November 2006 Archives

Yesterday I received a nice note from Jamal Miftah, the Pakistani immigrant who wrote a bold op-ed piece condemning al-Qaeda and terrorism in the name of Islam, and has suffered expulsion from the local mosque as a result:

I am Jamal Miftah and the unfortunate writer of an article against activities of Al Qaida. I still am unable to to give a rational reason to the unrational behaviour of the office bearers of Islamic Society of Tulsa, which amounted to gross vandalism in this civilized society and country. They have no shame or remorse todate and are constantly lying and shifting their position on the unfortunate occurance all the time. I can only pray for them and hope that their hearts will soften one day so that they can realize the pain and the suffering they have given to me and my family in the last 9 or 10 days. I thank you all for the much needed moral support.

I plan to continue to dig into this story and will keep you informed.

RELATED: Ali Eteraz, who posted an interview with Miftah which I linked, complains that no one in the "Rightosphere" is interested in staying with the story:

The rightosphere was all over the news about Jamal Miftah, the guy in Oklahoma who wrote an article condemning bin Laden and then subsequently got kicked out of his mosque. Good for the rightosphere.

But once the rightosphere had done their celebratory dance about how there are no "moderate" Muslims, it went along on its merry way. Meanwhile, I went and talked to Miftah. You think the rightosphere would want to follow up on it since they are so serious about empowering moderates.

Not quite. I gave it a day and a half to see if any of the big boys — hell, even little boys — would pick up my conversation with Miftah. Plenty of my readers went out and touted it. Nada. Oh look its me, having to do it all by my effing self, yet again.

He has a point. A Technorati search turned up only two links to the interview. (Technorati seems to have missed my link.)

An enterprising participant in the tulsatime LiveJournal group worried when she saw a Request for Proposals on the Oklahoma State Election Board website for a "Telecommunications-based Statewide Voting System." Would this mean a switch from our reliable optical-scan ballot system to a touchscreen system? The link to the RFP was broken, so she wrote OSEB and asked what this was all about. The reply is reassuring:

Identical mark-sense optical scan voting devices manufactured by the Business Records Corporation (now Election Systems & Software) have been used in every precinct in the State of Oklahoma since 1992. As you know, these devices read paper ballots marked in the voter's own hand and preserve a complete and perfect paper audit trail. We do not have any plans to replace our optical scanners with direct recording electronic (touchscreen) devices, or with voting devices of any other type.

So what's this about a "telecommunications-based" voting system? It will allow a vision-impaired voter to go to his polling place, listen to an audio ballot on a telephone and vote by pressing buttons on a keypad. But the vote doesn't get recorded electronically:

The voting system then produces a marked paper ballot, which is scanned and read back to the voter, allowing the voter to confirm whether the paper ballot has been marked according to the way he or she voted. After the voter confirms that the ballot is correct, his or her vote is cast, and a paper ballot is tabulated by the same mark-sense optical scanning voting device used by all other voters statewide.

Here's the really clever bit (emphasis added):

Oklahoma's telephone voting system features a fundamental and innovative improvement over direct recording electronic (touchscreen) voting systems, including even those that provide accommodative telephone keypad input devices and voter verifiable receipts. Typically, a touchscreen voting device in audio mode will read back a voter's marked ballot, but the information read back to the voter is merely that which exists in the device's memory. The readback may confirm the voter's selections, but there is no way to say that the vote eventually cast is the same as that voted by the voter or read back by the voting device. But with Oklahoma's system, it is the paper ballot generated by the system that is scanned and read back to the voter, and it is the paper ballot that is tabulated by our mark-sense optical scanners, preserving the complete and perfect paper audit trail that most Oklahoma voters seem to prefer.

Hats off to the Oklahoma State Election Board for recognizing what makes our system so good and extending that principle in accommodating the right of vision-impaired voters to cast a secret ballot. That kind of perspicacity is a rare thing in government.

(Nevertheless, I'm still hoping for a scanner upgrade that will accommodate a preferential ballot. And for OSEB to put precinct-by-precinct results on their website.)

Clear classicism

| | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

Back a few months I let out a "hooray" on the linkblog at the news that Thomas Gordon Smith, a classical architect, had been named Chief Architect of the United States, a position with the General Services Administration, with responsibility over the design of Federal courthouses and other Federal buildings. The decision seemed to offend all the right people:

Others are worried federal architecture will lose its cutting-edge focus. Henry Smith-Miller, of Smith-Miller + Hawkinson, a New York firm, which designed a border station under construction in Champlain, N.Y., said he finds Mr. Smith's appointment "deeply troubling." He called Mr. Smith's traditional views "anti-progressive."

The appointment even brought out a bit of Bush Derangement Syndrome:

Smith is a crawl-back-into-the-womb kind of guy, addicted to buildings that look like Greek Temples and Roman palaces, seemingly right in tune with the Bush administration's mindset of empire.

And more:

But not everyone in the architecture community so sanguine. “A representative of the U.S. government needs to act on balance in the selection of architects,” Stanley Tigerman, principal of Tigerman McCurry Architects in Chicago, tells ARCHITECT. “And with Jeff Speck [director of design at the National Endowment of the Arts, appointed in 2003] and now Smith, there seems to be a right-wing Republican pattern…. To have [Smith] as head of GSA—shocking barely begins to describe it.”

Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune architecture critic wrote:

Some modernists were apoplectic, charging that Smith's devotion to traditionalism would set back the progress made by former GSA chief architect Ed Feiner. Feiner spearheaded a design excellence program and recruited leading modernists such as Thom Mayne of Santa Monica, Calif., and Richard Meier of New York City to design federal buildings.

In classical quarters, there was rejoicing about a resurgence of marble and white columns. "Modernists have had their chance to shape the nation's appearance, and few people would say that it's more pleasing today than it was before," wrote the editorial page of the Providence Journal, which serves as a sort of Fox News of architecture criticism.

I guess that Fox News reference was supposed to be a slam. A newspaper that expects beauty in taxpayer-funded buildings must be a robo-supporter of Chimpy McBushitler's fascist regime. These critics of Smith's appointment seem to be angry that the government will no longer fund buildings that set out to insult bourgeois notions of aesthetics using the bourgeoisie's own money.

Here's an entry on Veritas et Venustas with photos that contrast the classicism of Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia campus with the work of Smith-Miller, the anti-anti-progressive mentioned above. Would you rather live, study, and work among classical rotundas or modernistic versions of deer stands?

A look at Thomas Gordon Smith's online portfolio does not reveal a slavish devotion to Greco-Roman columns and marble, but rather a willingness to draw from traditions that are appropriate to the locale, the urban context, and the building's purpose.

One of his projects is the Clear Creek Priory, a Benedictine monastery under construction near Hulbert, Oklahoma. The directions of the client to the architect: "We want a monastery to last a thousand years." Smith's project page gives this description:

The site is in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. The monastery consists of a church and a cloistered residence. The architecture is reminiscent of Cistercian monastic structures. A porter’s lodge responds to the Benedictine tradition of providing hospitality in enclosed communities such as this. The complex corresponds with the traditional pattern of organizing function and orientation.

Do you see any Roman columns in this drawing?

clearcreek2.jpg

Blogger Ali Eteraz has posted an interview with Jamal Miftah about his banning by the Islamic Society of Tulsa (IST). (See my previous entries on the topic here and here.)

(Eteraz describes his website, eteraz.org, as "the first interactive blog for Positive Muslim Activism." "Eteraz is an online forum whose goal is to mobilize people of conscience throughout the world to identify, discuss, and take action on political and religious issues involving Islam and the Muslim world. Eteraz seeks a humanist vision of Islam for the future and looks to illuminate the wisdom and spirituality that made Islam a great religion historically by creating community, promoting informed opinions and more than anything else, moving its members to real world action." In Urdu, the word "eteraz" means "heartfelt disagreement." The site's structure is similar to that of RedState.org, where anyone can start a diary, and editors can choose to elevate certain diary entries to the main blog. In recent entries readers are encouraged to be thoughtful about where they give end-of-year zakat (alms), voting is opened for awards to honor the best of the Islamic blogosphere, and a call to write letters to the Tulsa Whirled in support of Jamal Miftah.)

In the interview, Miftah says that he doesn't fear reprisals from the Muslim community for his op-ed, but he does fear al-Qaeda sympathizers. He mentions the verses from the Koran which he cited in the original draft of the op-ed, but which he removed at the insistence of the Whirled. He talks about his relationship with the IST's leadership and gives some insight into the internal workings of the mosque, and he talks about his feelings and his plans:

Nor is Miftah excessively bitter. He certainly feels betrayed and angered by the fact that he was called numerous names by the IST and pushed out. However, instead of taking any aggressive actions, he has simply reiterated to the mosque leadership that he is not going to rescind his article; he is not going to apologize for what he said; and in fact, he is going to wait for them to apologize to him for mistreating him. What troubles him most is that he enjoys going to the mosque and feels the right to worship has been taken unfairly from him. "There's just one mosque. There's no place for me to go to say my prayers. A mosque is Allah's house and no one has the power to take that." When I asked what would happen if he was never welcomed back, he stated that he hoped enough funds could be raised for a smaller mosque that he could attend.

Eteraz draws a couple of lessons from the interview, including one about mosque leadership style:

It is clear from what Miftah described to me, that the Islamic Society of Tulsa does not elect its leaders; it merely appoints them. In those situations, dissent and disagreement, can only be dealt with in an authoritarian manner, namely, banning. The Islamic Society of Tulsa needs to consider its own democratic reform.

Eteraz is hopeful that CAIR will encourage such reform in American mosques. I wonder if knowing that one of the Tulsa mosque's leaders is a CAIR board member would cause his hope to dwindle.

I wonder, too, whether the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT)'s ownership of the IST property contributes to its authoritiarian style of governance. See Dubya at JunkYardBlog notes that the Episcopal Church USA uses centralized ownership to enforce conformity with its liberal "orthodoxy" -- defy the hierarchy and lose your church building. (You can ask the good folks of Tulsa's Church of the Holy Spirit how that works. They're now meeting in a converted house on 41st east of Garnett.)

(The Presbyterian Church USA is doing the same thing, using centralized building ownership to prevent dissenting (Bible-believing) churches from leaving the denomination. In fact, one PCUSA presbytery is even allowing the sale of a church building to be used as mosques, evidently to make sure it doesn't fall into the hands of evangelicals.)

This entry is a work in progress, a place to summarize links and information for later analysis, by me or other bloggers.

The story of Jamal Miftah, the Muslim who was banned from the Islamic Center of Tulsa for writing an op-ed critical of al-Qaeda and those who commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam, has attracted the attention of Little Green Footballs, the premier blog on radical Islamism.

The comments on the LGF entry express shock and dismay that radical Islam appears to have a foothold in the American heartland. Although I know a few local Muslims, mainly co-workers at my old job, I don't know much about the Muslim community in Tulsa, so I've begun to do some digging.

In my searching, I came across the name of Mujeeb Cheema. Below is a summary of the references I've found so far. I'm not meaning to suggest anything suspicious about him, but his name crops up in a lot of places, and by following that name around the Internet, I'm learning about connections between Islamic organizations in America.

UPDATE: Here are some additional facts gleaned from the Tulsa Whirled's archives:

  • December 15, 2002: Cited as a national board member for National Conference for Community and Justice
  • February 2, 2003: Cited as a trustee of the Tulsa Community College Foundation.
  • September 27, 2003: Cited as a spokesman for IST in a story about the mosque's new imam.
  • October 4, 2003: Story about his hiring as executive director of NAIT. The story also says: "The titles to Tulsa's Al-Salam mosque and Peace Academy school properties are held by NAIT, [Cheema] said."

What is this NAIT that lists Cheema as executive director? The NAIT website says (emphasis added):

The North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) is a waqf, the historical Islamic equivalent of an American trust or endowment, serving Muslims in the United States and their institutions. NAIT facilitates the realization of American Muslims' desire for a virtuous and happy life in a Shari'ah-compliant way.

NAIT is a not-for-profit entity that qualifies as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. NAIT was established in 1973 in Indiana by the Muslim Students Association of U.S. and Canada (MSA), the predecessor of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). NAIT supports and provides services to ISNA, MSA, their affiliates, and other Islamic centers and institutions. The President of ISNA is an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees of NAIT.

NAIT holds titles to mosques, Islamic centers, schools, and other real estate to safeguard and pool the assets of the American Muslim community, develops financial vehicles and products that are compatible with both the Shari'ah (Islamic law) and the American law, publishes and distributes credible Islamic literature, and facilitates and coordinates community projects.

Frank Gaffney, Jr., had this to say about NAIT and ISNA in an August 2005 column about Bush White House adviser Karen Hughes' plans to speak to an ISNA gathering:

[T]he Islamic Society of North America is a front for the promotion of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi political, doctrinal and theological infrastructure in the United States and Canada. Established by the Saudi-funded Muslim Students Association, ISNA has for years sought to marginalize leaders of the Muslim faith who do not support the Wahhabists’ strain of Islamofascism, and, through sponsorship of propaganda and mosques, is pursuing a strategic goal of eventually dominating Islam in America.

ISNA provides indoctrination materials to about 1,100 of an estimated 2,500 mosques on the North American continent. Through its affiliate, the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) – a Saudi government-backed organization created to fund Islamist enterprises in North America – it reportedly holds the mortgages of between 50 and 79 percent of those mosques. Through this device, ISNA exerts ideological as well as theological influence over what is preached and taught in these institutions and their schools.

In December 2003, the chairman and ranking Democrat of the Senate Finance Committee, Senators Charles Grassley and Max Baucus, respectively, listed ISNA as one of 25 American Muslim organizations that “finance terrorism and perpetuate violence.”

This Chicago Tribune feature story recounts a battle over a mosque that was founded in the 1950s by Palestinian immigrants, but taken over by newcomers and deeded to NAIT in the 1980s, over the objections of long-time members.

Stephen Schwartz, an academic, a journalist, and a follower of Sufism, testified in 2003 before the Senate Homeland Security subcommittee about the spread of Wahhabi influence in the American Muslim community:

Wahhabi-Saudi policy has always been two-faced: that is, at the same time as the Wahhabis preach hostility and violence against non-Wahhabi Muslims, they maintain a policy of alliance with Western military powers — first Britain, then the U.S. and France — to assure their control over the Arabian Peninsula.

At the present time, Shia and other non-Wahhabi Muslim community leaders estimate that 80 percent of American mosques are under Wahhabi control. This does not mean 80 percent of American Muslims support Wahhabism, although the main Wahhabi ideological agency in America, the so-called Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has claimed that some 70 percent of American Muslims want Wahhabi teaching in their mosques.1This is a claim we consider unfounded.

Rather, Wahhabi control over mosques means control of property, buildings, appointment of imams, training of imams, content of preaching — including faxing of Friday sermons from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — and of literature distributed in mosques and mosque bookstores, notices on bulletin boards, and organizational solicitation. Similar influence extends to prison and military chaplaincies, Islamic elementary and secondary schools (academies), college campus activity, endowment of academic chairs and programs in Middle East studies, and most notoriously, charities ostensibly helping Muslims abroad, many of which have been linked to or designated as sponsors of terrorism.

The main organizations that have carried out this campaign are the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which originated in the Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA), and CAIR. Support activities have been provided by the American Muslim Council (AMC), the American Muslim Alliance (AMA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences, its sister body the International Institute of Islamic Thought, and a number of related groups that I have called "the Wahhabi lobby." ISNA operates at least 324 mosques in the U.S. through the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). These groups operate as an interlocking directorate.

In a 2002 Q&A with National Review, Schwartz had this to say about Wahhabist influence over American mosques (emphasis added):

Unfortunately, the U.S. is the only country outside Saudi Arabia where the Islamic establishment is under Wahhabi control. Eighty percent of American mosques are Wahhabi-influenced, although this does not mean that 80 percent of the people who attend them are Wahhabis. Mosque attendance is different from church or synagogue membership in that prayer in the mosque does not imply acceptance of the particular dispensation in the mosque. However, Wahhabi agents have sought to impose their ideology on all attendees in mosques they control.

Cold War ruins

| | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

Not too many farmers own an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launch control facility, but the Neidlinger family of Hampden, North Dakota, does. When the Grand Forks Air Force Base Minuteman missile field was decommissioned about a decade ago, they bought back the site of the E-0 launch control center. A few days ago, Julie Neidlinger's dad took her for a look inside the building:

It was an eerie experience, walking through the disasterous mess that still didn't hide the evidence of a system dismantled in the name of peace. Today was windy, like all North Dakota days, the wind blowing in hard and cold from the west, whistling through the ventilation system in the kitchen. The darkened interior, only lit by my dad's flashlight and the periodic flash of my camera, mixed with the windy wail.

"It's kind of ghostly in here," dad said. I agreed. I'd been thinking that myself, feeling as if I was walking through some cold war graveyard being overrun by the animals who were already busy reclaiming an area of the country where the people were few and the space was great. I felt as if I was on the set of a horror or disaster movie. It wasn't The Day After. It was The Decade After.

In a re-run entry from summer '05, Julie tells of a tour of the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex near Nekoma, N. D., an anti-ballistic missile complex briefly operational in 1976:

Though not as large as its still very much functioning counterpart at the Cavalier Air Station, whose pyramid is monstrous with a radar so sensitive in cataloguing space debris that it once overloaded Cheyenne Mountain, Nekoma's pyramid rises from the plains like a prairie iceberg. Most of it's cyclopic structure is buried below ground, leaving only the tip to poke through and be seen. According to our tour guide, one of the few men still taking care of the abandoned site, the interior of the structure has been stripped bare, but is so huge and cavernous that many of the hallways and passages deep inside have their own atmosphere. He told of how, on certain days, some hallways have fog rolling about inside. There is also much water, particularly since the water table in the region has been high since about 1993.

