Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wildlife in T-town: The Return of the Red Fox

The red fox is back—and living in Tulsa.

The Tulsa World published a report Monday on the return of the red fox, once rare in Oklahoma. Reporter Jarrel Wade says that the fox has returned and some of them live in the middle of T-town.

We can testify to the fox's return. We've seen them more than once crossing the River Parks trail near downtown Tulsa. We've also seen them in Brookside.

According to the World, foxes aren't especially dangerous to people, though they aren't pets and should not be touched. Foxes feed off of rodents such as mice, rats, and rabbits.

If you're out early or late in mid-town Tulsa, look for red foxes and their distinctive bushy tails. They're pretty amazing just to watch.

Oops! False Tulsa TV Refinery Report Causes Oil Price Spike

A Tulsa television's station's erroneous report about a fire at the Wynnewood refinery in south central Oklahoma caused a brief spike in oil prices today, according to wire reports.

Reuters reported that "oil prices jumped briefly on Wednesday after a television station in Tulsa, Oklahoma -- the No. 62 U.S. media market -- posted an erroneous story about a refinery fire on its Web site."

According to the wire service, KOTV Channel 6 reported this morning that a lightning strike had caused a fire at the Oklahoma refinery. The report, Reuters said, sparked "a flurry of excitement among energy traders and boosting U.S. crude prices 40 cents."

Only one tiny problem: There was no fire at the refinery today. The station has corrected the story.

Update: Sen. Coburn's White House Speculation Nixed for Now

As we noted yesterday, The American Spectator published an unattributed piece that Oklahoma's Tom Coburn might be considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Today, thanks to the Tulsa World, we learn that the magazine's speculation is simply, well, speculation. The World is reporting that Sen. Coburn is absolutely not "mulling" a run for the White House.

The World's report makes sense to us. As we said yesterday, Sen. Coburn's chances in a national political campaign are slim to none. Besides, we see today that television star and former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson is making serious noises about running for the GOP nomination.

Unlike Sen. Coburn, Thompson has name recognition. After all, he's an actor—just like the patron saint of modern American conservatism, Ronald Reagan.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Is Coburn Planning a White House Bid? Conservative Magazine Speculates That He Might

The "Washington Prowler" column in today's The American Spectator magazine says that Sen. Tom Coburn is "mulling an entry" into the Republican presidential race.

According to the magazine, Coburn is "receiving encouragement from a small group of wealthy businessmen and philanthropists in the Oklahoma-Kansas-Texas region of the country."

The Spectator quotes an unidentified Coburn adviser who says the senator has no timetable or "fundraising imperative" now, but is considering entering the race. "What's important for him is that there is no other true, Reagan conservative in the race, and he thinks he can fill that void," the adviser told the magazine.

"He's all about faith, lower taxes, and staying the course in Iraq," the adviser said.

Could it be? Could Oklahoma's junior senator really make it to the White House?

In a word: No.

Coburn's name recognition is nil outside of Oklahoma and certain conservative circles. And even with some high-rolling supporters in this region, the senator would face major fundraising obstacles as well. Beyond that, there are also a number of statements the senator has made and positions he's staked out over the years that won't serve him well in a national election.

For starters, as noted above, he's for staying the course in Iraq, something opposed by about 70 percent of American voters today.

Still, a Coburn candidacy could be interesting. Stay tuned.

Headlines We Wish Weren't True

A depressing headline we read today on The Huffington Post:

Ten GI Deaths On Memorial Day Make May Deadliest Month This Year In Iraq

Novelist Hosseini Coming to Tulsa Bookstore in June

We noted last week that novelist Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, was out with his new book, A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Now we learn that the author will be making an appearance in Tulsa in late June to promote his new novel. Hosseini will be at the Barnes & Noble store on 41st Street (just east of Yale) on Thursday, June 28 at 7 p.m.

Put this event on your literary calendar. Fans of The Kite Runner—and there are many—will want to be there.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

New in Print: Congressman Cunningham's Corruption Chronicled in 'The Wrong Stuff'

Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham was a Vietnam war hero. On one amazing day as a Navy fighter pilot, he shot down three enemy airplanes.

