters that this, his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, will be his last. (Markwayne Mullin, are you listening?). It remains possible that President Trump will appoint him NASA administrator. Otherwise, he's unsure what the future holds.Several attendees expressed hope he'd make a future run for statewide office, a notion he didn't entirely dismiss.

Afterwards, I gave him a book to share with his staff. It's titled 'Good Reasons to Vote for Democrats'. I encourage all followers to check it out. Note: It's a very quick read!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

An Open Letter to Fidel Castro

Farewell Fidel,

Most Americans never knew how bad you were. That's why I'm writing. Since you're dead, you won't mind. So here goes...

Best estimates are you murdered more that 100,000 Cubans between 1959 and last month. That's in a country of only seven million. You killed more political prisoners in your first three years of power than Hitler did in his first seven. Twenty times as many Cubans died trying to escape your "paradise" as did trying to escape East Germany. You jailed and tortured political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin did during the Great Terror. At one point in 1961, one out of every 17 Cubans was a political prisoner.

Firing squad was your preferred method, because then there'd be no judicial process. You'd video
these  executions and televise them. Televise them! That was a form of terror we thought ISIS started. ISIS, SHMISIS. You and Che Guevera had them beat by 60 years.

You're not just a thug, you're a thief. Big time. By mid 1960, you had stolen $8,000,000,000.00 (in today's money) from U.S. businessmen. Any who resisted were tortured and murdered.

However, this firing squad thing created a slight problem. So much blood was spilled on Cuban soil from so many that you and your partners in crime started tying victims to a stake, extracting most of their blood and then shooting them. Then you'd sell most of that blood on the international market. Sounds kind of capitalist, no?

Speaking of capitalism, you eliminated it's last vestiges under Batista with a totalitarian system of central planning, i.e. public slavery. The results? Uh... not so great. In 1958, Cuba's per capita income was the second highest in Latin America, higher than Japan and much of Europe and double that of Spain. Your people owned as many cars as the Italians, boasted an 88% literacy rate, had a lower infant mortality numbers than France, Germany and Belgium, and spent more on education than any country in Latin America. Not anymore. Half the population now has an estimated $300 to $400 annual household income, while in urban areas it's $1000 to $2000 per annum. Guatemala, with its $3800 per capita GDP, looks luxurious compared to your socialist slave island.

This abject poverty is best seen in the squalid living conditions. Many cities have tall communal apartment buildings which house 10 to 12 people in each small studio apartment. These buildings haven't been maintained since 1959 (that year keeps coming up). The elevators and indoor plumbing don't work, but you were kind enough to place public outhouses around these buildings.Needless to say, the stench is stupendous.

But health care, that's where you excelled right? Even some conservatives bought that piece of propaganda. Turns out you had three levels of health service in Cuba. The best was for the
tourists, featuring state-of-the-art equipment and the best doctors. Michael Moore featured it in Sicko, his fake-news movie. You showed it island-wide for free, which sickened Cuban dissidents. You reserved the next level for high-ranking military leaders, artists and your communist comrades. Pretty good care there, as well. The vast majority, however, endured a filthy, understaffed, massively under-equipped medical system staffed by unqualified, overworked doctors who re-used latex gloves, had few antibiotics and often treated patients in fly-infested beds without sheets. Bat droppings, mice, cockroaches and mosquitoes were all in evidence. Patients frequently had to bring their own soap, towels, food, light bulbs, and .... toilet paper.

Your worst health problems were not those. They were malnutrition and starvation.

The mainstream media bought your B.S., from start to the bitter end. If only they listened in 1958, when you said "Propaganda is the heart of the struggle. We can never abandon propaganda." That's why you deported any who were critical, and called those who complied your "U.S. media recruits" who were "much more important than guerrilla recruits for our guerrilla army."

Their statements and actions after your death attest to their naivete. The NY Times called you "the savior" of the Cuban people. ABC News labeled you "the George Washington of his country." BBC called you "a world icon" and "the most astute politician of his time." Chris Matthews labeled you a "folk hero" and "a romantic figure." CNN somehow failed to show the tens of thousands celebrating your death in the streets of Miami.

Most politicians were no better, especially on the left. Canada's socialist prime minister called you " a remarkable leader" and expressed "deep sorrow" over your death. Britain's leftist labor leader praised your "world class health and education system," adding that your "achievements were many." Ex-president Jimmy Carter didn't disappoint when he said "Rosalynn and I remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country. One-percenter Jill Stein tweeted that you were "a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire."  As well, President Obama couldn't utter a negative word about you--- one of modern history's worst villains. He said you "altered the course of individual lives and families, and of the Cuban nation," adding that "history will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure..."

And that great patriot, Colin Kapernick, wiped tears for you with his U.S. flag, as he stood at attention with his hand over his heart.

At least  President-elect Donald Trump didn't sugarcoat your demise, quickly tweeting "Fidel Castro is dead!" and following that up with a statement which said your legacy is one of "firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights."  He added that his administration "will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty."

I hope he's right.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Trump Triumph: Why He Won

On February 23rd, 2016, Donald Trump won the Nevada caucuses. In his victory speech that night, he said,

                      "We won the evangelicals, we won with the young, we won with the old, we won
                         with the highly educated, we won with the poorly educated. I love the poorly 

When Mr. Trump spoke to the Detroit Economic Club last August, he told Ford motor executives,

                       "If you close these factories, as you're planning to do in Detroit, and build
                         them in Mexico, I'm going to put a 35% tariff on those cars when you
                         send them back, and nobody's going to buy them."  

