January 2017 Archives

Here is a link to the text of the executive order on CNN's website. (The White House website has yet to post it.)

David French, a columnist at National Review and a vocal opponent of Donald Trump -- so much so that he considered mounting an independent presidential campaign as a conservative alternative -- has written a detailed analysis of Trump's executive order regarding refugees from terrorist-ridden nations, placing this order in the context of the history of US policy toward refugees. Some excerpts:

First, the order temporarily halts refugee admissions for 120 days to improve the vetting process, then caps refugee admissions at 50,000 per year. Outrageous, right? Not so fast. Before 2016, when Obama dramatically ramped up refugee admissions, Trump's 50,000 stands roughly in between a typical year of refugee admissions in George W. Bush's two terms and a typical year in Obama's two terms. [See the article for a chart showing refugee ceilings and admissions over the last 40 years.]...

Second, the order imposes a temporary, 90-day ban on people entering the U.S. from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. These are countries either torn apart by jihadist violence or under the control of hostile, jihadist governments....

The ban, however, contains an important exception: "Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked." In other words, the secretaries can make exceptions -- a provision that would, one hopes, fully allow interpreters and other proven allies to enter the U.S. during the 90-day period.

To the extent this ban applies to new immigrant and non-immigrant entry, this temporary halt (with exceptions) is wise. We know that terrorists are trying to infiltrate the ranks of refugees and other visitors. We know that immigrants from Somalia, for example, have launched jihadist attacks here at home and have sought to leave the U.S. to join ISIS.

Indeed, given the terrible recent track record of completed and attempted terror attacks by Muslim immigrants, it's clear that our current approach is inadequate to control the threat. Unless we want to simply accept Muslim immigrant terror as a fact of American life, a short-term ban on entry from problematic countries combined with a systematic review of our security procedures is both reasonable and prudent.

He also points out that the language of the order does not include legal permanent residents (green-card holders). These people have been thoroughly screened already.

James K. Hoffmeier, professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern History and Archaeology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has lived as a foreigner in Egypt and Canada, had to leave Egypt and live in a tent in a refugee camp in Cyprus, and is married to a Chinese immigrant. Prof. Hoffmeier published a book in 2009 about what Scripture says about immigration. He was interviewed at the time by Justin Taylor of the Gospel Coalition.

What I learned in my study is that there are three relevant terms used in Hebrew (ger, zar, nekhar). Different English translations render the words differently. The TNIV and NLT render them all as "foreigner." That is misleading and incorrect.

Zar and nekhar indeed refer to foreigners or visitors, people passing through a foreign land.

Ger or the verb gwr, which together occur more than 160 times in the OT, refer to foreign residents who live in another land with the permission of a host. A good example of this is found in Genesis when Joseph asks permission of pharaoh for his family to move to Egypt (Gen. 45:16-18). When they arrived, the brothers asked pharaoh if they could sojourn in the land (Gen. 47:1-4), and Pharaoh allotted them a section of the land of Goshen or Rameses (Gen. 47:5-7).

The law is clear that ger is not to be oppressed, but to receive equal justice, and have access to the social support system of ancient Israel. And there was a provision for religious inclusion, but they were also obligated to live in accordance with the laws just like the Israelites.

The Law does not, however, extend to the zar and nekhar such benefits and services. From this I conclude that ger was viewed as a legal alien.

The mistake of some well-meaning Christians is to apply the biblical laws for the ger to illegal aliens in American even though they do not fit the biblical legal and social definition.

By way of contrast, take a minute to read about Australia's refugee policy, which was adopted in response to a surge of refugees arriving by boat in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Anyone attempting to enter Australia illegally by boat is either returned whence they came or, if seeking asylum, sent to one of two offshore refugee processing centers, one on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (which is being closed) and one in the island nation of Nauru. Australia still accepts around 12,000 to 13,000 refugees each year, a number representing about half-a-thousandth of the national population. The policy has deterred attempts at illegal immigration by boat.

A few weeks ago, Nat Hentoff, a long-time columnist for the Village Voice, died. Despite the fact that Hentoff was a political liberal and an atheist, he was remembered fondly by many conservative Christians, particularly for his principled opposition to abortion and his defense of the freedom of speech, even for conservatives under attack from the left. From William Doino's tribute:

But nothing shocked the progressive world more than Hentoff's decision to become a pro-lifer, in the early 1980s, at the very moment the Left was attacking Ronald Reagan for defending the unborn. What infuriated "pro-choice" liberals most was Hentoff's assertion that he had come to his decision, not by means of any religious convictions, but by studying the very scientific and medical textbooks on conception and fetology which liberals--self-proclaimed supporters of reason and science--presumably supported.

Yet, as Hentoff pointed out in his many writings and talks on the subject, the problem for the "pro-choice" Left was--and remains--that there is overwhelming evidence that human life begins in the womb, and that the fetus is a developing human life, worthy of legal protection. Hentoff was also outraged by those liberals who openly supported infanticide and "mercy killings" for the old and disabled.

Hentoff believed his pro-life convictions were not only consistent with, but demanded by, his classic liberalism; and that it was those "liberals" who sanctioned the culture of death who were betraying their stated ideals in defense of human rights and the weakest members of our society.

Sadly, not all pro-life liberals have been as principled as Hentoff. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Dick Gephardt, Teddy Kennedy, Joe Biden, and Fritz Hollings are among the Democrat politicians who professed opposition to abortion as they climbed the political ladder in socially conservative states, then embraced abortion rights when they developed presidential ambitions. It seems likely that these politicians never really had convictions on the issue, just a willingness to say whatever it took to win. (These types exist in the GOP as well.)

