April 2007 Archives

I learned some things I never knew about the causes of the great dust storms of the 1930s in George Will's latest column, a review of a recent book about the Dust Bowl:

Who knew that when the Turks closed the Dardanelles during World War I, it would contribute to stripping the topsoil off vast portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas? The closing cut Europe off from Russian grain. That increased demand for U.S. wheat. When America entered the conflict, Washington exhorted farmers to produce even more wheat, and guaranteed a price of $2 a bushel, more than double the 1910 price. A wheat bubble was born. It would burst with calamitous consequences recounted in Timothy Egan's astonishing and moving book, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.

After the war, the price plunged and farmers, increasingly equipped with tractors, responded by breaking up more prairie, plowing under ever more grassland in desperate attempts to compensate for falling wheat prices with increased volume. That, however, put additional downward pressure on the price, which was 40 cents a bushel by 1930.

The late 1920s had been wet years, and people assumed that the climate had changed permanently for the better. In that decade, another 5.2 million acres -- equivalent, Egan says, to the size of two Yellowstone Parks -- were added to the 20 million acres previously in cultivation. Before the rains stopped, 50,000 acres a day were being stripped of grasses that held the soil when the winds came sweeping down the plain.

In 1931, the national harvest was 250 million bushels, perhaps the greatest agricultural accomplishment in history. But Egan notes that it was accomplished by removing prairie grass, "a web of perennial species evolved over 20,000 years or more.'' Americans were about to see how an inch of topsoil produced over millennia could be blown away in an hour.

The article goes on to describe several of the great storms that occurred over the next five years: "Storms in March and April 1935 dumped 4.7 tons of dust per acre on western Kansas, denting the tops of cars." If that weren't bad enough, the storms brought clouds of ravenous grasshoppers in their wake.

We've read about government-induced or -abetted environmental disasters in places like the Soviet Union (see Aral Sea), but they've happened here too (see Mono Lake). Looks like the Dust Bowl is another example of a catastrophic unintended consequence of a well-intentioned government program.

Next Friday night at 9, OETA, Oklahoma's public television network, will air "Islam in Oklahoma":

Oklahoma is home to more than 30,000 Muslim Americans. Join leaders from Oklahoma's Muslim community as they address the questions and issues raised by America at a Crossroads, Friday May 4 at 9 p.m.

(Is it just me, or does the background of that title image look more like Hebrew than Arabic?)

OETA says more panelists will be announced, but for now they only list Sheryl Siddiqui, a leader in the Islamic Society of Tulsa, Imam Imad Enchassi, Ph.D., president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, and Dr. David Vishanoff, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Oklahoma.

The facilities of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City and of the Islamic Society of Tulsa are owned by the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), which is part of a network of Saudi-funded organizations working to extend the influence of Wahhabism in the US. (There's more detail about NAIT and its related organizations -- the Wahhabi lobby -- in this post I wrote some months ago.)

There's a name that ought to be on that list of panelists discussing Islam in Oklahoma -- Jamal Miftah. His name belongs on the list for his eloquent condemnation of terror in the name of Islam. But it also belongs there because of the response that he received from the leaders of the Tulsa mosque, who confronted him angrily in the prayer hall and in the corridor of the mosque, saying that because of his column he was anti-Islamic, a label that could be heard by others as a thinly veiled incitement to violence against him.

Just this week, two more threatening comments targeting Miftah were posted from a Pakistan IP address at JunkYardBlog, simply because he condemned those who use their religion to justify their acts of violence.

If OETA spends an hour talking to two leaders of Wahhabi-connected mosques, without hearing any other Muslim voices, viewers will not get the complete story of Islam in Oklahoma. If you agree, drop a line to info@oeta.tv. OETA says they want input on the show's content, so let 'em (politely) have it.

UPDATE: A reader sent the following note to OETA:

I have always thought of OETA as an educational channel that was fair. However; regarding the upcoming program on “Islam in Oklahoma”, Oklahomans deserve an unbiased discussion. If OETA has two leaders of Wahhabi-connected mosques on the discussion panel without hearing any other Muslim voices, viewers will not get the complete story of Islam in Oklahoma. Please do the right thing in providing a fair and balanced program by inviting other Muslims such as Jamal Miftah.

Oklahomans are not stupid, please don’t portray us as such.

Here's the reply from OETA public information manager Ashley Barcum:

Thank you for sharing your concerns about Islam in Oklahoma. Please note that OETA worked with the Oklahoma Governor’s Council on Ethnic Diversity to select the panelists and to ensure a balanced panel.

We do have a non-Muslim academic on the panel, Dr. David Vishanoff, who is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He will be on hand to provide an objective viewpoint. Due to the short time of the program, the producers would like to keep the panel limited to the three panelists, which includes Dr. Vishanoff.

Please note the panel discussion will primarily involve a discussion of the experience of Muslims in Oklahoma. What the program intends to do is provide a look at the local experiences of those practicing one of the state’s minority religions. It is an ongoing conversation sparked by the recent PBS series America at a Crossroads.

In addition, the program will be moderated by Gerry Bonds, a veteran broadcast journalist.

Please let me know if you have additional questions or concerns.

Why, that makes it all better, doesn't it? The governor says these two Muslims are representative of the diversity of Oklahoma Muslims so it must be so. Never mind the ethnic diversity within Islam -- Arab, Pakistani, Indonesian, Turkish, North African. Never mind that there are other views than the Wahhabi view, even if those other views aren't as well funded.

And how can you have a panel discussion about local experiences of practicing Muslims while ignoring a very local, very recent experience of an Oklahoma Muslim that made national news?

Notice that the website statement that there would be additional panelists has been contradicted by Barcum, who now says that those three are it.

MORE about "America at a Crossroads," the PBS series to which "Islam in Oklahoma" is a follow-up: Okie on the Lam had this entry on April 9 about PBS's decision to suppress one of the films in the series. The film was called “Islam vs. Islamism: Voices From The Muslim Center.” It was one of 34 proposed films for this series selected for a research and development grant by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Here's the description in the list of grant awards:

Islam vs. Islamism (Martyn Burke, Frank Gaffney and Alex Alexiev, ABG Films Inc., Los Angeles) will explore how Islamic extremists are at war with their own faith, and how the consequences of their ambitions and policies devastate the socio-economic potential and well-being of the Muslim world. The filmmakers will follow the stories of several Muslims who have been victimized by the radicals and who are fighting back.

Sounds like a story that needs to be told, right? The CPB thought so, because it then selected the film for one of 20 production grants -- the money needed to get the film made.

But now PBS is refusing to broadcast the film. One of the film's executive producers, Frank Gaffney, explained why in an April 12 Washington Times op-ed:

As it happens, I was involved in making a film for the "America at a Crossroads" series that also focused on, among others, several American Muslims. Unlike Mr. MacNeil's, however, this 52-minute documentary titled "Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center," was selected through the competitive process and was originally designated by CPB to be aired in the first Crossroads increment.

Also unlike Mr. MacNeil's film, "Islam vs. Islamists" focuses on the courageous Muslims in the United States, Canada and Western Europe who are challenging the power structure established in virtually every democracy largely with Saudi money to advance worldwide the insidious ideology known as Islamofascism. In fact, thanks to the MacNeil-Lehrer film, the PBS audience soon will be treated to an apparently fawning portrait of one of the most worrisome manifestations of that Saudi-backed organizational infrastructure in America: the Muslim Student Association (MSA). The MSA's efforts to recruit and radicalize students and suppress dissenting views on American campuses is a matter of record and extremely alarming.

In an exchange with me aired on National Public Radio last week, however, Robert MacNeil explained why he and his team had refused to air "Islam vs. Islamists," describing it as "alarmist" and "extremely one-sided." In other words, a documentary that compellingly portrays what happens to moderate Muslims when they dare to speak up for and participate in democracy, thus defying the Islamists and their champions, is not fit for public airwaves -- even in a series specifically created to bring alternative perspectives to their audience.

The MacNeil criticism was merely the latest of myriad efforts over the last year made by WETA and PBS to suppress the message of "Islam vs. Islamists." These included: insisting yours truly be removed as one of the film's executive producers; allowing a series producer with family ties to a British Islamist to insist on sweeping changes to its "structure and context" that would have assured more favorable treatment of those portrayed vilifying and, in some cases, threatening our anti-Islamist protagonists; and hiring as an adviser to help select the final films an avowed admirer of the Nation of Islam -- an organization whose receipt of a million dollars from the Saudis to open black Wahhabi mosques is a feature of our documentary. The gravity of this conflict of interest was underscored when the latter showed an early version of our film to Nation of Islam representatives, an action that seemed scarcely to trouble those responsible for the "Crossroads" series at WETA and PBS.

You can read an independent perspective on the dispute here. The film may yet air, but there are no guarantees.

A new blogger is out to debunk the old palindrome: "Tulsa night life: filth, gin, a slut."

Tasha Does Tulsa is a delightful new blog aimed at challenging Tulsans to stop whining about nothing to do, to get out of the house, and to discover all the fun this city has to offer.

The opening entry introduces Natasha and her co-bloggers Chester (a goldfish) and Party Brenda. Natasha describes herself as:

...a fifth-generation Tulsan, a new downtown resident, and a girl who is willing to pay out-of-pocket to prove Tulsa is more than the sum of its histories, the “there’s nothing to do here” rhetoric, and art deco architecture....

As to the future contents of the blog:

You folks have nothing to look forward to here except proof that there is tons to do in Tulsa.

The most recent post (the only other one so far, published today) is an essay on "How You, Too, Can Do Tulsa." Natasha has nine pieces of sage advice on how to discover what the city has to offer, including getting involved in community service, a church, and (if you're young and professional) one of the young professional groups. She recommends avoiding highways and just driving around. She links to local news outlets, including a merged feed of Tulsa blogs (which includes this one). Several times she recommends reading Urban Tulsa Weekly, which she says is "by far the most definitive source on cool stuff to do in Tulsa."

