Monday, July 30, 2007

Federal Agents Raid Home of Alaska's Stevens

Agents from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service on Monday searched the home of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, an official said.
From what we read, there are serious allegations about Sen. Stevens' links to a prominent campaign contributor, as noted below:

Stevens is the subject of a grand-jury investigation into his links with managers of VECO Corp., the state's largest oil-services company, as well as numerous unrelated fisheries matters.
This can't be good news for Sen. Stevens, a veteran Republican legislator.

Alberto's Week Off to a Very Bad Start

Attorney General Albert Gonzales has a boatload of troubles these days. Last week, new testimony made it appear as though the AG either misled or lied to Congress. That's a problem, since perjury is a crime.

Yesterday, Fox News asked the White House to supply someone to defend Gonzales on one of its Sunday talk shows. No defender turned up. The Sunday New York Times published an editorial calling for Gonzales to be fired or impeached. A sample line:

Americans have been waiting months for Mr. Bush to fire Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who long ago proved that he was incompetent and more recently has proved that he can’t tell the truth.

Today House Democrats announced that they will begin an impeachment investigation against the embattled AG.

Gonzales may survive all this; after all, the President seems to love the guy. But as we noted above, Alberto's week is off to a rocky start. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sen. Thompson Finds the Going Tough

Former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee is the great hope of many Oklahoma Republicans for the 2008 presidential election. Conventional wisdom has it that Thompson is tough, media-savvy, and a true Ronald Reagan conservative. He's also electable—with high name recognition thanks to his television and movie career.

But Thompson may not turn out to be all he's cracked up to be. The blogosphere has unearthed a number of skeletons in Thompson's political closet, including his work as a "mole" for the Nixon White House in the Congressional Watergate investigation, his extensive lobbying work on behalf of corporate clients, and his previous ties to pro-choice groups.

There's also the matter of his very young and fabulously attractive wife, who has raised eyebrows in some quarters.

Today, there are new reports of troubles in Thompson's political life. Like John McCain's troubled campaign, Thompson has been losing campaign staff. Curiously, some of the departing staffers are blaming the senator's wife.

Here's the way Thompson's campaign troubles were summed up in today's New York Times:
Thompson’s Race Hasn’t Quite Begun, but Turmoil Has

Tulsa Tourism Gets an Idaho 'Atta-Boy'

We like Tulsa, but we usually don't think of the city as a vacation paradise. So we were pleasantly surprised to see a letter in the Tulsa World the other day on the joys of a Tulsa vacation.

The letter came from the O'Neill family of Boise, Idaho, in town visiting relatives. According to their letter, the family spent a wet but pleasant week in T-town, where they "had an outstanding time."

The O'Neill's mentioned daily runs along the Arkansas River and visits to cultural venues such as the Gilcrease Museum and the Oklahoma Aquarium. They enjoyed restaurants in Brookside and the Riverwalk. They were "highly impressed."

The O'Neill family concluded, "While 'y'all' may take it for granted, you [Tulsans] have a great thing going."

It's a small thing, of course, but with all the nay-saying that accompanies much of the talk about Tulsa, it's great to some positive things from our city's visitors.

Books We Like: A New Defense of Civil Liberties

The AltTulsa summer reading list includes a new defense of civil liberties by Anthony Romero and Dina Temple-Raston. The book is In Defense of Our America: The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Age of Terror from William Morrow.

The publisher describes the book as "a critical look at civil liberties in this country at a time when constitutional freedoms are in peril." Romero and Temple-Raston explore the behind-the-scenes story of some of the most important civil liberties cases in post-9/11 America.

We heard the authors talking about the book on a recent radio interview and they made a strong case that our civil liberties are shrinking right before our eyes. They cite chapter and verse in several recent cases, including the National Security Agency's warrantless spying program.

In the Age of Terror, ordinary folks are well advised to pay attention and stand up for their rights—and the rights of all citizens.

Friday, July 27, 2007

OK Democrats Call Out Senators Coburn and Inhofe on Vitter Family Values

State Democrats are turning up the heat on the state's two Republican senators for their continued silence on Louisiana Sen. David Vitter and his admitted use of prostitutes provided by the infamous DC Madam.