One former Democrat presidential candidate is a different case entirely. Carl Trueman recalls a passage from Nat Hentoff's memoirs:

There is one passage in Speaking Freely (177-78) that offers disturbing insights into modern political culture. Hentoff quotes a certain politician on abortion: "What happens to the soul of a nation that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience? What kind of society will we have twenty years hence if life can be taken so casually?" He also quotes the same politician on the right to privacy: "There are those who argue that the right to privacy is of a higher order than the right of life. That was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private and therefore outside of your right to be concerned." This politician had himself almost been aborted, and he saw the clear connection between the dehumanizing of a child in the womb and racial oppression, in that both involve a denial of real personhood to a human being.

Later on, this politician decided to run for president and magically changed his mind on abortion. His name? Jesse Jackson.

In his memoir, Hentoff recalls meeting Jackson on a train in 1994. As they journeyed together, Hentoff told Jackson that he frequently quoted his pro-life writings because they were among the most compelling he had read. Jackson, he said, looked troubled. Hentoff then asked the politician whether he had any second thoughts on his change of mind. Jackson looked even more troubled and said, "I'll get back to you on that." Hentoff ended the anecdote on this laconic note: "I haven't heard from him since."

This story brought back a memory. Ten years earlier, Jackson was making his first run for the White House. On January 15, 1984, the eight major candidates for the Democrat nomination -- Rev. Jackson, Senators Gary Hart, Walter Mondale, John Glenn, Alan Cranston, and Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, former Sen. George McGovern, and former Florida Gov. Reubin Askew -- participated in a debate on the campus of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. The first half was moderated by ABC Nightline anchor Ted Koppel. The second half would feature questions from the audience, facilitated by daytime TV talk show star Phil Donahue.

Some pro-life activists in Boston had the idea of going to Dartmouth to demonstrate and, perhaps, to have the chance the be in the audience to ask the candidates to explain and defend their support for abortion. I remember a Campus Crusade for Christ staffer, Rita Tracy, driving myself and a few other MIT students up to Hanover to join in the effort. I remember standing out in the bitter cold just off campus, during the hour or so before the debate, holding signs and chanting, and that we all had trouble not laughing at ourselves -- we just didn't see ourselves as angry radicals.

We didn't get into the debate itself but watched on TV from another lecture hall. When the debate ended, the pro-life protesters gathered to consider our next move. The candidates were going to appear, two-by-two, in lecture halls around campus for townhall-style Q&A sessions. It would be another chance to confront the candidates on the abortion issue. Some of the group wanted to head to the session with Walter Mondale, because he was the front-runner. I suggested instead that we should go to the session with two formerly pro-life candidates, Jesse Jackson and Fritz Hollings, and challenge them to defend their about-face. And that's where most of us headed.

My memory of what happened next is rather vague. I seem to recall that the two candidates each had a set amount of time to field questions, and that we didn't get to direct a question about abortion to Jackson, but one of our number, an Orthodox rabbi from Boston, managed to ask Hollings about his changed views. Hollings gave the usual song-and-dance about being "personally opposed" to abortion but supporting the rights of women to make their own choices, a performance that only cemented his rhetorical resemblance to Foghorn Leghorn. (It was easy to imagine Hollings saying, "Fortunately, I keep my feathers numbered in case of just such an emergency.")

After the session ended, we poured out of the lecture hall onto the snowy quad, under a cold clear night. TV cameras surrounded Jackson, their lights making his eyes glow a green-gold color. I was about six feet away and was struck by his charismatic presence -- tall, with formal bearing, and quick to find a memorable phrase in answer to a reporter's question.

What impact might Jesse Jackson have made had he chosen to stick with his eloquent pro-life principles during that presidential campaign, had he put his charisma and rhetorical skill in the service of the sanctity of human life? In 1984, there were still plenty of pro-life voters among rank-and-file Democrats -- blue-collar Catholics from the Rust Belt and small-town southerners who backed Reagan in 1980 in part because of his bold opposition to abortion. Jackson might well have built a rainbow coalition that included pro-lifers as well as economic liberals and his fellow African Americans, and it might have been enough to get him to the nomination. His success as a pro-life candidate could have heartened pro-life officials, candidates, and voters to stick with the Democrat party. A Reagan-Jackson general election battle between two pro-life candidates might have driven pro-abortion activism to the fringes of American politics. We might have avoided the political self-sorting that drove social conservatives out of the Democrat Party of their grandparents and great-grandparents.

Win or lose, Jackson as pro-life candidate would have remained a credible voice not only for those who were weak and powerless because of their race, but those too small to speak for themselves. Instead, he abandoned his principles for the sake of the deep-pocketed Democrat donors who would only contribute to candidates who adhered to the absolutist pro-abortion position. His influence and moral authority has almost entirely evaporated, and his subsequent career and that of his son have been marred by scandal.

At least we still have his powerful words from before 1984. May God grant Jesse Jackson the grace of regret and repentance, and may he once again be a powerful voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

MORE:

Jesse Jackson's 1977 essay in Right to Life News.

In 1988, Colman McCarthy contrasted Rev. Jackson, 1977, with Candidate Jackson, 1988.

In 1999 and 2000, Hentoff also criticized Jesse Jackson for his refusal to get involved with the effort to free black slaves in Sudan.

Tommy Allsup, RIP

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UPDATE: The funeral for Tommy Allsup will be held Wednesday, January 18, 2017, at 11 a.m., at First Baptist Church, Owasso. Flowers may be sent to Mowery Funeral Home 9110 N. Garnett Rd. Owasso, OK 74055.

