September 2017 Archives

Spending is higher than ever, but the lobbyists who represent the beneficiaries of that spending have convinced legislative leaders that consolidation and prioritization of spending are impossible tasks, that there is no more waste or duplication to be found, and the only hope is to raise taxes. Happily, our state constitution provides some pressure in the opposite direction, and a number of conservative leaders are reminding legislators of their promises to control spending .

I'm happy to see Oklahoma RNC committeeman Steve Curry on this list, and I hope the rest of our state and county Republican Party officials will join him soon.

Conservative Leaders Urge Oklahoma Politicians to Protect Taxpayers

September 28, 2017

Dear Governor and State Lawmakers,

We are a coalition of conservative citizens, many of us serving in leadership of state or local organizations, who write to urge you to address the need for more consolidation and other efficiencies in all areas of state government and to resist raising taxes on your constituents.

Many Oklahoma families and businesses are struggling and have been forced to reduce their own spending. Indeed, Oklahomans lost more than $13 billion in taxable income and reduced purchases by $4.1 billion in one year alone when oil prices collapsed.

And yet, Oklahoma's total state government spending is at an all-time high. The state is now on track to spend more money next year--more than $17.9 billion--than at any time in our history. If you believe that certain state services are not adequately funded, we urge you to prioritize spending rather than raise taxes.

"Limited government" and "lower taxes" have been winning campaign messages in Oklahoma over the last decade. Some candidates have even made written promises to oppose and vote against (or veto) "any and all efforts to increase taxes." We encourage you to stay true to these principles and to oppose efforts to increase the burden of government on hard-working Oklahoma families.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Small
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA)

John Tidwell
Americans for Prosperity-Oklahoma

Grover Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform

Steve Curry
Republican National Committeeman for Oklahoma

Ronda Vuillemont-Smith
Tulsa 9.12 Project

Tom Newell
Former chairman, General Government Oversight and Accountability Committee, Oklahoma House of Representatives

Michael Bates
BatesLine.com

Brandon Arnold
National Taxpayers Union

Jamison Faught
MuskogeePolitico.com

Andrew Lopez
Canadian County Republican Party

Daniel Schneider
American Conservative Union

Charles W. Potts
Oklahoma Republican Party executive committee member

John Michener
Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee

Bunny Chambers
Eagle Forum of Oklahoma

Lisa B. Nelson
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

Ashley N. Varner
ALEC Action

Muskogee Politico Jamison Faught has noticed that Gov. Fallin expressed a desire for "consolidation and other efficiencies" in her call for a special session but has taken that off the table in a more recent statement.

OCPA's Trent England says cost avoidance should be the first priority for the legislature, just as it is for Oklahomans trying to balance their own budgets, and he has some specific suggestions.

OCPA's Curtis Shelton has some Oklahoma state spending facts and a link to his appearance on the Trent England Show.

My comments for an article in the Guardian about the budget crisis (which the Grauniad didn't publish) describes some of things the legislature could do to address duplication in services and to eliminate earmarks that prevent the money we're already paying in taxes from reaching our spending priorities.

MORE:

State Auditor Gary Jones and trial lawyer Gary Richardson, both candidates in next year's governor's race, are having a mini-debate over taxes and spending in response to a Facebook post by Jones.

State Rep. Jason Murphey, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, tells with astonishment how, during regular session, $6.9 billion in appropriations was pushed through, with no chance for anyone to read the bill.

Heaven on earth?

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During a recent long drive, I tuned in, via the miracle of the internet, to ABC radio in Australia, and listened to the "Overnights" show. In this particular hour, the host was playing songs with "heaven" in the title. Gospel songs about the eternal state of the blessed like "When We All Get to Heaven," "In the Sweet By and By," "I'll Fly Away," and "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder" were not on the playlist.

I don't know how far back one could trace the metaphor comparing the experience of romantic or erotic love as heaven, but it goes back at last as far as Irving Berlin, whose "Cheek to Cheek," as sung by Fred Astaire in Top Hat was the first song of the hour.

Heaven, I'm in heaven,
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak,
And I seem to find the happiness I seek,
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek.