A headline on a recent state Democratic Party news release called on Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe to "denounce hypocrisy." The release also called on the senators to end their "blind allegiance to Republican colleagues…for the good of the nation."

The Democrats point out that Sen. Coburn is "well-known as one of the most zealous and vocal social conservatives in the U.S. Senate." Yet Coburn has continued to defend Sen. Vitter.

As for Sen. Inhofe, the Democrats note dryly that he "has continued his silence on what proves to be another Republican scandal."

Whatever happened to those old-fashioned virtues that Sooner State Republicans are always so quick to embrace? Isn't adultery one of the Ten Commandments and don't they apply to everyone, even holier-than-thou Republican legislators?

Apparently not—not if you are a Republican senator from Oklahoma.

Monday, July 23, 2007

On the Road: We'll Be Back

We're on the road this week, so our postings will be a bit haphazard. Meanwhile, there is plenty to read and blog about in Tulsa and elsewhere. Check out some of our favorite blogs, listed below.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Vitter Hypocrisy Update: More Calls to Resign

For those of you keeping score at home, the calls for Louisiana Sen. David Vitter to resign keep coming.

Sen. Vitter, you will recall, has admitted partaking in the illegal sexual services of the DC Madam. Unfortunately for Vitter, he is also on record pointedly calling on former President Bill Clinton to resign for his White House dalliance with Monica Lewinsky.

Now Vitter's double standard appears to be catching up to him. Some conservative religious leaders have questioned Vitter's moral standing and conservative talker Sean Hannity has called for the senator to resign.

We don't always agree with our friends on the conservative side of the aisle. But in this case, we think they have point. In Louisiana Sen. Vitter has cast himself as a pro-family politician with traditional family values.

We can't see how that squares with paying prostitutes for sex.

Atheist Author Hitchens Creates a Buzz

The AltTulsa team tries its best to monitor the Zeitgeist. That's what led us to writer Christopher Hitchens, whose new book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, has reached the bestseller lists and, not surprisingly, sparked considerable controversy.

Hitchens, along with authors Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, are part of a recent trend in anti-religious books, according to a Stanley Fish op-ed piece published last month in the New York Times. As Fish reminded us, Harris published The End of Faith couple of years ago and Dawkins published The God Delusion in 2006.

We also read a recent AP article on Hitchens and his book that noted the success of his "all-out assault on religious faith." Hitchens told the AP reporter, "There are a lot of people, in this country in particular, who are fed up with endless lectures by bogus clerics and endless bullying."

We haven't read Hitchens or these other authors, but we are curious about this trend, if that's what it is. Fish suggests that some of the anti-religious sentiment is a backlash against religious fundamentalism. As the AP put it, "Bad behavior in the name of religion is behind some of the most dangerous global conflicts, the atheists say."

The AP piece quotes religious leaders answering the atheist challenge. The Rev. Douglas Wilson at New Saint Andrews College in Idaho told the AP that he sees these books as a sign of secular panic. Perhaps so.

We can't endorse Hitchens or his fellow nonbelievers. As we noted, we haven't read these books. But we were surprised to see the Hitchens book selling well and attracting actual nonbelieving fans.

Oklahomans Turn On the Tap for Democrats

Campaign figures released this week show that Oklahomans are putting their cash behind Democratic presidential candidates.

A Tulsa World story Friday reported that Democratic candidates are leading their Republican counterparts by a margin of better than 2-to-1.

The three top Democratic candidates, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, have all raised more than $265,000 in the Sooner state.

By contrast, the GOP's leading fundraiser in Oklahoma, Rudy Giuliani, has raised 165,000.

The World also discovered that one Tulsa ZIP code, 74114, is the state's largest political contributor, with more than $171,000 contributed in the first six months of this year. The second highest ZIP code, 73116 in Oklahoma City, was far back with total almost $65,000.

