Saturday, September 29, 2007

No Newt for 2008: Gingrich Says No to White House Bid

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has decided not to seek the White House in 2008.

The news is something of a surprise, since Gingrich said only days ago that he would seek the presidency if he could raise $30 million in campaign pledges.

According to press reports, Gingrich's decision was based on the fact that he could not run for president and remain head of his nonprofit political organization, American Solutions.

We didn't see it in the news, but maybe those pledges weren't adding up, either.

In any case, Gingrich makes a good living on the "rubber chicken" speaking circuit, where he commands thousands of dollars per speech. He also writes books and articles, and serves as a paid commentator for that perfectly objective journalistic organization known as Fox News.

Our take: Gingrich made the smart move. Although he still has a following in Republican circles, we see no evidence of a massive Newt groundswell there or anywhere else.

What We're Reading: Fifty Years of Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road'

The most famous novel of the Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac's On the Road, was published 50 years ago this month.

To mark this literary landmark, The New Yorker's Louis Menand has written a essay for the October 1 issue called "Drive, He Wrote: What the Beats were about." It's a thoughtful and informed contemplation of Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and the times that produced this autobiographical American road novel.

On the Road, Menand writes, was influential because it de-Europeanized the novel and "made America a subject for literary fiction."

The novel also romanticized the American highway, a romance mostly gone even by the time the novel appeared. But Kerouac's fictionalized travels across the continent remain a powerful reminder of the hopes and dashed dreams of post-war America, a place where Kerouac and his fellow Beats never quite fit in.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Rush Trashes Iraq Vets Who Don't Follow the Limbaugh Line

Iraq war vets who serve honorably but disagree with the war policy are "phony soldiers."

So says the Great Sage of Talk Radio, Rush Limbaugh. Speaking this week on his radio show, Limbaugh expressed contempt for those soldiers who want to end the war and bring the troops home.

It's not like Rush knows anything about combat or military service. During the Vietnam War, Limbaugh managed to escape the draft with a minor medical problem. He has never served a day in uniform.

We know Rush Limbaugh is a blowhard. We also know a real phony when we hear one.

UPDATE: In an attempt to defend himself, Limbaugh has edited his original comments, scrubbing his "phony soldiers" comment. Unfortunately for Rush, Media Matters has the original audio. Click here for more on Limbaugh's duplicity.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gundy's Outburst Makes Him a Web 'Star'

It was as predictable as the Oklahoma sunrise: OSU's Mike Gundy is now an unfortunate YouTube™ star and media punching bag.

As every Oklahoman knows by now, Gundy turned his postgame press conference Saturday into an attack on a columnist for The Daily Oklahoman. The cameras captured a very angry coach blasting the writer in defense of an OSU player criticized by the columnist.

Although OSU supporters have rallied to Gundy's defense, it was not Gundy's finest hour. His video is all the rage on YouTube and a hot topic on sports talk radio. Gundy's performance has also been reviewed by sportswriters and columnists across the nation. They were not amused.

Here's a sampling of some Gundy references we found this week:
Stillwater Wacko

The Eruption of Mount Gundy

Gundy Gone Wild

Mike "I'm a man! I'm 40!" Gundy

It gets worse. There are barbs about "anger-management class," about Gundy "crossing the line," about his "being dishonest with the media." Some sports talkers are calling for Gundy to be sanctioned or fired. Others ask: What kind of example is the coach setting for his players?

Let's face it, Cowpoke fans, Saturday's outburst has made Gundy a national figure. But in this case, it's not a good thing.

Oh, we almost forgot: OSU won the game in a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback against Texas Tech. But who's talking about that?

UPDATE: We see in the press that OSU is reporting that 95 percent of the calls to Gundy's office are supportive. Well, of course they would be. OSU fans are standing by their coach.

The problem is that many thousands of other people will see Gundy's outburst on YouTube and other sites for years to come. In addition, many sportscasters and OSU opponents will keep this memory alive. Whenever Gundy's name comes up in national circles, Saturday's temper tantrum will resurface.

