January 2012 Archives

riders_in_the_sky-2009.jpgThe world's premier cowboy band, Riders in the Sky, will perform at this year's National Fiddler Hall of Fame gala on April 14, 2012, at Tulsa's historic Cain's Ballroom. The Riders' fiddler, Woody Paul, the King of the Cowboy Fiddlers, is one of this year's inductees into the hall of fame, along with championship fiddler Herman Johnson, from Shawnee; the late Keith Coleman, who performed with Leon McAuliffe and His Cimarron Boys and Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys; and the late Kenny Baker, of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys. Tickets for the gala are on sale.

Riders in the Sky is one of our family's favorite musical groups: Beautiful harmonies on authentic songs of the west, classics from western movies, and original songs in the same genre, seasoned with comedy. I wish their weekly show, Riders Radio Theater, with its weekly western serial, were still on the air here. Riders Go Commercial has been played often at our house lately. (The thought of attending geezer training school seems more and more appealing every day.)

Here's Riders in the Sky, with Woody Paul playing and singing his original tune, "The Arms of My Love" (not a great recording here, but a beautiful song):

Here's Keith Coleman with a smoking solo on "Leon's Boogie," from an Ozark Jubliee appearance with Leon McAuliffe:

Here's a YouTube audio and still photo mix of Herman Johnson playing "I Don't Love Nobody."

And here's Kenny Baker with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys from 1971:

MORE: The National Fiddler Hall of Fame offers a "Lick of the Week," a weekly video demonstration of a fiddle lick you can add to your bag of tricks. Elsewhere on the site, you can find sheet music and audio for a few dozen traditional tunes.

Julie R. Neidlinger has written a moving account of her final farewell to the Patisserie on Fourth, a bakery in downtown Bismarck, North Dakota, where she worked as a baker for a couple of years. The Patisserie on Fourth closed permanently on Tuesday.

As she helped the owner clear out the store, Julie remembered the good and the bad of working there:

I think of my co-workers and feel sad. Elizabeth, and the funny moments with her. Kristin, who was quick to laugh at my stupid jokes. Courtney's delicious Italian wedding soup. Nathan's spotless sink. The jokes, the Disney music and crazy dancing when no one was around. The dough pets and bagel fights and my imitation of a shrieking monkey. We had some fun sometimes.

She locks the door as the man walks away, and we return to packing and cleaning.

I think of the angry emails, the cruel comments, and the critiques people left online, and I wonder what place these last two years will have in my life once I put in some distance from them.

We are almost finished.

I think of the regular customers I grew to enjoy -- Beverly, Connie, David, Peter, Emily, the Raspberry Scone guy, the Molasses Cookie Guy, the Roast Beef Provolone Guy, Mr. Coffee and Caramel Roll, and Quiche Grandma -- so many, and so many more. I realize how I will miss those regulars who were so kind and so patient with three very tired and very broke workers who didn't always come with their game face.

In May 2009, a local TV station ran a story about the Patisserie adding a lunch menu to its breads and desserts, in response to popular demand:

But then, another downtown business pointed out that the area could use another place with a lunch menu, and they decided.

"Yeah, we can throw some sandwiches together, one thing led to another and then we have a full lunch menu," Dockendorf says.

Nearly every day of the week, a line forms in front of the counter.

"Usually whoever comes in for pastries end up with lunch, and those who come in for lunch get dessert," says Dockendorf....

The owners say both the lunches and the pastries have been wildly successful, and the whole business has been a lot of fun.

The owners say they plan to rearrange the dining area so it can seat more customers and hope to be able to expand, add more display shelves, and have more room to work.

Small businesses have high failure rates. You can make an excellent product, build a supportive clientele, and it still may not be enough. You may not be able to make a living at it.

For all the chamber of commerce focus on convention centers and arenas, it's a place like the Patisserie that can sell outsiders on the value of a city.

Recently I attended a presentation by a couple of urban planners from out of town. A short while after the presentation ended, I bumped into them again at the Coffee House on Cherry Street. They said they had discovered the Coffee House on a previous visit to Tulsa and regard it as their office away from home. Their affection for CHoCS was apparent, and it wouldn't surprise me if, when they tell people about Tulsa, they mention that "there's this wonderful coffee house...," just as I mention my favorite coffee houses when I talk about my work visits to Wichita a couple of years ago.

Someone visits a city for the first time and finds a cozy place for coffee and dessert --particularly one right next to a historic neighborhood like Swan Lake -- and suddenly they see the whole city in a positive light. They could imagine living there and liking it, knowing that there's a place with great coffee and food where they could hang out with neighbors and friends. If banks and lawyers and assorted Chamber of Commerce big shots would use locally-owned cafes instead of chains to cater their meetings and lunches and events, it would help boost the city's uniqueness and appeal to newcomers.

The next time you start to order sandwiches from McAllisters or coffee for the office from Starbucks or a birthday cake from Sam's Club, stop and ask yourself: Can I help a great locally owned business stay in business by giving them my business today?

Linden Street Coffeehouse, Lamoni, Iowa

Above: Linden Street Coffeehouse, Lamoni, Iowa, a great place for breakfast, coffee, and wifi that left me with a great impression of the town.

State of the Union Address notwithstanding, hundreds of Oklahomans turned out for tonight's National School Choice Week event at UCO. We heard remarks by State Superintendent Janet Barresi, former Congressman J. C. Watts, State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, Jeff Reed of the Friedman Institute, and political reporter John Fund (on book leave from the Wall Street Journal).

Photos and a detailed report will have to wait, as I need to eat something and get home before too late, but here are a few notes:

Fund said he'd been covering school choice issues for 25 years, but he believes we are on the verge of a breakthrough. The internal contradictions on the anti-choice are becoming impossible to ignore, even for honest liberals.

Fund quoted the late president of the American Federation of Teachers, Al Shanker, as saying, "When children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of children."

Watts told advocates for school choice to be prepared for a battle, as the left defends its judiciary and education turf more vigorously than any other.

Stanislawski focused on opportunities in the field of online education. Oklahoma already has several online charter schools, and there's proposed legislation that would expand those opportunities to make it possible, for example, for children to use online schools to supplement what their own school offers.

In mentioning her involvement as a parent, Barresi said she could have afforded to write a check for private school tuition or hired a moving van to go to a different district, but instead she and her husband opted to stay and fight, working to establish the state's first charter school.

I spoke to Oklahoma State Rep. Elise Hall, a homeschool and TeenPact alumna, who told me she's working on a "Tim Tebow" bill, that would make it possible for homeschooled children to take advantage of extracurricular offerings at their local public school. That's especially important outside the metro areas, where there may not be the critical mass of homeschoolers needed to offer sports, band, drama, and other extracurriculars that need a large group of students.

It was an upbeat, positive event, and I'll have more to share about it when it's not so late, and I don't have a two hour drive in the rain ahead of me. Thanks to Americans for Prosperity Foundation and OCPA for putting together a great event.

A reminder that tonight, Tuesday, January 24, 2012, is Oklahoma's National School Choice Week event, "Restoring American Exceptionalism, an Oklahoma Town Hall," at UCO in Edmond, tonight at 7 p.m.

Speakers include John Fund from the Wall Street Journal, State Superintendent Janet Barresi, former Congressman J. C. Watts, and Tulsa State Sen. Gary Stanislawski.