It's early in the political season, we know, but the figures so far seem to show that Oklahoma Democrats are a lot happier with their candidates than the Republicans are.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tulsa's Wallis Writes New Road Book

Speaking of road books (see previous post), Tulsa's own Michael Wallis has published his own new book in the field, this one following the mostly forgotten transcontinental highway known as the Lincoln Highway.

Wallis achieved considerable success
with an earlier book on Route 66, a fabled highway known as the "Mother Road." His Lincoln Highway book follows the "Father Road," a highway that runs from New York's Times Square to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Judy Randle, book editor of the Tulsa World, talked with Wallis about his new book at some length in last Sunday's issue. That prompted us to check out an autographed copy of The Lincoln Highway the other day at Steve's Books on Harvard.

For fans of America's old two-lane highways, this looks like a winner.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

50 Years of Kerouac's 'On the Road'

We were reminded the other day that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac's famous Bohemian novel, On the Road.

Kerouac, as some readers will recall, is usually identified with the "Beat Generation" of the 1950s, a loosely organized group of poets, writers, and artists who thumbed their noses at middle class America in the post-WWII era.

Legend has it that Kerouac wrote the novel in three weeks, locking himself in a hotel room and typing (yes, on an actual typewriter) non-stop on a long roll of paper. The "roll," as it came to be known, does exist but the truth is that Kerouac had written sections of the book earlier and also revised the manuscript after the roll was typed.

Whatever the truth of its composition, On the Road has inspired wanderlust in several generations of road warriors seeking the wide open spaces of the American highway.
We recall some long summer evenings a few years ago when we worked our way through Kerouac's pages and across the country with Jack.

Fifty years after it was published, it might be time to check out Kerouac's classic road novel.

P.S.—We understand that Kerouac's "roll" was purchased a few years ago by Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, for $2.4 million. It's currently on a national tour of major libraries and will be displayed at UT Austin in 2008.

Cheney's Approval Sinks to a Record Low

Gallup is out today with new figures on the sinking approval ratings for Vice President Dick Cheney.

Overall, Cheney's approval rating stands at 30 percent, a record low for a vice president since Gallup started in 1945. Among important independent voters, Cheney's approval rating was a dismal 26 percent.

Among Republicans, Cheney's approval was a relatively healthy 57 percent, although Gallup reported that figure had declined as well.

None of this is especially shocking. As even casual political observers must know, the vice president has made himself the point man on a number of controversial issues, many of which have "gone south," to put it gently.

Smart Republicans, especially those up for re-election next year, might want to keep their distance from the VP. Are you listening, Sen. Inhofe?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sen. Vitter's Republican Hypocrisy

AltTulsa has never believed the moral superiority of the Republican Right. Seems to us that these folks have just as many flaws and failings as the rest of us.

Perhaps more. Witness the case of Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, named last week the so-called DC Madam scandal. Sen. Vitter ended his self-imposed seclusion today, admitting his guilt and declaring that God and his wife have forgiven him.

We don't know about God. But we do know a former U.S. Representative from Louisiana who has spoken about the moral problem of illicit sexual relations.

That political leader was perfectly clear about the fate of President Bill Clinton when he was involved in a sex scandal in 1998.

President Clinton should be impeached and removed from office because he is morally unfit to govern.

You guessed it: That official was none other than one Rep. David Vitter. Want to take your own advice, Sen. Vitter?

Analyzing the McCain Campaign Collapse

Monday reading: The New York Times has a solid analysis today on the mistakes of Sen. John McCain's collapsing presidential campaign.

Reporter Adam Nagourney notes that McCain and his advisers thought that with Vice President Cheney out of the race, the senator would be seen as the logical heir apparent to George W. Bush.

Obviously, that hasn't happened. But as Nagourney points out, this is a departure from the usual GOP style.

"We have always been royalists," one Republican strategist noted, a reference to the generally orderly way that Republican presidential candidates have been selected in recent years.

Royalists? Really? It that what the Republicans really stand for? If so, it's yet another reason to avoid the GOP in future elections.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

GOP Dissenters Take On Bush Policies

Republican legislators are getting an earful from heartland voters on the Iraq war. A scan of the blogosphere this week shows that even in Kansas and Iowa, more voters are expressing their unhappiness over the Bush Administration's handling of the war.

