February 2007 Archives

Recently I had to go to Altus, in southwestern Oklahoma, for the day. I left early in the morning, made one stop, and got there in great time.

Coming back I decided to take the scenic route from Altus back to I-44 near Lawton. I didn't travel any unfamiliar roads. I've made many trips to Altus over the last 20 years and have taken nearly every imaginable alternate path between here and there. Today I combined some of my favorite detours.

The first one starts a little over 10 miles east of the center of Altus (Main and Broadway). Traveling east on US 62, I took the Headrick exit, which put me on an older, curvier alignment of the highway, paralleling the railroad tracks. The road skirts the northern edge of the little town then winds through some some rocky hills and over a long pony truss bridge across the North Fork of the Red River, followed by a through truss bridge over a railroad. The old concrete roadbed, the old style bridges, the pale orange rocks, and the mesquite trees combine to look like a fading slide from a summer vacation out west circa 1947. Shortly after passing over the railroad, the old alignment rejoins US 62. The entire loop is about three miles long, and it's easiest to do if you're eastbound.

(About two miles further, you can turn left to drive US 62 Business through the town of Snyder, which gives you a closer view of the stoney mountains that guard the town on the west and east. I skipped it today. Since it's on the north side of the new highway, it's easiest to hit this when westbound. Where the business alignment meets the main road, you can go straight across to hit another old US 62 alignment which will take you through Indiahoma, Cache, and into Lawton on Cache Road.)

Back to "new" 62: Six miles east of the junction with SH 54, there's a marked turnoff for Indiahoma and the Treasure Lake Job Corps Center. Turn left (north) on Indiahoma Road, which skirts the western boundary of Ft. Sill, then enters the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. The road passes Charon's Garden Wilderness Area -- more stark, rocky hills, with evergreens improbably mixed in with the mesquite trees. The road passes through the refuge headquarters complex then meets SH 49, the main road through the refuge.

Turning east on 49, you'll pass a prairie dog town and likely see some longhorns. Near the visitor's center, you have to turn left to stay on 49. About 3 miles later, there's the entrance to the Holy City, a complex of buildings used for the annual Passion Play. The Judaean architecture seems to fit the arid topography.

Just past the Holy City entrance road, turn left to head to Meers on SH 155, about 3 miles further north. At the Meers Store, in its current location since 1922, you can eat a longhorn burger the size of a dinner plate and watch the seismograph (there's a fault nearby). (But not if it's a Tuesday.)

I headed east on Meers-Porter Hill Road for 4 miles, then southeast on SH 58 toward Medicine Park. To get into Medicine Park, you can go the easy way -- down to SH 49, then back west to Forest Ave., the road that forks off from 49 on the right (north) side and leads you into town.

Or you can go the hard way -- take a right on Big Rock Road and head up the hill on a switchback road, carefully observing the 5 mph speed limit. Your effort will be rewarded with a spectacular view of Mt. Scott and the Wichita Mountains to the west. You'll head downhill toward town past some homes that make interesting architectural use of the steep slope.

Big Rock Road leads to East Lake Street, which will lead you into the heart of Medicine Park, a century-old resort town on the banks of a picturesque stream. Many of the buildings are constructed out of cobblestones. There's a new walking path along the east bank of the stream, where you can fish for trout. Walking through town, I stopped to read the notices posted in the town hall's window. The town has imposed a "use tax" on items imported from out of town for which sales tax wasn't paid. They've decided to dedicate this income to the town's historic preservation fund.

Forest Ave. leads past more cobblestone tourist cabins in various states of repair -- many are in good repair and available for rental -- back to SH 49, which will lead you to I-44, where you'll find a truck stop and a couple of places to eat.

If you're really hungry, wait to eat until you hit Chickasha and stop at Jake's Rib.

A few weeks ago, CBN News anti-terrorism analyst Erick Stakelbeck visited Tulsa to talk to Jamal Miftah, the Pakistani Muslim who was kicked out of the mosque of the Islamic Society of Tulsa for his guest opinion condemning those who commit acts of terror in the name of Islam. Stakelbeck also interviewed me during his visit.

The story will air tomorrow (Tuesday) on "The 700 Club," seen on the ABC Family Channel (Cox Cable channel 37) at 8:00 a.m. Central time, and again at 10:00 p.m. The story should also appear on the cbnnews.com website after it airs.

Click here to see Stakelbeck's earlier, brief report about Miftah on Hot Air.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the text and the video of Stakelbeck's report on Jamal Miftah.

Chris Medlock has the beginnings of a list of answers to frequently asked questions regarding the City of Tulsa's proposed annexation of the Tulsa County Fairgrounds. He tackles the following questions:

Q: Is the City taking over the Fairgrounds from the County?
Q: Is the Fairgrounds a “tax free” zone?
Q: Is the 3-cent tax break the major draw for retail activity at the Fairgrounds?
Q: Is annexation akin to raising taxes?

That last one has an interesting answer. Medlock points out that Sen. Randy Brogdon, indisputably the taxpayers' best friend at the State Capitol, was previously Mayor of Owasso, and as Mayor and thus a member of the City Council, he voted to approve numerous annexations, many of them including already developed property which suddenly became subject to city sales tax and millage. Either that means that Randy Brogdon is a tax-raisin' fiend, or else annexation isn't really a tax hike.

Annexation opponents have also asserted that the City of Tulsa gets a free ride on the use of the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center, more colloquially known as the County Jail. In a comment on an earlier entry, County Commissioner Fred Perry wrote: "He [Michael Bates] ignores the fact that the county runs the jail and charges the city nothing (a multi-million dollar value)."

But there's more to that story. First of all, everyone who spends money in Tulsa County, whether within the city limits of Tulsa, in some other municipality, or in the unincorporated areas, pays the 1/4 cent sales tax that funds operation of the jail. Tulsa businesses supply the lion's share of that fund. Everyone who owns property in Tulsa County, whether within the city limits of Tulsa, in some other municipality, or in the unincorporated areas, pays the county millage, part of which goes to fund operation of the jail. Even though the money flows through county government, most of it originates with the economic activity of City of Tulsa residents.

The City of Tulsa also has a contract with the Tulsa County Commission, running until June 30, 2008. In the contract, the City provides the County with the use of the old city jail, on the third floor of the City of Tulsa Police Municipal Courts Building, just west of the courthouse, and the use of the Adult Detention Center on Charles Page Boulevard near Newblock Park. The City also provides a "fully staffed evidence property room" to handle evidence required for district court cases related to City of Tulsa law enforcement. The agreement refers to a separate agreement giving the County use of a facility adjacent to the County's Juvenile Detention Center.

When the contract was executed in 1998, the value of the City of Tulsa's contribution was estimated at $1,862,350. The contract specifies that the "reasonable value" of the City's contribution is equivalent to paying the County for daily housing of 116 municipal prisoners.

In exchange for all of that, plus $1 a year, the County pays to house up to 116 of the City's municipal prisoners. If the monthly average of the daily number of municipal prisoners ever exceeds that number, there is a formula for the City to compensate the County for the excess. But if the number of municipal prisoners is lower than 116, the County does nothing to compensate the City.

Now, not every perp caught by the Tulsa police department is a "municipal prisoner." When someone is arrested on a violation of state law -- homicide, robbery, grand larceny -- that case will be handled through District Court, no matter whether the sheriff, the Tulsa police, the Highway Patrol, or some other authority arrested him. The county jails exist for the purpose of handling such prisoners. (I'm sure someone could find the appropriate cites on oscn.net. I'm too tired right now.)

Municipal prisoners are defined in the contract as "individuals present in the Jail System exclusively as the result of a City of Tulsa misdemeanor charge." If you're convicted of violating one of the laws in the Tulsa's penal code and you haven't also violated a state law, you'd be considered a municipal prisoner. At the time the jail contract was executed, the number of municipal prisoners was less than 80 per day, about a third below the amount considered equivalent to the City's contribution to the system. I am not sure what the current average number of municipal prisoners is.

What would happen if, hypothetically, the County Commission decided to "retaliate" for annexation by terminating the jail agreement with the City?

The County would lose the use of the old city jail would have to find another place to house prisoners awaiting trial in District Court, as the old county jail on the upper floors of the courthouse has been remodeled into offices for the District Attorney. The County would also have to set up a bigger evidence room of its own find other facilities to replace those that the City provides it free of charge. Finally, the County would lose the financial benefit it enjoys when the number of municipal prisoners that the County pays to house drops below the level the City is allowed by virtue of its contribution to the system.