We're not saying this is right or fair. We're just saying it's the reality in the digital age, a time when embarrassing events take on a life of their own—and never die.

Beyond Blood, U.S. Needs More Treasure to Fight Wars

An all-too-telling headline we saw this week on

[Defense Secretary] Gates to ask Congress for $190 billion for wars

Give until it hurts, the saying goes. Looks like we are—and will be for years and years to come.

Blog Wars Continue: OKC's McCarville Slams Okie Funk's 'Doc Hoc'

The rhetorical guns keep firing in Oklahoma's blogsphere.

The latest example comes from Mike McCarville of The McCarville Report Online. McCarville, a proud NRA member and rock-ribbed conservative, takes aim at Okie Funk, a liberal blog run by "Doc Hoc," an English professor at Edmond's UCO.

In a posting today, McCarville points to the "garbage this ultra-liberal moonbat pedals on his blog." Garbage? Moonbat? So much for a civil tone in Okie cyberspace.

As it happens, we like Doc Hoc and his blog, even when we disagree with the good professor. After all, a free and open society needs all sorts of ideas and opinions, including "ultra-liberal" and —yes!—"ultraconservative" viewpoints.

Let Doc Hoc have his say. He's got Okie readers and a right to speak his mind. Besides, it's not as if Oklahoma is going to change from a Red State to a Blue State anytime soon. But Doc Hoc keeps pushing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fun with CNN Headlines

This was an actual headline on today:
Glenn Beck: Spotlight on Stupidity.
Sometimes, folks, the jokes just write themselves.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Columbia President Bollinger Confronts Iran's Leader with the Awful Truth

The AT nomination for Quote of the Day comes from Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University in New York City. Bollinger has been widely criticized for allowing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia.

Bollinger has defended the invitation, saying that Ahmadinejad would be challenged when he spoke on campus. Today Bollinger lived up to that promise with an introduction that included this sentence:
Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.
Ah yes, the joys of plain, unambiguous speech.

Blog Fight: River Tax Splits Tulsa Republicans

In a posting at Tulsa Today, blogger David Arnett fires both barrels at fellow Tulsa blogger and activist Michael Bates of Batesline. The topic, not surprisingly, is the upcoming vote over a sales tax increase to fund Arkansas River improvements.

Arnett v. Bates: It's getting nasty out there, folks.

According to Arnett, Bates is "a self-aggrandizing pundit." Arnett then proceeds to criticize Bates, his personality, and his political style.

Arnett also reveals more of the increasingly angry split within the Tulsa County Republican Party, which seems to feature the pro-growth group (sometimes called the Mid-town Elitists) and the anti-tax agitators, a group that includes Bates, former city councilor Chris Medlock, and others.

At the end of his verbal blast, Arnett challenges Bates to a public debate, man to man, fact against fact. Stand by for that.

Meanwhile, check out Arnett's posting at Tulsa Today. And stand by for a spirited push back from Bates here.

McCarthy's 'The Road' Wins Quill Book Award

AT likes to keep track of our favorite writers, one of whom is Cormac McCarthy. So we were pleased to see that McCarthy's latest novel, The Road, has won a Quill Book Award for general fiction.

We blogged about McCarthy's book some months back, pointing out the dark beauty of this end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it novel. Despite its bleak theme, there are rays of hope in The Road that make it an inspiring read.

By the way, another Quill winner was Al Gore's book, The Assault on Reason. We haven't read Gore's book, but the reviews we've seen have been intriguing.

For more on The Road, The Assault on Reason, and the Quill Awards, check out their website by clicking here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Flip-Flop on the Right: Rudy's Last-Minute NRA Pro-Gun Conversion

Our nomination for most dead-on blog headline of the day comes from Americablog's John Aravosis.

