December 2007 Archives

A commenter on a Tulsa World editorial says that any comparison of Tulsa's disaster-recovery to the problems in post-Katrina New Orleans completely misses the point:


Somebody needs to do an intervention for the media types here in this city. First I got to listen to Joe Kelley rave about how well Tulsa did with its disaster compared to New Orleans residents. Now I get to read this tripe about tree pruning survivors. To hear these media types wail you would think that Tulsa survived the apocalypse instead of a moderate tree pruning. I personally blame the weathermen who about ten years ago began interrupting my TV programming to let me know 'it's sprinkling in Bixby" for this media tendency to make things seem worse than they actually are. So for you folks in the media who read about and write about the weather here are some signs that the city you are reporting about has not suffered a disaster.

Your city is not suffering a disaster if:

1. The strip clubs are all open for regular business hours.

2. You can go to Wal-Mart and buy the supplies you need instead of having to break into Wal-Mart and steal the supplies you need.

3. You don't have to swim to work.

4. The biggest portion of your insurance claim is that refrigerated goods spoilage check they sent you.

5. You spent the week crapping in your own bathroom and not in a porta-potty provided by the red cross.

6. You slept in your own bed and not in a cot at a shelter.

7. Your job is still here.

8. You could eat out at a restaurant every single day of the so called disaster.

9. You still had a car to get around in.

10. You could find an ATM machine that would process your request for funds.

11. You could still make and receive calls on your cell phones.

If you couldn't do any of the above then congratulations you are a victim. For thee rest of you well, you are just a bunch of whiners who need to get a little reality check.

(I fixed the commenter's typos for the sake of readability.)

Good points. It could have been much, much worse than it was.

Just four days until the Iowa caucuses. In this seventeen-minute video, Fred Thompson explains why he believes he's the right man for the job:

Plaid all over

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We had a great time tonight at a performance of the oft-resurrected musical Forever Plaid, which brings back the era of close harmony pop quartets like the Crew Cuts, the Four Lads, the Four Aces, the Four Freshmen, and the Lettermen.

The play was presented by Tulsa Repertory Musicals at the historic Tulsa Little Theatre.

The Off-Off-Broadway play was first performed in Tulsa in 1995, and two members of the original Plaids are on stage this year: Mark Pryor as Frankie and Justin Boyd as Jinx. My wife, oldest son, and I have all had the pleasure of singing with Justin as part of Coventry Chorale, the schola cantorum for Trinity Episcopal Church's Epiphany Service, and this summer's Tulsa Boy Singers' tour of Britain. His performance tonight of the Four Lads' hit "Cry" was a show-stopper.

Tulsa Little Theatre, just south of 15th, turned 75 years old in 2007. After several years in which it was left to rot, Bryce and Sunshine Hill bought the theater and began restoration in 2004, reopening it in 2005. They've done a beautiful job, creating a very intimate venue for performances. The theater seats about 300 and is available for event rental.

Forever Plaid is worth the price of admission just for the chance to hear great old songs like "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "Catch a Falling Star." The laughter built into the well-timed choreography and the '60s nostalgia are icing on the cake. The three-minute condensed version of The Ed Sullivan Show is a sight to behold: In the time it takes to boil an egg they bring back Topo Gigio, Señor Wences, Bill Dana, and the Flying Wallendas, plus plate-spinners, dog acts, accordion players, and acrobats.

There's a matinee performance on Sunday which is sold out, but tickets are still available for the New Year's Eve show which begins at 9 p.m. Call 744-7340 to make arrangements to see the show.

At a campaign stop in Burlington, Iowa, earlier today, Fred Thompson answered a question from a voter about whether he truly has the desire to become president. He pointed out the financial and family sacrifices he has made to make this run, as an indication of his desire to be president, but he also says he's not consumed by personal ambition. Thompson is running because many people wanted him to run, and because he thinks he has "the background, the capability, and the concern" to serve as president.

It's such a good answer, and it so captures what I like about the man's character and attitude that I've reproduced the entire answer below, but I've bolded the bits that I especially like.

[THIS IS A BEST-EFFORT TRANSCRIPT OF THE SPECIFIC QUESTION AND ANSWER] Q: My only problem with you and why I haven't thrown all my support behind you is that I don't know if you have the desire to be President. If I caucus for you next week, are you still going to be there two months from now?

...In the first place I got in the race about the time people normally get into it historically. The fact of the matter is that others started the process a lot earlier this time than they normally do. I think it was for some of them when they were juniors in high school.


That is a very good question, not because it's difficult to answer, because, but I'm gonna answer it in a little different way than what you might expect.

In the first place, I wouldn't be here if I didn't. I wouldn't be doing this if i didn't. I grew up very modest circumstances. I left government, I and my family have made sacrifices for me to be sitting here today. I haven't had any income for a long time because I'm doing this. I figure that to be clean you've got to cut everything off. And I was doing speaking engagements and I had a contract to do a tv show, I had a contract with abc radio like I was talking about earlier and so forth. I guess a man would have to be a total fool to do all those things and to be leaving his family which is not a joyful thing at all if he didn't want to do it.

But I am not consumed by personal ambition. I will not be devastated if I don't do it. I want the people to have the best president that they can have.

When this talk first started, it didn't originate with me. There were a lot of people around the country both directly and through polls, liked the idea of me stepping up. And of course, you always look better at a distance, I guess.

But most of those people are still there and think its a good idea. But I approached it from the standpoint of a deal. A kind of a marriage. If one side of a marriage has to be really talked into the marriage, it probably ain't going to be a very good deal for either one of them. But if you mutually think that this is a good thing. In this case, if you think this is a good thing for the country, then you have an opportunity to do some wonderful things together.

I'm offering myself up. I'm saying that I have the background, the capability, and the concern to do this and I'm doing it for the right reasons. But I'm not particularly interested in running for president, but I think I'd make a good president.

Nowadays, the process has become much more important than it used to be.

I don't know that they ever asked George Washington a question like this. I don't know that they ever asked Dwight D. Eisenhower a question like this. But nowadays, it's all about fire in the belly. I'm not sure in the world we live in today it's a terribly good thing if a president has too much fire in the belly. I approach life differently than a lot of people. People, I guess, wonder how I've been as successful as I've been in everything I've done. I won two races in TN by 20 point margins, a state that Bill Clinton carried twice. I'd never run for office before. I've never had an acting lesson and I guess that's obvious by people who've watched me. But when they made a movie about a case that I had when I took on a corrupt state administration as a lawyer and beat them before a jury. They made a movie about it and I wound up playing myself in the movie and yeah I can do that.

And when I did it, I did it. Wasn't just a lark. Anything that's worth doing is worth doing well. But I've always been a little bit more laid back than most. I like to say that I'm only consumed by very, very few things and politics is not one of them. The welfare of our country and our kids and grandkids is one of them.

If people really want in their president a super type-a personality, someone who has gotten up every morning and gone to bed every night and been thinking about for years how they could achieve the Presidency of the United States, someone who can look you straight in the eye and say they enjoy every minute of campaigning, I ain't that guy.

So I hope I've discussed that and hope I haven't talked you out of anything. I honestly want - I can't imagine a worse set of circumstances than achieving the presidency under false pretenses. I go out of my way to be myself because I don't want anybody to think they are getting something they are not getting. I'm not consumed by this process I'm not consumed with the notion of being President. I'm simply saying I'm willing to do what's necessary to achieve it if I'm in sync with the people and if the people want me or somebody like me. I'll do what I've always done in the rest of my life and I will take it on and do a good job and you'll have the disadvantage of having someone who probably can't jump up and click their heels three times but will tell you the truth and you'll know where the President stands at all times.

It reminds me of the attitude that Tom Coburn has brought to his service in Congress. He would much rather be back in Oklahoma delivering babies, but, like Thompson, he is concerned about the country that we will leave to our children and grandchildren, and he is willing to do what he must to get elected and serve with integrity.

I'm sure the former Oklahoma governor meant well:

Former Governor Frank Keating is the co-chairman of "Catholics for McCain," formed to support Arizona Senator John McCain's Republican presidential bid.

but I wonder if it really helps the Arizona senator to have someone with that surname leading a group connected with his campaign.

Last weekend

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My already torpid blogging pace is going to slow even further this weekend, as I have some end-of-year tasks to get done.

I will likely be adding to the linkblog as I come across items of interest, and you'll always find new material on the blogroll headlines page and op-ed page.

Since Tuesday is a holiday, I'll be on 1170 KFAQ with Gwen Freeman and Chris Medlock on Monday morning instead, reviewing the year's top local stories and looking ahead to 2008.

Redoubtable Thomas

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Of all the lovely presents I received this Christmas, one of my favorites is a gift from my in-laws: The book My Grandfather's Son, the memoirs of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Thomas is one of my favorite Supreme Court justices, not only because of his respect for the Constitution and his incisive legal mind, but for the character he displayed under assault during his confirmation and in the years since.

So far, I've read through his childhood in Pinpoint and Savannah, Georgia, his years in seminary, and his decision to enroll in Holy Cross College, in Worcester, Mass.

During my tenure at FlightSafety, I took several business trips to Savannah and spent every free hour exploring the city, particularly the historic district. I drove through Pinpoint, a little fishing village along an estuary south of town, near the Bethesda orphanage. Thomas grew up in a part of the city I've never seen; as he put it, "Savannah was hell."

Tonight I started reading the book to my two older children, ages 11 and 7. While I won't take them through the whole book -- at their ages they don't need to know about all the ugliness of his confirmation hearings -- I think they'll benefit from hearing his vivid descriptions of the poverty in which he spent his early years, the hard work and discipline of his years living with his grandparents, and the impact of racism on his life. I read part of the first chapter to them tonight and both of them were disappointed when it was time to close the book and go to bed.

Many political memoirs -- including some written by conservatives -- aren't worth the paper they're printed on. My Grandfather's Son looks to be not only an insight into one of America's most influential men, but a book full of valuable life lessons.

I'm supporting Fred Thompson for President because on the issues that matter -- the war against Islamofascism, defense, and foreign policy; taxes, entitlements, and the economy; social issues and judicial restraint -- he's right, and for the right reasons. There's a foundation of sound principle that undergirds his views on specific policies and the willingness to stand firm on those principles even in the face of hostility.
That's why Fred Thompson can rightly call himself a consistent, common-sense conservative, the only one among the leading Republican candidates.

If you're undecided, I encourage you to read through the detailed policy papers on the Fred '08 website.

If you've already concluded that Fred Thompson is the best choice for President, I urge you to contribute to his campaign, so he'll have the funds to get his message out in Iowa before next Thursday's precinct caucuses. Here's a handy form for sending in a contribution:

The Fred '08 campaign is trying to raise about $250,000 by 6 pm Friday to be able to run this TV ad, titled "Substance":

Another way to help is to spend an hour or two making phone calls to Iowa Republican voters on Fred's behalf. The campaign will provide the names and the instructions, you just have to be willing to call. Many if not most potential caucus-goers have yet to come to a firm decision about whom they'll support. Your phone call will make a difference.

To my Oklahoma readers: Although it's another month before we vote, if you want Fred Thompson to be still be a viable choice when it comes our turn, we need to do what we can to help him finish strong in Iowa and then go on to victory in South Carolina and Florida.

UPDATE: We did it! The goal was reached and exceeded, and the new ad will run in Iowa all the way through caucus night on Thursday. (I'm sure additional contributions would still be welcomed and appreciated.)

Coulter on Huckabee

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Yes, it's Ann Coulter, but there are a few quotables in her latest column, "Liberals Sing 'Huckelujah'":

All I want for Christmas is for Christians to listen to what Mike Huckabee says, rather than what the media say about him....

Huckabee is a "compassionate conservative" only in the sense that calling him a conservative is being compassionate....

Huckabee opposes school choice, earning him the coveted endorsement of the National Education Association of New Hampshire, which is like the sheriff being endorsed by the local whorehouse....

According to Huckabee, most people think conservatives don't like music. Who on earth says conservatives don't like music -- other than liberals and Mike Huckabee? This desperate need to be liked by liberals has never led to anything but calamity....

He supports a nationwide smoking ban anyplace where people work, constitutional protection for sodomy, big government, higher taxes and government benefits for illegal aliens. According to my calculations, that puts him about three earmarks away from being Nancy Pelosi.

Liberals take a perverse pleasure in touting Huckabee because they know he will give them everything they want -- big government and a Christian they can roll.

Coulter also has a link on her homepage to this surprising quote from of a profile of Huckabee from the December 12, 2007, New York Times Magazine:

[Bill] Clinton's goodwill stems, Huckabee believes, from Huckabee's own restraint during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. ''Obviously I was asked to comment. If I had been willing to criticize President Clinton, I could have made a cottage industry out of it. But I didn't do that, I didn't discuss it at all. And I think he was grateful for that.''

MORE: Dean Barnett says that Huckabee is this cycle's equivalent of the 1996 Pat Buchanan campaign. After Buchanan's win in New Hampshire, he had a moment in the spotlight to convince the American people he could be a responsible President, and he failed. Likewise Huckabee in 2008:

Rather than assure the Republican electorate that he was more than a one trick pony who could speak beautifully on social issues and spiritual concerns, he doubled down on his pastor side. Perhaps with good cause. When he ventured opinions about serious policy matters outside his comfort zone, especially regarding global affairs, he showed an ignorance that was quite frankly stunning for someone who had the audacity to seek the presidency at a time of war.