I especially liked what Natasha had to say about local news -- don't watch it. With all due respect to the good people at 2, 6, 8, and 23, she has a point:

I'm pretty sure the local evening news is tailored to shock and/or scare you out of doing anything in your town, ever. It’s not that they get their thrills from scaring you. If the local evening news couldn’t tell you anything shocking or scary about your city, how would you convince advertisers to buy into those broadcasts instead of The Simpson’s and Seinfeld re-runs?

For that matter, scaring the snot out of you about going downtown is more likely to make you want to curl up on the sofa and watch Simpsons and Seinfeld reruns.

Contrary to what the evening news has to tell you to get you to watch their stations enough to attract advertisers, downtown is not a heathen hide-away. Innocent people are not getting shot all over the place, and cops aren’t hiding out in the construction zones and neighborhoods to pull you over on camera.

Tulsa is a peaceful place. There are lots of fun things to do in safe places. Consult the Urban Tulsa. Live a little.

I'm looking forward to reading more of this blog. There's a place to focus on problems, but it's good to have blogs like Tasha Does Tulsa and (the slightly more established) Indie Tulsa to highlight the good and unique and interesting things that we might overlook.

Domus improvement

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I just came across a Tulsa blog that is nearly a year old. Haec Est Domus Domini is an account by Mike Malcom of the process of restoring downtown Tulsa's Holy Family Cathedral, the ninety-three-year-old seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Eastern Oklahoma. The blog features photos and videos of the restoration work, visibilium (carpets, walls, windows) et invisibilium (plumbing, wiring). It's a great use for the medium of the blog. (I found it via the blog God Spede ye Plough, which belongs to a newly arrived resident of Oklahoma.)

The blog title is from the words engraved above the east doors to the church, which translate to "This is the house of the Lord."

(Come to think of it, Holy Family has an odd orientation for a cathedral, with the altar at the west end. So when the priest is celebrating mass ad orientem, he's actually facing ad occidentalem.)

Although Someone keeps hurling lightning bolts at it, the cathedral is an important part of downtown's architectural fabric. In many cities, the oldest and largest churches have abandoned downtown for greener suburban pastures. Tulsa is blessed that our oldest and largest churches have stayed put and kept their facilities in excellent condition.

We'd be even more blessed if the downtown churches would work with business and government to find a parking solution that doesn't involve tearing down more buildings. And perhaps, after the cathedral is restored, the Diocese will fulfill a promise made when they purchased and demolished the Tulsa Apartments and Cathey's Furniture (8th to 9th on Main) in 1998. That won't be surface parking -- I was assured at the time -- we're going to build a diocesan chancery and a plaza there.

As you've heard by now, SB 714, which would have gotten Oklahoma taxpayers out of the abortion business, was vetoed by Gov. Brad Henry. Although the bill passed with a veto-proof majority in both houses, it was close enough that the defection of one senator, Shawnee Democrat Charlie Laster (405-521-5539), was enough to cause the override attempt to fail. Tulsa Republican Sen. James Williamson promises to try again, as is possible under the Legislature's rules, so it is still worthwhile to call state senators to thank them for their vote for SB 714 or to ask them to change and support overriding the Governor's veto.

There were three other Democrats in the Senate who voted for SB 714 in committee before voting against it last week and again during the override vote. They are:

Nancy Riley (Tulsa), 405-521-5600
Joe Sweeden (Pawhuska), 405-521-5581
Charles Wyrick (Fairland, Miami, Grove), 405-521-5561

Nancy Riley represents western Tulsa County and was elected as a Republican in 2000 (by a narrow margin) and 2004 (by a two-thirds) vote. In 2006, after finishing third in the Republican Lt. Governor's primary behind two very well-funded candidates, she crossed the aisle and became a Democrat. (My disappointment with that decision was as much personal as political.)

Not only has she changed parties, apparently she has changed sides on the issue of public funding for abortion. Brandon Dutcher has unearthed a flyer from Nancy Riley's first run for State Senate in 2000, in which she proclaims her pro-life bona fides. He notes that there are only five words in the piece that she deems important enough for ALL CAPS:

I will also fight for:

** Tough parental consent laws;

** Enforcement of a mandatory “cooling off” period before anyone can receive an abortion;

** And, absolutely NO STATE FUNDING FOR ABORTION.

You can read the whole thing at Brandon Dutcher's blog. According to this piece of campaign literature, this issue was not just one among many to her, but was "one of the reasons why [she] decided to run for the State Senate."

With a margin of only 265 votes, and given the socially conservative makeup of her district, I have to believe that she would have lost the seat had she not taken a strong, uncompromising pro-life stance.

I said last year that the honorable course for Sen. Riley was to follow in Phil Gramm's footsteps and resign her seat, then run again as a Democrat and let the voters decide whether having her as a state senator is more or less important to them than being represented by a Republican.

That's not likely to happen, but at the very least, she can keep the promise she made to the voters: "NO STATE FUNDING FOR ABORTION."

Steve Roemerman has a report on Tuesday night's meeting of the South Tulsa Citizens' Coalition. Steve also sent an e-mail to Mayor Taylor about her position on the bridge and has posted her reply, in which she says, "I am asking the experts for recommendations on the best way to finance the bridge and for the best recommendation as to its placement." So which experts is she asking?

This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is a farewell salute to KFAQ's Michael DelGiorno, who wrapped up his 17 years in Tulsa media last Friday and is now holding court on Nashville's WWTN:

Many readers' brains may explode as they read the following sentence, but it's true nevertheless: Politics and public dialogue in Tulsa are better off for Michael DelGiorno's tenure here.

Here's a bit of newspaper trivia you may find interesting. Writers don't write the headlines or cutlines for their stories. Those tasks are performed by a copy editor. At times the copy editor also adds text to provide a smoother transition between paragraphs or to provide some explanation that he feels the reader may need. Deadlines being what they are, I don't get a chance to see those changes before I see them in the paper. Those kind of edits don't happen often, but there was one this week. Here's what I submitted:

There was a niche to be filled, and DelGiorno, a conservative Republican and Southern Baptist, persuaded Journal Broadcast Group to let him step in and fill it.

Here's what's in the paper:

Until DelGiorno began to exploit the obvious. Just like some transplanted Tulsans discover fertile, virgin soil in untapped treasures (much as coffee table book author Michael Wallis discovered as he began cultivating interest in Route 66 with his "Mother Road,") there was a niche to be filled, and DelGiorno, a conservative Republican and Southern Baptist, persuaded Journal Broadcast Group to let him step in and fill it.

The phrase "began to exploit the obvious" reminds me of Roger Clemens's record-breaking 20 strikeouts in a game against the Seattle Mariners. Some baseball fans dismissed the accomplishment because Clemens did it against the worst team in the American League. But every other pitcher on every other team had faced Seattle. If it was so easy, why hadn't anyone done it yet?

As for Michael Wallis, I'm a fan, and as someone who loves Route 66, I'm glad he traveled the road and gathered stories and photos when he did -- so many of the people and places are gone now.

MORE: Here are my earlier thoughts, and the comments of other bloggers, about the changes at KFAQ. And Tennessee political blogger Bill Hobbs has taken note of DelGiorno's arrival in Nashville. (Also, Hobbs is looking for center-right political bloggers in Oklahoma. Drop your recommendations in his comment box. I've already sent along my list.)

(Also, fixed the number of Clemens's strikeouts. 19 in a nine-inning game was the record he beat, held by Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, and Nolan Ryan.)

FOR NOW at least, you can still download the podcasts of Michael's farewell show, which included replays of many of the best radio cartoons from the show:

Preshow, Hour 1, Hour 2, and Hour 3

The song with which he ended the final broadcast, "Build It Anyway," by Martina McBride, was an appropriate and touching ending.

A bill that would have enabled cities to establish fire districts and levy property taxes in those districts was narrowly defeated in the Oklahoma House, killing it for two years.

A floor version of SB 605 (link opens Rich Text Format file) which omitted the most objectionable features of the bill, but it was assumed that these would be readded by a conference committee before final approval.

The debate against the bill was led by Oklahoma City Reps. Mike Reynolds and Randy Terrill and Tulsa Reps. Pam Peterson and John Wright. The Tulsa Metro Chamber was lobbying heavily in favor of the bill.

It will be interesting to see how Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor responds to the failure of this bill. She had been planning to go after this source of revenue. For example, now that it's off the table, will she be more likely to sign the fairgrounds annexation ordinance, because it would mean additional revenue for the City.

The City of Tulsa is moving ahead with a complete rewrite of its Comprehensive Plan, the first thorough revision since the '70s. Amendments minor and major have been adopted over the years, often to retroactively change the plan to reflect a zoning decision that was not compatible with the plan. Special area plans involving the city's hospitals, the University of Tulsa, Brady Village, 6th & Peoria, Crutchfield, Brookside, the Charles Page Boulevard Corridor, and the Arkansas River have been adopted into the Comprehensive Plan.

We have some excellent planners in the City's Urban Development Department. They are in earnest about getting the involvement of ordinary Tulsans all through the process of developing a new plan.

One of the first steps is happening mainly this month and next, going out to talk to neighborhood associations and other community groups to find out what they want to see in a Comprehensive Plan and how they want to be involved in the process. The input the planners gather will shape the Request for Proposals for an outside planning firm to handle the process of developing the new plan.

If you're in charge of speakers for a neighborhood or civic group, e-mail planning@cityoftulsa.org or phone Martha Schultz at 596-2600.

If you want to shape the city's future growth, this is the most strategic way to do it. Check out the website for the new Comprehensive Plan process at www.planitulsa.org. There you'll find a list of the steering committee, and an outline of the process.

UPDATE: Fixed the link. It doesn't work without the www.

Wherein I try to figure out what I need to talk about tomorrow morning on KFAQ:

Tuesday night at 7 p.m. the South Tulsa Citizens Coalition will hold a town hall meeting to discuss the state of their lawsuit trying to stop Jenks and Bixby's deal with Infrastructure Ventures Inc. to build a toll bridge across the Arkansas River. The meeting will be held at Christ Church, 10901 S. Yale. The lawsuit suffered a surprise setback when Judge Gordon McAllister ruled that the 75-year contract between a trust established by the two cities and IVI was not a franchise. Will they appeal or give up and see if the city will step in?