The host played Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" -- the lyrics sung Beatles-style by an Australian tribute band called the Beatnix, and the tune accompanying the lyrics to the theme to Gilligan's Island by Little Roger and the Goosebumps. The Righteous Brothers' sloppy and sentimental "Rock 'n' Roll Heaven" was played. There was a number from Jesus Christ Superstar, in which Judas complains that Jesus's followers have "Heaven on Their Minds." But most of the music was about the idea that "Heaven Is a Place on Earth," bliss and ecstasy generated by means of a romantic relationship.

Will Heaven carry any weight as a metaphor for the current and coming generations, in which Christianity is increasingly absent from common culture?

The playlist brought to mind a recent blog entry by Rod Dreher, in which he quotes from sociologist Mark Regnerus's new book Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy. Regnerus cites data showing that the more liberal an American woman is, the likelier that she will say that she wants more sex than she has been having.

Regnerus sets out a hypothesis:



  1. More liberal women are less religious than conservative women. (True.)

  2. More liberal women are therefore more likely to have a difficult time attributing transcendent value to aspects of life such as work, relationships, children, and daily tasks. Some psychologists speak of this attribution as "sanctifying daily life." That is, liberal women are less apt to conceive of mundane, material life as somehow imbued with or reflecting the sacred. For them the world is, to use Max Weber's term, more disenchanted -- predictable and safer, but emptier and less mysterious.

  3. Nevertheless, most people experience sexual expression as, in some significant way, transcendent, or higher-than-other experiences. Giddens concurs: "Sexuality for us still carries an echo of the transcendent."

  4. More liberal women therefore desire more frequent sex because they feel poignantly the lack of sufficient transcendence in life. If sex is one of the few pathways to it, then it is sensible for them to desire more of it.

He then tested his hypothesis against data including religious attendance, importance of religion, and changes in religious inclination over time. He found that the strongest correlation to wanting more sex was not political liberalism, but loss of religious belief.

In a world increasingly bereft of transcendence, sexual expression is emerging as an intrinsic value. Sex is the new opium of the masses, [social psychologists Roy] Baumeister and [Kathleen] Vohs claim, a temporary heart in a heartless world. Unfortunately, something so immanent as sex will not -- and cannot -- function in the manner in which religion can, has, and does. (To be sure, some replace it with an appreciation and devotion to nature.) Sex does not explain the world. It is not a master narrative. It has little to offer by way of convincing theodicy. But in a world increasingly missing transcendence, longing for sexual expression makes sense. It should not surprised us, however, that those who (unconsciously) demand sex function like religion will come up short. Maybe that is why very liberal women are also twice as likely to report being depressed or currently in psychotherapy than very conservative women.

(Opiates are also increasingly serving as the opiate of the masses.)

No wonder we have a culture war. Without hope of heaven, all wrongs must be righted in this life. Without hope of heaven, sexual ecstasy would be one of the few paths to something approximating transcendence, and it would seem cruel beyond measure for religious liberty, social stigma, taboos, or any other force to interfere with a person's pursuit of the ultimate orgasm. Indeed, the Sexual Revolution is rooted in that pursuit, and its founding father, Wilhelm Reich, believed that the orgasm was the primal source of life energy. His crackpot ideas found a hearing among the Beat Generation writers in the 1950s and through their influence into popular culture and mainstream society, where they found a welcome with those who sought a "scientific" justification for their perverted desires and a pretext for tearing down the taboos that society had adopted to protect itself from the destructive power of unconstrained sexuality. Historians Will and Ariel Durant wrote, "Sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints." In their pursuit of orgasmic transcendence, Reich's devotees have broken the levees and sent the fire flooding into every home.

(If you want to know more about Wilhelm Reich and his cultural influence, Christopher Turner published a biography of Reich in 2011 -- excerpt here, review by Christopher Hitchens here, Independent review here, feature story in the New York Observer -- with obnoxious auto-loading video ads -- here.)


But while American Christians may be better able to find transcendence in daily life, heaven is seldom in our thoughts, beyond vague hopes that we will again see our departed dear ones again.

When I was young, it was a commonplace among evangelical Christians that we should beware of being so heavenly minded that we were no earthly good. There was even a popular Contemporary Christian song in the '80s of the title "Too Heavenly Minded," a reaction perhaps to the heaven-focused hymns common to Southern Gospel music. The song was really an admonition not to neglect the needs of the people around us, but I think the chorus earwormed its way into our brains and convinced us we shouldn't be contemplating heaven at all. The desiccated vision of heaven that had made its way into popular culture -- dressed in robes and wings, floating on clouds and playing harps -- made thoughts of Heaven easier to forgo.

far_side-heaven-magazine.jpg

C. S. Lewis had a different opinion: In Mere Christianity he wrote, "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next... It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in': aim at earth and you will get neither."

