August 2014 Archives

CNN broadcast security camera video (more here) that appears to show Michael Brown shoplifting from a convenience store in Ferguson, Mo., shortly before he was shot by a police officer. At one point in the video, a thin man in a white shirt with skinny vertical stripes, untucked, and dark slacks confronts a much taller and larger man (allegedly Brown) as the larger man walks toward the door. The larger man looms over the smaller man, appears to push him, and the smaller man backs off as the larger man walks out.

I've seen several websites describe the scene as a QuikTrip store clerk or manager confronting the apparent shoplifter, but that didn't ring true to me, living as I do in the city where QuikTrip was born and where there seems to be a QuikTrip on every corner. While the store's floor tiles looked like they belonged in a QuikTrip, the arrangement of items was too cluttered to be a QuikTrip. The smaller man's clothing was not the standard QT red polo, and I thought the smaller man's decision to confront the larger man was probably contrary to company policy. A story in the Tulsa World about a man accused of frequent thefts from QT here in Tulsa confirmed my assumption. (Emphasis added.)

Retailers in the Tulsa metro area should breathe easier now that a suspect in upward of five dozen thefts from QuikTrips within the past year is off the streets, a company spokesman said Friday.

Jeremy Herman Barnett, 28, is charged with six counts of larceny of merchandise from a retailer, according to Tulsa County District Court records.

But QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said his company has evidence that the same man committed 50 to 60 thefts from QuikTrip convenience stores during the past nine to 12 months -- about 30 percent to 40 percent of the larcenies from the stores....

Thornbrugh said the thief's method of operation during QuikTrip larcenies was simply to walk in, take what he wanted and then leave. He predominantly stole beer and energy drinks, Thornbrugh said, walking away with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.

It's QuikTrip policy for clerks not to interfere with a theft or robbery because no item or amount of money is worth endangering the lives of customers or employees, Thornbrugh said.

"We have every confidence in the world with our systems and law enforcement. They're going to catch the people over time," he said.

Every year since 2003, QT has been recognized by Fortune magazine as one of the 100 best companies to work for. The chain has pioneered numerous safety practices for convenience stores, using store design and procedures to deter theft and protect employees and customers against violent crime. They've done a great deal to overcome the stereotype of the rundown, filthy, dangerous convenience store.


Jim Hoft reports "A QuikTrip official told TGP the company has no plans on rebuilding in Ferguson and that the looted store was barely breaking even."

August 19: QuikTrip closed store near looted Ferguson store

A QuikTrip looted and burned during the first weekend of protests in Ferguson has since become a staging ground for further demonstrations and the occasional site of confrontations between protesters and the police.

Nearby, the company has closed down another QuikTrip, at 10768 W. Florissant Ave., and recently sealed it off as a precautionary measure against the waves of destruction that have often followed peaceful protests in the days since Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old.

Bill Kerr, RIP

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Bill Kerr, veteran of radio, stage, and screen in Britain and Australia, died on August 28, 2014, at his home in Perth, at the ripe old age of 92.

His son Wilton Kerr told ABC (Australia) News: "He said he wasn't feeling too well quite recently and he was just quietly watching television in his room. Mum ... said she could hear him laughing to Seinfeld, and that was one of his favourite shows."

Kerr debuted as a babe-in-arms on a vaudeville stage in South Africa, grew up in Wagga Wagga, Australia, where he enjoyed what he described as a "Huckleberry Finn" childhood. Starting at the age of 7, he appeared in several movies and radio. After serving in World War II, he left for London in 1947. His stand-up act as a bleak Australian pessimist got him into British radio, where he won fame as Tony Hancock's sidekick on all six seasons of Hancock's Half Hour, from 1954 to 1959. At the same time, he branched out to movies and the West End stage.

In the late '70s, he returned to Australia and continued to perform:

When Kerr returned to Australia he built a reputation as one of our finest character actors, most notably appearing in Peter Weir's Gallipoli (1981) and The Year of Living Dangerously (1982).

When he settled in Western Australia he became a stalwart of the local industry, doing sterling work in TV series such as Ship to Shore (1993-94), Minty (1998), The Shark Net (2003) and the feature film Let's Get Skase (2001).

Associates described his later career to

Storyteller Digital managing director Mike Searle said Kerr continued to appear on screen in his later years and described Kerr as "the Frank Sinatra of voice over artists".

"Frank Sinatra could deliver a song like no one else with the right feeling and Bill would do the same when he was voicing a documentary - an amazing talent," he said.

"I was working with him up until last year. We were working on a project recording a series in which he recited from memory classic poems.

"Bill is arguably the only actor that has been in every medium, from music hall or vaudeville through to YouTube."...

Perth film producer Paul Barron worked with Kerr on a number of children's television series, including Clowning Around and Ship to Shore.

"He was a true gentleman, and was very gracious and good to the kids on these shows. He had no pretentions but he was truly an actor of world standard," Mr Barron said.

"He did his homework, arrived on set on time, all of that kind of thing, but equally gracious and forgiving of mistakes others may make and meanwhile would turn in an excellent performance."

Here's a YouTube playlist featuring Kerr. It begins with a series of five classic poems recited by Kerr last year for Storyteller Media, then an early stand-up routine, three Hancock's Half Hour episodes that spotlighted Kerr in a variety of roles, Kerr singing "Modern Major General" in The Pirate Movie, and, finally, Kerr's radio interview with Ed Doolan.

