May 2012 Archives

Here's Merle Haggard, singing lead and doing his best imitation of Bob Wills' hollers, with three Texas Playboys: Johnny Gimble playing fiddle, Tiny Moore (next to Merle, holding a fiddle) and Eldon Shamblin (playing his Stratocaster) singing harmony.

Let's send this one out to Elizabeth "Fauxcahontas" Warren in Massachusetts.

Tiny Moore was best known as a virtuoso mandolin picker, but he was also a terrific vocalist. Tiny was only given the chance to sing lead on a few Texas Playboys recordings, but he shared lead vocal duties with Bob's youngest brother Billy Jack Wills in Billy Jack's Sacramento based western swing band (1952-1954). Eldon Shamblin, a brilliant and creative rhythm guitarist, also served as arranger and band manager for the Texas Playboys, and sang on trios and quartets from time to time. Tiny and Eldon, teamed up with steel guitarist Herb Remington on the triple guitar arrangements of big band tunes on the Tiffany Transcriptions recordings. Tiny, Eldon, and Johnny had all performed, along with Joe Holley, Alex Brashear, and Johnnie Lee Wills on Merle Haggard's 1970 album A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (Or, My Salute to Bob Wills), and Tiny and Eldon toured with Merle Haggard for a few years.

Many thanks to See-Dubya for the tip.

Nancy_C_Newman.jpgWilliam_Basil_Newman.jpgI am exactly as Cherokee as Ms. Warren: Family lore says that my great-great-grandmother Nancy Catherine Boyd was a half-blood Cherokee. (Note the high cheekbones.) She was born in Ohio, but the story is that there was a community of Cherokee in Ohio who had moved there to get out of the way of white expansion into Cherokee lands in the South; many then, it is said, moved to Indian Territory to rejoin their relocated people in their "permanent" home. Nancy married William Basil Newman, who refused to let Nancy enroll with the Dawes Commission, because he didn't want his wife owning land (an allotment) in her own name; and thus old Basil deprived all his descendants of the benefits of Cherokee citizenship, or so the story goes.

Albert W. Bates was my grandfather's youngest brother, five years younger. He was drafted into the Army at age 20, served in the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Division, the Thunderbirds. He is buried in Welch Cemetery near his parents and some of his siblings.


From the Oklahoma War Memorial, World War II, Part VI


ALBERT W. BATES, Private, U. S. Army. Home address: Estella, Craig County. Carl E. Bates, Father, Estella. Born July 15, 1922. Enlisted December 4, 1943. Decoration: Order of the Purple Heart. Died October 5, 1943, of shell wounds received in battle near Ponte, Italy.

From the Nowata Star, November 2, 1943:


Estella Man Dies in Action

Pvt. Albert W. Bates, Estella, brother of John Bates of Nowata, was killed in action somewhere in the North African theater of war on October 5, it wsa learned here today. He was 21 years old.

A war department message to his father, C. E. Bates, Estella farmer, gave no other details, stating that a letter will follow. The elder Bates believes his son was killed in Italy.

The county soldier had been in the service only 10 months. He entered the army from Nowata in December, 1942, and was assigned to the 45th division.

He sailed with that unit in the spring for North Africa and later took part with his buddies in the successful conquest of Sicily, going through that campaign unhurt.

Before joining the colors, he assisted his father with the management of the Bates farm, route one, Estella. He was unmarried.

The brother in Nowata is employed at the Benjamin funeral home. There are no other immediate survivors.

The World War II Honor List of Dead and Missing Army and Army Air Forces Personnel from Oklahoma lists Pvt. Bates as KIA.

Albert W. Bates' enlistment record says that he was a selectee and was enlisted in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on November 25, 1942. His civilian occupation is listed as "Semiskilled miners, and mining-machine operators."


The regiment was first committed to battle on 10 July 1943, in the assault wave of the landings on the island of Sicily, and suffered its first casualties there. Though enemy resistance was light, twenty-seven men were drowned in the landings. Among the first to die in battle were four resolute machine gunners that held their positions unto death to keep a German counterattack from overrunning a withdrawing rifle company. The regiment conducted another landing on Sicily, in an operation to leapfrog up the coast to by-pass heavy defenses. In debarking ship in one such operation a landing craft loaded with men broke free from the ship's davits and dropped on top of another loaded landing craft that had come alongside the ship: twenty-one men were killed in this single mishap. Regimental casualties on Sicily numbered close to 200.

Next, the regiment participated in the assault landings at Salerno, Italy, coming ashore the second day, 10 September 1943. They were immediately involved in fighting to break out of the beachhead, battling at such places as the Tobacco Warehouse (which changed hands four times on 12 September), Persano, and the Sele River. The regiment's 1st Battalion was hit by enemy tanks on 13 September and was surrounded and bypassed by the Germans, who moved toward the ocean, threatening the whole of the beachhead. Two of the division's artillery battalions, the 189th and the 158th stood in the way, stopped the Germans and saved the beachhead -- firing 3,650 rounds in a single day. The German defense was defeated on 17 September, and the enemy wave began to withdraw -- followed aggressively by the Americans. On 23 September Corporal James D. Slayton of K Company earned the regiment's first Medal of Honor by wiping out three German machine gun nests with rifle fire, hand grenades, and his bayonet. The next day the Regimental Commander's jeep ran over a German mine, and Colonel Ankcorn lost a leg. On 28 September 2nd and 3rd Battalions were bombed by American planes. On 6 October 1943 E Company was hit hard by an enemy counterattack, and was reduced to 45 men. Showers were arranged and clean clothes were issued to the men on 19 October -- the first such opportunities in more than forty days. With only brief spell in reserve, the regiment continued to battle the Germans, the mountains, and the cold until relieved from the line on 10 January 1944 after 72 days of continuous combat.


Salerno: American Operations From the Beaches to the Volturno (9 September-6 October 1943)

Reminiscences of the men of the 157th Infantry

Many thanks to the Find A Grave volunteers who post images and tirelessly document gravestones.

When the Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a secular philosopher hit the same theme in the same week, it's worth paying attention:

First, Dean Russell Moore, writing for Desiring God Blog -- Fake Love, Fake War: Why So Many Men Are Addicted to Internet Porn and Video Games:

You know the guy I'm talking about. He spends hours into the night playing video games and surfing for pornography. He fears he's a loser. And he has no idea just how much of a loser he is. For some time now, studies have shown us that porn and gaming can become compulsive and addicting. What we too often don't recognize, though, is why.

In a new book, The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, psychologists Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan say we may lose an entire generation of men to pornography and video gaming addictions. Their concern isn't about morality, but instead about the nature of these addictions in reshaping the patten of desires necessary for community....

But the compulsive form of gaming shares a key element with porn: both are meant to simulate something, something for which men long.

Pornography promises orgasm without intimacy. Video warfare promises adrenaline without danger. The arousal that makes these so attractive is ultimately spiritual to the core.

Satan isn't a creator but a plagiarist. His power is parasitic, latching on to good impulses and directing them toward his own purpose. God intends a man to feel the wildness of sexuality in the self-giving union with his wife. And a man is meant to, when necessary, fight for his family, his people, for the weak and vulnerable who are being oppressed.

The drive to the ecstasy of just love and to the valor of just war are gospel matters. The sexual union pictures the cosmic mystery of the union of Christ and his church. The call to fight is grounded in a God who protects his people, a Shepherd Christ who grabs his sheep from the jaws of the wolves....

Moreover, these addictions foster the seemingly opposite vices of passivity and hyper-aggression. The porn addict becomes a lecherous loser, with one-flesh union supplanted by masturbatory isolation. The video game addict becomes a pugilistic coward, with other-protecting courage supplanted by aggression with no chance of losing one's life. In both cases, one seeks the sensation of being a real lover or a real fighter, but venting one's reproductive or adrenal glands over pixilated images, not flesh and blood for which one is responsible.

Zimbardo and Duncan are right, this is a generation mired in fake love and fake war, and that is dangerous. A man who learns to be a lover through porn will simultaneously love everyone and no one. A man obsessed with violent gaming can learn to fight everyone and no one.

The answer to both addictions is to fight arousal with arousal. Set forth the gospel vision of a Christ who loves his bride and who fights to save her. And then let's train our young men to follow Christ by learning to love a real woman, sometimes by fighting his own desires and the spirit beings who would eat him up. Let's teach our men to make love, and to make war . . . for real.

About all that I'd add is that the drive to fight doesn't necessarily mean war, although we may have occasion to take up arms to defend our loved ones, our country, and our civilization against those who would destroy them. There are countless opportunities to stand up for truth and justice. There are billions of people who have never heard the gospel, and many of them live in lands where proclaiming the gospel could cost you your liberty or even your life. You may have a revolutionary idea that would make lives better or even save lives, but to pursue it requires you to leave a comfortable and safe job. The world cries out for true servant-leaders, good shepherds who will, in imitation of Christ the Good Shepherd, put their own reputations, comforts, and lives on the line for the sake of others.

Indulging in porn and video combat dissipates our innate drive to woo, to excel, to achieve, to compete, to win, to innovate. When our restlessness should push us forward to take risks, these impostors pacify us into complacency and invite us to settle for mediocrity.

This brings to mind the old hymn, "Rise Up O Men of God":

Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Rise up, O men of God!
The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.

Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task;
Rise up and make her great!

Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!

(I've always loved Phil Keaggy's setting of these words.)

Next, here's perpetually interesting philosopher Alain de Botton responding to questions about his new book on sex in a chat with Grauniad readers. (Emphasis added.)

It is perhaps only people who haven't felt the full power of sex over their logical selves who can remain uncensorious and liberally 'modern' on the subject. Philosophies of sexual liberation appeal mostly to people who don't have anything too destructive or weird that that they wish to do once they have been liberated.

