Friday, August 31, 2007

Snow's $168,000 Salary Not Enough to Stay at the White House

We'd like to extend best wishes to White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. Snow, who has announced his resignation on Sept. 14, is fighting cancer, so we can't blame him for resigning. We'd resign too under the circumstances.

In any case, we wish him well as he battles the disease.

That said, we do question one aspect of his explanation for leaving the White House: money. NBC reported today that Snow cited family finances as his reason for resigning. Here's part of the NBC story:

"If I had the dough I'd stay 'til the bitter end,” Snow told NBC News. As an assistant to the President, Snow earns the highest-level salary among White House officials at $168,000 a year.

Pardon our innocence, but is $168,000 really such a paltry salary? Maybe we're just used to paltry Oklahoma salaries, but it seems as if Snow and his family could get by on $168,000, even in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

New Police Chief is Old Police Chief

Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor has named former Tulsa Police Chief Ron Palmer as the new Tulsa police chief.

Palmer served as TPD chief from 1992 to 2002. He told the Tulsa World that he plans to serve for two or three years.

Palmer's selection
was well received by several officials quoted in the World. But Tulsa Councilor Jack Henderson was critical of the TPD's race relations under Palmer's administration. Henderson walked out of the meeting where Palmer's appointment was announced, the World reported.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sooner Pride: We're #48 in Income

Hey Sooners—it's time to celebrate. Census figures released this week show that in 2006 Oklahoma ranked 48th in median household income.

That's right, cowboys and cowgirls, we come in just behind Alabama and just ahead of our neighbors in Arkansas, West Virginia, and poor (and we mean it literally) Mississippi.

Median income in 2006 was a whopping $38,770 in the Sooner state. (Poor Mississippi was way down at $34,473.)

On the bright side, the figures show that Oklahoma income was up 1.5 percent from 2005, so at least the trend is in the right direction.

Some other comparisons: Our friends in the Lone Star state do much better, coming in at number 32 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In Texas the median household income was $44,922.

Oklahoma was also well below Kansas
, which came in at number 29 with a median income of $45,478. Even New Mexico outranked our state, coming in at number 42 with a median income of $40,629.

After all these depressing statistics, all we can say is, "Thank goodness for Mississippi!"

Craig's Troubles May Sink His Senate Career

Our nomination for Headline of the Day:
New poll shows most Idahoans want Craig to resign
Some Republican senators are also calling on Craig to step down. Meanwhile, a few bloggers are asking this interesting question: Where are the calls for Louisiana Sen. David Vitter to resign?

After all, Vitter has admitted to a sexual relationship with a DC prostitute, hardly behavior that brings glory to the U.S. Senate or the Louisiana Republican Party.

If Craig goes, shouldn't Vitter go too?

Pain, Healing and Hokie Football

AltTulsa doesn't usually have much to say about college sports—there are plenty of other writers and bloggers who cover athletics in all its glory. But we did see a column that caught our attention and made us think about sports and their impact on "real life."

Writing this week, the Post's Dan Steinberg noted a recent onslaught of "redemption-through-football" stories in the press. Steinberg cited examples from the Salt Lake Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Savannah Morning Sun,, and more.

Today's USA Today continues the trend, with a front-page box that read, "For Hokies, it's time to cheer."

Enough all ready, Steinberg says. "Why do we have to wring some sort of grandiose tales of societal healing out of sporting events?" Steinberg asks. "In what way does football provide comfort to the people who actually need to be comforted; say, the victims' parents?"

Good questions. Like Steinberg, we wonder how football came to be seen as the redemptive force in campus life. Like Steinberg, we think that healing and normalcy would come from any number of campus activities and events, including history class or breakfast at the school cafeteria.

Steinberg's conclusion: "Root for the parents whose kids died. Leave football games out of it."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Bush Legacy: More Government Secrets, Less Transparency

One of the principles the AT team holds near and dear is open government. We believe that local, state and federal officials work for the American people. Whenever possible, officials should be open and accountable to the general public and not hide their actions behind a veil of secrecy.

We were reminded of this principle yesterday by a Richard Reeves column published in the Tulsa World. Reeves examined the Bush Administration's attitude toward open government and found it lacking.