In The Weight of Glory, Lewis wrote, "It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

Richard Baxter, the Puritan pastor of Kidderminster in the mid-17th century, devoted a book to the topic of The Saints' Everlasting Rest, writing that meditating on the joys of Heaven is a "duty by which all other duties are improved, and by which the soul digests truth for its nourishment and comfort."

Christians will find it challenging to resist the ecstasy that the world assures us can be found in sexual sin or reality-bending drugs if we have no hope of true, lasting delights in the life to come. As the Apostle Paul exhorts us, in his letter to the Colossians:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Paul Gray, RIP

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Paul_Gray-MIT.jpgPaul Gray, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1980 to 1990 and the man who handed me my college diploma, died today at the age of 85. Gray was the last true MIT nerd to hold the post, possibly the last who ever will. In his years in the MIT administration, Gray managed to improve the undergraduate experience and broaden the base of potential MIT students while preserving the school's distinctive ethos that he had known since his undergraduate days.

In the 2008 Infinite History interview with Paul Gray tells his life story in his own words (the link leads to a transcript), and what follows is a summary and excerpts that I found interesting.

Gray, the son of an electrical utility technician, started experimenting with electricity and magnetism as a first grader, began building and repairing radios with vacuum tubes at the age of 10, and became an amateur radio operator in high school, building his own equipment. Accepted to RPI, Yale, and MIT, Gray signed up for MIT at the urging of his high school English teacher:

GRAY: ... I was admitted to all three. But MIT was the only one that didn't offer me any money. The other two made it quite easy to go. And I was about to go to Yale, which it offered the most, when I had a conversation with really my first mentor besides my family. And that was my English teacher in high school: had her for four years. Emily Morford. M-O-R-F-O-R-D. And I told her-- she knew where I'd applied, she wrote a reference-- and I told her what my tentative decision was and she took me to the woodshed. And she said, "You can't do that. If you have a chance to go to MIT that's where you should go. It's the best place to study engineering."

INTERVIEWER: Now wait a minute, this is the English teacher telling you?

GRAY: The English teacher, English teacher. Who lived long enough to see me elected president here. What, 1950 to 1980, 30 years later. She couldn't come to the inauguration. She was in her 90s and lived in Florida, but she knew about it. She had been an important-- she was perhaps the teacher in high school that I remember the most. And that includes chemistry and physics and biology and mathematics. And it was her influence that pushed me the other way. I went back and the family said, "Well we can manage that. Do it." So that's how it happened.

I can't resist quoting what Gray said about how he learned to write and the disconnect between SAT scores and actual verbal skills:

GRAY: ... I've always enjoyed writing and do a lot of it. And maybe that's part of it because she taught writing, she taught the English language, the way it should have been taught. You know we diagrammed sentences, we worked on paragraph structure, the whole nine yards. And I came out of high school I think being a pretty good writer. And it paid off in later years here, still pays off.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think many MIT students can diagram a sentence today?

GRAY: No, too many of them can't really create a sensible sentence, let alone a paragraph. It's astonishing to me. I mean MIT students come here with an average verbal school of something like 750. But still most of them are abominable writers. Not all-- I mean, some are very skillful. Some have learned the craft. But a great many of them come here needing a boost in their writing, which they get.

Gray was the last of a series of five presidents with connections to the Institute prior to taking office, and one of three who had attended the university as undergraduates. Gray's two immediate successors had no prior connection to the Institute; the current president, L. Rafael Reif, joined the MIT electrical engineering faculty in 1980 and has been at MIT ever since.

As an undergraduate, Gray found a home away from home and lifelong friends in an MIT fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa:

During the summer, in those days, freshmen got visited by fraternity students because when you arrived here, you had to make a choice between whether you were going to live in a dormitory or live in a fraternity, pledge a fraternity. And I had a visit that summer from two students, both of them living in New Jersey, and I said, "No, I'm not going to rush week. I'm going to live in the dormitory." I already had an assignment in East campus which was then all single rooms. And I lived there through, about through Thanksgiving, but found it was intensely lonely, partly because all the folks around me in that dormitory were GIs who had come back from World War II. You know, the largest class ever to graduate from MIT was the class of 1950, because it swept up all the guys who had had their education interrupted in the early '40s. And the GIs who returned were very single-minded about their studies. They were not involved in any social life or other activities that eighteen-year-olds would be involved in. And I just felt isolated.