Yard signs all around Woodward Park are advertising a website called stopthechop.net. The petition effort is working to save trees in Woodward Park which have been marked for removal when trimming of branches would be sufficient to protect public safety and the trees' health. One of our city's greatest but underappreciated assets is our canopy of trees. Seen from the air or a tall building, the extent and density of our urban forest is amazing. These trees reduce summer temperatures and cooling costs, improve air quality, act as a wind break, and improve property values. Councilor Cason Carter has taken some ribbing for his proposal to raise private dollars for an urban forestry program focused on city rights-of-way (there already is one for the city's parks), but I think it's a good idea. Expanding our urban forest and maintaining its health is important to the city's "curb appeal" and quality of life.

I also like Carter's proposal to amend the Tulsa City Charter to move city elections to the fall of odd-numbered years. It's a move I've championed for a long time -- it gives new elected officials time to find their feet before the budget process begins, and it helps grassroots candidates by enabling door-to-door campaigning in the summer and fall, rather than the winter when early sunset and inclement weather can interfere with a candidate's efforts to meet the voters.

The State Senate has yet to vote on whether to override Gov. Brad Henry's veto of SB 714, which would have put Oklahoma taxpayers out of the abortion business. The bill passed with a veto-proof majority, but pressure is on eight Democratic senators who voted for the bill to reverse and vote to sustain the veto. Oklahomans for Life is asking us (click to read the action alert in PDF format) to write the Democrats who voted for SB 714 and thank them for their past and future support for the bill. They provide a simple method to e-mail all eight of them at once via this address: Pro-LifeDemocrats@OkForLife.org

A bill designed to bypass anti-charter-school obstructionists on the Tulsa School Board passed the State House last week. SB 661 would expand which governing bodies could grant a charter to create an independently governed but publicly funded school. Cities of over 300,000 population and public universities could also oversee charter schools. The effort was led by Democratic State Rep. Jabar Shumate, who represents part of north Tulsa. His constituents are fed up with being trapped in sub-par schools, and they cannot afford private school tuition. One charter elementary school, the Deborah Brown School, serves the near northside, but the school board is unwilling to let them expand enrollment and unwilling to charter additional schools. When a student enrolls in a charter school, state funding (about $5,000) would follow him from his public school to his charter school.

While SB 661 has passed both House and Senate, there were some legislative maneuvers which mean that the bill is not yet able to go to the Governor. Shumate was the only House Democrat to support SB 661, the only Democrat to put the interests of schoolchildren and their parents ahead of the interests of the education union and the school board association. The bill passed with only 51 votes because a number of Republicans were absent. The bill had passed the Senate by a vote of 34-9 with bipartisan support.

Jeff Shaw also brings news of a hot dog vendor who set up shop next to the daily paper's building on Main Street. I don't know if I've ever heard of someone selling hot dogs in downtown Tulsa in my lifetime, although I've seen them crop up in front of Lowe's and Best Buy stores. (A long time ago, my grandfather would buy tamales from a man who sold them in downtown Bartlesville.)

Another good piece of legislation is waiting for Gov. Brad Henry's signature. SB 507 is a serious, comprehensive tort reform bill that bears a striking resemblance to the recommendation put forward in 2004 by the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs. The OCPA blog lists the key features:

  • $300,000 cap on rewards for non-economic damage;
  • Reforming joint and several liabilities rules (eliminate the ability to collect from defendants a award percentage that is much larger than the percentage at which the defendant was at fault);
  • Limits and uniformity on prejudgment interest;
  • Requiring expert testimony for medical liability cases;
  • Collateral source rule reform, (defendants can now take into account how much plaintiff has already been awarded from other sources); and
  • Strengthen evidence required in court to prove liability and negligence to be awarded punitive damages.
  • In the final Senate vote, the bill passed by a vote of 25-23, along party lines except for a lone Democrat, Susan Paddack of Ada, voting in favor.

    Not dead yet

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    Yes, I'm still alive, despite not posting to the main blog in a few days. (You might have noticed that I have published some items on the linkblog in the meantime.)

    It's been a busy (and sick) few days for our family. My wife has a chest cold. The 15-month-old is getting over an ear infection. Saturday I minded him and the six-year-old while my wife attended a church women's retreat. I spent most of Sunday going to and from Ponca City, where my ten-year-old son sang with the Tulsa Boy Singers at an evensong service at Grace Episcopal Church, a foretaste of their June performances at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, York Minster, and St. Paul's Cathedral.

    A couple of happy memories from the past few days stand out.

    Thursday evening the weather was in clear, calm, and in the 70s. My daughter doesn't have school on Friday, and my son had a field trip to Ft. Gibson the next day, so we didn't have the usual pressure of getting through homework. The little one was feeling miserable from his ear infection (trying to make the pain go away by saying "all done! all done!"), but he wanted to go out in the backyard. He walked around smiling, barefooted and barebellied, rolling a ball ("bah!") up the slide ("sigh!") with his big sister.

    His vocabulary is growing at a rapid pace: He's been saying and signing for food ("foo?") for a long time. He likes to feed himself with a spoon ("boo" or, sometimes, "brrrrrrrrooo") and enjoys crackers ("gah"). The sound of a car or an airplane elicits a motorboat noise from his lips. He loves to "go-go-go" in the car. The signal for dropping something (even if deliberately) has recently evolved from "uh-uh-uh-uh" to "uh-uh-oh." He loves his "Dah," his big sister "K-k," and his big brother "Gng." (Hard to transcribe that last -- a kind of nasal grunt.)

    By far, the cutest thing he says is "ma-ma-ma-ma" -- the vowel sound is midway between an "ah" and an "oh," and there's always a wistful look on his face when he says it. (It sort of goes down the scale, too, which is even cuter.)

    My big son still had to get his violin practice in, but my wife let him do it outside on the deck. She brought out her own violin and tutored him on the minuet he's trying to perfect. When he was done with that, he worked on "Faded Love." The sweet sounds of the violins were mixed with the songs of mourning doves. (The little one says "click, click" and does the sign for "bird" when he hears them sing.)

    The scene was enhanced by the bearded irises and tea roses in bloom and the lush, thick carpet of grass. A year ago, most of the backyard had been bare dirt. Our growing trees had shaded much of the bermuda grass to death. Last fall, we hacked up the dirt, and I scattered a bag of Pennington Enviro-Shade grass seed and a bag of lawn starter. The lawn has almost completely filled in, and it's as green as Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. That may be my most satisfying achievement of the last several months.

    On Saturday afternoon I dropped the big boy off at a classmate's house, then took the girl and the little boy somewhere we could go for a stroll and enjoy the sunshine. We were down south, so we headed across the bridge to Riverwalk Crossing. We walked along the riverfront and bumped into Ray Pearcey (I run into him often enough and in enough different places that he's sure I'm tailing him), who was having lunch with Oklahoma Eagle publisher Jim Goodwin and his daughter. Jim had some very kind words for my work in UTW, a high compliment coming from someone who runs one of the longest-running newspapers in the state, with a proud heritage of serving the African-American community.

    The kids and I had a very nice lunch on the patio at Los Cabos. The chips and salsa felt good on my scratchy throat, my daughter enjoyed her mini-corn dogs, and the little one shared the grilled chicken in my taco salad, and he didn't seem to mind the bits of sour cream and guacamole. Toward the end a trio of Mexican guitarists started playing, leading off with "Ghost Riders in the Sky." After working through some standards of the genre ("La Bamba," "El Condor Pasa," "Guantanamera"), they played and sang a Spanish version of Dion's car-crash classic, "Last Kiss." ("Where, o where can my baby be? The Lord took her away from me.") We finished our excursion with Chocolate Butterfinger and Vanilla Oreo ice cream. Later we went to a garden store to buy some annual flowers for my wife's birthday.

    So I have been busy, just not here.

    A couple of things to look forward to this Monday:

    It's the maiden broadcast for my friends Gwen Freeman and Chris Medlock, the new co-hosts of KFAQ Mornings. Listen live from 5:30 to 9:00 on 1170 kHz or listen later to the podcast online. Break a leg, guys, or... strain a tonsil or... something.

    Also on the air and on the web: Two of my favorite bloggers, two that I find consistently challenging and thought-provoking, shared a microphone recently. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, interviewed Dawn Eden, author of The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On for his radio show today. From this description, it sounds like a conversation worth hearing. (Too bad another Kentucky blogger, Michael Spencer, couldn't have been there, too. That would have made for a fascinating roundtable discussion.)

    The show should be available here later today, but in the meantime you can hear Mohler's recommendations for must-read Christian biographies (here's the corresponding blog entry).

    Or you can read this essay by Mohler, which Dawn Eden recommends, about how Evangelicals can and should work alongside Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians in challenging an increasingly secular culture, yet without compromising the "Evangelical affirmation of salvation through faith alone by grace alone through Christ alone.... [W]e must be ready to stand together in cultural co-belligerence, rooted in a common core of philosophical and theological principles, without demanding confessional agreement or pretending that this has been achieved."

    UPDATE: Here's a link to audio of Al Mohler's interview with Dawn Eden.

    One of my favorite state senators, Randy Brogdon of Owasso, is profiled in the current issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. One of the many things I appreciate about him is that, unlike some Republicans, he believes that being pro-business means reducing government's burdens on all business, not providing special subsidies to politically favored businesses. When asked for examples of government waste, here's what he told UTW reporter Brian Ervin:

    So, where is the government spending irresponsibly?

    "Corporate welfare," answered Brogdon as an immediate example.

    The governor's Opportunity Fund and EDGE Fund were specific examples he cited.

    "It's not right for the state government to spend money to handpick which companies are going to prosper," he said. "If was governor and I was going to make that decision, I would set a level playing field and set up a free market."

    Senator, are you announcing your candidacy for governor in 2010?

    "Not today," answered Brogdon in mid-laugh.

    I hope he will.

    Elsewhere in the issue, sports columnist Dwayne Davis reviews a Tulsa and Muskogee-based sports talk station called the Sports Animal. This paragraph caught my eye:

    [Host Geoff Haxton] is joined by local sports broadcasting legend Bob Carpenter and/or Channel 6's John Holcomb depending on the day of the week. It is refreshing to hear Tulsa talk from guys who understand the town.