Government secrecy, Reeves argues, "will be the most damaging legacy of these Bush years." Bush, like former President Richard Nixon, wants to govern in secret. Moreover, Reeves writes, Bush "refuses to accept that either Congress or the courts is an equal branch of government and wants almost all its actions classified under 'executive privilege.'"

The Bush policies are so convoluted that even officials at the National Highway Safety Administration "are no longer allowed to provide information to reporters except on a background basis," which means they can't be named or quoted, shutting off an important source of official safety information.

How does this serve the public?

Reeves also points out that the administration is "reclassifying formerly public information," effectively dismantling the Freedom of Information Act that has allowed citizens access to government records since the Johnson Administration.

Kudos to columnist Richard Reeves for highlighting these anti-democratic policies and to the Tulsa World for publishing Reeves' column.

A final Reeves quote: "What we don't know or find out too late will hurt us." Amen, Brother!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hysteria & Justice: How the Right Got it Wrong

CNN's Lou Dobbs and a host of right-wing pundits and bloggers made headlines a few months ago when they charged the Federal government with wrongly prosecuting two Border Patrol agents for shooting a Mexican drug dealer.

It's outrageous, the wingers screamed. The Feds had betrayed their own men—not to mention their nation—to protect an illegal alien (read: Mexican).

Colorado Congress Tom Tancredo was furious. So was California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who referred to the officers' sentencing "a day of infamy and disgrace."

Only one minor problem: The wing-nut story was wrong. Neither Dobbs nor the other outraged "patriots" bothered to check the facts or consider the evidence against the agents.

We know all this thanks to a detailed Texas Monthly investigation of the case published in the magazine's September issue. Reporter Pamela Colloff discovered that the evidence against the agents was abundant and convincing and the right-wing coverage of the case ignored or omitted important facts in the shooting and its cover-up.

For instance: The agents failed to arrest the suspect when they had the chance. When he fled, both opened fire, wounding the suspect from behind. They failed to report the shooting as required. They covered up the incident, never mentioning the shooting to fellow agents. When the shooting was discovered, the agents claimed the suspect had something shiny in his left hand, a gun perhaps. The suspect had no gun. The suspect was right-handed. One of the agents picked up his spent shell casings for "no reason," he told investigators.

Based on these facts (and more), the magazine asks, "Why are [the agents] being celebrated as heroes?"

Why indeed? Because Dobbs and his hysterical buddies pumped up a dramatic story of justice gone wrong—the facts be damned.

As Colloff also documents, the right has demonized Johnny Sutton, the U.S. attorney who brought the case, even though he's a hard-nosed conservative whose office leads the nation in drug and immigration enforcement.

Sutton has received death threats. Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly has called for Sutton's dismissal. The Minutemen have condemned him and called for Sutton's "deportation."

The facts make all these folks look foolish. As Sutton told the magazine:
All people have heard is that two American heroes are in prison for doing their job. If those were the facts, I'd be furious too. But the evidence is overwhelming that these guys committed a very serious crime.
For Dobbs and company, the facts don't really matter. They've got hysteria to sell.

Rep. Emanuel Wins 'Quote of the Day'

Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, reacting today to the resignation of the Attorney General:
Alberto Gonzales is the first Attorney General who thought the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth were three different things.

Alberto Gonzales Is Out at Justice

Embattled Attorney Justice Alberto Gonzales is resigning. That's the word this Monday morning from Washington.

A long-time ally of President Bush from his days in Texas, Gonzales revealed himself as a political operator in Washington. His tenure at the Department of Justice was marked by a series of missteps and scandals, including a controversial warrantless wiretapping program and the apparently political firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

As regular AT readers will know, we have criticized the AG for many months now. In our view, Gonzales was one of the president's least effective and most polarizing cabinet members, more interested in promoting a Republican political agenda than serving the American public.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

AT Update: Movies, Music & More

AltTulsa tries its best to keep up on a wide variety of ideas and activities, including things political, literary and cultural. Here's an update on some of the things we have been following this month.

First, a movie update. We trekked over to the Circle Cinema last night for the Oklahoma opening of Four Sheets to the Wind, a film directed by Sterlin Harjo. Harjo, a Tulsan, introduced the film and answered questions about it at the end of the screening.