In short, the County would be cutting off its nose to spite its face, especially since annexation would not have a detremental effect on County government. That would also be true if the County were to follow through on threats to move the Fairgrounds out to Glenpool. But that is a post for another day.

Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor wants to focus on design regulations for development in the river corridor, not on creation of a new river authority:

"We have this wonderful asset and right now anyone can develop anything on it," she said. "If I want to put a mini-storage warehouse on it, I can."

Taylor has directed the city's Planning Commission to establish a study committee that could recommend the zoning guidelines.

Taylor said the goal of river corridor zoning is to provide compatibility guidelines that enhance commercial development.

"We don't need an authority for private development to occur," she said.

(I assume they mean the city's Planning Division, not Commission. The city doesn't have its own planning commission. That role is filled by the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, and Mayor Taylor doesn't have the power to direct the TMAPC to do anything. Anyway, the city's planners are better suited to developing good design requirements, having already handled the same task on several small-area infill development plans. UPDATE: I've learned that the request was indeed sent to the TMAPC.)

There's a graphic with the story that shows that the City of Tulsa has 17 miles of river frontage out of the 26-mile length of the river in Tulsa County. That's one good reason why the City of Tulsa shouldn't cede authority over commercial development to a County Commission-controlled authority.

Taylor seems support design regulations for the river corridor, but then she doesn't seem to want to fully embrace the idea.

In Tulsa, she said, the process for developing guidelines would include public input on whether the city should have zoning restrictions on the river.

"The citizens have to decide whether we want gas stations on the river," she said.

In late 2005, plans for a Kum & Go convenience store on Riverside Parkway prompted the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission to look at its options as it considers future Arkansas River development cases.

The store's location, with its back facing the riverfront, drew some criticism from elected officials, but there was nothing anyone could do to stop it, control its design or its position in relation to the river.

With this statement she almost seems to be giving herself an out, in case there's some backlash from developers. Wouldn't it be nice if the Mayor actually took the lead and expended some political capital in arguing for the importance of special regulations for development along the river?

You can read my column from last August about the importance of design guidelines for the river and other strategic areas here.

Don't know which of her books or articles they came from, but I like these:

A culture is unsalvageable if stabilizing forces themselves become ruined and irrelevant. . . The collapse of one sustaining cultural institution enfeebles others, makes it more likely that others will give way . . . until finally the whole enfeebled, intractable contraption collapses.

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.

I came across a very interesting piece setting out the U. S. military's eleven-point plan for victory in Iraq. Point 10 was surprising:

Electoral Reform: The old system of national parties selecting candidates for positions was believed to have unfairly tipped the balance in favor of the Shiites and led to too many Pro-Iranian, Pro-Achmedinejad candidates ( like the nutbag terrorist Al Sadr ) receiving too many seats in the parliament. A new system of local candidates simply stepping forward and adding their name to the ballot will instead prevail.

A commenter elaborates on the problem, which exists for all party-list proportional representation systems:

As someone who’s been involved with the Iraqi electoral process, I cannot stress enough just how bad the present system is.

Iraq currently has a fully proportional representation system for Parliamentary elections. Meaning, if your party (or coalition) gets 33% of the vote, you get 33% of the seats. This ensures that sectarian interests are represented in Parliament in roughly the same number as their population. Even small groups like the Yezidi or Sabeans get 1 or 2 members. This sort of ability to be “representative” is WAY big in the Islamic world.

If you want an electoral system that consolidates power in the hands of a few sectarian party bosses and prevents any representative from appealing to any population outside his narrow sectarian constituency - this is the perfect system. If you want an electoral system that makes representatives responsible to the actual people they serve, PR is very much the *worst* system you could possibly imagine that can still be called democratic.

This is because PR works by having the parties put forth “lists” of candidates. For instance “555″ (the shia coalition) puts together a list of 275 candidates (275 seats in Parliament.) They got, i think, 131 seats. That means the first 131 candidates on the list get seats in Parliament. Who determines your placement on the list? The party bosses! So you can be #12 on the list or #176 - depending on how loyal you are to the party leader. Obviously, since being an MP brings with it many perks including cash and immunity - you want to be up high on that list. Conversely, whether or not your constituents are happy with you is irrelevant, because your placement on the list is wholly dependent on the party leaders.

However, were Iraq to develop a system based on geographic constituencies (based on a census) and adopt a “first past the post” system, sectarian groupings would be represented unevenly and some groups would never be represented at all. However, the representatives elected would be forced to be much more responsive to their voters in their geographic constituency. This is because they’d need to provide their voters with enough reason to vote for them and build enough coalitions among the electorate to get to 50% +1 vote. As a result, the ability of a small group of party leaders to dictate policy would be greatly reduced.

Unfortunately, adopting this type of syetm requires two things:

1) It relies on the party leaders, who now control the legislative/constitutional process, to voluntarily put into place a system that will dilute their power. Once PR is put in place as a representational system, it is notoriously difficult to change because it is not in the interests of the power brokers.

2) It will require significant changes in the current constitution. Given that the Parliament is paralyzed over constitutional amendments of an even less divisive nature (oil revenue sharing, etc.) the chances that the Iraqi Council of representatives will puch through such an electoral change is unlikely.

A sound system of representation will allow voters to select the individual who will represent them, rather than centralized party bosses, so that the representative is directly responsible to his constituents. It is possible to provide a degree of proportionality and minority representation while retaining geographical representation and without resorting to party lists. Ireland does this with constituencies electing three to five members each (based on population), using the single-transferable vote method.

Too bad Iraq wasn't encourgaed to take this approach in the first place. As the commenter notes, once a party-list system is in place, it is almost impossible to dislodge.

Jim Miller, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Tulsa, took a sermonal swipe last Sunday at Kirk of the Hills, the Presbyterian congregation which decided last year to disaffiliate from the mainline PCUSA and become a congregation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Here's what Miller said:

“They left the presbytery because they believed that the Presbyterian Church is the Titanic. And if you’re on the Titanic, the best thing that you can do is get off the Titanic….”

“I believe that if you use the analogy of a ship [and] there is a fire in the engine room, in the boiler, and if you have a crisis in the engine room you don’t need to have people getting off the ship, you need to have people getting in the boiler room and beginning to put things right.”

Tom Gray, pastor of Kirk of the Hills, says he and his church's leadership have spent 15 years trying to put things right:

I, Wayne, and a significant number of our elders attended many General Assemblies and were participants and officers in various renewal groups. We’ve met with denominational officials over the years, written letters and articles, caucused with sessions and pastors of like mind, and generally have invested a tremendous amount of time and treasure in trying to turn the ship back on course.

I’ve spent at least two weeks of every year since 1991 devoted to addressing the PCUSA’s wayward course. I’ve made hundreds of phone calls in that service. I hesitate to compute the tens of thousands of miles I’ve traveled throughout the U.S. working with others in an effort to redirect the denomination. I’ve taken stands that have made me unpopular at home, and I’ve had to hear the general presbyter complain about people like me who are “at the extreme” for wanting the denomination to remain true to its traditional beliefs.

Gray says the problem isn't in the engine room; it's on the bridge.

The ship of PCUSA is heading in the wrong direction even though it has a clear map of where it is supposed to go, found in Scripture and in the denomination’s confessions. Sometime between 1950 and today, in the denominations from whence the PCUSA was formed, there was a very slow and subtle mutiny. Those opposed to the direction of Scripture gained control of the rudder....

If I had paid fare to travel, say, from New York to London, and found that the ship had, without permission or announcement, changed its course for Antarctica, I’d have good reason to get onto another ship—one going in the right direction. This is what the Kirk did when we disaffiliated. The fact that other churches (passengers) are willing to hope that the ship goes back to its rightful course is their business. We found that the officers on the bridge were deaf to our concerns, so we came to the conclusion that the rudder is now lashed in the wrong direction.

The case could be made that the PCUSA started heading south in 1967, when they eliminated adherence to the Westminster Standards as a requirement for ordination and adopted a new watered-down confession.

First Pres has a beautiful and historic facility. It would be hard to leave an apostate denomination knowing that it might cost them their building, but that's the same challenge the Kirk is facing, fighting in court to keep control of the property that their members built.

I'm thankful that forty years ago the founders of our congregation placed faithfulness to God's unchanging Word above the perishable glory of buildings and were willing to forgo stained glass and pipe organs for Sunday worship in a school cafeteria.