    Interesting note about Carpenter. For years he could be found on sports talk rival AM 1430 The Buzz. The 'Carpenter Call' was a staple of the afternoon show with Pop and Plank.

    Dwayne is probably too young to remember this, but Bob Carpenter was a pioneer of local sports talk back in the late '70s, with his nightly hour of Sportsline on KRMG. (Sportsline was 6-7, Nightline with David Stanford was 7-8, then Johnny Martin came on with big band music until one o'clock in the morning.)

    I missed this when it first ran two weeks ago, but Katharine Kelly gave a very good review to a Filipino restaurant called Phil-Asia, near 36th & Sheridan. We'll have to give it a try.

    In today's edition of American Spectator Online, there's a piece by me, trying to explain to a national audience what Republican activists in one of the reddest red states were saying at last Saturday's convention about the 2008 presidential race and what Sen. Jim Inhofe is doing to motivate his base of supporters.

    I'll be writing one more piece on the convention (I promise, Jason and Michelle!) for GetRightOK, a new online community for Oklahoma conservatives. It'll mainly be some personal reflections on the races for state chairman and vice chairman. (It's next in the queue.)

    Usually it's the other way around. Since Republicans gained control of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, several significant bills have been passed and signed into law which advance the cause of the sanctity of human life. In 2006, a bill providing for informed consent passed both houses by a wide margin and was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Brad Henry, who was then looking ahead to his re-election campaign.

    This year, veto-proof majorities in both chambers approved a bill (SB 714) that would have restricted abortion in state-owned facilities. This time Henry, now term-limited and a lame duck, vetoed the bill. I'll take that to mean he isn't running for U. S. Senate or any other office in this pro-life state, and that his retirement plans depend on making nice with a key national Democratic constituency, namely the abortion industry.

    Brandon Dutcher sums it up nicely:

    We know that Brad Henry doesn't want to go down in history as the lottery governor. Well, perhaps he'll be able to shed that moniker after all. Perhaps he'll be remembered as the abortion governor.

    Would that the governor would remember: These blobs of tissue are only four years away from being revenue units for Oklahoma's vaunted pre-K program!

    Please contact the State Reps and State Senators who voted for SB 714 and encourage them to vote to override the veto. You'll find the list of State Senators voting yes, with their e-mail addresses, in Oklahomans for Life's latest legislative alert (PDF).

    Meanwhile, the U. S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, upheld a federal law banning partial birth abortions. For all the other problems with the Bush administration, his court appointments made this decision possible. Ruben at ProLifeBlogs noticed an interesting remark in Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissenting opinion -- she doesn't think the doctrine of stare decisis ought to apply to this ruling.

    Last Friday night, I had the privilege of being at Cain's Ballroom for the inaugural gala of the National Fiddler Hall of Fame with my wife and son, both of whom play violin/fiddle. We got to meet Bob Wills's daughter Rosetta, who was there to accept the induction of her dad as the first member of the Hall, show fiddler Jana Jae, and guitarist Mark Bruner. It was nice to see two city councilors there -- Rick Westcott with his fiancee and Maria Barnes with her husband.

    Music historian John Wooley did an excellent job as MC, introducing this new organization and putting the various genres of fiddle music in historical perspective. We had fun chatting with him before the program began. (He told a very funny story on himself, involving an outburst of literary criticism at a high school football game.)

    The food was prepared by a competition barbecue team (made up of doctors, I think I heard) who served smoked salmon and beef tenderloin, with baked beans that included lima beans in the mix. It was all delicious.

    The musical program was led off by Oklahoma Stomp, the NFHOF-sponsored western swing band of 12 to 15 year old boys. They performed Fat Boy Rag, Faded Love, Heart to Heart Talk, Roly Poly and San Antonio Rose. My son's friend from Barthelmes Conservatory plays bass in the band, and he took my boy backstage afterwards, where he got to sign the wall. My son was so inspired by the whole evening that he got out his violin as soon as he got home and started practicing Faded Love.

    Eight different genres of fiddle music were demonstrated. Here's who played and what they played, backed by a house band made up of Shelby Eicher on mandolin and fiddle, Mark Bruner on guitar, J. D. Walters on steel guitar, Spencer Sutton on piano, and Dave Breshears on drums.

    Bluegrass fiddling: Byron Berline with Eric Dysart; Gold Rush, Turkey in the Straw.

    Country fiddling: Rick Morton with Jake Duncan; Don't You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me, Lonesome Fiddle Blues.

    Irish fiddling: Eric Ryan-Johnson with his son Seamus and with Steve Mayfield on bouzouki; Father Kelley's #1, Rocky Yard, Butterfly, Rocking Polkas.

    Show fiddling: Jana Jae with Emma Jane and Marina Pendleton; Black Mountain Rag, Jesse Polka. (Jana Jae performed the first number on a specially tuned blue fiddle: A C# E A.)

    Blues fiddling: James Tarver with Mark Bruner and Merrit Armitage; Sittin on Top of the World, Milk Cow Blues. (It was a treat to hear these old blues tunes, which Bob Wills had adapted to Western Swing, performed as blues.)

    Contest fiddling: Monte Gaylord, Dave Gaylord, Bubba Hopkins, Douglas Thompson, and Michael Thompson; Sally Goodin, Miss Molly.

    Jazz fiddling: Shelby Eicher with Jake Simpson; Walking My Baby Back Home, Summertime. (The latter was performed in the style of Stephane Grappelli, the jazz violinist for the Hot Club of France. I heard second-hand that Curly Lewis said that he was a fan of Grappelli, and that all the Western swing fiddlers wanted to sound like Grappelli.)

    Western Swing fiddling: Curly Lewis, Chase Foster; Blues for Dixie, Take Me Back to Tulsa. (In introducing Lewis, John Wooley said that at age 11 he won a fiddle contest sponsored by Bob Wills.)

    The grand finale featured all the performers playing the old fiddle standard "Liberty." The music continued as the house band played for anyone who wanted to dance. (At one point, the band played "Maiden's Prayer," but they didn't have anyone singing. I was awfully tempted to run up there and pitch in, but I held back.)

    Many thanks to the board members of the Hall of Fame, and particularly to Jim and Alice Rodgers of Cain's Ballroom, for a wonderful, unforgettable evening.

    My Urban Tulsa Weekly column this week is on two very different events: last Saturday's Oklahoma Republican State Convention and last Friday's inaugural gala for the National Fiddler Hall of Fame. The convention story covers the race for state party chairman and a brief description of what delegates were saying about next year's presidential race. (More about the NFHOF gala in a separate entry.)

    He made a very brief announcement at the end of Tuesday's show -- Friday will be Michael DelGiorno's last day on KFAQ. He's landed a job in Nashville, and Journal Broadcast Group, owners of KFAQ, let him out of his contract early to pursue it.

    I'm happy for Michael. The change will do him good, and Nashville is a big step up in market size.

    Details should be released during Wednesday's show, but it's my understanding that the mission and direction of KFAQ and its morning show will remain unchanged. That's good news for Tulsa.

    A longer tribute will have to wait until I'm not worn out from finishing my taxes and fighting a cold, but I'll say this much now:

    We're approaching the 5th anniversary of KFAQ's launch. The station's format started as Michael DelGiorno's vision, a vision that was embraced and implemented by Journal Broadcast Group.

    When other stations were becoming more automated and homogenized, DelGiorno gave Tulsa talk radio about local issues. When other news-talk stations were cramming local content into ever tinier segments, DelGiorno provided time to cover an issue in depth.

    DelGiorno provided a bypass around local media dominated by a few narrow interests. He gave politicians and activists the chance to get their side of the story out to the public.

    Michael gave me a platform that I wouldn't otherwise have had. The exposure I got on his show brought more readers to this blog and ultimately led to the opportunity to write for Urban Tulsa Weekly.

    DelGiorno brought concerned Tulsans, who otherwise wouldn't have met, together as allies. He helped them see the big picture, bigger than the specific problems that awakened their interest in local government.

    Michael often expressed frustration that the same old issues kept recurring, and it seemed as if no progress was made. But as someone who has lived here most of my life and who has been involved politically for twenty years, I know that things are much different, and much better, for his work at KFAQ. Important issues that used to be under the radar are now front and center in the public dialogue.

    We have a City Council that wasn't handpicked by the Tulsa Whirled. That wouldn't have happened before KFAQ.

    Michael could be frustrating. He would let passion get ahead of precision. It could be tough at times to get a word in edgewise. He and I were never going to see eye-to-eye on the importance of a healthy urban core.

    But it's been a blessing and a privilege to get to work with Michael these last three and a half years, and I am thankful for the difference he's made here. I wish him and his family all the best in their new city.

    UPDATE: Michael spoke at length this morning, paying tribute to his listeners for taking what they heard on the show and acting on it and to Journal Broadcast Group management in Milwaukee and here in Tulsa for sticking with the station's vision and with Michael, despite a lot of pressure from advertisers and other influential folks to shut him down.

    Through it all, GM Randy Bush and program manager Brian Gann embodied the spirit of their long-ago KVOO predecessor Bill Way. W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel had successfully intimidated managers at several stations in several cities to keep Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys off the air, but Way refused to cave in to O'Daniel's threats or enticements.

    You can hear what Michael had to say in the 6:00 hour about the station management and the listeners here (MP3).

    Gwen Freeman will move from the sidekick's seat into the host's chair, with Chris Medlock as her sidekick. Gwen is smart, talented, and has a voice I could listen to all day long, and I'm happy to see her coming into her own.

    I'm happy for my friend Chris, too. It had to have been a challenge for him to stifle his laughter at the leaflet that was circulated at the Republican state convention on Saturday, claiming that DelGiorno had been fired and that Medlock's (and my) "public platform has been significantly reduced as of Monday April 16, 2007." Not quite.

    (If you were wondering, that leaflet (PDF) is what Michael and I were discussing on Tuesday.)

    UPDATE: Comments on DelGiorno's departure from Tyson Wynn and Dan Paden.

