May 2005 Archives

Who is Lois Romano?

| | TrackBacks (1)

I was curious to know something about the reporter who wrote the item in Sunday's Washington Post "Coast to Coast" column about Tulsa's City Council recall election. I called her a stringer in the earlier entry, but in fact she is a staff writer for the Post, based here in Tulsa, covering news of national interest all over this part of the country.

Lois Romano is the wife of recently retired U. S. District Judge Sven Erik Holmes. Holmes, a Clinton appointee to the Federal bench, was the judge in the Black Officers lawsuit against the Tulsa Police Department. (Holmes is now vice chairman and chief legal officer for KPMG.)

Googling for her name, I found this NewsMax piece, in which radio talk show host Neal Boortz takes apart an earlier Romano article about the Tulsa Gun Show.

She was the first author of the Washington Post's gossip column, "Reliable Source." That same column in the Washingtonian, from March, suggests that she may be headed back to Washington after a decade in Tulsa. She is on the board of the Community Service Council of Greater Tulsa and the board of Family and Children's Services.

You can read a transcript of an online chat from January 19, 2001, in which Romano answers questions about George W. Bush's personality and leadership style. The introduction says: "Washington Post political reporter Lois Romano has covered George W. Bush extensively over the last two years. Believe it or not, she's lives outside the Beltway--way outside. Like Tulsa, Oklahoma. At first apprehensive, she has found there is life outside Washington." Unfortunately, the piece doesn't elaborate on her adjustment to life in Tulsa, which would have been interesting to read.

In a Post story on reaction from across the nation to the death of Pope John Paul II, Romano appears to have contributed the closing

"We need to let go of these centuries-old dogmas and move to greater acceptance," said Eileen Bradshaw, a mother of three in Tulsa. She pointed to John Paul II's opposition to in vitro fertilization, a position she finds hard to reconcile with "a church that professes to embrace life."

"Personally," Bradshaw added, "I find it hard to explain to my daughters that we belong to a church that doesn't see fit to let women lead."

Finally, here's a profile of megachurch pastor and author Joel Osteen that Romano wrote earlier this year.

Hats off to Tim Williston, webmaster of, who has set out to document the free Wi-Fi hotspots available in the Tulsa area. He's got a list of 27 so far, including reviews of 4, and he's looking for Wi-Fi users to help expand his list and provide reviews and other content for the site. Most of the sites on his list are coffee houses like Java Dave's, Kaffe Bona, and Cafe Cubana, plus various Panera locations, and (this surprised me) three Mazzio's locations. If you have free Wi-Fi at your business, visit Tim's site and have him add you to the list.

I'm working out of the house now, but once in a while I need more quiet than I can get there, or at least a change of scenery, and it's nice to be able to grab the laptop and find some place a little different to set up camp and work.

Slightly off-topic: In answer to someone who emailed a while back with this question -- I don't know if there are any places around town where you can make a free wired connection to the Internet. Anyone? Wi-Fi cards for your laptop are pretty cheap these days, so I'm not sure there would be much demand for wired access.

One more Wi-Fi related item: This isn't free access, but if you're an SBC DSL subscriber, you can use the FreedomLink network for a nominal monthly charge. (I think it's $2 a month, but I need to verify that.) FreedomLink has hotspots at Barnes and Noble stores, UPS Store and Mailbox Etc. locations, and Wi-Fi-equipped McDonald's.

Today the Oklahoma Supreme Court declined to assume original jurisdiction in a case involving the recall of Tulsa City Councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock.

Tulsans for Election Integrity v. City of Tulsa dealt with whether the City Clerk erred in not comparing the signatures on recall petitions to the signatures in the election board registration records as the Tulsa City Charter requires, and whether an affirmation by the Council of the City Clerk's finding on the sufficiency of petitions requires a majority vote of the full Council under the City Charter. District Judge Ronald Shaffer ruled for the City and against Tulsans for Election Integrity on April 28, and TfEI then appealed.

No word yet on whether the Court simply refused to hear the case or whether the Court actually touched on any of the legal matters in their opinion, which won't be available for a couple of days.

"Coast to Coast", a selection of short national news items from around the country on page A2 of Sunday's Washington Post, included a brief item from stringer Lois Romano about the effort to recall two Tulsa City Councilors. I'm happy to see the issue gaining some national attention, but there's much that's wrong or missing in this brief account. Here's how it begins:

An 18-month feud between factions on the Tulsa City Council has stymied city operations and horrified residents, as dueling recall efforts dominate the news.

City operations have been stymied? I haven't seen it. Streets get fixed, fires are put out, police patrol the city -- same as always. And as for horrified residents, Ms. Romano, please produce photographic evidence that the debate on the City Council has caused any Tulsa resident's hair to stand on end.

The rift came into public view about a year ago at a now infamous meeting at an Arby's, when Medlock and three other councilmen played hooky to stall the election of the new chairman in what should have been a pro forma vote.

Wrong. A chairman and vice chairman had already been elected at the new council's first meeting, shortly after their swearing in. The purpose of the walkout was to try to preserve the opportunity to reconsider the election of the chairman after Roscoe Turner's election was duly certified and he was sworn in. New Chairman Randy Sullivan was planning a significant break with tradition by appointing his faction-mates as permanent chairmen of each council committee, rather than sharing the chairmanship among several councilors.

Soon, their ranks were joined by a fifth member, giving them a bipartisan voting bloc -- dubbed "the Gang of Five." The bloc delayed or thwarted initiatives it deemed not in the interest of the populace -- such as the building of a bank near a residential area.

Interesting that Romano never uses the word "majority." The Post's readership can't be expected to know that the Tulsa City Council has only nine members.

The Reform Alliance became controversial for its own initiatives -- most notably for pursuing an investigation of Tulsa's airports and the city's involvement in financing Great Plains Airlines. They also instigated a debate about how our city water system should be managed. The reformers pushed for a charter change to protect property owners from arbitrary rezoning by reinstating the protest petition process, an effort that won unanimous support from the Council but was defeated by a "slip up" on the part of the City Clerk's office.

Although the five see themselves as protecting the city from rubber-stamped decisions by the power elite, the chamber of commerce's president has painted them as "a cancer on the community." A well-financed interest group of businessmen launched a recall effort of Medlock and another councilman; the League of Women Voters and the NAACP joined in and denounced the recall. Republican Mayor Bill LaFortune further disrupted the bloc by hiring one of the renegades to his cabinet.

I think that sentence should begin with "because" instead of "although," and it would put the (former) Chamber of Commerce president's attacks in context if the article mentioned the Reform Alliance's initiative to make the Chamber accountable for the tax dollars it receives from the City.

"Renegade" is a rather value-laden term, isn't it? It distracts from the fact that the group had a majority on the Council. And it would be more accurate to say that LaFortune eliminated the bloc's majority on the Council by hiring Sam Roop.

Meanwhile, a popular radio talk-show host, Michael DelGiorno, added his voice to the cacophony with daily tirades and support of a rival recall effort -- this one against the mayor and four other council members.

No mention of the poisonous atmosphere created by the Tulsa Whirled's repeated attacks on the Council's reformers or of the slanderous contents of the tabloids put out by the secretive pro-recall campaign.

"The whole thing has been extremely disruptive to the city," the mayor's chief of staff, Clay Bird, said wearily. "This is not the kind of national publicity we want."

It has been disruptive, and it's too bad Clay Bird's boss didn't try harder to make it go away. If he had insisted that the City Clerk do his job in validating the petition signatures, and if he had hired a City Attorney that believes in following the law, the recall would probably be dead.

Again, it's nice to see that the issue has received some national attention. Too bad the story wasn't told as completely as it should have been.

Editorial page editor Ken Neal, in Sunday's Tulsa Whirled, displays both ignorance and disingenuousness on the issue of federal funding for stem cell research. Where to begin with this mess?

It's difficult to understand President Bush's opposition to embryonic stem-cell research.

The president appears to believe that "life" is being destroyed to "save life" if the fertilized human eggs headed for destruction are used for medical research.

Ken, if it's a fertilized human egg, it is life -- a distinct human being that will, unless it's destroyed, grow into a potential Tulsa Whirled subscriber. (You're losing those quickly enough as it is, Ken.)

Much has been made about this president's intelligence. Yet he has demonstrated a very high intelligence, often outthinking and outmaneuvering his opponents. There is nothing stupid about this president.

But he appears to have a mental block on stem-cell research. Or perhaps it is a desire to please the radical right wing, which does seem unable to understand stem-cell facts. The president continually discusses adult stem-cell use, apparently thinking adult stem cells are as therapeutic as embryo cells.

They aren't. They can play a role in fighting disease, but the real potential lies with embryo stem cells. Those stem cells hold
the possibility of curing many problems, including Alzheimer's disease, various spinal cord problems, Parkinson's disease and other maladies for which science might develop cures if given permission and money.

Right, Ken, adult stem cells aren't as therapeutic as embryonic stem cells. They are far more therapeutic. There are actual cures using stem cells from sources that don't require the destruction of human life, but none to date involving embryonic stem cells. Patients with congestive heart failure have been treated with their own stem cells (from bone marrow), resulting in improved heart function. A seven-year-old girl with a severe skull injury was treated with fat-derived stem cells which resulted in new bone formation -- she no longer has to wear a protective helmet. Cord blood stem cells have been used to cure infants who have Krabbe disease, a rare and fatal genetic disorder.

(Hat tip for above links to Joel Helbling, for his handy tabular synopsis of stem cell research from December 2004 through February 2005, based on data from the Stem Cell Research Foundation.)

Back to Ken Neal:

Bush steadfastly opposes "killing life to save life," and if that were an accurate statement he would deserve support in that position.

Yet that statement is tantamount to setting up a straw man to beat on.

No one plans to kill in order to save life.

The president's position is particularly perplexing because he has already approved federal funds for use of embryos fertilized in fertilization clinics before Aug. 9, 2001, provided these embryos were headed for destruction anyway.

This is precisely what science wants: The right to experiment on embryos conceived outside the womb since then. Question: Are embryos conceived before Aug. 9, 2001, any less "life" than those conceived after that date?

To be consistent, the president would have to make that contention.

Here Ken is either sloppy or deliberately deceptive. The date of conception was not an issue in President Bush's directive, which allowed the use of federal funds for research on stem cell lines derived from human embryos prior to the date of his order. That means that the embryos had already been destroyed by that date. Bush's order was intended to remove federal funding as an incentive to destroy any more embryos, regardless of when they had been conceived.

Speaking of straw men, the President isn't challenging science's "right" to experiment on human embryos -- although he should. The issue before the government is federal funding for such inhuman experimentation. Isn't that a chilling way to put it? "Science wants the right to experiment with embryos."

Ken wants freedom for scientists, complete freedom from ethical constraints:

Science is continually advancing in the ways that stem cells taken from embryos, umbilical cord blood and human adults can be used. It is constantly learning. But in order for it to learn, even develop uses for stem cells from other than embryos, it must have the right to experiment without Big Brother looking over scientists' shoulders.

Calling Dr. Mengele! All is forgiven. The Tulsa Whirled is ready to set you up with a new lab and plenty of victims, um, subjects, and without any nosey Big Brothers looking over your shoulder worrying about the sanctity and dignity of human life.

Ken goes on to make a valid point about in vitro fertilization:

All over the country, fertility clinics work daily to help couples conceive. To do that, potential mothers are given fertility drugs resulting in the release of many human eggs. In most cases, there are surplus eggs, most of which are fertilized in a petri dish. Some of these are implanted into prospective mothers, but most are either frozen or discarded.

This is true.

Why not use these embryos for scientific research? Bush and those who support his position never discuss this situation. If one truly believes these fertilized eggs are life, then there would be a hue and cry to find women who would accept them and carry them to full term and develop babies. Some estimates are that there are 400,000 surplus fertilized eggs in these clinics.

There is an organization called Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program devoted to this purpose.

Or, one would expect a demand to ban fertilization in vitro in order to bring a few of the eggs so fertilized to life. Why are Bush and those who support him so quiet about this?

Fertilization clinics routinely "kill" hundreds, perhaps thousands of embryos, which "pro-life" proponents choose to ignore.

Ken's back with another straw man to beat up. In fact, many pro-lifers make exactly this point. You may recall reading about someone who lost her job earlier this year in part because she thought this fact should not be obscured.

Back to Ken, who is now worrying about President Bush's legacy:

Future historians are apt to wonder why this country chose to follow ignorance and fall far behind the rest of the world in developing cures for dreaded diseases. It is as if an earlier president had banned government research into smallpox, leaving the war on that killer disease to other countries because he had misguided moral scruples against such research.

President Bush should quit listening to a small, but noisy, part of his constituency, remember he is no longer running for office and do the right thing on stem-cell research.

Ken Neal apparently believes that the President is as disingenuous as he is. President Bush actually believes in the sanctity of human life, beginning at conception. His moral scruples aren't misguided, and he is doing the right thing on stem-cell research by announcing his plan to veto federal funding for the destruction of human beings in the name of progress.

Immigration Reform for Oklahoma Now (I.R.O.N.), a group pushing for stricter enforcement of immigration laws, is having its monthly meeting this Thursday, June 2, 6:30 p.m., at Hardesty Library in the Oak Room. Undersheriff Edwards will be the speaker. You can learn more about the organization at its website,

It was interesting to read Karol Sheinin's comments today on illegal immigration on her blog, Alarming News. Karol is a legal immigrant to the US from Russia. About the illegal immigration summit in Las Vegas and the protesters who called the summitteers racist, she writes:

What is racist about thinking that illegal immigration is wrong? What is racist about worrying about the security of your nation's borders, at a time when your country is at war with a shadowy enemy who is trying to infiltrate your country to destroy it from within? Minuteman organizer Chris Simcox spoke at the conference and, mentioning recent deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, said 'There is no reason human beings, regardless of where they come from, should die horrible deaths.' What's racist about that?

In the June 9 issue of the New York Review of Books, Joan Didion has a wide-ranging 8000-word essay of the details of Terri Schiavo's life and death. As familiar as I am with the controversy, it was still eye-opening to see all the key issues, medical details, and turning points outlined in one place.

Here's Didion on the use of language in the public debate over Terri's fate:

During the period this spring when the spectral presence called "Terri" dominated the national discourse, such areas of confusion between what was known and not known and merely assumed or repeated went largely unremarked upon. Taking a position, which had become the essence of that discourse, demanded impenetrable certainty. There were two entire weeks during which it was possible to hear the Schiavo case debated all day and all night and still not get it straight whether there was, as people were actually shouting at each other on the cable talk shows, "anybody home." ("You're wrong, Pat, flat line, nobody home.") Theresa Schiavo was repeatedly described as "brain dead." This was inaccurate: those whose brains are dead are unable even to breathe, and can be kept alive only on ventilators. She was repeatedly described as "terminal." This too was inaccurate. She was "terminal" only in the sense that her husband had obtained a court order authorizing the removal of her feeding tube; her actual physical health was such that she managed to stay alive in a hospice, in which only palliative treatment is given and patients without antibiotics often die of the pneumonia that accompanies immobility or the bacteremia that accompanies urinary catheterization, for five years.