We enjoyed Harjo's movie. It's a clear-eyed and sometimes funny exploration of a contemporary Oklahoma Indian fashot in and amily round Holdenville and Tulsa. It's also a sensitive work, perhaps too sensitive to appeal to the blockbuster mentality of the mall megaplex movie crowd.

The film will play again tonight and on Sunday at the Circle. We recommend Four Sheets to the Wind as an original and memorable movie, enhanced by its fine casting and acting.

Second, a musical update. We blogged a few days ago about the new CD by Kelly Willis, an alt-country singer-songwriter that we enjoy. So we were pleased to hear Ms. Willis on NPR's Weekend Edition this morning, singing and chatting with host Scott Simon.

Her radio appearance was enough to inspire us once again to plug this under appreciated singer. You're unlikely to hear her on the radio, but Kelly Willis is a special musical talent.

Finally, we hear that Tulsa will host next year's meeting of the National Preservation Conference, billed as "the premier educational gathering for historical preservation in the United States."

In a city that has lost many of its historic buildings, this meeting may be a good way to raise awareness about historic preservation in and around Tulsa. Check this space for more updates on this "Preservation in Progress" conference.

Eat Local at New Brookside Restaurant

The AT team believes in local shopping and local eating. That's why we are pleased to put in a good word for The Local Table, a new Brookside restaurant that follows the "keep in local" creed.

The restaurant, operated by Tuck and Kate Curren, uses seasonal, locally grown produce to prepare a range of daily selections. The restaurant buys from local sources, including Nyuka Farms, an agricultural enterprise we have promoted before on this site.

We also want to plug the Curren's neighborhood dining philosophy. Kate Curren told the Tulsa World that she wants the restaurant to be a family friendly, price-conscious place for everyday dining, not just special occasions.

The Local Table is located at 4329 S. Peoria, at the other end of the shopping center where the Curren's other restaurant, Biga, is located.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Yet Another Reason to Vote Against Inhofe

Former Tulsa mayor Jim Inhofe, as quoted this week in the Tulsa World:
I am consistently ranked as the single-most conservative member of the United States Senate….

Sen. Inhofe's Rumor Mongering: How Low Will He Go?

Tulsa's very own font of misinformation and right-wing crazy talk, Sen. Jim Inhofe, is at it again. Speaking in Broken Arrow this week, the former Tulsa mayor couldn't resist passing along the latest anti-Hillary Clinton rumor.

According to Inhofe, Sen. Clinton has sent a her "hit squad" after her Democratic rival, Illinois Sen. Barak Obama. Clinton's supposed agents have accused Obama, in Inhofe's words, "of being a Muslim, and smoking and all of this stuff."

These kinds of rumors feed the talk-radio crowd, even (or especially) when they aren't true. These particular Obama stories, in fact, can be traced not to Hillary Clinton or her campaign but to an Internet-based "urban legend" that we've received at least three times. It's filled with anti-Obama smears and looks to be the work of right-wing paranoia, not Sen. Clinton or anyone on her staff.

But leave it to Inhofe to repeat such nonsense with a straight face—and a total lack of evidence.

Iranian-American Scholar Released on Bail

AT is pleased to report the release this week of Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, 67, who had been jailed by Iranian authorities for alleged anti-government activities.

Ms. Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, still faces a high bail and other obstacles before she can leave Tehran.

Regular readers of AT may remember an earlier post on Ms. Esfandiari's incarceration, in which we noted that she was one of four scholars jailed recently by the Iranians.

In a photograph published in the New York Times, Ms. Esfandiari looked tired and thin. She had been held in solitary confinement for more than 100 days.

As a matter of principle, we at AT believe in intellectual freedom and the right of scholars, writers, artists and other citizens to express their political views without state harassment or interference.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Circle Cinema Presents Harjo's 'Four Sheets'

Tulsan Sterlin Harjo's first feature film, Four Sheets to the Wind, will make its Oklahoma premiere on Friday night at Tulsa's Circle Cinema.

Set in Oklahoma, the movie tells a contemporary Native American story.