Then there is Huckabee's lucrative side business as a speaker:

Over the weekend, it came out that Huckabee received $35,000 in honoraria in 2006 from a company that does stem cell research, the very same company that social conservatives blasted Mitt Romney over because his blind trust had invested in it. Huckabee's take of $35,000 from the stem cell researchers was but a small sliver of the roughly $378,000 in outside fees that Huckabee raked in during his final year as Arkansas' governor.

Barnett is predicting a third-place finish in Iowa for Huckabee, with soft Huckabee support shifting to Romney and Thompson. He also says to ignore the latest ARG poll, which was taken over the weekend before Christmas -- not the best time to get a political sample.

An edited version of this column appeared in the December 26, 2007, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The published version is no longer online. Posted on September 10, 2017.

Pray Tell
by Michael D. Bates

Recently it was reported that area ministers are being excluded from offering a prayer at the opening of Tulsa City Council meetings if their prayers fail to conform to the form and content prescribed by a local religious group.

Rev. Danny Lynchard, Chief Chaplain of the Tulsa Police and Fire Chaplaincy Corps and the pastor of Fisher Baptist Church west of Sand Springs, schedules a rotation of local religious leaders to offer a prayer at the opening of each Tulsa City Council meeting. In the absence of someone to voice a prayer, the meeting begins with a moment of silence.

(Lynchard, like everyone on the Chaplaincy Corps, is an unpaid volunteer.)

According to news reports, it's Lynchard who is imposing this doctrinal standard. Any minister whose prayer fails to conform is "removed from the rotation."

The ironic thing is that this religious conformity is being imposed in the name of religious tolerance and diversity. And it has been done without the knowledge or approval of the City Council.

The "unpardonable sin," as it were, is to pray in the name of Jesus.

It is not clear whether the banished clergymen were made aware of the connection between their offensive words and their exclusion from the prayer rotation.

This policy was put in place at the urging of Karl Sniderman, described by the daily paper as a board member of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance and a member of the Humanist Association of Tulsa.

Sniderman's goal seems to be to have religious leaders from a wide variety of religious beliefs come before the council to offer one homogenous, bland, generic sort of prayer.

Humanists with a capital H deny the supernatural. The HAT website says, "We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside of nature for salvation."

It's hard to figure how someone with no faith in the supernatural becomes a board member of an "interfaith alliance." Or how someone who doesn't believe in prayer wields such influence over how public prayer is conducted at City Council meetings - more influence than the city councilors, evidently.

This is not the first time this issue has come up. On December 17, on 1170 KFAQ, attorney Bill Kumpe recalled a similar controversy in 2000, when he "represented a police chaplain who was in hot water for praying in Jesus' name before the council."

Rev. Ken Farnham, filling in for a few weeks that June, offered the opening prayer in Jesus' name his first two weeks before the council. He said at the time that he had been given a city brochure with guidelines on what phrases were generic and therefore acceptable for public prayer.

Kumpe points out that such a policy amounts to government specifying the content of prayers. "We have a thing called the establishment clause in our constitution which says that the government cannot tell us how to worship our God or how to pray to him." He cited the Supreme Court's ruling in Engel v. Vitale (1962), in which the court struck down a generic school prayer specified by the New York state legislature. "The bottom line is you cannot have government composing prayers and telling people how to pray them."

Even without a brochure, Lynchard's practice of dropping ministers whose prayers don't conform from the prayer rotation seems to amount to the same kind of unconstitutional government control over religious expression.

Constitutional issues aside, generic prayer in the name of inclusion and diversity actually excludes and suppresses diversity. Real diversity would be served by allowing a variety of clergyfolk to offer up prayers each according to the dictates of his or her conscience.

Each person listening could choose to agree and pray along with the prayer, to offer a silent prayer according to the dictates of his or her own conscience, or to maintain a respectful silence for the brief duration of the invocation. How hard is that?

If a prayer is going to be offered for the sake of our city and its leaders, I'd rather have the one praying do so as fervently and sincerely as he would offer a prayer for his own family, in the way that he believes valid and acceptable to the one to whom he prays, even if his way of prayer is not mine.

If a Pastafarian prelate were to offer an invocation, I would expect him to implore the Flying Spaghetti Monster to stretch forth his Noodly Appendage of Blessing upon our fair city. (And all the people said, "RAmen.")

Prayer is not merely an exercise in mumbling lofty words. Although the word is rarely used in this way any more, "to pray" can mean to make a request of anyone in a position to help you.

In the religious sense of the word, prayer is beseeching a powerful supernatural being - in monotheistic religions, the All-Powerful Supernatural Being - for help, for mercy, for the necessities of life, for protection, for wisdom.

When you're making a request to a powerful leader or official, you follow a certain protocol to ensure that your petition is not rejected out of hand. Most religions teach their adherents to approach the deity in a certain way in order to receive a hearing and to earn the deity's favor.

Muslims are taught to perform certain washings before prayer, to face the Kaaba in Mecca, and to surround their personal petitions within a certain form of words.

A polytheistic pagan may have a different method for every deity he must petition and propitiate - incense for one, sprinkling of blood for another, an offering of fruits and vegetables for yet another, with certain verbiage to invoke each god or goddess.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes advises care and deliberation when approaching God in prayer:

"Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few."

Christians, whether Orthodox or Catholic or Protestant, pray in the name of Jesus because He told us to. We believe that Jesus is the mediator between sinful humans and a holy God. It is through Him and Him alone that we can approach God's throne with confidence, "that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Jesus promised His followers, "Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you."

In place of the ablutions and oblations of other faiths, Christians believe that we can approach a holy God because of the purity of Jesus and His sacrifice on our behalf. Jesus' name is central to the notion of Christian prayer.

A policy that genericizes prayer is not religiously neutral. It advances a system of belief that finds adherents in many different Christian denominations - particularly in the mainline Protestant churches - and in other religious traditions. This system of belief posits that God, if He exists, isn't actively involved in human affairs. Prayer may serve some psychological or social need, but it isn't real communication with a power beyond ourselves. It is this religion that a policy of generic prayer acknowledges as our official faith.

We've seen the same homogenization in the mashing together of winter-time holidays with very different purposes and meanings into a vanilla something someone has labeled Hanuramakwanzamas.

Wouldn't it be more exciting to have everyone celebrating their own holiday and their own traditions to the fullest extent, rather than dumbing everything down into generic Winter Holidays?

Now that they're aware of this policy that has been adopted and enforced without their input, I would hope that the City Council will pass some sort of resolution affirming the freedom of each person who offers an invocation at Council sessions to do so as he or she sees fit. Based on some of their public comments, I expect that will happen.

All my heart this night rejoices, a hymn for Christmas by Paul Gerhardt, translated by Catherine Winkworth:

All my heart this night rejoices,
As I hear, far and near, sweetest angel voices;
"Christ is born," their choirs are singing,
Till the air, everywhere, now their joy is ringing.

Forth today the Conqueror goeth,
Who the foe, sin and woe, death and hell, o'erthroweth.
God is man, man to deliver;
His dear Son now is one with our blood forever.

Shall we still dread God's displeasure,
Who, to save, freely gave His most cherished Treasure?
To redeem us, He hath given
His own Son from the throne of His might in Heaven.

Should He who Himself imparted
Aught withhold from the fold, leave us broken hearted?
Should the Son of God not love us,
Who, to cheer sufferers here, left His throne above us?

If our blessèd Lord and Maker
Hated men, would He then be of flesh partaker?
If He in our woe delighted,
Would He bear all the care of our race benighted?

He becomes the Lamb that taketh
Sin away and for aye full atonement maketh.
For our life His own He tenders
And our race, by His grace, meet for glory renders.

For it dawns, the promised morrow
Of His birth, Who the earth rescues from her sorrow.
God to wear our form descendeth;
Of His grace to our race here His Son He sendeth.

Hark! a voice from yonder manger,
Soft and sweet, doth entreat, "Flee from woe and danger;
Brethren, come; from all that grieves you
You are freed; all you need I will surely give you."

Come, then, let us hasten yonder;
Here let all, great and small, kneel in awe and wonder,
Love Him Who with love is yearning;
Hail the star that from far bright with hope is burning.

Blessèd Savior, let me find Thee!
Keep Thou me close to Thee, cast me not behind Thee!
Life of life, my heart Thou stillest,
Calm I rest on Thy breast, all this void Thou fillest.

Thee, dear Lord, with heed I'll cherish;
Live to Thee and with Thee, dying, shall not perish;
But shall dwell with Thee for ever,
Far on high, in the joy that can alter never.

Monday morning on 1170 KFAQ

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While Gwen Freeman takes a day off, I'll be sitting in with Chris Medlock on 1170 KFAQ tomorrow morning (Monday) for the whole show from 5:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. We'll be talking about all the latest news, including the first signs of a PR push for a taxpayer-funded downtown stadium for the Tulsa Drillers, and I'm sure we'll be talking about several of the national stories I've got linked in the linkblog, over in the left sidebar.

If you can't pick up 1170 over the airwaves, you can click this link and launch Windows Media Player with a live feed or, later in the day, you can click this link to download separate MP3 podcasts of each hour of the show.

Thursday, it was reported that employees at Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU) were banned from using the word Christmas. Here's the latest statement from SWOSU president John Hays on the matter:

Update: No Ban on Christmas December 21, 2007

After the stories about Christmas were published stating that Southwestern Oklahoma State University banned the word 'Christmas' or Christmas decorations, I made inquiries to discover if there was any basis to the reports. The university does not have a policy that bans the word 'Christmas' or Christmas decorations. However, some supervisors or department leaders within the university who meant well may have suggested to employees that caution should be taken with respect to Christmas decorations. One thing led to another and the result was that some mistakenly assumed that Christmas decorations were being prohibited. I have met with various staff members to get to the bottom of the matter and have also had a pleasant discussion with Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel.

The university will continue to follow the law and to respect the right of all its staff members. Thus, the university will follow the general principles set forth by the courts regarding the display of religious symbols and/or Nativity scenes. A publicly sponsored Nativity scene on public property is constitutional so long as it is displayed in the context of other secular symbols of the holiday, like Santa Claus or a Christmas tree, so as not to appear to be endorsing a particular religion. A privately sponsored religious symbol or Nativity on public property where members of the public are permitted to display such symbols does not need an accompanying secular symbol to be constitutional.

In applying this general rule to the university, if a Nativity or other religious symbol of the holiday is displayed in a place open to the general public (like a lobby), the university will include secular symbols of the holiday in the nearby context. However, employees in their cubicles or offices may personally display a Nativity or other religious symbol of the holiday. In such setting, the employee need not include secular symbols of the holiday. Employees have always been and continue to be permitted to greet one another with the greeting 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays.' The decision is up to each employee.

I trust that these guiding principles will clarify the matter regarding Christmas for the staff and the general public.

John Hays
SWOSU President

Am I wrong in noticing a bit of a contradiction with his earlier statement?

No Ban on Christmas December 20, 2007

An attempt to be respectful of the diverse religious population at Southwestern Oklahoma State University has been misinterpreted as an attempt to ban Christmas on the Weatherford campus.

The rumor of this ban is not true.

The university attempted to prevent the appearance as a state agency of endorsing any particular religion.

John Hays
SWOSU President

On December 20, he refers to an official university action: "The university attempted to prevent the appearance as a state agency of endorsing any particular religion."

On December 21, he denies that official university action was involved: "The university does not have a policy that bans the word 'Christmas' or Christmas decorations. However, some supervisors or department leaders within the university who meant well may have suggested to employees that caution should be taken with respect to Christmas decorations. One thing led to another and the result was that some mistakenly assumed that Christmas decorations were being prohibited."

I'm happy that they've come around in support of freedom of expression, but it still looks like someone is playing a game of CYA.

Liberty Counsel, the national group which first called attention to the issue, is very pleased with the outcome:

Mr. Hays deserves a big "Thank You and Merry Christmas." His leadership in resolving the controversy over Christmas and the general guidelines he has set forth regarding the appropriate way a state school and its employees may acknowledge and celebrate Christmas serves as an example for others to follow. Christmas is a wonderful time of the year and it can and should be enjoyed by all.

The Oklahoman story adds a detail from the SWOSU spokesman:

Spokesman Brian Adler said employees were asked to keep public areas of the campus free of religious decor because not all students celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

Mark Tapscott, who brought the story into the blogosphere, spoke with John Hays by phone:

"We don't have any written guidelines now, but Matt [Staver of Liberty Counsel] tells me the court cases are pretty clear that when you do have something like a nativity scene on public property, like on City Hall, you also have to have some secular items with it," said John Hayes, SWOSU's president. Staver promised to provide Hayes with materials on court cases on the issue that would be useful in writing guidelines for the school's existing policy, the SWOSU official said.

Hayes said his university doesn't have "a new policy, there has just been a big mis-understanding. One of the offices told somebody they couldn't do something and it was over-emphasized." An employee had placed a snowman in a public area of an office that said "Merry Christmas," according to Hayes. The snowman was then moved to a different area, he said.

It has been reported that Southwest Oklahoma State University officials banned SWOSU employees from using the word Christmas on the advice of Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson. The story has appeared on a number of websites and blogs around the country today, along with reports of denials from spokespeople for SWOSU and Edmondson. The original story has since been confirmed by other sources, but many of the blogs that picked up the denials missed the later confirmations and additional details.

Confused? I was, too. Let's try to sort it all out, but here's the bottom line: SWOSU officials did ban their employees from using the word Christmas in emails, memos, or decorations. What's not clear is whether the AG's office had anything to do with that decision.

