September 2005 Archives

Tonight was the last night of sopapillas at 21st and Sheridan, after nearly 25 35 years. (NOTE: I can do math, but I guess I just couldn't believe that I'm old enough for it to have been nearly 35 years since I went to Casa Bonita for the first time.) Tom Baddley of Lost Tulsa has exterior photos of Casa Bonita's next to last night -- the line was too long to allow him in to take interior photos. He's also got photos of soon-to-be-lost Starship Records and on-the-way-to-being-lost Eastland Mall.

According to this article, Tulsa's Casa Bonita cost nearly $4,000,000 -- that's in 1971 dollars. Although I'm sure the owners long since recouped their investment, it still amazes me that something that cost that much to build could just shut down in a week's time because the restaurant and the shopping center couldn't come to terms on a new lease.

I remember a 2nd grade classmate bragging about being the first one in class to eat there. Our family went the night before I started 3rd grade -- September 1971 -- which also happened to be the night before my first day of school at Holland Hall. I remember that they had a map, just like an amusement park. We were there with my dad's dad and some other relatives. We ate in the cantina, which in recent years was a theatre for magic and puppet shows. I remember being quietly appalled at the mushy slimy green stuff the grownups were enjoying and even more nauseated that they could follow guacamole with a dessert of strawberry shortcake back at the house. (I'm sure that nerves about starting at a new school intensified the effect of the strange cuisine.)

Other random Casa Bonita memories: The Acapulco (waterfall) room wasn't there when the restaurant first opened. Tulsa never had the cliff divers that they had in Denver. The game room was a later addition, too. Once upon a time, there was a custom bra shop next door which prominenly displayed the smallest and largest sizes they offered. One of the treats in the treasure room were these little candy-coated malt balls, about eight or nine in a cellophane tube.

In recent years, our family went about once a year. The kids enjoyed the game room as much or more than the food and atmosphere.

There's still a Casa Bonita in Denver, and you might get to go, assuming Eric Cartman doesn't trick you into believing that a meteor is heading toward Earth so he can take your place.

MORE: Joel Blain has a last-day picture of Casa Bonita.

(Update your bookmarks -- Lost Tulsa is now at http://www.losttulsa.com.)

UPDATE 10/1: Weep not for Casa Bonita. According to a story in today's Whirled, the founder of Casa Bonita will open his second Casa Viva restaurant in the same space later this year. The first is in an old Casa Bonita in Little Rock. The atmosphere and the little flags will be the same, but they promise the food will be better. Waugh Enterprises also owns the Burger Street chain and a fast-food Mexican chain called Taco Viva.

Bobblehead

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A commenter reminded me that I had yet to link to the video of Tulsa Whirled City Hall reporter P. J. Lassek vigorously displaying her agreement with Councilor Susan Neal at Tuesday's council committee meeting. The discussion concerned a subpoena for the original bank transaction records for Great Plains Airlines. Neal was attacking Councilor Chris Medlock's motives in seeking the records of the publicly-subsidized and failed airline.

Thanks to KFAQ's ever-alert Chip Anderson for capturing and posting the video. That's P. J. sitting along the wall on the right, behind and to the left of Chris Medlock.

Steve Roemerman was actually at the meeting -- here's his account.

More comments on the video from Our Tulsa World and Hooah Wife.

Although it's still listed on the site map of tulsaworld.com, the link to Tulsa Whirled's archive of stories on the investigation of Tulsa's airport trust is broken. Hmmm.

The findings and documents collected by the Council's airport investigation also appear to be missing from the City Council's website.

UPDATE: Here's the airport investigation report on the Council's website.

Via Mister Snitch!, there's news of a woman, 19 years a paraplegic, who has regained some feeling and movement in her legs following infusion of stem cells from umbilical cord blood.

Mister Snitch writes: "If this, again, is valid, it probably also marks the beginning of the end of principled resistance against stem cell research in this country. The political tide will quickly swing overwhelmingly in favor of more research, and quickly."

I am not aware of any opposition to any form of stem cell research. The principled resistance is to embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). Extracting stem cells from an embryo results in the end of that human life; extracting stem cells from cord blood, bone marrow, fat cells, or mucous membranes -- "adult" stem cells -- does not destroy the living human being from whom the cells are taken.

Adult stem cell research has produced real therapeutic benefits, but for some reason it is overlooked by celebrity proponents of embryonic stem cell research. Perhaps it's because it undermines the argument that ESCR is essential. Some ESCR supporters seem desperate to find some positive benefit that can justify the destruction of human life, but so far, all the results have come from non-controversial adult stem cell research.

It reminds me of the lifeboat scenario used to teach "values clarification": There are too many people in a lifeboat, so you have to decide whose life is worth saving and whose should be sacrificed. Ideally, you figure a way so everyone can be saved and no one has to be thrown overboard. That's what adult stem cell research offers.

If there is any political tide resulting from this development, it ought to sweep away federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and deposit those dollars with researchers who are achieving cures using stem cells from cord blood and other sources that respect the sanctity of human life.

The Schwenkiest spot on the web

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Speaking of PCA pastors, nice to see my friend Dave Schwenk, pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Claremore, has returned to blogging. Welcome back, Dave!

John Butler, pastor of Beal Heights Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lawton, has a report on the church's hosting of over four dozen refugees from Hurricane Katrina, starting on September 1. The church has had an agreement with the Red Cross to serve as a disaster shelter, and within less than 12 hours, with the help of church members and Red Cross volunteers they were able to get Sunday School rooms and the Fellowship Hall set up to serve as dormitories and dining room. The report tells you how the refugees ended up in Lawton, how their needs were met, and what their plans are for the future.

There's also this underreported item about the situation at Keesler AFB on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the hurricane.

John also has an update from his son Josh, who is serving with the Army in Baghdad.

Assimilated nuns?

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I'm down at Shades of Brown, working on my Urban Tulsa Weekly column, and from the next table I'm hearing a lot about nuns assimilating, but by the context they're not talking about the acculturation of immigrant Catholic religious women. It's a couple of ORU grad students trying to get their brains around Hebrew orthography.

Shades has a full house tonight, and it's gratifying to see a lot of the patrons perusing the latest issue of UTW as they sip their coffee.

In that new UTW issue, you'll find my latest column, on infill development in Brookside, and some encouraging steps toward accommodating new development without sacrificing the neighborhood's character. G. W. Schulz has the cover story -- it's about the challenges faced by EMSA, Tulsa's ambulance service. As a former Austin resident, G. W.'s also a part of a symposium on the OU-Texas rivalry. The discussion goes beyond football to the differences in attitude between north and south of the Red River. Way down Texas way, they don't mind rowdy politicians:

When Tulsa City Councilors Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino began raising hell at City Hall, the city recoiled with shame and horror as if someone had farted at a funeral. We're generally timid and quiet; we don't like anyone making too much noise.

But Mautino and Medlock's antics hardly would have made the pages of the Austin American-Statesman. The only time Texans blink is when someone isn't screaming and yelling at the capitol building.

Pick up a copy and read the whole thing.

A Christian under Taliban rule

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Via Christian Persecution blog, an account of a young Afghani whose parents were Muslim converts to Catholicism. They kept their faith quiet and deliberately avoided using the term "Christian". His father was killed for his faith. It wasn't until he arrived as a refugee in Italy that the young man understood how his family had been different from the neighbors.

You've read about some of the problems I've had with my Dell Inspiron 4000, specifically about the motherboard failure that prevented the machine from even loading the BIOS. (See here, here, and here.) I have since replaced the motherboard and the machine works pretty well, although I've had some intermittent keyboard glitches -- a column of keys will stop working, but that's unusual. So far, on this box I've replaced the hard drive (original was too small and went into infinite repeated clicks if I accessed the Dell help file), the video cable (snow and occasional scrambled garbage), and the motherboard.

Julie R. Neidlinger has her own story of woe. The problem wasn't the computer but the Dell phone sales rep, who lied to her about the "benefits" of financing her new PC by opening a Dell Preferred Account through Dell Financial Services. When she realizes the DPA wasn't as good as promised, she went through another level of Dell Hell trying to close the account.

She's posted a detailed entry in hopes that Google will notice and point people her way when they search for Dell Preferred Account. This entry is here to support her quest, and I'll even throw in some Technorati tags to aid in the effort.

The presence of a good little Dell repair shop here in Tulsa with quick turnaround has made it more like Dell purgatory than The Bad Place for me, but I doubt such a place can be found in Julie's corner of the Lone Prairie.

Salty history

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Before statehood, the Cherokee Nation was divided into nine judicial districts, each with its own courthouse. (My favorite district name: Cooweescoowee, the Cherokee name of John Ross, who was principal chief when the nation was forced down the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. Oklahoma highway 88 between Claremore and Oolagah was once designated the Cooweescoowee Parkway.)

Only one of those courthouses survive. The Saline District Courthouse was built in the 1880s, and it sits on the east side of the Delaware-Mayes county line, south of Scenic US 412 (old State Highway 33). According to a story in Tuesday's Whirled, there's talk of designating the courthouse the Cherokee Nation's first national park. The building needs restoration, and it was on Preservation Oklahoma's 2004 list of "Most Endangered Places".

There's an organization devoted to restoring the courthouse, although the name sounds like a group dedicated to keeping meat the old fashioned way: The Saline Preservation Association. Visit the website to learn how you can help.

Wake up, Brad!

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Today's Tulsa Whirled reports Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry's response to an initiative petition that would limit the use of eminent domain for private benefit, in response to the U. S. Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo v. New London:

"I have great concerns with government using eminent domain powers to take property from private citizens to be used for private development," he said. "I don't think I would ever propose that, and I have great concerns with the impact of that Supreme Court decision."

Henry does not think there is any danger of state or local government relying on the decision to take property for private development.

He said he is open to ideas to prevent that, including looking into the petition being circulated.

"It sounds like it's something we need to be talking about," Henry said.

Our Governor needs to open his eyes. Oklahoma cities have been using eminent domain for private development for a long time. This week's Urban Tulsa Weekly features a current example. The University of Tulsa wants a grand entrance on 11th Street. With the Tulsa Development Authority poised to condemn the property, the owner of the building that houses Starship Records and Tapes has sold it to the University of Tulsa. Holding on to the land was not an option. If the owner refused to sell, the city would have condemned the property and sold it to TU at cost. Condemnation, or the threat of condemnation, has been used to clear homes and businesses to make way for TU's Reynolds Center and the athletic complex between Columbia and Delaware Avenues.

Starship Records isn't blighted. Neither is Wendy's or Metro Diner. Nor were the homes east of Skelly Stadium. There's no public purpose at work here -- just a private institution that wants to use its political clout to expand at the expense of those who lack that clout.

Property owners nationwide had hoped that the Supreme Court would defend our 5th Amendment rights in the Kelo v. New London decision. Since that didn't happen, it's time for action at the state and local level to stop eminent domain abuse.

Operation Eden

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Moving words, moving pictures: Photographer Clayton James Cubitt (aka Siege) returns to what once was Pearlington, Miss., and to the mud-filled remains of the little trailer his mom called her Eden.

Read the whole thing.

(Via Mister Snitch!)

I spotted a sign on a CITGO station today: "Celebrating our 40th Anniversary." 40 years ago? I knew Cities Service Oil Co. was much older than that, going back to the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Co in the first years of the 20th century. CITGO as an independent entity was much younger than that -- mid '80s, following the takeover of Cities Service by Occidental Petroleum.

40 years ago, on May 16th, 1965, was when Cities Service began to market its gasoline under the CITGO brand, featuring the equilateral triangle, colored in three shades of red for a three-dimensional appearance.

It was right about that time, plus or minus a few weeks, that our family moved from Lawrence, Kansas, to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, for Dad to start work for Cities Service. Whether or not the brand rollout made an impression on the general public, it made a deep impression on my 18-month-old brain, or so I'm told, and though I didn't say much else at that age, I could say, "Cities Service is CITGO NOW!" We could see the Cities Service sign atop their downtown building from the little house on Delaware that we rented from the company.

Cities Service didn't stay in Bartlesville much longer. Bartlesville belonged to Phillips Petroleum. As the rhyme went:

Cities Service makes me nervous. Phillips gives you better service.

In 1968, Cities Service announced it would locate its HQ in Tulsa, consolidating offices from New York, Philadelphia, Bartlesville, and elsewhere. We moved in the summer of 1969.

Cities Service followed me to college -- a $3,000 a year National Merit scholarship. (It helped MIT, but didn't help me -- at the time, MIT simply deducted outside scholarships from their grant amount.) And there was that CITGO sign over Kenmore Square -- it was restored and relit about halfway through my time there.

It was right about that time that T. Boone Pickens tried and failed to take over Cities Service, Armand Hammer (the old Commie) succeeded, CITGO was spun off and sold to the 7-Eleven people. And it was about that time that Dad got his 20-year watch and a few months later, his pink slip. Funny that Dad's career with the company corresponds so closely to the span from the birth of CITGO as a marketing name to the birth of CITGO as a separate entity.

Funny, too, that 20 years after Dad faced life apart from the company he'd served for nearly his entire adult life to that point, I'm facing my own career crossroads.

Anyway, click here if you want to see what a Cities Service station looked like before the switch to CITGO.

In this morning's Whirled we were treated to some numbers from John Scott, director of Tulsa's government-owned convention center, estimating the economic impact of the expansion of the convention center, to be funded by Vision 2025 money. The numbers were presented last month to the City Council. What his own numbers reveal, despite his efforts to spin to the contrary, is that the convention center is an extraordinarily bad investment.

The expanded convention center is expected to generate a $1,962,000 operating loss, on top of continued debt service of $1,752,000 a year for money borrowed to build the last convention center expansion in 1984. With rounding, that's an annual total loss of $3,714,000, and it has to be made up out of city tax dollars, dollars that could otherwise be going to pay police officers, keep swimming pools open, and keep potholes filled.

Scott told the councilors not to fixate on the bottom line:

"I know business people focus on the bottom line," Scott said. "And we share concerns on the operating losses . . . but we feel that is more than made up by the overall economic impact benefit the convention center brings to the community.

"Wouldn't any business want to spend $3.7 million to get $43 million?" he asked.



But that isn't exactly what is happening. The City of Tulsa is going to be shelling out $3.7 million to get about $2 million in revenues, if we're lucky.

Free WiFi in OKC

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Jared, of the blog 10,000 Fists in the Air, has a list of free WiFi hotspots in his Oklahoma City. (Via OkieDoke, who adds a list of free hotspots in Norman.)