Read more:

Bill Kerr obituary in the Daily Mail (photos of Bill with the Hancock's Half Hour cast)
Bill Kerr obituary in the Telegraph
Bill Kerr obituary in BBC News
Bill Kerr obituary in the Mirror (more photos)
Bill Kerr obituary in the West Australian
Bill Kerr obituary in

Bill Kerr obituary in the Guardian

In a television interview years after Hancock's death, it was Kerr who pointed out the similarity between the great comedian and Mr Toad: "The bluster, the pomp, the dignity, the frailty."...

The comic chemistry, with Moira Lister, Andrée Melly and then Hattie Jacques added to the mix, was potent and the generosity of the ensemble playing impeccable. Recordings were joyous occasions; Kerr and James can sometimes be detected laughing helplessly along with the audience during Hancock's diatribes. According to Kerr, the producer regularly had to halt the recording because the cast was laughing so much.

Kerr was second-billed for the first couple of series, but in later episodes the role of James as the star's shady sidekick was expanded and he took lower billing. His character also changed, becoming more blatantly dim-witted, the constant butt of Hancock's derision. When the show moved to television, it did so without him. Kerr, a down-to-earth professional not given to temperament, took it all in his stride, and found plenty of other work in stage and television, and in films.

I took notes during the breakout sessions but tweeted during the general sessions (too dark to take notes. Here are my tweets from the conference from me and a few others.

Just a quick update between sessions at Americans for Prosperity's Defending the American Dream 2014 Summit in Dallas.

Yesterday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Dr. Ben Carson, and Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn addressed the conference. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Jeb Hensarling are on tap for this afternoon.

Last night, Oklahoma's 200-strong delegation heard from Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Labor Commissoiner Mark Costello. Both spoke about federal incursions upon state and private action in violation of federal law and the Constitution. Pruitt discussed the work of his office's federalism unit, particularly as it applies to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's decision to revoke Oklahoma's "No Child Left Behind" waiver because the state repealed Common Core and the IRS's settlement with the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which may change the way the IRS evaluates whether a pastor's speech violates a church's tax-exempt status. Costello spoke of the US Department of Labor's push to criminalize family farmworkers and force privately-held companies to publish safety records online, and the EPA's regional haze regulations.

Time to head to another meeting. More later.

afp_dad14_logo.jpgIn a few hours, Americans for Prosperity's 2014 Defending the American Dream Summit will be underway. Over the next two days, attendees will be hearing from headline speakers like Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, and Dr. Ben Carson. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt will be on a panel discussing the legal status of Obamacare -- the differences between the law Congress passed and the deviation the Obama administration is implementing.

The summit is sold out, but you can watch the general sessions online between 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm Central each day. Twitter is the best place to follow events as they unfold; keep an eye on the #Dream14 hashtag.

The Left has a tendency to suppress facts either because they believe it will embolden their ideological enemies, or they are concerned that the facts will lead people to unauthorized conclusions.

Here are a couple of recent examples. I will add more as I come across them.

The National Post reported recently on a study by neuroscientists that shows rote memorization lays an important foundation for higher-order reasoning in children:

In effect, as young math students memorize the basics, their brains reorganize to accommodate the greater demands of more complex math. It is a gradual process, like "overlapping waves," the researchers write, but it clearly shows that, for the growing child's brain, rote memorization is a key step along the way to efficient mathematical reasoning.

The news story's writer framed this as a finding that was "sure to inflame the math wars" between "fundamentalists" and their "popular and progressive" opponents.

As a scientific justification of rote learning, the study seems likely to further polarize the controversy over math teaching styles, in which arithmetical fundamentalists are squared off against the popular and progressive forces of "discovery-based" learning, in which students are encouraged to find their own ways to the right answer.

By illustrating the benefit of repetition and memory, and showing how it serves as a stepping stone to mature calculation, the research is likely to embolden the fundamentalists, who have only recently started to win back lost ground.

Jenks middle school principal Rob Miller has a popular blog where he evangelizes for the idea that the billions we spend on education shouldn't go to teaching actual content. Here he is talking about the Howe school district in LeFlore County, which got a failing grade from the State Department of Education because of its students' poor test scores, despite having all sorts of cool classroom technology:

But what happens if bringing back more traditional teaching strategies actually brings their scores up? This will simply empower the naysayers and it will be very difficult to return to the district's original vision for 21st century teaching and learning-processes that create globally competent critical thinkers instead of just good test takers.

God forbid we should empower the naysayers! You can't be a "globally competent critical thinker" unless you've mastered fundamental facts about math, geography, history, grammar, and logic. Those are the building blocks for competent critical thinking, but Principal Miller and the Howe school leadership seem to want to skip right by the "boring" basics in favor of gee-whiz technology.

Polling_Place_Vote_Here.jpgHappy Election Day! Polls open across Oklahoma at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

Results should start rolling in soon after 7 p.m. The Oklahoma State Election Board website will update results as they are received from the county election boards. Although results are posted on each precinct door shortly after the polls close, a precinct's results have to be taken to the county election board to be read into the state election computer system. Be aware that the county election boards will not process and transmit the tallies from individual precincts to the State Election Board computers until all absentee ballots (both in-person and by mail) are counted and posted. This was the cause for a significant delay in November 2012. Some media outlets may employ runners to go to the precincts directly in order to post initial results before Election Board numbers are ready.

