February 2013 Archives

The Tulsa Police Department is looking for Tawny Sheppard, age 21, date of birth December 19, 1991, 5'3" tall, weight 135. According to the news release, "Tawny is homeless and was last seen around the Tulsa Select Hotel at 5100 S. Yale. She is also known to be around the 61st and Peoria area. She has not been heard from or seen since."

The Tulsa Police Department case number is 2013-012076. Anyone that has information about Sheppard is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 918-596-COPS or text TIP918 to CRIMES. Text STOP to 274637 to cancel. Text HELP to 274637 for help. Msg&Data Rates May Apply.

Tawny_Sheppard_Missing_Tulsa.jpg

The release was sent at 3:29 p.m., but it did not specify the date or time when Sheppard was last seen. A reply email to the sender (TPD_News@cityoftulsa.org) requesting clarification was returned as undeliverable.

BatesLine will update this entry with the latest information about the case as it becomes available. As of this writing, nothing has been posted on the Tulsa Police Department Twitter account, official Facebook page, or website news page.

MORE: My blog entry on how a law enforcement agency searching for a missing person can make better use of the internet.

Incumbent Owasso Mayor Doug Bonebrake is being challenged for his City Council Ward 5 seat by J. B. Alexander, the outgoing Tulsa County Republican Party chairman and a leader of the Owasso Taxpayers Alliance, which has successfully elected two members to the five-member council. The non-partisan election will be held next Tuesday, March 5, 2013. Because only two candidates filed for the seat, the race will be decided on Tuesday.

In October 2011, the Owasso Taxpayers Alliance (OTA) led the record turnout that inflicted a landslide defeat of three Owasso bond issue propositions. Two of the propositions failed to get 20% of the vote; the proposition for roads fared little better with only 22.5%.

The latest edition of the Owasso Reporter has a color ad in which five county officials, a state senator, and a state representative have endorsed Bonebrake. Five of the officials are Republicans, two are Democrats, but none of them live in the City of Owasso. The ad also attacks Alexander.

Six of the seven endorsers live in the City of Tulsa and the other lives in Broken Arrow. Sheriff Stanley Glanz lives in east Tulsa, County Commissioner Karen Keith, State Rep. Eric Proctor, and State Sen. Brian Crain live in midtown Tulsa, County Treasurer Dennis Semler lives in far southeast Tulsa, County Commissioner Fred Perry lives in Broken Arrow, and County Commissioner John Smaligo lives in Tulsa's Brady Heights neighborhood, a short walk from downtown Tulsa.

Another thing most of them have in common with each other and with Bonebrake: They endorsed Vision2. Bonebrake endorsed corporate welfare proposition 1, but did not declare a position on pork barrel proposition 2. Smaligo, Keith, Perry, Semler, and Crain endorsed the entire package. Glanz was reported to have appeared in uniform in a pro-Vision2 ad with Karen Keith. (I am unable to find a record of Proctor taking a stand one way or another on the issue.)

An Evite online invitation seems to show that a fundraiser for Doug Bonebrake was held at the Summit Club in downtown Tulsa on Thursday, February 21, 2013, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The "Message from Host" stated "Please join us in showing support for Owasso Mayor Doug Bonebrake's re-election and to keep Owasso a strong regional partner for continued success and growth throughout Tulsa County" and was signed "Tulsa County Republicans." Because of the timing of the event and Oklahoma's antiquated ethics reporting laws, contributions from the fundraiser won't have to be reported until after the election. (Click to see a screenshot of the Doug Bonebrake for Mayor Summit Club fundraiser invitation.)

The two Vision2 propositions received just under 40% of the vote in the Owasso area precincts (750 through 760), which may explain why the ad was silent about that issue. J. B. Alexander, as an outspoken leader in the opposition to Vision2, is more in line with the views of his Owasso neighbors than his opponent is.

J. B. Alexander, Owasso city council candidateJ. B. Alexander showed a great deal of courage in personally opposing Vision2 and allowing the Republican County Committee to vote to take a stand on Vision2, when he was undoubtedly under a great deal of pressure to at least remain silent for the sake of the Republican officials who voted to put the misbegotten corporate welfare and pork barrel plan on the ballot. I imagine those officials might feel some resentment toward Alexander for his role in their plan's defeat, and that might motivate support for his opponent.

I've only known J. B. for about four years, from when he was first elected as GOP county vice chairman in 2009. What I've seen is that he is a hard worker, a committed conservative, and he has bent over backwards to be fair to everyone, notwithstanding the vocal complaints of the Big Government minority in the party. His day job involves ensuring that taxpayers get their money's worth on government construction contracts; he inspects the work to ensure that it was completed to specifications, without skimping on material or workmanship. Sometimes that means a contractor gets upset when he's told to redo work in order to fix a deficiency. It's not surprising that someone devoted to the best interest of taxpayers would be on the receiving end of darts from the political class.

MORE: J. B. Alexander's Facebook page, where he discusses specific issues and answers voters' questions.

More commentary on Owasso City Hall politics at Owasso Matters and Rossviews.

Former City Councilor Roscoe Turner has announced his endorsement of his long-time Council colleague Bill Christiansen in the 2013 race for Mayor of Tulsa. Christiansen will face two other announced candidates, incumbent Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. and former Mayor Kathy Taylor.

From the Christiansen campaign news release:

Roscoe Turner, former Tulsa City Councilor, as the Golden DrillerIn welcoming the support of the long-time north Tulsa leader Christiansen cited the Turner endorsement as yet another sign that the people of our community are excited about the prospect of a Mayor for all Tulsa. Christiansen stated, "Roscoe has a reputation for telling it like it is and standing up for the interests of Tulsans. His confidence in me and our campaign is a great honor."

