September 2008 Archives

Paul Newman, robocaller

| | TrackBacks (0)

I didn't care much for his politics, but there was a lot to like about Paul Newman's character and personality. I was tickled by this anecdote, told by Ned Lamont, the left-winger who beat Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Connecticut Democratic Senate primary, about Newman's willingness not only to voice a recorded endorsement call, but to write it and field-test it, too.

Newman was one of Lamont's early supporters and made phone calls and commercials for the upstart candidate.

"At first he just wanted to voice his private support," Lamont said. "He had been public on behalf of a number of candidates . . . and he remembered that a Wall Street Journal columnist had been so outraged they suggested boycotting Newman's salad dressing."

Lamont said a week later Newman changed his mind.

"He called back and said, 'What the hell, let's do it,' " Lamont said, recalling how Newman wrote his own robo-call script.

"It was the funniest thing," Lamont said. "He then called around the state just to test it out and pretended he was a 'robo call.' He called me back up a day or so later and said, 'Ned, two people hung up, I got two answering machines, and the fifth person yelled to his wife - 'It's some quack pretending to be Paul Newman.' "

That anecdote is one of a number of tributes to Newman from his neighbors in Westport, Ct., his adopted hometown of half a century.

Sun sets

| | TrackBacks (0)

Amongst all the other sad news is this: The New York Sun will cease publication today after nearly seven years of publication. The revived Sun (the original version ceased publication in 1950) was known for a thoughtful, conservative editorial bent, thorough reporting on local government, and lively writing on arts and culture. The paper was praised as a must-read even by the public officials who were the objects of its editorial-page criticism, as noted by editor Seth Lipsky in his farewell remarks to the paper's staff:

We have all been taken aback and, I would say, humbled by the surge of support that has been conveyed since the announcement a month ago that we might have to close. Mayor Bloomberg, despite our differences on many issues, was our constant reader and encourager. We had messages from some of our greatest rabbis, and from His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan. Three of New York's former governors spoke of the importance of the Sun, including Governor Pataki, who called what you have created "the best paper in New York." Much as I appreciated the remark, I wouldn't want to make too much of it -- for me, it was privilege enough to be simply one among the newspapers in this magnificent newspaper town.

Some of the messages that touched me most were readers who sent in checks, with letters about what the Sun meant to them, and calls or comments from those with whom we don't often agree on policy. The Central Labor Council and the president of the teachers union, Randi Weingarten, or Speaker Quinn or Comptroller Thompson, the Public Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, and all the others who talked to our reporters, or wrote, or called to let us know how much they appreciated the intelligence, the passion, and the energy you brought to your beats. I sense in some of my conversations with them that they appreciated the fact that you covered their important work at all and that you dealt with them on the substance, and they will miss you as much as you will miss them.

The Sun was as close in style to the great British broadsheets as I've ever seen an American newspaper come. It's sad to see the paper close down. I'm especially sad because I've just discovered the Sun's wonderful blog on urban design, Culture of Congestion by Sandy Ikeda. I hope the blog continues in some form.

(In a recent entry, Ikeda linked to a blog worth following: Market Urbanism: "Urbanism for Capitalists / Capitalism for Urbanists.")

(Today is the anniversary of the demise of another fine newspaper. The Tulsa Tribune ceased publication 16 years ago today. Tulsa became a one-daily-newspaper town, to the detriment of public awareness and civic discourse.)

I was honored to have two brief moments in the Sun four years ago. I was one of several delegates to the Republican National Convention interviewed by Daniel Moreau for his August 24, 2004, story about the intentions of protesters to disrupt the proceedings:

"I have a lot of faith in New York's finest," said Michael Bates, 40, a Republican delegate from Tulsa, Okla. "I know a lot of effort is being made to maintain security."

Tight security is nothing new for delegates, who are used to far-away parking and having their personal belongings searched. Most delegates will either walk or ride a delegation bus between their hotel and Madison Square Garden....

Mr. Bates spoke of the protesters as if they were part of New York's eccentric scenery. "I'll have my camera ready so I can catch any crazy protesters," he said. "They expect us to be wearing monocles and top hats. They only believe in free speech for themselves."

The next evening, after arriving in town to cover the pre-convention platform and rules committee meetings, I met Sun reporter Gary Shapiro at a gathering organized by blogger and then-New York Post copy editor Dawn Eden. In his column the following Monday, August 30, Gary mentioned my report on BatesLine about the Communists for Kerry rally in Union Square:

Tulsa-based software engineer Michael Bates arrived in town as an Oklahoma delegate. He blogs at where he reported seeing the pro-Bush political theater group "Communists for Kerry" perform in "Soviet Union Square." They shouted slogans such as "End the two Americas! Create one homogenous welfare state!" and "End tax cuts! Stop the menace known as 'success'!"

Who Owns Tulsa? is holding its "first annual jam" today (Sunday) to raise funds for their ongoing efforts regarding the Admiral and Yale "apartments." The benefit runs from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Sunset Grill, 5800 S. Lewis Ave., and it features the Wanda Watson Band, Stanky Brown, Salty Dogs, Sheri Booth, and more bands. Here are the details:

Admission is $5 for adults. Children are free. Great prize drawings, $1 donation per ticket. It's an excellent chance to meet your neighbors while enjoying great food and music! We'll have outdoor activities and a Jupiter Jump for the kids! Who Owns Tulsa? T-shirts and protest gear will also be available. 100% of the proceeds will benefit WOT's public awareness campaign and the legal fees necessary to support our continuing fight for neighborhood rights. Please bring a nonperishable canned food good to benefit the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.

For more information visit

We spent most of Saturday at the Tulsa State Fair.

Despite my disgust at many of the decisions of of the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (aka the Fair Board), as I mentioned last year, going to the fair is a family tradition that predates my existence. The fair was here long before Randi Miller and Bob Dick and Rick Bjorklund, and it has already survived their involvement. Within a few months, every member of the Fair Board and Expo Square exec that was around when Bell's was expelled, when Murphy Bros. was granted their exclusive contract, when checks from Murphy's Big Splash were left uncashed for over a year, will be gone.

My grandmother entered crafts in the fair back in the '40s and '50s. Starting in 2004, my wife encouraged our kids to enter some of their artwork. My son has won ribbons for paintings and a Lego car. This year the 12-year-old boy and the eight-year-old girl won ribbons in the pumpkin decorating competition. The girl won a blue ribbon in the creative category for a very cute two-pumpkin snowman, and the boy took third place in the "unusual" category for his volcano pumpkin. (I'll try to get pictures posted soon.) My son submitted several of his photographs, and my daughter entered a pastel drawing.

The kids area was relocated to Central Park Hall, and that was our first stop, after we'd walked the half-mile from home. After seeing how they did in the contests, they wanted to build with Kapla planks while the toddler wanted to drive the Li'l' Tikes police car.

Next stop was the Oklahoma Fiddle Championship. My son had decided not to enter, but we still wanted to watch. We were there in time to see the end of the junior competition and to see Marina Pendleton win first prize and the belt buckle.

My wife stayed to watch the open and senior competition; she says she heard some amazing fiddling. The rest of us headed down to the Coke stage to watch the illusionists (Ridgeway and Johnson) and the hypnotist (Steve Bayner) -- both very impressive. In between, we wandered around the Sugar Art Show and marveled at the beautifully decorated cakes. We stopped by the Republican booth -- located as always at the eastern end of the IPE Building QuikTrip Center -- and signed up for McCain/Palin and Inhofe yard signs.

Just north of the Sugar Art Show, we came across the Fruitfull booth. Fruitfull makes these delicious and nutritious frozen treats. We tried the mango and cream, strawberries and cream, and peaches and cream flavors. The treats are made with no refined sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. They use real fruit and fruit juice. Everyone in the family enjoyed them. They're available in Shell convenience stores in the Tulsa area, and they hope to get them into supermarkets soon.

At 7:30 we went to see the Disney on Ice version of High School Musical. I was thankful that we had free passes. Not only were the tickets expensive, but everything else was too -- $12 for a bag of cotton candy, which came with an official High School Musical plastic trilby. We passed on all the food and souvenirs. The kids enjoyed the show. The music and plot made it easy to overlook the skating skill that was on display. Only half of the Pavilion was open for seating, and only half of those seats were filled.

During intermission, we chatted with a fellow behind us who was at the fair for the first time in 15 years. His folks ran the Don's Chicken Fried Steak cafe in the old Exchange Building for 15 years -- a very popular place to eat at the fair, until the Fair Board decided not to renew their lease. His grandparents owned Don's Chili Bowl in Boman Acres Shopping Center and an aunt owned Don's Restaurant on north Sheridan. It was fun to hear some of his memories of the fair.

After the show we bought some cotton candy and watched the Boogie Bodies booth, where you put a green drape over your body, and a computer merges dancing figures with your head, making it look like you're singing and dancing in a music video.

My wife and the kids will go back again later in the week to see more of the animals and exhibits.

It was a bit melancholy to note the disappearance of more of the buildings that were part of my childhood visits to the fair. The IPE Building, the Armory, the Pavilion, and the Skyride are all that's left. Over the last year, the cafeteria and the Exchange/Youth Building were demolished. The cafeteria was the last remnant of when the International Petroleum Exposition was held in a campus of individual buildings where the IPE Building (QuikTrip Center) now stands. The Exchange Building was once home to the annual KTUL Talent Show and the location of the local segments of the Jerry Lewis Telethon. One year (1980?) the Republican 1st District Convention was held in that room. The Youth Building was home to the 4-H and FFA exhibits during the fair. Once upon a time, I believe the Youth Building also included dormitories that housed young future farmers who were at the fairgrounds to show their livestock.

I still miss the KELi satellite.

You will note that I said nothing about rides. We did not ride any. We aren't going to ride any Murphy Bros. rides ever again. That decision is in protest at Bell's Amusement Park's eviction and Murphy-owned Big Splash's apparent lack of concern over safety (failure to make required repairs before opening the park for the season) and apparent lack of concern over paying their bills on time (lease checks went uncashed by Expo Square management for years). My kids are sad not to ride rides, but they are in agreement that we don't want to give any money to Murphy Bros.

We did notice that the Murphy Bros. midway is littered with sandwich boards featuring a superhero cartoon character named "Captain Murph." Captain Murph utters slogans, often rhyming:

Be Alert Accidents Hurt!
Hey Kids have FUN FUN FUN

These signs are just ripe for photoshopping, and Steve Roemerman has some replacement slogans that had me roaring with laughter. He saved the best for last.

Showdown at the county jail

| | TrackBacks (0)

My latest article in Urban Tulsa Weekly is about the soon-to-expire agreement between the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County regarding jail operations. Under the existing contract, the county's jail system uses several city facilities rent-free -- including the old city jail, which provides holding cells for the adjacent county courthouse, and a property room -- in exchange for the city being allowed to hold up to 116 prisoners, in jail only on municipal charges, at no cost to the city.

The latest volley in the war of words between the two sides comes in a sharply-worded letter from Assistant City Attorney Christine Benediktson to County Commissioner John Smaligo, which accuses county officials of not negotiating in good faith and advises that the city is prepared to go it alone when the contract expires:

Over the last several months I have listened carefully to your issues, spent considerable time in researching issues and solutions and in meeting with City officials and employees in an effort to reach a compromise and, ultimately, to avoid a protracted legal dispute. Your response to these efforts makes a mockery of the negotiation process and constitutes bad faith. As a resident of Tulsa County, I am extremely disappointed in you as a public official. It is most unfortunate that you do not appear to respect or honor your fiduciary duty to the citizens of Tulsa - who comprise one of the largest communities within the County that you serve.