Even after the removal of the feeding tube, she lived thirteen days. The removal of this feeding tube was repeatedly described as "honoring her directive." This, again, was inaccurate: there was no directive. Any expressed wish in this matter existed only in the belated telling of her husband and two of his relatives (his brother Scott Schiavo and their sister-in-law Joan Schiavo), who testified in a hearing on a 1998 petition that they had heard Theresa express the thought that she would not wish her life to be artificially prolonged. One time she was said to have expressed this thought was when Michael and Scott Schiavo's grandmother was on life support. "If I ever go like that, just let me go," Scott Schiavo said that he had heard Theresa say. "Don't leave me there." Another expression of the thought, Joan Schiavo testified, occurred when the two women were watching a television movie about a man on a feeding tube: according to Michael Schiavo's attorney, George J. Felos, what Theresa said was this: "No tubes for me."

This may be the first time that the blue-state readership of the New York Review of Books encounters some of the facts and connections that were well-known to readers of Blogs for Terri but which never seemed to make it into the mainstream media coverage of the case. Didion challenges the conventional wisdom on many fronts -- here, the idea that a "living will" is the answer to the dilemmas presented by Terri's situation:

There was considerable fuzziness here, not least in the reverence accorded the "living will," which seemed increasingly to be another of those well-meant and seemingly unassailable ideas that do not quite work the way we are encouraged to think they work. The chances of being admitted conscious to a hospital without being pressed to produce a living will have become virtually nil, yet any "living will" prepared in advance (as in "advance directive," exactly the document we are pressed to produce) requires us to make specific medical decisions about situations we cannot conceivably anticipate. According to studies cited last year in the Hastings Center Report by a medical researcher and a law professor at the University of Michigan, Angela Fagerlin and Carl E. Schneider, almost a third of such decisions, after periods as short as two years, no longer reflect the wishes of those who made them. The "health care proxy" or durable power of attorney, through which we assign someone we trust to make the decisions we can no longer make, is the better document, but it optimistically presupposes that we will each have with us at end of life "someone we trust."

The further problem with such directives is that they can be construed as coercive: no one wants to be a "burden." Few of us want to be perceived as considering our own lives more important than the ongoing life and prosperity of the family. Few of us will sit with a husband or wife or child in a lawyer's office or a doctor's office and hesitate to sign the piece of paper that will mean, when the day goes downhill, the least trouble for all concerned. For all the emphasis on the importance of "choice," the only choice generally approved by the culture is to sign the piece of paper, "not be a burden," die.

Whatever your position on the Terri Schiavo case, and whether you paid close attention or not when it was happening, this piece is worth your time and attention.

(Hat tip to Galley Slaves for the link.)

Star Wars III roundup


Commentary from around the Internet about the final movie in the "Star Wars" series:

Albert Greenland, guest-writing at The Galvin Opinion, says that Star Wars is great art because of the truth it tells about human nature, about sin and redemption:

...the genius of Star Wars is that it somehow manages to explain why we sin and what sin does to us. Graham Greene once wrote that "love makes more mistakes than hate does." In that light, the fall of Anakin related to the fact that he loved too much. And that love, combined with a few of the deadly sins, especially "pride," was the witch's brew which Anakin willingly drunk....

Three years ago, after the release of Episode II, Jonathan V. Last made "The Case for the Empire," arguing that "[t]he deep lesson of Star Wars is that the Empire is good."
He updates that perspective for Episode III with a commentary on NPR: "A Flawed Despot is Better than a Smug Jedi." Money quote: "You can bet Lord Vader makes the trains run on time." His review of Episode III for the Weekly Standard is here. (Hat tip for this and the following item to Galley Slaves, to which Last is a contributor.)

More contrarian views of the Jedi and the Sith:

Orson Scott Card: "The Jedi may claim to be in favor of democracy, but in fact they function as a ruling elite, making their decisions among themselves. They occasionally submit to the authority of the legislature, and they seem to respect the rule of law, though whose law it’s hard to say. By and large, however, they decide among themselves what they’re going to do and when it’s OK to break the law and defy the civilian authority."

Julian Sanchez on Hit and Run makes the case for allowing the separatists to secede peacefully.

Sanchez links to Tyler Cowen, who says of the Jedi, "Aren't they a kind of out-of-control Supreme Court, not even requiring Senate approval (with or without filibuster), and heavily armed at that? As I understand it, they vote each other into the office, have license to kill, and seek to control galactic affairs. Talk about unaccountable power used toward secret and mysterious ends."

Finally, Ace of Spades links to video of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog working the crowd of costumed Star Wars fans waiting to get into the first showing on opening night of Episode II. A bit blue, but Ace says it's "maybe the funniest thing ever shown on Conan O'Brien."

Dory of Wittenberg Gate has an excellent post up about manipulative people and the harm they can do in a church, particularly when they are in leadership:

Even more problematic, though, is when the controlling personality in the church is a member of the pastoral staff or the lay leadership. The lay couple I described above had no authority in the church, though they apparently thought they did. Most people in the congregation were able to simply ignore them when they became obnoxious. But a pastor or church officer does have real authority, and where there is real authority, there is the possibility of abuse or misuse of that power. There is also the opportunity to shape the culture and group dynamic that prevails in that congregation.

I think it is important to note that a manipulative leader can create a cult-like dynamic in a church that is not cultish or heretical in its doctrine, but rather well within the range of what would be considered the historic Christian faith. There may be an unbalanced emphasis on certain doctrines, such as an attitude that emphasizes works at the expense of grace, or an emphasis on such things as submitting to authority and giving financially to the church in a sacrificial way.

On the next post on this topic, I will write about the warning signs that we can look for when looking for a new church, or evaluating one we have already joined. In this post, though, I want to discuss the common characteristics of a controlling personality.

Dory provides a long list of characteristics, with a description and example of each, and there is a good discussion going on in the comments.

The second post in the series -- warning signs to watch for when considering joining a church -- is here.

Someone call Imperial OSHA


Not the best of the six by any means, but still a very impressive movie. Even knowing how it must end, and even knowing how each scene must end, I still found myself surprised, and I jumped and my jaw dropped at Anakin's actions during the confrontation between Windu and the Chancellor.

The part of the evening that really got my heart going, though, was the trailer for "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." The title isn't revealed until the end of the trailer, and it was fun to watch my son's face as he began to recognize bits of the story, and he looked back at me with a huge grin of anticipation.

One thing about "Revenge of the Sith" especially bugged me, and it's bugged me since the very first movie:

They were able to build spectacular cities, intelligent and versatile robots, massive and fantastic space vehicles that could leap in and out of hyperspace, and a Death Star that could take out a planet with a single blast.

So how come no one in the Star Wars universe ever figured out how to build a simple guardrail?

The little one is with her grandparents, so this evening my wife, my eight-year-old son, and I went to see "Revenge of the Sith" -- the second time for him, first time for us.

So we were in the van, leaving the movie theatre parking lot. I asked him if he noticed anything he missed the first time.


Did he notice any Biblical parallels, anything that reminded him of things in the Bible?

"Well, it's kind of like Tulsa."

(Not the path I was trying to go down, but all right....) How so?

"Bill LaFortune is like Senator Palpatine."

(A moment to suppress convulsive laughter....) He is? What do you mean?

"Everyone thought he'd be good at first, but then he made some bad choices, and then they finally found out he was on the wrong side."

A bit later: "And he's also like Senator Palpatine because he tells each person what they want to hear."

After assuring our lad that we weren't laughing at him -- we were laughing at the notion of Bill LaFortune as a shrewd, cunning Dark Lord of the Sith -- we did think of another parallel. In Episode II, there is a conversation between Anakin and Padme where he praises dictatorship as a way to bring order out of the chaos of democracy. The same theme recurs in Episode III. Here in Tulsa, we have a newspaper editorial board that consistently complains about the disorder of our City Council debates and seeks stability and order. They oppose every effort to give more power to the citizens to determine how we will be governed, and most recently one of their members has called for at-large members of the Council as a way of disconnecting the councilors from the citizens they were elected to represent. The stability and order the Whirled seeks is the stability of central control, a Council of Clones marching in lockstep to the drumbeat of their master.

Democracy and representative government can be a messy thing. Debate, dissent, and disagreement aren't pretty, but a government that is perfectly ordered and perfectly in agreement is one that has been turned to the Dark Side.

A blog I told you about last week, The Darth Side, has reached its inevitable and tragic conclusion, and the full text is now available in PDF format, in normal chronological order (the beginning is at the top). The PDF version also contains "extras," including an interview with the author, Cheeseburger Brown.

I finally saw "Attack of the Clones" last week -- yes, that's episode II, not III. My son has already seen it with his grandfather and wants to me to take him to see III again. I thought I ought to see II first. I don't remember where I read this, but it's true -- there's something about Yoda leaping about in a light sabre fight that reminds one of Miss Piggy doing karate. ("Hiiiii-YA!")

The secret shame

| | Comments (2)

Earlier in the week someone told me that yet another downtown Tulsa building is slated for demolition and replacement with -- you guessed it -- surface parking.

What really got to me: There are people interested in trying to buy and save the building, but they don't want their interest to be public, because, I was told, they can't afford to get crosswise with people they do business with around town. Now this is second-hand information, and it may have mutated before it reached me, but the implication in the concern is that there are influential business leaders in the city who regard involvement in historic preservation as not merely eccentric, but suspect, worthy of censure, perhaps threatening to the Way We Do Business Around Here.

It is amazing that Tulsa, with over a hundred years of history under its belt, and plenty worth preserving, does not have a strong, well-funded preservation organization. In particular, you don't see Tulsa's businesses leaders and philanthropists pushing for historic preservation. Plenty of private individuals have invested their treasure and an abundance of sweat equity to restore their own historic homes. There are worthy individual projects, like PSO's reuse of Central High School and Paul Coury's restoration of the Ambassador Hotel, but no ongoing organized effort, particularly when it comes to our poor old downtown. Some cities, like Savannah, Georgia, have revolving funds for purchasing endangered properties and selling them to buyers who commit to restoring them. Tulsa doesn't.

Tulsa will host the 2008 National Preservation Conference. Our downtown is on Oklahoma's Most Endangered Places list. There is no preservation plan for downtown, and I'm told that no official survey or comprehensive inventory of historic buildings has been done for downtown. (Such a survey was done by the Urban Development Department for the redevelopment area known as the East Village -- 1st to 7th, Detroit to the Inner Dispersal Loop.) No effort has been made by city officials to work with downtown churches, Tulsa Community College, and office building owners to find a solution for parking needs that doesn't involve more demolition and surface parking.

In Savannah, the demolition of the City Market in the 1955 was the call to arms to the leading ladies of Savannah society, who established the Historic Savannah Foundation and, more importantly, made it fashionable to be concerned about preserving local history. Preservation is bound up in the culture of Savannah.

It is 50 years later in Tulsa, and we are still waiting for Tulsa's leading lights to make historic preservation their passion.

Vintage downtown OKC


Oklahoma City's Downtown Guy links to Doug Loudenback's web collection of photos, postcards, and maps of downtown Oklahoma City from the beginnings in 1889 up to the beginning of urban renewal in the 1970s. Much of OKC's commercial district was razed at the recommendation of architect I. M. Pei (MIT-educated, I'm ashamed to say), but you can see it in its glory days in these photos.

Change the charter?


As mandated by the City Charter, every odd-numbered year the Tulsa City Council receives recommendations for amendments to the City Charter, evaluates the suggestions, and, if a suggestion is supported by a majority of the Council, the amendment is placed on the following year's general election ballot.

We're in the first phase of that process, and suggestions are due to the Council by July 1. You'll find details on the Council's home page. Suggestions for charter amendments can be e-mailed to or you can fax them to 596-1964.

John S. Denney has submitted a few suggestions and has posted them on the Homeowners for Fair Zoning newslog. His amendments have to do with zoning, the City Attorney, and disclosure of conflicts of interest for councilors. He also supports eliminating the recall process entirely; officials could still be removed for cause in accordance with the process defined by state statutes. I especially like his suggestion that the City Attorney's position should be removed from the classified service (civil service). I'd extend the idea to include all city department heads -- the Mayor should be able to appoint whom he will to run city departments, with the advice and consent of the Council. As it stands, the Mayor has very little control over who will carry out his policies, which makes city government less accountable than it should be to the people who pay for it.

(By the way, in response to a comment on an earlier entry -- I am not the same person as Michael S. Bates, the human resources director for the City of Tulsa. He and I are among about half a dozen Michael Bateses registered to vote in Tulsa County.)

Guffey's on the web

| | Comments (1)

Just found this today: Guffey's Journal, which reports significant real estate transactions around Tulsa, has a web presence.

Guffey's website has a page of headlines about major transactions (the current issue announces that AMF has sold and leased back Sheridan Lanes bowling alley), a list of lots sold, a list of leases, and a list of "executive homes" sales. (In Tulsa, anything over $200,000 is an executive home. That buys, what, a garage apartment timeshare in Palo Alto?)

You can learn a lot about what's going to be happening around by following real estate transactions. If you're concerned about a rezoning in your area, watching for nearby sales may give you early warning of changes to come.

You can also learn who's moving up in the world and who's moving down. I remember the first time I glanced through Guffey's in the library and spotted the name of our plant's general manager, along with where his new house was and how much he paid for it. (In Oklahoma, you can calculate the sale price of a home from the value of the revenue stamps, which cost $1.50 for each $1,000 of value. The amount of the revenue stamps is in the county clerk's records.)

This is one I'll make a regular read.

Guffey's Journal is published by Neighbor Newspapers, which owns 19 Tulsa area publications, including the Catoosa Times and the Broken Arrow Daily Ledger. You'll find Neighbor Newspapers, with links to each of their titles and a few articles from each, on the web at

UPDATE: Well, fooey. Commenter Rob points out that the content on the web is months old, so either they got lazy and stopped updating, or they only intended to provide a sample of what's in the paper each week. You can still find the paper at the library, and I haven't checked, but I'll bet you can buy it at Steve's Sundry.

Lost in transit?


If you attempted to send email to blog at batesline dot com last week (specifically May 16-23), your message may not have arrived. I was tinkering with the filter configuration, and apparently dialed it up a bit high, as I've heard from a few people that they sent me something that never showed up in the inbox. I've undone the tinkering, so if you had something important to tell me, please give it another try. Thanks.

(Bumped this entry's date to keep it at the top.)

Congratulations to Lawton, Oklahoma, pastor and blogger John Owen Butler for getting a mention in a Business Week article on religious podcasting. John's podcast can be found at, and it features recordings of the singing of the Psalms by choirs from around the world.