A few resources as you go to vote:

Here are my endorsements in GOP runoffs. You will notice that they are consistent with those of other conservative groups and diametrically opposed to the wheeler-dealer chambercrats and the Tulsa Whirled's still lamentably liberal editorial board.

U. S. House, 5th District: Steve Russell
Tulsa County District Attorney: Steve Kunzweiler
State House District 69: Chuck Strohm
State Senate District 40: Steve Kern

Also, the City of Broken Arrow has eight bond issues on the ballot. That's pretty sneaky, given the usual low turnout of a primary runoff election.

Republicans don't have any statewide runoffs, but Democrats have two. Freda Deskin and John Cox are the finalists to be the Democrat nominee for State Superintendent, and either State Sen. Connie Johnson and perennial candidate Jim Rogers will face Congressman James Lankford in November for the remaining two years of Sen. Tom Coburn's unexpired term.

Both parties have runoffs for the 5th Congressional District. Conservative groups across the state are backing State Sen. Steve Russell, a retired U. S. Army Lt. Col. who served in Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq, leading a unit that was involved in the pursuit and capture of Saddam Hussein. As a legislator, Russell has earned Freshman of the Year and Legislator of the Year awards from the Oklahoma Conservative PAC (OCPAC). Russell's opponent, Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas, is regarded as aligned with wheeler-dealer chambercrats. Douglas has come under fire for a mail piece that gives the false impression that she has been endorsed by incumbent Congressman James Lankford.

Tulsa County Republicans will pick our new District Attorney today. I'm joining conservatives across the county to support Steve Kunzweiler, the only highly experienced and constitutionally and professionally qualified candidate in the race. As head of the criminal division, Kunzweiler has 24 years of experience as a prosecutor, oversees a team of 35 prosecutors and thousands of criminal cases every year. Kunzweiler works closely with law enforcement and legislators to improve the justice system by reforming laws and procedures. Kunzweiler has the endorsement of most of the Fraternal Order of Police lodges in Tulsa County.

His opponent, Sydney Fred Jordan, Jr., appears to be a legislator close to his term limit and looking for his next gig. Jordan has no experience as a prosecutor or supervisor of prosecutors in Oklahoma's criminal justice system. As an assistant majority leader, Jordan failed to reign in state spending and failed to reprioritize spending to relieve the overburdened budgets of the state's 27 DA offices. Some of us are still puzzled by Fred Jordan's 2006 answer to questions about the legal status of workers on one of his company's job sites.

More recently, in this current session, Fred Jordan was an outspoken leader of the effort to kill a key pro-life bill, a bill that would have reigned in the role currently played in the appointment of judges and justices by the Oklahoma affiliate of a very liberal private organization. The pro-life community believes the Oklahoma Bar Association's involvement skews the bench to toward leftist judicial activists; Jordan is evidently OK with that situation.

Two significant runoffs for legislature:

Here in Tulsa County's House District 69, conservative small businessman Chuck Strohm faces Melissa Abdo. Chuck Strohm opposes Common Core and has been endorsed by all the members of the board of Restore Oklahoma Public Education, the grassroots group that led the effort to repeal Common Core. Strohm has also been endorsed by the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association and County Assessor Ken Yazel. Strohm

Abdo has been endorsed by a pro-Common Core organization. Abdo also has the support of the county courthouse RINO brigade, including County Clerk Pat Key. If you want to evaluate Key's ability to discern character and qualifications of public officials, remember that Pat Key appointed Nancy Rothman as her chief deputy and put her in charge of most aspects of the office's operations. Abdo is also endorsed by former Commissioner Fred Perry, who voted to put the River Tax and Vision2 corporate welfare tax on the ballot and supported their passage.

In Oklahoma County, in Senate District 40, pastor Steve Kern is the conservative pick to replace term-limited Cliff Branan. His opponent, Ervin Yen, contributed $1,250 to liberal Democrat Andrew Rice's 2008 campaign to unseat Sen. Jim Inhofe.

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If you run into any difficulty voting or spot any irregularity, contact your county election board. The phone number for the Tulsa County Election Board is 918-596-5780.

Take it away, Leon!

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys perform "Election Day" by Cindy Walker in the movie Wyoming Hurricane, starring Russell Hayden. Leon McAuliffe on vocals; Cotton Thompson, Bob Wills, and Jesse Ashlock on fiddle, Junior Barnard on guitar, Luke Wills on bass. And from the same movie, here's Cotton Thompson to deliver Cindy Walker's message for many of our candidates:

I hear you talkin', yes, I do,
But your talk-talk-talkin' don't ring true,
I'm listenin' politely, too,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.

I hear you talkin', tellin' lies,
I can see it in those great big eyes.
I hear you talkin' wise,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.

You say that I'm your honey-love,
That I'm all you're thinkin' of,
I hear you talkin', dove,
But you ain't been foolin' me.

Posted in the wee hours of Tuesday, August 26, 2010. Postdated to remain at the top of the blog through poll closing time.