Two high profile Republican senators weighed in against the President this week as well. Senators Warner of Virginia and Lugar of Indiana, both respected foreign policy leaders, have announced their own plan to curb the Bush war plans. Their proposal calls on the President to seek a new war authorization by Oct. 16. The proposal also calls for reducing American forces by the end of the year.

Here's the blunt way the Washington Post described the new proposal:
2 GOP Senators Join Revolt Vs. War Policy

New Adventures in White House Stenography

President George W. Bush issued an interim report this week on the progress of the Iraqi government in meeting certain critical benchmarks.

The report, at best, showed a mixed result. Most accounts credited the Iraqis with meeting eight only of its 18 goals.

At worst—and there are major issues on this side of the ledger—the report reveals the continuing failure of the Iraqi legislators to set aside their sectarian differences and make the difficult decisions needed to support a broad-based and enduring Iraqi democracy.

But leave to a Tulsa blog to roll over and play dead on the latest Bush Administration policy failure. Instead of commenting one way or the other on this important topic, Tulsa Today this week merely printed the White House report without comment.

Apparently, the good folks over at Tulsa Today have never met a White House news release they didn't like. It's not the first time they served as lapdogs for the administration.

But for the rest of us—those of us who can actually manage an original thought every week or two—smiling and playing stenographer to the White House serves no useful purpose.

Here's our question: Why bother to publish a blog at all if you're only going to parrot the White House line on life-or-death matters as important as the Iraq war?

BA Republican's Tulsa Kiss Leads to Trouble

We don't know State Rep. John Trebilcock, the legislator who represents House District 98 in Broken Arrow. But we did take notice last March when he was arrested on a DUI charge after being pulled over in downtown Tulsa for driving without headlights. At the time, the Tulsa World reports, Rep. Trebilcock refused to take a break-analyzer test.

Today we learn that Rep. Treblicock entered a no-contest plea to the charge and has agreed to work 10 days for the city of Tulsa and attend an alcohol education program. He will also pay court costs of $750.

The city prosecutor told the World that as a first-time offender, Trebilcock was offered a standard deal, just like "John Q. Citizen." His attorney said the DUI charge was not supported by the evidence.

Fair enough. Rep. Treblicock should be treated such like anyone else.

But we'd like to give the BA legislator credit for the excuse he offered the arresting officer in March. According to the police report, Treblicock told the officer that "he had just kissed a girl that had been drinking and that is why he smelled like he had been drinking."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Biden's Quip on Bush Progress Report

Our nomination for Quote of the Day, courtesy of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden. Biden was commenting on President Bush's progress report on Iraq, released this morning:
This progress report is like the guy who’s falling from a 100-story building and says half-way down that ‘everything’s fine.'

Summer Reading: Find a Copy of "Walden"

Two literary birthdays of note today: Henry David Thoreau and Pablo Neruda.

Thoreau, of course, is the author of an American classic, Walden, his effort to confront life simply and directly. Walden, Thoreau's greatest work, was published in 1854, and has inspired generations of American readers. To this day, the site of Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond is a literary shrine in Massachusetts.

Neruda, the Chilean poet, is famous for his love poems. A receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Neruda is much beloved in Latin America for his lyrical, romantic verses. We have to read Neruda in translation, but even then he's a joy.

On these long (and wet) summer days, we suggest a return to Walden or checking out a Neruda volume and settling down in a soft chair.

Bushworld Redux: Where Ideology Trumps Science (and Even the Special Olympics)

In the political fantasyland known as Bushworld, wishing can make it so. If you just believe hard enough, you can make the facts fit your preconceived notions.

Unfortunately, the real world doesn't work that way.

Testifying this week in Washington, Dr. Richard Carmona, former Bush Administration surgeon general, made clear that his scientific judgment was expected to fit the administration's ideological positions.

To his credit, Dr. Carmona resisted this role, pointing out that the nation's top doctor is supposed to "release scientific documents that will help our public officials and the citizens understand the complex world we live in…."

