Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Writers We Like: Philip Roth Honored Again

The literary world this week honored Philip Roth with the PEN/Faulkner Award for his 2006 novel Everyman. It was Roth's third time to win the PEN/Faulkner award.

We haven't read his new work, but our earlier experiences with Roth's book have been memorable. He's not to everyman's taste (pun intended), but Roth has the storyteller's gift and his best work is powerful and profound. And, amazingly, he keeps on writing inventive, provocative novels, well after many of his contemporaries have gone to seed.

The bookstores and online booksellers have old and new Roth novels, many of which we can recommend. He's a great American writer.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Gore's Global Warning: The Glaciers are Melting

Writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben has published a summary of the recently released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the March 15 issue of The New York Review of Books.

McKibben's article is not optimistic. He notes that the international group of scientists who complied the report sacrificed the most current data for, in McKibben's words, "lowest-common-denominator conclusions that are essentially beyond argument." The sea level is continuing to rise, for example, at rates that are higher than even the IPCC report predicted. The icesheets of Greenland and Antarctic, McKibben notes, appear to be moving more quickly toward the sea.

If the details in the report aren't alarming enough, the New York Review has published two amazing photos of glaciers in Patagonia, Argentina, both from Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth.

The top photo, taken in 1928, shows a vast sheet of glacier ice stretching from the photographer off to distant mountain peaks. The lower photo shows the same scene in 2004. The glacier is gone, replaced by a large blue lake and a foreground of barren land. It's beautiful, but it's not a happy scene.

Ignorance is Bliss: That's Why Hannity Smiles

We had the misfortune yesterday to hear radio talker Sean Hannity prattle on about Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony. As expected, Hannity blasted the Hollywood liberals and former Vice President Al Gore, who was honored by the Academy when his film, An Inconvenient Truth, won an Oscar as Best Documentary.

Always a "red meat" talker, Hannity unloaded on the movie industry and Hollywood people, making clear that the Academy Awards telecast was a dud with the public.

But Hannity was—once again—half-cocked. In fact, television ratings for the show were up slightly over last year with an average audience of 39.9 million viewers. Last year the show attracted an average of 38.9 million viewers. The show also surpassed the season's top-rated entertainment television program, the premiere of Fox's "American Idol," which drew 37.4 million.

On his Fox News television show Monday night, Hannity whined long and loud about Gore and his movie. Once again, however, his grasp of the facts was fast and loose. Hannity commented on the Melissa Etheridge song from An Inconvenient Truth that was performed during the broadcast, noting that blatant "environmental propaganda" was projected on the scene behind Etheridge.

Well, not quite. The projections were, in fact, scenes from the film itself, an call to action that the filmmakers included at the end of An Inconvenient Truth. Hannity didn't seem to know this, of course, not having actually seen the film. (We did.)

We don't object to Hannity's opinions. We object to Hannity's repeated distortions of the facts in the service of his preconceived opinions. It's dishonest, of course, but what good is honesty to a guy like Sean Hannity?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Tulsa People Magazine Sports Clean New Design

Tulsa People, Langdon Publishing's 21-year-old city magazine, has an impressive new look. The March 2007 issue looks, well, great.

We don't claim to be type or design experts, but we are impressed with the magazine's clean, new look, as well as its cover story, "Going Green," which includes a number of useful and informative pieces on environmentalism in T-Town.

In his column in the new issue, publisher Jim Langdon explains that the magazine's new design took several months and was created to make the magazine brighter and easier to read.

As we said, the new design works. We especially like the semi-gloss paper they're using now—it feels good and prints beautifully. Kudos to Langdon and the design folks at Tulsa People.

Beyond the beautiful but old-fashioned world of printing, Langdon also reports that the online edition of Tulsa People is also thriving. The January issue, he writes, received more than 71,000 page views and the magazine sends out some 3,000 e-mails monthly to alert people to its online edition.

You can check out the site for yourself at

Let the Ladybugs Do the Work: Organic Gardening Workshop Set Saturday at TCC

The good folks at Sustainable Green Country and the Tulsa Community Gardening Association are sponsoring an organic gardening workshop on Saturday, March 3, at the TCC northeast campus.

The workshop will be taught by Mike Appel and Emily Oakley of Three Springs Farm. (Those of you who are regulars at the Cherry Street Farmers Market will recognize Mike and Emily.)

The workshop runs from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and costs $5.

The TCC northeast campus is at 3757 East Apache. Pre-registration is recommended. For more information, call 857-1206 or go to

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cheney's Crystal Ball on Iraq: Consistently Wrong

AltTulsa's nomination for Quote of the Day:

If you go back and see what Vice President Cheney has said for the last three or four years concerning Iraq, his batting average is abysmally low. He hasn’t been right on hardly anything.
--former President Jimmy Carter, speaking today.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

When the Gender Police Attack: Tulsa's Girl Wrestler Overcomes the Odds

Remember when cultural conservatives were more interested in personal freedom and individual initiative than in formulating rules for the rest of us to follow?

If you—like us—have a hard time recalling those days, here's a quick reminder of how some right-wingers use their narrow ideology to impose restrictions on folks who stray from the gospel of right-thinking.

Witness the case of a Tulsa high school senior who this week signed a wrestling scholarship at Oklahoma City University. The deal will help the student pay for college.

But wait—the student is, heaven forbid, a girl! A girl who wrestles! Who ever heard of such a thing? Turns out, OCU is one of a handful of schools that now sponsor women's wrestling as a varsity sport. (Canada has 16 colleges that sponsor women wrestlers. Who knew our northern neighbors were Godless heathens?)

Indeed, our East Central High School student, loves to wrestle. It's her passion. The Tulsa World reports that Cheyenne Stokes got her first taste of the sport as a mere 5-year-old when she watched another girl wrestle at a tournament in New Mexico. Her dad was unenthusiastic, but Cheyenne persevered and is now ranked as one of the top female prep wrestlers in America.

But leave it to our friends on the right to see this success as an affront to proper femininity. Women, we are assured, must be modest and stay away from pastimes that are rough, sweaty, or otherwise unbiblical.