Just to the north of the radar pyramid are bunkers and a flat area of weedy concrete with two types of white hatches. Housed here were the Sprint and Spartan missiles. These missiles functioned as interceptors, one long-range (Spartan) and the other in case the Spartan failed.

Both entries have photos of the facilities and links to information about the North Dakota missile facilities. Beyond the technical details, Julie provides a sense of how North Dakotans felt about having nuclear missiles in their backyards, and how they feel now that those days are gone:

The people in the towns of both Nekoma, and especially Langdon, still talk about the glory days of the missile site. You can hear it during meetings, when someone will carelessly refer to a past event with the tag "that was back when the missiles came."

I still hear of how nice the county road became when a Minuteman went in along it. Good roads are gold here, and to some, if it brought about good roads, there wasn't much to complain about.

For some reason, as I try to motivate you to read these blog entries, I keep thinking about Stuckey's. We spotted a couple of former Stuckey's and Nickerson Farms buildings on our way back to Tulsa on Sunday. These roadside businesses went hand-in-hand with the spread of the interstate highway system. (On trips down the Turner Turnpike, Dad preferred the Stuckey's near Wellston and Bristow, because they served real Coke, not Ho-Jo Cola.) They were modern in the '60s, and who would have imagined a long car trip without spotting a dozen or more along the way? Today, most of the old Stuckey's locations are closed (although Stuckey's is still in business as a franchised convenience store chain), Nickerson Farms is long gone, and the buildings have been "repurposed" as antique malls, pr0n shops, and, mostly, ruins.

In the same way, in the '60s and '70s, it was hard to imagine a world without two nuclear superpowers aiming massive numbers of nuclear missiles at each other, a world in which a good defense was considered an offense against peace, a world in which billions of dollars were devoted to maintaining a sufficient deterrent against a ruthless totalitarian regime that threatened our liberty and our existence. Today, some of that infrastructure for deterrence may be repurposed as a place where trees and vegetables may be grown, unmolested by deer. Today, America can't muster the political will to protect our borders and project power against another ruthless totalitarian movement which threatens our liberty and our existence.

If you lived through the Cold War, or especially if you didn't, read these two articles.

Classic Peanuts

| | TrackBacks (0)

Since Charles Schulz's death, United Feature Syndicate has been running Peanuts strips from many years ago. If I recall correctly, some of the first reruns were from the '70s.

Right now, they're running strips from 1959, and if you hurry, you'll find, in the 30-day online archive:

  • The last few strips of Linus' first "Great Pumpkin" disappointment: "I was a victim of false doctrine."
  • Linus' ambition to be a "world-famous humble little country doctor": "I love mankind... it's people I can't stand!"
  • The introduction of Pig-Pen: "He may be carrying soil that was trod upon by Solomon or Nebuchadnezzar or Genghis Khan."

I first encountered these strips in the Peanuts paperbacks my grandmother gave me. (She also infected me with a love of Pogo.) These strips are from the golden era of Peanuts, and it's nice to know that a new generation of comics-readers are seeing them for the first time.

Ever wonder why more Muslims don't speak out publicly against terrorism and violence committed in the name of Islam? Ever wonder why you don't read more op-eds by Muslims like this?

Because of lack of knowledge of Islam, Muslim youth are misguided into believing by the so-called champions of the cause of Islam that the current spate of killings and barbarism, which has no equal in the recent civilized history, is jihad in the name of Islam. They are incited, in the name of Islam, to commit heinous crimes not pardonable by any religion and strictly forbidden in Islam....

Even mosques and Islamic institutions in the U.S. and around the world have become tools in [Al-Qaeda's] hands and are used for collecting funds for their criminal acts. Half of the funds collected go into the pockets of their local agents and the rest are sent to these thugs.

They are the reason for branding the peaceful religion of Islam as terrorism. The result, therefore, is in the form of Danish cartoons and remarks/reference by the Pope.

I appeal to the Muslim youth in particular and Muslims of the world in general to rise up and start jihad against the killers of humanity and help the civilized world to bring these culprits to justice and prove that Islam is not a religion of hatred and aggression.

I appeal to the Muslim clerics around the world that, rather than issuing empty fatwas condemning suicide bombing, they should issue a fatwa for the death of such scoundrels and barbarians who have taken more than 4,267 lives of innocent people in the name of Islam and have carried out more than 24 terrorist attacks on civilian installations throughout the world. This does not include the chilling number of deaths because of such activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is well over 250,000.

I appeal to al-Zawahri and his band of thugs to hand themselves over to justice and stop spreading evil and killing innocent humans around the world in the name of Islam. Their time is limited and Muslims of the world will soon rise against them to apprehend them and bring them to justice.

Jamal Miftah wrote those words in an October 29, 2006, Readers' Forum op-ed in the Tulsa Whirled. In "thanks" for his bold writing against Islamic terrorism, he has been expelled from the Islamic Center of Tulsa, the mosque which owns the old Stevenson Elementary School building north of 51st between Yale and Sheridan. He also says that he has been he subject of threats of violence. He has been told that he cannot come back to the mosque unless he takes back what he wrote. Oklahoma City's KWTV News 9 has the story.

In his op-ed, Miftah mentioned that he, his wife, and their four children came to the U. S. in 2003 from Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border. He lost a dear friend who chose to follow al-Qaeda and fight against the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. Please keep the Miftah family in your prayers for safety. The Muslim engineers that I've known and worked with in Tulsa are much more like Jamal Miftah than those who ejected him from the mosque. These Muslims love America, they love the American way of life, and they are apologetic for the terrorism done in Islam's name. To them, jihad is the inward struggle to subdue the passions, not conquering the land of the infidel.

What he says about American mosques collecting aid for terrorism may well be true. For years, Irish social clubs in America collected money which, whether the donors knew it or not, went to fund the operations of Irish nationalist terrorist groups. Certainly the opposite is true: many American mosques have received capital and operating funds from Arabic Muslim groups who hold to strict Wahhabi Islam.

(Via See Dubya, who pointed me to the story on Atlas Shrugs and Isaac Schrödinger, where you can read further comments.)

A Tulsa Whirled story Saturday reports that 20 years ago, then-Police and Fire Commissioner Bob Dick supported Tulsa annexing the Tulsa County Fairgrounds, saying the city could use the additional revenue. Roscoe Turner, then a city boiler inspector, advised against it. At the time, Turner said that nearly every boiler on the fairgrounds would fail inspection and nearly every building would have to be shut down, generating no revenue to the city.

Today the two have changed sides on the issue. Turner is a city councilor in search of additional revenue for the city. Dick is a retiring county commissioner who is also a member of the board that oversees the fairgrounds.

Since 1986 most buildings at the fairgrounds have been refurbished or replaced, so Turner's concern about boiler safety is no longer an impediment to annexation.

Today Dick's objection to annexation seems to center around the city sales tax that he was after in 1986:

"I bought a hot tub at one of those [Expo Square] shows. You spend $6,000 on something, 3 percent makes a difference," he said.

"Dear Commissioner Dick, congratulations on your purchase of a $6,000 hot tub at the Tulsa County Fairgrounds. You owe $180 in city use tax on said item. Please remit at your earliest convenience. Sincerely, City of Tulsa Finance."

Dick also mentions that the City will have to provide services, but the City already provides every service except law enforcement. As an out-of-city water customer, the fairgrounds pays higher water rates than in-city customers, but loss of that extra revenue wouldn't detract from the sales tax gain. Water revenues go to a different fund which cannot be used for City general fund operating costs like police protection and street repair.

Susan Neal of Mayor Kathy Taylor's office gave a passive-aggressive response when asked about the Mayor's opinion on the issue, suggesting that Turner would have to develop his own analysis of the benefits, rather than offering the assistance of the Mayor's staff to look at the possibility. (Of course, Mayor Taylor appears to be about to do a deal with Jenks and Bixby and the county cronies at Infrastructure Ventures, Inc., to get their private toll bridge built. Taylor's had a meeting with IVI people, but has left the South Tulsa Citizens Coalition (STCC) out of the loop.)

The following comment, by Tom Gulihur of CalCoast Realty, was posted on a much earlier entry, Will the Real New Urbanism Please Stand Up? Gulihur is a California-based real estate broker and financier with a fascinating resumé and deep Oklahoma roots.

This essay wasn't likely to get much readership in the comments of an old entry, so I'm posting it here. I think you'll find it as thought-provoking and well-written as I did.

I come from land rush era Oklahoman stock on both sides of the family and I lived in Oklahoma until I was ten years old, when my family moved to LA, like true Okies. Parents and grandparents are OU alums and paternal grandparents are OSU alums. I love Oklahoma in a nostalgic way, but I understand why many people outside of Oklahoma blanche at the corny Wal-Mart mentality there (and the rest of the South and Midwest).

But some real estate development business is bringing me back to OK. There's a downtown revitalization occurring in Tulsa and I'm involved in a project there. I've been reading gobs of information on Tulsa and urban renewal there and want to explain a fundamental challenge that Tulsans need to overcome. I've seen San Diego's urban renewal and have studied New Urbanism enough to understand how this has to work. First, the public has to buy-in to most of the concepts of New Urbanism or the whole thing will flop. Here is a quick version of what it requires:

  • Create dense and intense development at the urban core using form based zoning code. That means don't classify building by use, but rather by their shape. Encourage mixed-use buildings but not only retail-office-residential; enable all mixed uses similar to the early 1920’s in America (it should basically look like Disney’s Main Street USA).
  • Create a pedestrian-friendly environment. Expand public transit to de-emphasize the use of the car. Of course this is difficult in an economy that is based on big oil and Detroit steel (now Japanese and German steel too).
  • Design an attractive public realm. Plant corridors of street trees, install traffic-calming devices, open corridors of greenbelts with paths and walkways to enable pedestrian and bicyclist activity, build 'vest-pocket parks'. Honor public institutions through architecture and placement. A well designed public realm, whether it’s a residential neighborhood (think of Georgetown, in Washington, D.C.), a public square, a village green, a park or a retail shopping street, they should all encourage people to want to ‘hang out’, ‘hang around’ or walk through it and walk to it. All this hanging out and walking around has a second major benefit to society besides the individual’s personal enjoyment of the experience, is that CRIME IS REDUCED where there are a lot of citizens with their eyes open. Democratic values are also strengthened when the public realm is strong.
  • Build using environmentally sustainable techniques. Use all active and passive solar technologies available and use recycled or recyclable building materials.
  • Mix housing types in random and close proximity. Don't just build high-rise condos that all cost from $300k to $500k because that fosters elitist classicism. This is the biggest challenge facing New Urbanists everywhere because of the conventional way residential projects are financed according to target market segments that naturally form socio-economic groups that lead to isolation of other groups. A truly democratic and vibrant culture occurs when a CEO and a janitor can live as compatible neighbors, although that's an extreme example.

It's important for the public to learn more about New Urbanism, which is also called Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND), Transit Oriented Development (TOD), Smart Growth, or other similar concepts. The American leader in this concept is Andres Duany and his wife Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. Their architecture and urban planning firm is at DPZ.com and at CNU.org (The Congress for the New Urbanism). Better yet, read Duany's entertaining book, SUBURBAN NATION, THE RISE OF SPRAWL AND THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN DREAM. Then you will ‘get’ New Urbanism.

Some conservatives see a political subcurrent to it and there really is an environmental concern and inclusionary aspect to it. But hey, the icecaps seem to be melting from global warming aren't they? Ten years ago you could argue against that assertion but it's different now. The inclusionary aspect of democratic society is an important part of New Urbanism that doesn't necessarily disagree with a conservative agenda, unless it includes environmental abuse.

In my experience, residential development always leads retail development because retail business owners cannot follow the ludicrous mantra of 'build it and they will come'. Retail will die on the vine if there it is not surrounded by a sea of 'rooftops', meaning the rooftops of consumers. So there's always a lag of retail development behind residential development. And the biggest complaint of the first wave of downtown dwellers when a city starts a downtown renaissance is that there is no convenient or good grocery store downtown. And there are the homeless, who often represent a security problem for wealthy urbanites.

But if Tulsa wants to be the next SOHO or downtown Vancouver, or Portland, or San Diego then it needs to loosen up the archaic liquor laws, IMHO. You need to get a Trader Joe's in downtown for sure, and TJ's needs to be able to sell its selection of wines and beers, which is probably only about 10% of their business, but a crucial 10%. So you guys need to dump the blue laws and welcome to the 21st century. Get out of the Wal-Mart fundamentalist attitude, open your minds and live and let live.

Tulsa has always enjoyed a more cosmopolitan flair than larger Oklahoma City (from where my family hails), although some people on the left and right coasts would snort at the words 'cosmopolitan' and 'Oklahoma' in the same sentence. What Oklahoma has all over the snobbier coastal societies is a warm friendliness that says 'you're OK!', to borrow a partial phrase from Transactional Analysis and Rogers and Hammerstein.

Good luck Okies! I'm rooting for you. But you'll need to loosen your liquor laws and learn about New Urbanism before real progress can move forward.

A couple of comments: (1) Of course I'm curious to know which downtown Tulsa project Gulihur is involved with, and pleased to know someone familiar with these concepts is involved in a downtown project. (2) There's a reference in his comment to financing, and Gulihur is involved in the financial end of real estate. One of the obstacles to building mixed-use or traditional neighborhood developments is that the money people don't understand it and don't have comparables to guide their lending decisions. (The Next American City had an in-depth article on the topic, "Why Building Smart Is So Hard," in the inaugural issue.) I'd be interested in Mr. Gulihur expanding on that issue from his experience.

Here's a link to an entry from 2004, with links to some readings appropriate for Thanksgiving, including accounts of the first Thanksgiving, every presidential Thanksgiving proclamation, and the Wall Street Journal's traditional reprinting of "The Desolate Wilderness" and "The Fair Land".

Detachable islands

| | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

A blog called Brand Avenue has an item about The Channels and at the end of it, they link to a webpage about proposed islands in another stream, the Mississippi River at St. Louis:

When the Great Rivers Greenway District called upon Balmori Associates to provide a proposal for the St. Louis riverfront master plan in October 2005, the firm initially developed four schemes for the underutilized three-quarter mile riverfront. Traditional plans of a pedestrian promenade in a landscaped park were discarded, however, for a more bold and atypical concept: a riverfront of floating islands....

The current proposal includes a series of islands suspended on catamaran-like supports and linked by floating walkways. The original proposal included detachable landforms, which would be flexible enough to change the shape and size of the islands. A major benefit of the proposal is not only this flexibility in landform configuration but also in the potential to change the riverfront’s seasonal activities. As [project manager Javier] Gonzalez explained, “You could detach one of the connecting pieces to attach a new one with a new function. In one you may have a kiosk in the summer, then you could take it to the shipyard and come back with another island with something for the winter.”

When I read the word "landforms" I keep thinking about Colorforms.

By the way, the reason the St. Louis riverfront is "underutilized" is because it was cleaned out by urban renewal.

Bell's notes

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

Current and former Okies and amusement park enthusiasts from other parts of the world have been weighing in on Tulsa County's refusal to renew a lease with Bell's Amusement Park.

Dave the Oklahomilist posted a new entry yesterday, wondering about Expo Square CEO Rick Bjorklund's sudden decision to cut off all talk of renewing Bell's lease:

And this after, and in spite of, Bell's agreement, with a condition, to allow its books to be audited by an independent trio of accountants. The condition? That the information contained in Bell's business plan "not be disseminated outside" the fair board offices.

One is left to conclude that this was a deal-breaker for Bjorklund and the county commissioners. Why? It seems reasonable enough on the surface. Is it possible that the plan all along was to pass the Bell's information on to others? Is it possible that it was, in truth, the only reason for requiring Bell's to jump through this particularly hoop? And that the condition insisted upon by Bell's would put the fairgrounds officials in jeopardy should any information get to persons who have no business having it? People who, perhaps, are planning to go into business directly competing with Bell's?

Ms. Cornelius of A Shrewdness of Apes remembers the park from her childhood, including getting ride tickets for good grades and the old giant slide, and she's taken her own kids there the last two summers during visits to her parents.

Screamscape ("The Ultimate Guide to Theme Parks") has a whole page devoted to Bell's with a chronology that goes back to Bell's second coaster proposal in 2001.

Thrill Network has a forum topic from August devoted to the new coaster that Bell's finally got the go-ahead to build.

Finally, a word to friends in the neighborhoods directly adjacent to that side of the fairgrounds, some of whom have expressed surprise at my concern about the fair board's dealings with Bell's. I supported their effort to stop the expansion of Bell's to the west, closer to the neighborhood and in violation of the 1984 Expo Square master plan, part of the Comprehensive Plan, and the written expression of a commitment made by the fair board to the surrounding neighborhoods about what kind of development would be allowed in each section of the fairgrounds. I can understand why many of them hope to see Bell's gone from the fairgrounds, and they don't care how it happens.

It's probably the best for all concerned if Bell's relocates, preferably to a site within Tulsa's city limits, but this is the wrong way to bring it about. I have similar feelings about City Attorney Alan Jackere's situation: I'd rather he no longer be City Attorney, but the way Mayor Taylor is going about it has me and a lot of other people very suspicious.

Tomorrow night is Giles' last weathercast after a quarter-century at 3rd & Frankfort.

25 years? I could swear I was watching King Lionel trade barbs with Ken Broo just a couple of weeks ago.