    UPDATE(2): Michael will be taking the 9 am to 1 pm slot on WWTN in Nashville, which is the highest-rated news/talk station in the market. I saw the schedule on their website before they modified it today -- he is replacing G. Gordon Liddy's syndicated show and an hour of the Bill O'Reilly show. He'll yield 15 minutes each day to Paul Harvey's noon broadcast.

    For his first two hours, Michael will be up against another local show, hosted by a conservative lawyer named Steve Gill. The second two hours he'll be head-to-head with Rush Limbaugh.

    After reading the bios of the other two local talkers on the station, I think Michael will be right at home. The afternoon drive host on WWTN is Phil Valentine, who is legendary for leading the 2002 Tennessee taxpayer revolt. When a Democratic legislature and a Republican governor were about to institute a state income tax for the first time ever, Phil brought listeners to the State Capitol where they successfully turned enough votes to stop the tax from passing.

    MORE: MeeCiteeWurkor testifies to DelGiorno's impact on his political involvement:

    I started listening to MDG a couple of years ago when LaFortune was mayor. Before then, I didn’t even care for politics or anything remotely related to talk radio. MDG got me interested in the inner workings of Tulsa and surrounding communities.

    A couple of years later, and having actually been on-air with MDG, I can say this for fact: No one has done more to create awareness about local issues in Tulsa than this man. I am thankful for that awareness and the fact that he’s the only local media outlet that ever organized rallies and gatherings of what was called the “Q” Nation. Can you think of anybody else that did that? I can’t.



    Tyson Wynn has more to say
    , and I think he gets what made some people so angry with Michael:

    In a day and age when the vast majority of radio programming is a satellite feed of national issues (which we do need), it was nice to turn on the radio and hear a local guy who cared about local issues talk about things we locals care about. It was nice to hear him broadcast from a vacant lot that somehow managed to vote in an election. It was nice to hear him rant and rave about things that, when we’re really honest with ourselves, make us all rant and rave, too. And I have heard many detractors over the last few year who hate MDG for various reasons. In one case in particuler, I know of one violently vociferous MDG critic who launched a series of anonymous online attacks against MDG simply because MDG refused to accept this person’s worldview and counsel. It was shameful and self-serving, but the safety and anonymity of online forums made him feel brave and unaccountable for his comments.

    It's been a very busy weekend, and I'm fighting a cold and deadlines, thus the lack of updates. Go check out Mike McCarville's blog -- Mike has the outcome of Saturday's Republican state convention and a note about Friday's breakthrough in the dismantling of the web of intrigue which centers on former State Sen. Gene Stipe and has links to State Auditor Jeff McMahan, Governor Brad Henry, and a number of Democratic state legislators. Former State Rep. (and former State Democratic Chairman) Mike Mass pleaded guilty to Federal mail fraud charges and is singing like a canary. Here's McCarville's archive on the Stipe story.

    One more thing: My wife, son, and I had a wonderful time at Friday's inaugural gala for the National Fiddler Hall of Fame. Many thanks to Jim and Alice Rodgers of Cain's Ballroom for their hospitality. More about that special evening later.

    Bill Whittle doesn't post often to his blog -- he started long before I did and is only up to entry number 140 -- but when he does he always knocks the ball out of the park. In his latest entry, he delves into the psychology of conspiracy theorists, those who believe we aren't being told the truth about the Kennedy assassination, the moon landing, or 9/11.

    Of his encounter years ago with a moon landing conspiracy theorist, he writes:

    Now it’s my turn to ask some questions, and here’s where it goes from the ridiculous to the sublime:

    I was there at Cape Kennedy for the launch of Apollo 13. Is he saying I am lying about this whole moon mission conspiracy? I and millions of others who stood there and saw those Saturn V’s climb into the sky?

    Of course not, says Joe. They actually launched. The astronauts just stayed in earth orbit the whole time.

    I see. So we have the technical expertise to build a 40-story rocket that can produce millions of pounds of thrust. We can build capsules and lunar landers that function in zero-G. We have the means and the will to put these massive objects into Earth orbit, keep them up there for two weeks, but the additional 3-4% of the total launch energy needed to send this package to the moon is so obviously beyond our technical skill that the whole thing must be a hoax?

    I’m sorry, that’s the thinking of someone who is mentally ill. There is something deeper at work there.

    That “something” is different than someone who “believes” in UFO’s or the Loch Ness Monster. Such people may be short on critical reasoning, but the emotional force that drives them is a desire for wonder and the magical. Many have remarked that this is, indeed, almost a religious impulse. I’ve wanted to see a real-live flying saucer my entire life. Likewise, if Nessie really existed, what an incredible sight that would be…to look upon the last surviving dinosaur in the flesh! But a videotape of a standing wave shot from five miles away does not outweigh the whole air-breather / no fish evidence. It does not come close to outweighing it. And so I reluctantly throw Nessie back into the superstition bin from whence she came.

    But these denialists – the Moon Hoaxers and the 9/11 “Truthers” – these are a different breed. And they are cut from precisely the same cloth. That is to say, they suffer from the same disease: an unwillingness to face reality and its consequences.

    Regarding Rosie O'Donnell and her claim that 9/11 was orchestrated by the Bush administration:

    I will make the point yet again because I believe it is the crux of the issue: what kind of moral universe do you have to inhabit to be able to believe that your own people – airline personnel, demolition experts, police and security forces, faked witnesses and all the rest – are capable of such a thing? How much hate for your own society do you have to carry in order to live in such a desolate and ridiculous mental hell? What psychoses must a mind be riddled with in order to negate what was perfectly obvious and instead believe a theory of such monumental fantasy? How much pure constant hatred does that take?

    What, in short, is the miserable black hole of self-loathing that drives a person like Rosie O’Donnell and millions like her?

    In the course of the essay, he debunks two of the key assertions of 9/11 "truthers" -- that a controlled demolition brought down the World Trade Center, and that there's something fishy about the lack of major aircraft debris. And I learned about a conspiracy theory that was previously unknown to me -- "chemtrails."

    Voting on Oklahoma's state quarter begins tomorrow. There are five finalists, which aren't yet displayed on the voting page, but you can see them here, cleaned up for coin production by the U. S. Mint. Voting ends at 5 p.m. on April 27. The coins will come out in early 2008. (Hat tip to recyclemichael for the link.)

    I'm leaning toward the scissor-tailed flycatcher and Indian blanket, although the simplest of the pioneer woman designs (with the bigger state outline and calumet) isn't bad. What do you think?

    MORE: Mike at Okiedoke has the vote totals from the first round and the recommendations of the experts.

    RELATED: The QuarterDesigns.com website has the selected designs for each state and those early concepts that were passed over. If you wonder what designs Montanans rejected in order to pick a bison's skull (subliminal message: Californians, this is a dry, desert state where you will die of thirst -- please stop moving here), you can find out here.

    Arizona's page has quite a few tongue-in-cheek proposals which were submitted to the Arizona Daily Star, including a bulldozer knocking over a saguaro, a border scene, and an assessment of the state's progress since statehood. The one with the Mission of San Xavier del Bac is actually quite nice, albeit astronomically impossible.

    I like the simpler designs the best. My favorite is Texas (the quarter that looks most like the currency of a sovereign nation), followed by Rhode Island and West Virginia. The least attractive quarters resulted from states trying to cram an entire tourism brochure onto the coin.

    Bronwyn at WFMU's Beware of the Blog loves the Montana quarter:

    Here’s the new state motto: “Montana! Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!” The best thing is that you can put the Wisconsin quarter (2004) next to the Montana quarter, and it’s like a little before-and-after demonstration. Here’s Bossy, all fat and happy and emitting buckets of delicious milk in Wisconsin, and then she moves to Montana: Uh-oh!

    The Los Angeles Police Department was one of the first to adopt, in 1979, a "don't ask, don't tell" policy with regard to illegal immigrants. That policy, known as Special Order 40, is being challenged in court as a violation of California state law. A separate lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch is challenging the policy as a violation of Federal law.

    Here is a link to the policy, as issued by the LAPD's board of commissioners. The policy forbids arresting anyone under the illegal entry provisions of the U. S. Immigration Code, and it forbids "police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person." It does require reporting to Federal immigration authorities when an undocumented alien is arrested on a felony, a "high grade" misdemeanor, multiple misdemeanors, or a repeat offense. There's nothing in the policy, however, that would allow the police to hold an arrestee on anything more than the non-immigration-related offense.

    Federal law passed in 1996 makes LA's policy illegal:

    …a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now Immigration and Customs Enforcement) information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.

    The LA Times story mentions that many rank and file officers want to see the policy repealed, but they are afraid to speak out. The mayor and police chief both support Special Order 40.

    The argument made in support of such a policy -- Tulsa has something very similar in place -- is that police depend on the cooperation of crime victims to do their work of protecting the public. If the police could report immigration status, some crime victims might not come forward for fear of being deported. Michael Williams offers a rebuttal:

    [Illegal immigrants are] "living in the shadows" because they chose to break the law and come here illegally. All sorts of criminals "live in the shadows" because of their crimes. Drug dealers and pimps hesitate before calling the cops, too, but should we stop prosecuting them? Criminals shouldn't feel comfortable approaching the police.

    When you put yourself beyond the reach of the law, you put yourself beyond the protection of the law.

    UPDATE: In the comments, Roy asked for details about Tulsa's policy. MeeCiteeWurkor has a scan of the Tulsa Police Department's "sanctuary city" policy (PDF), which is even more friendly to illegal aliens than LA's Special Order 40. For example, if a citizen reports a likely illegal alien to the Tulsa Police Department, the citizen is simply to be given the number for the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services enforcement office in Oklahoma City. Unlike LA's policy, there is no provision for TPD to report repeat or major offenders to the Feds. It appears that the policy was originally approved under Mayor Susan Savage in 1995, then updated in 2003 to reflect the renaming of the INS.

    MeeCiteeWurkor has an extensive archive of items on illegal immigration and enforcement (or lack thereof) in Tulsa and Oklahoma.

