January 2014 Archives

BatesLine photo, October 15, 2011, All Rights Reserved

For over a half-century, motorists driving north on Riverside Drive in Tulsa, after navigating the tricky Midland Valley underpass, were rewarded with the sight of an elegant white mansion across a vast expanse of manicured lawn.

Tomorrow, all that will end. The site with its lawn and woods was sold by owner Dan Buford to the George Kaiser Family Foundation to be used for its "Gathering Place for Tulsa." GKFF did not include the Blair Mansion in its plans for the new park, although it might have been home to a restaurant, galleries, meeting space -- any number of functions complementary to the park. A lodge is shown on the plans for the park not far from the current site of the mansion. Judging by the outraged reactions on social media, it seems everyone assumed that the Blair Mansion would be the centerpiece of this new public space.

Kylie Earls McFerrin wrote on Facebook: "This is ridiculous!!!! I love driving by there. It makes me feel like a small part of Tulsa is still intact." Monica Hughes called the property "iconic. It was reassuring to drive by it on visits up. Slowly the Tulsa of my memory is disappearing."

Buford had the right to have the mansion moved to another location, but that proved to be impractical. The house was too large, the neighborhood streets too narrow, the surrounding overpasses too low:

Buford said he spent more than a year looking into relocating the house and even hired a local company to study the logistics of such a move.

They spent about four months in that process and they finally came back to me with a written report," Buford said. "They wouldn't say that it couldn't be moved, but they didn't see how that it was worthy or feasible."

So tomorrow morning the Blair Mansion will be demolished.

Our family has had a couple of opportunities to visit, when our homeschooling group had activities in the woods south of the house, although I never had the chance to see the interior. The Blair Mansion was designed by John Duncan Forsyth and built in 1958. Oilman B. B. Blair had owned and farmed the property since 1939. According to reports, Dan Buford bought the property in 1995 after the death of Blair's widow.

TulsaNow is hosting a forum for candidates for the upcoming Tulsa School Board election. The forum will be at Foolish Things Coffee, 1001 S Main Street in downtown Tulsa, at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, February 5, 2014.

The League of Women Voters has posted its 2014 Tulsa area school board candidate questionnaire with responses for candidates for Tulsa offices 4 and 7, Bixby office 4, and Tulsa Technology Center Office 6. The voter guide also includes the ballot titles for bond issues in Jenks and Union districts.

As usual, most school board positions in Tulsa County drew only a single candidate during the December filing period. Filing was held the first week in December, when most people are focused on the end of the school semester and the upcoming Christmas holiday.

Bixby Office 4: Helen Bolton, Lisa Owens

Tulsa Office 4: Bobbie Gray-Elliott (incumbent), Shawna Keller, William D. Bickerstaff

Tulsa Office 7: Gene Beach, Suzanne Schreiber

Tulsa Technology Center Offce 6: Sharon A. Whelpley, Paul J. Kroutter

The primary and bond issue election will be held on Tuesday, February 11, 2014. In races with three or more candidates in which no candidate receives a majority of the primary vote, a runoff will be held on the April 1, 2014.

MORE: Here is the Tulsa County Election Board election calendar for 2014. Note that the first half of next week, February 3-5, 2014, is the filing period for city elections in Bixby, Collinsville, and Owasso. Those cities have a primary on March 4 and a runoff on April 1. April 9-11, 2014, is the filing period for state and county posts; April 13-15 is the filing period for City of Tulsa council (all nine) and auditor positions. 2014 will be the first year for City of Tulsa elections to coincide with state elections.

STILL MORE: The Oklahoma Republican Party will be holding a day-long campaign training school for candidates and volunteers in Tulsa on February 22, 2014. Contact the state party HQ for details and registration.

TV news is there as the employees of a McKeesport, PA, collision repair shop see the massively higher deductibles, premiums, and co-pays on their new healthcare plan, the result of the Affordable Care Act.

Oklahoma State Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Tulsa) acquitted himself admirably in an appearance Monday night on CNN's Piers Morgan show. Dahm's invite to appear was the result of his decision to name his bill, authorizing Oklahomans to carry a firearm without first needing to acquire a license, after Morgan, an outspoken critic of gun rights.

About 14 minutes into the video, I thought I heard Morgan use an antiquated term to distinguish police officers and soldiers, whom he would allow to keep and bear arms, from ordinary citizens, whom he would not. At first and second hearing, I could have sworn he referred to ordinary citizens as "villeins," a feudal term referring to peasants who were legally bound to the lord of the manor and who were not free to travel without their lord's permission. On the third listen, it was clear that he said "civilians," but I think the synonym for serf isn't far from Morgan's opinion of free American citizens and the limits to which they should be subjected.

Roscoe Turner, RIP

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Services for Roscoe Turner will be held at First Baptist Church, 4th & Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa, Monday, January 27, 2014, at 11:00 a.m., with interment at Rose Hill Cemetery. Visitation will be held at Moore's Memory Chapel, 1403 S. Peoria, from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Saturday, January 25, and 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Sunday, January 26. Family will receive visitors from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Sunday.

roscoe_turner-flag.jpgEarlier this week we received the sad news of the passing of a dear friend and one of Tulsa's finest public servants. Roscoe Turner, who served several terms as city councilor for District 3 in northeastern Tulsa, died Tuesday at the age of 81.

I first met Roscoe in 1998 at a neighborhood expo, part of Tulsa's centennial celebration. He was manning the booth for his neighborhood, the Sequoyah Neighborhood Association. (I remember he had a display with the history of the street names in the neighborhood.) As we got acquainted, it became clear that, despite our different party labels, we were on the same page: Making sure that the voices of Tulsans from all parts of the city were heard and heeded at City Hall. We were both running for City Council, and we both lost our primaries, but Roscoe would go on to win a special election that fall after Councilor David Patrick stepped aside to run for state representative.

Roscoe's time on the City Council was off-and-on, defeating or being defeated by Patrick. Turner had lost to Patrick in the 1996 and 1998 primaries, won the 1998 special (against Patrick's sister Synna), won re-election in 2000, lost to Patrick in 2002, won the seat back in 2004, kept it in 2006, lost it in 2008 when Patrick ran as an independent, won the seat back in 2009, and then lost it again in 2011, after a redistricting that seemed designed to take away his electoral base. This fall would have been Roscoe's first opportunity since 2011 to win back the seat. The series ends, forever tied at 5-5.

In 2004, there were more voter irregularities -- Republicans, who had no city primary, were given ballots to vote in the Democratic primary -- than the three-vote margin of victory for David Patrick. A district judge called a new election, which Roscoe won. And with that victory Tulsa had its first council majority not beholden to the Cockroach Caucus. I called them the Reform Alliance; detractors called them the Gang of Five: Jack Henderson, Jim Mautino, Chris Medlock, Sam Roop, and Turner. Together they fought for transparency, for the concerns of ordinary Tulsans, particularly those from the edges of our city, whose priorities are so often ignored at City Hall, for a city government that serves all Tulsans, not just a favored few.