At least that's the view of a conservative Oklahoma City activist and blogger, who this week criticized women's wrestling and OCU for straying from the gospel. (Those dang college-educated, libertine Methodists—never know what they'll do next!)

We admit: we don't know God's mind on the issue of women's wrestling. We don't think the critics do either. But we can argue with some confidence that notions of femininity are culturally determined and dynamic, not locked in place, and certainly not locked in the ancient world. It wasn't that long ago, after all, that women right in the the good ole USA were told they couldn't be doctors, lawyers, architects, ministers, journalists, and so on. Those notions of "proper" femininity were wrong.

We support Cheyenne. She pursued her passion and showed initiative. She overcame obstacles. She succeeded. All this seems wonderfully and powerfully American to us.

Bristow Farm Offers Organic Food Plan

Nuyaka Natural Farms of Bristow is offering an innovative plan for locally grown, organic food this year.

The idea, called Community Supported Agriculture, works as follows: Customers purchase shares in Nuyaka's 2007 share plan for a fixed amount. The farm, in turn, supplies its members with weekly "shares" from the farm for a 39-week growing season. From April through December, the folks at Nuyaka will supply their members with spinach, basil, onions, cucumbers, melons, peppers, and much more.

The payoff, Nuyaka says, is two-fold. Members get a rich supply of locally grown fruits, herbs and vegetables, while the farm gets a dependable market for their organically produced, earth-friendly agricultural practices.

It's an interesting idea and a great alternative to the mass-produced, industrial farming that fills most grocery shelves. We wish the Nuyaka Natural Farm well. For more information about the farm and membership options, contact them at 918-752-0628 or e-mail nuyakanaturalfarm

Full disclosure: We at AltTulsa do not have a financial interest in Nuyaka nor are we connected with them in any way. We simply like their proposal and think it is a great way to support local farmers. Our information on Nuyaka Farm comes from a brochure we picked up recently at Shades of Brown, our favorite Brookside coffee shop in midtown Tulsa.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Texas Monthly Weighs in on the Bush Legacy

It's not a pretty picture. Texas Monthly, the award-winning magazine published south of the Red River, has published a cover story on the legacy of favorite son George W. Bush.

The magazine asked a group of 15 scholars and political observers to weigh in on the President's performance. Predictably, the Republican pundits are much more sympathetic than the Democratic writers.

Nevertheless, there's a definite theme to the proceedings: the Bush legacy is in trouble.

Here are a few samples from Texas Monthly's March issue:

You can have a phony pretext for for, but you've got to win. By not winning in Iraq, President Bush has very little legacy left to stand on.
--Douglas Brinkley, presidential scholar and professor of history at Tulane

I am unable as of now to escape the feeling that George Bush has done what is, for a president, a very dangerous thing. He has surrounded himself with people who have the same way of looking at the world as he does.
--Robert Caro, Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential biographer

Will Bush be in the top rank among presidents? Obviously not. Will he be seen as an average president? Possibly not.
--Robert Dallek, presidential biographer

The things that he chose to have happen—cutting taxes and going to war in Iraq—were not decisions he had to make at all. He decided to do these things utterly on his own. The fact that he got them both wrong is going to really tell against his historical reputation.
--H. W. Brands, University of Texas professor of history

Bush is a risk taker, and we all know that risk takers will sooner or later bet the house on a bad hand…. In the end, it's one of those tantalizing stories of greatness in some measure spoiled by one bad call.
--Niall Ferguson, Harvard history professor and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution

As we said, it's not a pretty picture. Even long-time Bush supporters are depressed about the president's record. Marvin Olasky, the UT journalism professor and conservative writer who coined the term "compassionate conservatism," found little to celebrate in the Bush years. Reviewing Bush's efforts on behalf of the poor, Olasky concluded that the president has been "moderately weak."

Iraq War Vet Steamed about Hospital Conditions

Iraq war veteran Paul Rieckhoff is ticked off. Writing as a "special guest blogger" today on, Rieckhoff joins the chorus of critics concerned about conditions for some wounded veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

The uproar over substandard housing for wounded vets comes after a long investigation by the Washington Post, which published the story last week. Since then, army and Pentagon officials have apologized and promised to improve conditions at Building 18, an roach-infested, mould-ridden site where many outpatient veterans were housed.

Rieckhoff, author of Chasing Ghosts, a well-regarded memoir of his days in Iraq, now heads a veteran's organization and is a frequent critic of the Bush Administration's handling of the Iraq conflict.

Anti-War Petitioners Overwhelm Rep. Fallin's Office

If the polls are right, Oklahomans are increasingly opposed to George Bush's war in Iraq.

Rep. Mary Fallin discovered that herself Thursday when about two dozen anti-war activists piled into her Oklahoma City office, attempting to deliver letters opposing the president's troop buildup.

According to the report we saw, Fallin's staff ordered the activists to leave. They did.

A Fallin spokeswoman said the order to leave was a misunderstanding because the office workers were overwhelmed by the crowd.

Fair enough. But we hope that Rep. Fallin, a Republican who supports the troop buildup, got the message.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Dubious Distinction: We're No. 5 in Heart Disease

Oklahoma hearts are not as healthy as they ought to be. That's one unhappy conclusion we can draw from a study released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC study showed that Oklahoma ranks fifth in the nation in the prevalence of heart disease, with 7.5 percent of state residents saying that they have suffered a heart attack, angina or coronary heart disease.

Why does Oklahoma fare so poorly in these health numbers? According to sources cited by the Tulsa World, we have high rates of obesity, diabetes, and smoking. Not surprisingly, the risk factors are higher for men than for women, and higher for Native Americans than for whites, blacks, Hispanics, or Asians.

Fifth in the nation—hard to see much good in this ranking. But at least we're ahead of four other states: West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee.

Egyptian Blogger Jailed for 'Insults'

We at AltTulsa believe in free speech. It's a good thing, we always say, when citizens can criticize their government, government leaders, and other powerful institutions and people without fear of reprisal.