    ProLifeBlogs notes that Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is promoting his bill to provide federal funding for research using stem cells extracted from living human embryos, and he had this to say:

    Think about it: If you were treating someone with embryonic stem cells, would you rather use stem cells that came from a healthy embryo, or a dead embryo? The dead embryo died for a reason. There's something wrong with it. Chances are, the stem cells that come from that dead embryo aren't so great, either. So why does anyone think a dead embryo holds the secret to curing juvenile diabetes?...

    If this year's debate goes like last year's, then we can also expect opponents of S. 5 to make a lot of unfounded claims about adult stem cells. To repeat, I'm all for adult stem cell research. Adult stem cells are being used successfully today in treating several blood-related diseases. Our scientists should continue this area of research.

    But adult stem cells have their limits. They can't do everything that embryonic stem cells can do.

    As it turns out, the secret to curing juvenile (Type 1) diabetes isn't in embryonic stem cells at all:

    Diabetics using stem-cell therapy have been able to stop taking insulin injections for the first time, after their bodies started to produce the hormone naturally again.

    What kind of stem cells? Embryonic cells, you ask? Nope. (Emphasis added.)

    In a breakthrough trial, 15 young patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes were given drugs to suppress their immune systems followed by transfusions of stem cells drawn from their own blood.

    The results show that insulin-dependent diabetics can be freed from reliance on needles by an injection of their own stem cells. The therapy could signal a revolution in the treatment of the condition, which affects more than 300,000 Britons.

    (Via Dan Paden.)

    MORE: The Times writer added this irrelevant detail to the story:

    But research using the most versatile kind of stem cells — those acquired from human embryos — is currently opposed by powerful critics, including President Bush.

    Penraker notes the distorting effect of media bias:

    Damn George Bush! He and his cronies are sentencing millions of people to death!

    Or so they would have you believe. This is the worst, most repulsive kind of journalism - the kind that actively tries to mislead the public by leaving out information. Nowhere does it tell you that Bush explicitly endorses the kind of research on adult stem cells that produced this breakthrough. It tries to mislead the public into thinking that this result was brought about by the type of stem cell research Bush opposes.

    Some readers will fix on that line while skimming this story and come away with the impression that this was the result of embryonic stem cell therapy.

    Not only does the statement misdirect the reader's attention, Michael Williams points out that it's flat out wrong:

    The claim in the first phrase above is false: embryonic stem cells are no more "versatile" than stem cells taken from, e.g., amniotic fluid. Furthermore, embryonic stem cells tend to turn cancerous and cause brain tumors.

    So why are leftist politicians and reporters such enthusiastic promoters of research that has yet to show promise of a cure and so dismissive of research that has accomplished a great deal already? Here's Williams's answer:

    Why are so many people so eager to slaughter babies and harvest their stem cells despite the fact that embryonic stem cells can't cure anything? I can think of only two explanations. First, scientists who have invested their careers in this direction want to keep the grant money flowing. Second, pro-abortionists recognize their need to increase acceptance of abortion among an increasingly pro-life population.

    I'm reminded of a bit in the satirical book The 80s: A Look Back (published in 1979): The humane objection to clubbing baby harp seals for their pelts vanished when it was discovered that the brain fluid of clubbed baby harp seals cured cancer.

    At some point, with enough funding, they're bound to find some cure involving embryonic stem cells. Many Americans, pragmatists that we are, will conclude that the destruction of embryonic human life is worthwhile, which will encourage a more cavalier attitude toward life in the womb.

    But if more Americans come to understand that all the cures to date have come from non-embryonic stem cell research, the push for embryonic stem cell research will dry up.

    In plugging my own column, I shamefully neglected to call attention to Brian Ervin's excellent piece on Gov. Brad Henry, and his pique at the Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature for coming up with a budget agreement -- a bill that passed the Senate unanimously -- while he was away on a spring break vacation in the sun. Ervin has a quote from Henry supporter Frosty Troy:

    "Brad Henry is the single laziest governor we've ever had," said Frosty Troy, founding editor of the Oklahoma Observer, Pulitzer nominee and long-time fixture within the Capitol press corps.

    Troy, who's covered seven governors during his nearly 50 years of reporting on the state Capitol, said Henry's typical pattern during his five years in office is to keep a low profile during session, if he's present at all, and then show up at the end to take credit for many of the more popular pieces of legislation.

    "He shows up late at the Capitol and keeps pretty much a social calendar," said Troy.

    If for no other reason, you need to click through to Brian Ervin's article to see the wonderful caricature of Henry that adorns the story.

    Me, Svengali?

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    One of the goofiest accusations made in the course of the Fairgrounds annexation debate is that some councilors, specifically John Eagleton, voted for annexation just to make me happy, out of some misguided sense of loyalty.

    (Other goofy debating points: I'm for annexation because I have "a bone to pick with the county," and my opinion doesn't matter because I'm not a businessman. Both are ad hominems and neither address the merits of my arguments or the arguments of other annexation proponents. I'll deal with the "bone to pick" in depth some other time, but I will say this: I have never suffered any personal or financial loss or significant inconvenience as a result of a county action -- with one exception. My skepticism about certain aspects of county government is not at all personal, but is grounded in nine years of watching the County Commissioners' actions, particularly the addiction of certain commissioners to non-competitive contracts.)

    (The one exception? As a dad, I'm disappointed that my kids won't have an amusement park in town any more.)

    There are five members of the Council whom I knew and with whom I was friendly before they became city councilors. If they always did what I wanted, then I would be the uncrowned King of the City Council, a modern-day Robert S. Kerr. But that doesn't happen.

    I can think of one vote in particular that was important enough to me that I took the time to come to the Council meeting and speak. It was a zoning case near I-44 in east Tulsa, the part of town where I grew up and where my parents still live. I was there with other east Tulsa residents to ask the Council to deny the zoning request, which would have perpetuated the trashy first impression Tulsa gives to those who arrive by car from the east and northeast. Our side lost, with a couple of my councilor friends voting contrary to my wishes.

    If any city councilor listens to me it's not because I can finance their climb up the political ladder. I can't use my massive economic and social clout to ruin them if they crossed me. I can't provide make-work jobs for their relatives. I can't take them to dinner at the Summit Club or for a round of golf at Southern Hills. And to borrow an old blues lyric that Bob Wills borrowed a few times, "I'm not good-lookin'. I don't dress fine. The way I whip it is a hangin' crime."

    As was evident last Thursday night, I don't have masses of mind-numbed followers ready to obey my every command. It was pretty much just me and, amazingly enough, Greg Jennings, with whom I have often disagreed in the past, speaking in support of annexation. If the decision Thursday night was a matter of pull, there was a lot more pull on the other side of the issue.

    If any of these councilors pays me any mind, it's only because I try to be precise and thorough in what I say about an issue, and sometimes I do a decent job of translating a concept from bureaucratese to plain English.

    Bill Martinson certainly didn't communicate with me in composing his rationale in support of annexation. I opposed his first run for office and didn't endorse him in the Republican primary last year. I didn't feed information to the Council staff or the city finance department staff for their thorough research and analyses. Council Attorney Drew Rees did the legal research on the issue of security for the Tulsa State Fair, not me. I had a few conversations with John Eagleton, but I didn't come up with a copy of the Arabian Horse Show contract, or even have the foresight to suggest it to anyone.

    If anything, the thoughts I've presented here and in my column owe more to the research and analysis that others did than the other way around. The only original point I contributed to the conversation had to do with the non-financial benefits of annexation, a point that didn't seem to carry a lot of weight in Thursday night's debate. (Which is why my business background is irrelevant to the discussion.)

    I guess it's more comforting to annexation opponents to believe that I mesmerized the City Council into bending to my will than to believe that five independent, intelligent councilors came to their own conclusion based on facts and logic, in the face of heavy pressure to set those facts aside.

    Dawn Eden, who is Jewish and a Roman Catholic Christian, wrote recently about a botched attempt by an evangelist to convert her over the phone when she was a college student. His blunt and presumptuous answer regarding the eternal destiny of her saintly Jewish grandmother put her off the Christian faith for another decade.

    The entry spawned an interesting intra-Catholic debate in the comments thread about whether it's necessary or appropriate to proclaim the Gospel to Jewish people, or if it is only for Gentiles. This comment, by a reader called Kate B., kicked off the debate:

    The Jews have their own covenant with the Lord, and don't need to be worried about being saved by any other covenant.

    My first thought was, "I didn't know there were dispensationalist Catholics."

    My second thought was that, while you could delve into deep theological debates about how salvation was applied with respect to the faithful of the Old Testament, the question about whether the Gospel is for Jews as well as Gentiles is simple to answer. You only need to look at the first sermon delivered by the apostle that Catholics regard as their first pope.

    It happened on the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), one of three obligatory pilgrimages, when all male Israelites were commanded to appear before the Lord. While those assembled spoke many languages and came from many places throughout the Roman Empire, they were Jews, either by birth or proselytes. Here are Simon Peter's words:

    "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know-- this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

    "'I saw the Lord always before me,
    for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
    therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
    my flesh also will dwell in hope.
    For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
    or let your Holy One see corruption.
    You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will make me full of gladness with your presence.'

    "Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

    "'The Lord said to my Lord,
    Sit at my right hand,
    until I make your enemies your footstool.'

    Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

    Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

    Not only was Peter's first sermon delivered to Jews ("Men of Israel," as he began), whom he charged to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, it took some direct and special revelation to convince him that the Gospel was also for Gentiles.

    In the introduction to his letter to the Church at Rome, Paul writes:

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."

    "To the Jew first" -- that's the phrase that appears in Greek as the title of this entry. They, God's chosen people, were the first to receive the Gospel and the first to proclaim the Gospel. The Greeks -- the Gentiles -- are secondary.