However, anyone who has experienced the power of sex in general and internet pornography in particular to reroute our priorities is unlikely to be so sanguine about liberty. Pornography, like alcohol and drugs, weakens our ability to endure the kinds of suffering that are necessary for us to direct our lives properly. In particular, it reduces our capacity to tolerate those two ambiguous goods, anxiety and boredom. Our anxious moods are genuine but confused signals that something is amiss, and so they need to be listened to and patiently interpreted - which is unlikely to happen when we have to hand one of the most powerful tools of distraction ever invented. The entire internet is in a sense pornographic, it is a deliverer of constant excitement which we have no innate capacity to resist, a system which leads us down paths many of which have nothing to do with our real needs. Furthermore, pornography weakens our tolerance for the kind of boredom which is vital to give our minds the space in which good ideas can emerge, the sort of creative boredom we experience in a bath or on a long train journey. It is at moments when we feel an irresistible desire to escape from ourselves that we can be sure that there is something important we need to bring to consciousness - and yet it is precisely at such pregnant moments that internet pornography has a habit of exerting its maddening pull, thereby helping us to destroy our future.

de Botton is right to broaden his view of the problem beyond internet porn to the internet itself. Even as I've been putting this post together, every time I get stuck on a word or unsure about the next sentence, I've had to fight the urge to open another tab and see what's new on Twitter or Facebook or Homestar Runner or Ace or email.

Internet porn and first-person shooters aren't the first distractions in history capable of sapping a man's will to fight and strive and achieve. TV does a pretty good job of it, although eventually you run out of channels. (You never run out of Internet.) Porn has been around for a long time, too, doing its deadening work in the form of paper and celluloid and magnetic tape, but never before has it been as readily and anonymously accessible. It's always been possible to dampen down restlessness, boredom, and anxiety with the help of alcohol or narcotics. Many a man has dissipated his initiative in sports fanaticism, obsessive collecting, and compulsive hobbies. Some (but not all) of these things can be enjoyed in moderation as a needed respite from the battle; all have the potential to become a substitute for the battles we are called to fight but prefer to avoid.

When I feel the nagging sense that I could be doing more with the opportunities and abilities God has given me, when the cavernous gap between my potential and my accomplishments screams at me, I need to resist the temptation to reach for the nearest distraction, and instead thank God that I can still feel restlessness and ask Him for the wisdom to know where best to channel it, for His Kingdom's sake.

MORE: CNN article by the authors of The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It:

Young men -- who play video games and use porn the most -- are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety.

Such new brains are also totally out of sync in traditional school classes, which are analog, static and interactively passive. Academics are based on applying past lessons to future problems, on planning, on delaying gratifications, on work coming before play and on long-term goal-setting.

Guys are also totally out of sync in romantic relationships, which tend to build gradually and subtly, and require interaction, sharing, developing trust and suppression of lust at least until "the time is right."

And here is Zimbardo's talk at TED on The Demise of Guys.

Good news for south Broken Arrow residents trying to stop the construction of a casino near their neighborhoods: The National Indian Gaming Commission has ruled that the land is not under the sovereignty of the Kialegee Tribal Town and therefore cannot be used by them for gaming. From Congressman John Sullivan's office:

Sullivan: NIGC Ruling Affirms Citizens' Opposition to Proposed Neighborhood Casino

Washington, D.C. - Today, the National Indian Gaming Commission issued their determination on the fate of the proposed Kialegee casino in Broken Arrow, OK.

Citing the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the NIGC is ruling that this land is not Kialegee land; therefore, it is not eligible for gaming. It is important to note that the Solicitor General at the Bureau of Indian Affairs concurs with the decision of the NIGC.

A federal court made the same determination just a week ago.

"This is a huge win for the citizens of Broken Arrow who stood up and affirmed, 'We don't want casino gaming close to our neighborhoods, churches and schools.'

I am proud to stand with these determined and well-organized citizens.

The citizens of Broken Arrow can rest assured that there will never be a Kialegee casino built on that land."

Broken Arrow Citizen Against Neighborhood Gaming organizers Jared Cawley and Rob Martinek issued this additional statement in reaction to the ruling:

"We would never have reached this point without the leadership of Congressman John Sullivan. He was the first to join with us and shine a spotlight on the issue.

He helped us present our case and pushed the NIGC and BIA to issue a ruling. We are very proud of Congressman Sullivan's steadfast and energetic defense of the families of Broken Arrow."

In 1936 Kialegee was one of only three out of the more than 40 tribal towns of the Muscogee Confederacy to take advantage of a provision in the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act to become a separate federally recognized tribe. (Alabama-Quassarte and Thlopthlocco are the other two.)

From the grooveyard of forgotten favorites, here's a song from the summer of 2003 and the run-up to the Vision 2025 sales tax vote, a parody of "All That Jazz," written and sung by then-KFAQ morning show sidekick Gwen Freeman, with patter from morning show host Michael DelGiorno. I came across it tonight while looking for something else, but it was a timely find; since an entirely new set of Tulsa County Commissioners is talking about increasing or extending the Vision 2025 sales tax, even though the original tax still has four more years to run. Click the picture to listen.


"Feasibility, schmeasibility! We don't need no stinkin' study!"

Just as they did in 2003, Tulsa "leaders" are preying on anxieties about job losses to justify siphoning more of your tax dollars through county government to favored businesses. Two possibilities are being discussed to raise $340 million: Either a county-wide sales tax increase of 0.4 percent or an extension of the Vision 2025 0.6 percent county sales tax beyond its December 31, 2016, expiration date. The proposal would include $260 million for airport infrastructure improvements and $80 million for a "close the deal fund" -- money we could throw at businesses to convince them to relocate to Tulsa. It all amounts to corporate welfare, with government picking winners and losers, rather than creating a favorable environment in which any business could flourish. (NOTE: More recent reports specify the number as $254 million for airport infrastructure improvements and $75 million for the slush fund, for a total of $329 million.)

The proposal is the wrong approach to economic development, the wrong method to finance it, and the wrong body to oversee it.

They're calling this idea "Vision for Jobs" but that's what Vision 2025 was supposed to be. In 2003, we were told that the Vision 2025 tax would fix our economy, in a slump after the tech and telecom crash of the early 2000s. Evidently, it didn't work, or they wouldn't be asking for more money now. Rather than allowing that $340 million to circulate freely in the local economy, rather than encouraging diversification of the economy, the civic leaders that brought us the Great Plains Airlines disaster want to put an even bigger bet on commercial aviation, a struggling sector of the national economy.

Our Republican County Commissioners ought to be pouring cold water on the idea. That they seem to be seriously entertaining it might lead a cynic to suspect this is a grab by Tulsa County officials to keep the money flowing through the Tulsa County Industrial Authority to its favored vendors -- bond attorneys, bond advisers, bond underwriters, program management firms, construction companies. Vision 2025 is coming to an end in 2016, and in order for the County Commissioners to continue to manage hundreds of millions of dollars, they urgently need to find another pretext for keeping the bucks flowing. American Airlines's Chapter 11 bankruptcy came along at a convenient time.

County Commission Chairman John Smaligo was on KFAQ's Pat Campbell Show Wednesday morning supporting the notion of a Vision 2025 sales tax extension.

Local government can't pull American Airlines out of bankruptcy. It's like trying to put out the sun with a squirt gun. The airline's problems are rooted in labor agreements made when times were fat and in a particular Clinton administration decision in 1993 that undermined AA's leverage to deal with excessive union demands. The airline's survival depends solely on its success in restructuring its costs with the cooperation of its creditors and its unions. Assuming it does survive, AA has a huge investment in buildings, equipment, and -- most importantly -- skilled personnel in Tulsa that it wouldn't be likely to abandon.

And if they decide to go, notwithstanding that investment, plus the state and local subsidies American Airlines has already received ($22.3 million from Vision 2025, plus state Quality Jobs Act tax credits, among others), no amount of additional subsidy will keep them here.

Wichita, Kansas, found that out earlier this year. The World Trade Organization identified $475.8 million dollars in subsidies from Wichita to Boeing, in addition to uncountable withholding tax exemptions, property tax exemptions, and sales tax exemptions. Kansas federal legislators expended a great deal of political capital to help Boeing land the contract to build the KC-46, the US Air Force's next generation aerial refueling tanker, with the expectation that Boeing would bring 7,500 new jobs to the state. For all that public assistance, Boeing announced in January that it was completely abandoning Wichita and Kansas, taking 2,100 jobs -- a net loss of nearly 10,000 jobs, not counting supplier jobs lost. (Here is the home page for the WTO case dealing with Boeing's subsidies.)

There's some question about how much of the proposed $340 million would even go to help American Airlines with its specific needs. News stories hint that some of the money would be used for Tulsa's World War II era Air Force Plant No. 3. And I haven't seen this mentioned in connection with the proposed tax, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of it is earmarked for the multimodal facility discussed earlier this year in connection with transferring city property around Gilcrease Museum to TU. And of course there's that $80 million in walking-around money.

That brings us to the matter of oversight. If past history is a guide, the revenues from a county sales tax would be run through the Tulsa County Industrial Authority, which would issue revenue bonds to finance projects. The TCIA is a trust created under state law whose board consists of the three County Commissioners. As a trust, the TCIA isn't bound by some of the legal strictures that apply to county government.

We ought to be very skeptical of giving more tax money to the TCIA to handle. Few local government bodies are less accountable to the public than the TCIA. They do not competitively bid their bond contracts. Vague agendas for the TCIA's meetings are posted online (here's the latest example), without detailed backup information; meeting minutes are not posted online. (Correction 2012/08/09: I am informed by Commissioner Fred Perry that meeting minutes are online. They're in a separate section of the website from the agendas. They are, however, as vague as the agendas.)

