Wednesday, January 31, 2007

May She Rest in Peace: Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

We learn today that our favorite Texas columnist, Molly Ivins, has lost her battle to breast cancer. Like many admirers, we had hoped she would make it through this latest fight with the disease, but this was one fight too many.

Ivins, 62, was one of the funniest political writers in recent times. But as she often noted, when it comes to Texas politics, the jokes almost write themselves.

Ivins rose to prominence as editor of the populist Texas newspaper, The Texas Observer. The Observer's website has posted her farewell column from 1976, as well as photos and tributes.

You can go to the Observer by clicking here:

Iraq News We Didn't Need the Media To Tell Us

News Flash: Tens of millions of dollars have been wasted in the Iraq rebuilding effort. That's the headline in the latest quarterly report from the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

Stuart Bowen's 579-page report reveals, in the words of the AP, "a grim picture of waste, fraud and frustration" in the rebuilding effort.

Can't say we were surprised. Many stories of waste and corruption have come out of Baghdad.

Beyond that, there's not much we can say about the latest news except the obvious: The war in Iraq—George W. Bush's war—was (and remains) a major geopolitical mistake. It continues to drain our national resources and damage our efforts to create a safer world.

Meanwhile, we continue to ask our young men and women to sacrifice their bodies for Bush's arrogance and hubris.

Sundance Update: Tulsa Filmmaker Gets Good Buzz

Regular AltTulsa readers will recall our earlier post about Four Sheets to the Wind, a new film written and directed by Tulsa's Sterlin Harjo.

The film was screened last week at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, and word from the festival is extremely good. Our sources say that the film was a hit with Sundance audiences. A success at Sundance can lead to a lucrative distribution deal and wide release of the film.

We haven't seen Sterlin's movie, but we're optimistic that he will land a deal for Four Sheets.

Oklahoma is a long way from Hollywood, of course, but it would be great to have a homegrown bit of Tinsel Town here in Tulsa.

Oklahoma's Highways Were Safer in 2006

Oklahoma traffic fatalities dropped more than 6 percent from 2005 to 2006, according to figures reported this week in USA Today.

The newspaper said that traffic deaths dropped substantially in 16 states—a number that includes Oklahoma. The story said the reductions reflect "stepped-up enforcement and education campaigns."

New Hampshire led the nation in the percentage decrease in traffic deaths, reporting a 23.5 percent decline. Minnesota and Missouri reported declines of 15 percent and 14.6, respectively. Oklahoma's decline was 6.2 percent.

In the Sooner state, 801 people died in traffic fatalities in 2005. The number dropped to 751 in 2006.

State officials interviewed by USA Today said the decline was the result of stiffer drunken-driving laws in some states, improved highway design, and graduated license programs for young drivers.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Iranian Intellectuals and Writers Speak Up for Truth

More than 100 Iranian activists, intellectuals, writers, and artists have signed a public letter condemning the controversial Iranian-sponsored Holocaust denial conference held in December in Tehran.

The Iranian dissidents accused the conference of attempting to "falsify history" by resorting to "denial and distortion of historical facts."

The letter, published in the Feb. 15, 2007, edition of The New York Review of Books, also points out that "the new brand of anti-Semitism prevalent in the Middle East today is rooted in European ideological doctrines of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and has no precedent in Iran's history."

Western governments and many public officials severely criticized the Iranian government last month for hosting the event.

One of the Iranian signers, writer Azar Nafisi, has an Oklahoma connection. She lived and studied in Norman in the 1970s, a period she discusses in her popular book Reading Lolita in Tehran.

now teaches at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Limbaugh's GOP Values: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

We heard a political broadcast the other day about the Republican search for the next Great Conservative Candidate, someone in the tradition of Ronald Reagan for the 2008 election. Several names were mentioned in the story, including Sam Brownback, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee.

One GOP activist interviewed on the show left no doubt where he stood on another Republican hopeful. The man said he hated John McCain. "I'm a Limbaugh Republican," the man told the broadcaster.

Which raises an interesting series of questions: What exactly is a Limbaugh Republican?

Is it the Limbaugh who managed to avoid the Vietnam War because he had a bad boil on his backside? Not much patriotism or bravery there.

Or is it the Limbaugh who dropped out of college? Not much educational achievement there.

Or is it the Limbaugh who has been divorced three times? Not much loyalty or commitment there.

Or perhaps it is the more recent Limbaugh, the one with the prescription drug addition? Not much evidence of personal responsibility or fortitude there.

Given his track record, we wonder why anybody would want to be a Limbaugh Republican.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Thinking Great Thoughts: Saint Augustine's Prayer

From time to time, we at AltTulsa like to do some serious contemplating. A certain amount of navel-gazing, we always say, can do wonders for mind and body.

Leafing through some works on Augustine recently, we were reminded of his Confessions, which the scholars tell us was the first "modern" autobiography. In it, Augustine recalls his childhood and writes about his mother. He also admits to his vigorous sexual activities as a young man and his struggle to control his sexual appetite.

Highly conflicted, Augustine admits then that he often said this less-than-consistent prayer: "Lord make me chaste, but not yet."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Columnist Molly Ivins Hospitalized in Cancer Battle

The sharpest (and funniest) good ole girl we know, Austin-based columnist Molly Ivins, was hospitalized this week in her ongoing struggle with breast cancer.

Ivins, 62, has given up her popular column while she battles the disease. Ivins, former editor of progressive Texas newspaper, The Texas Observer, has a loyal readership and is a long-time critic of George W. Bush, a former Texas governor. Her syndicated column appears in more than 400 newspapers, including the Tulsa World.

We send our hopes and prayers out to Molly and wish her a speedy recovery.

In Molly's honor, we'll pass along a favorite Molly Ivins quote:

I have been attacked by Rush Limbaugh on the air, an experience somewhat akin to being gummed by a newt. It doesn't actually hurt, but it leaves you with slimy stuff on your ankle.

Tulsa's Clark Wiens: A Hometown Cinema Hero

Tulsa's nonprofit movie house, Circle Cinema, celebrated a landmark this week: selling more than 2,000 tickets over a five-week period to a single movie, Sweet Land.

Writing in the Tulsa World yesterday, film critic Michael Smith reported this landmark, quoting the Circle's co-founder Clark Wiens. Wiens said the theater sold all of its 100 seats more than 10 times, making Sweet Land the Circle's biggest success since it opened in 2004.

Smith called the film "a remarkably moving gem." "It was about the land, and many of us aren't that removed from our land roots. That's what appealed to people," Wiens added.

The AltTulsa crowd agrees. Sweet Land is a beautiful film, a well-told story about the immigrant experience in Minnesota in the early twentieth century. Although the movie has closed, Wiens told Smith that the film may return later this year.

