Sunday, December 31, 2006

DeLay's Demise: Remembering 'Hot Tub Tom'

We can't let 2006 slip away without a final word or two about former Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas political operator and, until a few months ago, a Republican leader and conservative firebrand in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Long before his extinguished political career in Washington, however, DeLay was a young Texas legislator. But he was not exactly the social conservative he later claimed to be. In Austin, he lived with other young lawmakers at a residence dubbed the "Macho Manor," where he acquired a reputation for good times and a colorful nickname: "Hot Tub Tom."

But that was long, long ago in a state capital far, far away. In 1984, as a freshman Congressman, DeLay changed his ways and, in his words, "came back to Christ," a conversion (or, more accurately, reconversion) that inspired a new, more determined politician. DeLay discovered his political destiny, and he skillfully worked his way through the GOP ranks until he became one of the most powerful legislators in Congress. He also became "The Hammer," a nickname for what Texas Monthly called "his mastery of the dark arts of persuasion."

But, as the saying goes, power corrupts. And in Washington, money and power are linked, as DeLay well knew. DeLay's record as a financial arm-twister is replete with questionable meetings, backroom horse-trading, and other forms of back-scratching and deal-making. To our way of thinking, none of this seems very Christ-like.

But we'll let the record speak for itself. Here is a partial list of Tom DeLay's political and financial hijinks, some of which led him to step down from Congress earlier this year.

Exhibit A: In 1998, DeLay got riled up over the hiring of former Oklahoma Democratic Rep. Dave McCurdy as president of the Electronic Industry Alliance. DeLay's tactics were so drastic and so unnecessary that he was admonished by the bipartisan House Ethics Committee even though no complaint had been filed. With DeLay in mind, the committee reminded all House members that they were prohibited from "taking or withholding action any official action on the basis of partisan affiliation."

Exhibit B: In June 2000, DeLay and his wife Christine travel to Scotland for a golf outing. The first-class airfare cost $14,001, and it was paid for by Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist. House rules prohibit lobbyists from paying a Congress member's travel expenses or accepting a gift with a value of more than $100.

Exhibit C: In 2002, DeLay attended a fundraiser at a West Virginia resort called the Homestead hosted by several corporations, one of which was Westar, a Kansas energy company. DeLay asked Westar if the company had any pending interest in federal energy legislation. The company did. They also made a $25,000 contribution to one of DeLay's political action committees. Again, the House Ethics committee became alarmed, writing DeLay that, at a minimum, his actions "created an appearance that donors were being provided special access to you regarding then-pending energy legislation." Texas Monthly, which has written extensively about Delay, summed up the Westar incident in damning terms: "DeLay behaved like the cartoon version of himself: He didn't care how blatant he came across, as long as he got the money."

So long, Tom. We won't miss you. But we will remember your political legacy: pettiness, rabid partisanship, money-grubbing, and arrogance.

Oklahoma's Dumbest Idea: Kevlar Book Covers

Yes, ladies and gents, it's absolutely true: Oklahoma's GOP candidate for state school superintendent, Bill Crozier, proposed this fall that book covers for the state's textbooks be made with bullet-proof Kevlar. It saves lives in Baghdad—why not try it in kindergartens and eight-grade classrooms from Sallisaw to Elk City?

If we follow Crozier's "logic" correctly, school children would use their armored books as shields when gunmen attack them in their schools. Like Superman himself, eagle-eyed, highly coordinated school children would bat away those pesky bullets, driving the frustrated would-be killers batty. Soon out of ammo, they would turn themselves in to local police, and all would be well.

To be fair, Crozier himself recognized that Kevlar book covers did not address the real problems behind recent school violence. Nevertheless, Kevlar book covers are AltTulsa's 2006 nomination for Oklahoma's dumbest political idea.

P.S.—For the record, we are happy to report that incumbent Sandy Garrett, a Democrat, was reelected as state school superintendent.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Year in Oklahoma Politics: Who's More Holy?

Oklahoma politics is never far from religion—of that we can be certain. But this fall's election season provided additional evidence of this political truism.

As you probably do not recall, State Senate District 12 in Creek and Okfuskee counties featured a contest between John Mark Young, a Democrat, and Brian Bingman, a Republican. But what really counted in the fall campaign was their church membership.

According to published reports, Bingman, a Presbyterian, used a telemarketing firm to rebut a so-called push poll by Young, a Baptist. That "poll" apparently claimed that Young was a more conservative Christian than Bingman because of his Baptist affiliation.

We didn't realize that God had a Top Ten List for Protestants. But if Young is right, the Baptists outrank the Presbyterians, not to mention the poor Methodists, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, and—heaven forbid!—Catholics, Jews, Unitarians and other backsliders.

We don't know about the good folks of District 12, but we decline to vote on the basis of which politician sits closer to God.

'Fun' with Guns

The NRA and its friends are fond of highlighting those law-abiding citizens who use their handguns to stop criminals in their tracks. Fair enough. We've got no sympathy for thieves and other sleazeballs.

But we also think its fair to point out that handguns can bring unwanted injury to their owners. As evidence, we cite the case this week of an Oklahoma City woman who was practicing with her 9 mm pistol at an indoor firing range when a hot shell ejected and slipped down the front of her shirt.


The 23-year-old jumped, reached for her chest (can't blame her!) and promptly shot herself in the leg. Her next stop was the OU hospital.

When she fully recovers, we trust her next outing will be to one of those NRA-sponsored gun safety classes. She might want to wear a turtleneck next time.

P.S.—This incident reminds us of the October mishap at a gun show at Tulsa's Expo Square in October. In that case, a dealer wounded two men when he accidentally fired a double-barreled .410 shotgun he thought was loaded with a dummy round. Fortunately, the men's injuries were minor. But more safety training and a little less gun play might be warranted around town.