The film was developed with the Sundance Institute's Filmmaker's Lab and has been playing on the film festival circuit this year. Four Sheets will be shown at 9 p.m. both Friday and Saturday. Harjo will be on hand Friday night to talk about his film.

From what we've heard, Four Sheets is a crowd-pleaser. Check this film out—we don't get too many Native American film premieres in T-town.

Falling Hopes for Democracy in Iraq

It wasn't so long ago that President Bush was talking about bringing democracy to Iraq. Indeed, he and his Neocon advisers were talking about democracy breaking out all over the Middle East, lead by the triumphant Iraqi example.

Not any more. As we all now know, the president and his advisers were hopelessly naive. This week, even Bush criticized the lack of political progress in Baghdad. What started as a dream of a democratic Iraq has been continually scaled back, even by the president and his supporters.

Here's the latest reality check, courtesy of

Nightmarish political realities in Baghdad are prompting American officials to curb their vision for democracy in Iraq. Instead, the officials now say they are willing to settle for a government that functions and can bring security.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rudy Seeking Sooner Money in September

New York Senator Hillary Clinton recently raised a tidy sum of campaign cash in Tulsa, so it's hardly a surprise that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be in Oklahoma next month looking for his own pile of Sooner cash.

But before Rudy's donors whip out their checkbooks, we recommend that they read the highly informative and extensively researched article in the August 20 issue of The New Yorker. It's fascinating stuff.

The story, by Peter J. Boyer, will remind Oklahoma Republican voters that Rudy is:

--Thrice married

Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, the New Yorker recalls, described Giuliani's performance at the first Republican debate as "embarrassing" and "bush-league." Former NYC Councilman Stephen DiBrienza, has described the former mayor as "petty and vindictive."

There's more—and not all of it is negative. But there's more than enough on the public record about Giuliani's personal and political life to give many, if not most, Oklahoma Republicans the willies.

CNN Special Looks at 'God's Warriors'

CNN's chief international correspondent, the stalwart Christiane Amanpour, is on the air tonight and for the next two night's with a special report called God's Warriors. The New York Times called it an "ambitious look at three flavors of religious fundamentalism [that is] less than it could be."

We've only seen a bit of tonight's program, so we can't speak for the validity of the Times' review. But based on what we saw tonight, the program merits serious attention. Tonight's program followed "God's Jewish Warriors," while tomorrow night's program focuses on "God's Muslim Warriors." The final program, not surprisingly, looks at "God's Christian Warriors."

The program airs on CNN (Cox Cable Ch. 41 in Tulsa) several times each evening. For more information, there's also a handy website,

Understater-in-Chief Speaks Again

President Bush speaking today about the war in Iraq:

I think there's a certain level of frustration.
Really? You think?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Magazine of the Month: The Oxford American

The AT crowd likes to read all sorts of periodicals. That's why we are happy to recommend The Oxford American, which bills itself as "The Southern Magazine of Good Writing."

In our humble opinion, the OA lives up to its billing. The issue we've been reading is called "Best of the South," and includes such well-known writers as Roy Blount, Jr., Madison Smartt Bell, Ron Rash, and Sonny Brewer. Southern food expert John T. Edge also has a piece in the issue. Plus there's lots more on all sorts of things Southern.

For Southerners (and even Okies and Texans) of a certain literary bent, Oxford American is a good read and worth every penny. Besides, we see that the magazine's new home is in Conway, Arkansas, not too far east on Interstate 40 from T-town. It seems that the University of Central Arkansas has formed an alliance with the OA designed to benefit both institutions.

Check out The Oxford American, including the magazine's upcoming music issue, which features a CD loaded with Southern music.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

New White House Powers May Include Warrantless Physical Searches and Collection of Business Records

The New York Times is reporting today that recent security legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Bush may allow greatly expanded government powers to physically search American citizens and their businesses, all without court sanction.

The legislation, passed quickly at the end of the Congressional session earlier this month, is being used by the Bush Administration to shore up its claims warrantless spying on American citizens.

Many civil liberties activists and bloggers have blamed the Democrats for giving in to the administration's demands to pass they bill, fearing increased—and illegal—surveillance of U.S. citizens.

According to the Times, even some conservative legal experts are concerned about government overreaching.