Throughout his involvement in Tulsa politics, Roscoe Turner reached across partisan, racial, and geographical boundaries to make common cause for the betterment of all Tulsans. His detractors accused him of a parochial focus on his district's needs, but in truth they would have gotten along fine with him had he been content to trade his vote for District 3 pork barrel.

Roscoe_driller-sm.jpgWhat really made them angry was that he joined with other councilors to support neighborhood concerns about zoning and planning, to put rebuilding Tulsa's infrastructure ahead of fueling suburban growth, to investigate the handling of taxpayer funds, to ensure our economic development funds were wisely spent, to oppose regressive sales tax increases that would have funded corporate welfare and unnecessary frills, and to promote retail development within Tulsa's city limits.

FDR said in 1932, "Judge me by the enemies I have made." For a retired boiler inspector and neighborhood association leader, Roscoe Turner made some impressive enemies. Roscoe was almost always outspent in his campaigns. The Tulsa Regional Chamber's political arm, development lobby PACs, and the wealthiest man in Oklahoma gave money to get him off the council. So did a number of out-of-state CEOs, colleagues and associates of Kathy Taylor's husband Bill Lobeck. The Tulsa World editorial board (now, we note thankfully, under new ownership) had plenty of unkind words about Roscoe over the years. With the help of Dewey Bartlett Jr's campaign consultant, council district lines were radically redrawn in 2011, removing Turner's strongest precincts and adding precincts where voters didn't know him personally and where public opinion was shaped solely by a relentless PR campaign against Turner and his council allies.

And so it was bothersome to hear local news outlets asking those who were Turner's bitter opponents in life to give a valedictory pronouncement on his death. Wouldn't it have been lovely if his political adversaries had shown him as much respect in life as they did in death?

You could judge Roscoe by the friends he made, too. He won over constituents who had backed his opponent by pursuing their concerns doggedly, when other politicians might have shrugged and said that nothing could be done. A Democrat and a liberal, Roscoe became the favorite Democrat of conservative Tulsa Republicans, sharing their commitment to transparency and their opposition to crony capitalism. He was a leader of the successful opposition to the Tulsa County tax increase for river projects and the ill-begotten Vision2 tax for corporate welfare and pork barrel.

Former councilor Rick Westcott described Roscoe Turner as a kind man, but a lion when fighting for his constituents and the citizens of Tulsa. He drilled for the truth. As a councilor, Roscoe Turner asked direct questions of city officials and board members, even if they made someone uncomfortable. If something seemed amiss he did not hesitate to declare, "I've got a problem with that." He never backed down from his principles. For good reason, he was honored as "Tulsa's most believable city councilor."

The apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Galatia: "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Roscoe Turner was never weary in well-doing, despite many setbacks and discouragements. How many of us would give up after a single defeat? Roscoe kept going through five defeats, numerous lawsuits, and plenty of scorn and derision. He had every reason to ignore politics and concentrate on enjoying his retirement, but instead he stayed engaged in the political process on behalf of District 3 residents and Tulsans from all parts of the city who looked to him for leadership. At the heart of his persistence, I believe, was a sense of divine calling to serve his community by giving voice to their concerns.

Last week, a day or so after Roscoe's passing, someone complained of unjust behavior by a city board member and asked what could be done to correct. I replied that we'd need a council of nine Roscoe Turners -- men and women with the guts to reject a bad mayoral appointee -- if we want to have boards and commissions filled with true public servants.

Whether he was on the City Council or off, Roscoe Turner was a faithful voice not only for his district, but for all Tulsans, particularly ordinary Tulsa residents who don't have lobbyists and lawyers to speak on our behalf. What kept Roscoe going through victory and defeat, through slanted coverage and editorial condemnation, were his unshakeable faith in his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in whose presence he now rejoices, his devotion to the service of his neighbors and his city, which desperately needs leaders of his caliber, and the constant encouragement of his loving wife Nancy, who is in our prayers. It was a blessing and an honor to count Roscoe as a friend and ally.

MORE: The program for Roscoe Turner's funeral.

Polling_Place_Vote_Here.jpgPolitico is reporting that former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating is considering running to fill the unexpired term of U. S. Sen. Tom Coburn, who is resigning at the end of 2014. Property and campaign contribution records indicate, and autobiographical blurbs confirm, that Keating is and has been a resident of McLean, Virginia, since shortly after leaving the Governor's Mansion in 2003, although he and his wife Cathy have continued to vote in Oklahoma.

Beginning shortly after his departure from the Governor's office, Frank Keating served for nearly eight years as president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers, moving to the American Bankers Association in November 2010. Throughout his post-gubernatorial career, he has been a registered Federal lobbyist. (Here is the most recent report from the American Bankers Association, for 4th Quarter of 2013. Here is the form adding Keating's name to the ABA's lobbyist registration, dated January 19, 2011. Keating's name appears on the American Council of Life Insurance's lobbying reports as early as the 2003 mid-year report, filed on August 7, 2003. Here is the 4th quarter 2010 report from the ACLI listing Keating as a "previously reported individual who is no longer expected to act as a lobbyist for the client.") According to his bio on the ACLI website (snapshot from March 2007), "Frank and his wife Cathy live in McLean, Virginia. They have three children and five grandchildren." (The June 2009 snapshot has the same statement with two more grandkids.) The same statement again was found in his bio on the American Bankers Association website, dated August 2011. (They had nine grandkids at that time.) As of today, the bio has moved to a different page on the ABA website, still listing residence as McLean, Va., but now with 10 grandchildren. (Mazel tov!)

FEC contributor records and property records bear out the Keatings' long term residency in Fairfax County, Virginia. Someone by that name purchased the home at 1111 Crest Lane in McLean, Va., on March 20, 2003. The property was transferred to KEATING FRANK TR -- presumably his trust -- on January 2, 2013. The 5,736 sq. ft. home at that address has, according to the Fairfax County assessor, 5 bedrooms, 8 full baths, and 2 half baths. The most recent assessed value of the home and land combined is $2,326,230.

That address appears on numerous political contributions in his name, including his most recent contribution to a federal campaign, on September 26, 2012, of $1000 to Markwayne Mullin's campaign for U. S. House. Some of his contributions bear the address of his employer at the time, such as his 2013 contributions to the PAC of the American Banking Association, which he heads. The same McLean, Va., address appears on former Oklahoma First Lady Cathy Keating's May 8, 2012 contribution to the Romney/Ryan campaign. She is listed as the chairperson of philanthropy for Express Employment Professionals.

Despite being resident in Virginia for some time, the fact that the Keatings continue to vote in Oklahoma means that their voter records will not be purged for inactivity, as happens when someone moves out of state and stops voting here.