His latest entry is Psalm 98, set to the tune "Desert," a joyous tune I've also heard used for the hymn "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing." (The tune is Common Meter, so it could be used for a vast number of hymns.)

A quick update: At Tuesday's Board of Adjustment meeting, the Board unanimously granted variances to allow entrances between the neighborhood and the shopping center to remain open, as they have been for the last 50 years. Strictly following the zoning code would have required the entrances to be cut off by a screening fence. This is the last city-related hurdle remaining to the redevelopment of the center. The entire site will be cleared and replaced with a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on the south side of the center, facing north, with a few "pad sites" along 21st Street for restaurants and one along Yale for Yale Cleaners.

This morning the Tulsa Whirled scolded Oklahoma House Speaker Todd Hiett for not expediting the passage of HB 1617, a bill that would impose a nearly $100 million tax increase on specialty hospitals to provide additional funding for Oklahoma's Medicaid system and gain nearly $200 million in federal matching funds.

If HB 1617 had passed, there likely would have been a constitutional challenge over whether the funding was a tax increase or a fee, which affects whether a statewide vote is required.

This afternoon, Speaker Hiett announced a plan -- HB 1088 -- that would appropriate the needed $63 million from existing gas recertification revenues and gain the federal match, without raising taxes or fees. The plan would also direct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to identify $100 million in "excessive administrative costs, waste, overhead, and program abuses," which Hiett calls an "achievable goal."

You can read Speaker Hiett's press release here.

Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan, a Democrat, was present at the press conference, enthusiastically supporting the GOP proposal. (His remarks begin about 7 minutes into the press conference; you'll find links to audio by following the link to the press release.)

House Republicans have again demonstrated that it does matter who holds the majority in the state legislature. While they've had support from Democrats on key issues -- and Democrat leaders like Mike Morgan deserve credit for not being obstructionists -- the difference this year is the determination of the Republican House leadership and caucus to find a way to solve the problems without abandoning Republican principles. Their brethren in Washington could learn some lessons from our Oklahoma legislators.

Goodbye, cool Thurl

| | Comments (1)

Thurl Ravenscroft, he of the deep, deep voice that sold billions of Frosted Flakes, died Sunday, age 91. You may not know the name, but the voice is instantly recognizable. You've heard him as Tony the Tiger, and you've heard him sing "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch!" Over at the Internet Movie Database, you'll find an incomplete list of his lengthy and largely uncredited career doing voice work for cartoons, movies, television, and even Disneyland rides.

All Things Thurl is a comprehensive fan website that features RealAudio clips -- on this page, you'll find Thurl's group, the Mellomen, singing "Zorro" and other Disney theme songs.

Another page on All Things Thurl features his solo recordings. Click on that link, and you can listen to Thurl sing "The Old Rugged Cross" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

His voice will be missed.

The quote of the day comes from an unnamed aide to Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, about Cantwell being spotted in an Italian restaurant in D.C., dining with disgraced New Jersey Senator Bob Torricelli, where the two were said to be "all over each other":

"Yes, we can confirm that Sen. Cantwell did see both Torricelli and Lautenberg at Galileo, but it was not a date. Cannoli is not the same thing as canoodling."

(From Lloyd Grove's Lowdown in today's New York Daily News.)

This afternoon, I plan to appear and speak at a City of Tulsa Board of Adjustment hearing. Wal-Mart is working with John Nidiffer, owner of Mayo Meadow Shopping Center to build one of their Neighborhood Markets on the site of the vintage 1955 John Duncan Forsyth center. The zoning permission is in place -- Wal-Mart isn't seeking to expand commercial development into the residential area, and anyway, restrictive covenants would prevent that from occurring.

The only issue remaining is a variance that would allow leaving an opening in the screening fence (required when commercial development abuts a residential zone), so that it will still be possible to go from the residential area to the shopping center without having to go out onto one of the arterials.

I plan to speak in support of the variance. It's conventional wisdom that homeowners want complete separation between residential and commercial areas. I disagree. I think that for a neighborhood to be fully a neighborhood, it has to have more than houses. Mayo Meadow Shopping Center has been part of the Mayo Meadow neighborhood for 50 years, and I don't want to see that change, especially now that we will once again have a supermarket within walking distance. I like the idea of running an errand without getting into the car, and that I could send my kids, when they're a bit older, down to the store for a gallon of milk. A month or so ago, I went before the City Council on a related issue (vacating the stub of 21st Place that connects to the center parking lot) and Mr. Nidiffer, Paul Zachary of the City's Public Works Department, and I worked it out so that there would remain two entrances to the center from the neighborhood -- one on Winston and one on Vandalia.

Our neighborhood may soon be able to pass the "popsicle test," but only if the neighborhood street connections to the new center remain open.

He's got a rebuttal to David Averill's call for at-large councilors, comments on Channel 2's story about city workers who are convicted criminals (in which he praises one of the other Michael Bateses in Tulsa, the City's HR director), and asks his readers to translate a Pakistani friend's comment about Mayor LaFortune.

I especially liked this from his rebuttal to Averill:

Here is the problem with the current council, Mr. Averill. Finally, some councilors get elected that are immune to the good ol’ boy network that has been in place for many years. These heroes of truth set forth to clean up the mess that already existed, and the good ol’ boys are scrambling to save themselves. The problem is not the “Medlock bloc”. The problem is writers like you that do not give the public the truth. The problem is that the good ol’ boys in Tulsa have teamed up with power and money, biased media reporting, and lies just to keep their little world of privilege in place.

Good wurk!

I don't think anyone ever took a picture of this, but I can still see it vividly in my mind.

It's morning in Mountain Home, Arkansas, and my grandfather is sitting in a metal lawn chair in the backyard at 529 East 6th Street, a cup of coffee beside him on the table. He's bent over, his elbows resting just above his knees, hands loosely clasped, a cigarette in one hand, looking intently at... what? A blade of grass? A point in mid-air?

I caught myself in just that position (sans cigarette) today.

I used to wonder what that was all about.

I'm pretty sure I understand now.

Over on the Homeowners for Fair Zoning blog, HFFZ counsel John S. Denney has posted an excellent analysis of the way the Whirled does its dirty work. Included in the piece is a response to Whirled editorial board member David Averill's Sunday op-ed calling for at-large councilors as a way to ensure that future councils are firmly under the thumb of the Cockroach Caucus.

Here's one excerpt from Denney's article:

Cynical efforts to bait the reform Councilors into responding to attacks upon them eventually led to an atmosphere of hostility in Council meetings. Unlike the World, a real newspaper would have told the truth about the situation, instead of heaping scorn on the reformers and attempting to discredit their efforts. Some very intelligent people in Tulsa are being gulled by these tactics into believing that honest and hardworking Councilors like Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock are disruptive and uncivil. These men have both civility and integrity which would be the envy of most of us. When faced with personal conflicts of interest on the Council created by baseless lawsuits aimed at compromising their votes, they have properly removed themselves from participation in related Council actions. Not so with Councilors like Bill Christiansen who folded like a cheap tent under a lawsuit filed by F & M Bank.

Many of the attacks upon reform Councilors at Council meetings are carefully scripted by opposing Council members and those seeking to paint them in an unflattering light. Their responses, no matter how civil, are then treated in the newspaper the next day as hostile and self-serving remarks without giving the true picture of the Council exchanges.

And when the Whirled talks of civility, this is what they mean:

The type of Council civility the Whirled, new District 5 Councilor Martinson and the Chamber advocate is the silencing of legitimate dissent and genuine efforts at reform. You, like many, may consider powerful and ruthless leaders of our community to be necessary evils in the quest for an economic turnaround for Tulsa. This assumes the trickle down theory of economics applies in a situation where the hand on the tap also controls the direction the water flows. How many large companies will be happy moving to a community where the government is controlled by a few powerful men and a newspaper unworthy of the name? The best way to promote Tulsa is to drop your subscription to this newspaper and to find one worthy of your support.

Go read the whole thing.

The last few days


Thanks for your patience during my extended absence. I'm fine, just busier than ever with my new job.

The biggest difference between my old job and the new one is that in the old job, there would be 50 people working together on a project extending over the course of a year -- deadline pressure existed, but wasn't an every day occurrence -- while in the new job, tasks are created with a short fuse, and the buck stops with me.

I added a state to the list of those I've visited (only eight more to go) with my first business trip for my new job. The boss didn't think I needed a rental car, and strictly speaking he was right. The local manager was able to pick me up and drop me off at the hotel and take me around for lunch and dinner. The town was small enough that I could get around on my own two feet -- about two miles from the hotel on the interstate to our facility in an old retail building downtown. The main drag connecting the two had the usual assortment of fast food outlets, a Wal-Mart, and The Mall (only one in town, no need for a descriptive name). There were sidewalks the whole distance, which isn't always the case in this part of the country.

One unpleasant thing about walking where 99% of the people are driving is getting catcalls from yoofs in passing vehicles. I never can quite make out what they're saying, but I'm guessing it isn't complimentary. One time I thought I heard "Looking good!" from a pickup full of young women, but that may have been an auditory hallucination.

The first night in town I walked the four miles into town and back out, just to see the town and enjoy the cool evening. The second night I needed a longer Ethernet cable to connect one of the computers to the facility network, so after getting some work done at the hotel, I walked to Wal-Mart, picked up the cable, then trudged on to the facility. I began to notice a burning sensation in my Achilles tendons. After installing the cable, and getting a bite to eat, I started to walk back, but thought better of it when I passed the office for the local cab company. I called the number on the door; the driver came out and drove me the two miles back to the hotel for $6.

That pain revealed another difference between the old job and the new. At the old job, if I got bored or antsy sitting in my cube, I'd take a walk around the sprawling manufacturing plant. If I really needed to blow off steam, I could walk the half-mile circuit around the greenbelt that runs through the industrial park. Over the last four weeks, I haven't done any walking like that -- thus the pain in my under-used calves and Achilles tendons.

It would have been nice to give my aches and pains a rest, but I had to make my way through the Denver airport, and once home it was off to a church father-son campout. My eight-year-old was there already, spending the afternoon riding his bike on the trails. I arrived just in time for the bonfire, roasting marshmallows, and singing. We sang some clever scout song parodies, including "Ghost Chickens in the Sky" with its haunting refrain of "Bok, bok, bok bok!" We sang some praise choruses, and there was a devotional talk on the vastness of space and the greatness of God. We had good sleeping weather. The temperature cooled off, the skies were mostly clear -- in recent years, the event featured a tornado warning and a flood. Pancakes, eggs, and bacon for breakfast, another devotional (about Ehud from the book of Judges), then an obstacle relay involving barrels, wheelbarrows, kayaks, bicycles, and running. I gave my aching tendons as much rest as possible and took pictures. My son was one of the kayakers and got stuck a couple of times on half-sunk logs, but before long he got the hang of paddling and steering, and after lunch we both paddled around the pond for a while. It was my son's first campout, and my first campout in a couple of decades, and we both had a great time.

I returned home to an inbox full of tasks that absolutely had to be done by Monday morning. I'm writing this as I'm waiting for some number-crunching to complete.

I'll be on the air in the morning with Elvis Polo on 1170 KFAQ from 5:30 to 7:30 -- he's filling in for Michael DelGiorno and Gwen Freeman, who have the day off. Blogging will continue to be light for the forseeable future, but I will do my best to post something every day. I have plenty to say, but not much time for saying it.

Service interruption


The new job and family events have not been leaving me with much time for the Internet, and the situation is likely to persist until late Sunday evening, so don't expect a BatesLine update until Monday morning. Check out the blogroll for good reading elsewhere.

Newsweek lied, people died


Kevin McCullough has the low-down on the six ways Newsweek got the story wrong about Koran-flushing at Guantanamo.

Kevin's radio station, WMCA, is now providing a 24-hour stream of the best of conservative talk radio, including Kevin his own self at 5 pm Eastern time, and they're advertising the fact here on BatesLine. Click the ad at right to tune in.

Amanda of Wittingshire has an eight-year-old son too, and he is completely unimpressed by the idea of girls in bikinis:

He was still staring at me, utterly flabbergasted. Finally he found his tongue: "It disturbs me," he said formally, "that you are telling me that one day I will think girls look pretty in bikinis. That disturbs me. I know what I think, and I don't think that."

By this point I was laughing out loud. He was so serious, and so affronted.

"It isn't funny," he said. "Why on earth would I suddenly think girls in bikinis look pretty? They look cold. They look naked. Skin is just skin, and tummy skin isn't any prettier than arm skin. That's what I think. Why would I ever think different?"

(HT: The Happy Husband, in a post with a whole bunch of marriage-related links.)

Dan Lovejoy reports that Sen. Tom Coburn's idea of combining pizza with STD is nothing new where he works.

Savage spotting

| | Comments (4)

Imagine that you're Alan Jackere, and you're the newly appointed City Attorney of Tulsa. You and one of your subordinates, Pat Boulden, are in Oklahoma City before a Supreme Court referee, arguing that the Supreme Court shouldn't hear an appeal of Judge Ronald Shaffer's ruling ordering the City Council to set an election date for the recall of Councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock. Once the hearing is over, naturally you'll want to inform your boss, the Mayor, how the day went.

And that appears to be exactly what Alan Jackere did today. Shortly after the hearing, Jackere and Boulden were spotted with Democrat former Mayor Susan Savage, now Secretary of State, in her State Capitol office.

It's not known whether Mayor LaFortune, who named Jackere permanent City Attorney last week, was also given a thorough debriefing by Jackere.

John S. Denney, counsel for Homeowners for Fair Zoning, gives you his perspective on today's hearing. An entry from last week explains why Jackere's appointment as City Attorney is a disaster for Tulsa, one which will outlive Bill LaFortune's tenure as Mayor.

Eclectic lullabyes

| | Comments (1)

"He has the most eclectic taste in bedtime music," my wife just said. My eight-year-old son is drifting off to sleep to cries of "sit down, John!" from the original Broadway cast album of "1776". For the previous couple of weeks, it was the best of the Chieftains, which Rocky and Rainbow, the hermit crabs, seemed to enjoy. The beating of the bodhrán gets their claws a-clicking. A performance album by the Texas Boy Singers was a favorite for a while. Over the years he's cycled through several albums by Riders in the Sky and Trout Fishing in America, "No!" by They Might Be Giants (also the official soundtrack of last summer's family vacation), and John Rutter's "Three Musical Fables."

My daughter went through a long stretch falling asleep listening to Leonard Bernstein narrating and conducting "Peter and the Wolf" and "Carnival of the Animals." She often goes for more kid-oriented bedtime listening -- there's a CD about Elmo and the orchestra, a collection of Raffi songs performed by country singers, a couple of Wiggles CDs. There's a CD of an orchestra performing Irish tunes, and she asks me to sing "Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral" along with the music, which always gets me a little choked up -- my mom used to sing that to me at bedtime, along with "Don't Fence Me In" and "South of the Border."