Saddam's End

Saddam has been executed. A tyrant and a brute, Saddam Hussein brought misery to millions of Iraqis as well as his Arab and Persian neighbors, not to mention those of us in the West. We're not big fans of the death penalty, but we won't shed any tears over this particular death.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Medved & Dobson vs. Subversive Penguins

File this conservative media conspiracy under "Silly."

Critic (and we use the term loosely) Michael Medved and conservative talker James Dobson actually had this to say on Dobson's radio broadcast about the animated penguin movie, Happy Feet:

DOBSON: There is a movie that's out now, called Happy Feet. It's about penguins. It's obviously designed to pull children in and yet, you don't like it. I've read some of the things you've said about it. I haven't seen it and don't plan to see it but from what I've heard, I don't like it either. Explain why.

MEDVED: Because it's depressing and it's dark.

MEDVED: And then there's this whole subtext, as there so often is, about homosexuality. Not that the penguins are gay -- they're not gay -- but the one penguin hero doesn't fit in and the religious authorities -- the so-called religious right in the penguin world -- are very judgmental. They say, "You are not a penguin. You're not a real penguin." And then he makes this heartfelt plea, he says, "Dad, you have to accept me as I am. I can't change."

Let's review, shall we?

It's a children's movie about penguins called Happy Feet and it's "dark"? It's got a "gay subtext" and a penguin version of the "religious right"? Yet the penguins aren't really gay?

Like we said, it's silly. But you would think that Medved and Dobson have more to worry about than these not-really-gay penguins corrupting our children. If the penguins could do that, think about all the damage done by such well-loved children's tales such as "Hansel and Gretel," "Little Red Riding Hood," or "Alice in Wonderland."

Then again, if Medved and Dobson actually applied a little common sense to their moral pronouncements, they wouldn't have much left to say.

Tulsa's Best and Worst, 2006 Edition

Tulsa's weekly newspaper, Urban Tulsa, has come out with its "Great and Un-Great" list for T-Town in '06. The list makes for interesting reading, even when it's off the mark.

The best UT endorsement: The impressive first year of mayor Kathy Taylor. She's organized and efficient, which is more than we could say for her predecessor.

The worst UT lament: Chris Medlock's absence from City Council. Frankly, we don't see the downside here. In fact, we think the city and its citizens will be better served without Medlock's know-it-all attitude and bluster.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

GOP Lowlights from 2006

Looking back at the follies of the passing year, we were reminded recently of the national Republican ignorance on Iraq.

President Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld have a long record of mistaken judgments about the war. But until recently we had forgotten about foreign policy wisdom of the one-time Senate Majority leader, Trent Lott. The Mississippi legislator (and former Ole Miss cheerleader) offered this insightful comment about the sectarian violence that's fueling the civil war in Iraq:

"Why do Sunnis kill Sh'ites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me."

Ah, yes, the ole "they all look the same" excuse. With Sen. Lott's obvious expertise and powerful analysis of the internal political situation in Baghdad, we can all rest easy. The Republicans have Iraq all figured out.

Dixie Chicks Come to Tulsa (on Film)

One of our favorite outspoken musical groups is coming to Tulsa's Circle Cinema in January. Shut up and Sing, a documentary film about the Dixie Chicks, will open in Tulsa on Jan. 12

We haven't seen the film, but the trailer( makes clear that it focuses on the controversy surrounding singer Natalie Maines' remark that she (a Texan) was "ashamed" that the President was from Texas. The comment caused many fans to disown the Chicks and their music.

But the controversy didn't stop there: Maines and her group were vilified by the many right-wing critics, a push-back that included not just dumping the group's CDs but a great deal of overheated speech and even death threats.

As free speech advocates, we at AltTulsa have admired Natalie Maines' willingness to speak her mind, even when it was unpopular to do so. So we'll be there when Shut Up and Sing comes to T-Town.

Besides, Natalie's low opinion of Bush is now the majority opinion in the U.S. She just realized it sooner.

"Non-decisional" Bush & the continuing disaster

Today's magic word from Crawford is "non-decisional."

That's the term the White House invented to characterize today's meeting between President Bush and his top national security advisers. It means, apparently, that The Decider can't quite make up his mind about how to stop the sectarian violence his policies have unleashed in Iraq.

The most popular proposal, according to press reports, is a surge of new U.S. troops in Baghdad, a move designed to quell the bloodshed.

But at least some U.S. soldiers in Iraq are skeptical that the plan can work. The AP reports today that members of the Army's 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, now on patrol in Baghdad, believe no number of American troops can stop the killing.

The AP report continues:
Others insisted current troop levels are sufficient and said any increase in U.S. presence should focus on training Iraqi forces, not combat.

But their more troubling worry was that dispatching a new wave of soldiers would result in more U.S. casualties, and some questioned whether an increasingly muddled American mission in Baghdad is worth putting more lives on the line.

Spc. Don Roberts, who was stationed in Baghdad in 2004, said the situation had gotten worse because of increasing violence between Shiites and Sunnis.

"I don't know what could help at this point," said Roberts, 22, of Paonia, Colo. "What would more guys do? We can't pick sides. It's almost like we have to watch them kill each other, then ask questions."

This is more than a little distressing. Remember when we were bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East? Meanwhile Bush, Cheney and Rice scratch their heads in Crawford.

Our soldiers on the ground have little faith in The Decider's plans. We don't blame them. After all, today's meeting is "non-decisional."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Brown's journalism inspires hit movie

A television report by ABC's Bob Brown inspired the new Will Smith movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. Brown, a TU graduate who started his television career at KOTV Channel 6, has been a correspondent for ABC's 20/20 program for many years.

Both Brown's original report and the Hollywood version tell the story of an resilient single father in San Francisco who falls on hard times. Despite numerous personal and professional setbacks, the father persists, eventually becoming not simply successful but rich.