Tommy_Allsup-Cains_Ballroom-20120304-Cropped.jpg

Legendary guitarist Tommy Allsup died yesterday, January 11, 2017, at the age of 85.

Allsup was raised on a farm west of Owasso and graduated from Claremore High School in 1949. Allsup was a member of Johnnie Lee Wills' western swing band in 1952, had his own band in Lawton and Odessa, played guitar in recordings and on tour with Buddy Holly, became an A&R man and producer for Liberty Records in Los Angeles, and became one of Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, working with Wills from 1959 until 1973's For the Last Time, which Allsup produced and on which he played bass.

Allsup is best known as Buddy Holly's lead guitarist for the fateful 1959 Winter Dance Party tour. He and bassist Waylon Jennings had been slated to fly with Holly from Clear Lake, Iowa, to the next stop on the tour, but Jennings gave up his seat to J. P. Richardson ("The Big Bopper"), who was ill, and Allsup lost a coin toss to Richie Valens for the last seat on the plane.

Allsup met Holly at the Norman Petty Studio in Clovis, New Mexico. That's Allsup's licks you hear on "Heartbeat" and "It's So Easy." Here's Allsup, in an interview with Darryl Hicks in 2008, explaining how he came to play for Holly in May of 1958, and how he wound up on the Winter Dance Party Tour:

During a lot of the Fifties I had a band named the Southernaires based out of Lawton, Oklahoma. We were working at a place called the Southern Club. We played there seven nights a week. It was there that I got a call from a friend of mine, a piano player, to come out to Clovis and record with a trio he was working with. I took off a couple of days from the club and went over to Clovis to help out. We recorded the trio one night. Norman Petty, the studio owner, had a bass player, a drummer and a background vocal group on staff there. He didn't have a guitar player right then, so he asked me if I wanted to stay around a few days and play on some more records. I said, "Sure." It was during that time that I first met Buddy Holly....

...Buddy came in from England. He and the Crickets already had a few hits by then. He asked me to play on some of his records. The first night we cut "It's So Easy (to Fall in Love)."...

The summer of `58 both Buddy and Jerry Allison got married. That fall they had a tour coming up called "The Show of Stars" out of New York. There were probably twenty acts on it. Buddy asked me to go on tour with them. That was also the time that he decided that he wanted to move to New York, but the Crickets didn't want to live there. He was also having some trouble with Norm Petty at the time, so in the end he went ahead and moved and the other guys all stayed in Clovis....

I went back to the band from Lawton, and we moved to Odessa. That area was starting
to boom with the oil business and all, so we went there to open up a new dance hall named the Silver Saddle. I played there with a guy named Moon Mullican (the hillbilly boogie piano picker out of Nashville who ended up being so influential over guys like Hank Williams, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Bill Haley). We were there in Odessa on New Years' Eve. Buddy was in Lubbock for the holidays, and he drove down to see us play. He told me that about this tour called the Winter Dance Party Tour that was coming up, and that Jerry Allison and Joe B. Mauldin weren't going to go. He asked me tour with him and mentioned that he was going to hire a West Texas kid named Waylon Jennings to play bass. He wanted me to find a drummer. I mentioned that there was a good drummer from that area named Charles Bunch. Charles, or Carl, as everyone calls him, was in that first trio I played in the session at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis.

You'll need to click that link to read Allsup's account of the fateful coin flip with Richie Valens and what happened to that coin.

Later that year, Allsup headed to Los Angeles. He became Liberty Records' A&R director for Country & Western music and a record producer and session musician for both country and pop artists. That's his guitar (and Leon Russell's keyboards) on Gary Lewis and the Playboys' hit "This Diamond Ring." Allsup produced all of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys' recordings on Liberty, including the 1960 and 1961 sessions that reunited Bob Wills and vocalist Tommy Duncan. Tex Williams was another artist whose work was produced by Allsup for Liberty.

Allsup built his own studio in Odessa in the mid-1960s, from which emerged one of the more unusual rock hits of the 1960s, "In the Year 2525," by Zager and Evans.

In 1968, Allsup went on to Nashville to work as a studio musician, backing many of the legends of country music, including George Jones, Marty Robbins, Reba McIntire, Ferlin Husky, Faron Young, Wanda Jackson, Lynn Anderson, Charlie Rich, and Kenny Rogers. (See Praguefrank's Country Discography for details.) In 1973, he produced and played bass on Bob Wills's final album, For the Last Time. After Wills's death, Allsup produced and sometimes performed with the Original Texas Playboys, led by Leon McAuliffe.

For the last 20 years or so, Allsup joined Leon Rausch to front Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, the band officially authorized by the Bob Wills estate to carry on his musical legacy. With the Playboys, Allsup made appearances at Cain's Ballroom every March for the annual Bob Wills Birthday Bash and every April at Bob Wills Day in Turkey, Texas, along with gigs from coast to coast. While the lineup of the Texas Playboys has varied depending on the sidemen available to travel to a gig, Allsup and Rausch have been constants, with Allsup on lead guitar and Rausch on lead vocals. At every performance I witnessed, Allsup would also sing on several Bob Wills tunes, Buddy Holly's "Raining in My Heart," and the blues tune "Big Boss Man."

Tommy Allsup and Leon Rausch, Cain's Ballroom, March 4, 2012

Allsup was one of the last surviving musicians to have toured and recorded with Bob Wills. Leon Rausch, Bobby Koefer, Herb Remington, Ramona Reed, and Jody Nix are among the few who are still with us. Tommy Allsup's absence will be keenly felt at this year's Bob Wills Birthday Bash.

MORE:

In 2011, John Erling interviewed Tommy Allsup for his Voices of Oklahoma series.