A long-time favorite CD of both kids -- both have been listening to it since they were babies -- is called "Love A Byes". They still request it from time to time. (It's out of print, sorry to say.)

There's almost always a sung lullabye, too. The boy always wants Mom to sing "Stay Awake," from Disney's "Mary Poppins." Dad is not allowed to substitute. The girl seems to prefer Dad's singing of late, and for a while she wanted songs about dreams, so I would sing "A Kiss to Build a Dream on," or that Everly Brothers tune.

Writing about this is making me a little drowsy....

He's back


Mee Citee Wurkor is back online so go catch up! He's got commentary on local politics, he's got a cheesecake review, and he's discovered a St. Louis blogger and finds interesting parallels to Tulsa's situation. Site proprietor Goober sings the praises of backups and of Bluehost, the hosting provider that had him transferred and up and running in less than a day.

The Darth Side


Came across an intriguing new blogger the other day.

He writes about barbecues and parenthood. He muses about annoying coworkers, incompetent subordinates, and the inscrutable ways of his boss. He thinks about his mom every day. He struggles with badly-built prosthetic devices. According to his Blogger profile, "He enjoys fixing things, listening to music, and crushing people's tracheas with his mind."

Cross over to The Darth Side. You'll be glad you did.

The right of the disabled to choose to continue to receive food and water is being contested in court in the United Kingdom.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the General Medical Council (GMC) is appealing a 2004 British High Court decision that gave a terminally ill Lancaster man the right to insist on receiving food and water through a tube, regardless of the opinion of his doctors.

Last summer, the High Court ruled in favor of Leslie Burke, who was diagnosed over 20 years ago with a degenerative neurological condition that will eventually cause him to lose the ability to swallow, while still retaining full awareness. Burke does not want to die of thirst, a process that can take two to three weeks. Because he may also lose the ability to speak by that time, he wants to ensure that his wishes are followed while he can still express them. Burke went to the court to challenge GMC guidelines that would let the doctors, not him, decide whether he should have a feeding tube:

GMC guidelines published in 2002 tell doctors it is their responsibility, rather than that of the patient, to decide whether to withhold or withdraw life-prolonging treatment.

Paragraph 81 effectively allows doctors to withdraw artificial nutrition or hydration from a patient who is not dying because it "may cause suffering, or be too burdensome in relation to the possible benefits".

At the time, the GMC said that the court ruling was unnecessary, that nothing in its standards would require or encourage a doctor to withhold food and water. Now the GMC has filed an appeal, arguing that the ruling gives a patient too much power:

Yesterday, Philip Havers, QC, for the doctors' governing body, said the judge's ruling had effectively "extended the reach of patient autonomy" and redefined the test as to what treatment was in a patient's best interests.

Mr Havers said there was "no evidence" that any member of the medical profession was likely to treat Mr Burke, or apply the GMC's guidance, in the way that he feared.

Follow that? The GMC is saying we're pretty sure we'll give you food and water, but we don't want the law to require us to do it if we don't want to.

In written submissions, however, Mr Havers told the Master of the Rolls, Lord Phillips, sitting with Lords Justices Waller and Wall, that Mr Justice Munby's conclusions put doctors in an "impossibly difficult position".

The result would be that a patient could require a doctor to provide a form of treatment that the doctor considered of no clinical benefit if not harmful.

"Such a conclusion is not in the best interests of patients," said Mr Havers - both as a matter of principle and because it would gravely undermine the "therapeutic partnership based on joint decision-making between doctors and patients".

It would also put the doctor "in an impossibly difficult position, for a doctor should never be required to provide a particular form of treatment to a patient which he does not consider to be clinically appropriate".

Requiring doctors to provide such treatment would undermine the relationship of trust that doctors have with the public they seek to serve, Mr Havers added. It would also be inconsistent with the Hippocratic oath that doctors used to take.

Notice that the GMC is classifying food and water as "treatment," not as basic necessities of life. Notice, too, the gobbledygook about how giving a patient the right not to die of thirst would undermine the "therapeutic partnership" and the "relationship of trust" between patient and doctor.

I think Leslie Burke would not care much about the state of his "therapeutic partnership" with a doctor who is trying to starve him to death.

Read what Burke had to say after last summer's court ruling:

Mr Burke said it seemed as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. "I am ecstatic," he said. "I can't tell you what it means to me.

"Anybody could be in the same situation so this has far-reaching consequences. It could happen to somebody in a car accident, not just people with a disability.

"A doctor could decide to withdraw hydration and nutrition and effectively starve a person until they die.

"Doctors have told me I'm going to deteriorate to the stage where I need to be hospitalised and need artificial nutrition and hydration. This could be in 15 or 20 years, but my communication and speech is already deteriorating and is a problem now.

"I won't be able to communicate my wishes either way and this could just be withdrawn without my consent. I would be fully conscious the whole time and it could take two or three weeks to die.

"It's not any way to treat vulnerable people. In a civilised society, it can't be right to allow vulnerable people to effectively starve to death."

Hear, hear. Let's pray that the appeals court agrees.

NOTE: Entry started on May 16, 2005, extended and published on December 1, 2015. I may add to this.

Back in late May and early June 1994, my wife and I spent one week each in Scotland and Ulster. I wrote about our favorite places and where we stayed and posted it on Usenet. Nothing ever completely disappears from the Internet -- those articles can still be found at

Scotland: highlights of a recent visit

Trip to Northern Ireland

There was barely a World Wide Web when we took that trip, but now many of the accommodations and attractions are online. For example:

Leault Farm sheepdog demonstrations near Kingussie, Inverness-shire, Scotland.

Mr & Mrs McPherson B&B, Inveraray, Argyll.

Brownlees Guest House, St Andrews, Fife.

Ashdene House, B&B in Edinburgh.

The Hall Greene farmhouse accommodation near Lifford, Co. Donegal.

The Hall Greene was our favorite place to stay. Mervyn and Jean McKean are wonderful hosts. Active in the Ballylennon Presbyterian Church, they shared our interest in the history of Presbyterianism in Ulster, particularly the region in eastern Donegal called the Laggan, which had been home to my ancestors in the early 18th century. Jean is also a wonderful chef and baker, and we enjoyed all sorts of dainty treats with tea and conversation in the parlor.

We enjoyed our visit to Ulster so much we returned in fall 1995, spending several days at the Hall Greene and several more in Ardara and Narin on the west coast of County Donegal.

We worshipped at Fahan Presbyterian Church, where my ancestor Joseph Reagh had ministered from 1742-1769, before he emigrated to America. After the service, the Lamberton family invited us to Sunday lunch, and then we had dessert (strawberry-rhubarb crumble) with Mr and Mrs Jack Lamberton -- Jack, patriarch of the family, was clerk of the church's session.

One evening, the McKeans invited us along to a time of worship and fellowship at the Presbyterian Church in St. Johnstons. It was in connection with an evangelism outreach sponsored by several area churches.

During our time in and around Ardara, we started at the Bay View Country House, which was nice, but didn't really have a view of the bay. We moved to a very nice B&B called Roan Inish (or click here for another link) in Narin, looking out over a broad sandy beach. Ardara is a center of tweed production, and I bought a beautiful jacket at a ridiculously low price, one I still wear. During our stay we had lunch at the renowned pub known as Nancy's.

Our route back to Belfast took us along the northwest coast of Donegal, with a stop in Ramelton, and the church where Francis Makemie, the father of Presbyterianism in America, was once pastor. In Derry we made a quick visit to the library in search of genealogical information. The two places we'd stayed near Belfast the previous year were unavailable, so we wound up at a B&B near the airport in Templepatrick.

I get Steve Fair's "Fair and Biased" updates via e-mail (subscribe at okgop -at-, and the current update contains the following item from Roll Call magazine about Oklahoma's junior senator:

You won't want to miss the next big blockbuster thriller, "Revenge of the STDs," coming soon to a theater near you.

A takeoff on "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith," the STD flick -- yes, it's about sexually transmitted diseases -- is a tradition sponsored by Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn. (He held six annual safe-sex slide shows during his three terms in the House.)

Coburn has been sending around a "Star Wars"-themed flier touting this year's slide show with a picture of Yoda declaring, "Stop the STDs, we must," and Darth Vader warning, "Never underestimate the power of the STDs."

The spacey flier opens much the same way "Star Wars" does: "Not so long ago, there were only two known sexually transmitted diseases. Today there are more than 25 STDs which infect more than 19 million Americans each year. ..."

Coburn notes that many people are not aware that the human papillomavirus infects 5.5 million Americans each year. "Studies have shown that condoms do not provide effective protection against HPV infection," Coburn states, adding in a "Dear Colleague" letter that as a physician he personally has witnessed the "ravaging effects" of STDs. "In many cases, STDs lurk undetected in the body for months or years before unleashing their terrible effects," he writes.

Coburn is inviting all Members of Congress, staff and interns to attend the slide show on May 26 (one week after the opening of the final installment of the "Star Wars" saga) at 11:45 a.m. in HC-5 of the Capitol. "A free pizza lunch will be served but attendees should be advised that some slides contain graphic images."

Sen. Coburn has been under fire from the Senate Ethics Committee for wanting to continue practicing as an OB/GYN, as he did during his years in the U. S. House. If you can look beyond the Star Wars gimmickry, this presentation illustrates one of the benefits of having legislators who are still connected with a profession. Coburn can speak on this public health threat from experience; other senators are getting information from lobbyists from Planned Parenthood or SIECUS or other pressure groups. Coburn is able to challenge the conventional wisdom about condoms, and to call his colleagues' attention to the fact that condoms can't protect against HPV, which causes cervical cancer, a fact that deserves consideration as Congress debates funding for abstinence-based sex education.

I hope Coburn gets a good turnout, but I wonder about the wisdom of choosing pizza for the entree.

No news tonight


Sorry again for the lack of posting, but I've had some other matters to deal with this evening. I'll be talking about local issues tomorrow morning at 6:40 a.m. on 1170 KFAQ with Michael DelGiorno and Gwen Freeman -- I'm sure we'll review the District 5 election, the appointment of Alan Jackere as City Attorney, and anything else of note from the last week.

In the meantime, I encourage you to catch up with other Tulsa blogs, like Tulsa Topics, Homeowners for Fair Zoning, Roemerman on Record, and Blog of No Significance.

I'd encourage you to read MeeCiteeWurkor, too, but he's having technical difficulties and writes that his blog will be down for about a week. I'll let you know when he's back up and running.

Round up the bloggers

| | Comments (1)

Mike Hermes of Okie Doke is proposing an Okie blogger round-up for sometime in the fall of 2006. He wants to start the planning now to make it a successful event, and to help the process along he's launched a new blog as a home for brainstorming and organizing.

The first-ever Okie blogger bash back in January was a lot of fun. It's nice to be able to put a face and a voice with the words on the CRT. This event promises to be even bigger, and just the work to put it all together will get bloggers networking.

Great idea, Mike, and I'll do all I can to support the effort.

78s online


Basic Hip Digital Oddio, home of the Space Age Pop Music webcast and the Online Guide to Whistling Records, is spending 2005 celebrating records for children from the golden age -- the mid '40s to the early '50s.

Kiddie Records Weekly presents a classic kids' album each week, from the days when albums really were -- albums, that is, books of discs to be played at 78 RPM. Each side of each record is available as an MP3 for download, and you can download images of the cover art and labels, too. Highlights of the series so far:

  • The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde, directed and narrated by Orson Welles and featuring Bing Crosby as the prince. The musical score is by Bernard Herrmann.
  • Gerald Mc Boing Boing by Dr. Seuss, read by Harold Peary (the Great Gildersleeve).
  • Pecos Bill, featuring Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers.
  • Fanny Brice as Baby Snooks: Baby Snooks learns to tell the truth, to be good, to be clean, table manners, about crossing streets, and to be kind to animals.

There will be a new album each week through the end of the year.

Basic Hip's space age pop album of the week, up through Monday on the home page, is "Shock Music in Hi-Fi" by the Creed Taylor Orchestra. The cover warns, "Don't dare listen to this music alone!" You can download tracks as stereo 128 kbps MP3s or listen to the album as a lower-quality mono stream.

(Hat tip to Joel Blain.)



Sorry, folks, but I just can't think to write about local stuff this morning. The new job has been demanding a lot of hours, early and late. It doesn't help that the Game Cube is going in the next room. I plan to post a few entries tonight, but in the meantime, check out the some of the blogs in the sidebar to the right.

Happy news from BRAC (not to be confused with Brak) -- none of Oklahoma's major military facilities will close, and in fact the number of military personnel in the state will increase by 3,448, plus another 474 civilians, nearly all at Fort Sill. Altus AFB will "be realigned" and will lose 16 people. Vance AFB gains about 100. Tinker gains over 300 civilian personnel. The Tulsa area will lose the reserve center near Broken Arrow and the Navy-Marine Corps Reserve Center, but will keep the Air National Guard Station at the airport. You can find the list of facilities and impacts, organized by state here. The Army Ammunition Plant near McAlester is gaining some new roles, too.

According to the detailed recommendations (PDF documents which you'll find linked from this page), the Altus realignment involves relocating a Logistics Readiness Squadron along with another at Little Rock AFB to a new Logistics Support Center at Scott AFB in Illinois. The Air Defense Artillery Center and School will move from Fort Bliss near El Paso to Fort Sill and be combined with the Field Artillery Center and School -- over 3,000 personnel will be involved in the move, which is expected to result in a net savings to the taxpayer of $319 million. The Red River Army Depot in Texas is closing -- the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant will pick up the storage, demilitarization, and munitions maintenance functions from Red River's munitions center, and Tinker AFB will gain the "storage and distribution functions and associated inventories of the Defense Distribution Depot."

Congratulations to our Oklahoma military bases and to the towns that depend on them.

I tend to go a bit crazy with Mozilla's tabbed browsing capabilities. Rather than move on from something interesting, I open a new tab and keep browsing, and the tabs become a snapshot of what's caught my attention. I have 12 open at the moment, and it's about time I shut Mozilla down for a while. So let me write about a few and close them up as I go along.

Jim Davila of the University of St. Andrews has a blog called Paleojudaica, which received an Instalanche for his post about MIT's Time Traveler Convention and his speculations as to why no time travelers were in attendance. The normal stuff of his blog is ancient Judaism and archaeology. Recent entries include one on the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount and a link to an article about Egyptian Karaite Jews, a people who migrated to Egypt under the Persian Empire in about 550 B.C. and who began leaving Egypt because of persecution during the 1950s. Elsewhere, Davila has an essay on why he blogs about his academic speciality:

I don't remember the exact concerns that led me to open a blog. I think it was partly frustration with the carelessness and inaccuracy with which the mainstream media often treats specialist subjects such as my own, combined with being impressed with how often the major political blogs were able to catch the media in errors and sometimes get them to correct them. I think it was also partly my longstanding interest in making my work available to a popular audience. Having a blog gives me an international forum to give non-specialists a better perspective on the media reports they read about my field and to speak to them with something approaching my whole voice rather than just my scholarly voice.