I received an email about this late this morning from Erick Erickson, editor of, but didn't have a chance to post anything about it because of a lunchtime meeting. I'm glad I had to wait.

Here's the original alert from Erickson (highlights his):

Dear RedState Reader,

Drew Edmondson is the Oklahoma Attorney General.  Recently he rounded up conservative activists and threw them in jail for circulating petitions to get conservatives on the ballot.

Now, however, Oklahoma Atty Gen. Drew Edmondson has done something even nuttier.  He has issued an advisory opinion from the Attorney General's Office directing universities and public employees in Oklahoma to refrain from using or writing the word "Christmas."

Mark Tapscott with the Washington Examiner has the details.  Mark notes, "Edmondson issued an advisory opinion to officials at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford advising them that the word "Christmas" should not be spoken by any employee of the state school, not written in any official holiday decorations."

Attorney General Edmondson can be reached at 405-521-3921.  Please call and wish him a Merry Christmas and ask why he banned Christmas.

All the best and

Merry Christmas to you,

Erick Erickson

This alert was sent to a number of bloggers who posted the story, including Ace of Spades HQ, Hot Air, and Captain's Quarters.

Mark Tapscott, an Oklahoman who writes for the Washington Examiner, has updated his original post several times, reporting both the denials from Edmondson's office and the university, and an on-the-record confirmation from a university employee, admissions coordinator Connie Phillips:

A veteran administrative employee of SWOSU confirmed that she and her colleagues in her department were told by their boss "to take the word 'Christmas' off of our email signatures and not to use that word in any official correspondence."

Connie Phillips, SWOSU's admissions coordinator, said she refused to comply. "I told them they could write me up but I was not going to take it off my signature."

Other SWOSU employees were resisting the orders as well. "The people in the business office had a decoration up with the word 'Christ' in it and they were told to cover it over. They did but then they took it off. It's been on and off about three times now, I think."

Phillips said others in her office agreed and that a number of SWOSU employees came to work today wearing buttons saying "Merry Christmas" as a protest. "We just can't believe this is happening, this is  supposed to be America."

Asked if she was concerned about reprisals, Phillips said "I don't know, I guess we'll see. I've been here 24 years and I've got just four more years to retirement, so I hope not."

The story appears to have originated with a group called Liberty Counsel, which focuses on defending the free exercise of religion enshrined in the First Amendment. Here is Liberty Counsel's initial press release:

Weatherford, OK - Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU), has issued a disturbing policy which requires all employees to refrain from using the word "Christmas" in oral or written form. This directive was given by the university upon legal advice of the Oklahoma Attorney General, W.A. Drew Edmondson. Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to SWOSU following a complaint from a university affiliate.

David Misak, the Director of Human Resources, recently visited various university departments and employee groups and informed everyone that any decorations featuring the words "Christ" or "Christmas" in any work or public areas of the university must be immediately removed. He also instructed everyone to discontinue the use of the term "Christmas" in their speech while on the job. This censorship specifically includes exchanging email greetings of "Merry Christmas" among employees or with nonemployees, whether initiated by a nonuniversity employee or not. Christmas remains a legal holiday for state employees, including those at SWOSU. The directive does not include any other legal holidays such as Thanksgiving or New Year's.

The announcements made by Misak are in direct violation of the United States Constitution and other federal law. The First Amendment prohibits government from being hostile to religion. Selecting one legal holiday for negative treatment and special restrictions solely because it has religious aspects clearly demonstrates hostility toward religion. Moreover, the free speech rights of employees at the university are infringed when their speech is censored solely because of a religious viewpoint or perceived religious viewpoint. A public employer like SWOSU also violates the Civil Rights Act when it prohibits its employees from using the words "Merry Christmas."

Liberty Counsel's demand letter requests an immediate reversal of the university's unconstitutional policy. Liberty Counsel's Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign educates and, if necessary, litigates to insure that Christmas is not censored.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: "Of all places, a public university should foster free expression. How can public university officials honestly believe that the state can prohibit its employees from wishing each other 'Merry Christmas?' After all, Christmas is a state and federal legal holiday."

After the rash of denials, Liberty Counsel issued a second release explaining how the story came to them:

Earlier today we informed you in a Liberty Alert about a ban on the word "Christmas" by Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford.

We believe that your emails and phone calls are making an impact. We are hearing more details from our sources including some within the university.

When public officials start to feel the heat of public scrutiny, they often try to make excuses or deny that events took place. Some staff members who are answering the phone are even telling people that the incidents we are reporting never happened!

We decided to go on the offense and release some additional details on this situation.

After Weatherford City Commissioner Warren Goldmann heard from a constituent that the word "Christmas" was banned by the university, Goldmann contacted the Provost of the university, Dr. Blake Sonove. Dr. Sonove confirmed the "Christmas" ban policy and indicated that the university was relying on an opinion from Attorney General Drew Edmonson. Commissioner Goldmann then reported the information to Liberty Counsel.

Connie Phillips, an Admissions Coordinator, reported that David Misak, Director of Human Resources, entered the registrar's office with Tom Fagan, Vice President of Finance. They ordered the words "Christ" and "Christmas" covered up in decorations and instructed that there could be no use of "Merry Christmas" in emails!

A records coordinator verified that her department was told they could not use "Christmas" in email or voice mail.

The same action occurred in the business office where someone asked for the directive in writing and was told that the written policy is still being drafted. Another person provided Misak with written information showing that using "Christmas" is constitutional, but Misak would not change his stance. 

Additionally, the ITS department was told to change the introduction page of the university's campus-wide database. The page has been edited since yesterday to remove a statement that said: "Have a very Happy Holiday ... Merry Christmas ... Happy New Year."

This censorship of Christmas is a trend that must be changed!

Now that you have these specific details, don't let the university play games with you on the phone!

The university president, John Hays, has the authority to change university policy. Call or email him and urge him to reverse the ban on the word "Christmas." 

His contact information is: Telephone (580) 774-3766, Fax (580) 774-7101, email

Thank you for your help. If you are aware of similar situation, let us know. You can also download a copy of our Legal Memo on Christmas in the Workplace at If you cannot open the document from our web site, contact us and we will mail you a copy.

SWOSU president John Hays has a non-denial denial on the school's website:

An attempt to be respectful of the diverse religious population at Southwestern Oklahoma State University has been misinterpreted as an attempt to ban Christmas on the Weatherford campus.

The rumor of this ban is not true.

The university attempted to prevent the appearance as a state agency of endorsing any particular religion.

John Hays
SWOSU President

No one was saying that Christmas was banned at SWOSU, only that employees were banned from using the word "Christmas." Hays's mention of "an attempt to be respectful of the diverse religious population" at SWOSU and that the "university attempted to prevent the appearance as a state agency of endorsing any particular religion" acknowledges that an official action was taken. Hays's statement is entirely consistent with the alert from RedState, the story by Mark Tapscott, and the press release by Liberty Counsel.

What remains a mystery is the involvement, if any, of Attorney General Drew Edmondson. Given his support for New Jersey's lawsuit trying to force the Boy Scouts to allow homosexual men to be scoutmasters and his handcuffing of three leaders of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights petition drive, it wouldn't surprise me if he had weighed in on the side of the anti-Christmas Grinches. He has three years until the next election, and his soft-spoken and folksy manner seems to erase any memory Oklahoma voters have of his leftish antics.

Drew Edmondson's office has issued a denial as well, saying that the AG does not advise SWOSU, saying that no such advice was issued, calling the people at Liberty Counsel liars, and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

Edmondson's name came up because SWOSU provost Blake Sonove told Weatherford City Commissioner Warren Goldmann that the policy was based on an opinion by Edmondson. There's the possibility that Sonove was mistaken or that Goldmann misunderstood what Sonove said. Perhaps the opinion came from an attorney for the university or an attorney for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE), the governing body for colleges like SWOSU.

There's also the possibility that SWOSU was relying on an opinion that Edmondson issued to another state agency under different circumstances. Many AG opinions are archived on the Oklahoma State Courts Network. My searches on "Christmas," "religious," and "sectarian" didn't turn up anything applicable, but there may be opinions that have been issued but not yet posted online.

We'll keep you posted about any developments.

UPDATE: Mark Tapscott reviews the events of the day and comes to a complementary conclusion:

Second, it's clear somebody at SWOSU got the idea that employees there should be told to stop using such terms as "Christmas" and "Christ."  I have no doubt that Edmondson personally didn't provide SWOSU "legal advice" in a formal advisory opinion. The man isn't dumb. But AGs and their staff provide informal advice every day, sometimes in person, sometimes in email, sometimes on the telephone. Sometimes even to journalists!

Maybe that somebody mis-understood something that was said to them by the AG or his staff. Or maybe that somebody simply took it upon themselves and informally advised SWOSU managers to spread the word among the troops. That somebody ought to come forward and clear up the confusion.

If they do and it turns out Edmondson had absolutely nothing to do with anything here, I will promptly retract the assertion in my original post that he was "banning Christmas" or had "issued an advisory opinion" to that effect.

But "Okie Napoleon" stays. Even if he's not the Grinch who banned Christmas, he's more than earned the sobriquet.

Tapscott says he tried to call SWOSU Provost Blake Sonove, but the call was returned by a spokesman instead. Seems like Dr. Sonove is the person who can solve the mystery of where school administrators got the idea they needed to have employees stop saying "Christmas."

Tired of soundbites on important national issues? Pajamas Media is beginning a series of extended conversations with presidential candidates on the War on Terror. The first interview is with Republican former Sen. Fred Thompson, conducted by Roger L. Simon and Bob Owens:

A transcript can be found here.

Fred Thompson displays the sort of thoughtful, well-informed understanding of foreign policy that I want to see in our next president.

(If you're of the same opinion, and you like what you see in this interview, Fred Thompson could use your help with a contribution of any size to help him get his message to Iowa voters.)

An edited version of this column appeared in the December 19, 2007, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly, in the wake of a severe ice storm that knocked out power for many Tulsa residents for a week or more. The published version is no longer available online. I expanded on an idea in this column in a 2011 blog entry: Bates's Law of Creeping Techno-Slavery. Also relevant: A 2009 item on how the Amish decide which technologies are acceptable. Posted online September 9, 2017.

The Amish are laughing at us
By Michael D. Bates

As winter power emergencies go, this one could have been a lot worse. The temperature broke freezing within a day of the ice storm and stayed above freezing (or not far below it) until Saturday night, by which time most PSO customers had had their electrical service restored.

The roads were drivable. Trucks continued to bring food and other supplies to Tulsa, including generators and chainsaws. Except for the rain on Tuesday (which helped to melt the ice from the trees and avoid further damage), the weather was no impediment to PSO and the many out-of-state power company employees who came to town to assist in the cleanup.

Tulsa's Mohawk water plant lost power for a time, but the A. B. Jewell plant stayed online, with plenty of capacity to meet the city's needs.

Even with power out at home, it was possible to spend most of one's time where there was power. Our two big malls stayed open. Plenty of restaurants were open for business. QuikTrip had all of their stores up and running on generator power, so people could buy gasoline to make their way to the restaurants. Downtown never lost electricity, thanks to underground power lines.

Imagine if after the ice storm temperatures had dropped and remained below freezing. Or if the ground had been cold enough that the ice had stayed on the roads, preventing travel and preventing help from reaching us. Or if the outage had covered the entire region.

As I drove through Amish country west of Chouteau last week on a cold and grey Thursday, I caught sight of a line of clothes flapping in the cold wind - bib overalls and simple dresses. The clothesline was behind an unremarkable white two-story house, identifiable as Amish only by the lack of any wires leading to it.

I laughed out loud at the thought of anyone having to dry laundry in the cold winter wind, instead of using a toasty gas dryer.

Less than a mile later, I realized that the joke was on me. I had a gas dryer but for three days had had no electricity to make it work. Like a lot of midtowners, I have a couple of clothesline poles in the backyard, but the wires have long since been taken down.

The Amish, unlike us "English," know how to eat and stay warm, how to wash and dry clothes, how to preserve food, how to live comfortably in all seasons without any connection to the power grid.

It wasn't that long ago that our ancestors lived like the Amish do today. A hundred years ago at statehood, few Oklahomans had electricity, telephones, or automobiles. They depended on local sources of food. They depended on horses and mules and their own two feet to get around. The railroad and the telegraph connected them to the outside world.

Building design was adapted to work with, not against, the local climate. In the north, you'd want a roof steep enough to shed heavy snows. Shutters - real shutters big enough to cover the window - would be important to keep out bitter winter winds, but you'd also want window placement that would allow breezes to cool the house in summer.

In the south, a big porch gave you a shady, breezy place to cool off in the summer.
Trees were an important part of regulating a home's temperature - with leaves, the tree would provide cooling shade in the summer; without leaves, sunlight could pass through to warm the home in winter.

Building interiors were designed to allow the home to be heated with fireplaces, floor furnaces, gas space heaters, or radiators.

If you look at the footprint some of our older office buildings, you'll notice that, rather than a solid rectangle, many were T or U shaped so that every office had a window to let in light and air. Transoms over each door could be opened to allow airflow across the building.
Since the advent of central heat and air, many of those buildings have been squared off to maximize enclosed space. Modern office buildings don't even have windows that can be opened, and those buildings quickly become uninhabitable when the power goes out.