Aravosis wrote:
It's a miracle!!! Giuliani is suddenly PRO-GUN after a lifetime of being the most pro-gun-control Republican in the party!!!
Take note, fellow voters: Giuliani takes a back seat to no one in the pander department.

Yet More Fractures in GOP River Response

The Tulsa World headline says a lot: "Sullivan supports river tax."

That's right, Sooner fans, Tulsa's reliably reactionary congressman, Republican John Sullivan, actually supports a plan to raise sales tax by 0.4 cents to fund a multimillion dollar improvement to the Arkansas River.

"On Oct. 9, I will be voting yes," Sullivan said in a riverside press conference Friday.

Why would Rep. Sullivan take a position guaranteed to tick off all his anti-tax Republican supporters? It's a good question.

All we know is what Sullivan told the World. "This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will allow private and public entities to work together to produce a riverfront which will bring pride to our city," Sullivan said. "The time for Tulsa is now," Sullivan added.

Pride in Tulsa—what a concept.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Trouble in "No" Land: Tulsa GOP Fractures Over River Tax

Over at Tulsa's Batesline, blogger Michael Bates finds himself in the middle of a GOP debate over the upcoming Arkansas River vote.

From what we can tell, a recent Bates column in Urban Tulsa Weekly raised hackles among some Tulsa County Republican women. One prominent such person, Nancy Rothman, president of the Tulsa County Republican Women's Club, responded to Bates in an extensive news release, which, to his credit, Bates has posted on his blog.

This isn't our battle, so we'll let others sort out who's who and what's what among Tulsa County Republicans. But it's refreshing to see the local GOP behaving like Democrats—that is, as an unorganized political party.

Read all about it over at Batesline.

P.S.—For the record, we agree with Bates that a debate should include two sides of an issue. On the other hand, we wouldn't presume to tell any group of Republican women how to run their own meeting.

Michelle Malkin: Shoot Mouth Off First, Check Facts Later (But Probably Not)

AT's nomination for Bonehead of the Week: Conservative blogger and Fox personality (so to speak) Michelle Malkin.

Responding to a Sally Field comment on the Emmy broadcast that mothers are people who should oppose war, Malkin blasted Fields by suggesting that the actor represents every bad mother in America.

In a column in the National Review called “Sally Field Does Not Speak For Me,” Malkin writes:

Sally Field is the mom who looks the other way when the brat on the elementary-school slide pushes your son to the ground or throws dirt in your daughter’s face.

She’s the mom who holds her tongue at the mall when thugs spew profanities and make crude gestures in front of her brood.

She’s the mom who tells her child never to point out when a teacher gets her facts wrong.

She’s the mom who buys her teenager beer, condoms, and a hotel room on prom night, because she’d rather give in than assert her parental authority and do battle.

Talk about a "straw man" (or woman, in this case) argument. Malkin provides no evidence—nothing at all—that Sally Field is anything like this cartoonish representation or that she has ever acted in any of these ways. Instead, she unloads a boatload of psychobabble about the presumed views of people like Sally Field.

Note to Michelle: You can disagree all you want with anyone you care to attack. But it is customary, even in partisan circles, to locate your argument in facts and to make arguments that stand up to even cursory examination.

Without evidence or logic, after all, we can make all sorts of outlandish and cartoonish representations of certain highly inflammatory female Fox wingnuts.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

AltTulsa Nominated for Okie Blog Award

We don't usually toot our own horn, as the saying goes, but we would like to acknowledge that Alternative Tulsa was nominated for a 2007 Okie Blog Award in the "political blog" category.

We have no idea who nominated us, but we appreciate the nomination. Since we started AltTulsa last November, we've tried to write at least one post a day, an output that far exceeds many older and better known Oklahoma blogs.

We have also tried to raise the level of political discourse around the Sooner state, something sorely needed in a world of blogosphere and talk radio cheap shots. We make an effort to avoid personal attacks, smear campaigns, and all the other claptrap that passes for intelligent political discussion these days.