According to the most recent voter records I have handy, from July 2012, Francis A Keating II and Catherine H Keating are registered to vote in precinct 720071, with a residential address of 2121 S. Yorktown Ave. (a condo tower just east of Utica Square), Apt. 1203. No one named Keating owns property at that address, according to Tulsa County Assessor records, but Cathy Keating's mother, Frances Herndon Chandler, is listed as trustee of a trust that owns that unit.

But both Keatings list the following as their mailing address in their voter registration record (at least as of July, 2012):


Recognize that address? It's Oklahoma's Governor's Mansion, home to Brad and Kim Henry and their daughters from 2003 to 2011, and home for the last three years or so to Mary Fallin and her family. More than eleven years after moving out, Frank and Cathy Keating's mailing address had not been changed in their voter record, something normally accomplished by the voter contacting the county election board. But they have continued to vote consistently, via absentee ballot. Presumably those ballots are being sent to a mailing address other than the one in their voter registration records.

The Keatings voted in the 2004 state primary and general elections, the December 2004 library special election, the April 2005 city bond issue, the 2005 4 to Fix the County renewal, the 2006 city elections (primary, general, third penny extension), 2006 state primary and general elections, the 2007 county river tax, the 2008 city general election (no primary in District 9 that year), and the 2008 state primary and general elections. Frank voted in the 2008 presidential primary (presumably for John McCain, whom he had endorsed), but Cathy did not. They both voted in the 2009 Tulsa mayoral election, a March 2, 2010, election, and the 2010 primary, runoff, and general elections. Cathy Keating voted in the February 14, 2012, school board election. All votes in the records available to me were cast by mailed-in absentee ballot. (I will update this paragraph as soon as I get access to more recent information, which would include votes cast during the rest of 2012 and 2013.)

In case you're wondering, the Keatings don't have a two-state-voter-registration problem. During a visit to the area in September 2010, I verified that the Keatings were not registered to vote in Fairfax County, Virginia, or at least that no one named Keating with an address on Crest Lane was registered there at that time. (Election officials would not confirm voter registration information over the phone; I had to visit the election board offices in person.) There isn't a dual homestead problem either, at least in Tulsa County, as no one named Frank or Francis Keating owns property here, according to the Tulsa County Assessor website.

Ace has a lengthy piece taking down "cargo cult" educational practices like "Whole Word" and "number bonds" and praising rote memorization: "Common Core Is Pretty Dumb."

So sure-- the accomplished 6-year-old readers are indeed mostly using whole word, at least for common words. Spoiler alert: That's because they already went through the Phonics phase at age 4 or 5.

The Cargo Cult mistake of these "Educators" is to think that Whole Word reading is a shortcut to teaching reading. No-- Whole Word reading is the endpoint of learning to read. First you read letter by letter, then syllable by syllable (as you have begun to compile, in your Reading Memory, a large list of common syllables). Then you start just reading Whole Word....

By denying kids their first step in reading -- teaching them to read letter-by-letter -- educators have not advanced Whole Word reading. They've retarded it. You can't do whole word until you're an ace at letter by letter.

They're making the same mistake here with this jackass method of teaching math. The method they're teaching is what I'd term a secondary insight. Yes, I know what they're trying to teach. I do this myself sometimes, to make life easier on myself.

Did someone have to teach me this? No, it's a simple enough insight once you are fluent with the basic memorized rules of math. Once "three plus four equals seven and three plus seven equals ten" is drilled into your head enough times, you naturally start thinking in terms (or can start thinking in such terms, if that's your preference) whereby you perform somewhat complex operations on simple math problems to make them easier for yourself....

Ace discovers the fundamental truth of educational bureaucracy:

No one gets an award for suggesting we try the old, established, well-proven methods of teaching. You only get awards and recognition for proposing new ones.

And he gets to the insight that if you want to teach kids "how to think" you start by teaching them the basics, which gives them the raw materials for advanced insights. He presents an example from his own life, deducing the existence of a French verb from an English noun derived from French. (He's working on learning the language.)

So I realized that "penchant" was probably a gerund form of a verb which must be "pencher." I think I've seen it before, but I never looked it up. Taking a guess at what the word must mean, I guessed pencher probably means "to incline," which would make the French (and English) definition of "penchant" "an inclining towards," or, in better English, "an inclination towards."

Then I looked it up. Pencher does in fact mean "to incline or rise," and finally, after a whole life of just vaguely knowing what the English word "penchant" means, I confirmed it does mean "inclining towards" (or "preferring" or "having a habit of" -- all derived from "inclining towards").

I was actually a little thrilled. I felt empowered.

But honestly-- how would you go about teaching that? Well, you can only tell students that -ant is our -ing. Once they've learned that (and had it drilled in their heads by reading French texts, in which -ant is very common), they can, at their own initiative, wonder things like "Gee, does 'penchant' imply a verb 'pencher'?"

But how do you make a lesson of this? At most, what you'd do is tuck this in the back of a chapter, in those "For Further Thought and Exploration" parts of the textbook, where you ask students to guess at the meaning of "pencher" based on their vague knowledge of the English "penchant."

But would you design a whole lesson around this mode of thought? Would you drill this sort of thing into kids' heads, like teachers are now doing with "number bonds"?

No. You give students the sandbox of basic information to play in, and hope they make sandcastles.

And that's how you learn to think. Not by a teacher telling you, "This is how you learn to think."

Dorothy L. Sayers was making similar insights in 1947 in her essay, "The Lost Tools of Learning," which has inspired and shaped the resurgence of the classical method of education in recent years. Ace's insights correspond to the importance of Grammar -- memorization of facts and rules -- as the foundation of all further learning:

My views about child psychology are, I admit, neither orthodox nor enlightened. Looking back upon myself (since I am the child I know best and the only child I can pretend to know from inside) I recognize three states of development. These, in a rough-and- ready fashion, I will call the Poll-Parrot, the Pert, and the Poetic--the latter coinciding, approximately, with the onset of puberty. The Poll-Parrot stage is the one in which learning by heart is easy and, on the whole, pleasurable; whereas reasoning is difficult and, on the whole, little relished. At this age, one readily memorizes the shapes and appearances of things; one likes to recite the number-plates of cars; one rejoices in the chanting of rhymes and the rumble and thunder of unintelligible polysyllables; one enjoys the mere accumulation of things. The Pert age, which follows upon this (and, naturally, overlaps it to some extent), is characterized by contradicting, answering back, liking to "catch people out" (especially one's elders); and by the propounding of conundrums. Its nuisance-value is extremely high. It usually sets in about the Fourth Form. The Poetic age is popularly known as the "difficult" age. It is self-centered; it yearns to express itself; it rather specializes in being misunderstood; it is restless and tries to achieve independence; and, with good luck and good guidance, it should show the beginnings of creativeness; a reaching out towards a synthesis of what it already knows, and a deliberate eagerness to know and do some one thing in preference to all others. Now it seems to me that the layout of the Trivium adapts itself with a singular appropriateness to these three ages: Grammar to the Poll-Parrot, Dialectic to the Pert, and Rhetoric to the Poetic age.