Radio station WFMU's "Beware of the Blog" has the entirety of Twistin' the Country Classics (Liberty, 1963) available for your listening pleasure. Tommy Allsup headed a band of studio musicians called the Raiders.

Buddy Holly historian Randy Steele spoke to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal about Tommy Allsup's visit last fall.

"Tommy's body may have been 85, but his hands were as young as ever, and so was his mind," said Steele, adding he's a longtime friend of the Holly family and an avid fan and researcher of Holly and the Crickets. "He played unbelievable. It was almost effortless, or seamless."

NOTE: Photos are from the 2012 Bob Wills Birthday Bash at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa. Copyright 2012 by Michael D. Bates. All rights reserved.

If you read my earlier entry about cricket in Australia, you're likely champing at the bit, wondering where you can see this high-scoring sport close to home.

In the month of January, your best opportunity is while seated on your sofa. NBC Sports Network (channel 317/1317 on Cox Tulsa cable) is airing one KFC Big Bash League game every week through the end of the season, plus the semifinal and final matches. This is TV-friendly Twenty20 cricket -- twenty overs per side, with an overall three-hour time limit. Teams are penalized if they fail to complete their bowling innings within 90 minutes; the Brisbane team faces the suspension of their team captain for going five minutes over. The Brisbane-Perth match, which aired live at 2:30 am this morning, will be rebroadcast Thursday, January 12, 2017, at 11:00 am Tulsa time. It's a very different fan experience, too: In contrast to the empty stands for the Sheffield Shield matches I watched, the Gabba was sold out for this match, which featured flashy scoreboard graphics, music between overs, and a swimming pool overlooking the pitch.

But when our weather warms up, there will be an opportunity to see live and local cricket. Two Tulsa clubs, the Greater Tulsa Cricket Club and the Green Country Cricket Club, participate in the Two-State Cricket League (TSCL), along with five clubs based in Wichita, three in Oklahoma City, and one each in Lawton, Stillwater (associated with OSU), and Salina, Kansas. Gauging from the names on the roster, it appears that one of Tulsa's two clubs is predominantly Indian and the other Pakistani. Both teams play at Ute Park, south of Jackson Elementary School at Ute St. and N. Pittsburg Ave. (A well-tended wicket shows up clearly on satellite photos.) The 2017 schedule is not yet posted, but last year's list of fixtures indicates that they play 35-over cricket from early April until October and Twenty20 cricket in October.

As I learn more details, I'll keep you posted.

The Vital Records Department of the Oklahoma State Department of Health has made its database of birth and death certificates searchable online. While the certificates themselves can't be viewed, the limited information (county and date) may provide helpful leads to family historians. The database includes limited information on births that occurred more than 20 years ago and deaths that occurred more than 5 years ago.

Certified copies of birth and death certificates may be ordered from the Department of Health, but those that are not yet considered public record require some justification -- proof of relationship to the subject of the record, or a court order.

Birth certificates older than 125 years and death certificates older than 50 years are considered public record and require only an application and payment of fees to receive a certified copy. I'm hoping that eventually researchers who don't require a certified copy will simply be able to view public record certificates online.

This development is thanks to a bill sponsored last session by State Sen. David Holt and State Rep. Elise Hall, which mandated the creation of the index and that it be available free and online. The bill also reduced the public record waiting period for death certificates from 75 to 50 years, bringing it more inline (but not entirely) with surrounding states. Chris Powell, whose genealogical research provided some impetus for these changes, wrote last June about the bill's passage and then, last week, hailed the advent of the online database, almost six months earlier than the legislation's deadline of July 1.


Australia: Cricket

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NOTE: The fifth day of the third test match between Australia and Pakistan began at 5:30 pm Tulsa time, Friday, January 6, 2017. You can listen online (free with registration) or watch the ball-by-ball description (no registration required) here. Australia finished its second and final innings late yesterday with a 464 run lead. Pakistan must either catch up to win (very difficult), or manage to keep batting until the end of the day for a draw (possible). UPDATE: Australia managed to get all 10 wickets within 80 overs, giving up only 244 runs. That's only three more runs than Australia gained for two wickets. Only one Pakistani batsman managed more than 50 runs. Final total: Australia 779, Pakistan 559.

NBC Sports Network (Cox Tulsa channels 317/1317) is airing ten KFC Big Bash League games this season, including semifinals and finals later this month. The next opportunity to watch is the Brisbane Heat vs. the Perth Scorchers, on January 11, 2017, 2:30 am Tulsa time, with a rebroadcast on January 12 at 11 am Tulsa time.

Imagine a variant on baseball:

  • Instead of scoring a run when you pass home plate, you score a run every time you reach a base.
  • Instead of four bases, there are only two.
  • Instead of the base consisting of a square pad you have to step on to be safe, there's a line you have to cross.
  • There's always one batter and one runner on first.
  • The pitcher pitches six balls from first base to home plate. Then home plate becomes first base and vice versa, the batter becomes the runner and vice versa, and a different pitcher pitches six balls in the opposite direction from the previous 6.
  • "Pitcher" is a misnomer. He can best to bounce and spin the ball off of the ground. Let's call him a bowler instead.
  • There's no such thing as a foul ball.
  • If you hit the ball, you don't have to run, if you don't think you have time to run to the other base before the ball comes back.
  • Instead of standing beside home plate, the batter stands in front of a thing that looks like three croquet stakes next to each other, with two little wooden tops resting on top of them.
  • Getting out involves someone catching a batted ball on the fly; a fielder hitting the croquet stake things with a ball, hard enough to knock the wooden top things off, while runners are between the lines; the bowler hitting the croquet stake/wooden top assembly with the ball, or the bowler hitting the batter's leg with the ball if the ball would otherwise have hit the croquet stake/wooden top things.
  • Instead of an outfield wall, there's a rope, at least 225 feet from the batter. Hit a ball over it on the fly, you score six runs. Hit it over on the ground, you score four runs.
  • If you hit a double or a home run, you get to keep batting, at least until it's time for the bowling to change direction.
  • One team keeps batting until 10 of their 11 batters are out. That's an innings. Each team gets two inningses.
  • You play for six hours a day, stopping a couple of times for lunch and snacks, for four or five days.
  • No pinch hitters, no pinch runners, no substitutions (except for illness or injury).
  • And if both sides haven't finished their inningses by the scheduled end of the game, it's a tie, no matter how big the lead.