On tonight's 6 p.m. show, Giles recalled covering the 1991 Oologah tornado, the first time they used the computer that converted Giles' info on location, speed, and direction of a tornado and turned it into a timetable, showing arrival times at towns in the twister's path.

KFAQ podcast

| | TrackBacks (0)

KFAQ is now offering a podcast of the Michael DelGiorno show. You can download an hour at a time in MP3 format, and it looks like they plan to have several days' worth of show available for download.

The KFAQ Windows Media Player stream is still available as well, with a live feed of DelGiorno's show, repeating until the next show begins.

The podcast format will make it easier to grab a particular interview or segment. Thanks to Brian Gann and KFAQ for setting this up.

Jackereed away

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

Chris Medlock has been looking at Mayor Kathy Taylor's sudden and unexplained suspension of City Attorney Alan Jackere and his deputy Larry Simmons, and sees a connection with Taylor's push for changes in civil service policies and a renewed push to get the Bixby-Jenks bridge built.

I'm no fan of Jackere's, and I was inclined to agree with Councilor John Eagleton's speculation (heard on KOTV tonight) that the suspension was connected with Jackere's handling of the wrongful prosecution lawsuit of Arvin McGee, but there's a lot to ponder in what Medlock has to say.

In that same entry, you'll get an intro to Nancy Jane Siegel, currently an adviser in the Mayor's office, and very possibly the next City Attorney.

I was on KFAQ this morning with Councilor Roscoe Turner, who is calling for the City of Tulsa to bring the Tulsa County Fairgrounds (aka Expo Square) within the city limits. Currently, the fairgrounds, roughly 240 acres (3/8 of a square mile), is an unincorporated enclave surrounded by the City of Tulsa on all sides. Annexing the fairgrounds is a good idea, and it should have been done a long time ago.

Some background: Tulsa County acquired the fairgrounds when the site was well outside the city limits of Tulsa. Eventually, new housing developments surrounded the fairgrounds, and they were brought into the city boundaries, but the fairgrounds as a whole were never annexed. Parts of the fairgrounds to the west of the Pavilion, used for temporary housing during WW II, were annexed by the City and later deannexed. A small tract of land near the corner of 15th & Louisville is still owned by the City and is within the city limits. (This was the location of a large water tower which once provided adequate water pressure to the higher elevations of midtown. The tower is gone, and now the water used in these neighborhoods that has to flow downhill from some other reservoir then back uphill. But that's a rant for another time.)

There is a similar situation with LaFortune Park. When it was created it was outside the city limits. The City grew up and around it, and I can remember seeing city maps that showed nearly all of that half-section from Yale to Hudson, 51st to 61st, marked as "OUT." Only the Memorial High School campus was within the City of Tulsa's corporate boundaries. Later most of LaFortune Park was annexed, except for the old County Farm, a rectangular plot of land southwest of 51st and Hudson, now known as the Gardens at LaFortune Park. (I can remember our third-grade class going out to the County Farm in 1971 to sing Christmas carols to the residents.) Ultimately this, too, was brought within the City boundaries. The ownership of LaFortune Park did not change. It is still owned by Tulsa County, but it is subject to City of Tulsa ordinances and City of Tulsa sales and property taxes.

Can the City annex the fairgrounds? Yes, and they can do it without the County's consent. Oklahoma state law provides that if a municipality surrounds a piece of unincorporated territory on at least three sides, the municipality may annex the land without the consent of the landowners.

This has been the law for a long time, but new legislation (from 2005, if I recall correctly) requires that the strip of surrounding land (the "fence line") already within the municipal boundaries has to be at least 300' wide, and the annexing municipality must extend city services to the annexed territory within a certain period of time. Neither of the new stipulations would hinder this annexation: There are miles of Tulsa surrounding the fairgrounds on all four sides, and Tulsa already supplies water, sewer, stormwater, fire, emergency medical, and hazmat services to the fairgrounds, nearly every city service except law enforcement, which is handled by the Sheriff.

Again, it has to be emphasized that annexation wouldn't change ownership. The fairgrounds would still be owned by Tulsa County and run by the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (TCPFA, aka the fair board), which consists of the three county commissioners and two other members, currently Jim Orbison and Clark Brewster. Annexation wouldn't affect the fair board's ability to enter into long-term, non-competitive sweetheart contracts.

But annexation would eliminate the anomalies in law enforcement and tax rates. The fairgrounds and the surrounding land would be subject to the same zoning ordinances and zoning process. The same sales tax rate would apply to businesses on and off the fairgrounds. The same hotel/motel tax rate would apply to the fairgrounds motel and to nearby motels. The same noise ordinances would apply on and off the fairgrounds.

When the fair board considers a lease, they'd have to consider whether the proposed activity complies with city ordinances. I'm sure existing uses would be grandfathered in, but any zoning relief needed for whatever replaces Bell's would have to pass muster with the City of Tulsa's Board of Adjustment (which applies the law as it is; one of Bill LaFortune's positive legacies) or the Tulsa City Council. Currently, anything the fair board (made up mostly of the county commissioners) wants to allow only needs approval by the County Board of Adjustment (appointed by the county commissioners) or the county commissioners themselves. There's no independent check on fairgrounds development.

This is a good thing to do, and I appreciate Councilor Turner for raising the issue. The additional revenue will help the entire city, and the uniformity of laws will benefit neighboring homes and businesses.

Once upon a time, there was a famous architect of Asian descent who produced a plan that radically altered the center of a major Oklahoma city.

No, not Bing Thom and Tulsa, but I. M. Pei, whose plan to redevelop Oklahoma City resulted in the demolition of most of its original commercial district and the creation of the Myriad Gardens, the Myriad Convention Center, and that Habitrail-like thing just west of Myriad Gardens.

Via Doug Loudenback, we learn of a new book that puts Pei's plan in the context of fifty years of history of downtown Oklahoma City's decline and renaissance.

According to the book's blog, OKC, Second Time Around: A Renaissance Story, by Steve Lackmeyer and Jack Money, "chronicles a 50-year period in which hundreds of buildings were demolished in downtown OKC, the demise of Urban Renewal, early development of Bricktown, and downtown's recent resurgence."

Loudenback, an online chronicler of Oklahoma City history, gives the book five stars plus an infinite number of plusses, for providing both beautiful pictures and informative text covering the history of downtown OKC in detail, both positive and negative. I was especially interested in Loudenback's description of the chapter on Neal Horton, an early advocate for Bricktown, whose pleas for city investment in basic infrastructure fell on deaf ears, and who didn't live to see his visions come to pass.

I plan to pick up a copy of this book when I'm next in Oklahoma City. The same kind of book needs to be written about Tulsa.

Interesting bit stuck into the Whirled's story about newly-elected Oklahoma State Representative John Enns, a Republican from Enid. Enns sustained a spinal injury in a farming accident two years ago which left him unable to walk. He gets around mainly in his wheelchair, but through therapy he has regained some ability to use a walker. Among his legislative interests, the story mentions stem cell research:

Enns also wants to do what he can about furthering stem-cell research. It is something that he is told could help him with his condition. Scientists are thinking that stem cells could possibly help grow nerve tissue in his spine.

Enns, who has degrees in biology and chemistry, said he believes stem cells could be taken from adults as well as umbilical cords, and do not have to come from embryos. He blames the media for emphasizing the embryo source rather than other means of obtaining cells.

I appreciate Rep. Enns for making that point in his interview, and I have to give credit to the Whirled Capital reporter, Mick Hinton, and the editors for making that point a part of the story.

ELSEWHERE on the stem cell research front, there's this item from BBC News about a study showing that progenitor cells (similar to stem cells) on the surface of the heart can be used to regenerate heart blood vessels in the presence of a certain protein, thymosin beta 4.

Lead researcher Dr Paul Riley said: "We found that, when treated with thymosin ß4, these adult cells have as much potential as embryonic cells to create healthy heart tissue."

Dr Riley said using thymosin ß4 could lead to a more effective way to repair damaged hearts.

He said: "Our research has shown that blood vessel regeneration is still possible in the adult heart.

"In the future if we can figure out how to direct the progenitor cells using thymosin ß4, there could be potential for therapy based on the patients' own heart cells.

"This approach would bypass the risk of immune system rejection, a major problem with the use of stem cell transplants from another source.

"And, it has the added benefit that the cells are already located in the right place - within the heart itself."

(Via Dawn Eden, who is understandably proud of her father, who discovered thymosin ß4. How wonderful it must be for her as an advocate for alternatives to embryonic stem-cell research to be related to someone who is making those alternatives not only possible but a reality.)

In today's Whirled, John Kennington, president of the Tulsa Audubon Society, writes, in a letter to the editor, that there are studies that have not yet been done, but ought to be done before putting funding for The Channels to a vote of the people:

The Tulsa Audubon Society is concerned about the impact of The Channels on wildlife and river habitats, especially least terns and bald eagles. TAS serves on the Arkansas River Advisory Committee, which has received answers to its environmental concerns.

Because of those answers we cannot endorse this project. There are too many unknowns, assumptions and guesses about specific design elements and costs....

The studies and modeling needed to develop detailed plans and cost estimates are all scheduled after the design phase, after the proposed election. The detailed groundwater model will take nine months, so a February vote will be based on optimistic guesses. It has been stated that "researching flow volume and cost to validate our order of magnitude costs" are still being studied.

Emphasis added -- when Kennington quotes The Channels' backers as saying they need to validate their "order of magnitude costs," they aren't talking about the difference between $788 million and $888 million, they're talking about the difference between $788 million and $1.6 billion or more. At the public hearing at OSU-Tulsa last month, it was argued that the Tulsa Stakeholders had done their homework, they had the best experts in the world studying this, and we should stop complaining and trust them. It's apparent now that the concerns raised at that hearing hadn't been considered at all -- e.g., the impact of rising river levels on groundwater levels in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Last week, the Brookside Neighborhood Association and the Coalition of Historic Neighborhoods hosted a forum about The Channels that focused on dialogue rather than slick presentations. According to the Whirled's story, the group identified four things they liked about the islands-in-the-stream proposal and two pages' worth of things they didn't like.

I hope that the Tulsa Stakeholders are beginning to realize that their plan isn't going to move forward for a long time, if ever. Perhaps they can begin looking at alternative ways to spend that $100 million, where strategic, positive things can be accomplished without the public expense and logistical problems involved in The Channels' proposal.

I received an e-mail from the Tulsa Police Department with street closings and information for Saturday and Sunday's Oklahoma Centennial kickoff events in Tulsa. Here's the gist of it:

Downtown: Main Street (between 4th & 7th), and 5th Street (between Boulder and Boston) will be closed from noon Saturday to 4 p.m. Sunday for the Route 66 marathon pre-staging area. Starting at 10 p.m. Saturday, 4th, 6th & 7th (between Boulder and Boston), and Main (from 3rd to 4th) will also be closed until 4 p.m. Sunday.

On Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. the Route 66 marathon race course will be closed. This will affect Main Street from 6th to 11th, 11th Street from Main west to (and including) the 11th Street Bridge, the 23rd Street bridge, Riverside from 21st to 96th, Peoria from 18th to 41st, 36th from Riverside to Peoria, and 18th from Peoria to Main. The only places to cross the course will be at 9th & Main, 15th & Main, 21st & Peoria, and 31st & Peoria.

Here's a 700 KB PDF with a map of the course and the full advisory.

Also, for the laser show Saturday, the TPD issues this advisory:

Saturday, November 18, the “The Great State of Oklahoma Centennial Extravaganza” takes place in Downtown Tulsa. Crowds in excess of 40,000 are anticipated to attend this Oklahoma Centennial Laser Light Show and Pyrotechnics Choreographed Celebration, which begins at 7:00 PM. 8th Street, 9th Street, and 10th Street between Boulder Avenue and Cincinnati Avenue and Main Street and Boston Avenue between 7th Street and 11th Street will be closed from Noon to 10:00 PM for the Pedestrian Viewing Area. Vehicles parked within this area including designated parking lots will be towed.

Public parking will be available along parking lots adjacent to Detroit Avenue, Cincinnati
Avenue, Boulder Avenue, Cheyenne Avenue, and Denver Avenue south of 10th Street
including other parking lots within the Downtown area.

Drivers who are not coming to watch or participate in this event should avoid this area.
1st Street between Cincinnati Avenue and Cheyenne Avenue and Boulder Avenue and
Main Street between Archer Street and 2nd Street will be closed from 2:00 PM to 10:00 PM
for the Fireworks Launch Site. These areas are closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
Vehicles parked within this area including designated parking lots will be towed. In
addition, pedestrians are prohibited within this area per the Fire Marshall.

Motorists and pedestrians should avoid this area. Thank you for your cooperation.

It might have been easier to say what streets will still be open. Best I can figure (no guarantees, now) on Saturday, these streets will be open to traffic for coming and going to the big event downtown.

2nd Street, 3rd Street, 11th Street (but not where it turns into 10th), and streets further south. Cincinnati, Detroit, Elgin Avenues and avenues further east, Boulder, Cheyenne, and Denver Avenues and avenues further west. It appears that Brady Village and the Blue Dome District will be unscathed.

It's a shame that the pedestrian viewing area is at the south end of downtown, but I guess that's where all the big parking lots are. It would have been nice for people to see that they could go into McNellie's or Mexicali Border Cafe or one of the other fine downtown establishments for a bite to eat or a drink after the big show, but everyone will be on the wrong side of downtown. Anyone who comes to the show and doesn't know downtown will probably note how dead it all looks from the vantage point of 9th & Main.

A press release from Sen. Coburn's office:

Tonight, Friday at 9:06 p.m. ET C-SPAN will air a panel discussion entitled “Where Do Conservatives Go From Here?” that featured U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, Paul Weyrich and others.

The event was taped today at the Free Congress Foundation in Washington, D.C.

That's 8:06 Oklahoma time. It should be worth watching, especially since Blunt's position in Republican leadership was confirmed today, despite the concerns of fiscal conservatives in the Republican caucus.


On the B-list

| | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (0)

B-List Blogger

Better than I would have expected. (Via Julie R. Neidlinger.)

66 birthday magic

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

I started writing this entry last Saturday, November 11.

As it was the second Saturday in November, we headed down to the south side of Oklahoma City to Uncle Dan and Aunt Connie's house for an early Thanksgiving celebration with Mom's side of the family. Good food, a chance for everyone to get to see the baby, and some time to slump on a comfortable sofa, watching the Nebraska-Texas A&M game through closed eyelids.

Since it was the old road's 80th birthday, I had hoped to drive some Route 66 on the way down, but we got off to our usual slow start and had to stick to the turnpike to get to Aunt Connie's in time for lunch.

On the way home, close to dark, we decided to drive some of the old road anyway. The 10-year-old boy immediately began agitating for a dinner stop at the Rock Cafe. We drove the segment from I-35 east of Edmond to I-44 east of Wellston. I had seen some billboards which left me with the impression that Pops, a new landmark on the highway west of Arcadia was already open. (It's not -- opening is set for summer 2007.)

Everyone was getting hungry, so we jumped on the turnpike at Wellston and got off at Stroud.

(A note to the good people of Stroud: Those ridiculously bright "acorn" lights may look lovely and quaint during the day, but at night the glare from them actually hides your Main Street buildings from view. Much of the energy of the acorn lights is wasted, shining up into the sky or into the eyes of oncoming drivers, rather than onto the street where it's needed. Consider at least replacing the bulbs with something lower wattage, or better yet, replace the fixtures with full-cutoff IESNA-compliant lamps that will give you the historic appearance you want, without the glare. Here's an entry from my archives about good and bad streetlighting.)

As we walked from the parking lot into the cafe, I spied a familiar-looking orange VW van. "That looks like Fillmore," I said to the kids, referring to the hippie van from the movie Cars, voiced by George Carlin.

The Rock's owner, Dawn Welch, came by the table to say hello. We told Dawn about seeing Cars at the film festival and hearing Michael Wallis speak.

(As I was watching Cars, listening to Sally the Porsche give an impassioned speech about taking care of and taking pride in their bypassed and beleaguered town, I remembered the poster on the wall behind the east end of the counter at the Rock Cafe, a snapshot of a white board from some sort of brainstorming session on how to make Stroud a better place. Art imitates life.)

Dawn pointed out the gray-headed fellow with the bushy beard who was sitting at the counter. As I had guessed, it was Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire, owner of that VW van. Waldmire and his van were the inspiration for the character Fillmore. Waldmire travels the road much of the year. Dawn says he never calls ahead; he just shows up. He creates beautifully intricate pen-and-ink drawings and watercolors of landmarks and birds-eye-views along the old highway, filled with tiny, neatly-lettered descriptive text. (Here's a webpage with a picture of Bob Waldmire and several examples of his work.)

After a while we introduced ourselves. Bob went out to his van and brought back a couple of cartoons he had drawn, depicting a meeting between Fillmore and his own van, and he signed one for each of the kids, and also gave them his calling card -- a postcard drawing of his van, announcing that "The Unofficial Old Route 66 Mobile Information Center (piloted by R. Waldmire)" is "coming soon to your town!"

With some prompting from Mom, my 10-year-old told Bob about some difficulty he was having painting a watercolor of an owl for art class at school. Bob went back out to the van, brought back his watercolors, and told my son about some of his watercolor techniques. Bob also gave him a card with his drawing of a great horned owl (showing how he used pencil along with inkpen to create the delicate texture of the owl's chest feathers), a watercolor cartoon showing the Cozy Dog couple as bikers riding down 66, and a watercolor he did for TNT Engineering, Inc., in Kingman, Arizona, depicting a VW bug and two VW buses (both split window and bay window) in front of a stunning desert landscape. (Here are two in-progress photos of a mural Bob is doing on TNT's building in Kingman.) He also gave us a copy of his Route 66 Scenes map of Oklahoma.