Here is a part of Dr. Carmona's pointed critique of the Bush position, as quoted by the AP:

The reality is that the nation's doctor has been marginalized and relegated to a position with no independent budget, and with supervisors who are political appointees with partisan agendas.

In perhaps the silliest aspect of this bonehead idea, Dr. Carmona was told at one point not to speak at a Special Olympics event because it would benefit a prominent political family of the other party— the Kennedy family.

Politicizing medical judgment is inexcusable. But politicizing the Special Olympics? That's really low.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Drip, Drip, Drip: Defections Continue to Rise

Our nomination for Headline of the Day, this one courtesy of The Huffington Post:

Another Day, Another GOP Leader Break With Bush on Iraq

Today's defecting leader is Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. Her reversal on the war is one more sign of the impending collapse of Republican solidarity on the President's "stay the course" policy.

If this keeps up, the defections will eventually break the dam and sweep away some of the die-hard pro-war Republicans.

Oklahoma's senators and representatives
might want to take a look at where stand, lest they are the ones in the path of this flood.

Moore's 'Sicko' Reveals a Broken System

You don't have to be a fan of filmmaker Michael Moore to realize that the man has something important to say in his new film, Sicko, now showing at Tulsa's Circle Cinema and at AMC Southroads.

It's a scary film, and not because of Moore's commentary or his occasional grandstanding. What's scary here are the stories Moore collects from ordinary Americans about their battles with the health care system, especially their treatment by the insurance companies.

Watching the film's testimonies from a variety of Americans, you quickly realize that me, you, and almost everyone we know is just one medical catastrophe away from bankruptcy. For Americans diagnosed with serious diseases who happen to lose their jobs, there's little other choice.

Even employed folks with full medical coverage find themselves denied treatment in many cases. Why? The answer, Moore discovers, is no big secret: it saves the insurance company money to deny their costumers expensive medical treatment. In support of this indefensible practice, Moore interviews former insurance company employees, including an M.D., who publicly confess their part in such denials of medical service.

As you can guess, Sicko is not a happy story. But it's an important and deeply humane story that needs to be told. As Moore makes clear, we live in a great and generous nation, a country that prides itself on its democratic values. In a rich country, all Americans, you might think, deserve first-class medical care, care that is sorely lacking for those of us unlucky enough to get seriously ill and not have the deep pockets to afford effective treatment.

Go see Sicko. If nothing else, it will make you mad. Better yet, it might make you aware of a medical system in need of serious reform.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cartoonist Marlette Killed in Car Accident

Tulsa World political cartoonist Doug Marlette has been killed in an automobile accident in northwest Mississippi. He was 57.

Marlette, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his political cartoons, was a native of North Carolina. He came to the World as a cartoonist in 2006.

Although he was best known for his cartoons, Marlette was also an accomplished writer. His most recent novel, Magic Time, was published to good reviews and sparked interest in Hollywood.

We met Doug a couple of times and found him an amiable and engaging man. Just a couple of weeks ago, in fact, we had a pleasant talk with Doug, admiring his Southern accent and gentle manner.

Marlette's time in Tulsa was far too short. Rest in Peace, Doug Marlette. You will be missed.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Thompson's Past Takes Center Stage

Headlines we like, this one courtesy of MSNBC:

Fred Thompson Aided Nixon on Watergate

But wait, there's more: Nixon's White House tapes show that he referred to the young Republican lawyer as "dumb as hell."

White House in "Panic" Over Senate GOP Defections

ABC News is reporting today that the White House is in a "panic" about Republican defections concerning its Iraq war policies.

All we can say is, it's about time.

As we noted in our last post, high-level GOP opposition to the war is steadily increasing, driven no doubt by the public's increasing disenchantment with the war.

Republican senators Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar were among the first to call for a new policy on Iraq. Other prominent Republican senators to join the effort include Oregon's Gordon Smith, Ohio's George Voinovich, and New Mexico's Pete Domenici.