Unfortunately for Duke Cunningham, this remarkable achievement will not be his legacy. Instead, Duke Cunningham will go down in history as one of the most corrupt congressman in history.

Cunningham's path from war hero to corrupt politician is chronicled in a new book by four San Diego reporters. The Wrong Stuff: The Extraordinary Saga of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the Most Corrupt Congressman Ever Caught, was published earlier this month by Public Affairs.

In the book, reporters Marcus Stern, Jerry Kammer, Dean Calbreath, and George Condon explain how Cunningham funneled congressional "earmarks" to defense contractors of his own choosing. The contractors went on to "take care" of their favorite congressman, "care" that included a lavish million-dollar home, a yacht, expensive food and wine, and—yes!—women (prostitutes, in this case).

Did we mention that Cunningham is a proud California Republican?

Find out more about Cunningham and the whole culture of congressional corruption in The Wrong Stuff, available on line and at your local bookstore (we recommend Steve's Books on Harvard in midtown Tulsa).

Politicizing the Process: Partisanship Trumps Competence in Bushworld

Courtesy of today's Los Angeles Times, the latest example of the Bush Administration's commitment to Republican government instead of competence, experience or public service:

Immigration judges lack apt backgrounds: A growing number of the jurists have little or no experience in that area of law. Some have strong Republican resumes.

Heck of a job, Brownie.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Poet of the Day: Theodore Roethke

Today is the birthday of one of our favorite poets, Theodore Roethke. That fact prompted us to pull an old volume of Roethke poems off the shelf, where we were reminded of why we like this writer.

Our Roethke book, a paperback edition of The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke, was published in 1975 by Doubleday Anchor, after the poet's death. The collection includes some wonderful work, including the haunting and lovely poem, "Elegy for Jane: My Student, Thrown by a Horse." Anyone who has children and fears for their safety, as all parents do, will be moved by Roethke's lines.

Then there's the beautiful poem called "The Waking." It's a poem that is so evocative that we've never forgotten its mysterious language.

Even the opening line suggests Roethke's lyrical power: "I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Summer Reading: The Story of Carlisle's Indian Footballers

The AltTulsa team loves books and, with summer approaching, we've been scouring book reviews, bookstores and book websites in search of interesting summer reading.

One recent book that caught our attention is Sally Jenkins' new work on football and its significance at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. As history buffs may remember, Carlisle was a famous early football school, home of such famous players at Oklahoma's Jim Thorpe.

The Real All Americans: The Game that Changed a Game, a People, a Nation, published by Doubleday, recounts the story of a famous 1912 game between the Indians, led by Thorpe, and the West Point cadets, whose team included Dwight Eisenhower.

National Public Radio had an good interview with Jenkins and her book last weekend. Look for it at templates/story/story.php? storyId=10217979.

More News Headlines We Already Knew

A headline in today's New York Times:

Poll Shows Opposition to Iraq War at All Time High

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bush Bashers Draw Loud Honks In Brookside

Honk for impeachment.

That was the message this afternoon in Tulsa's Brookside neighborhood when a small group of anti-Bush demonstrators turned up with impeachment signs in front of Channel 2.

More surprising than the demonstrators was the number of honkers on South Peoria. In the time we were listening, the honks were coming fast and furious.

We know that anti-Bush honking is a poor measure of local political sentiment. But it's hardly a good sign for the Tulsa County Republicans when a few demonstrators can stir up a ruckus with a few anti-Bush signs.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Oklahoma's Ralph Ellison Explained in New Biography

The writer Ralph Ellison, a native Oklahoman, wrote one of the most acclaimed novels of the twentieth century, Invisible Man. But Ellison was a troubled and complex man, who never lived up to his potential after the the publication of Invisible Man in 1952.

We mention all this because of the buzz surrounding Arnold Rampersad's new biography of Ellison, in bookstores now. (We saw copies this week at the Border's on 21st Street). From the reviews we've seen, the book is not for the casual reader (it's 657 pages).