State of the Mayor

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Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune is starting to resemble a Rodney Dangerfield joke: "My mother used to have to tie a pork chop around my neck to get the dog to play with me." Seems like the only way he can generate any positive buzz is to hire people to do the buzzing. And that'll only work as long as the checks clear, which may be a problem -- I hear that his campaign account is several thousand dollars in the hole, an astounding situation for an incumbent mayor.

LaFortune delivered his State of the City address on Thursday to a $30 a plate fundraising luncheon for the Tulsa Metro Chamber. (You'll find a link to the audio of Bill LaFortune's speech here.) He received applause for his acknowledgement of an award received by the Chamber and his salute to Tulsa firefighters, ORU students, and Tulsa businesses assisting in the Hurricane Katrina cleanup in Mississippi. Once past the introduction, the remaining 19 minutes were uninterrupted by applause. The only other sound you'll hear is the clink of fork, knife, and plate. Eyewitnesses tell me that, at the conclusion of the speech, mayoral staffers attempted to start a standing ovation, but those not on LaFortune's payroll declined to follow suit.

Councilor Chris Medlock has promised that if he's elected Mayor, he'll report on the State of the City to the City Council, the elected representatives of the citizens of Tulsa, rather than to a private organization which is a vendor to the city.

In Saturday's Whirled, LaFortune shot back at Medlock:

LaFortune said Medlock’s comments are “obviously a campaign ploy and at best a laughable one.”

Or, LaFortune said, Medlock has “a complete failure to grasp the essence of what this type of speech is.”

“His criticism of the mayor delivering a comprehensive speech on the state of the city to the business community is ludicrous,” LaFortune said.

“I think it’s actually an insult not only to the business community but the citizenry that they cannot discern the difference between a privately sponsored, business-led setting versus a governmental setting,” he said.

A ploy? No, just a way to illustrate the difference between the way Medlock would approach his service as Mayor and the way Bill LaFortune has approached it. The point Medlock makes is one that plenty of other people have made, going back to the first time Susan Savage made a "State of the City" speech to a Chamber fundraising luncheon. I made the point at length following LaFortune's "State of the City" address last fall:

When the President reports on the State of the Union, he addresses a joint session of Congress, the elected representatives of the people of the United States of America.

When the Governor delivers a "State of the State" address, he addresses a joint session of the Oklahoma Legislature, the elected representatives of the people of the State of Oklahoma.

But when the Mayor of Tulsa speaks on the State of the City, he speaks not to the City Council, the elected representatives of the citizens of Tulsa, but to the Tulsa Metro Chamber, at a fundraising banquet for the Tulsa Metro Chamber....

...the most important question is this: To whom does Bill LaFortune answer? To what constituency does he consider himself accountable? From what I heard of his speech, he gave an unequivocal answer today. Too bad for the rest of us.

In the above quote, LaFortune uses the term "Tulsa business community" as if it were interchangeable with the Chamber. But the Tulsa Metro Chamber doesn't represent the entire greater Tulsa business community any more than AAA represents all drivers, the AARP represents all senior citizens, or the OEA represents all teachers. Of the Chamber members, only a small proportion were represented at the luncheon. Most members were undoubtedly busy cutting hair, writing software, measuring inseams, manufacturing aircraft parts -- busy building a business and making a living.

At least twice during the introduction to the speech, LaFortune said that he was going to "report to" the Chamber on the state of the city. That's a phrase that implies a chain of command. Bill LaFortune may feel like he owes his job to the Chamber, but as Mayor he is accountable for the state of the city to all the citizens of Tulsa, and to the co-equal branches of City Government -- the Council and the Auditor, elected by the people of the City of Tulsa.

Medlock's promise to hold the State of the City address in the council chambers, broadcast live and open to the public, shows that he understands that the Chamber is, after all, just one private organization among many in this city, just another vendor seeking to make money through a contract with city government. Medlock shows that he understands that the Mayor is there to serve all Tulsans, not just a favored few.

Bring back trade schools

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Sarah Beth has some sensible things to say (here and here) about higher education: Let's stop pretending that most college students are getting a broad, liberal education and recognize that for most students, even in the finest universities, college is little more than vo-tech, except that it takes longer and costs more.

Downward Spin

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Was getting a tire fixed this afternoon, leafing through the September 2005 issue of Spin magazine. Every posed shot featured sullen glares, hideous grimaces. Are modern popular musicians not allowed to smile? Is it against the rules to look like you're having fun? They used to be allowed to smile:


Hurricane Warning!

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Rita is fizzling out in southern Arkansas, but another hurricane, a Golden Hurricane, hit Tulsa's Skelly Stadium tonight. The University of Tulsa won their first game in Conference USA over the Memphis Tigers, 37-31, in overtime. Despite a 200-yard, three touchdown performance by Memphis star running back DeAngelo Williams, TU led at half-time and through most of the game.

It was homecoming, and the crowd -- about 25,000 is my guess -- was into the game, interfering with Memphis' no huddle offense. The loud crowd seemed to be responsible for Memphis' false start on 4th and 3 during their overtime possession. Williams was run out of bounds for a gain of seven on the subsequent 4th and 8 final play of the game.

My son and I were there with a group of friends. It was his first TU game ever, my first in over 10 years. It was an exciting game, and we had a great time.

UPDATE (9/26/2005): I was amazed at how much my nine-year-old absorbed. He wasn't saying much during the game, although he was smiling a lot, and someone in our group asked what I had him on that he was so well behaved. Sunday afternoon over lunch, he was giving his mom highlights of the game in great detail -- the missed PAT, the PAT that hit the scissor lift and the one that bounced onto the bus, the fluffed handoff. Of course, one of the highlights for him was sliding down the south end zone slope on a piece of cardboard after the game.

Our group was greatly amused every time the referee announced a call. The ref had a rasp to his voice that reminded us of City Council Chairman Roscoe Turner. I half-expected him to begin each penalty call with, "I have a problem with that."

Google map of free WiFi in Tulsa

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The Tulsa Free WiFi website now has a Google map showing all the hotspots in its directory. Click on a point and get a popup showing the name and phone number of the location, plus a link to a review, if there is one.

In increasing numbers, people are making decisions about where to have lunch, get a cup of coffee, or get new tires based on whether there's a free WiFi connection. I am, anyway. Recently I was scheduled to attend a meeting at Espresso Milano on Cherry Street. I was in the area an hour or so before the meeting, so I thought I'd get there early, get something to drink, and get caught up on e-mail. Before I placed my order, I asked the barista if they had free WiFi. He admitted, in an apologetic tone, that they did not. I thanked him politely then walked over to WiFi-enabled Cafe Cubana and got my coffee there.

Somewhat related: Tulsa TV Memories has a page about Tulsa coffee houses, past and present. There's a recently updated and hotlinked list of current coffee houses, followed by reminiscences about Tulsa coffee houses and the folk music scene of the '60s and '70s. On the list of today's coffee houses, I see two listed as having free WiFi that I hadn't heard about before: Tulsa Sips at 3701 S Peoria and Sumatra at 4244 S Peoria.

Jeremy Hall, a National Guardsman from Tulsa, has been deployed to New Orleans since September 3. Tulsa blogger Joel Blain has been speaking to Jeremy by phone regularly and updating Jeremy's blog with the news. Jeremy was able to get to an internet connection recently and uploaded some photos of his service in New Orleans.

Little Green Footballs posted a link to the entry and there are a lot of interesting comments there, including identification of some of the locations in the pictures. A friend of Jeremy's commenting at LGF wrote about his reaction to what he's seen in New Orleans: "He just keeps saying it looks like something out of the Bible mixed with a Romero zombie movie."

UPDATE: State Rep. Kevin Calvey is in New Orleans, too, and writing about it in his weekly update.

Over the next several days, I've got a number of real-world projects to complete and matters to decide, so don't expect to see anything lengthy posted here. I'll still be posting, but it'll be more Instapundit-esque in nature.

In the meantime, particularly if you're a Tulsa reader, click on that Tulsa Bloggers link near the top of the sidebar. You'll also find individual links further down the page. I'll try to call attention to the best stories from my fellow Tulsa newshounds, but don't wait for me -- make them a part of your regular tour of the blogosphere.

You should also check out the more extensive blogrolls even further down the sidebar. My personal blogroll now has an alarming 180 entries. It includes fellow Tulsans and Oklahomans, people I've met in person, people I've corresponded with by e-mail, and probably a whole bunch who don't even know I exist, which is cool. Here are a few fairly recent additions you should check out:

A Glass of Chianti, by Sarah Beth, the Latin-reading, Western Swing-loving clarinet teacher from Fort Worth to whose punny music joke I linked earlier in the week. She has me on her list of "People Way Cooler Than Me," which I very much doubt.

Mister Snitch!, a local blogger (i.e., he blogs about local news) based in Hoboken, New Jersey, who has been doing a lot of excellent hurricane blogging recently, and he blogs about national politics, too.

Sexless in the City, by Anna Broadway. I first met Anna at a blogger party before the Republican National Convention last summer. She's an MK (missionary kid), a fellow survivor alum of Campus Crusade for Christ, and a very witty writer. Her blog is about her romantic misadventures in New York and what she's learned about courtship, dating, chastity, and real, lasting love in the process.

Thanks to all three for adding BatesLine to their blogrolls!

And here's a challenge to you, dear reader: The blogroll is really long, but it's arranged in random order, which changes everytime you load the page. Click on the first three -- whatever they happen to be -- and leave a comment here, or drop me a line at blog at batesline dot com, and let me know what you think of the blogs you visited.

Doing some research and came across this article, which appeared in The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, in August 1994: "Houston Says No to Zoning." It was written about a year after Houston voters had, for the third time in 50 years, defeated a zoning ordinance. The author, James D. Saltzman, makes the case that Houston is a healthier city for not having a zoning ordinance. He points out that Houston is not entirely without land-use regulation -- there are 17 separate land-use ordinances covering the city, and in many areas, private deed restrictions are in effect. He also argues that in cities with zoning, those with enough money to work the system can find ways around the regulations anyway.

The link above doesn't constitute an endorsement of the article, but it's food for thought.

Hurricane Rita

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Just in case you hadn't heard, there's a hurricane headed Tulsa's way. Rita is expected to reach southeastern Oklahoma by early Monday morning, and has the potential to reach Tulsa. It will be a tropical depression by then, but we could still be in for an incredible amount of rain and stormy weather. Keep an eye on it at the National Hurricane Center's website.

Help Ville Platte

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Ken Wheaton, Louisiana-born and Brooklyn-based blogger, had been encouraging donations to help refugees in St. Landry Parish, and the blogosphere has responded generously. Today he alerts us to the need in Ville Platte, Louisiana, a town of about 8,000 people north of Lafayette, which is housing a number of refugees in hotels, private homes, and at a state park. The effort isn't being coordinated by the Red Cross, and for the most part the locals are providing this assistance on their own. The refugees there don't need clothes, but they do need canned goods and non-perishable food items, small disposable diapers, and cleaning supplies. The best way to help might be by sending Wal-Mart gift cards, which can be used for all of the above, plus gas. Visit Ken's blog for details on how to help.

Traditionally, economic development aid in the Third World has involved western banks lending massive sums of money to Third World governments for massive public works projects. That approach has been very effective at lining the Swiss bank accounts of despots and putting these countries deep into debt, but it hasn't been very effective at raising the standard of living.

The idea seemed to be: Western nations have dams and airports and factories and towering buildings and they are prosperous. If we build dams and airports and factories and towering buildings we will become prosperous, too. It's a classic case of post hoc, propter hoc reasoning, and it makes about as much sense as, say, seeing a vibrant downtown with a new arena and thinking that if we build a new arena our downtown will be vibrant, too.

It's come to be understood that there are factors in the wealth of nations which aren't as noticeable as factories or dams or arenas, but which are essential to prosperity. This social capital evolved over millenia in the West, but they haven't had as long to take root elsewhere.

One of these factors is a system of banking accessible to everyone -- the ability for someone to take out a small loan, at a reasonable rate of interest, to start a business. Think about it: Western economies didn't begin with people going down to the unemployment office looking for someone else to hire them. Individuals found something they could make or do which was valuable enough to exchange for food, clothing, or shelter.

It may not take much to get started in a small venture that could provide for one's family, but sometimes that "not much" is far more than one has hope of acquiring. It's a bootstrapping problem, and I appreciate anti-poverty organizations that focus on providing the "not much" to allow someone to get going on his own.

One such organization is FINCA International. FINCA works in 23 countries, mainly in Central America, central Africa, and the nations of the former Soviet Union. FINCA establishes village banking groups made up of 10 to 50 individuals who not only lend money to members, but also provide accountability and support. Small amounts of money can make a huge difference to these budding entrepreneurs:

FINCA borrowers receive working capital so that their efforts can become more productive. For instance, they can buy rice in bulk at wholesale prices, and resell at retail prices. They can buy a used refrigerator to keep produce fresh. They can purchase a sewing machine instead of stitching by hand. As village bankers become more productive, they increase their income and are able to accumulate savings for other investments and for emergencies.

This Saturday in the Blue Dome District, Tulsans have an opportunity to support FINCA's microfinance work and have some fun at the same time. It's the first One Village Festival and Pub Crawl. The festival runs from noon to 6 pm and will feature folk dance troupes, drum circles, a petting zoo, and poetry readings. The pub crawl starts at 9 pm, and a ticket ($10 advance, $13 at the event) will get you into seven Blue Dome District nightspots to hear live music -- e.g., Irish music at Arnie's, reggae at 1974, jazz at Tsunami Sushi, blues at McNellie's. The proceeds will go to establish a FINCA-sponsored bank in a village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire).

For contact info and more information about the event, click on the link for the One Village Festival.

The Map Room links to a map showing oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and the paths of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Jonathan Crowe's comment: "Now you know why hurricanes disrupt oil production."

Roemerman back from Gretna

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Steve Roemerman is back from helping with Hurricane Katrina recovery in Gretna, Louisiana, and he's posted some photos.

Dawn's Odyssey, Book LXVI

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Wherein our heroine sees antiques that were exactly like household items that might have belonged to President Eisenhower's parents and visits Oklahoma for the first time, puzzling through the Delphic utterances of a Sonic call box and visiting a temple of the state's established religion:

Imagine your local community rec center. Now shove in as many slot machines as it’ll hold. Ok, now put a big TV and a room full of phones in the back. Get some betting slips and turn on OTB. We’re almost there. Now squeeze the slot machines together, making some room for about five or six blackjack tables, put the unhappiest people you ever saw behind the tables; fill the place with stale cigarette smoke and lonely desperate people.