While we were talking with Bob, Emily Priddy, Route 66 activist and Red Fork Hippie Chick, came into the Rock Cafe. (She was wearing a very cool jean jacket with a big 66 shield on the back, with big shiny sequins outlining the numbers like the reflective discs you see on some old highway signs.) Emily was helping with the Mother Road 100, a 100-mile ultramarathon, which had begun Saturday morning at 7 in Arcadia. Emily was helping to pace a friend who was in the race, and then would be manning the aid station at Kellyville. (She has a detailed account of her weekend on her blog: "I don’t know whether that was the most amazing weekend of my entire life, but if it wasn’t, it didn’t miss it by much.") Emily got some photos of the whole family with Bob (which I'll post later). When I went to pay for our dinner, I learned that she'd perpetrated another random act of kindness. What a sweetheart!

We said so long to Bob as we left the cafe -- we'd see him in Clinton next June if not sooner.

I decided to drive the old road the rest of the way to Tulsa. We watched with amazement as the ultramarathoners made their way along the other side of the highway. Emily had told us they were only expecting 30 runners to make it to Kellyville, 84 miles into the run, but it was apparent that many more were still in the race. The last runner we passed was at 9:40 p.m., near the Creek County Speedway, probably about 85 miles in. That's an average speed of 5.8 miles per hour, including rest stops, sustained for 14.67 hours.

It was a magical evening, a perfect way to mark the start of the Mother Road's ninth decade, on her birthday and mine.

Abramoff's donkeys

| | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

Too late to make a difference in the election, but we're learning that the Culture of Corruption™ wasn't limited to the party in power:

Convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff is scheduled to report to federal prison tomorrow, over the objections of federal prosecutors who say they still need his help to pursue leads on officials he allegedly bribed.

Sources close to the investigation say Abramoff has provided information on his dealings with and campaign contributions and gifts to "dozens of members of Congress and staff," including what Abramoff has reportedly described as "six to eight seriously corrupt Democratic senators."

(Via Hot Air.)

On the House side of the Capitol, we are reminded that John Murtha, Nancy Pelosi's pick for Majority Leader, was an unindicted co-conspirator in the ABSCAM bribery investigation, and there's videotape of him leaving the door open for future bribes. Here's a summary of Murtha's involvement in ABSCAM on Wikipedia. (The videos are on YouTube, which is down for scheduled maintenance at the moment.) (UPDATE: Here is the entire, unedited video on Google.)

Clean 'em all out.

UPDATE: For those who believe this blogstorm about Murtha is the activity of mind-numbed Rovian robots, please note that the left-leaning Talking Points Memo Muckraker website is all over Murtha. Presumably they are as embarrassed at the prospect of Majority Leader Murtha we are about Trent Lott, once-and-future Minority Whip. Here's their explanation of how Murtha managed not to get prosecuted or disciplined for ABSCAM. And here's Murtha quoted as saying a Democratic-sponsored lobbying reform bill is "total crap".

A Myspacer copies a plea for help from the owners of Bell's Amusement Park in Tulsa:

In case you haven't heard Bell's Amusement Park which has provided entertainment for Tulsan's and others in Oklahoma for fifty years is having hard times. The Bell's are close freinds and are good people who enjoy putting smiles on the faces of their patrons. If you like to give your support for Bells please read the following and send e-mails to those who can make a difference. Thankyou.

There is an article in the Nov. 10 Tulsa World online in the Local Section if anyone wishes to know more.

To our Tulsa and Oklahoma friends: As you may know we were served with eviction papers for the park on Wednesday. They have given us 120 days to remove everything and return the land to its original state (bare dirt). If you want to help us we would appreciate e-mails to all of the poeple on this list, any friends, you have who might like to help and perhaps calls to the Fairgrounds. Thank you in advance should you choose to speak out in our behalf. Signed Sally Bell (Bell's Amusement Park)

The link above has a list of e-mail addresses for you to contact to express your concern.

Here's a link to the Whirled story. The story makes it clear that County Commissioner Randi Miller is the instigator of the eviction.

There are so many things wrong with this, it's hard to know where to begin.

First of all, the decision to evict a 55-year fairgrounds tenant should have been deferred until the two new members of the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority, aka the Fair Board, are sworn in at the beginning of January. Those two new members are Fred Perry and John Smaligo, who will replace Bob Dick and Wilbert Collins on the County Commission and will be ex officio members of the Fair Board and several other boards and commissions. Miller is quoted as saying she'll wait until the new board members are on before deciding what to do with the land. Why not wait until Perry and Smaligo are on board before deciding on the eviction?

Second, what's the rush? Bell's won't be able to find a new location and pack up and move a roller coaster, a log ride, and countless other rides in a matter of four months in the middle of winter. Why not give them a full year or two to make arrangements to move? And why not give Tulsans a chance to say goodbye with a final season at the park?

Expo Square CEO Rick Bjorklund says this decision is in the best interest of the taxpayers. I have long complained that the County Commissioners and the Fair Board members are focused on maximizing revenues regardless of the impact on the community. I say that Expo Square is a public facility, to be managed in the public interest. While we want Expo Square to pay for itself, we don't have to maximize the revenue for every square inch of the place, any more than a you'd try to squeeze money out of every inch of a county park.

But Bell's does bring in money for Expo Square, a percentage of receipts. It won't cost the county any money to let them stay there one more year, but it will cost the county if Bell's is replaced with a parking lot.

Finally, and this is what really smells suspicious to me, by forcing Bell's to leave now, before any public discussion of a replacement for that space, the Fair Board is effectively disqualifying Bell's from any competition for the right to redevelop that space. Bell's isn't going to move out and then move back in. If the Fair Board were trying to be fair, they would put out a public request for proposals and allow Bell's and others to specify their plans for the space. The winning proposal would then be selected based on revenue, benefit to the community, neighborhood impact, and other intangibles.

But of course this is Tulsa County and, for about six more weeks anyway, it's dominated by County Commissioners who love making insider, exclusive, non-competitive deals with their pals for the use of public land.

I suspect the eviction of Bell's is part of such an insider deal. You'll recall that a Loretta Murphy gave $5,000 to the Randi Miller for Mayor campaign. Loretta Murphy owns Big Splash water park, another Expo Square tenant. Her husband Jerry Murphy owns Murphy Brothers. Shortly after Loretta's donation to Miller, the Fair Board awarded Murphy Brothers a non-competitive 10-year contract to provide the Tulsa State Fair's midway. Murphy Brothers might be happy just to have Bell's gone, so that all the State Fair-goers will have to ride their midway rides. Miller and the other Fair Board members need to disclose every contact with Murphy Brothers or any other private entity concerning plans for Bell's location.

Like a lot of midtown neighborhood leaders, I supported Sunrise Terrace as they attempted to keep the County from letting Bell's build a new roller coaster closer to their neighborhood, violating the area's comprehensive plan. But the neighbors, with a few exceptions, weren't trying to get Bell's shut down or to prevent their expansion. Most neighbors would have been happy to let Bell's build a roller coaster in toward the center of Expo Square and away from surrounding neighborhoods, but the county was reserving the land north of the Expo (IPE) Building for their landscaping and parking master plans.

Call your County Commissioner (current and future) and call Rick Bjorkland at Expo Square and register your concern. Insist that all dealings involving Bell's location be made public. Insist that Bell's be given a reasonable time to move.

UPDATE:

Techie Vampire has happy memories of Bell's from her youth and is angry that her son won't get to share in those memories.

Jeff Shaw puts the eviction of Bell's into the broader perspective -- the growing list of "Things Not in Tulsa Anymore":

I’m not opposed to economic development. To the contrary. But economic development can happen in conjunction with the preservation of historical aspects of the city.

Here is what I see is happening: all these historical and cultural “intangibles” are being or have already been razed, and there is nothing left of “Tulsa”. After a few years, and after the life has been sucked out of our city, we get people coming along with “bold new projects” in order to create something exciting. The reason: there’s nothing in Tulsa that will bring people in.

My response to that reason: Its because all the reasons that people have to love Tulsa, have been destroyed - in the name of development.

I'd go as far as saying historic preservation can be an engine of economic development.

Dave, the Oklahomilist, has been following the Bell's eviction story from the beginning. His initial entry asks how it's possible that a parking lot could be more profitable for Expo Square than an amusement park that pays $135,000 a year in rent. That same entry has an account of KRMG's Joe Kelley asking Randi Miller the same question, followed by a vigorous discussion in the comments, including this letter from Craig Adams to the Fair Board regarding their assertions that Bell's isn't viable:

Mr. Bell secured a bank loan of 3/4 million dollars to build a new wooden roller coaster contengent on a lease approval from the fair board. Banks do not lend that kind of money to companies which are insolvent or on shaky financial grounds. Just doesn't happen.

Mr. Bell has consistantly reinvested in the business the past several years in new equipment and rides to keep attacting new business and to retain current customers.

Despite being closed for 20 days to repair storm damage this past summer the park has had record business and on several occasions had to turn away customers because the park was too full. Doesn't sound like a failing business to me.

By the way, I think I've figured out the connection between the RV park and reduced foot traffic through Bell's. It sounds like work on the RV park reduced the amount of parking on the west side of Expo Square. People who normally would have parked in that open grassy area had to park on the east side of Expo Square and would have entered on the east, possibly spending all their ride money on the Murphy Brothers midway before ever reaching Bell's.

Randi Miller is now saying publicly that she'd be willing to give Bell's more time if they ask for it. Keep the pressure on, folks, and let's insist on full disclosure. Miller and the other members of the Fair Board should disclose all communications they have had about future use of the property, whether among themselves or with potential tenants such as Murphy Brothers.

Just got this in e-mail:

SpiritBank Business Resource Center

You are invited to join us for a very important
Think-A-Torium&tm;
Reaching Tulsa's Full Potential
Maximizing the Momentum of Our City

Co-facilitated by
Don Himelfarb, Economic Development Director, City of Tulsa
Thursday, November 16, 2006
4:30 - 6:00 p.m.
Penthouse Reception 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
SpiritTower - Community Room
1800 South Baltimore Avenue, Tulsa

In May 2005, Kathy Taylor, then Oklahoma's Secretary of Commerce, co-facilitated a BRC Think-A-Torium designed to illuminate the many efforts underway that are supporting Tulsa in reaching her full potential.

Please join us as we gain a better understanding of all the public and private projects being launched or are underway in Tulsa and the surrounding region.

This interactive strategic brainstorming session will be graphically facilitated by Sean Griffin. Outcomes include the following:


  • Increased understanding of the many projects currently in process

  • How to plug into existing projects

  • The value of "coopetition"

  • Creating a collaborative and diverse community

  • Meeting the challenges of the global war for talent

  • Gain new perspectives on our changing city

  • Interacting with Tulsa business leaders

RSVP to Christy Gehrki at 918-295-7236 or e-mail cgehrki at spiritbank dot com.
Seating is limited so sign up early!

Sponsored by James Shirley Management Consultants, Inc., HR Business Links and Triad Interactive Marketing & Software.

To give you a flavor of this sort of event, here is a link to a summary of the May 2005 Think-A-Torium. Based on the description above, I think it would be important for anyone involved with a project for improving Tulsa to show up and share information about it, so it doesn't get left out of the big picture. If nothing else, this is a chance to educate Mr. Himelfarb, new to the job as the City's economic development director, about aspects of Tulsa's economy of which he may not yet be aware.

UPDATE:

See Dubya suggests a tongue-in-cheek tag line for Think-A-Torium: "Where rational thought goes to be incinerated!" He also says he knows someone who once went to a similar event with the name "Visioneering."

It is an interesting choice of suffix. I can't think of any really positive words that end in "torium." There's crematorium, moratorium, vomitorium, sanitorium.

End of a fine day

| | TrackBacks (0)

Started an entry on today's events, but I'm too tired to finish it. Suffice to say, we encountered a bit of Route 66 magic on the road's 80th birthday (and my 43rd). I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Happy birthday, Jan!

| | TrackBacks (0)
happyhomemaker-20050122.jpg

Just a quick note to say our family had a great time at the Riverwalk Cinema for the opening night of the Oklahoma Centennial Film Festival. My daughter and I saw Cars -- it was my first time. What a great movie! It really captures the spirit of Route 66.

My oldest son had music class, so he couldn't join us until later. My wife and the two boys came just in time for Michael Wallis' talk about the history of Route 66, tying together the facets of the road on display in Cars and the role the road played in the history told by the film that followed, The Grapes of Wrath. (My son was excited to get to meet Mr. Wallis in line at the concession stand. He said he wouldn't tell his friends at school, though, because they wouldn't believe him.)

My wife took the daughter and the baby home, and oldest son and I stayed around for The Grapes of Wrath. I read the book in high school but had never seen the film. (And this was a real film, complete with scratches and a film break at the very beginning. It was fun to hear the whirr of the projector, a rare sound nowadays.)

It's a shame, though, that the theater was so empty. For $5 each you could see two great movies on the big screen and hear a talk by a master storyteller and an authority on Route 66, but it the theater was only 25% full. That may be a generous estimate.

Don't squander the rest of your opportunities. (Alas, we already had plans to be out of town for a family event.) Tim Blake Nelson will be present for a screening of his film Eye of God Saturday night at the Circle Cinema. Harvey and Oklahoma! are showing on Sunday. Here's a link to a PDF copy of the complete schedule.

There was a point Tuesday evening, with about 95% of the precincts reporting, when Ernest Istook still had fewer votes than Don Carroll received in 1998. Carroll, a small businessman who won a runoff against a dead woman, received 268,898 votes, 31.28% against Sen. Don Nickles, who was running for his fourth term and was Senate Majority Whip. The total vote against Nickles, including two independents, was 289,031 or 33.62% of the vote. Istook finished the night with 310,273, which amounted to 33.50%. Ponder this: A credible, respected congressman representing Oklahoma's largest city almost loses as badly against a lackluster governor as an air conditioner repairman from Tahlequah did against a high-ranking and well-liked senator.

A race like the Nickles-Carroll race gives you a good idea of how many hard-core party voters there are, the people who will vote the party line no matter how great the disparity in experience and credibility between the candidates.

This year, Istook had the lowest number of votes of any statewide candidate, a very unusual circumstance for a candidate at the top of the ticket. And yet there wasn't a wide disparity in experience and credibility between Istook and Henry. Istook had acceptable credentials for serving as governor, with service in the state legislature and in Congress. He made no gaffes during the campaign, said nothing outrageous, made no major stumbles. Henry has no charisma, no plan. And yet Istook's share of the vote is on par with some fringe candidate challenging a wildly popular incumbent. How could that have happened?

Regarding Newt

| | Comments (2)

For some reason, the results of Tuesday's election have increased the amount of chatter in support of a Newt Gingrich run for the presidency in 2008.

Newt Gingrich is a brilliant thinker. He deserves credit for helping to get the House majority for the Republican Party in 1994. But he wasn't an effective Speaker.

And there's this: He trades in an old wife for a newer model as often as some folks trade in their cars. Call me a fuddy-duddy, but I think that may indicate a character flaw that will cause some problems for a Gingrich presidential campaign and administration.

There may be a more effective place for Mr. Newt to serve.

The Wall Street Journal editorializes:

In the sixth year of a two-term Presidency, Americans rebuked Republicans on Capitol Hill who had forgotten their principles and a President who hasn't won the Iraq war he started. While a thumping defeat for the GOP, the vote was about competence, not ideological change.

This is not to minimize the Democrats' victory, which they deserve to savor after several frustrating election nights. Credit in particular goes to Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer, who led the House and Senate efforts to pick candidates who could win in GOP-leaning states. Their leaders, notably Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi, also kept in check their ideological ambitions to make Tuesday a referendum on Republican governance. It was a shrewd strategy.

All the more so because the GOP gave them so much ammunition. By our count, at least eight GOP House seats fell largely due to scandal; campaign-finance ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff probably cost Conrad Burns his Senate seat in Montana. These columns have spent several years warning Republicans that their overspending, corrupt "earmarks" and policy drift would undermine their claim as the party of reform. On Tuesday they did.

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, architect of the 1994 revolution, points to the Republican caucus' shift from principle to powermongering:

For most Republican candidates, fiscal responsibility is our political bread and butter. No matter how voters view other, more divisive issues from abortion to stem-cell research, Republicans have traditionally enjoyed a clear advantage with a majority of Americans on basic pocketbook issues. "We will spend your money carefully and we will keep your taxes low." That was our commitment. This year, no incumbent Republican (even those who fought for restraint) could credibly make that claim. The national vision--less government and lower taxes--was replaced with what Jack Abramoff infamously called his "favor factory." One Republican leader actually defended a questionable appropriation of taxpayer dollars, saying it was a reasonable price to pay for holding a Republican seat. What was most remarkable was not even the admission itself, but that it was acknowledged so openly. Wasn't that the attitude we were fighting against in 1994?

Armey chides Republicans in Washington for a loss of nerve in pursuing important reforms, such as allowing individuals to own their retirement accounts. He points to welfare reform as a model:

They missed the opportunity of a lifetime by failing to embrace retirement security based on personal ownership. Instead, from both parties we heard about "saving Social Security"--to the extent we heard anything at all. Republicans should be for reforms that free individuals and their families from failed government programs. We should not be for "saving" failed government programs. When we took on welfare reform in 1995, we knew we were taking on a Goliath. Once we threw the first rock, we knew we had to finish the job. Otherwise, the worst claims of our opponents would have stuck with us in future elections. With legislative success, the horrible accusations of our opponents were replaced with reduced welfare roles, and the individual dignity and self-sufficiency that naturally followed....