Turner stated: "I have never before publically endorsed another city candidate for office. I would not be involved in this election if I did not feel strongly that if Bill Christiansen is not elected, the people of Tulsa will suffer. Now more than ever we need a Mayor that seeks to be a servant leader - not the city boss. During his time on the City Council Bill had a great relationship with everyone he worked with. He showed genuine concern for every part of Tulsa. When he says he wants to a Mayor for all of Tulsa his words are consistent with his past actions."

Turner pointed to the recent city-wide defeat of the Vision 2 package as proof that the people of Tulsa are ready to stand up to the special interests and demand competence and accountability before supporting spending programs. Turner said, "Like the successful fight against Vision 2, I am calling on Tulsans to get the facts, and don't be fooled by big money gimmicks. We need to show up in record numbers and prove once again, the day has past when the select few can buy the votes of the people of North, East, West and South Tulsa."

The endorsement by Turner is an indication of Christiansen's political transformation from Chambercrat to populist reformer. The same Money Belt-backed push that defeated Turner in the 2002 Democratic primary also helped Christiansen unseat incumbent Todd Huston. Huston and Turner had both opposed "It's Tulsa's Time," the failed Chamber-backed attempt to raise the city sales tax for a sports arena in 2000, marking them for establishment revenge.

When Turner returned to the Council in 2004, he aligned himself with the "Gang of Five," an ethnically and geographically diverse coalition of councilors (Jack Henderson, Jim Mautino, Chris Medlock, Sam Roop, and Turner) representing the historically neglected western, northern, and eastern periphery of Tulsa. Christiansen was aligned on the other side with Randy Sullivan, Tom Baker, and Susan Neal, opposing the Gang of Five on council organization, Chamber funding, investigation of airport mismanagement, and neighborhood issues.

Bill Christiansen, 2013 candidate for Tulsa MayorIn later years, Christiansen was confronted by threats to neighborhood integrity and citizen involvement in planning. Christiansen opposed the proposed Yale alignment for a new bridge to Bixby, putting him at odds with many erstwhile allies. The treatment of neighboring homeowners in the rezoning and development of a south Tulsa apartment complex prompted Christiansen to push for and co-chair a Council task force on land use communication in 2009. That same year, Christiansen was targeted for defeat by the same establishment that had elevated him in 2002, but he successfully turned back a challenge from Tulsa Community Foundation head Phil Lakin. Christiansen opted not to run for re-election in 2011. In 2012, Christiansen came out in opposition to the Vision2 county sales tax scheme, as did Turner.

If Christiansen can sew up the support of north, south, west, and east Tulsa while Taylor and Bartlett Jr fight over their core constituency in the Midtown Money Belt, Christiansen has a strong chance of beating his wealthier competitors in the June primary. A contested special Republican primary election the same day should boost turnout in south Tulsa where it should also boost Christiansen's chances.

MORE: Bill Christiansen has opened a campaign headquarters at 3939 S. Harvard Ave.

If you feel squeezed there's a reason -- 13 federal tax increases hitting the middle class so far this year. This video from the Heritage Foundation spells it out:

C_Everett_Koop.jpgFormer U. S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop died Monday at the age of 96. Many of the headlines about his death have focused on his time as a member of President Reagan's cabinet and his breaks with conservative allies on government policies regarding tobacco and AIDS.

Evangelicals of a certain age will remember their first encounter with Koop, in the 1979 film series Whatever Happened to the Human Race?. Koop, then a leading pediatric surgeon, appeared in the series with Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer reviewing threats to the sanctity of human life -- abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia -- and calling their fellow Christians to take action to resist these threats.

David Bayly, who knew Koop personally, writes:

The Roman Catholic pro-life movement had its legion of stalwarts in the seventies and early eighties: Joe Scheidler, Mother Theresa, Father Paul Quay, Archbishop O'Connor; the list is impressive. And Evangelicalism? Who were her pro-life leaders? There literally weren't any, at least initially. But then God brought Everett Koop and Francis Schaeffer together and the battle was joined from the Protestant side. It's not an exaggeration to say that Dr. Koop and Francis Schaeffer were the twin fathers of the modern Evangelical pro-life movement.

So we praise God for the life and witness of Dr. Koop. He was there when almost no one else was. Some in the Christian Medical Society may lionize Dr. Koop at his death, but they will perhaps have forgotten Dr. Koop's disgusted resignation from an organization he helped found for its refusal to take an officially pro-life position--a stance he maintained even after Tim's and my father assumed its presidency for a few years in the early 80s. Despite their friendship, Dr. Koop refused Dad's request that he rejoin. Even after passage of a clear and forceful pro-life stance, he initially refused to rejoin an organization that, as he saw it, had been cowardly on the central moral issue of the day.

Read the whole thing. Bayly tells of Koop's correction and encouragement to him as an amateur boy scientist, an anecdote that highlights Koop's devotion to science.

Before he became a public figure, Koop was a pioneering pediatric and neonatal surgeon. From the Philadelphia Inquirer's obituary:

After interning at Pennsylvania Hospital, Dr. Koop joined Children's in 1948, the staff's first pediatric surgeon. For a time, he was the hospital's entire surgery department. When he retired at 66, he presided over 26 full-time surgeons in eight specialties.

Dr. Koop was a pioneer in surgery on newborns, developing techniques for birth defects that, before him, had meant certain death.

The parents of ailing children saw him as heroic. He achieved national prominence in 1974, when he headed a team of 20 surgeons that separated conjoined twin girls who had been born in the Dominican Republic....