It's another hilarious installment of Dawn Summers' travels. Go read the whole thing. (Y'all come back sometime -- there is more to Oklahoma than Sonics and casinos.)

I just received a 3-page Microsoft Word document, bearing the City of Tulsa seal and "Office of the Mayor" letterhead. The file, named MayorFacts-Accomplishments2005.doc, is dated July 2005, lists Kim MacLeod, Community Affairs Manager for the Mayor's Office, as the contact. The document's title is

MAYOR BILL LAFORTUNE ACCOMPLISHMENTS & INITIATIVES APRIL, 2002 - JULY, 2005

Based on information in the file, the document was authored by mayoral aide Karen Keith. It was created by city employees on city computers and issued on official city letterhead, all at public expense.

I'll dig into the specifics of LaFortune's claimed accomplishments at another time. The more basic question is this: What legitimate public purpose is served by this document? What justifies spending taxpayer money on researching, writing, and distributing what amounts to a campaign brochure?

Oklahoma State Sen. Tom Adelson is a freshman Democrat who represents District 33, which covers midtown and west Tulsa, and he serves on the General Government Committee. That's the committee where State Rep. Sue Tibbs' bill, requiring voters to show photo ID, is being held up.

David Sims, a BatesLine reader and a constituent of Adelson's, e-mailed the senator to encourage him to allow the full senate to vote on the bill. David posted the e-mail exchange as a comment on my entry on the bill, but to make sure no one misses it, I'm reposting it here, with a few formatting adjustments to make it easier to follow. David's introductions to each e-mail are in bold.

After reading your blog yesterday about this Voter ID bill, I decided to contact my senator (Tom Adelson, midtown Tulsa) to see what he thought of it. While looking for his email address, I found out that he is on the General Government Committee. The following has been our discussion on the matter:
September 20, 2005

Dear Senator Tom Adelson:

I am writing this email to you to ask you a question regarding the Voter ID Bill. It is my understanding that it currently “lies dormant” in the General Government Committee. Being a member of this committee, I would think that you would have a good grasp on the intention of the bill as well as why it is currently being held in your committee from a vote by the full Senate.

It is also my understanding that critics of the bill say that having to present a valid ID at the polling booths would cause long lines and additional delays for the voters. I am sorry, but I don’t think that that is a valid enough reason not to assure the validity of a person’s vote.

It is my opinion that voting is a civic responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Elections are set way in advance, so people hould be able to make plans to use their time wisely.

I understand that problems may arise that changes a person’s timetable. However, there are laws in place to give people the time that they need to go vote. Under Oklahoma Statutes §26-7-01, “Every corporation, firm, association or individual hereinafter referred to as "employer" who, on election day, has a registered voter employed or in his service, shall grant the employee two (2) hours of time during the period when the election is open in which to vote…”.

While I am not a fan of allowing people off of work with pay for personal matters, the law affords people that opportunity.

Surely, this bill makes sense in a reasonable and understandable fashion. I would like to know your position on this matter and any reasons that you have for your position. Also, please see what you can do to get this to a vote of the full Senate.

Finally, I have copied Senator Earl Garrison, Chairman of the General Government Committee, and Senator Kenneth Corn, Vice Chairman of the General Government Committee, on this email, so that they too may be allowed to state their position on this matter as well.

Thank you all, and I look forward to hearing back from you on this matter.

John “David” Sims
[address omitted]

P.S. Unless I hear otherwise from you, I would like to send this to the Tulsa World, Muskogee Phoenix, and Poteau Daily News so that we can inform the rest of your constituents on this matter.

Here is Senator Adelson's reply (via one of his staffers):

David -- I thinking voting integrity is of vital importance. Oklahoma is fortunate to have an accurate electronic system unlike many other states. In a closely divided race, that's a very important difference. For example, without the debacle in Florida in '00, we'd have a different President; we would have avoided the Iraq War and thousands of American casualities; we would not be in dire financial straits with record financial deficits (Remember when Republicans used to market themselves as the party of fiscal responsiblity); we would not have a President who favors amnesty, open borders, and the illegal competition from undocumented workers which lower American wages. (should I also mention fuel prices, cronyism, political corruption, graft and nepotism or is this enough)

So, I agree with you that voting matters. At this point in time, however, I don't see the need to show an I.D. Perhaps we should first investigate whether there is widespread fraud that would necessitate a slight increase in the inconvenience you mention, but I much prefer to keep voting as easy as possible.

If you feel it is important to share my response to others, please share this in its entirety.

I wasn't quite satisfied with his response, so I wrote back (replying to the staffer):

Ms. Curry:

Could you forward my thanks to Senator Adelson for taking the time to respond to my letter?

Also, could you forward my reply to his reply?

Senator Adelson:

I would prefer if we could remain on the topic of my original email. Instead of dwelling on the past, let's focus on how we can work toward the future and ensure that "debacles" (as you call them) don't happen in the future. Why not take a proactive stance on this matter and make sure that the potential for fraud is stopped before it happens?

Even if we took the time to determine whether there was fraud in the voting, other options for fraud can circumvent those determinations. Expecting someone to show their ID when voting can only help prevent the "potential" for fraud to occur.

When I voted in the 2004 general election for several positions (including your seat if I remember correctly), I waited in line and voted for all of the items at hand (almost two pages of voting) in under fifteen minutes. The funny thing was that I had my ID in hand ready to give to the person helping at the polls. I was a little shocked when I was not asked.

I really don't see what kind of delay that omeone looking at your ID can take. If someone "has to" (because it is the law) ID me because I look 25 (which has come and gone several years ago) for a beer at the convenience store, surely it would not be out of the realm of reason to expect someone to show their ID when voting. If you set the expectation that you show your ID to vote, people will understand.

In your reply, you said that you would rather keep the voting process easy. I say we take it one step further. As I have shown and explained, would it not be just as simple to keep the process easy AND valid by requiring that a voter show their ID? I think so.

You did not address my question as to whether this would be voted on in the full Senate. While both you and I are entitled to our opinion, why not allow you and your fellow senators the opportunity to make a decision that the people of Oklahoma voted for each and every senator to make for their constituents? Will there be a full vote before the full Senate?

Again, I am going to copy Senator Garrison and Senator Corn on this email and ask them for their reply in this matter.

Again, thank you for taking the time to discuss this matter with me, and I look forward to hearing from everyone and seeing a vote of the full Senate on this matter.

David Sims

Late last night I got this reply from a Yahoo Account with the screen name Tom Adelson, but a different actual address:

David -- Committee chairs hear bills at their discretion. There are over 2,000 bills filed in the Senate. Obviously, it's an important housekeeping matter to limit the number of bills heard on the Senate Floor. Senator Garrison can decide not to hear a bill for a number of reasons. I haven't visited with him about this one but will ask. In any event, I doubt he would hear the bill without first determining the extent of alleged voter fraud. You cannot show up and vote at any precinct. You may only vote in the precinct coordinated with the address listed on your registration. So, if one wanted to "cheat," you would show up and pretend to be someone else. You'd have to know who that someone else is. You'd have to know whether that voter is a likely voter or a dormant voter. You could not show up that many times at the same precinct to vote without being caught. It would take a number of people to carry out widespread fraud. If you want to commit fraud, there are more effective ways to do it. For example, absentee voting is an area perhaps worthy of attention. I haven't seen any evidence of problems with "voter identity theft" and so I don't see the need to require ID cards. With regard to your own voting experience, it's unusual. 72% of Republicans and 70% of Democrats (rough estimates both) vote straight ticket. Regards, Tom

I wonder if I need to hold my breath for replies from Senator Garrison and Senator Corn?

It's strange that Adelson took the occasion of the e-mail to indulge in a little Bush-bashing, and I'm puzzled by the reference to straight-party voting, which I don't see mentioned in David's messages.

Setting that aside, the voter fraud scenario which Adelson sets out and dismisses is precisely what many political observers believe has happened. For $35 you can buy a diskette from the state election board listing every registered voter in a State Senate district. For $150 you can buy a CD-ROM with voter data for the entire state. That data includes the list of elections over the last four years in which the voter has voted, and for each election, it shows whether the vote was cast in person, by absentee ballot, in early voting at the election board, or by some other method. With that information you could easily determine who would be unlikely to appear at a given precinct. A special-interest group could take a team of 30 people and assign each one a name to vote under in each of the 30 or so precincts in a state senate district -- that's 900 fraudulent votes for the group's chosen candidate, or about 3% of the total vote, enough to make the difference in a closely-divided district. In a smaller district, in a special election, or in a primary, the numbers required to make a difference would be even smaller.

Of all the potential avenues for voter fraud, this is one that would be easy and inexpensive to block. Why not?

The latest issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly is online, and my column this week is about Tulsa County's push to pass an extension to the "4 to Fix the County" sales tax:

Tulsa County’s three commissioners are scrambling to put together a list of projects to be funded with a new 1/6th cent sales tax. Although there’s a year to go until the “4 to Fix the County” (4FC) tax expires, county officials are eager to get Tulsa voters to commit at the earliest possible opportunity to pay the tax for five more years.

The reason has little to do with funding critical County government functions, and everything to do with mayoral politics and the balance of power between City and County. While the County has accomplished a lot of good with 4FC, the question Tulsa voters should be asking is, “Who needs the money most?”

Read the whole thing, as they say.

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A special good morning to Joe Kelley's listeners! Joe and I were discussing Councilor Tom Baker's proposal for a special charter change study committee. You can read my take on that topic here. Before introducing me, Joe said that they had attempted to contact Councilor Baker and left several messages, but he didn't reply.

New York City Democrats narrowly avoided having to go back to the polls for a runoff in their mayoral primary. Early counts showed Freddy Ferrer just shy of the 40% required to win the primary outright. The second-place finisher, Anthony Weiner, got about 29%, with the remaining 31% split among four candidates. Weiner conceded defeat and endorsed Ferrer, but apparently NYC requires the runoff to go forward regardless. Tulsans will recall the December 2001 primary to replace Congressman Steve Largent: When John Sullivan finished first, well ahead of First Lady Cathy Keating, but shy of Oklahoma's 50% runoff threshold, Mrs. Keating graciously withdrew and the runoff was cancelled.

In the event, final returns gave Ferrer the necessary 40%. (NY1.com had the results, but a big chunk of that site is currently offline.) Still, the close shave with a pointless election has some New Yorkers talking about alternatives, like Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). And it's interesting that, while some criticize IRV for encouraging fringe candidates by eliminating the worry of "wasting" your vote on someone with no chance of winning, the voices advocating IRV say it will force candidates to make a broader appeal, rather than simply try to put together the biggest of the tiny slivers of the electorate.

Daily Gotham:

A candidate must appeal to his rivals' supporters for their second and third place votes in order to prevail in multiple rounds of counting. Divisiveness doesn't work if you're simply a plurality, nor does painting certain candidates (the wild ones, with the kooky lefty ideas) as "spoilers." Voters could finally vote their conscience and their true preference, and candidates would have to emphasize common ground and areas of agreement.

Doug Israel and Amy Ngai of the Citizens Union Foundation add their support and offer this explanation of the system:

Other jurisdictions have conducted runoffs while managing to avoid these shortcomings through a system called Instant Runoff Voting. In this system, the voters rank their preferences when they vote in the primaries. If no clear majority is achieved on first-choice votes, the candidate with the minimum amount of votes is eliminated, with his or her votes reallocated to the voters’ second choice. If there is still no victor, election officials go through the count again with voters’ third choices, and so on, until a candidate reaches the threshold for victory.

That entry links to a Mark Green op-ed from earlier this year. He argues that IRV saves money and empowers voters:

Instant runoffs encourage candidates to run high-minded races, because they need to simultaneously court voters for their second- and third-choice votes. So instead of seeking a plurality by only working their respective racial, religious or community niches, candidates have to seek votes outside their own particular constituency. That avoids the scenario of a winner who gets elected by a sliver of voters only because the majority was divided among more generally favored candidates.

Instant runoffs also can level the general election playing field when the challenger's party has an additional - and often divisive - runoff contest while the incumbent saves money, face and energy. On Election Day, IRV frees voters to vote their consciences without the worry of wasting their vote on a long-shot spoiler candidate like a Ralph Nader since their ballots will be recast for their next choices if their first loses.

State Rep. Sue Tibbs is trying to get her voter ID bill heard in the Democrat-controlled Oklahoma Senate, where it has been allowed to languish in the General Government Committee. The bill would require voters to show a driver's license or some other state-issued photo ID. Isn't this an obvious and sensible measure? Don't we want to make sure that only people who are eligible -- those who live in the appropriate district, city, or state -- cast a vote, and that they only vote once? Why do Democrats have such a problem with this?

UPDATE: McGehee comments on a federal lawsuit targeting Georgia's voter identification law. The plaintiffs are claiming the photo ID requirement amounts to an illegal poll tax and is unfair to black, elderly, and rural voters. McGehee says the cost of a Georgia driver's license or photo ID works out to about $3 an election, not counting runoffs and special elections, and ignoring the fact that photo ID is needed for plenty of other occasions. (Via Charles G. Hill.)

Musical puns

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A groanworthy music theory joke, which starts like this:

A 'C,' an E-flat, and a 'G' go into a bar. The bartender says: "Sorry,but we don't serve minors." So the E-flat leaves, and the C and the G have an open fifth between them....

It gets worse, thankfully.

How I found the above joke: I noticed I had a couple of visits from a Technorati search for "Bob Wills", so I went to see who else was blogging about the Man from Turkey, Texas, and found this entry, which includes this bit of wisdom:

Anyone who doesn't want to dance (however badly) while listening to western swing has a heart made of stone.

Indeed.

The blogger responsible for that sententia sapiens is a clarinet teacher from Fort Worth who reads Latin for fun, has a crush on George Will, loves puns, chicken fried steak, modern art, chips and salsa, grand opera, Dr. Pepper, and Whittaker Chambers' Witness, which book is the topic of her most recent entry. Only in the blogosphere....

The Three-Variable Funny Test

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I don't do these too often, much less pass them along, but the approach this test takes seems to work:

the Wit
(61% dark, 30% spontaneous, 15% vulgar)
your humor style:
CLEAN | COMPLEX | DARK


You like things edgy, subtle, and smart. I guess that means you're probably an intellectual, but don't take that to mean pretentious. You realize 'dumb' can be witty--after all isn't that the Simpsons' philosophy?--but rudeness for its own sake, 'gross-out' humor and most other things found in a fraternity leave you totally flat.