MORE: Paul Blair explains why he will never support any candidate that chooses to partner with AH Strategies or Majority Designs. The AH stands for founding partners Karl Ahlgren and Fount Holland; Ahlgren now serves as chief of staff to Congressman Markwayne Mullin. For similar reasons to Blair's, I pulled my endorsement of Preston Doerflinger for Tulsa auditor although I later relented. While I won't absolutely rule out support for a candidate who affiliates with those firms, it's two strikes against a candidate. Fred Jordan, Patrice Douglas, and Melissa Abdo are all clients of these firms in the current cycle.

UPDATE 2015/11/04: Larry Latham's recovery was all too brief. He succumbed to cancer on November 2, 2014, at the age of 61. Before his passing, Latham wrote that he had plotted out the remainder of the story and was working with other artists to . Upon announcing his death, his widow wrote, "He was so appreciative of his readers and did not want to leave the story unfinished. I ask for your patience as I attempt to carry out his wishes and resume posting new issues in the near future with the help of many talented friends." So far, nothing has happened to that end. The domain has expired, so I have updated links to point to the Internet Archive, which seems to have captured the entire site.

Lovecraft is Missing, a page-a-week webcomic by Oklahoma artist and writer Larry Latham, is back in production after a hiatus due to Latham's treatment for cancer. (Latham reports that signs are encouraging, pending further tests.)

Born and raised in Oklahoma City and educated at OU, Latham spent the last quarter of the 20th century in Hollywood, producing, directing, and storyboarding Saturday morning cartoons for Hanna Barbera and Disney. His credits include Talespin, Duck Tales, Smurfs, and Super Friends. He returned to Oklahoma in 2001.

Lovecraft Is Missing tells the story of Win Battler, an aspiring young writer from a small town in 1920s Oklahoma, who goes to Providence to meet his pen pal and fellow writer of strange tales only to find that, yes, H. P. Lovecraft is missing. The search takes Battler and his companions -- tough-as-nails, resourceful Father Munsford Jackey and skeptical, cynical archivist Nan Mercy -- into a demi-monde populated by the noxious characters and eldritch horrors of Lovecraft's stories. The pages are beautifully drawn, and the plot is intriguing, as it takes the protagonists through a world where Lovecraft's writing is closer to journalism than fiction.


The story is in the middle of the fifth book of a planned six. Unanswered questions are starting to head to a resolution. This is an excellent time to start at the beginning of the story and catch up.

The accompanying blog -- Noxious Fragments from the Pnakotic Manuscripts -- features links about Lovecraft's stories, other works of the same vintage and genre, and the cultural milieu from which they arose.

Latham, a longtime Lovecraft fan, was involved in fundraising efforts for a memorial plaque and grave marker for the author. Latham had been kicking the idea for Lovecraft Is Missing around for a long-time, first pursuing it as a CD-ROM game mystery, then optioning it for a development deal, and finally launching it as a webcomic in 2008, after he realized there was no other way to get it made in line with his creative vision.

Earlier this year, Latham wrote a series of articles on How to Create a Webcomic?. His thoughts on plot and character development would be useful to any aspiring author who wants to create a fictional world; other advice is more specific to the challenge of telling a story with pictures as well as words and the work of building an audience for a website and bringing them back on a regular basis.


In 2009, Matthew Price of the Oklahoman interviewed Latham about his career in animation and the origins of Lovecraft Is Missing.

In 2011, Latham was interviewed by All Pulp. Would that more people in entertainment agreed with his definition of "adult":

I originally conceived it as an animated project, and it was in development for a year or so at Film Roman in L.A. My first notion was that I wanted to try and make a truly 'adult' animated series, meaning complex story and characterization rather than T and A and profanity. I wanted to do a horror show, and I am a big Lovecraft fan, but I've never much cared for Lovecraft adaptations, be they film or comic book. I wanted to express what I got out of those stories, but I really didn't want to adapt any of Lovecraft's actual stories, so I came up with my own. There were a few clichés I really wanted to stomp on, like everybody in the universe having a copy of the Necronomicon. In my story, no one, at least of the good guys, have ever even heard of it. Same with Cthulhu. The magic and mystery of these things is that they are very, very obscure.

In a state as strongly pro-life as Oklahoma, legislation to protect the unborn and pregnant women normally sails through to passage. But sometimes that legislation is stymied by judges. Although appeals court judges and supreme court justices are subject to a periodic retention vote of the people, I can't recall the last time that a judge has been removed by the voters. (District Judges, where candidates can challenge a sitting judge, are sometimes replaced by the voters.) A bill aimed at reducing pro-abortion influence on judicial selection was defeated in this year's session, and one of the candidates for Tulsa County District Attorney led the effort to defeat the pro-life bill.

Here's a press release from Oklahomans for Life:

Tulsa Rep. Fred Jordan Major Opponent of
Crucial Measure Strongly SUPPORTED by
Oklahomans For Life

The most damaging legislative defeat for the pro-life cause this spring occurred when the Oklahoma House of Representatives killed a resolution, SJR 21, which was strongly supported by Oklahomans For Life. Rep. Fred Jordan of Tulsa was a leading opponent of this measure which we strongly supported.

SJR 21 would have diminished the influence of the Oklahoma Bar Association in the selection of judges for Oklahoma's highest courts. The background:

1) The American Bar Association has an official position in support of legal abortion on demand, paid for at taxpayer expense;

2) The Oklahoma Bar Association is a member of the American Bar Association;

3) The Oklahoma Bar Association exercises a heavy influence over who sits on Oklahoma's highest courts;

4) Oklahoma courts have repeatedly struck down pro-life laws, overturning even the most modest, reasonable legislative attempts to regulate abortion;

5) SJR 21 would have diminished the influence of the Oklahoma Bar Association over the selection of nominees for vacancies on Oklahoma's highest courts.