When electricity was first widely available, we used it to supplement natural lighting on cloudy days and in place of oil lamps and candles after dark. Later we used it to run ceiling fans and window unit air conditioners. In place of small ice boxes that used a real block of ice to keep food fresh, we installed electric refrigerators. Electric washers and dryers replaced washboards, wringers, and clotheslines.

New electrical appliances made possible other technological developments. Can you imagine wall-to-wall carpeting in a world without electric vacuum cleaners?

I've noticed that new technologies pass through three stages. At first, a new technology is a luxury, then it becomes a convenience, and eventually it becomes a necessity.

For example, in the early days of automobiles, few people had them, and most folks went about their business as if automobiles didn't exist. When automobiles first became affordable to the general public, most families got by with a single car, still able to accomplish many everyday tasks without it.

Eventually, it became possible for businesses and homebuilders to assume that everyone always had a car at their disposal. With the help of zoning laws that segregated homes from shops from industries from offices, our cities reorganized themselves to make a normal life nearly impossible without two or more cars in the family.

When a technology is in the convenience phase, there's still a backup, and the sudden loss of the technology is a mere inconvenience.

Once the technology becomes a necessity, its sudden absence is a disaster. The older technology that used to fill the same need has largely disappeared. The outdated devices can't be found, and the skills and knowledge to make them work begin to die off with the last generation that had to rely on them. Tried to buy a clothes wringer lately?

We have evolved a way of life which is unsustainable without the ready availability of ever-increasing amounts of electricity. We have no emergency backup.

Last week only three things in my house worked without electricity: The gas log in the fireplace, the gas water heater, and the plumbing system. And even those systems are ultimately dependent on electricity: the treatment plants, pump stations, and lift stations for the water and sewer systems, and the control system for natural gas delivery.

The phone system worked, but as in many homes, all of our phones are cordless and dependent on AC power to work.

My gas furnace was useless without an electric blower to push the warm air around the house.

Some people believe that a lengthy power outage like the one Oklahoma just endured is a preview of things to come. They say we've passed the peak of global oil production and domestic natural gas production, and the economic growth of China and India mean more competition for those declining resources.

In his recent book, The Long Emergency, James Howard Kunstler predicts that we are in for a period of painful readjustment, made more difficult by the way we designed our homes and our cities during this period of cheap, plentiful energy. Kunstler debunks as wishful thinking the idea that biofuels or hydrogen fuel cells or increased energy efficiency will allow us to continue to live as we do today indefinitely.

I'd like to believe that isn't true. I'm not a survivalist, and I don't want to become one. When massive disruptions were predicted for the turn of the millennium because of the Year 2000 software bug, the only precaution I took was to get back from a business trip before midnight GMT on January 1, 2000. It's far more comfortable to assume that life will go on forever as it does today.

Each of us ought to start thinking about how we would feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves and our families in a world without plentiful electricity. When we build houses and buildings, we ought to consider whether the design would be livable when the power is out. As our city revisits its comprehensive plan, we ought to consider how well our development policies would work in a world where energy is far more expensive.

If last week's power outage was a wakeup call, maybe we shouldn't just reach out from under the electric blanket and hit the snooze button.

If you're frustrated that you won't get a say in the choice of presidential nominees because your state has a later primary, fret not. You don't even have to go to Iowa or New Hampshire to make a difference. You can use your free long distance service to phone likely voters in those states.

Since many if not most mobile phone plans treat local and long distance calls the same, you may as well put all those extra minutes to good use. Other campaigns have done this: I used my cell phone to make calls for Pat Toomey's 2004 campaign for U. S. Senate in Pennsylvania.

On Fred Thompson's campaign website, supporters can log in to get numbers to call and to indicate the result of each call online. (You have to register first as a Friend of Fred.) It wouldn't surprise me to learn that other campaigns are doing the same thing.

While a call from a paid telemarketer or a recorded message can be annoying, I'd like to think that an undecided voter would be impressed that an ordinary voter would feel strongly enough about a candidate to make long distance phone calls on his behalf.

NOTE: Be sure to check out the linkblog over in the left hand column of the BatesLine home page. There are several new entries today, including some about Tulsa and Oklahoma issues. Each entry is a link to an interesting article and webpage with a brief description or pull quote. As it was a two-column week (early deadline because of Christmas), I'm too worn out for much more than a few quick linkblog entries.

The front-loaded, earlier-than-ever primary schedule has enabled a campaign opportunity that wouldn't have worked as well in years past. The Ron Paul campaign is urging his student supporters (college and driving-age high school) to come to Iowa to campaign for him in advance of the January 3 precinct caucuses there:

School is out, and the Ron Paul Revolution is taking over Iowa! All students (high school & college) of student age (16-30) are invited to join us in Iowa Dec. 14-23 and Dec. 27 - Jan. 4 for Ron Paul's Christmas Vacation!

If you can get to Iowa on Friday Dec. 14 and/or Thursday Dec. 27, the campaign will provide you with the rest. Food, housing, and gas will be covered for 150 students in Iowa. All you have to do is get there.

The students will be going door-to-door, urging people to show up at their precinct caucus to support Ron Paul. The blog entry notes that 25,000 supporters will be sufficient to place in the top three. If the campaign gets the 150 volunteers they want, they can easily knock on twice that many doors. If the campaign has good lists of likely caucus-goers, this could be a very productive effort.

This is a great idea for maximizing grassroots energy in a low-budget way. Is the Fred '08 campaign paying attention?

Church closings

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Many churches in Tulsa are still without power and are reducing or cancelling services, but unlike schools they often don't have the procedures in place to get word out to all the appropriate media outlets, so you'll want to check each of the following if you think your church may be cancelling services.

KFAQ church and school closings
KOTV church closings
KTUL church closings
KJRH church closings

Power is still out at Christ Presbyterian Church, but with the help of the generator, there will be heat and worship, accompanied by guitar, in the youth room in the annex at 5120 S. Columbia Pl. at 9:15 and 10:45. No nursery, bring your own coffee, and dress warmly but as casually as you like.

On their website, PSO has a map showing the estimated date by which 95% of the customers in an area will be restored to power. Most outlying areas should be back on line today, north and east by tomorrow, north Tulsa and the mile or so around Southern Hills by Monday, and central Tulsa -- roughly the city's 1957 boundaries -- by Tuesday. Problems affecting individual customers or small clusters may not be solved by then. Some people have been told not to expect service until after Christmas.

For all the talk about trees, I am wondering how much of the ice storm damage is simply due to the effect of a 1/2 inch or more of ice on above-ground power lines. The main transmission lines are too high to be affected by trees; did we lose any of them? If no amount of tree trimming will spare us from this kind of situation, we need to weigh the cost of burying the lines against the costs -- loss of productivity, loss of perishable food, deaths and injuries. I would love to see an analysis showing how many customers were without power due to various causes -- downed line from ice, downed line from tree, blown transformer.

Stop the hand shows!

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If you've been thinking about supporting Fred Thompson's campaign, today would be a great time to do it. The Fred '08 campaign is looking for 2400 donors in 24 hours. From the campaign website:

Stop the Hand Show

Running for President is serious business. We're facing pressing issues like national security, bankrupt entitlements, a broken tax code, and out-of-control judges. So what did the liberal moderator want at Wednesday's debate? A show of hands. We deserve serious discussion not kindergarten antics.

Don't you want a conservative leader who won't grovel to the liberal media?

If 2,400 people donate in the next 24 hours it will tell the liberal media that the American people are tired of their games.

Stand with Fred and reject the liberal media's "monkey business" and gotcha games. Donate today.

Then send an e-card to your friends letting them know you're standing up with Fred.

In the photo above, that's Giuliani, Romney, Huckabee, and McCain indicating agreement with the statement that global warming is a serious problem caused by human activity.

If you're wondering what the "hand show" comment is about, here's the best moment from Wednesday's Des Moines Register forum for Republican presidential candidates.

Fred Thompson's refusal to take seriously the mainstream media's childish approach to the presidential race has been evident in his responses to a series of fluff questions from the Associated Press. Some candidates would spend a lot of time trying to craft an answer that would avoid offending any important constituency. Jay Tea at Wizbang reports the questions so far and Thompson's answers:

Thompson's attitude seems to be "this is stupid, and I'm not going to treat it seriously. Instead, I'm going to simply give answers that take the crap you people have flung at me and give it right back to you -- in one or two words."

The first question was "what was your childhood nickame?" Fred's answer? "Mr. President."

The second one was "what is your most prized personal possession?" "Trophy wife."

As soon as I saw the third question, I knew the answer. "What do you like to do on a lazy day?" I said "run for president," but that was too wordy. Thompson cropped it down to "campaigning."

The hits on Thompson have been that he got a late start, he's lazy, and he has a trophy wife. Here he's taken each of them and tossed them right back in the face of the AP.

Jay Tea also makes this interesting point:

I've said numerous times that I think one of the key elements in winning the presidency has to be a sense of humor. The American people seem to prefer to vote for the candidate who comes across as warmer, funnier, more ready to laugh at themselves and with people than one who is not. That trend has held true in every election since 1980, and (once you skip the 64-76 period, when laughter just didn't seem appropriate -- an assassination and Watergate bookending two war referenda) most before then. A sense of humor and a willingness to laugh at oneself seems to indicate a level of comfort with oneself, an ease and general even-temperedness that the American people seem to value in a president.

And the judgment of history seems to bear it out. Those presidents who consistently rank the highest in historical reflection are the ones who seem to have had the readiest wit -- Reagan, Kennedy, FDR, Lincoln.

Chris Matthews made a similar observation all the way back in 1999, identifying 1964 as the lone exception in recent history:

We Americans may vote indoors, but we elect to the White House candidates with the look, feel and freshness of the outdoors about them. Identify "the man with the sun in his face" and you've picked yourself the winner....

Instead, in election after election, we've gone with the guy who looks like he's just made it in from the countryside, the outsider seeking our trust, the guy running against the suits, the guy we can imagine without one.

Maybe this is something peculiarly American, some trait primordial to our rebellious, pioneer nature. Did any other country -- France or England or Canada? -- ever select a face in the crowd like Andy Jackson as its leader, a self-proclaimed "rail-splitter" to keep itself from being split in two?

Because of the snow, tonight's (Saturday's) performance of the Tulsa Boy Singers Christmas concert has been cancelled.

This morning on 1170 KFAQ, Mark Wayne Mullin of Mullin Plumbing addressed the next nasty challenge for those still without power. We are forecast to have a hard freeze -- 19 degrees -- Saturday night / early Sunday morning. The usual tactics of leaving your undersink cabinet doors open and leaving the faucets dripping only work when a house has heat. When the temps inside the house dip below freezing, you've got a problem.

Mullin urged homeowners in this situation to cut off the water at the meter. (Hopefully you've already got the special tool that makes this easy.) Then open all the taps, including the outside taps, for about 10 minutes to let any water drain out. Flush your toilets and plunge as much water out of the bowl as you can. If you have an electric water heater, drain it.

I didn't quite catch what he said about gas water heaters -- whether it made any difference that those would remain heated, or whether the heater would not be sufficient to combat temperatures in the teens. It's probably best to play it safe and drain a gas heater, too. (If someone heard the interview more clearly, please leave a comment.)

MORE: Here's some advice on coping with winter storm power outages from Northeast Utilities, where the weather is colder for longer. Keep in mind that heating oil-powered furnace boilers and radiated heat systems are rare in Oklahoma:

Keeping Your Pipes from Freezing

Shut off the valve that allows water to come into your home. Then, open any drain valves and all faucets and let them run until the pipes are empty (it's helpful to identify these valves in advance). Next, flush all toilets and pour denatured alcohol into toilets and sinks to prevent water in the traps from freezing. Do NOT use automotive antifreeze in case there's trouble with your water system; you don't want the antifreeze to contaminate your drinking water. You may, however, use nontoxic antifreeze that's made for winterizing motor homes.

Turn off the furnace emergency switch. Then drain your furnace boiler by opening the valve at the bottom (this looks like a garden faucet). Also, open all radiator vents. Be sure the boiler is filled with water again before it is restarted.

The tank of your electric water heater will keep water warm for the first few days after an outage. However, it can freeze after prolonged cold and should be drained after three days of below freezing temperatures.

Given that we're only going to have one or two nights of below freezing weather, it may be that gas and hot water heaters will survive without any problem.

Back on the grid

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After 83 hours without, power was restored to our block at about 6:30 this evening. My son and I had stopped by home to pick up some extra blankets to take to my sister's house in Rogers County, where we'd be spending the night. (She'd had power since Tuesday night.) We were about to pull out of the driveway when the lights came on.

The temperature had dipped in the house to 48. After going on to my sister's for dinner and then coming back three hours later, the house was already back to 68. We've got electricity, phone, and internet, but no cable, and with internet, I don't really need cable. (Hooray for DSL!)

On Tuesday night I learned that my gas log wasn't worth much as a heat source. While it raised the temperature by about 13 degrees at a distance of 3 feet, the temperature was only 4 degrees warmer where I was sleeping, about 8 feet away.

Before the next storm I'd like a generator, a way to connect it to the house safely, and some sort of insert to improve the fireplace's heat output.

It could have been so much worse, and for some of our neighbors it was and is. KOTV had a story about a neighborhood near 56th St. N. and Peoria, where utility poles snapped and tree damage appeared far worse than in midtown.

Here's the latest recovery map from the PSO website.

The Mayo Meadow Neighborhood blog has a couple of useful entries on storm recovery: One on tree limb removal and a list of phone numbers and safety and security tips from the city.