To save a life, he did not always follow the rules. In a 1968 interview in Philadelphia Magazine, he told how, on an icy night in 1953, he had received a call from Pennsylvania Hospital about a newborn who had been delivered with abdominal organs in the chest.

Within minutes, Dr. Koop drove to the hospital, parked his car on the sidewalk, and raced to the delivery room. He wrapped the baby in a blanket, placed it on the floor of the car near the heater, and drove back to Children's.

He took no X-rays. He carried the baby to the operating room, opened the chest, put the organs in their proper place, repaired a hole in the diaphragm, and closed it back up.

He had broken all the rules, he said, and would not have followed that procedure at the time of the interview. "On the other hand," he said, "we had a living baby."

He rejected abortion and abhorred amniocentesis, a test to see if a fetus has genetic defects. He labeled it "a search-and-destroy mission." Most women who have amniocentesis did not keep their babies if a defect was found, he noted. "Many of the congenital defects are things that I have spent my entire life correcting," he said.


MORE:

Whatever Happened to the Human Race, as a YouTube playlist:

C. Everett Koop papers at the National Institutes of Health

The C. Everett Koop Institute at Dartmouth

P. S.: The Inquirer obit mentions that the Senate held up his nomination for 10 months. I suspect (can't find the details) that Senate Democrats were responsible for that hold. He wasn't the only Republican appointee to be blocked by Democrats, and present-day Senate Republicans should remember that even as a minority party they have leverage and ought to use it for the good of the country.

The Tulsa World announced today that BH Media Group, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, will buy the newspaper from the Lorton family, with the sale expected to close in March.

A sale to Berkshire Hathaway is good news for the employees of the World, at least those involved directly in producing content. It has long been Warren Buffett's policy to let an acquired company's management continue to run things without interference from Omaha. When Berkshire Hathaway acquired FlightSafety in 1997, there were no immediate or radical changes to policies or management structure. Changes happened, but gradually and driven by FlightSafety's management. What did change was access to capital for improvements that would allow the company to expand.

There is a difference between this acquisition and the FlightSafety purchase. FlightSafety came into Berkshire Hathaway as a standalone subsidiary, but the World will be one paper out of dozens of dailies and weeklies owned by BH Media Group. As part of a multi-newspaper group, the World may also be able to cut costs by taking advantage of central purchasing and central administration, perhaps to include IT support and web development. So the news may not be so good for the administrative and support staff at the paper.

It's also good news for coverage of Tulsa. Buffett's May 23, 2012, letter to the publishers and editors of the newspapers he was about to acquire from Media General Group:

Though the economics of the business have drastically changed since our purchase of The Buffalo News, I believe newspapers that intensively cover their communities will have a good future. It's your job to make your paper indispensable to anyone who cares about what is going on in your city or town. That will mean both maintaining your news hole - a newspaper that reduces its coverage of the news important to its community is certain to reduce its readership as well - and thoroughly covering all aspects of area life, particularly local sports. No one has ever stopped reading when half-way through a story that was about them or their neighbors.

Don't expect the World's metered model of limited web access to change. From the same letter:

We must rethink the industry's initial response to the Internet. The original instinct of newspapers then was to offer free in digital form what they were charging for in print. This is an unsustainable model and certain of our papers are already making progress in moving to something that makes more sense. We want your best thinking as we work out the blend of digital and print that will attract both the audience and the revenue we need.

Berkshire Hathaway bought its hometown newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald, in December 2011 for $200 million. In May 2012, BH Media Group was formed to include the World-Herald and the newspapers acquired from Media General for $142 million, to be managed by a sister company, World Media Enterprises. Earlier this month, BH Media Group announced the acquisition of the Greensboro News and Record from Landmark Media Group.

MORE:

Omaha World-Herald's story on the purchase.

A cautionary note: In November 2012, BH Media Group cut 105 jobs, shutting down the Manassas (Va.) News & Messenger and its related website and weekly paper, and cutting 72 positions elsewhere in the chain.

Greater Tulsa Reporter Newspapers, a chain of six monthlies, takes the occasion to declare themselves "the only remaining locally-owned community newspaper group in the Tulsa metro region." Of course, the Tulsa Beacon, Urban Tulsa Weekly, and This Land Press are all locally owned. The Journal Record, which has a Tulsa office, is based in Oklahoma City. Community Publishers, Inc., based in Bentonville, publishes nine newspapers in the Tulsa metro area.


This Land Press links and comments on the World's sale.

From the official C. S. Lewis Facebook page:

C_S_Lewis.jpgWhat Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could 'be like gods'--could set up on their own as if they had created themselves...invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history--money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery--the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

-- Mere Christianity

I'm in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I've been at a blogger retreat held by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, an organization that is working to bolster news coverage of state and local government, an area of journalism that has been declining in parallel with shrinking mainstream press budgets. The Franklin Center has Watchdog State Capitol reporters in about 20 states, including Pat McGuigan in Oklahoma City. The weekend was informative, filled with ideas for improving the way we cover stories and communicate with our readers. It was also encouraging to be around bloggers from all over the country who face the same sorts of challenges and opportunities. We "get" each other. Most of the event was in a conference room, but we had time for fun, too, including a jeep tour of a desert wilderness area.

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To come across that C. S. Lewis quote as the retreat ends is a bracing reminder that, for all that we do to serve our communities through blogging, the ultimate problem behind all the world's miseries is not one that we can solve with reporting or persuasion. Our work as watchdog bloggers can ameliorate the results of mankind's rebellion against God as that rebellion manifests itself in government corruption, oppression, and self-dealing. To blog about government is a way in which those of us gifted to dig and research and write can love our neighbors, but it doesn't solve the root problem that Lewis describes.