We need to remember Ronald Reagan's legacy and again stand for positive, big ideas that get power and money out of politics and government bureaucracy and back into the hands of individuals. We also need again to demonstrate an ability to be good stewards of the taxpayers' hard-earned money. If Republicans do these things, they will also restore the public's faith in our standards of personal conduct. Personal responsibility in public life follows naturally if your goal is good public policy.

Marvin Olasky wonders about the long-term success of the Democrat outreach to evangelicals:

Will Democratic leaders take seriously evangelical concerns, or will they be like those who last year held a seminar at the University of California, Berkeley entitled, "I Don't Believe in God, But I Know America Needs a Spiritual Left"?

It will be fascinating to watch Democrats trying to make their tent bigger without alienating their Christophobic base. I hope they succeed, because America could use two parties that respect Biblical belief, so that evangelicals aren't captive to one.

Ace of Spades reacts to Sen. Tom Coburn's statement:

Half of this election was lost due to Republicans not being more proactive in preventing and rooting out corruption. The other half was lost due Republicans spending like drunken Democrats in a misguided attempt to buy the public's support.

Don't get into a spending contest with Democrats; you'll always lose.

A commenter at JunkYardBlog compares the Republican Party with the Contemporary Christian Music industry: And See Dubya responds to accusations that the Republicans lost because Evangelicals stayed home.

Club for Growth's Andrew Roth links to a clip from Sunday's 60 Minutes about Rep. Jeff Flake's battle against earmarks.

Roth also reports that Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, a budget hawk, will seek the leadership of the House Republican Caucus. In his announcement, Pence wrote:

Our opponents will say that the American people rejected our Republican vision. I say the American people didn't quit on the Contract with America, we did. And in so doing, we severed the bonds of trust between our party and millions of our most ardent supporters.

NYC radio host Kevin McCullough has a six-part series on the election aftermath, including a review of damage done by initiatives passed around the country. He argues that we should be happy that the pivotal figure in the U. S. Senate is no longer Jim Jeffords but Joe Lieberman. And he says it was a mistake for the RNC to run this as a national campaign -- seats could have been saved if local issues had been made the focus. I think he has a point, and it reveals how power has corrupted the congressional Republican message. In the '80s, Democrats delayed the impact of the Reagan Revolution on the Congress by means of gerrymandering and by playing local politics better than the GOP. The nationalization of a congressional election worked in '94 because Republicans in Congress had a coherent vision and the Democrats in Congress didn't. This time neither congressional party had a coherent vision to sell.

Regent Open House

| | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (0)

Regent Preparatory School of Oklahoma, a classical Christian school in Tulsa, is holding an open house tonight beginning at 7 p.m. for parents interested in the kind of education the school offers. The evening includes a chance to tour the school, visit classrooms, meet teachers and parents, see a video presentation of special school activities, and hear a discussion of the school's philosophy and approach to education.

Regent's new campus is located at 8621 S. Memorial Drive; park and enter on the south side of the building. Call 918-663-1002 for more information.

UPDATE: Brandon Dutcher reminds me about Pat McGuigan's profile of Regent Preparatory School, which appeared in the OCPA's April 2003 newsletter:

In our conversation, I discerned ways in which this institution separates itself from some other private schools where much of the emphasis seems to lie in separation from modern culture and its problems. Regent’s leaders and teachers view the school not as a retreat from the "real world," but as a place to prepare children for that world—and for the life beyond this one.

See also Gene Veith's article from that same newsletter on the resurgence of classical education in America.

I found this item on the Fort Worth Architecture forum, on a topic about the Trinity River Vision, a project that involves Bing Thom of The Channels fame. This item has nothing to do with the project specifically, but it says so many things so well that I'm going to quote it in full. It's by Kip Wright, and it's in response to someone who wants Fort Worth to be a city of towers, just like Dallas. If this applies to Fort Worth, it applies even more so to Tulsa. (I've added emphasis in a few places.)

O.K., Jonny, at the risk of sounding anti-progress or, at worst, a sentimental old geezer, I'm gonna tell you a story about a little boy. (This is also for some others of you out there who yearn for the tall, glass towers of Dallas.)

This little boy grew up in Atlanta, Ga., and he was VERY proud of his town: The Big Peach, Capital of the Empire State of the South, Hotlanta, site of one of the most decisive battles of the War Between the States, home to "Gone with the Wind." And home to the 2nd Six Flags! The sports teams sucked, but he is, to this day a big Falcon-Braves fan. He loved Atlanta for what it was, but he wanted MORE!

When National Geographic did a cover story about his town, ca. 1976, he was very excited. He dreamed of his city getting REALLY BIG with tall glass towers -- a mecca to which many would come, from far and near.

In 1978 he watched the historic old Henry Grady Hotel on Peachtree Street emploded. Not only was it cool to watch, it was to replaced by the 79-story Westin Peachtree Center Hotel! WOW! But his grandmother had quite another take. As her eyes filled up with tears, she said "I can't believe they've demolished the Henry Grady!" (And there was nothing wrong with it either!) It had been the site of many important Atlanta events, not to mention the site of proms, when Atlanta had only three or four high schools. She had been upset, too, when, a few years earlier, Atlanta's landmark Terminal Station (with Morrocan influence) had been demolished for a pitifully unremarkable 30-story federal building.

Shortly thereafter, the Loew's Grand, site of the world premiere of "Gone with the Wind" was slightly damaged by arson. It was soon "decided" that it was not salvagable and would have to be replaced by the 53-story world headquarters for Georgia Pacific. Then, like a falling domino, came the demand by Georgia Pacific that the landmark Coca-Cola sign, gigantic and resplendent with red and white neon lights that swirled at varying speeds, would have to go, too. They could not have this "eyesore" across the street from THEIR building! An icon of over 50 years was removed.

The little boy went away to college in the 1980s. It seemed like every time he went home, another old landmark had been eradicated for "progress." The 1890s dairy farm with dwellings and outbuildings, at the intersection of Briarcliff and LaVista, was removed, with over 100 gigantic oaks, for a strip shopping center, as Atlanta sprawled, far and wide. A ca. 1920 brick gas station, with porte cochere, was removed for a parking deck next to Emory University. The list went on and on . . .

In the early 1990s, just before his grandmother passed away, the little boy took his grandmother downtown to see the changes. She mostly just said, "Ooooooh, would you look at that." Her city was almost unrecognizable. And saddest of all, to them, was the replacement of the old S&W Cafeteria and the old Woolworth's (site of many of their lunchtimes) by (guess what?) a 60-story office tower.

The little boy moved away from his beloved home town because he got his wish. Atlanta is now a super big city with lots of gleaming glass towers, 16-lane interstate highways, and umpteen gazillion corporate headquarters. Everyone is now going to Atlanta -- but him. The city is TOO BIG, there are TOO MANY glass towered office complexes, there are TOO MANY Damn Yankees who have moved to that mecca. Development, cars, and pollution now dominate his town.

Now, I suppose I'd live there again . . . if a really good reason to do so appeared. I still have a lot of friends there. I love the big trees and green everywhere.

But there is a disconnect -- many, many of the landmarks that made Atlanta what it was to me are there no longer. It is now something else to me, in many ways. (Not to mention all the Damn Yankees who live there!) It's not Atlanta to me any more.

Old buildings create a continuity between generations, they give a city an identity and a soul.

Atlanta had a hell of a time during the Olympics in deciding on an identity. Its mascot was the blue thing, "Whatizit." How can one have an identity when one scorns the past and tradition? Everything about Atlanta was "looking to the future." But everything we are today is a result of what's happened in the past. This is what makes different parts of America unique, even as we speed on towards a goal of homogeneity.

It is a given that cities are going to change, but how will they do it? Growing with a seriously-planned eye to the past, improving upon what exists? Or wipe-the-slate-clean with cost-effectiveness, highest-and-best-use, biggest-bidder-take-all, and the-bottom-line? Flirt like a whore for the developer's dollar? Sit-up and roll-over like a dog, begging for a bone?

Some of you will smirk at me as a sentimental fool, but it is you whom I pity. With your eyes only on the bank ledger you will miss texture, lines, the patina of age, the walls that can't talk, the structures that connect us with our past.

As I live here in Fort Worth, I connect to it through people and places. People die, but it gives me hope that some of the buildings will live. I hope Fort Worth wakes up before it does more to destroy its legacy. Very few landmarks have even nominal protection in this town.

So, my good Jonny, you want your city to be like Dallas? This little boy says don't wish that on Cowtown (Dallas only WISHES it were "Cowtown," so its football team mascot would make sense!) I think "Cowtown" is good like it is. Sure, progress is good, but at what cost? If you want Dallas or Atlanta, then go there -- I think you'll eventually come home.

A news release from Sen. Tom Coburn's office, followed by some mentions of Coburn in the blog world which I found on my own.

Dr. Coburn Statement on Mid-Term Elections

Says election shows “total failure of big government Republicanism” and a hunger for “honor and dignity” in Congress

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement tonight regarding the outcome of the mid-term elections:

“Although this election represents a short-term setback for Republicans, it could be an important turning point for the Republican Party and, more importantly, the country. Every incumbent was reminded that the American people, not party establishments, hold the reins of government. Throughout our history, when the American people rise up and force change our country benefits. In our system, the wisdom of many individual voters still outweighs the wisdom of a few,” Dr. Coburn said.

“Many factors contributed to these election results. The American people obviously are concerned about the conduct of the war in Iraq. Members of both parties have an obligation to work together to offer creative and constructive solutions that will help our troops accomplish their mission.

“The overriding theme of this election, however, is that voters are more interested in changing the culture in Washington than changing course in Washington, D.C. This election was not a rejection of conservative principles per se, but a rejection of corrupt, complacent and incompetent government.

“A recent CNN poll found that 54 percent of Americans believe government is doing too much while only 37 percent want government to do more. The results of this election reflect that attitude. Among the Republicans who lost their re-election bids a surprising number were political moderates who advocated a more activist government. Several Republican members of the appropriations committees, which have been on a spending binge, also were not re-elected. On the other hand, the two Republican senators who pulled off the most impressive victories were unapologetic conservatives, Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and John Ensign (R-NV). It is also notable that the Democrats who won or who ran competitive races sounded more like Ronald Reagan than Lyndon Johnson.

“This election does not show that voters have abandoned their belief in limited government; it shows that the Republican Party has abandoned them. In fact, these results represent the total failure of big government Republicanism.

“The Republican Party now has an opportunity to rediscover its identity as a party for limited government, free enterprise and individual responsibility. Most Americans still believe in these ideals, which reflect not merely the spirit of 1994 or the Reagan Revolution, but the vision of our founders. If Republicans present real ideas and solutions based on these principles we will do well in the future.

“What Republicans cannot continue to do, however, is more of the same. Our short-term, politically-expedient, bread and circus governing philosophy has failed. Iraq is an important issue in the minds of voters but it is not the only issue. Our majority was severely weakened by a long series of decisions that pre-date the public’s current concern about Iraq.

“Republicans oversaw a seven-fold increase in pork projects since 1998. Republicans increased domestic spending by nearly 50 percent since 2001, increased the national debt to $9 trillion, passed a reckless Medicare expansion bill and neglected our oversight responsibilities. While some of these decisions may have helped secure specific seats in the short-term the totality of our excess did not secure our majority, but destroy it.

“There should now be less doubt about whether overspending and pork projects are bad policy and bad politics. This year, in particular, pork did not save our vulnerable incumbents but helped drag them down. The challenges facing our country are too great and complex for members of Congress and their staff to continue to be distracted by endless earmarking.

“Some have said that Republicans and Democrats now need to govern from the middle. I disagree. We do not need to govern from the center as much as we need to govern from conscience. When politicians have the courage to argue their convictions and lose their political lives in an honest battle of ideas the best policies will prevail.

“The American people do want civility but they also want real debate. Civility does not mean an absence of conflict, but a return of honor and dignity in our politics. The great debates in American history like the Lincoln-Douglas debates or the debates about the Constitution were intensely confrontational, but no one feels soiled after reading them. That same quality of debate is possible today if politicians put their country first and party second. The problems facing our country are too great to not have these debates. Voters are bored and tired of partisan role playing in Washington. The answers to securing Iraq, winning the War on Terror, and preventing the impending bankruptcies of Medicare and Social Security will not be discovered by portraying the other party as the focus of evil and corruption. If we don’t debate these issues with honor and agree on solutions we will be the first generation of leaders that left the next generation worse off, and we will see our relative power in the world diminish.

“One of the great paradoxes in politics is that governing to maintain power is the surest way to lose it. Republicans have the ideas to solve our greatest challenges. If we focus on ideas, our majority status will take care of itself,” Dr. Coburn said.

In his analysis of the election, Ed Morrissey writes:

Republicans have traditionally stood for fiscal discipline and a strong defense above all other issues. The GOP needs to return to those values first and keep them foremost when creating their strategies for 2008. They need to elect clean leadership, and Tom Coburn's phone should be ringing off the hook this morning if Republicans want to get serious about rehabilitation.

Ennuipundit mentions Coburn in a note to the GOP:

Easy, find likable, personable, articulate, smart candidates. You know whose those people are. They are our donors. They are our thinkers and writers. They are the folks who keep the party humming. They are the grass root folks. And some of them don’t want to trade their current jobs for Government work. Their jobs pay more. Their careers matter to them. They do not want to disrupt their family life. And these are really valid reasons. But the ones who are persuadable need to be approached to consider a run for public office. We need to get away from career politicians and find guys with lengthy resumes in the private sector or in service to our nation in other roles. People like Tom Coburn.

E-mail is hosed

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

I'm not sure what's going on, but it appears that the hosting provider for BatesLine is doing some sort of upgrade on its mail software. If you sent something to a batesline.com address since midnight or thereabouts, assume that it didn't and may not ever get to us. When all is straightened out, I'll post a new notice here.

There actually is a bit of suspense left this evening. The Oklahoma State Election Board, which would normally be at 100% by now, is showing 309 precincts out of 2244 yet to report. 72 of these are in Tulsa County and 75 are in Oklahoma County.

The biggest Republican precinct in Tulsa County, 720174, which votes at the ORU Mabee Center, had ballot scanner problems and had to accept marked ballots in a sealed emergency ballot box. When this happens, even if they get the scanner back up and running, they have to zero the machine and scan all the ballots through. I suspect that those numbers are not yet in the online totals.

Here's a telling fact: House District 69, which includes precinct 720174, is showing only 7 of 17 precincts reporting. It's a strongly Republican district.

Here's where it gets interesting. Republicans appear to have gained two seats in the State Senate, regaining Senate 24 in Stephens County and winning Senate 12 in Creek County, bringing that body to a 24-24 tie. (Would have been a 25-23 Republican majority if not for Nancy Riley's defection.)

So it all comes down to the Lt. Governor's seat. Although Democrat Jeri Askins is leading, it's close enough that Todd Hiett could win with a strong finish in the traditionally Republican precincts that haven't yet been counted. The remaining votes could also switch the lead in the Labor Commissioner's race, but there probably aren't enough of them to make a difference in the Auditor's or Insurance Commissioner's race, which are not quite as close

UPDATE 11:50 p.m.: Evidently not. We're now at 2214 precincts out of 2244, and Hiett is still lagging by 29,000 votes. But 28 of the remaining 30 precincts are in Tulsa County.

In the Tulsa County Associate District Judge race, challenger Dana Kuehn leads incumbent Caroline Wall by about 250 votes.

Sometime last year, Sacha Baron Cohen, as Borat Sagdiyev, his Kazakh news reporter persona, visited the offices of the Oklahoma Republican Party and spoke to then Oklahoma Republican Party chairman Gary Jones about the art of speechmaking:

I think Gary handled himself with a lot of grace, particularly with the awkward situation that Borat put him in at the end of the clip.

Funny, but the music is all wrong. It should start with ominous minor-key strings and change to something bouncy and upbeat when the good guy comes on screen.

Jumpin' at the Woodside

| | TrackBacks (0)

A little breather while we wait for the results to come in. Ladies and gentlemen, it's Gene, Gene, the Dancing Machine:

TV veteran Mark Evanier writes of the effect of a Gene, Gene appearance at another Gong Show taping:

The minute they started playing his music — "Jumpin' at the Woodside," I think the tune's called — the studio positively erupted. Barris started dancing and the panelists jumped up and started dancing...and you could feel how much Gene Gene enjoyed what he was doing. Okay, fine, they're performers. It's part of the act. But the crew also started dancing — people not on screen. The guy operating Camera 1 was operating Camera 1 and dancing at the same time. Grips were dancing, lighting guys were dancing, the members of the band were dancing as much as they could and still play their instruments. And of course, the audience — an odd mix of younger Gong Show fans intermingled with old ladies who couldn't get in to the Hollywood Squares taping down the hall — simply had to leap up and boogie. Some of the show's performers and staffers were a little (shall we say) under the influence of something...but the crew wasn't and the audience wasn't. It was just an honest "high" of excitement.

I've been on many TV stages in my life. I've seen big stars, huge stars — Johnny, Frank, Sammy, Dino, Bob, you name 'em. I've seen great acts and great joy, and if you asked me to name the most thrilling moment I've witnessed in person, I might just opt for the Gong Show electrifying Stage 3 for all of 120 seconds. Maybe it was because it came so totally out of nowhere that it stunned me but everyone, including the stone-cold sober people, was suddenly just so...happy. There was something very, very invigorating and enjoyable about being in the midst of all that sudden happiness, however frivolous it may have been.

C'mon, dance! You know you want to.