John Fund is always a provocative and entertaining speaker, and J. C. Watts is always inspirational, but it will be especially wonderful to hear those, like Superintendent Barresi and State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, who are directly involved in reforming Oklahoma education. It's wonderful at long last to have a State Superintendent who understands that the focus of government support for education should be teaching children effectively, not propping up and making excuses for ineffective institutions.

American 15-year-olds rank 35th out of 57 countries in math and literacy! America shouldn't be 35th in anything. It's time to Restore American Exceptionalism!

Rather than protecting and promoting failure, let's put our kids first. Let's do even more to support the teachers and the schools that are succeeding, but let's hold those that are failing firmly accountable. Whether it's a private school, a charter school, or a traditional public school, parents should have the right to choose the school that will do the best job educating my children. Every child deserves the best education we can give them - and every family has a right to choose the education that's best for their child.

Restoring American exceptionalism to our schools and putting kids first isn't a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. It's an American issue. Join the conversation today!

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Click the ad or this link for event details and free registration.

What: Restoring American Exceptionalism -- An Oklahoma Townhall

Who: Former Congressman J. C. Watts, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, State Superintendent Janet Barresi, State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, and Jeff Reed of the Friedman Foundation.

When: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 7 p.m.

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr is pushing for a policy change to Tulsa's local government cable channel that would hinder public transparency and accountability in city government.

Today, Monday, January 23, 2012, at 2 p.m., in City Hall room 411, the TGOV Coordinating Committee will meet to discuss:

Whether or not to continue broadcasting meetings of Authorities, Boards, and Committees, including recommending entities, such as Tulsa Metropolitan Planning Commission, Transportation Advisory Board, HUD grant committees. etc. 11.451-14

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From KTUL's story, "TGOV Content Up For Debate":

The mayor's administration told News Channel 8, they're all for transparency but that concern arose when the Transportation Advisory Committee suddenly appeared on TGOV without going through the process of appearing before the TGOV committee, and that the administration wants to make sure everybody follows the same process.

I asked Council Administrator Drew Rees, via email, who and what prompted this agenda item. His response:

The issue arose when the Mayor's office requested that TGOV not broadcast the Transportation Advisory Board meetings, because they did not believe TGOV should broadcast committees which were purely "recommending bodies." (Other such recommending bodies are the TMAPC, and various CDBG committees.)

To answer your next question, it is my understanding the Mayor does not want these meetings filmed or broadcast in any manner by TGOV. And finally, the TGOV Coordinating Committee approves all policies and all major operating decisions. The Chairman of the TGOV Coordinating Committee makes all day-to-day operating decisions. (see Title 12, Chapter 7, section 703.)

I hope this helps. Monday is a public meeting and you are welcome to attend. If you cannot, you are welcome to send me an email and I will distribute it to the other Committee members at the meeting.

In reply, I wrote:

Much of the substantial discussion about a city decision takes place in the recommending body, with the decision maker (City Council or Mayor or both) often deferring to the recommending body's judgment without comment or discussion. For this reason, video recordings of Tulsa's authorities, boards, and commissions are central to the public understanding of the official actions of city government. TGOV should work to its maximum capacity to record these hearings, should make all of them available online, unedited in the original format, and should broadcast as many of them as the schedule allows. Not to record, post, and broadcast these meetings is a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of Oklahoma's Open Meetings and Open Records laws.

If there is a shortage of budget or personnel to record these meetings, I feel certain that many civic-minded Tulsans with video experience would volunteer to man the cameras.

TGOV exists for the same reason that C-SPAN does -- to let the sunlight of public awareness, which Justice Brandeis called the best disinfectant, illuminate city government's inner workings so that the citizens of Tulsa can intelligently exercise their rights to free speech, to petition the government, and to vote.

There are four members of the coordinating committee: Council Administrator Drew Rees, City Council Communications Director Matt Martin, Mayor Bartlett Jr's designee Lloyd Wright, and Information Technology director Tom Golliver (or his designee). Rees, as committee chairman, makes day-to-day decisions on TGOV content.

TGOV began its life as a dedicated cable channel for city government in 2004, but the local cable company (Tulsa Cable Television, now Cox Cable) had been broadcasting City Commission or City Council meetings for decades before that. Here's the 2004 resolution establishing the rules for TGOV.

A dedicated TGOV channel allows for broadcast of other meetings and events important to the citizens of Tulsa. TGOV regularly broadcasts the City Council's committee meetings, the meetings of the City of Tulsa Board of Adjustment (which handles zoning variances and special exceptions), the meetings of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (which hears changes to the zoning map and the zoning code and approves subdivisions), and occasionally other boards like the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy (TARE, aka the trash board, which isn't in the energy recovery business any more).

TGOV isn't just a cable channel any more. In late 2009, TGOV began offering online streaming at tgovonline.org of the same content that Cox Cable customers see on channel 24 and on-demand access to previous meetings. This development means you don't have to wait for the replay to roll around on TGOV; you can watch when you want, and you can easily point others to key moments in meetings.

That's why it's silly for anyone to be concerned about eating up broadcast time with committee meetings. With the ability to serve video from its website, TGOV isn't limited to 168 hours of content a week.

In July of 2010, the City Council passed an ordinance (22305) codifying the policy for TGOV (now Title 12 Chapter 7 of Tulsa Revised Ordinances); Bartlett Jr vetoed the ordinance, and the Council overrode his veto.

Bartlett Jr wanted to use TGOV as an economic development tool, according to this KOTV story from 2010. Who does he think watches TGOV? You can't get it in Atlanta or Sacramento or Dallas. It's there to give Tulsans insight into the what is being done in their name by city government.

I can't shake the feeling that the mindset from the Mayor's Office is: "If we keep meetings off of TGOV, then people won't know hear about issues that would disturb them, and everyone will think everything is just fine."

If you can't attend the meeting at 2 today, send your comments by email to drees@tulsacouncil.org

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating interactive graphic, with stair-steps showing how allocated Republican delegates accumulate over time in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012. It's striking to see how far to the right everything has moved this year. The massive step up on Tsunami Tuesday (February 3, 2008) has moved a month to the right for 2012 and is not nearly as tall. (It's even shorter now that Texas's primary has been moved from Super Tuesday to April, delayed by a redistricting lawsuit.)

What's especially striking is how flat February is. From February 1 to February 27, only 119 delegates will be allocated, according to the WSJ's graphic. But they're including, incorrectly, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, and Nevada in that total. Those states hold precinct caucuses to elect delegates to county or state legislative district conventions. A presidential straw poll will be held, but, as in Iowa, it won't be binding.

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The Green Papers uncharacteristically gets one wrong, stating that Nevada's delegates will be bound, proportionally by the results of the presidential preference poll. (That appears to be based on this Republican National Committee summary of all allocation rules, which also gets Nevada wrong.) But the FAQ page on the official Nevada GOP caucus website makes it clear that the final result is contingent on the multi-stage process of electing delegates to the county, district, and state conventions:

All Delegates and alternate delegates elected at the precinct caucus will meet in March at their county conventions. The county convention will then elect delegates to represent them at the State Convention on May 5-6th. And it's at the State Convention where the delegates and alternates get elected to the Republican National Convention on August 27-30th.

Since delegates generally vote for other delegates who support the same candidate as they do, it's advantageous for a candidate to elect as many people as possible as delegates at the precinct caucuses. The more delegates a candidate has after the precinct caucuses in February, the greater the chance they will have the most delegates from Nevada to the National Convention on August 27-30th.