Manuel L. Quezon III, grandson of the founding father of the Republic of the Phillipines, is a columnist and also a blogger about Filipino life and politics.

A new blogger called Zippy Catholic has been stirring the anti-evangelical pot by arguing from Gödel's incompleteness theorem that sola scriptura -- a fundamental doctrine of the Protestant Reformation which asserts the sufficiency of the Bible -- "asserts its own irrationality." His first post on the topic is here. That was linked elsewhere leading to a lengthy comment thread, featuring Zippy and some other Catholics debating a handful of evangelical Protestants. Then Zippy posted yet another entry in which he seems to say that evangelicals believe in salvation by knowledge, which leaves out those incapable of abstract thought, but in fact we are saved by love, and we love Jesus by doing what He commands, and what Jesus commands is that we obey the Catholic church. (Yes, I'm oversimplifying. That's why I link, so you can read it for yourselves.) In the comments to that latter entry, I posted a question and a further clarification, to which I have yet to get an answer that doesn't beg the question:

Zippy, you write: "those who love Him will do as He commands because they love Him." How does one who loves Christ know what Christ commands, so that he may be able to do it?

How can I know that Christ commands me to heed the successors of Peter and the Roman magisterium, rather than, say, rival claimants to apostolic authority in Salt Lake City or Constantinople? How do I know who truly speaks for Christ?

You can read the entry and the replies I've received to my question.

Kevin Johnson, one of the Reformed evangelicals participating in the discussion, has also posted some thoughts here and here.

Kevin Johnson also participates in a blog called Communio Sanctorum, which is described as "an online theological journal designed to highlight the sacramental, trinitarian, and covenantal connection we have with the historic Church...[,] a Reformational contribution to catholicity." Apropos to the above discussion, here's an article on sola scriptura and the place of councils and confessions:

Rightly does the Protestant tradition, building as it does on substantive strains of the larger catholic tradition, say that no authority under God is absolute. This is why, for instance, we conceive of the Church (particularly in her Councils) as being the minister and not the legislator of the Word. 'Sola' Scriptura does not mean that we cannot have Councils and that they cannot lay down definitive rulings on matters of doctrine and practice; it just means that 'definitive' cannot itself mean 'irreformable'.

I forget where I found this, but it's a column by novelist and left-leaning Catholic priest Andrew Greeley about Cardinal Ratzinger, written before he was elected pope. This was intriguing:

Many devout Catholics would recoil at [Ratzinger's] blunt assertion (which I quoted the other day) that it is wrong to say that the Holy Spirit elects the pope because there have been popes the spirit would never have elected. He might also be less likely than some other popes to identify his convictions with direct communication from God.

Last tab -- political not religious, but it also has to do with authority and interpretation. Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy notes an Alabama Supreme Court concurring opinon for a decision in which the Court actually defers to the legislature's long-standing interpretation of the Constitution's requirement for a majority vote to enact legislation.

Justice Parker then goes on to argue that each of the branches of government have an independent obligation to interpret the constitution, and that as a result, the court should defer to a longstanding constitutional interpretation by the legislature:

[T]he Alabama Legislature has consistently followed the third interpretation for at least three decades. I believe the Legislature is within its authority to interpret § 63 in this way, and I therefore conclude that this Court should defer to that interpretation. By so deferring, we show proper respect to a coordinate branch of government.

On the same blog, the next entry up, Eugene Volokh writes that the Montgomery County, Maryland, Public Schools have adopted a sex-ed curriculum for the 8th Grade that includes handout listing "myths regarding sexual orientation." One of the "myths" listed: "Homosexuality is a sin." The "fact" rebutting the "myth" counts the biblical passages condemning homosexual behavior, notes that Jesus never spoke on the issue, notes that religion has often been used "to justify hatred and oppression," and praises liberal Christian groups for "beginning to address the homophobia of the church." Looks like a state institution pronouncing on matters of theology, and the U. S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. noticed:

The Court is extremely troubled by the willingness of Defendants to venture — or perhaps more correctly bound — into the crossroads of controversy where religion, morality, and homosexuality converge. The Court does not understand why it is necessary, in attempting to achieve the goals of advocating tolerance and providing health-related information, Defendants must offer up their opinion on such controversial topics as whether homosexuality is a sin, whether AIDS is God’s judgment on homosexuals, and whether churches that condemn homosexuality are on theologically solid ground. As such, the Court is highly skeptical that the Revised Curriculum is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest, and finds that Plaintiffs’ Establishment Clause claim certainly merits future and further investigation.

Last Thursday, Williams granted a Temporary Restraining Order preventing the curriculum from being deployed as planned.

Matt of Overtaken by Events tells us about another non-profit organization with an innocuous name and a positive reputation that has been captured by the forces of political correctness. The YWCA's position page advocates for unrestricted abortion, for the registration of firearms and a ban on handguns, and is "pro-LGBTQ rights," using after-school programs to "promot[e] awareness with workshops on sexuality."

Matt writes: "If you were confused when little Sally came home from her swimming class and burned her training bra, wonder no longer."

Friday the 13th is going to be a very unlucky day for some number of cities near US military bases. That's the day that the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) will announce its recommendations. Spook 86 has published the draft list he received back in January, emphasizing that the list is only a draft. The draft list has 49 bases slated for closure and three for realignment. One of the distinguishing aims of this round of realignment is to put common functions of different services at the same location, rather than continue to have bases that are exclusive to a single service.

Two of Oklahoma's three Air Force bases were on the draft list for closure: Altus AFB, near the city of the same name, and Vance AFB, near Enid. The closing of either would hurt the surrounding community, but Enid, twice as big as Altus, and the largest city in northwestern Oklahoma, is better positioned to weather the blow.

Altus AFB trains 3000 students a year as pilots, boom operators, and loadmasters for C-5 and C-17 cargo aircraft and KC-135 tankers. With flat terrain and over 300 days of good flying weather a year, it's a great place to train pilots.

I visited Altus many times during my years with Burtek and FlightSafety, working on C-141 and KC-135 simulators, and it was always awe-inspiring, as I approached the town on US 62, to see the massive C-5s float across the sky, like flying whales. They used to park one of them, with the nose open, on the apron facing one of the base's streets, so that as you drove down the street, you looked straight into the maw of the massive aircraft.

The economy of the City of Altus, which has a population just over 20,000, is very dependent on the air base. In addition to military personnel, many civilian contractors work there, like the employees of FlightSafety Services Corporation who maintain and operate the flight simulators for the C-5 and KC-135. Altus has a couple of other major employers, like Bar-S Foods and Luscombe Aircraft Corporation, but they don't employ anywhere near the numbers of people that the base does. Mike Andrews, a columnist for the Altus Times wrote:

The numbers are stark. A town of just over 20,000 has more than 4,000 people employed on base. And that's not including subcontractors or the people who make a living selling cars and houses to people who work on base. Saying that losing the base would be bad for Altus is much like saying the Dust Bowl was bad for Oklahoma.

Altus is not a very exciting place, and as we used to say, "It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from there." They have done a lot to spruce up their downtown in recent years, thanks to their award-winning Main Street program. The people there are friendly and welcoming, as I found during some longer stays back in 1987, when I visited several different churches. A surprising number of Air Force folks like it well enough to stick around, even after retirement. One such retiree opened a popular Italian restaurant, Luigi's, in the town of Blair, eight miles to the north. Even if the base closes, Altus would still serve a purpose as the biggest place for over 60 miles in any direction, but I imagine that at least one of the two nicer hotels would close, along with many restaurants and small service businesses.

The BRAC process is a good one. Decisions about the location of bases should be based on military advantage and cost efficiency, not on who sits on the House Armed Services committee. The U.S. military doesn't exist for the purpose of keeping small towns alive. Still, it's sad to see those small towns suffer, and we'll be rooting for and praying for Altus this Friday the 13th.

(Hat tip to Michelle Malkin for the link to Spook 86. She has links to more articles on the subject.)

From the blogroll


Haven't done this for a while -- a few bits and pieces worthy of note around the blogosphere:

New York City bloggers Karol and Ace premiered their weekly Internet radio show, "Hoist the Black Flag," on RighTalk. I missed the live Tuesday 4 p.m. EDT webcast, but it's running again right now, and will be running hourly until 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday, rotating through RighTalk's five channels. Their guests this week were James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin. They'll replay the show twelve times over the weekend. Interesting show, but I expected to hear the phrase "Arrr, Matey" more frequently.

Bowden McElroy writes about life in his house as a very outnumbered man:

With the college semester being over, everyone is home now. At least for another few weeks until the older two girl's summer plans start. Which means I'm back in the full swing of experiencing culture shock in my own home. What I want Steven to understand is this: while you are raising your daughters, there will be moments when you CANNOT understand what is happening in your own home. Don't worry, you haven't lost your ability to speak English, you haven't lost your grip on reality; you have, however, entered a culture completely alien and foreign to anything you have experienced before. Just relax and hang on.

With Cheese has an anthem for bloggers, the perfect musical accompaniment for those preening glamour photos that so annoy Christopher Hanson. (HT: Overtaken by Events.)

Jason of Worldwide Rants proposes a blogger handsign as a way for bloggers to recognize each other in public. Hat tip to Jessica, who likes the idea but says, "Some people may look at us funny and ask why we were trying to break our own fingers." I tried the sign and noticed that, viewed from the wrong angle, the handsign may be misinterpreted and may result in a broken nose.

Many thanks to Dan and Angi for reminding us about the joys of Engrish, the website that collects entertaining manglings of English from the mysterious Orient and elsewhere. This is a truly unfortunate name for an ocean-going vessel.

An election result like this ought to convince you that first-past-the-post is a lousy way to run an election. Never mind for the moment who won -- none of the candidates came anywhere near a majority.

Ideally, you want a system where voting for your favorite candidate can't help your least favorite candidate win. You want a way to handle races with more than two candidates so that the winner is the candidate who would have beaten each of the other candidates in a head-to-head election. You want a system where no candidate -- not a Ross Perot, nor a Gary Richardson -- can be a spoiler.

In this election, there is no way to know for sure if Martinson would have beaten Phillips or Harer or even Nichols in a head-to-head race.

Adding a two-candidate runoff gets you closer to the ideal system I described above, but with the top three so close, there is still the possibility of the order of finish varying had the minor candidates not been in the race. Between them Nichols, Harjo, Weaver, and Jackson received 601 votes, and there were only 63 votes separating 2nd and 3rd place, 74 separating 1st and 3rd. If only the top three had been in the race, where would those votes have gone? We can't know, but any two of the three might have wound up as the top two.

Louisiana has a system where all candidates run against each other, regardless of party, and if no one gets 50% of the vote, the top two candidates face off in a runoff. In 1991, with twelve candidates in the race, disgraced ex-Governor Edwin Edwards received 34%, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke received 32%, incumbent Governor Buddy Roemer received 27%, and the remaining nine candidates received 7%. The runoff was "between the crook and the Klansman," but we can't know what the initial result would have been if the nine minor candidates had not been in the race. Roemer may well have received enough of that 7% to put him in second place instead of Duke. There's little doubt that in a head-to-head race with either Duke or Edwards, Roemer would have won. There was a similar result in the 1990 Democrat primary for Governor in Oklahoma (David Walters, Mike Turpin, Steve Lewis) -- the top three clustered together, and enough minor candidate votes that any two of the top three might have made the runoff if the minor candidates had been eliminated.

What voting system eliminates those sorts of anomalies? Instant runoff voting (IRV) does. Under IRV, voting is simple. Voters rank the candidates in order: I mark a 1 next to my favorite, then mark a 2 next to the name of the candidate who would be the my choice if my favorite weren't in the race, and so on down the list.

It's called instant runoff voting because it's equivalent to having a series of runoff elections, eliminating the low vote-getter each pass and choosing among the remaining candidates. The advantage of IRV over a series of runoff elections is that you only have to open the polls once. IRV is used to elect the President of Ireland, members of Parliament in Australia, and here in Tulsa it was used at the 1st District Republican Conventions of 2000 and 2004 to elect delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention. I first experienced IRV in college -- we used it in our fraternity to elect officers.

At the very least, Tulsa needs a runoff in special elections, but it would be better still to use IRV in all elections. As a charter city, Tulsa could choose to do that.

The final unofficial returns in the Tulsa City Council District 5 special election, from the Tulsa County Election Board, with all precincts reporting and absentee ballots included:

Martinson 1129 28.93%
Phillips 1118 28.64%
Harer 1055 27.03%
Nichols 389 9.97%
Weaver 131 3.36%
Harjo 58 1.49%
Jackson 23 0.59%

We're all winning!

| | Comments (1)

Joel Veitch, creator of the side-splitting Viking Kittens flash animation, has a band called 7 Seconds of Love, and the most recent two animations at his feature two of the band's songs -- "Winners" and "First Drink of the Day." It's great upbeat stuff, and it reminds me a lot of the '80s ska revival band Madness. He's got MP3s for download, too.

Just be aware that not everything on the site is exactly wholesome. Some of the animations are Tourette's Syndrome set to music. But the two I linked above are just fine.

If it makes you feel better, you can pretend that "First Drink of the Day" is about coffee.

Although no official announcement has been made, word around City Hall is that acting City Attorney Alan Jackere will be appointed City Attorney, and Mayor Bill LaFortune has said an announcement will be made tomorrow.

I spoke to the Mayor as he was leaving tonight's neighborhood meeting about the proposed Yale Avenue bridge. Here is a link to a 2 MB WMV (Windows Media) file of the interview, which runs about nine minutes. (Sorry for the video quality -- I am still learning how to get video from the camera to the hard drive, and I probably should have picked a higher resolution or some better compression settings.) In our conversation, I asked the Mayor how he thought the appointment of a Democrat holdover from the Savage administration would be viewed by the conservative Republicans who supported his election, and I asked him how he thought neighborhood associations would react to the appointment of an attorney who was involved in controversial zoning opinions surrounding the 71st and Harvard F&M Bank case, decisions which undermined and ultimately nullified the protest petition process. He didn't have an answer when I asked if Jackere had ever issued an opinion that went against developer interests.

Neighborhoods along south Yale on the approach to the proposed private Yale Avenue toll bridge are having another meeting tonight, and Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune, County Commissioner Bob Dick, and City Councilor Bill Christiansen are all supposed to be in attendance. The meeting is tonight at 7 p.m., at St. James Methodist Church, 111th and Yale. Tulsa Topics has the details, and you can learn more at the Move That Bridge website.