I have been authorized to inform you that if the County persists in refusing to negotiate properly, the City is prepared to change the way we conduct municipal court business. We will be prepared to deal with our municipal prisoners independently on October 1st. We will contemporaneously move forward to analyze our legal options against the County. Further, if this occurs, the Sheriff will be required to handle all administrative services previously provided by the City and to vacate all City owned premises, including the municipal court building, the holding cells and the sally port. Additionally, the County will need to make arrangements for the property located in the City Property Room currently held by the City on behalf of the County. Despite your representations to the contrary, approximately 80% of that property is being held in relation to cases currently pending in State Court.

The letter also advises that some misdemeanors that are both municipal offenses and state offenses -- assault and battery and DUI are specifically named -- will be booked as state violations, rather than municipal, as they routinely are booked today. This would allow Tulsa to avoid being billed for these prisoners, but it would move the case from Municipal to District Court, adding to the workload of the District Attorney and the District Court.

Toddler walks into the room where I'm working on compressing some digital video.

"I want to watch another movie. Can I sit on your lap?"

We look at some short videos from our trip to San Antonio: Video of lorikeets, dolphins, and the toddler telling Grandma about his day at Sea World:

"A walrus is good not to pet."

We look at some video I took at the Republican National Convention. First, the balloon drop with star-spangled three-foot wide balloons bouncing around the convention floor.

"That is awesome."

We look at some video from just before the balloon drop; people (including Henry Kissinger) are applauding, clapping in time to the music.

"I don't need to watch that. That is not awesome."

ONE MORE from tonight: "A kitten is a kind of kittycat that walks in the bushes." (He had seen a kitten during big brother's field trip to the Linnaeus Garden at Woodward Park.)

Don Danz traces the roots of the current upheaval in the mortgage industry back to Jimmy Carter's Community Reinvestment Act ("it wasn't the worst piece of needless economic legislation the Democrats had ever hobbled the American people with but, rather, simply a foundation on which bad policy could be built"), CRA changes approved by Bill Clinton and the Democrat-controlled 103rd Congress, requiring lenders to loosen their mortgage underwriting criteria, and Democratic resistance to mortgage industry reforms proposed by George W. Bush in 2003 and John McCain in 2005.

Don also explains why Barack Obama was one of the politicians most generously funded by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- second only to Sen. Christopher "Countrywide" Dodd (D-ConnMan).

Now, why would these lending institutions spend such a disproportionate amount of money on a baby Senator? Because they knew it was money well spent and it all goes back to Obama's days as a community rabble-rouser, I mean, "organizer." The original lobbyists for passage of the CRA were hardcore leftists who supported the Carter administration and were often rewarded for their support with government grants and programs like the CRA that they personally benefited from. These included various "community organizations" such as "ACORN" (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). As mentioned above, it is groups like ACORN which, for a handsome fee, provide the bogus "credit-counseling" to poor borrowers to qualify for loans instead of actually having a way of paying back the loan.

Neighborhood organizations, like ACORN, also benefit themselves from the CRA through a process of legalized extortion. The CRA is enforced by four different federal government bureaucracies: the Federal Reserve, the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The law is set up so that any new branch creation, branch expansion or bank merger can be postponed or prohibited by any of these four bureaucracies if a CRA "protest" is issued by a community organization. The delays and expenses associated with such a protest can cost banks huge sums of money, and the community organization not only understand this perfectly well, but count on it. The community organizations use the threat of protests to get the banks to give them millions of dollars in "donations" (read that as bribes) as well as promising to make a certain amount of bad loans in their communities. With his history as a "community organizer," the lobbyists for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac knew Senator Obama was a good buy for their money.

My oldest son and I attended Tuesday night's speech by Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, sponsored by sixthirtyone, TU's conservative student association and newspaper. The speech was well attended. There were no protesters. Four Tulsa police officers were there to keep an eye on things.

Pipes's speech, "Vanquishing the Islamist Enemy and Helping the Moderate Muslim Ally," was a clear and concise identification of the enemy in the global war on terror. The enemy isn't terrorism -- terrorism is a tactic. The enemy isn't Islam -- to say so is ahistorical, turns friends into enemies, and leaves the US with no policy options. Pipes pointed out that the current threat is only a few decades old.

The enemy is a terroristic, extreme, totalitarian form of Islam: Islamism, which like Fascism and Communism before it, sees America as an obstacle to its goal of worldwide hegemony.

Following the speech, Pipes took questions from the audience.

After the speech my son and I spoke to several of the other attendees, including some professors from ORU, and then joined several of the students from sixthirtyone at Kilkenny's. It was a pleasure to get to know these bright and energetic young conservatives. I've asked them to keep me informed about their activities and future dates in their lecture series.

I attended the second PLANiTULSA workshop this afternoon as a participant (having been a facilitator Monday night). I found the experience exhausting, even a bit frustrating. Even having a clear idea about what to expect from Monday night's session, it was still hard to get all the ideas on the map in the allotted time. Happily, I saw a lot of good ideas that our table missed on other tables' maps.

On my Flickr account, I've posted photos of Monday night and Tuesday afternoon's PLANiTULSA sessions, including closeups of the maps from my tables.

My oldest son and I also attended tonight's speech by Daniel Pipes, sponsored by sixthirtyone, TU's conservative student association and newspaper. The speech was well attended. There were no protesters. Four Tulsa Police officers were there to keep an eye on things.

Pipes's speech, "Vanquishing the Islamist Enemy and Helping the Moderate Muslim Ally," was a clear and concise identification of the enemy in the global war on terror. The enemy isn't terrorism -- terrorism is a tactic. The enemy isn't Islam -- to say so is ahistorical, turns friends into enemies, and leaves the US with no policy options. Pipes pointed out that the current threat is only a few decades old.

The enemy is a terroristic, extreme, totalitarian form of Islam: Islamism, which like Fascism and Communism before it, sees America as an obstacle to its goal of worldwide hegemony.

After the speech my son and I spoke to several of the other attendees and then joined several of the students from sixthirtyone at Kilkenny's. It was a pleasure to get to know these bright and energetic young conservatives. I've asked them to keep me informed about their activities and future dates in their lecture series.

I took video of Pipes's speech and the Q&A, but I'm trying to get it compressed to a reasonable size before uploading it.

Middle East expert Daniel Pipes is speaking tonight at 7 p.m. at the University of Tulsa's Alan Chapman Activities Center (ACAC). The title of his speech is "Vanquishing the Islamist Enemy and Helping the Moderate Muslim Ally."

(Naturally, the TU Muslim Students Association sought and was granted permission to protest this speech.)

From Pipes's biography:

Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University....

He received his A.B. (1971) and Ph.D. (1978) from Harvard University, both in history, and spent six years studying abroad, including three years in Egypt. Mr. Pipes speaks French, and reads Arabic and German. He has taught at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, the U.S. Naval War College, and Pepperdine University. He served in various capacities in the U.S. government, including two presidentially-appointed positions, vice chairman of the Fulbright Board of Foreign Scholarships and board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace. He was director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in 1986-93....

Pipes is the author of 12 books including Militant Islam Reaches America (2002), The Rushdie Affair (Birch Lane, 1990), In the Path of God (Basic Books, 1983), and Slave Soldiers and Islam (Yale University Press, 1981).

I received this notice from the parent of a TU student who was concerned that the number of protesters would outnumber the attendees.

This is an opportunity to gain insight into Islamism from a world-renowned scholar and at the same time provide some support and encouragement to the TU conservative student group that is sponsoring Pipes's appearance.

Great turnout tonight for the first of three citywide workshops for the PLANiTULSA comprehensive planning process. Every one of the 50 tables seemed to be at capacity.

It was a challenging task to find ways of accommodating Tulsa's share of projected job growth (42,000) and population growth (100,000) over the next 20 years. Each table was given a choice of four chip sets -- four different approaches to accommodating growth -- but from that starting point, tables could swap chips for equivalent numbers of jobs and people, or even choose to add more growth or less growth. Only about 8 tables had the chance to present their plans to the entire group, but all the maps will be digitized and posted.

Table 42 (where I served as facilitator) chose to begin with the "Neighborhood Empowerment" chipset, a moderately dense approach, but got frustrated trying to place all the low-density housing. They chose to trade some of the low-density residential and office development for more dense options, like transit-oriented development and urban districts.

A few lessons learned:

It would have been nice to have more examples of equivalent trades than the few provided. We managed to come up with some new combinations, but doing the math slowed us down a bit. It was easy to figure equivalences for jobs only or population only, but balancing chips that provided both was tricky. (Algebra was involved.)

Several tables designated areas for medical development. There wasn't a chip for that, but our table wanted a medical corridor near the future intersection of the Gilcrease and Tisdale expressways. Another table identified the same need in east Tulsa.

As soon as I can upload photos to Flickr, I'll link to them, so you can see the map Table 42 came up with, as well as action shots of Steven Roemerman presenting his table's map.

Tonight's session is full, but PLANiTULSA has added a second evening workshop on Oct. 28th to accommodate those who want to participate but aren't available during the workday.

I received a note today from Oklahoma Republican Party chairman Gary Jones, passing along the word that the Republican National Committee is correcting Oklahoma's vote in the official record of the roll call for the Republican presidential nomination. As BatesLine reported the night of the roll call, Sen. Jim Inhofe was cut off before he could report Oklahoma's vote as 39 for Sen. John McCain and 2 for Rep. Ron Paul. The secretary recorded 41 Oklahoma votes for McCain, and attempts to get the attention of the chairman to make a correction were unsuccessful.

Jones continued to pursue the matter, out of respect for two unbound Oklahoma delegates, elected at the 2nd Congressional District Convention, originally bound to but released by Mike Huckabee, and their desire to have their votes count for their chosen candidate.

Tom Josefiak of the RNC legal department sent the following e-mail to Jones on Friday, September 19:

Just want to confirm to you that the official GOP Convention delegate vote tally for the State of Oklahoma now reads:

"Oklahoma 41 votes, 39 for John McCain, 2 for Ron Paul". The Official Proceedings of the 2008 Convention ("The Green Book") will reflect those numbers.

Gary Jones deserves a great deal of credit for pursuing this, especially since some of Paul's most outspoken Oklahoma fans denounced him and made his job rather unpleasant this year. The vote didn't change the outcome, but Gary saw it as a matter of fairness.

MEMRI needs money

| | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has been hard at work for over a decade, translating political speeches, popular music, news reports, children's programming, and other media content from Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Urdu, and other languages of the Middle East. MEMRI makes it possible for us to know when Middle Eastern leaders are saying one thing in English to the world and something very different in their own languages to their own people. Government agencies, scholars, think tanks, news outlets, and blogs all depend on MEMRI's translations to inform their understanding of the Middle East.

MEMRI's online offerings include a frequently updated blog, the MEMRI TV video site, and the Islamist websites monitor project. It was MEMRI that called worldwide attention to a death-obsessed children's program on a Palestinian TV station featuring a Mickey Mouse knockoff called Farfour and a militant Hamas bunny named Assud who pledged to finish off the Jews and eat them.

MEMRI needs financial support to continue their work. Giving is quick and easy, and MEMRI's work is vital to clear thinking and honest debate about politics, culture, and religion in the Middle East.

BatesLine on your Kindle

| | TrackBacks (0)

Thanks to MeeCiteeWurkor for letting me know that owners of the Amazon Kindle, the electronic book substitute, can subscribe to the Kindle edition of BatesLine for a mere 99¢ per month.

Why pay for something you can read online for free? Kindle automatically and wirelessly downloads updates to your subscribed blogs, magazines, and newspapers, making use of Sprint's network. When you're ready to read BatesLine, wherever you are, it's there, ready to read, just as you'd see it on the web.