So as it happened, the two students who had visited me in the summer showed up again one evening and visited me at the dormitory and said, "Why don't you come over and have dinner?" Well I did. And that opened my eyes to a very different style of living at MIT. To live with 28 other people in a four-story house on Commonwealth Avenue. And so I moved into the house in December and lived there for the next three-plus years. Three-and-a-half-plus years. And that was also an important learning and living experience for me because I was an only child. I had only two cousins, one on each side of the family, saw them seldom and really had grown up without-- had neighborhood friends, to be sure, but their interests were different from mine-- had never had an association with other people my age whose interests overlapped with mine. And I had a role there eventually in governance of the place, as well as most people did, and it was a great experience....

The living members of my pledge class, of which there are about five or six, we get together every September for a clam bake at one or another's house. This year it's at our place.

Gray received his S. B. in Electrical Engineering in 1954, his S. M. the following year, and then decided he'd "had it" and was leaving MIT, never to return.

After two years in military service, which involved teaching GIs in the use and maintenance of listening devices, Gray came back to MIT in 1957 and received his Sc. D. in 1960. Gray's doctoral research involved developing compound semiconductor materials for new applications, in which he had to develop the techniques to make the materials himself in an induction furnace: "Nobody to teach me the techniques, to how to do this in a way that would produce crystalline materials. It was a real challenge."

During his military service and doctoral studies, Gray discovered that he loved teaching. As a new faculty member, Gray became a leader in redirecting the electrical engineering curriculum from vacuum tubes to semiconductors. In the late 1960s, Gray was asked to move into higher positions of administrative leadership, serving as an associate dean of student affairs, associate provost, and dean of engineering. When Jerry Wiesner became MIT president, he asked Gray to become his deputy as chancellor of the Institute.

I'll let you read for yourselves Gray's role in the creation of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and his description of the pragmatic and peaceful process that led MIT to reach out deliberately to encourage members of minority groups and women to apply. (Prior to 1968, MIT did no recruiting at all and accepted about 25% of applicants.) I'll close by focusing on a couple of anecdotes that epitomize Gray's leadership as president.

In the fall of 1982, MIT's chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) planted and inflated a weather balloon marked MIT in the middle of Harvard Stadium during the Harvard-Yale game, a stunt regarded as the greatest hack in MIT's history:

Paul_Gray-Harvard-Yale-MIT.jpg

Dear Derek,

Word has come to me that your campus police are holding some property which rightfully should be located in the MIT Museum. Can this be true?

Surely you have little use for a makeshift device constructed from vacuum cleaner parts, points from a 1967 Mustang, and a handful of marbles. We, however, being the sentimental sort, would take great care of -- indeed, we would enshrine -- this symbolic highlight of the 1982 football season.

Please give it back.

Sincerely yours,
Paul E. Gray

A few years later, enrollment in Course VI, the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, as the first generation of students who had begun working with computers in high school arrived on campus. MIT had always allowed students to choose a major without jumping through any additional hoops, but the crowding in Course VI led to talk of entrance restrictions. The crunch led Gray back to the classroom to "shame [his] colleagues":

In the middle 80s, the enrollment in electrical engineering and computer science was exploding. And it started out the decade at about 200 per class, 200, 250 per class. And by 1985 it was up to 350. And there was concern that if the trend line continued, it was going to go past 400. It was more than the department could staff and manage. And what's more it beggared all the other departments, who said, "Where are my students? They're all in EE!"

And the department at that point was desperate to get more people to teach sections. And a number of folks who were faculty members of EECS, but were also laboratory heads, were saying, "Gee, I just don't have time for that." So, I figured if I showed up and taught two sections for a couple of semesters, some other people might catch on. And they did. It made some difference.

The trend line began to turn as other departments began to offer classes in computer programming, as applied to each discipline. "That drained off some of the students that otherwise would have thought they had to be in Course VI in order to learn to be computer scientists."