National Review endorses Romney by process of elimination.

Many conservatives are finding it difficult to pick a presidential candidate. Each of the men running for the Republican nomination has strengths, and none has everything -- all the traits, all the positions -- we are looking for. Equally conservative analysts can reach, and have reached, different judgments in this matter. There are fine conservatives supporting each of these Republicans.

Our guiding principle has always been to select the most conservative viable candidate. In our judgment, that candidate is Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. Unlike some other candidates in the race, Romney is a full-spectrum conservative: a supporter of free-market economics and limited government, moral causes such as the right to life and the preservation of marriage, and a foreign policy based on the national interest. While he has not talked much about the importance of resisting ethnic balkanization -- none of the major candidates has -- he supports enforcing the immigration laws and opposes amnesty. Those are important steps in the right direction.

In their view: Giuliani, Huckabee not consistently conservative, McCain not as conservative as Romney, Thompson not a good campaigner.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Lord, a former Reagan White House political director, is worried by Romney's focus on process and pragmatism over principle:

Mr. Barnes says Mr. Romney's "approach to government is not ideological." A Romney adviser is quoted as saying of his candidate: "He's super-pragmatic. He's an eclectic conservative." And Mr. Romney himself says flatly that as president he would "insist on gathering data . . . and analyze the data looking for trends."


Make no mistake. If the leading candidates in the GOP presidential race are to be litmus-tested as conservatives, all would cause conservatives sleepless nights. If the Reagan coalition was of economic and social conservatives combined with national security hawks, each group has something to be disturbed about with this batch of front-runners....

Yet the Romney approach as described not only by Mr. Barnes but more importantly by Mr. Romney himself is an approach that goes far beyond any particular issue. It is, as Mr. Romney himself freely admits, all about process. Whatever the issue--economic, social or national security--Mr. Romney would gather the data, look for a trend and thus "you make better decisions."

This should cause conservatives to break out in cold sweats....

Mitt Romney is clearly one decent guy, one very, very accomplished human being. He has announced where he stands on the issues of the day, putting himself head and shoulders above a Clinton, Obama or Edwards. But as conservatives head into caucus and primary season, they should not be hesitant to question what appears to be his addiction to process for the sake of process.

Go back to Fred Barnes's Romney quote, the one in which Mr. Romney says he looks for a "new alternative that everybody agrees is the right way to go." What Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan shared was a core belief that in fact it was a better thing for some principles to triumph over others. "Everybody" did not agree with Lincoln that freedom was better than slavery, that keeping the Union together was better than not, or with Reagan that the free market and tax cuts philosophy was a better philosophy than one of big government and tax increases. But they went ahead anyway.

Is there a place for data? Is there value in process? Sure.

But base an entire presidency on the importance of data and process over principle? Is this what Mitt Romney would do? Is this where a Romney presidency would lead? If so, conservatives have been here before.

It is not a good place to be.

During Romney's term as Governor of Massachusetts, the equivalent of the state supreme court declared that the Massachusetts ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. Columnist Sandy Rios said Romney's hands were not tied. Romney had a choice, and he chose wrongly, issuing executive orders to legalize gay marriage:

Exactly one year ago I signed a letter of challenge to Mitt Romney along with Paul Weyrich and 42 other pro-family leaders asking the governor to use the time he had left in office to "reverse the damage that has been done to the sacred institution of marriage." We urged him to "declare immediately that homosexual 'marriage' licenses issued in violation of the law are illegal and to issue an order to all state and local officials to cease violating the law."

Why did we make such a difficult and uncomfortable request? After all, Governor Romney had done everything he could to stop homosexual marriage, hadn't he? And as he explained to the people of Massachusetts and to the country, he had "no choice" but to "execute the law." He had no choice when he ordered marriage licenses changed from "husband and wife" to "party A and party B"... no choice when he ordered city officials to immediately begin performing same-sex marriages ... no choice when he threatened them with losing their jobs if they didn't comply ... no choice but to be the very instrument, the expeditor, the person responsible for ushering in same-sex marriage. ...

Except, of course, if you consider that the court order was directed at the legislative and not the executive branch. The Massachusetts Constitution is clear that all decisions regarding marriage shall be governed by statutory law and not by courts. It was an illegal order by a rogue court to a weak legislature advanced by a governor who had no choice--except if he had considered following the dictates of conscience and the Constitution he had sworn to uphold.

We were given an insight into that seemingly premeditated "no choice" in a New York Times article dated September 8, 2007. It reported that, during a 2002 meeting in a gay bar with Log Cabin Republicans, Romney "promised to obey the courts' ultimate ruling and not champion a fight on either side of the issue"--a promise he most definitely kept, despite head fakes to gullible conservatives, pressing them to think he was crusading to protect marriage, children and defend the constitution.

You can watch all of yesterday's Des Moines Register Republican debate in chopped-up YouTube segments at the paper's website.

The paper's political columnist, David Yepsen, thought Fred Thompson had the best debate:

But it was Thompson, the former Tennessee senator, who was specific, good-humored and exuded an executive persona during the low-key, 90-minute session that was sponsored by The Des Moines Register and broadcast by Iowa Public Television.

He had several high points. One of them came when he flatly refused to play the "raise your hand" game in answering a question about global warming. Another came when he said the biggest problem facing education was the National Education Association. (Bashing teacher unions is always popular with Republican audiences.)

Thompson also gets credit for being a stand-up guy willing to take on entitlement programs that threaten to bankrupt the country if left unchanged. He made it clear that wealthy, older Americans could no longer expect full Medicare benefits if he's elected. Thompson also teased Romney about his wealth and how the former Massachusetts governor is "getting to be a pretty good actor."

Yepsen also criticized his own paper's format:

The biggest problem with the debate was that it wasn't really a debate. Candidates got almost no opportunity to grill one another. Often they ran out of time and were cut off just as they started to probe an opponent.

The event would have been more nourishing had the format allowed for more back-and-forth.

Bizarrely, the DMR's editorial board complained that the candidates didn't spend enough time on the big picture. Don't they bear any responsibility for that, since their format didn't allow time for the big picture?

Many of the candidates' answers were only somewhat satisfying.

Indeed, the hour and a half spent with these nine men who aspire to lead the nation left us wanting to know more about their vision for America.

The real complaint becomes apparent as you read through the editorial: The candidates don't agree enough with the DMR's vision of America.

UPDATE: Jay Cost says the debate was a waste of time:

For how pompous the moderator seemed - shushing candidates left and right, and abjectly refusing to allow Fred Thompson to speak on global warming - you would think she was asking something better than these inane queries.

When the questions were not completely useless - the format impeded anything approaching an intelligent answer. The Des Moines Register took the same basic MSNBC format - where candidates are awarded for pithy one-offs and silly sound bite attacks - but did not ask the questions that facilitate those small-ball answers. This was the second big problem. The format. The Register wanted important answers compacted into the petty time allowances. That just was never going to happen. So, Mike Huckabee was given ten or so seconds to tell us something new about how his faith would inform not just his policies generally, but his health care and his education policies.

PSO outage maps

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Interesting stuff on the PSO website, where you can find a map of restoration progress and a map of metro area outages. I'm not sure about that restoration map: Are the blank areas those that never lost power, or areas that just aren't "in progress" yet?

They have photos, too, and this description:

PSO is staging a massive effort to restore power as quickly as possible to customers in Tulsa and across northeastern Oklahoma following the devastating December 9 and 10 ice storm. Approximately 1,500 line workers from PSO's sister utility companies in the AEP System and from other utilities and contractors are working with approximately 500 PSO line workers to restore power. The power restoration effort is supported by a force of 1,000 tree trimmers needed to clear the tangled forest of collapsed trees from PSO's equipment, so repairs can be made.

Despite the school closings and power outages and bad weather, the Tulsa Boy Singers will go forward with their Christmas concerts this Friday and Saturday, to be held at Trinity Episcopal Church, at 5th and Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. Each concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $5 or pay as you can. TBS is in its 60th season.

The program will include sacred and secular seasonal classics, including the hymn "Once in Royal David's City," which traditionally begins the annual King's College, Cambridge, service of Christmas lessons and carols.

I had the privilege of traveling with TBS on their tour of Britain this summer. They have a beautiful sound, and there is no place better to hear them sing than in the vast space of a Gothic church like Trinity.

If the stress of the storm has made it difficult to get into the Christmas spirit, the Tulsa Boy Singers Christmas concert will give you the boost you need.

Plus, they have heat and electricity.

P. S. The activity my 11-year-old son most looks forward to each week is TBS rehearsal twice a week. He has a great time with the other boys, and he likes the adults who lead the choir, too, who do a great job of teaching them and leading them in making beautiful music. If you have a son between 8 and 18 who likes singing, come to one of the concerts, and see director Casey Cantwell or one of his assistants afterwards.

VIDEO: This link will take you to a collection of Tulsa Boy Singers videos (with audio, of course) from their British concert tour and spring concerts in Oklahoma. Here they are singing "O Nata Lux" and "Lord, For Thy Tender Mercies' Sake" in York Minster.

An edited version of this column appeared in the December 12, 2007, edition of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The published version is no longer available online. Posted online on September 10, 2017.

Make the School Year Better, Not Longer
By Michael D. Bates

Last month a task force urged Oklahoma's State Board of Education to require all school districts to extend the school year. If the legislature approves the recommendation, the minimum number of school days would increase from 175 to 190. The national average is 180 days.

The idea is being pushed by longtime State Superintendent Sandy Garrett, who also wants to increase the length of the school day from six to seven hours.

The idea is that more time is necessarily better, and it's just not possible to fit in all the required instruction in the time available.

The push for more time in school is not limited to Oklahoma. A longer school year is just the latest public school reform idea to spread across the country.

Proponents point to the success of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), a nationwide network of charter schools. Students in KIPP schools are at school for at least nine hours a day, for four hours on alternate Saturdays, and for three extra weeks in the summer. Tulsa has a KIPP middle school, which began operating two years ago in the former Woods Elementary Building near Washington High School.

According to the website of KIPP Tulsa College Preparatory Middle School, KIPP students spend 62% more hours in school each year than students at neighboring public schools. In 2006 the school outscored all but three Tulsa middle schools (Carver, Edison, and Thoreau) on the state's Academic Performance Index (API).

But is it just a matter of more hours at school? Deborah Brown Community School, a K-5 charter school located downtown and primarily serving the north Tulsa community, follows a traditional school schedule and calendar. In 2006 DBCS scored a perfect 1500 API, with every student performing satisfactorily in math and reading.

Despite the difference in hours, KIPP and DBCS have several things in common: High standards for teachers, parents, and students, a structured learning environment, and a focus on mastering basic skills and knowledge. As charter schools, KIPP and DBCS are not allowed to screen students based on intelligence or academic record, so they are achieving these results with children with a wide range of abilities.

While some students may benefit from longer hours and more school days, there won't be any benefit if that time is squandered on everything but academic achievement.

Our grandparents and great-grandparents went to school fewer days per year, for fewer hours, without the benefits of computers and DVD players as learning tools, and were often beset by poverty and disease, and yet they were better educated and better prepared for a lifetime of learning after eight years in school than most of today's high school graduates are after 13 or more years.

Their schools succeeded in part because they focused on imparting basic skills and a fundamental body of knowledge - phonics, grammar, spelling, arithmetic, historical names and dates.

Rather than focus on achieving a simple mission, today's public schools are expected to meet every need in a student's life. Federal and state legislators add more and more topics to the list of "essentials" that need to be included in the curriculum. Too frequently, special programs and special speakers disrupt the daily routine.

And the education industry itself seems to prefer spending time on anything but drilling students in the basics.

Activity-based learning is one of the culprits. Gilbert T. Sewall, writing in the Summer 2000 issue of American Educator, reported a growing preference for using skits and special projects to fill up the school day, justified on the grounds that some children aren't naturally geared toward verbal learning.

The problem is that learning activities are a very inefficient way to impart knowledge. Building a papier-mache volcano to learn about the eruption of Vesuvius is fun, but too much time, energy, and attention must be devoted to the mechanics of the activity. You may be spending hours on an activity to teach a fact or idea that could be explained verbally in a few minutes.

Sewall writes, "No one contests some legitimate place for projects and activities in classrooms. But lost in the whirlwind, this doing and doing, is a sense of where the real action should be - in the minds of students. Activities enthusiasts are right not to want passive students. But they have made a dangerous error. They have substituted ersatz activity and shallow content for the hard and serious work of the mind."

While it's important to try to accommodate children with differing learning styles, there's no substitute for memorizing facts and using repetition to teach the rules of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and arithmetic. There are creative and fun ways to drill and memorize, but learning is hard work.

So is teaching. Growing up with a teacher in the house, I saw the long hours of lesson preparation at home over and above the long hours spent at school. Teachers and students alike are already flirting with burnout by the end of the current school year. Adding three weeks to the school year won't help.

A state mandate to lengthen the school year and the school day would be missing the point. School districts have the right to lengthen the school year if they feel it would be beneficial and if their patrons are willing to fund the extra days.

There's already plenty of time to accomplish the task of learning what's needful. Before we add more time to the school year, let's make better use of the time we have.

A sampling of alarm and concern from conservative, pro-life bloggers about Mike Huckabee's views on foreign policy:

The editors of National Review worry about a repeat of the late '70s.