This, then, is cricket.

I was delighted to hear that there would be a Sheffield Shield match at the Brisbane Cricket Ground while I was in town, and my schedule would allow me time to take in some of the match. Sheffield Shield is the name of the annual double-round-robin competition between state teams, and this four-day match would pit the Queensland Bulls against the New South Wales Blues. Better yet, there was no fee for admission, so I could watch as much as I had time for without feeling I'd wasted money on a ticket.

Sheffield Shield is just one level down from international competition (aka Test cricket), but levels of play aren't mutually exclusive the way they are in American baseball. A Shield team is more like a statewide all-star squad, and the team that competes in international tests is like the Olympic team. Steve Smith, captain for Australia, also captains the NSW Blues and plays for the Rising Pune Supergiants in the Indian Premier League. Other international players also play in Australia's Big Bash League, a shorter form of cricket. Smith was batting while I was there, and the Blues and Bulls combined included at least a half-dozen players that are also on the national team: Dave Warner, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Nathan Lyon.

The state teams and national team each have a panel of selectors who pick which players will take the field for the next match. After a string of losses, the selectors take as much heat, if not more, than the players. After Australia lost the first two test matches in a series of three against South Africa last month, the chairman of selectors resigned. A revamped board of selectors called up some new players, based on their performances in this season's Sheffield Shield, and the recharged Aussies managed to win the third and final test against South Africa, a series of one-day internationals against New Zealand, and the first test against Pakistan. Currently Australia is ranked second among the 10 nations that play test cricket, trailing India; the two teams will meet in a four-match series in India in February and March.

I said the match was held at the Brisbane Cricket Ground, but if you were to ask a local for directions using that name, you'd likely get a blank stare. At five syllables, that name, while technically accurate, is way too long for an Aussie to trouble himself to speak it in full. Locally, the stadium is known as The Gabba, which is short for Woolloongabba, the Brisbane district in which it's located.

The Gabba, Brisbane, as seen from the intersection of Stanley Street and Main Street

There has been a cricket ground at the site of The Gabba since 1895, but the current 42,000-seat stadium is the product of a staged redevelopment from 1993 to 2005 that replaced historic grandstands and buildings with a round stadium, the sort of thing that American cities built in the US in the 1970s to house both baseball and football teams (e.g. Busch Stadium, Three Rivers Stadium, Riverfront Stadium). I heard a cricket commentator on the radio refer to the redeveloped Gabba as "soulless." It certainly lacks any sense of history.

Before the redevelopment, there was a grassy berm known as "The Hill" where rowdier fans could let loose, and kids could run and play:

The Gabba hill was a place where you could stretch out, relax, drink full strength beer, watch some cricket, or even have a sleep late in the day if you needed it. And for those seated in the stands, when the game out in the middle was meandering along, you could always rely on the hill to provide some entertainment....

I remember sitting on the hill at the Gabba while my grandpop drank tallies and us kids played with an old bat and tennis ball.

The oval fits in between two major streets, but the stadium stands were a little too big. Rather than reroute the streets, the upper-levels of the stands overhang them.

On this October day in 2016, only one gate was open for the match. A stadium staffer handed me a roster of players and directed me to the handful of sections that were available. The ground-floor concourse looked the same as a US multipurpose stadium, except for the off-track betting parlor. A single concession stand offered soft drinks, hot dogs, chips (fries, that is), low-point beer, and mixed drinks. (They have pre-mixed cans of Bundaberg rum or Jack Daniels or Jim Beam and cola, diluted to 4.6-5.0% ABV, just a little stronger than 3.2 ABW beer.) Some sections were marked as no-alcohol zones.

Perhaps 200 fans were scattered around the open sections. The sky was cloudless. Qantas and Virgin Australia jets zoomed overhead on final approach to Brisbane airport several miles north.

The Gabba, Brisbane

The quiet was striking. No announcer on the PA system. No music between overs. Just conversation, interrupted by the crack of bat on ball and applause when someone hit for four or for six. The crowd rewarded a century -- a batsman reaching 100 runs -- with sustained applause and a standing ovation, even if it was a batter for the opposing team. Once in a great while, there'd be a cry of "howzat!" from the fielding team (the traditional way to appeal to the umpires to call a batter out), followed by a groan from the crowd in reaction to the umpire's decision. Over three separate visits to the stadium, I heard young tourists speaking French, middle-aged men discussing buying a television, train journeys, and the new female clerk at the 7-Eleven, a noisy, vulgar heckler (who was escorted out), and long-time cricket fans actually discussing the players and action on the field.

The scoreboards on either side of the stadium displayed the rosters for each team with batting and bowling stats for the current innings.