But serious students of Oklahoma's literary heritage will need to read this book. Both as a person and as a writer, Ellison was a paradox. Rampersad, a scholar whose previous biographies include Langston Hughes and Jackie Robinson, has peeled back the layers of Ellison's life.

Based on what we can tell from the reviews, Rampersad has revealed Ellison's strengths as well as his many demons and contradictions. The Nation's reviewer, Michael Anderson, calls the biography "compassionate yet devastating." As we said, serious Oklahoma readers will want to check it out.

Author Khaled Hosseini's New Novel Out Today

Khaled Hosseini, best-selling author of The Kite Runner, has published a new novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. It was officially published today.

We heard Hosseini earlier today on Tulsa's NPR station, KWGS, where he proved to be a gracious guest. And based on the many compliments he received from listeners who called in, The Kite Runner touched a lot of American readers.

We concur. The Kite Runner is an amazing story that moved us when we read it and has stayed with us ever since. It certainly provides a glimpse of what life was like for young men growing up in Afghanistan in the 1970s.

We don't know much about A Thousand Splendid Suns, but it it's anything like his first novel, American readers will find another powerful and moving story.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tulsa World Calls for Gonzales to Go

With the report this week of his shameful and manipulative midnight visit to the sickbed of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales' reputation has sunk to a new low.

Today, for instance, the Tulsa World took the current AG to task in a tough-minded editorial. Not surprisingly, the World cited Gonzales' hospital visit to Ashcroft, an action in which Gonzales was trying to manipulate a sick and drugged-up Ashcroft into signing off on a warrantless domestic spying program that he knew to be illegal.

This revelation has caused Gonzales' support on Capitol Hill to erode. Slowly but surely, even Republican senators—including Oklahoma's Tom Coburn—are losing faith in the AG.

As the World correctly notes, "Gonzales has not covered himself in glory." It's time for him to go.

Republican Bad Behavior: McCain Drops the Ole 'F-Bomb'

Some Republican talking heads go on and on about the moral superiority of conservative philosophy. They call it "moral clarity."

Except that right-wing actions often fail that test.

The latest failure of moral clarity comes from Arizona Sen. John McCain, a leading Republican presidential candidate. In a heated exchange this week over immigration legislation with Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a fellow Republican, McCain told the Texan to "F*** off!" According to media reports we've seen, it's not the first time McCain has used this expression in public life.

Dropping the ole "F-Bomb." Apparently, it's not just for rappers and gang-bangers any more.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Return of Medblogged: When You Don't Have Any Facts, Report Rumors

We should have known Medlock's digital silence was too good to be true (see earlier posting). Last Sunday, in fact, Medlock returned to the web with a breathless set of City Hall rumors about Mayor Cathy Taylor's plans to sell off some of the city's golf courses.

According to Medlock, the mayor has already cooked up a backroom deal to sell some of the city's golf course property to a favored private developer.

There's only one problem with Medlock's story: It may not be true.

Based on his Medblogged posting, Medlock didn't talk to the mayor herself. He didn't talk to anyone on the mayor's staff. He names no names and offers no verifiable facts.

Who did he talk to? Medlock mentions his "sources," but they are all unidentified. As a former elected city official, Medlock ought to have some city hall sources. If he does, you'd think he might link at least one of his sources to city hall. He doesn't.

Tulsans don't know if these sources have the slightest idea what they are talking about. Tulsans have no way of knowing how reliable or knowledgeable these sources are or if they might be "playing" Medlock, feeding him a juicy rumor for their own political purposes.

Even Medlock doesn't seem sure about his story. After reporting on "the deal" with the unidentified developer in one sentence, Medlock backtracks in the next sentence with the disclaimer "if true."

Earth to Chris
: If it's in fact a deal, as you report, then it's true. You can't have it both ways.

Or what about this particularly artful wording? Medlock writes, "It is further speculated that…."

Hey, we can all speculate about Mayor Taylor's plans or, for that matter, the price of eggs in China.