We've also taken up the task of reporting on a variety of newspapers, magazines, websites, and movies, part of an effort to introduce new ideas and energy into the cultural life of Tulsa and northeastern Oklahoma.

Finally, a thanks to our readers, in Tulsa and elsewhere. We've been gratified by the private and public comments we've received, even those that disagreed with our viewpoints. As far as we are concerned, disagreement and argument are an important part of the democratic process and we're pleased to have made a small contribution.

By the way, if you want to vote for us (or anyone else) in the Okie Blog Awards, click here.

Long War, High Costs: Iraq Drains U.S. Resources

Not only has the Iraq War cost us thousands of precious lives, it continues to cost us real cash money. USA Today reported on page one today that the Army will ask for 10,000 new armored vehicles.

Yes, folks, 10,000 new vehicles. And if we want to protect our soldiers (and we do), we ought to give the Army what it wants.

But as USA Today notes, this figure is four times what the Army originally requested. And because these vehicles must be specially built and heavily armored for maximum protection, their cost is, well, astronomical: more than $1 million a copy.

How do we pay for this very expensive protection? Maybe we can give some new tax cuts to the rich, a demographic the Bush Administration favors. Or maybe we'll pass the debt along to our grandchildren, another legacy of the Bush War on Iraq.

Worse than the cost, perhaps, is what these new vehicles mean in terms of the war. USA Today found an analyst who made this depressing prediction: "This is an acknowledgement that we'll be in Iraq for a long time and that we need to replace every Humvee there," Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute told the newspaper.

Like we said, it's depressing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Freed Iranian-American Scholar Returns to U.S.

For some months now, AT has been following the case of Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, who was held prisoner for more than 100 days in a Tehran prison. Esfandiari was released August 21 and returned to her home in Maryland a few days ago.

Esfandiari, an official at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, told NPR recently that she was grilled by Iranian interrogators for as many as eight hours a day during her three months of captivity. She said she was neither mentally nor physically mistreated.

In an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep in her office, Esfandiari said she was "disappointed in Iran, [but] I'm not angry at it."

She added: "I'm angry because I wasted eight months of my life. And when you are 67 years old, eight months is a long time. I was very much disappointed that they misunderstood what I did at the Wilson Center. That bothered me."

Esfandiari's captivity should bother a lot of people, especially people who believe in freedom of free inquiry, free speech and civil liberties.

More Signs of Trouble in Baghdad

Just when we thought conditions might—just might—get a little bit better in Iraq, we see this new report on the AP wire:
The United States on Tuesday suspended all land travel by U.S. diplomats and other civilian officials throughout Iraq except in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone following a weekend incident involving private security guards in which a number of Iraqi civilians were killed.
That's just great. Now U.S. officials are officially trapped in the Green Zone. So much for Dick Cheney's infamous prediction about U.S. soldiers being "greeted as liberators."

Can you spell "quagmire," Mr. Cheney?

Iraqi Press Celebrates Blackwater Ban

It's no secret that the U.S. has more than a few public relations problems in Iraq.

This PR situation got worse the other day when private security forces from the North Carolina-based Blackwater organization killed eight Iraqi civilians while defending a State Department convoy.

As a result of the killings, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered Blackwater to cease operations in the country. Today, the AP reports, Iraqi newspapers "trumpeted the government's decision." According to the AP, Nouri al-Maliki's decision plays well in Iraq, where private security contractors are highly unpopular.

There's no great surprise here. From the Iraqi point of view, the use of private security contractors adds insult to injury. First the U.S. invades and occupies the country, then it employs hundreds of armed men—not U.S. soldiers—to look menacing and shoot up the place in the conduct of their jobs.

This situation was bound to cause confusion. What are the rules of engagement for armed U.S. civilians in Iraq? Are they the same as the military rules? Whose rules and laws apply when civilians are killed?