I must not lose sight of the real struggle in human history and in my own heart, and I must not neglect the means -- the Word, the sacraments, prayer, and fellowship -- that God has appointed to strengthen and transform my mind and heart. I also must not neglect to spur myself, my wife and children, my family and friends to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts, to be outposts of His kingdom in a fallen world.

Two foolish Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature have succeed in moving forward a bill that would subject Oklahoma's electoral college votes to the results of the national popular vote. State Sen. Rob Johnson and State Rep. Don Armes are the sponsors of SB 906, and on Thursday, February 20, 2013, the Senate Rules Committee moved the bill forward with a "do pass" recommendation. Republican Senators Don Barrington, Cliff Branan, Rob Johnson, Rob Standridge, Ann Griffin, Ron Justice, and Bryce Marlatt and Democrat Senators Constance Johnson, Jabar Shumate, Al McAffrey, and John Sparks voted in favor; Republicans Rick Brinkley, Kim David, Eddie Fields, John Ford, Jim Halligan, Clark Jolley, and Gary Stanislawski, and Democrat Charles Wyrick voted against.

Two of the "aye" Republican votes are assistant majority floor leaders and one is the Rules Committee chairman. All seven Republican bozoes who voted for this should be removed by their caucus from any positions of responsibility. They have voted to make Oklahoma's electoral votes hostage to the depredations of the legendary vote fraudsters who reign over places like Chicago, New Orleans, and Philadelphia.

Among the many advantages of the Electoral College system is that it creates a firewall against fraud. We don't have one election for president but 51 separate elections. No matter how many fraudulent votes are manufactured in Chicago, it can only affect Illinois' electoral votes; it won't have any effect on the outcome in Florida or even neighboring Indiana. In fact, we'd be well-served to have even more firewalls, with each congressional district choosing an elector, as is already done in Nebraska and Maine, so that Chicago fraud would only affect Chicago congressional districts. Electoral vote by congressional district would give urban areas influence in predominantly rural states (e.g. Lawrence/Kansas City, Kansas) and would give rural and suburban areas influence in states with large urban concentrations (e.g. upstate New York, Orange County, California, downstate Illinois).

Thanks to Brandon Dutcher for the Twitter tip on this story.

A few thoughts that have been stirring for a week or so:

It's fascinating to me that some of the same liberals who worry (rightfully) about the impact of massive development on the delicate interactions of physical ecosystems can be blithe about the encroachments of the monolithic state on the self-sustaining interdependencies of loyalty, love, parenthood, family, church, neighborhood, community, and commerce.

You can't build a pipeline without poisoning the earth and destroying species, but somehow government with its massive coercive powers can get involved in regulating every human interaction without destroying the intricate web that is the social fabric of a community.

We aren't happy with what nature produces on its own. There are bugs and burrs and mudholes. So we fence it, pave part of it, prune it, brushhog it, spread weedkiller and pesticide to get rid of what we don't want, and spread fertilizer to encourage what we do want. A meadow that thrived for centuries on its own terms is turned into a lawn that needs constant, expensive maintenance to keep it attractive. We find ourselves fighting against nature rather than husbanding it.

We aren't happy with what human nature produces on its own. People can be clannish, selfish, thoughtless. Even when we had a thriving, natural, social ecosystem, people in genuine need sometimes fell through the cracks. The desire to provide government assistance to those few who couldn't be helped any other way became a government program for everyone in need. Dependence enables dysfunction, which creates more dependence and more need for government intervention, which is expensive, because every intervention must be managed.

The leftist response to the problem with human nature and human society is to fence it, pave it, and try to remake it completely, trashing the social ecosystem in the process. They never succeed in changing human nature, but they use their every failure as justification for more spending and more intervention. It's the epitome of non-sustainability.

If I'm solely dependent on government for my food, housing, and job (or unemployment benefits), I don't need to calibrate my interactions with others, and I don't need to rein in my self-centeredness or my desire for instant gratification. I can be as sociopathic as I like and still get fed, clothed, housed, maybe get a free cell phone and free internet. If my sociopathy is amusingly peculiar, I might even get a degree of notoriety on reality television. My only obligation is to vote for the folks who keep spending money on me.

There was a twitterpated Twitter dust-up the other day, in which fiscal conservatives resurrected a year-old dispute and used it to trash social conservatives and wish for our disappearance from the political realm. One tweep said we should work together with groups of "conservatives" organized to promote sexual immorality in order to "destroy progressivism."

But destroying traditional Judeo-Christian views of family and sexual morality are a key part of the progressive agenda, and that part of the progressive agenda must be defeated if we also wish to turn back encroachments upon our economic liberties. A populace that has been trained to believe that their sexual appetites are paramount and must be indulged and honored by all and protected from scorn and shame is going to need and demand a big, power-hungry, money-hungry government to rescue them from the wreckage they make of their lives. They aren't going to vote for policies that encourage entrepreneurship and allow the self-disciplined to prosper. They're going to vote for politicians who will protect them from the consequences of their folly without any need to turn from their folly, much less feel ashamed of it.

SOMEWHAT RELATED, from Rod Dreher:

My sense -- and I've said this elsewhere -- is that from a traditional conservative and small-o orthodox Christian perspective, the battle has been lost because the culture has been lost, and the wisest thing we can do is to retreat to defensible positions while continuing to live out and to teach our religious and moral traditions, in hope of better times. If I'm right, then as a practical matter, the best we can hope for in the secular realm is to fight for the liberty to be left alone. This, as John Z. gets, means in practical terms embracing a libertarianism that we find philosophically objectionable, but which is probably the only option open to us.

acalogo.jpgAs we near the midpoint of the second semester, it's a good time to consider whether your current schooling arrangement best suits your children's needs. Never before have there been so many options. If you want an academically rigorous but caring environment, grounded in the Christian worldview, taught in accordance with the classical approach to education, you need to consider Augustine Christian Academy. Two open houses in the next few weeks and a banquet this Friday evening are ways to get acquainted with ACA.