Six months after Brian Franklin's reply, Starbucks has backed off its threats of trademark litigation against Tulsa's DoubleShot Coffee Company:

I write to follow up on our prior communications concerning your client's use of the "Doubleshot" mark. It is Starbucks' understanding that your client uses this mark only as the name of his coffee shop and, specifically, not as the name of a prepared beverage or other ready-to-drink beverage. Based upon the foregoing, we will close our file on this matter.

As if Brian Franklin would ever serve a "ready-to-drink" beverage!

In fact, it appears that Franklin's quest for perfection has made it difficult to find baristas that meet his high standards, so he has cut hours to 7 am to 5 pm weekdays, 9 am to 3 pm weekends, and says he is working on increasing the wholesale and online retail side of the business. "If you buy a drink at my store," he said in an e-mail from last week, "it will have been sourced, roasted, blended, ground, and brewed by only me. No one knows my coffee better than I do."

Elsewhere on his blog, Franklin has an interesting take on a certain river development proposal:

Let's talk about the River for a minute. Economic development? That's what downtown is for. What? We've finally decided that buiding, constructing, changing, re-changing, re-zoning, re-positioning, re... we can't make downtown a viable economic center? So now we'll go try it on the River. I live on Riverside Drive. Down on the quiet part, where people slow down. I sit on my front porch and relax. I watch people jog by or ride their bikes or take a stroll. There are big, old trees and foxes at night. And sometimes I think about the "economic development" they want to start on the River. Is that improvement?...

But I imagine... they wouldn't cut down ALL the trees, just the ones that were in the way. We'd make parking lots and build an island (an island? I'm sorry, but that's retarded) so rich people could have their condos paid for by my tax dollars and we can move Utica Square out there in the middle of the Arkansas River. Maybe they'll make it a gated community. Or maybe because one group of jackasses can get taxpayer dollars to build their money-making project, someone else will decide they want an island too. And then we can just dam up the River altogether and make it into a waterpark. They'll build tall buildings where there used to be trees outside my window. And what we really need on the River is a Starbucks. This town won't even be put on the map until there's a Starbucks in the middle of the Arkansas River. Isn't that what they're talking about when they say "economic development?"

I have an idea. Let's let Jenks ruin the river. Tulsa can use downtown for businesses (what a novel idea) and keep the River for its natural resources.

As a fellow recipient of a "scary lawyer letter" (who has yet to see a retraction like the one linked above), I send hearty congratulations to Brian and DoubleShot Coffee Company.

I will add to this as developments warrant.

Steve Roemerman has an item about a last-minute, anonymous, and badly produced flyer denouncing HD 23 candidate Steve Gallo, which is being put into mailboxes. A response call from Steve Gallo went out later the same day. The incumbent, Sue Tibbs, knows better and has no reason to do it, as she is expected to win and has plenty of campaign money to put out quality print pieces. There are two theories about the flyer: (1) Gallo put it out himself to garner sympathy and allow him to tar Tibbs as a practitioner of dirty campaigning; (2) someone who supported Gallo's opponent in the bitterly fought Democratic primary put out the flyer hoping to harm Gallo's chances.

Fred Jordan, Republican nominee for House District 69, will go to the Capitol a free man. His wife Kyndra Brooke Littrell Jordan filed for divorce in September, shortly after Jordan won the Republican runoff, and the divorce was final in late October. The filing was done in a way to make it had to tell that the candidate was involved. Jordan's website still refers to him as married and features his wedding photo and other photos with his now-ex-wife. The speed and timing of the divorce makes one wonder if this had been in the works for some time, with an agreement to wait until after Jordan's election was secure before making it official.

UPDATE: 2:18 PM. Some Democrats sure don't like Cody Graves. Or Jeff McMahan.

For my own reference (and yours as well, if you like), a little cheat sheet to help me keep all the races straight.

The front side of the ballot varies from precinct to precinct. If you live in Tulsa County, this page has links to an image of each precinct's ballot. Here's the front side of my precinct's ballot. After each category name, you'll find a link to an earlier entry where I wrote about the race in detail:

State Officers (details and rationale):

Governor: Ernest Istook, Republican
Lieutenant Governor: Todd Hiett, Republican
State Auditor and Inspector: Gary Jones, Republican
Attorney General: James Dunn, Republican
State Treasurer: Howard Barnett, Republican
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Bill Crozier, Republican
Commissioner of Labor: Brenda Reneau, Republican
Insurance Commissioner: Bill Case, Republican
Corporation Commissioner: Bob Anthony, Republican (details here)

Congressional Officers (details and rationale):

U.S. Representative, District 1: John Sullivan, Republican

Judicial Officers (details and rationale, links to candidate websites):

District Judge, District 14, Office No. 1: Cliff Smith
District Judge, District 14, Office No. 10: Deirdre Dexter
District Judge, District 14, Office No. 13: Jonathan M. Sutton
Associate District Judge, Tulsa County: Dana Kuehn

(Although I won't get to vote for them, I would vote, if I could, for P. Thomas Thornbrugh and James M. Caputo.)

Legislative, District, & County Officers (details and rationale):

State Representative District No. 78: Jesse Guardiola, Republican
County Assessor: Ken Yazel, Republican

If I lived in County Commission District 1, I would vote for John Smaligo.

Because control of the State House and State Senate is so important, I recommend voting Republican wherever you live, but I especially urge the re-election of Mark Liotta (HD 77), Sue Tibbs (HD 23), John Trebilcock (HD 98), and Randy Brogdon (SD 34). I also urge you to elect Mark Wofford (SD 18) over his opponent, who prefers her much nicer house outside the district to the company of the people she claims to represent.

The back side of the ballot is the same everywhere in the state. Here's a PDF sample ballot.

Read my UTW column for my rationale for voting against retention for several judges. Following each name, I list the party shown on the judge's voter registration record as of the filing period, age as of election day, city of residence according to the voter record, appointing governor, and, where I can find it, year of appointment.

Justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court:

Steven W. Taylor (D, 57, McAlester, Henry, 2004): NO
Marian P. Opala (D, 85, Oklahoma City, Boren, 1978): YES
Yvonne Kauger (D, 69, Colony, Nigh, 1984): NO
Tom Colbert (D, 57, Tulsa, Henry, 2004): NO
James E. Edmondson (D, Muskogee, Henry, 2003): NO

Judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals:

Arlene Johnson (R, 71, Norman, Henry, 2005): NO
David B. Lewis (R, 48, Lawton, Henry, 2005): ?

Judges of the Court of Civil Appeals:

Jane P. Wiseman (D, 59, Tulsa, Henry): NO
Doug Gabbard II (D, 54, Atoka, Henry): ?
Kenneth L. Buettner (R, 56, Edmond, Walters): ?
Robert Dick Bell (D, 39, Oklahoma City, Henry): ?
E. Bay Mitchell III (R, 53, Enid, Keating): YES (He's not for sale to the highest bidder!)
Carol Hansen (D, 77, Oklahoma City, Nigh): ?

State Questions (click here for details and rationale):

SQ 724: YES
SQ 725: NO
SQ 733: YES
SQ 734: YES

OKRA & TARA endorsements

| | TrackBacks (0)

The Oklahoma Republican Assembly and the Tulsa Area Republican Assembly, both affiliates of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, which calls itself the "Republican wing of the GOP," has issued endorsements in a number of contested races, but, interestingly, not all. A certain percentage (2/3rds I think) of the membership must vote to endorse in order for the group to make an endorsement.

OKLAHOMA REPUBLICAN ASSEMBLY ENDORSEMENTS
FOR STATEWIDE AND CONGRESSIONAL OFFICE 2006

James Dunn, Attorney General
Gary Jones, Auditor & Inspector
Brenda Reneau, Labor Commissioner
Bill Crozier, Superintendent of Public Instruction
Bob Anthony, Corporation Commissioner
John Sullivan, Congressional District 1
Mary Fallin, Congressional District 5

TULSA AREA CHAPTER OF THE OKLAHOMA REPUBLICAN ASSEMBLY ENDORSEMENTS
FOR LOCAL AND STATE OFFICE 2006

NOTE: Judicial races are NON-PARTISAN

James Caputo, District Judge Dist. 14, Office 4
P. Thomas Thornbrugh, District Judge Dist. 14, Office 8
Deirdre Dexter, District Judge, Dist. 14, Office 10
Jonathan Sutton, District Judge, District 14, Office 13
Dana Kuehn, Associate District Judge (Tulsa County)
Kevin Buchanan, Associate District Judge (Washington County)
Brian Kuester, District Attorney (Wagoner, Adair, Cherokee & Sequoyah Counties)
Ken Yazel, Tulsa County Assessor
John Smaligo, Tulsa County Commissioner, Dist.1
Sandy Hodges, Wagoner County Commissioner, Dist. 3
Jamie Sears, State Senate Dist. 10
Mark Wofford, State Senate Dist. 18
Randy Brogdon, State Senate Dist. 34
Wayland Smalley, State House Dist. 6
Steve Martin, State House Dist. 10
Sue Tibbs, State House Dist. 23
Skye McNiel, State House Dist. 29
Rex Duncan, State House Dist. 35
Eddie Fields, State House Dist. 36
David Derby, State House Dist. 74
Jesse Guardiola, State House Dist. 78
Ron Peterson, State House Dist. 80
John Trebilcock, State House Dist. 98

MeeCiteeWurkor went to the Tulsa County Election Board website, printed out the ballot for his precinct, and is circling his picks, which he shares with us.

(And I agree with Mee that the Barnett ad jingle is cheesy.

There's a man we trust in Oklahoma. Howard (beat) Barneh-ett. B-A-R-N-E-T-T Howard (beat) Barneh-ett.

It sounds like a generic ad designed to fit just about any name and any state. If, e.g., Julie Neidlinger were running for governor of her home state, it would be easy to fit "North Dakota" in place of "Oklahoma," and "Julie Neidlinger" has the same number of syllables as notes they use to sing "Howard Barnett." You'd be pressed to spell out her last name in the time available, though.)

Steve Roemerman challenges the claim that his state rep, Sue Tibbs, is a do-nothing, listing important legislation that she helped write and pass. He also challenges her opponent's claim that he's not a politician:

The dictionary defines a politician as

A. One who is actively involved in politics, especially party politics.
B. One who holds or seeks a political office.

A. Steve Gallo is the Vice Chairman of the Tulsa County Democrat Party. I think that qualifies as actively involved in politics...especially party politics.

B. Steve is actively seeking a political office.

Dan Paden responds to those who say the Republicans don't deserve to win this election:

The problem I have is that the only realistically electable opposition is the Democratic Party, and those who fail to go vote Republican this year are saying, in practical terms, that Democrats deserve to win. Ah, no. I don't think so.

As disappointed as I am in some Republicans, I can't turn a blind eye to the complete and utter disaster that is today's Democratic Party....

Of course, some of my Democrat acquaintances will be saying, "Isn't it sad that the best you can say about your party is that they're not Democrats?" Well, yeah, it would be. As it happens, I don't think that that's the best thing you can say about Republicans. But even if it was, it's sadder by far that the Democratic Party is so bad these days--so dedicated to butchering infants, just for starters--that that is actually reason enough to vote Republican.

Jeff Shaw looks at the purported benefits and the damage done by Brad Henry's lottery. Not only has it taken in less than half of the revenues Henry promised, the impact on the public school classroom is minimal:

So start at $205 million. Then, transfer the statutory amount of $68 Million. Then take 45% of $68 million - that's $31 million. Wow! Where'd all that money go?

To see what kind of direct impact this might have on each student and teacher, take that $31 million dollars and distribute that over the population of K-12 pupils and teachers. According to the Heritage Foundation there are around 664,728 K-12 public school students and teachers combined. I added the pupils and teachers together because that is how it's distributed above in the rules.

This comes to the ANNUAL grand total per student and teacher benefit in the area of $47.00.

That's compared to $6,176.00 in per pupil spending in 2004. Less than a 1% increase, funded on the backs of "the poor and disillusioned."

The Tulsa Whirled put out its list of endorsements. It's instructive to see the whole list in one place.

Here are the Tulsa Beacon's endorsements.

A reader writes to say that State Rep. Jeannie McDaniel (D-HD78) is telling tall tales:

We received two flyers the other day. One was from Jeannie McDaniel and the other from Jesse Guardiola. [My husband] noticed on Jesse's flyer that McDaniel had voted "against gov. Brad Henry's Achieving Classroom Excellence initiative." On Jeannie's flyer is stated the opposite, "helped pass SB 1792". I looked on her voting record and sure enough, she had voted NO to SB 1792. We just thought that was interesting. I looked up her voting record on www.vote-smart.org.

Another politically-active friend sends along his take on judgeships, advising the defeat of the two members of the Court of Criminal Appeals who are on this year's retention ballot:

I am voting "no" on both that are up because in my opinion they have overturned the unanimous opinion of 12 jurors too often. I think sending them some "no" votes might send a message that we want jurors' opinions to prevail except in unusual circumstances. Some also say that the two that are up (Henry appointees) are too liberal.

He also includes this disclaimer, which applies to my judicial recommendations as well:

I would not presume to tell anyone how to vote but in order to pass on what my decision is, to anyone interested, as a result of talking to attorneys and victim advocates that I respect, I am putting out this email. In no way does this mean that the candidate that I am not voting for is not qualified. The opposite choice may make a good judge. I am simply passing on the consensus from those people I respect.

That's all for now. Tune into 1170 KFAQ this morning -- I'll be on all morning for a special election preview.

Here is a half-hour video about Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondon's Federal lawsuit attempting to classify animal waste as hazardous material.

The video includes interviews with Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Republican AG candidate James Dunn, and Rick Stubblefield, a member of the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission. If you've wondered, as I have, why Dunn would oppose Edmondson's suit against the poultry producers, this sets out his rationale. According to the video, 42 state attorneys general oppose Edmondson's lawsuit because of the implications it would have for farmers. The video also says that cooperative efforts involving Oklahoma and Arkansas are having positive effects, that the lawsuit is interfering with implementation of the existing efforts to clean up the Illinois River watershed, and that this lawsuit may be more beneficial to Oklahoma trial lawyers than our scenic rivers.

Quick picks

| | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)

I had great plans of producing a post every evening this week, each one highlighting a different race in detail. But the rest of life intruded on those plans, so now I am hurriedly composing a short post, so that tomorrow at church, when friends ask me, "Who should I vote for?" I can point them to the website.

It will come as no surprise that, as an elected official in the Tulsa County Republican Party, I am urging you to vote for Republicans in every race. While I am not equally enthusiastic about all Republican candidates, nevertheless, I think there are good reasons in each race to pick the Republican.

As a supplement to this entry, read my debate with former Tulsa County Democratic Chairman Elaine Dodd in this week's UTW, in which we talk about some statewide and legislative races.

Governor: Ernest Istook. Brad Henry has led Oklahoma in the wrong direction. Instead of helping to provide a solid foundation of laws on which businesses can build, he has made gambling the centerpiece of his plan, creating problems that will plague the state for generations. While he has not stood in the way of the Republicans' most popular initiatives, he isn't providing positive leadership for the reforms Oklahoma needs most. Ernest Istook, for all his flaws, understands what Oklahoma needs to do to become a more congenial place to start and grow businesses and create jobs. And Ernest Istook is in line with Oklahoma's views on social issues. When you consider the questionable decisions made by state courts elsewhere, it matters who is appointing state judges.

Treasurer: Howard Barnett. I don't like how Barnett treated Dan Keating in the primary. I don't like Barnett's support for at-large councilors here in Tulsa. But I do believe that Barnett would be honest and intelligent in managing the state's funds, and all the reasons to get rid of Brad Henry apply doubly to Scott Meacham, the brains behind Brad Henry's gaming-centered economic plan. Meacham was appointed by Henry to fill Robert Butkin's unexpired term when Butkin left to head the TU law school.

Lt. Governor: Todd Hiett. It's essential, in what may be a closely divided State Senate, to have a Republican as Lt. Governor who can cast the tie-breaking vote. If Henry is reelected, we need a conservative Republican as Lt. Governor to act as a foil and to get in position for a run for governor in four years. As speaker, Todd Hiett did a fine job overseeing the transition of the State House to Republican control and had some significant legislative accomplishments.

Corporation Commissioner: Bob Anthony. See my earlier, lengthy entry about Bob Anthony. Now more than ever, we need him representing our interests as utility ratepayers.

Attorney General: James Dunn. I'm still amazed that the incumbent, Drew Edmondson, joined in an amicus curiae brief opposing the Boy Scouts exercise of their 1st Amendment right of freedom of association. I'm even more amazed that Edmondson hasn't paid a political price for putting the state's name and resources behind this suit that would have forced the Scouts to hire homosexual scoutmasters. More recently, Edmondson initiated an amicus and sought the support of other Attorneys General in support of Judith Miller, the reporter who went to jail for refusing to testify to a grand jury. Edmondson seems to think the Oklahoma AG's office is his personal law firm, at his disposal to get involved in any national interest that strikes his fancy. On the other hand, he wouldn't defend Haskell County, which sought to keep the Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn. There's reason to believe he wouldn't defend the state's own laws, passed by our elected representatives, should they come under constitutional scrutiny. Last year Capital Research Center, a national non-profit watchdog group, called Edmondson an aggressive activist. That report, a PDF file, goes into detail about Edmondson's career as AG, including his participation in the tobacco lawsuit that brought home the bacon for his lawyer pals:

The tobacco settlement for Oklahoma alone generated $250 million in private attorneys’ fees. Edmondson hired two out-of-state firms (that got $150 million), which then selected four Oklahoma firms from a list he gave them (they split the other $100 million). Earlier Edmondson had gotten Oklahoma law changed to permit him to file lawsuits independently of the request of a state agency.