Don't look for Oklahoma's Republican senators to join this list anytime soon. As far as we can tell, Sen. Jim Inhofe would rather drink a gallon of Arkansas River water than say anything slightly critical of Bush and his war. Inhofe is nothing if not loyal to the pro-war fringe of his party.

As for Sen. Tom Coburn, a physician and politician likely to quarrel with a fence post if he thinks he's right, you would think he could deliver a principled anti-war position at some point in the next, say, five or six years. (Yes, we'll still be in Iraq in five or six years.)

But we won't be holding our breath.

$12 Billion a Month for War

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service is out with a new accounting of the cost of Bush's war in Iraq—a mere $10 billion (that's with a "b") a month.

Throw in the Afghan war, and the Bush military machine is burning through a cool $12 billion each and every month.

Even in the surrealistic world of federal spending, these are big numbers. We keep waiting for Oklahoma's Congressional leadership to get riled up about the blood and treasure we are expending in Iraq.

As AltTulsa has previously noted, Republicans are increasingly critical of the war and its prosecution. Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, for example, has been a fierce critic of the war. More recently, Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar, a respected voice on foreign policy, has joined the rising chorus of Republican criticism.

One of these days, someone's going to have to wake up Oklahoma's Republican leadership.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Lure of War: Photojournalist Ponders Iraq Violence

Photographer Ashley Gilbertson has spent years photographing the war in Iraq. The experience was so intense, Gilbertson writes, that "Iraq had become my identity" (emphasis in original).

In a revealing and deeply personal article this summer in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Gilbertson contemplates his role as a Iraq war photojournalist. On one hand, the war gave him a reason to carry on his career: "In Iraq, I had a purpose, a mission: I felt important."

On the other hand, Gilbertson was battle-weary. He didn't want to return to Iraq, but he needed the war for a completely wrong reason: "I wasn't ready for it to end."

He returns to Baghdad, covering the U.S. troop surge in hostile neighborhoods. On a IED-clearing mission, he photographs a sergeant guarding the street. Gilbertson runs back to the Humvee for safety and lights a cigarette to calm his nerves.

Suddenly a huge explosion rocks the vehicle. An IED has killed the sergeant. Gilbertson is shocked again. Moments before the sergeant was alive and all was well. "I ended up being the guy who engaged him in his last conversation," Gilbertson writes. "I took the last photograph of him alive." The VQR article, accompanied by numerous Gilbertson photographs, goes on to describe other incidents of violence and suffering.

For Gilbertson, this last trip to the war proves unsatisfactory. The cruelty is too much and his sense of mission begins to fade.

Covering the war used to make me feel like I was doing something important, but I have grown to accept that Americans will not stop dying because I take their pictures….

Gilbertson's story can be found at the Virginia Quarterly's website,

Friday, July 6, 2007

One Small Step for Talk Radio

Scanning the web today, we found this completely predictable headline:
Washington Talk Radio Station Drops Bill O'Reilly
Our man Bill-O will be replaced by a sports talk program.

The Bush-Cheney Slide Continues

Speaking of polls (see AT's last post), new numbers out today paint a bleak picture of the public's confidence in the current administration. The poll found that 45 percent of adults supported the impeachment of President Bush.

The numbers were even worse for Vice President Dick Cheney. A full 54 percent of the adults surveyed supported Cheney's impeachment. Ouch!

Tulsa voters will recall
that Tulsa's own top Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe, brought Cheney to town a few weeks ago to help the senator raise money for his 2008 reelection bid.

We suspect the Cheney fundraiser was a big success. But it will take more than deep pockets for Bush, Cheney and Inhofe to overcome a six-year legacy of arrogance and incompetence.

Public Disapproves of Libby's Free Ride

President Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's 30-month prison sentence is not playing well in Peoria.

Contrary to the pronouncements of the conservative talking heads, the public not only knows who Scooter Libby is, they also disapprove of the President's commutation by a whopping 69 percent.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

'Tulsa Today'—Stenographer to the President

President Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence is controversial in many quarters.

Democrats point out, correctly, that the President has something to gain from the commutation—protecting someone who protected the administration. Libby's commutation doesn't pass the 'smell test,' they say.