Augustine Christian Academy is a non-denominational classical Christian school. The distinctives page on the website gives you a good sense of what the school is all about. A few excerpts:

Whereas public schools are prohibited from presenting a Christian emphasis in any subject and most Christian schools present only a single sectarian doctrine, ACA exposes its students to a variety of viewpoints training them through logic to question the truth and validity of each.

Rather than limiting the expression of their Christianity to traditional religious activity, ACA seeks to train students to expand their expression of faith through an integrated Biblical worldview. Students are taught to bring Biblical principles to every sphere of life and learning in order to completely reflect the glory of God in their life and culture.

Augustine Christian Academy has two upcoming open houses on Tuesday evening, February 26, 2013, 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm, and Wednesday afternoon, March 6, 2013, 2:00 - 3:30 pm. It's an opportunity to tour the school, ask questions, and meet teachers. The school is at 6310 E. 30th St., just west of Sheridan.

Prospective students are also encouraged to shadow a student for a day, and school tours can be arranged at other times. Call the ACA office at 918-832-4600 to schedule a visit.

The ACA annual banquet, this Friday night, February 22, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. at the Tulsa Renaissance Hotel, is another fine way to get to know the school. The speaker for the event is Arthur Greeno, author of Dysfunctional Inspiration.

ACA not only offers an excellent academic environment, but we've also found it to be a warm, welcoming community. Beyond the classroom, there's a strong performing arts program and a "house" system that builds community across the grades through service projects and intramural competition.

One of ACA's notable characteristics is its flexibility in working with the circumstances of a student and his family. Homeschool students in grades 6 through 12 can enroll part-time to supplement their homeschool curriculum and to participate in school activities. Younger homeschoolers can enroll in extracurricular programs at ACA. Some financial aid is available. After-care is available at the school (for a fee) to accommodate parental work schedules.

Our family has been part of the ACA community for the last six years, and this year I'm also teaching first-year Ancient Greek at the school. The more I've gotten to know this school, its leadership, its teachers, and its students, the more impressed I am, not just by the commitment to academic excellence, but by the spirit of community.

Back in early January, I participated in an in-service day for the faculty, which included a discussion of Anthony Esolen's ironically-titled Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. The comments of the teachers revealed a desire to impart a lifelong love of learning and a sense of imagination and possibility that will produce leaders, not mere cogs in a machine.

If you have school-aged children, you owe it to them and yourself to get acquainted with all that Augustine Christian Academy has to offer.

Here's a brief video introduction:

MORE: The performing arts are a particular strength at ACA, and if your children enjoy music and theater, they'll find kindred spirits here. Annual high school and junior high musicals are major productions, and students can take courses in drama, stagecraft, Shakespeare, and vocal music. Here's a clip from last year's production of Hello, Dolly, followed by a montage of scenes from the dress rehearsal:

This Saturday is the first of four informational meetings in the Tulsa area for the Classical Conversations homeschool community and curriculum:

Saturday, February 16, 2013, 1:00-3:00 pm: Mardels, 71st & Mingo
Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 7:00-8:30 pm: Panera, 71st & Lewis
Monday, February 25, 2013, 6:30-8:00 pm: Mardels, 71st & Mingo
Thursday, February 28, 2013, 1:00-2:30 pm: First United Methodist Church Tulsa, Youth and Family Center

Classical Conversations is a national homeschooling organization that develops curriculum and structure for organizing local communities of homeschooling families with a commitment to the classical approach to education and the Christian faith. CC families school at home but gather one day a week for instruction from tutors and review of that week's work, plus special group activities.

(Dorothy L. Sayers's essay, "The Lost Tools of Learning," is a foundational text in the modern resurgence of the classical model of education, describing the three stages of the classical Trivium -- grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric -- and their suitability to the stages of a child's intellectual development.)

Tulsa's first CC community was organized at Reed Park in 2007-2008 and moved to Asbury United Methodist Church the following year. The Tulsa metro area now has 10 communities, in downtown Tulsa, south central Tulsa (2), southeast Tulsa, Bartlesville (2), Broken Arrow, Collinsville, Owasso, and Mannford, with one more being organized in Broken Arrow. CC is also in Oklahoma City, Edmond, Lawton, Enid, Kingfisher, Arcadia, Elk City, Shawnee, and Ponca City, with a new community being organized in Stillwater.

Our family is now in our sixth year in a Classical Conversations community. CC has given all of our kids a strong academic grounding. They have a temporal and geographical framework for understanding world history and current events. They've learned how to organize their thoughts into coherent and articulate essays. They've learned to read and enjoy classic fiction and to analyze and respond to what they're reading. My wife particularly enjoys the fellowship with other homeschooling families and the accountability and pacing of the weekly gatherings.

Click here to find a complete calendar of Classical Conversations informational meetings in Oklahoma.

Click the poster to view it full-sized.

Classical_Conversations_Tulsa_2013_Poster.jpg

While putting together the previous entry, I came across a spreadsheet of newly-filed legislation for the 54th Oklahoma Legislature (on the home page of thehouseandsenate.com), and found yet another reform worthy of notice and support.

State Representative David Brumbaugh, a Broken Arrow Republican, has filed legislation to increase county budget transparency and accountability, requiring the annual budget process to include all county revenues and previous year surpluses, not just those subject to appropriation, which is typically limited to the current year's ad valorem revenues. The bill is HB 1986.