"Sheshe," a mom to eleven kids, is being evaluated for deep brain stimulation surgery to deal with severe dystonia. She asks for prayers for wisdom on the decision she'll have if the doctors decide she's a good candidate for surgery.

Amy Wilhoite is a young mom with a fourteen-month-old baby boy who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia last summer. She had chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, but she learned today that the cancer has returned, and there are few remaining treatment options. She writes:

We are heartbroken. This is not the news we wanted to hear. We wanted to raise our son, to grow old together, but God has different plans for our family. And as much as we don't understand them right now, we know that He is sovereign over this as well. Please pray for us, and for my family especially. My part in all of this is rather easy. I get to die and be with my Savior in glory. I get to miss out on all the suffering this world holds. It is my family who bear the grief and the pain day in and day out. It is for them that my heart breaks.

(Via Rocks in My Dryer.)

Lortondale history

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There's an interesting thread over at the TulsaNow Forum about the history Lortondale neighborhood, on the east side of Yale Avenue at 26th Street. The subdivision of homes with low pitched roofs and glass walls was built in 1954 on what had been a farm belonging to the publisher of the Tulsa Whirled (thus the name) and later the original site of Meadowbrook Country Club (now on 81st Street between Memorial and Mingo).

One of the fascinating facts supplied by Steve, a 20-year resident of the subdivision:

Lortondale was the very first merchant builder (speculative) housing development in the United States where all homes were built with central air conditioning as a standard feature, built on slab foundations with in-slab forced air HVAC ducts. Builder Howard Grubb and the Chrysler Air-Temp Corporation featured Lortondale homes in their national magazine ads at the time, and Lortondale made national homebuilding news for this "luxury" feature. An historic homebuilding fact, right here in Tulsa.

He also mentions that Grubb built two model homes in Mayo Meadow neighborhood, just east of Pittsburg on 21st Place.

Lortondale's MySpace page has a scan of the original owner's manual for the homes, plus many contemporary photos and magazine articles about the development's modern features. The neighborhood also has a very well-designed website (although it doesn't seem to be working at the moment).

I'm pretty sure The Incredibles live in Lortondale, or someplace very much like it. Here's a 1956 view of a Lortondale home. (Flickr photo uploaded by Hoodlam.)

And here's a still from The Incredibles (image found here):


Iraq news feeds

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To help me (and you) keep up with what's happening on the ground in Iraq, I've added several Iraq-related blog feeds to my Newsgator page: Calvey in Iraq, the blog of former Oklahoma State Rep. Kevin Calvey, news releases and daily reports from the official Multi-National Force Iraq website, the blog of the Victory Caucus, and Iraq the Model, the perspective of two Baghdad residents.

As these blogs post new entries, you'll see them pop up on the Newsgator page.

I've been reading San Antonio Rose: The Life and Music of Bob Wills by Charles R. Townsend, published in 1976. It's an excellent biography, which Townsend began researching in the late '60s, interviewing Bob Wills, his wife Betty, and many of the musicians who played in his band. The book is out of print, but the Tulsa library system has several circulating copies.

In a chapter about Wills's 1968 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Townsend asks whether his music really belongs in the country category, and on p. 285 he includes this prescient aside:

Mainstream country music has remained relatively close to its rural and folk origins -- and if this ever ceases to be the case, the term country music will become a meaningless commercial hybrid.

In case you missed last week's FDA announcement:

On February 14, 2007, FDA advised consumers not to eat any Peter Pan peanut butter purchased since May 2006 and not to eat Great Value peanut butter with a product code beginning with "2111" purchased since May 2006 because of risk of contamination with Salmonella Tennessee. Salmonella is a bacterium that causes foodborne illness, and “Tennessee” is a type of Salmonella. All Peter Pan peanut butter purchased since May 2006 is affected; only those jars of Great Value peanut butter purchased since May 2006 with a product code beginning with "2111” are affected. Although Great Value peanut butter with the specified product code has not been linked by CDC to the cases of Salmonella Tennessee infection, the product is manufactured in the same plant as Peter Pan peanut butter and, thus, is believed to be at similar risk of contamination. Great Value peanut butter made by manufacturers other than ConAgra is not affected.

Slate's Explainer explains how peanut butter could be contaminated with salmonella:

Peanut butter happens to be a pretty safe food when it comes to microorganisms. That's because the nuts are blanched, roasted, and ground up at temperatures high enough to kill any salmonella bacteria that might have gotten into the raw ingredients. But the germs can still contaminate the product in the "post-processing" phase of production—when the finished product is loaded into jars and labeled for sale. The only other known outbreak of peanut butter-related salmonellosis occurred in Australia in the mid-1990s: Post-processing contamination with fecal matter was the likely culprit.

I checked our pantry shelf and was relieved to see a jar of Jif there.

Out sick

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We've been fighting the 24-hour stomach bug at our house since Friday night. The girl got it then, Mom and older son got it late Saturday afternoon, and it hit me around noon today. I managed to get in a last minute shopping trip for supplies (club crackers, Sprite, Gatorade, Pepto Bismol) before the bug laid me low. Happily, my wife was on the upswing by then, so we didn't have to live through both grownups being sick at the same time.

The baby, praise God, is unaffected so far. I remember a frightening episode when my daughter was six months old -- she had a fever and a cold and refused to drink anything. We had to take her to the ER for dehydration. We're praying that the baby escapes the crud.

I'm feeling better, but not well enough to be coherent. Hopefully that will change by tomorrow morning.

Because I'm tired and burned out on serious stuff (the Republican County Convention was today), here's a bebop version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Bobby Troup, performed by legendary steel guitarist Leon McAuliffe (singing, not steeling, in this one) and his band. Take it away, Leon....

The baby bear's part cracks me up.

said the little wee bear,
"there's the chick that busted my chair!"

Tartarus control

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The Ace of Spades, a non-believer himself, has a post wondering why non-believers get offended at the fact that believers think they're going to Hell, and it includes this perceptive passage:

Most Christians who get heat for this don't offer the statement "You're going to Hell" of their own volition. What usually happens is that non-believers begin badgering them -- "You can't possibly believe I'm going to Hell!" -- which Christians initially attempt to deflect away. Because they do in fact wish to be polite, and don't want to hurt someone's feelings.

But if you keep badgering a committed Christian this way, your are forcing him to choose between 1) Being polite and 2) Expressly repudiating his religion.

At some point the deflections stop working and this becomes a very easy call.

I knew a fundamentalist Christian in high school, and he was always troubled by the compromises he had to make as he navigated the world among nonbelievers. On one hand, he didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings and wanted to fit in, as anyone does. On the other hand, he believed the Bible compelled him to "witness" and "testify" as much as possible; he was always troubled that he was choosing the easy, non-Christly way of keeping his beliefs hidden.

Most practicing Christians are similarly conflicted. They don't want to hurt feelings or cause conflict or even just make themselves look "weird" among nonbelievers; but however they navigate their way through these rocky shoals, there's one thing they can't do: Deny the divinity of Christ.

And if you keep badgering them, they will, at some point, tell you those hateful words: "Yes, since you don't believe in Christ, you're going to Hell. Christ said he was the only way into Heaven, and I'm inclined to believe him."

So why doesn't everyone who's so terribly bothered by this stop badgering these people? Stop asking. I can tell what they'll say; in fact, I just did.

There's your answer: Yes, you're going to the Hell you don't believe exists.

Satisfied? Good. So you don't have to ask anymore, jaw hanging in disbelief, eyes welling up with angry tears.

Today's "Vent" video on Hot Air features Erick Stakelbeck of CBN News reporting from Tulsa about Jamal Miftah, who was expelled from the Islamic Society of Tulsa's al-Salam mosque for his op-ed condemning those who commit terror in the name of Islam. If you haven't heard about this situation, this is a good overview.

UPDATE: I'm disappointed at most of the comments on this entry about the Stakelbeck report, comments that are dismissive of Miftah's courage, arguing that there's no such thing as a moderate Muslim.

This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly wonders whatever happened to a couple of big plans for downtown: Global Development Partners' "East End" concept and Maurice Kanbar's plans to turn 20 downtown buildings into Soho on the Arkansas. (Hats off to the copy editor for the pithy headline.)

Also, on page 17 (you'll have to get the dead-tree edition or download the PDF from the website for this), UTW account exec Shannon O'Connell reveals -- among other things -- her pick for the best Arkansas River development ever.