But speculation is not proof of anything and it's not reporting. Medlock offers no facts about Mayor Taylor's meeting with any developer and not a single named source who can support any of his "speculations."

We can say this for Chris Medlock: He's not much of a reporter.

Hubris Unmasked: More Signs of an Administration Meltdown

Paul Wolfowitz is resigning at the World Bank. One of the architects of the ill-fated Iraq war and a Bush appointee to the World Bank, Wolfowitz is the latest neocon thinker to fall victim to his own hubris.

Before Wolfowitz, there was the irrepressible Don Rumsfeld. As secretary of defense, Rumsfeld never had a moment's doubt that he might be wrong about anything, and certainly not U.S. plans in Iraq. But he was.

And don't forget about John Bolton, recess appointee as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Bolton promised to shake up the U.N. He did, turning even U.S. allies against us. Thanks for nothing, Mr. Ambassador.

Then there's the on-going meltdown of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The more we learn about Mr. Gonzales, the more apparent it becomes that his first loyalty is to his patron, George Bush, and not to the American people he's supposed to serve.

Six years into the Bush presidency, we can all now see how incompetent and wrong-headed Bush and his people really are. It's a sad time for America.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gonzales at the Sickbed: One More Reason Alberto Needs to Find a New Job

Thanks to Congressional testimony this week by former Justice Department official James Comey, we now know that in 2004 Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card, both then White House advisers, paid a visit to the sickbed of the Attorney General John Ashcroft in a bizarre effort to have the ailing official sign off on a controversial warrantless wiretapping program.

To his credit, Ashcroft refused to do so, Comey said.

Even in the topsy-turvy world of the Bush White House, this attempted manipulation of a very sick man by two senior Bush advisers takes the cake for unadulterated audacity. On its face, the actions of Gonzales and Card appear to be an deceptive way of pushing forward a plan they knew to be illegal.

These are not the actions of honorable public servants. But they are the actions of men who'll do almost anything—even deceitful things—to get their way and serve their president.

This man is the now the United States Attorney General. But his actions as the White House lawyer show that he has been—and still is—a partisan political hack, unworthy of his high office.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Iraq War Facts Inhofe Can't (or Won't) Face

As we noted yesterday, Sen. Jim Inhofe, just back from a weekend visit to Iraq, sees only progress amid the violence. Despite Inhofe's sunny predictions, much of the nation remains a battleground and our troops remain in peril.

It took only a few minutes to find a more informed and hard-nosed situation report from Rory Stewart, British diplomat and former Deputy Governor of the Iraqi provinces of Maysan and Dhi Qar under the Coalition Provisional Authority. Speaking last month in New York, Stewart, once a supporter of the war, offered this bleak assessment of conditions in Iraq today:

Despite some claims to the contrary, there is not a single indicator of significant, overall improvement I know of over the last four years, neither in electricity, nor in education, nor in police training, nor in the military.
So who does Sen. Inhofe think he's fooling with his relentless cheerleading for a failed policy? Does he really believe that Oklahoma voters will overlook his uncritical support of the worst foreign policy blunder in the last century?

Does he really hold that much contempt for Oklahoma voters? Hey, Jim: Time to get a clue.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Inhofe's Optimism Flies in the Face of Facts

Sen. Jim Inhofe is just back from another visit to Iraq. To the surprise of absolutely no one, he's sees the Iraq glass as half full.

"Now we are getting total cooperation of all the people there," Inhofe told the Tulsa World's Jim Myers in a story on today's page one.

Apparently, Inhofe believes in the power of positive thinking.

We'd like to be optimistic too. But first we have a couple of questions for the senator. First, how can you (or anybody) know that "all the people there" are cooperating? On its face, the senator's statement doesn't make sense. Iraq is—we can all agree—a complicated place with many religious and political factions who disagree about many, many things. Why do think they keep shooting and blowing up their fellow Iraqis?

Second, how do you explain reports from Iraq like the one that appeared on the World's page A-10, just a few pages back of Inhofe's happy thoughts. The headline says: "Iraq's school system collapsing amid war." The AP story goes on to make this grim but realistic assessment: "The education crisis mirrors the breakdown of nearly all public institutions across Iraq."