Under these circumstances, the questions are easy. The answers are not.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Notorious Minneapolis Bathroom Attracts Tourists

File this in the "Headlines We Wish We Had Never Seen" Department. The Huffington Post is running this headline over an AP story on the Minneapolis notorious bathroom:
Tourists Flock to Minneapolis Bathroom Made Famous by GOP Sen. Larry Craig
Even worse, some of these folks are taking photos of the "famous" bathroom. Ugh!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

New Fall Books Highlighted in New Issue of The New York Review

For all the bibliophiles out there, the New York Review of Books in out with its annual Fall Books issue. We read the Review for its articles, but the Review's book ads are a worth a look.

Here are a few fall books we found intriguing, in no particular order:

• Vietnam Zippos: American Soldier's Engravings and Stories (1965-1973), by Sherry Buchanan, The University of Chicago Press. According to the ad, the book "tells the fascinating story of how the humble Zippo became a talisman and companion for American GIs during their tours of duty." Click here for the Chicago list.

In the Beginning: Fundamentalism, the Scopes Trial, and the Making of the Antievolution Movement, by Michael Lienesch, The University of North Carolina Press. We traveled to Dayton, Tenn., some years ago, just to see the site of the famous trial. We'd like to know more. Find out more by clicking here.

• Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, by Hugh Brogan, Yale University Press. We read a short biography of the man last year. Again, we'd like to know more about this important observer of the American experiment. The publisher's website is linked here.

• Beans: A History, by Ken Albala, Palgrave Macmillan. Yes, it sounds like a bad joke. But they're cheap and abundant, and they feed millions. So this isn't as funny as it sounds. Here's the Palgrave link.

We'll save additional recommendations for another day. Meanwhile, happy reading.

Slate's Fred Kaplan Slices and Dices the President's Iraq Speech

AT missed the President's televised Iraq speech the other night, but the reviews we've seen have not been kind. Critics have noted that Bush dropped the word "victory" from his Iraq lexicon and "moved the goalposts" on the U.S. troop surge and its goals.

Even some conservative pundits seemed underwhelmed by Bush's speech.

Perhaps the most effective dissection of Bush's performance we've seen was at the hands of Slate's Fred Kaplan. Kaplan highlighted a slew of presidential "deceptions or delusions."

Here's the opening of Kaplan's critique:

President Bush's TV address [Thursday night] was the worst speech he's ever given on the war in Iraq, and that's saying a lot. Every premise, every proposal, nearly every substantive point was sheer fiction.

There's more—much more here. But none of it makes the president or his Iraq plans look good.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rudy Raises Money and Eats Red Meat in Tulsa

Republican presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was in T-Town today, eating red meat at Steak Stuffers and raising money at the Summit Club.

Continuing the "red meat" theme, Channel 2 reported that America's Mayor criticized fellow New Yorker Hillary Clinton. According to the station, Giuliani "accused Clinton of attacking the character of Iraq War Commander General David Petraeus."

Well of course. There's nothing Oklahoma Republicans like more than beating up on Hillary.

But one of the Tulsa Republicans might want to ask Rudy to explain how his views on abortion and immigration square with those of the local party. Last time we checked, Rudy's views were far to the left of the Tulsa County Republican Party.

Somebody's got some explaining to do.

Assessing the War: Columnist Peter Schrag Tallies the Damage to the Nation

AltTulsa's far-flung correspondent in the Volunteer State (for the geographically challenged, that's Tennessee) sent us a powerful column today from the Sept. 12 edition of the Sacramento Bee. The writer, who we do not know, is Peter Schrag.

Here are some of Schrag's observations on the U.S. and our on-going (and never-ending) Global War of Terror, six years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks:

Americans are killed at an average of 80 a month in Iraq. More come home forever damaged in body or spirit. But for most of us, daily life goes merrily on.

Iraqis are displaced by the millions and killed at a rate of 2,000 a month (down, it's said, from 4,000 a few months ago). It's not clear whether that's progress or just because of the growing number of neighborhoods that have been ethnically cleansed.