And in answer to Mee's question, yes, I do make some sort of royalty from Kindle subscriptions, through my participation with Newstex's Blogs on Demand service, which makes BatesLine available through LexisNexis, CanWest and other licensees.

The jail sharing contract between the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County is due to expire in less than two weeks, and negotiations are stalled. Mayor Kathy Taylor issued a memo to the City Council last Friday reviewing the origins of the current contract, created in 1995, and the county promises that persuaded city officials to work with the county to pass the jail tax.

(Here is the memo from Mayor Taylor to the City Council and
the attachment to the memo, including documents and statements made when the original city/county jail contract was signed in 1995 (5 MB PDF).)

In a nutshell, Tulsa County had failed to pass a bond issue to replace the overcrowded jail on the top floor of the County Courthouse. One attempt to pass a sales tax for a new jail was blocked by District Judge Jane Wiseman, who said the proposal, which bundled funding for crime prevention programs with the cost of building and operating the jail, was unconstitutional logrolling. (Eight years later, Wiseman turned a blind eye to far more blatant logrolling on the Vision 2025 ballot. She now sits on the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals.)

In an effort to win the City of Tulsa's support for a new, properly divided sales tax vote, county officials agreed to house up to 116 purely municipal offenders -- people in jail on a city charge, but with no state charges pending -- in exchange for county's use of the city's municipal jail and booking area for housing prisoners appearing at the courthouse and the county's use of the city's adult detention center near Newblock Park. The county's argument to the city was that combining operations would save the city more than $2 million annually that it was spending to run its municipal jail. The city would reimburse the county at a rate of $16.44 per prisoner per day for any municipal prisoners in excess of 116.

The county's proposal for the new jail contract redefines what constitutes a municipal prisoner and triples the cost per municipal prisoner per day. Previously, prisoners counted against the city's allowance of 116 only if they were in jail solely on municipal charges. If they were in jail on state charges, they were the county's responsibility under state law, even if municipal charges were also pending. The county's new proposal would eliminate any allowance to the city -- charges would begin with the first municipal prisoner -- and the city would be billed for every prisoner with a municipal charge pending, even if the prisoner would have to be in jail anyway on state charges.

Taylor's memo includes the assertion that Sheriff Stanley Glanz has been able to operate the jail for $2 million a year less than the money generated by the 1/4-cent jail operation sales tax.

City officials are right to resist this contract and to explore alternatives, such as letting the agreement lapse using the adult detention center as the city lockup. It would be better if the county reconsidered its position and worked with the city on continuing combined operations. The county should agree to the old, sensible definition of municipal prisoner and should grant the city an allowance of purely municipal misdemeanor prisoners in consideration for the sheriff's use of city detention facilities.

This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly, I address some of the concerns raised by members of OK-SAFE (Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise) about PLANiTULSA, the process for developing Tulsa's first comprehensive plan in more than 30 years, and New Urbanism in a column with the title, "Comprehensive Plan or Commie Plot." I also suggest ways that the City Planning Department and the Fregonese Associates team could allay the reasonable concerns that have been expressed about process and transparency.

In the column, I point out two fundamental fallacies at the root of the fears being expressed by groups like OK-SAFE about New Urbanism and about PLANiTULSA. The first is the idea that using the same terminology as an organization (e.g., the United Nations) makes one a minion or a dupe of the organization, totally in line with that group's agenda. That's like the liberal accusation that because we conservatives support states' rights and the 10th Amendment, we are therefore in full agreement with the segregationists who used states' rights to enable racial discrimination.

On OK-SAFE's page about PLANiTULSA and sustainable development, an excerpt from one of my columns about the streets package is headed, "Michael Bates argues Sustainable Development Concepts." Here's the excerpt they published, with their emphasis added:

But taking care of what we have is a more pressing need than building more to take care of. Street widening ought to be considered in connection with matters of urban design and public transit which could reduce the need for wider streets. South Tulsa traffic isn't snarled just because the roads are narrow. Zoning segregates retail from residential, so that every shopping trip requires several miles of driving.

The development patterns so beloved of suburbanites -- cul-de-sacs, residential collector streets, gated communities -- funnels traffic into bottlenecks. The lack of through-residential streets forces local traffic onto arterials. Midtown's
grid disperses traffic efficiently across multiple paths.

In Midtown, you can use neighborhood streets to avoid making a left-hand turn onto or off of an arterial. That's not possible in most of south Tulsa, and nasty old left-turners are a prime cause of traffic delays down south.

Homeowners in south Tulsa have chosen the area's amenities over convenience and ease of travel. Before all of us spend hundreds of millions on street widening in their part of town, south Tulsans should be willing to accept some adjustments to their lifestyle, which may include putting public streets through their gated communities, building mid mile minor arterials (think 15th or Utica in midtown), and allowing neighborhood-scale retail development to connect directly to residential areas.

Fixing what's wrong with south Tulsa is a complex issue, and what to fund ought to be addressed as part of the new Comprehensive Plan.

Note that I don't refer to sustainability anywhere in what I wrote. I'm not saying anything about global warming (and I don't believe in anthropogenic climate change) or even about energy conservation. I'm writing about the impact of development patterns (largely dictated by our zoning code and subdivision regulations) on the carrying capacity of our street network. My observations on the effect of development patterns on street capacity are common sense, and I'd ask the OK-SAFE folks to tell me where those observations are incorrect. It's a simple matter of traffic engineering. The dense grid of streets and half-mile grid of arterials and collector streets in Tulsa's older neighborhoods are far more efficient at dispersing traffic than the tree-like street systems of south Tulsa subdivisions.

Surely fiscal conservatives shouldn't support the idea of developers shifting the cost of their preferred development style onto the rest of us. South Tulsans have decided that the advantages of their chosen place to live outweigh the disadvantages. Why should they expect the other 90% of the city to fork over hundreds of millions of dollars to ease their self-selected traffic problems?

(Of course, in the eyes of some of the OK-SAFE leaders, even though I'm largely in agreement with them on their core issues -- as I note in my column -- I'm already suspect because I think we ought to be in Iraq and ought to win in Iraq, I think we ought to destroy Islamist terror organizations wherever they are, I support whatever Israel wants to do to stop Palestinian terrorists from blowing up my friends' children, and I don't want to see the Republican Party taken over by those who disagree with me on those points.)

The second fallacy is the apparent belief of PLANiTULSA critics that "we currently enjoy untrammeled, unregulated property rights, that our development pattern is the purely the result of market forces, and that this new comprehensive plan is an unprecedented threat to our God-given right to develop our property as we see fit." In the column, I review the roots of the comprehensive plan and zoning code under which we currently live and list some of the governmental regulations and financial incentives that have shaped development patterns over the last half-century.

Some supplemental links:

Bill Kumpe, an attorney who lives near the site of the planned homeless facility at Admiral and Yale, has posted a long and eloquent exposition of the point of view of homeowners in the nearby neighborhoods.

(It's worth reminding: The White City neighborhood gets its name from the White City Dairy farm that preceded the subdivision on that site.)

The older, usually well built and well maintained homes in White City are one of the few places in Tulsa where blue collar, gray collar, white collar and professionals can live in an economically diverse neighborhood and all still stay within the economic goal of paying no more than a third of their total household income for housing including maintenance, utilities, necessary upgrades, etc. It is an old fashioned mixed class, mixed income neighborhood that should be the model for future developments instead of the dumping ground for city problems....

At its most basic, the proposed Admiral and Yale homeless shelter appears to be a giant rip off to the average White City resident. Joe Sixpack, Susan Secretary and Ernie Engineer see nothing more than an attempt to handle a downtown problem by exporting it to their neighborhood. Combine that with the fact that the proposed downtown "baseball" trust is aggressively trying to control the property values and development around THEIR investment and the whole deal appears profoundly hypocritical. The downtown elites are using all of their political and legal power to prevent the very type of development risk that THEY THEMSELVES are forcing down the throats of the White City residents. Taken at its most basic they are saying that their for-profit investment in a ball park deserves the city's protection while the White City residents investment in their homes does not....

Taking the homeless from a place where they were within walking distance of all their needed services and placing them in another where they are miles away on an infrequently served bus route doesn't make much sense at all. As a matter of fact, to Joe and Susan and Ernie it seems like a formula for having a lot of people walking through their neighborhoods and hanging around the neighborhood bus stops and parks....

We've been told that this facility is intended to help mainstream the mentally ill into normal society. Bill's neighborhood, bordering White City, has seen the impact of "mainstreaming" firsthand:

After several years, the "mainstreamed" neighbor is still there. But, the previously occupied homes on both sides of his are boarded up as is the previously occupied home one house down on one side. The home next to the boarded up home on the other side sold at one point on a contract for deed but the buyer cancelled after a few weeks because of the problems with the "mainstreamed" neighbor. It became a Section 8 rental unit. One of the houses across the street went vacant after the young couple who lived there couldn't take it anymore. They tried for months to sell their home with no luck. It is now a rental unit. That's five homes whose values have been severely degraded due to one property. The character of the whole neighborhood changed. And, it's not as though the homeowners were passive. Far from it. Over the years, there were at least fifty calls to the police. Many of them went unanswered. There were petitions to the police department and DA which resulted in no determinative action. The fire department answered dozens of calls about trash fires and made arrests for illegal burning more than once....

Unless their aim is to drive everyone who can afford it to move to the suburbs, our city leaders need to understand the perspective of residents of neighborhoods like those around Admiral and Yale.

A call to vote

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

From a grateful Dawn Summers:

I live in the greatest country in the world.

I was born to immigrants and was raised by a single mother earning less than twenty thousand dollars a year. Yet, I was able to graduate from one of the best private schools in New York, have college and doctoral level degrees from the best universities in the world, and own property in New York City....

My country doesn't force me to put on a uniform and take up arms in her defense. America does not ask me to pledge my loyalty, though I would do so happily and would volunteer to police the strict enforcement of such a pledge from my fellow Americans. With extreme prejudice
America does not limit the number of children I can have or force me to use my talents to win gold medals.

America does not even ask that I respect her leaders or learn her history - again, all of which I generally try to do.

Heck, America, does not even require that you be American to let you enjoy all of these things. That is how awesome America is.

So, you'd think that when a country as great as mine is, that asks as little as mine does, puts the question of who will run our nation and direct our great country's future before the people every two years that we, its citizens, would happily say "hey, no problem, America. It's the least I can do," and take our educated, fed, entertained, free bottoms down to our local polling places and pick a half dozen or so names on a ballot.

Read the whole thing.

Inside the AP Top 25

| | TrackBacks (0)

If you've ever wondered what goes into a sportswriter's vote in the weekly AP Top 25 college football rankings -- particularly in September when only a few games have been played and the relative strengths of teams aren't as clear as they will be in November -- head over to the blog of Tulsa World sports editor Mike Strain. Each week my sister's husband asks and answers a few questions about his vote that week, such as the easiest and toughest parts of the vote and why he ranked local teams as he did (or why he didn't rank them at all).

This week Mike explains why he moved the Oklahoma Sooners to number 2 and why he ranked Oklahoma State and Tulsa for the first time this season. (OSU barely missed the top 25. TU isn't as close, but Mike wasn't the only voter to think the Hurricane was worthy of a top 25 ranking.)

Bobby's back

| | TrackBacks (0)

I'm happy to note that Bobby of Tulsa Topics has several new entries up -- a commentary by Kent Morlan about the downtown stadium trust and the oligarchy that put it together, a visit to Espresso by the Book in Gardner's Books, and an item about his work as an industrial computer specialist working on control systems for natural gas production, a job that has taken him to Tunisia, Massachusetts, Texas, Boston, and Montana, among other places.

Welcome back to blogging, Bobby -- hope you'll continue to bless us with your observations and commentary.