It sounds unlikely, of course, which is exactly why Hollywood was interested in the story. We at AltTulsa haven't seen the movie (it's playing now in Tulsa and everywhere) but it has received warm reviews from many critics and is apparently a crowd-pleaser.

Brown has made a career of reporting interesting features stories for 20/20. An earlier Brown story on a door-to-door salesman in Portland, Oregon, was turned into a made-for-television movie starring William H. Macy.

Brown's original ABC report can be viewed at the 20/20 website ( It's inspiring, and certainly worth a look this holiday season.

Friday, December 22, 2006

An Oklahoma Winter Scene

The delicate beauty of oak leaves on Tulsa's Turkey Mountain.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

People We Like: Wendell Berry

During the holidays, we at AltTulsa like to sit down with a good book or two. One of our long-time favorites is the Kentucky writer and poet Wendell Berry. Berry is an unusual American writer, a literary man who has spent years working on his family's land in rural Kentucky.

When he's not composing poems, essays, and novels, he's a leading spokesman for a number of worthy causes, including alternative farming and land-use policies. Berry's life and his work represent old-fashioned American virtues, such notions as hard work, stewardship of the land, and the simple pleasures of nature. We've also admired his devotion to his wife of many years, Tanya, who is an obvious inspiration in his life and work. Even the titles of Berry's books carry the message of devotion, hope, and joy: A Place on Earth, Openings, The Country of Marriage, A Continuous Harmony, to name just a few.

In this season of joy and good will toward men, we tip our hat to
Kentucky's own Wendell Berry, a joy to read and re-read even on the
Oklahoma prairies.

Al Gore's Surprise Hit: A Global Warming Documentary

One of the biggest box office surprises this year was the success of
Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. The film was an effective introduction to the problem of global warming and it showed a relaxed and thoughtful sideto Al Gore, a politician many people thought was too dull for politics, much less documentary film making.

We saw the film in Tulsa a few months back at Southroads and recommend it. It even held the interest of our teenager, who's not always thrilled by documentary fare. The film is out now on DVD, which gives many others a chance to see the film and consider Gore's evidence and arguments. We found them compelling. You might too.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Say It on a T-Shirt

We were pleased to learn today (via the Tulsa World) of an Oklahoma T-shirt company that is fighting the good fight.

Pawhuska designer Ryan Red Corn is producing a line of "lefty" shirts with messages even a conservative could love. Example: "I [heart] free speech."

Red Corn's company, Demockratees, also has shirts blessing "everyone" (not just America) and criticizing Indian mascots. Another popular design, "Petrolcide," depicts a gas nozzle as a suicide weapon, a commentary on the high price of gas.

As you may have noticed, AltTulsa celebrates free speech, even when we don't agree. Red Corn's T-shirts will surely rub some people the wrong way, but in our view that's a small price to pay for free speech.

Decide for yourself. Red Corn's products can be viewed at his website,

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Conservatives & the Evils of the Bottle

A good many conservatives take pride in their high moral and ethical standards. They live the "right" life, unaffected by the many temptations that plague us ordinary mortals.

But the facade of conservative morality comes crashing down every so often (Ted Haggard rings a bell), revealing that right-wingers are every bit as fallible as everyone else.

The most recent example comes from Columbus, Ohio, where the conservative "Mallard Fillmore" cartoonist Bruce Tinsley was arrested in early December on a charge of operating a vehicle under the influence. The Ohio press reports that this is Tinsley's second alcohol-related arrest in the past four months. He was arrested in August for public intoxication.

Tinsley's "Mallard Fillmore" strip appears daily in the Tulsa World, where he regularly lampoons the real and imagined silliness of liberals.

Making fun of liberals has made Tinsley a conservative star. But it hasn't made him any funnier—his cartoons regularly put polemics ahead of humor.

Even worse, Tinsley is routinely sanctimonious, an attitude that apparently covers a multitude of personal failings, one of which is now all too obvious.

Note to Bruce: Four hundred papers carry your strip. It might be time for you and your unfunny duck to apologize to readers and, while you're at it, eat a little crow.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Rep. Sullivan Punts on Iraq

We at AltTulsa are always on the lookout for examples of political leadership in Oklahoma. We keep hoping to find elected officials who will talk straight and tell the truth even when it's not in their own interest.

We admit to being naive about such things. But even at our most gullible, we thought that Rep. John Sullivan might offer more than doublespeak and cliches about something as important as the war in Iraq.

Faced with an opportunity to offer leadership on the war last week, Rep. Sullivan "punted" when the Iraq Study Group released his report. His statement, reproduced below in full, skips over the hard parts and pretends that all will be well if we "stay the course."

Sullivan neglected to admit any fault on the part of the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, or any other person responsible for the unproductive policies the U.S. has adopted since 2001. Sullivan didn't recognize anything in the ISG's report that might dim the glow attached to Our Great Leader, never mind the President's long line of mistakes in conducting the war and increasing evidence that even First District Republicans are cooling their enthusiasm for Bush's War.

So much for Mr. Sullivan's political courage. So much for putting the national interest above self-interest, something James Baker and others on the ISG were willing to do.

But judge for yourself. We submit that Sullivan's statement is little more than a restatement of GOP talking points, a safe way of dodging the bullet.

Rep Sullivan's statement:
“We must put security and stability first in our policy on Iraq. U.S forces should increase the training of Iraqi forces so they can begin to patrol their streets and secure the country. Iraq must take responsibility for the security of their country.

"I am concerned with the Iraq Study Group’s recommendation that the U.S. should invite Iran and Syria to play a large diplomatic role in Iraq. Iran and Syria cannot be trusted to be part of a genuine solution for peace in Iraq.

"I am pleased with the Iraq Study Group’s recommendation not to immediately withdraw U.S. troops. A rapid troop pullout would immediately create a strategic, moral and humanitarian disaster in this already unstable part of the world.

"Throughout this debate on Iraq, it is important that we continue to support the brave men and women in uniform who are fighting in the Global War on Terror.”