Now, UTW is not just good for trenchant commentary and the annual swimsuit issue. I was looking for blog references to the paper, and I found this very nice testimonial to UTW's event listings, in which the blogger describes how they helped her break out of a routine and discover what Tulsa has to offer. I'm going to quote it at length, because it's so very good. There's even a plug for one of my favorite coffeehouses:

I have been scouring the internets for cheap or free things to do outside the house.

Actually, "scouring the internets" is not difficult, thanks to Urban Tulsa Weekly. Without this handy little publication, I would have no idea how much cool stuff I have been missing.

For instance. Thursday evenings, admission is free at the Philbrook Museum of Art. Tuesdays, I found TWO different places to play Scrabble. One is free, the other costs a whole dollar. This coming Sunday, Gilcrease Museum will be showing The Grapes of Wrath as part of their Centennial Film Series. Price? Free. How awesome is that?

The Tulsa Zoo is having Polar Bear Days, during which admission is halved on days when the forecasted temperature is below freezing. It is their way of boosting ticket sales while promoting their indoor (heated) exhibits.

I can learn to dance the tango at the Elks club. Waltzing and swing are taught at a local community center. Belly dancing is something I have been meaning to get back into for (cringe) years, and there are a couple of different options for that.

Dude, you can even take clogging lessons.

There is a silent film, The Black Pirate, being shown at the Tulsa Technology Center this Friday. Free.

There are at least SIX plays begging to be attended for less than ten bucks a pop.

Tulsa Spotlight Theatre has been running The Drunkard every Saturday night since 1953 or some such ridiculous thing. And I have never seen it! This needs to change.

Twice a month, the VFW hosts ballroom dancing.

I want to dance the tango with old men who can tell me war stories!

I want to play Scrabble with strangers! I do!

I want to go to museums and take beadwork classes and maybe learn a little conversational German.

I accept the fact that I am a nerdy, nerdy girl.

Aside: for Valentine's Day dessert, I picked up a slice of flourless torte yesterday at the Coffee House on Cherry Street. Less than three bucks for rich, chocolaty goodness. It went well with the Greek pizza we grabbed at the Pie Hole and washed down with a bottle of Rioja.

Right this minute, Tulsa is my favorite city ever. I just need to get out and explore it more.

So go check out those events listings and find something cheap, fun, and new to do this weekend!

Dollar-Thrifty Automotive Group and Vanguard Car Rental, both Tulsa-based companies, are talking merger according to the New York Times:

A deal to combine four of the nation’s largest car rental brands — National, Alamo, Thrifty and Dollar — is being discussed as the industry continues to consolidate.

Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group is in early talks to merge with Vanguard Car Rental, of Tulsa, Okla., which owns National and Alamo, in a deal valued at more than $3 billion, according to people involved in the discussions.

The negotiations, which have been taking place on and off for several months, are at a particularly delicate stage, these people said, and may still collapse.

If completed, a deal would create the third-largest rental car company in the United States behind leaders Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Hertz Global Holdings, but outpacing Avis Budget Group in terms of revenue.

Both companies have ties to Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor and her husband, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, resident Bill Lobeck. Taylor and Lobeck met when both were working for DTAG. Lobeck later was involved in the deal to create Vanguard, which he heads. Vanguard is owned by Cerberus Capital Management, which also owns Albertsons LLC, the company that owns Albertson's stores in Oklahoma and most of the southwest.

The NYT story says digs some interesting information out of Vanguard's IPO filing:

A deal with Vanguard would most likely be a reverse merger, so that Vanguard would be the controlling shareholder.

Vanguard has tried to go public before. Last year it filed for an initial public offering, saying that it had earned $105.3 million in income from $2.89 billion in revenue in 2005. It said that it held a 20.5 percent market share in the top 125 airport markets where it operated, behind the Avis Budget Group, then controlled by Cendant, and Hertz. Vanguard paid a $122.6 million special dividend last June.

In that same filing, Vanguard said it had about 3,800 locations in 82 countries as of last June. Its fleet numbered about 300,000, the filing said. The company said it buys its fleet from General Motors and DaimlerChrysler, and had agreements with other manufacturers like Toyota and Kia.

Cerberus Capital Management acquired Vanguard out of bankruptcy for $240.1 million in cash when it was called the ANC Rental Corporation.

(Vanguard's initial S-1 and amended S-1 filings give a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a privately-held company, such as executive compensation and aircraft leasing.)

Michelle Malkin's Hot Air has added a new correspondent to its roster: Erick Stakelbeck, a terrorism analyst for CBN News. In Stackelbeck's first Hot Air report, he gives an overview of Iran's 28 years of hostilities against the US and reports that Iran is now sending its own agents to work against Israel from Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria, rather than relying on local proxies.

You can read more from Stakelbeck on his blog at the CBN website.

37 votes

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PR consultant Gary Percefull won re-election to the Tulsa School Board, defeating retired teacher Brenda Barre by a vote of 449 to 412.

It's a very difficult thing to beat an incumbent school board member, and Barre is to be congratulated for coming so close. It means that she and her campaign team (led by Christie Breedlove) were able to raise awareness that a change is needed. Still, it's heartbreaking to come so close -- less than two votes per precinct. You can think of a hundred things that you didn't do, thinking they wouldn't make much of a difference in the outcome; all of those things together might have made all the difference.

Turnout was abysmal, as usual -- less than 5%, I would guess. It's hard to get the media excited about the school board election because only a small portion of the district votes each year. Any given year isn't likely to produce much change -- at most two of Tulsa's seven board members would turn over.

If our Republican legislators really want to increase voter involvement in the public schools and improve the schools' responsiveness to their taxpayers and parents, they should change the school board election laws, so that every seat is up for election every two years statewide.

Bob Wills Grammy tribute

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In case you missed it, here is Carrie Underwood performing "San Antonio Rose" with Johnny Gimble, Ray Benson, Dick Gimble, introduced by Reba McEntire.

One of the YouTube commenters wrote, "If country music was regularly performed this well, I would listen to country music. That was awesome."

It's not often I find myself in agreement with Bobby Lorton, publisher of the Tulsa Whirled, but in this case, he is absolutely right: We don't need a new river development authority, because we already have one with a 32-year-history -- the River Parks Authority. All of the roles being suggested for the new authority are already under the RPA's purview.

While there might need to be changes to the board or staff to enable it to serve an expanded role, there's no need to reinvent the wheel.

After the jump is a letter that Lorton, as chairman of the RPA, sent to Tulsa County Commissioner Randi Miller, leading proponent of a new authority. Be sure to notice the contrast he draws between riverfront development in Jenks and development across the river in Tulsa. I think the suggestion for expanding the RPA board could be tweaked a bit -- there ought to be someone on the board representing near-river neighborhood associations -- but it's a pretty good letter all told.

A couple of facts for everyone afeared that Expo Square will lose its competitive advantage if the City annexes the Fairgrounds, subjecting it to city sales tax, and all the boat shows, car shows, RV shows, etc., will relocate to the new downtown arena.

From the Expo Square website:

The Expo Center provides 354,000 square feet of column-free space under a cable-suspended roof. The building spans 448,400 total square feet on two levels, connected by side ramps and stairs. This design allows for a unique variety of show floorplans and designs.

(For the benefit of old-timers like me, the Expo Center is the IPE Building.)

From the Oklahoma Ford Center website:

Arena Floor: 34,074 square feet (144'x 260')

(I can't find planned dimensions for the BOk Center floor, but I assume they'd be comparable.)

So you could fit 10 BOk Center floors inside the Expo Center. There is no other space in the Tulsa area that can accommodate the kinds of events that are held at the Expo Center. The closest in size is the Tulsa Convention Center exhibit hall, which is 102,600 sq. ft., but I suspect it has floor loading limits that don't apply at the Expo Center, which was built to exhibit enormous pieces of oilfield equipment.

Likewise Expo Square has a beautifully restored art deco Pavilion, which is the right size for minor-league sports events and smaller concerts, and state-of-the-art horse and livestock barns and show arenas, all surrounded by plenty of free parking.

A lower sales tax rate is not Expo Square's competitive advantage over facilities in other cities or in our own metro area. The facilities are Expo Square's advantage, and annexation doesn't change that.

I got a description of the annexation discussion at last night's City Council meeting from someone who watched it. A bunch of county and Expo Square officials lined up to say, "This is bad for both of us! You better think about this before you do it!" But the county officials didn't offer anything substantive to think about. They didn't provide any data to analyze -- just a heapin' helpin' of FUD.