There is no draft. Taxes are cut for the wealthy -- our children will pay the cost -- and the rich get richer. Our ports remain porous; the administration bows to industry in its feeble enforcement of security at chemical plants, oil refineries and cargo shipments on airlines.

This week's congressional debate again demonstrates how the ultimate measure of the folly and hubris of the invasion of Iraq is the difficulty of extricating ourselves from it. Almost everyone wants to get out, but few responsible people know how and fewer still want to be responsible for whatever follows.

Despite the White House spin, Iraq never had any connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. Saddam Hussein didn't launch the terrorists. There were no WMDs, no yellow cake from Niger. The media were suckered, as they're being suckered again. Now, as the president says, Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. But we created that front.

For America it's a costly and crippling diversion. As Congress parses the various reports on "progress" in Iraq, the president prepares to ask for yet another $200 billion for the war. That's equal to nearly half of what America spends on schools or enough to provide basic health care for every uninsured American.

Tasha Does Oklahoma Vineyards

The AT team has been known to savor the grape every now and again, so we were pleased to see that a local "culture blog," Tasha Does Tulsa, devoted a recent posting to some Tulsa-area vineyards.

Tasha offers some interesting statistics about the state's growing wine industry (who woulda thunk it?) and follows up with first-hand reports, interviews and tastings from several area vineyards. These include Stone Bluff Cellars, a few miles down Highway 64 from Bixby, Nuyaka Creek in Bristow, and Whispering Vines on West 51st Street in west Tulsa.

We've only been to Stone Bluff, but thanks to Tasha and friends, we'll be checking out some of the other Oklahoma vineyards soon. After all, the weather's cooler now and it's a treat to get out into the Oklahoma countryside and sip a little nectar of the vine.

For more on Oklahoma wines and winery events, click here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

N. Scott Momaday Named OK Poet Laureate

Speaking of the arts (see previous post), Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry has named N. Scott Momaday as Oklahoma's poet laureate.

Momaday, 73, is one of the state's literary treasures. He is best known for his novel, House Made of Dawn, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969. Momaday grew up in southwestern Oklahoma and is a member of the Kiowa tribe.

Here's to Scott Momaday and his work, words that have inspired millions of readers, young and old.

DVD Recommedation: 'Sweet Land'

It's been a while since AT posted on the Arts & Letters beat, so here's a much delayed DVD recommendation. The movie is Sweet Land and it's a joy.

We saw Sweet Land months ago when it played at the Circle Cinema, Tulsa's alternative showcase. The movie was a big hit at the Circle—and no wonder. It's a beautifully made love story set in Minnesota in the early decades of the twentieth century.

If that description sounds like an unlikely formula for film success, don't let that fool you. Sweet Land is a small but wonderful gem, a movie that takes its time with its characters and treats them with sensitivity and grace.

But don't take our word for it: Head for the closest DVD rental store and get a copy of Sweet Land. (You can thank us later.)

Bill O'Reilly Explains Middle Eastern Culture to the Unwashed Masses

Our old pal Bill O'Reilly, the great sage of Fox News, has yet another nugget of wisdom for all us rubes out here in Middle America. Speaking this week on his radio show, the Wise One offered his views on why Muslims don't really want democracy. Instead, O'Reilly said:

They want their meals. They want to smoke. They want to go to the mosques. They want to sit around, and that’s what they want to do. Do they want to vote? Do they want to get involved? Not really.

Thanks, Bill. Your political insights are so thoughtful. Please pass them on to Gen. Petraeus so he can pacify Iraq and we can bring the troops home.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rethinking Torture: A Bush Insider Speaks Out on Administration Abuses

Under the leadership of Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, the ever-confident John Yoo and others, the Bush Administration has not distinguished itself as a protector of civil liberties.

Now a former Bush legal advisor, Jack Goldsmith, is offering his own perspective on the Bush record. His book, The Terror Presidency, is just out. Based on reviews we've seen, it's a dismal legacy.

