Monday, March 31, 2008

Campus Gun Bill Shot Down in State Senate

Finally, a little sanity comes to the Oklahoma legislature. After being rounded criticized by every major college leader in the state, the campus gun bill has died.

The Tulsa World is reporting today that the ill-advised bill to permit some students to carry concealed weapons on campus is dead for this legislative session.

Here's part of the World's story posted on its website this afternoon:
The state Senate will not hear a controversial bill to allow certain people to carry concealed weapons on campus, top Senate leaders confirmed Monday.

The confirmation from Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, came shortly after a governor’s task force on campus security unanimously approved a resolution urging that the bill not be heard in the Senate, after being approved earlier by the House.

Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis said Monday the bill would have allowed Timothy McVeigh, executed after being found guilty of the Oklahoma City bombing, to carry a concealed weapon on campus because he was a military veteran.

University of Oklahoma President David Boren thumped a podium Monday, as he intoned, “Please, please, please,” defeat House Bill 2513.

Still More Random Gun Violence

A sad (but predictable) headline in today's Tulsa World:
Shots kill teen in Tulsa County

Sunday, March 30, 2008

What We're Reading: Abu Ghraib Photographer Sabrina Harman Considers Her Role

Sabrina Harman, the specialist who took many of the most shocking and infamous photos of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, is the subject of an important article in the March 24 edition of The New Yorker.

The writers, journalist Philip Gourevitch and documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, investigate the circumstances that led Harman's unit, the 372nd Military Policy Company from Cresaptown, Maryland, to torture the prisoners under their control and to document the mistreatment on their digital cameras.

Harman, as it happens, was something of a softie. One of her fellow soldiers said she was "just too nice to be a soldier."

But the conditions at Abu Ghraib were horrendous. Hanson said the place looked like a concentration camp. "It was just disgusting. You didn't want to touch anything. Whatever the worst thing that comes to your mind, that was it—the place you would never, ever, ever, ever, send your worst enemy."

Even so, Harman learned to tolerate the conditions and accept the torture inflicted upon the prisoners. Prompted by a lack of guidelines as well as the Military Intelligence personnel who were questioning the prisoners, the Maryland MPs were inspired to continue mistreating the men.

Although Harman and her fellow soldiers were blamed for the torture, the article makes clear that they alone were not to blame. "[T]he abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was de facto United States policy," they write.

Harman, who wanted to become a cop, took many of the photos that later embarrassed the military and the nation. But as Gourevitch and Morris report, she was originally motivated by a fascination with photography and a simple curiosity about death.

As the mistreatment continued, however, Harman started using her camera to document the abuses, as a way of proving the mistreatment she was seeing.

In the end, Harman and several of her follew MPs were convicted for mistreating the prisoners. Only low-ranking soldiers were convicted, the authors note, and no one has been charged for the abuses that were not photographed.

There's more about the whole sad affair on The New Yorker website, which can be found by clicking here.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

This Week in Random Gun Violence, Part 3,247

Virginia officials have arrested two teenagers who authorities believe were taking potshots at drivers along Interstate 64.

Police arrested a 19-year-old and a 16-year-old on Friday in connection with the shootings, which left two drivers injured.

The suspects have been charged with two felony counts of malicious wounding, one count of attempted wounding, two counts of the use of a firearm in a felony, and five counts of maliciously shooting at an occupied vehicle.

According to the AP, the highways shootings "stirred memories of the Washington-area sniper shootings six years ago that killed 10 people."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Let's Rally for Sally the Homophobe—Not!

Oklahoma's most notorious homophobe, GOP Rep. Sally Kern, has lots of friends on the right side (and we use that term loosely) of the state's political spectrum.

Kern, as far too many people know, made a fool of herself recently when she claimed that gays are "worse the terrorists" and a threat to every virtue known to Western Civilization.

Kern was "outed" as a conservative wingnut when her comments to a Republican group were recorded and released on YouTube. Her remarks were met with widespread disapproval in the blogosphere and elsewhere.

Kern's allies, however, want the beleaguered legislator that she's not alone in her bigotry toward Oklahoma's gay residents. They are organizing a "Rally for Sally" to show they're just as intolerant and small-minded as Rep. Kern.

We have no idea how many people are likely to show up in Sally's defense. But whatever the number, it won't make her hyperbolic attack Oklahoma's homosexual citizens any less offensive.

In a free society dedicated to human liberty, Rep. Kern and her right-wing allies can speak out or can take any position they please. But they don't have the right to tell the rest of us, even those folks in a minority, how to think.

And because they have no lock on human wisdom or individual judgment, they don't get to be Oklahoma's morality police.

Pilot's Gunshot Raises Safety Questions

When a US Airways pilot's pistol went off accidentally in the cockpit last week, it raised new concerns about public safety on airlines—and elsewhere.