In order to gain an accurate picture of all revenues at the disposal of county elected officials and agencies, HB 1986 would give the county excise board the authority and obligation to develop independent estimates of fund revenues and balances "for any fund of any department or elected office within the county." The bill also expressly gives the excise board the duty to "act in an oversight capacity with respect to the county budget" and authorizes the excise board to hire personnel needed to carry out these responsibilities.

County government in Oklahoma is one-size-fits-all. All 77 counties have the same set of eight independently elected and autonomous officials that together constitute the budget board: three county commissioners, county clerk, county sheriff, county treasurer, county assessor, and county court clerk.

Under current law, it is possible for each county official to hoard surplus funds, which are not subject to budget board appropriation. The eight officials might decide to turn a mutual blind eye to one another's surpluses and to appropriate new revenues without regard to cash already on hand. HB 1986 would end any such cozy arrangement by bringing an independent check and oversight to bear on the county budget process and would ensure that all county funds are accounted for at least once a year.

My only suggestion for improvement is to add language that explicitly includes funds held by county trusts, authorities, boards, and commissions, such as the Tulsa County Industrial Authority (which oversees Vision 2025 funds, 4 to Fix the County funds, and conduit funds loaned to private institutions), the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority, the Tulsa City-County Library Commission, and the Tulsa City-County Health Department.

One of my favorite Oklahoma state representatives is Jason Murphey, a Republican from Guthrie. If Rep. Murphey is happy about something at the State Capitol, Oklahoma citizens are likely to be pleased as well. So it was encouraging to see two posts earlier this week on his blog praising the actions of new House Speaker T. W. Shannon and his leadership team.

Murphey is one of the most consistent social and fiscal conservatives in the legislature, but he has also won fans on both sides of the aisle for his commitment to transparency and integrity in government. Prominently displayed on his website is this message:

NOTICE

Representative Murphey
does not accept
items of value
from lobbyist-represented entities.

Thank you for understanding.

(Read Jason Murphey's essay on lobbyist influence at the State Capitol.)

Murphey is the sponsor of legislation to subject the legislature to the same Open Records and Open Meetings laws that apply to the rest of state and local government, and he was recently appointed to serve on the board of Freedom of Information Oklahoma.

Murphey is one of the most tech-savvy members of the House, with a background in web development. He has been a driving force behind the effort to modernize and consolidate Oklahoma state government's information technology systems, a tangle of incompatibility that had evolved over decades of procurement of proprietary systems by each agency. Murphey has pushed for the adoption of robust but inexpensive open source software, supported by a skilled team of IT professionals working for all state agencies. (See his blog entry on the progress of IT consolidation at the State Capitol and the scary security holes that have been discovered, putting Oklahomans' personal data at risk.)

All that to explain why I found these two upbeat posts from Murphey so cheering:

In a Sunday, February 10, 2013, blog entry, Murphey hailed new rules eliminating the House Speaker's absolute, unilateral power to kill legislation and establishing a bipartisan "House calendar committee" which holds open meetings with recorded votes to determine which bills will advance for a floor vote and which will not.

The previous week, Murphey applauded a series of bills introduced by one legislator: requiring work or training for work as a condition of eligibility for food stamps, funding maintenance of state-owned real property with the proceeds of the sale of unneeded land and buildings, putting a moratorium on state fee increases, repealing the state franchise tax, limiting state government debt issuance, requiring state agencies to plan for reducing their dependence on federal funding (anticipating federal budget cuts), and limiting frivolous unemployment claims. And now, here's the rest of the story:

Upon reviewing this list, based on their years of experience, most capitol insiders would likely rightly conclude that the bills are the work of a naive newcomer to the Legislature who hasn't had time to become cynical. The author appears to function under the delusion that he can make a difference and does not realize that the special interests and House leadership will likely not even allow these aggressive bills to receive a committee hearing.

In making this observation, the insiders would normally be absolutely correct.

There is however one very important mitigating factor. These bills are sponsored by House leadership. Each of these bills has been sponsored by the new Speaker of the House, TW Shannon. Shannon's legislation should send the strong message that times have changed and house members are now prepared to advance an aggressive portfolio of bills designed to fulfill our promise of truly working for limited government.

In my time participating in and observing the Legislature, I have never before observed this type of conservative governance by House leadership and I am very much looking forward to reporting to you on the progress that will be made in this session of the Legislature.

Good news indeed. Stay tuned to Jason Murphey's blog to follow the progress of these and other proposals for making Oklahoma government more efficient, transparent, and responsive to its citizens.

MORE: Oklahoma Watchdog reports on HB 1911, the bill that requires "unemployment benefit applicants to affirm, in an affidavit, that they do not meet criteria that would disqualify them from receiving the benefit." State Rep. Richard Morrissette, an Oklahoma City Democrat, said to Capitol Beat OK, "I will do everything in my power to assure [that HB 1911] dies a slow and unpleasant death."

Tulsa County District 3 Commissioner Fred Perry announced today that he will resign effective July 8, 2013, about 18 months before the expiration of his second term as a commissioner. (Read the press release at TheOkie.com.) The announcement comes three months after Perry, age 72, underwent a heart procedure; Perry cited "health reasons" as the motivation for stepping down.

Perry's political career will end as it began, with a mid-term resignation. In January 1994, Perry won a three-way, all-GOP special election to fill the House District 69 created by the resignation of David Smith. Perry was term-limited in the legislature in 2006, when he ran for the County Commission District 3 after incumbent Bob Dick announced his decision not to seek re-election. Perry advanced to a runoff in a crowded Republican primary, then defeated Tulsa City Councilor Bill Christiansen in the runoff to win the election, as no Democrat filed for the office.