Thanks for nothing, Mr. Congressman. Like you, we support the troops and want to defeat terror. But leadership means more than celebrating the flag and apple pie. Anyone can do that.

Next time, let's try to say something meaningful, Mr. Sullivan. We don't need more rubber stamps in Washington.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Rumsfeld's Record: Getting it Wrong in Iraq

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down today, his work at the Defense Department having left the nation and the military in worse shape than before he served.

It's not all his fault, of course (consider also W's incurious mind, Cheney's imperialistic visions), but Rumsfeld played a key and unhelpful role in running U.S. foreign and military policy into the ground.

In the name of historical accuracy, let's review some lowlights of Rumsfeld's public pronouncements on Iraq:

Sept. 19, 2002: Rumsfeld reports to Congress: "[Saddam has] amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of biological weapons, including Anthrax, botulism, toxins, and possibly Smallpox. He's amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX, Sarin and mustard gas. His regime has an active program to acquire nuclear weapons."

Sept. 27, 2002: Rumsfeld confirms the link between Iraq and al Qaeda as "accurate and not debatable."

Feb. 7, 2003: Rumsfeld speculates about the length of the coming war: "It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."

Feb. 20, 2003: In a television interview, Rumsfeld predicts a happy response to American troops in Iraq: "There is no question but that [the troops] would be welcomed. (Note: Rumsfeld later denies saying that America would be welcomed. "Never said that. Never did. You may remember it well, but you're thinking of somebody else. I may look like somebody else.")

March 30, 2003: Rumsfeld assures the public that the WMD are really there: "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

April 11, 2003: Rumsfeld responds to the looting and rioting in Baghdad: "Think what's happened in our cities when we've had riots, and problems, and looting. Stuff happens! ... Freedom's untidy."

June 6, 2003: Rumsfeld on the rising resistence in Iraq: "In those regions where pockets of dead-enders are trying to reconstitute, Gen. Franks and his team are rooting them out. In short, the coalition is making good progress."

We could go on (and on), but you get the idea. Rumsfeld's Iraq record is strewn with mistakes and misjudgments, errors that have cost American and Iraqi lives. It's impossible to review Rumsfeld's record without thinking about what could have been. A more thoughtful man could have served the nation well, but Rumsfeld's arrogance and single-mindedness in Iraq proved disasterous. We will be paying the price for years to come.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Inhofe's Iraq Problem

Today's headlines from Iraq are again depressing: "Gunmen kidnap dozens in central Baghdad," MSNBC reports on its website.

The continuing sectarian violence over the past several months has turned most Americans against the war.

But Oklahoma's senior Washington leader, Sen. Jim Inhofe, has never turned. A few months back, in fact, he specifically rejected the idea of a civil war in Iraq.

"I have been there, and I would argue that there is not [a civil war]. In fact, it is grossly exaggerated," Inhofe told the Tulsa World in early August.

To which we say: Inhofe's crystal ball must have been on the blink that day. The violence in Iraq shows no sign of ending, as the Iraq Study Group confirmed just last week.

To his credit, Inhofe has made many trips to Iraq. Back in August, Inhofe told the World that he had made 11 trips there. "I am probably as well informed as anyone in Congress."

We'd like to take him at his word. But Inhofe's partisan blinders seem to get between him and the truth. Take, for example, his August statement on the Sunni-Shiite factionalism in Iraq.

"This thing between the Sunni and the [Shiites] is mostly a Western notion," Inhofe said. "People in the West are the ones who are talking about it."

Well, no.

The daily evidence from Iraq is overwhelming that there's more than a little friction between these sects. We're being kind, of course: The fact is that many of these people want to kill each other—and too often they do.

Yet Inhofe, who has been to Iraq many times and who boasts that he's perhaps the most informed member of Congress on this issue, can't get it right. He's not even close.

It's time for the good senator to come clean. If he can't or won't, it's time for Tulsans and Oklahomans to think about a change in the state's senior leadership.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Viewers Surging to Actual TV News

Olbermann is up, O'Reilly is down.

That's the good news in the cable news ratings war. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann is on a roll, his numbers up a whopping 66 percent in November, according to the industry trade magazine Television Week.

The strong ratings performance by Olbermann's Countdown program helped MSNBC cut into the audience of Fox News, which still leads all network news operations in the cable news field.

Despite its big numbers, the ratings at Fox are falling, Television Week reported. O'Reilly's numbers were off 17 percent for November, while Fox News overall was down 13 percent.

Our take on the numbers: Maybe, just maybe, O'Reilly's mean-spirited little act has run its course. After the hype and hot air, there never was much there.

We'll stick with Olbermann, who offers honest, critical analysis of the Bush Administration on a regular basis, something the "Fair and Balanced" boys at Fox never quite manage to do.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Peaceful Christmas

In the spirit of the Christmas season, while the nation remains at war, we at AltTulsa offer this Ben Franklin quotation for your consideration:

"I hope…that Mankind will at length, as they call themselves reasonable Creatures, have reason and sense enough to settle their differences without cutting throats: For in my opinion there never was a good War, or a bad Peace."

--Benjamin Franklin, from a letter to Sir Joseph Banks, July 27, 1783

Monday, December 11, 2006

Rush and the Decline of Common Sense

We at AltTulsa like to keep our eyes and ears open, which is why we spend a few minutes each week listening to the rants of right-wing radio talkers like Rush Limbaugh. Last time we tuned in, Rush was blasting the lefties again (yawn…) for their crazy conspiracy ideas about 9/11. Apparently, liberals now know that George Bush himself was behind the whole thing. He even cited a "liberal" website that proves the Bush connection.

There is such a site. Except that, just maybe, this isn't a liberal website at all. Maybe this charge is one of those Rush talking points that whips up the indignation of the faithful Dittoheads (and they are so well named) but disappears once you take a look at the facts.