Here's the lead on today's NYT story:

Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches of American citizens and the collection of their business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said.

Given such concerns, it's time for all of us to start worrying about warrantless government spying on the American people. The potential for abuse in such a program is staggering—and it can all be hidden from view in the name of national security.

WaPo Reviews This Season's Campaign Books

Washington, D.C. is a political town, of course, so it comes as no surprise that the Washington Post would take a look at this year's crop of political books.

Last Sunday's Book World featured short reviews of four new volumes by or about politicians, three of whom are running for president. John McCain, Joe Biden, and John Edwards are the presidential hopefuls, while Russ Feingold, the "maverick" senator from Wisconsin, might have been one himself.

Let's start with the veteran McCain. His book, written with his aide Mark Salter, is Hard Call, featuring this intriguing subtitle: "Great Decisions and the Extraordinary People Who Made Them."

The book tells the stories of "gutsy, contrarian" heroes in science, sports, and business, including King Camp Gillette, the "father of the disposable razor." The subtext is clear, reviewer Alan Cooperman writes: Here is a politician who will take a stand and stick to it.

The Post reviewer wonders, however, why McCain offers no case studies of people who stuck to their really bad decisions.

Joe Biden's book, Promises to Keep, sounds plenty dull. But Cooperman says the Delaware senator's life is more dramatic than expected and ends up as a "lively read." Who would have guessed?

The Edwards book is, surprisingly, a serious study of the problem of American poverty. Ending Poverty in America, edited by Edwards and two others, is "wonky in the extreme," Cooperman writes. The book shows that Edwards is the thinking man's populist, Cooperman concludes.

The final book, Feingold: A New Democratic Party, is something of a disappointment, especially for a politician known for his outspokenness. Written by Sanford Horwitt, the book pulls its punches, a fact which, in Cooperman's view, renders it more hagiography than honest biography.

We've not read any of these books, though we confess to thumbing through a couple of them at the bookstore. From what we can tell, there's plenty here to keep the political junkies busy for several weeks of late night reading.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Tulsa's OK Eagle Praises Clinton's Visit

The Oklahoma Eagle, Tulsa's historic African American newspaper, had some kind words for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton following her recent Tulsa fundraiser.

In an editorial published in the August 16 edition, the Eagle pointed out that Clinton has gathered momentum in her run for the White House.

The Eagle notes that no Democrat has won Oklahoma in decades. Yet the editors write that Clinton "has enormous appeal in the black community, in the Hispanic world, among women and with a group of folks that some might call the 'old guard' in Oklahoma politics."

The Eagle editors said they were impressed with the energy and intensity of the crowd at the Clinton fundraiser, which was held at the new Jazz Depot downtown.

Among those in attendance were NAACP Chief Pleas Thompson, former state senator Penny Williams, and former state attorney general Mike Turpin.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fox Caught Fudging the Facts on Wikipedia

Fox News, that paragon of truth and virtue, has been caught manipulating entries in the online encyclopedia known as Wikipedia.

Wikipedia allows the public to edit its entries on the theory that the encyclopedia will draw on the best human knowledge and thus be self-correcting.

Unfortunately, the system doesn't always work. Some people "game" the system.

According to news reports, intrepid online investigators have tracked down the sources of questionable Wikipedia changes. As it happens, embarrassing information about Bill O'Reilly was deleted. The culprit: a computer address at Fox News.

Not only that, several Fox critics, such as Al Franken and Keith Olbermann, had their entries altered to include in new (and erroneous) information. And who added this bogus material? You guessed it: more computers at Fox News.

Oklahoman Letts Storms the Chicago Stage

Tracy Letts, a former Oklahoman, is making dramatic waves with his new play, August: Osage County, now on stage in Chicago. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood called the play "a ripsnorter full of blistering, funny dialogue."

Letts, son of novelist Billie Letts who lives in Tulsa, has been working with the Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago for several years. His previous plays include Killer Joe, Bug, and Man From Nebraska, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Set in rural Oklahoma, August: Osage County also features acting by the playwright's father, Dennis Letts.