(Wouldn't it have been cool if the county commissioners had then lined up to do Aretha Franklin's number from The Blues Brothers?)

I'm hopeful that our city councilors will respond just like Matt "Guitar" Murphy did.

UPDATE: Be sure to read Commissioner Fred Perry's reply in the comments below.

Perry drew a comparison between the State Fair Park in Oklahoma City and Expo Square in Tulsa. Here is a montage from Google Maps, at the same scale, of the two facilities -- Oklahoma City on the left, Tulsa on the right. The larger buildings on the southwest corner of State Fair Park, all grouped together, are all livestock barns. The oval building is State Fair Arena. The smaller buildings in the center are State Fair Park's exhibit buildings; they have nothing to compare with Expo Center's 350,000 sq. ft. of unobstructed space.

Oklahoma City and Tulsa fairground comparison

And since the Louisiana Superdome has been mentioned as an example of a sports arena hosting boat shows, RV shows, etc., it's worth pointing out that the Superdome is a domed football stadium, not a basketball/hockey arena. The Superdome has a floor area of 166,464 sq. ft. (408' x 408'). That's five times larger than the floor of an arena like the BOk Center.

I don't really have time to blog tonight, but I should at least follow up on this story. A day after Salon reported the campaign of presidential candidate John Edwards had fired the two far-left bloggers he had hired to run his website's blog, Edwards made an announcement:

The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwan's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.

(For details of the offensive tone and sentiment, see Dan Riehl's lengthy list of Marcotte quotes.)

Marcotte posted this non-apology apology:

My writings on my personal blog Pandagon on the issue of religion are generally satirical in nature and always intended strictly as a criticism of public policies and politics. My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression are central rights, and the sum of my personal writings is a testament to this fact.

Of course she meant to offend people for their personal beliefs. She deliberately chose offensive imagery and language to characterize people who don't share her unbelief. Dawn Eden, Marcotte's frequent target, provides a frequently occurring example:

I guess it's nice to know that all those times her blog referred to Our Lord and Saviour as "Jeebus" — in 114 blog entries to date (the most recent last Sunday) — she was only kidding.

A search of Pandagon archives shows that Amanda has yet to devise a similarly ha-ha name for Mohammed. Well, give her time; she's been on the Edwards campaign for only a week and a half.

(I remembered something else Eden and Marcotte have in common -- neither one owns a TV. All together now: "Oh, the harlot and the chaste girl should be friends....")

Somewhere in my blog reading, I saw a Marcotte defender justify that nomenclature: According to this person, "Jeebus" refers to the judgmental, false god worshipped by conservative evangelicals and Catholics (i.e., her view of the Jesus of the Bible). In other words, it doesn't count has mocking the Christian religion, because these people are just using religion as a tool of patriarchal oppression.

Walter Olson of Overlawyered notes that this represents an about-face in the space of four days:

That's how it goes: no regrets as of Feb. 4, "I am sorry" as of Feb. 8.

Regarding Edwards' statement, KC Johnson asks:

This statement begs the question: if "the tone and the sentiment" of some of the duo's posts offended the candidate, and did not meet the standards for his employees, why did Edwards hire the duo in the first place?

Jeff Goldstein says that Edwards' statement implies that Marcotte and McEwan were just posturing all that time:

...Edwards just showed up Marcotte and McEwan as frauds and posturing blowhards, writers who have been pulling the wool over their audiences’ eyes by posting vicious “arguments” they never truly believed. To use the loaded language of establishment feminism—he publicly castrated them—and in so doing, he made fools out of their audiences, to boot.

Further, in doing so, he has shown himself to be nothing more than a calculating political opportunist of the worst sort—one who believes the voting public so daft they might actually buy a statement like the one he just released.

This lefty blogger seems to share that evaluation:

To me, his statement reads : 'I want to fire them but that wouldn't look right, so I'm going to pretend that they didn't actually write those things and require that they be more genteel in the future'. That isn't a fair shake. That's hustling for favor, and precisely what I despise about politics. Michelle [Malkin] and her tiny little litter should have been dismissed with laughter and derision. Instead, the message sent was, 'you're right, of course, but I'm not going to let it look like you're telling me what to do'.

Michelle Malkin has an extensive roundup of reaction, including this pointed evaluation by Paul Mirengoff of Power Line:

If the campaign keeps Marcotte and the other lefty blogger, it will be a clear sign of weakness -- powerful evidence that Edwards needs the unhinged element of his party so desperately in his quest to overcome Hillary Clinton that he can't dump a pair of infantile bloggers who, at a minimum, will constitute a liability in the unlikely event the party nominates him.

The bloggers themselves also seem pretty desperate. Apparently, they need this gig so badly that they don't mind being told to "shut up and sing."

UPDATE: Iowahawk has another Marcotte-related parody, "My Fair Blogger," featuring hit tunes like "I've Grown Accustomed to her Hate" and "We Know the Street Where You Live." (Be warned, the parody is as vulgar and atrocious as fair Amanda is.)

Once More with Feeling contrasts the approaches to this situation taken by Catholic League spokesman Bill Donahue and Dawn Eden, and makes a good point that applies to speaking publicly on any controversial topic:

...[N]othing is worse in the face of a hostile audience than acting outraged in the face of outrageous behavior. You only look like a whiner. And the media will paint you as “angry” unless you’re positively cheerful.

Bit of a tangent: By default, I discredit anyone who says he is "disturbed," "outraged," "horrified," "nauseated," "sickened," or "appalled." Each of those words denotes a visceral reaction, and they have been cheapened to the point of meaninglessness. Someone nauseated should look green around the gills. Someone truly outraged should have a red face. If you're horrified, your hair should look like you just touched a Van der Graaf generator. If you're appalled, you should be as white as a sheet. Instead, most of the time I hear these words uttered in some sort of press conference, the person speaking the words appears to be completely blasé. At best, he's mildly peeved.

UPDATE: Amanda's gone after all, as is Melissa McEwan.

And an old acquaintance of Amanda's speaks out in the comments at Hot Air:

Amanda graduated in the same high school class as my son and in fact was the girl friend of his best friend so I saw I fair amount of her. Three things to me stand out: she was exhibitionistic by nature, she had nothing but contempt for the other students in general although half were Hispanic and most were the “salt of the earth” types she claims she want to promote politically, and although being intelligent, she was not nearly as smart as she thought she was.

At the senior prom, she dressed up as a transvestite witch a la Rocky Horror Picture Show. She failed to get much of a reaction because no one had seen the movie and few would have appreciated the movie if they had. She thereupon lectured to the gathering there (there were 70 graduates total that year) what her costume represented and how important the movie is as a cultural event. When the gathering still “didn’t get it,” she sulked for the remainder of the prom. She attracted enough attention to get a scholarship to St. Edwards, a decent Catholic college in Austin. I’m sure it now regrets this.

As is so common with fairly intelligent people who overestimate their intelligence, she has been attracted to an extremist ideology that neatly explains all of the world’s happenings. Her blog with her “colorful” language and over-the-top opinions has given her the attention she craves. However, she seems to be the classic example of the Peter Principle in being promoted beyond her abilities and the chickens hatched by the conflict between her high ideals and serious personality flaws are coming home to roost.

Barre for board

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This week's Urban Tulsa Weekly column is about the race for a seat on the Tulsa school board. Incumbent Gary Percefull, a PR consultant, is being challenged by Brenda Barre, a retired teacher with nearly 30 years of service at Tulsa's Booker T. Washington High School. The election is next Tuesday, and every voter in Tulsa school board district 1 should make plans to turnout and vote for Brenda Barre.

Blogger Jeff Shaw adds his own testimonial as a comment on the column:

Ms. Barre would make an excellent school board member. I'm confessing, she was my homeroom teacher at BTW, so I am a bit biased. She was a tough as nails educator with a soft heart for what's best for the kids. Since she taught at BTW, she knows all about excellence, which is what TPS needs; not a pack of legal eagles.

(By the way, Jeff's got a lot of new and interesting items on his blog, including an update on the proposed "East End" development. Be sure to click that link. And here's his blog entry endorsing Barre.)

Also in this week's edition, a cover story about Clifton Taulbert, author of Once upon a Time When We Were Colored, The Last Train North, and Eight Habits of the Heart. He'll be speaking on those eight habits this coming Tuesday at Holy Family Cathedral School, 8th and Boulder downtown.

There's some in depth local news coverage as well: A story on the management mess at Gilcrease Museum, interim City Attorney Deirdre Dexter (also cleaning up a mess in that office), and Senator Jim Inhofe and his stance on global warming.