Tulsa is fortunate to have Clark Wiens in its midst, and we salute him for his energy and vision. In less than three years, Wiens and his staff have turned the Circle Cinema into a center of cultural enrichment and cinematic diversity in T-town.

We'll see you at the Circle.

Why We Love Those Wacky Southern Baptists

News from our Baptist neighbors across the Red River:

The Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth has told a female theology professor there to leave the school because women are biblically forbidden from teaching men, the Associated Press reports.

Professor Sheri Klouda taught Hebrew at the school, but says she was told she would not be granted tenure there because she is female. Seminary President Paige Patterson would not respond to the AP's requests for comment, but Trustee Van McClain told the wire service that the policy was a return to the "traditional, confessional, and biblical position."

Fortunately, not all Southern Baptists share this view, even in Oklahoma. The AP story quotes Enid's Wade Burleson, a Baptist minister and blogger. Burleson said:

The extraordinary belief that women should be forbidden from teaching men the Bible, or 'doctrine' is held only by a handful of Southern Baptist leaders…. Unfortunately, the majority of Southern Baptists let them dictate policy for the entire congregation.

Well put, Rev. Burleson. We're with you. The female half of humankind—and very likely more than half of the Southern Baptist congregation— deserves to be more than second-class status in the Kingdom of God.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Tulsa Government Students Make Radio Splash

Two Tulsa high school students turned up on National Public Radio this week as critics of President Bush's State of the Union speech. The students were part of a government class at a Tulsa high school, which was not identified on the program.

A student identified as Amanda spoke against the President's Iraq troop build-up on the Diane Rehm Show Wednesday morning. Rehm then asked if another student, one with a different opinion, wanted to speak. The second student, Billy, changed the subject, criticizing the President's hypocrisy on Darfur, the troubled region of Sudan.

Rehm asked the show's guests, former Republican Congressman Vin Webber and Democratic activist John Podesta, to comment on the students' remarks and thanked the students' unidentified teacher for their participation on the show.

We have no idea who these students are or which Tulsa high school they attend. But we can say that they conducted themselves well on the program, asking tough questions and representing Tulsa high school students intelligently.

The Diane Rehm Show is broadcast on KWGS 89.5 FM in Tulsa weekdays from 9-11 a.m.

Hannity 'Explains' Military Strategy to Gen. Clark

We can't help but be amused when self-appointed military experts mouth off in support of the President and his Iraq policies. The latest example comes in the person of broadcaster and know-it-all Sean Hannity, a man who has never had an original thought.

On Fox News this week, Private Hannity proceeded to lecture retired Gen. Wesley Clark on the advantages of the President's new strategy in Iraq. But consider the accomplishments and experience of these men. Putting it very briefly, Hannity is a college drop-out who never served a day in uniform. Gen. Clark is a retired four-star general and Rhodes Scholar.

Hmmm. Which of these men might have a teeny bit better grasp of military strategy?

You can see the exchange for yourself at

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sen. Webb on America's Economic Divide

Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, a former Republican, gave the Democratic response to President's Bush's State of the Union speech Tuesday night. Like Bush, Webb touched on a number of important issues, including the war in Iraq and terrorism.

We blogged about Webb and the war yesterday, so today we want to focus on the nation's economy. "When one looks at the health of our economy," Webb wrote, "it's almost as if we are living in two different countries."

Webb provided this telling example:

When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today it's 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

This is a fantastic statistic, one that highlights the wage inequalities in the corporate system. To many Americans—including the AltTulsa team—it seems fundamentally unfair and unAmerican. The rich, it appears, keep getting richer, while the poor and middle class fight for the economic scraps.

Webb also cites a few other significant economic issues:

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world.

Again, bleak news that the Bush Administration would rather not confront. But with the new Congress in place, we suspect that some of these economic issues will become increasingly prominent in the weeks and months to come.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sen. Jim Webb: Bush Was 'Reckless'

Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who delivered the Democratic response to the President's State of the Union speech last night, made clear what he thought of Bush's responsibility for the invasion of Iraq and conduct of the war.

Webb put it this way:

The President took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable and predicted disarray that has followed.

Webb, a former Marine who served in Vietnam, also pointed out that the nation's leaders

owe [our soldiers] sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

This is powerful stuff—hard-headed and direct. Importantly, it fixes the blame for this elective war, its mismanagement, and its many costs exactly where they belong: at the White House, on the rapidly collapsing shoulders of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Rumors and Lies from the Right-Wing Spin Machine

Some folks on the right never tire of ferreting out the sneaky radicals and enemies among us. The latest target of such an attack is Sen. Barack Obama, junior senator for Illinois and Presidential hopeful.

Sen. Obama, it turns out, was a schoolboy in Indonesia, where he reportedly attended a "madrassa," a Muslim religious school. This report first surfaced in INSIGHT magazine, a publication funded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who also owns the Washington Times. The magazine also reported that the madrassa story came from Obama's Democratic opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton, though it provided no source or other evidence for this claim.

Well, of course. If Obama is a secret Muslim radical and Hillary's behind this bit of dirt, INSIGHT scores a "two-fer"—smearing two candidates with one outrageous charge.

And it is outrageous, as several more credible news sources such as CNN have now demonstrated. Obama's Indonesian school was not a religious school, much less a madrassa. Moreover, Obama was a child at the time and is a professed Christian and a member of a Chicago church. Finally, there's no evidence that Hillary Clinton or anyone on her behalf was behind this report.

But in right-wing spin circles, the facts rarely slow down the talkers. So the madrassa charge quickly made the rounds, and the usual suspects spouted off: Rush Limbaugh, of course, Glenn Beck, and our old friends and "fair and balanced" Fox News. But even Fox couldn't sustain the rumor for long, and has now issued what some on the left have called "a non-apology apology."

All of which points to a continuing problem with some right-wingers: Putting ideology first, the facts be damned. This time they got caught.

Bush's Poll Numbers Continue to Tank

President George W. Bush will make his sixth State of the Union speech tonight. This time, however, he's facing not just a Democratic Congress, but an increasingly hostile public.

A CBS poll out today shows Bush's popularity at an all-time low: 28 percent. That's seven out of ten Americans who find fault with Bush and his policies.

Back in the 1990s, Republican pundits used to say that Bill Clinton's troubles were ruining the Democratic party. We hope those same pundits take to the airwaves this week to acknowledge the damage that Bush is doing to the GOP.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Tulsa Filmmaker Debuts Film Today at Sundance

Sterlin Harjo of Tulsa is presenting the world premiere of his film Four Sheets to the Wind today at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Harjo, 27, is a native of Holdenville, Okla., and a rising Seminole/Creek writer and director. His short film, Goodnight Irene, was screened at Sundance in 2005. We saw it some months ago at one of several Tulsa showings.