I guess you just have a more cerebral approach than most. You have the perfect mindset for a joke writer or staff writer.

Your sense of humor takes the most thought to appreciate, but it's also the best, in my opinion.

You probably loved the Office. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check it out here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/theoffice/.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Jon Stewart - Woody Allen - Ricky Gervais



The 3-Variable Funny Test!
- it rules -

If you're interested, try my latest: The Terrorism Test



My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 85% on darkness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 11% on spontaneity
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 8% on vulgarity
Link: The 3 Variable Funny Test written by jason_bateman on OkCupid Free Online Dating

As a matter of fact, I love "The Office." (Via Miss GOP.)

Last "Third Penny" meeting tonight

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Tonight's the last of the Mayor's five town halls about renewing the "Third Penny" -- the one-cent, five-year sales tax that funds a specific set of capital improvements for the City of Tulsa.

The meeting is at the Helmerich Library, on 91st, and east of Yale, at 7 p.m. (Note that unlike the other town halls, the one for south Tulsa is not being held at a regional library, but at a smaller branch.)

I've argued for extending the current tax, passed in 2001, for another 14 months, to finish the projects that were promised way back then before starting over with a new set. If you've got an opinion about that, or anything else the Mayor needs to hear, tonight's your chance.

The Tulsa Whirled gave prime real estate -- the top of the Local section on Sunday -- to a story about City Councilor Tom Baker's proposal for a charter review committee:

"I don't necessarily think there is a need to make all of the proposed changes, but rather than continuing this debate, maybe we should put some of those changes through a more serious review process by a broader base of citizens and act on their collective opinion," he said.

"If they feel certain changes need to occur, then we can give it to the voters. Or, if they think not much is wrong, then let's let it ride for a while," he said.

So rather than let the Council, the elected representatives of the people, vet the proposed charter changes and pass them on to the citizens for a vote, Baker wants to gather a handpicked, unelected group to decide which reforms we the people will get to consider.

Does Tom Baker actually have any opinions of his own? Does he convene a task force when he's deciding what to have for dinner? Baker's approach to decision-making bears the marks of his years climbing to the top of a bureaucracy. It allows you to seem like a decisive leader, without actually making any decisions for which you could be held accountable.

At the end of the story, we learn that Baker has a couple of opinions about charter change: He doesn't think there's anything wrong with the recall provisions of the charter, and he doesn't think there's anything wrong with a councilor living outside the district he purports to represent.

Baker on recall:

The attempt to change the charter's provision on recall, which Baker said he thinks worked, points to the unsuccessful attempt to oust controversial Councilors Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino. A group wanted to recall the councilors, followed procedures, an election was called and the voters said no, he said.

Baker conveniently forgets the months of smears that his two colleagues had to endure, the expense of fighting to defeat the recall, and the effect that the process had on the City Council. Makes me wish they'd pursued a recall against him after all -- he might not be so blithe about it.

Baker on residency:

A change that would require a councilor to live in his or her district for the entire term is aimed at Councilor Randy Sullivan, who because of a divorce and court order had to find a new residence and moved out of his district.

It's not aimed at Randy Sullivan, but Randy Sullivan's situation pointed to a loophole that really shouldn't be there. (As I read state law, it isn't there, but it still needs to be spelled out in the charter, for our City Attorney's sake.) The proposed charter amendment doesn't make a councilor a prisoner of his district, but if he chooses to move out, he has to resign, which is only reasonable. There were plenty of places in District 7 where Sullivan could have moved after being booted from his home, but he had the gall to run for re-election after he had already moved out of the district. Anyone who supports the principle of geographical representation ought to have a problem with that.

Which is why Tom Baker doesn't have a problem with that. The hidden agenda of his proposed blue ribbon panel is to push for the addition of at-large members to the City Council, diluting geographical representation, and taking grass-roots politics out of the equation. The powers that be realize that they are losing control of the current form of city government, and they are trying to reel it back in. That's why you have a story that is not particularly timely, focused on one favored councilor, bolstered by a handpicked academic, on the front page of Sunday's local section. The Whirledlings want a council that's under their thumb, and they want an unimaginative bureaucrat as the next mayor.

Pistol Pete disarmed

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Maybe they should just go all the way and rename him "Pastel Pete".

(Via Mad Okie. OSU's Pistol Pete is one of triplets -- besides New Mexico State, University of Wyoming also uses the same mascot.)

I had the same reaction as Dave Schuttler when I saw the new News Talk 740 KRMG billboard. Are these three notorious figures endorsing KRMG's news coverage?

Or are they going to be the new afternoon drive-time team? Osama bin Ladin news and comment: "Hello, Americans, this is Osama bin Ladin. Stand by... to die!". Kim Jong-Il with traffic and weather on the 7s: "Forecast for tonight: The Democratic Republic of Korea will rain death and destruction on you capitalist running dogs. Right now -- it's sunny and a remarkable 74 degrees."* Saddam "Scoop" Hussein with sports: "The Sooners are regrouping after their opening loss to Texas Tech. If it were up to me, I'd have them all shot."

It's a strange way to market the station, especially since none of these three are at the forefront of the news at the moment. In a way, it's commendable that the station would do this -- we could all use a reminder that there are evildoers who seek to destroy our way of life.

Still, from a marketing perspective, it might have been better to use photos of Joe, Denver, and Rick.

(* In the days before digital radio tuners, KRMG was not "740" but "74," as in "KRMG -- 74 Karat Gold!" There was a particular phrase they used when the temperature was 74. I think it was, "It's a remarkable 74 degrees," but that doesn't sound quite right. Anyone else remember?)

Here is a remarkable set of 107 photos taken in New Orleans over the last week, showing the good news and the bad news as the water level drops and the recovery continues: food being stored in the same warehouse as Mardi Gras floats, a man cooking a big vat of red beans and rice on a street corner in the French Quarter, the mosaic patterns left by the toxic mud as it dries and cracks, cars destroyed by the storm, Humane Society workers rescuing abandoned animals from houses. (Hat tip to Vidiot.)

These are good

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I feel I'm somewhat derelict in my duties as a blogger just to throw up a few links and say go read them. I ought to at least provide some witty or enlightening commentary, but I'm too tired, and at least, by posting the link, I'm saying that something is worth reading. So read it, OK?

Bridge congestion

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I started working on an entry on yesterday's debate between Michael Covey of the South Tulsa Citizens Coalition and Tony Dark, an engineer with TetraTech FHC, the firm doing the engineering work for Infrastructure Venture Inc. (IVI), over the south Tulsa bridge which IVI wants to build as a public-private partnership with Tulsa County. I got distracted with e-mail and some other blog browsing and didn't get it done to my satisfaction.

For now I'll leave you with these few comments: Michael Covey did an excellent job of stating the case against the IVI-Tulsa County deal and against IVI's desired location of the bridge. I was amazed that the pro-IVI side would represented by an engineer working for a subcontractor, and not by one of the IVI principals or one of the County Commissioners. While Tony Dark did a decent job, the issues at hand involved policy and economics more than soil compaction and traffic counts. Clearly IVI didn't want anyone present who could be expected to answer questions about the public policy aspects of the bridge.

Covey has proposed an alternative plan, in which the City of Tulsa would build the bridge with revenue bonds and pay Tulsa County and River Parks the same amount of money they are expecting ($89 million and $44 million respectively) under the IVI plan. Based on information from George K. Baum and Associates, it's estimated that the City of Tulsa would net $611 million dollars over the life of the bridge, some of which could be used to pay for the infrastructure upgrades required for the roads which link to the bridge.

Referring to the County's intention to seek renewal of the 4 to Fix the County sales tax in order to raise $59 million for capital improvements, Covey asked, "Why would I vote for $59 million in taxes when Tulsa County has walked away from $658 million net profit?"

Regarding the STCC's proposal to move the northern end of the bridge so it connects into Riverside Drive rather than Yale Avenue, Dark made a telling remark. Dark said that moving the north end of the bridge would relieve traffic for existing subdivisions along Yale, but would create a 15 foot high barrier next to a planned high-end housing development along Riverside at 121st. In other words, the County wants to protect the interests of the new developer as the expense of neighborhoods where the developer has already sold all the homes and moved on.

Dang it, Bobby! I've got some serious political blogging to do and you go and distract me.

Bobby at Tulsa Topics took advantage of a sleepless night to go searching through Google Print -- Google's attempt at making dead-tree knowledge searchable.

He finds this: San Antonio Rose, a biography of Bob Wills by Charles Townsend.

I searched the text for KVOO* and found an interesting story about the sponsorship of the Texas Playboys' daily half-hour broadcast in 1935. Wills bought the time from the station ($12,000 for the year), then worked out a deal with a flour company:

Wills did not actually sell the show to the Red Star Milling Company. He wanted them to develop a new flour, to be labelled, appropriately, Play Boy flour, and advertise it only on his radio program. With such a procedure, they could determine just what results the show got. The company was to pay Wills a royalty for each barrel of flour sold. The contract was signed, and Play Boy flour was marketed for the first time in November 1935. In twenty-four months, Play Boy flour was selling as well as brands that had been on the market for forty years.

That's just a taste -- there was Play Boy Bread, performances at grocery store openings and bakers' conventions, and, in sacks of Play Boy flour, a picture of one of the Playboys and his favorite recipe. And there's even a song written by a fan in tribute to Play Boy flour.

(*That KVOO, 1170 on your AM dial, changed call letters and formats three years ago, and is now KFAQ, on which you can hear me Monday mornings at 6:10. One of KFAQ's FM sister stations kept the KVOO call letters. I wish the AM blowtorch had kept KVOO, too. Given what the letters stand for, KVOO seems appropriate for a news/talk station.)

MORE on Google Print: Eldon Shamblin remembers his early days with Bob Wills in The Jazz of the Southwest: An Oral History. And there was a sort of Texas Playboys farm system, which you'll read about in Southwest Shuffle: Pioneers of Honky-Tonk, Western Swing, and Country Jazz.

Groovy Threads, a vintage clothing store on Cherry Street in Tulsa, has been collecting items to help people who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Here's a letter from Valerie Stefan, owner of Groovy Threads, which she sent to fellow business owners about what she's trying to do to help and the obstacles she's encountering:

9-13-05

Dear Friend,

As of September 1, 2005, Groovy Threads started a clothing drive for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. To date we have collected thousands of items, including: clothing (new & gently worn) toothbrushes, hair products, food, children’s items & other basic essentials.

Our original plan was to work in coalition with a specific local charity to get these greatly needed items to the evacuees on the coast & around the nation.

As of September 12, 2005, the charity that we had hoped to work closely with has become overwhelmed with donations & has gently refused our items.

Our new plan of action is to get a coalition of local businesses to make monetary donations of any amount so that we can cover the price of Uhauls & gas to get these much needed items to the people so greatly affected by this disaster.

Our plan is to take items to evacuees in Oklahoma first & then make a trip to Houston & possibly Mississippi.

Please consider helping us, as we continue to take in much needed donations for these unfortunate people who have lost everything.

We will not quit taking donations. We will continue to do our best to accommodate all items until we have the funds to personally deliver the donations to the specified areas.

For more information I can be contacted at Groovy Threads 588.1970. Email address: valeriestefan@cox.net

Thank you for your time & consideration,

Valerie Stefan

Owner Groovy Threads Vintage

Valerie is hoping to take supplies to the Slidell, La., area on October 2, if she has the means to get herself and the supplies down there. If you can help make the trip possible, please contact her at the above phone number or e-mail address.

(The title is just a bit of fun. I'm pretty sure that Valerie is taking ordinary 21st century clothes to the hurricane victims, not her store's normal stock in trade.)

(I am a bit disturbed that a vintage clothing store would boast of having the "Best '80s music in town!" 1880s, surely! Why, I was in college in the 1980s. Nothing vintage about the 1980s, he said, shaking his grey head in dismay.)

Katrina recovery latest

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Steve Roemerman has an update on the situation in Gretna, Louisiana. There's still an incredible amount of work to do in clearing felled trees and doing temporary roof repairs.

"Interdictor," liveblogging as part of the Directnic team working to keep that downtown New Orleans hosting provider alive, is rotating out of New Orleans and plans to start his own disaster-preparedness consulting firm. The blog will continue to document Directnic's involvement in the recovery. Directnic has been back on power since Monday, basements are being pumped out, things are beginning to come back to life. Access on major routes into New Orleans is blocked by dirt berms, except for a military checkpoint on the River Road. You'll want to read an account by Robert LeBlanc, who volunteered last week running a boat into the flooded area and pulling people off of roofs and out of the water.

This item's a bit dated, but I just found it: A Directnic customer, Something Awful, raised $30,000 for hurricane relief through Paypal. Then Paypal froze the account. Read what happens when the terms of service you so blithely click through actually come into play. (Hat tip to Sean Gleeson.)

Back on Tuesday, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry notified the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma that Falls Creek would not be needed to house refugees. The efforts won't go to waste -- some donated items will be taken to refugees at Camp Gruber and some will be taken with Baptist disaster relief crews to the New Orleans area.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management is opening two disaster resource centers in the state to help refugees who are in Oklahoma. The Tulsa center will be open at Crosstown Church of Christ, just east of Harvard on Admiral, from 9 to 5 tomorrow.

Remember the New Orleans city and school buses that weren't used to evacuate residents? Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu blames LazeeCiteeWurkors:

Mayor Nagin and most mayors in this country have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out of the city in front of a hurricane.

It's Bush's fault for not providing sufficient funds for mass transit, you see.

The Political Teen has the video. (He always does.) Hat tip to Mister Snitch for the link.

Confirmation comics

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Sean Gleeson is a genius. You must click this link. Biden reminds me of a certain "Kids in the Hall" recurring character.

And here are some questions Sean wants asked of Judge Roberts.

In a case somewhat reminiscent of the Tulsa Whirled's threats against this blog,
attorneys representing humorist Garrison Keillor have sent a cease-and-desist letter to MNspeak.com over the sale of T-shirts bearing the phrase "A Prairie Ho Companion". MNspeak.com says the T-shirts are parody and therefore covered under fair use. Keillor's attorneys are claiming a "likelihood of confusion." (Link via Mister Snitch!)

(What is the difference between a humorist and a comedian, you ask? A comedian makes you laugh out loud. A humorist evokes a wry, knowing chuckle.)