But an Egyptian blogger named Abdel Kareem Soliman this week discovered the limits of free speech in Egypt. According to the BBC News, Soliman was sentenced to four years in prison for insulting Islam and Egypt's leader, President Hosni Mubarak.

The trial—if you can call it that—took all of five minutes.

Soliman is the first Egyptian blogger to be prosecuted, the BBC reported. His offenses included criticism of the nation's top Islamic institution, al-Azhar university, which Soliman called "the university of terrorism." Soliman referred to Mubarak as a dictator.

Amnesty International, the BBC reported, called Soliman's prosecution "yet another slap in the face for freedom of expression in Egypt."

We know little of Egyptian life or politics, but even in an authoritarian country with restrictive laws and customs, a five-minute trial and a four-year prison term are extraordinarily unfair and unjust.

The only good news in this situation comes from a fellow Egyptian blogger named Amr Gharbeia. He told the BBC that other Egyptian bloggers would keep up their criticism. We hope he's right. If he's not, he may end up in the cell next to Soliman.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Abu Ghraib Documentary Film Comes to HBO

A few weeks back, we recommended the documentary film, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, then playing at Tulsa's Circle Cinema. It's a powerful and damning exploration of the people and policies that led to the mistreatment and, yes, torture, of prisoners at the infamous Iraqi prison.

We see today that the film, by Rory Kennedy, will be broadcast on HBO tomorrow night, Thursday, February 22.

We recommend the documentary, not because it's pleasant viewing, but because it helps explain some of the many mistakes made by military and civilian officials in the conduct of the Iraq war. It also gives a human face to some of the prisoners and some of the soldiers whose lives intersected at Abu Ghraib.

See the film. Nobody comes out unscathed.

Boy Soldier's Memoir on Sale in Brookside

We blogged last week about Ishmael Beah's book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Beah was a teenager in Sierra Leone when he was pressed into service and exploited by the nation's army in its fight against a rebel group.

After years of violence and combat, much of it fuelled by army-administered drugs, Beah and other boys soldiers were rescued by Unicef. Beah ended up in the U.S., where--against all odds--he became a college student and a writer.

We picked up a copy of Beah's book the other day at the Starbucks in Brookside. (From what we could glean, Starbucks is promoting the book as a part of a humanitarian effort in Africa.)

We've only read excerpts of the Beah's story, but it's a gripping and terrible tale. It's also a small miracle that Beah survived the ordeal in his right mind and he has turned his horrifying experience into a story American readers can appreciate.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tulsa Republicans: We've Got God

It's too bad that we missed the Tulsa County Republican Convention on Saturday. Based on the report in the Tulsa World, it was a very interesting meeting—part political rally, part tent-revival service.

Besides the usual calls for less government regulation, repeal of the income tax, and other such political proposals, local GOP officials apparently took a detour through Sunday school. World reporter Randy Krehbiel noted that the conventioneers approved a statement of principle that, in the words of the statement, "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge."

The wise, God-fearing Republican leaders also supported the teaching of creationism, as well as the posting of the Ten Commandments and "In God We Trust" in all public schools. Finally, the Tulsa Grand Ole Party expressed support (as if we had any doubt) for Judeo-Christian values, "while maintaining freedom of religion for the individual."

There's a lot to ponder in this list of pro-God resolutions. And frankly, we're jealous. We thought we could be pro-God too. Yet the Republicans seem to have God squarely in their corner. They have no doubts. They know full well, for example, that God rejects modern biological science, no matter what the biologists say. They know, too, that school children will never misbehave or cheat on math tests again if God's Word is tacked on the schoolhouse wall. (If only God worked this way!)

And though we see no actual evidence of God's preference for the GOP, we suppose it's possible that God really is a Republican. We just don't know which kind of Republican God really is: A born-again evangelical Republican like Pat Robertson or James Dobson? A Mormon Republican like Mit Romney? A Catholic Republican like Rudolph Giuliani? A Methodist Republican like George W. Bush?

We like to think that God is above partisan politics. And that God might be somehow available to Oklahoma Democrats, independents, libertarians and other back-sliders who don't follow the official gospel of the Tulsa GOP. But then again, we could be wrong.

White House Hypocrisy on Leaks and Leakers

Scanning the national press today, we saw this pointed appraisal of yet another Bush Administration ethical lapse.

The Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial, USA Today notes in an editorial, has exposed the administration's double standard on the matter of leaks to the press.

"The is not the way this White House works," press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters in September 2003. Vice President Dick Cheney said that one unauthorized leak was "a disgrace." President Bush himself has condemned leaks "unacceptable" and "shameful."

USA Today points out, however, that the administration leaks at will when it suits the President's policies.

From the Libby trial, for instance:

No fewer than four top officials—Libby, White House aide Karl Rove, former deputy secretary Richard Armitage and former press secretary Ari Fleischer—were cited by at least one reporter under oath as a source of the information.

In short, the President and his people are simply playing politics, condemning leaks out of one side of their mouths while leaking like sieves out the other.

We might forgive such power politics as "business as usual" in Washington, except that the President was supposed to be above such things. This President, after all, once cited Jesus as his favorite philosopher. As a candidate and thereafter, Bush positioned himself as God's man in the White House.

Bush's hypocritical attitude toward leaks and leakers—not to mention a couple dozen other policies we might name—makes plain the hollowness of his holier-than-thou position. No wonder more and more Americans, even in places as "red" as Tulsa, are losing faith in George Bush.

Monday, February 19, 2007

John McCain on the Legacy of Donald Rumsfeld

Our nomination for the Quote of the Day. It's from Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was campaigning in the very red state of South Carolina.

Here's the quote, courtesy of the Associated Press:

I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history," McCain said to applause.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Questions for Oklahoma's Senatorial Whiner

Sen. Tom Coburn will be home this week meeting with his constituents in Claremore, Jay, Grove and Miami. He'll speak Friday in Tulsa at a forum hosted by the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Let's hope a few brave Oklahoma voters ask the good senator about his recent comment that being a senator is a frustrating job. Coburn, a physician, told a Washington interviewer a few weeks ago that he wasn't enjoying his job and just might return to his medical practice.