(UPDATE 2012/01/23: In the comments, Nevada blogger Michael P. Chamberlain mentions that he spoke to a state party official about the allocation rule:

I received confirmation today from the [Nevada Republican Party]'s Caucus Director that Nevada's delegates to the National Convention will be allocated (and bound for the first ballot) by the state-wide results of the Presidential Preference Poll that is part of the caucus on February 4.

I've asked Michael to see if he can get some additional details: The text of the basis (rule, resolution) that defines how delegates will be allocated, whether there will be a threshold, and how rounding is handled.)

So where does that leave the race?

Romney still has a poll lead in Florida, and money matters because of the ten media markets that a candidate must cover, so let's figure that he wins. Given that, what will the pledged delegate count be on February 28, going into Arizona and Michigan?

Romney 59
Gingrich 23
Paul 3
Huntsman 2

In this scenario, Romney will have only 59 of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination.

Remember that Iowa's delegates are not pledged. New Hampshire's were allocated proportionally. It appears that Romney won a single South Carolina congressional district, and with it, two delegates.

On to February 28:

Michigan's 30 delegates would have been allocated by congressional district (3 each, winner take all) and statewide (proportionally with a 15% threshhold), but it has lost half of its delegates for jumping the gun, and it's unclear how that will affect allocation. Arizona, in the same boat, opted to shift to Winner-Take-All statewide. Romney's father George was governor of Michigan and an auto executive, so he's likely to win nearly all the delegates either way.

I've already seen a couple of tweets suggesting that Santorum may as well get out of the race now. That would be silly. As former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer tweeted on Saturday night:

Santorum's thought bubble: I can win this because Newt will blow up Romney, & Newt will also blow up Newt. That leaves me.

Were I in Rick Santorum's inner circle, I'd suggest he spend most of February raising money and focused on winning Arizona and preparing for a few Super Tuesday states (like Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee). A good showing in some of the February non-binding caucuses would be a good thing, too.

Santorum has an entire month to promote his recent endorsements by evangelical leaders. They came too late to affect the Stop-Romney tactical move to Gingrich in South Carolina, and they haven't yet arrived in a way that connects with the targeted voters. An email in a homeschooling mom's inbox about an endorsement by a particular leader she admires, forwarded by another mom in the homeschool co-op, will have far more impact than the 10-second generic mention of "evangelical leaders" on CNN a week earlier.

February also gives Santorum plenty of time to position himself as the most electable candidate remaining in the race. Romney doesn't excite the party's core voters. Democrats and Independents already think they know Newt, from the 1990s, and they don't like him. The phrase "First Lady Callista Gingrich" may begin to sink in and worry Republican voters, too.

If Santorum were to win Arizona and Romney win Michigan, Santorum would pass Gingrich for second place in the delegate count going into Super Tuesday:

Romney 89
Santorum 29
Gingrich 23
Paul 3
Huntsman 2

By my count, 420 bound delegates will be allocated on Super Tuesday, March 6, and by GOP rules it has to be done by some proportional method. It would be mathematically impossible for anyone to reach a majority of bound delegates until after the April 24th primaries, and that's only if someone sweeps the board. Since many of the April states also use proportional allocation, that's unlikely.

The good news for those of us not in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Florida is that we'll still have a meaningful choice to make when it's our turn to vote. If nothing else, we can keep voting to frustrate the front runner of the moment, to ensure no one locks up the nomination before Tampa.

And if it turns out that we're still not happy with our choices in a month's time, there are some interesting scenarios. I haven't checked, but I suspect there are still many late-season primaries for which the filing deadline has not yet passed, meaning someone new could get in, take a bunch of delegates, and be in a strong position to contend for unpledged delegates leading up to the national convention. Many early states will still have dropped-out candidates on the ballot; one of them could revive their campaign, or people could use one of the ex-candidates as a place for none-of-the-above supporters to vote their preferences.

Thanks to Sarah Palin, Not Romney won South Carolina by giving Newt Gingrich a plurality of the vote.

Newt Gingrich's 1st place finish in South Carolina halted Mitt Romney's winning streak of one and deflated the notion that Romney is inevitably going to be the nominee.

Romney's best assets in this race were his inevitability, his money, and his hair. He's still got the last two, but the first one is badly depleted. There's a certain sort of Republican: They're looking for the front-runner, ready to jump aboard his bandwagon. It's important to them to be on the winning team as soon as possible. Some may be hoping for federal appointments, anything from White House intern to federal district judge.

It appears that Romney pushed hard right before and after Iowa to lock in as many endorsers as he could, pointing to his money and organization, already in place in key states. Santorum may have finished first by a few votes, but Santorum had put everything he had into Iowa. Gingrich didn't seem to be thinking beyond the next state. Romney will win South Carolina, the pitch went, by a big margin, and if everyone else but Ron Paul didn't drop out then, they would yield to the inevitable after Florida 10 days later.

What disrupted that momentum was the fact that most conservative Republicans don't trust Romney, and they wanted to stop him. The turning point for South Carolina may have been Tuesday, January 17, 2012, on the Hannity show when Sarah Palin identified how they could do that:

If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep this thing going, I'd vote for Newt, and I would want this to continue, more debates, more vetting of candidates, because we know the mistake made in our country four years ago was having a candidate that was not vetted, to the degree that he should have been so that we knew what his associations and his pals represented and what went into his thinking, the shaping of who our president today is.

(When I first heard this clip, I thought Palin had begun to criticize the process that led to the nomination of her running mate, John McCain, and maybe she was headed there and caught herself. Barack Obama got plenty of vetting -- his nomination battle didn't end until June; McCain had his nomination clinched in March, thanks to winner-take-all primaries in which he won slim pluralities, and buyers' remorse quickly set in.)

You'll recall that in 2008 some national talk show hosts tried to get Republicans to vote strategically on Tsunami Tuesday to stop John McCain. The mistake they made was pushing Romney based on national polling showing him in second, ignoring the individual state polls, which had Huckabee a close second to McCain in Oklahoma and several other states.

This time around, only one state was voting, and there was a clear second place candidate, Gingrich, who was close enough to have a chance to pass Romney. If you run your mouse along the RealClearPolitics graph of South Carolina polls, there's an inflection point: Beginning on January 18, the day after Palin's comments aired, Newt's numbers began to rise. Rasmussen had Gingrich at 21% on Monday and at 33% on Wednesday.

The shift to Newt began well before his Thursday evening confrontation with CNN's John King over Mrs. Newt II's comments on ABC. Despite the wishful thinking of the adultery-based community, Newt's win in South Carolina is not a rebuke to his aggrieved second wife. I'm surprised no pollster thought to ask if their support for Newt was mainly a vote to stop Romney.

Number 3 in our review of international western swing bands, building an invite list for that dreamed-of Tulsa International Festival of Western Swing. From Malmö, Sweden, it's the Swinging Hayriders with the "Texas Playboy Rag":

From the "Band" page on their official website:

Swinging Hayriders is a band from Malmö in southern Sweden, specialized in Western Swing. They cherish the old records from the 30´s and 40´s of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, Spade Cooley, Milton Brown, Tex Williams, Patsy Montana and others. The attentive listener may also hear influences like Benny Goodman, Django Reinhard, Nisse Lind and Bill Haley. This great music will never grow old!