We haven't seen Four Sheets, but the buzz is good. Michael Smith, Tulsa World film critic, published a long article on Harjo and his movie in Sunday's edition. The Sundance website, Smith reported, described the work as "a fresh and delightful film about healing and the ties that bind us together."

Sounds interesting. We wish Harjo well and look forward to seeing his film soon on a Tulsa screen.

P.S.—Speaking of films, we'd like to put in a plug for Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's latest, Volver, now playing at Southroads. Starring Penelope Cruz and a cast almost entirely made up of women, Volver is another of Almodovar's off-beat stories of life's wicked twists and how women persevere. Recommended—but not for fans of exploding car movies. In Spanish with English subtitles (which we really need).

A Peaceful Warrior Comforts an Iraqi Child

The caption explains: “Air Force Master Sgt. John Gebhardt, of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group at Balad, Iraq, cradles a young girl as they both sleep in the hospital. The girl’s entire family was executed by insurgents; the killers shot her in the head as well. The girl received treatment at the U.S. military hospital in Balad, but cries and moans often. According to the nurse at the facility, Gebhardt is the only one who can clam down the girl, so he has spend the last several nights holding her while they both sleep in a chair.”

A special hat tip to one of AltTulsa's far-flung correspondents for this image.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Swimming Upstream: Challenging the Gun Culture

Oklahoma may not be the center of American Gun Lust, but it's probably close. We Okies love our firearms—and ain't no freakin' Yankee liberals gonna grab our pistols, rifles, shotguns, and other forms of weaponry.

So it takes some journalistic courage for the Tulsa World to publish Philadelphia columnist Karen Heller's anti-gun arguments in today's edition. "Where's the outrage about gun violence?" the headline asks. In response, Heller points out that Americans get worked up over all sorts of problems—alcoholism, cruelty to animals, transfats in foods, gay marriage—but show little concern over the continuing terror of gun violence.

Guns aren't the entire problem, Heller admits. But guns are an efficient form of death.

Heller continues: "Guns allow disturbed people to shoot up Amish schools. And thugs to shoot children in front of city schools. And distraught kids to terrorize suburban schools."

Heller also notes the "hideous number" of people killed in Philadelphia last year: 406. Most of the victims, she adds, were young, poor, and black.

True, Tulsa isn't Philadelphia. But even a casual scan of the headlines in eastern Oklahoma tells a similar tale: lots of young people with guns shooting each other, lots of hard-drinking husbands and boyfriends (and sometimes women) shooting their lovers, even a few school boys packing heat in their backpacks.

So Oklahoma has its own gun violence problem, which is unlikely to change anytime soon. But it's high time we took a hard look at gun violence in Oklahoma and in Tulsa, where too many bad people with guns keep killing too many citizens.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Mayo Hotel Story Inspires Conspiracy Theory

Tulsa blogger and columnist Michael Bates couldn't resist taking a swipe at a Tulsa World business story this week about the redevelopment of the old Mayo Hotel.

Writing in Urban Tulsa, Bates noted the "curious subtext" of reporter Tom Droege's story. On the surface, Bates notes, the story seemed positive, giving Tulsan's some ideas on how Oklahoma City saved the Skirvin Hotel and how Tulsa might save the Mayo. So far, so good.

But Bates found an ominous subtext in a "dismissive paragraph" in the story, a paragraph that noted the failure of several earlier attempts to restore the Mayo. Bates also criticized Droege's description of the hotel as "essentially empty," which Bates calls a "slam."

We love conspiracy theories as much as all the other alienated, lonely Tulsa bloggers, but let's take a closer look at the evidence for this particular conspiracy.

First, as Bates notes, the story was "prominently featured" in the World's Sunday edition—the not exactly the best place to hide the story's "surface" meaning (as opposed to its "subtext") in favor of restoring the Mayo. Also, we submit that most Tulsa readers are not so well trained in textual criticism as Bates. They might have read the story at the superficial level, bypassing the so-called subtext altogether.

Second, the so-called "dismissive" information in the story also happens to be factual and undisputed. Are we to conclude then that Droege was slanting the story against the Mayo and the Snyder family by reporting the facts? And would omitting this fact—highly relevant given the many fits and starts in downtown Tulsa—would be better, more complete journalism? We don't think so.

Third, the "essentially empty" charge is bogus, inasmuch as that assessment is essentially true. Last time we looked, the Mayo had a ballroom on the first floor and a few businesses too, but all the upper floors were completely (as opposed to "essentially") empty. Again, Bates criticizes Droege for telling the truth!

Finally, even Bates knows he's skating on thin ice—an appropriate phrase this week—writing at the end of his UT column: "Maybe I'm reading too much into this." You think?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Garrison Keillor Apologizes to Republicans

One of our far-flung correspondents sends us the following joke. It's attributed to Garrison Keillor, our favorite Minnesota Lutheran.

Keillor says:

“Having been called names, one looks back at one’s own angry outbursts over the years, and I recall having at various times referred to Republicans as ‘hairy-backed swamp developers, fundamentalist bullies, freelance racists, hobby cops, sweatshop tycoons, line jumpers, marsupial moms and aluminum-siding salesmen, misanthropic frat boys, ninja ditto heads, shrieking midgets, tax cheats, cheese merchants, cat stranglers, pill pushers, nihilists in golf pants, backed-up Baptists, the grand pooh-bahs of Percodan, mouth breathers, testosterone junkies, and brownshirts in pinstripes.’

"I look at those words now, and ‘cat stranglers’ seems excessive to me. The number of cat stranglers in the ranks of the Republican Party is surely low, and that reference was hurtful to Republicans and to cat owners. I feel sheepish about it.”

Meanwhile, Ann Coulter Continues to Amaze

There's apparently no limit to the number of inane notions in Ann Coulter's fevered brain. Speaking this week on Sean Hannity's radio show, Ms. Coulter explained the Democratic hoopla over Sen. Barak Obama as so much left-wing racism.

Obama's rising star, Coulter said, "further confirms my point that Democrats are racist, and they're just stunned to find a black man who can walk and talk. And, you know, not being a racist, I'm not really that impressed with a black man who can walk and talk."

We beg your pardon, Ms. Coulter, but if we were so easily impressed by the idea of a black man who can "walk and talk" we'd be big supporters of your friend Alan Keyes, a favorite of a good many right-wing Republicans.

Using your own standards, some of those Keyes supporters in Illinois (and elsewhere) must have been "stunned to find a black man who can walk and talk." Or perhaps some Republican voters and even a few lefties actually paid attention to ideas and policy—words rarely mentioned in the same sentence as Ann Coulter.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ms. Mouth Returns from Combat, None the Wiser

We're completely breathless now that conservative blogger Michelle Malkin is back from Iraq. Her years of military experience and combat training are sure to yield valuable tactics into how we can defeat America's enemies.