This sentiment hasn't passed unnoticed around the Sooner state. Today's Tulsa World, for example, included three letters to the editor taking the senator to task for his attitude. One writer nominated Coburn as "Whiner of the Week," an award that seems appropriate.

If Dr. Coburn is so frustrated and unhappy in Washington, both he and the state might benefit by his return to a more productive line of work. Delivering healthy babies is a joyous occasion, after all, and there's no need to work with a Democratic-controlled Senate or a whole state of increasingly unsatisfied voters.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Oklahoma's GOP House Members Fall in Line

As expected, the Sooner State's GOP representatives followed the party line Friday, voting against a symbolic Democratic measure opposing the President's troop surge in Iraq.

Seventeen Republicans crossed party lines in support of the Democratic measure, but no Oklahoman was among them. Tulsa's John Sullivan, never one to stray from party politics, accused the Democrats of playing politics themselves. According to the Tulsa World, Sullivan referred to the resolution as a message of defeat.

Thank goodness for Rep. Dan Boren, the state's only Democratic House member, who voted with other Democrats against the President's plans. For the increasing number of Oklahomans opposed to the war and the Administration's handling of the war, Boren's vote represents a tiny ray of hope for a new strategy in Iraq.

For reasons we can't fathom, Rep. Frank Lucas was the only Oklahoma representative who did not speak on the resolution.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sullivan's Bill Could Boost Race Riot Memorial

We don't always agree with First District Congressman John Sullivan. But we do want to commend Rep. Sullivan's efforts this week to secure National Park Service recognition for a memorial to the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.

As the Tulsa World reported yesterday, Rep. Sullivan's bill would permit the National Park Service to conduct a feasibility study to determine whether the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Museum and Memorial could become a part of the federal agency.

Sullivan admitted that the 1921 riot remains an ugly aspect of Tulsa's racial history. "There are people that don't like this," Sullivan told the World. "I know, but I don't care. I think that certainly it is something we need to have."

Good for Rep. Sullivan. The race riot is a significant part of local history that we should deal with and try to understand. Tulsans need to know their history, warts and all.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Defending Bush's War With Fake Lincoln Quote

Everyone makes mistakes. It's part of the human condition.

But some conservative Congressmen and pundits have reached new heights of foolishness by continuously recycling a supposed Abe Lincoln quote as part of their effort to discredit critics of the Iraq War.

Here's the quote, as it appeared in a piece by writer Frank Gaffney in the Moonie-owned Washington Times:

Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged.

The line is so useful that it was repeated this week on the House floor by Republican Rep. Don Young of Alaska.

Too bad Lincoln never uttered or wrote those words. They come from a writer for the conservative Insight magazine named J. Michael Waller. He wrote them in 2003. And even Waller says they were not spoken by Abraham Lincoln. Nevertheless, a fact-checking outfit found some 18,000 citations for the Lincoln quote that never was.

But why bother with messy details like facts when you're making a partisan point?

Late update: Last time we checked on Friday, neither the Washington Times nor Rep. Young had corrected their mistake, despite many calls to do so.

Even later update: It took more than two days, but the Washington Times has acknowledged the fake Lincoln quote used by its writer Frank Gaffney. As of today (Saturday), Rep. Young apparently has not owned up to the bogus quotation, even though he has said he read the quote in—you guessed it—the Washington Times.

A Teenage Soldier's Remarkable Story

Speaking of books (see previous entry on Eat, Pray, Love), we caught writer Ishmael Beah on The Daily Show this week.

Who's Ishmael Beah? He's a former child soldier from Sierra Leone who, miraculously, survived his ordeal and ended up in the U.S. Now 26 and living in Brooklyn, Beah has published a harrowing account of his years at war called A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of Boy Soldier.

Speaking to The Daily Show's John Stewart, Beah offered a gripping portrait of the civil war in his home country, where his mother, father, and two brothers were murdered. An American woman working for Unicef arranged for Beah to come to the U.S. at 17. Later, as a student at Oberlin College, he took a fiction-writing class, where he began his memoir.

We haven't read the book, but we were moved and horrified by an excerpt that ran as the cover story last month in the New York Times Magazine. Beah's story isn't fun reading, but it is an important testament to the brutal realities of the world beyond our shores.

Beah's book, published this month by Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, is A Long Way Gone.

What We're Reading: Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love"

The AlternativeTulsa crowd likes to feast on a variety of books and writers. One charming volume we recently discovered is Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, now out in paperback from Penguin.

The book's subtitle explains Gilbert's personal and literary journey: "One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia."

A novelist, short story writer and journalist, Gilbert is an energetic and funny writer, which makes her book an engaging read. We're not surprised that the book was a New York Times bestseller or that the paperback edition carried a raft of good reviews.

Find a copy, find a chair, and enjoy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tulsa Bloggers: Less Than Meets the Eye

If you've been monitoring Tulsa's blogsphere lately, you know that TPS School Board candidate Brenda Barre was a big favorite among the local cyber-typers. Barre, a retired Booker T. Washington High School teacher, got hearty endorsements from several local blogs, including Bounded Rationality and Tulsa Chiggers.

You'd think the blogs would carry some weight. Yet when the votes were tallied Tuesday night, Barre came up short, losing to incumbent Gary Percefull by 37 votes. Of course, Barre might have lost by a much greater margin had she not received support from the bloggers.

Nevertheless Barre lost, evidence that the Tulsa blogosphere has less political clout than some of us imagine. Same goes for Chris Medlock, one-time blogger, former Tulsa city councilor and recent candidate for the state legislature. He lost too.

Bernstein on the Bush Administration's Candor—Or Lack Thereof

Quote of the day, from Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein:

"[Compared to the Nixon Administration], the Bush administration is a far different matter in which disinformation, misinformation and unwillingness to tell the truth -- a willingness to lie both in the Oval Office, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, in the office of the vice president, the vice president himself -- is something that I have never witnessed before on this scale."