Today's New York Times, for instance, notes that Goldsmith entered the administration in 2003 "with sterling conservative credentials." Nevertheless, Goldsmith was alarmed to learn that many of the administration's counterterrorism policies were, in his own words, "rested on severely damaged legal foundations."

Ouch! But there's much more to worry about in Goldsmith's book.

One more example is suggestive: Goldsmith is "scathing," the Times reports, in recounting the administration's sidestepping of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Top Bush Administration officials, he writes, dealt with the act "the way they dealt with other laws they didn't like: they blew through them in secret based on flimsy legal opinions that they guarded so no one could question the legal basis for the operations."

Unlike the Bush team, Goldsmith is an actual conservative, not an ideologue. To his great credit, he wants to follow the rule of law and protect civil liberties.

Why We Don't Take Political Advice from Country Music Singers

The AT team likes to think of itself as open to reason. We try to weigh the evidence, think through the issues and consequences, and come to a considered conclusion.

That process, unfortunately, is not universal. Consider the recent political opinions of Eddie Montgomery, one half of the country duo Montgomery Gentry.

Speaking at one of right-wing talker Sean Hannity's "Freedom Concerts," Montgomery suggested that Hannity should do more than talk about his conservative ideas.

I could see him running for president. I think he's that smart.

We don't. Hannity's record of intellectual achievement and national service is, well, nonexistent. He's college dropout whose pro-military positions are at odds with his notable lack of military service.

Can you spell "chickenhawk," boys and girls?

Romney Backers Go Negative On Hollywood Fred

Our nomination for Headline of the Day:
Romney Camp Linked to Attack Site Calling Thompson "Moron," "Skirt Chaser"
Fred's halo appears to be losing its shine.

Update—We hear now that neither Romney nor his campaign manager was aware of the anti-Thompson site. In any event, the PhoneyFred site has been taken down.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

When Pigs Fly: President Tom Tancredo

Speaking of wingnuts (see previous post), Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo is in Tulsa today raising money for his campaign.

Tancredo, a Colorado congressman, is a pointedly one-issue candidate, but his issue pushes buttons on the right. He's the anti-illegal immigration candidate.

Speaking last night in Luther, Okla., Tancredo admitted that he's a long-shot candidate. But he claims to be the only one who'll deport the illegals, thus saving America.

If only the problem were that simple. As Tancredo knows full well, many mainstream conservatives (including George W. Bush and millions of business owners, manufacturers and growers) depend on cheap labor and seasonal (read: illegal) workers to get the jobs done at their factories and farms.

If we follow Tancredo's ideas, we can look forward to regular police raids on workplaces all over the country, a shortage of manual laborers, roofers, meat packers, and agricultural workers, not to mention scores of detention camps dotting the landscape, families split between legal and illegal members, the diversion of police and military forces from the war effort, and much more.

Do we have an illegal immigration problem? Yes. Is Tom Tancredo the answer to this problem? Only if pigs start to fly.

Zanies Fan the Flames of 'Reconquista'

Leave it to the wingnuts to promote the sensational idea that Mexicans are planning a reconquest of the American Southwest to reclaim territory lost in the Mexican War of 1848.

It's the perfect story to up fire up the anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant feelings so rampant on the far-right side of the political spectrum. For Americans in touch with the actual world—including the conservative Manhattan Institutereconquista is "a fantasy, a boogeyman."

Yes, the U.S. has millions of illegal immigrants, which is an on-going and serious problem that needs resolution.

But that's not what the wingnuts are screaming about.

They've concocted, mostly from their fevered imaginations, a dark conspiracy that the illegals are planning to retake California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas (and probably Oklahoma) and make these states part of a new Mexican nation.

Jim Boyd, a Nashville activist and losing candidate for the City Council there, claims that even legal Mexicans are planning a new nation in the Southwest. "They'll shuck their citizenship as easily as you or I take off a jacket," Boyd told the Los Angeles Times.