In addition to all the writing I did for BatesLine during the Republican National Convention, I managed to turn out three pieces for this week's issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly:

The cover story about the upcoming PLANiTULSA citywide planning workshops. The folks at the City of Tulsa Planning Department and Fregonese Associates were very helpful as I put this story together. I had a copy not only of the publicity materials but the instructions for the facilitators -- the volunteers at each table who answer questions and keep the mapping process on pace to finish within the alloted time. From those instructions, I tried to put together a vivid description of what workshop participants will experience. My feeling is that the more you know about what will happen, the better prepared you'll be to participate fully and advocate effectively for your ideas for Tulsa's future.

I spoke to Theron Warlick, one of the City of Tulsa planners assigned to PLANiTULSA, and he told me that about 500 people had already signed up, with about a week and a half to go. Mayor Bill LaFortune's 2002 Vision Summit drew about 1100.

If you haven't signed up yet, visit and register online.

Also this week, I have a story about the the Republican National Convention as seen through the eyes of Tulsans who attended the convention.

The week before, I spoke to Jackie Tomsovic, a first-time delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and covered the surprising political resurrection of former Gov. David Walters, co-chairman of the Democrats' convention rules committee.

My column this week relates both to St. Paul and to planning. During my visit, I tried to learn what I could about how the city handles planning and zoning, river development, downtown, and affordable housing. I wound up with far more material than I could use on all of the above topics. I chose to focus on the way St. Paul connects citizens and neighborhoods with city government, using 19 independent, non-profit "district planning councils."

MORE: Here's a video of planner John Fregonese's presentation at the TulsaNow forum on July 15. He speaks about planning concepts, demographic trends, and the results of the planning team's survey of a thousand Tulsans.

(The embedded video was making this page load slowly, so if you want to watch it, visit the PLANiTULSA channel on

Blogger lunch at Babani's

| | TrackBacks (0)

I mentioned a lunch for bloggers on Wednesday of the Republican National Convention. It was organized by HotAir's Ed Morrissey, sponsored by Verizon, and held at Babani's, a Kurdish restaurant in downtown St. Paul. The food was delicious and plentiful, and my taste buds wanted more of it than my stomach, already full from a breakfast with the Oklahoma delegation and a blogger brunch, could handle.

During the lunch, we heard the inspiring story of Babani's owner, Rodwan Nakshabandi -- his conscription into the Iraqi Army, fleeing the country following Gulf War I and Saddam's attacks on Kurdistan, making his way to the US, and finally settling in St. Paul and opening this restaurant. Ed's entry from the luncheon includes video by Danny Glover of Rodwan's story as told by Joe Repya (Lt. Col., U. S. Army, Retired), along with a transcript. Here's a bit of it:

In 2003, prior to the start of the Iraq war Rodwan was a frequent guest on talk radio, but only under an assumed name and never mentioning his restaurant in fear for the life of his mother and other family members in Mosul, Iraq. Rodwan wants all Americans to know how grateful the Iraqi Kurdish people are to the United States and George W. Bush for liberating them from the tyranny of Saddam Hussain. Last year Rodwan took his family back to Iraq for the first time to visit relatives he had not seen since 1991. His love for America is great, but his heart still remains with his Kurdish heritage.

The video also includes remarks by Nakshabandi and by Jon Henke of New Media Strategies, and some photos of the food at the very end.

The presidential campaign and city politics churn along, but it's important to take time to remember what happened seven years ago today: The tragic deaths of the innocent, trapped in buildings and in airplanes, the heroic efforts of police officers, firefighters, and the men of Flight 93, the family members and friends they left behind. We need to remember the attack that (too briefly) woke America from its complacency. On that crisp, beautiful late summer's Tuesday, we learned that there were millions of radical Islamists who hated us, hated our freedom, hated our prosperity, and were plotting to destroy us.

To help us remember the day as we should, the History Channel has a special section on its website, including "102 Minutes That Changed America," unedited video of the attack on New York, taken from 10 locations around the World Trade Center. The History Channel will run a commemorative program tonight at 8 p.m. Central time.

A photographic exhibit called "Here Is New York" captures the day through the lenses of hundreds of cameras.

Personal recollections can help us to remember the shock of that day. Ron Coleman was in his law office in midtown Manhattan. In a five-part series, he tells of hearing the news of planes crashing into the towers, monitoring the net and the radio for developments and hearing of the towers' collapse, encountering those fleeing the Financial District -- "like a midday, impromptu, white-collar parade of the dumbstruck", walking west, trying to find a way back to New Jersey and home, and climbing the stairs up the side of the Palisades to get back to his car, his home, and his family.

Finally, take a moment to remember Jayesh Shah, a graduate of Memorial High School and the University of Tulsa, who was working for Cantor Fitzgerald / eSpeed on the 103rd floor of the North Tower. This Houston Chronicle story from the first anniversary of the attacks tells of his family's desperate search for him after the attacks and their grief at the realization that he did not survive. Read it and remember those whose lives were lost and those who were left behind.

Four years ago today, I wrote: is important to remember why we are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and may find ourselves fighting in other places that harbor and sponsor terrorists. Although we desire to live at peace with all men, governments have a divine commission to use force to oppose evil. We cannot hope to enjoy peace as long as there are those who would seek our deaths for the crime of being alive and free.

Let's take time today to refresh our memory, to think and to feel, to relive the pain, to refresh the resolve we had on September 12.

I've been seeing e-mail traffic urging people to show up at tonight's City Council meeting in support of the Tulsa Stadium Trust. I understand that Bank of Oklahoma and other downtown employers are trying to pack the council chambers tonight. Those who show up should remember that the vote isn't about building a ballpark, it's about authorizing a public trust. I support putting the ballpark downtown, but I'm concerned what powers and scope of action this trust will have.

While the trust indenture has been improved significantly, there are still objectionable features, and there still appears to be some confusion, even among the trust's promoters, about what this trust will be authorized to do.

I am happy to see the the trust limited in its acquisitions to a geographical area, but the area (Detroit Ave., BNSF right of way, I-244) is too broad, and there is still the possibility of pressuring the City Council to allow them to make acquisitions outside that area. As I wrote previously:

Any stadium trust should be limited in the indenture to improvements to blocks 23, 24, and 45, and lots 4, 5, and 6 of block 46 of Tulsa's Original Townsite -- the area between I-244 and Archer, Elgin and the buildings on the west side of Greenwood which survived urban renewal.

There shouldn't be an escape clause. There should also be explicit language in the indenture forbidding the use of eminent domain to acquire property for the trust.

Here's the version of the Tulsa Stadium Trust indenture showing markups made following Tuesday's Council committee meeting:

2008-08-21 Trust Indenture (v39) (Marked).pdf

Here's the same version, but without the markups visible:

2008-08-21 Trust Indenture (v39).pdf

At Tuesday's council committee meeting, trust promoter Fred Dorwart claimed that the trust wouldn't just be building a ballpark:

Fred Dorwart, an attorney for the donors, said the trust also is charged with providing services within the Inner Dispersal Loop such as street cleaning. A portion of the downtown assessment fee helps fund the ballpark, and the rest pays for downtown services, he said.

(You can hear audio of an exchange between Bill Martinson and Fred Dorwart on Chris Medlock's Tuesday afternoon show, within the first 20 minutes of the first hour.)

I've looked through the trust indenture, and I can't find any reference to that in Article III -- Purpose and Powers of the Trust (or anywhere else). If that's true, it opens the door to replace the city's year-to-year contract with Downtown Tulsa Unlimited for downtown services -- which seems on the verge of being opened to competition -- with a trust's multiyear contract with Downtown Tulsa Unlimited.

By now you've heard about the KFOR-SurveyUSA poll of 652 likely Oklahoma voters from September 5-7. The poll shows Republicans with substantial leads in statewide races:

President: McCain/Palin over Obama/Biden, 65% to 32%.
Senator: Jim Inhofe over Andrew Rice and Stephen Wallace, 56% to 34% to 6%.
Corporation Commissioner (long term): Jeff Cloud over Charles Gray, 52% to 34%.
Corporation Commissioner (short term): Dana Murphy over Jim Roth, 54% to 36%.

The links above will take you to the crosstabs for each poll, showing how the candidates when the sample is broken down by race, gender, party affiliation, age, education, ideology, church attendance, income, and abortion views.

Keeping in mind that the smaller the subsample, the bigger the margin of error, it's still striking that McCain has the support of 42% of Oklahoma Democrats.

I'm happy to see my friend Dana Murphy doing so well. She is the most qualified candidate for Corporation Commissioner that I have ever seen on the ballot. If Oklahoma voters can look beyond party affiliation, she ought to win by a landslide.

Jonathan Aitken, an alumnus of Eton, sees the best aspects of the education he received reflected in the methods of Geneva School, a new classical Christian school in Orlando, Fla.

Like many an Etonian I chafed under what seemed to be the excessive burden of studying Latin for five years. However, in later life I have come to acknowledge at least some truth in Lord Macaulay's dictum "No man can write a decent English sentence until he has first learned to construe a Latin one." I have also come to respect the valedictory words of my Headmaster, Sir Robert Birley, to the leavers' class of 1956, "I hope you will come to realize that the main purpose of your education at Eton has been to enable you to know when the fellow opposite you is talking rot."...

But perhaps the most central principle of Geneva is the ancient imperative of classical education that students must be given the intellectual training that will enable them to think for themselves.

"Most American education consists of teaching how to pass knowledge-based exams," says Geneva's headmaster, the Rev. Robert Ingram. "We are different here. Of course we do not neglect knowledge but we go deeper than substance. We strive to give our students the tools with which they can succeed at reasoning, analysis, argument, and presentation. We want to give them the ability to ask questions such as 'What is this author saying and is it true? How do I know it is true? How can I defend the truth in a rhetorical battle to persuade others by presenting arguments that are winsome, attractive, and convincing?'" Headmaster Ingram also gives priority to the teaching of Christian values and aesthetics, saying: "We help our students to discover what is morally good, aesthetically beautiful, and Biblically philosophically true."

This morning during the Tulsa City Council's Urban and Economic Development meeting, there was some discussion about whether the housing for the mentally ill and homeless, proposed by the Tulsa Housing Authority and the Mental Health Association of Tulsa, was correctly classified for zoning and land use purposes.

When you apply for a building permit, the City's building services department determines whether your plans comply with the setback, height, floor area, and use restrictions set out in the zoning code. If your plans aren't in compliance, you can tweak your plans, appeal to the Board of Adjustment if you believe you really are compliant, or apply for a variance if you know you aren't. (A variance can be granted for height, floor area, etc., but state law prohibits a BoA from granting a use variance.)

Land uses are categorized by the zoning code into 30 categories, called use units. A table shows which use units are allowed by right in a given zone, and which use units require a special exception from the Board of Adjustment.

Use Unit 8, Multifamily dwellings and similar uses, includes apartment, assisted living facility, and community group home.

The land in question is zoned CH -- Commercial High Intensity. By right -- no special zoning permission required -- land uses included in Use Unit 8 are allowed in CH.

So what's the issue? There is a special restriction that doesn't apply to ordinary apartments or multifamily dwellings in CH zoning, but it does apply to assisted living facilities, community group homes, and convents. The floor area ratio for those facilities can be no greater than 0.5.

Floor area ratio is a limit on how big a building you can put on a lot of a certain size. You calculate floor area by adding up the square footage on each floor of the building. If you have a four story building with 20,000 sq. ft. on each floor, the building's floor area is 80,000 sq. ft.

You calculate floor area ratio by dividing the building's floor area by the lot's area. A building with a floor area of 80,000 sq. ft. on a 100,000 sq. ft. parcel would have a floor area ratio of 80,000 / 100,000 = 0.8. That's OK for a normal apartment building in CH zoning, but it's too high for an assisted living facility or community group home in any zone.