On Iran, Huckabee is at his most troubling. He accuses the administration of "proceeding down only one track with Iran: armed confrontation." This is false, and the kind of rhetoric you'd expect from DailyKos bloggers, not a Republican presidential candidate. Huckabee thinks it has been a lack of diplomatic engagement that has soured our relations with Iran: "We haven't had diplomatic relations with Iran in almost 30 years, my whole adult life and a lot of good it's done. Putting this in human terms, all of us know that when we stop talking to a parent or a sibling or a friend, it's impossible to accomplish anything, impossible to resolve differences and move the relationship forward. The same is true for countries."

This is the kernel of Huckabee's foreign policy. He wants to anthropomorphize international relations and bring a Christian commitment to the Golden Rule to our affairs with other nations. As he told the Des Moines Register the other day, "You treat others the way you'd like to be treated. That's to me the fundamental issue that has to be re-established in our dealings with other countries."

This is deeply naïve. Countries aren't people, and the world is more dangerous than a Sunday church social. Threats, deception, and -- as a last resort -- violence must play a role in international relations. Differences cannot always be worked out through sweet persuasion. A U.S. president who doesn't realize this will repeat the experience of President Jimmy Carter at his most ineffectual.

Reacting to the story above, Ace writes:

Not that what one blogger thinks matters that much, but if Huckabee gets the nomination, I'm voting Democratic. It's not just an idle threat; I just won't vote for him and in fact won't even vote third party or stay home. I'll vote for the Democratic candidate, even Hillary. I won't be a party to selling out everything the party is supposed to stand for to a liberal ideology. If we're going to have eight years of liberal rule, I'd rather the Democratic Party be governing, so at least they can take the blame....

And... I do not want Huckabee setting the agenda for the GOP as de facto head of the party. I'd rather there be a (different) liberal in the White House, with the GOP Congress and Senate free to pursue genuine conservative policies, rather than having to support Huckabee's liberal impulses.

Not to mention a Republican National Committee feeling duty-bound to back the president of their party, right or wrong.

Hot Air has video of Huckabee flip-flopping on the trade embargo of Cuba: He wrote a letter urging that it be lifted in 2002, but admits that he supports it now because he's running for President.

Frank J. of IMAO responds:

With Huckabee saying he was for restoring ties with Castro's Cuba while governor of Arkansas because, back then, he was unaware of the issues between the U.S. and Cuba, is he now becoming Obama dumb on foreign issues? Each day, I'm getting more and more scared of Huckabee's front runner status.

But Frank Rich likes Mike. That's Frank Rich, the left-wing columnist for the New York Times.

MORE: Did Mike Huckabee lose weight the old-fashioned way? One brand-new blogger thinks Huckabee fits the profile of a gastric bypass patient. But Gerard Vanderleun notes that it fits the profile of a hit blog -- a blog set up specifically to put an anonymous attack on a candidate in play. (So I've deleted the direct link for now.)

Warrant woes

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Although the Tulsa Police Department blog is mainly official department news releases and reprints of news stories about TPD, occasionally something more like a personal blog entry is posted. Officer Jay Chiarito-Mazzarella has an expressively written, humorous piece about how something always seems to get in the way of serving a search warrant:

That is, when you typically observe criminal activity someplace, there's likely to be a "Scarface"-sized mound of blow (cocaine), a griddle pan worth of crack, and enough meth to make half of Tulsa's teeth grind for weeks. There's also likely enough people with guns inside you'd think the gun show had been rescheduled. And there's also typically enough people parading around in and out of the place with their crack pipe held high like they were leading the parade with a band leader's baton. You're practically waiting for the Snoopy balloon to come out any second, like it was a Thanksgiving Day parade.

But all that changes the second you type up a search warrant, go before a judge, and have a signed, search warrant in hand. It's truly one of those superstitiously, coincidentally weird kind of things. Like when you want something to happen, you think about the opposite, to "outsmart" whatever unknown-but all seeing-being is defining your luck for you.

Read the whole thing.

How to make an attack ad

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From the recent Australian general election. The Aussies have learned well from us:

(Via Hot Air).

Power is still out most places around midtown. We didn't lose power until 7:30 this morning. Coming home from an event last night, the traffic lights were already out at 36th & Peoria and 21st & Utica.

Happily, the lines immediately leading to our house are all intact, thanks to Asplundh's butchery. A line supplying a pole light came down, however.

At times I have longed for a tree to shade our driveway, like the one our neighbors have had. Not anymore.

I can't help but notice: The fact that a branch doesn't overhang a line doesn't mean that it can't fall on a line and bring it down.

We've probably lost all three of our Bradford pear trees, plus a couple of big oaks. The trees that held on to their leaves were harmed the most, because there was more surface area for the ice to cover, and therefore more weight on the limbs. The trees that dropped their leaves did just fine.

There's probably a spiritual lesson in there somewhere. If you're a pastor, feel free to adapt it as a sermon illustration.

At about 4 p.m. I traveled down 41st Street between Yale and Garnett. Promenade was open, as was Reasor's, the other shops at Southroads, and nearly all of that commercial district. The McDonald's was closed, but seemed to have power. Traffic lights were out at Sheridan and Mingo, but the rest were operating. Home Depot was open and packed. The gas station at 41st & Memorial was doing a brisk business. It appeared that everything around 41st & Garnett was up and running.

Cycledog has photos of the storm's impact in Owasso.

MORE: Charles G. Hill has a storm report from Oklahoma City and pictures with links to more.

Bowden McElroy made it to work in Tulsa, but felt guilty about leaving his family home without power. And wouldn't you know it?

My 8:00 a.m. client showed up. Every one but my 5:00 p.m. client has canceled. Isn't that the way it always goes, the first and last appointments showing up and everyone else canceling?

STILL MORE: Don Danz says hooray for the chop:

Oh, and I'd just like to quickly thank those individuals with large trees who bitch and moan, and do everything in their power to thwart the power companies from trimming back their trees which have grown too close to power lines...thank you...from everyone in Tulsa and across the state...thank you for caring so much about your precious trees. We can all certainly agree that your precious aesthetic sensibilities are far more important than a reliable power grid.

To be fair, an ice storm like this is a once-in-a-generation occurrence. I hope someone studies the effects of the PSO's trimming practices before and after protests over excessive trimming. Was more moderate pruning as effective as the earlier clear-cutting?

The political topic of the week was Mitt Romney's speech on religion, his attempt to defuse any concerns voters may have about his Mormon faith.

Over at National Review Online (of all places), Jason Lee Steorts responds to criticism that "Mormonism is nuts" (as he puts it) by saying that all religion is nuts.

I'm not going to attempt a comprehensive treatment of why Mitt Romney's Mormonism does matter in the presidential campaign, but here are a few thoughts I had while gazing into my stovepipe hat at a rock folding laundry.

1. Mormonism's weirdness goes beyond the strangeness of its specific doctrines (e.g., God is a man who earned his godhood on the planet Kolob) to two more worrisome qualities: Its esoteric nature and the fact that it relies on the testimony of a convicted con-man, someone who used fakery to bilk people out of money and used the same sort of fakery to invent a religion.

While there's plenty of "weirdness" to be found in Christianity, it's all out in the open for anyone to see. But the Mormon temple and its ceremonies are off-limits to all but the faithful.

In that regard, Mormonism bears a resemblance to a much newer American-born religion: Scientology, where you have to work (and pay) your way through several levels of initiation to hear the core doctrines about galactic warlord Xenu and the poor Thetans he blew up.

2. While a candidate's view on, say, the propriety of infant baptism or the nature of the Trinity may be irrelevant to his performance in public office, there is a branch of theology that is fundamental to governance -- anthropology, which in a theological context deals with the moral and spiritual attributes of mankind. Historically, Christian doctrine has affirmed the special dignity of man as created in the image of God, but also his fundamental depravity as a result of the Fall. One's views on this topic will affect the way you approach right-to-life issues, animal rights, education, law enforcement, and defense policy. The belief that mankind's dignity and depravity are immutable characteristics -- a fundamental precept of conservatism -- will lead you to different conclusions than the belief that human nature is evolving and progressing. The notion of checks and balances stems from the notion of human depravity and the need to limit the power available to selfish human beings.

More importantly, your views on human nature will either square with reality or they won't. The proof's in the pudding: An accurate understanding of human nature will help you develop policies that work, just as an accurate understanding of the principles of aerodynamics will help you develop aircraft that fly.

The Mormon view of human nature strikes me as a kind of Pelagian moralism, which is bound to err in the direction of trying to achieve moral improvement through legislation. To be fair, plenty of Christians err in the same way.

3. I keep thinking about Harold Bloom's book The American Religion, which lumped Mormonism and the dominant strain of Southern Baptist thought for most of the 20th century (until the conservative resurgence in the 1980s) together with Emerson's transcendentalism as varieties of gnosticism. (David Wayne's review of the book is worth reading.) Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were both Southern Baptists of the type that Bloom identifies with gnosticism. What about Mike Huckabee?


4. Romney said, "There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution." Dead wrong.

The Constitutional prohibition is a limit on government: The federal government can't make a rule that, for example, all customs inspectors must affirm the Nicene Creed or denounce the Pope.

Recall that for over a century, anyone holding an office under the Crown of England had to receive communion in the Church of England and had to subscribe to the following declaration:

"I, N, do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare, that I do believe that in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper there is not any Transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever: and that the invocation or adoration of the Virgin Mary or any other Saint, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, as they are now used in the Church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous..."

This Test Act was still in effect when the U. S. Constitution was drafted.

Romney is wrong to suggest that the prohibition in the U. S. Constitution forbids individual voters from considering a candidate's religious views. I can choose not to vote for Romney because he wears magic long-johns and follows a religion founded by a con-man. I can choose not to vote for him because of his impeccable hair. I can choose not to vote for him because of his flip-flopping on social issues.

Or I can choose not to vote for Mitt Romney because he is deliberately misreading the Constitution in a self-serving and freedom-limiting way.

UPDATE (2007/12/11): The misreading and mischaracterization spreads. I'm no fan of Lawrence O'Donnell, but Hugh Hewitt is wrong to say that O'Donnell favors a religious test because he wants Romney to explain where he disagrees (if at all) with the tenets of the Mormon religion. Hewitt also asks O'Donnell, "Why are you so bigoted against Mormons?" That's an unfair question and beside the point. It's the sort of cheap rhetorical ploy I'd expect from a radical lefty.

MORE (2007/12/13): Rod Dreher has this right, regarding Huckabee's recent comment about an odd Mormon doctrine:

To be sure, I don't care what Romney believes about this matter, as long as it doesn't affect the way he proposes to be president, and I think it's a big mistake to hold that against him. But surely it isn't an "attack" for Huckabee merely to have brought up one of the more unusual doctrines of the Mormon church.

What Romney is really doing is trying to deflect public attention from a religious teaching he would rather not explain by trying to make Huckabee seem like a villain for having raised it in the first place. It's a strategy I'm familiar with. There's a Muslim lay leader in Dallas who has repeatedly accused me of attacking the Islamic faith when I have pointed out unusual and threatening things that Islam teaches, and have tried to get him to explain, or at least own up, to it. To his credit, he hasn't backed away from the sharia's brutality, even as he affirms it as just and right, but he indefatigably characterizes my perfectly legitimate questions about what he believes his faith requires of him in public life (e.g., killing homosexuals) as bigoted attacks on his faith. He keeps saying we ought to all try to get along. Well, yeah, let's get along ... but let's not deny real and important differences, especially when they involve theological sanction for revolting violence, even murder. Ya know?

The Iowa caucuses are less than a month away, and you may be thinking, "Are there any bloggers in Iowa that can give us a perspective on the caucuses that we won't get from national media?" There are indeed.

Russ from Winterset, an Iowan active in Republican politics and a regular commenter at Ace of Spades HQ, was asked to suggest some blogs covering politics in Iowa. He named five sites in his reply: Iowa Politics, State 29, 24 Hour Dorman, Radio Iowa, and The Real Sporer. The latter blog belongs to the Ted Sporer, chairman of the Polk County Republican Party (that's where state capital Des Moines is) and an official in the state Republican Party.

Here are a few of posts on those blogs that I found interesting:

Political columnist Todd Dorman, in The Countdown: One Month to Go, lists the "top 5 campaign narratives that have turned out to be wrong" -- all the conventional wisdom that proved to be unwise. Number 5 is "Obama and Huckabee are on their way to caucus wins": "Sure, I know this is the current narrative. I just want to be among the first to say it's wrong. Please don't ask me why until January."

Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa interviewed Fred Thompson about fiscal policy, religion and politics, the contrast between Thompson and Huckabee, and Thompson's plans for the closing weeks of the Iowa campaign. Thompson recalled the conventional wisdom in 2004 that Howard Dean would win big and said it "tickles [him] to death" to know that Iowa voters have the independence to defy conventional wisdom.

Ted Sporer links to a blog post by Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich taking issue with Hillary Clinton's attacks in Iowa on Barack Obama's Social Security and health care plans and on his courage. Reich writes:

Yesterday, HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] suggested O[bama] lacks courage. "There's a big difference between our courage and our convictions, what we believe and what we're willing to fight for," she told reporters in Iowa, saying Iowa voters will have a choice "between someone who talks the talk, and somebody who's walked the walk." Then asked whether she intended to raise questions about O's character, she said: "It's beginning to look a lot like that."

I just don't get it. If there's anyone in the race whose history shows unique courage and character, it's Barack Obama. HRC's campaign, by contrast, is singularly lacking in conviction about anything. Her pollster, Mark Penn, has advised her to take no bold positions and continuously seek the political center, which is exactly what she's been doing.