The TCIA lends tax-exempt bond money to private organizations -- over $679 million in outstanding conduit debt as of June 30, 2011 -- but you won't find a list of borrowers or repayment terms on the county's website. You will find, if you go to a bond rating site like, that the TCIA has lent money to Saint Francis Health System (over $200 million), St John, Hillcrest, Holland Hall School, University of Tulsa, and a variety of private real estate development deals. The TCIA is able to lend money to private corporations on more favorable terms than the commercial market because the bonds they sell are tax-exempt.

(More links mentioning TCIA's lending to private entities: Summary of Standard and Poor's report on TCIA Saint Francis bonds and an EDGAR filing of an investment fund that has TCIA Saint Francis bonds in its portfolio.)

(Here is the Tulsa County 2011-2012 Budget Book and the Tulsa County Industrial Authority 2011 Audit. I couldn't find any specifics in these documents about the recipients of conduit loans, just the aggregate amount of conduit debt owed by TCIA.)

A couple of those real estate deals involved John Piercey, a close friend of then-County Commissioner Bob Dick, who also has served as the TCIA's bond adviser. The Tulsa World reported in 2002 that the TCIA lent Piercey's company $15 million to buy and rehabilitate several apartment complexes, then five years later lent an
out-of-state entity $30 million to buy and rehabilitate the same complexes from Piercey's company. Perhaps this sort of lending went away as that generation of county commissioners left office, but there's still not enough specific data online about the TCIA's operations to know. (CORRECTED: The time between the two transactions was five years, not 15 years.)

And speaking of transparency, it's a bad sign that, in his interview with Smaligo, Pat Campbell had to rely upon a leaked report provided by a source wishing to remain anonymous in order to know that a $40 million surplus was projected for the Vision 2025 sales tax. Shouldn't we be able to see projected revenues, outstanding debt and outstanding obligations at a glance on the official Tulsa County website?

In 2007, when I tried to find out the projected Vision 2025 surplus, and whether it might be sufficient to finance the Arkansas River dams promised as part of that package, I was shuffled from one county office to another only to find that no sworn county official had that information. Instead, the information was provided by the aforementioned Mr. Piercey, who was by then not under contract to the county, but described himself as an "unpaid monitor of the monthly sales tax receipts and the preparation of a semi annual update of the status of the financial condition of the program."

Campbell's interview with Smaligo contained another fascinating bit of information: When Tulsa was allocated, by the Tulsa County Vision Authority, $45.5 million extra to pay for the super-deluxe-iconic version of the arena, the other Tulsa County municipalities demanded and were promised the chance to split up any Vision 2025 surplus amongst themselves, since the arena was considered a project for the benefit only of the City of Tulsa. So effectively, the arena overrun cost Tulsa County taxpayers $85.5 million that could have been paid for the low-water dams promised as part of Vision 2025.

Tulsa International Airport is a city-owned facility. If it were appropriate to do anything with tax dollars to improve the airport, it should be done by the City of Tulsa and by its Tulsa Airport Improvements Trust, using revenues generated by airport tenants. Even then, such improvements ought to be of general benefit to current and future passengers, tenants, commercial and general aviation, and not specific to any business.

The proposed "Vision for Jobs" is the wrong tax under the wrong supervision to fund an outdated and discredited economic development strategy. I was heartened to read that polling showed the proposal likely to fail at the polls in November. Fiscal conservatives, opponents of crony capitalism, and opponents of regressive taxation should be able to join together to shut this down before it gets on a ballot.

Received this in email and thought it might be of interest to BatesLine readers who are interested in historic preservation and local history. The sale runs three of the next four weekends, 10 am to 4 pm.

Reclamation Station LLC 412 So. Frankfort, Tulsa, OK Pam Curtis, proprietor


Now it's time to sell it all.

Lost my lease at 412 South Frankfort, in downtown Tulsa. All materials must be sold.

Includes: pedestal sinks, spectacular peg-leg porcelain sinks, drain board kitchen sinks, pink toilet and sink, oak hardwood flooring, great set of carriage garage doors, wood windows, Mexican Saltillo floor tiles, vintage gas cook stoves (O'Keefe & Merritt, Roper, etc.), completely reworked Chambers gas stove, small amount of iron porch railing, original and historic terra cotta decorative tiles from the Mayo Building (own a piece of Tulsa's history!), interior doors, heavy duty steel warehouse shelving system, wooden jewelry display cases, hydraulic door closers (Mayo building), various architectural items from homes in Tracy Park, Maple Ridge, Swan Lake, Yorktown and other Tulsa neighborhoods like light fixtures, porch flooring, window stops, etc. Also, an electric forklift!! Many other items, too numerous to mention! Loads of items from estates which will make great upcycle items for you creative and adventurous types.

May 26 & 27 10:00-4:00 June 2 & 3 10:00-4:00 June 15 &16 10:00-4:00

********* CASH ONLY ********

A news release this morning from the Tulsa Police Department announces the apprehension of a suspect in a car burglary in the Owen Park neighborhood:

Burglary from Vehicle Suspect Apprehended

At about 1:49 AM, officers were dispatched to an auto theft in progress at 302 N. Santa Fe Ave. Upon arrival, Sgt. Brown noticed a white male searching through the vehicle. When the male, later identified as Kyle Stromme saw Sgt. Brown, he fled north through the back yard.

Officer Butterfield deployed his K9 partner, Hooch, and conducted a track. Butterfield and Hooch also conducted a search of the abandoned house at 306 N. Santa Fe Ave. It was here that K9 Hooch was able to locate and apprehend Stromme, who was hiding under a mattress in the back sun porch. Stromme received a bite and was treated by EMSA at the scene. Stromme was later booked by for two counts of burglary from a vehicle and resisting Officers.

*Note: The information in this report is preliminary information and is subject to change as the investigation continues.

It was a fun but busy weekend with no time for posting here. Friday night involved ferrying my oldest son from playing in Barthelmes Conservatory's spring open concert to singing with the Augustine Christian Academy show choir at the school's high school graduation. While he was busy with that, I met up with a friend, a Tulsan now sojourning in Texas, back in town to celebrate his birthday at In the Raw South, enjoying sushi, good conversation, and one of the best views in Tulsa. (And now I think of it -- too late -- it would have been a great spot to view Sunday night's sunset eclipse.)

Saturday was focused on Mayfest. Several Barthelmes Conservatory students performed on the 4th & Boston stage. While the temperatures were pleasant, the gusty winds were a challenge, and at one point several students and I were chasing several pages of piano music down 4th Street. I thought my son and his ensemble partner played as well in the open air as they had for the previous night's indoor concert, but he said that several times a gust lifted his bow off the strings. Not the ideal conditions for performing.

After a young female singer performed, we thought we were going to have a few minutes of quiet before the Barthelmes performance began, but instead the sound system was cranked up to a deafening volume. It turned out they were playing music on the 4th and Boston sound system for a "flash mob" at 4th and Main. Now, downtown Tulsa blocks are 300' by 300' from lot line (usually the building face) to lot line, plus 60' between lot lines for streets and sidewalks. So that means we were sitting within 20' or so of music cranked loud enough to be heard by dancers the length of a football field away. If you want music at 4th and Main, kindly put the speakers at 4th and Main.

We spent a little while exploring the art booths on Main Street. I was especially impressed by Douglas Fulks' pen and ink drawings of football stadiums, baseball parks, and musical instruments and Christopher Westfall's romantic paintings of Tulsa cityscapes. A Westfall print would be a great gift for a homesick Tulsan, and our convention and visitors bureau would do well to license some of his images to promote the city. I particularly liked his painting of Shades of Brown coffeehouse in Brookside.

We wound up on Boston Ave. south of 5th Street, next to the Philcade Building, one of Tulsa's Art Deco treasures. Big band music was playing on a PA system and dozens of young people (and a few older) were swing dancing in the street. This was part of the first-ever Greenwood Swingout and also part of Chalkfest, an event sponsored by Kanbar Properties, separate but alongside Mayfest, to bring people over to Boston Ave. At one point, the whole crowd lined up to do the Shim Sham, a swing line dance, to a recording of "Stompin' at the Savoy" with the late Lindy Hop legend Frankie Manning calling out the steps. Many of the folks dancing are regulars at The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate's Saturday night dances at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Brookside.

Inside the Philcade, the Tulsa Art Deco Museum held the grand opening of its preview space and gift shop, a taste of what the organizers hope to develop on a larger scale. The preview space includes displays of Deco-inspired small appliances, such as toasters and radios, and consumer product packaging -- typewriter ribbon cases, potato chip cans, and ice cream boxes. A three-seat theater in the center ran a sequence of Betty Boop cartoons which had my kids cackling. (The Deco Ball is coming up on Saturday, June 9, 2012, in the Philcade's penthouse, once home to Waite and Genevieve Phillips.

Sunday night we tried to see something of the solar eclipse just before sunset but could find only one small spot in our yard where sunlight struck our fence. The sun went behind the clouds -- no good for eclipse spotting but the sunset was beautiful, with sunbeams streaming through holes in the clouds.

The previous weekend was no less busy: Friday evening we journeyed to Fayetteville for a reception -- the University of Arkansas School of Education honored my mother-in-law, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe, as an outstanding alumna for her work establishing single parent scholarship funds in Benton County and across Arkansas and now across the country through Aspire, a nationwide network of single parent scholarship programs. Saturday was the Oklahoma Republican State Convention in Norman. Sunday night was Mother's Day -- a relaxing celebration with extended family on a beautiful afternoon, followed by the final performance of Fiddler on the Roof at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. ("Sunrise, Sunset" and "Sabbath Prayer" get me choked up every time.)