We've never seen a Tracy Letts play, but from what we read, he's nothing if not an energetic and imaginative writer. His new play, which Isherwood praises, contains all manner of misconduct and human misery, including drug abuse, alcoholism, adultery, emotional and physical abuse, pedophilia, and even incest.

This list is enough to get everyone's attention. As Isherwood notes, Letts has written a "potboiler."

We can't wait till it plays at Tulsa's Performing Arts Center, but that may take a while. We're not sure Oklahomans are ready for all that entertaining misbehavior.

Headlines That No Longer Surprise

The latest Bush Administration incursion into the civil liberties of U.S. citizens (that's you and me):
Bush Approves Using Spy Satellites on Americans
--The Huffington Post, August 16, 2007

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Former Tulsan Chronicles His Life in Art

Speaking of Tulsa writers (see Michael Wallis post below), former Tulsan and wild man painter Joe Andoe got a good notice last week from Janet Maslin, one of the literary lions of the New York Times.

The occasion was the publication of Andoe's illustrated autobiography, Jubilee City: A Memoir at Full Speed. The book, recently issued by William Morrow, is an expanded version of a privately printed 2005 book on Andoe's early years in Tulsa and as a big-time New York painter.

According to Maslin, Andoe was a teenage terror in Tulsa. His family life was raucous and Andoe learned early on "the low art of coming unmoored."

Despite this shaky start, Andoe escaped the confining atmosphere of T-Town and made himself a success in the Big Apple. According to the Times, Andoe uses his book to settle some old scores, including a Tulsa museum that refused to show his work until it came in as part of a traveling show from the Metropolitan Museum.

We confess we don't know much about Andoe or his art. But based on the Times review, we're eager to learn more—especially the name of that provincial museum.

We were remiss in not pointing out the Tulsa World's July 29 story on Andoe. Writer James Watts reviews Jubilee City in greater depth than the Times and even gives a link to Andoe's website,

Tulsa Writer on Colbert Show Wednesday

The AltTulsa team likes to keep tabs on Tulsa writer Michael Wallis, famous for his booming voice and his writing about Route 66, the nation's "Mother Road."

Wallis' latest road book is The Lincoln Highway, a popular history of the famed but mostly forgotten "Father Road" that once ran from New York to the Golden Gate.

Thanks to the Tulsa World, we learn that Wallis will appear on Wednesday night's The Colbert Report, a Comedy Central program featuring—you guessed it—Stephen Colbert.

Tune in tomorrow night to Cox Cable channel 61 at 10:30 to see one of Tulsa's best known authors on the tube. It should be seriously funny.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Boortz Sounds Off: Gotta Love Those Mexican Cartoon Stereotypes

From what we can tell, some stereotypes never die. Here's an example from right-wing radio's bombastic Neal Boortz, the Atlanta-based talker who is broadcast in Tulsa by KRMG.

On August 10, Boortz producer Belinda Skelton told the host about a bilingual Parent-Teacher Association meeting she had attended, remarking that she had been unable to tell how many of the families in attendance spoke English. Boortz apparently couldn't help himself:
You can look at the parents and tell, because the ones with sombreros can't speak English. ... The ones with the bandoliers full of bullets across their chest.

WaPo Writer Nails the Rove Legacy

Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post on the legacy of departing Bush advisor Karl Rove:
After years of being lauded as a political genius, Rove nevertheless leaves his party in worse shape than he found it, with his boss profoundly discredited in the eyes of the American people.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hillary Update Redux: $100 Grand in Tulsa

The AT bloggers didn't make it to the Hillary Clinton fundraiser the other day, but we did see that the New York senator and Democratic presidential candidate raised $100,000 at the Tulsa event.

That strikes us as a pretty good haul for someone named Clinton in a fairly Red City in a very Red State.

It seems unlikely that Hillary can win Oklahoma, but if she can come to Tulsa and raise this kind of cash, she may have something more than a fighting chance to carry some of those so-called Purple States.

Reading About Sin in Chicago

New on our list of Books We Hope We Can Read Someday is Karen Abbott's Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys and the Battle for America's Soul, published by Random House.

The book, reviewed in today's New York Times Book Review, tells the story of the Windy City's Everleigh Club, a high-class brothel that operated in the early 20th century. The house was operated by sisters Ada and Minna Everleigh, who, Abbott says, tried to make prostitution "as decent an endeavor as possible."