We can say with great confidence that the liberals we know and the progressive blogs we read don't make this charge. They don't even bother to repeat it. They ignore it because they too think it's nonsense. Yet Rush himself repeats it right here in Tulsa and blames the Godless liberals, the source of all evil in the Western World.

Again, it's nonsense. But nonsense is a big part of Rush's radio rant. If you paint all liberals as wild-eyed wackos and repeat it often enough, somebody will believe it. In the world according to Rush, there's no need to bother with "liberal" notions of fact, evidence, data, or truth. That stuff—it's all part of the liberal conspiracy to undermine America.

Sen. Inhofe's Faulty Numbers on Warming

Tulsa's own Jim Inhofe, the senior senator from Our Great State, has once again put politics ahead of facts in the debate over global warming. Speaking recently on the always "fair and balanced" Fox network, Sen. Inhofe claimed that "[i]t was warmer in the '30s than it is today," and that "it was warmer in the 15th century than it is today."

Unsurprisingly, Inhofe offered no evidence in support of these claims. True to form, the Fox correspondent didn't challenge Inhofe's numbers either. The studies Inhofe might have cited, including one by NASA and another by the National Academy of Sciences, show the quite the opposite: it has been getting steadily getting warmer over the centuries. (Check the data yourself at Media Matters.)

Inhofe did admit to some recent warming, but said it's all part of God's plan. "Let's let God work his thing," the senator said. We're not sure about God's "thing," but we do think God's children have a responsibility to look after the planet God gave us.

In any case, Sen. Inhofe's claims about temperature, like many of this global warming claims, seem to be wishful thinking. But fantasies and preconceived notions about the environment are no substitute for actual data and evidence. On the issue of global warming, the evidence keeps working against Inhofe's claims, putting him and his ideas farther and farther out of the scientific mainstream.

Tulsa and Oklahoma deserve better. We need political leaders who know the difference between propaganda and real science and who act on the basis of facts, not wishful thinking.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Tulsa's War Against Birth Control

We here at AltTulsa don't mind hearing the other side in a political argument. But the Tulsa-based group arguing against birth control has "a hard row to hoe," as we used to say in the South.

The latest attack on women's efforts to control their own bodies was a letter in today's Tulsa World. The letter argues that the use of oral contraceptives (the pill) is linked to divorce. Thus, the letter argues, as the pill became popular in the 1960s, the divorce rate soared.

Well, it's not that simple. In the first place, the argument violates a fundamental rule of statistics: correlation does not equal causation. Just because the pill became popular does mean it caused a soaring divorce rate. Correlations can't account for other causal factors, of which there are many in this case.

More fundamentally, American couples have embraced a variety of family planning and birth control methods despite the best efforts of the zealots and religious warriors. Hasn't it long been the case that Catholic women, for instance, use birth control in overwhelming numbers and in direct violation of the church's teaching?

We suspect that the War on Birth Control was lost many years ago. Wouldn't it be better to put all that money and energy into something that would really help Tulsans who need it?

Gregory vs. Snow, Part 132

One of the best shows in Washington these days in the daily contest between Tony Snow, the ex-Fox newsman and current White House flak (we mean, spokesman), and David Gregory, the silver-haired NBC News correspondent.

Every day, it seems, Gregory asks a question that Snow finds highly irritating, if not totally partisan. Snow then engages in an empty rhetorical tap-dance, throws Gregory's question back at him, and accuses Gregory (and, by extension, the entire WH press corps) of bias.

Earth to Tony: Answering hard questions is part of the job. If anything, WH reporters has been too docile during the Bush years, letting the president and his people get away with ill-conceived policies (the Patriotic Act) and too many lapses in judgment (remember those WMDs?).

Yet the ever-partisan Mr. Snow never fails to find partisanship in tough questions, as if the role of the press is to sit on its hands and pretend that all is well in Washington and the world. It's not, and even George Bush would be better served by a press secretary who acknowledged the fact that democracies need reporters who routinely challenge authority.

To our way of thinking, David Gregory is serving the citizenry by pushing for more information and more honesty at the highest levels of the Executive Branch.

You can usually catch highlights of the Snow vs. Gregory contest on Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" program on MSMBC. Recommended viewing for the 71 percent of us (see previous entry) who think that Bush has blown it badly in Iraq.

As the War Turns

Today's good news: W's failings finally sink in.

The headlines this morning are clear: The public's disapproval of the President's handling of the Iraq war has reached a new high—71 percent.

It's about time. The Iraq Study Group this week laid bare the Administration's lies, distortions, cover-ups, and general incompetence in starting and executing the war.

This kind of news restores our confidence in the American public. Bush couldn't fool all the people all the time, and his reputation is (deservedly) in tatters. Even in Republican Tulsa, we suspect the Bush star has tarnished.

Sadly, our fighting men and women have had to pay the price for W's mistakes.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Tulsa's Bumper Sticker Genocide

We spotted a black SUV driving along Tulsa's Sheridan Road this morning festooned with bumper stickers, one of which read "Nuke 'Em and Seize Their Assets." The American flag waved proudly beside this message.

We're in favor of free speech. We're also in favor of the flag and the liberties it represents. But we have serious doubts about the "Nuke 'Em" message.

For starters, it seems to suggest that we should kill all our enemies. While that might be a satisfying rhetorical position, it also appears to be an endorsement of genocide, defined in our Webster's as "actions intended to destroy a whole national or ethnic group."

Is that really what some Tulsans want? Do we really have to destroy an entire national or ethnic (or religious) group to get even with the Sept. 11 terrorists and their allies? Will massive retribution and the death of thousands of innocent men, women, and children, really make the world a better place? We can't see the logic here.