Sen. Inhofe can practice happy talk till he's blue in the fact. But until he comes to grips with the actual conditions in Iraq, he's unlikely to fool many voters.

Monday, May 14, 2007

One-Year Anniversary of Rolling Stone Story: Sean Wilentz On 'The Worst President in History'

It's been a full year since Rolling Stone, the 40-year-old rock 'n' roll journal, published a major critique of President George W. Bush. The Bush cover story asked this bracing question: "The Worst President in History?"

The author of the piece, Sean Wilentz, was no small-time hack, but a Princeton professor and leading American historian. Nor was his assessment a simple-minded hatchet job, quick to dismiss every bit of good news regarding the president.

Instead, Wilentz sorted through the ups and downs of the Bush record as of last May. Unsurprisingly, he found both highs and lows. The highs, Wilentz noted, included some of the highest approval ratings ever recorded. The lows, however, were also stunning. "The ranks of the true believers [in Bush's presidency] have thinned dramatically," Wilentz wrote.

Bush's popularity has declined more significantly than any other two-term president, Wilentz found. Why? There are simple answers—such as the war—but Wilentz looks at Bush's leadership problem. When faced with war and national hardships, previous presidents have "rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure…," Wilentz wrote.

But Bush, he noted, has displayed a weakness common to failed presidents, namely "an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities." In plain English, Bush knows only one thing and he keeps doing that one thing over and over again, even when the evidence keeps telling him he is failing.

Since Wilentz made that assessment last year, Bush's "unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology" has continued in Iraq, vindicating Wilentz. Bush remains unswerving. Meanwhile, too many of our soldiers (and many, many Iraqi soldiers and civilians) die almost every day in a war that never had to be fought in a nation that did not attack us in 2001. Moreover, the world is not safer than it was before the Iraq invasion, but more dangerous. Even among our friends and allies, America's prestige has fallen to historic lows.

At the conclusion of his Rolling Stone article, Wilentz quotes Abraham Lincoln to good effect: "Fellow citizens," Lincoln said, "we cannot escape history." It's a lesson George Bush learned too late, if at all.

Wilentz story appeared in Rolling Stone on May 4, 2006.

New Immigrant Law Could Make Felons of Church People

Rep. Randy Terrill, Moore, prime mover of Oklahoma's new anti-immigrant legislation, may have created a new class of felons, the Tulsa World reports in today's edition.

Thanks to its sweeping language, the new law could make it illegal for church bus drivers to transport illegal aliens to Sunday services. That's a fear World reporter Leigh Bell found when she talked to a driver for Southern Hill Baptist Church, which picks up worshippers every Sunday.

The law makes it illegal to knowingly transport illegal workers in many cases, the newspaper noted, which could include the Sunday pick-ups. Rep. Terrill doesn't think so. He told the newspaper that the law is concerned with reason and won't be applied to church transportation.

Terrill may be right. Fear of the new law, Terrell told the World, is "irrational." But the fact that these questions are arising may indicate a few of the law's unintended consequences, some of which may turn out to be serious.

This confusion highlights another form of irrationality: the popular fear that every Hispanic person in Oklahoma is an illegal who is here to steal our jobs, avoid taxes, get free health care, and speak Spanish, and thereby destroy the (white, Protestant) American way of life.

Despite the overheated rhetoric on the right, that's not quite the case. And it simplifies a host of complicated problems, which is a major reason we haven't been able to solve the problem for lo these many years.

We're not condoning illegal immigration. We are pointing out the fact that Rep. Terrill's new law is unlikely to solve the problem anytime soon and, in same cases, it may make the problem worse by driving the illegals and their employers deeper into the underground economy.

That's unlikely to help anyone except unscrupulous business owners, hardly the sort of folks Rep. Terrill wants to assist.

GOP Talking Point: The Incompetent Bush Team

Not so many years ago, Republican party leaders and their media allies touted the Bush Administration's competence. These Republicans, they said, were disciplined, efficient, and always on message.