In truth, of course, Malkin spends more time worrying about liberals, the media, and the Democrats than she does about actual terrorists.

Oh wait. In Malkin's mind, the terrorists ARE the liberals, the media and the Democrats. Fight 'em in Iraq, fight 'em in Congress—what's the difference?

We prefer to take our advice about the war from someone a tiny bit more qualified than Malkin, such as retired General Barry McCaffrey. Speaking before Congress Thursday, McCaffery called the President's plan for more troops in Iraq "a fool’s errand.” Ouch!

Note to Malkin: McCaffrey has been in combat; he commanded troops in the first Gulf War.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Don't Know Nuthin' But What Sen. Inhofe Tells Us

We don't expect too much from Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, so we weren't surprised when he voiced support for the President's recent decision to send more troops to Iraq.

But we did imagine that Sen. Inhofe respected Oklahoma voters, the people he's supposed to represent in Washington.

Last week, however, Inhofe "dissed" his fellow Oklahomans. Regarding the Bush policy in Iraq, Inhofe admitted that voters might not rally behind the President. According to Inhofe, Oklahomans "are busy working and paying taxes." The senator added, "They can't be in the position to be all that well-informed."

That's right, Senator. We're just too darn busy to pay attention to complicated foreign policy issues, the ones that the (supposedly) well-informed President Bush, Dick Cheney, and their National Security team keep screwing up.

Unlike Sen. Inhofe, some of us busy, tax-paying Tulsans never believed that Saddam was an imminent threat to U.S. security (where are those WMDs, anyway?) or that invading Iraq would make us safer.

Most Americans have wised up, as have many Oklahomans. Contrary to Sen. Inhofe's assertion, we're not so busy that we missed the fact that the President was wrong or that his policies have made the world a more dangerous and hostile place.

The Great Bush Wiretapping Flip-Flop

Some months ago, Republican partisans were howling about John Kerry's indecisiveness. Kerry, they claimed, was "a flip-flopper" who could never make up his mind.

Let's hope these same folks are still on consistency patrol in Washington, where the Bush Department of Justice (remember Attorney General Alberto Gonzales?) has suddenly reversed itself on the issue of judicial oversight of domestic warrantless wiretaps.

Gonzales announced today that the Administration will allow a special Federal court to monitor domestic wiretaps, contrary to its earlier position. The Administration's new policy is a concession to the Democrats and other critics, who had argued that the warrantless wiretaps were unauthorized if not illegal.

As civil libertarians, we at AltTulsa were always opposed to warrantless domestic wiretaps, which violated both the spirit and the letter of American jurisprudence. So the Administration's reversal is welcome news for U.S. citizens.

Questioned about the reversal on MSNBC's Countdown, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said the Administration was again "gaming the legal system," having asserted a dubious legal authority and backing down when challenged.

Turley's right. He was just too polite to call it flip-flopping.

Mid-January 2007 in T-Town:
Icicles and gray skies

The Spiraling Cost of Bush's Iraq War

Remember when Bush Administration officials predicted that the Iraq war could pay for itself in oil revenues?

That turned out to be a complete fantasy, of course, but what's new today is the astronomical cost of the Iraq folly, now estimated to be $1.2 trillion—yes, trillion!

As reported in today's New York Times, the cost of war the war is $300 million per day!—an amount that includes the military equipment, fuel, combat pay for the troops, rebuilding costs in Iraq, salaries for reservists, salaries for all those contractors, and so on. Every week, this adds up to "a couple billion dollars."

Before the war, the Pentagon estimated the cost of the conflict at $50 billion—just a tad too optimistic, we'd say.

To make sense of such numbers, Times writer David Leonhardt puts the war cost in other terms. For starters, he writes, "$1.2 trillion would pay for an unprecedented public health campaign," with billions of dollars left over to financial other public needs, including the rebuilding of New Orleans.

Leonhardt notes that the war also has huge future costs too, including billions for the health costs of many thousands of Iraq War veterans, people we are obligated to help given the sacrifices they have made for the nation.

Despite all our billions and all the men and women who have served the nation, the war is still a mess and Bush has no idea about how get us out of Iraq. And no amount of new blood or treasure can bring back the 3,000-plus who have died in a needless war.

Keating's Wise White House Decision

Despite some not-so-secret whispers around the Sooner state, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating has let it be known that he won't be seeking the White House in 2008.

Keating's decision not to seek the Republican nomination for president is a smart move. In national terms, his name recognition and fund-raising ability pales in comparison to such leading lights as John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. To put it more bluntly, Keating's chances of capturing the Republican nomination were slim to none, no matter how much support he has in Oklahoma.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

More and More Military Oppose the War

Despite President Bush's speech last week, public support for the war continues to fall. Now comes a new report that even the soldiers are fed up with the Bush Administration's plans.

Here's the beginning of a story in this week's Newsweek:

If there was one constituency President Bush could count on to back the war in Iraq through the past four years, it was members of the military. Now, their support is also ebbing. A poll conducted recently by Army Times, a commercial publication, showed only 35 percent of service members approve of the way Bush is handling the war, down from 63 percent in 2004.

But it's the Newsweek headline that best sums up the mess in Iraq. Quoting a 22-year-old soldier, the headline reads: "It's people dying for no benefit."

"Persnickety" Teacher Inspires Students

A picky Broken Arrow teacher has inspired a group of eighth-graders to complain about the Tulsa World's misspelling of the word "alot," which should have been spelled "a lot."

The editorial page of today's edition includes several letters from Mrs. Barbara Graves' language arts class in Broken Arrow. The students note that Mrs. Graves is "very persnickety" and doesn't appreciate incorrect spelling.

Like Mrs. Graves, AltTulsa believes in correct grammar and spelling as well as the precise use of language (even when we don't always meet that standard). And it pleases us to see that Mrs. Graves is pushing her students to use the language correctly and well.

If only more Tulsa-area teachers would do the same.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Thumbs Up To Dixie Chicks Flick

Having blogged in recent weeks about Shut Up and Sing, the documentary about the Dixie Chicks and their politics, we feel duty bound to offer a brief review now that we've actually seen the film.

Despite Tulsa's icy roads, we made it up Lewis Avenue to the Circle Cinema, where we joined several other hearty souls. The movie was worth the trip.

Shut Up and Sing is less political than personal, more musical than controversial. The film shows the Natalie Maines and the Robison sisters, Emily and Martie, riding high as country superstars and then—after Natalie had the nerve to criticize President Bush just before the invasion of Iraq—dealing with the fallout. Most country fans were outraged and country radio stations banned their songs. There were even death threats.