Pro-life laws enacted by the Oklahoma legislature have been consistent with the U.S. and Oklahoma Constitutions, and with U.S. Supreme Court precedents - nonetheless, Oklahoma judges selected for nomination to the bench through the influence of the Bar Association have repeatedly nullified these pro-life laws.

Our efforts to improve this situation by enacting SJR 21 were thwarted, in part, by Rep. Fred Jordan on the floor of the Oklahoma House. Fred Jordan placed himself at the center of the opposition to this much-needed legislation by assuming the role of chief debater against this critically important measure, giving the closing arguments in opposition to SJR 21, and thereby advocating the continuation of the system which has brought such harm to the unborn child.

While the Senate, the Governor, and the House Republican Leadership all supported the effort to establish a better system for filling judicial vacancies with fair-minded, unbiased judges, Rep. Fred Jordan actively engaged in the killing of this vitally essential measure on the House floor. The defeat of SJR 21 was the most damaging pro-life loss of the year.

Tony Lauinger, State Chairman


In less than an hour the Tulsa City Council will consider three zoning proposals to take specific properties out of the Pearl District Form Based Code -- which gives property owners a great deal of flexibility as to their use -- and place them under specific traditional zoning classifications.

I sent the following email to all nine City Councilors.

I am writing to urge you to deny Z-7274, Z-7275, and Z-7276, the three requests that will come before you this evening to remove specific properties from the Pearl District Form Based Code regulating plan. Unfortunately, I cannot appear in person tonight to speak to the Council, but I hope you will take these points into consideration.

Please remember that, on matters of amendments to the zoning ordinance and the zoning map, the TMAPC is only a recommending committee and the City Council has full authority under Oklahoma law and Tulsa ordinance to disregard the TMAPC's recommendation by denying or amending the proposed changes. The lawyers, including the City Attorney, may try to frighten you with the threat of being sued personally for denying these zoning changes, but a zoning change is a legislative matter and the City Council is the legislative body of the City of Tulsa.

There are three reasons you should deny these requests:

1. This is spot zoning of the worst sort. Spot zoning is plucking a single parcel out of an area for rezoning, without regard to the zoning of the surrounding properties. Tulsa has carefully avoided spot zoning for many years, after a period 40 years or so ago in which it was common. Approving these changes will establish a precedent that will make it very difficult for the council to deny future spot zoning changes without seeming to be "arbitrary and capricious."

2. The proposed spot rezonings of these parcels to traditional zoning classifications give the subject property owners less flexibility for future use than they have under the Form Based Code plan for the Pearl District. The current uses are conforming uses under the Pearl District plan. When and if a future owner decides to replace them, under the proposed traditional zoning classifications, they will have to conform to parking minimums and use restrictions that would not apply under the Form Based Code. If these rezonings are approved tonight, future redevelopment on these properties is more likely to require further hearings before the Board of Adjustment, TMAPC, and City Council, with the attendant attorney's fees.

Why would owners agree to a rezoning that works against their interests? I can only speculate, but notice that the applicants are not the property owners but attorneys. Zoning attorneys might fear losing business if the Form Based Code is allowed to take hold, and property owners have more options to develop their property by right, without requiring the services of these attorneys.

3. Approving these changes would eviscerate nearly 20 years of planning for the Pearl District. In the early 1990s, efforts to plan a pedestrian-friendly future for this district that links downtown to Cherry Street and the University of Tulsa. This area developed about 100 years ago, when feet and streetcars were the prevalent way for people to get from home to work, shopping, school, and church. As rising gas prices and aging eyes encourage more Tulsans to reduce their dependance on the automobile, the Pearl District is one of the best suited neighborhoods in Tulsa to meet the demand for pedestrian-friendly living. Approving these three zoning amendments would tell the residents and business owners of the Pearl District who worked for years and fought hard for the small-area plans and form-based code that their efforts were in vain.

4. It would send a message to Tulsa citizens participating in small-area planning and in efforts like PLANiTULSA is a complete waste of time. We spent a lot of money bringing in a planning team and holding public events to develop PlaniTulsa. Much time was taken to amend the Pearl District and PLANiTULSA plans to make as many Tulsans as possible happy before the City Council adopted them. Approving these zoning changes tells Tulsans that they're right to be cynical and hopeless about their influence over city government.

At the beginning of the PLANiTULSA process, Robin Rather and her firm Collective Strength polled 1000 Tulsans. 70% agreed with the statement, "I'm concerned the plan will be too influenced by those who have a lot of money." Rather said at the time, "A lot of people feel like it doesn't matter how you plan. Folks that have a lot of money, or a lot of influence get to do what they want." Tulsans were telling her, "We engage in the public process, we go to these meetings, we do the hard work, but at the end of the day our expectations are not met."

Your vote tonight will either move Tulsans in the direction of cynicism or engagement. A vote against all three zoning map amendments will give Tulsans hope that their involvement in planning will be respected by their elected officials.