Ah, but times have changed. Speaking this weekend on Bloomberg Television, conservative mouthpiece Robert Novak defended Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other Bush appointees as "subpar people" from Texas.

On Gonzales specifically, Novak offered this assessment:

He’s terrible. He shouldn’t be there. But there’s a lot of bad people in this administration.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Kicking the Industrial Food Habit: Kingsolver Promotes the Joys of Homegrown Eating

Speaking of local farmers' markets (see yesterday's entry on Three Springs Farm and the Cherry Street Farmers' Market), one of our favorite writers has written a new book on the pleasures (and challenges) of growing your own food.

Writer Barbara Kingsolver, best known for her novels, is out with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a book about her family's year-long adventure producing their own food on a farm in southwestern Virginia. Actually, Kingsolver's story was was also written by two other members of her family, husband Steven Hopp, and her 19-year-old daughter, Camille.

This trio, along with their younger child, Lily, made a family decision to reconnect with food they ate. That meant months of serious gardening and animal husbandry on their Appalachian farm. It also meant learning to store food for the winter months and lots of old-fashioned home cooking.

From what we've read, the experiment worked. Kingsolver and family say they ate well, enjoying their bounty. They also grew together as a family.

It wasn't always easy or fun, Kingsolver says, but it was a fulfilling change in habit, well worth the trouble.

The book explains other advantages of local production, such as reduced transportation costs for food from California and other major agriculture areas. "Americans put almost as much fossil fuel into our refrigerators as our cars," Hopp writes.

We don't expect that most Oklahomans will adopt Kingsolver's home-grown eating plan. But even a few tomatoes on the patio is a way to connect with the joys of gardening. That, and regular trips to the farmers' market, helps local farmers and is a small step away from the mass-produced industrial food we all eat too much of.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Despite the Doomsayers, Divorces (Surprise!) Decrease

The right-wing pundits never tire of bashing the corruption of contemporary American life. Ever since the Supreme Court took prayer out of the classroom, they claim, it's been one long downhill slide for public decency and morality.

Except that it hasn't.

Here's the latest bit of evidence that some things have gotten better over the past 30 years. Quoting an AP story today:

Despite the common notion that America remains plagued by a divorce epidemic, the national per capita divorce rate has declined steadily since its peak in 1981 and is now at its lowest level since 1970.

Farmers' Markets Going Strong in Eastern Oklahoma

Tomorrow is Saturday, of course, which means that the area's farmers' markets will be busy, especially if the skies stay clear.

We like to start many of our Saturdays with a hot cuppa Joe and a visit to the Cherry Street Farmer's Market at 15th and Peoria. One of the regular vegetable vendors there is Three Spring Farm, owned by Emily Oakley and Mike Appel. Their all-organic operation is some miles east of Tulsa in the tiny Cherokee County burg known as Oaks.

We were pleased to see Emily and Mike featured last Saturday in the "Scene" section of the Tulsa World. Reporter Kim Brown explained the benefits of organic gardening, including benefits to the land itself. Judging from the photos, the Three Springs duo is doing their part to "feed the soil" with compost while also feeding their plants—and their customers.

As Brown's article notes, gardening in Oklahoma can be challenging because of the weather. That's why we're glad that Mike and Emily and many other local growers are showing up every week at the area's many farmers' markets.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Times Headlines We Already Knew

From the New York Times today:

McCain Says Bush's Numbers Hurt GOP

Bush Blinks: The President Finally AGREES to Benchmarks for the Iraqi Government

George Bush is a slow learner, to be sure. But the President blinked today, agreeing to negotiate with the Democrats over "benchmarks" for the Iraqi government.

It took the President's record low approval polls and a delegation of moderate Republicans warning the President of election disaster for the GOP to get the President's attention.

Pushing benchmarks on the Iraqis may not work. But for George Bush, it's a tiny step in the right direction after years of hype, misjudgments and self-serving Republican propaganda about the war in Iraq.

In a small way, the President has seen the light. Maybe he can drag a few right-wing Oklahoma senators and congressmen with him.