Interesting point from the story about Dexter:

While Dexter was asked to serve as the interim city attorney for up to six months, she's currently in the middle of a process that city officials hope will make the legal department more effective for the people they represent. The first step in the search process for a new city attorney is to have all city department chiefs and city councilmen participate in a client survey.

"We want to know how they think the city attorney's office is doing, what can be done better and their ideas to fix problems," Dexter said. "We also want to be sure that our clients, who are the council and any city department, understand their relationship with the city attorney's office."

Some of the surveys, which were due back in Dexter's office last Friday, have shown a disconnect between the legal department and other city offices, she said.

"We've received good information that confirms some areas where we can better serve our clients," she said. "This survey information will also be helpful for whoever is hired to fill this position and it allows me to take some steps that would make their transition even easier."

It's seemed to me that the City Attorney's office long ago forgot who its client was, so I'm encouraged that this process is underway. (There are some very good individual attorneys in that office, I hasten to add, but I don't want to shorten their careers by praising them.) I was surprised when Mayor Taylor named Deirdre Dexter to this position, but she's an excellent choice.

Mike McCarville has discovered something interesting about State Sen. Mary Easley from an amendment to her mileage reimbursement claims:

Tuesday's Senate Journal lists mileage reimbursement for Easley and it shows "Tulsa 230 (miles)" and "$111.55" reimbursement. The "230" and "$111.55" are marked out, however, and replaced with "336" (miles) and "$162.96."

McCarville points out that 230 miles is the right distance for a round trip from the Capitol to Owasso -- where the phone book lists her as living, even though it's in Randy Brogdon's district -- but too far for the round trip between the Capitol and east Tulsa, where Easley was registered to vote last summer. 336 is what Google Maps gives for a round trip between the State Capitol and Grand Lake Towne, where Easley and her husband Truman registered to vote on October 2. (Records show that neither of them actually voted in that precinct, 490031. They are no longer registered to vote in Tulsa County, so it's not clear where they voted. I can't imagine that they wouldn't vote when her name was on the ballot.)

I doubt she changed the mileage for the sake of $50, but she might have changed it in order to keep her stories straight.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has declared war on Federal spending. He has announced that he will do everything in his power as a senator to block new spending. Here's the letter Coburn sent to his colleagues (via Club for Growth):

Dear Colleague:

I look forward to working with you over the next two years to confront the problems facing our nation.

Perhaps the greatest threat to our nation is our nearly insurmountable national debt which now exceeds $8.6 trillion. This ever growing red ink threatens both the long-term solvency of important programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, as well as the future standard of living of our children and grandchildren.

Over the past two years, I have heard members on both sides of the aisle call for fiscal responsibility. While we may have different concepts of how to obtain this goal, balancing the budget is not a partisan issue.

We may have differences in opinions on the role of government, but those differences should not prevent us from working together to ensure our charity today does not come at the expense of future generations of Americans.

For too long, Congress has simply borrowed more and more money to pay for new spending. In the real world, families can not follow this example and must make difficult decisions and set priorities on how to spend their limited financial resources.

Paying for a child’s college education or the medical expenses of a loved one compete against purchasing a new car or taking a vacation. Americans want Congress to live within its means, using the same set of common sense rules and restraints they face everyday.

To this end, I wanted to communicate with you a list of principles I will use to evaluate new legislation in the 110th Congress. I also want to give you advance notice I intend to object to consideration of legislation that violates these common sense principles:

1) If a bill creates or authorizes a new federal program or activity, it must not duplicate an existing program or activity without de-authorizing the existing program;

2) If a bill authorizes new spending, it must be offset by reductions in real spending elsewhere;

3) If a program or activity currently receives funding from sources other than the federal government, a bill shall not increase the federal government’s proportion of the costs of the program or activity;

4) If a bill establishes a new foundation, museum, cultural or historical site, or other entity that is not an agency or a department, federal funding should be limited to the initial start-up costs and an endowment shall provide funding thereafter.

This is not an exhaustive list as I may also object to legislation that I believe oversteps the limited role of the federal government enshrined in our Constitution by our Founders or that violates my own deepest personal convictions.

I wanted to alert you, however, to the basic fiscal measurements that I will use to evaluate legislation. My intent is not to be an obstacle, but rather to give you the courtesy of knowing how we can work together now to advance our individual and collective goals.

I recognize that the Senate’s diversity is one of its strengths. I certainly appreciate that you might articulate a different set of core principles to evaluate legislation.

I would humbly suggest, however, that we are at a point in our history when the question of whether we should live within our means and prioritize spending is beyond debate.

Our nation’s unsustainable fiscal course, the impending bankruptcy of Medicare and Social Security, and our national security challenges leave us no option but to make the hard choices today that will secure the future for tomorrow.

Again, I look forward to working with you to address the challenges facing America in a fiscally responsible manner.


Tom A. Coburn, M.D.
United States Senator

I'm glad Coburn is taking the bull by the horns. And make no mistake, he's liable to get tossed around by this bull.

Speaking of Dawn Eden, I like what she said recently to Terry Mattingly regarding churches' outreach to singles:

If church leaders truly want to reach out to women and men who are looking for an alternative to that lifestyle, said Eden, they must realize that the last thing single adults need is a singles ministry that turns "your church basement into a sort of 'Animal House' with crosses."

What congregations should do is rally single adults around worship, prayer, books, the arts and service to others, she said. Then friendships and relationships can develop out of activities that strengthen the faith of those that choose to participate.

"You really don't have to dumb things down for us," said Eden. "There are plenty of ways for single adults to get less church if that is what they really want. Why not talk to some of your young adults and ask them what they really want. They may want more church _ more faith _ not less."

That's not just true for singles. You don't have to dumb things down for the rest of us either. Christianity is at its most attractive when it stands in contrast to the ways of the world. If a person has come to realize that the "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life cannot satisfy his soul," why would he then be drawn to something that looks like a cheap watered-down imitation? If he's discovered that he can't find contentment by making himself the center of his life, why would he seek out a church that puts the focus on him? Why disguise a fountain of living water as a broken cistern?

Perhaps if the real reason for tarting up church activities is to appeal to cradle Christians who might otherwise feel that they're missing out on all the fun the world has to offer. I suspect that many church activities are most effective at recruiting people who are already churchgoers rather than attracting the unchurched.

Or perhaps it's because church leaders have become bored with what is foundational, what is solid, what is time-tested, what is true and lovely. It's a problem that extends to every area of church life. For example, music.

I'm reminded of the way a choir director will get tired of performing the Hallelujah Chorus every Easter. It's old hat to him, and he's jaded, so he wants to replace it with something modern. The choir director reasons that if he's bored with it, the congregation must be bored with it too. But to the people in the pews, it's a thing of beauty and transcendence. There's always someone in the congregation hearing it for the first time. There are plenty more who will feel cheated if they don't get to hear it again. Likewise for old hymn tunes, ancient prayers, etc.

On Palm Sunday 1989, I was attending Holy Trinity Church, an evangelical Anglican parish in Hounslow, Middlesex, west of London. I was excited to be in a liturgical church for the beginning of Holy Week. I was excited that we would be singing "All Glory, Laud, and Honor" as the processional hymn, and I was all set to boom out the traditional tune, but instead a different, sappy little modern tune was sung. Whoever planned the service must have been bored with the majestic traditional tune. I felt like I'd been deprived of the very reason I sought out an Anglican parish.

Preachers even get bored with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, preferring to deliver self-help messages. They forget that even long-time believers need to hear that Jesus died for their sins and has reconciled them to God. (Our pastor doesn't forget that, I'm happy to say.)

This tendency -- getting bored with and discarding the church's most attractive distinctives -- must be especially grating on Catholic converts like Eden, drawn to the church by a beautiful and ancient tradition, only to have their eyes and ears assaulted with ugly modern buildings and music, created by people who were evidently bored with Gothic architecture and Palestrina.

On a business trip to Montreal a couple of years ago, I took a walk up and over Westmount to St. Joseph's Oratory, which dominates the skyline on the north side of the island. Construction of the basilica began in 1924, and the exterior is dramatic and stately in the Italian Renaissance style.

The interior was completed in 1967 -- and it looks it. It was like being in a very large bank vault. There were only a couple of other people there, tourists like me, taking pictures.