From Susan Wise Bauer's description of classical education:

The first years of schooling are called the "grammar stage" -- not because you spend four years doing English, but because these are the years in which the building blocks for all other learning are laid, just as grammar is the foundation for language. In the elementary school years -- what we commonly think of as grades one through four -- the mind is ready to absorb information. Children at this age actually find memorization fun. So during this period, education involves not self-expression and self-discovery, but rather the learning of facts. Rules of phonics and spelling, rules of grammar, poems, the vocabulary of foreign languages, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plants and animals and the human body, the facts of mathematics -- the list goes on. This information makes up the "grammar," or the basic building blocks, for the second stage of education.

It's heartening to see these laws taken seriously. Osage Nation Principal Chief John Red Eagle was removed from office by the tribal council and banned from ever holding tribal office again:

The six counts included abuse of power, interfering with an Osage attorney general's investigation, refusing to uphold tribal law, withholding at least one contract properly requested under the Osage Nation's Open Records Act by two newspapers, and breaking federal and tribal law by using tribal funds to pay a contractor more than $70,000 to maintain his personal website....

In 2013, the Osage News, the tribe's newspaper, and the Bigheart Times, an independent weekly newspaper based in Barnsdall, both requested copies of a contract between the tribe and Rod Hartness, a pipeline consultant.

"It breaks the (tribal) Open Records Act," Red Eagle said Thursday of the decision not to release the contract within the law's 10-day response window. "In that instance, I did it. I broke the law.

"We suspected they would write something negative if they (the Osage News and the Bigheart Times) got his contract."

Open records requests and the integrity of the bidding and contracting process are sometimes dismissed as of minimal importance, of interest only to pesky bloggers. But a failure to respond in a timely fashion may be an indication of something to hide. There is no "they would write something negative" exemption to the Open Records Act.

Kudos to the Osage Nation for having a tough law and taking it seriously.

January 21, 1989: Eagle watching, a Pizza Hut lunch, an unintentionally taunting headline, an Oklahoma sunset, a hymn, a ring, a question, and a "yes." Here's what I wrote about it five years ago.

Happy anniversary, darling.

Interesting story in the Dallas Morning News, examining the reality behind the claims Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis has made about the challenges she has faced in life. Davis, a statuesque blonde nicknamed "Abortion Barbie" for her filibuster defending the abortion industry against a bill protecting women's health, is a Democratic candidate for Texas governor.

A single mother working two jobs, she met Jeff Davis, a lawyer 13 years older than her, married him and had a second daughter. He paid for her last two years at Texas Christian University and her time at Harvard Law School, and kept their two daughters while she was in Boston. When they divorced in 2005, he was granted parental custody, and the girls stayed with him. Wendy Davis was directed to pay child support....

When she was accepted to Harvard Law School, Jeff Davis cashed in his 401(k) account and eventually took out a loan to pay for her final year there.

"I was making really good money then, well over six figures," he said. "But when you've got someone at Harvard, you've got bills to pay, you've got two small kids. The economy itself was marginal. You do what you have to do, no big deal."

The daughters, then 8 and 2, remained with Jeff Davis in Fort Worth while Wendy Davis was at Harvard....

Over time, the Davises' marriage was strained. In November 2003, Wendy Davis moved out.

Jeff Davis said that was right around the time the final payment on their Harvard Law School loan was due. "It was ironic," he said. "I made the last payment, and it was the next day she left."...

In his initial divorce filing, Jeff Davis said the marriage had failed, citing adultery on her part and conflicts that the couple could not overcome. The final court decree makes no mention of infidelity, granting the divorce solely "on the ground of insupportability."

Amber was 21 and in college. Dru was in ninth grade. Jeff Davis was awarded parental custody. Wendy Davis was ordered to pay $1,200 a month in child support.

"She did the right thing," he said. "She said, 'I think you're right; you'll make a good, nurturing father. While I've been a good mother, it's not a good time for me right now.'"...

A former colleague and political supporter who worked closely with Davis when she was on the council said the body's work was very time-consuming.

"Wendy is tremendously ambitious," he said, speaking only on condition of anonymity in order to give what he called an honest assessment. "She's not going to let family or raising children or anything else get in her way."

He said: "She's going to find a way, and she's going to figure out a way to spin herself in a way that grabs at the heart strings. A lot of it isn't true about her, but that's just us who knew her. But she'd be a good governor."

MORE: Wendy Davis was a SLAPPer, suing the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1996 for what sounds like Butthurt in the First Degree. Here is the conclusion of the paper's editorial decrying her campaign tactics in a city council race against Cathy Hirt:

What we are saying today is nothing more than this: It is sad that victory means so much to some people that they will follow the time-honored rule of politics: To win, you must fight dirty and with innuendo.

That's what happens all the time nationally. It is not the rule here, but the exception. You would think someone who grew up here would know that.

Andrew Stiles of National Review Online writes of Wendy Davis's lawsuit against the newspaper:

The complaint itself was light on subtlety and nuance, arguing that the paper's conduct "was extreme and outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community." As a result of the paper's actions, Davis alleged, she had "suffered and is continuing to suffer damages to her mental health, her physical health, her right to pursue public offices in the past and in the future, and to her legal career" and deserved financial compensation.

The suit was essentially laughed out of court. It was quickly dismissed by a district-court judge, who sustained all of the defendants' objections, largely on the grounds that Davis had failed to present legitimate evidence to support her libel claim. It was unanimously rejected by an appellate court three years later and ultimately by the Texas Supreme Court. The defense appears to have had a relatively easy job arguing that Davis was challenging a newspaper's right to express an opinion she disagreed with, a challenge that obviously ran afoul of the First Amendment.

The good news for Texas newspapers and bloggers is that under new Texas anti-SLAPP legislation, approved in 2011 and strengthened in 2013, a suit like Davis's would not only be laughed out of court, but the plaintiff would be required to pay the defendant's legal fees, a penalty intended to deter lawsuits filed with no hope of success in order to harass and silence a critic.

MORE: RedState: "Wendy Davis' Ex Asked a Court to Order Her Not to Use Drugs Before Seeing Her Kids"

MORE: Houston Chronicle had many of these details in a profile of Wendy Davis from September 1, 2013. Via Breitbart.

Tom Coburn is leaving the Senate two years early, evidently discouraged by his colleagues' unwillingness to take even modest steps to eliminate wasteful spending and redundant programs. On Wednesday (2014/01/15), Coburn said on the Mark Levin Show, "I've come to a conviction that you can't fix Washington within Washington. The only way we fix Washington is have a convention of the states and limit their power. Coburn points out that 70% of Senate members have never had a job outside of being a politician. He says the only way to get term limits is with a convention of the states, as suggested by Levin's book, The Liberty Amendments. If you don't believe America's spending problem can be fixed within Washington, why stick around?

So what now? How will his successor be chosen?