Naturally, right-wing broadcasters such as Michelle Malkin and Lou Dobbs have repeated such nonsense, even though, the Times reports, they "may not believe in the existence of an actual plot to retake the American Southwest." Nevertheless, such blabbers feed the fantasy, even as more informed observers find it completely lacking in substance.

Then again, the wingers seem to inhabit a place where neither reason nor actual facts can find a home.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Pundits Weigh in on Hollywood Fred

Now that actor and former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson is an official Republican candidate for president, the critics are sharpening their knives.

Here, courtesy of USA Today, are some recent samples of Thompson's reception among the chattering class:

The Wall Street Journal:
The biggest question he has to answer is, Why President Thompson? So far he hasn't provided one, other than he's none of the other candidates.

The Boston Globe:

Thompson's backers compare him to Ronald Reagan, another actor-politician.… But a few seasons on Law & Order do not a new Reagan make.

Frederick of Hollywoood: He Looks the Part

One of Fred Thompson's attributes as a Republican presidential candidate is his Hollywood-honed acting skills. In plainer language, Thompson gets political credit for "looking presidential."

Just yesterday, for example, Time magazine's Washington bureau chief Jay Carney noted that on his video announcement of his presidential bid Thompson "sure looks like a president (at least, he could play one on TV)."

Similarly, CNN chief national correspondent John King said yesterday that his presidential look is part of Thompson's appeal. King went on:

Don't undervalue the idea of looking the part, if you will. Fred Thompson is known for his roles on TV and in Hollywood in the movies. He now wants to look the part of the president and appeal to a conservative Republican base….

We could be wrong, but isn't there a tiny bit of difference between "looking presidential" and actually having the skills, knowledge and temperament to be an effective president?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Thompson Campaign Goes Big Tonight

Former Tennessee Senator (and part-time actor) Fred Thompson is kicking off his presidential campaign tonight with a media blitz that will include an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Thompson is intentionally missing tonight's GOP presidential debate, a tactic that guarantees a much larger audience for his presidential announcement.

The Thompson camp is also releasing an Internet streaming video statement tonight at midnight, another way of fanning the media flames to his advantage.

Thompson seems to have considerable appeal among Republicans in the South and right here in Oklahoma. Mike McCarville at the McCarville Report Online, for example, has been promoting Thompson for weeks. You can even make a contribution to Thompson's campaign by clicking the correct box on McCarville's site.

Yet Thompson's recent "testing the waters" activities have raised a number of questions about Thompson's political viability. His views on a number of policies dear to conservatives have shifted from his earlier positions or have not been clear. His staff has been in turmoil. At times, he's appeared indecisive. Questions have been raised about his years as a lobbyist. Finally and perhaps most importantly, he hasn't raised as much money as the experts expected.

Will Thompson ride in on a wave of good publicity and save the flagging fortunes of the GOP presidential candidates?

Our crystal ball is cloudy on this point. But given the demoralized state of the GOP after seven years of the Bush presidency, even Fred Thompson may need a truly heroic performance to make it all the way to the White House.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sen. Craig's NRA Ties Go Unreported

We all know about Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's resignation in the aftermath of guilty plea in a men's room sex sting at the Minneapolis airport.

What is much less known in Red State America is Craig's long-time ties to the National Rifle Association. As a conservative western legislator, Craig has long worshipped at the altar of the gun lobby.

Oklahoma's reliably pro-NRA McCarville Report Online, for instance, conveniently ignored Craig's NRA ties.

Craig has served on the NRA board since 1983. He's a lifetime member of the NRA. He been the water-carrier for various NRA legislative initiatives over his long career in the House and Senate.

True, Craig's confusing sexual life—he says he's not gay, though he was playing "foostie" in the men's room—has nothing to do with his pro-gun positions.

Still, as one cheeky blogger has noted: Yikes! Perverts with guns!