I made my way to the lower level of the complex, to the crypt chapel, which was built in 1917 and used as the main church until the basilica was completed. It was as warm and colorful as the basilica had been cold and grey. Here you had traditional stained glass and statuary and shrines and thousands of votive candles and racks of abandoned canes and crutches. It looked like a Roman Catholic church is supposed to look. And here, not up in the basilica, is where you found dozens of people praying.

Seekers are looking for something solid, something permanent. Why remake the church into something flimsy and ephemeral?

To return to the quote: Eden's suggestions for singles activities are spot on, and not just for singles. Churches hold mixers, progressive dinners, and ice cream socials, build massive recreation centers and even open Starbucks franchises in the lobby, trying to create a sense of fellowship and friendship among their members. But it doesn't work. True koinonia is built when the people of God are side-by-side in worship, study, and service.

TRACKBACKS: Manasclerk has three entries addressing this topic:

Don't Smarten Up Church Either
More on singles in Christian churches
Again with the singles

From that last entry:

I suppose one of the things that I found sad about Eden's comments was that someone actually has to say "I would like to learn about God at church, please." Her requests are ludicrous as Requests For Singles because they should simply be Things That We Do Here. Singles should not have special classes on the faith simply because they are single. They should participate in the full life of the congregation as members, including teaching and learning the doctrines and the scriptures.

Not that I haven't seen it recently. Friends of mine left our church in part because there wasn't any opportunity to learn about the Bible. In depth. Not just verses but the whole thing. They're married, with kids. And he has a great new job. How can we lose someone when they want to learn about God more deeply?

Somewhere, we became embarrassed about the only distinctive that we have: we're the adopted children of the Almighty. We have the Word of God among us, and can read the words about the Word to learn more of him. (Yes, he's a heretic but he's right on that point.) What can be better than learning about the work of God through the scriptures?

Amanda Gone

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The latest blogstorm has been over Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' hiring of a couple of left-wing bloggers to serve as "blogmasters" at his official campaign website.

One of them is Amanda Marcotte, who created and was lead blogger for Pandagon.

Readers of The Dawn Patrol will know of Pandagon as the "Anti-Dawn Patrol," a pro-abortion, anti-chastity base used to launch potty-mouthed mockery and insults at Dawn Eden for her support for the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage. For a mild example, this entry, which begins:

The year is winding down, so it’s as good a time as any to have some fun mocking our favorite anti-choice nut Dawn Eden.

The funny thing is that, despite being on opposite ends of the spectrum on social and sexual issues, the two have some things in common, like a love of the semi-obscure musical subgenre known as power pop. (It's a shame Marcotte can't acknowledge some common ground and be a friendly antagonist, but what do I know? Here in Oklahoma, we believe that even the farmer and the cowman should be friends.)

Now they have something else in common -- being fired because of controversial blog content -- although in Marcotte's case, it's actually justified.

It's being reported that Marcotte was dropped by the Edwards campaign after several days of bloggers posting some of her more outrageous, obscene, and offensive screeds.

The problem wasn't just her use of language that would make a sailor blush, it was the hatred and vitriol directed against devout Christians and anyone who defends traditional moral standards. Referring to Christians as "godbags," mocking Christian beliefs with vile imagery, referring to pregnancy as "punishment" -- it won't help Edwards in the South, a must-win region for him, and it won't help Democrats as they try to lull evangelicals back into the party.

It doesn't help Edwards to have his blogmistress writing things like this, regarding the Duke lacrosse team rape case:

In her part of the country [the South], both women and black people are seen as subhuman objects to be used and abused by white men.

She replaced the text of the entry and deleted the above comment once the controversy began, but you can still read it here.

It amazes me that whoever in the Edwards campaign made the decision to hire her didn't bother to read back through her blog. Or perhaps someone did read it, but didn't see anything objectionable, which speaks volumes about the decision-maker in question.

Ideology aside, if you're going to give someone the virtual keys to your official campaign website, shouldn't you want someone who can express herself in a civil manner?

If you want specifics on Marcotte's trail of trash-talk, Michelle Malkin has text and links here, here, and here. Those links will also take you to video of Malkin performing a reading and a dramatization of some of Marcotte's blog entries.

UPDATE: James Lileks sums up the Edwards campaign -- and Marcotte:

John Edwards, who demonstrated his managerial skills by hiring as his blogmaster a writer whose ceaseless profanity makes Richard Pryor routines look like a papal encyclical, and showed his concern for "the Other America'' by building a new house large enough to shelter them all.

AND MORE: Iowahawk offers a pitch-perfect parody -- the Pandagon Papers. (Strong content warning, but no worse than Pandagon itself.)

I've been reading San Antonio Rose: The Life and Music of Bob Wills, Charles R. Townsend's definitive biography. At the back of the book is what looks to be a comprehensive discography -- every studio recording Bob Wills ever made, including a couple he cut in 1929 with Herman Arnspiger on guitar (the duo billed as the Wills Fiddle Band), a couple more in 1932 with the Light Crust Doughboys, and his post-Texas Playboys work in the late '60s on Kapp Records.

The final entry is, of course, For the Last Time, the double reunion album recorded in Dallas in December 1973. But right before that was a tantalizing entry about a September 1971 recording session for Capitol Records at Merle Haggard's home in Bakersfield, Calif. Twenty tracks were recorded, but never issued. It was an all-star lineup: Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore, Leon McAuliffe, Joe Holley, Johnnie Lee Wills, Luke Wills, Al Stricklin, Johnny Gimble, Alex Brashear, Smokey Dacus, and Glynn Duncan, there in place of his late brother Tommy Duncan. Merle Haggard played fiddle, and he sang "Misery." Bob Wills couldn't play the fiddle -- a stroke had left his bow hand paralyzed -- but he could still lead the band.

So where is this missing album?

It finally has been released, but it's not an easy thing to come by. It's only available as Disc 13 of Faded Love, Bear Family Records' massive 13 CD + 1 DVD box set, a comprehensive collection of Bob Wills recordings from 1947 to 1973. The price of the set is a mere $360. (1932-1947 are covered by San Antonio Rose, an 11 disc + 1 DVD box set that sells for $316.49 on Amazon.)

It would be exciting to hear more tracks from this great ensemble captured with modern recording techniques.

I learned about this on the website of an Australian record store. The same page quotes Bob Pinson, the definitive discographer of Bob Wills, as saying that Bear Family was likely to issue a box set of all the Tiffany Transcriptions, not just the 10 albums' worth of material that were released by Kaleidoscope on LP and by Rhino on CD. (And several of the CDs are now out of production.)

The Tiffany material isn't included in either of the two Bear Family box sets that have been released, as it was recorded for distribution to radio stations, not for commercial sale. I can't get enough of the Tiffany sound -- the freer feel to the music, the unique take on pop standards, Junior Barnard's amazing guitar solos, and the jazzy trios of Tiny Moore on mandolin, Eldon Shamblin on standard guitar, and Herb Remington on steel guitar. I'd love to hear even more. One estimate says the complete Tiffany Transcriptions, including tracks that were never released to radio stations, would fill 18-20 CDs.

(This review of Merle Haggard's A Tribute To The Best Damn Fiddle Player In The World mentions the 1971 Bakersfield session in passing.)

Emily, the Red Fork Hippie Chick, has recently launched a new blog called Indie Tulsa, featuring reports on locally-owned small businesses, some old, some new.

In her introductory post, she writes:

Through this site, I hope to make the public aware of some of the little guys, whose life’s work has helped give Tulsa some of the unique vibrance that prompted my husband and me to pack up our dogs and our computers, quit our jobs in Illinois, and move to Oklahoma almost three years ago. It’s a move we’ve never regretted, and we’re happier with our decision every time we wander into another quirky little business full of history, one-of-a-kind products, and helpful employees who don’t mind going and getting the widget you need instead of dismissing you with a vague wave in the direction of aisle 37.

We hope you’ll take the time to read our reviews, explore our city, and discover the fascinating finds tucked into out-of-the-way businesses all over Tulsa. If you’re not in Tulsa, we hope you’ll be inspired to venture into the mom-and-pop businesses in your own area, throw a few dollars their way, and perhaps even share your experiences with folks in your area.

The big guys are convenient, but it’s the little guys who keep life interesting.

So far, Emily has visited and reviewed Steve's Sundries and Books, Karlene's Dollhouses, the Union Street Cafe, Booster Feed Mill, Hank's Hamburgers, Under the Mooch, and S&S Market.

What a great idea.