Travel Tip: Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum Expands In Impressive Fashion

The Nelson-Atkins Museum, a Kansas City landmark, has expanded in a major way. Architect Steven Holl's white, translucent "boxes" won't please everyone, but they are a distinctive addition to the lush green hillside where the museum is situated.

We've only seen Holl's buildings from the outside and, to our eyes, the boxes take a little getting used to. But we came to a new appreciation of the museum extension through architecture writer Paul Goldberger, who has an appreciation of the expansion in the April 30 issue of The New Yorker.

As Goldberger correctly notes, the original Nelson-Atkins is a classical building located on a "vast lawn" that needed to be protected as the museum grew. Holl's solution was to design a series of irregular boxes, which he calls "lenses," down one side of the lawn.

The new buildings are, to put in mildly, a stark contrast to the original museum. But they do preserve the great lawn and they do offer something new and distinctive, which is no small achievement.

With travel season quickly approaching, we're recommending a road trip to KC and the Nelson-Atkins. The buildings, the setting, and the art are worth the drive. Before you go, check out Goldberger's article in at It's under "The Sky Line" heading.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Tulsa Poet Joy Harjo Celebrates a Birthday

Today—May 9—is the birthday of an Oklahoma writer we like, Joy Harjo. Harjo, a Tulsa native and member of the Muscogee tribe, is the author of numerous books of poetry, including She Had Some Horses, Secrets from the Center of the World, and In Mad Love and War.

We first came across Harjo and her writing some years ago on Bill Moyer's PBS series on American poets. We met Harjo in person a few years later when she was honored with an award from the Tulsa City-County Library, where she read her poems and played her saxophone. Both performances were inspiring.

On her birthday, we're recommending a Harjo poem called "Autobiography." In it, Harjo recounts her coming of age in Oklahoma (and elsewhere) in haunting language, recalling her family, her history, her people, her place. "Nothing can be forgotten, only left behind," Harjo writes.

Happy birthday, Joy Harjo. Thanks for your poems.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Medblogged Update: No News is Good News

Chris Medlock was once an active Tulsa blogger. His website, Medblogged, was essential reading for a certain kind of grassroots Tulsa activism. Even when he was wrong—which was often—Medlock was worth a quick read.

But no more. A recent check of Medblogged shows that the former city councilor and current radio talker has fallen silent in recent weeks. His last post, in fact, was April 15, an eternity in blogosphere terms. Even in March, well before he started his radio gig, Medlock's posts had dwindled to a precious few.

Medblogged is so out of date that, as of today, it still advises Tulsa listeners to tune in for Medlock's regular appearances on KFAQ's Michael DelGiorno show. (MDG is long gone, however, having sought greener pastures for his holier-than-thou injunctions in Nashville.)

Medblogged was also scooped by, well, us. AltTulsa noted Medlock's promotion from the blogs to the airwaves a few weeks back. Medblogged has yet to do so.

Note to Tulsa bloggers: You know you're falling behind when you can't keep up with your own news.

Reading Jim's Journal: Senator's New Website Provides Stale News

We know he's a busy man, but Sen. Jim Inhofe promised Oklahoma voters more. He promised frequent updates on his work in the U.S. senate.

We're talking about "Jim's Journal," an online weblog from former Tulsa mayor and current U.S. senator, Jim Inhofe.

"Jim's Journal" was launched Jan. 8, 2007. Since then, it's been updated exactly once—on Feb. 13, 2007, when the senator advocated a better FEMA, the federal disaster agency that became a painful national joke in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Hmmm. It's the second week of May, so "frequent" doesn't seem to mean what we thought it did.

Sen. Inhofe can't keep up. But he does have a staff. Maybe they'd like to update "Jim's Journal" every so often, say, twice a month. That doesn't seem unreasonable.

And while we're giving advice, let's also have the senator speak candidly to the voters. He might start by admitting that the troubles at FEMA occurred under the Bush Administration. And he might also acknowledge that a former Oklahoman, Bush appointee Michael Brown, affectionately known as "Brownie," was part of FEMA's problem.