State 29 has an entry about political diversity (the lack thereof) at the University of Iowa and has been in dogged pursuit of Sen. Chuck Grassley's efforts to get a $50 million earmark toward construction of a rainforest in Iowa.

Iowa Politics seems to be more of a comprehensive news site than a blog. A subdomain provides a helpfulIowa caucus visitors' guide, covering accommodations, restaurants, entertainment, and wifi coffee houses.

RELATED: Newsweek's latest Iowa poll has Huckabee zooming 22 points ahead of Romney. But hold the phone: Half of Huckabee's support and two-thirds of Romney's support is soft. Thompson is running third. Also, that's among 275 self-reported likely caucus goers, so there's a 7% margin of error. And about half of the "likelies" say this would be their first time to attend a caucus. I wonder what the numbers would be like for a sample of 500 previous caucus attendees.

Former City of Tulsa Street Commissioner Jim Hewgley III was on 1170 KFAQ Thursday morning (MP3) talking about the report issued by Mayor Kathy Taylor's "Complete Our Streets" task force. He has some words of praise but also some reservations, and he provides some historical perspective on how our streets got into the shape they're in.

"Fred Thompson is addressing the real issues important to real conservatives and he's offering real solutions." So says this impressive ad produced independently by a Fred Thompson supporter:

Need proof? Here's Fred Thompson's recent interview on the Charlie Rose Show on PBS. It's a 55 minute program with considerable emphasis on foreign policy and federalism. I can't imagine any of the other presidential candidates, save Duncan Hunter, addressing foreign policy and defense as intelligently and with as much grounding in reality. You get a glimpse of what I appreciate most about Thompson -- not only does he happen to hold the right positions on issues, he holds those positions for the right reasons, grounded in sound principles.

You can read the specifics on Fred Thompson's principles and positions on the issues on his official campaign website.

John Wooley writes to be sure we know about a special event tonight (Friday night) at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, in the old Tulsa Union Depot, downtown at 1st & Boston.

John Wooley & Chuck Cissel will bring you an evening of big band and western swing. The Round Up Boys and the TU Big Jazz Band One will perform this Friday, December 7 starting at 7:30pm at the Jazz Depot in Downtown Tulsa. For information please call 596.1001

Admission is a mere $10.

Other upcoming concerts at the Jazz Hall of Fame: Sunday night, December 9, Pam Van Dyke Crosby sings the music of Patti Page, Kay Starr, and other Oklahoma jazz vocalists; December 16, SCORE featuring Ms. Sandy Gardner, presenting Broadway show tunes (including our own state song); December 23, Holiday Gospel and Jazz Celebration.

And of course you can hear John Wooley's "Swing on This," presenting an assortment of great western swing music each Saturday night at 7 on KWGS 89.5.

Did you know there was a property tax election northeast of Tulsa on Tuesday? Neither did the voters involved, the county officials, or the area's leading property taxpayer, according to a story in the Oologah Lake Leader.

Northeast Technology Center, an Oklahoma vo-tech school district with campuses in Pryor, Afton, Kansas (the town, not the state), and Claremore, is holding a special property tax election on December 11, and according to the Oologah Lake Leader, they've been trying to keep it below the public radar. A legal notice was filed, but only in the smaller of the two papers that serve the city of Pryor, and nowhere else in the far-flung district, which covers most of Ottawa, Craig, Delaware, Mayes, and Rogers Counties, plus parts of Wagoner, Nowata, and Cherokee Counties.

One of the two ballot items would increase the building levy from 1 mill to 5 mills and the other item would make the new levy permanent. The district's overall levy, which includes 10 mills for operations, would increase from 11 to 15 mills. The increase would raise $4.4 million per year.

Via Tyson Wynn, who has more to say on the matter.

UPDATE: Tyson Wynn reports this morning that his IP was blocked by the Northeast Technology Center website:

Get this. I visited the NTC website via your link last night. I went back to look at the press release this morning and it says I don't have permission.

Tyson had no trouble accessing the site via another IP address. He said he'd then called NTC and was told they had no way to block an IP address, which is baloney. They're running Apache 1.3.34, and it's a simple matter of adding a line to the webserver configuration file. Amazingly, he was able to access the site again shortly after he spoke to them.

Why don't they want anyone to know about this election?

MORE: MeeCiteeWurkor has some thoughts on the NTC's stealth tax:

If you live in one of the counties listed above, be sure and hit the polls on Dec. 11th and shut down these people trying to take your money. Before you go, email this guy: Let him know exactly how you feel about his press release. He's the NTC marketing and communications director. I'm sure as a communications director, he'd love to communicate with you about this. Perhaps he could also explain his involvement with this sneaky little scheme.

Here is the official list of filers for the February 5, 2008, Oklahoma presidential primary. The number before the name is the order in which they filed:


1. BARACK OBAMA, 233 N. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60601
9. HILLARY CLINTON, 4420 N. Fairfax Dr. Arlington, VA 22203
10. JOHN EDWARDS, 410 Market St., Suite 400 Chapel Hill, NC 27516
12. BILL RICHARDSON, 111 Lomas Blvd. NW, Suite 200 Albuquerque, NM 87102
13. DENNIS J. KUCINICH, PO Box 110180 Cleveland, OH 44111
17. CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, PO Box 51882 Washington, DC 20091
18. JIM ROGERS, 8623 E. Reno Ave. #5 Midwest City, OK 73110


2. JOHN McCAIN, PO Box 16118 Arlington, VA 22215
3. TOM TANCREDO, 501 Church St., Suite 212 Vienna, VA 22180
4. DUNCAN HUNTER, 9340 Fuerte Dr. #302 La Mesa, CA 91941
5. RON PAUL, 3461 Washington Blvd., Suite 200 Arlington, VA 22201
6. RUDY GIULIANI, 295 Greenwich St. #356 New York, NY 10007
7. JERRY R. CURRY, PO Box 387 Haymarket, VA 20168
8. MITT ROMNEY, PO Box 55239 Boston, MA 02205
11. ALAN L. KEYES, 13533 Scottish Autumn Ln. Darnestown, MD 20878
14. FRED THOMPSON, 1130 8th Ave. S. Nashville, TN 37203
15. DANIEL GILBERT, 115 Justin Trail Arden, NC 28704
16. MIKE HUCKABEE, PO Box 2008 Little Rock, AR 72203

January 11, 2008, is the last day to register to vote or to change your party registration for the presidential primary. Both parties have closed primaries; you must be registered with a party affiliation to vote in that party's primary.

Oklahoma will have 41 delegates at the Republican National Convention. Three delegates will be pledged to vote for the top candidate in each congressional district. 23 delegates will be pledged to vote for the top candidate statewide. The remaining three delegates are the state chairman, the national committeeman, and the national committeewoman, who go to the convention free to vote as they will. The national committeeman and committeewoman will be elected at the Oklahoma Republican state convention in the spring; the incumbents, Lynn Windel and Bunny Chambers, have announced that they will not seek re-election.

RNC rules penalize states holding primaries before February 5 by cutting their delegate allocation in half. Because the Oklahoma legislature did not move our primary a week earlier, Oklahoma will retain all of its delegates to the 2008 convention. For the same reason, Oklahoma voters will have minimal impact on the selection of the Republican presidential nominee. On the same date there are 17 other delegate selection events, including California and New York. Oklahoma has only 41 of the 1,081 delegates to be chosen on February 5. Don't expect to get any attention from any of the candidates.

There will be 47 Oklahoma delegates at the Democratic National Convention. The six Oklahoma members of the DNC, U. S. Rep. Dan Boren, and Gov. Brad Henry will go as unpledged delegates. A ninth unpledged delegate will be elected at the state convention. Five delegates from each congressional district will be allocated proportionately to candidates who receive more than 15% of the vote. The same formula will be used to allocate 13 delegates according to the statewide result.

My source for the delegate allocation rules is The Green Papers, probably the most comprehensive accounting on the web of when and how convention delegates are selected.

An edited version of this column appeared in the December 5, 2007, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The published version is no longer available online. Posted September 9, 2017.

Simulation: It's the real thing
by Michael D. Bates

How often do the stars line up this auspiciously for Tulsa?

Congress has identified a certain industry as a national critical technology.

The federal government is already spending hundreds of millions a year on this industry, with plans to spend much, much more. A pending bill in Congress would fund creation and expansion of college degree programs in this industry.

Although the industry isn't well known locally, the Tulsa metro area already has a critical mass of companies and skilled employees working in this industry and winning international recognition for technological innovation.

This industry involves cutting-edge computer technology - not boring, under-the-hood stuff, but technology that engages sight, sound, and motion with spectacular realism.

We're talking about modeling and simulation, and, with a little bit of initiative on the part of local leaders, Tulsa is well-positioned to see dramatic growth in an industry that is already well established and thriving locally, providing hundreds of high-tech engineering and skilled manufacturing jobs.

Modeling and simulation involves creating a computerized representation of the real world (that's the modeling part) for the purpose of testing real-world scenarios (that's the simulation part). With a simulation you can train someone to handle a hazardous situation, but without putting anyone in harm's way. With simulation you can test preparedness for emergency conditions that, God willing, will never occur in real life. You can learn lessons that would be too dangerous and too expensive to learn any other way.

If you've ever played Microsoft Flight Simulator, you've had a taste of what simulation can do. The PC game lets you fly over a variety of cities, experiencing a range of wind and weather conditions. You can fly a Lear 45 luxury jet, a Piper Cub, a Bell 206B helicopter, or a Boeing 747 and experience the different handling characteristics of each aircraft.

Flight simulation on a much grander scale is used to train pilots for military and civil aircraft. Instead of a keyboard and a computer screen, student pilots sit in a perfect replica of the cockpit. Out the window is a high-resolution visual scene projected onto a wraparound screen. The cockpit sits atop a platform supported by six extensible legs which allow the cockpit to rear back, shudder, and bounce in response to the movement of the simulated aircraft. High-fidelity sound systems reproduce engine and wind noises and radio communications.

Sitting behind the copilot, an instructor uses a touchscreen to subject the student pilot to a variety of challenging conditions - a hydraulic system malfunction, jammed landing gear, an engine fire, sudden windshear. Rather than just reading about emergency procedures in a book or experiencing them for the first time in real life, the simulator-trained pilot has the correct responses ingrained in his reflexes, and those reflexes are tested in an immersive environment of white-knuckled, sweaty-palmed, heart-racing realism.

There's more to simulation than pilot training. Modeling and simulation are used in petroleum geology, civil engineering, and transportation and urban planning, and it's becoming increasingly important for homeland security. Computer models of the nation's food supply system, for example, can be tested against a variety of attacks and accidents to see if adequate safeguards are in place to protect American consumers.

In 2007, a homeland security exercise called Noble Reserve was conducted using modeling and simulation. It involved 140 personnel and cost $2 million to develop over five months. A comparable live exercise in 2002 cost $250 million and involved 14,000 personnel over five years. With simulation, joint exercises can happen more frequently and more economically.

For nearly seven decades, Tulsa has been a center for the flight simulation industry, starting in 1939 with a company called Technical Training Aids, Inc., renamed Burtek after acquisition in 1955 by Cincinnati-based Burton-Rodgers. Burtek's presence spawned other locally-owned companies in the training and simulation industry, which attracted the interest of international firms.

Today, metro Tulsa's simulation industry is headlined by FlightSafety Simulation Systems, with nearly 800 employees locally. The Broken Arrow facility designs, programs, and manufactures high-fidelity flight simulators and other flight training devices for use in FlightSafety's 43 learning centers around the world. The plant has produced simulators for everything from a twin-engine Beech Bonanza to a Boeing 777. They also build training devices for aircraft maintenance technicians and flight simulators for military aircraft.

In September, FlightSafety was recognized by the National Training and Simulation Association for their technical achievement in the development of the first successful heavy all electromechanical motion system for flight simulators. The system, developed here under the leadership of control systems expert Dr. Nidal Sammur, who earned his master's at TU and his doctorate at OSU, eliminates the need for noisy, power-thirsty, high-maintenance hydraulics to provide the sensations of flight to the simulator cockpit. The new technology was a key factor in FlightSafety's successful bid to build 34 helicopter simulators for the U. S. Army's Flight School XXI program.

FlightSafety isn't the only area company building simulators and flight training devices.
Safety Training Systems, incorporated in 1979, has a workforce of about 100 and 100,000 sq. ft. of factory space with plans to expand both by 20 to 30% this year. The company builds major hardware components for military flight simulators. For commercial airlines, STS builds cabin simulators, used by airlines to train flight attendants to efficiently evacuate an aircraft amidst the smoke, darkness, and confusion of an emergency.

CymSTAR is a fast-growing small business, founded in 2003, that modifies existing military aircraft simulators and maintenance training devices to meet new training needs. Earlier this year, CymSTAR landed an $8 million contract for modifications to simulators for the U. S. Air Force's KC-10 aerial refueling tanker. CymSTAR also builds a device called the Badger, used to accustom Marines to the sounds of live fire on the battlefield.

These companies in turn buy components and services from a number of local suppliers, such as AMI Instruments, Aeroweld, Aviation Training Devices, Newton Design and Fabrication, Bennett Engineering, and Shen Te Enterprises, to name a few.

Oklahoma's four major military installations - Altus AFB, Tinker AFB in Midwest City, Vance AFB in Enid, and Fort Sill - make heavy use of simulators for training tanker and transport pilots, artillery, and AWACS crewmembers. Altus is the main "schoolhouse" for C-17 cargo plane crew and KC-135 tanker pilots and boom operators. Vance provides initial pilot training for the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.