I don't have the numbers on how big the facility will be and how big the lot is -- perhaps a reader has that information. But it may be that the building would violate the 0.5 floor area requirement. How the City classifies the use of the proposed building will determine whether the facility can be built there as a matter of right at its proposed size, or whether it will have to be scaled back.

I asked Tulsa-area delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention to share memorable moments from the convention for an Urban Tulsa Weekly story. Some stories came in after my deadline that are too good not to share, so I'm going to be publishing them here.

Delegate Cheryl Medlock heads up the After Five Republican Women's Club and represents Tulsa County on the Republican 1st District Committee. (She's also married to that radio guy.) Cheryl told me about a tribute to Cindy McCain which gave her a glimpse into the personality and character of the prospective First Lady as well as her vice presidential counterpart, Todd Palin, who has been dubbed by his wife the "First Dude of Alaska."

We were pleasantly surprised by an appearance by Todd Palin. You can see that he is just a "regular guy". He was brief in his remarks and was humorous. He mentioned that he was still on his job the week before, working shift work. He also mentioned that if he had a crystal ball a few years ago, that would have been his opportunity to steer Sarah away from getting involved in the PTA!

Cindy McCain has struck me as an ice princess-type person, but this lunch really opened my eyes to her warmness and generosity. Her medical missions with Operation Smile was obviously a hands-on endeavor for her. She was in scrubs, hair pushed back in a band, no makeup and holding babies.

While at the lunch, Debbie House, GOP County Chair in Payne County, approached Mrs. McCain for a photo. Debbie, a hairdresser, told her that she needed to study how she had her hair because she will be asked often to replicate the hair style for her clients. Cindy McCain was very gracious and allowed photos of her hair and had one taken with Debbie.

(Please note that the chairman of the Payne County Republican Party is not a J. R. Ewing-type oil mogul, not a banker, not a lawyer, but a beauty shop owner who cares enough about public policy to serve as a party chairman and to pay her own way to a national convention. David Holt has more about Debbie House.)

I broke the journey back from St. Paul into two legs, was later than planned getting out of town, and that put me in downtown Des Moines Saturday morning. I didn't have time for a look around on the way up, so I took time on the way back. I last passed through in 1995, and since Des Moines has been cited as a model of downtown redevelopment -- remember Bill LaFortune's "No more! to Des Moines" at the BOK Center groundbreaking? -- I was curious to see what was new.

I found the Iowa Events Center, cited six years ago by Whirled sports columnist Dave Sittler as a compelling reason for Tulsa to build a new downtown arena. The nearby area was as dead as can be -- parking ramps, parking lots, office buildings. The arena sits near the river, but turns its back to it.

There's a beautifully hideous modern building nearby, designed in the 1960s by the famed firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, with a beautifully hideous sculpture garden. I could imagine a progressive Des Moiner (?) being quite proud that the city has such a place, but preferring never to spend any time there.

One of the sculptures, not in the garden, but in a kind of sunken plaza, was actually rather cool: A large golden sphere, with part of its skin ripped away to reveal gears inside. Couldn't find out the name of the piece or its sculpture. As interesting as it was, it reminded me uncomfortably of the sphere that once stood on the World Trade Center plaza, mangled by the 9/11 disaster, and now reinstalled in Battery Park.

I parked near the new baseball stadium, Principal Park, which is next to the river and "in" downtown, but doesn't really connect to either. The stadium is surrounded by surface parking. An old warehouse building nearby has been converted to lofts, but then it's a few blocks to the next nearest retail or residential development.



(More about downtown Des Moines, and more photos, after the jump.)

Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal describes in depth how Sarah Palin, first as an oil and gas commissioner and then as Governor, busted up an insider sweetheart deal involving a natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the lower 48. Here's the heart of the story:

And so it came as no surprise in 2004 when former Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski made clear he'd be working exclusively with three North Slope producers--ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP--to build a $25 billion pipeline to move natural gas to the lower 48. The trio had informed their political vassals that they alone would build this project (they weren't selling their gas to outsiders) and that they expected the state to reward them. Mr. Murkowski disappeared into smoky backrooms to work out the details. He refused to release information on the negotiations. When Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin suggested terms of the contract were illegal, he was fired.

What Mr. Murkowski did do publicly was instruct his statehouse to change the oil and gas tax structure (taxes being a primary way Alaskans realize their oil revenue). Later, citizens would discover this was groundwork for Mr. Murkowski's pipeline contract--which would lock in that oil-requested tax package for up to 40 years, provide a $4 billion state investment, and relinquish most oversight.

Enter Mrs. Palin. The former mayor of Wasilla had been appointed by Mr. Murkowski in 2003 to the state oil and gas regulatory agency. She'd had the temerity to blow the whistle on fellow GOP Commissioner Randy Ruedrich for refusing to disclose energy dealings. Mr. Murkowski and GOP Attorney General Gregg Renkes closed ranks around Mr. Ruedrich--who also chaired the state GOP. Mrs. Palin resigned. Having thus offended the entire old boy network, she challenged the governor for his seat.

Mrs. Palin ran against the secret deal, and vowed to put the pipeline back out for competitive, transparent, bidding. She railed against cozy politics. Mr. Murkowski ran on his unpopular pipeline deal. The oil industry warned the state would never get its project without his leadership. Mrs. Palin walloped him in the primary and won office in late 2006. Around this time, news broke of a federal probe that would show oil executives had bribed lawmakers to support the Murkowski tax changes.

Among Mrs. Palin's first acts was to reinstate Mr. Irwin. By February 2007 she'd released her requirements for pipeline bidding. They were stricter, and included only a $500 million state incentive. By May a cowed state house--reeling from scandal--passed her legislation.

The producers warned they would not bid, nor would anyone else. Five groups submitted proposals. A few months before the legislature awarded its license to TransCanada this July, Conoco and BP suddenly announced they'd be building their own pipeline with no state inducements whatsoever. They'd suddenly found the money.

Mrs. Palin has meanwhile passed an ethics law. She's tightened up oil oversight. She forced the legislature to rewrite the oil tax law. That new law raised taxes on the industry, for which Mrs. Palin is now taking some knocks, but the political background here is crucial.

I'm excited at the thought of having this kind of energy and passion for what's right at work on behalf the entire nation, not just Alaska. I'm hopeful that Palin's actions in this case become a model for politicians of every level, ever party, in every part of the country. If this kind of reform can launch Palin to the second highest office in the land, perhaps aspiring pols will decided that busting up the Good Ol' Boys is a better strategy for advancement than becoming one of them.

Splitting my time between experiencing the Republican National Convention and writing about it, I didn't get around to linking my new blog acquaintances until last night, and I'm only now getting around to linking the Oklahoma delegates who were there and blogging. Although the party's over, it's worth going back to read what the convention was like from a delegate's perspective. There is a lot more going on than you see on TV every evening from 8 to 10.

The Oklahoma Gazette had two Republican delegates blogging about their convention experiences: 4th District Republican Chairman Steve Fair and Jason Reese. Steve also cross-posted his write-ups, plus more content, at his own site, Fair and Biased.

Steve has some great write-ups of the breakfast speakers the Oklahoma delegates heard. Here's a bit from U. S. Rep. Tom Cole's Thursday breakfast talk:

[Cole] said Palin's speech reminded him of the country music song written by Tom T. Hall called Harper Valley PTA. It was a major hit single for country songstress Jeannie C. Riley in 1968, which is probably before most of the people in the room. The song tells the story of a junior high student who is sent home with a note to her single mother from the PTA of the school decrying her behavior by small-town standards. The mother decides to speak to a meeting of the PTA where she addresses various episodes of misbehavior on the part of several of its members, concluding, "This is just a little Peyton Placce/And you're all Harper Valley hypocrites." Cole was complimentary of all his congressional colleagues.

David Holt blogged the convention for the Oklahoman. Early on, David wrote a nuts-and-bolts description of the convention. Page through his posts, and you'll find brief profiles of several members of the Oklahoma delegation. This one, about alternate Cheryl Demarest, suggests that friendliness can be an effective economic development tool for our state's small towns:

The Demarests moved from Long Island, NY to Talihina in 1999. They had no connection to the town or the state, but just wanted a place that was friendly to home schooling. They discovered Talihina while checking out Poteau. They were amazed that everyone in Talihina waved as they drove by.

Robert is a printing consultant and Cheryl is starting a real estate firm. And when they discovered they couldn't get reliable and affordable Internet access in Talihina, they didn't call the government and complain, they just started their own Internet Service Provider.

While Sarah Palin was speaking to the Republican National Convention Wednesday night, Michelle Obama was hitting two Hollywood fundraisers, giving subtly different messages to different audiences.

Patrick Range McDonald of LA Weekly, who covered the events as the designated pool reporter. Here's his description of the first stop of the night:

Dressed in a purple tank top with a purple floral skirt and black high heels, Obama first addressed a largely gay and lesbian audience at the home of Bryan Lourd, managing partner of Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and Bruce Bozzi, Lourd's companion. The event was described by the Obama campaign as an "LGBT Reception."

Approximately 300 donors attended the fund raiser, which took place in the wealthy, Los Angeles neighborhood of Holmby Hills. Minimum contribution for a guest was $1,000 to get through the door. Supporters who raised $25,000 were given access to a VIP room, where Obama met with them and briefly spoke. All money went to the Obama Victory Fund.

Speaking at the fundraiser, Mrs. Obama insinuated that she doesn't think Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is very bright:

Obama then moved on to politics, where she first brought up her husband's vice-presidential choice. "I think it was a really good pick--Senator Joe Biden," she said, and later added, "People say they have amazing chemistry, and it's true."

Obama continued with talk about Biden when she said, "What you learn about Barack from his choice is that he's not afraid of smart people." The crowd softly chuckled.

Later, she spoke about gay rights:

Mindful of the audience in front of her, she then touched up gay and lesbian issues. "In a world as it should be," Obama said, "we repeal laws like DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) and 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'" She also said an Obama Administration would "recognize" gay adoption rights. Both lines received loud applause.

Later that evening she spoke at a fundraiser at the home of Samuel L. Jackson:

Located in the gated community of Beverly Park Estates South in the city of Beverly Hills, approximately 300 people attended the event. Minimum contribution for a guest was $2,300, with VIP access for supporters who raised $25,000. All money went to the Obama Victory Fund.

Another star-studded crowd was on hand. Among the celebrities were actor Denzel Washington, actress and singer Barbra Streisand, actor and Streisand's husband, James Brolin, former Lakers star Magic Johnson, actress Scarlett Johansson, actor Ryan Reynolds, and former California governor Gray Davis. Guests gathered poolside in the backyard of Jackson's home and drank red and white wine. Golden shallot pancakes with brie and fig preserves and grilled vegetable torte bites with roasted pepper sauce were served. Bread & Butter Catering provided the food at both fund raisers.

Even in front of a presumably gay-friendly, left-wing Hollywood audience, part of her earlier remarks were omitted from the second appearance:

Obama did not mention anything about gay issues, but much of the rest of the speech was the same.

(Via Wilshire and Washington, Variety's blog on the "intersection of entertainment and politics.)

Fred Davis in the spotlight

| | TrackBacks (0)

Fred Davis, Jim Inhofe at the Republican National Convention, by Michael Bates

I had been hearing about this famous/infamous ad-man for years, a native Tulsan and the nephew of Sen. Jim Inhofe, but I had never met him and had no idea what he looked like until I was on the convention floor Wednesday night and spotted Neil Munro of the National Journal next to the Oklahoma delegation. (Neil, Stephen Spruiell of National Review, Kate Hunter of Congressional Quarterly, and I comprised the entire press corps covering the Committee on Rules and Order of Business last Friday.)