USA! USA! We're #1 in Firearms Homicides!

Like most Americans, we're proud of our country. We like to crow about the American spirit—proud, strong, independent and energetic.

But here's one U.S. statistic we're rather not claim on behalf of Americans: firearms homicides. As we have noted on this site in earlier posts, the culture of gun violence in America has had disturbing effects. But even we were shocked to find these statistics about gun homicides, courtesy of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

According to the Center, "the rate of firearms homicide in the United States is nineteen times higher than that of 35 other high-income countries combined."

Here's a recent (and troubling) breakdown of the numbers for firearms homicides in selected countries:

Ireland 54
Japan 83
Sweden 183
Great Britain 197
Australia 334
Canada 1,034
United States 30,419

Nothing much to crow about in these figures.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Gun Violence Erupts Again, This Time in a Utah Mall

At AltTulsa, we deplore senseless violence of all sorts. We think it is morally wrong to kill or physically assault other human beings (and, yes, we would make exceptions in cases of self-defense and morally justifiable wars).

Yet it's always shocking to hear about unprovoked shootings like the one yesterday at a Salt Lake City mall. A young man with a shotgun and a pistol entered the mall and began firing randomly. By the time he was finished, five citizens were dead and several more people, including a 16-year-old, were seriously wounded. Many more shoppers were literally running for their lives or hiding in bathrooms and under counters.

We don't know what might have motivated the shooter. Presumably, he was alienated and angry about some real or perceived grievance. But this man's private grievance became an act of mass murder when he went on his shooting spree. His weapons allowed him to kill and wound people who were merely shopping and who posed no threat to anyone.

Sadly, this shooting was one more instance of unprovoked gun violence in the U.S—violence that goes on and on.

Here's the question we would ask about gun violence in the U.S.: It is good public policy to make guns easily available to every adult, no matter what his or her state of mind?

We don't think so. We think public policy and common sense argue in favor of some kind of gun restrictions, even modest restrictions, to keep firearms out of the hands of children, teenagers, and people known to be violent, criminally insane, or deranged.

That's not too much to ask. No, it wouldn't stop all random and senseless shooting, but it might very well stop some of them. And it would save innocent lives.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Karl Rove's Immigration "Gaffe of the Year"

Big-time blogger Mickey Kaus of Kausfiles has picked up on Karl Rove's all-too-true comment last week defending the Bush immigration reform plan. Kaus calls it the "gaffe of the year."

According to press reports, Rove offered a family example:

I don't want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas.

Kaus follows with this interesting question: "Has Rove accidentally ripped the mask off the vicious social inegalitarianism of Bush's immigration plan?"

Ah yes, the perils of telling the unvarnished truth. Few American parents want their children to be field hands or maids, of course. But someone has to do the work and, few if any American parents are pushing their children to do the grunt work that keeps this affluent society humming.

Bush's solution, Kaus notes, is a guest worker program that gets foreigners to do the grunt work, but sends them home when their tasks are done. It's unfair, perhaps, but at least Rove's kids won't have to dirty their hands with manual labor.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Republican War on Science, Continued (Dinosaur Gas Edition)

Science is a great thing. It's revolutionized modern life in areas as immediate as electronics, transportation and communication, and on subjects as theoretical and obscure (at least to us) as astrophysics and microbiology.

But leave it to our friends in the GOP to turn science into a speculative guessing game where every half-baked notion (intelligent design, anyone?) deserves equal billing with empirical evidence and actual scientific data.

The latest nominee for the "Sen. Jim Inhofe Don't-Confuse-Me-With-the- Facts-Because-My-Mind's-Made-Up Prize" is California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who this week blamed the earth's heating and cooling cycles on—drum roll please!—"dinosaur flatulence."

Yes, Cowboys and Cowgirls, dinosaur flatulence!

We know God works in mysterious ways, but unless Rep. Rohrabacher can cite some actual scientific evidence, the "dinosaur gas theory" seems to be something more than a stretch.

Put us down as reasonable folks. If the Congressman can cite some credible science in support of the dinosaur gas thesis, we'll change our minds. Until then, our guess is that global warming these days comes from certain Republican members of Congress.

Think Progress has posted the C-SPAN video of the congressman's comments.

Tulsa's Mom & Pop Businesses Promoted on New Site

In an age of national chains and big box retailers, it's wonderful to see a continuing interest in local shops and businesses. So we're pleased to recommend Indie Tulsa, a site that promotes the T-Town's small businesses. The site offers local reviews and publishes lots of photos too.

Recent reports on Indie Tulsa have included some of our favorites, such as the Circle Cinema and Tie-Dyes of Tulsa. Indie Tulsa is certainly worth a look.

(Hat tip to Michael Bates at Batesline for the Indie Tulsa report.)

A New Headline We'd Rather Not See

There is little good to say about the headline we spotted today on the website:

"Air Force Academy probes alleged cheating: 4,300 cadets confined to campus amid violations involving porn, booze."

How Do You Say "Oklahoma" in English?

We were pleased this week to see more opposition to the official English idea now being kicked around in the state legislature.

Former Tulsa mayor and current Oklahoma Secretary of State Susan Savage said this week that the bill is unnecessary and that it "diminishes cultures that are part of our history, present and future."

Several tribal leaders also attacked the measure, including Cherokee Chief Chad Smith. Smith told the Tulsa World that if the law been in effect during World War II the U.S. would have been with the services of the Native American code talkers, men whose native language skills helped save American lives.

As AltTulsa noted in an earlier post, official English implies much more that its supporters seem to know. The state's name, after all, is a Choctaw word. And many, many other cities, towns, rivers, and the like are in languages other than English.

If the bill becomes law, the state's highest point will be known as "Black Table." The river east of Tulsa will be the "Greengray."

But what does "Tulsa" mean in English?

Friday, February 9, 2007

Oklahoma's New Miss America Likes a Rising Star

The AltTulsa gang doesn't usually have much to say about the Miss America or the rapidly aging Miss America pageant. Let's just say that it's not really our cup of tea.