One of those favored firms is Tulsa's Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison & Lewis, which was paid $30 million. Lawyers at the firm contributed heavily to Edmondson's reelection campaign.

James Dunn is an experienced attorney who will stick with the constitutional responsibilities of the Attorney General's office. Dunn will defend our laws, will defend Oklahoma land owners against eminent domain abuse, and will act in accordance with our state's values when asked to weigh in on Federal court cases.

I should also say that, having met and observed Dunn and his family, they seem much more normal and well-adjusted than a typical political family. I sometimes get the impression that a candidate spouse is smiling through her pain, miserable, but putting on a good show. I don't get that vibe from Regina Dunn.

Auditor and Inspector: Gary Jones. Here you have an honest, credentialed challenger (Jones) who refuses to take campaign money from people connected with companies regulated by the State Auditor facing an incumbent (McMahan) who doesn't have the necessary education to be an auditor, much less run the State Auditor's office, is connected with all sorts of questionable characters in southeast Oklahoma, and has filled his campaign coffers with money from the firms he regulates. McMahan even fired the head of his Tulsa office, despite commending her on her work, because she didn't campaign for him in the 2002 election. (There's audio of that conversation, and I've heard it.)

McMahan has had performance problems as well. For his eight years in office, McMahan's predecessor, Clifton Scott, issued audited end-of-year financial statements by December 31, six months after the end of the previous fiscal year, in accordance with generally accepted accounting practices. Under McMahan, those same audited statements haven't been completed until February 20, May 20, and February 24 of the following year.

Jones is a CPA, served honorably as a Comanche County Commissioner, winning bipartisan praise.

Labor Commissioner: Brenda Reneau. The labor unions are still mad that they don't own this office like they used to, and they're trying again with Lloyd Fields to get it back. Reneau's focus has been on helping workers and businesses cooperate to make the workplace safer. Her "Safety Pays" program helps businesses identify and correct hazardous work conditions before they get hit with Federal sanctions, resulting in fewer injuries for workers and lower workers' compensation insurance premiums for businesses. The program won an award this year from the U. S. Department of Labor as the best of its kind in the nation.

Insurance Commissioner: Bill Case. Case is a longtime veteran of the insurance industry and a term-limited legislator from Oklahoma City. While I'm not crazy about him, his opponent is Kim Holland, who was appointed to fill the term of the disgraced incumbent, Carroll Fisher. Holland also worked in the insurance industry, but her most important qualification seems to be that she is close with Oklahoma Secretary of State Susan Savage. Holland's husband is Jim East, who was on Savage's staff when Savage was mayor. While Case has a college degree, Holland does not.

Holland has the distinction of being the first mayoral appointee to be rejected by the City Council. Savage had reappointed her as a member of the EMSA board. I was in the audience that night, and I remember her defiant and ungracious response to the Council's decision.

In the State Legislative races, I can't emphasize how important it is for Republicans to gain control of the State Senate and retain control of the State House. Control of one house made possible a tax cut, a doubling of road funding without raising taxes, and landmark pro-life legislation. With GOP control of both houses, the State Senate will no longer be the place that good bills go to die.

I'd like to single out several Republican legislators who are in contested races and are worthy of your support: Mark Liotta in HD 77, John Trebilcock in HD 98, Sue Tibbs in HD 23, Randy Brogdon in SD 34. I personally know and respect all of these people. They have demonstrated themselves to be honest and courageous. They understand the temptations faced by the Republican caucus now that it is in the majority, and they have been working to keep the party true to its principles and promises.

Jesse Guardiola, running against an incumbent in HD 78, is cut from the same good cloth. He would be a vast improvement over the incumbent, Jeannie McDaniel, whom Oklahomans for Life called the biggest disappointment in the legislature for her consistent voting against pro-life legislation.

Three more races: One federal, two county.

US Congress: John Sullivan. Sullivan has been a consistent conservative, even when that puts him at odds with House leadership and the White House. He was one of about 60 congressmen to vote in support of amendments to pull specific pork-barrel items out of appropriations bills. On illegal immigration, he's pushed for a tougher response to the problem. Because the GOP House majority is so slim, a vote for either of his opponents is a vote to put liberals from the coasts in charge of the House and all of its committees. We need the Republicans to keep control, and we need real conservatives like Sullivan there to move the Republican caucus back on track.

County Commission: John Smaligo. While I wish he would come right out and say that he thinks asking taxpayers to fork over $600 million to build islands in the river is ridiculous, he has said in the past that county government needs to use its funds for needs, like roads, bridges, and flood control, not frills. He's bound to be better than Wilbert Collins, who has simply gone along with everything Bob Dick wanted him to do.

County Assessor: Ken Yazel. I like and respect former assessor Jack Gordon -- I especially appreciated the way he went after out-of-state non-profits who were violating the terms of the property tax exemption on the Tulsa apartment complexes they owned, and I appreciated his willingness to oppose Vision 2025 publicly. But overall, I think Ken Yazel has done even more for fiscal responsibility in county government by reducing his own department's budget and, as budget board head, finding ways to cut costs and improve accountability. I also appreciate Yazel's willingness to assess all homes at their fair, full value, even the sort of enormous homes are owned by powerful folks like the Lortons and Mayor Kathy Taylor. While I wish there were a place for both men in county government, I have to choose, and I think Yazel is the better choice.

For my comments on state questions and judicial races, click those links for previous entries.

Since my column came out on Wednesday, I've had several phone calls and e-mails from friends and even from a sitting judge politely taking issue with my picks in the district judge races.

It's interesting that I have yet to hear any dissent to my call to vote against retention of all the Supreme Court justices except Marian Opala and against Civil Appeals Court judge Jane Wiseman, on grounds of partiality. I certainly felt more confident in making that case, and that's why it formed the bulk of my column. In Wiseman's case, I had read the court documents from the 1995 jail election case and the 2003 Vision 2025 election case, and it was apparent that in the latter case, Wiseman deliberately ignored the law. The TABOR petition case was simple -- the proponents were simply not given the chance to argue their case to the Supreme Court.

In the district judge cases, I've had to rely on the testimony of attorneys I know and trust who have worked with, argued against, or argued in front of the candidates. I've also taken note of the endorsers in each race. In some races, there are people I know and trust on both sides of a race. Because of my involvement in the local Republican Party, the anti-recall and anti-at-large councilor campaigns, Tulsa Now, and urban planning and zoning issues, I have a pretty diverse group of friends and allies who have my phone number and wouldn't (and shouldn't) hesitate to share an opinion with me.

It's worth noting, then, that no one has called to argue against my support for Deirdre Dexter for Office 10, my support for incumbent Tom Thornbrugh for Office 8, or my support for Cliff Smith for Office 1.

While I am supporting Jim Caputo for Office 4, I see a number of friends on the endorsement list for his opponent, Daman Cantrell. Office 4 is one of five judgeships elected by district, rather than at-large in Tulsa and Pawnee Counties. Whatever Cantrell's good points, he rented an apartment in the district the week of filing in order to get on the ballot. There was a protest of his candidacy on the grounds that he hadn't lived in the district long enough to qualify to run, but to my amazement the State Election Board let him stay on the ballot. Even if he is within the letter of the law, Cantrell's actions violate the spirit of the law, which is intended to promote geographical diversity on the bench.

A friend e-mailed to express disappointment with my decision to vote for Jonathan Sutton over incumbent Judge Deborah Shallcross. He had been on the opposite side of several cases with Sutton and thinks he would be "a disaster." I don't believe my friend's concerns are sour grapes. Those who support Sutton speak of him as a hard worker, borne out by the way he put himself through law school:

A week into law school, Jonathan had the opportunity to switch shifts at UPS from that of driver supervisor to supervising loading and started working from 2:00 am until noon. During law school Jonathan's usual schedule was to work at UPS from 2:00 A.M. till noon. He later started a part-time job working at the office of the Tulsa County District Attorney from 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P. M. After working 12 hours, he would attend law classes from 5:30 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. During the last two years of law school, Jonathan worked at the UPS airport operation, running one of two shifts. Jonathan kept that grueling schedule Monday through Friday. On the weekends, he would read, study and prepare for the week ahead.

On the other hand, the case that has been made to me against Shallcross is that she has been frequently absent from the bench, that her recent docket reassignment was a censure in all but name for that absenteeism, and that, in her oversight of the family and domestic docket, she has promoted judges who take what I'll call a Lifetime Network view of men.

This may be some indication of Shallcross' ideological leanings. Through a web search, I learned that in 1991 Shallcross won a Newsmaker Award from the Tulsa Chapter of the Association of Women in Communications. While there are plenty of women on that list who have contributed positively to the Tulsa community, you will search in vain for an identifiable conservative Republican, although there are plenty of Democratic officeholders and activists listed. Anita Hill, famous for her public trashing of Supreme Court Clarence Thomas' reputation, was one of the award winners for 1992. Winners must be "philosophically compatible with the goals of AWC."

Yesterday I got a call from Associate District Judge Caroline Wall, who told me she had stopped by the Urban Tulsa Weekly offices hoping to talk with me about what I wrote about her in my column. She objected that I didn't interview her before writing the column. (I didn't interview her opponent, Dana Kuehn, either.) She had specific things to say about the Tulsa World articles, displayed on Kuehn's website, about controversial cases handled by Wall. I hesitate to convey what Wall said, as I wasn't able to take notes, and I don't want to misrepresent what she said. What she should do is post an explanation/rebuttal to each of those cases on her own website.

Ideally, attorneys would be willing to identify in public specific examples of good or bad judgment on the part of each candidate, and we could dig out the case files and argue the pros and cons. But there's a fear of violating the canons of judicial conduct (despite the U. S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated similar rules in Minnesota), and attorneys reasonably worry about offending a candidate before whom they may one day argue a case.

Some may argue that the lack of solid information is why we need to go to an appointive system for all judges. I’m grateful that Oklahoma’s constitution gives the voters the opportunity to hold judges accountable. If nothing else, the election process requires judges to knock on doors and march in parades, reacquainting them with the people they are sworn to serve. All elected officials need an occasional booster shot of humility, an inoculation against arrogance; a judge, who is the king of his courtroom, has an even greater need to get knocked down a peg or two from time to time.

If we no longer had judicial elections, the politics would not go away, they would just go further behind closed doors.

If Mick says so...

| | TrackBacks (0)

Previously mentioned, but here's some shaky video of Mick Jagger, last month in Austin, singing "Bob Wills Is Still the King" by Waylon Jennings.

That's the Rolling Stones' Ron Wood on pedal steel guitar.

The most important thing in next Tuesday's election is turnout. There are many close races at every level of government. Because the presidency isn't on the ballot, a lot of people don't bother to vote, or forget to vote. They don't understand that state policy affects their lives as much or more than federal policy. They don't understand that the composition of Congress will determine what the President can and can't accomplish these last two years in office.

So they need reminders. And the Republican National Committee is asking people like you to do the reminding.

Just click this link, fill in a few blanks to sign up, and you'll be given a script and a list of phone numbers to call, about 10 at a time. Call as many or as few as you have time for. You can get through about a call a minute. The phone lists are targeted in states with close races affecting the control of Congress.

This approach is one of the luxuries of mobile phones with free long distance included. I did calls like this for Pat Toomey when he challenged Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Senate primary in 2004.

In the words of Dr. Gene Scott, "Git onna phones!"

The Marketplace radio program had a report on eminent domain reform ballot initiatives. In four states, the reform measures have a strange twist:

Reforming eminent domain is supposed to be about limiting the government's right to bulldoze a house to put up a freeway or a mall.

But some of these measures go much further. They would let citizens sue when government authorities enforce land-use or other laws they personally don't like and think might cost them money. Even though those laws are there to protect the community's interest.

So if you don't mind your next-door neighbors starting a disco nightclub at their house and then suing taxpayers when the government tells them they can't, these are the initiatives for you.

Sound absurd? Oregon enacted just such a law two years ago. Oregonians have since filed 2,700 lawsuits against state and local authorities asking for $6 billion of taxpayer money.

The idea behind these proposals is that any government regulation that limits use of a piece of property should be considered a "taking," and the owner should be entitled to just compensation. The Marketplace story suggests that the language of the amendment could provide a grounds for challenging any regulation, even if it has nothing to do with real estate.

The proposed eminent domain reform initiative in Oklahoma was of the same variety, something I wasn't aware of when I signed the petition. (Shame on me for not reading the whole thing.) In the end, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the petition on the grounds that it dealt with two separate topics, in violation of the State Constitution's single subject rule. Here's part of the Supreme Court ruling describing the provisions in question:

IP 382 next proposes that an owner of private real property is entitled to just compensation for any reduction in the fair market value of the property caused by the enactment or enforcement of a zoning law, with the following exceptions: 1) zoning laws that protect public health and safety; 2) zoning laws required by federal law or nuisance law; 3) zoning laws limiting the use of property for nude dancing or selling pornography; and 4) zoning laws enacted prior to the effective date of the proposed act. IP 382 also contains provisions placing the burden of proof on the public body and providing for an award of attorney fees, costs, and expenses to the landowner. IP 382 sets no minimum amount of reduction in property value to constitute an actionable claim, does not establish the method of valuing property, does not delineate how a landowner may establish causation between a reduction in property value and a zoning law, and sets no statute of limitations for making a claim. Construed broadly, IP 382 renders inefficacious any zoning law that falls outside of the exceptions in subsection 3.

Effectively, it's a zoning freeze amendment. It might even make it impractical for the city to approve zoning variances, special exceptions, and rezonings requested by the owner. Potentially, a neighboring property owner could sue the city on the grounds that granting the zoning change reduced his property value.

The Oklahoma Family Policy Council has its complete voter's guide online, with background information and questionnaire responses. In addition to the yes/no answers you find in the printed version, the online version has the scanned questionnaires submitted by the candidates, which allows you to read any qualifications or elaborations on their answers.

The section on the statewide judicial retention ballot tells you which governor appointed each judge. It's interesting that, despite eight years of service not that long ago, Frank Keating has only one appointee on the list. (That's E. Bay Mitchell, III, whose ideal campaign slogan should be: "E. Bay: Justice isn't for sale to the highest bidder.") Don't believe that your vote for Governor makes a difference? Look at the number of judges that Brad Henry has elevated to the Supreme Court and the appeals courts in just four years.

Oklahomans for Life also asked candidates to complete a questionnaire, and the results are in their October newsletter. The newsletter also explains the impact of overall control of the State Legislature on pro-life legislation. An individual candidate may be pro-life, but will that candidate vote to give control of the chamber, control of the committees, and control of the agenda to pro-life leaders or pro-abortion leaders? There are a number of pro-life Democrats in the legislature, but the Democratic leadership, particularly in the State Senate, has worked to block pro-life legislation.

The Oklahomans for Life newsletter also singles out Tulsa State Rep. Jeannie McDaniel as a disappointment:

The discredit of having had the most disappointing record of abandoning the unborn child in the Oklahoma legislature this session goes to Democrat Rep. Jeannie McDaniel of House District 78 in Tulsa. Of nine abortion-related votes on the House floor this year, she cast seven pro-abortion votes. A year ago, all six of her votes on the House floor were pro-life. She is opposed in the Nov. 7 general election by pro-life Republican Jesse Guardiola.

This year, McDaniel was one of five state representatives to oppose landmark informed consent and parental notification legislation, bills that had overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature.

Your attention, please! The Oklahoma Centennial celebration is at hand!

Wait, you say. Oklahoma became a state in 1907. November 16, 1907, to be precise. This is 2006. The Centennial is next year, right?

That's right, but Sharon King Davis is in charge of Tulsa's celebration of the state's 100th birthday, so we're celebrating it a year early. Nearly all the special Oklahoma Centennial events in Tulsa will take place this month.

Davis was also in charge of Tulsa's centennial celebration. Although Tulsa was incorporated in 1898, all but a few of the centennial events were held in 1997, evidently to keep the tourists off-guard. The biggest events were held in September of '97. If you decided to, say, fly from Bath, England, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to visit Tulsa for the first time since 1936, and you thought the summer of 1998 would be a good time to visit and catch some special Tulsa centennial events or exhibits, you were out of luck.

(And yes, I know some people who did just that. A couple of sisters, along with the husband of one of them, who grew up in various oil towns around the state in the '20s and '30s, visited the summer of '98. We met one of the sisters in '96 when we were touring a historic home in Cape Cod. When we told her we were from Tulsa, she told us she was born in a place we would never have heard of -- Denoya, which I correctly identified as a boomtown in Osage County also known as Wizbang. When she, her sister, and brother-in-law came to Tulsa, we had dinner at The Spudder -- closest thing we had to an oil history museum at the time -- and I gave them a driving tour of the city.)

I understand the logic -- we're celebrating the 100th year, leading up to the 100th birthday. And I guess it's reasonable for Oklahoma City to get the big celebration at the end, so Tulsa is getting the kickoff celebration at the beginning of that 100th year. Still, I think a lot of Tulsans and a lot of potential visitors aren't going to be expecting all these special events to happen even before we reach our state's 99th birthday.

So pay attention!

One of the first events on the calendar is a film festival, to be held jointly by Circle Cinema and Riverwalk Movies. The festival features a lot of great films about Oklahoma, filmed in Oklahoma, or with some connection to Oklahoma.

Here's a schedule in PDF format. The festival starts Thursday, November 9, and ends Sunday, November 12.