Last Thursday night, the city finance department presented their analysis of the fiscal impact of the City of Tulsa annexing the Tulsa County Fairgrounds. In the extended entry you can read the full text of the finance department's analysis. The city would almost certainly gain net revenue by annexing the currently unincorporated territory, possibly as much as $1.1 million per year.

The only scenario in which the city loses money involves the lowest revenue estimate and the city being required to patrol the Tulsa State Fair. I think the case could be made that as the Fair is a highly attended paid-admission event, the property owner (Tulsa County) would be required to provide or pay for security, just like any privately-run, paid-admission festival.

There are other reasons besides the financial ones for the city annexing the Fairgrounds. I outlined some of them in my December 6, 2006, UTW column.

Faces of persecution

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I've been listening to David Calhoun's lectures on Ancient and Medieval Christianity, and the third lecture is about the persecutions of Christians in the Roman Empire. Christians were sent to their deaths for refusing to deny their faith in Christ, for refusing to offer incense or bow to an image of the emperor.

The persecutions continue today -- mainly in places like Sudan, Indonesia, North Korea, and China, lands under the sway of Communism and Islam. Every year, 160,000
Christians are martyred for their faith.

But these people aren't just numbers. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Please watch this four-minute video, which introduces us by name to several Christians who suffered for their faith but survived.

It was produced by The Voice of the Martyrs, an organization based in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, which is devoted to making western Christians aware of our suffering brethren, and providing the persecuted with prayer, support, and any comfort they can offer.

You can keep informed about opportunities to pray for and act in support of persecuted Christians by reading Persecution Blog, a online publication of The Voice of the Martyrs.


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I have a fan! His name is P. R. Hensley, and he took time out of his busy day to go over to this thread on the TulsaNow forum, about my Urban Tulsa Weekly article on the history of Arkansas River plans, to post the following comment:

I never read anything Bates writes. It's all the same recycled old stuff.

I can't tell you how much it warms my heart that Mr. Hensley would devote his valuable time to seeking out articles by me or about me -- that he would be so interested in expressing his lack of interest in my writing. He even went to the online version of my article to post this:

Who cares what Michael Bates thinks? He's just in love with himself.

Charles G. Hill has a list of testimonials on the sidebar of dustbury.com. If I ever add a similar feature to this site, I think I'll kick it off with one of those two quotes.

I found a very heartwarming thread over on TulsaNow's public forum. Someone calling himself "Hometown" has posted memories and photos from the neighborhood southeast of downtown which was displaced by the construction of the southeastern interchange of the Inner Dispersal Loop. The neighborhood linked together the south edge of downtown -- home to car dealerships and churches -- with the 15th Street (Cherry Street) commercial district, the Tracy Park, Gunboat Park, Maple Ridge North, and South Boston neighborhoods. And the heart of the neighborhood was a grove of locust trees that became a city park, Locust Grove Park.

Hometown's description includes details of the park that he gathered from old maps and newspaper stories and his own memories of living nearby.

Some of my very first memories are of Locust Grove Park. In 1959 we lived on 14th between Cincinnati and Detroit. I was six years old. I can remember sitting in our small front yard at dusk and watching a group of square dancers under the lights of the basketball court. The women wore layers of petticoats causing their colorful skirts to puff out and swirl around. A man with a fiddle called out the dance moves.

It’s hard now to imagine that children played in the park and around the neighborhood with little or no supervision. We would take off and walk blocks into downtown or over to the Gunboat neighborhood or further to Tracy Park. But we spent most of our time in Locust Grove Park.

He has a picture of himself in front of the park's recreation center in 1959, in front of his house on 14th Street between Cincinnati and Detroit in 1960, and the next house he lived in, on Norfolk Ave. in Tracy Park, in 1960 -- the houses in the background of the photo were demolished for the construction of the east leg of the IDL (I-444 / US 75).

Other people who remember that place and time are chiming in with memories of their own. Hometown promises more photos and more memories in the future.

This is exactly the sort of recording and sharing of memories that I had hoped would emerge in this centennial year. (It was the topic of my column in this week's UTW.)

Hometown's tagline on the TulsaNow forum is "Tulsa's best days are ahead of us." If that's to be true, we need to remember the good days that once were. We need to remember what Tulsa was like before our leaders began to shred it to pieces, so that we can, to whatever extent possible, repair the damage that was done.

Reformed rap

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Calvinist hip-hop? Fo' rizzle:

Bethlehem Baptist pastor John Piper took the podium at a Saturday evening service in downtown Minneapolis last fall and introduced Curtis "Voice" Allen, a hip-hop artist. After warning the largely white congregation that his music would "thump" a bit more than typical Bethlehem fare, Allen launched into a lyrical testimony about the unstoppable power of God's irresistible grace: "I been exposed to bright lights, the doctrines of grace, I'm elected, imputed perfected, becuz of the power of God resurrected and his gift of faith, that when we see his face we're not rejected."...

Even the harshest online attackers had no ill words for the theology of his rap, a departure from the shallowness that has characterized much of Christian hip-hop since its commercial inception in the mid-1990s. Allen is part of a small but growing cadre of artists who lace their stylized rhymes with orthodox Calvinism.

The end of the article in World Magazine tells of another Reformed rapper, Dishon Knox, now a student at Covenant Theological Seminary:

Knox, aka Born2Di, believes hip-hop can become a force for doctrinal correction. "The black church suffers a lot from theological malnutrition, for lack of better words," he said. "That's what drives me to go to seminary."

Knox is not shy with his musical styling on campus, recently performing during a chapel service. The song "True to Reformed Faith" chronicles his view of his own Presbyterian denomination: "Faithful to Holy Scriptures, true to Reformed faith. Presbyterian Church in America, grow in grace. Obedient to the 'Great Commission,' that's the mission. History ain't perfect, but the goal is gradual submission."

The blog Exhibiting the Value of Knowing God has links to video and audio of some of the Reformed hip-hop songs mentioned in the article, including the history of the PCA rap, which traces the development of Reformed doctrine and polity beginning with the 95 Theses and Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, the Puritans and the Westminster Assembly, Jonathan Edwards, the Great Awakening, the New Side/Old Side controversy, Francis Schaeffer, and the "joining and receiving" of the PCA and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod in 1982. (I think it would be cool if, for his next historical rap, he sampled Prof. David Calhoun saying the name "Kirkegaard.")

Dishon Knox's desire to make hip-hop a "force for doctrinal correction" is not a vain hope. It seems to me that the structure of rap music would enable it to carry more complex information than, say, a praise chorus. Rap lends itself to long sentences and limited repetition, and the use of rhythm and rhyme would be an aid to memorization.

(That link to Prof. Calhoun's name goes to his lectures on Reformation and Modern Church History. You can also listen to all of his lectures on Ancient and Medieval Church History, along with 20 other Covenant Seminary courses in Bible, theology, ethics, apologetics, homiletics, missions, and ministry. I took Calhoun's video courses on church history many years ago, and I highly recommend them.)

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned listening to a Johnnie Lee Wills transcription and hearing the announcer call out "Coyote Blues," by Lewis Meyer, best known to Tulsans for his bookstore and weekly book review show on TV.

Tomorrow night (Saturday), John Wooley will be playing two versions of "Coyote Blues" on Swing on This, his weekly hour of western swing, at 7 p.m. on KWGS 89.5 (and streaming on kwgs.com), and he's been kind enough to dedicate them to me and to Mike Ransom, webmaster of Tulsa TV Memories. Here's John's planned playlist, from his website:

1. “Texas Drummer Boy,” Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
2. “Coyote Blues,” Dave Stuckey and the Rhythm Gang
3. “Coyote Blues,” Johnnie Lee Wills and All the Boys
4. “Land of Dreams,” Herb Remington
5. “Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Age,” Johnny Gimble and the Texas Swing Pioneers
6. “Maiden’s Prayer,” Asleep at the Wheel w/Squirrel Nut Zippers
7. “I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None O’ This Jelly Roll,” Cliff Bruner’s Texas Wanderers
8. “In the Jailhouse Now,” Hank Thompson
9. “Let’s Ride with Bob,” Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
10. “Am I Blue,” Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies
11. “Back Home Again in Indiana,” Nashville Swing Band
12. “My Window Faces the South,” Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
13. “Sweet Georgia Brown,” Billy Jack Wills and His Western Swing Band
14. “Mean Woman with Green Eyes,” Tom Morrell and His Time-Warp Tophands
15. “I Had Someone Else Before I Had You,” “Easy” Adams and His Texas Top Hands
16. “Oklahoma Hills,” Jack Guthrie

Should be a great

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