I went over to say hello, and Neil called my attention to someone with luxuriantly flowing blond hair standing behind the delegation, next to Inhofe. He told me it was Fred Davis, McCain's attack ad man.

Neil had a profile of Davis in Tuesday's convention edition of National Journal:

Television ads are the background rhythm of a presidential campaign, and Republican Sen. John McCain's drummer -- ad man Fred Davis -- is already accelerating the beat and playing his signature riffs.

He has in the works a television ad that contrasts Democratic nominee Barack Obama's life as a politician in Chicago with that of his half-brother in Kenya, who lives in a shack on an unpaved street. Davis, chairman of Strategic Perception, McCain's advertising firm, said that the images are meant as a sharp-edged counterpoint to a theme in Obama's acceptance speech last week, in which he declared, "I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper."...

Davis sketched out his advertising strategy for a breakfast at the Minneapolis Hyatt Hotel recently, revving up the crowd with a selection of his past spots and an anti-Obama ad that was pulled before it could be run. The ad portrayed an Obama supporter in Texas being asked to cite an Obama accomplishment; he remains open-mouthed and silent for several seconds -- as if to suggest that he could think of nothing Obama had ever done.

Ultimately, the ad was discarded because it also showed a similarly nonplussed Democratic legislator who has since died. "There's plenty more in the can, soon to come," Davis promised.

MORE: Here's a 2006 National Journal Q&A with Davis, in which he talks about his first major race, his uncle's 1994 run for Senate. I don't recall Inhofe being as much of an underdog as Davis suggests, but I could be misremembering. That was a big year for Republicans across the board and a near sweep of statewide offices in Oklahoma.

And a couple of weeks ago, Townhall's Matt Lewis had this:

I'm hearing that tensions were high recently when veteran actor Robert Duvall was taping a voice-over for a video to be played during the Republican National Convention. Apparently, the veteran actor objected to the direction he was receiving from Republican media guru Fred Davis. According to my sources, Duvall said something along the lines of: "F-you Fred! If Scorsese couldn't give me direction, what the hell makes you think you can?" Though this blow-up is actually recorded on tape, my guess is it's in everyone's best interest for this to not leak out ...

If memory serves, Davis was responsible for Bob Sullivan's attack ads in his 2006 Republican Governor's campaign against Ernest Istook. Here's the one featuring Gailard Sartain:

Here are links to and a few notes about the bloggers I had the pleasure of meeting this week at the Republican National Convention. (If I met you but left out your name below, it's because I didn't get your business card. Drop a reminder to me at blog at batesline dot com.)

* Anne Leary, the BackyardConservative, from the Chicago 'burbs: Here Anne has posted some great photos from the last day of the convention, and she tells of her brushes with greatness.

* Skye, a conservative Democrat from Philadelphia, who blogs at Midnight Blue, Flopping Aces, and Right Wing News: Skye's latest has video of Barack Obama gaffe-ing his way across Pennsylvania.

Here's a video conversation between Anne and Skye.

* Chad Everson of Grizzly Groundswell and Socialist Squirrel. Grizzly Groundswell is a conservative blog community.

* Stix of Stix Blog: Stix has photos of several of our fellow bloggers at Centerfield, the Minneapolis warehouse district bar where he and several others stayed during the convention. (Unfortunately, I had to miss the Wednesday night party there. I stuck around the Xcel Center for the roll call, then posted about the problem with Oklahoma's votes and uploaded video, and I didn't get out of the Media Filing Center until 1:30 a.m.)

* Eric of The Tygrrrr Express: Eric had an interesting run-in with some Code Pinkos:

When they complained about a police state and overaggressive police tactics, I set them straight.

I told them:

"I can prove you are wrong in 60 seconds. You claim the police use excessive force. I know this is wrong because I begged them to do it and they wouldn't. I asked those cops (pointing towards them) to use tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons. I wanted Kent State 2008. They said no because we live in a democracy. So sorry to disappoint you, but as badly as you want it, you will not be savagely beaten. Now be quiet before I come back tomorrow with a razor and shave you all under your armpits."

Sadly enough the police would not let me do that either.

Eric also believes that Sarah Palin is the Second Coming of Margaret Thatcher.

Skye has posted some video of Eric conversing with a Code Pinko and a "Paulbot."

* Katherine Morrison from New Hampshire, of PurplePeopleVote and Blogs4McCain: Here's her summary of Day 2, which had the theme of service.

* Bill Smith of the ARRA News Service, a conservative Arkansas blog, and Let's Get This Right, a conservative blog community: Here's an interview between Bill and the aforementioned Katherine Morrison, who talks about what brought her to the convention:

I have a brother who moved to the St. Paul area and I wanted to visit him, my sister-in-law and their children. I am also a blogger and applied for press credentials as an Independent. And the RNC granted them. So, I took vacation and paid my way here. I have meet bloggers of all types: republicans, libertarians, democrats, independents and some from other countries.

* "CyberPastor" Ed Boston of Do the Right Thing.

* The Lady Logician of Ladies Logic: Here are her photos of the wide variety of Wednesday afternoon protesters, and here are her initial reflections following McCain's speech:

Senator McCain's intro video was very informative and I loved the self deprecating humor that was interlaced in with some very serious subject matters. At one point, in a section where it talked about all of the different names that Senator McCain had been called, as the narrator said, "He has even been called," the camera cut to Senator McCain's 96-year-old mother saying, "Mama's boy".

* Fausta of Fausta's blog: Here's her encounter with a couple of P.O.ed PUMAs for Palin:

Staunch Hillary supporters with a long history of activism, they headed to Denver. Bettyjean [Kling] purchased a 27′ RV and drove to Denver with her friend Robin Robinson as part of the "300″ to get Hillary a nomination and roll call at the Democratic National Convention last week.

They had worked on the Hillary campaign for months, Bettyjean in Pennsylvania and Robin in Delaware, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

But once they got to Denver they found delegates who told them that they were bein pressured to vote for Obama, and who were being told that they would never have a future in politics if they didn't. "Their arms were twisted", said Bettyjean....

Robin and Bettyjean were bitterly disappointed. When they heard that Sarah Palin was going to be the Vice-Presidential candidate, "our spirits rose and we headed to St. Paul."

* Lance Burri, who is, according to his business card, "the widest read, most influential conservative columnist ever to emerge from Greater Metropolitan Baraboo. East side. North of the river. Ever." Lance also blogs at Badger Blog Alliance, where he posted this account of the blogger lunch at Babani's Kurdish Restaurant, complete with a mouthwatering photo, plus video of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Frank Luntz at Wednesday's blogger brunch, and of former Sen. Fred Thompson from Tuesday's brunch.

* Dan Blatt, the western correspondent for GayPatriot, which calls itself "the internet home for American gay conservatives": Dan notes that the theme of gratitude provided bookends to McCain's speech:

At the beginning, he acknowledged his rivals for the Republican nomination and expressed his gratitude to the president and his family. He concluded by acknowledging his fellow POW Bob Craner, telling us how that good man "saved" him.

Maybe I read too much into this, but it says a lot of a man that he frames this speech by acknowledging how much he owes to others, showing how grateful he is for their love, their inspiration, their support, their compassion. He knows, more, he recognizes what he owes to others. For no one who has achieved any measure of success in any given endeavor could have accomplished anything without the support of others.

Devoting so much time in a speech of this significance suggests a certain humility, something we don't see in many politicians, particularly this election cycle.

* MarathonPundit, who recounts a conversation with a British press journalist who regarded his assignment to cover the RNC as "punishment."

I also met (briefly) A-list bloggers Scott Ott of the family-friendly satire site Scrappleface (who was surprisingly tall and whose face did not at all resemble scrapple), Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, and former (?) blogger and rising conservative star Mary Katherine Ham.

MORE: Skye and Marathon Pundit were interviewed by Al Jazeera during the convention.

From Sen. John McCain's acceptance speech in St. Paul tonight:

Education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.

When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have that choice and their children will have that opportunity.

Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucracies. I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I'm President, they will.

(Crossposted at Choice Remarks.)

McCain's remarks, quoted above, brought the delegates to their feet with loud cheers several times.

School choice received many prime-time mentions from the podium of the Republican National Convention this week.

GOPAC Chairman Michael Steele:

Some just talk about change, but John McCain believes the resiliency of the American people is the real source of the change America needs; and that means putting country first.

So, do you want to put your country first? Then let's change the way we educate our kids.

Let's empower those whose minds are shackled by a poor education with real choices in where they go to school....

John McCain knows we must empower working families and stand with them against the erosion of our constitutional rights, the corruption of our school systems, the weakening of our families and the taking of human life - born and unborn.

Mitt Romney:

Opportunity expands when there is excellence and choice in education, when taxes are lowered, when every citizen has affordable, portable health insurance, and when constitutional freedoms are preserved.

Rudy Giuliani:

And as we look to the future never let us forget that - when we are at our best - we are the party that expands Freedom. We began as a party dedicated to freeing people from slavery ... And we are still the party that is willing to fight for freedom at home and around the world. We are the party that wants to expand individual freedom and economic freedom ... because we believe that the secret of America's success is not central government, it is self-government. We are the party that believes in giving workers the right to work. The party that believes parents should choose where their children go to school.

From the 2008 Republican platform about Washington, D. C.:

Washington should be made a model city. Two major Republican initiatives -- a first-time D.C. homebuyers credit and a landmark school choice initiative -- have pointed the way toward a civic resurgence, and a third piece of GOP legislation now guarantees young D.C. residents significant assistance in affording higher education.

From the education section of the platform.

Parents should be able to decide the learning environment that is best for their child. We support choice in education for all families, especially those with children trapped in dangerous and failing schools, whether through charter schools, vouchers or tax credits for attending faith-based or other nonpublic schools, or the option of home schooling.

I was sitting down in the Media Filing Center to begin to clear out some of by back blog, but as I sat down a convention staffer brought by Texas Congressman Michael Burgess. Burgess was here to talk about health care policy. He is an obstetrician and gynecologist, and in 2002 he succeeded Dick Armey in the 26th District, located in the northern part of the DFW Metroplex.

I'm in a rush to post, so I can go out on the floor for Tom Cole's speech (rescheduled from Monday), but in a nutshell, Burgess said that McCain's plan builds on the employer-funded insurance that serves 160 million Americans, but removes tax-code discrimination against those who purchase insurance individually. McCain's approach would make employer-funded premiums taxable, but there would be a $5,000 tax credit per family. So if you're employer pays, say $10,000 a year, for your health insurance and you're in the 25% tax bracket, your taxes would go down by $2,500 ($2,500 taxes on the employer-funded premiums, minus the $5,000 credit. If you're in the 10% bracket with the same plan, you'd be ahead by $4,000 under this plan. That net gain could be used to fund a Health Savings Account to cover out of pocket expenses or even to pay for an individually-owned plan.

McCain also wants to create greater choice for insurance buyers, so they can choose the right plan for the right cost from a coast-to-coast selection of companies, rather than being stuck with higher costs in their own states, driven by legislative coverage mandates.

The McCain team is also working on a guaranteed access provision to protect people with pre-existing conditions or in fragile health.

Burgess said that liability reform in Texas has made a huge difference in medical liability insurance costs. Overall cost of the plan he had as an obstetrician dropped by 22% after the passage of Proposition 12 in 2003. He said that this modest change in liability laws freed up non-profit hospitals to spend more on nurses, capital equipment, and other improvements to patient care, using money that used to go to insurance premiums.

There was a question about House's shortened schedule this fall. The House has less than 20 legislative days remaining. Burgess said that House Democrats are all running against President Bush, so House leadership doesn't want to give him the photo op of signing meaningful legislation.