Swinging Hayriders are ready to fullfill their sacred mission, to spread the blessings of Western Swing!

Swinging_Hayriders_Berlin.jpg

Here they are in a club setting, with vocalist Maria Stille this time, performing "You Can't Break My Heart":

You'll notice the crowd is mostly young people. They obviously love the music and are trying to dance to it, but they don't know how. I foresee a sacred mission to Sweden to spread the blessings of the Texas Two-Step.

The five-piece combo consists of steel guitar, standard guitar, piano (or accordion), bass, and drums.

You'll find several of their tunes, including "That's What I Like About the South" and "It's All Your Fault" on the Swinging Hayriders MySpace page. The most recent info about the band, and lots of photos (like the one above, from a recording session in Berlin) can be found at the Swinging Hayriders Facebook page.

MORE: Here's a scholarly article (PDF format) from the Journal of Texas Music History: "Texas Music In Europe" by Gary A. Hartman of Texas State University - San Marcos. The author visited France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Lithuania, talking to musicians who play western swing, bluegrass, honky tonk, zydeco, rockabilly, and other forms of American music found in Texas:

After discussing the mythology and folklore of Texas with the Bayer family, we all decided to attend a music festival in downtown Friedburg. Much to my surprise, there among the medieval walls of the "Altstadt," or "Old Town," we heard a local band of young Germans singing the Texas dance hall favorite, "Corrine, Corrina," in a strong Bavarian dialect. Although it is unclear exactly where this song originated, it was popularized among white country audiences by Bob Wills in the 1940s and now is a standard tune for western swing, country, and even many cajun bands throughout Texas. In any case, it was an extraordinary experience to witness how this song had found its way into the repertoire of a youthful folk-rock group singing in a Bavarian dialect that is rarely heard outside of southern Germany.


Second in our series documenting the international reach of western swing music and compiling an invite list for Tulsa's (purely hypothetical at this point) International Festival of Western Swing.

From the Bananapeel Jazzclub in Ruiselede, Belgium, here's Little Kim and the Alley Apple 3, performing the Johnnie Lee Wills song, "The Thingamajig," written by Cindy Walker. I enjoyed hearing her introduce the song in Flemish before singing it in unaccented English.

I don't believe her rig needs fixing at all.

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From the band's website:

The story of "Little Kim & the Alley Apple 3" begins with an ad in the music section of "Den Artiest". By the end of 2005 Kimberly (vocals) was looking for a new musical project ... in the tradition of the great female performers of the hot jazz era, like: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Blossom Dearie, Kay Starr, The Boswell Sisters, Bessie Smith, Mildred Bailey, ...

By the time Tom (Guitar) answered her ad ... he had already gathered around two fine musicians: the boy wonder of the lap steel guitar Pat Cattoir & the man with a plan Slappin' Slim (Bull Fiddle). Their intention was to go on the road with self written material ... in a traditional honky tonk style ... the kind Hank Williams would have liked .

When Kimberly and the gang finally met on a cold and windy winter evening, you could tell ... there was an immediate spark of inspiration between the four ... a spark that hasn't dimmed since ...

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Photo from the band's Facebook page: "CC Cité Culture Brussel (photo: Freddy/ Rootsville)"

From an interview at Rockabilly Online:

Starting out as a singer, I was heavily influenced by Patsy Cline, Wanda Jackson, Peggy Lee, and too many to mention ...

Although "the Alley Apple 3" had a kind of honky tonk style in mind ... for everyone, it was very clear from the start that we needed to go ahead in this western swing genre. Mainly because my voice fits swing more than it fits honky tonk....

Sometimes we show up at a venue and people start coming in, dressed in cowboy boots and Indian costumes. No kidding They must think we play some cowboy- shooting-Indian-kind-of-music. But of course that's not really us. We just like to mix different genres ... and in the end, that's how western swing got started anyway. Mixing all kinds of music: polka, swing, jazz, honky tonk, ... It keeps it interesting for us.


Their gear, according to the description of a video of the band performing "Whoa Babe" and an original tune, "Before the Storm":

Little Kim & the Alley Apple 3 use:

a 1949 Fender Custom Double 8 lapsteel guitar
a 1848 French Double Bass 'Charotte Millot-Mirrecourt'
a 1947 Gibson L7 archtop
2 Gibson BR 6 amps (both 1951)
a fifties Floating Dearmond Pickup (Mod 1000 Rhythm Chief)
a fifties Floating Dearmond Pickup (Mod FCH-C)
a vintage Ampeg Portaflex bass amp
a Gibson 1955 L49 archtop
a Fender silverface Vibrolux amp

MORE LINKS:

Little Kim and the Alley Apple 3 on YouTube
Little Kim and the Alley Apple 3 on Facebook

stopsopa.jpgBatesLine was offline yesterday, Wednesday, January 18, 2012, in protest of two draconian bills that could be used to suppress free speech on the Internet. In the course of the day, in which major sites, like Wikipedia, and thousands of minor sites went dark, many members of Congress spoke for the first time about the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

Sen. Inhofe's statement in opposition to PIPA:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - On a day when many internet websites have blacked out their content in opposition to measures being considered by Congress, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), joined the effort by announcing his opposition to those same bills. In the below statement, Inhofe outlines his opposition to S.968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (also called the PROTECT-IP Act or PIPA). PIPA's related bill in the House is H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA):

"While I believe that the intellectual property rights of American companies deserve substantial protection under the law, S. 968, the PROTECT-IP Act, is not the answer to the problem of online counterfeiting and piracy. I share the concerns of America's technology companies, industry leaders, and the many citizens who have voiced their concerns to my office. It is clear to me that this bill will inflict too heavy a burden on third-party non-infringing entities and could do serious harm to one of the last vestiges that is relatively free from government regulation, the Internet. When addressing intellectual property rights, Congress must be careful to also protect the freedom of speech and flow of information that the Internet provides. Additionally, I have concerns with creating yet another private right of action, which will be used by plaintiffs to stifle Internet innovation, and with requirements in the bill that could negatively impact the Internet's reliability and performance."

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Congressman John Sullivan statement on Facebook:

I appreciate the thousands of comments, emails and phone calls today on SOPA. Like my constituents, I also have significant concerns that this legislation, as currently written, limits our First Amendment right to free speech on the Internet. I do believe Congress should address legislation to protect intellectual property rights, BUT must be mindful that the bills intended to protect honest American innovators are not doing more harm than good.

Here's what I had posted as the sole accessible page on the site yesterday:


It's not hard to imagine a member of Tulsa's Cockroach Caucus using influence in Washington to turn a bogus charge of intellectual property violations into the Attorney General ordering a DNS blackout of BatesLine. To help you imagine what that might be like, BatesLine is going dark today. All attempts to access other BatesLine pages will lead back to this page.

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is one of seven Protect IP Act (PIPA) co-sponsors who last Friday asked Majority Leader Harry Reid not to hold a vote on PIPA, because of the outcry against the bill. Jim Inhofe does not have a public position on the issue, according to OpenCongress.org, nor does Congressman John Sullivan. (UPDATE: Inhofe issued statement in opposition to PIPA, the Senate bill, today, and Sullivan posted a statement on Facebook. See below.)