I used to be a fan of Mr. Keillor's. No, Garrison Keillor was my idol. When he announced his retirement in 1987, I spent the rest of the spring arranging my schedule around taping each week's episode of "A Prairie Home Companion." When I went to Duluth, Minnesota that summer for a wedding, I drove through Anoka, his hometown, and Milaca, a town that that was one of the inspirations for Lake Wobegon. I loved the weekly radio serial -- Buster, the Show Dog -- the parody commercials, and the news from Lake Wobegon. I have most of his books and several tape collections of Lake Wobegon stories. Just as Keillor was inspired to create PHC by a visit to the Grand Ole Opry, I fantasized about hosting my own PHC-like radio show, live every week from Cain's Ballroom, opening with an appropriate bit of Western Swing. (Note to self: Enough already. You're cringing with embarrasment.)

During the original run of PHC, Keillor's tone reflected an affection for small-town life and simple faith. Politics was far in the background, except for a brief lament following Walter Mondale's 1984 landslide defeat. Back in the day, there were articles written about Keillor as a kind of proto-evangelist -- not directly sharing the gospel, but laying the groundwork.

Keillor deserves credit for bringing some great musicians to a wider audience: Johnny Gimble, Chet Atkins, Butch Thompson, and Riders in the Sky, to name a few. Bob and Ray were guests on the show, and Bob Elliott was a regular on the New York-based follow-on series, "American Radio Company". His CD collection of Pretty Good Jokes is responsible for my son, at age 4, telling complete strangers the joke about how many insurance salesmen it takes to screw in a light bulb.

At some point, Keillor stopped gently tweaking the insufferably pompous and became insufferably pompous himself. Where he had once injected politics into his stories in only the most subtle ways, he now delivered ham-handed harangues. I can't tell you how long it's been since I tuned in to PHC -- ten years?

The mention of ham-handedness brings us back to the topic at hand. The proprietor of MNspeak.com politely pointed out to Keillor's attorneys that pursuing this lawsuit would make Keillor the object of riducule throughout the blogosphere. Nevertheless, Keillor persisted. So far the story has shown up on InstaPundit and plenty of other places. Prof. Reynolds' quick putdown: "I never thought Keillor had much of a sense of humor."

I've recommended that MNspeak.com get in touch with the Media Bloggers Association for advice. Ron Coleman, the MBA's counsel, wrote a letter on my behalf that persuaded the Tulsa Whirled to back off. (Alas, Coleman's blog on intellectual property matters, Likelihood of Confusion, is offline. Looks like he may be in the midst of a conversion from Movable Type to Word Press.) (UPDATE: Ron's back up.)

More good reading in this week's UTW

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Some articles you shouldn't miss:

G. W. Schulz looks into allegations of racial discrimination at Clear Channel's Tulsa operation.

Claudette Lancaster has more about the rerelease of "The Outsiders" on DVD, about how the movie came to be made in the first place, and about some of the locations used in the movie.

Katharine Kelly writes on end-of-life ethics, with perspectives from Rabbi Charles Sherman of Temple Israel, Kevin Donovan from OU's Bioethics Center, Msgr. Patrick Gaalaas, Vicar General of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tulsa, Sister Julie Manternach, a chaplain at Saint John Medical Center, and Ron Nofziger, Chaplain at Hillcrest Medical Center.

I'm pleased to announce that I'm writing a weekly column for Urban Tulsa Weekly. My first column is in the current issue, and it's on urban design, walkability, and what that means for Tulsans who, by reason of disability or age, cannot drive:

For tens of thousands of our fellow Tulsans, walkability isn’t about rows of trendy cafes and quirky consignment shops, or about sidewalks to nowhere; it’s about independence. For them, driving simply isn’t an option. I’m not talking just about those who can’t afford to operate a car. There are those who are physically unable to drive.

Many senior citizens, troubled by glare at night or uncertain of their reflexes, prefer to drive only during daylight or not at all. Teenagers are old enough to get around on their own, but either can’t drive yet or shouldn’t. For those who can’t drive, urban design makes the difference between freedom and frustrating dependence.

The focus of my column will be city issues and city politics. Many thanks to UTW publisher Keith Skrzypczak for the opportunity to write a column, and to UTW reporter G.W. Schulz, whose very kind profile of me in July started the ball rolling on this.

Walkability and Disability

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An edited version of this piece was published in the September 14, 2005, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The archived version is no longer online. Posted on the web April 3, 2012.

Walkability and Disability
by Michael D. Bates

Urban design can be a dry topic, and the details of urban design - scale, setbacks, screening - can make your eyes glaze over, but it's all about the shape of our city and how it shapes our everyday lives.

A few weeks ago, my wife spotted a man making his way down our street, sweeping a white cane in front of him. Like most Tulsa neighborhoods built since the 1920s, when the automobile came into common use, our mid-'50s neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks, so this gentleman was in the street itself, close to the curb.

This blind gentleman told my wife that he was out "having a look" (his words) around the neighborhood where he grew up. He was happy to learn from her that our neighborhood would once again have a supermarket. He had heard that his neighborhood supermarket was closing. In the future, going to the store would mean walking an extra mile and a half - entirely without sidewalks - and making his way across one of the city's busiest intersections.

Urban planners talk about the importance of "walkable" neighborhoods, with homes, shops, and workplaces in close proximity. Walkability is more than sidewalks; the sidewalks have to lead somewhere useful.

Tulsa doesn't have many walkable neighborhoods, and the few that exist were built mainly in the 1910s and 1920s, before most people had their own cars and before Tulsa adopted a zoning code designed to strictly segregate homes from shops and offices from factories. Many walkable neighborhoods were destroyed by urban renewal or dismembered by freeway construction, and our biggest and oldest walkable neighborhood - downtown - has been reduced to little more than a suburban office park.

For tens of thousands of our fellow Tulsans, walkability isn't about rows of trendy cafes and quirky consignment shops, or about sidewalks to nowhere; it's about independence. For them, driving simply isn't an option. I'm not talking just about those who can't afford to operate a car.

There are those who are physically unable to drive. Many senior citizens, troubled by glare at night or uncertain of their reflexes, prefer to drive only during daylight or not at all. Teenagers are old enough to get around on their own, but either can't drive yet or shouldn't. For those who can't drive, urban design makes the difference between freedom and frustrating dependence.

Danny, a friend from church, has cerebral palsy and suffers from seizures. He can't drive, and he can only walk short distances with a cane, but he can get around with his electric scooter. Unfortunately, he lives on South Lewis, and he's been pulled over by the police more than once trying to go to the supermarket on his scooter. There aren't any sidewalks, and the only way to get to the store is on the street. Using Tulsa Transit's LIFT paratransit service requires booking a day in advance, waiting outside up to an hour for a ride, and leaving early enough to pick up and drop off other passengers on the way to his destination. LIFT isn't available on Sundays. If the next errand isn't reachable from the first by foot or scooter, it means another bus ride and another long wait. Because of the shape of our city, Danny doesn't have the freedom to go where he wants to go when he wants to go, and it makes Tulsa a frustrating place to live.

Compare Danny's situation to that of Nick, whom I met earlier this year at a pub trivia night in
New York City. Nick, a walking encyclopedia of pop music who led our team to victory, is blind, but that doesn't seem to limit his ability to get where he wants to go. Nick arrived at the pub on his own and left on his own, aided only by his cane. Was it the shape of New York City that made his independence possible? He told me that the grid of streets and avenues made most of Manhattan easy to navigate; public transit covers most of the city and runs frequently and all night; you can get a cab just about anywhere, anytime; wide sidewalks make it safer to get from the public transit stop to his destination; and there are usually people on the street to give directions and warn of hazards. Notice that last point: Because getting around on foot is convenient for people who could be driving, the streets are that much safer for someone for whom driving is not an option.

Notice, too, that more frequent and longer-running public transit service isn't a solution by itself. It still has to be safe and convenient to get from the transit stop to the store or the doctor's office by foot. In Tulsa, after you get off the bus, you still have to dodge cars and endure the weather on your quarter-mile trek across the parking lot to the store's entrance.

Most of Tulsa is designed for the private automobile, but there ought to be at least a part of our city where those who can't drive, those who'd rather not drive, and those who'd like to get by with just one car can still lead an independent existence. At least one section of our city ought to be truly urban.

Making that happen involves urban design. It means rethinking the way we build neighborhoods, thinking beyond the isolated building or subdivision, and thinking about how the parts come together to create the whole. It involves elected officials, the planning commission, property owners, developers, and neighborhood leaders. It means dealing with scale, setback, density, and a good mixture of uses. It requires learning from other cities, and applying those lessons to the details of Tulsa's land use regulations.

Some of that urban design work is already underway, and in the weeks to come we'll look at how good urban design can make Tulsa a more livable city.

Roemerman Louisiana update

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Steve Roemerman arrived yesterday in Gretna, Louisiana, with a group from his church to be a part of relief efforts there. True-blue blogger that he is, Steve has found his way to Internet access and has posted an update on the situation there. It was interesting to read the very different impact the hurricane had on a city just across the river from New Orleans. Keep checking Roemerman on Record for updates as Steve has opportunity, and continue to keep him in your prayers.

With about half of the precincts reporting, the fuel tax increase is failing by a 6 to 1 margin.

In the race to replace State Sen. Angela Monson (District 48, Oklahoma City), Connie Johnson leads with 31%, while Mike Shelton and Willa Johnson are separated by only 11 votes with about 27% each. This looks like one of those races where a two-candidate runoff could fail to produce the candidate that would be preferred by a majority in a head-to-head vote. With the top three candidates so close together, and a sizeable number voting for the 4th and 5th place candidates, it is not even possible to know which two of the top three would finish first and second if only those three were in the race. (This is a primary, but because no Republicans filed for the seat, the Democrat nominee will be elected.)

You'll find the election board vote tally here.

Vote today!

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Oklahomans go to the polls today for SQ 723, the proposed fuel tax hike. Don't forget to vote!

A press release from the group that has been trying to moderate AEP's aggressive tree-trimming policy. Apparently there have been some changes in AEP's practices and polices:

There will be a public meeting at beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, 9/13/2005, at Wright Elementary School, 1110 E. 45th Pl. (1 block west of Peoria). The purpose of this meetingis to discuss AEP's "vegetation management" program. Homeowners will be advised about their rights and responsibilities and informed about recent changes in AEP's practices and policies regarding vegetation management.

All citizens who live in AEP's Oklahoma service area are cordially invited and encouraged to attend.

For information please call Valerie Vonhartitzsch at 749-2848, Shannon Hall at 520-2258, or Herb Beattie at 749-4586.

I was amused by this article about the facial hair of U. S. Sen. Jon Corzine, Democrat of New Jersey, in today's Asbury Park Press. Corzine, the only member of the U. S. Senate with a beard, will become the only sitting governor with a beard if he wins New Jersey's gubernatorial election this fall.

While facial hair hasn't been a problem for Corzine to date, some say it could still cost him points with voters. There are persistent, negative connotations underlying the taboo, according to political consultants, image experts and others.

"The problem with beards is the association with the '60s and '70s — the beatnik and hippie movement, the anti-establishment attitudes that were communicated by people in those years by people wearing beards. It's guilt by association, regardless of whether they were part of that," said Judith Rasband, a professional image management specialist.

I have often heard Oklahoma political consultant Fount Holland say that a beard will cost a candidate 4% of the vote. The only thing worse than a beard: A mustache by itself will cost you 6%. I don't have any numbers, but I suspect the electorate is even harder on men with a C. Everett Koop / Amish look (full beard, no mustache), a Fu Manchu mustache, a soul patch, mutton chops, or anything resembling Robert Bork's wispy chin fuzz. (The Organization for the Advancement of Facial Hair has a page of illustrations of beard types.)

Reid Buckley, younger brother of William F., writes in Speaking in Public:

[T]he heavily bearded speaker tends to look like a wooly caterpillar with lips. Most of the expressiveness in the face emanates from the thousands of tiny muscles surrounding the area of the mouth. When this is shrouded, what the audience discerns of the speaker's mug is precious little; what it gathers of expression is nada. Rubbery lips in their hairy casements... writhe, like sea anemones....

Bearded men, moreover, unless they are blond or redhead, tend to look dour, grouchy, even menacing; like Frederic March's Mr. Hyde.

Buckley's advice to public speakers: Shave it off, or at least trim it close.

I have twice run for office, and I was told before both campaigns that I had to shave. During my 2002 campaign for Tulsa City Council, I received a phone call from a voter who had received a campaign postcard with my photo on it. He felt compelled to inform me that under no circumstances would he or his wife vote for anyone with a beard. I informed the gentleman that I had two small children who were used to Daddy having a beard, and that they would be puzzled to see Daddy clean-shaven. I also told him that my wife liked me with a beard, and when it came to my appearance the opinion of my wife and children mattered most. The voter was unmoved.

I later looked up the gentleman's name in the voter registration database and found that he was rather advanced in years. I suspect that for those whose working life was mainly in the '40s and '50s and into the '60s, beards represent a rejection of authority and society. Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Castro, and (of course) Che had beards. For boomers and younger, beards are more commonplace, and they're more likely to have positive associations: fatherly, avuncular, professorial, venerable. Burl Ives had a beard and sang folk songs in Disney movies. Ernest Hemingway had a beard. Santa Claus has a beard, for that matter.

I lost my council race by slightly more than the beard penalty, and my opponent (Tom Baker) subsequently grew a beard of his own, although I think he had shaved it before the 2004 campaign.

I have not been fully clean-shaven since 1985. I first grew a beard as a junior in college, during an extended stay in the infirmary. It was weedy and scraggly, and I shaved it off before job hunting the following summer, then grew it back the next winter, during another extended illness. When I went job hunting as I neared graduation, I didn't shave. I figured that if a company didn't want me, beard and all, I didn't want to work for them. That may not have been the best job-hunting strategy in Tulsa in 1986, but I had a good job within two months anyway.

I trim my beard closer now, and I shave more of my cheeks and neck than I did back then, but other than that (and other than a growing number of white whiskers), it's the same beard as 20 years ago, and I'm given to believe it suits me. The first time I met my wife, I was clean-shaven and wore glasses; the following year we met again, and I had a beard and wore contact lenses. This time we clicked in a way we hadn't the first year, and I always suspected the beard made a difference. An erstwhile friend told me she didn't like facial hair and had urged plenty of men to shave, in brutally frank terms, but in my case, the beard was a part of who I am, and she couldn't possibly be more attracted to me. (There are at least two ways you could take that last phrase, one of which is complimentary.)