Those of us who were at MIT in the 1980s were blessed to be there under a leader who remembered what it was like to be in our shoes, who understood the value of the residential community (be it fraternity, independent living group, or dorm entry) as home-away-from-home, and who, without embracing political correctness or institutional fascism, navigated societal change with MIT engineering pragmatism. May his memory be a blessing.

The TaxCutsNow bus tour is making a stop today, September 12, 2017, in Tulsa, from 12:50-1:20 pm at the Crowne Plaza Hotel north of 81st & Lewis, just west across the street from the Mabee Center, for a rally in support of tax relief for small business owners. The tour is starting the day at a rally in Oklahoma City, then continuing east. The tour will conclude with a rally Friday at the headquarters of the IRS in Washington, D.C.

Bernie Marcus, co-founder of The Home Depot, Stephen Bonner, former CEO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and retired NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton are among the business leaders who have signed on with the Job Creators Network, which advocates for relief from taxes and regulations that inhibit the creation and growth of small businesses.

The Oklahoma bus stops and rallies are sponsored by Job Creators Network, Freedom Works, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, and Americans for Prosperity-Oklahoma.

I'm late this year taking time to remember the Islamist attacks on America and the husbands and wives, sons and daughters who died that day and in the years since in the pursuit of the evil movement that perpetrated the attacks. My thoughts have been occupied much of the day with friends and places that were under threat from Hurricane Irma and with duties of home and work.

I begin by re-reading Tom Junod's story in Esquire from last year: "The Falling Man: An unforgettable story." It is the story of the famous photograph of a man who has jumped or fallen from the World Trade Center, plunging headlong, vertically through the air, paralleling the vertical lines of the two towers. Junod pursues the photographer (who also photographed the dying Robert F. Kennedy, the photographs, and the mystery of the identity of the man in the photograph.

...the only certainty we have is the certainty we had at the start: At fifteen seconds after 9:41 a.m., on September 11, 2001, a photographer named Richard Drew took a picture of a man falling through the sky--falling through time as well as through space. The picture went all around the world, and then disappeared, as if we willed it away. One of the most famous photographs in human history became an unmarked grave, and the man buried inside its frame--the Falling Man--became the Unknown Soldier in a war whose end we have not yet seen. Richard Drew's photograph is all we know of him, and yet all we know of him becomes a measure of what we know of ourselves. The picture is his cenotaph, and like the monuments dedicated to the memory of unknown soldiers everywhere, it asks that we look at it, and make one simple acknowledgment.

That we have known who the Falling Man is all along.

Please take a moment to remember Jayesh Shah, a Tulsa Memorial High School and University of Tulsa alumnus, who died in the North Tower. Say a prayer for Jay's family, who still deeply miss their brother, son, husband, and father. This 2002 story from the Houston Chronicle tells about Jay's family and their desperate search through the streets of New York for hopeful news that never came. In 2006, the Shah family presented a memorial flag, made up of the names of those who died, to the children's elementary school in Katy, Texas. Last year, Sonia, Jay's oldest daughter and then a senior at Baylor University, spoke to the Associated Press about how the death of her father has motivated her to serve refugees.

Bookworm Room remembers Rick Rescorla, head of security of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, who anticipated another attack after the 1993 bombing, relentlessly drilled employees in evacuation procedures, and on the day, guided the 2,700 workers to safety, losing only six, including himself and two members of his team, who went back in the building one last time to make sure they had everyone out. Powerline has a tribute to Rick Rescorla, with more about his earlier life as a soldier in Vietnam and links to other tributes.

Last year, theologian Ravi Zacharias considered the stories of rescue and loss and asks, "Where was God?" As a prologue, he wrote:

As some would continue to perpetrate the myth of progress, we live on this fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 under the cloud of a world dramatically changed since that terrible day. Anyone who travels sees and feels what a murderous ideology has done to our world. May we never forget what happened and ever be in pursuit of wisdom and courage to deal with those whose philosophy thrives on hate. Our prayers are for the families that lost a loved one and with gratitude for those who came to the rescue.

Civilization is always threatened by ideologues who embrace the moment and lose sight of the essential value of every human life. Answers will only be found in embracing the God of love and living by his precepts. Loving God and our fellow human beings are the two laws on which all other laws stand. May God guide our leaders. The Scriptures call us to understand the times and know what to do (see 1 Chronicles 12:32). May we be faithful.