From Wikipedia, a leader of the SOPA/PIPA blackout:

The Wikipedia community has blacked out the English version of Wikipedia for 24 hours on January 18th to raise awareness about legislation being proposed by the U.S. Congress -- the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate -- and to encourage readers to speak out against it. This legislation, if passed, will harm the free and open Internet. If you are in the United States, let your congressional representative know what you think of the proposed legislation by clicking here....

SOPA and PIPA are real threats to the free and open Internet. Although recent media reports have suggested that the bills are losing support, they are not dead. On January 17th, SOPA's sponsor said the bill will be discussed and pushed forward in early February. PIPA could be debated in the U.S. Senate as soon as next week. There is a need to send a strong message that bills like SOPA and PIPA must not move forward: they will cause too much damage.

Although the bills have been amended since their introduction, they are still deeply problematic. Among other serious problems in the current draft of the bills, the requirement exists for US-based sites to actively police links to purported infringing sites. These kinds of self-policing activities are non-sustainable for large, global sites - including ones like Wikipedia. The legislative language is ambiguous and overly broad, even though it touches on protected speech. Congress says it's trying to protect the rights of copyright owners, but the "cure" that SOPA and PIPA represent is worse than the disease....

...in its current form, SOPA would require U.S. sites to take on the heavy burden of actively policing third-party links for infringing content. And even with the DNS provisions removed, the bill would give the U.S. government extraordinary and loosely-defined powers to take control over content and information on the free web. Taking one bad provision out doesn't make the bills okay, and regardless, Internet experts agree they won't even be effective in their main goal: halting copyright infringement.

Things are busy with a couple of projects, but I feel compelled to update this blog from time to time, so I thought I'd begin to document, one music video at a time, the international reach of western swing. Consider this series the beginnings of an invite list for Tulsa's International Festival of Western Swing.

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Here's a trio from Prague, Czech Republic, called Jiří Králík & Rowdy Rascals. (Jiří is the Czech version of the name George.) Králík is an alumnus of Mark O'Connor's fiddle school in Nashville, and he's finishing his studies at a jazz conservatory in Prague. Here they are, performing "Roly Poly," at the 2008 Country Rendez-vous Festival in Craponne-sur-Arzon, France.

And here they are with a high-speed version of Ida Red, with guitarist Jiří Bok taking the lead vocals:

Turnabout is fair play. You've had a Czech band playing American songs, so here's an American band playing a Czech song: Cracker, performing "The Shiner Song."

White House photo: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, 1988

There's this new movie with Meryl Streep as Maggie. I'm not sure why one would bother paying $10 to see a fake Thatcher, when you can find so much on the web about the real Iron Lady. Here's the real deal, in a video produced by the Heritage Foundation:

In 1960, at home with her two children, following her maiden speech in the Commons:

More videos from over the course of her political career up to her final public speech, a eulogy for President Reagan, after the jump.

The Margaret Thatcher Foundation's website includes thousands of Thatcher's speeches and statements, major and minor alike, from 1945 to the present.

It was a running gag in Walt Kelly's comic strip Pogo. Friday the 13th was a baleful day, particularly when it fell on a Friday:

Here's the Friday the 13th sequence from the summer of 1965, via Whirled of Kelly, a blog devoted to the art of Walt Kelly. Click on the strip to go to the corresponding entry on that blog.

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And from March 1970, via Active Rain:

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Tulsa_Playboys-20120112.jpgLocal western swing band, the Tulsa Playboys, play their monthly dance tonight (Thursday, January 12, 2012) at Cain's Ballroom tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12.50 and can be purchased at the door or by phone at (866) 977-6849. Student tickets ($5) are available only at the door.

According to Shelby Eicher, posting on the TexasPlayboys.net discussion board, they'll have triple fiddles tonight with Jake Duncan added to their usual lineup: Shelby Eicher and Rick Morton, fiddles; Steve Ham, trombone; Mike Bennett, trumpet; Steve Bagsby, steel; Spencer Sutton, piano; Rodney Lay, bass; Ryan Shephard, drummer and Danny McBride, guitar.

Distinctly Oklahoma magazine has a great story in their January 2012 issue about the Tulsa Playboys and the Tulsa western swing tradition they've inherited from Bob Wills and Cain's Ballroom.

The article is headed by a great quote from Bob Wills that gets to the heart of western swing: "I need no applause. The only clapping I want to hear comes from the sound of dancing feet...."

(No mention, though, of two former Texas Playboys who kept western swing going in Tulsa long after World War II, when Bob left for California: Johnnie Lee Wills, who carried on for another 14 years or so at Cain's and on KVOO, and Leon McAuliffe, whose Cimarron Boys played at the Playmor and Cimarron Ballrooms and on KRMG.)

MORE:

DFW.com has a story this week about the western swing scene in Fort Worth and the rest of Texas, mentioning Hot Club of Cowtown, Asleep at the Wheel (both based in Austin), Shoot Low Sheriff (from Dallas), Great Recession Orchestra (from Fort Worth), the Quebe Sisters Band, and the long-running Light Crust Doughboys, founded by Bob Wills and Milton Brown in 1931 for a radio show advertising a flour mill, before they launched their own bands. That article has several embedded videos of the aforementioned bands.

The story also links to the website of Western Swing Monthly, which has a calendar of all the big western swing festivals around the country.

Tommy_Duncan-20120114.jpgComing up this Saturday, January 14, 2012, in Hillsboro, Texas, (where I-35 W meets I-35 E south of DFW) is the 2nd Annual Tommy Duncan Celebration, remembering the talented Texas Playboys vocalist on his 101st birthday. Jody Nix and the Texas Cowboys will perform from 1:30 to 4:30, a catered dinner from 4:30 to 6:30, and then Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition performs from 7 to 10, with Floyd Domino and Dave Alexander. Billy's voice has an uncanny resemblance to Tommy's, and he is in the midst of issuing a trilogy of albums tracing Tommy Duncan's career. Call Pam Hulme-Townley in advance for tickets and guaranteed seating -- 817-456-4601. You'll find all the details about the Tommy Duncan Celebration at this link. The story in the Hillsboro Reporter notes that they're still working on a documentary about Duncan:

A documentary on Tommy Duncan, entitled "In The Shadow of the King," by director Curtis Callaway and his crew from Baylor University continues in its production. It will include interviews with many of the former Texas Playboys, other prominent members of the Western Swing community, plus the official Cowboy Poet of Texas, Red Stegall.

The documentary also will feature interviews with Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson.
The documentary is in need of funding. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, visit www.tommyduncan.org.

The Reporter story also mentions that Scottish playwright Duncan MacLean will be at the Tommy Duncan Celebration. MacLean is also a guitarist in the Orkney Islands-based Lone Star Swing Band, and the band is in the US to perform MacLean's play Long Gone Lonesome about the life of Shetland Islands musician and fisherman Thomas Fraser.

When you consider the worldwide reach that western swing music has, with fans and bands from Tulsa to the Orkneys to Japan to Australia, don't you think there ought to be an international western swing festival to bring those bands and fans together, and don't you think it ought to be right here in Tulsa?

VIDEOS:

Here are the Tulsa Playboys with "Miss Molly," from last July:

Here are the Quebe Sisters, putting the swing in western swing playing triple fiddles on "Take the 'A' Train":

But you really have to hear them sing -- here they are on "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie," from their 2010 UK tour:

BatesLine is proud to welcome a new advertiser about a topic near and dear to our hearts: school choice. John Fund from the Wall Street Journal, State Superintendent Janet Barresi, and former Congressman J. C. Watts will be speaking later this month, at Restoring American Exceptionalism, Oklahoma's National School Choice Week event, at UCO in Edmond on Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 7 p.m.