The Gabba scoreboard

Cricket is a challenging sport for spectators. The closest seat in the stadium is nearly as far from the wicket (about 250 feet) as a Fenway Park bleacher seat is from home plate (just over 300 feet). With few exceptions, plays don't develop over time but are almost instantaneous: A ball is bowled, the batter strikes, the ball is caught or stopped, all in a matter of seconds. Unless you have very keen eyes, you're dependent on the reaction of the fielders, a signal from the umpires, or a change on the scoreboard to know what just happened. Watching on TV, where the cameras can zoom in on the action, and where you can watch instant replays and hear play-by-play commentary, makes the action easier to follow. The exceptions are boundaries, particularly when there's a chase to see if a fielder can stop the ball before it crosses the rope; and run-outs, when the batters are trying to stretch a hit into as many runs as possible -- a fielder throws the ball at the wicket to knock off the bails while the runner is between the lines.

Bowling at The Gabba

The biggest challenge to drawing a crowd is the sheer length of the games. Unless you're retired, you just don't have time to watch a match that runs for six hours per day over four or five days. Cricket organizations have tried to adjust to modern tastes by playing day-night cricket, starting at 1 pm instead of 10 am, pushing the final session into the evening, under the lights (with a pink ball that's easier to see), and by offering shorter forms, like one-day internationals, where each team is limited to 50 overs (300 balls), or Twenty20 cricket, in which the limit is 20 overs (120 balls) a side, a game that can be finished in roughly three hours, the length of a longish baseball game. The KFC Big Bash League plays Twenty20 cricket in eight cities, one in each state capital plus a second team each for Melbourne and Sydney. Last year, the Brisbane Heat drew 29,353 fans on average, despite a 6th place finish. This past Tuesday, a match against the Sydney Sixers brought 32,371 fans through the turnstiles.

Compare that to 26,343 for the first day of the first test against Pakistan at the Gabba last month. As the match continued, attendance declined and then plummeted: 23,344 on day 2, 20,915 on day 3, 4,890 on day 4, and 2,593 on the final day. Australia had finished batting on day 3, and rain shortened day 4, but Pakistan finished strong and came close to catching up, only to be all-out early on day 5, when bad weather threatened again.

But long-time cricket fans worry that short-form cricket, which is becoming the norm for school matches, is ruining players for the traditional game. Twenty20 cricket puts a premium on swinging for the fences at every opportunity. In traditional cricket, patient shot selection is key to staying at bat and running up the score. If you hit twelve balls in a row on the ground and never budge from the crease, that's OK -- you've defended your wicket.

Traditional cricket adds more strategy to the game: The weather forecast, bowler fatigue, the changing condition of the ball and the pitch, the effect of sunlight, shadow, and stadium lights, the time remaining, all play into the captain's decisions about whether to bat or defend, when to "declare" (end an innings early, before 10 wickets have fallen), and whether to require a follow-on (a team leading by 200 or more runs after the first innings can require the trailing team to hit first in the second innings, increasing the likelihood that the match will be completed in the allotted time, avoiding a draw, and possibly avoiding the need to bat a second time).

The three formats for cricket are different enough that separate statistics are kept for each, even though many players participate in all three. Sheffield Shield matches are classified alongside Test matches, as they only differ in running four days instead of five.

Bowling at The Gabba

I became fascinated enough with the sport that I returned to the Gabba for a later day of this match (stopping in to watch a few overs while my laundry was drying in a nearby laundromat) and again with my family a month later, to see Queensland against South Australia. I watched New Zealand wrap up its successful home series against Pakistan on TV and enjoyed listening to the Australia-New Zealand series of One-Day Internationals on the radio, as Mitchell Starc, a solid bowler and batsman, knocked one six after another. At the moment, I have to settle for listening to the Pakistan test series online, via cricket.com.au.

Oklahoma_Oilfield_Blues-Cover.jpg

Dale Ingram posted the cover of this piece of sheet music from 1920 on the "Oklahoma History -- People, Places, Things" Facebook group. He was kind enough to send me the two inside pages, too.

"The Oklahoma Oilfield Blues" was written by Jack Randolph (lyrics) and John F. Carroll (music). It was published in 1920 by the H. M. Keifer Music Pub. Co. of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The cover, printed in blue, gold, and black, depicts a dapper man in a boater and cuffed pants sitting on a park bench and reading the "Oil and Gas News." In the background is the Minnehoma Gusher, "the 15,000 Barrel Well, PAWHUSKA, OKLAHOMA." The Minnehoma Oil Company was founded by George F. Getty, the father of J. Paul Getty.

The gusher, which came in on January 4, 1920, made national news:

OIL MEN RUSH TO NEW FIELD

(published in the El Paso Herald, January 14, 1920)

Pawhuska, Okla., Jan. 14. -- Since the Minnehoma Oil company's gusher on the Jackson-Worten lease, in the northeast corner of section 14-26-8 [5 miles W and 5 miles N of Pawhuska], came in 10 days ago, more than 100 new locations have been made and already 15 derricks have been started. Trains of trucks carrying materials to the various sites line the road from Pawhuska to the new well.

This well, the largest gusher ever brought in in Oklahoma, encountered production at 2313 feet with the drill 28 feet in the Mississippi lime. The monster flow came as a complete surprise to the owner of the well. It is the No. 3 on this quarter section. The No. 1 was abandoned as dry and the No. 2 made 25 barrels a day. Naturally when the great flow came there was not sufficient storage facilities arranged. Oil covered the ground for more than half a mile. Some 5000 gallons of oil was burned. Along the creek between the wel and the large reservoir, temporary dams were constructed and more than a dozen pumps were put in operation. In this way at least 40,000 barrels of oil valued at $100,000 was saved.

The Gulf Refining company and the Prairie Pipe line concern are rushing two lines to the well from their respective trunk lines.