    In his letter to the churches in the region of Galatia, Paul refers to the proclamation of the Gospel to the Jewish people as Peter's special mission:

    On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

    When Dawn challenged the evangelist about her grandmother's salvation, the truthful (and tactful) answer would have been something like this: "It is not my place to sit in judgment over your dear grandmother. That belongs to God, who is utterly good and merciful and just. I can only repeat the words which Jesus spoke to the Jewish men who were his closest followers. Jesus said, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"

    RELATED: Paul Greenberg has a beautiful, moving column for Easter Sunday. Taking his text from John 20, he imagines Mary Magdalene remembering that first Easter many years later:

    I was perfectly prepared for how bad Good Friday would be, but Easter Sunday? My dear, that was quite beyond me. How could I have understood? You might as well have tried to describe sight to the blind, music to the deaf, belief to the cynical. My reality was limited to the evidence of things seen, the substance of things feared.

    The empty tomb should have been proof of hope; I saw it only as cause for despair.

    So when I saw the gardener -- for who else could he be? -- I wept and wailed and pleaded. I wanted to wallow in my grief; that was one thing I thought no one could take from me. I held on to it like a treasure.

    Then I heard my name. How puzzling: How could the gardener have known me? That's when I turned. And I realized who had spoken to me, and who The Gardener was, and the whole, fake world was gone, the curtain lifted, the night shattered forever as the sun rose Easter morning. He had risen.

    Funny how all you need is to be called by your right name and turn. You have to turn, you know. So you can really see. Only then does everything fall into place.

    AND DON'T MISS: Christine, who writes, produces, stars in, and edits the wonderful "Happy Slip" videos, has a special video for Easter, a song of praise that she wrote and performs. Video here, lyrics here. This is the first explicitly Christian thing I've seen on her website, but as one commenter wrote, "I knew there was something 'right' with [her]"

    From 1946 (the Tiffany Transcriptions era), Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys perform "Goodbye, Liza Jane":

    That's Bob Wills introducing and playing fiddle. Tommy Duncan sings, backed by Dean and Evelyn, the McKinney Sisters. The other right-handed fiddler (who plays behind Tommy on the last verse) is Louis Tierney. The left-handed fiddler is Joe Holley. Millard Kelso, "the little man with the moustache," plunks the piano. And the highlight of this video is an all-too-brief solo by ahead-of-his-time guitarist Junior Barnard, who had a fuzz tone and knew how to use it. (Here are a few more clips of Junior's choruses.)

    (Via Tyson Wynn, who has several more Bob Wills videos he found on YouTube, including three of the Snader Transcriptions from 1951 -- "Blue Prelude," "Sittin' on Top of the World," and "Three Miles South of Cash" -- and the Cindy Walker song "Election Day" from one of Bob Wills's movies, sung by Leon McAuliffe.)

    It took a while, and everybody got to speak that wanted to speak, but the City Council voted 5-4 to approve the ordinance to annex the Tulsa County Fairgrounds. Voting in favor were Henderson, Turner, Barnes, Martinson, and Eagleton; voting against were Westcott, Troyer, Christiansen, and Carter. The emergency clause vote broke the same way, which means it failed -- two-thirds vote would be required to put the annexation into immediate effect. Without the emergency clause, it will go into effect sixty days after the Mayor signs the ordinance.

    I'll be on KFAQ at 6:10 in the morning to talk about the debate and the vote, so tune in to 1170 and listen.

    I was especially impressed with Councilor Martinson's comments. I've had plenty of disagreements with him on various issues, but his analysis of the pros and cons of annexation was flawless, just as impressive as his analysis of the city's financial constraints. His business and accounting experience is a real asset to the council.

    As are the legal expertise and fearlessness of Councilor Eagleton. A highlight of the meeting was when he called fair board member Clark Brewster (the banty rooster) on Brewster's bluffing claim that the increased sales tax rate resulting from annexing the Fairgrounds would constitute a breach of contract with the Arabian Horse Show. Eagleton had the contract in hand, demanded that Brewster cite the paragraph to back up his claim, and then read the clause that clearly contradicted Brewster's claim. Eagleton's diligent digging for facts has diffused several of the bogus arguments leveled against annexation.

    UPDATE 4/11: There are two complementary accounts of the City Council debate on annexation in the latest Urban Tulsa Weekly: Brian Ervin's news story on the debate, with details on why various councilors voted the way they did; and my column, on the factors that may influence Mayor Kathy Taylor's decision to sign or veto annexation.

    UPDATE 4/18: David Schuttler has posted video on YouTube (thanks, David!) of the exchange between Clark Brewster and John Eagleton regarding the Arabian Horse Show's contract. I had forgotten that it was actually Bill Martinson who interrupted Brewster to ask him how a city action could cause a breach of contract between the fair board and the Arabian Horse Show. Brewster's reply, "The terms of that contract provides [sic] very specifically what their vendors would pay as a matter of tax," led to Eagleton's question, "Clark, which paragraph are you referring to?"

    (UPDATE: A hearty endorsement of Shaun Groves from Michelle of GetRightOK in the comments: "I took my three daughters to the Shaun Groves concert the last time he was in Tulsa. The concert was wonderful. He's a funny guy, and his music is great. He has a song called Twilight that is a favorite of my kids (it's my favorite SG song too).")

    About a week ago, I received an e-mail from Shaun Groves. He said he was a Christian recording artist and KXOJ was bringing him to Broken Arrow for a show this weekend. He was looking for ways to get the word out about the concert and came across this blog.

    I wrote back:

    Thanks for writing. To tell the truth, I'm not a big fan of CCM [Contemporary Christian Music], mainly because so much of it is theologically shallow and musically dull. But I will have a look at your site, and if I like what I see and hear, I'll give you a plug. How's that?

    In his reply, Shaun said, "You and I share that beef with CCM in general," and he pointed me to a recent post on his music blog about profaning the name of God. He points to Ezekiel 36, which talks of how God's people dishonored His name with their actions.

    Shaun goes on to talk about how some CCM profanes God's name, drawing from his experience as a suicidally depressed Christian teen. He describes listening, with friend who was also depressed, to a program of Christian music that his church youth leader had recommended:

    I turned to it wanting to feel better. I remember feeling angry instead. What I heard was music I couldn’t relate to at all, what sounded out of touch with reality, written by happy people who’d never been where I was, who’d never felt hopeless before. No words I could put my heart behind and sing to God. The messages in the broadcast, to me, were clear: God doesn’t care and good Christians don’t have problems.

    That anger became a driving force in his songwriting:

    That night made me mad enough to write about it. It was the first poem I ever wrote in fact and so, I guess, that anger I felt at Christian music that night is partially to credit for me becoming the song writer I am today. That poem even won some contest back in Texas. But it did more than that. Not only did that poem begin for me the habit of funneling my emotions through a pencil onto a page, but it also gave my creativity a purpose.

    That purpose is why I moved to Nashville - to write music that supports the spiritual health of Christians, that encourages through honest discourse, acknowledges the good and bad in life, that reminds us all that a life spent knowing God and not also making Him known is only half a life, a life without meaning and prone to depression and anxiety. I moved here to write songs that hometown station of mine wouldn’t broadcast when I needed them to all those years ago....

    My career... has always been about saving listeners from the misery I languished in for so long - desperate to hear a sermon, read a book, or tune to a song that touched even a little of the pain I dealt with daily. The goal is to meet people where they are by being honest about where I am and where I’ve been, and from there, walk with them out of the despair and into a life full of purpose and hope.

    All victorious music all the time sends the wrong message:

    You see, when God is ignoring your hurts - which is what I felt when listening to sermons, Sunday school lessons and songs as a teen - we begin to suspect that God either doesn’t exist or He’s some sick twist who gleefully ignores our woe. And the Enemy wins. We believe his lie: God isn’t good. That’s where always happy gets us....

    The best weapon I’ve found in the battle against this powerful lie is honesty. Honesty about the greatness, the laughter inducing, the breathtakingly miraculous, the sweetness of life. Honesty about the tears and fears and hurries and worries we all have in common.

    That’s human. That’s Christian. That says God is good, He knows you hurt, He hears you, He’s sent this song, this book, these words to tell you you’re not alone. We’ve been there too. And we and our God want to meet you where you are and help you from there. There’s so much good stuff about life and God you might have forgotten about and we want to remind you of all that. Trust us. We’re just like you. If I’d heard that kind of music when I was sixteen I wouldn’t have been cured, not with one listen, but I may have tuned in again, I may have bought that CD, gone to that concert, gotten out of bed, opened up to someone sooner, felt a lot less dysfunctional and strange and unChristian.

    Instead, he turned to music that spoke about the pain he was feeling -- nihilistic music like Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails -- but which offered no hope, only commiseration. In the end, he was brought back to faith by a girl (who came to be his wife), her father (a pastor) and family. They were willing to be honest about their struggles, about their mistakes, about their sins.

    My wife’s honesty, and her family’s, brought me back to life. I found in them a safe place to be myself, to ask questions, to beg for prayer. A place I wanted to spend the rest of my life. By sharing their wounds mine were healed.

    Shaun goes on to issue a challenge to Christian radio stations, to be willing to play music that's good, that's listenable, but which may not be "all happy all the time."

    Even if his music weren't good (but it is), writing that essay alone is worthy of a plug and a link here.

    Shaun Groves's Broken Arrow concert is Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Church at Battle Creek. (That's just north of the Broken Arrow Expressway -- OK 51 -- on 145th East Ave, aka Aspen.) Proceeds go to the poverty relief program Compassion International.

    ...and he's proving it by standing up the Oklahoma Republican convention. Romney had committed months ago to be the keynote speaker at this year's convention, to be held on April 14 in Oklahoma City.

    But just yesterday, Romney's people notified the state GOP that he would not be coming to speak. When the party contacted the Romney campaign to find out why, so that they could provide some explanation to the delegates, some graceful way out for Romney, the campaign's response was that they had no response.

    Barring a family emergency -- not a likely reason for a cancellation 10 days in advance -- there's no good reason for Romney to cancel. He doesn't have legislative or executive responsibilities to fulfill. He's just running for president, and this has been on the calendar for a long time.

    The message the cancellation sends is that Mitt Romney will stick to a commitment, but only until something better comes along.

    It may be too late to schedule another speaker, but convention organizers are giving it their best.

    Wouldn't be exciting -- and symbolic -- if Fred Thompson came to speak, filling the void left by Romney?