Free speech, the Chicks discovered, comes at a price. And country music fans don't like it when you criticize the President. Or maybe it's only this President. In any case, the backlash surprised the women and, as the film shows, left them shaken.

To their credit, the Chicks stuck together and refused to back down. They opposed the war before it started and they still oppose the war. But the film makes clear that they are more interested in music than in politics, and it is their music that brings the story together.

The women can flat-out sing, whatever their beliefs, and we've been listening to their songs ever since we left the theater. Besides, the polls these days show that a lot more Americans, even in places like Oklahoma, agree with Natalie.

Sullivan's Votes: Wrong and Wrong Again

We checked the Congressional votes last week and—no big surprise here—Tulsa's own John Sullivan got it wrong again.

On raising the minimum wage, legislation which would help thousands of the First District's working people, Rep. Sullivan voted no. Never mind that it has been 10 years since the last increase in the minimum wage, or that in real dollars the minimum wage is at its lowest point in 50 years, Sullivan voted with the business interests.

On embryonic stem cell research, legislation that holds out the promise of medical breakthroughs that could cure Parkinson's and other diseases, Rep. Sullivan voted no. This vote despite that fact that some of the embryos included in the research will be destroyed anyway as medical waste.

To be fair, we can report that Sullivan is a team player. Like the rest of the Oklahoma Republican legislation, he voted against every bill put forth by the new Democratic majority. But we think a responsive and independent legislator would be willing to break with his party from time to time, to take a courageous stand that doesn't simply bow down at the altar of conservative orthodoxy.

We'd like to think that Rep. Sullivan possessed some actual political courage. But his recent votes, like the rest of his Congressional record, shows otherwise.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Oh, What a Delightful War—Not!

Reporter Jim Myers, who covers state politics in Washington for the Tulsa World, has an instructive look at the Iraq War pronouncements made by members of Oklahoma's Congressional delegation in today's edition.

Some choice examples of unrealistic and misguided wartime optimism:

"It is a love-fest over there…. It's a beautiful story."
--Sen. Jim Inhofe, Feb. 12, 2005
"The war is going extremely well. Things are going according to plan."
--Rep. John Sullivan, Jan. 16, 2004

"I am saying that you are going to see…more and more of our troops coming back."
--Sen. Jim Inhofe, Jan. 3, 2006

"We had plenty of reasons to be in Iraq besides weapons of mass destruction."
--Sen. Tom Coburn, June 18, 2004

Guess those Republican rose-colored glasses have been way too effective. They certainly haven't allowed our political leaders to see the horrors of an elective war that has put our fighting men and women in the middle of a civil war with no end in sight.

Friday, January 12, 2007

How "Crappy" Are Tulsa's Schools?

We're sure there are problems at Tulsa Public Schools. The district is the state's largest, after all, so it would be amazing if it didn't have some bad teachers, misguided administrators, and rundown facilities. TPS, it seems to us, is always a work in progress, to put it charitably.

Still, the Tulsa blogger known as meeciteewurker used the lewd behavior of a young (and apparently idiotic) TPS bus driver this week to unload on TPS, referring to the district's "crappy education," "violence," and "indoctrination."

We will stipulate the "violence" charge—school violence is far too common these days. As to the district's "crappy education" and "indoctrination," we beg to differ.

Seems to us, much general education depends on student effort, not to mention parental effort. Even a poor school, in other words, can't hold a good kid down, especially a student with supportive parents who encourage learning. Our favorite example (and we have others) is a Edison HS graduate who studied French (among other things) at OU and is now pursuing a doctorate in comparative literature. His parents are pretty proud of this TPS product.

AltTulsa has personal experience with TPS indoctrination, too, but our example was (and still is) beating the drum of conservative Republicanism, values Tom DeLay and Pat Robertson would love.

As we said, TPS has its fair share of problems. But labeling the whole system—every student, every school, every teacher—"crappy" is a charge so broad and unsubstantiated that it doesn't hold up to even modest scrutiny.

Iraq Quote of the Week

"I think this speech given last night by this President represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."

--Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, Jan. 11, 2007, the day after the President's "New Way Forward" speech on Iraq. Hagel is a Republican.

Iraq Debate Gets Personal: Boxer v. Rice

Today's McCarville Report in OKC says the blogosphere is abuzz about California Sen. Barbara Boxer's rude treatment of Secretary of State Condi Rice yesterday in the Senate hearings of Iraq. We missed the original discussion, but news accounts report that Sen. Boxer asked Rice "Who pays the price?" in Iraq, pointing out the fact that Rice did not have a child on the line in the war.

Perhaps Sen. Boxer was unfair in raising Rice's childless status. Getting married and having children is surely a highly personal decision.

On the other hand, Boxer was living up to the democratic spirit expressed in the famous free expression case of 1964, New York Times v. Sullivan. In that case, the court reaffirmed the nation's commitment to "a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide open…."

Such debate, the court continued, "may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials."

The bloggers may not like it, but Boxer was exercising her right to criticize a top public official, something that every senator—indeed, every citizen (and blogger)—has a right to do.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tulsa's Old Camelot Hotel, Once Again

The dilapidated Camelot Hotel at I-44 and Peoria made the news again this week, its fate still unresolved. The Community World's Midtown edition featured the old hotel and comments from residents and community leaders.

Some highlights:

The state's I-44 reconstruction plan will not affect the eight-story hotel, contrary to some earlier reports. Also, the property is for sale, with an asking price of $3.5 million.

Meanwhile, neighbors complain that the structure attracts vandals and vagrants. "It's a huge problem," Brookside Neighborhood Association President Herb Beatty told the World. District 9 City Councilor Cason Carter told the paper that the best option for the redevelopment of the property would be a private developer.

We like that idea. But if the past is any indication, we won't be counting these chickens anytime soon.

Condi's Lapdog: The Boys at Fox News

Once upon a time, the U.S. news media played an important "checking" function on the government. The press was the public's guard dog, challenging official wisdom and holding public officials to account.

That was before Fox News and the presidency of George W. Bush. With Fox News on the beat, the Bush Administration has an all-purpose lapdog, a platoon of attractive faces and coiffed hairdos always ready to accept whatever pablum the President and his people dish out, all the while snarling back at actual journalists.

The latest example speaks for itself. Here's Secretary of State Condi Rice speaking (unwittingly) into a live mike earlier today: "My Fox guys, I love every single one of them."

Dixie Chicks Movie Opens Tomorrow

We blogged about it a few weeks ago, but tomorrow is the day. Shut Up and Sing, a documentary about the controversy surrounding the Dixie Chicks opens at the Circle Cinema on Friday.

We've only seen the trailer, but the film appears to be an interesting exploration of the consequences of free speech in a highly partisan time. The controversy erupted when Chicks singer Natalie Maines told a London audience that she was ashamed that the President was from Texas, the same home state as the Chicks.