MORE: The BatesLine article, Keeping the Promise to the Pearl District, has a history of planning in the Pearl District and links to further articles and resources.

ken_yazel.jpgTulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel, recently re-elected to a fourth four-year term, provides a wealth of information on ad valorem property taxation in Oklahoma. For some time now, he has posted slide presentations online, under Statistics and Analysis, that cover basic and advanced property taxation topics and are chock-full of statistics about Tulsa County. They are updated annually.

Property Taxation 101 covers the history of ad valorem taxation in Oklahoma and what it funds, reforms to the system approved over the last 25 years, how lower valuation affects tax rates, the impact of the recent decision to exempt intangible personal property, the annual timeline for assessment, exemptions, taxation, appeals, and payment, valuation methodology, the relationship of fair market value to capped taxable value, the role of the boards of equalization, excise, and tax roll correction, and the appeal process.

Property Taxation 102 includes the net valuation over the last five years for all cities and school districts in Tulsa County, statistics on all tax increment financing (TIF) and incentive districts in the county, comparisons to other counties in Oklahoma and to surrounding states, and diagrams illustrating the different factors that go into calculating ad valorem tax rates.

Property Taxation 103 includes more statistics over the last five years: Combined sales tax and property tax burden per capita by city, sales tax and use tax growth, weighted average mill levies by county, median household incomes, counts of homestead properties, sheriff and marshal deeds by year, and new parcels by year.

The last part of that third presentation is a breakdown showing current assets by taxing entity, employees by taxing entity, and change over the last five years. The four fixed-millage entities -- library, health department, Tulsa Community College, Tulsa Technology Center -- had a combined $163 million in current assets as of 2013-2014, more in reserve than they receive annually in revenue ($143 million). County operations have $161 million in reserve, triple the annual ad valorem revenue of $52 million.

MORE: In case you missed it, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in favor of Assessor Ken Yazel, affirming that he does have the authority under state law to hire counsel to represent him in appeals of tax-exemption rulings.

Whoever wins the August 26 runoff for District Attorney in Tulsa County, I'm pretty sure we'll be better off than Austin, Texas, which is stuck with Democratic DA Rosemary Lehmberg, who was arrested in April 2013 for Driving While Intoxicated with a .239 blood alcohol level. Lehmberg disgracefully treated the law enforcement personnel who arrested and processed her. Sentenced to 45 days in jail, Lehmberg refused to step down, displaying a Clintonesque "brazen it out" approach to the consequences of her disregard for the law. Lehmberg identifies herself as a homosexual.

The night of her arrest, Lehmberg was driving in a bike lane, braking erratically, and swerving into the oncoming traffic lane, prompting a driver to call 9-1-1. Lehmberg pulled into a church parking lot, where a sheriff's deputy was parked and writing reports.

He described Lehmberg as "disheveled" and "disorganized," testifying that she grabbed at him and his flashlight. Malinger said Lehmberg told him she had not been drinking.

The DA had a bottle of vodka under her purse in the passenger seat, Malinger said.

Surveillance footage from the church parking lot showed Lehmberg fail field sobriety tests and put into handcuffs.

Deputy John Ribsam was in the patrol unit that took Lehmberg to central booking at Travis County Jail. Lehmbeg told him from the back seat she had two vodka sodas, he said. Ribsam testified Lehmberg "ordered him" to take off her hand cuffs because she was the DA, cussing at him to remove them.

As the District Attorney for the county that contains the state capitol, Lehmberg oversees the state's Public Integrity Unit, handling the prosecution of elected officials accused of corruption. After Lehmberg refused to resign, Texas Gov. Rick Perry used his line item veto to deny funding for the unit, on the grounds that someone publicly displaying such a lack of integrity should not be prosecuting other officials on public integrity charges. For this veto, Perry has now been indicted by a grand jury for abuse of his office.

Here are several videos showing Lehmberg's behavior when she was arrested and booked for DWI.

During her ride to jail, she told the driver, "You have just ruined my career.... My career is over." She's still in office and still empowered to go after Rick Perry and other Republicans. I guess she underestimated the willingness of Austinites to stand by a lesbian Democratic elected official, no matter how badly behaved.

When they meet next year, Texas legislators may want to consider whether they should continue to give the voters of Texas's most left-wing county the power to wage political war by prosecution against the conservatives their constitutents elect to serve in the State Capitol.


Andrew McCarthy says the Perry indictment is "politics as combat," similar to what was done to Tom DeLay (whose conviction was ultimately tossed out by a higher court), but Democrats no longer feel compelled to accuse a Republican official of an actual crime. Exercising legitimate executive authority -- vetoing a bill -- becomes a crime.

In the American Spectator, Dallas-based columnist William Murchison writes about the criminalization of political disagreement:

We may imagine if we like that a grand jury in one of America's most liberal counties concluded, without bias or rancor, that one of America's best-known conservative politicians illegally vetoed funding for that same county's "public integrity" unit, presided over by a DA convicted of drunk driving. It was illegal for the governor to use his legal power? That seems essentially the narrative the jury bought from [Special Prosecutor] McCrum.

Austin, where conservatives feel like Southern Baptist missionaries in western Iraq, doesn't cotton to a Republican governor who doesn't cotton to the hand-tooled, leather-bound liberal agenda. Nor can the capital city be described as grateful to Perry for his part over the last decade in keeping Texas safe from liberal policies. Democrats hold not one single statewide office in Texas. You can see from any political perspective how the very mention of Perry's name in Austin might bring on dyspepsia, if not angina.