May has been a month of end-of-school activities, too. Final exams and final projects for the oldest son. Our daughter achieved the Classical Conversations Memory Master milestone for the second year in a row. Our youngest son finished the first book for Awana Sparks -- that involves memorizing about two dozen Bible verses and the books of the New Testament. Closing ceremonies for Classical Conversations featured a skit entirely in Latin, written and performed by the high school (rhetoric) students, and a skit set for all of the grammar and dialectic students set in pioneer days, incorporating in a creative way some of their memory work, such as history sentences, states, capitals, and geographical features, principal parts of irregular verbs, times tables, and presidents.

In addition to Mayfest and the Blue Dome Festival, there's a new event this weekend in downtown Tulsa, starting tonight, Thursday, May 17, 2012. Here's the press release for the first-ever Greenwood Swingout.


Tulsa, OK, May. 14--The Vintage Swing Movement, a nonprofit organization started by a inter-racial couple to create a bridge to reconciliation among America's diverse people groups through the positive spirit of the Swing culture, music and dance, will host their first event on May 17-21 in conjunction with Mayfest. The Greenwood Swingout dance festival was birthed out of the hope to promote racial reconciliation from the long standing tension after the Tulsa Race Riots.

One highlight of the festival will be Saturday at the second annual Chalkfest from 1-5pm at 5th and Boston. Guests are encouraged to take part in the free Swing dance lessons starting at 1pm, dress vintage, and join in the dance from 2-5pm. Other events include:

  • Three Nights of Dancing with: Steve Ham's Jambalaya Jazz Band, The Rebecca Ungerman Combo, and the Jordan Hehl band with Branjae at Tulsa's American Legion Post 1.
  • Daily vintage activities including tours of downtown's art deco building, Cain's Ballroom with historian and radio host John Wooley, the grand opening of Tulsa's Art Deco Museum and more

While some events are free to the public, other events like the guided tour with Tulsa's own Rosie the Riveter, Marina Metevelis, and the evening dances will require a ticket. Some activities can be purchased ala carte, but for a full weekend pass and schedule information go to

In addition to the Greenwood festival, the Vintage Swing Movement (VSM) is excited to roll out its new outreach program this fall. The program will teach students about the music, culture, and dance of the swing era and the rich cultural diversity that existed even during segregation. In the mid 1930s, people from all ethnic backgrounds gathered in Harlem's Savoy Ballroom to listen and dance to the music of Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, smashing racial barriers in the height of segregation. It is in that same spirit VSM seeks to unite the Tulsa community communities around the United States.


This is impressive. Duane Lester, a blogger based in northwest Missouri, posted a lengthy article about the Holt County Sheriff's Department response to an audit report. He took a considerable amount of time to read the audit report, conducted interviews with the auditor and the sheriff, and turn it all into a readable but detailed story. It's the sort of story small town papers used to run and should still be running.

Imagine his surprise when, 10 days later, his article appears verbatim, typos and all, on the front page of a weekly newspaper, the Oregon (Mo.) Times Observer. The paper did not seek Duane's permission, didn't even provide attribution. According to the Missouri Press Association, the paper has a weekly paid circulation of 1,100.

After consulting with a couple of bloggers who are also attorneys, Duane wrote a letter to Bob Ripley, Oregon (Mo.) Times Observer managing editor and publisher, asserting his copyright. Attached was an invoice for the cost of running the piece, a modest $500. He then went to the office and spoke directly to Ripley, who seemed ready to get in Duane's face and tell him to perform an anatomical impossibility until the little lady in the office (Ripley's wife?) mentioned the camera.

Clearly busted for plagiarism and copyright violation, Ripley complies with the demand for payment, but writes a synonym for bovine excrement in the memo line of the check. Throughout the whole confrontation, Duane is calm and composed. Duane then memorialized the encounter with a post on his blog, including the video of the encounter:

Duane explains why he's captured the event for posterity:

I have been asked why I'm writing this article. Some think it might be an "IN YOUR FACE!" kind of article.

It isn't.

It's to demonstrate the importance of standing up for yourself and your rights, regardless. It's to show how to protect your work from those who would steal it.

It's not hard when you are right.

Consult with others, get your ducks in a row and demand respect for your work.

If you don't, who will?

Here's what I suspect happened: Someone started sending around an email with the text of Duane's entry, but without attributing it to him or providing a link. When it reached Ripley, perhaps he had no clue who had written it, but thought it would save him writing a story. A Google search on a distinctive phrase would have turned up Lester's original piece easily enough.

It's amazing to see how brazen Ripley is. A willingness to apologize would have solved matters very quickly.

Although I don't have an explicit statement on the site (though I soon will), everything I've written here on BatesLine is under my copyright, as are all my columns and news stories for other publications. (You may recall that I quit writing for UTW rather than sign a freelance agreement signing over all the rights to my work to them.)

UPDATE: Corrected the headline -- Ripley is the publisher, but I don't know for sure that he is the owner. Also, I now have an explicit copyright statement at the bottom of the home page. It will be at the bottom of every page as soon as I do a site rebuild.

How was my Saturday at the Oklahoma Republican State Convention, you ask? It was about like this:

UPDATE: This was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek placeholder for my own detailed account of what happened, but I am still playing catch up with my offline responsibilities. Here are accounts by others of the 2012 Oklahoma Republican State Convention.

David Tackett, a delegate from Wagoner County and the Republican nominee for State House District 12, wrote from the perspective of someone who worked the registration desk and served on the credentials committee and someone who has often been on the outs with the party establishment. Tackett writes that "both sides messed up":

I was one of the volunteers who helped check in people. So I can answer exactly what the problem was.... new software, delegates who pre-registered incorrectly (we had several who registered as guests or typed their name differently than what was provided by their County Chair), and volunteers who entered in data wrong during the check-in (entering people as guests instead of delegates).

It was, frankly, insulting to hear people from the RP clan suggest fraud was committed by the credential volunteers. (I.e. badges weren't secured, etc.) I know each and every single one of the volunteers who helped with the process and not one has EVER done anything unethical....

Now let's hit another issue... It was clear from the first test vote that the voting came down 60/40 (about a 500 delegate difference) each and every vote... be it voice vote (hey, let me give the RP people credit for having some MASSIVE lungs!), standing vote, or secret ballot.

It wasn't close, the RP faction was in the minority. And so whether it was standing vote or ballot, the state committee's slate would have been approved. But, I know why all these motions and point of orders were happening... because I was told by several of the RP delegates that this was their plan... to drag out the process until everyone else left then they could redo the vote and get their slate in.

Read the whole thing.

Liam Ferguson is a newcomer to the convention process and he also posted a detailed account:

And, while Paul received about nine percent of the vote in Oklahoma, somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of the voting delegates present were Paul supporters.

But, that wasn't enough because it wasn't a majority and what the Paul supporters didn't have was a realistic understanding of politics. They seemed to truly believe that having zeal, having a command of parliamentary procedure and being "right" would carry the day. What they failed to understand is that, while it sometimes takes awhile, a committed majority always wins. Not only because they have the votes, but because any dispute involving the rules always gets referred to the convention where, you guessed it, the majority rules--just as it will at the national convention. Colonel Robert never proposed his rules to guarantee that truth, justice and the American way would prevail. He simply proposed them as a way of expressing the majority will in an orderly fashion. Which is why the "point of order" and "point of information" aren't acting as magical force fields to stop the Romney nomination the way Paul's supporters seemed to be hoping they would.

David Byte, who developed the registration software used at the convention, has written An Open Letter to Ron Paul Supporters.

Where we differ in what we are doing today is this. While you are trying to win on technicalities of rules and disproprtional representation in precinct meetings and conventions, we are out working and winning at the local level. We are hammering away at our candidates trying to ensure that we are getting conservatives into office and hold them accountable for their actions. This is an area where the RP support team has been vastly silent. So silent in fact, that it is a generally accepted idea that we won't see most of you again until 2016 once this convention cycle is over.

What this creates is a general lack of acceptance within conservative republican ranks for the RP supporters as it is felt (often rightly so) that you are coming in to hijack a process that we have been working with for months and years to ensure inclusion for conservatives and the spread of the conservative message. Now, I know you will say that not all county parties are like that and I will agree. But if you want to change that, you have to show up and volunteer. Do you know how many RP supporters have been present at the events our county party participates in since the last election cycle (3 festivals per year, multiple parades, and other events)?

What's your guess? Ten?, Six? two? How about zero! That's right, not a single one! ...

By working in the mid-term cycle in conjunction with groups like the Tea Party and 912ers, the RP support team would be able to greatly influence a turn back towards conservative ideals that is necessary for the survival of our Republic. Don't expect to come into the party and win leadership positions, rather come in and volunteer and stay involved and the leaders among you will float to the top and end up in postions where you are able to help direct America towards a brighter future.

And finally, Ron Paul supporter Suriyah Fish, a delegate from Cherokee County, captured some of the real convention and nearly all of the Ron Paul parking lot convention on her Ustream channel.

There's something creepy going on with email in the race to be Oklahoma's next Republican National Committeeman.

If you're a delegate to the 2012 Oklahoma Republican State Convention, you've been getting a barrage of emails from Richard Engle, candidate for Republican National Committeeman, announcing endorsements from a surprising mixture of people, including disgraced former Speaker Lance Cargill.

What's especially odd about these Engle emails is that they have no substantive text. If you have automatic loading of remote images turned off in your email program -- and you should, for your own Internet safety -- you won't see anything in these Engle emails but a blank space where the image would be and a link labeled, "Is this email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser."

Now, it's not unusual for a mailing list to include a remotely hosted image -- a logo perhaps, or a large photo. A link uses less disk space and bandwidth than embedding the image into the message. But good email etiquette and politeness to the blind demand that you put in an alternative text for the image -- e.g., the name of the company in text form as an alternative to the logo. Typically in these cases, the bulk of the message is plain text, readable even if you choose not to load the remote image.