    This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly, I take a look back at the decision of the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority last fall to evict Bell's Amusement Park from the Tulsa County Fairgrounds. Although it's not a new story, the way the eviction was handled sheds some light on the question of the City of Tulsa's annexation of the Fairgrounds (to be decided this Thursday night by the City Council), currently an unincorporated enclave surrounded by the City of Tulsa. Expo Square management and TCPFA members have made a number of claims about the effects of annexation, and those claims need to be weighed in light of the board's credibility and transparency -- particularly the credibility of the three TCPFA members who were on the board prior to 2007.

    Here's another doubtful decision: Last year the Tulsa State Fair reached the one million attendance mark for the first time in four years. In December, the 2006 Fair won six awards for Marketing and Competitive Exhibits at the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) in Las Vegas. Amber Phillips, who was manager of the Tulsa State Fair in 2004, 2005, and 2006, overseeing increased attendance each year, didn't get to enjoy the fruits of her hard work and creativity, because Expo Square CEO Rick Bjorklund had fired Phillips a week earlier. (Officially, her position was eliminated in a "reorganization," but it's not as though they're going to stop having a Tulsa State Fair, and someone has to manage it.)

    You can read more commentary and background about the Bell's eviction here (including an interesting look at Bjorklund's career trajectory). And this website has a number of articles on Bell's and other amusement parks in this region, including Frontier City and Joyland in Wichita. Here's his evaluation of what was done to Bell's.

    The Long Walkers

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    Melungeons. Rom. Ramapo Mountain People. Irish Travellers. Lumbee Indians. Black Irish. Black Dutch. Indians speaking Welsh. Ancient Irish script in West Virginia. Runes in southeastern Oklahoma.

    Patrick Mead is weaving a fascinating story of hidden people groups -- nomadic or isolated peoples here in the US -- and stories that defy the standard theories on how and when different groups came to North America. Interwoven with stories of various hidden groups, Patrick tells his own story of discovering his Scottish Traveller and Melungeon heritage -- getting his father to spill some closely-held family secrets -- when he contracted a rare lung disease that white people aren't supposed to get.

    RELATED (4/12/2007): Julie R. Neidlinger writes about a case in North Dakota in which a juror admits to using a defendant's Roma (Gypsy) Bosnian ethnic background against him during deliberations. "I used my own experiences with ethnic groups, specifically Bosnians and/or Gypsies, to influence the jury.... I told the jury that I had personal experience with Bosnians and that they stole from my business and in the same experience lied to me regarding the theft and their conduct. Even though I had never met Mr. Hidanovic, or any of the witnesses, Mr. Hidanovic and the witnesses' race was discussed in a negative way.... I interjected into the deliberations the concept that if Mr. Hidanovic wasn't guilty of this crime he was guilty of something else."

    In memory of Max Meyer and the natural stone tourist court he built on Route 66 north of Kellyville, an excerpt from Preposterous Papa by Lewis Meyer (pp. 99 - 102, 132-135):

    Papa was a compulsive builder. he went on building binges the way an alcoholic goes on drinking sprees. When the urge to construct came over him he was powerless to resist. Appeals to reason were useless. The shortage of money didn't deter him. Nor did the nonessential nature of what he planned to build. When the building bee bit him he got a look in his eye, a tenseness in his body. He was a slave to this uncontrollable habit....

    After the Big House and the original barn, Papa conceived the lake and the bathhouse and the silos. Then he dug a deep water well and installed a vast underground network of pipes wihch brought running water to most of the houses and buildings on the ranch. When the water didn't run, it walked. Often it stopped entirely when the electric pump broke down.

    After the silos, Papa dreamed up the chicken houses (which covered half an acre) and the Dance Pavilion and the tourist camp. Then came service station No. 1 (with a two-story house attached) and the tavern (with a five-room apartment in the rear) and service station No. 2.

    These were his major works, his symphonies. In between them, Papa kept himself tuned up by building houses. Along WPA Row, he built six tenant houses, each with a wood-burning fireplace and a native stone outhouse. (This row of houses got its name during Depression days when Papa had his own private WPA setup, inspired by and fashioned after the government's relief program.)...

    Just as a musician has his favorite motif so did Papa have his. It was building with rock. Only he didn't call it "rock"; he called it "natural stone." All of his creations, beginning with the huge, two-story Big House and ending with the wall around the lake, were built with the rocks which were so abundant on the ranch. Papa often pointed to the hill across the highway and said, "There's enough natural stone there to build a dozen cities!" (He, of course, would be the builder of them all.) He had his own rock quarry where the stones were shaped, trimmed, and cut to size. Some of his walls were made from dark, moss-covered, unchiseled stone; others were faced with quarried rock of a light sandstone color. Papa called natural stone the perfect building medium. It never had to be painted and it stood the years perfectly....

    A few yards from the Dance Pavilion, situated on a quiet little dirt road leading to the highway, was Papa's tourist court. Built long before the word "motel" was coined, these cottages of Papa's caught the eye of the tourist. Ernie Cooper had built them from his loveliest quarried sandstone. Their gabled roofs were covered with bright green shingles. Each cabin contained two bedrooms, a kitchenette, a bath, and a back porch. True, the bath wasn't tiled, the kitchenette wasn't equipped, and the beds sagged. Still, Papa could proudly proclaim (and he did): "There's not another tourist court in the whole U.S.A. with a wood-burnin' fireplace in every unit!"

    The tourist court surprised everybody, including Papa, by turning out to be a good investment. During World War II all six houses were rented by the month to workers of the Douglas plant in Tulsa. Papa preferred "family people" to overnight trade. He lacked the temperament of an innkeeper. He worried too much about people's morals, motives, and emotions. "I can't stop thinkin' about what's goin' on in each one of 'em," he admitted.

    The tourist court was not rented during one of my summer vacations from college. I wante dto run it to make some money. My brother was defying the Depression with his operation of the tavern on a snob basis. Up and down the road in both directions he placed signs saying: Welcome Harvard, Welcome Yale, Welcome Dartmouth, and Welcome Princeton. He figured that if anyone in America had any money left to spend, it would be an alumnus of one of these Eastern schools who was driving through Oklahoma. He was right. Ivy Leaguers saw the signs and stopped for food. He even extended his sign campaign to include Welcome Williams, Welcome Notre Dame, and Welcome Big Ten.

    The snob approach worked in the tavern, but it wouldn't work in the tourist court. You couldn't expect a snob to pay his money to sleep on one of those dreadful mattresses. So I decided to charge bargain rates and settle for the common people.

    Papa was opposed to my running the tourist court. He tried every way he could to discourage me.

    "I know the score, Papa," I assured him. "I'm in college, remember?"

    Papa wasn't sold on the idea yet. "I know you can do it, Sonny, but I ain't so sure I want you to do it. U'see, many people who want to stay in the tourist cour aren't really tourists. I mean -- well, you've gotta take the bitter with the sweet, and --" He could see that being delicate was getting him nowhere. He decided to lay the cards on the table.

    "Pull up a chair and sit down!"

    I pulled up a chair and sat down.

    "Now, Son, I'm gonna let you run the tourist court this summer because your brother has the tavern and you can use some money, too. But somebody's gotta tell you what you have to know, so it might as well be your old Dad. Rule One: Always have plenty of hot water."

    "But Papa! When it's a hundred degrees outside, a person doesn't --"

    "In college, huh? Do as I say. Always have hot water. You'll lose half your customers if you don't have it."

    Now that he was launched, Papa threw himself wholeheartedly into his indoctrination course. "Rule Two: Some people get tired drivin' and want to rent a cabin for maybe just an hour or two to get a little rest. Don't look at 'em like you don't believe 'em. Keep still and mind your own business."

    "Rule Three: Some of the people who look the tiredest from drivin' will have license plates from our own county. If they pay in advance, you've gotta believe 'em when they say they're tired!

    "Rule Four: When ten couples in a row register as 'Mr. and Mrs. John Smith,' don't make any wisecracks. It's a very common name.

    "Rule Five: Nobody ever got into trouble by keepin' his mouth shut."

    He took a deep breath.

    "Sonny boy, it's a degradin' kind abusiness. Bein' exposed to it can make you tough if you're not strong. But I know my son! You're gonna see what's wrong and you're gonna know what's right and you're not gonna let the wrong kinda people influence your life!"

    That was as close as Papa ever came to telling me the Facts of Life. I soon found that with a tourist court I didn't need any further instruction.

    With the cabins gone, I wonder if anything remains of Max Meyer's natural stone empire. Are there any photos of the ranch in all its glory? (This link will show you a Google satellite image centered on the site of the cabins.)

    First, Doug Loudenback has a story and lots of vintage photos about a place that's been gone a quarter of a century: Springlake Amusement Park in Oklahoma City, which had its origins as a spring-fed swimming lake in 1918. In addition to a big wooden roller coaster and other rides, there was a swimming pool and a ballroom.

    A sad and recent loss: Ron of Route 66 News reports the demolition of a local literary landmark, the native stone tourist cabins north of Kellyville, just southwest of the OK 33 junction. The cabins were built by Max Meyer and described in his son Lewis Meyer's bestselling and hilarious bio of Max, Preposterous Papa. I'll try to post an excerpt from the book later tonight.

    (Here's a link to a different excerpt, about the time that some of Max's friends came to ask him to join the Klan.)

    UPDATE: Please read Doug Loudenback's update in the comments. He makes some worthy points about the way a newspaper owner's business interests and personal animosities may affect the paper's coverage of a story, as it appears to have done in the Oklahoman's coverage of racial strife at Springlake Park. (Also, he mentions that he has some more photos up in his Springlake story.)

    Also, on the way back from OKC on Wednesday, I drove past the old Max Meyer spread. There is one other natural stone building still standing -- part of the dairy barn? -- as well as two of his three impractically tall silos. But there were backhoes and other heavy equipment busy in the vicinity, and I expect that they will fall as well. The other natural stone building is on the south side of a metal building back from the road. You probably wouldn't notice it if you're headed westbound on 66; I spotted it (for the first time ever) driving eastbound.

    About this Archive

    This page is an archive of entries from April 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

    March 2007 is the previous archive.

    May 2007 is the next archive.

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