It's been a summer tradition for Oklahoma Baptist teenagers, going back almost 90 years, to spend a week in the hottest part of Oklahoma, in the hottest part of the summer, sitting on hard wooden benches and sweltering in an immense open-air tabernacle to sing hymns and choruses and hear the Word of God preached. My parents first met there as teenagers. I went three times to Falls Creek Baptist Assembly as a camper, once as a sponsor. While the cabins where campers ate and slept were renovated and air conditioned over the years, the tabernacle remained open on the sides, with only some big fans to try to make a breeze on a still summer evening. (The fans had to be turned off when the choir was singing, as they would have inhaled some of the more petite vocalists.)

The preaching and singing will continue, but the old tabernacle at Falls Creek Conference Center south of Davis is being replaced with an air conditioned auditorium with theater-style seats. The wooden benches, up to 20 years old, covered in graffiti, and ranging in size from four to twelve feet, are being auctioned off. Unfortunately for old campers, the auction house does not provide a searchable index of doodles, so the odds are slim of you finding the bench where you and your sweetheart de la semaine proclaimed your everlasting love with a penknife.

There's an opportunity for graffiti of a sort in the new auditorium, but it's only the one chance and it'll run you $500. For that price, you can "save a seat" and have it inscribed with the text of your choice. You could commemorate your conversion, remember a departed loved one, or honor your church. I suppose a camper could still get an inscription in the time-honored form AB+CD, but $500 is a bit much to pay and a brass plaque is a bit permanent for what may turn out to be wistful memories of the girl you surreptitiously held hands with during the sermon. It might be worth it, though, if that week-long romance turned into 44 years (and counting) of marriage, as it did for a couple I know.

(Found via the dead-tree version of the Baptist Messenger.)

You're encouraged to carve your favorite Falls Creek memories in the comments.


A robin built a nest right next to our patio door, in a spot where the gutter downspout angles in from the edge of the roof to the side of the house. This photo is from last Monday afternoon.

All right, you say, this British election stuff is mildly interesting, but what does it have to do with the situation in Tulsa? Plenty. Britain's "first-past-the-post" electoral system has a fundamental flaw that works against enacting the will of the majority, and Tulsa's upcoming City Council special election -- no primary, no runoff, no majority required -- has the same flaw, only to a greater degree. The flaw requires voters to do more than simply vote for their favorite candidate, if they want to ensure that the outcome is at least acceptable to a majority of voters. Strategy is required.

First-past-the-post means no majority is required to win a seat. Whoever gets the most votes wins, no matter how small the percentage of the total vote. If 20% of the electorate loves Candidate Smith, and the other 80% hates him, but are split evenly between five or six candidates, the hated Mr. Smith wins anyway. In the 2001 UK general election, the winning candidate received a majority of the vote (greater than 50%) in less than half the constituencies. 333 seats out of 659 had a winning percentage below 50%, 26 seats had a winning percentage below 40%, and in two seats, Argyll and Bute, and Perth, both in Scotland, the winning percentage was just under 30%. (Thanks to the UK Elections Directory for making the 2001 results available in spreadsheet form.)

Winning without a majority is common in the UK because there are three nationally competitive parties -- Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat -- and in Scotland and Wales, there's also a pro-independence party that has a significant base of support, (Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, respectively). If voters who supported the winning candidate in the last election became disaffected, there were at least two other places they could take their votes, and an unpopular MP could stay manage to in office if his opponents split the rest of the votes evenly. This is how Tony Blair's Labour Party managed to retain a majority of the seats in the House of Commons, despite taking only 35.2% of the nationwide vote, down from 40.7% in 2001. If the entire 5.5% swing away from Labour had gone to the Conservatives, there would have been moving vans at Number 10, but most of it went to the Liberal Democrats, the third place party. If a voter's main goal had been to get rid of Tony Blair as prime minister, the smart thing would have been to vote for whichever party stood the best chance of beating the Labour candidate in his constituency, even if that meant a Tory voting for a LibDem or vice versa. It's called tactical voting, and anti-Tory activists tried to convince anti-Tory voters to give it a try in 1992 and nearly succeeded -- the Conservatives barely managed a majority of the seats despite winning nearly 41% of the vote.

In Tulsa on Tuesday we have an election which will determine which of two factions -- the Cockroach Caucus and the Reform Alliance will gain overall control of the City Council. The two factions are fundamentally divided over policy and philosophy (although the Cockroach Caucus would like you to think that it's all a matter of personality and temperament). There are four serious candidates in the race -- two, Bill Martinson and Andy Phillips, have the support of elements of the Cockroach Caucus, and two, Charlotte Harer and Al Nichols, are supported by pro-reform activists. There is a real danger that pro-reform voters could form a majority of those who vote on Tuesday but still lose the election by splitting that pro-reform vote between two candidates.

I can illustrate the danger by telling you about the results in the South Belfast constituency. In Northern Ireland, there are two main political sympathies but four main parties -- two nationalist parties that want all Ireland united in the Republic of Ireland (Social Democratic and Labour Party, Sinn Fein), two unionist parties that want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom (Democratic Unionist Party, Ulster Unionist Party). To oversimplify, within each grouping there are two parties that share a central aim but differ on how best to achieve that aim. All four parties competed for the South Belfast seat, which had been held by an Ulster Unionist.

In Thursday's vote, unionist parties received 51.1% of the vote, while nationalist parties received 41.3% -- the rest of the votes went to three minor parties which are neither unionist nor nationalist. Even though a majority of voters supported unionists, the winning candidate was a nationalist. Most of the nationalist votes went to the SDLP candidate, who took 32.3% of the vote, while the DUP and UUP candidates split the unionist vote almost down the middle -- 28.4% and 22.7% respectively. If there were a runoff, the DUP candidate would almost certainly have won, but there isn't going to be a runoff -- just a "winner" who had two-thirds of the voters against him.

In such a situation, the only way to ensure that the winner is someone acceptable to the majority is for each voter to conduct the runoff in his head before he goes to vote. A voter should ask himself, "Of the candidates acceptable to me, which one has the most support already? Which one has the best chance of winning?" That question is easier to answer if polls have been conducted, but you can still make an educated assessment by looking at the segments of the electorate that are likely to back each candidate.

The South Belfast scenario may well play itself out in Tulsa's District 5, but the stakes are higher here. If the reform candidates split a majority of the vote and lose the election, it will be cold comfort to say that we would have won if there had been a runoff. We'll have to suffer for the next 11 months with the Cockroach Caucus back in control of the Council.

The situation here is complicated by the fact that each of the factions has a serious candidate from each political party. That's part of the data that has to be considered in casting a strategic vote. You may not care what party label a Council candidate wears, but some voters will, and that affects which candidates have the best chance of winning. Charlotte Harer's long list of endorsements by elected Republicans like Senator Jim Inhofe and Congressman John Sullivan will carry a lot of weight with those voters who care most of all about electing a good conservative Republican.

Al Nichols, a Democrat and a reformer, is a good man and would be a good councilor. His credentials as a neighborhood activist are impeccable, and he has the best understanding of land use issues of any of the candidates in the race. I don't believe that neighborhood activists and voters concerned about land use constitute a sufficient base of support to win the election. Nichols would have to win a certain number of voters who are simply looking for a Democrat to vote for. Unless they disagree with him on a specific issue, most Democrat voters will vote for Andy Phillips -- they saw his name on the ballot and voted for him just over a year ago.

I believe that Charlotte Harer is in the best position to put together a winning coalition. Her support from prominent Republicans gives her a head start, and the district does lean Republican. Now that she's the only woman in the race, she'll get all the votes of those who simply want more women on the Council. She's solidly pro-reform at City Hall and that should win her some crossover votes from pro-reform Democrats.

I'm going to ask some people I greatly respect and admire to do a hard thing. We share the same goals for city government. I wish it weren't necessary to make this request, and if we had a better voting system, like Instant Runoff Voting, it wouldn't be necessary. Under IRV, you could give your first preference to your favorite without worrying that you might help elect your least favorite candidate. But we don't have IRV, or even a simple runoff. So here goes:

I urge Al Nichols and his supporters to throw their support behind Charlotte Harer for the sake of keeping the Council in the hands of the reformers. You've fought a good fight, and as a former candidate I have some idea of how hard it would be to drop out at the last minute after knocking on hundreds of doors and making hundreds of phone calls. For the sake of the ultimate aim -- reforming city government -- I believe such a sacrifice is necessary. The only thing that would change my mind is a scientific poll or comprehensive survey showing Al in first or second place.

Tulsa City Council District 5 candidate Nancy Jackson withdrew from the race earlier in the week and has thrown her support behind Cockroach Caucus standard-bearer Bill Martinson. Her voice was used a few days ago for an automated phone call on behalf of Martinson to District 5 voters, accusing the Republican Party of being unfair to certain candidates in the race.

In response to Jackson's accusations of unfairness, Tulsa County Republican Jerry Buchanan issued the following statement at a press conference today:

It has been my intention as the Chairman of the Tulsa County Republican Party to give every Republican Candidate in the City District 5 every opportunity to any and all information available from the party. We have maintained a neutral position for all candidates because it is not only fair, but the right thing to do.

Nancy Jackson, a former candidate of the upcoming city council race, has been prompted to use a pre-recorded phone message to blanket the constituents of District 5.

I would like to read an excerpt of the message containing the material:

"Hello, my name is Nancy Jackson and even though I have withdrawn my candidacy from the District 5 race, I wanted to tell you why I have given my full support to Bill Martinson. The adversarial nature of the local Republican Party officials toward candidates other than their chosen one in this race has been apparent from the start. First by encouraging candidates to rethink the candidacy and withdraw so that the heir-apparent, Charlotte Harer, would be the only option for the voters. Following that, they withheld access to valuable party lists to all of the candidates except for Charlotte."

Any candidate that might feel that information was not available to them is only because they did not ask for it. I have repeatedly called the Republican Candidates to see if they needed anything or any help with their campaigns. Ms. Jackson was asked if she had any needs from the Republican Party and which I was told that all was going fine and that she appreciated being asked. Later calls made were either ignored or not returned.

The Tulsa County Republican Party has not endorsed or given extra help to any Candidate competing for the Tulsa City District 5 seat. Any persons that might be misguided into stating so is mistaken or is stating untruths. Those that would use smear tactics, un-truths, inaccurate statements about our party are encouraged to disengage from the outside forces that are inherently trying to disrupt a fair and honest election. It would almost seem that there are those that would have a self interest in ruling our city government that are toying with a free and democratic election. The City of Tulsa is trying to fill a position vacated by Sam Roop with an individual that has Tulsa's best interest at heart and not the interest of someone or a group that have their own selfish motives. I understand that Ms. Jackson's campaign did not go her way, but to blame the Republican Party with untruths and trying to discredit a fellow Republican candidate with untruths is just not consistent with Republican Values.

Jerry Buchanan has been scrupulously even-handed in his dealings with these candidates. Whatever resources the county party has at its disposal -- and those resources are not as impressive as you might think -- they've been available to any Republican candidate.

As Republican chairman, he has expressed the concern that, in a first-past-the-post special election, with no primary and no runoff, too many Republican candidates would split the GOP vote and allow a Democrat to win with a minority of the vote. It's a simple political fact, and several sensible candidates assessed their chances, their willingness to commit time and resources to the race, and chose instead to drop out and support another candidate. Buchanan would have been negligent of his responsibilities if he had ignored the significant risk to the party's ability to retain a seat it has always held.

But the party chairman doesn't control the endorsements made by Republican elected officials and precinct leaders. Senator Jim Inhofe and Congressman John Sullivan, State Rep. Sue Tibbs and State Sen. Brian Crain are supporting Charlotte Harer because they've known her and worked with her for years in the party, and they know that she's a solid conservative and a hard worker.

As far as I'm aware, the other Republicans in the race have never been involved beyond checking the Republican box when they registered to vote. Checking that box entitles them to even-handed treatment from the party organization, but it doesn't entitle them to the loyalty and support of Republican officials and activists. Charlotte Harer has earned that loyalty and support. She has served for over four years as one of Tulsa County's representatives on the Republican state committee, and as president of the Tulsa County Republican Women's Club, she has increased membership from 50 to 250, building up a corps of women who stand ready to donate time and money to Republican candidates and causes. If anyone would deserve special treatment by the party organization, it would be Charlotte Harer.

Charlotte Harer, Republican candidate in the Tulsa City Council District 5 special election, could use your help tomorrow morning to get her message out to the voters. You don't have to be a District 5 resident to help. Volunteers will be gathering at 9:30 a.m. at her home at 2927 S 67th East Ave. For more information, call Charlotte at 664-7596 or on her cell phone at 639-1044.

Ulster accent


The counting for Northern Ireland's 18 seats at Westminster is underway, and while I work I'm watching BBC Northern Ireland's coverage of the results. The results notwithstanding, it's fun to hear Ulster's distinctive accent again -- something I haven't heard in person for nearly 10 years -- to hear each candidate talking about how "proyd" he is of the "campeh-un" he ran.

Unionists -- those who favor keeping Northern Ireland as part of the UK -- are split between two major parties, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The UUP has been the leading unionist party for many years, representing the unionist side in negotiations over self-government, security, and cross-border institutions. Continued violence in NI has led unionists to prefer the DUP, a party with a tougher negotiating stance. The UUP had 10 of NI's 18 seats at one time, were down to 6 after the 2001 election, and may end up with only a single seat. David Trimble, UUP party leader, 1998 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and, briefly, first minister of NI, just lost his Upper Bann seat to DUP candidate David Simpson, who announced an end to "pushover unionism." (UPDATE: Here's a column in the Scotsman outlining Trimble's rise to power, his involvement in peace talks, and his fall from favor. Hat tip to Slugger O'Toole, who blogs about Northern Ireland politics and culture.)

On the nationalist side -- those who want the Six Counties united with the rest of Ireland under Dublin's rule -- voters are shifting from the once-dominant Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) to Sinn Fein, a radical party with close ties to the terrorist Irish Republican Party. It's likely that when all the votes are counted the DUP and Sinn Fein will have the most representation at Westminster.

You'll find the latest results from Northern Ireland here.

I mentioned in an earlier entry that I was excited, when watching the 1992 British election results, to see that Michael Bates, a Conservative, had been elected as MP for Langbaurgh. He was turned out in the Labour victory of 1997 (for the renamed seat of Middleborough South and Cleveland East). Tonight I found out there was more to like about him than just his name.

I googled to see what had become of him, and it turns out that he writes a "Thought for the Week," published on the website of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, an organization that seeks to reconnect British Christians with the political process.

The other Michael's columns are meditations on living out the Christian faith in the world. They are a bit lengthy, but thoughtful, and lead the reader in unexpected directions.