When your beard is part of who you are, shedding it before a campaign is likely to come across as an act of political expediency as cynical as shedding a long-held principle. Jon Corzine seems to take the same view:

"It's staying," he said when asked about the beard in a July interview. "When you've had something for 25 years, why would you reshape yourself to get into public life? And I haven't tried to."

I don't share the man's politics, but I hope his success opens doors for his bearded brethren everywhere.

The final word on the matter belongs to Minnie Pearl:

Kissing a feller with a beard is like a picnic. You don't mind going through a little brush to get there.

TRACKBACK: Kyle at Neumatikos chimes in: "[My wife] insisted I not shave for our wedding, which was a great relief. Later generations would have wasted considerable effort wondering who mommy’s first husband was, and why we insisted on putting out pictures of that wedding, instead of ours." (Found via Google's new Blog Search.)

Service interruption likely

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I received some especially vile trackback spam today, which you may have had the misfortune to see before I deleted it, and I continue to fight an amazing amount of comment spam. I will likely upgrade to Movable Type 3.2 in the next day or two, so don't be surprised if BatesLine briefly disappears. MT 3.2 is supposed to have better tools for dealing with spam. If that doesn't work to my satisfaction, I'll have to think about making the bigger leap to Word Press or some other platform.

BatesLine gets PDA-friendly

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No, you won't be seeing public displays of affection here, but you can now see a simplified home page for the benefit of those who want to check BatesLine via your personal digital assistant or cellphone. BatesLine for PDA has minimal graphics and brief excerpts from the last four days of entries, with links to the full entry. If you access BatesLine via PDA, check it out.

There was a Readers' Forum op-ed in today's Whirled written in opposition to Intelligent Design. You can't read that online, but you can read the thorough rebuttal by Dan Paden at No Blog of Significance, specifically dealing with the question of the fossil record. Dan's concluding paragraph:

Evolutionists frequently amaze me. To sum up their public position, they say: We don't agree on whether evolution happened gradually, in tiny steps, or rapidly, in great, big jumps. We don't agree on mechanisms for driving evolution. We don't agree on the implications of the fossil record. We don't have a workable scenario for the origin of life other than spontaneous generation, which, embarrassingly, Louis Pasteur disproved more than a hundred years ago. We can't even agree on the value of the Hubble Constant. But by gum and by golly, we expect you, the public--great unwashed mass of idiots that you are--not only to kowtow to us and believe that this same body of evidence that doesn't even produce agreement amongst ourselves somehow establishes evolution as a fact, but to pony up the funds to indoctrinate your own children with this idea. Once again, I kid thee not. That's what they say.

Another Reader's Forum op-ed in today's Whirled dealt with the proposed display of Genesis 1 at the Tulsa Zoo. John Sieler, who volunteers at the zoo and at the Oklahoma Aquarium, says that the reason it's appropriate to display a Hindu idol, a pantheistic slogan, and Maasai theology at the zoo is because all of those have to do with the cultural context in which animals are encountered, while the proposed creation exhibit was for the purpose of making converts to Christianity:

The question is not what symbols are displayed, but why. It is necessary to talk about cultures; it is illegal to use public property to advocate one religious viewpoint. Conservative Christians are evangelical -- they want to talk about their faith in order to promote it and gain converts. But they incorrectly assume that any mention of another faith is for the same purpose. No Inuit or Maasai ever asked the zoo to put up an exhibit in order to recruit new members.

This comment is either ignorant or disingenuous. Here is the proposed creation display. It is simply the text of Genesis 1:1-2:3, from the King James Version, with a photo illustrating an aspect of each day of creation. A disclaimer was to accompany the display: "Accounts of creation are contained in the literature of many cultures. This display is an example of one widely held view of origins."

The display is not a copy of the Four Spiritual Laws or any other gospel tract. It does exactly what Mr. Seiler claims the other religious zoo displays do -- provides a cultural context for understanding how some people regard our relationship to and responsibilities with respect to animals and to the natural world. For centuries, the Judeo-Christian understanding of creation, with its emphasis on man as the pinnacle of God's creation, made in His image and placed by Him over the rest of creation, have shaped the way western cultures treated animals.

The man whose efforts succeeded in getting approval for the display at the zoo -- for a month, anyway, until opponents regrouped and successfully pressed for a reversal of the decision -- is Dan Hicks. Last month Tulsa Chiggers posted an item about Dan Hicks, whom Red Bug (the blogger at Tulsa Chiggers) knows through school and kids' sports. His evaluation of Dan matches what I know of him -- certainly enthusiastic and persistent for his cause, but never rude or arrogant

Tulsa roundup

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Roemerman on Record will be quiet for a while, as Steve Roemerman is off to Gretna, Louisiana, just across the Mississippi from New Orleans, with a group from his church to help Convoy of Hope. We'll keep Steve in our prayers and look forward to his report when he returns.

Our Tulsa World has added more video clips from Mayor Bill LaFortune's September 6 third-penny meeting at the Zarrow Library. This is a great service that Mr. Schuttler is doing by filming, converting, and posting these video clips. Too often the claims and promises made in this sort of meeting are lost to history. His summary of the meeting puts the clips in context. In another entry he has the response from Mayor LaFortune and Fire Chief Allen LaCroix to the question, "Are we prepared if Keystone Dam breaks?"

MeeCiteeWurkor has a special comments thread just for registering your opinion of the Tulsa Whirled. He's asking for submissions in a contest -- things you can do with a Tulsa Whirled. And he's about to add a new contributor to the blog.

City Councilor Chris Medlock has a recent entry on his proposal regarding the sales tax money currently going to Tulsa County for "4 to Fix the County." He says that the county is fixed now, and between the Vision 2025 sales tax and rising property taxes, the county is well fixed for funds. By denying a renewal of the 2/12ths cent "4 to Fix" sales tax, City of Tulsa voters could opt to pass the same size sales tax at the city level and earmark it for public safety.

Another noteworthy item on MedBlogged cites two Tulsa Whirled City Hall stories, one from 2002, one from last week. The March 2002 story has Mayor-elect Bill LaFortune saying he plans to have a direct, face-to-face relationship with the City Council, which lines up with my recollection of my first meeting with LaFortune as he started his run for office. The September 2005 story has councilors, including recently-elected Bill Martinson, complaining that LaFortune won't deal directly with the Council on issues like the new third-penny proposal.

Tulsa Downtown reports that new clubs are opening in the Blue Dome district.

Tulsa newcomer Joe Kelley has been trying the immersion approach to understanding his new hometown, and he's posted a list of some of the people he's met with so far, and would like suggestions for others he ought to talk to. About a week and a half ago, I introduced him to the tawook at La Roma Pizza (a Lebanese restaurant disguised as a pizzeria), and we had a very enjoyable conversation. He seems to be a very astute observer and a quick study.

Tulsa Topics has an audio tribute to Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, including their radio theme song, "Okie Boogie," "Cadillac in my Model A," and tributes by The Tractors and Asleep at the Wheel. One thing I love about Bob Wills songs -- you don't need liner notes, because Bob tells you who's playing as the song proceeds.

As always, you'll find the latest and greatest entries from blogs about Tulsa news on the Tulsa Bloggers aggregation page.

Human bones have been found during excavation at the site of the downtown Tulsa sports arena. According to KOTV:

Authorities say it's no surprise the bones were found since authorities knew a cemetery dating to the 1800s had existed on the site.

Who are these authorities? And haven't they seen "Poltergeist"?

(Hat tip to MeeCiteeWurkor. A commenter on that entry notes that the Louisiana Superdome was also built on the site of an old cemetery.)

No on SQ 723

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Just in case you have any doubts, on Tuesday, I will be voting against an increase in the state gasoline tax (SQ 723). The maintenance of roads and bridges basic necessities is a basic function of state government, and it ought to be one of the first functions to be funded out of the money our state government already receives.

Bobby at Tulsa Topics has been keeping a close watch on this issue. In response to the question, "If not SQ 723, then what?" Bobby has posted recommendations from Tom Elmore. The trucking industry won't care much for his ideas, because he doesn't think commercial freight trucks are paying their fair share for the damage they inflict on our infrastructure.

Joe Kelley caught the tax backers in a bit of spin a while back. You can read his entries on the topic here and here.

Technorati tags finally working

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Despite no assistance from Technorati, I finally appear to have Technorati tags working. The trick, I think, was modifying the syndication feeds to add a category tag for each keyword, like so:


<MTKeyWordList>
<category><$MTKeyWord$></category>
</MTKeyWordList>

The idea, and the plugin that made it possible, came from this entry on Laughing Meme: MTKeywordList and Technorati Tags. That entry links to the plugin, a very simple piece of Perl code, which creates the MTKeywordList container tag. The above code, added to my RSS 2.0 feed template, iterates over all the keywords for the entry and generates a category tag.

The equivalent code for the Atom feed template:


<MTKeyWordList>
<dc:subject><$MTKeyWord$></dc:subject>
</MTKeyWordList>

I had noticed that Technorati was treating the Movable Type category names as Technorati tags. The code above produces the same XML for each keyword that was already being produced for the names of each category associated with an entry. It appears that Technorati is scouring RSS feeds for <category> and <dc:subject>, but is completely ignoring hyperlinks with the rel=tag attribute, contrary to the documentation on Technorati tags.

Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attack on America. As a way of remembering those whose lives were lost on that day, and those who, on behalf of our freedom and security, have paid the ultimate price since then, Tulsa will mark the date with a service of remembrance, featuring the performance of Mozart's Requiem. This solemn and moving setting of prayers for the dead, Mozart's last composition, will be performed at Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati, downtown Tulsa, tomorrow morning, Sunday, September 11, 2005, beginning at 8:46 a.m., the time when the attacks began.

This continues a tradition that began in 2002, when Tulsa was part of the Rolling Requiem -- performances of Mozart's Requiem in every time zone around the world, each beginning at 8:46 a.m. local time. In 2003 and 2004, Tulsa continued the observance on its own with Faure's beautiful Requiem.

Admission is free, and while you may miss Sunday school at your own church, the performance will be over in time for you to make your 10:30 service. It's important to remember, and I hope you'll be in attendance.

I was cheered to learn a few days agothat Oklahoma's Southern Baptists would be hosting Hurricane Katrina refugees at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, southwest of Davis, Oklahoma. (Here's a Google satellite photo centered on the church camp.) This was the plan, according to a September 5 press release from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which quotes Anthony L. Jordan, executive director-treasurer for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), and Roy Sanders, Ray E. Sanders, spokesman for the BGCO:

"Oklahoma Southern Baptist churches are sending volunteers to welcome survivors to Falls Creek," Jordan explained. "Once our guests from the Gulf Coast walk off the bus they will be welcomed with a warm Oklahoma smile and a Bucket of Blessing, a care-package type bucket full of essential items, snacks, books and toys, all prepared by our church members. Our members will also prepare linens on over 3,000 beds and escort our new friends to their dormitory style cabin upon arrival."

"We have a variety of activities planned for children and adults, including movies, crafts, recreation and relaxation," said Sanders. "Within the coming days we fully expect school-age children to be back in an educational setting with a variety of learning experiences available for adults as well. Medical facilities will be available on the grounds for those who need medical attention and the state mental health department will make counseling available for those needing assistance."

In short, the BGCO was planning to welcome the refugees to their place and care for them. According to a first-hand (but pseudonymous) report by "Valhall", FEMA is running the show at Falls Creek, and refugees certainly won't be pampered, and they won't be able to come and go as they please. Valhall, her parents, and kids packed up a couple of cars full of clothes, toiletries, and food to take to the cabin owned by her church.

I'm extremely depressed to report that things seem to only be getting sadder concerning the people so devastatingly affected by Katrina last week. Two car loads of us headed over to Falls Creek, a youth camp for Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma that agreed to have its facilities used to house Louisiana refugees. I'm afraid the camp is not going to be used as the kind people of the churches who own the cabins believe it was going to be used. ...

At their church's cabin, they talk with the cabin's FEMA host about what can and can't be left. (She says that FEMA has assigned local civilians to reside in each cabin.)

We then started lugging in our food products. The foods I had purchased were mainly snacks, but my mother - God bless her soul - had gone all out with fresh vegetables, fruits, canned goods, breakfast cereals, rice, and pancake fixings. That's when we got the next message: They will not be able to use the kitchen.

Excuse me? I asked incredulously.

FEMA will not allow any of the kitchen facilities in any of the cabins to be used by the occupants due to fire hazards. FEMA will deliver meals to the cabins. The refugees will be given two meals per day by FEMA. They will not be able to cook. In fact, the "host" goes on to explain, some churches had already enquired about whether they could come in on weekends and fix meals for the people staying in their cabin. FEMA won't allow it because there could be a situation where one cabin gets steaks and another gets hot dogs - and...

it could cause a riot.

It gets worse.

He then precedes to tell us that some churches had already enquired into whether they could send a van or bus on Sundays to pick up any occupants of their cabins who might be interested in attending church. FEMA will not allow this. The occupants of the camp cannot leave the camp for any reason. If they leave the camp they may never return. They will be issued FEMA identification cards and "a sum of money" and they will remain within the camp for the next 5 months.

My son looks at me and mumbles "Welcome to Krakow."

My mother then asked if the churches would be allowed to come to their cabin and conduct services if the occupants wanted to attend. The response was "No ma'am. You don't understand. Your church no longer owns this building. This building is now owned by FEMA and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. They have it for the next 5 months." This scares my mother who asks "Do you mean they have leased it?" The man replies, "Yes, ma'am...lock, stock and barrel. They have taken over everything that pertains to this facility for the next 5 months."

The report has a lot of photos -- I can testify that they really are photos of Falls Creek. There are over 150 replies that have been posted.

That report was posted on September 6. This news story from late that evening says that Falls Creek was put on standby:

Major Mike Grimes, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, announced to nearly 400 volunteers and state personnel that the decision had been made by the Governor and other state officials to scale back operations at Falls Creek.

"The good news is that it appears those who needed our help have been taken care of for now," Grimes explained. "We will scale back to a skeleton crew for now, but none of our facilities will be compromised. There will be troopers present 24 hours a day at Falls Creek as we evaluate the need on a 12, 24, 36 and 48 hour basis. Falls Creek has been and will continue to be ready within a 10 to 12 hour window in the event that the conference facility is still needed." While disappointment was evident on the faces of many, appreciation for the Falls Creek operation was recognized with a round of applause.

A September 8 news release from the BGCO says that Falls Creek will remain on standby through Tuesday, September 13, with 1,200 volunteers around Oklahoma ready to return on 12 hours notice.

Part of the reason I'm posting all this is because I see a lot of blog entries linking to Valhall's report, but not to any follow-up information.