The last time this happened was in 1994, when Democrat U. S. Sen. David Boren resigned to become president of the University of Oklahoma. (Amazing to think that was 20 years ago.)

In order to ensure that Oklahoma continued to have two votes in the Senate, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a law providing for a U. S. Senator to submit an irrevocable letter of resignation for a date in the future and for the special election to replace him to happen during the normal election cycle. The law was passed with the emergency clause and took effect on May 26, 1994. Here is the relevant section of the law (26 O. S. 12-101) as it stood for the 1994 election:

A. Except as otherwise provided in this section, whenever a vacancy shall occur in the office of a member of the United States Senate or United States House of Representatives from Oklahoma, such vacancy shall be filled at a Special Election to be called by the Governor within thirty (30) days after such vacancy occurs.

B. No special election shall be called if the vacancy occurs after March 1 of any even-numbered year if the term of said office expires the following year. In such case, the candidate elected to said office at the regular General Election shall be appointed by the Governor to fill the unexpired term.

C. If in an even-numbered year an incumbent United States Senator with two (2) or more years remaining in the term for which the incumbent was elected shall file with the Oklahoma Secretary of State before July 1 a resignation in writing which states that the resignation will not become effective immediately, but rather will become effective on some date certain which date is after the General Election, but before the convening of the next term of Congress, the vacancy shall be filled by a special election which shall be held in that even-numbered year on the same dates as the regular Primary Election, Runoff Primary Election and General Election. The filing period for the special election shall be the regular filing period prescribed in Section 26-5-110 of this title. The person elected in the General Election of the special election shall take office on the date the resignation of the incumbent becomes effective and shall serve the remainder of the unexpired term.

If you followed that link, you'll notice that the above language was superseded as of 10/24/2001. When U. S. Rep. Steve Largent announced his intention to resign his seat in Congress to focus on his effort to succeed Gov. Frank Keating in the 2002 election, the legislature passed additional language to allow a special election to take place before Largent's irrevocable resignation would go into effect. Here is the section of law that was added during a special session:

D. If an incumbent United States Representative files with the Oklahoma Secretary of State an irrevocable resignation in writing on or before October 29, 2001, which states the resignation shall not become effective immediately, but will become effective on some date certain, the vacancy shall be filled by a special election to be called by the Governor. The Governor shall issue a proclamation in accordance with Section 12-102 of this title, and the filing period shall be held November 5, 6, and 7, 2001, and the primary election shall be held December 11, 2001. The runoff election shall be held January 8, 2002, and the general election shall be held February 12, 2002. In the event that a runoff election is not necessary, the General Election shall be held on January 8, 2002. The person elected in the General Election of the special election shall take office on the later of the date the resignation of the incumbent becomes effective or the date the results of the General Election have been certified by the State Election Board and shall serve the remainder of the unexpired term.

Since this language is specific to a particular window of time, it was cleaned up the following year by SB 826, which went into effect as normal legislation (no emergency clause) on November 1, 2002. Section D, specifically enacted for the 2001-2 1st District special election, was removed. 26 O. S. 12-101 leaving only standard language requiring a special election only when a vacancy occurs. Section C., dealing with Senate resignations, was generalized and moved to a new section of law, 26 O. S. 12-119:

Except as otherwise provided by law, an incumbent in any elective office for which a vacancy is filled by special election called by the Governor may file with the Oklahoma Secretary of State an irrevocable resignation in writing which states that the resignation will not become effective immediately, but rather will become effective on some date certain. Upon receipt of the irrevocable letter of resignation, the Governor shall set the date for the special election. The person elected at the special election shall take office on the later of the date of certification of the results of the special election or the date the resignation of the incumbent becomes effective and shall serve the remainder of the unexpired term.

Some additional tweaks were made in 2012 via SB 91, changing the date after which no special election would be called from March 1 in an even-numbered year (when the term expires the following year) to January 1, and adding some clarifying language. But this provision doesn't apply to Coburn's case, since his term doesn't expire until 2017.

26 O. S. 12-103 says that, if a special election under 12-102 occurs (a proclamation issued with respect to a 12-101 vacancy), there will be a primary, runoff, and general election to fill the vacancy, and if the vacancy occurs in an even-numbered year, the special election dates will line up with the regular dates. It is unclear whether this section would necessarily apply to elections to fill vacancies that haven't happened yet, under 12-119. I suspect that if there is any question about it, the legislature will act quickly to clarify matters so that the election can happen along with the normal cycle and the new senator can be sworn in as soon as Coburn's resignation takes effect.

If any statewide elected official (except for two corporation commissioners) or U. S. or Oklahoma House member wants to try to fill Tom Coburn's shoes, they'll have to give up the chance to run for re-election to their current position. There could be quite a shuffle if, say, Gov. Fallin and one or more congressmen decide to run for Senate.

A news release from the office of Sen. Coburn:

Dr. Coburn Announces His Decision to Leave the Senate at the End of the 113th Congress

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) released the following statement announcing his decision to give up his Senate seat at the end of this Congress:

"Serving as Oklahoma's senator has been, and continues to be, one of the great privileges and blessings of my life. But, after much prayer and consideration, I have decided that I will leave my Senate seat at the end of this Congress.

"Carolyn and I have been touched by the encouragement we've received from people across the state regarding my latest battle against cancer. But this decision isn't about my health, my prognosis or even my hopes and desires. My commitment to the people of Oklahoma has always been that I would serve no more than two terms. Our founders saw public service and politics as a calling rather than a career. That's how I saw it when I first ran for office in 1994, and that's how I still see it today. I believe it's important to live under the laws I helped write, and even those I fought hard to block.

"As a citizen legislator, I am first and foremost a citizen who cares deeply about the kind of country we leave our children and grandchildren. As I have traveled across Oklahoma and our nation these past nine years, I have yet to meet a parent or grandparent who wouldn't do anything within their power to secure the future for the next generation. That's why I initially ran for office in 1994 and re-entered politics in 2004. I'm encouraged there are thousands of Americans with real-world experience and good judgment who feel just like I do. As dysfunctional as Washington is these days, change is still possible when 'We the People' get engaged, run for office themselves or make their voices heard. After all, how else could a country doctor from Muskogee with no political experience make it to Washington?

"As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere. In the meantime, I look forward to finishing this year strong. I intend to continue our fight for Oklahoma, and will do everything in my power to force the Senate to re-embrace its heritage of debate, deliberation and consensus as we face our many challenges ahead.

"My God bless you, our state and our country."



The poster at right was posted on the KAKC - Memories of the Big 970's Page and the Tulsa Memories of the '60s and '70s page and spurred by a comment that Billy Cowsill and Gary Lewis had a band in Tulsa in the early 1970s.