The statement caused a huge backlash against the group, including death threats, radio bans, and the smashing of Dixie Chicks CDs. Today—the day after the President's pledge to put more troops in harm's way—we're guessing that many more people would agree with Natalie.

For more information and showtimes, check out the

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

2006 Warmest Year On Record

In case you missed it, the National Climate Data Center has released the weather summary for 2006 in the U.S. The summer's heat wave and the El Nino weather pattern made it the hottest year ever recorded in the U.S., with an average temperature of 55.o2.

USA Today quotes the center's monitoring chief Jay Lawrimore:

"There's no denying that climate change is occuring, and warmer years are more common for that reason."

Which brings us to this intriguing political question: Which U.S. Senator called global warming a hoax? Answer: Jim Inhofe, former Tulsa mayor and would-be meterologist.

Nude Statute Scares Councilor Henderson

Will Tulsans be subjected to a naked statue on North Denver Avenue? City Councilor Jack Henderson apparently thinks so.

Today's Tulsa World reports that Henderson objected Tuesday to reports that a nude statue would be placed in a traffic circle in the Brady Heights neighborhood. Henderson called the naked statue "ridiculous."

In one sense at least, Henderson is correct. The naked statue idea is ridiculous—so ridiculous that no one has really proposed such a thing. The Brady Heights Neighborhood Association wants a "Tulsa Spirit" statue, one made of artwork produced by students at Emerson Elementary.

The World treats Henderson's mistake gently, calling him "misinformed." It also points out that the statue would not be in the traffic circle as Henderson said, but in a median along Denver.

We don't know what motivates Councilor Henderson. But we sure don't want Tulsa citizens driving by sculptures of naked people. Who knows what moral hovac that would promote? Before you know it, we might all be speaking French!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

CIA Planes and the Secrets They Tell

A new book on the skullduggery of the CIA, Ghost Plane by Stephen Grey, is getting considerable attention in some national circles. We've only read about Grey's book, but the reports we've seen are an unhappy reminder of the way the Bush Administration has used the war on terror to pervert U.S. standards of justice and to allow others to torture suspects on our behalf.

Grey, a British investigative journalist, compiled a list of 307 secret U.S. (read: CIA) flights since Sept. 11, 2001, made for the purpose "extraordinary rendition," the term used when American officials (read: CIA) arrest a suspected terrorist, take the suspect to another country (but not the U.S.) to be held in secret, and questioned, mistreated or tortured by the others—no questions asked.

The "secret prisons" part of the story was reported in the U.S. press in late 2005, embarrassing the Bush Administration and raising eyebrows among America's European allies.

In Ghost Plane, Grey tells the rest of the story. He tells, for instance, about a Canadian citizen, one Maher Arar, a software engineer, father of two and native of Syria. Arar was arrested in New York in October 2002 as he was returning from a vacation with his wife's family in Tunisia. He was secretly flow to Syria on a CIA plane (at a cost of perhaps $120,000), where he was imprisoned, humiliated, beaten, threatened, and tortured.

The U.S. didn't torture him, but we made it possible for the Syrians to do so. We just looked the other way.

But Arar was not a terrorist. As evidence of that, Grey cites a three-volume, 1,600-page Canadian report on Arar's case, an investigation that found no evidence of any terrorist activities on Arar's part. His identification as a terrorist was based on faulty assumptions and errors, not facts.

Although Arar was finally freed in 2005, the details of his treatment by the Syrians are as astounding as they are inhumane. They include beatings with electric cables, being burned with cigarettes, confinement in a tiny cell for more than 10 months, being threatened with immersion in a barrel of excretment, and more. Everything about his captivity, Grey writes, "was designed to break the soul."

Grey believes Arar's story is "emblematic of how an innocent man could be caught up and crushed by the manipulation of intelligence."

The U.S. should, of course, arrest, imprison and try those who would do us harm. We have real enemies in the world and we should stop them. But the Bush Administration's claim that the U.S. doesn't torture rings hollow when the record shows that we aid and abet those who will do it for us.

Bush Pushes On, Damn the Public

On the eve of the the President's "New Way Forward" speech to the public, the latest poll numbers don't look good for Bush. A Gallup poll published today by USA Today shows that 61 percent of Americans oppose troop increases in Iraq. Even worse for Bush, those who approve of the President's handling of the war has dropped to a new low: 26 percent.

We have no idea how these numbers stack up in Oklahoma, which is one of the reddest of the so-called Red States. But if these trends continue, Oklahoma might be a little less red and a lot more purple.

Free the Cars! Ban the Meters Downtown!

The Tulsa Parking Authority is considering free parking in downtown Tulsa, an idea we heartily endorse.

The Tulsa World reported in December that the authority will study the idea of making its parking garages free after 5 p.m., with the eventual aim of totally free parking downtown. (Street parking is already free after 5.)

It's a good idea. We hate to pay for parking, and hate it even more when we get parking tickets.

Add us to the list in favor of free parking. If we're lucky, free parking might even promote growth and development downtown, which needs all the help it can get.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Feingold challenges Bush on Mail Opening

Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold sent a letter today to President Bush asking him to explain his December "signing statement" in which the President asserted the government's right to open Americans' mail without a warrant.

As we noted here last week, the signing statement was issued December 20 when the President signed routine postal legislation. The New York Daily News broke the signing statement story several days later, quoting legal authorities who challenged the President's right to read citizens' mail.

In his letter, Feingold cites chapter and verse of U.S. postal regulations. He closes by asking the President to answer the following question:

Has your administration authorized any government agency to read Americans’ first-class mail without obtaining a search warrant, complying with the applicable court order requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or satisfying Postal Service regulations?

It's a good question, though we suspect we won't get much of an answer. Nevertheless, we want to thank Sen. Feingold for speaking out—loud and clear—about something that should be important to all Americans.

The War That Keeps on Surging

All indications from Washington are that President Bush this week will announce a troop increase as part of his new plan for Iraq. The move, called a "surge" my some commentators, is designed to bring order to Baghdad, which has been the scene of daily shootings and bombings.

The surge is being resisted by anti-war Democrats and some Republicans. Even some supporters of the war have criticized the idea, most notably several generals as well as former Marine and Fox News contributor Oliver North.

In addition, the New York Times today quotes the new American general in charge of operations in Iraq as saying "it might take another 'two or three years' for American and Iraqi forces to gain the upper hand in the war."

The Times continues:

The commander, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, assumed day-to-day control of war operations last month in the first step of a makeover of the American military hierarchy here. In his first lengthy meeting with reporters, General Odierno, 52, struck a cautious note about American prospects, saying much will depend on whether commanders can show enough progress to stem eroding support in the United States for the war.