Operators say that Pawhuska is surrounded by the greatest oil pool yet discovered. Within a radius of eight miles during the past two months four wells have been brought, proving the existence of as many separate fields. The last of these wells was brought in by the J. D. Wrightman company, of Tulsa, only a few days ago in section 30-[2]6-10, four miles northeast of town. This well is making a 100 barrels from the Bartlesville sand.

Still another new field was discovered when Gardner and Spencer completed their 500 barrel well on the southwest quarter of section 19-25-9 [three miles west and three miles south of Pawhuska], one mile from production.

Pawhuska is the mecca toward which Oklahoma producers are now turning and great things will happen in this field within the next few months.

A special advertising spread in the February 1, 1920, Tulsa Sunday World, celebrated Pawhuska's growth (quadrupling between 1910 and 1920) and reported that four oil fields had been found around the city in the previous 60 days and the Minnehoma Gusher had been tamed and was producing 1,000 barrels per day.

There's not much on the web about this song. In March 2007, Eric Marchese performed the song at the Orange County Ragtime Society.

Eric closed his set with a nod to the state of Oklahoma's centennial this year by playing his own, souped-up arrangement of John F. Carroll's music to "The Oklahoma Oil Field Blues," one of the few ragtime pieces to come out of the Sooner State (published in 1920 by H.M. Keifer Music Publishing Company in Pawhuska, Okla.). Again, Eric refrained from singing the piece's lyrics (by Jack Randolph) but described them (the singer longs to be back home in the oilfields where he will, presumably, one day strike it "rich as old John D."). The cover of the sheet music depicts "the Minnehoma Gusher, the 15,000-barrel well" in Pawhuska, as a young gent in a suit sits on a park bench reading a newspaper, the "Oil and Gas News."

The song also is listed in the 1920 Catalogue of Copyright Entries

The lyrics:

I love Oklahoma and the climate too.
When I leave that state I'm always feeling blue.
I want to go back there just to play the oil game,
To make some money and to win some fame.

There are men down there who just worked in the ditch,
Took a little chance and now they're more than rich.
I read all about them in the Oil and Gas News,
So that's just why I've got the oil field blues.

CHORUS:

I've got the blues,
I've got the oilfield blues,
I never felt this way.
I'm going back to a box car shack
If I have to work both night and day.
I'll save up all my money and invest you see,
And if I'm lucky I'll be rich as old John D.
Oh, boy, I've got the Oklahoma oil field blues.

According to the Long Lost Blues website, Jack Randolph and John F. Carroll also wrote the Jamaica-Ginger Blues.

(Click on each photo to see the full-sized image.)

Oklahoma_Oilfield_Blues-1.jpg

Oklahoma_Oilfield_Blues-2.jpg

There are those who worry about the influence of the wealthy on federal politics but are quite blasé about the influence of the wealthy on local politics.

That slobbery, smooching sound you heard Saturday was Wayne Greene's column in the Saturday, December 31, 2016, Tulsa World, telling all of us we should accept with thanks and praise every perfect gift that comes from Our Kaiser Above.

The specific occasion is the news that a north Tulsa property owner has refused to sell his dream home and the acreage it sits on to the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), land that GKFF wants for an industrial park.

The triangle of land between 36th Street North, Mohawk Blvd, Peoria and Lewis Avenues is largely undeveloped. Dirty Butter Creek and its tributaries converge here, making it susceptible to flooding, which may explain why it was passed over by developers during Tulsa's period of northward suburban expansion in the 1950s.

This inexpensive land afforded some families the possibility of building their dream home, surrounded by woods, but close to the conveniences of the city. Along the north side of Mohawk Blvd, far from the creeks, several attractive, large homes were built on small acreages. All but one of these have now been acquired and removed; one remains, owned by Charles and Rebecca Williams, and they have refused to take an offer that is twice the assessor's estimate of their property's value.

The Tulsa World published a story about the Williamses early last week. A few mildly negative comments about Kaiser on that article prompted Greene's column.

It's ironic that whoever headlined Greene's column used the term "local hero" to refer to George Kaiser. There's a movie called Local Hero, one of my all-time favorites, set in a little seaside village in Scotland. The hero of the title is the one property owner who refuses to sell to an American billionaire for a massive industrial project.

Let's examine a few of the things Greene says in his column:

The city's $10 million infrastructure participation in the project was thoroughly debated during the Vision tax extension process. It had the support of the municipal political leadership for the area at the time and was approved by the City Council. Subsequently, voters signed off on the Vision package, including the industrial park.

I suspect the only topic of debate was "will this project get more votes for the dams?" As I wrote back before the vote, the suspiciously round numbers allocated for many of the projects suggest that no serious effort was made to estimate the actual cost for the proposed projects. "If I were a cynic, I might believe that the City Council had no interest in whether these projects were feasible or appropriately budgeted. I might believe, were I a cynic, that these items were included just to get a few more hundred voters to the polls in the mood to vote yes on everything." What exactly was $10 million supposed to cover? It looks like a payola project -- not a serious effort to fund a well-defined project.

The "municipal political leadership for the area at the time" appears to refer to City Councilor Jack Henderson. Northside community leaders complained that the priorities expressed by residents were ignored by Henderson and the council in favor of their own pet projects. Projects associated with a long-term neighborhood planning effort for the 36th Street North corridor were left on the cutting-room floor. Henderson lost his bid for re-election this November to one of the leading critics of his choice of projects.

As to how thoroughly it was debated: Going back through news coverage prior to the election, I find nothing that specified where the proposed industrial park would be located, nothing more specific than "North Peoria." It appears that it was only after the vote took place that the specific location, which isn't even adjacent to Peoria Ave., was identified.