His most recent essay starts with the Senate confirmation hearings for UN ambassador-designate John Bolton, and the complaints about his temperament and management style, and asks how should a Christian manage people. A Christian manager should be a servant to his subordinates; a visionary leader; a casting director, matching people to the jobs that fit them; a skilled navigator, setting realistic short-term goals to maintain morale over a long-term project; and an encourager.

You'll find links to column archives at the bottom of that page. The most recent archive, from March and April, includes an essay on spiritual healing, a piece called "Thank God for Politicians," an account of an epiphany in a New York jazz club, and some thoughts about town criers, the men of Issachar, and the Internet. I've just begun to read through it, and I think you'll find it worth your time.

The piece on healing starts with a phrase from Isaiah's prophecy which Jesus reads in the synagogue at Nazareth: "He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted...." Bates writes that we don't respond to inner pain as we ought. We try to numb the pain, but it always comes back, because we don't look to the One who can heal it:

Today we see certain symptoms of inner injury prevalent amongst Christians and non-Christians alike: anxiety, guilt and depression. These symptoms define our sense of self-worth, our relationships and our work. Yet our approach to remedying them differs substantially from physical injury. The instinct is to struggle on in the hope that it will heal itself, or to blame people or circumstance and as such transfer the power to change our hearts into the hands of other human beings. If you have ever carried an injury physically we know that perhaps sitting in a chair and resting you can appear fairly normal-like Agnes Sanford's domestic appliance--and be fairly comfortable, but the extent of our injury is revealed when we try to exert ourselves in even the most minor tasks: climbing the stairs, lifting a box etc.

There is a purpose in pain and that is to get us to rest the injury. There is a purpose in spiritual and emotional pain and that is for us to seek inner healing. Tragically, many of us wander through life in denial never pausing to rest and realise that there is an injury to our soul, which requires the healing touch. We have become expert in believing that all that is required to alleviate the symptoms of the injured soul is more money, a new job, a new relationship, alcohol, food and entertainment. In other words anything which distracts us from facing up to the pain which lies within. Whatever distraction technique we try our cloud re-appears in the morning. The message is this God wants to replace our anxiety with His peace; our guilt with His forgiveness, our depression with His joy and to restore our relationships beginning with our relationship with God. It was for this very reason that Jesus came, that we may again be at one with our Lord and enable Him to bind up the wounds of our broken hearts.

In "Thank God for Politicians," Bates calls on Christians to reject cynicism and rather to appreciate those who serve as politicians:

For many if not most of our politicians politics is a vocation, a worthy calling to serve the 'common good,' not a career designed to serve themselves. Few, except the foolish, would ever seek elected office to make money. Few would seek elected office in pursuit of an easy life. Few would find the experience of canvassing of receiving abuse and having doors slammed in their faces an effective boost for the ego. Most people enter politics because they rather like people and are proud of their communities and want to serve them. Politics involves sacrifice and often those who pay the highest price are the spouses and children of elected representatives.

He calls on Christians to thank those who seek office and assure them of our prayers, to consider the values and character of a candidate when they go to vote, to pray for Christians in public office, and to pray for spiritual awakening in the nation. And how should a Christian respond when a candidate knocks on the door?

[W]hen a canvasser comes to your door to deliver a leaflet or enquire after your voting intentions, don't berate them because they are disturbing you in the middle of an episode of 'Eastenders,' or because they have woken the children who have just been put to bed. Don't be aggressive or defensive, don't enter into an argument over some aspect of policy, but be reasonable in your conversation. Listen to what they say and ask genuine questions that will help you decide how to cast your vote. Thank them for treading the streets in the rain, for giving of their time and for playing their part in upholding our freedom, serving our community and enabling us to be better informed about those who seek to represent us.

Here I am in Oklahoma, where Christian involvement in politics is a given, and it seems strange to read this website telling British Christians that politics is a noble pursuit, urging them to get involved and to commit to being involved in the process over the long haul. Then I remember that 30 years ago, American Christians needed the same prompting to get involved, and it took groups like the Christian Coalition not only to urge the involvement of Christians in the system but also to instruct them in how the system works. I remember attending a seminar at Grace Fellowship in Tulsa, back in the late '80s, at which we learned about precinct caucuses and county conventions, platform and rules committees, and door-to-door canvassing -- all the nuts and bolts of party activism and campaigning.

The Conservative Christian Fellowship appears to have learned from the successes of the conservative Christian movement in America and from its shortcomings as well. Have a look at its mission statement. The CCF doesn't believe that revival will result from political victory. It understands that what ails Britain (and read anything by Theodore Dalrymple if you don't believe that Britain is ailing) is a spiritual problem at the root, and the state must leave room for the church to play its role in society. The CCF isn't about achieving a laundry list of legislative goals, but about getting people with a Christian worldview involved in politics, culture, and education.

I'm struck by the parallels between the uphill task faced by Conservatives in Britain and Republicans in Blue America, and the role that the committed Christian remnant could play in transforming politics in these evidently post-Christian realms. Republicans in the Blue States can learn from the CCF how to involve and energize Christians who now sit on the sidelines, disheartened because both major parties ignore their concerns. We Red Staters have something to learn from the CCF, too: A broader understanding of what it means to live out the Christian life in a democracy.

I'm happy to learn that a group like the Conservative Christian Fellowship exists and to learn that someone named Michael Bates is a part of it.

George Galloway, MP, expelled from the Labour Party in 2003, has won Bethnal Green and Bow, an east London constituency, from Labour incumbent Oona King. Galloway was elected for the Respect Party, a party that opposes Britain's involvement in the war in Iraq. Galloway was implicated by documents discovered in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein suggesting that he had been on Saddam's payroll, receiving funds diverted from the corrupt Oil for Food program.

BBC World Service just played a an interview between BBC Newsnight host Jeremy Paxman and Galloway. Here's how Paxman began the interview: "Are you proud of having driven out one of the few black women in Parliament?" Galloway refused to answer such a loaded question, but Paxman persisted, and Galloway terminated the interview after Paxman called him a demagogue.

I'm no fan of Galloway, but I don't blame him for walking off.

UPDATE: The BBC has posted a transcript and video of the bout with comments.

UK votes today


The United Kingdom is holding a general election and local elections today. The polls are closed, and the first results are expected to be declared at about 5:30 p.m. CDT. Iain Murray will be live-blogging the election. Writer and Conservative MP Boris Johnson has a list of key constituencies and when they are expected to be declared. (British Summer Time is one hour ahead of GMT, six hours ahead of CDT.) The University of Keele has a comprehensive page of British politics links, including links to results and party manifestoes (platforms) from past elections. The BBC news website has comprehensive election coverage, but I can't get to it right now.

There was a time when I followed British politics very closely. In the run-up to the 1992 general election, I read through a book analyzing the electorate in every one of the 659 constituencies and made my own guesses as to the outcome. Labour, led by Neal Kinnock, had their first real chance to beat the Tories, in power since 1979, but torn apart over Margaret Thatcher's ouster and Britain's relationship with the European Union. I was especially interested in the fortunes of Michael W. Bates, a Conservative running for the second time in a seat with the lovely name of Langbaurgh. (It was changed before the next election.)

C-SPAN was going to carry the BBC's election night coverage, but in Tulsa it would be preempted by the live broadcast of the City Council, so I called around and determined that C-SPAN would be on uninterrupted in Claremore. I found a place I could watch the broadcast, but when I arrived I discovered to my disappointment that while C-SPAN had not been preempted, the BBC broadcast had been -- the House of Representatives was in the middle of a lengthy debate. I returned home and listened to some of the coverage on BBC World Service, which the cable company offered through a special FM antenna adapter. (This was in the days before the World Wide Web.) C-SPAN ran the BBC TV election special late that night; I taped it and watched it the next night and rejoiced to learn that Michael Bates had won.

John Major and the Tories won, too, just barely, and they spent the next five years crumbling: Financial scandals, sex scandals, deepening divisions over Europe. With the advent of the web, I was able to follow the decline via the Electronic Telegraph. The Tories were blown out of the water in 1997, did a little better in 2001. The Tories began to resemble the '62 Mets, and my interest in following their fortunes faded.

They've made some impressive showings in other elections -- in the June 2004 European Parliament elections, the Conservatives received the most votes of any party, and they made significant gains in local elections on the same date. Tony Blair has been under a fierce media attack over the UK's involvement in Iraq, and after eight years any politician has begun to wear out his welcome with the voters, so you might think that the Conservatives would be competitive this time around, but the expectation is that Labour will be returned to power for a third time, but with a smaller majority.

A British general election is really 646 separate contests, like our biennal battle for control of the US House of Representatives. The only people who can vote for or against Tony Blair live in his constituency of Sedgefield. Nevertheless, campaigns are waged on a national scale, and British voters are more aware than Americans of the national impact of their vote.

I had a browse through the manifestoes for this year's election. What's striking is the absence of America's hot-button social issues in the campaign literature of the three major parties. One of the reasons I think the Tories have failed to generate much enthusiasm of the voters is that they've accepted certain issues as settled matters, despite significant numbers of potential voters who care passionately about those issues and are looking for a major party to take them seriously. Should Britain continue as a member of the European Union? Are abortion laws too liberal? Are government welfare policies undermining families? What is the impact of mass immigration on British society? Where the major parties are silent, minor parties have sprung up to respond. The UK Independence Party came in third in the 2004 European Parliament elections, ahead of the usual third-place finisher, the Liberal Democrats.

I came across the website of a new minor party, the Christian Peoples Alliance, which is trying to address some of those issues, but I'm off to a baseball game -- more about that later.

The local chapter of the League of Women Voters had candidates for next Tuesday's Tulsa City Council District 5 election respond to an extensive questionnaire, and Tulsa Topics has posted it online. The candidates were asked about their reasons for running, non-partisan elections, the recall provisions of the City Charter, privatization, economic development, zoning, and whether a council seat should be a full-time position.

In his responses, Bill Martinson, the candidate of the Cockroach Caucus, sidesteps the question about recall ("The recall provisions do not apply to this race"), says he'll follow the recommendations of the professional staff and TMAPC when it comes to zoning decisions, and thinks the job of Councilor can be handled on a part-time basis, "[b]ased upon [his] perception of the role of the city council, as supported by conversations with a number of present and former council members." Yes, Bill, if you want to be a rubber stamp, it doesn't take much time at all. Show up, vote how you're told and go home. No need to read reports or research issues if you've decided not to exercise independent thought.

Andy Phillips disqualifies himself in my eyes by referring to "bickering and squabbling" by the current council. It shows that he hasn't been paying attention and that he doesn't appreciate the important issues that have been debated over the last year. He also sidesteps questions about zoning and land use.

Meanwhile on his blog, Chris Medlock makes a strong case for supporting Charlotte Harer.

The tax eaters' party


Scott Sala of Slant Point links to a City Journal article by Stephen Malanga about the political engine that drives politics in America's "bluest" cities. Malanga calls it the "New New Left," or "the tax eaters' party," a coalition of government-employee unions, social service agencies funded by government, and workers in the health care industry, which is increasingly funded and controlled by government. He sketches the history and growth of each component of the New New Left and its influence over municipal politics in many cities:

Increasingly in U.S. cities, the road to electoral success passes through the public- employee/health-care/social-services sector. In New York, for instance, more than two-thirds of city council members are former government employees or ex-workers in health care or social services....

One reason that these politicians have succeeded electorally is that those who work in the public sector have different voting priorities from private-sector workers or business owners. An exit poll conducted by City Journal of the 2001 New York mayoral election found that private-sector workers heavily backed Michael Bloomberg, the businessman candidate who had been endorsed by Rudy Giuliani and had run on a pledge of no new taxes (which he broke after his first year in office), while those who worked in the public/health-care/social-services sectors favored his Democratic opponent, who ran on a promise of raising taxes to fund further services. In the race, Bloomberg won among private-sector voters by 17 percentage points, while the Democrat won by 15 points among those who worked in the public/nonprofit sectors.

And of course public-sector workers, who know they are going to the polls to elect their bosses, make sure to remember to vote. Though they make up about one-third of New York City’s workforce, public/nonprofit-sector voters made up 37 percent of the electorate in the 2001 mayoral race.

His analysis is interesting, but maybe a bit alarmist. 37% of the electorate vs. 33% of the workforce doesn't seem terribly disproportionate, and if the Democrat had only a 15 point win among public-sector voters, it suggests that not all public-sector voters vote for whoever promises to increase public funding. It would be interesting to know what motivated the public-sector voters who picked Mike Bloomberg over Mark Green four years ago.

Still public employee unions have become very influential, especially in Democratic politics -- you won't get far without their endorsements and the help of their footsoldiers. I've heard that it's the only growing sector of the labor union movement. While I appreciate the complaints of Tulsa's city workers, who have borne most of the city's belt-tightening, I think it was a mistake for the City Council to approve unionization, even in a limited way. It will be difficult to say no to the next department that seeks unionization. A unionized city workforce will make it more difficult for the city's elected officials to make adjustments in order to cope with tight finances, and a city employee union would be an organized political force always pushing for expansion of city government.

A bit of blegging -- that's what you call begging on a blog -- if you don't mind. We have a couple of Kodak digital cameras and they both have the annoying habit of reverting to default date and time when the batteries are out for recharging. Of course, we don't usually remember to reset the date and time until we've taken a couple of dozen pictures. When we look back at our digital archives in 20 years or so January 1, 2004 will look like a very busy day.

I'd like to go back and change the file date and/or the embedded "taken on" date for these photos to the actual date while I can still remember what it is. Anyone know of an easy -- and preferably free -- way to do this?

Steve Roemerman was at Monday night's candidate forum for the Tulsa City Council District 5 election and his report is on his blog.

The big surprise of the night: Nancy Jackson dropped out of the race and threw her support behind Cockroach Caucus candidate Bill Martinson. I was never quite sure why Ms. Jackson was running, and I'm not sure she knew either. When she spoke at a meeting of Republican precinct leaders from the district just before the filing period, she was the only candidate who refused to answer a question about her opinion on abortion and refused to say whether she would vote to allocate any of the city's federal block grant money to Planned Parenthood. (Bill Martinson was not in attendance at that meeting -- last minute conflict came up.)

When you go to Steve's report, pay close attention to the candidates' responses to the question about zoning -- it's very telling.

Romancing the groan


Longmire has added to his collection of altered romance novel covers, and there are more reader submissions as well.


And he's got a link to some award-winningly bad, but genuine, romance novel covers, one of which is below:


Here are the worst of 2002, of 2001, and of 2000.

(Hat tip to honest + popular of It's Rude to Point, who is still on my blogroll even though she inexplicably de-blogrolled me not long after she inexplicably blogrolled me.)

I hate mini-bars

| | Comments (5)

In my last day or two at FlightSafety, I was going through my old engineering notebooks and remembering some of the projects I worked on. Occasionally some non-engineering thoughts were recorded on the page.

During a business trip to Montreal in the summer of 2001 I came up with an idea for a website devoted to helping business travelers find hotels with the kinds of amenities I wanted -- amenities that you couldn't usually specify when searching online for a hotel.