We were laboring under the assumption that the President's troop surge would be short-term. But we suspect the general has it right: Under the new Bush plan—as with the original plan—we're in for the long haul: more lives lost, more maimed and wounded soliders, more money poured into the bloody mess the President and his advisers have made in Iraq.

Tulsa Filmmaker Heads to Sundance

Kudos to Tulsa director Sterlin Harjo, who will be screening his film Four Sheets to the Wind at the Sundance Film Festival later this month. The film, which tells the story of a young Creek/Seminole man whose life is rocked by his father's suicide, was shot in Tulsa, Wewoka, and Holdenville.

Harjo, 27, is part Creek/Seminole. He grew up in Holdenville, and shot some scenes at his grandmother's house. Some Tulsa scenes were shot at the DoubleShot Coffee Company on South Boston Avenue near downtown.

Harjo told the Tulsa World recently that Four Sheets isn't autobiographical, but the characters were based on people he knows. Harjo's short film, Goodnight Irene, was shown at Sundance two years ago.

Harjo studied film at OU and at the Sundance Institute. "I love Oklahoma, and it's sort of where I get my inspiration," Harjo told the World.

We don't know when Four Sheets to the Wind will be shown in Tulsa, but we'll be looking for it soon.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

The Hot and the Not-So-Hot

Tulsa's weekly newspaper, Urban Tulsa, is out with its "Hot 100," the paper's annual list of the "movers and shakers" in T-Town. We'd quibble with some choices, of course, but a few UT selections are worthy of additional comment.

First, the good news. We're happy to see some of our favorites on the list, including Clark Wiens, the driving force behind Tulsa's nonprofit Circle Cinema. It also good to see local arts and civic organizations and organizers on the list, including the Tulsa Historical Society, the Tulsa Peace House (Valerie Ackerman and Janet Hutto), the Tulsa Ballet (Marcello Angelini), writer Michael Wallis, and many others. We'd even give a nodding endorsement to those T-Town zanies Biker Fox and Paul Tay.

But we have to take issue with at least one dubious selection: Keith Skrzypczak, the publisher of Urban Tulsa. Sure, he's way down the list at number 97, but putting the owner of the paper that's publishing the list on that selfsame list seems just a tad too convenient.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Locke on Religious Toleration

Our nomination for the Quote of the Day:

"No private person has any right, in any manner, to prejudice another person in his civil enjoyments, because he is of another church or religion. All the rights and franchises that belong to him as a man…are inviolably to be preserved to him. These are not the business of religion. No violence nor injury is to be offered him, whether he be Christian or pagan."

--John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration, 1689

We're # 1 (But Not in a Good Way)

We wish it were OU football or OSU basketball, but it's a much more dubious honor. Oklahoma is—again!—number one in women in prison.

Figures released by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics show that Oklahoma had 2,455 women in prison at the end of 2005, making our incarceration rate 129 per 100,000, almost double the national rate of 65.

To what do we owe this tremendous achievement? Apparently, Oklahomans like locking up females. According to a source cited in the Tulsa World, other states have higher arrest rates for women than Oklahoma, but we send more of them to jail. The state justice official also told the World that other states have treatment programs for women that keep them out of the poky.

But why treat these lady criminals when we can lock 'em up? Besides, more jails means new jobs—but don't built those prisons near our backyard.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Hot-Air Hannity Talks Much But Says Little

We like to tune it to the right-wing radio talkers now and again—it's hotbed of unintentional hypocrisy and doublespeak. But even we weren't prepared for Sean Hannity's attacks yesterday on the Democratic majority in the House. Hannity seemed particularly irritated at Pennsylvania Rep. Jack Murtha, who Hannity accused of corruption in the old Abscam scandal and who, Hannity said, now wants to give in to the terrorists.

We doubt the latter charge. But we do know this: Rep Murtha, whatever his background or his views on the Iraq and terrorism, actually served in a war. He was a marine officer and is a decorated Vietnam War veteran.

What about Hannity? Oh that's right, he's a not-so-honorable Chickhawk, a man who never served his country in any kind of uniform. Yet he keeps billing himself as the Great American, safely manning the microphone in defense of his country.

Until he dons a military uniform and serves in combat, Hannity's views on the conduct of the war are suspect at best. For Hannity, it's all partianship all the time.

Tulsa Blog Roundup

A quick snapshot of this week in Tulsa's Blogosphere:

At Batesline, Michael Bates sees little hope for reform on the Tulsa World's editorial page after the paper's announcement this week that long-time editor Ken Neal will be stepping down. Neal, the editorial pages editor, has worked at the World since he was a copy boy in 1953 (longer than Bates has been alive, we venture to guess). Neal will be replaced by David Averill, who's worked at the paper since 1969. In Bates' view, the change will make little difference, since the World, Bates says, is always in favor of the old-money elites, higher taxes, and liberal social policies which ridicule conservative social values and, worst of all, a "Culture of Death." To which we say: Yikes! Death and taxes—no wonder he's upset.

At No Blog of Significance, Dan Paden attacks the Democrats in Congress for pushing the minimum wage raise, which he says is merely currying favor with the labor unions. Could be. But we were thinking that a little more pay for all those low-wage, non-union service workers might actually help them earn a living wage and make a decent life for themselves and their families.

At Tulsa Today, David Arnett takes credit for alerting the Tulsa Police to the prostitution operation that was advertising its services on Craigslist. Good work, we say, though it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to check the personals on that site and draw some obvious conclusions. But after reviewing Tulsa Today for some weeks, we see another problem: The site is not very "daily," despite the instantaneous nature of web technology and it's not very "Tulsa" either, since a fair amount of copy seems to come from one writer, Patrick B. McGuigan, former editorial writer for the Oklahoman in Oklahoma City. Nothing against OKC, but it's not the best location for writing about T-Town.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Bush wants to read your mail

President Bush has claimed new power to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant, the New York Daily News reports today.

The Daily News says that the action came when the President signed a postal reform bill on Dec. 20, then issued a "signing statement" asserting the right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

Experts familiar with the President's claim say it contradicts existing law, the paper reports. The Daily News also quotes an Senate Intelligence aide who promised a legislative inquiry into the policy. For its part, the White House denied that it was claiming any new authority.

AltTulsa's take: This looks like more of the Bush Administration's on-going National Security Apparatus. In the mind of Bush and his team, the War of Terror gives is the administration free reign to do whatever it feels like to win, the Bill of Rights and other Constitutional niceties notwithstanding.

For the record, we believe in judicial oversight of administration policies, especially the assertion of new government powers that invade the privacy of citizens. That means judge's warrants should required in this and other areas of law enforcement and national security. (For a detailed analysis of the Bush assault on privacy and other matters, see our January 2 post on civil liberities and the link to Dahlia Lithwich's Slate article.)