The Cowsills were a family band, the real life inspiration for the Partridge Family, a group of brothers, backed by their mom and their little sister, singing close-harmony, sunshiny pop music in the late 1960s. The eldest brother, Billy, was fired from the band by his dad after an argument in a Las Vegas coffee shop. In his journey to find his way forward, one of his first stops was in Tulsa, the Tulsa of the early 1970s. The Tulsa of Mazeppa Pompazoidi and his Uncanny Film Festival. To Baby Boomers in particular, this was a golden age of creativity in Tulsa, led by Leon Russell and the musicians that he brought to the attention of the wider world. It was the age of the Tulsa Sound.

First, an overview of the times, as captured by John Wooley:

If you were of a certain age in the early '70s, and you were living in or around Tulsa, Oklahoma, the name "Mazeppa" symbolized something almost magical, a shared experience of a place and time in Tulsa when our youth-culture scene was enriched and enlivened by some special creators.

Leon Russell was living in town, with people like George Harrison and Eric Clapton dropping by to jam. The likes of J.J. Cale and David Teegarden were recording hits that popped onto the national charts. Any number of rock bands, including one fronted by Gary Lewis and Billy Cowsill, were making their homes here, and making the clubs at night.

And Mazeppa was on television.

An interview with Gary Lewis, who headed up the 1960s pop band Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

Q - Before I ask you about your days with The Playboys, I see that you were in a band called Medicine out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. How successful was that group?

A - Not successful at all. It was just something I thought I would try because most of the original Playboys were from Tulsa, Oklahoma. So, I knew a lot of musicians back there. Our arranger was Leon Russell and he was from Tulsa. He got me the original Playboys. So, knowing a lot of people from back there, I decided let's go back there and see what we can do. I was also in that band with Bill Cowsill. It was me and Bill Cowsill and a bunch of Tulsa guys.

An profile of Billy Cowsill from 2001, "Bill Cowsill, The Road, and Other Things":

There followed a hard discovery period for Cowsill, predictably accompanied by a swan dive into the world of hard drinking and drugs. Still, at last, the young artist as finding sheer joy in playing music freely and creatively in the seminal Mazeppa scene of Tulsa after years of being the musical equivalent of a battery hen.

"My odyssey really began in Tulsa, Oklahoma," Cowsill says. "I was playing for ten bucks a night and all the whisky you could drink, but I was sitting in with Harry Nilsen, JJ Cale. I got to play with Carl Wilson. And finally I was playing with roots people, playing the kind of music I wanted to play. That's when I really started learning."

As it turned out, it was less his considerable playing talent than the production savvy picked up through spending his teenage years in studios that was really in demand. This allowed him backstage access to the world of the musicians he'd love and admired. He is able to relate stories from this period freely, despite the haze that doubtlessly accompanied it, and has a rare knack for putting a date to almost any event. It's well documented that Billy Cowsill was the prime candidate to take over from Brian Wilson as lead Beach Boy during the Brian in bed years. He even had the chance to hang out with the big Beach Boy face to face at his mansion. During a stroll in the garden, Wilson suddenly turned to the young man who unbeknownst to him, worshipped him, and said, "Can I ask you something, Bill?" Frightened and flattered Bill nervously encouraged the bloated Barbara-Anne-er to speak freely. As Wilson looked Billy Cowsill in the eye he asked with dead seriousness, "Do you think there is enough bass in "I Get Around"?"

Transcription of a CMT - Canada, "Undiscovered Country" interview with Billy Cowsill from May 2004:

I went back to Los Angeles, I mean I just came off the "Hair" record, I mean I'm a good producer, obviously. I just sold 6 million records and it was no problem getting a job. I'd walk into any record company and they'd say, "Well what have you done lately?" I'd just open Cashbox and I went, "That" So I was a hired gun right away. And so I worked a couple years in Los Angeles. Then I ran into this band of outlaws from Tulsa, Oklahoma. They were Leon Russell's back up band. Jimmy Karstein, Carl Radle - people like that. And Gary Lewis of all people was their friend too. So, Gary Lewis and I, with these Okies, got a band together. I loved to Tulsa with two bird dogs and a wife - pregnant wife and two bird dogs and started really learning about the roots of the music I'd been playing all my life, rhythm and blues, the blues. I used to be a - the band would play in these little strip malls down there in Tulsa. This would be about 1971 - 72. And on my breaks, I go across the parking lot and sit in with J.J. Cale. So I get to learn about the blues that way. I was - everything I learned musically that I didn't just absorb from growing up - was after the fact - as far as roots and source - things like that....

I was in the recording studio. I got to do these demos and I rented this guitar and the machine heads were stripped. So I was about to fling it across the studio. Jack comes on the intercom and says, "Wait a minute Billy." He went in the back and brought out this leather soft case. I said, "Thanks Jack" So I peeled it down and this odor of beautiful wood came out and it said Everly Gibson on it. And I said, "Everly Gibson? Well I kind of know there are only three real ones. Don's got one, McCartney's got one," and I said - to tell you how out of it I was - I said, "Jack who's is this?" He goes, "That's John's." Well, I lost it. John Lennon. He had just finished the Imagine album. Here I was - hopeless, helpless, out of my mind, still rocking - and someone hands me MY HERO's ax. That was a turning point for me of coming back to sanity, back to reality and back to this journey that I've been on ever since.

An interview witth Billy Cowsill, from Vancouver Magazine, April 1995:

A Cowsill by name but no longer by profession, Billy embarked on a hobo's tour of America, covering Cat Stevens tunes for the swells in swanky Manhattan restaurants, learning the blues from J. J. Cale in a tavern in a Tulsa shopping mall. In one of life's gee-whiz coincidences, Billy spotted another look-alike family of harmonizing boys, this one wearing striped jackets and singing barbershop quartet at Disneyland. "They were getting tired of 'Down by the Old Mill Stream' and the straw hats. They wanted to be cool, too." At the time, Billy was recording what would be a dud solo album for Mike Curb at MGM Records. "When my contract was up, I said: 'Mike, whatever you do, sign these guys.' And the rest is history." The guys were a Mormon family by the name of Osmond.

Here's Billy heading up The Cowsills in their first big hit: "The Rain, the Park, and Other Things"

RELATED: A review of a new box set of Eric Clapton's music from 1974 and 1975 spotlights Tulsa's Jamie Oldaker, who joined Clapton's band at the urging of another Tulsan, Carl Radle. The review credits Oldaker and his fellow Tulsans (bassist Radle and pianist Dick Sims) as the fount from which the newly resurgent Clapton's laid-back sound flowed.

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. was quoted in a web advertisement for The Weather Channel, part of the cable network's pushback in its battle against DirecTV's decision to replace the channel with WeatherNation on its satellite lineup. KJRH meteorologist George Flickinger posted a screenshot the ad on his Facebook page. Bartlett Jr was quoted as saying:

"As Mayor, I rely on The Weather Channel for alerts and up-to-the-minute information so that I can communicate clearly and quickly with my constituents."