In Soviet Russia, email reads you!But Richard Engle's emails are different. He's embedded the text of the message in a big image which is located on a remote server. The image is not attached to the email. You can't read it unless you allow remotely hosted images to load, or unless you click the "View it in your browser" link. Among other things, this means you can't cut and paste the text of the message, you can't make the text bigger, and you can't use text-to-voice software to read it to you aloud (more disadvantage for those with limited vision).

And when you load remote images or click the "view it in your browser" link, the server that hosts the endorsement image logs your Internet Protocol (IP address) with a URL that looks like gibberish but actually is a unique identifier tied to your email address. Engle will be able to know which of the endorsement messages you have looked at and which messages you've ignored. More importantly, he will have the IP address of the computer from which you opened his email, and it would be possible to match it with other internet activity.

For most residential users, your IP address, which changes from time to time, only reveals, for example, that you're a Cox or AT&T customer. This email-based data-gathering system makes it possible for someone to pinpoint that a given address is likely to be yours. With multiple emails, you might open some at home, some at work, some at your favorite coffeehouse. Engle would be able to tie your email address to each of these IP addresses and might have enough information to establish a pattern of internet usage. The internet server logs would also let him know what operating system you're running on each of those computers and what web browser or email client you're using.

As Yakov Smirnoff might say, "In Soviet Russia, email reads you!"

Engle could use this feature to build a database of thousands of Oklahoma Republican activists, matching name to email address to one or more IP addresses. Win or lose the RNC position, Engle would have an asset with economic and political value.

Why would someone want to do this? The person sending the email could use this setup to determine who is posting unfavorable anonymous comments on a message board or sending unfavorable anonymous emails. The mailer could sell the database to website owners, who might use it to track an activist's internet activity for commercial or political advantage.

With this database, one could set up a trap: send an email to the same list from a fake "From" address, advertising some illicit website. The database may be able to pinpoint which individuals clicked that nasty link, and suddenly, "You've got blackmail!"

This odd way of sending email has absolutely no advantages to those receiving the email, but it could be very advantageous to the sender.

Is it possible that Engle is doing this innocently? Sure. But this is such an unnatural way to send an email, I have to believe it was done deliberately by someone (perhaps Engle, perhaps someone else). You have to take some time and care to arrange a huge block of text in an image file, rather than just typing the message into an email. That turtle didn't get on that fencepost all by itself.

For the rest of us: Set your email client not to load remote images automatically. Look at carefully at any link in an email before you click it. If there's a lot of incomprehensible code at the end of a URL, it's likely that the sender's email system can track your click to your email address to your IP address and report that information to the sender.


How Thunderbird (Mozilla's email program) protects your privacy by not automatically loading remote images How Reading an Email Can Compromise Your Privacy: How this privacy attack works and what countermeasures can be used.

Steve Fair.pngThis Saturday at the 2012 Oklahoma Republican State Convention, delegates will elect two of its three representatives on the Republican National Committee. (State chairmen are ex officio RNC members.) Oklahoma's National Committeewoman, Carolyn McLarty, is running for re-election and so far has not drawn an opponent. National Committeeman James Dunn is not running for re-election, and two candidates are competing for his place at the RNC table.

I am pleased to endorse my friend Steve Fair of Duncan for election as Oklahoma's Republican National Committeeman. Steve currently is serving his third term as 4th District Chairman and his10th (or so) as chairman of the Stephens County party. Over the years, he has built strong grassroots-driven local party organizations in southwest Oklahoma, developing a how-to manual in the process and creating the state's second-largest annual Republican gathering, the Stephens County Republican Party Fish Fry. It's telling that the 4th District hasn't seen a serious Democratic congressional candidate since 2002. State legislative seats in southwest Oklahoma, once a solidly Democrat-dominated area, have turned from blue to red during Steve's two decades of leadership.

In addition to those chairmanships, Steve has served on the state party's executive committee and budget board, an as the Oklahoma Republican Party Treasurer. His day job involves marketing for an Oklahoma-based food manufacturer.

More than an organizer, Steve Fair is also a thinker and a writer, producing a weekly column on policy and politics which appears in several area newspapers and is posted on his blog, Fair and Biased. He is a consistent voice for the sanctity of human life, the right to keep and bear arms, reducing the size and scope of government, and government transparency and accountability.

Steve is active in his church as music director. He and his wife Debbie have two grown children (one of whom, Jeremy Fair, was recently installed as pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, a conservative evangelical congregation in Tulsa), and three grandchildren.

One of the Republican Party's most pressing needs is to have more principled conservatives on the RNC who can work as a team to influence the direction of the party. Because of the RNC's structure -- three members for each state and territory, without regard to the state's size or the success of the GOP there -- moderate representatives of unsuccessful state parties from the northeast and midwest carry outsized influence. Steve will be a principled conservative voice on the RNC, bringing the perspective of a successful grassroots party builder, someone who has successfully grown the Republican Party's influence in a traditionally Democratic region by promoting the GOP's conservative principles, not by compromising principles or blurring distinctions between the parties.

A word about the other candidate: Richard Engle, a Ron Paul fan, has done an impressive job of self-promotion in this campaign, handing out brightly colored and oddly-shaped flyers at county conventions, but I have my doubts about his ability to operate as part of a conservative coalition on the RNC. That doubt is grounded in something I observed back in 2004. Although Engle had managed to get himself elected as president of a national party auxiliary organization, he couldn't persuade his fellow Oklahoma Republicans to send him to the Republican National Convention that year as a delegate or alternate. He failed to win a seat at his district convention, was not included on the state executive committee's slate of at-large delegates, and then tried and failed to win a seat as a nominee from the floor of the state convention, losing by what I recall was a wide margin. It was interesting to me that, despite the national title, he didn't seem to have the respect of the Republicans who dealt most closely with him on a regular basis. Why that is, I don't know; I haven't dealt with him personally.

But this might be a clue: Richard Engle describes himself in his Twitter profile thus: "Husband. Father. Author. Philanthropist. Statesman." That's heavy, man.

By contrast, Steve Fair writes of himself:

The real issue is what will Steve Fair do if elected? First, I will be a conservative voice on the RNC. Second, I will work to build our county GOP organizations. Third, I will help educate the public on issues, and fourth, I will make building the foundation fun. Those that know me know I don't take myself very seriously, but I take the cause very seriously.

That's the truth. In all my dealings with Steve Fair, he has always been friendly, kind, and good-humored, never pompous or arrogant, a principled conservative who leads through devoted service to his fellow Republicans. He embodies the best aspects of Oklahoma character and values. Oklahoma Republicans would be blessed to have Steve Fair representing our values on the Republican National Committee, and if you're a state convention delegate, I hope you'll join me in voting for Steve Fair.

MORE: Richard Engle endorsed Ron Paul at a rally in December 2011, calling for people "to join me in every effort to put him in the White House." I have to wonder if "every effort" includes subverting the will of Oklahoma's Republican voters, 90% of whom rejected Ron Paul in the presidential preference primary, by sending a slate of Paulbots as Oklahoma's delegation to Tampa. (Video here of Engle speaking to a Ron Paul rally.) Steve Fair endorsed Herman Cain early in the campaign but wrote that Rick Santorum is "probably the best qualified and the most consistent with his message."

Congratulations to the Riverview Neighborhood Association and well done to the City of Tulsa Board of Adjustment (BoA). On Tuesday, May 8, 2012, the BoA denied variances that would have allowed a 10-unit townhouse complex on a single lot, once occupied by a single home, at 21st and Cheyenne. (BOA case 21413 at 1935 S. Cheyenne -- click to review the application.)

Although the lot was zoned Residential Multifamily (RM-2), the proposed development violated several setback and height requirements of the zoning code, requiring the developer to seek variances from the zoning code in order to get a construction permit, specifically:

  • Variance of building setback from an arterial street from 35 ft to 10 ft (Section 403 Table 3),
  • Variance of the single-story limitation for multi-family dwellings within 50 ft of an RS district (Section 403.A.1),
  • Variance of height limitation from 35 ft to 40 ft. (Section 403 Table 3).

Please note that these requirements come from the existing zoning code, which has been in place for well over 30 years. Note that they deal with the proposed building's form. Some people of my acquaintance are of the misapprehension that property owners could do as they pleased until recently, but now soldiers in blue helmets have descended upon us in their black helicopters to impose PLANiTULSA and enslave us with their form-based codes to turn us all into United Nations drones. Or something like that. In fact, we have a zoning code now, we've had land-use regulations of some sort since Tulsa was incorporated, and we've had zoning since the 1920s. While the new comprehensive plan, known as PLANiTULSA, recommends changes to the zoning code, those changes haven't been drafted yet, much less approved.

Please also note this lot that, until recently, housed a single family home was zoned multifamily as a result of an ill-considered blanket "upzoning" imposed by the city decades ago under a previous version of the comprehensive plan, which saw this wedge-shaped area of single-family homes and brick low-rise apartment buildings, between I-244, the Inner Dispersal Loop, and the proposed Riverside Expressway, as the perfect place for squat cinder-block apartment complexes.

So the BoA evaluated these proposals in accordance with the existing zoning code, which requires the applicant for a variance to show a hardship. The hardship can't be self-imposed -- "I can't make my money back on the lot unless you let me build this" isn't sufficient. A good example of a hardship is a curved or unusually shaped lot, where the proposed building meets the setback requirement for most of the lot, but misses it by a foot or two where the lot curves. Rather than make the owner curve the building to match the setback line, the BoA would grant a variance to allow a straight building wall. The BoA is a quasi-judicial body, required to follow the law and precedent, required to consider impact of the proposed changes on neighboring properties. An appeal of a BoA decision would be made in District Court. The BoA can't whimsically waive the zoning code to allow a developer to build whatever he wants.