In hindsight, it appears that the reason the 36th Street North small area plan was ignored in Vision Tulsa is because it conflicted with GKFF's intentions and two years of behind-the-scenes land acquisition. Neighborhood stakeholders, working with city planners, identified the undeveloped land between Dirty Butter Creek, Mohawk, and 36th Street North as ripe for new single-family residential development, not as the site for a major industrial facility. Was there anyone on the City Council or in the Mayor's office who would champion the wishes of local residents over the plans of a billionaire's foundation? There used to be. Now we have a mayor who used to be a lobbyist for the billionaire's foundation.

Greene mistakenly believes the new Macy's distribution center will be in Owasso:

Eventually, the project is envisioned to be the home to 1,000 quality jobs, which could be the beginning of the economic turnaround north Tulsa has wanted for years. Want to know why the Macy's distribution center ended up in Owasso and not Tulsa? Owasso had a site that was ready to go. Tulsa didn't.

While it's true that the Macy's center site is near Owasso, and the land used to be owned by an entity called the Owasso Land Trust (despite the name, a commercial entity, not governmental), the site is actually within the City of Tulsa's municipal fence line -- unincorporated land that Tulsa could annex but which is protected against annexation by Owasso or any other city or town. (Presumably Tulsa does not annex this property or other nearby facilities in the Cherokee Industrial Park because it's more attractive to businesses if they don't have to pay city sales tax, use tax, or property tax and if they don't have to put up with city regulations.)

A bit further on in the column, Greene praises the many donations GKFF has made to keep local non-profits running. He continues:

Of course, that hardly scratches the surface of the efforts of the Kaiser foundation to improve Tulsa. From the city's national model early childhood education program to the game-changing A Gathering Place for Tulsa under construction along Riverside Drive, almost all of the good things going on in our community have the leadership (and funding) of the Kaiser foundation.

Whatever you may think of the two specific items mentioned in this paragraph, that last line goes way over the top in its praise of GKFF, or else it reveals Greene's tunnel vision, limiting civic life to a handful of big, highly publicized projects. I could list dozens of job-creating companies, innovative entrepreneurs, charitable and educational initiatives, none of which have anything to do with Kaiser or his foundation.

As to those two examples: Research has failed to show a positive impact on learning outcomes for all the massive public and private investment in putting what we used to call preschool-aged children into classrooms. Making it more affordable for one parent to stay home, parents being married and staying married, connection with a faith community all do more to help children learn and grow. The Gathering Place looks like it will be a lovely park, but hardly "game-changing." GKFF is putting another park in walking distance of a number of other lovely parks and some of Tulsa's wealthiest neighborhoods, while working-class neighborhoods often lack parks, shopping, or any other outdoor space where neighbors might gather. North Tulsa has been particularly hard hit with the removal of recreation centers and swimming pools in recent years.

Greene confesses to having a small flowering plant related to the pea and legume families with GKFF:

You can complain about whatever your particular vetch is with the Kaiser foundation. Personally, I wish the Gathering Place project would get done faster. I miss running along the river and when I drive south the Peoria Avenue detour taunts me with the memories of Riverside Drive.

But that doesn't prevent me from recognizing that my relatively minor inconveniences and the hundreds of millions of dollars marshaled by the Kaiser foundation are going to one day give Tulsa one of the most magnificent community parks in the world, the sort of thing that could help propel Tulsa socially and economically.

I think he means "kvetch," a Yiddish word that can either be a verb (to complain) or a noun (a persistent complainer). One dictionary says it can be used to mean "complaint," but I've never come across that.

The notion that a park, however magnificent, could "propel Tulsa socially and economically" again reveals that Greene's view of civic life is far too narrow.

Greene's little complaint ought to stir a doubt in his mind: How is it that a private organization is granted permission to shut down major public thoroughfares for two years? Even public construction projects are rarely permitted to shutdown a road completely. Ordinarily, public need and convenience would be balanced against the presumed cost and schedule savings of a total shutdown.

That GKFF was able to get a two-year total shutdown of Riverside Drive and the Midland Valley Trail without a murmur of protest from city officials ought to frighten Greene. We can be appreciative of a billionaire's generosity, but we need city officials and the media to remain on guard, to scrutinize his plans and his actions, particularly as they interact with public infrastructure and public policy.

There are strong incentives for city officials and columnists to be good yacht guests, fending off criticisms and keeping their own qualms to themselves. They might want GKFF's support for their own pet projects. They might hope someday to work for a GKFF-funded organization or might have a relative who works for one. The elected officials don't want Kaiser and affiliated donors and PACs to fund an opponent in the next election.

Wouldn't it be lovely if Tulsa had leaders willing to defend plans developed by their fellow citizens against changes pushed by billionaires? We did, about 10 years ago, but they've all been run off and replaced with rubber stamps. I won't hold my breath waiting for things to change.

MORE: There's an interesting pattern in the sales records for the parcels that are proposed to become an industrial park. Nearly all of the parcels I checked were first acquired by Mapleview Acquisitions I LLC, whose registered agent is former Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission chairman Joseph M. Westervelt. Many of the properties were then conveyed to NP36 LLC (registered agent Frederic Dorwart) in a multi-parcel transaction on December 8, 2016, although some parcels appear to be owned still by Mapleview Acquisitions I LLC, according to records on the county assessor's website. Westervelt is notable for his efforts to frustrate and undermine implementation of the Pearl District small-area plan; makes sense that he'd be involved in a development that undermines the 36th Street North small-area plan.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2017 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2016 is the previous archive.

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