They largely succeeded and got rich, Abbott says, but they also ran afoul of reformers concerned about the rise of white slavery and the corruption of innocent young women.

As the book's subtitle indicates, the Everleigh Club illustrates one aspect of America's long struggle over values. To this day, Abbott writes, politicians are scared of votes that place them on the wrong side of the values debate.

The Times reviewer, however, notes that Abbott's history of Chicago sin concludes on a "negative" note: The customers always seem to outlast the reformers.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tax Those Smokes, Save State Money

Speaking of taxes (see previous post), USA Today published a page one story noting that higher cigarette taxes lead to fewer smokers.

The paper notes that cigarette sales dropped 18 percent in North Carolina last year after the tax was raised from 5 to 35 cents. The decline in sales was even higher—over 30 percent—in Connecticut and New Jersey after those states bumped up their cigarette taxes.

In Oklahoma, where smoking rates are relatively high, the state legislature ought to give this idea a look. Fewer smokers in the Sooner state will lead to fewer health problems.

Maybe we can use the money we save to fix a few unsafe bridges.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Bridges

President Bush yesterday rejected the idea of a higher gas tax to pay for bridge repairs. Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican, had proposed a 5 cent federal gas tax hike to pay for repairs to hundreds of aging bridges.

The President blamed the Democrats for failing to set spending priorities.

We can't say we're surprised. If the President won't raise taxes to fight the War on Terror, he certainly isn't going to support more taxes for bridges, even when some of them fall into the Mississippi River.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

On the Road Again

AT's travel plans are such that we will be blogging only occasionally over the next several days. Please excuse our temporary absence. We'll be back to full speed soon.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Lest We Forget: Two U.S. Soldiers Still Missing in Iraq

USA Today has a front page story today about two U.S. soldiers still missing in Iraq after an attack in May.

The story is a reminder that the war goes on, even as we distract ourselves with the PGA in town, the Barry Bonds homerun saga, and the like.

Unfortunately, USA Today notes, the search for Spc. Alex Jimenez and Pvt. Byron Fouty grows "colder by the day." Yet their platoon continues the search, hoping against hope that the soldiers will be rescued.

The outlook is grim. But we applaud USA Today for keeping these young men in the news. They should not be forgotten.

Recommended: New Music From Kelly Willis

AT doesn't usually have say much about music. But every so often we run across a singer we can't resist.

That's why we are recommending the new Kelly Willis CD, Translated from Love. We haven't heard the new work, but if it is anything like her earlier songs, then we're sold.

Trust us on this: She's good. Check her out yourself at

Iran Closes Paper For Promoting Gender Equality, Men's Housework

The AltTulsa team advocates freedom at home and in distant places as well. That's why we were alarmed this week to learn that Iranian officials shut down the nation's leading reformist newspaper.

The paper's so-called crime: publishing an interview with a poet who called for greater gender equality.

The newspaper, Shargh (or East), published an interview with Saghi Qahraman, who said that gender roles in Iran should be less restrictive. He also called on men to take on more household chores, according to an AP report.

An Iranian official said the newspaper was closed because it had published an "anti-revolutionary figure." According to the AP, Iranian officials have closed more than 100 pro-reform papers.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Hillary Update: Some Tickets Go Cheaper

As AltTulsa reported last week, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is coming to Tulsa for a political fundraiser on Saturday, August 11.

Tickets to the event are pricey, going for $250 and up. But today we learned that some tickets will go for a more reasonable $50.

That's good news for the Tulsa Democrats we know, most of whom are probably in the $50 tax bracket.

Irony Alert: Rudy's Daughter Backs Barack

We know nothing of Rudy Giuliani's children or their activities. But we couldn't help but notice headlines that hit the web today: Rudy's daughter reportedly is supporting Democratic candidate Barack Obama.

Do you suppose she knows something we don't know?

A new report indicates that Rudy's daughter is lying low and has removed her name from a website supporting Obama.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Marquez Novel Celebrates 40 Years

Last month, we noted the fiftieth anniversary of the publication Jack Kerouac's famous road novel, On the Road. This month we want to acknowledge the fortieth anniversary of another novel, this one even more acclaimed than Kerouac's 1950s "beat" book.