The BoA voted unanimously to deny the variances. The BoA's composition is a positive legacy from Mayor Bill LaFortune's administration, which his successors have wisely left untouched. LaFortune appointed Frazier Henke, Mike Tidwell, and Clayda Stead to the board. Surveyor David White had served as chairman during the Savage administration (the best member of the pre-LaFortune board) and was brought back to the BoA by Kathy Taylor, who also appointed Stuart Van De Wiele. LaFortune's three appointees reestablished the principle that the zoning code was to be followed as written, with variances granted only where a true hardship exists. Getting a variance shouldn't be just a matter of hiring an influential zoning attorney.

Realtor Lori Cain, who lives next door to the subject property, led the opposition to the variances and notes on her blog that the owner has several profitable options within the existing zoning code.

Urban infill is the process of developing vacant or under-used parcels within existing urban areas that are already largely developed. While we ENCOURAGE infill, we expect that the infill be appropriate for the neighborhood, accommodate existing architectural style, -- and not create additional public safety and storm water issues.

Why should the developer's right to make a profit be given more consideration than OUR investments in our personal homesteads? Why should he not build within the zoning restrictions KNOWN to him at the time of his purchase? He could easily build a single-family dwelling and sell it at a profit. Or, if he's insistent on rentals, he could build an upscale duplex or triplex within existing zoning restrictions.

You can watch the May 8, 2012, City of Tulsa Board of Adjustment hearing online via Here's a direct link to the video stream of the May 8, 2012, City of Tulsa Board of Adjustment hearing.

MORE: If Frazier Henke's name seems familiar, it's because his wife, Katie Henke, was the Republican nominee for the recent House District 71 special election and almost certainly will be again for the regular fall election. Katie led by one vote after a recount, but there were more disputed ballots than the margin of victory, leading the Oklahoma Supreme Court to throw out the election and leave the seat vacant until the regular election. Frazier Henke is also the son of Bonnie Henke, a neighborhood leader and advocate for compatible infill development. (Because of that advocacy, Bonnie was targeted for defeat by certain developers when she ran for the District 9 city council seat in 2002, losing the GOP primary by a very narrow margin to Susan Neal.) Frazier is a fair and honorable decision-maker, Tulsa is blessed to have him as BoA chairman, and I'm blessed to count him as a friend.

If you weren't at Cain's Ballroom on Saturday, April 14, 2012, you missed an evening of family-friendly fun and great music, starting with the induction of Woody Paul, Herman Johnson, Keith Coleman, and Kenny Baker (the latter two, posthumously) into the National Fiddler Hall of Fame, and ending with a performance by Riders in the Sky. Each inductee was introduced with a brief video; two are up on YouTube, and you'll find them on the jump page of this entry.

Woody Paul inducted into the National Fiddler Hall of Fame, with NFHOF board member Bob Fjeldsted, MDB21765 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

Herman Johnson inducted into the National Fiddler Hall of Fame, with NFHOF board member Bob Fjeldsted, MDB21758 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

Our whole family was there. Between the tickets and the money we spent at Too Slim's Mercantile, it was not a cheap evening, but we had a great time, and it was especially worth it to give our younger two the chance to see Riders in the Sky in person. They were as entertaining as ever. I could imagine Bob Wills was there in spirit, with a big grin and an approving holler for every swinging fiddle lick.

Riders in the Sky on the stage at Cain's Ballroom, MDB21776 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

The Riders played many great cowboy classics and their original tunes (now classics in their own right): "Texas Plains," "My Oklahoma," "Cool Water," "That's How the Yodel Was Born." Woody Paul played and sang one of his original compositions, a beautiful waltz called "The Arms of My Love."


Joey the Cowpolka King took the lead on "Drifting Texas Sand" and made the most of the echo part on "Cool Water."

Joey the Cowpolka King's big moment in Cool Water, MDB21787 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

Ramona Reed, a vocalist with the Texas Playboys in the '50s and '60s, came up on stage to add her famous yodel to the mix with "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart." Here she is with Ranger Doug:

Ramona Reed with Ranger Doug, singing I Want to Be a Cowboys Sweetheart, MDB21806 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

Sidekick and geezer Sidemeat came out to recite "Reincarnation" and sing "I've Cooked Everything" (a parody of "I've Been Everywhere").

Sidemeat, the old sidekick of Riders in the Sky, MDB21789 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

In response to an audience request they played "Take Me Back to Tulsa." "Ghost Riders in the Sky" included a shout-out (of sorts) to music historian Guy Logsdon, who was in the audience -- right after the line, "As the riders loped on by him, he heard one call his name...." We got to see the Pixar short "For the Birds" as the Riders played the soundtrack live.

Too Slim plays his face, MDB21779 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

I was blown away by an old tune that was new to me -- "Trail Dust." Recorded by Sons of the Pioneers in 1963, its lush minor-key harmonies brought to mind Tex Williams and His Western Caravan's "Artistry in Western Swing" (1948) and the exotica genre popular in the late '50s and early '60s.

An act devoted to the music of Hollywood's singing cowboys could easily stray into pure nostalgia, utter corn, or hip ironic detachment, but the Riders manage to poke fun at the conventions of the genre in a genuinely affectionate way, while demonstrating their respect for the tradition with their impeccable musicianship. In Woody Paul's Hall of Fame induction video, bassist and face-ist Too Slim mentioned the wit in Woody's playing, and you can hear it from all four Riders -- a constant flow of creativity whether taking the lead or backing their bandmates.

Riders in the Sky at Cain's Ballroom, MDB21816 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

Riders in the Sky are renowned for being fan-friendly, sticking around to shake hands, sign autographs, and take pictures. My six-year-old, who was bouncing off the walls at the thought of meeting them, was rather more shy when the moment came to shake hands, but he told Ranger Doug that he listened to their version of "Don't Fence Me In" every night, and the Idol of American Youth sang a few bars for him. When we posed for photos, Joey the Cow Polka King swapped his cowboy hat with my oldest son's fedora, and Too Slim set his hat on my daughter's head.

BatesLine family photo with Riders in the Sky, April 14, 2012, MDB21829 by Michael Bates, on Flickr

We first came across Riders in the Sky on their weekly radio show, Riders Radio Theater, more than twenty years ago and first heard them in person in '92 in Springfield and again in Ponca City, as part of the Cherokee Strip Land Run centennial, in 1993. When our oldest came along, we took him to see the Riders at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville.

Our younger two go to sleep each night to a CD of western lullabies, a mix of songs by the Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys, Sons of the Pioneers, and, of course, Riders in the Sky.

As far as I know, this was the first time Riders in the Sky have played Tulsa, although they've performed in many smaller cities and towns in the region. I hope it's not too long before they come back.

MORE: Listener-supported WMKV-FM in Cincinnati plays an episode of Riders Radio Theater each Tuesday at 11 a.m. Cincinnati time (10 a.m. Tulsa time), followed by an episode of the Jack Benny Show, on "Theater of the Mind," a daily hour of old time radio -- on other days you can hear The Life of Riley, The Great Gildersleeve, Burns and Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Basil Rathbone, and Bold Venture, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The station runs a 24/7 schedule, including Big Band music all night long. You can listen to WMKV-FM online (click the link on the home page); here's a direct link to the stream.

A homegrown feature film, The Rock 'n' Roll Dreams of Duncan Christopher, already the recipient of multiple awards on the film festival circuit, has been picked up for international release by a division of Warner Brothers. This is a big milestone for Tulsa and a feather in the cap of the Tulsans who made this movie happen. The comedy, rated PG-13, will premiere at 8 p.m., Thursday, May 10, 2012, at Riverwalk Movies in Jenks.

The movie was filmed locally, written, produced, directed, and acted by Tulsa talent.


From the news release:

Oklahoma Film Gets International Release and Debuts in Theaters

TULSA, Okla. -- The award-winning, Oklahoma feature film, The Rock 'n' Roll Dreams of Duncan Christopher, is slated for international release on May 15th, but first, fans will enjoy the film on the big screen with a Tulsa premiere on May 10th.

City Councilor and local restaurateur, Blake Ewing, who also served as an Associate Producer on the film, is excited by what this means for the state and the city.

"I think this is great for the future of Tulsa," said Ewing. "It's one more project that continues to establish our city as a viable artistic community in the United States. I am extremely proud to have been a part of such a successful film and soundtrack that celebrates Oklahoma so passionately."

The film, directed by Tulsa native Justin Monroe, is a quirky and endearing comedy that tells the story of the awkward and mostly untalented Duncan Christopher, who, after an early mid-life crisis, moves to the big city of Tulsa to pursue his rock 'n' roll dreams and face his demons in the brutal underground world of competitive karaoke.

After successfully touring the film festival circuit in 2011, Monroe is thrilled to announce the full, international digital distribution of his movie. Gravitas Ventures, a division of Warner Brothers, eagerly picked up the film and has slated it for a May 15th release.

"It was our dream to shine a light on Oklahoma, to reveal the beauty and heart of this place," said Monroe. "When we left Hollywood to come back home, we hoped to create a unique, heartful, and infectiously fun movie that could communicate across a wide demographic, across social-economic borders, and across oceans. Finally being at this moment, where a company as significant as Gravitas has now picked up the movie and will be taking it to the world - well, it's pretty amazing to say the least. Honestly, it's a dream come true!"

Moviegoers can order the film now on iTunes and can screen the film on other platforms like Netflix, Amazon, AT&T U-verse, Blockbuster on Demand, and Hulu after the release. Fans can also purchase the DVD after the initial release, which will include tons of extras, like bloopers, deleted scenes, "Duncan's inspirations" and more.

The theatrical screening will take place at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 10th at Riverwalk Movies in Jenks.

As you can see from the trailer, the movie shows off Tulsa to good effect; Cain's Ballroom, the Gypsy Coffee House, and River Parks are among the landmarks featured.