Earlier this year, Yahya Cholil Staquf, the head of the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia, the country with the largest population of Muslims, told an interviewer that the West needs to acknowledge the connection between orthodox Islam and violence:

Western politicians should stop pretending that extremism and terrorism have nothing to do with Islam. There is a clear relationship between fundamentalism, terrorism, and the basic assumptions of Islamic orthodoxy. So long as we lack consensus regarding this matter, we cannot gain victory over fundamentalist violence within Islam.

Radical Islamic movements are nothing new. They've appeared again and again throughout our own history in Indonesia. The West must stop ascribing any and all discussion of these issues to "Islamophobia." Or do people want to accuse me -- an Islamic scholar -- of being an Islamophobe too?...

Too many Muslims view civilization, and the peaceful co-existence of people of different faiths, as something they must combat. Many Europeans can sense this attitude among Muslims.

There's a growing dissatisfaction in the West with respect to Muslim minorities, a growing fear of Islam. In this sense, some Western friends of mine are "Islamophobic." They're afraid of Islam. To be honest, I understand their fear ... The West cannot force Muslims to adopt a moderate interpretation of Islam. But Western politicians should stop telling us that fundamentalism and violence have nothing to do with traditional Islam. That is simply wrong.


MORE:

The ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11 told the story of the events, beginning with the 1993 World Trade Center attack, that led to the 9/11/2001 attack. Because it put certain American politicians in a bad light, it has not been rebroadcast in the US, and the original version is hard to find, but not impossible for the tech savvy. You can watch a documentary about the political pressure that led to the censorship of the mini-series, "Blocking the Path to 9/11," on the Internet Archive.

The Telegraph: 9/11: How the drama unfolded aboard Air Force One, inside the White House bunker and at the Pentagon

Video / audio from the day:

FAA, American Airlines, & NORAD real-time audio as air traffic controllers, airline officials, and military officials became aware of and responded to the attacks.
WNBC live coverage
Fox 5 live coverage
CNN live coverage

Footage from Hoboken, N.J., on 9/11: "Footage from September 3rd and 11th 2001 in Hoboken, NJ by Bruce Miller, Brad Miller, and Michael Frank and in Manhattan on September 19, 2001 by Bruce Miller. And some subsequent footage I shot during the 6-month Tribute in Light and Fleet Week 2002." Hoboken is directly across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan.

Some personal recollections of the day:

A year after the attacks, an exhibit of photos showing the aftermath, recovery efforts, and the indomitable spirit of New Yorkers toured the nation and is still online: Here Is New York.

Here Is New York has added a site called Voices of 9/11, video interviews with 500 eyewitnesses, recorded in 2002 and 2003.

New York singer/songwriter Beth Sorrentino wrote this song, "Beautiful Day," a week after the attacks. "It's a reflection and narrative of the events of that day and people I knew who were there, and worrying about their safety."

Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer offers his account of 9/11 with President Bush aboard Air Force One, and the threat that the president's plane might itself be compromised by terrorists.

In 2009, HotAir blogger Allahpundit tweeted his memories of the day. He lived in downtown Manhattan, not far from the World Trade Center.

Ron Coleman was in midtown Manhattan when the planes hit. He writes of the confusion of the day and his journey, by foot and ferry, back to his home in New Jersey.

Gerard Vanderleun was watching from Brooklyn Heights when the towers fell, recording his observations online: "Lower span of Brooklyn Bridge jammed with people walking out of the city, many covered with white ash. Ghosts. The Living Dead. BQE empty except for convoys of emergency vehicles."

Here is Robert N. Going's diary of four weeks as a volunteer in a respite center at Ground Zero.

My personal recollection of the day and the weeks that followed, including the memorial service for Jayesh Shah, a Memorial High School and University of Tulsa alumnus who had died in the North Tower.

Rusty Weiss says, "9/11 saved my life," shocking him out of complacency as a responsibility-shirking young man.

Robert Spencer lists ten things we should have done since 9/11 to defeat Islamism, but we haven't because of political correctness. Number 4 rings a bell:

It is remarkable that thirteen years after 9/11, not a single mosque or Islamic school in the U.S. has any organized program to teach Muslims why the al-Qaeda/Islamic State understanding of Islam is wrong and should be rejected. Yet they ostensibly reject this view of Islam, so why don't such programs exist? Even more remarkable than their absence is the fact that no government or law enforcement authorities are calling upon Muslims to implement them.