JohnFLawhon-logo.pngTulsans of a certain age will remember John F. Lawhon as a pioneer of the owner-as-spokesman TV ad.

John F. Lawhon died Tuesday at the age of 86. Services will be Saturday, August 16, 2014, at Schaudt-Teel Funeral Service, 5757 S. Memorial Dr., Tulsa.

Lawhon founded a chain of furniture stores, the John F. Lawhon Furniture Warehouse and Showroom, with his flagship in Tulsa on Pine Street between Sheridan and Memorial.

Lawhon's distinctive accent and cadence was a popular target for amateur impressionists, and Lawhon had enough of a sense of humor about himself to sponsor a sound-a-like contest -- a contest that then-grade-schooler and future actor/writer/director Tim Blake Nelson won.

On the Tulsa TV Memories website, John Hillis remembers Lawhon participating in KOTV News's "Chughole of the Week" feature about the disgraceful state of our city's streets: "If you're looking for the best chughole buy in Oklahoma...." Lawhon extended the theme to Detroit in this spoof ad, recalling when the Great Lakes themselves started out as chugholes:

I'm sure that many of you have noticed the many large chugholes on our streets here in the city of Detroit lately. Well, I've been given a commission by the city to dispose of these chugholes. Inasmuch as they do not intend to repair them, I've been given permission to sell them.

Most of you who are old timers can remember when some of the Great Lakes were just chugholes on our city streets, and look at what a great real estate investment that would have been. Why, the Detroit River was only about this big the first time one man I talked to saw that chughole.

These chugholes are being offered on convenient terms, and we're throwing in three Volkswagens in one of them that we found after we acquired the chughole. If you'd like a super real estate buy, call me: 296-4100 for further information on available chugholes in your area. Thank you.

After retiring from the furniture business, Lawhon became an author and speaker on the subject of sales and marketing, writing two books, Selling Retail and The Selling Bible. His focus was on selling with integrity -- not merely overcoming a customer's objections, but "supplying the knowledge and information that the prospective customer needs to make the best buying decision" who will become satisfied customers "who become more satisfied as time goes by."

In a 1995 Tulsa World story about The Selling Bible by John Stancavage, Lawhon described his post-retirement quest to understand the success of super-salesmen who could make a sale four out of five times:

Lawhon's book probably will be controversial because it explodes the image of the "big closer" salesperson who bears down hard on customers until they buy simply to escape the mounting pressure. When the author talked to real top sellers, he found a totally different approach in common with almost all of them.

The real key for these salespeople was pleasing the customer, Lawhon discovered. Instead of trying to shove a product customers didn't want down their throats, super salespeople simply asked what the customers wanted, and then steered them toward a product or service that would satisfy that desire. Frequently, the salesperson soon was writing up a ticket, before a formal "pitch" had even been made.

These very successful sellers, however, would continue their presentation after money already had changed hands. They would explain the product's features and strong points, which would make the customer feel even better about his or her purchase and look forward to ownership.

A very important thing hapened here, Lawhon found: Regular customers became satisfied customers. And you cannot overestimate the value of a satisfied customer, the author says.

"Satisfied customers are the most valuable asset a company can have -- they actually are an appreciating asset," according to Lawhon. "They will return to buy again, and will tell their friends to shop there, too."

Lawhon employee Vince Mooney remembered Lawhon's generosity and professionalism, writing this tribute on his memory page:

I always felt that John Lawhon treated me like a son when I worked at JFL Furniture. I was ex-Air Force and a philosophy major in college. John loved to talk philosophy. After he bought a rare and very expensive car he'd often come and ask me if I wanted to use it on a date. He was the most generous man I ever met in business. An executive once admired his new digital watch which was the first to come out on the market. John took it off his wrist and gave it to the man. At one time John and I were the same size so he would give me really nice sport jackets and pants that he had worn only one or twice on TV commercials. He wanted me to look good on dates.

When I got engaged, John insisted I get a big diamond ring as a sign of my sincerity. "I can get it below wholesale for you," he said. And he did. (I'm sure he subsidized the ring to some extent.) Then he let me use the New Orleans condo for our honeymoon. This was right in the middle of the French Quarter. Now I was just the company copywriter, photographer, and PR person. John didn't know me before I came to Tulsa for that job.

Later I was the FTC policeman who audited all John's TV commercials to make sure he didn't ad-lib any FTC advertising violations (like calling something a Spanish Bedroom when it was not made in Spain). I'd stop the commercial and tell him, "That has to be Spanish design bedroom." John would grump and complain and then he'd cut the commercial the right way. Every time. It was amazing. John would cut a dozen commercials without a script or even fact sheet.

He knew the furniture inside and out and he was the best person there was to do the sales pitch. John could cut commercials faster than the warehouse people could set up the next piece of furniture. John was the type of 'larger than life' individual who would easily be many people's choice as my 'most memorable character' which was once a feature in Reader's Digest. John F. Lawhon will always live larger than life in my heart. John was a good man who was an honor to know. God bless John and all his family.

Anyone else feel particularly sad that this accomplished man seems to have been overlooked in his own town these past twenty years?


Not only is a great place to learn about Tulsa's broadcasting history from the men and women who made it, it's a great place to discover (or relive, if you lived through it the first time) Tulsa's pop culture past. The site has recently upgraded its "Group Blog," where you can ask questions and share anecdotes with Tulsa media legends.