I was staying in the Hilton at the entrance to Dorval Airport, spending as little time in the hotel as possible. (Montreal is one of my favorite cities, but the area around the airport looks like the area around the airport anywhere else.) The Hilton is a full-service hotel, with a restaurant, a bar, meeting rooms, a concierge, a gift shop, and a pool.

Like most full-service hotels, every little thing at the Hilton was extra. Local phone calls had a surcharge. Long-distance calls had a surcharge. There were a dozen free TV channels -- and pay-per-view. And there was a refrigerator in the room, but it was a mini-bar -- stocked and checked daily, so I couldn't buy cheap sodas at the supermarket and keep them cold. The bed wasn't even that comfortable. I do not remember if there was a mint on the pillow, but I am sure I did not care. On subsequent trips, I stayed elsewhere.

Full-service hotels were apparently designed for the business traveler with an unscrutinized expense account. FlightSafety has a fixed $25 per diem for meals and incidentals in the U. S. and Canada, so I would find ways to save money, like buying sodas and snacks at a grocery store. A traveler could keep receipts for the whole trip, and get reimbursed for actuals, but it never seemed worth the bother, and I doubt they would have reimbursed me for a soda from the mini-bar.

The hotel rooms that have what I like are usually much less expensive than the full-service type, and the extras are included in the price. Here's what I look for in a hotel room, beyond the basics of comfort, cleanliness, and security:

  • Full extended basic cable -- all the channels you'd get if you lived in the town, including C-SPAN. Especially C-SPAN. C-SPAN is an effective noise-blocker and sleep aid. Extra-strength C-SPAN (officially known as C-SPAN2), with the special ingredient Senitcuvraj, is even more effective, and the only side effects are disturbing dreams about Orrin Hatch.
  • A free local paper. I'll read USA Today if I must, but I'd rather learn something about the city I'm visiting.
  • Free high-speed Internet access in the room, preferably wired access. This is non-negotiable, especially now that I'm a big-time blogger. The most frustrating Internet / hotel experience I ever had was at the Residence Inn in midtown Savannah, Georgia. The phone system was so old, it could only manage a 28.8 kbps connection when it could manage a connection at all. Of course, the Residence Inn charged for each local phone call. To her credit, the manager refunded the fees for the failed connection attempts, but I stayed elsewhere on future visits. The second most frustrating experience was at the Comfort Suites in Wichita. They offered wireless Internet "in every room," but it was done using a single wireless hotspot in the hotel's atrium. When I complained about the flakiness of the connection in my room, I was told that I should have requested a non-corner room if I wanted to use the Internet.
  • A fridge and a microwave, so I can have cold sodas handy, keep and reheat leftovers from enormous restaurant meals, and have something that isn't entirely starch and sugar for breakfast. The Hampton Inn in East Aurora, New York, offered a free breakfast each morning, but it was 100% carbs, so I'd eat in my room. I'd slap a pre-cooked ham steak and a slice of swiss cheese on a piece of bread, heat it in the microwave long enough to melt the cheese, then top it with good ol' Buffalo-style horseradish (and plenty of it) and another piece of bread.
  • An iron and ironing board. I never use one at home, but at home I can fluff a wrinkled shirt in the dryer.
  • Plenty of accessible outlets -- one for the laptop, one for the cellphone recharger. Don't make me move the bed out from the wall to plug something in.
  • A clock radio that can actually pick up the local news-talk station inside the hotel. Bonus points if I can move the alarm time forward and backward. Extra bonus points if the radio isn't reset to the chambermaid's favorite station every day.
  • A decent place to work -- a desk at the right height, a comfortable chair, a phone nearby, plenty of outlets and an Internet hookup, with a view of the TV.
  • Good pillows and plenty of them.

If the hotel is in an interesting, walkable area -- like Savannah's Historic District -- I can do without the TV. In a place like Altus, Oklahoma, it's an absolute necessity.

That really isn't too much to ask, is it? More and more mid-range hotel chains seem to be offering those sorts of amenities as standard features, which means my website idea isn't really needed now. Wingate Inns started offering free high-speed Internet in every room in 1999, along with a fridge, microwave, a cordless phone, ironing board, and full basic cable. Other chains have been slowly catching up. I've noticed that Hampton Inns appear to have standardized over the last year with free high-speed Internet in the rooms, WiFi in the lobby, hot breakfast with scrambled eggs and sausage, and free local calls.

So what are your business travel hotel must-haves and pet peeves? Leave a comment.

Sim you later

| | Comments (3)

Today is a major milestone in my professional life. After 19 years in one industry, 12 at the same company, I'm starting in a new business and a new position. I've made it a policy not to talk about my work on my blog, so while I won't be telling you about my new situation, I'm free at last to tell you about what I used to do for a living.

I found it hard to keep quiet about my old job. It's a company that does important work, and I worked with wonderful people doing very interesting stuff. I was proud to have been a part of the team for 12 years. The company has a significant impact on the Tulsa economy, providing hundreds of high-tech engineering and skilled manufacturing jobs, but it mostly escapes the notice of the politicians and the "economic development experts" at the Chamber of Comerce.

A week ago Friday was my last day as a Staff Engineer in the Computer Systems Group of FlightSafety International, Simulator Systems Division. FlightSafety, founded in 1951, operates a fleet of over 200 highly realistic FAA-certified aircraft simulators to train pilots. The company operates 43 learning centers across the U.S. and in Canada, France, and England. Many of the centers are adjacent to aircraft factories or maintenance centers -- for example, the Savannah center is next to Gulfstream's factory; the Fort Worth center is around the corner from Bell Helicopter's Hurst, Texas, facility. The purchase price of a corporate jet often includes FlightSafety training. FlightSafety also has learning centers near major regional airline hubs, such as Memphis, Cincinnati, and Manchester, England, where pilots can train to fly regional jets like the Canadair CRJ700 and the Embraer EMB-145. In addition to pilot training, the learning centers offer aircraft maintenance training for technicians and emergency evacuation training for flight attendants. Founded in 1951 by Al Ueltschi, in 1996 FlightSafety became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway.

The simulators for those centers are built in Broken Arrow by the Simulation Systems Division (SSD). SSD also builds simulators and other training devices for the military and for training companies and airlines in other parts of the world. SSD is currently in the middle of building simulators for Flight School XXI, a major U. S. Army helicopter pilot training initiative.

SSD employs about 600 people here in the Tulsa area. It is the largest private employer in the City of Broken Arrow. It has no local customers -- every penny of the payroll comes from revenues generated by training time sold by the learning centers or by simulator sales to outside customers. SSD also uses local companies for component manufacturing and software subcontracting, representing more outside dollars coming into the Tulsa economy. Remember that the next time some economic imbecile tells you that the convention business is the only way to bring new dollars into the local economy. Besides FlightSafety, at least three other companies build or upgrade flight simulators or training devices here in Tulsa: Thales Training and Simulation (once known as Burtek), Safety Training Systems, and Cymstar.

I worked in the Computer Systems Group, and most of the work I did involved getting the various computers and aircraft avionics systems that make up a simulator to talk with each other. At one time or another I wrote software for communicating via TCP/IP, UDP/IP, raw Ethernet, IEEE 1394 (FireWire), CANbus, DR11-W, ARINC 429 and MIL-STD-1553. I've worked on simulators for civilian aircraft like the Lear 31, Dassault Falcon 900, Gulfstream 450, 500, and 550, Bell 212, Bell 412, Canadair CRJ, Embraer EMB-145, Citation Jet, Citation Sovereign, and for military aircraft like the RAF's Griffin, USAF's KC-135 tanker, the T-6A Texan (Navy and Air Force primary training aircraft), and the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor.

I traveled to FlightSafety learning centers in Savannah, Tucson, Wichita, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Teterboro and worked in East Aurora, New York, RAF Shawbury near Shrewsbury in Shropshire, and Altus AFB in southwest Oklahoma. For the most part, I enjoyed the opportunity to see a new place on the company dime, and I would get in as much exploration as I could while still getting the job done. I had only one really miserable trip, which was my last -- a three-day trip to the gloomy industrial hinterlands of northern New Jersey that stretched into 10 days.

Yes, I did get to fly the simulators once in a while, but usually only on visits to a learning center, because the simulators usually aren't fully assembled and operational when they leave the Broken Arrow facility. I feel confident that, in clear skies, with no wind or weather and no other planes in the air, I could take off, fly and land a plane, although not necessarily on the runway. A hazard of learning to fly via simulator is that a real aircraft doesn't have a "crash suppress" button.

FlightSafety's slogan is, "The best safety device in any aircraft is a well-trained pilot." It was good to be able to go to work every day knowing that my efforts were ultimately going toward saving lives. FlightSafety's simulators allow pilots to practice emergency situations without putting any lives at risk. In the simulator, a pilot can deal with engine failures, hydraulic failures, loss of instruments, and severe weather conditions like windshear. He can practice over and over again until his reflexes are trained to handle the situation in real life. In addition to the technical operation of the aircraft, FlightSafety puts emphasis on "crew resource management" -- pilot and copilot working together as a team, maintaining situational awareness at all times, working effectively and calmly during an unexpected situation.

It sounds cliched, but it's true: The best part of working for FlightSafety was the people I worked with. FlightSafety is blessed with friendly, intelligent, good-humored, talented, hard-working people. You hear about workplaces full of office intrigue, self-promotion, and backstabbing, but I never encountered any of that there. There’s a spirit of working together and doing what needs to be done to finish the job.

My new job is a great opportunity for career growth and advancement, one I couldn't turn down. I am, for the first time in my career, not working in a cubicle. Still, it wasn't easy to leave behind such a great place to work, and I wish the folks at FlightSafety all the best.

Best of BatesLine?


When I meet readers of this blog, it always surprises me to learn which entries on BatesLine have made the biggest and most lasting impression. Often it's the stuff I put up for my own amusement, stuff I can't imagine is going to interest anyone else.

I'd like to know what you think. Post a comment or send an e-mail with your favorite BatesLine entry (or two or three, if you can't narrow it down). Thanks.

Today was the second anniversary of BatesLine.

In April 2003, we had just connected to broadband. I had been thinking about getting a domain name so our e-mail addresses could be independent of our ISP. I had also started reading blogs, beginning with National Review's The Corner, then Instapundit and Little Green Footballs. As long as I was finding a host for our domain, I may as well find one that would set up a blog for me. What I had in mind was a place to make note of and comment on news and other interesting things I found on the web, and to make those comments and notes available to friends and family. I did not begin with grand ambitions.

It's instructive to look back over two years' worth of stats. According to awstats, BatesLine had 142 visits from 80 unique IP addresses for the entire month of May 2003. I received absolutely no referrals from other websites in that month.

There's some good stuff in that first month worth of posts, including one of the most frequently accessed BatesLine entries, "Cute Baby Pictures." It's on the first page of Google results for that phrase, although I doubt the many visitors who hit it are looking for images of a half-inch long baby toad or a baby armadillo -- even though they are very cute. Since 99% of you didn't read any of it at the time, it's all new to you, and maybe I'll start rerunning it.

In July and August, BatesLine became the de facto website for the opposition to Vision 2025, and traffic began to climb as radio stations and even the Tulsa Whirled linked to the site. (Do you think I should sue?) I received 2298 visits in August and peaked at 3496 in September -- 833 on September 9 alone, the day of the Vision 2025 vote. It was in the course of this election that BatesLine was first noticed and linked by A-list Oklahoma blogs like Dustbury, OkieDoke, and Reflections in d minor.

It was also in August that I got the world's smallest Instalanche for this article on using WiFi to spur development in downtown Tulsa. (I linked to this Instapundit item, and Glenn updated later with a link back to me.) How small was it? So small that I only just now noticed it -- 24 hits. Compare that to the 10,488 hits from Instapundit in February 2005, linking to my items about the threat letter from the Tulsa Whirled.

The Vision 2025 campaign transformed BatesLine into a blog mainly about local politics. It also began the partnership between BatesLine and KFAQ. Michael DelGiorno, Gwen Freeman, and I had lunch shortly after the vote, and Michael suggested having me on regularly as a Vision 2025 watchdog. As other local issues cropped up -- the 71st and Harvard case in October 2003, city elections at the beginning of 2004 -- that role broadened to include all of city politics. I think I've only missed one Monday morning since we began way back then. Month after month, KFAQ's website is the single biggest referrer to BatesLine.

Traffic climbed steadily over 2004, as BatesLine covered the new City Council majority and offered some first-hand reporting from the Republican National Convention. I also got to know a number of official convention bloggers and New York City-based conservative bloggers -- connections that would come in handy earlier this year. Traffic peaked in October at 15,015 visits, with October 22 the biggest day to date at 3,389 visits, thanks to a link from National Review's The Corner to this item reporting Chris Matthews' claim that George W. Bush is not pro-life.

The threat letter from the Tulsa World dominated February 2005, which has been BatesLine's biggest month to date -- 40,082 visitors, nearly 28,000 in a two-day period. For much of that traffic, I have to thank Ace of Spades (to whom Karol Sheinin introduced me at a New Criterion "Tuesday at Fitz's" in New York City back in late November) for responding to the mass e-mail I sent to nearly every blogger I'd ever met. Ace's entry was picked up by Michelle Malkin, who wrote about it (and hit my tip jar!), and Michelle's entry caught Instapundit's attention. Many others were kind enough to write about the issue, but Ace was the vector by which the story gained international attention.

Kevin McCullough interviewed me on his New York City radio show. CNN's "Inside Politics" mentioned the story three times. Bob Cox of The National Debate and founder of the Media Bloggers Association contacted me, expedited my membership in that organization, and put me in touch with the MBA's General Counsel, Ron Coleman. Ron sent a reply to the Whirled that has yet to receive an answer.

While Instalanches don't last forever, they do allow prospective regular readers to discover a blog for the first time, and I'm sure with each of those bumps in traffic, some Tulsa-area readers found BatesLine for the first time. Traffic has tailed off to about 1300-1500 visits per day -- half-again more than before the Whirled's threats. It had been a bit higher, but I noticed traffic flagged a bit just before Tax Day and hasn't completely recovered.

Everyone of those numbers is a real live human being (except for the search engine bots and the referral spam bots), and I thank you for taking the time to visit, to read, and to tell your friends. Many of you have been kind enough to send encouraging comments by e-mail or to stop me at events to express your appreciation. I'm grateful to those who have dropped a few bucks in the tip jar (the "donate" button on the home page) and to those intelligent advertisers who have chosen BatesLine to deliver your message to an intelligent readership. I've been especially gratified to see several of my readers start blogs of their own. Although this is still a hobby, I do feel an obligation to fill you in on local politics and provide you with some food for thought, and it's nice to know that it matters to you.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2005 is the previous archive.

June 2005 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]