Perry, who was elected to the County Commission with the support of grassroots conservative volunteers, disappointed many of his backers by voting to advance the 2007 county sales tax for river projects and the 2012 Vision2 county sales tax. Both measures were turned down by voters.

Fred Perry and I have often been at odds during his time as County Commissioner, particularly concerning the sales tax propositions he supported and disputes between the county and the City of Tulsa (e.g. annexation of the Fairgrounds and the jail agreement). To his credit, he never hesitated to make his case in writing, whether in the comments here at BatesLine or in the pages of Urban Tulsa Weekly.

During his time in office, a number of improvements have been made to the Tulsa County website. Early in his term, as chairman of the county commission, Perry arranged to distribute ex officio board memberships among all the commissioners, rather than putting the full burden on the person holding the chairmanship, which by tradition rotates annually among the three commissioners.

In his resignation press release, Perry has proposed that the special election to replace him could be held at the same time as Tulsa's mayoral election, with the special primary at the same time as the city's primary on June 11 and the general election at the same time as the city runoff (if needed) on August 13. The special county commission primary could have an impact on the non-partisan mayor's race, driving up Republican turnout in south Tulsa, Bill Christiansen's home turf.

(The latest set of city election dates is so new -- it was approved in June 2012 -- it has yet to be incorporated into the online version of the Tulsa City Charter. Here is the markup version, showing the changes approved in June 2012.)

Here's wishing Fred Perry a long, healthy, and happy retirement.

carson_benjamin.jpgDr. Benjamin S. Carson, Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, was the featured speaker at this morning's National Prayer Breakfast, and he delivered a powerful, inspiring, and wide-ranging 25-minute message which touched on the self-discipline and education necessary for self-government, the urgent need to avoid the moral decay and fiscal irresponsibility that led to the fall of ancient Rome, the dangers of political correctness, and the need to give as much honor to academic achievement as we do to athletic achievement.

Regarding that last point, Carson spoke of his Carson Scholars Fund, which is designed to treat academic high achievers as the stars that they are, with trophies and recognition and college scholarships. The fund also sponsors reading rooms in elementary schools, where children have access to a wide range of books to help them develop their reading skills in a welcoming environment.

Carson spoke about how reading transformed his own life. He and his brother would not apply themselves to their school work, but his mother prayed that God would give her wisdom to help her sons learn. She then restricted their TV viewing to a minimal amount and required them to read two books each week from the library and to write a book report about each. She dealt with complaints from her sons and resistance from other mothers, who told her that keeping her boys inside and reading would make them hate her, but she stuck to her plan. Eventually, he came to love reading, and his reading taught him that he could control his own destiny, and that the poverty he hated need be only temporary.

In the course of the speech, Carson compared Alexis de Tocqueville's account of education and literacy in 19th century America to the state of education today; he cited the Biblical tithe, with its standard percentage for all, as a model of the fairest and simplest approach to taxation; and he commended individual Health Savings Accounts as a means to provide access to care for all while controlling costs and encouraging people to take responsibility for their own health. Carson suggested that the government could fund HSAs for those who cannot afford to fund their own.

Carson presented all of his thoughts as mere common sense informed by history, without wading into the usual terminology of ideological or partisan debate.

Hat tip to fellow blogger Nice Deb, who has video of Dr. Ben Carson's speech and links to reporting and commentary on the speech.

Photo of Dr. Ben Carson courtesy carsonscholars.org.

The first step toward electing county and state officials and reshaping the platform for the Oklahoma Republican Party is about to get underway. GOP precinct caucuses for Tulsa County will be held over the next three days (Thursday through Saturday, February 7-9, 2013); each precinct chairman can select the precinct's own meeting time and location within that window. Here is a document listing all the Tulsa County precincts and the meeting date, time, location, and chairman for each. Many precinct chairmen are opting to share a central location with other precincts from the same state house district. These central meetings will conduct opening ceremonies together (invocation, flag salute, announcements) then break into groups by precinct.

To find your precinct number, visit the Oklahoma State Election Board's precinct locator.

Each precinct caucus will elect precinct officers to serve for the next two years, will elect delegates to the county convention, and will vote on resolutions to be considered for inclusion in the county platform.

Something that I hope will be discussed in every precinct is whether the local Republican Party organization should hold an endorsing convention for this fall's race for Mayor of Tulsa. This will be the first non-partisan mayoral election to be held in Tulsa for 90 years or so, and there are likely to be at least two Republican candidates running, and possibly more than two conservatives. Just because there are no party labels on the ballot doesn't prohibit a party from endorsing the candidate that they deem best able to win and govern according to the party's platform. School elections and most municipal elections in Oklahoma are conducted without reference to party labels; there should be a standard process by which local parties can endorse in these races.

I also hope that precinct caucuses will consider and pass resolutions on local issues, which are often overlooked in favor of highly publicized national issues. A platform plank opposing, say, any county tax that funds municipal projects or renewal of the Vision 2025 sales tax or creation of a "deal closing" corporate welfare fund gives party officials a platform from which to speak against such proposals, even when they're put forward by Republican elected officials.

A new website launched this week that aims "to be your one stop shop for Oklahoma political news." The Okie is a nicely designed website that will provide a home for transcripts, press releases, and video and audio of political speeches, and promises original content like profiles of Oklahoma's movers and shakers.

Who's behind the site? According to an email:

This site is the brainchild of people who love politics -- some you know and some you don't. But don't worry; we're all on the same side, playing for the same teams.