Such honesty would go a long way toward building some trust between the senator and his fellow Oklahomans. But we're not holding our breath.

See "Jim's Journal" for yourself at

Saturday, May 5, 2007

New in Paper: Soldier's Compelling Iraq Story

Chasing Ghosts, Paul Rieckhoff's book about the Iraq war, is now out in paperback from NAL Caliber. We're pleased to recommend it.

The book, which we read some months ago, is a compelling and deeply human tale about Rieckhoff and his unit's experiences patrolling Baghdad. It's an eye-opening story filled with the insecurities and frustrations of combat.

We came away from Rieckhoff's book deeply moved by the sacrifice of our soldiers and seriously concerned about their mission and their level of support.

It's not a happy tale, but all Americans concerned about the disastrous path of the Bush administration in Iraq should read it.

New Poll: Bush Approval at Record Low

How do Americans feel about President George W. Bush's performance in office? Unsurprisingly, the news is bad:

According to the new Newsweek Poll, the public’s approval of Bush has sunk to 28 percent, an all-time low for this president in our poll, and a point lower than Gallup recorded for his father at Bush Sr.’s nadir. The last president to be this unpopular was Jimmy Carter who also scored a 28 percent approval in 1979.

The upside of Bush's failed leadership is fairly obvious. As Newsweek continues:

This remarkably low rating seems to be casting a dark shadow over the GOP’s chances for victory in ’08.

Let's hope so. It's clear that Bush and his right-wing cohorts have squandered America's opportunities in the last seven years. The nation needs a change.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Irony Alert, Part 2: NRA Supports Gun Rights for Suspected Terrorists

We can't believe it either. But check out the lead of this Associated Press story we saw today:

The National Rifle Association is urging the Bush administration to withdraw its support of a bill that would prohibit suspected terrorists from buying firearms.

Backed by the Justice Department, the measure would give the attorney general the discretion to block gun sales, licenses or permits to terror suspects.

Memo to the NRA leadership: Keep this up, and even loyal NRA members will be dropping their memberships.

Irony Alert: Disgraced Conservative Activist Now Represents Bible Reading Group

Former hustler and conservative journalist Jeff Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, is back in the headlines.

Gannon became infamous the first time for asking softball questions and spouting Republican talking points at White House news briefings. Gannon's easy questions and his partisan news outlet, a right-wing website called GOPUSA, raised a host of questions among members of the White House press corps.

In time, Gannon's shady background became public. Before he became a right-wing reporter, Gannon was a "hot body" on a gay-themed website called Soon enough, photos appeared. Needless to say, Gannon's White House reporting career and the right-wing news site he worked for disappeared.

But Gannon resurfaced this week as organizer of a National Day of Prayer event in Washington. As the Washington Post reported, Gannon is now a spokesman for the International Bible Reading Association, which organized an event this week as part of National Day of Prayer.

The Post asks an interesting question: How did Gannon get from to the conservative press corps to the Bible Reading group? Like the Post, we're stumped.

One final point: According to the Post, Gannon's prayer event was not well attended. We can't image why.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

How Vulnerable is Inhofe in 2008?

Sen. Jim Inhofe has long been a winner in Oklahoma politics. He's been Tulsa mayor, First District Congressman, and U.S. senator. In 2002, he won reelection to the senate by a whopping 21 percentage points.

Yet Inhofe's record of zealous support for the Bush administration, an unpopular war in Iraq, and repeated criticism of global warming may have tarnished Inhofe's record, even among conservative Sooner state voters.

This week a national political journal, Congressional Quarterly, reported on Inhofe's perceived weaknesses and Democratic plans to defeat the senator. At the top of their list: state Senator Andrew Rice, described by Democratic state party chair Lisa Pryor as an "up-and-coming name" in Oklahoma politics. We don't know much about Sen. Rice, but he does sound like a breath of fresh air compared to the increasingly combative and tiresome Inhofe.

In recent months, Inhofe has lived up to his reputation for thin-skinned paranoia, striking out at real and imagined political opponents. No wonder he turns up regularly as the punch line on The Daily Show.