On Thursday, November 9, Circle Cinema will show Tulsa, the 1949 film starring Susan Hayward and Robert Preston, and two films based on books by Tulsa author S. E. Hinton, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and filmed in Tulsa: The Outsiders and Rumblefish

On Friday, November 10, they're showing Pixar's Cars on the Riverwalk, followed by a talk by Michael Wallis, Route 66 expert and the voice of one of the cars (the sheriff) in the movie. That will be followed by The Grapes of Wrath. At the Circle, they're showing Will Rogers' last movie, Steamboat Round the Bend and a couple of documentaries, one about Tar Creek, one about The Flaming Lips. (The latter sounds like the effect of taking a drink of water from the former.)

At the Circle on Saturday evening, November 11, Tim Blake Nelson (aka Jess Lee of Big Hollow Resort) will be present for a screening of his film Eye of God, which is set in Kingfisher. On Sunday, November 12, they're showing Harvey (Tulsa's Peggy Dow Helmerich was in the film that starred Jimmy Stewart as the man with the imaginary six-foot rabbit), followed by the big screen Shirley Jones - Gordon MacRae version of Oklahoma!.

And there's more. Click the link above for all the details.

Mary on the move

| | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

Mary Easley, who moved out of her State Senate district, SD 18, to Owasso in SD 34, has a new TV ad, now claiming that she lives in a house somewhere in northeastern Mayes County, at the opposite end of the district from her old house in east Tulsa. The ad never mentions the name of the town, but it refers to Cherokee Lane, shows a house that appears to have the house number 106 on it, and then shows a map with an arrow pointing somewhere east of Langley. The only Cherokee Lane I find in the area is in Grand Lake Towne, a tiny municipality just south of Ketchum, just south of the Craig / Mayes County line.

There is someone registered to vote at 106 Cherokee Lane: Lucille K. Howard, a 68 year old Republican.

But this is silly, I thought to myself. Surely, Sen. Easley listed her true address on her declaration of candidacy. But she listed a P.O. Box in Tulsa -- 690027 -- no way to tell if that's in the district. And where is she registered to vote? As of July 1, just a few weeks after filing for office, she was still registered at 9909 E 12th St, Tulsa, as was her husband Truman. That was their home in the handful of precincts where her old House District, HD 78, overlaps SD 18. (Truman's record lists the P.O. Box as his mailing address, although Mary's does not.) Between November '05 and July 1, 2006, Mary didn't vote, while Truman voted by absentee ballot in the Tulsa city primary, city general, and the 3rd Penny sales tax renewal.

But when you do a phone search on AT&T's Anywho service, Mary and Truman Easley still show up in Owasso at 19009 E Knightsbridge Rd. There aren't any listed phone numbers for an Easley near Langley, Ketchum, Disney, or Grand Lake Towne, or indeed on a street named Cherokee anywhere in Oklahoma.

Here's my guess: Easley thought she could get away with moving outside her district, got caught based on land records and phone records, and made some hasty arrangement to find a place to live in the district.

In this week's Urban Tulsa Weekly column, I explain why four state Supreme Court justices and state civil appeals court judge Jane Wiseman should be voted out of office next Tuesday. I also pass along recommendations in three races. Space didn't permit covering all the Tulsa County judicial races, but here is the list of candidates for whom I intend to vote (or would if I could -- two of the races are only for portions of Tulsa County):

Office 1: Cliff Smith
Office 4: Jim Caputo
Office 8: Tom Thornbrugh
Office 10: Deirdre Dexter
Office 13: Jonathan Sutton
Tulsa County Associate District Judge: Dana Kuehn

Feel free to chime in on the judicial races over at Voices of Tulsa.

2006 State Questions

| | TrackBacks (2)

This morning on KFAQ, in between reports about the host's gastrointestinal health, Sen. Randy Brogdon (a man with the patience of Job) provided an informative overview of the four legislative referenda on next Tuesday's ballot. (Here is a PDF with the language you will see on the ballot.)

My brief take on each, plus a link to a Rich Text Format (Microsoft Word compatible) version of the constitutional amendments that would be enacted if the question is passed:

SQ 724: Would restrict state pay to incarcerated or convicted legislators. (SJR 5, passed in 2005.) Adds the underlined text below to Article V, Section 21, of the Oklahoma Constitution:

Members of the Legislature shall receive such compensation as shall be fixed by the Board on Legislative Compensation; provided, any member of the Legislature who is incarcerated for any period of time during his or her term of office shall not receive any compensation from the state or be eligible to participate in any compensation programs funded in whole or in part with state revenues during the period of such incarceration. In the event a member of the Legislature is incarcerated due to being charged with a criminal offense and is subsequently acquitted or the charges are dismissed, any compensation withheld from such member shall be paid to such member.

I'll be voting FOR this question, although it should be broadened to include any legislative compensation paid to former members of the legislature (e.g., Gene Stipe).

SQ 725: This would allow the Governor, Speaker of the House, and President Pro Tempore of the Senate to plunder the Constitutional Reserve ("Rainy Day") Fund to bail out inefficient but politically influential industries. (SB 755, passed in 2005.) Despite the safeguards, this is bad business. The purpose of the rainy day fund is to pay for state services when the economy tanks and revenues drop. (Remember the mid-'80s? 2002?) I'd reproduce the full text, but it's two pages long, further beefing up what was once the World's Longest Constitution. Polls are showing this thing passing 60-40. I'm hoping Oklahomans will wise up and vote AGAINST SQ725.

SQ 733: Allows package stores to sell liquor on election day. (HJR 1066, passed in 2006.) The Constitution still bans package liquor sales on Sundays, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Regardless of how you feel about alcohol as a beverage, it's hardly fair to allow bars and restaurants to serve alcoholic drinks while package stores can't sell alcohol for consumption at home. Also, a politically-active friend reminds me that the current law means you can't stock up for election night watch parties (champagne for the victors, champipple for the vanquished). Vote FOR SQ 733.

SQ 734: Provides for the administration of a freeport exemption from personal property tax for inventory that stays in the state for less than 90 days. (SJR 37.) I heard a news story this week about Amazon.com looking for workers for their Coffeyville, Kansas, distribution center -- paying $10/hour for locals, $12/hour for those willing to ride a company bus from Tulsa. I imagine this sort of exemption would make a big difference to a company like Amazon, and I wonder if that's why they're located just north of the Oklahoma border, instead of in Oklahoma. As I read it, the exemption is already authorized in the Constitution, and this amendment only deals with authorizing the Legislature to legislate how the exemption is to be applied for:

The Legislature shall enact laws governing the procedures for making application to the county assessor for purposes of the exemption authorized by this section, including the time as of which the application must be filed and information to be included with the application.

This is a housekeeping amendment and deserves a vote FOR.

Puritans hijacked

| | TrackBacks (1)

"Edwards, Spurgeon, Ryle and Friends," an excellent blog devoted to excerpts from Puritan and Reformed devotional literature, has not only been deleted but has been hijacked by spammers. Its former location was jonathanedwards.blogspot.com. I've had to delete it from my blogroll, along with thenewvintage.blogspot.com, another abandoned Blogger site. (The New Vintage's blogger has resurfaced, anonymously, elsewhere.)

I wrote about the zombie blog harvester phenomenon last year, but here's a reminder -- and if you're a blogger reading this, please spread the word: If you must take your Blogger blog down, please, please don't delete the blog! Backup the content and then delete all the entries, but keep control of the blog as a placeholder. There are unscrupulous spammers (I repeat myself) who will grab the URLs of highly-linked blogs and use that high page rank to promote whatever it is they're trying to promote. When you delete the blog, anyone can claim that URL, and websurfers looking for your content will find whatever these cyberspace cowbirds have posted in its place.

One blogger who deleted his blog learned that his old URL had been claimed by a porn spammer, much to the surprise of his wife's grandmother who went to read his site. (To make matters worse, the pornographic story coincidentally used his wife's name as one of the protagonists of the story.)

Protect your reputation; keep hold of your blog's URL.

Fifty years ago today, Imre Nagy, Prime Minister of Hungary, declared his country's withdrawal from the Soviet-controlled Warsaw Pact. This marked the high point of a brief period of independence which had begun 11 days earlier and which would end three days later when Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest. Nagy was tried, executed, and buried in secret. It was only after the 1989 revolution, when Hungary finally and completely threw off the Soviet yoke, that Nagy was given the honor due him.

Freedom Fighter 56 Oral History Project presents the stories of 56 Hungarians who were there and remember that time.

Although the Revolution of '56 was shortlived, it left a deep impression on someone who would have a significant role in Hungary's ultimate liberation, remembered by economist János Horváth:

I became acquainted with Ronald Reagan in 1974 when he was Governor of California. At the time I was head of the Department of Economics at Butler University in Indianapolis. Governor [Ronald] Reagan came to Indiana repeatedly during the early months of that year to help in the Republican primary election campaign his friend and colleague, Governor Edgar Whitcomb, who aspired to become a U.S. Senator. I was Chairman of Economic Advisors for Governor Whitcomb, and in that capacity I accompanied the two men on many campaign trips throughout the state....

[After fielding questions at a campaign stop], when we were riding in the automobile or sitting in a restaurant munching on a sandwich, I would meticulously elaborate on the theoretical as well as the institutional background of the question. Reagan repeatedly redirected the conversation to other topics. Almost always he reached back to the 1956 Hungarian revolution and fight for freedom, and he revealed a surprising acquaintance with the details.

Governor Reagan during those months repeatedly questioned me about the events and circumstances of the 1956 revolution. Frequently, he interrupted my explanation of economic matters with an unexpected question. “János, you were there. Tell me about the demonstrations on the Parliament Square. Who brought the the 300,000 people to the square? Why did the ÁVO open fire on the crowd on October 25th when it hadn’t on the 23rd? Is it really true that the demonstrators did not possess weapons initially?” And he had further questions regarding the Kilián barracks and the heroic resistance at Széna tér (Haymarket Square)....

I asked questions of Governor Reagan, too. I asked why he knew so much about the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Was it because he was contemplating the future outlook of the Soviet Union? What would he do in the role of making foreign policy? From his responses and comments it became crystal clear that he was quite close to the position that had evolved during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, namely, that the Soviet Union and communism in general were not as stable as they had appeared to be.

In another account, Andrew P. Fodor, then a Hungarian Army cadet, remembers a scene of resistance that would be repeated 33 years later, half a world away:

I peeked through the factory gate. I could hardly believe my eyes. Across the street, in the dark, shadowy doorway of a rundown building, a fellow cadet from my school was standing armed to the teeth, aiming his weapon at something. But at what? I peeked out again; there was a lone Soviet tank standing about two blocks away.

Again, I looked across the street, for I thought he was going to fire at the tank - and he did. The tank immediately replied. Across the street, the whole doorway collapsed and part of the building disappeared. István and I hurriedly retreated to the basement again.

I cannot forget this cadet's face. It was partly lit by a weak, autumn sun after a rainy day, on a sad, very sad November day in Budapest. His fight was futile and hopeless, yet he was a real patriot. When István and I finally left the factory, I crossed the street and wanted to put some flowers where he stood, but there were no flowers around. I reached into the pocket of my workman's overall, where I carried my military cap and slowly placed it on the shattered plaster pieces, which were all that remained of the doorway where he stood before.

As the years passed, his image faded in my memory, but once in a while his desperate act still haunts me. The last time I remembered him vividly was when I saw the picture of a lone Chinese student in Beijing trying to stop a long column of Chinese army tanks going to Tiananmen Square…

I found this via Robert N. Going's Judge Report. Going remarked on the effect of the uprising and its suppression on the West:

First, it reminded us at just the right time that, as Dr. Fred Schwarz used to say, you can trust the communists to be communists.

We were in the early years of the post-Stalin era and, as we've heard so many times since, a new enlightened leadership was at the helm. Nikita Kruschev had denounced Stalin and his terror and all the usual suspects (who had ignored Stalin's terror while it was happening) proclaimed the age of peaceful cooperation. Anti-communism in the United States had run its course following the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954, and we were back on the road to blissful ignorance.

I wasn't around in '56, but somewhere along the way I remember hearing about an after-effect of the events of October and November -- the December 6 water polo match between Hungary and the USSR at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia:

By the start of the Olympics, the uprising had been brutally dealt with, and many of the players saw the Olympics as a way to salvage some pride for their country. "We felt we were playing not just for ourselves but for our whole country" said Zador after the match. By this time, the international community had become aware of the full brutality of the Soviet response to the Hungarian uprising and the Hungarian Olympic team was cheered wherever it competed. The "Blood In The Water" match was played out in front of a partisan crowd bolstered with expatriate Hungarians, many of whom had been in the boxing arena a few days before to see Laszlo Papp win his third gold medal.

From the start, the match was a very physical encounter with kicks and punches being exchanged. Star Hungarian player Zador scored two goals to the cheers of the crowd. Leading 4–0 going into the final minutes, Zador was forced to leave the pool after being punched by Valentin Prokopov. Zador's injury was the final straw for a crowd which was already in a frenzy. To avoid a riot breaking out, the match was abandoned with 1 minute to go and police entered the arena to shepherd the crowd away. Pictures of Zador's injuries were published in the press around the world leading to the "Blood in the Water" name, although reports that the water did actually turn red were probably an exaggeration.

The Hungarians went on to beat Yugoslavia 2–1 in the final and win their fourth Olympic gold medal. Following the Olympics, half of the 100-member Hungarian Olympic delegation defected.

Zador went on to coach American Olympic champion Mark Spitz, who is narrator of a just-released film about the match, Freedom's Fury.

(Unrelated except chronologically, Going has a sweet personal reminiscence about being a five-year-old budding contrarian in 1956.)

Chuck Colson responds to the conclusion of Tempting Faith, by David Kuo, the disillusioned former staffer in President Bush's office of faith-based initiatives.

But Kuo is dead wrong to suggest that that Christians ought to enter into a time of "fasting" from politics. These words, which I wrote in 1987, that so influenced David are true today: "Christians need to influence politics for justice and righteousness." But we must do so "with eyes open, aware of the snares . . . Today Christians may find themselves suspect — I have experienced this myself — to the very people on whose side they are fighting. But that is the price they must pay to preserve their independence and not be beholden to any political ideological alignment." That's what I wrote in 1987; that's what I mean today.

Fasting from politics is the exact opposite of what I taught David Kuo, however. Only by continuing to fight for our beliefs, regardless of the temptations, compromises, or being called "nuts," can we achieve the kind of moral reform and protection of human rights that Christians throughout the centuries and in every culture work for.

This is why Christians must never "fast" from politics. And it's why Christians, of all citizens, ought to be lining up to vote on Tuesday. Do your civic duty because you'll do your duty to God in the process.

And to abandon the battle on behalf of the sick and the suffering, the prisoner and the unborn: That would be a true sin.

RELATED: Democrats are making a strong pitch for the support of Values Voters, particularly in the South. Tennessee Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. is calling himself pro-life, but Kathryn Jean Lopez says that as a congressman he hasn't voted that way:

According to the National Right to Life Committee, Ford’s claim to be pro-life “is radically at odds with Ford’s 10-year voting record in the U.S. House. Overall, Ford has voted against the pro-life side 87 percent of the time.”

Among his most notable votes cast on this front, Ford voted against “Laci and Conner’s Law,” which recognizes an unborn child who is injured or killed in the commission of a federal crime as a child and crime victim. Even though the bill was not explicitly about abortion, abortion groups considered its implications and thought long term — if we give in here, will it hurt us later? They knew it could very well, and so they opposed the bill, despite Conner Peterson. And so did Harold Ford, even though all but one member of the Tennessee congressional delegation voted for it.

100_4161-sm.JPG

We opted, as usual, for homemade costumes, which are more fun and usually look better than the storebought kind. My daughter's toothless fairy costume was a nice dress, a pair of butterfly wings, and a wand that she decorated herself. (Nature took care of the toothless part.) A neighbor sewed my son's Gryffindor house robe, and we added the house patch. We bought his wand, and a cheap pair of sunglasses and wash-out hair dye completed his costume.

About 6:30 last night, I took the two big kids around our block. Of the 40 houses around us, about 10 were open for business. We saw a few other families out as well -- but they seemed to have driven into the neighborhood from somewhere else.

My wife had mentioned a "trunk-or-treat" event at the church down the street. That's where people park their cars in the church parking lot, pop open and decorate their trunks and hand out candy. Seems kind of pointless -- stop at one trunk, get candy, take four steps to the next trunk, get candy, repeat. You lose the anticipation of walking up the steps and ringing the doorbell, wondering who will answer and what kind of treats they'll have. Making the circuit in a parking lot doesn't compare with deciding whether to turn the corner to the next block or head home.

Halloween was a neighborhood event when I was a kid. It was in the neighborhood, and it reinforced a sense of neighborliness. Nowadays we don't shop with, worship with, or go to school with the people we share a subdivision with. Attending Halloween events away from home severs one of the few remaining ties to neighborhood, and reinforces our membership in geographically-scattered communities.

(Take a map and mark the places you visit on a regular basis -- your church, your job, where you shop, where your kids go to school. That's your true neighborhood.)

That said, we next got in the car and headed to First Baptist Church downtown for their fall festival, where we took the above photo. My parents are members there, and we go nearly every year. They have carnival games, a pony ride, face painting, and a bouncy castle. $3 buys a 20-punch pass, and each game or attraction takes one punch -- it's not expensive, but the kids have to think about how they want to spend their punches. Win or lose, you get candy just for playing the games.

Grandma got a balloon for the baby and tied it to his stroller. He had the best time pulling down the string hand over hand to bring the balloon closer.

(I know, I'm a rotten dad: I let my son read Harry Potter, let my kids go trick-or-treating, with my son dressed as Harry Potter, and I let my baby have a dangerous balloon.)

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2006 is the previous archive.

December 2006 is the next archive.

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

Contact

Feeds

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