Sure, it feels good to "grandstand" on a bumper sticker. But it makes more sense to think seriously about what you're saying and what it might mean a world filled with far too much hate, violence, and intolerance.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Recommended: Coffee Film at the Circle

AltTulsa is recommending the documentary film Black Gold, showing Thursday and again Sunday at the Circle Cinema. The film highlights the international trading system in coffee, a system that enriches the coffee traders at the expense of the coffee growers in Africa and other poor countries.

The film makes clear that the world economic system usually works against the poor and urges American consumers to seek out coffee and other products that are Fair Trade approved. It's a moving and informative film, well worth the drive up Lewis Avenue to the Circle Cinema.

We at AltTulsa drank some Fair Trade coffee just this morning. It was a good French roast from Green Mountain Roasters. We got in on sale at Wild Oats on 41st Street in Brookside, where you can get it too.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Still Beating the Same Dead Horse

One of our least favorite talking heads is the all-too-obvious Cal Thomas. Never one to broach an original idea, Thomas recently offered his thoughts in the Tulsa World on the now-cancelled O.J. Simpson television special, the one where O.J. was going to talk about how he would have killed his ex-wife and her friend, if he had done it.

Not surprisingly, Thomas, who is a paid pundit on Fox, couldn't bring himself to blame this good friends at "fair and balanced" Fox. Instead, Thomas pointed out how all the other television networks were just as bad. They all cross the line, Thomas wrote.

Nice try, Cal, but no cigar.

Why? Because Thomas contradicts himself even as he lays out his case, conceding that the recent NBC special on Tony Bennett didn't fit his preconceived pattern of still more sex and violence on television. (We can name several other exceptions (The Office comes to mind), but Thomas was probably just too distracted to mention any others.)

More significantly, Thomas blurs difference between fact and fiction, between CSI, which presents fictional bad guys and fake murders, and O.J., who is a living, breathing bad guy who committed real murders.

Contrary to Thomas, we say there's a real difference here, one that he ought to acknowledge. Fictional TV, even when it is in bad taste or over the top, is still fiction. On the CSI shows, programs Thomas criticizes for their graphic nature, the bad guys always get caught and good guys always win. That's manifestly different from O.J. Simpson, who got away with murder literally, and is now free to play a lot of golf.

We don't mind people who criticize the media. But Thomas lumps all media together—news, entertainment, reality and fiction—as if there's not a nickel's worth of difference. But there is, and a high-priced Right Thinking pundit ought to say so.

News Flash: Administration Official Tells the Truth about Iraq

Paging Tony Snow! Spin Doctor Needed Stat!

In a stunning reversal of administration policy, Defense Secretary designee Robert Gates admitted today that the U.S. is losing the war in Iraq. Just six weeks ago, Mr. Bush himself proclaimed that we were winning. (See Crooks & Liars; they have the video to prove it.) As we have learned over the last several years, the Bush White House has an aversion to truth-telling, especially about its many foreign policy miscalculations.

Apparently, somone forget to send the memo to Mr. Gates. Or perhaps this intrusion of reality into the White House playbook is a turn for the better, an admission that the White House brain trust (we're using the term loosely) has finally faced what the rest of us—even people here in good ole in Tulsa, Oklahoma—realized many months ago. The war was a mistake when Bush started it, and it remains a huge blunder today.

In a complex and dangeous world, the President has made the nation less secure. And he has no idea how to fix the problems he's created. Mr. Gates may or may not be helpful in solving the President's problems, but if he's willing to tell the truth, that in itself is a tiny step in the right direction.

Monday, December 4, 2006

From BA to Broadway

We were pleased to see Broken Arrow's own Kristin Chenoweth featured in the New York Times yesterday. It seems that Ms. Chenoweth is a very busy young woman in the Big Apple, moving successfully through a host of plays and glitzy events in NYC's entertainment world.

None of this is surprising, of course—the lady's got talent to burn.

But we were pleasantly surprised to read some of her other comments, views which clash with Oklahoma's conventional wisdom. Like us, Ms. Chenoweth is tired of sitting on her hands when the Religious Busybodies attack. And they did attack recently, right after she spoke out in favor of gay rights. According to the Times, this position got her disinvited to a Women of Faith conference last year. (Heavens! A Broken Arrow girl who has lost her way in New York City!)

But Ms. Chenoweth didn't stop there. She had the nerve earlier this year to pose in what the Times calls "a parade of tiny bikinis" for FHM magazine. (Holy Cow! Who knew she had a body?) And if that's wasn't enough, she told the Times yesterday that she still disagrees with the anti-gay position expressed by many on the religious right.

"I don't understand what the big deal is with gay marriage," Chenoweth told the Times. "Get over it, people."

Ms. Chenoweth, we're with you. It's safe and easy for the Blue Noses of the Right to be homophobic here in Middle America. But it's brave and honest to stand up for living, breathing human beings—and U.S. citizens—who deserve fair and equal treatment in Tulsa and everywhere else.

Thanks, Kristen, for speaking your mind.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Pearson's Religion, Part 2

We could not help but notice that today's Tulsa World included a letter complaining about the recent coverage of Bishop Carlton Pearson, coverage we noted in an earlier AltTulsa post. It seems our friendly correspondent was put off by the World's favorable coverage of the man, who, in the writer's eyes, has willfully abandoned The True Faith.

We're not sure what The True Faith is, and we're not sure our correspondent does either. But we would have hoped it included room for Bishop Pearson and other wayward souls (like us). We also believe that the Tulsa World did something newspapers ought to do: report respectfully on a religious person of good will without subjecting him (or anyone else) to a theological litmus test.

As we all should know by now, religious belief is a deeply personal matter and complex matter. It's also highly divisive in many cases, which is why we have no complaint to make about Bishop Pearson. His theology, after all, includes forgiveness.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Update: Conventional Wisdom in Tulsa

Scanning the Blogosphere recently, we happened to spend a few minutes reading the editorials in Tulsa Today, a local news website. Sad to say, we found this a depressing exercise, brimming with cliches and recycled conservative tripe.