It's not too much to ask that this (or any other) administration uphold both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution as it protects its citizens.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Rev. Robertson's Direct Pipeline to The Lord

Run for cover—Pat Robertson's been talking to God again. That's right, folks, the self-appointed moral scold and host of CBN television's 700 Club has announced the terrifying news emanating from his latest encounter with The Lord.

In an AP report from Robertson's Virginia Beach headquarters, Robertson said that God told him that the U.S. will be attacked by terrorists sometime in 2007.

“I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear,” Robertson said. “The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that,” the AP reported.

The AP report goes on:
Robertson said God told him during a recent prayer retreat that major cities and possibly millions of people will be affected by the attack, which should take place sometime after September.

Robertson said God also told him that the U.S. only feigns friendship with Israel and that U.S. policies are pushing Israel toward “national suicide.”

Robertson suggested in January 2006 that God punished then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a stroke for ceding Israeli-controlled land to the Palestinians.
We're delighted to know that Robertson's pipeline to God is still working. We just wish Robertson could have used his powerful interviewing skills to coax God into providing more specifics.

Think how prepared the Homeland Security folks could be if Robertson could have used the Lord's infallible intelligence operation to pin down the time and place of the next attack. Millions of lives could be saved.

But no—Robertson couldn't get God to give us the details. Come to think of it, where was Robertson and his heavenly hotline on Sept. 11, 2001?

Democratic Disgrace: Louisiana's William Jefferson

Having taken our shots at several Republican legislators recently, we think it's only fair to point out an major lapse in judgment on the other side of the aisle.

We are sorry to report that the voters of Louisiana's Second District returned Democratic Rep. William J. Jefferson to office in a special run-off election December 9. Congressman Jefferson, as you may recall, is under FBI investigation for corruption. Federal agents reportedly found $90,000 in cash wrapped and stored in Jefferson's freezer. Nevertheless, Jefferson has not been charged with any crime—not yet, anyway.

We haven't lived in Louisiana's Second District and, like Will Rogers, we only know what we read in the papers. But the details we've seen are more than enough to convince us that the voters were wrong: Jefferson should have been voted out of Congress.

Tulsa's Cherry Street Attracts Press Attention

Tulsa's Cherry Street—defined as 15th Street between Peoria and Utica—is widely recognized as one of Tulsa's most charming business and residential neighborhoods. Like the Brookside neighborhood, Cherry Street's mix of small shops and restaurants is an attractive, walkable street that brings shoppers and diners into Tulsa's Midtown area.

The changing face of Cherry Street has also generated some recent press attention. In October, Rhonda Clark, a reporter for the Midtown edition of the Community World, published two stories about the neighborhood. Clark quoted several Cherry Street business owners who were optimistic about the neighborhood's revival. She also reported on the formation of the New Cherry Street Association, a group promoting redevelopment along the street.

More recently, Michael Bates, writing in Urban Tulsa, praised Cherry Street's appealing atmosphere and asked an interesting rhetorical question: "Is this the best street in Tulsa?"If it is, Bates continues, the city ought to "bottle it, and sprinkle it on the rest of the city."

Bates also reviews the history of the neighborhood and explores the new challenges facing the street. He's skeptical of urban "streetscaping" projects, redevelopment that usually features brick walkways, new tree plantings, park benches, and the like.

Having driven too many times through the recent Brookside streetscaping, we at AltTulsa are inclined to agree with Bates. When it comes to planning, development and neighborhood improvements, sometimes less is more.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Who Needs Those Stinkin' Civil Liberties?

George Bush is fond of reminding us that we live in a post-Sept. 11 world. Indeed we do. But Bush and his anti-terror forces have used this fact to make an on-going assault on U.S. citizens' civil liberties.

For a quick (and scary) review of the year in civil liberties, we recommend Dahlia Lithwich's Slate article, "The Top 10 Most Outrageous Civil-Liberties Violations of 2006." Lithwick, Slate's legal writer, finds plenty to worry about in the Bush Administration's doctrine of state secrets, government snooping, operation of Guantanamo Bay, and its practice of extraordinary rendition.

Check out these and other questionable Bush practices at

What's in an (English) Name?

State Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson, an Oklahoma City Republican, has proposed a law making English the state's official language. Wilcoxson told the Tulsa World last week that the law's impact would be minimal, but that the English requirement would make a statement.

"It's a statement that we are one people under one language," Wilcoxson told the World.

Sounds good, doesn't it? "One people under one language"—who could disagree with that?

Pardon us for saying so, but a few testy historians and linguists might want to challenge the "one language" idea. After all, the very name of the state and its capital city aren't English words. Nor is the word "Tulsa." Nor are a host of other cities, counties, towns, rivers, landmarks, and so on.

If memory serves, "Oklahoma" is a Choctaw word. Many places in the state have Native American names. We can also think of Spanish and French places in Oklahoma. So how does this square with the proposed English requirement?

Beyond changing the state's name, here are a few other places we may have to re-name if Sen. Wilcoxson's bill makes us enforce the English language policy: Anadarko, Sapulpa, Eufaula, Tahlequah, Chickasha, Shawnee, Choctaw, Wewoka, Seminole, El Reno, Watonga, Vinita, Ponca City, Oologah, Muskogee, Pawhuska, the Quachita National Forest, the Verdigris River, the Arkansas River, the Washita River—we could go on and on.

The good senator might want to re-think her English legislation. Maybe we were never really united under one language after all.

Propaganda Payola in Bushland

Remember Armstrong Williams? No? Neither do we.

But as 2006 fades into memory, we'd like to remind AltTulsa readers of Mr. Williams' covert propaganda role in the the Bush Administration. Armstrong, a conservative pundit, signed a $240,000 deal to produce two TV and two radio ads promoting the Bush's administration No Child Left Behind law. More ominously, Armstrong agreed to promote the law in his syndicated TV and radio and newspaper columns.

Although Armstrong says he did nothing wrong, he agreed in late 2006 to repay the U.S. government $34,000. The repayment settled the government's claims against Armstrong, who did not face criminal charges.

Armstrong told USA Today recently that he he would "gladly pay" the settlement. We're glad too: We think paying pundits to promote government policies is itself bad government policy.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Shameless Plug: Oklahoma Observer Now On-line

Frosty Troy's long-running alternative weekly, The Oklahoma Observer, is now on-line. New editor Arnold Hamilton has established an attractive on-line presence for the Oklahoma City publication, which has a 38-year tradition of "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable," a philosophy we also endorse.

Hamilton, long-time OKC bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News and former reporter for the old Tulsa Tribune, will run the Observer, though Troy—happily—is still an Oklahoma fixture, firing his verbal shots across the bow of the state's offending politicians and pretenders.

Check out the new Oklahoma Observer at