Even some Republicans don't like the commutation. They think Libby's prosecution was a political sham and that Mr. Bush should have given Libby a full pardon. There was no underlying crime, they say—though a federal prosecutor, a jury and a judge seemed to think otherwise.

So what does the Tulsa Today blog have to say about the commutation? Instead of criticism or commentary, the site published—and we are not making this up—the official White House statement explaining the president's action.

We had no idea that Tulsa Today was so devoted to stenography.

Another Republican Senator Defects on Iraq

New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici is the latest Republican legislator to call for a change of direction in Iraq. The opening line of Domenici's statement makes his position clear:
I want a new strategy for Iraq.
One by one, Bush's allies on the war are turning.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Fourth of July Holiday Reading

An AT reader suggested a book a few weeks ago that we want to recommend for summer reading. It may be especially appropriate as Americans celebrate the birth of independence and the legacy of freedom.

The book is not about the U.S. or its history. But Philip Gourevitch's We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, is an extraordinary testament to the dignity of individuals and the collective need for the rule of law and the protections of a civil society.

Gourevitch's book, published in 1998, is a detailed and chilling reconstruction of the Rwanda massacres of the early 1990s. More importantly for American readers today, it's a contemplation of the nature of truth and the tenuousness of morality in the modern world.

As some readers may recall, Rwanda, a small mountainous nation in central Africa, suffered under decades of corrupt colonial and home-grown leadership. By the 1990s, the main two tribal groups, the Tutsis and the Hutus, were at the boiling point and the nation exploded in a violent frenzy.

Gourevitch explains that most of violence involved enraged Hutus killing every Tutsi or Tutsi sympathizer they could find, including women and children. He also explains that the cause of the violence was not as simple as depicted in Western media reports.

Even worse, in some ways, Gourevitch details the impotence of the UN, western governments, religious groups, and humanitarian groups when faced with violence and disorder on a national scale. It's a damning portrait that will make any sensitive observer question the efforts of well-intentioned people and organizations in an international setting.

We haven't finished the book yet, but we can see why many readers of We Wish to Inform You have been profoundly changed by the book. For us, the Rwandan story has been a reminder of why we care so deeply about the rights and responsibilities of democratic self-government.

Happy Birthday, AMERICA.

News Flash: BBC Reporter Released in Gaza

Finally some good news out of Gaza: BBC reporter Alan Johnston was released today after four months of captivity.

We know he's not a U.S. citizen, but that's a great way to start the July 4 holiday. Kudos to the Brits and all those organizations that kept the faith and kept up the pressure to gain Johnston's release.

As Scooter Slides, So Do Bush and Cheney

Our nomination for Quote of the Day on the President's Scooter Libby commutation, courtesy of Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo:

The deeper offense is that the president has used his pardon power to short circuit the investigation of a crime to which he himself was quite likely a party, and to which, his vice president, who controls him, certainly was.

Monday, July 2, 2007

McCain Cuts Staff As GOP Support Drops

Those of you watching the ups and downs of the Republican presidential race will want to take note: Arizona Sen. John McCain is taking hits and may be down for the count.

McCain's poll numbers have been sagging for some weeks now and his fundraising is also lagging behind other GOP hopefuls. As a result, McCain is cutting at least 50 staff positions.

Not so many months ago, McCain was a GOP golden boy, a refreshing alternative to George W. Bush and his Republican rivals. Tough and outspoken, the former pilot and POW was considered a front runner for the 2008 Republican nomination.

It was too good to last. McCain has been hurt by his continued support for the Iraq war and by his support for the comprehensive immigration reform plan, a plan supported by the president but wildly unpopular among the right-wing portion of the Republican Party.

AltTulsa's take: McCain is not yet toast, but he's close. The red-meat conservatives are in an uproar over McCain's support for the immigration bill and we don't think they will forget between now and the primary season.

Next up for the GOP: Paging Dr. Fred! Paging Dr. Fred! Will Dr. Thompson please report to the Right Wing of the GOP Ward and help save this party.