This month's novel, completed in August 1967, is One Hundred Year of Solitude by the Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Since its publication, the novel has become a internationally acclaimed work with more than 50 million readers. Some critics call it the greatest work in Spanish since Don Quixote.

A recent AP story on Garcia Marquez, now 80, reported on the author's poverty as he created Solitude. His wife had to hock her jewels to pay the rent and buy food for the family as he struggled to complete the book.

When the manuscript was completed, he could only afford postage to mail half of the book to his editor, and then mistakenly sent the second half. Fortunately, the editor forwarded money so Garcia Marquez could mail the rest of the manuscript.

Gerald Martin, a Garcia Marquez scholar at the University of Pittsburgh quoted by the AP, said One Hundred Years of Solitude was the first novel in which Latin Americans recognized themselves. The book, Martin said, celebrated their passion, intensity, and spirituality.

The AP also quoted former President Bill Clinton, a Garcia Marquez fan. Clinton said he read Solitude in law school and couldn't put it down. "I believe he's the most important writer of fiction in any language since William Faulkner died," Clinton said.

Whatever the literary verdict on Garcia Marquez, we can attest to the brilliance of Solitude, even in its English translation. It's been a while, but we too were transfixed by the magic of Garcia Marquez.

More Mismanagement of the Iraq War

The Washington Post is out today with this sad report based on a new official investigation:

The Pentagon has lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, according to a new government report, raising fears that some of those weapons have fallen into the hands of insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

So now—through sheer incompetence—we are arming the insurgents? We are providing the enemy the guns to shoot our own soldiers? If this is the case, things in Iraq are worse than we thought.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Congressional Ethics: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Both houses of Congress this week passed new ethics legislation. President Bush says he will sign the legislation.

On paper, the new rules sound impressive. They ban gifts, trips and other goodies supplied by Washington lobbyists.

Yet the rules leave lots of loopholes, some of which are significant. Even before the legislative ink is dry, critics are pointing out that little is likely to change in way Washington works. As the International Herald Tribune put it:
While proponents hailed the measure as the most significant reform since Watergate, questions remained on how some provisions would be enforced and whether the measure would change lawmakers’ ability to secure pet projects known as earmarks.

Medlock's Ethics Take Another Hit

Today's Tulsa World editorial page takes a swipe at the ethics of former city councilor and current radio talker Chris Medlock.

According to the editorial, Medlock has been receiving offical city e-mails intended for his successor, Councilor Rick Westcott. These e-mails give Medlock information he can use on his radio show to spout off about perceived mismanagement at city hall.

The World points out that Westcott was a Medlock supporter when Medlock was the subject of a recall campaign and "is understandably upset that Medlock kept quiet about receiving the e-mails."

We'd be upset too. But we can't say we're too surprised about Medlock's silence. With Medlock, it was always more bluster than substance.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Iraq and The Art of Understatement

Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaking this week on the continuing U.S. problem in Iraq:

We probably all underestimated…how difficult it would be.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Hillary Coming to Tulsa for Fundraiser

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is coming to T-Town.

The former First Lady and current senator from New York will appear at a downtown reception on Saturday, August 11.

Tickets for the event are on sale now, but they aren't going cheap. Top tickets are in the thousands, though regular tickets are going for a mere $250.

Even at the lowest price, Sen. Clinton's high dollar tickets are sure to keep most rank-and-file Democrats sitting at home. But for high-rollers, this is a chance to "hang" with Hillary and other well-heeled party regulars.

Fred's Fundraising Falls Short of Expectations

Former Sen. Fred Thompson's presidential fundraising efforts have fallen short of expectations.

Press reports this week show that Thompson's almost-but-not-quite White House campaign has raised some $3.4 million to date. The campaign had expected to raise about $5 million.

Perhaps the senator's fundraising will increase if and when he formally announces his candidacy. One of the pundits we heard discussing the senator's money situation said the shortfall was "damaging, but not fatal."

As we have noted in earlier posts, the Fred Thompson buzz in Republican circles has been tremendous. But many questions remain about Thompson's viability.