Some examples: Praise for Sen. Jim Inhofe (from a Washington talking head), attacks on the liberal media (yawn), and other tired tales from the exhausted Right.

How refreshing it would be to read a Tulsa news site with some original thinking and fresh perspectives. We'll keep looking.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Brookside's Coffee Contest

The coffee competition in Brookside heated up recently when the 800-lb. coffee gorilla, Starbucks, opened a new store on Peoria, across the street from Crow Creek. We visited recently and were, well, underwhelmed. The new location is slick and bright, but had little of the charm of our comfortable Brookside favorite, Shades of Brown.

We at AltTulsa don't mind a good cuppa Starbucks on occasion, but for a home-grown alternative, we recommend Melinda and the friendly folks at Shade of Brown. (Besides, Shades has free wifi, and Starbucks requires us to pay for T-Mobile, which we decline to do).

We realize this endorsement puts us on the same side as some other Tulsa bloggers (Michael Bates at Batesline, for instance), but that's fine. Even Michael is sometimes right.

Bush's Continued Incompetence

Journalist Mark Danner has new evidence of President Bush's continued pipe dream of bringing democracy to Iraq. In a lengthy review of three recent books on the administration's war policies, Danner recounts the many misjudgments of Bush, Cheney & Co.over the past several years. The books under review include Bob Woodward's latest, State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III, and Ron Suskind's The One Percent Docrtine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11. Not surprisingly, The New York Review, which published Danner's essay, called it "Bush's Fantasy War." Check it out at the magazine's website,

By now, you'd think the President's mistakes and his other misadventures would have penetrated even the Republican True Believers in Tulsa and around Oklahoma. But no: we keep seeing "W'04" stickers all over south Tulsa.

It's sad: George W, the Great Hope of Texas Conservatives, was supposed to be the real deal: tough but compassionate, conservative but pragmatic, Christian but not doctrinaire. None of this was ever really true, and now, American sons and daughters, Iraqis, all of us really, have to pay the price for W's foolishness.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Schoolkids at the Circle Cinema

Students from the Kendall-Whitter Elementary School were treated to a French children's film recently, courtesy of Tulsa's Circle Cinema. The film, The Red Balloon, is by all reports a charming story and the Tulsa World says that the children enjoyed the movie.

The Circle's effort to expose Tulsa children to foreign films is a wonderful idea. They're unlikely to see such films on their own and, in an increasingly global community, exposure to different stories from different cultures is a worthy goal.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tulsa billboard gets it wrong

A Tulsa billboard attacking birth control is attracting national attention. Unfortunately for those of us in T-Town, it is exactly the kind of publicity that makes Tulsa, and Oklahoma, look foolish.

The billboard in question carries this amazing headline: "Birth Control is Harmful." The sign, which directs readers to, is an apparent response to Planned Parenthood's local billboards which proclaim, "Birth Control is Easy." The "Harmful" billboard is showing up on some national websites, but the ones we've seen are highly critical—as are we.

Why? Because birth control has long been a very good thing, especially for people (including sexually active teens) who don't want children or shouldn't be having them. (It would be even better if teens wouldn't have sex, but that's a somewhat different problem, and certainly one not solved by scaring them away from birth control.)

Does Tulsa need more kids with kids? No. But that seems to be the unintended message of these "Harmful" billboards.

We've checked out the "Respect Life" website, but we remain unconvinced. They advance the unrealistic and harmful notion that birth control pollutes the moral fiber of the unsuspecting public, cheapening our lives and values.

Well, no it doesn't. It doesn't because many of us (including many Catholics) who use birth control live solidly moral lives, working hard, raising decent children, caring for others, serving the community, and so on. Birth control didn't and won't corrupt us or those we have any influence over. Besides, attacking birth control as a social evil is misguided in a world where there's plenty of real evil to fight.

Finally, if their idea is to prevent unwanted pregancy and abortions, then they've got it backwards. Since the whole point of birth control is to prevent pregancy, birth control prevents abortions. And certainly the pill, the patch, condoms, and other forms of birth control—even if you don't like them for yourself—are preferable to abortion.

The Respect Life folks can say what they want to—it's a free country. But we happen to think the attack on birth control is profoundly misguided and, in the real but imperfect world, hurts some of the very people they say they want to help.

Monday, November 27, 2006

KRMG's falling numbers

We learn from a reliable source that the once-great Tulsa AM station, KRMG, has been slipping in the local ratings. We haven't checked the Arbitron numbers ourselves, but it comes as no surprise that the station's right-wing talkers have lost their mojo in recent years.

Every time we hear the baritone and mostly vacuous rumblings of Boortz, Limbaugh, and Hannity on KRMG, we stick around a moment or two just to see what they're spouting off about this time. Almost without exception, they're sticking it to another liberal or environmentlist, blissfully free of logic or facts or actual knowledge.

It's easy to shoot off your mouth when the facts don't matter and the solutions can be blamed on others. Just once we'd like to tune in and hear the Big Talkers admit that they don't know everything and that even conservatives don't have a lock on the truth. There's little chance of that—modesty and intellectual honesty are not their style.

If the ratings numbers are true, maybe other listeners have reached the same conclusion we have: There's no intelligent life on the AM dial, at least when these guys are talking.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Brookside Thanksgiving

One thing to be thankful for in Brookside this year is the end of the city's "beautification" project. We put "beautification" in quotes deliberately, because we're still not sure the months of construction and disruption were worth the effort. Progress can be a good thing, of course, but the noise and congestion of the last few months was a pain, to say the least. Thank goodness it's completed now, but the results a a tad underwhelming. To our (admittedly jaundiced) eye, Peoria Avenue south of 31st Street looks patchy and incomplete. On the other hand, the road workers and equipment have moved on, which is something to be thankful for this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bishop Pearson's Liberal Religion

We were pleased to learn recently that one of our favorite Tulsa preachers, Bishop Carlton Pearson, has joined the United Church of Christ, which the Tulsa World described as "one of the nation's most liberal denominations."