Burgess said there is unlikely to be a lame-duck session, unless Obama wins. In that case, Congress may go ahead and act on a free trade agreement with Colombia, so that Bush can sign it, and it won't be waiting on Obama's desk when he's sworn in.


| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

Sarah Palin's speech was a big hit with the delegates. A couple of lines painted Democratic nominee Barack Obama as something of a navel gazer:

But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform - not even in the state senate....

My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of "personal discovery."...

It was exciting but exhausting to be on the floor for nearly the whole evening. I caught a couple of interesting moments, on video, and took a bunch of photos.


In the media filing center, I had the pleasure of sitting next to KAL, cartoonist for The Economist, watching him work on his latest set of convention cartoons. Here's yesterday's collection:

But I've written all I can for tonight. See you in the morning.

I stayed around after the speeches ended for the roll call of the states -- the actual, required vote on who will be the Republican Party's presidential nominee. Arizona passed first time around, and everyone from Nebraska on through the end of the alphabet passed, so that Arizona could put its senator over the top.

I caught an interesting conversation between Sen. Jim Inhofe, who was to announce Oklahoma's vote, State Chairman Gary Jones, and two 2nd District delegates, Paul Clayton of McAlester and Robert Demarest of Talihina, about their intention to abstain.

Some background: The 2nd District voted for Mike Huckabee in the primary, but Huckabee released his delegates. Two of the delegates elected by the 2nd District Convention were supporters of Congressman Ron Paul. Freed from the legal obligation to vote for Huckabee, they wanted to cast their votes for Paul, but thinking that they couldn't vote for anyone whose name had not been placed in nomination, they wanted to abstain.

Inhofe and Jones told them that they were free to vote for whomever they wished. I interviewed Demarest and Clayton briefly after their conversation with Inhofe and Jones. I apologize for the weird angles, but I had to stand too close to them to get a decent two-shot.

Later they told me that they did intend to vote for Sarah Palin during the vice presidential roll call.

When Oklahoma finally got the chance to vote, after McCain's majority was assured, the delegation's chairman and Oklahoma's departing National Committeeman, Lynn Windel, yielded the floor to Inhofe, who began his spiel. When he said the phrase "war hero of all war heros, John McCain," the convention secretary, perhaps not paying close attention, assumed she heard the vote, and announced, "Oklahoma, 41 votes for John McCain." Inhofe attempted to correct the secretary and go on, but as soon as the secretary spoke, Inhofe's mike was cut.

There was some minor commotion as the roll call continued, but in the end Oklahoma's vote was recorded as 41 for McCain, even though the state's vote was never announced. Delegates began filtering toward the exits. Chairman John Boehner never asked for corrections, but he did announce, "Seeing that there are no states that wish to change their vote...." before saying that McCain received all but 7 votes -- 5 for Paul, 2 (from Utah) for Mitt Romney.

As they say on The Daily Show, and now, your moment of zen:

California Congressman Kevin McCarthy roped in political focus group maven Frank Luntz to take about four minutes to answer a few blogger questions at the end of today's / Google blogger brunch on the 22nd floor of the St. Paul Crowne Plaza hotel. He spoke about swing voter reaction to Sarah Palin's personality, experience, and issues and also fired off a few pointed one-liners at Hillary and Bill Clinton and Joe Biden.

About a vice presidential debate between Palin and Biden:

Biden's awesome. The key to the debate between Biden and Palin is to have it completely open, because Joe Biden for the first 90 seconds is as good as it gets. Always makes a stupid comment at about 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

About Bill Clinton:

Bill Clinton was a great speaker because he felt your pain. He caused your pain, but at list he felt it while he was causing it.

About Hillary Clinton:

The great thing about this election is that she's finally done. Of all the places she could have chosen to live, she chose Chappaqua, Indian for "separate bedrooms."

In a 5 min. interview with BatesLine, Muskogee Mayor John Tyler Hammons, a delegate to the Republican National Convention and at 19 years, 364 days old America's youngest mayor, talks about trying to meet Rudy Giuliani, how he became interested in politics, the challenges of serving as mayor, and the amount of worldwide media attention focused on him this week.

(The embed doesn't seem to be working, so here's a link to the video's page.)

My tank is full

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

I've spent all morning and the beginning of the afternoon eating and listening. I've finally had the time to stop taking in and starting processing and writing about what I've seen and heard.

First stop was a joint breakfast of the Oklahoma and Louisiana delegations, way the heck out in Brooklyn Center, northwest of Minneapolis. J. C. Watts was the guest speaker. If the audio is audible, I'll post it later this evening.

Then I drove into St. Paul, for an 11 o'clock blogger brunch. Tony Lauinger from Oklahomans for Life rode along with me -- he was headed to a "Catholics for McCain" event not far from the brunch.

Today's blogger brunch featured a Q&A with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, U. S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy from California (not the guy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and UHF), and a surprise appearance by pollster Frank Luntz.

At the brunch I heard about a lunch organized by Hot Air's Ed Morrissey at a Kurdish restaurant, Babani's. I hadn't gotten the invite and therefore hadn't RSVPed, but I decided to tag along anyway. We heard some brief remarks, but mostly it was a chance to chat with the other bloggers. I shared a table with Fausta, Dan Blatt, and one of Dan's readers who lives here in the Twin Cities area.

One of the topics of conversation was how poorly organized the RNC had been in dealing with bloggers this year. Four years ago, there was a Bloggers' Corner near radio row, which gave bloggers easy access to the eminentoes coming and going for talk radio interviews. Convention staff brought elected officials and other special guests around to be interviewed by the bloggers. There were fewer bloggers in 2004, but they all knew who the others were. This time there are many more, but word about special events for bloggers isn't getting around. I was especially chagrined to hear today about an incredible Pajamas Media party last night at James Lileks' palatial Jasperwood estate. Granted, if they had had a full list of convention bloggers, they might not have invited all of us, but then again they might have.

At the moment I'm back in Dunn Bros. Coffee, sitting next to Adam C. from, a Tulsa native. (Here's his latest post, about a poll showing Gov. Sarah Palin with stratospheric approval ratings in Alaska.) Once I get back to the convention hall, I plan to upload more video, audio, and photos. You can see my pictures, up through last night, on my Flickr page. There are some good shots of Fred Thompson, George H. W. and Barbara Bush, and a number of Oklahoma officials and delegates, such as Muskogee Mayor John Tyler Hammons, America's youngest mayor, being interviewed here by MTV News.

Muskogee Mayor John Tyler Hammons at the 2008 Republican National Convention

You can hear more of my take on last night's proceedings on the WynnCast and in an interview with the KRMG Morning News team.

MORE: Here's a slideshow which includes photos of my conversation with KRMG's Joe Kelley and Rick Couri.

Day 1 and 2 roundup

| | TrackBacks (0)

Just a few notes on what happened today and yesterday:

I had a terrific time at a National Review event. It was fun to spot such luminaries as former Education Secretary Bill Bennett and former U. N. Ambassador John Bolton. It was even more fun to talk politics with NR staffers and other guests. Being in a room of people who can discuss politics passionately and intelligently is heavenly.

After the party, I headed back up Cathedral Hill to where I'd parked the car. The time passed quickly (despite my tweed jacket, my heavy laptop backpack, and the unusually warm evening) because I was on the Wynncast, being Wynnterviewed by Claremore bloggers Tyson and Jeanne Wynn -- two more folks who can discuss politics with passion and intelligence. You can listen to the latest Wynncast at this link.

Back down the hill today to stroll past the Fox News outdoor set, where Sen. Joe Lieberman was being interviewed. I did some work on an upcoming Urban Tulsa Weekly story at a Dunn Bros. Coffee at 5th & Wabasha, located on the ground floor of a nicely disguised parking garage and sharing space with an opticians' shop. It was an interesting arrangement. They also had a coffee and snacks cart out on the sidewalk for express service. I was sad to notice that despite the extended hours that many of these shops are offering during the convention, most places in the western part of downtown seem to close early under normal circumstances.

Dunn Bros. had become a sort of alternative media filing center. I met Britten Chase, the Oregon editor for The Politicker, a national collection of state-focused political websites. During a later writing session, I was sitting near a reporter for CBS Radio News, who was phoning in periodically about complaints by protesters that undercover cops were the ones getting violent during their marches. Other folks with notepads and microphones and cameras were typing intently on their laptops.

While there I did phone interviews with Oklahoma U. S. Rep. Tom Cole, who is also chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who is head of the Republican Mayors' Association. More about that in a later entry.

I did more writing and had something to eat in a sad little food court in the Fifth Street Center. The sign on the street door said they'd be open until late. When I got upstairs, most of the places were already closed. I walked around the corner and found a local Mexican fast food place and a McDonald's still open.

I decided to take the skyway back toward the convention center. The skyway -- at least in parts -- is like walking down an indoor Main Street. In the Town Square shopping center, I was excited to come across a little shop that sells Discovery Toys. The shop had everything some fun and wonderful educational toys, and they're currently on offer for at least a 20% discount. The store is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you're here at the convention and need something fun to take home to the kids, you need to stop by. (You can also find this Discovery Toys consultant, Bobbie Collins, online.)

I made it back to the convention center about 5:30. I marveled at how much quicker it was to get into the Xcel Center than it was to get into Madison Square Garden four years ago. I've never had to wait in a long line, and tonight, I was arriving not long before the gavel.

The accommodations for the press are much better than I had feared, after I'd read Ed Morrissey's Hot Air post about the cost of Internet access for media. The media filing center is open to everyone -- periodical press, daily papers, radio, and bloggers. We've got fairly high speed wired access, sponsored by AT&T -- I was getting about 2 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up. There are lockers -- bring your own lock -- where you can lock up your stuff if you don't care to lug it around.

Near the lockers I found a bunch of the bloggers whom I met at the brunch, including Skye of Midnight Blue (who requested and got a nice photo with me at the brunch). I was also invited to spend a few minutes on Grizzly Groundswell's BlogTalkRadio show tonight.

On the way to the convention floor, in hopes of getting a media floor pass, I came across 740 KRMG's booth on radio row and saw Joe Kelley, Rick Couri, and their producer for the week, KRMG program director Drew Anderssen. They've been doing a live special edition each evening of the convention, as well as an extended morning show from 5 to 9. They were in Denver, too. You can find KRMG's convention website here, with audio and video, and their revised convention schedule here.

I'm going to stop now -- will add more about my time on the floor of the convention in a later entry. Time for another climb up the hill and another edition of the Wynncast.

National Review's Stephen Spruiell is over in Minneapolis at the Target Center, covering Ron Paul's counter-convention.

Spruiell writes that one speaker's attack on his employer was a crowd-pleaser:

Another prompted loud applause for calling for the rejection of "the redefinition of conservatism that began with Bill Buckley and National Review," adding, "To break with statism is to break once and for all with the Buckleyite right-wing."

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse "The Body" Ventura spoke at the event. Turns out he's a Troofer, and he's threatening to run for President in 2012.

As Ventura continued to "ask questions" about what really happened on 9/11, a vocal contingent in the crowd (coming from all parts of the arena) took to chanting, "9/11 was an inside job." At one point, it got so loud that Ventura had to pause for a few moments before going on. Many in the crowd were applauding Ventura throughout his discussion of 9/11, but some were sitting stone-faced, looking on with dismay.

Stay tuned to The Corner for more transmissions from Planet Paul.

Fred! * 2

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

This morning I attended a "Blogger Brunch" sponsored by and Google. The guest speaker was my pick in the presidential primaries, former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

The event was on the 22nd floor of the Crowne Plaza, which provides breathtaking views up and down the Mississippi River and up the hills to the State Capitol and the Cathedral. It's a beautiful city, and September is just about the best time of year to be here.