Such programs must be instituted, and made transparent and open to inspection, so as to ensure their sincerity and thoroughness.

Tulsans know what happens when a Muslim does speak out and explain that Islamists aren't good Muslims.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court voted unanimously today to allow Tulsa residents to move forward with a lawsuit against the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority over the proposed sale of part of Helmerich Park to a private developer. Here is a statement from Save Helmerich Park, the citizen group opposing the sale of park land:

The Oklahoma Supreme Court today denied the City of Tulsa's and the Tulsa Public Facility Authority's request for the Court to assume original jurisdiction in the pending lawsuit to stop the sale of land in Helmerich Park to a private developer.

The Court's decision was unanimous. The City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority (TPFA) had escalated their efforts to bar Tulsa citizens' access to the Courthouse contrary to Article II, ยง 6 of the Oklahoma Constitution which provides: "The courts of justice of the State shall be open to every person, and speedy and certain remedy afforded for every wrong and for every injury to person, property, or reputation; and right and justice shall be administered without sale, denial, delay, or prejudice."

By filing a Writ of Prohibition with the Oklahoma State Supreme Court, the City and the TPFA directly challenged Tulsa District Court Judge Jefferson D. Sellers' decision to deny a motion to dismiss the suit filed by Tulsan Craig Immel on August 11, 2015, which was amended and joined by four other Tulsans in January 2016.

For a year and a half, attorneys for the City and the TPFA agreed that Tulsa County District Court was the proper place to hear this controversy and agreed the plaintiffs were proper parties to bring the lawsuit to prevent the sale of land in Helmerich Park. But at the eleventh hour - apparently anticipating a loss in District Court - the Mayor and the TPFA directed their attorneys to reverse course and sought to prevent Tulsa citizens and taxpayers from having a say in the proposed sale of publicly-owned parkland and the potential misappropriation of city tax dollars.

The plaintiffs are resolute in their position, presented a vigorous written and oral response to the City's attempt to deny citizens and taxpayers access to the court system.

The lawsuit now returns to the jurisdiction of District Court Judge Jefferson Sellers for trial.
Speaking on behalf of the plaintiffs, former Tulsa Mayor Terry Young expressed pleasure with the decision.

"We're prepared to fight this in District Court and we believe we have the winning arguments," Young said.

Young added, "It's time for the Dallas-based developer - UCR - to withdraw from the sale contract and go home."

UTW Michael Bates cover storyNot long after the demise of Urban Tulsa Weekly, its online archive went dark. Because of the structure of the urbantulsa.com website, many of its stories were never crawled by the Internet Archive. My attempt a couple of years ago to raise the $1200 needed to put the archive back online failed by a wide margin. (Gyrosite still has the archive and, last I checked, could still resurrect it, if anyone has the money and interest to do so.)

As a freelancer, I retained copyright to the columns and feature stories I submitted to UTW. In fact, it was my refusal to sign a new freelancers' agreement with the paper, in which anything a freelancer submitted would be work-for-hire -- owned by the paper, with no rights retained by the creator -- that led to the end of my column after 3 years and 9 months. As I wrote at the time, "What if UTW is sold to a chain of weeklies or goes out of business? (God forbid on both hypotheticals.) Those possibilities seem very remote today, but a lot can happen in 10 or 20 years, and if they happened, who would own the rights to my work under the agreement? Would I be able to get permission to use my own work? Who knows? At the very least, I would want to continue to retain enough rights for anything I write to be able to keep it accessible on the web." As it happened, it only took a little over four years for one of those hypotheticals to come to pass.

I made sure to keep the pre-edited versions of all my stories, as I submitted them. As I have occasion and time, I am posting my columns, as submitted, in this UTW Column Archive category here on BatesLine. As of September 10, 2017, I have about 20% of what I wrote posted. At some point, perhaps, I'll get the rest of them online, along with an index.

Preaching to the choir

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I was involved in a vigorous, in-person discussion the other night over the Nashville Statement. While everyone involved professed agreement with the historic Christian views of sexuality and sexual identity, some felt that the timing was poor, in the wake of the Hurricane Harvey catastrophe. Others couldn't see the point of a statement that would not persuade someone who was not already convinced of the Biblical position. I defended the statement, which I have signed, saying that Christian young people need to hear a clear restatement of Biblical truth on these issues, crafted to address the particular points of attack being used against Biblical truth, because otherwise young people are only hearing attacks on the Christian position with no responses. Sometimes, I said, the choir needs preaching to.