Indeed they are—and good for them, and Pearson too.

As you may recall, Pearson's evangelical congregation at Higher Dimensions Worship Center deserted him in droves when the pastor accepted the doctrine of Universalism, the idea that all humans are part of God's great plan and that all can make it to heaven.

We have no problem with Universalism, nor with Pearson's wonderfully radical openness to all humanity, a refreshingly unpopular idea in Tulsa, where literal readings of the Bible still dominate the religious landscape.

We were pleased to learn, too, that the Pearson's new denomination, the UCC, has been a leader in liberal religion for hundreds of years. According to the World's report, the church gave voting rights to women in church elections in 1699, ordained a black minister in 1785, ordained a woman in 1853, and has been pushing for civil rights for gays since the late 1960s. Amazing!

Nice to know that some Christians are actually interested in treating all of God's children as exactly that.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Blaming the Sixties, Again

An op-ed column in today's Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader blasts the "lefty loonies" of the 1960s, blaming them for the nation's inability to wage war and defeat terrorism. Lexington's own right-wing pundit Jenean McBrearty assures us that the flower children of an earlier era hate the military, hate Western civilization, hate patriotic Americans, and hate "imperialistic corporations."

We at Alernative Tulsa are stunned. We had no idea that our 1960s ideals were so utopian and so harmful. And who knew that communism had failed? (Nobody ever tells us anything!) All we recall from those hazy college days is drinking cheap wine and singing along with John and Yoko.

But Ms. McBrearty has set us straight: "Love is not all you need," she points out. Perhaps she's right. Love is such a major lefty notion, after all, never actually mentioned in, say, Holy Scripture.

Before we accept this and other indictments of the 60s generation, we might want to recall others who were in college during that decade. (Our Lexington correspondent, for some reason, fails to mention a single American-hating hippie who, in her words, "supports the aims of the enemy.")

In any case, the 1960s gave us such sunshine patriots as George Bush, Dick Cheney, and even Rush Limbaugh. These guys love America now (as they always remind us), but not so much that they bothered to defend their nation in the 1960s. True, Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard, but this was a plum assignment and carried little risk of combat. Besides, he was in Alabama working on a political campaign for part of his tour. (Just a lucky break, we suppose.) Cheney managed those five (5!) deferments, explaining that he had "other priorities." Rush, the story goes, had a boil on his behind, and managed a medical deferment. Pardon us for pointing out the irony here, but it wasn't 1960s utopianism that kept these good Republican "patriots" out of Vietnam.

Ms. McBrearty is serving up the latest helping of Richard Nixon's enemies list: blame the radical left. (There are so many hiding right here in Middle America, after all. And they've embraced radical ideas like love and peace!)

Given the choice, we prefer the naive idealism of the 1960s Radical Left to the cynical, self-serving pieties of the Right, especially those who failed to serve when they had the chance.

Monday, November 20, 2006

One of the Finest Minds of the 19th Century

In case you missed it (and most people around here did), Our Very Own U.S. Senator made headlines in October when Radar magazine put him on the "Ten Dumbest Congressmen" list. We at Alternative Tulsa have never met the good Senator and offer no opinion of his intelligence or lack thereof. But we do recall several of the following Senatorial gems, which Radar listed as follows:

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK)
  • claimed that global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people"—a rhetorical flourish he recently refined by likening climate change theories to Nazi propaganda.
  • As far back as 1972, he called for Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern to be "hanged with Jane Fonda"
  • Claimed that both Bill and Hillary Clinton were out to assassinate him.
  • Quote "My wife and I have been married 47 years. We have 20 kids and grandkids. I'm really proud to say that in the recorded history of our family, we've never had a divorce or a homosexual relationship."

Alternative Reading on Iraq

The Bush Administration's failed policies in Iraq take another well-deserved hit in Max Rodenbeck's New York Review article "How Terrible Is it?" Rodenbeck, Mideast correspondent for The Economist, notes that the public is finally awakening to flawed nature of the Administration's logic following September 11.

Rodenbeck's article, a review of two National Security Strategy documents and three new books on the Iraq situation, summarizies the recent shift in public opinion about terrorism and the Iraq war. He praises Louise Richardson's book, What Terrorists Want (Random House, 2006), calling it a crash course on terrorism. He also summarizes twelve key points she makes, several of which point of the folly of the Administration's actions.

Rodenbeck's article appears in the November 30 issue of The New York Review of Books. It's certainly worth a look, but not if you're a True Believer in the wisdom of W. The magazine's website is

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Re-thinking Tulsa's Conventional Wisdom

Tulsa is, it seems safe to say, a hotbed of conventional wisdom in politics, ideas, art and literature. Few Tulsans, it seems, are inclined to challenge the status quo or "color outside the lines" in any substantive way. We do, of course, have a number of naysayers and fringe characters who stir the local political pot, and who can be interesting and occasionally useful.

But Tulsa seems to lack a core community of informed readers and thinkers, those folks who actually read intelligent books, talk about ideas and issues, and arrive at informed decisions about local, state, and national concerns. Surely such people live in and around Tulsa, quietly going about their lives, increasingly irritated by the prevailing winds of conventional thought in northeastern Oklahoma.

We at Alternative Tulsa (or AT for short) offer this modest site as a place for critiquing the status quo—presenting ideas, facts, opinions, and commentaries from a critical perspective. The word "critical" is used advisedly here; we don't mean simply negative. We mean, instead, news and views that present alternatives to the easy and simple answers that most people adopt unthinkingly. Here at Alternative Tulsa, we want to push the boundaries, to present ideas—even unpopular ideas—that expand the public dialogue about Tulsa's political, ideological and cultural life.

Stay tuned for new posts from Alternative Tulsa.
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