Duncan Christopher on Facebook
Duncan Christopher on Twitter
Duncan Christopher on YouTube

Rep. David Derby (R-Owasso) sent me a response to my comments regarding his decision to withdraw his endorsement of his colleague, George Faught, in the race for the Republican nomination for Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District, in connection with Faught's news release on the failure of SB 1433, the personhood bill, to get a hearing in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. As the response was a series of text messages, I've taken the liberty to expand abbreviations:

I pulled my support from Faught because his press release said he was disappointed with the Republican caucus. I'm part of the Republican caucus, and there is no way I will ever stand for being called pro-choice. I chaired the health committee that personhood came through. I kept the liberal amendments from being added. I voted yes on all the whip counts to hear the bill. So I was disappointed in Faught's press release by not calling out leadership. I will not be called pro-choice, nor will I stand for a press release that implies that I am pro-choice. I have an adopted son, and my wife and I personally have had issues that led us to adopt, and thus my pro-life stance. I hope and pray that this clears up the confusion.

Derby, D.jpgIn response to my question about his absence when Rep. Mike Reynolds was trying to appeal the speaker's ruling and bring SB 1433 to a vote, Derby said that he had left the chamber for a short break while the previous bill was being heard and so was out of the chamber when Reynolds was trying unsuccessfully to get Speaker pro-tem Jeff Hickman (R-Dacoma) to recognize him. Derby pointed out that on the subsequent roll call vote to adjourn, he voted against adjournment, which would have kept the door open for another attempt to have the bill heard. (A vote in favor of adjournment killed the bill, by closing the door on voting on it during this session, as April 26 was the deadline for Deadline for Third Reading of bills and joint resolutions from the Senate. Voting nay, as Derby did, was the right vote from the pro-life perspective.)

Derby did indeed chair the Public Health Committee, and voted yes on the motion to move the bill forward with a "Do Pass" recommendation. The yeas were David Derby, Grau, Holland, Jadine Nollan, Mike Ritze, Roberts (S.), Schwartz. The nays were Ed Cannaday (D-Porum), Doug Cox (R-Grove, one of the most consistent Republican votes against pro-life bills), Jeannie McDaniel (D-Tulsa) one of the most consistent Democrat votes against pro-life bills), and Ron Peters (R-Tulsa, term-limited Republican who often votes to the left of the rest of the caucus).

Last week, on April 26, when State Rep. Mike Reynolds tried in vain to appeal the ruling of the speaker pro tempore, so that the Personhood bill (SB 1433) would be heard, only 15 other state representatives were willing to stand with him. This in spite of the fact that SB 1433 had passed the Senate by a wide margin (34-8) and was given a "do pass" recommendation by the House public health committee (7-4). But House Speaker Kris Steele had killed the bill, claiming that it was in response to a caucus vote not to allow it to move forward.

An appeal of the speaker's ruling requires 15 seconds. The speaker pro tem, Hickman, seemed not to see Reynolds's appeal or the seconders. Here, according to Charlie Meadows of OCPAC, are the 18 that demonstrated a willingness to give this bill a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote:

Mike Reynolds (R) *
Gus Blackwell (R) *
Paul Wesselhoft (R) *
Mike Christian (R)
Aaron Stiles (R)
Lewis Moore (R) *
John Bennett (R) *
Sean Roberts (R)
Charles Key (R)
Jason Murphey (R)
George Faught (R) *
Sally Kern (R) *
John Trebilcock (R)
Mike Ritze (R) *
Randy Terrill (R)
Rebecca Hamilton (D) *
R.C. Pruitt (D)
Richard Morrissette (D)

Those with stars after their names also appeared at a news conference last week in support of SB 1433. In addition to those listed above, Josh Cockroft (R), Ralph Shortey (R), and two candidates, Paul Blair (challenging Sen. Clark Jolley in the Republican primary) and Dan Fisher (running for an open House seat), spoke at the the news conference. Meadows notes that Hamilton is a genuine supporter of the sanctity of human life, but questions whether Morrissette's motive was to "stir controversy among Republicans."


Here is video, posted by Personhood USA, of what took place, as Rep. Reynolds sought to suspend the rule, to bypass the floor leader, so that the bill could be heard over the objection of the Majority Floor Leader (Dale DeWitt, R-Braman). Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) points out that Hickman's ruling creates a Catch-22, where there is no way that even a supermajority of the House could move legislation that the Floor Leader seeks to block. This goes well beyond the pros and cons of this particular bill and raises the question: Is the State House a legislative body, or an elected dictatorship?

As you see the end of that video, Hickman claims that there were not 15 standing seconds. But State Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, captured video from his seat showing Hickman improperly ignoring Reynolds' appeal and those who stood with Reynolds.

The video shows the list of representatives who then voted to adjourn. This vote may have appeared nothing more than procedural, but it halted Rep. Reynolds' attempts to be recognized for the purpose of overruling the chair and suspending the rules so that the personhood bill could be heard. April 26 was the last day Senate bills could be heard on the House floor, so anyone voting aye for adjournment voted to pierce the personhood bill's head, vacuum its brains out, and collapse its metaphorical skull for ease of disposal.

I would be very interested in hearing from those avowed pro-life Republicans -- many of whom have moved important pro-life bills in the past, even in this session -- who refused to give their public support to ensure that this bill was brought to a vote, and why they instead supported killing it in utero, as it were, by their silence.

georgefaughtlogo.pngMORE: I received an pseudonymous email on Thursday (probably from a campaign operative for one of the District 2 carpetbagger candidates -- no way to know for sure, can't prove it, but the motive is there), claiming that George Faught did not speak in support of the personhood bill in caucus, and that Faught's public statement in support of SB 1433 cost him the endorsements of State Reps. Steve Martin and David Derby. I'm not sure how this operative knew what went on behind the caucus's closed doors, but it doesn't matter. Faught spoke in support of SB 1433 publicly and stood for it when it counted. Martin and Derby did not, and that they would withdraw support from Faught because of his statement suggests that they care more for caucus politics than the sanctity of human life. Derby and Martin are welcome to try to convince me that my assessment of their wobble is wrong, but it will take some very solid reasoning and facts to convince me. (UPDATE: David Derby responds, noting that he voted against adjournment and supported the bill on each caucus whip count.)

Here's the key to the 2nd Congressional District: There's the carpet cleaner -- George Faught, long-time resident of Muskogee, who runs a successful carpet cleaning business in addition to his service to the legislature -- and then you have some carpetbaggers, people who recently moved into the district after living outside the district for decades. District 2 has been represented by "newly arrived residents" since Brad Carson moved to Claremore from midtown Tulsa and won the open seat in 2000. Vote for the carpet cleaner and send the carpetbaggers packing.

UPDATE 2012/05/04: The answer is no, by a 5-4 vote to approve the PUD "amendment" and close the street. Thanks to Councilors Blake Ewing, Karen Gilbert, Skip Steele, and G. T. Bynum for upholding the plan and the notion of public infrastructure for public use over the demands of a private business. I'm not surprised that David Patrick and Tom Mansur voted with the developer. I'm disappointed that Jack Henderson, who used to be a reliable supporter of neighborhood interests, and Jeannie Cue, whom I perceived to appreciate the concerns of homeowners, voted in favor of the street closing.

Phil Lakin's vote reinforced the golden rule in Tulsa politics -- he who has the gold makes the rules. For years, developers and INCOG staffers excused deviations to the comprehensive plan because the plan was so old and out of date. Now we have a plan adopted within the last two years and a specific small area plan adopted just seven years ago, and yet Lakin is willing to vote to set it aside. Why would any Tulsan want to take the time to participate in small-area planning without the confidence that the TMAPC and the City Council will follow the plans that they've already approved?

Several items on tonight's City Council agenda involve a proposal to expand the QuikTrip at 11th and Utica by closing 10th Street west of Utica. (Here (PDF format) is a link to the backup information for the QuikTrip street closing agenda item.)

QuikTrip is asking the City Council to surrender to them -- the technical term is "vacate" -- a section of 10th Street west of Utica, so they can build a store and gas station with a bigger footprint, to include what is now 10th Street and the lots to the north.

The City Council should deny the request and encourage QuikTrip to find a creative solution to build within the existing site, rather than surrender a public through street for private use. This issue is a test of whether this City Council is committed to protect public infrastructure and to ensure that its development decisions are consistent with the City's long-range transportation and development plans.

I am a frequent customer of QuikTrip, and I admire the way they've transformed the convenience store industry that they pioneered over 50 years ago. You can expect that a QT store will be clean, well-stocked with high-quality, reasonably priced items, with procedures in place to keep customers and employees safe, even late at night. It's always nice to find a bit of Tulsa in other regions, like St. Louis, Wichita, and Dallas/Ft. Worth, where QT operates. I'd love to see them expand into the Oklahoma City metro area and offer ethanol-free gasoline.

For all of QT's positive aspects, it's not right for city government to turn a through street into a dead end simply to satisfy the aims of a private enterprise. There ought to be a compelling public interest in closing the street before the City Council consents to vacating a through street.

Once upon a time, QuikTrip knew how to adapt itself to a variety of urban and suburban settings. In the '70s and '80s there was a QuikTrip on the Main Mall in downtown Tulsa -- no gas pumps, no vehicular access at all. Some QuikTrip stores were standalone, some anchored strip shopping centers.

Now it appears that QuikTrip is big enough they seem to think they should be able to install their cookie-cutter store plan everywhere, without regard to the impact on public infrastructure.

The advantages of a grid street pattern are well established. Traffic can distribute itself across multiple paths through the grid. If one path is blocked, say, by construction, an accident, or emergency vehicles, traffic can reroute to another path. Through access to the surrounding arterials means it's usually possible to avoid taking a difficult left turn across arterial traffic.

In suburbia, a single residential collector street becomes a choke point for traffic in and out of a neighborhood and a speedway for those who live along it, but in an urban neighborhood with a street grid, traffic in and out is distributed across a dozen or more intersections and no one street bears the brunt of "cut-through" traffic.