John Fund is always a provocative and entertaining speaker, and J. C. Watts is always inspirational, but it will be especially wonderful to hear those, like Superintendent Barresi and State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, who are directly involved in reforming Oklahoma education. It's wonderful at long last to have a State Superintendent who understands that the focus of government support for education should be teaching children effectively, not propping up and making excuses for ineffective institutions.

American 15-year-olds rank 35th out of 57 countries in math and literacy! America shouldn't be 35th in anything. It's time to Restore American Exceptionalism!

Rather than protecting and promoting failure, let's put our kids first. Let's do even more to support the teachers and the schools that are succeeding, but let's hold those that are failing firmly accountable. Whether it's a private school, a charter school, or a traditional public school, parents should have the right to choose the school that will do the best job educating my children. Every child deserves the best education we can give them - and every family has a right to choose the education that's best for their child.

Restoring American exceptionalism to our schools and putting kids first isn't a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. It's an American issue. Join the conversation today!

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Click the ad or this link for event details and free registration.

What: Restoring American Exceptionalism -- An Oklahoma Townhall

Who: Former Congressman J. C. Watts, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, State Superintendent Janet Barresi, State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, and Jeff Reed of the Friedman Foundation.

When: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 7 p.m.


Once in a while I come across a phrase that captures in 20 words what I've tried and failed to say in 2,000. It's an aphorism by cartoonist Hugh McLeod (@gapingvoid on Twitter), tweeted by former Louisiana Governor and dark-horse presidential candidate Buddy Roemer:

"Real success comes not from being invited into the yacht, but from being able to paddle one's own canoe." -- Hugh McLeod

I replied to Roemer: "Tulsa has an entire subculture devoted to getting on the yacht and staying there. Boat-rockers aren't welcome."

The members of this subculture would utterly disagree with McLeod's definition of success. Riding on the yacht is far more comfortable than paddling your own canoe, and all you have to do is to stay in the good graces of the yacht's owners.

Tatoosh Yacht

Paul Allen's yacht at Venice, by Anton Porsche, on Flickr (Creative Commons attribution)

McLeod's metaphor of the yacht guest fills a gap in my description of Tulsa's power structures. I've written extensively about Tulsa's "Money Belt" -- a geographic pattern in voting that correlates strongly with wealth as measured by home value. I've written about the Cockroach Caucus, a coalition of various interests with a great deal of control over Tulsa, a group that has been working particularly hard to recapture lost power and hang on to it. But the very wealthy can't control Tulsa's city government and civic institutions on their own.

That's where the Yacht Guests come in. They staff the non-profits and the quangos, they run small service-oriented businesses that cater to the yacht owners, they're professionals who have the yacht owners as clients, they work as managers for the yacht owners' businesses. They may not be wealthy, but they're comfortable, and they have access to opportunities and perks that are out of financial reach for the folks who aren't on the yacht. Their main job is not to rock the boat, but from time to time, they're called upon to defend the yacht and its owners against perceived threats.

Imagine you're the executive director of a small non-profit. You have a big office with windows, an administrative assistant, and you oversee a staff of a dozen or so. A couple of times a year you represent your organization at a national conference in Las Vegas or New York or Orlando -- all expenses paid by your organization. The organization has season tickets for the Drillers and club seats at the BOK Center, purchased in the name of entertaining clients, donors, and business partners, but most of the time, you can use them for yourself. During the work day, you come and go as you please, taking long lunches, playing golf, and volunteering and serving on the boards of other non-profits, all of which you can justify as building goodwill for your organization. When 5 p.m. rolls around you're done for the day. You're not paying private school tuition -- your kids got into their first-choice public magnet school. You're invited to great parties and outings and get some great freebies.

Occasionally, like the undertaker in The Godfather, you will be asked to do a service -- serve as chairman of a charter change or recall committee, sign a petition, attack anyone seen as a threat to the yacht and its owners. Your job is to be a proxy when the yacht owners don't want their fingerprints on something. You may even have to be the scapegoat, but never fear -- you will be provided for; if you're sacked from one job, they'll find you another. You can even go through a training program to learn how to behave yourself politely on board the yacht.

Back in September, I was invited to the grand opening of Tulsa's Fab Lab. It's a very neat idea and has its origins at MIT. It's a place where anyone with an idea can come and use computerized design and fabrication equipment to make a prototype, rather than paying a fabricator or buying the equipment for yourself. The hope is to facilitate the efforts of Tulsa entrepreneurs and to inspire young people to pursue engineering, design, and manufacturing. It's a great place for the guy who's trying to paddle his own canoe to turn a dream into something tangible.

The grand opening was at 3 in the afternoon on a weekday. For me, that meant notifying my boss that I'd be out and using up a few hours from my accrued paid leave. When I got there, I saw many familiar faces -- each of whom could reasonably justify his or her presence at this event during the work day, drinking wine, eating hors d'oeuvres, and schmoozing, as a part of his or her job description. Nice work if you can get it, and if you get it, you're going to do all you can to hold onto it.

(I should add that only two or three of the guests that afternoon showed any interest in the fascinating machines available for use at the Fab Lab.)

It might have been that day that the friend who had invited me to the Fab Lab opening mentioned the organization needed to hire an executive director. Perhaps it was a hint that I should apply, but a glance at the list of major donors told me all I needed to know about my chances of being hired.

And if by some fluke I were hired? The thought had some appeal -- working out in the community, interacting with a variety of people every day, promoting a great new institution, being the boss, having my own office, and enjoying some of the other perks I mentioned above. But then it hit me: My livelihood, my family's daily bread, would be dependent on me maintaining the goodwill of the board of directors. The organization's well being would be dependent on me maintaining the goodwill of all current and potential donors. If I took such a job, for the sake of my family and the sake of the organization, I'd have to shut up completely about local politics.

I periodically hear from friends who are guests aboard the yacht. They complain, strictly off-the-record, about the bad decisions being made by the yacht owners, but they wouldn't dare speak publicly. I wrote about the phenomenon back in 2003, in a note to fellow TulsaNow board members about our stance on Vision 2025:

This may be a bit impolite to say, but it's there beneath the surface and ought to be dealt with openly. Some of our group work for organizations which are funded by supporters of this package. Others aren't personally dependent, but are involved with organizations that need the funds that the package supporters can offer. Others need the goodwill of city government to conduct business and make a living. Some of us have even been paid to facilitate and promote the vision process and to work for the "vote yes" campaign. Beyond the financial considerations, many members of our group move within a narrow circle of social and organizational connections -- a virtual "small town" within the city, focused on the arts and other non-profit organizations, centered around Utica Square and chronicled by Tulsa People and Danna Sue Walker. As in any small town, some opinions are acceptable and some are not, and speaking your mind risks ostracism.

Walt Kelly wrote about it back in 1955:

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I can think of a few other occasions when I may have been subtly invited to come aboard the yacht. I think I've made it abundantly clear that I wouldn't be interested. One of my friends, a founder of several successful small businesses, was recently given a very explicit invitation aboard: If he would lend his name in support of the Save Our Tulsa at-large council proposal, he would never have to worry about financing for his businesses. My friend declined the offer. He prefers to paddle his own canoe.