But today's web brings us this Miss America tidbit. Seems as if the new Miss America, Lawton native Lauren Nelson, 20, likes a certain Illinois Democrat who is running for president.

That's right, Sooner fans, Miss America reportedly said this week that she's a fan of Sen. Barack Obama. We don't know why she likes Obama and we suspect Ms. Nelson is supposed to remain nonpartisan. After all, she's probably supposed to represent all Americans.

Still, it's refreshing to hear a young Oklahoman who's willing to say a kind word about the junior senator from the Land of Lincoln.

Right-Wing Media: When the Facts Don't Fit, Make Up Your Own Smear

In case you missed this week's fake news flap from the right-wing spin machine, here's a quick recap:

Despite what the Moonie-backed Washington Times reported and the Fox News repeated, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not demand a new, luxurious Air Force plane to fly her back to her home district in California.

How do we know that spin machine got it wrong? Two words: Tony Snow.

We admit that we're not usually big fans of Mr. Snow, former Fox journalist and current the White House spokesman. But to his credit, Snow made it clear this week that the whole flap was highly exaggerated if not fully invented.

Turns out that previous speakers, such as Republican Dennis Hassert, have had Air Force planes take them home too. Turns out California is much farther west than Illinois and that this extra distant called for a different Air Force plane. Turns out that that this is standard security practice for a person in the chain of command.

Turns out too that right-wing "journalists"—and these quotes mean that they aren't much interested in actual journalism—are less interested in facts than in smearing their ideological opponents.

More Bush Administration News We Already Knew: The Intelligence Books Were Cooked

Today's Washington Post is reporting more of what a lot of Americans suspected several years ago: Bush Administration officials justified the invasion of Iraq with faulty, highly exaggerated intelligence.

The new evidence comes from the Pentagon's inspector general, who concluded that Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith used reporting of dubious quality or reliability to support the Iraq invasion. Feith, along with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, were major administration supporters of the Iraq war policy.

Feith's office, the Post reported, "was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda."

Far from being objective investigators of fact, Feith knew what he kind of intelligence he wanted to find, so—no surprise here!— he and his staff found it. We'd call this kind of intelligence assessment blatantly dishonest.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, the new head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, says the Pentagon report on Feith shows that the Iraq-al Qaeda link "was manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense" in support of the war.

Another day, another piece of evidence that Bush, Cheney, and the neocons deceived the American people for reasons of their own and bullied their way through the facts to start a war they had no business starting and were ill-prepared to sustain.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

How Lame is Bush's Lame Duck?

How relevant is George W. Bush? With a Democratic Congress now installed in D.C., W is not nearly so relevant as he once was.

That, at least, seems to be verdict from the pundits. Tom Friedman, The New York Times columnist, has put it bluntly: "The American people basically fired George Bush in the last election."

Another pundit, CNN's Bill Schneider, agrees. "A lot of Americans consider this presidency over," Schneider has said.

We're not sure that's true. But we are sure that many Americans are fed up with a ineffective and muddled-headed president, a man long on talk and short on results, as well as an administration made up of far too many sycophants and deceivers.

W's reign of error and mismanagement is not yet over, of course, and we can expect more White House nonsense in the months to come. But whatever happens in Bush's last 23 months, it's clear that the time can't pass fast enough for more and more Americans.

Tulsans Show Support for Women Politicians

Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State, is Tulsa's top Republican presidential contender, according to poll numbers published earlier this week.

The Oklahoma Poll found that 21 percent of Tulsans would vote for Rice if the election were held now. Rice's numbers topped those of Sen. John McCain and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, each of whom garnered 17 percent of Tulsa's Republican voters.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich ran fourth among Tulsa Republicans, picking up 13 percent.

Statewide, the poll showed McCain as the top Republican choice, with 25 percent of Oklahoma Republicans expressing support for the Arizona senator. Guiliani was second statewide with 17 percent support.

We have no idea what all these numbers mean, but perhaps Tulsa is friendly territory for women candidates.

That conclusion is confirmed on the Democratic side of the poll, because the numbers for Hillary Clinton were highest in Tulsa, where she found support among 31 percent of those polled. Statewide, Clinton's numbers among Democrats was 28 percent.

Condi Rice, Hillary Clinton, Mayor Kathy Taylor, former Mayor Susan Savage—all popular in Tulsa.

Hmmm. Something's going on in T-Town and, as far as we're concerned, it's a good thing.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Ghosts That Haunt Us Still

A sense of civic responsibility led some of the AltTulsa crowd to the Circle Cinema this week for the disturbing but powerful documentary The Ghosts of Abu Gharaib.

It's not a pretty picture—to put it in the mildest possible terms. Rory Kennedy's film is an full-bore indictment of the U.S. government's conduct of the war on terror and an bleak portrait of young men and women put in an untenable position in the hellhole known as Abu Gharaib.

We had seen the graphic still photos and read about the torture and humiliation of naked (and sometimes innocent) prisoners at Abu Gharaib many months ago. But Ghost pulls the threads of the story together in a dramatic and comprehensible narrative. For that reason alone, it's an important film that Americans need to see.

The film closed at the Circle today, but it's an HBO production and we expect that it will turn up before too long on that cable station.

Tulsa Producer Awarded Sundance Fellowship

Kudos to Tulsan Chad Burris, recently awarded the Mark Silverman Fellowship for New Producers by the Sundance Institute.

As AltTulsa has noted in earlier posts, Burris and director Sterlin Harjo screened their film Four Sheets to the Wind last month at the Sundance Film Festival. The film, shot in Oklahoma in 2006, was written and directed by Harjo.

Burris and Harjo previously collaborated on Goodnight Irene, a short film set in an Oklahoma Native American health clinic. Irene screened at Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, Los Angeles and Aspen Short Film Festivals in 2006. The pair is currently developing Harjo's second feature, Before the Beast Returns, which won Best Screenplay at Tribeca All Access 2006.

Under the Silverman Fellowship, Burris will receive a cash grant of $5,000 for pre-production expenses for his upcoming feature titled The Left Handed Path.