So, Mayor of Tulsa Dewey F. Bartlett Jr seems to be saying that during emergencies, he relies on brief, second-hand information offered sporadically ("Local on the 8s") during weather-related reality TV shows, rather than meteorologists at our NWS office and at local TV stations (and heard on local radio), who know NE Oklahoma's weather patterns, are focused on local weather developments, and can pronounce Oologah and Nowata correctly.

The only reason Tulsa re-elected this... gentleman... was because the alternative was so awful. The fact that he was elected in the first place and a finalist for re-election doesn't speak well for the discernment of Tulsa voters.

Bartlett Jr's spokesman issued a fence-mending statement
(as reported by KJRH):

"The mayor listens to various weather reporting sources when weather is an issue and he needs to be informed. Obviously the official point of information is the National Weather Service as it is the key source for our emergency management operation. In those situations, the mayor is also in constant contact with our local emergency managers who stay well informed on weather predictions.

"Local weather reporting by radio and television offers excellent information from which he and his staff glean information to confirm important data he relies on to make decisions.

"He never relies on a single source for weather information.

"His remarks made nearly a year ago when the Weather Channel was in town reporting on Safe rooms, did not include the above mentioned context."

So today's statement doesn't deny that he made the remark about The Weather Channel. The last paragraph, at first reading, is awkwardly worded and seems at first glance to blame TWC for not including the "above mentioned context" in promoting Bartlett Jr's words. Read more closely, however, it seems to be saying that Bartlett Jr omitted to praise local meteorologists, so there wasn't any context to include.

I can't believe anyone relies on The Weather Channel anymore. The broadcast version was once a regular rotation of national and local conditions, forecast, and radar. The station didn't have a schedule as such. You could tune in any time day or night, and within 10 to 20 minutes you had a handle on the current weather situation.

Now The Weather Channel is just another cable channel with a mix of reality TV and documentaries and only an occasional nod to its original purpose. With the ubiquity of smartphones and tablets, there's no reason to sit down and wait for a brief blurb about local conditions.

The Weather Channel's website is increasingly complex and hard to use. During our recent travels, in which we were covering 500 to 600 miles a day and needed to know what we'd be driving through and if a change in route would be sensible, so I looked on weather.com for regional maps of expected travel weather -- once an hourly feature on the cable network -- but was unable to find them. I wound up on Weather Underground, using their Trip Planner, and was able to get local conditions along the route based on our expected arrival at each city along the way. Weather Underground began as an Internet-based service before the advent of the World Wide Web, using minimal, text-based protocols like Telnet and Gopher, so their roots are in the economical presentation of essential information.

But in 2012, Weather Underground was bought by The Weather Channel and is beta-testing a new interface, so who knows if that simplicity will last. One of Weather Underground's founders, Jeff Masters, is worried that DirecTV's replacement for The Weather Channel, won't broadcast enough globaloney about anthropogenic global warming:

I've never seen the coverage from WeatherNation, the replacement for The Weather Channel on DIRECTV, and do not know if they have plans to do any climate change coverage as part of their programming. If not, this will mean there are now 20 million people seeing less climate change coverage, at a time when The Weather Channel is actively expanding their climate change coverage, and at a time when society greatly needs as much awareness of how our climate is changing as possible.

Global-warming evangelism gets enough airtime on PBS, the major broadcast networks, and other cable channels. What people want from a cable weather channel is to know what the weather is right now and what it's going to be for the next few days, and if WeatherNation fits the bill, I expect many other satellite and cable providers will make the same decision as DirecTV.

As for me, when I need to know what kind of threatening weather is headed my way, I tune in one of the local AM news-talk stations on the radio, flip back and forth between local TV stations, and check the excellent Hazardous Weather Decision Support page on the National Weather Service Tulsa office website.

As a dad responsible for my family's safety, I rely on local meteorologists and weather observers who know local patterns and have more than just a professional interest when deadly weather hits Green Country. I'd hope the same would be true of my city's mayor.

Randy_Baldridge_Democrat.jpgA lurid story involving a disgraced former elected official is all over the local news. Randy Baldridge, who served as a Rogers County, Oklahoma, Commissioner, and then served a term in a federal penitentiary for "conspiracy, fraud and misapplication of funds by a local government official, mail fraud, money laundering, and corrupt persuasion of a person to obstruct a federal investigation." Baldridge was arrested Tuesday on a complaint of "harboring an endangered runaway, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, distribution of a controlled dangerous substance to a minor, possession of a controlled dangerous substance within 1,000 feet of a school and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia" according to the Tulsa World.

The Tulsa World's story had an odd omission, considering that this was a story about a disgraced former elected official. The story didn't mention the party affiliation of the federal felon and alleged corrupter of youth. In light of that omission, the cutline for the file photo of Baldridge is especially odd:

In this photo from 2006, Randy Baldridge, who was under federal indictiment at the time for mail fraud for conspiracy, money laundering and mail fraud, looks around a courtroom at the Rogers County Courthouse during a recount of votes for his District 2 Rogers County commissioner seat. Republican candidate Kirt Thacker of Inola had defeated Baldridge with 4,022 votes to 4,014. Tulsa World file

So the only party label you will see in the story is "Republican." If you're scanning the article quickly, the notion that this convicted sleazeball (NOTE: my opinion, based on news reports), accused of even more sleazy behavior, is a typical hypocritical Rethuglican might attach itself to your brain.

Now, if you read more carefully, you might deduce that because he was beaten by a Republican, Baldridge himself must be a Democrat. But, wait! The article doesn't say Baldridge lost a general election; perhaps he was a Republican defeated by another Republican in a primary.

Thanks to the comprehensive election result archive on the website of Rogers County Election Board, I can confirm that former commissioner Randy Baldridge ran for county assessor as a Democrat in 1998, was elected County Commissioner as a Democrat in 2002 and, as the 2006 Democratic nominee, was narrowly defeated in the general election.

Stories about the Baldridge arrest by KOTV News on 6, KOKI Fox 23, and the Claremore Daily Progress also neglected to mention Baldridge's party affiliation, but all three sources mention another detail that the Tulsa World omitted: The runaways Baldridge is alleged to have harbored were all boys.

News on 6:

Tulsa police say a witness has accused Baldridge of picking up runaway boys and giving them drugs, sometimes in exchange for sexual favors.

Someone else told police that Baldridge had given him methamphetamine and he later woke up naked in a field.

Fox 23:

When deputies went to the residence in Tiawah they located Baldridge and a 16-year-old male who was a runaway from Tulsa County.

Claremore Daily Progress:

Walton said there were indications that Baldridge had been harboring teenage boys on the run not only from Tulsa but in the Rogers County area for some time.

Baldridge's residence is located less than 200 feet from Tiawah Elementary School.

This might be unremarkable, but there seems to be a pattern of mainstream media selectively avoiding mention of party affiliation when the sleazy subject of a lurid story is a Democratic elected official, emphasizing it when the accused slimebucket is a Republican. It can seem that the mainstream media wants to avoid discrediting its preferred political party. I have to wonder if the omission of the sex of the alleged victims (and the implied sexual bent of the alleged perpetrator) was similarly motivated by a desire to avoid any negative associations with a group favored by the media.