John Tidwell will serve as Editor of The Okie. He's responsible for the daily content and overall direction of the site. Matt Pinnell is serving as a consultant on The Okie. We both know what we want this site to become because we've wanted something like this for a long time.

Tidwell served as Congressman John Sullivan's communications director, and Pinnell currently serves as the Chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party.

Notably, they don't want The Okie to be a gossip website, and they aren't treating the website "as a journalistic endeavor."

The Okie is also on Twitter and Facebook.

Among the first stories on the site: Video of Sen. Tom Coburn's recent speech to the Tulsa Republican Club and the prepared version of Gov. Mary Fallin's State of the State address.

Good luck to John and Matt on their new venture.

RELATED: The AP's Oklahoma bureau has a "just-the-facts" synopsis of the newly convened 54th Oklahoma Legislature.

Thirty years ago today pop singer Karen Carpenter died at the age of 32, her warm, mellow alto voice stilled too soon. An NPR tribute quotes Paul McCartney as saying that she had "the best female voice in the world: melodic, tuneful and distinctive."

Karen Carpenter's voice was part of the soundtrack of my childhood. KRMG was our family's radio station when I was growing up, and in the early '70s KRMG was a mix of local news and "middle-of-the-road" pop music, featuring groups like The Carpenters. Now and Then and The Singles albums were among Mom's picks in the Columbia Record Club 12-for-a-penny deal. (I picked Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits, Switched On Bach, and Everything You Always Wanted to Hear on the Moog.) The first time I heard "Ticket to Ride," "Jambalaya," "This Masquerade," "Dead Man's Curve," and "Fun, Fun, Fun," Karen Carpenter was singing them. And no early-'70s wedding was complete without "We've Only Just Begun" as the recessional.

The Carpenters were on TV, too. Their series, called "Make Your Own Kind of Music," aired for only eight weeks as a "summer replacement series" on Tuesday nights in 1971, but it stuck in my memory. I can recall being put out that we had to turn off the show to go hear live music -- the Starlight Concert at Skelly Stadium, which turned out to be as good as Dad said it would be.

David Kenny, commenting on the NPR piece, opined that The Carpenters' choice of material, "which -- at least in the songs that got radio play -- tended to wallow in the slough between saccharine, maudlin, and treacly," was the limiting factor in the group's popularity. "Her voice deserved better songs," he concludes.

That assessment owed as much to the lush strings and vocal wahhhhhhs that typified The Carpenters' biggest hits. So it's interesting to listen to Pedro Andrade's remixes featuring only Karen's voice backed by bass and drums. Here's his version of "Goodbye to Love":

And here's his remix of "Ticket to Ride":

Finally, here's some video of Karen singing and drumming "Top of the World," part of a White House performance in 1973 for West German chancellor Willy Brandt.

Worth your attention: Jonathan V. Last, writing in the Wall Street Journal explains the dire consequences of America's declining fertility rate, which is likely to decline even more steeply in years to come:

The nation's falling fertility rate underlies many of our most difficult problems. Once a country's fertility rate falls consistently below replacement, its age profile begins to shift. You get more old people than young people. And eventually, as the bloated cohort of old people dies off, population begins to contract. This dual problem--a population that is disproportionately old and shrinking overall--has enormous economic, political and cultural consequences....

Low-fertility societies don't innovate because their incentives for consumption tilt overwhelmingly toward health care. They don't invest aggressively because, with the average age skewing higher, capital shifts to preserving and extending life and then begins drawing down. They cannot sustain social-security programs because they don't have enough workers to pay for the retirees. They cannot project power because they lack the money to pay for defense and the military-age manpower to serve in their armed forces.

Last points to Japan as a warning:

If you want to see what happens to a country once it hurls itself off the demographic cliff, look at Japan, with a fertility rate of 1.3. In the 1980s, everyone assumed the Japanese were on a path to owning the world. But the country's robust economic facade concealed a crumbling demographic structure....

By the 1980s, it was already clear that the country would eventually undergo a population contraction. In 1984, demographer Naohiro Ogawa warned that, "Owing to a decrease in the growth rate of the labor force...Japan's economy is likely to slow down." He predicted annual growth rates of 1% or even 0% in the first quarter of the 2000s....

Because of its dismal fertility rate, Japan's population peaked in 2008; it has already shrunk by a million since then. Last year, for the first time, the Japanese bought more adult diapers than diapers for babies, and more than half the country was categorized as "depopulated marginal land." At the current fertility rate, by 2100 Japan's population will be less than half what it is now.

And America can't count on immigration to make up for our decline. Fertility rates in source countries are declining, reducing the pressure for emigration, and the fertility rate among immigrants in the US declines as they become acculturated.

As a solution, Last says it won't be enough to offer tax incentives for childbearing, although those are needed. (I like his idea for cutting social security tax for parents during child-rearing years, with bigger cuts for more kids.) There's a basic cultural attitude that needs adjustment.

There have been lots of changes in American life over the last 40 years that have nudged our fertility rate downward. High on the list is the idea that "happiness" is the lodestar of a life well-lived. If we're going to reverse this decline, we'll need to reintroduce into American culture the notion that human flourishing ranges wider and deeper than calculations of mere happiness.

Big thumbs up to Dodge for their two-minute-long Super Bowl ad featuring the inimitable voice of the late Paul Harvey: Beautiful words combined with beautiful pictures in tribute to the American farmer.

The speech was delivered to the Future Farmers of America in 1978 -- 35 years ago, and yet timeless. Warner Todd Huston has the full text of Paul Harvey's "So God Made a Farmer", along with the farms.com video from two years ago that first coupled this text with images of farmers.

MORE: Mediaite found the full version of the speech, which had been trimmed to fit the two-minute commercial length.

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