Burris belongs to the Chickasaw Nation and is a graduate of the University of Tulsa Law School, where he received his J.D. with an emphasis in Indian Law.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

More Bad News from Baghdad

Despite new roadblocks and stepped up patrols in Baghdad this week, the violence there continues unabated. According to press reports today, more than 1,ooo Iraqis have been killed in the last 10 days.

The President assures us that his troop increase will work, given some time. He may be right. But given the bombings and kidnappings of the past few days, it's hard to be optimistic.

Dr. Coburn's Thin Skin Revealed Again

What's with Sen. Tom Coburn and his increasingly thin skin?

This is not an idle question. Indeed, the good doctor—not yet halfway through his 6-year term— seems frustrated and unhappy, a politician unwilling to make the kinds of compromises that all politicians are required to make if they want to stay in politics.

As evidence, we point to today's Tulsa World, where Sen. Coburn says he won't seek re-election in 2010 if a new ethics bill becomes law. The new bill, Coburn says, is so punitive that it could cost a politician $500,000 to defend himself against an innocent mistake.

If the new law enacted, Sen. Coburn predicts, very few people will run for Congress or the Senate because of the risks.

We have reason to doubt such pronouncements. Other laws have caused other politicians to make the same prediction, yet we never run out of ambitious people willing to stand for election.

Beyond the new law, Sen. Coburn wants us to know he's not having fun in D.C. "This isn't a fun job," Coburn told the World. "It's a tremendously burdensome job, knowing that you can't change things to fix the future and you have to work every day to try to do that."

Something is definitely zapping Dr. Coburn's spirit. We have no inclination to pursure pop psychology here, but the man must be terribly frustrated.

Yet it's hard to feel sorry for the good doctor. A veteran of Congress who has written a book about his earlier life on the Hill, Coburn is no political virgin. He knew that life in the Senate was no picnic. And given his maverick views, he had to know that he was going against the grain when he returned to Washington.

So we return to our original question: What's with Sen. Coburn?

We're stumped. But like Jim Myers, the World's Washington reporter, we wonder why he doesn't give up politics and go back to doing something he likes: being a doctor.

Opps! Coburn Campaign Flunks Basic Finance

An audit by the Federal Election Commission has faulted Sen. Tom Coburn's 2004 senate campaign for accepting contributions that exceeded the legal limit and failing to file proper paperwork to account for donations of nearly $350,000.

The Tulsa World, which reported the story in Sunday's edition, said the audit found more than $22,000 in contributions from political action committees (PACs) that were above the legal limit. The campaign refunded this money, the audit said, but not within the required time limit. Auditors also found that about 18 percent of the campaign's contributions over $200 were not properly itemized.

The auditors said that inadequate staffing was the cause of the problems, the World reported. An FEC spokesman declined to comment on a possible fine for the Coburn campaign and Coburn declined to comment to the World's Washington reporter, Jim Myers.

In defense of Dr. Coburn, we at AltTulsa understand the problem of financial record-keeping. We're terrible at it too. We can barely balance a checkbook.

On the other hand, we might be a lot better at money matters if we were an old-fashioned financial conservative running for the U.S. Senate in Oklahoma. We might also try a lot harder if we were accepting donations from our political friends and allies, especially when the totals run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So we're left wondering—as many Oklahoma voters must be—how the good doctor's campaign came to such a poor financial state.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Why Support the Minimum Wage?

The Rev. Jim Wallis has an answer for the question we ask above: theology. Speaking in Washington last week after the U.S. Senate voted to raise the minimum wage, Wallis put his support for the increase in these words:

It's a political fact now that faith communities across the board, very widely, are in favor of increasing the minimum wage. Why is that? What's the theological foundation behind that? We don't just do politics; we do politics because of our faith.

I just returned from Davos, and the World Economic Forum…. I cited the Hebrew prophets and how they always seemed to speak up when the gaps in society grew too large. When the gulf widened and injustice deepened, the prophets rose up to thunder the judgment and justice of God. [Their words] reveal that God hates inequality. That's our theological foundation—God hates inequality.

Wallis makes a powerful point. God probably does hate inequality. And it's up to us, Wallis is saying, to do God's work here on earth.

As we have noted in an earlier post, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn voted against the minimum wage increase, and Sen. Jim Inhofe was absent and didn't vote.

Wallis, a long time activist and editor of Sojourners magazine, goes on to note the huge inequalities in the U.S. economic system, calling these gaps wrong and unjust.

He concludes with this call to action:

The minimum wage is simply the down payment on social justice. We've made the down payment. Now it's time to do the rest of the work.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Caffine: Fuel for the Tulsa Blogosphere

Tulsa is hardly a coffee capital like Seattle, but there's evidence on the local blogosphere that coffee is the beverage that keeps the local cyberposters pecking away at their keyboards.

The prolific Michael Bates of Batesline, for instance, makes frequent references to his Shade of Brown habit. We don't blame him—Shades is a cozy Brookside coffee shop and a local alternative to the ever-growing Starbucks chain, which now has a shop only a couple of blocks south of Shades on Peoria.

Another enthusiastic Tulsa coffee maven is Roemerman On Record's Steven Roemerman, who has several recent posts on his search for the perfect cuppa of Joe. Roemerman is serious about his Java, even posting news about his recent purchase of a home roaster. From what we gather, the roaster works pretty well and we suspect Roemerman is now enjoying great coffee in the comfort of his own home. (But in answer to his recent question about balding: The answer is no. Even great coffee won't cure male pattern baldness.)

We at AltTulsa are jealous—we have no roaster. But like our fellow Tulsa bloggers, we too have searched for years for a great cup of coffee. Our travels have taken us to roasters and coffee shops from Texas to North Carolina and Seattle itself, and from the espresso bars of Rome and Florence to the Spanish islands of the Mediterranean.