On the elevator ride up, I saw political pundit and Beltway Boy Fred Barnes. Someone else in the elevator used to go to the same church as Barnes -- the historic Falls Church -- an evangelical Anglican parish that has broken away from the liberal mainline denomination. It was encouraging to hear their conversation about the new parishes being planted by the Falls Church around the Washington area. It's nice, too, to know there are committed evangelicals like Barnes with a prominent voice in the Washington commentariat.

Google provided a terrific spread. One odd thing --- an oversight by the catering staff, I'm guessing -- they had a tray with smoked salmon, capers, onions, and all the fixings one associates with lox and bagels, only there were no bagels. I guess this was the Atkins version.

There was only one face in the room familiar to me: J. P. Duffy, an ORU grad who had worked on John Sullivan's early campaigns for Congress. J. P. is the Media Director for the Family Research Council. (I met one of his colleagues, Tom McClusky, at last night's National Review party.)

I met a lot of bloggers -- from Arkansas, New Hampshire, Illinois, Indiana, Virginia, Maryland, and Minnesota, among other places -- got cards from several, and I will add links to their blogs later. I was surprised by the number of people who reacted to the name "BatesLine" as if it were familiar.

Our speaker was stuck in traffic and arrived at about 10:30. As soon as Thompson arrived he was introduced and launched into his brief speech, followed by some Q&A.

(I tried to record his speech on my Sony recorder, but at some point in the speech, the Energizer rechargeable gave out, despite having recharged it last night. I give up on Energizer. I have had too many missed moments thanks to Energizer. Duracell only from now on. Duracell has never let me down. I'm sure other bloggers will post video and audio, and I will add links later.)

In his appearance at the brunch, Thompson displayed all the strengths -- and weaknesses -- of his run for president. This was my first time to see him in person, so now I can better appreciate the observations of those who saw him on the campaign trail. I say "see him in person" because I didn't have the chance to meet him. He departed immediately after the Q&A and didn't hang around to shake hands.

The physical set-up -- obviously not under his control -- was great for being able to see and hear him, but it also created an awkward distance between Thompson and the audience. He stood in an elevated area at the center of this top-floor restaurant, while the bloggers were at tables nearer the windows and several feet below.

But of course, conservative grassroots bloggers backed Thompson for the substance of his platform, not for his outgoing personality. The same common sense, "first principles" conservatism that drove his campaign were at the heart of his remarks. That same approach to conservatism is at the heart of his newly launched political action committee.

Here are a few quotes I managed to jot down on my old fashioned notepad:

What he learned during his presidential campaign: "Never underestimate John McCain."

On the Democrats' choice of Barack Obama in light of the international situation -- he mentioned tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and China's military buildup among other crises: "This is no time to turn the keys to the car over to a 14 year old in heavy traffic."

On McCain's choice of Sarah Palin: "She's the kind of public servant we claim we want... They're going to Washington and take it by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shaking."

On mainstream media coverage of the presidential campaign: "It has been generally poor up until now, and now it's abysmal."

On the alleged experience gap between Palin and Joe Biden: "You don't get experience by being in the Senate....[Palin] doesn't have experience making the wrong decisions about Iraq [referring to Biden's proposal to partition the country into three ethnic-religious enclaves]. She doesn't have experience being wrong about the surge."

I didn't write down a direct quote on this, but he was asked about whether he'd be open to serving in a McCain cabinet. Thompson said it would be presumptuous for him to answer that question, and there are family considerations that would have to be weighed if such an offer were to be made.

More notes from other bloggers:

Shay at Booker Rising liveblogged the speech and has more quotes and photos of the event.

PA Watercooler elaborated on Thompson's comments about Senate experience: "As a veteran of the Senate, Mr Thompson did not give rave reviews to foreign policy or domestic security exposure... saying that it was mostly about deal making and bringing back pork to the home state."

Doc's Political Parlor weighs in.

MORE: Here are video excerpts, via NewsBusters.

The convention was called to order long enough for the presentation of colors, Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem, invocation, reading of the official call for the convention, and approval of the permanent convention committees. Once those committees were officially approved, the committees, which had conducted their business provisionally last week, met to ratify their work as official committees.

At the moment, delegates are milling about, and we're waiting for all the committees to complete their work, at which point the convention will reconvene and the delegates will be asked to approve the committee reports.

The rules committee meeting lasted about 20 minutes, most of which was spent on the invocation, pledge of allegiance, and roll call. We were near section 117, crammed into a temporary room, surrounded by thin, 8-foot-tall cubicle walls which made it nearly impossible to hear. The committee ratified the rules report unanimously.

I was unable to find Bettye Fine Collins, the committee member from Alabama who was circulating a minority-report petition, protesting the plan to appoint an extraordinary between-conventions commission on the primary process and calendar. I heard from several members who had signed it that they did not believe it had received sufficient signatures -- 28 were needed.

It's 4:18, and the convention is back in session, and the chairman of the credentials committee is giving his report. There were contests in Massachusetts, Washington, and Nevada. The challenged Massachusetts delegate (from the 4th CD, I think I heard) was not seated. The Washington delegation was seated. Regarding Nevada, the chairman said an "equitable resolution was reached" allowing Nevada to have its entire delegation seated.

4:22: Alec Poitevint is presenting the rules committee report. Passed by voice vote. No minority report was presented.

4:25: Committee on permanent organization now making its report, naming the permanent convention chairman (U. S. Rep. John Boehner of Ohio) and other officers.

Watch this space for updates.

Convention about to begin

| | TrackBacks (0)

Some links as we get ready for the abbreviated opening session of the Republican National Convention, beginning at 2:30:

RedState's Adam C has a nice summary of "Minnesota Nice" and the political profile of the Land o' Lakes -- the state that has the longest streak of voting Democratic in presidential elections (thanks to native son Walter Mondale), but still sees Republican success at the state and local level.

NRO's Stephen Spruiell reviews the 2008 Republican platform and finds another indication (along with the Palin pick) that McCain is wisely handling his differences with party conservatives:

The new platform is distinctly different from the two adopted during the candidacies of George W. Bush, which were constructed to essentially mirror his positions. The 2000 and 2004 platforms made exceptions for Bush in areas where he strayed from traditionally conservative principles. By contrast, the 2008 platform accommodates McCain's maverick positions on issues like immigration and climate change without accepting his views as the official positions of the Republican party....

Conservatives should be grateful that the McCain campaign took a different approach to this year's platform. The committee finalized the document on Wednesday night, well before the McCain campaign picked conservative Alaskan governor Sarah Palin. But both the principled platform and the Palin pick illustrate that McCain knows and respects his limits with the base. In the last week, McCain has twice given conservatives something to cheer for.

(Here is a link to the 67-page report of the platform committee to the 2008 Republican National Convention.)

Someone from the PBS News Hour came by and gave me a combination pen and flash drive to promote their website. News Hour also is providing a Flickr feed and a Twitter feed of their convention coverage.

On my way down to the Xcel Center from Cathedral Hill, I came across a rally of about 50 red-shirted folks gathered around the Grand Army of the Republic monument, carrying American flags and placards saying:

"Support our troops AND their mission!"

"VICTORY over Terrorism -- Let Our Soldiers WIN!"

"Home of the FREE because of the BRAVE"

"Some HEROES wear capes. Mine wear COMBAT BOOTS."

and the classic:

"How about rooting for our side for a change, you moonbats?"

The rally in support of the troops began at 10 a.m., as anti-war protesters gathered a few blocks away at the Minnesota State Capitol for a protest march down to the Xcel Center.

The familes' rally was organized by Families United for our Troops and Their Mission. Marrilee Carlson, the president of the group, led the event, which began with the National Anthem, sung a capella with a few notes on the trumpet, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

Marilee Carlson is a Gold Star mom -- the mother of Army Sergeant Michael "Shrek" Carlson:

During a night mission, his platoon was assigned to cordon off and take out of commission, two bomb-making factories. As the Bradley they were driving was going over a culvert in the roadway, the culvert gave way and the vehicle rolled over backwards into the water. Seven soldiers were in the Bradley; five died, including Michael. A rescue unit was able to save two other soldiers, in large part because before he died, Michael was able to partly pry open the hatch in the vehicle.

Mrs. Carlson read from a "credo" that her son wrote while in high school:

When I am on my deathbed, what am I going to look back on? Will it be thirty years of fighting crime and protecting the country of all enemies, foreign and domestic? I want my life to account for something... I only have so much time. I want to be good at life; I want to be known as the best of the best at my job. I want people to need me, to count on me... I want to fight for something, be part of something that is greater than myself. I want to be a soldier...

Here are some of Mrs. Carlson's remarks:

Gold Star mom Debbie Lee spoke about her son, Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Alan Lee, a Navy Seal killed in Iraq just over two years ago. Mark was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star with Valor, and Purple Heart:

Lee, 28, was killed Aug. 2 in a fierce firefight while on patrol against insurgents in Ramadi, Iraq. An aviation ordinanceman and a member of a Coronado, Calif.-based SEAL team, Lee was one of the first members of the elite group to be killed in Iraq.

U.S. Navy officers told Debbie Lee that her son died after single-handedly holding off enemy fighters as his team rescued a wounded soldier from a rooftop. During the two-hour battle, Marc Lee fired 100 rounds against insurgents, they told her.

A base in Iraq is named in Lee's memory.

Mrs. Lee read from her son's last e-mail from Iraq, a meditation on the nature of glory, self-sacrifice, and generosity:

It is not unknown to most of us that the rest of the world looks at us with doubt towards our humanity and morals. I am not here to preach or to say look at me, because I am just as at fault as the next person. I find that being here makes me realize the great country we have and the obligation we have to keep it that way.

The 4th has just come and gone and I received many emails thanking me for helping keep America great and free. I take no credit for the career path I have chosen; I can only give it to those of you who are reading this, because each one of you has contributed to me and who I am.

However what I do over here is only a small percent of what keeps our country great. I think the truth to our greatness is each other. Purity, morals and kindness, passed down to each generation through example. So to all my family and friends, do me a favor and pass on the kindness, the love, the precious gift of human life to each other so that when your children come into contact with a great conflict that we are now faced with here in Iraq, that they are people of humanity, of pure motives, of compassion. This is our real part to keep America free!

Here are some of Mrs. Lee's remarks:

Mrs. Lee said that God redeployed Marc to heaven, because he'd "successfully completed his mission," but she told the families that they are only halfway through their deployment, and they have a job to do -- to stand for the troops, to write their congressmen, to write letters to the editor, to let their friends and neighbors know what's really going on in Iraq. She spoke of her visit to Iraq, and the Iraqis she met who expressed gratitude for America's presence.

A special surprise speaker emerged a few minutes later. Actor Jon Voight addressed the families. He recalled with regret his anti-Vietnam War activities and expressed thanks for living long enough to change his ways, while saluting the troops who made such a difference in such a short time on this earth.

I said in a little op-ed in the Washington Times, that the great patriotism that is represented by our troops and this generation of young people is really lifting our nation altogether. And thank God for them, for your children and what they have meant to all of us, to fix our minds in the proper direction....

I'm 69 years old. I've had a lot of life. I've needed a lot of life to get my priorities straight.... I got a little wayward at the end of the '60s, with celebrity -- it does something to your mind. It drops your IQ.... It distracts you from the truth.... I got into this antiwar stuff in the late '60s and early '70s, and I pray to God everyday that he would forgive me for that nonsense....

I am in awe of the young people who stand for this country....

Here are Voight's remarks:

MORE: Families United also rallied across from an antiwar protest in Denver a week ago. Looking at the Left has photos.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2008 is the previous archive.

October 2008 is the next archive.

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



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