Some examples of "name-that-party" stories: Here are mainstream media stories ignoring the Democratic affiliation of corrupt former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Here's a long list of "name that party" omissions, highlighting the mainstream media's omission of the Democratic affiliation of the corrupt municipal officials of Bell, California. Lawhawk has a running category on his blog devoted to curious omissions of party affiliation, and so does Newsbusters. Michelle Malkin, in 2008, noted five sex scandals in which the Democratic party affiliation of the perps were rarely noted, while at the same time, Republicans were being attacked for a "culture of corruption." And Ace deconstructs the mainstream media's rationalization of this selective reporting of party affiliation here.

More name-that-party examples of politicians connected with scandal: Pennsylvania congressman John Murtha, former San Diego mayor Maureen O'Connor, Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, San Diego mayor Bob Filner.

Give the readers enough credit to decide whether an alleged perp's party affiliation is relevant or not to the story. If the perp is a politician, party affiliation is a relevant detail.

A group of devil worshippers from New York City wants to "donate" a statue representing Satan as a winged, goat-headed creature who is embracing children (presumably intending to defile and/or devour them) to be installed on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol, near a privately-funded monument listing the Ten Commandments. Many of my liberal friends are rejoicing on social media, claiming that this is the natural outcome of the state allowing a religious artifact like the Decalogue to defile government property. If the Ten Commandments are allowed, the argument goes, any religious object must be allowed, presumably to include Japanese fertility effigies and altars to Moloch (even though they'd be more appropriately located outside the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic or Democratic Party HQ).

Some Tulsans may remember the controversy over the installation at the Tulsa Zoo of an idol of Ganesha, the Hindu god who has the head of an elephant. The justification was that it was there not as a religious symbol, but as a representation of the importance of the elephant in Indian culture. Likewise for animistic depictions of animals in other parts of the zoo.

The Ten Commandments are not installed at the Capitol as an object of religious devotion, but to mark their influence on our system of laws. Even the first commandment -- "thou shalt have no other gods before me" -- is reflected in principles fundamental to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, that government's sovereignty is derivative, not absolute, that no man is above the law, that our inalienable rights are to be protected by government, but they are not granted by government, nor can they be rescinded by government. All this supposes a Creator who is sovereign over all earthly powers and by whom all earthly powers are to be judged.

The Ten Commandments, found in the Jewish scriptures, is honored by every Christian denomination and by other faiths such as Mormonism. Analogues of each commandment may be found in the scriptures of Islam. C. S. Lewis, in the appendix to his book The Abolition of Man, illustrated that the moral and ethical principles in the Ten Commandments could also be found in Eastern religions and ancient pagan religions. Displaying the Ten Commandments does not constitute an establishment of religion as the Founding Fathers would have understood it -- it doesn't create a "Church of the United States" with GS-13s serving as priests and GS-14s as bishops and Congress voting on a United States Book of Common Prayer.

What would a statue of Satan on the lawn of the Capitol represent? At the heart of Satanism is worshipping the self as the one true god; power (whether natural or supernatural) is to be used to subjugate and exploit others for one's own desires. This philosophy is not compatible with the rule of law or the progress of civilization toward justice and prosperity. The Satanic philosophy of self as god is a recipe for civilizational collapse and a "Lord of the Flies" society where might makes right and "do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law." Someone may object that this is precisely how government and humanity in general operates, and someone would have a point, but it is not the mode of behavior to which we ought to aspire.

Oklahoma's officials are right to reject objects of worship from the capitol grounds, particularly objects that symbolize destructive selfishness. They are right to reject any false equivalency between idols and effigies and the display of the Ten Commandments, a foundational document of Western Civilization.

Ray Price, RIP

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Two musicians who shaped American popular music in the 1950s and 1960s, introducing distinctive sounds and beats and influencing later artists, passed away in the last few weeks -- Ray Price and Phil Everly. I'm behind on my writing, but here's a few words about Ray Price, a true legend.

(Note: An earlier version of this entry mentioned Bo Diddley as a recently deceased musical great, but a reader pointed out that he died in 2008. I think someone on Facebook had linked to NPR's obituary for the late Mr. Bates, and I failed to notice the date. Perhaps the connection was Diddley's influence on the music of the Everly Brothers.)

Country artist Ray Price emerged as a successor to Hank Williams, taking charge of the Drifting Cowboys after Williams's death. Influenced by Williams's sound and western swing, Price introduced a distinctive shuffle and walking bass line in hit songs like "Crazy Arms" and "Heartaches by the Number," defining the honky-tonk sound. In 1961, Price recorded what may have been the first tribute album honoring the music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. (George Jones and Merle Haggard and many others would follow suit.) Price's band, the Cherokee Cowboys, launched the careers of singer/songwriters like Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Johnny Paycheck, and Johnny Bush. In the '60s and '70s, he was a pioneer of the "countrypolitan" sound, trading in his Nudie suit for a tuxedo and fiddles for orchestral strings and crossing over to the pop music charts with "For the Good Times" and "Night Life." In 1982, he made a cameo appearance in the Clint Eastwood film "Honky Tonk Man," as a singer with the Texas Playboys. (Bob Wills was played by fiddler Johnny Gimble.) In recent years, Price recorded and toured with Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.

Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011, he continued to perform until May 2013. He kept in touch with fans through his Facebook page throughout the ups and downs of his illness. In December, as he made the decision to decline further treatment and to return home, Price issued a final message to his fans:

I love my fans and have devoted my life to reaching out to them. I appreciate their support all these years and I hope I haven't let them down. I am at peace. I love Jesus. I'm going to be just fine. Don't worry about me. I'll see you again one day.

Videos of some of Ray's performances over the years, after the jump:

Tonight, January 4, 2014, the Tulsa Boy Singers will present their annual holiday concert, featuring music of the season both ancient and modern. The concert will begin at 7:30 pm, in the Gothic Revival splendor of Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. (Parking and main entrance off of 6th Street between Cincinnati and Detroit Ave.) Tickets are $10 for adults, free for students.

The concert was originally scheduled for December 20, but was postponed because of the ice storm.

Tulsa Boy Singers, Oklahoma's oldest choral society, is a not-for-profit arts organization, and your end-of-year gifts can help to sustain TBS through 2014. You can give to TBS securely online through GoFundMe or at Friday's concert.

As always, there will be an opportunity after the concert for boys with an interest in singing to audition. For my boys, TBS has been a great introduction to understanding and performing music. TBS members learn to read music, learn to follow direction, blend their voices, memorize words and music, and perform before an audience. TBS uses the Royal Society for Church Music's "Voice for Life" choir training program. At a time when many schools are deemphasizing music, TBS offers boys the music education they may be missing. (I only wish a program of the same quality existed for girls in Tulsa.)

tbs poster Christmas 2013.png

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2014 listed from newest to oldest.

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