These businesses bring in tens of millions of dollars in new money into the Tulsa-area economy every year. Nevertheless, the simulation industry isn't well known to Tulsans, probably because these companies are selling to customers everywhere but here. The executives of these companies are focused on growing their own businesses and haven't been players in chamber of commerce politics.

Tulsa's simulation industry could be even bigger than it already is. There's plenty of work to be done. Rising fuel costs, a wave of pilot retirements in the airline industry, and the need to train pilots for military service overseas all mean more demand for simulators.

Networked simulation is the next big thing, allowing our armed forces to rehearse complete missions and to practice crucial battlefield coordination and communication.

At a recent industry convention in Orlando, an airman stood in a quarter-dome looking out
over a projected image of an airfield in the Arizona desert, training for his role directing close air support from the ground. A simulated mortar attack on the airfield, perpetrated by computer-generated forces, was underway. Using his radio, the airman called in an air strike from two real F-15s flying over that Arizona airfield. As the real F-15s flew in to target the simulated mortar sites, the soldier could see images of the fighters flying into his simulated field of view.

Enabling this kind of training experience will involve a massive effort to build new training devices and modify existing simulators.

The biggest challenge is finding enough people who are capable of getting the job done. Local simulation companies are looking for mechanical, electrical, aerospace, avionics and computer software engineers, as well as technicians, welders, fabricators, and machinists.

Six years ago, U. S. Rep. Ric Keller (R.-Fla.) convened a summit of Florida simulation firms, which identified the need for education focused on preparing professionals for the industry. That led to the creation of a Modeling and Simulation Department at Orlando's University of Central Florida. (You know, the guys that beat TU last Saturday.)

The Congressional Modeling and Simulation Caucus actively promotes the industry on Capitol Hill. Earlier this year, the U. S. House of Representatives passed H. Res. 487, designating modeling and simulation as a National Critical Technology. H. R. 4165, now in the Education and Labor Committee, would authorize $40 million in the first year of a five-year program to fund the creation and expansion of modeling and simulation degree programs, matching every local dollar with three federal dollars.

In other hubs of the simulation industry - central Florida (Tampa, Orlando, and the Space Coast), the Tidewater region of Virginia, Huntsville, Ala., the DFW metroplex - modeling and simulation businesses have banded together with elected officials and educators to raise the industry's local profile and to address common concerns, particularly the need for more engineers.

The same sort of collaboration needs to happen here in Tulsa. We ought to be shouting from the rooftops about an industry that provides hundreds of high-quality jobs and has an enormous economic impact. OSU-Tulsa would be a natural home for a modeling and simulation program; the school's leadership should lay the groundwork to pursue any federal funding that materializes.

For both companies and individuals, there are plenty of fascinating technical challenges to solve and a lot of real money to be made in simulating reality.

Here's an 8-minute segment from Wolf Blitzer on CNN's Situation Room, an interview with Fred Thompson. Thompson answers questions about his faith ("no apologies to make") and explains the distinction between his support for legal immigrants and his opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants (illegals shouldn't be allowed to get in ahead of those who are trying to play by the rules).

On this topic, Blitzer asked, "Is there too much pandering going on on this issue, in your experience?" Thompson's reply: "Why should this issue be any different than any other issue?"

Much of the interview dealt with consistency. Thompson ran an ad in Iowa quoting past statements by Romney and Huckabee that contradict their more recent statements on a number of issues. Thompson said of the others in the race, "Most of these other guys have had to alter their positions when they decided to run for President. I have not."

(Please note that there is some overlap between the two clips.)

(Via Fred Thompson News.)

By the way, Thompson will be filing in Oklahoma. In fact, paperwork was already filed, but something needed to be corrected. I've been assured by the campaign that this will happen before the deadline Wednesday at 5.

Jack Frank has put together a number of wonderful films about Tulsa's past, using old news footage and home movies to show us what our city used to be like -- the ordinary, everyday stuff as well as the big news.

Jack has issued a new DVD, Fantastic Tulsa Films, Vol. 2, a follow-up to last year's popular disc. Included are home movies from Bell's Amusement Park in the '50s, and color film of a convertible ride through Utica Square, years before Vic Bastien declared it "Fashionable."

Fans of Tulsa TV Memories will enjoy film from the Mr. Zing and Tuffy Show, Lee and Lionel, and KOTV's Dance Party.

There's even some footage from 1920s Oklahoma A&M football, including a clip from the 1926 Bedlam match with the "U. O." Sooners.

The DVD will be previewed tonight with a 30 minute program on KOTV channel 6, but there's much more on the DVD.

There's a page on Jack's site about preserving your home movies and donating them for use in future editions.

If you have films containing scenes of Tulsa or Oklahoma, we'd love to see them. Maybe they will even be used in one of our upcoming shows. We know your films are valuable, so here's our arrangement. Allow us to view your home movies, and if we find something interesting that we would like to use, we will have your films professionally transferred to broadcast-quality master tape at no cost to you. You will then receive a copy of your home movies on VHS or DVD, whichever you prefer. Your original films can either be returned to you, or donated to the Tulsa Historical Society, where they will be properly stored, and well cared for.

Tune in tonight, buy the DVD, and step back into Tulsa's past.

Today through Wednesday at 5 is the annual filing period for the February 5th school board elections in Oklahoma, as well as for the presidential primary to be held the same day. As of 1 p.m., only Barack Obama has filed for the Democrats. John McCain was the first Republican to file, followed by Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, Rudy Giuliani, and Jerry Curry of Haymarket, Va. The state election board will be updating this PDF file with the complete list of those who have filed for the Oklahoma presidential preference primary.

In all of Tulsa County's independent school districts except Tulsa, Office No. 3 is up for election to a five-year term, elected at large by the entire district. The two dependent districts (Keystone and Leonard) will elect a member for Office No. 3 to a three-year term.

In the Tulsa District, board members are elected by election district to four-year terms. Board members for District 5 and District 6 -- Cathy Newsome and Ruth Ann Fate, respectively -- are up for re-election. If for no other reason, they both deserve to be defeated for their hostility to charter schools and to expanded options for Tulsa's school children. It was the Tulsa school board's stonewalling that led to bipartisan state legislation this year providing for a way for charter school organizers to bypass the board.

Even if you don't have school-aged children, if you care about the vitality of the City of Tulsa's central core, you should want to see more opportunities for charter schools. We need to offer families better educational choices if we want them to stay in the city instead of moving to the 'burbs.

Click here for a PDF map of Tulsa County's school districts, also showing the boundaries of Tulsa Schools' seven election districts.

District 5 (Newsome) covers Utica to Yale, 11th to 41st, plus Utica to Harvard between 41st and 51st, Riverside to Utica between 21st and 51st, plus the remainder of precinct 106 south of I-44. District 6 (Fate) is roughly I-244 to 51st, Yale to Memorial, plus 51st to 61st, Sheridan to Memorial, plus the bit of the Tulsa district south and east of 31st & Memorial, with minor adjustments for precinct 56 (in the district) and 92 (out of the district).

Also on the ballot is the Zone 3 seat on the board of Tulsa Technology Center, for a seven year term. Bea Cramer, a retired Tulsa Tech staffer first elected in 1990, is the incumbent. Zone 3 is most of the City of Tulsa southeast of 31st & Yale, plus a bit of Broken Arrow northwest of 101st St and 145th East Ave. Click here for a map of the Tulsa Technology Center board election zones. Tulsa Technology Center serves all of Tulsa County plus a portion of each neighboring county.

If you don't like the school system, throw your hat into the ring.

UPDATE: As of 3:30, Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton have also filed for the presidential primary. Also, Brian Hunt, vice president of CB Richard Ellis/Oklahoma, has announced that he is running for Cathy Newsome's Tulsa school board seat. You may remember him as chairman of the Tulsa Real Estate Coalition, the political wing of the local development industry, during last year's city elections, when TREC excluded mayoral candidate Chris Medlock from a debate. I've e-mailed him some questions and will let you know the answers I receive. Brian has two children in Tulsa Public Schools -- one at Eliot Elementary and one at Zarrow International Elementary.

Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton got a lot of grief over his proposal to put more police resources toward traffic enforcement. He reasoned that increased enforcement would not divert funds from other police functions, but would pay for itself, with money left over to help other areas of law enforcement, and in the process it would prevent injuries and save lives. Eagleton was right, according to the head of Tulsa's emergency medical service. EMSA chief Steve Williamson compares the first 10.5 months of 2006 (before the change in policy prompted by Eagleton) and the same 10.5 months of 2007 (after the change).

Crashes requiring EMSA's presence dropped by 6.6%. 9.6% fewer motorists involved in a crash required transport to a hospital. That works out to about 435 fewer crashes and about 300 fewer serious injuries. Williamson credits Eagleton's initiative, with follow through by Mayor Kathy Taylor and the Tulsa Police Department, for this dramatic decline, at a time when total EMSA calls have been rising by 10% a year.

November 19, 2007

Councilor John Eagleton
Tulsa City Council
200 Civic Center
Tulsa, OK 74103

Dear Councilor Eagleton,

Over the past four years, emergency medical call volume in Tulsa has been steadily increasing. EMSA has realized 10% jumps in volume each year for the past four years. Therefore, I was quite surprised to discover that emergency calls and transports related to motor vehicle accidents recently has declined. You, Councilor Eagleton, along with Mayor Kathy Taylor and the Tulsa Police Department, are likely responsible for this phenomenal turnaround.

From January 1 - November 15, 2006, EMSA responded to 6,595 motor vehicle crashes in the Tulsa metropolitan area. Nearly 3,000 individuals suffered crash-related injuries serious enough to require ambulance transport to a hospital. In mid-November 2006, on the heels of your proposal to boost traffic enforcement, Mayor Taylor announced that police officers would beef up patrols along some of Tulsa's most heavily traveled streets. The result has been nothing short of amazing. From January 1 - November 15, 2007, EMSA responded to 6.6% fewer crashes than during the same period of the previous year. The number of motorists suffering injuries serious enough to require hospital care declined by 9.6%. That translates into nearly 300 lives directly, positively impacted.

Thank you for working to make Tulsa a safer place to live and a more attractive place to visit and conduct business. Your advocacy on behalf of law enforcement and emergency medical service initiatives is valued. EMSA's statistics suggest that your work has led to a significant reduction in the number of crash-related injuries suffered by Tulsans. Quite possibly, your efforts have saved lives.


Stephen Williamson
EMSA President and Chief Executive Officer

For nearly 40 years, I have been traveling to and through the two counties -- Washington and Benton -- that constitute what is now the northwest Arkansas metro area. My grandparents lived in Bella Vista in the late '60s, with brief stays in Bentonville and Rogers. When they moved to Mountain Home in the '70s, we drove through Siloam Springs and Springdale to get there. In 1986, I began dating someone who lived in Rogers and Fayetteville, and so made a trip there at least a couple of times a month. In 1989, I married her, and so there have been regular trips to see the in-laws ever since.

1986 was also the beginning of the construction of the superhighway -- now I-540 -- linking Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville. In 1989, the rolling hills of the pig farm across Horsebarn Road from my in-laws place was staked out to become Champions Country Club.

So it's from that perspective that I say this:

What planners and developers have done to northwest Arkansas is analogous to using the works of John Constable for toilet paper.

With some foresight and vision, growth could have been accommodated while preserving open space and extending what had traditionally been walkable communities. Instead, cities have deliberately enabled the worst of strip development (think 71st Street on steroids) and segregation of uses.

The northwest Arkansas suburban smear is 25 miles long and about five miles wide. Because of the way jobs and retail are strewn along the corridor, it's likely that a NWArkie's typical day involves more driving than that of a Tulsa metro resident, and the region is going to suffer more from higher energy costs than more compact areas.

It's tempting to go into a Jim-Kunstler-esque rant here, but Jim Kunstler does it so much better than I ever could. He's never been to Walmartland as far as I know, but he's seen plenty of places that look just like it. (Note: That link leads to extremely salty language, an attempt at conveying the urgency of the situation he sees and his frustration at the idiocy of the response. This speech from two years ago is a good, non-salty summary of his concerns about sprawl development, peak oil, and how it adds up to what he calls "The Long Emergency.")

Blogger Sterling Camden of Chip's Quips fesses up to being an ORU grad and although he's proud of the education he received, he's not proud of calling himself an ORU alumnus, and he reacts to the decision by Richard Roberts to resign as president:

No, what has embarrassed me about ORU ever since I was a sophomore is its hollow, camera-facing facade: the image portrayed to television viewers across the nation of a highly homogenous, straight-laced but happy population of brothers and sisters in Christ who all think that the Oral Roberts ministry is the best thing since the original Pentecost.

Despite his showmanship, I've always believed that Oral was basically sincere. I really do think he believes that what he preaches is the truth. I don't feel the same way about his son, Richard. Even back when he and his first wife, Patti, led the World Action Singers (we liked to call them the "Worldly Action Swingers") on stage, he has always impressed me as the central incarnation of the insincerity and hypocrisy that infected the Oral Roberts ministry and spread into the university. He was the spoiled child of a great father. Before he divorced his first wife, the official policy of the University and the Oral Roberts Evangelical Association was to terminate anyone who got divorced. Any guesses as to when that policy was modified?

UPDATE: Added the link to the entry, which I had inadvertently omitted.

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