This entry isn't intended to get into the specifics of the Nashville Statement, but rather to defend the notion of speaking out when you have no reasonable expectation of swaying large numbers of people to your view.

Julia Galef posted four reasons to Twitter recently in response to those who ask why she bothers "arguing with people online, since I'm never going to get them to change their minds." It seems to me that the first and second are particularly applicable to the debate over the value of the Nashville Statement.

Reasons it can be worthwhile to argue with people on the internet, even if you have no hope of changing their minds:
  1. To change the minds of less-committed onlookers
  2. To give relief and comfort to onlookers who share your view and wish someone would stick up for it
  3. To set an example of "sharing one's opinion even if it's controversial," a value norm to reinforce even if you don't change anyone's mind on that particular issue
  4. To set an example of "polite and reasonable argumentation," again a valuable norm in its own right

I would add a fifth reason: To build toleration for your view. Friends of yours who disagree will learn that your view is held not just by strange people they see protesting on the news, but by someone they know and respect. Even if they still strongly disagree with your view, they will be less likely to cast someone who holds it beyond the pale of polite company, because they don't want to cast a friend -- you -- beyond the pale of polite company.

Now, this does not always work. I can think of a few "friends" I've lost because my views on social issues. But in general, it can help to shift the "Overton Window" in the direction of your perspective, which can encourage your allies to speak out, which ultimately can move your view from beyond the pale to controversial but tolerable to conventional wisdom.

I have some experience with this. When I got involved with city zoning issues almost 20 years ago, there weren't many people in Tulsa who thought about, much less supported, ideas like protecting walkability or neighborhood character with design guidelines or using small measures (Roberta Brandes Gratz's concept of "urban husbandry") to revitalize downtown. While these ideas still aren't universally applauded, they now have a significant and vocal constituency among civically engaged Tulsans.

RELATED:

Pastor Steven Wedgeworth writes: "Beware the cool shame. It has unexpected power over people, even those you wouldn't expect. The only way to resist it is with guns blazing."

When friends are saying things that are true but unpopular, truths that could subject them to social penalties, I want to be cheering them on and encouraging others to do the same, not discouraging them from speaking out.

Tulsa, north of downtown, aerial photo, 1951

Tulsa, north of downtown, satellite photo, 2014

Tulsa's Near Northside neighborhood, whose rise and demise I documented in a 2014 story for This Land Press ("Steps to Nowhere"), is part of an area that will be the subject of the Unity Heritage Neighborhoods Design Workshop, next week, September 11-15, 2017, led by urban design students from Notre Dame:

The University of Notre Dame Graduate Urban Design Studio will be traveling to Tulsa to work with our community to provide positive visions for future development. The studio will be conducting a 3-month design study focused on the Unity Heritage Neighborhoods located immediately north of downtown. The study broadly encompasses areas such as the Brady Heights Historic District, Emerson Elementary, Greenwood, and the Evans-Fintube site. To kick-off this effort, the studio will be conducting a week-long design workshop from September 11th - 15th to meet with the local community, to hear our thoughts for the area, and to begin envisioning the possibilities with us through a series of visual urban and architectural designs. Come on out and imagine the future together!

The workshop includes three events for public input and feedback. All are free and open to the public, but RSVPs would be appreciated. The links below will take you to the registration page for each event.

Workshop Introduction & Initial Community Input: Monday, September 11th, 2017, 6-8pm, at 36 Degrees North, 36 E. Cameron St. (That's just east of Main on Cameron in the Brady Bob Wills Arts District.)

Meet the team. Hear about the components necessary for making vibrant, walkable, mixed-use, diverse, and inclusive cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Share your vision and desires for the area.

Mid-Week Design Presentation & Initial Feedback: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017, 6-8pm, at the Greenwood Cultural Center:

Check out the in-process urban and architectural designs and provide feedback for the students to work on to further shape the vision.

End-of-Workshop Design Presentation & Feedback: Friday, September 15th, 6-8pm, at Central Library:

See the final designs from the week and provide your thoughts and feedback for the students to continue to work on during the remainder of their study. The studio will return to Tulsa in December to present their final designs and findings for the community to use as an ongoing resource.

MORE: Here's my Flickr set of images of Tulsa's lost Near Northside.

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