It could just be that FEMA and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol think it's best to start out strict. Once the refugees have arrived, and they see how things go, they can loosen things up.

It could also be that we're seeing a heavy-handed FEMA takeover aimed at turning Falls Creek into some sort of black-helicopter-infested New World Order detention camp. This actual retouched photo of the new amphitheater at the camp would seem to support that theory:

Cancerman goes to camp

The Truth Is Out There.

Megarefinery, meet megatornado

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Mel at Engine of the Future commends our public officials for their concern about refinery capacity, but he thinks their proposals need a little (ahem) refining.

Regarding Congressman John Sullivan's Cushing megarefinery proposal, Mel likes the idea of a Cushing refinery, but it shouldn't be the only one:

If we were dependant on one “megarefinery” anywhere as our lone reserve capacity, I can imagine one “megatornado”, causing “megadamage”, leading to another “megacrisis” in energy. Megabad idea in my opinion.

With respect to our energy infrastructure, if Katrina is to teach us anything, it is this: We must diversify the locations and their capabilities.

I do applaud Congressman Sullivan though, at least he’s thinking along the right path.

Regarding Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode's proposal to provide tax incentives for increasing refinery capacity, Mel says tax breaks won't budge oil companies who are quite happy with reduced capacity.

By the way, of Tulsa's two refineries, only the Sinclair Refinery produces gasoline. The Sun Refinery produces lubricants, waxes, and aromatic oils for industrial uses.

Oily residue

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Bits and pieces about oil, Tulsa, and Oklahoma, mostly:

The Greater Tulsa Reporter is doing a series on the history of the oil industry in Tulsa and the surrounding region. All three articles to date are online.

Is it just me, or would anyone else like to see Bob Gregory's "Oil in Oklahoma" series back on television? That series was my first in-depth introduction to Oklahoma history.

OU Professor Danney Goble has made a list of great books about Oklahoma.

The Whirled reported today that Congressman John Sullivan wants to see a "megarefinery" built at Cushing. Cushing is the pipeline crossroads of America and is "a major crude oil marketing hub in the United States," according to an FTC report. The report also says:

A substantial portion of the crude oil trade in Cushing consists of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude, which arrives from pipelines originating in Texas and New Mexico, and imported crude, which is offloaded from tankers on the Gulf Coast and transported to Cushing by another pipeline. WTI crude oil delivered at Cushing is the world's most actively traded futures contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). Prices for WTI crude traded in Cushing serve as a benchmark for the pricing of many other crude oils around the world and for crude oil futures trading on NYMEX.

According to the FTC, efficient and competitive functioning of the pipeline and oil storage facilities in and around Cushing is critical to the fluid operation of both the trading activities in Cushing and the trading of crude oil futures contracts on the NYMEX. Restriction of pipeline or storage capacity can affect the deliverable supply of crude oil in Cushing, and consequently affect both WTI cash prices and NYMEX futures prices.

It sounds like a logical place for one or more major refineries. And I must say I feel a bit of Oklahoma pride reading that a town in our state still is, in one respect, the hub of the oil industry.

There was an item on Dustbury last week about refineries post-Katrina, linking to Hatless in Hattiesburg's suggestion to replace refineries which were destroyed or disabled by Katrina with new refineries on military bases slated for being "realigned," and to Engine of the Future's suggestion to lift for three years the EPA regulations requiring different fuel blends for different regions, so that gasoline can be shipped wherever it's needed, avoiding artificial shortages.

Engine of the Future is an Oklahoma-based blog that was started in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. Blogger Mel said that US refineries had no excess capacity before Hurricane Katrina, and we lost 11% of capacity as a result of the hurricane. The remaining refineries have to crank out at least 17 different blends of gasoline -- including a special one for Tulsa, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Memphis, Nashville, Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, southern Maine, southern Louisiana, and several cities in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Be sure to read his inaugural rant.

Tulsa blogger makeover

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Tulsa Topics has a new look.

Roemerman on Record has a new look.

MedBlogged has a new look.

Fistful of Fortnights won a 2005 Okie Blogger award for best design and has a new look and a new URL.

Did I miss anyone?

The new looks seem to have inspired a lot of new content. Check it out.

It really was Cherry Street

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I came across an interesting map while looking through the agenda for tonight's Tulsa City Council meeting. The background material for one agenda item includes the original 1908 plat for the Orcutt subdivision, part of what is now known as the Swan Lake Neighborhood. (It's page 3 of this 389 KB PDF document.) Orcutt was platted before the city adopted a regular pattern of street naming, and apparently the developers were allowed to pick their own names for streets. The subdivision was bounded by Peoria on the west, Victor on the east, 15th on the north, and 17th Place on the south. I had speculated that the rebranding of the walkable shopping district along 15th between Peoria and Utica as Cherry Street might have been a bit of marketeer myth-making, but now I've seen the documentary evidence for the name.

So here are the names of the streets and avenues as they are today, and what they were called back in 1908:

Peoria Ave.: Pine St.
Quaker Ave.: Olive St.
Quincy Ave.: Maple St.
Rockford Ave.: Jasmine St.
St. Louis Ave.: Forest Ave.
Trenton Ave.: Park Ave.
Troost Ave.: Percival Ave.
Utica Ave.: Utica Ave.
Victor Ave.: Porter St.

15th St.: Cherry St.
16th St.: Orcutt St.
17th St.: Wall St.
17th Pl.: Capitol St.

The names were still in place in 1917 when the old Orcutt Lake amusement park was platted as Swan Park subdivision, although the new standard names were encroaching -- the northern boundary of the new subdivision was still Capitol St., the western boundary was Forest Ave., but the southern boundary was called 19th St. And that jog in Utica at 17th Place was even more pronounced back then -- see page 2 of the above-linked PDF.

Updated, 2011/09/27, replacing defunct link to City Council website with uploaded copy of the file.

Roasted rivalry

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I guess I'm a real celeb now. I'm at Shades of Brown tonight to work on a writing project, and when I ordered my coffee I learned that there is a bit of rivalry between this coffeehouse and Double Shot over which media types frequent which coffeehouse. Jamie, the blogging barista at SoB, had boasted to a friend who works at Double Shot that I frequented the cozy caffeine station in Brookside. She said that he sent her a taunting text message to notify her that I had just walked into Double Shot.

All I want to know is, when do I start getting free coffee to buy my loyalty to one place or another?

Jerry Buchanan, chairman of the Tulsa County Republican Party, toured Camp Gruber on Tuesday with a group of state legislators. Camp Gruber, near Muskogee, is the first location in Oklahoma to receive a large number of refugees from Hurricane Katrina. Here's Jerry's report -- it's encouraging:

Today, I had the privilege to tour with a delegation from Tulsa, the displaced Americans from Louisiana placed at Camp Gruber, near Muskogee. We talked with people that were in the Astrodome, people that were from the Communities around New Orleans that lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, people that lost family members, friends and pets.

The delegation was made up of your own State Representatives Fred Perry, Pam Peterson, John Wright and John Trebilcock. Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel, Ken McConkey from Senator Jim Inhofe’s office,
Clay Bird, Chief of Staff from Mayor LaFortune’s office, along with Stacy Ward, CERT program director of Homeland Security in Tulsa, and Tulsa Police Chaplain Director Danny Lynchard traveled with us.

Oklahoma Senator Jim Williamson and Representative Dan Sullivan toured the Camp yesterday. They found what we found, people that are being treated with respect and dignity. The Oklahoma National Guard and Oklahoma Highway Patrol are in charge and they are organized, friendly and compassionate with authority that is appreciated by all. The Red Cross volunteers move like angels to and fro tirelessly like a breath of fresh air.

Our guests at Camp Gruber are not thugs that looted the businesses. Nor are they dirty, drugged out or rude. They are people that have endured hardships that most people have only imagined in a nightmare or in a horror movie. They are people that have lost their homes, cars and all material things, but they have not lost their pride or their spirit to start over.

Today, I spoke with five men outside a dining facility. One was a construction worker, one was a backhoe operator, one was a brick mason, one was a floor tile cutter and one was a cable layer. All, however, said they could do many other things to make a living if given the chance. The question we heard over and over was “where can we get work. We love Oklahoma and the people here have just overwhelmed us with kindness and generosity. Does Tulsa have jobs for us? We would love to move to Tulsa if the people are like the rest of the Oklahomans we have encountered.”

Most everyone at Camp Gruber have accepted the fact that all of their worldly goods have been lost in Louisiana and are ready to relocate in Tulsa, Oklahoma City or where ever they can find a job and make a living for themselves and their families. Over and over I heard “God Bless Oklahoma!” A little girl actually kissed my hand and said “thank you for all you have done for us”, making me feel awkward and humbled.

These guests are not blaming God or the federal government for their predicament. They are just trying to deal with a very bad situation as best as they can. They now realize that the Governor of Louisiana did not act promptly. They know when Louisiana’s Governor Blanco did allow the National Guard to take charge, things begin to happen for the better and it is getting better every day.

In their living quarters, twenty or more people gather around a single TV set trying to see the latest news. Some try to nap in the heat of the day to pass the time. Others watch with anticipation the activities of the Red Cross, National Guard, Highway Patrol and in today’s case your own elected officials shaking hands giving signs of hope and words of encouragement.

Today’s events make me even more proud to be an Oklahoman. Proud to have elected officials that are willing to roll up their sleeves and pass out water, toiletries and what ever it takes to help these desperate people from the sister states of Louisiana and Mississippi. Proud of a President that has three times, that we know of, visited the devastated area and prays for the families and victims daily.

If it seems to you that I am somewhat overwhelmed, you are correct.


Katrina gleanings

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Keeping up with the latest commentary on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

Mister Snitch! has several more informative links today, including one to a "fingerpointing-free timeline of the Katrina response" by Rick Moran. Moran lists what actions were taken, by whom, and when, and avoids questions of what might have been done but wasn't. Snitch's entry has the Readers' Digest version, and a link to a masterful Mark Steyn column on the culture of passivity and New Orleans' response to Katrina.

Louisiana native and New York resident Ken Wheaton compares the situation and leadership in New York on 9/11 with the situation and leadership in New Orleans now. He says that unlike NYC in 2001, NO lacks "a functioning political system," and he thinks what happened may wind up improving the lot of many of the poorest New Orleans residents:

I don't think any human on the face of the earth could have busted up New Orleans slums and fixed the city, not even Rudy G. And, as harsh as this may seem, I think this natural disaster may have served as a radical chemotherapy for one of the last big malignant tumors of extreme poverty in this country. Free from a useless government, predatory criminals, lack of employment options, and a barely-there-but-still-addictive social net, I expect a lot of those evacuated will indeed move up in life.

Oklahoma City's Downtown Guy notes that the city has a large supply of vacant housing in public hands and suggests fixing it up and making it available at a nominal cost to hurricane refugees. Some of the comments echo Ken Wheaton's sentiment, for example, this from "PapaJack2":

My experience with New Orleans indicates a lot of the evacuees wanted to get out of New Orleans, but lacked the means to do so. Many will never return. A friend of mine at Express Personnel said they were contacted by evacuees as early as last Friday looking for jobs in OKC. People with that kind of initiative are always welcome.

Speaking of personal initiative, Charles G. Hill links to Baseball Crank, who writes that Katrina proves there's a lot to be said for having the means to move yourself to safety.

The lesson here is that anybody who can afford a car is crazy not to have one, the dreams of bicycle-riding environmentalists and central planners the world over to the contrary. In addition to its other virtues, a car can get you out of harm's way without having to depend on the government in a time of crisis.

There's an interesting (and, for Dustbury, unusually heated) comments thread on Charles's entry, in response to his closing remark:

And there remain those who are anxious to point out that poor people don't have all these options. This is, of course, one of many reasons why it sucks to be poor, and if you have any ambition and any sense, you'll reorient your life so at some point you become not poor. (Waiting around for the government to do things for you, incidentally, is neither ambitious nor sensible.)

Oklahoma Baptists are ready to welcome 3,000 refugees at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center near Davis, but the refugees haven't arrived, and there's no word on when they're likely to show up. Yesterday the highway patrol had to turn away volunteers, who drove from all over the state to help.

Finally, the intrepid DirectNIC crew has more news and photos from the heart of New Orleans, where they have been keeping a data center operating through the entire crisis. They're offering to help those who have fled but have an office in their building or nearby -- they will check on your office or even try to hook up your computers into their network to allow you to access your data.

Tomorrow's New York Times has an interview with Tulsa novelist S. E. Hinton, whose first book, The Outsiders, was published when she was a teenager. Since 1967, the book has sold over 14 million copies, and in 1983 Francis Ford Coppola turned it into a movie, filmed in and around Tulsa, starring a cast of soon-to-be-famous young actors.

That movie has been recut by Coppola for DVD, to be released later this month. The new version's only theatrical screenings will be at two invitation-only events, Thursday in Tulsa and Friday in New York. The new version is said to be truer to the novel and to Coppola's original vision for the film.

The DVD release was the occasion for the Times interview of Hinton, who talks, in a less reserved way than in the past, about her parents, her upbringing, and the Tulsa of her youth.

The Outsiders was on our 7th grade reading list, and Hinton came to speak to the class -- this would have been around 1976. I remember her talking about her writer's block following the success of her first published novel. The Times article mentions that her boyfriend (now husband) helped her get past the block, but on her official website we learn how he did it:

Once published, The Outsiders gave her a lot of publicity and fame, and also a lot of pressure. S.E. Hinton was becoming known as "The Voice of the Youth" among other titles. This kind of pressure and publicity resulted in a three year long writer's block.

Her boyfriend (and now, her husband), who had gotten sick of her being depressed all the time, eventually broke this block. He made her write two pages a day if she wanted to go anywhere. This eventually led to That Was Then, This Is Now.

Part of the fun of reading the book as a 7th grader was trying to figure out the real-life Tulsa places that Hinton disguised. In the book the Socs lived on the west side and the Greasers on the east side; the real-life division at Will Rogers High School in the '60s was between the middle-class southsiders and the working-class northsiders. As a lower-middle-class kid from the far eastern outskirts of Tulsa who went to a school with the sons and daughters of the city's most prominent families, I knew what being an outsider felt like.

I'm sorry that I won't get a chance to see the new version on the big screen. The original film had some visually beautiful and dramatic moments. Besides, it would be fun to see the locations larger than life -- some of them are no longer standing.