It's possible to be tossed off the yacht even if you never realized you were aboard. Another friend found himself unexpectedly out of a engineering job, some time after he led a successful effort to stop a sales tax increase. Turns out that the company's owner had some real estate interests that stood to benefit if the tax had passed.

The guests aboard the yacht are not bad people. For many, being on the yacht gives them a chance to spend their days working for causes about which they are passionate. Surrendering their personal political opinions is a small price to pay for that opportunity. As the saying goes, don't hate the player, hate the game.

And the game should be hated. Yacht-guest culture rewards sycophancy and penalizes innovation. It drives creative people away. It hurts our economy.

I write all this not to heap scorn on those who are sailing happily aboard the yacht, but rather to alert you to the reality of this subculture, so you understand the forces at work in Tulsa politics. The apparent unity of the great and the good on a certain issue may be nothing more than the yacht guests keeping their hosts happy.

Conroy-CherryBlossomCapers.jpgThis coming Sunday, January 8, 2012, Tulsa author Gina Conroy will launch her new book, Cherry Blossom Capers, with a murder mystery party this Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., followed by a book signing.

Cherry Blossom Capers is a collection of four novellas that combine romance and mystery, all set in and around Washington, D. C. Conroy's novella, Buried Deception, involves the discovery of a counterfeit artifact at Mount Vernon. The book is part of Barbour Publishing's "Romancing America" series -- each book is a collection of stories by different authors, but set in a particular locale.

Gina Conroy is married and the mother of four school-age kids. She has a website, Writer, Interrupted, devoted to balancing the pursuit of your writing dream with the demands of everyday life.

Gina was interviewed this week by Fox 23 -- you can read all about Gina, the book, and the launch party on the Fox 23 website.

The launch party is free, for grownups only, and space is limited. Reserve your spot by email to gina@ginaconroy.com. If you can't make the party, you can still stop by the signing, after 4, at 3024 S. Sheridan (just north of Sherwin-Williams) to buy a book and get it signed.

The book is also available at Steve Sundry (26th and Harvard), Barnes and Noble, Mardel, and Amazon.

As a point of comparison, Tulsa Transit bus service doesn't run evenings (except for a few special night lines), and typical headways are 30 minutes or longer between buses.

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DO YOU KNOW
THAT
STREET CAR SERVICE
STARTS

On the Kendall-West Fifth car line at 5:00 a.m. and after 6:44 a. m. a car each way every eight minutes.

On the Main street line at 5:20 a.m. and after 6:00 a.m. every seven and one-half minutes.

On the Bellview-Owen Park line at 5:15 a.m. and after 6:00 a.m. a car each way every 10 minutes.

On the North Peoria-South Frisco line at 5:10 a.m. and a car every fifteen minutes except during the afternoon rush hours, a car every ten minutes.

Tulsa Street Railway Company

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Oklahoma
Union Railway Company

Interurban cars leave Tulsa every hour on the hour from 6 a. m. to 12 o'clock midnight for Sapulpa and every hour on the half hour from 6:30 a. m. to 11:30 p. m. for Red Fork.

Interurban cars to Sapulpa carry baggage and express.

Package freight car leaves First and Guthrie streets 8:45 a. m. and 2:45 p. m., daily except Sunday.

(From p. 12, Monday, May 15, 1922, Tulsa Daily World, Weekly Business Review, a weekly page of small ads from local businesses, ads for two of Tulsa's three streetcar companies, the strictly local Tulsa Street Railway and the interurban Oklahoma Union Railway, which connected Tulsa, West Tulsa, Red Fork, and Sapulpa, as well as providing local service in Tulsa and Sapulpa. The third company, Charles Page's Sand Springs Railway, connected downtown Sand Springs with Archer Street in downtown Tulsa. A half-page ad in the Sunday, October 16, 1921, Tulsa Daily World, says that the TSR runs from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.)

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BatesLine photo of a front porch with bunting in Clear Lake, Iowa, September, 2008

Smitty at The Other McCain links to a Buzzfeed story about Ron Paul's strategy to dominate caucus states:

Paul is following the roadmap set by Barack Obama's 2008 strategy: Start early, learn the rules, and use superior organization and devoted young supporters to dominate the arcane but crucial party procedures in states your rivals are ignoring -- states where caucuses and conventions that elect the delegates who will ultimately choose the Republican candidate. The plan begins in places like Minnetonka, Minnesota, a Minneapolis suburb where Paul has based his state headquarters, and where staffers have already begun running "mock-auses" -- practice runs for Minnesota's February 7 caucuses....

Paul has, says his campaign chairman Jesse Benton, "offices, staff and strong organization" in ten caucus states besides Iowa: Colorado, Washington, Maine, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and North Dakota. (Alaska and Hawaii are also a caucus states and prime Paul territory.)

Those states together will award 419 of the 2,286 delegates who will choose a nominee in Tampa in August. They operate under complex, individual rules that favor the prepared....

In Iowa, Paul's devoted cadres are up against activists supporting other Republicans. In the next ten caucuses, they're virtually all alone.

The article goes on to note that Paul backers have been working within the local party organizations in many of these states, volunteering to work at headquarters, working for candidates in local races, and forming alliances with non-Paul backers. Being personally liked and being viewed as a valuable volunteer, not a monomaniacal Paulbot, would help a Paul backer advance through the levels in a caucus/convention state with the support of non-Paul activists.

Smitty's reaction to the linked Buzzfeed story:

This is really an argument against "Arcane Rules". We all love to hate on professional politicians, but it is truly a full-time job just to understand the basics of how the sausage is made. Complexity favors the insiders....The two things we have to do, going down the road, are: involve more people, and stamp out complexity. Systems need to be as simple as possible, but no simpler.

My response to Smitty is that the rules are only arcane to those who don't bother to read them. Iowa's rules are simple: precinct caucuses elect county convention delegates, county conventions elect state convention delegates, state conventions elect national convention delegates and alternates (three each by the delegates from each congressional district, the remainder by the full convention).

When the mainstream media oversimplifies the process or tries to fit caucus rules into their primary-oriented framework, they make it all look much more confusing than it is.

What confuses the ninnies in the mainstream media -- the guys who trot out words like "arcane" and "complex" -- is that Tuesday night's "vote" is a non-binding straw poll, so there's no correlation between straw poll percentage and the presidential preference of Iowa's delegation to Tampa, which won't be chosen until June. As I explained recently, Ron Paul could easily "win" Iowa but wind up with zero Iowa delegates.

Different rules in each state is a reflection of federalism and the freedom each state Republican Party retains to decide how to apportion its allotted number of delegates. On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic National Committee imposes certain rules on all state parties, requiring proportional representation for caucuses as well as primaries.

Every Republican presidential campaign should have at least one supporter in each state with enough state party experience to understand how the system works and what the rules are. If a candidate can't muster a single savvy activist in a state, probably best to skip it.

It should be pointed out that every state has complicated aspects to the process of selecting delegates and binding them (or not) to presidential candidates. Oklahoma awards delegates by congressional district and statewide results in the presidential preference primary, but the people who will serve as delegates are selected by a separate sequence of precinct caucuses and county, district, and state conventions. I won't explain open delegation vs. closed delegation and fractional voting, but they're in our rules for a reason.