10th Street is one of only three streets connecting the neighborhood to Utica Avenue. Those three streets are through all the way to Peoria -- for now.

But the City's stormwater master drainage plan for the Elm Creek basin calls for a major detention pond in the neighborhood that will necessarily interrupt the street grid, interrupting 8th Street and possibly 7th Street as well, leaving 10th Street the only through east-west neighborhood street -- unless QuikTrip gets its way and 10th is closed as well.

In his letter objecting to the proposal, developer Jamie Jamieson points out that the 6th Street Plan, part of the City's Comprehensive Plan, calls for higher density redevelopment in the area northwest of this site, making it imperative to maintain as many access points as possible to the neighborhood. In her letter, neighborhood resident Teddi Allen explains the importance of 10th Street to neighborhood ingress and egress:

According to [INCOG] staff, closure of 10th street would have minimal effect and would not be detrimental to the neighborhood. They argue that residents could either use 11th Street, or weave down Troost to exit the neighborhood via 7th or 8th Streets. Both of these concepts completely disregard the safety of the driving public.

11th Street rises in elevation between Utica and Troost, making any effort to turn out left onto 11th from Troost or Trenton problematic at best, and outright dangerous at worst due to the lack of visibility of oncoming traffic. The situation is compounded by traffic entering and exiting 11th street from the Hillcrest parking garage during peak periods and shift changes. In addition there is a great deal of pedestrian traffic crossing from the south side to the north side of 11th which compounds the problem.

Diverting traffic onto Troost Avenue as well as 7th and 8th Streets is not a viable solution either. 7th and 8th Streets are short residential streets, each a block long and filled with rental properties whose tenants often park on both sides of the street. This makes safe implementation of two way traffic virtually impossible to guarantee. Moreover, Troost Avenue as well as 7th and 8th Streets are at the lowest elevations in the neighborhood, subject to street flooding during periods of heavy rain. The staff analysis appears to ignore the fact that areas of the Pearl District, including these particular streets, lie within the Elm Creek flood basin. In an effort to resolve flooding issues in the Elm Creek Basin, the city has already built one flood detention pond in Centennial park, and there are 3 more ponds planned. Preliminary plans approved by the City (and available on its website) show that one of those ponds will detain water at the level of lowest elevation, i.e., in the area of Troost between 7th and 8th. These streets will not be available long term to provide the access the planners allude to in the application.

As Teddi Allen notes, any proper analysis of the impact of this development on traffic flow must also include the impact of the street closings required for the City's planned detention pond. If city officials surrender 10th Street now and only later realize the negative interaction with the detention pond, they won't be able to get 10th Street reopened without condemnation and compensation to QuikTrip, which would be cost-prohibitive.

And speaking of stormwater, it appears that the new store with its expanded gas canopy and parking area will require converting a large currently vacant grassy area into an impermeable surface. And yet I see nothing in the proposal explaining how additional stormwater runoff will be contained. The store is in the Elm Creek watershed, which is one of the few stormwater basins in the city for which the mitigation plan has not been fully implemented.

In fact, this question was asked at the TMAPC Technical Advisory Committee meeting: "Please address the Environmental, Stormwater Quality, Issues involved with the
Stormwater Runoff flowing into the Stormwater Drainage System from the Vehicle Fueling Areas, and the Tank Excavation Area." Apparently no answer was given: Nothing in the proposal or the INCOG staff analysis addresses additional stormwater runoff at all, much less stormwater than may be carrying toxic, flammable liquids into Elm Creek, into Centennial Park Lake, and ultimately into Zink Lake and the Arkansas River at 21st Street.

As Pearl District Association president Dave Strader pointed out in his letter to the TMAPC, the existing footprint is adequate for QT to construct a Gen 3 (QT Kitchens) store. They have nearly as much space in their existing lot (68,092 sq. ft.) as the lot at 15th and Denver (70,008) where a Gen 3 store was recently built.

In the same letter (pp. 78-85 of the PDF), Strader details the long history of area plans for the neighborhood adopted by the City, the result of years of volunteer effort. The wrong decision here will deter residents and businesspeople from getting involved in developing small area plans for other neighborhoods.

Many of you may be aware that Patrick Fox with The City of Tulsa just announced three new Small Area Plans. Once completed they will be standing in front of you asking you for your support with their plans. Will you support them or will you only support them on the condition that no one complains? What happens when QuikTrip or some other business doesn't want to play by the rules in their neighborhood? Will you tell them that their plan doesn't matter?

You can't roll over every time someone asks you to.

The point is that there are much broader implications to your decisions concerning the 6Th Street Infill Plan and The QT PUD.

Why should people like us volunteer thousands of hours making plans if you aren't going to support us? Why should we make plans at all?

The QuikTrip PUD is contrary to our plan, contrary to the comprehensive plan and increases the risk of our public safety.

Strader goes on to point out that, in 2005, the City declined to vacate a street in another part of the Pearl District (west of the Indian Health Center), citing the clear language in the Pearl District Plan that calls for maintaining the street grid.3

Dear Councilors, please do the right thing tonight and deny QuikTrip's request to vacate 10th Street.


My earlier entry, Keeping the Promise to the Pearl District, on why the City must honor the promises it has made over a 20-year period to this neighborhood.

It is possible to build a convenience store that fits into an urban context. Here are just a few examples:

7-11 in Stockholm

Photo of an urban 7-Eleven in Stockholm by meiburgin, Flickr attribution license

Random 7-11

Photo of an urban 7-Eleven in Singapore by Cimexus, Flickr attribution license

stunned at 7-11

Photo of an urban 7-Eleven in Hong Kong by kenyee, Flickr attribution license

Ali_Rashad_Richey-Mugshot-20050920.jpgGeorgia Politcs Unfiltered has several updates regarding Georgia Democratic Party political director Ali Rashad Richey, the topic of an entry here late last week. (The link texts below are the titles of the posts at Georgia Politics Unfiltered.)

The second item includes a scan and partial transcript of the police report from Richey's 2007 arrest.

The third item has a scan of a letter written by State Sen. Gail Buckner, owner of the property whose address matches that on Richey's 2010 jail booking record, in which she offers to a DeKalb County judge to "take supervision over Ali Richey to see that he completes all of the requirements of the court and to help prevent him from getting into any other issues that would bring him before the court."

Blogger Andre Walker asks a speculative question, in reaction to this information about Buckner's letter: "What does Ali Rashad Richey have on you people? What kind of dirt does Richey, the political director for Georgia Democrats, have on the party leadership? Rashad Richey must have a proverbial smoking gun under lock and key in a safe deposit box somewhere. How else does one explain the fact that Democrat Party leaders keep saving Rashad Richey's [posterior]?"

The last item in the list above links to a news report about Richey by WSB-TV in Atlanta. While the WSB report frames the story as a dispute between bloggers and the Democratic Party of Georgia, the story shows what appears to be copies of the arrest records and a list of charges are shown on screen, which would suggest that the station did its own research on Richey's interactions with law enforcement.

WSB interviewed Mike Berlon, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia. Berlon said Richey was "probably one of the best political directors in the country" and had a "very bright political future." That's interesting in light of the fact that Democrats hold only about 35% of the seats in each house of the Georgia legislature, Democrats did not win any statewide elections in 2010, and Democrats won only 5 of 13 seats in Congress. As recently as the 1970s, Georgia was practically a one-party state, dominated by the Democrats. I suppose it could be worse for Georgia Democrats, but not by much.

Berlon said that he got a copy of the arrest record, "just to make sure we hadn't missed something. Mr. Richey's never been convicted of a felony.... There's nothing out there that rises even close to the level of a felony."

The WSB story shows YouTube videos that they say show Richey speaking on behalf of the Democratic Party. "He also has a radio talk show, but Berlon says he doesn't consider Richey a public figure and said they're considering legal action against the bloggers who are hinting he's a convicted felon and calling for his firing."

Note the phrase "they're considering" -- not "Berlon is considering" or "Richie is considering." Now, it's possible that WSB misquoted Berlon, but if the quote is accurate, it indicates that Berlon is speaking here on behalf of the Democratic Party of Georgia. If that's not the case, Mr. Berlon needs to clarify the point.

The significance of "public figure" status is that it can be libel, in a technical sense, to publicize the truth or express an opinion about someone if it would cause people to think badly of them. The First Amendment trumps such laws, and the U. S. Supreme Court has established that it's not even libelous to make a statement that is false about a public figure, as long as it was done without actual malice. Here, of course, we are talking about facts in the public record about a public figure.

I haven't read any bloggers hinting that Richey is a convicted felon, and nor have any bloggers called for his firing, as far as I'm aware, but there have been comments on what Richey's employment with the Democratic Party of Georgia says about the organization's leadership and about Democratic Party politics in America generally.

Ali Rashad Richey is clearly a public figure. You can't have a "very bright political future" if you're not a public figure. You can't be a political party spokesman or official if you're not a public figure. You can't be a radio talk show host without wanting people to know who you are and what you think and therefore being a public figure. You certainly aren't going to have the state chairman of a major political party talking on TV about the party prosecuting lawsuits on your behalf if you aren't a person of public significance and interest.

I've never met Ali Rashad Richey. I've never met blogger Andre Walker. I've never communicated with either one of them. I became interested in this story because it was already a matter of public interest and bore at least some superficial similarities to stories involving the Oklahoma and North Carolina Democratic Party organizations. If Ali Rashad Richey isn't a public figure, then why would bloggers outside Georgia think it worth their time to write about him?

MORE: Here's my March 25, 2009, column on SLAPPs -- Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation -- the abuse of legal process to shut up a political critic.

And here is a blog entry about then-Tulsa City Councilor Eric Gomez's threat to sue neighborhood activist Julie Hall in 2009 and Gomez's answer at a candidate forum to a question about suing his constituents.

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