At a huge rally in Tampa, Florida, three days before the election, Trump stopped his campaign
speech in mid-sentence, lifted a baby out of the crowd and declared "future construction
worker" before handing the baby back to the beaming parents and congratulating them.

Those three campaign snapshots explain why Donald Trump is now President-elect Donald
J. Trump. The bombastic billionaire connected with and fought for working-class Americans
at every turn. He was, as leftist filmmaker Michael Moore said, "the human molotov cocktail they've
been waiting for. The human hand grenade they can legally throw into the system that
stole their lives from them."

Moore predicted the electoral outcome even when Trump was five to ten points behind. In a speech he gave in Ohio on October 25th, he said,

                            "...On November 8th -- election day -- although they have lost their jobs,
                              although they've been foreclosed on by the bank. Next came the divorce,
                              and now the wife and kids are gone. The car's been repossessed. They
                              haven't had a real vacation in years. They're stuck with the shitty Obama-
                              care bronze plan. They can't even get a fucking percocet.

                             They might be penniless. They might be homeless. But there is more of
                             the former middle-class than there are in the millionaire class. So on
                             November 8th, the dispossessed will walk into the voting booth, be
                             handed a ballot, close the curtain,  and put a big fucking X in the box by
                             the name of the man who has threatened to upend and overturn the very
                             system that has ruined their lives: Donald J. Trump."

Bill Clinton feared the same result. The former president saw a tone-deaf attitude in his wife's
campaign toward the millions and millions of working class voters whose lives had been
destroyed by the globalization and technological revolutions, as well as by misguided economic
policy. He also observed an erosion of African-American support, and urged them to
visit inner city neighborhoods.

When Mrs. Clinton dismissed his advice, he reportedly became so upset he threw his phone
off the roof of his penthouse apartment in Little Rock, and toward the Arkansas River.

Despite his poorly chosen words, topsy-turvy campaign, willful neglect of policy detail, and
personal attacks against even the mildest critics, Donald Trump emerged victorious. He
won because he cared about the forgotten ones -- the long-suffering steelworkers, coal miners, auto workers, welders, tool and dye makers,machinists, secretaries, janitors and the underemployed. He gave them hope,and the chance to make America and their moribund lives great again. They gave him their vote, and triggered one of the biggest upsets in American political history.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Twelve Smart Reasons to Oppose SQ 779

SQ 779 is the proposed one percent statewide sales tax increase that’s on the ballot
November 8th. It’s passage would harm Oklahoma. Here are twelve reasons why:

1.We’d jump to #2 nationally in overall sales tax rate, with a statewide average of 9.85%. When Louisiana’s temporary 1% sales tax expires in 2018, we’d be #1, matching our female incarceration rate.

2.The poor and working class would be hardest hit, since sales taxes are regressive.

3.Sales would decline at any business that collects sales tax. New companies would think twice before moving here.

4.Towns located near bordering (lower tax) states would suffer more.

5.More people would shop online, where sales tax is often zero.

6.The business decline would cause job losses, reduction in employee hours worked or reduced company benefits. Hardest hit would be, once again, lower income people.

7.Manufacturing companies that buy material and equipment in Oklahoma would have greater incentive to shop (or move) elsewhere.

8.The raise in teacher salaries would not be equitable. A teacher of 25 years would get the same $5000 per year increase as a first-year one.

9.The worsening business climate would force more young people to leave the state for higher-paying jobs.

10.Efforts at real education reform would slow, since the increased tax revenue would “solve” the problem.

11.Communities statewide would lose tax flexibility. With such a high sales tax, local voters would likely reject tax increases for future civic needs. Passage of MAPS in Oklahoma City or Vision 2020 would have been more difficult.

12.No specific purpose is given for the 19.25% of collected revenue that higher education would receive. Only that it would “improve college affordability.”

Most agree that Oklahoma teachers are poorly paid, with several studies ranking their compensation near the bottom of all states. However, when cost of living is factored in (as it should be), their ranking improves to 30th.

Spending also doesn’t directly correlate with high educational performance. Some states with low per pupil spending rank reasonably well, while some of the highest don’t always produce the best education results. That contrast is also seen when comparing the United States to other countries. We spend more than almost everyone but don’t have nearly the test scores and graduation rates to match.
Higher education waste is even worse. Oklahoma spends 1.9% of its GSP Gross State Production) on higher education while the national average is 1.6% That’s a difference of almost 20%. If we reduced spending to that 1.6% figure, the state would save more than $500 million. Part of that money could be spent (if it’s not returned to the taxpayer) on K-12 teacher salaries.

The answer then is not more spending, but​ wise​r spending​. For example, reduce our non-teaching overhead from 4th highest in the country to the national average (a savings of $328 million). Require state university professors to teach more classes, instead of the top 20% carrying most of the load (a savings of $181 million). Don’t hire diversity czars at $220,000 per year (OU) while your university president pushes tuition and tax increases. Don’t spend $1.5 million on a new press box and supply every middle and high school student with a new MacBook while reducing your staff and limiting those remaining to a four-day work week (Catoosa). Eliminate the $88 million tax credit for wind producers, most of whom are located outside the United States.

Future columns will examine options to improve our state’s educational system. For now, don’t cripple Oklahoma and its youth.

Just Say No to SQ 779