According to the official website for the book and the movie, a wider release was planned, but cancelled. I wonder if the producers were concerned about audience amusement at the sight of the now-famous cast slugging it out as teenage toughs. When the movie was first released, these actors were largely unknowns and wouldn't have overshadowed the story. Now, there's likely to be a lot of "hey, isn't that...?" as each character makes his first appearance. (And maybe a bit of cheering if Tom Cruise's character takes a punch.)

The Times interview has a link to the review of the book in the May 7, 1967, Times.

By the way: I found the Times interview via the Tulsa Bloggers aggregation page, which includes a newsfeed of stories about Tulsa, gathered from a variety of sources.

LaFortune politicizes TU opener

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Mayor Bill LaFortune used Thursday night's University of Tulsa season-opening football game to launch his mayoral re-election bid, according to MeeCiteeWurkor . MCW had reported that there were free tickets available for city employees, and that "various high level managers at the City were heavily promoting this game via email to city employees that had email, and the offer was posted in various places so employees without email could read about it." MCW asks, "Free tickets to this game for City Employees? Who paid for these tickets? Who is setting up all these [LaFortune for Mayor] signs? Who is manning the [LaFortune for Mayor] booth? Is the mayor asking city employees to break the above Policy indicated above?"

Extend the 2001 Third Penny

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On October 7, 1980, the City of Tulsa approved a one-cent sales tax for capital improvements to expire after five years. It was dubbed the "Third Penny," as Tulsa has a 2% sales tax to fund general operations. It's a pay-as-you-go tax -- money is spent as it comes in. The Third Penny tax has been renewed every five years since, most recently in May 2001. Below are the dates the tax was renewed and the term for which it was renewed.

April 9, 1985 -- December 31, 1985, to April 30, 1991
December 4, 1990 -- May 1, 1991, to July 31, 1996
February 13, 1996 -- August 1, 1996, to July 31, 2001
May 8, 2001 -- August 1, 2001, to July 31, 2006

Each Third Penny election establishes a separate fund, which may only be spent on the projects advertised to the voters prior to the election.

Nearly every previous Third Penny fund has run a surplus, which the City Council has allocated to unfunded capital improvements projects. That isn't the case with the 2001 fund. At a Council committee meeting on August 2, Finance Director Mike Kier reported a shortfall of $69.2 million, reflecting the downturn in the local economy thanks to the bursting of the telecom bubble. That means that nearly $70 million in basic projects -- streets and sewers -- that we've been waiting to have for five years won't get done by the time the tax expires.

The rule of thumb is that a one cent city sales tax will raise $60 million in one year. It would take about 14 more months to erase the shortfall and pay for all the 2001 Third Penny projects.

There are two options: The first is to lump any unfinished projects in with a full slate of new projects for another five year extension. Mayor Bill LaFortune seems to be headed in this direction, as he holds town hall meetings gathering public input starting tonight. This would mean only 80% of the new tax would go for new projects. There's a danger that new projects for the 2006 Third Penny would be funded and completed ahead of the carryover projects from the 2001 Third Penny.

Another danger of this approach is that it would mean that the Mayor and Council will be putting together this entirely new slate of projects in the midst of a mayoral campaign that will pit at least one sitting councilor (probably more) against a sitting mayor. The renewal election would probably be held at the same time as the primary or general election. It would be the first time that a Third Penny vote has coincided with a mayoral election. Bill LaFortune would be in an excellent position to manipulate the list of new projects to help him secure renomination and a second four-year term.

If a five-year Third Penny election coincides with the mayoral primary or general, it will mean that there won't be a major capital improvements funding package during the term of the new mayor. The general obligation bond issue we just voted on back in April won't be up again until after the 2010 elections. In the past, it's been the tradition to space the bond issue and Third Penny votes out by 2 years -- Third Penny in 1996, bond issue in August 1999, Third Penny in 2001. The bond issue should have been up again in the summer of 2004, but the Mayor's office delayed and delayed.

The least controversial way to move forward, the way that will guarantee that all 2001 projects will be completed as soon as possible, the way that is most likely to win the voters' approval, is to vote in February or March to extend the 2001 Third Penny for another 14 months. No new projects -- just finish what we started. The tax would then expire at the end of September 2007, plenty of time for the new mayor, with a fresh mandate from the public, to put together a new five-year Third Penny package which reflects the new mayor's priorities.

Here's the list of the Mayor's town hall meetings on the Third Penny. If you'd like to see a vote just to extend and complete the 2001 package, this is an opportunity to make sure the Mayor hears you. All the meetings start at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, September 6: Zarrow Library, 2224 W. 51st St.

Wednesday, September 7: Aaronson Auditorium, Central Library, Fourth and Denver, downtown.

Monday, September 12: Rudisill Library, 1520 N. Hartford Ave.

Tuesday, September 13: Martin Library, 2601 S. Garnett Road.

Monday, September 19: Helmerich Library, 5131 E. 91st St.

Maintenance in progress

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You may notice things disappearing and reappearing. I'm dealing with a problem that only affects Internet Explorer.

UPDATE: Got sick of tweaking things to make IE happy, and decided to replace my templates, which go all the way back to version 2.6.3, with versions that fit version 3.1x. Of course, all the style names have changed, so I had to get a 3.1x style sheet. Then I had to bring back all my customizations, or most of 'em anyway. I was planning to spend the last two hours on actual blog content. Oh, well. Comments on the change in appearance are welcome. I'm thinking of adding a second sidebar, maybe also creating a PDA-friendly alternate main page, sort of like Instapundit has. The default font in the new template is very small, so I changed it back to something more like I had before.

And, yes, as Bobby notes, I will be upgrading to 3.2 before long, and will get to go through all this once more.

I'm happy to see that Oklahoma Baptists have taken the initiative to welcome and house refugees from Hurricane Katrina at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, near Davis in south-central Oklahoma, home to one of the largest church camps in the country. Falls Creek has a cafeteria, a conference center, and a hundred or so "cabins" owned by local churches, most of them air conditioned, each housing between 20 and 200 campers. It should be a pretty comfortable situation.

Mister Snitch! links to the fascinating Survival of New Orleans blog, written by someone with DirectNIC, a New Orleans ISP which has managed to remain running and connected to the net since Katrina struck. He also links to Brendan Loy, who wrote about the impending disaster as the hurricane bore down on NO, and who says it could have been much worse.

Lance Salyers notes that Dennis Hastert wasn't the first to question the wisdom of rebuilding NO after the devastation of a hurricane. The first was a city official. (UPDATE 10/25/2005: Had to remove the link, as Lance has taken down his blog and the URL has been hijacked by a spammer.)

David Warren is optimistic about New Orleans' future:

If I may be so insensitive as to continue looking on the bright side, the experience of Katrina was just what was needed, to reconsider the city's environmental defences. After the expenditure of a few more billion dollars (the kind of government spending in which I exult), it ought to be possible to make the whole levee and pumping system good to withstand Category Five. It is an engineering challenge, the sort of thing Americans love, and can afford....

Indeed, one of the things that makes great disasters so exciting is the prospect of recovery -- of restoring what was best and building what is better. It is a moment in which the cost-benefit analysis swings out of view, and in which we confront the elements with what is elemental in ourselves.

Vanderleun of American Digest Modestly Proposes that America take a year off from helping the rest of the world to rebuild itself.

Amidst all the finger-pointing about the mismanagement of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the blogosphere is digging for the facts.

Don Singleton has been tracking down the emergency response plans, and the timeline of official actions and responses. I haven't had time to wade through it all, but he's put it together here. Bottom line is that New Orleans wasn't prepared to execute and didn't execute its own plan.

Don links to JunkYard Blog, whose site has maxed out its bandwidth. JunkYard Blog has aerial and satellite photos showing hundreds of New Orleans school buses that were abandoned to the flood waters, rather than being used to evacuate NO residents before the hurricane hit, as the hurricane plan called for.

Since JYB's site is down, I'll point you to the key photos. This is a photo of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority's bus facility, less than a mile from the Superdome, with 146 buses, enough to ferry at least 9,000 passengers out of the city before the hurricane, if city officials had followed the evacuation plan.

40095357_f294b1cff7_o.jpg

This photo is of 255 New Orleans school buses, a site that's been dubbed the Mayor Ray Nagin Memorial Motor Pool. There are enough buses here to have carried 13,000 to 17,000 passengers out of New Orleans (depending on bus capacity) prior to the hurricane.

40095359_694e0666dc_o.jpg

JunkYard Blog has maxed out its bandwidth, but you can find the information in Google's cache for now.

UPDATE: Be sure to read W.'s comment on why the buses weren't used.

okb5po.gifThe winners in the first-ever Okie Blog Awards have been announced, and BatesLine won the vote for best political blog. Thanks to my fellow Okie bloggers for this honor, and thanks to Mike at Okiedoke for organizing this, and for everything he does to knit together the Oklahoma blogging community.

Reading elsewhere

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I spent a sweaty afternoon with a stripper and a pair of dikes.* The exertion has left me uninterested in generating any original content. So here are some links:

Chief Justice William Rehnquist died this evening, age 80, succumbing to cancer. He served on the court for 34 years.

The Superdome and New Orleans Convention Center have been completely evacuated.

Here is a New Orleans citywide group blog. (Via Caren Lissner.)

Here is an entry from that blog: A week ago today... and today.

Here is a Google map tagged with info about specific locations in the affected regions, with satellite imagery from August 31.

Happy Homemaker has hurricane-recovery news from Foley, Alabama, near the Gulf Coast east of Mobile Bay.

Here are photos (from before Katrina) of locations from the book A Confederacy of Dunces, which is set in New Orleans in the early 1960s.

Here is a map showing which countries have which of the four principal legal systems -- e.g., common law, civil law, customary law, Islamic law. (Via JMBzine.)

Acorns from an Okie has a list of very useful Firefox extensions, including one that lets you launch a link in Internet Explorer, and one that saves your current session -- all the open tabs and windows.

Greg Horton posts the unedited version of his Oklahoma Gazette article on Oklahoma City churches that have relocated from the inner city to the suburbs. Dwayne the Canoe Guy thinks Horton missed a significant part of the story.

BlogOklahoma.us hosts a PDF (1.5 MB) of the official 2005 Oklahoma State Highway Map. And they're building a database of every Oklahoma historical marker -- photo, text, and GPS coordinates.

(* I was installing a new outdoor GFCI outlet.)

Refugee. What a strange word to apply to Americans. Refugee is a word for people in Ethiopia or Bangladesh. It's for people who have had to leave their homes behind because of war, famine, or natural disaster, and they may never be able to return.

There may be as many as a million refugees from the New Orleans area alone. Their homes are gone or uninhabitable. Their jobs are gone. If they aren't out of money already, they will be soon enough. These people will need to start over in some other part of the country -- find a place to work, find a place to live. In the meantime, they need places to stay and food to eat.

The Presbyterian Church in America's Mission to North America is seeking volunteers and financial contributions to help with the recovery effort. The Southern Baptist Convention have deployed feeding units in cooperation with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army. Oklahoma Baptists have a feeding unit deployed to Baton Rouge.

Glenn Reynolds has a long list of relief organizations recommended by bloggers, including the two mentioned above.

UPDATE: Bumped the date to keep this at the top of the page.

Lafayette, they are there

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Ken Wheaton has posted a lengthy report from his friend Felicia, who has been talking with New Orleans refugees at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana. She relates one story from a man who watched National Guard troops drive away, rather than assist New Orleans police in a fight with looters. This same man tells of a private initiative to get people out of the city that was thwarted:

The man who witnessed this from his windows also stated that the owner of the Montleone Hotel charted 10 buses and paid $25,000.00 out of his own pocket to get the people out of hotel because he was getting no assistance. The witness was offered a ride and packed up. He said that when the buses got there, he looked out of his open window and watched as a Guard walked up to the owner and asked what the buses were for. When the owner explained and asked for assistance in getting the guests onto the shuttles, the guard laughed and said no. They confiscated the buses. The witness didn't even get a chance to get down to the street and they were gone. Where they went he didn't know. He immediately went back upstairs and bolted himself in. He's still up there.

Hurricane damage links

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Just getting in on the tail end of Katrina Blog Relief Day:

Here are some links that have helped me understand the extent of the damage caused in New Orleans and the central Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina.

Referring to the city's distinct accent, New Orleans writer John Kennedy Toole called New Orleans "that Hoboken near the Gulf of Mexico." Hoboken, New Jersey, local-blogger Mister Snitch! has a good round up of links, including links to charities working in the area and to a slideshow of aerial images of flooding in New Orleans. He links to an affecting personal account on Slate, "Mourning My New Orleans" by Josh Levin. Levin writes:

As the endlessly looping aerial footage shows little more than a giant lake with highway overpasses peeking out, I'm glad I wasn't there and terrified I never will be again. A friend from high school told me he took the scenic route out of town on Sunday morning so he could remember the places he needed to remember: Molly's at the Market, the Warehouse District, the Uptown JCC, the corner of St. Charles Avenue where he drank his first beer. I squint at the screen, searching for some kind of landmark to say goodbye to, but the only thing that's recognizable is the Superdome, which now looks like a potato with the skin peeled off to reveal the rotten insides.

Mister Snitch! also has a well-researched and level-headed article asking who's to blame for the flooding of New Orleans. Is it because the levees haven't been maintained? Is it because the levees are there at all? Is global warming to blame for the apparent increase in higher-intensity hurricanes?

The Truth Laid Bear has a special page set up to track blogging about Katrina and relief efforts.

Here's a blog devoted to reporting on damage around Slidell, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

The Times-Picayune has evacuated the city, but they're still publishing online. Here's their special Katrina section. The paper also maintains a blog-like breaking news column.

Can New Orleans be rebuilt? Should it? In his weekly "Vent" column, Charles G. Hill responds to the idea of abandoning the site:

New Orleans is there, not because of some accident of fate that plopped it down in a suboptimal location, but because, over the years, millions of people have wanted it there. And one of the great privileges of living in this land is being able to live just about anywhere you want.

Jessica of The New Vintage says that federally-subsidized flood insurance encourages people to buy homes in high-risk areas.

Areas where insurance only costs a couple of hundreds dollars from the feds should be costing closer to a couple of thousands from a privately owned insurance company. So now cheap insurance is causing more people to move into high risk areas which ends up costing even more money for the government in a disaster's aftermath which ends up coming out of whose pockets?

Ken Wheaton, a Cajun transplant to New York City, has a collection of useful links to insurance companies' catastrophe information and to FEMA. He's got much more news and commentary.

Ken links to Slate's Explainer: What is sea level and how did New Orleans get built below it?

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