Speaking of which, that was where we discovered our first great cup of coffee. The restaurant was a Danish place called Nico's. (This was Spain, but the island attracted a lot Scandinavians seeking a balmier clime.) Quite innocently one night, we ordered apple pie and coffee. It was coffee we have never forgotten—a powerful aroma and an almost-but-not-quite burned flavor that captivated us immediately. We returned to Nico's every night thereafter, marveling at the rich, dark, full-flavored brew.

Alas, that was too many years ago. In the States, we've had good stuff, especially in Austin and at Macy's Coffee in Flagstaff. For a while, we even ordered some great roasts from Juneau, but the shipping from Alaska's capital city cost almost as much as the beans.

Our press pot gives us decent coffee most of the time, but we still long for cool summer nights at Nico's—and the coffee of the Danish Gods.

Observer's New Blog Coming to a Computer near You

AltTulsa is pleased to hear that Oklahoma's progressive newspaper, The Oklahoma Observer, will be joining the blogosphere soon. A note on the Observer's website this week says the paper will soon have its own blog up and running.

The Observer's long-time, eagle-eyed editor, Frosty Troy, and its new editor, Arnold Hamilton, are continuing to serve the Sooner State with independent opinion and commentary. We look forward to their new venture in cyberspace.

Friday, February 2, 2007

No Comment Department

Today's online edition of the New York Times includes this telling headline: "White House Seeks $245 Billion for Wars."

That's "billion," with a "b."

Dr. Coburn's Vote Against the Working Poor

The U.S. Senate voted this week to approve an increase in the minimum wage, the first increase in the minimum wage rate in a decade. The vote was 94-3.

Unfortunately for Oklahoma, one of the three senators voting against the increase was our very own Oklahoma physician, Sen. Tom Coburn. (Sen. Inhofe might have voted with Coburn, but was absent for the vote.)

Here's part of Sen. Coburn's explanation of his vote:

This bill is unfair to workers and, in many cases, it will be harmful to the very people it is supposedly designed to help.

This bill has far more to do with increasing the political capital of politicians in Washington than increasing real wages of low-income families.

Coburn continues:

Free markets, and the American ideals of entrepreneurship and hard work, are far better equipped at setting and raising wages than politicians in Washington.

Looks like the good doctor has spent too much time reading right-wing economic tracts than living among the working people of Oklahoma. After all, almost all Oklahomans believe in entrepreneurship and hard work. But the last time we checked, hard-working Oklahomans weren't exactly pulling down the big bucks.

Rural and urban working-class Oklahomans are just as hard working as anyone else, as Dr. Coburn surely knows. They deserve to make a living wage for their efforts.

Moreover, Dr. Coburn's vote puts him in a small group of economic ideologues, including Sen. John Kyl of Arizona. Guided by misguided economic principles and oblivious to the real economy of working Americans, Dr. Coburn and like-minded ideologues believe the free market will solve all the nation's economic ills.

The record, of course, shows otherwise. As AltTulsa has noted before, CEO salaries are at record levels—400 times the average salary of their workers. The recently ousted CEO of Home Depot was paid $210 million to leave his job! ( Wonder what he'd have been paid if he had done a good job?)

This kind of free market is one in which the rich get richer and the middle and working classes get shafted, an economic reality that even Dr. Coburn ought to recognize.

Oklahomans Losing Faith in Bush

President George Bush's popularity in Oklahoma has dropped below 50 percent for the first time since Bush took office, according to a new state-wide poll.

Today's Tulsa World reports the results of the latest Oklahoma Poll, which shows 47 percent of Sooner state voters expressing approval for Bush's job as president. A year ago, the same poll showed Bush's rating at 59 percent.

Bush's popularity in the Tulsa area is significantly lower than in Oklahoma City. The poll showed Bush's approval at 43 percent in the Tulsa Metro area, 12 percentage points lower than the OKC area.

Over in Our Capital City, the right-leaning McCarville Report Online put the best face on the new Bush numbers, pointing out that Bush is more popular in Oklahoma than almost any other state.

But that spin is cold comfort for state GOP leaders. After all, in 2001 Bush had an approval rating of 89 percent. And Gov. Brad Henry, easily reelected in November, is riding high at an approval rate of more than 80 percent.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Sen. Inhofe's Head: Firmly Stuck in Red Dirt

Some states have enlightened political leaders, men and women who take courageous positions and actually know what they are talking about.

Oklahoma—alas!— is not one of those states. The latest evidence for the poor state of the Our State's leadership comes from Tulsa's own former mayor, Sen. Jim Inhofe.

The good senator turned up on MSNBC the other night, "winning" third place in the "Worst Person in the World" contest:

Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma gets the bronze. At a meeting of most of the senators to discuss global warming, his fellow Republicans Gregg and McCain agree it’s a real thing and a threat. Mr. Inhofe insists it’s just an Al Gore campaign platform plank: "He thinks that’s his ticket to the White House."

That's right, fellow Tulsans: Not only is Sen. Inhofe is increasingly out of the loop concerning environmental science (even among Republicans), he's still trying to keep Al Gore out of the White House.

Memo to Sen. Inhofe: Gore is not a candidate for the presidency. Last time he ran was six years ago.

MSNBC host Keith Olbermann followed up by asking a rhetorical question about Sen. Inhofe: "Where do we get these guys?"

Unfortunately, Tulsans know all too well where these guys come from: Right here in River City.

P.S.—Inhofe also turned up as the butt of a joke on The Cobert Report on the same night as his "Worst Person" award. Needless to say, it's a bad sign when your state's senior senator is featured on the Comedy Central network.

Mary Cheney's 'Blessing from God'

Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter Mary, who is pregnant, has defended her decision to have a baby without benefit of a father.

Press reports this week quote Mary Cheney saying that her decision to have a child was not a political statement. "This is a blessing from God," Ms. Cheney told a New York audience.

Fair enough. We like to think that this is a free country—free enough that even Mary and her 15-year partner, Heather Poe, can have a perfectly wonderful child if they so desire.

Naturally, Dr. James Dobson and other moral scolds have criticized Ms. Cheney. Apparently, Mary's "blessing from God" isn't Godly enough to win Dr. Dobson's approval.