Idaho was cited in the Buzzfeed story as an example of arcane rules, but from the participant's point of view, it's simple -- you show up and vote for your favorite presidential candidate, and if he's eliminated for lack of support, you vote for your next favorite. What's complex is the counting method, which seems to be designed to help grassroots conservative candidates against the establishment default and well-organized fringe candidates.

Here are the Idaho Republican Party rules for their caucus process, and here are answers to frequently asked questions about the Idaho caucus process.

What's different about Idaho is that the delegates are bound by the caucus presidential preference vote, and the voting process is designed to ensure that the winner of the delegates is acceptable to a majority of caucus participants, not just a bare plurality. Idaho GOP leaders apparently want to avoid giving all the delegates to someone who barely finishes first in a divided field -- the sort of thing that happened in many states in 2008, when "stop McCain" forces were split between Romney, Huckabee, and a few other candidates, and McCain won winner-take-all states with two-thirds of voters preferring some other candidate, and thus quickly rolled up an insurmountable lead in delegates.

At the Idaho county caucus, you'd be free to vote for your favorite in the first round, knowing that if your favorite doesn't have much support, you'll still be able, in the subsequent runoffs, to help one of the candidates you find acceptable get your county's delegates and block the candidates you find unacceptable from winning anything. The system enables mainstream fiscal, social, and foreign policy conservatives to coalesce around one candidate and thwarts hurts the Bob Dole / John McCain / Mitt Romney "It's my turn"-type candidate, and the Ron Paul-small-but-dedicated-following type from using divide-and-conquer to win with a small plurality. I like the approach. It looks like a good plan. It will be interesting to see how it works in practice.

MORE about tonight's Iowa caucuses:

Iowa Caucus Characters

Flickr montage of caricatures of Republican presidential candidates by DonkeyHotey (CreativeCommons attribution)

Stacy McCain talks to 13-year-old Sarah Santorum, who says, "Our prayers are paying off," and remembers her as an 8-year-old in tears at her dad's 2006 concession speech. (Stacy also gives a valuable reporting tip -- "You get the best quotes when you just talk to people, instead of interrogating them in a confrontational manner. Be informal and friendly, put people at ease and listen to what they say.")

For The American Spectator, McCain has a piece on the Santorum surge in terms of voters, donors, and media interest, and Jeffrey Lord looks back at Santorum's defeat for reelection to the U. S. Senate in 2006.

Don Surber looks at the electability argument and says Santorum would bring more electoral votes to the GOP than any other candidate.

Pete Ingemi, DaTechGuy, looks to U. S. Naval History to note that nothing succeeds like success. A surprising finish by Santorum in Iowa will raise the money and volunteer support he needs in later states.

Jeff Dunetz has more from former Ron Paul aide Eric Dondero about Ron Paul's reaction to the 9/11 attacks.

John G. Geer says don't blame attack ads; Newt's history is the reason for Gingrich's slide.

Todd Seavey ponders just plain libertarians, paleo-libertarians and paleo-conservatives, thickness, Catholicism, and political changes that have made a fusionist libertarian like himself, less willing to compromise with conservatives this time around. Also, he posts a photo of Ron Paul in a 1970s Houston Astros uniform (the one with the red and orange color bands and the groovy font).

Shane Vander Hart speculates about attacks launched by groups with untraceable names or misappropriating the names of genuine organizations. These groups tend to go after which ever conservative is rising in the polls

Vander Hart predicts that tonight's winner in Iowa will have under 25% of the vote and thinks Santorum will win narrowly. With a high number of undecideds, Vander Hart says to watch for the effect of neighborly persuasion at caucus meetings:

In the last Des Moines Register poll it indicated that 41% of voters could still change their minds. That's pretty significant. Which leads me to one of the things to watch for tonight - don't underestimate the significance of a neighbor or friend speaking on behalf of their candidate of choice. At each caucus site every candidate will will have the opportunity to have somebody speak on their behalf. You literally have people who are undecided, and you also have those whose support is soft. Hearing a neighbor or a friend speak may be a tipping point for some voters. Who speaks could make a difference - a respected member of the community or a college student who is a first-time caucus goer? It matters.

That leads me to this MRC video posted by Pat Dollard -- a radio discussion of how leaders in the Iowa Republican party could block a Ron Paul victory. The discussion makes it sound sinister, but it's natural to think that grassroots conventional conservatives will do their best to prevent dividing their vote among four different candidates so that neither Ron Paul nor Mitt Romney will finish first and claim a win with a tiny minority of the vote. At a conventional election, a voter deciding among similar candidates has to guess about his fellow voters and decided which of the acceptable choices has the best shot at winning. At tonight's caucuses, it will be apparent from signs and stickers which candidate among Bachmann, Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry is closest to the front of the pack. I could imagine county chairmen comparing notes by text message to see if these four candidates each have areas of strength or if one is much stronger than the other three across the state. In the latter case, the smart thing for party leaders to do would be to push the leaners and undecideds to support the potential breakout non-Romney, non-Paul candidate.

RESULTS tonight:

Des Moines Register has an interactive map with a county-by-county break down, raw vote totals, and precincts reporting by county.

The Gazette (Cedar Rapids) has a Google map overlay for Iowa caucuses results, so you can see counties with respect to major highways and cities.

WaPo's Chris Cilizza has a scorecard of Romney targets by county, based on the 2008 results, assuming Romney needs a 10% improvement to win.

Here's The Fix's list of six counties to watch tonight.

Stacy McCain arrived in Iowa early last week, wearing out tires and shoe leather in search of underreported stories. (His archive of coverage is tagged "Fear and Loathing in Iowa.") McCain anticipated the Santorum surge, which seems to be peaking at just the right moment for tomorrow night's straw poll.

A Stacy McCain question prompted one of the more interesting candidate answers in recent days, with Santorum calling out Ann Coulter, pointing out that the bill he opposed that included the eVerify system was the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill, which conservatives on immigration opposed.

Stacy McCain is also writing about Iowa for The American Spectator.

As always, RealClearPolitics has the latest poll numbers from Iowa. PPP has Paul at 20, Romney at 19, and Santorum with 18, but Santorum has the "Big Mo":

The momentum in the race is completely on Santorum's side. He's moved up 8 points since a PPP poll earlier in the week, while no one else has seen more than a one point gain in their support. Among voters who say they decided who to vote for in the last seven days he leads Romney 29-17 with Paul and Gingrich both at 13. Santorum's net favorability of 60/30 makes him easily the most popular candidate in the field. No one else's favorability exceeds 52%. He may also have more room to grow in the final 48 hours of the campaign than the other front runners: 14% of voters say he's their second choice to 11% for Romney and only 8% for Paul.

It's not hard to imagine Bachmann supporters shifting to Santorum as they see an opportunity to hand a victory to a fellow social and fiscal conservative. Gingrich and Perry supporters who are more anti-Romney and anti-Paul than pro-their-guy may switch to Santorum as well.

Caffeinated Thoughts has already been on the ground in Iowa. The Iowa-based blog has been covering the candidates and the activists involved in the Iowa caucuses from a local perspective:

Caffeinated Thoughts' Shane Vander Hart points out an interesting factoid from the Des Moines Register's final pre-caucuses poll, quoting this passage from the DMR report::

But the four-day results don't reflect just how quickly momentum is shifting in a race that has remained highly fluid for months. If the final two days of polling are considered separately, Santorum rises to second place, with 21 percent, pushing Paul to third, at 18 percent. Romney remains the same, at 24 percent.

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