Indicted for "unlawfully divert[ing] Community Center funds for his own personal benefit in the approximate amount of $933,507.80":

Rev. Willard Jones, a pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, faces three counts of wire fraud and one count of tax fraud. FOX23 learned a community center the church built was the vision of Jones. He helped design it and raised funds to build it. The U.S. attorney said he was also stealing a lot of those funds and living an expensive life, instead of serving this high-poverty area.

The church and the community center are in South Haven, a historically African-American community along the Tulsa-Sapulpa Union railway, southeast of the western I-44 / I-244 junction.

The South Haven neighborhood in West Tulsa was originally established in 1919 as an outlet for black families overflowing the city's then-flourishing Greenwood district. Following the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, the population of South Haven swelled quickly with those fleeing the destruction in North Tulsa. By the time South Haven was annexed into the City of Tulsa in the mid-1960s, what had been a working class black area was largely integrated and the area fell into rapid decline. With absentee ownership and property vacancies becoming the norm, this "transitional neighborhood" experienced a sharp increase in crime and social problems.

South Haven was annexed into the City of Tulsa in the 1960s. If I recall correctly, prior to annexation the area had neither running water nor sewer. Assessor records show a handful of houses from the 1950s, a Tulsa Housing Authority subdivision built in the early 1970s, and many Habitat for Humanity homes built in the 2000s.

According to the church's website, Jones became pastor of the church in 1996 when the then 70-year-old church had only five members. The website states that the community center cost $7 million to build.

Here is the federal indictment of Willard Jones.

Jones shows up in a few cases on OSCN, including this ticket for speeding in Stillwater. According to the docket record, the fine was paid by the church.

OSCN also shows some larcenies by someone named William Leonard Jones, who has the same date of birth as the William Lenord Jones who had his speeding fine paid by Greater Cornerstone Baptist Church. That could be a coincidence or a clerical error.

The U. S. Attorney's Office of the Northern District of Oklahoma issued a press release on the Willard Jones indictment:

As the Executive Director, Jones oversaw the design, construction and fundraising for building the Community Center. Jones solicited monetary contributions from donors, including, foundations, corporations, churches and individuals, to fund the development project.

The scheme to defraud charged in the Information accuses Jones of fraudulently transferring funds from Community Center bank accounts to Church bank accounts and then transferring those funds into personal bank accounts; and, that Jones made large cash withdrawals from the Church bank account that he then used for personal expenses.

Rather than pay for construction operating costs of the Community Center, Jones used the proceeds of his fraud scheme for luxury items, including, hotels, restaurants, casinos, liquor, automobiles, a Rolex watch and a mink coat.

Which leads us to the musical question asked by Ray Stevens and originally posed by Chet Atkins and Margaret Archer:

George_Washington_19.JPGIf you are an engineer, you understand the forces of nature so that you can exploit them in your designs. There's no point in complaining about gravity. If you wish them away or pretend they don't exist, your designs will fail.

If you are organizing people, you had better understand the forces of human nature and how to exploit those forces to accomplish your aims.

Gen. George Washington knew that the Continental Army needed officers in order to succeed. He also knew that altruism wasn't enough to keep good officers over the long haul. On January 28, 1778, Washington wrote to a committee of Congress that was investigating reforms of the Army:

A small knowledge of human nature will convince us, that, with far the greatest part of mankind, interest is the governing principle; and that, almost, every man, is more or less, under its influence. Motives of public virtue may for a time, or in particular instances actuate men to the observance of a conduct purely disinterested; but they are not of themselves sufficient to produce a persevering conformity to the refined dictates and obligations of social duty. Few men are capable of making a continual sacrifice of all views of private interest, or advantage, to the common good. It is in vain to exclaim against the depravity of human nature on this account--the fact is so; the experience of every age and nation has proved it, and we must in a great measure change the constitution of man, before we can make it otherwise. No institution, not built on the presumptive truth of these maxims can succeed.

(Hat tip to Steve Fair, who includes this quote from Washington in his column on the legacy of Reagan press secretary and gun control advocate James Brady.)

Some say that theology has no place in the public realm. But if theology is a summary of the Creator's revelation about the world He created, we had better pay attention as we design our institutions. Even if you merely believe that theology is a mere reflection of human wisdom, why ignore it? Someone has noted that human depravity is the one tenet of the Christian faith that can be observed and proven empirically.

Jonah Goldberg attributes to Professor Glenn Loury the idea that "the essence of conservatism was that human nature has no history."

Late OU Professor of Classics J. Rufus Fears:

As the American Founders understood, the lessons of history endure because human nature never changed. All the human emotions are the same today as in Egypt of the pharaohs or China in the time of Confucius: Love, hate, ambition, the lust for power, kindness, generosity, and inhumanity. The good and bad of human nature is simply poured into new vehicles created by science and technology.

From that same Goldberg column:

Remember my favorite Hannah Arendt quote: Western civilization is invaded by barbarians every generation. We call these barbarians "children." That is what conservatism properly understood is about. That's what Russell Kirk and others meant by "the wisdom of the ancients." That's why we need to protect our institutions and not presume out of the arrogance of our own intellects to remake society in one fell swoop. That is the villainy of the French, Russian, and Chinese Revolutions in this century. Our institutions have been very carefully crafted by trial-and-error to improve the human condition.

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