Beyond careless pilots, USA Today points out that gun accidents are inevitable. On an airliner, of course, a gun accident could cause a catastrophe.

More commonly, mishandled guns kill and wound thousands of citizens every year. In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, there were 789 "unintentional firearm" deaths in the U.S. and a whooping 15,388 firearm injuries in the U.S., more than five for every 100,000 citizens.

USA Today concludes its airline gun editorial with this point: "[T]his much is clear: Guns in holsters don't just go off by themselves. Something went very wrong on US Airways 1536, and the flying public deserves an explanation.

Republican Leader Tom Cole: GOP Too Shrill

As AltTulsa noted earlier (see last post), Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole is the subject of a major political report to be published in Sunday's New York Times Magazine.

The article looks to the fall election and Cole's role as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. As reporter Benjamin Wallace-Wells notes, Cole has his work cut out for him.

Social issues, for example, are working against the GOP. Younger voters are increasingly libertarian and have reacted against Republican positions, Cole told the Times.

"My problem on [Republican] social issues is the tone—sometimes we have been too shrill, and that has alienated voters who might otherwise have joined us," Cole said.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Oklahoma's Tom Cole Profiled in Sunday's New York Times Magazine

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is the subject of a major story to be published Sunday in The New York Times Magazine.

The profile, called "A Case of the Blues," outlines Cole's "daunting" task this election year—trying to shore up a faltering Republican position in the U.S. House.

Some sample lines from reporter Benjamin Wallace-Wells' article:

• "[Cole] finds himself in the unlikely position of flying into what used to be considered safe conservative districts and trying to goad Republican businessmen and state senators into running for Congress."

•"It is difficult to watch Cole these days, or the Republican apparatus generally, and not be aware of the distancing from the Bush presidency that is taking place." (Ouch!)

•"The perversity of Cole's position is that the consummate party man has arrived at precisely the moment when the party is eroding beneath him. The problem is money."

There's more, of course, on the Times website. Or pick up a copy Sunday.

Our take: Tom Cole comes off in the story as an interesting and effective political operator. But don't look for Cole to single-handedly save the Republican Party this fall.

Out of Ideas, Inhofe Plays the 'Liberal Elite' Card

Jim Inhofe, former Tulsa mayor and now Oklahoma's senior (God help us all) senator, needs your money. And if you don't give it to him, the "powerful far left special interest groups" are gonna get him.

Inhofe's campaign sent out an e-mail message this week with just that message. Contribute to my campaign, Inhofe said, so he can push back against the "Washington liberals."

(The liberals are coming! We're so-o-o-o-o scared!)

The language in Inhofe's e-mail is worth some analysis. The senator offers no positive agenda, no ideas, and no endorsement of any Republican legislation or policyThere's only the well-worn scare tactic
the hoary specter of "far left special interest groups" and "Washington liberals."

Having embraced nearly every policy of an unpopular and failed president,
having kissed up to the most arrogant and wrong-headed vice president in recent history, having supported an unnecessary and unpopular war, Inhofe has little positive to say about himself or the Republicans. 

Reading between the lines, Inhofe's message is clear: I'm not much of a senator, he seems to say, but liberals are worse. So send me money.

Remember: Liberals are bad.
And did I mention I need your money? 

Five Years After the Invasion, Columnist Brooks Clams Up About Iraq Anniversary

Five years ago, conservative columnist David Brooks, then with The Weekly Standard, was beating the drums of war. Brooks bought into the Bush-Cheney hype about Saddam and his (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction hook, line and sinker.

Here's a succinct Brooks gem from those heady days of Neocon glory: "The president has remained resolute. Momentum to liberate Iraq continues to build. The situation has clarified, and history will allow clear judgments about which leaders and which institutions were up to the challenge posed by Saddam and which were not."

Today, with five years of history to review, Brooks might want to reconsider his pro-war position. Perhaps that's why Brooks, now writing for the New York Times, conveniently forgot to mention the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion.

Monday, March 24, 2008

OU Profs Take Aim at Campus Gun Bill

The University of Oklahoma Faculty Senate voted last week to oppose a proposal that would allow students to carry concealed guns on campus.

The vote wasn't even close: 27 of 30 faculty members voted against the gun bill.

The OU faculty vote puts them in line with a growing number of Oklahoma college officials. OU President David Boren has publicly opposed the bill, as has the Council of Presidents, a group made up of Oklahoma's 25 public colleges and universities.

OSU's new president, Burns Hargis, has also spoken out against the bill. "While we all share concern for the safety of all our campuses, this proposal is fraught with unnecessary risks," Hargis told the AP last week.

The legislative proposal would allow veterans, active-duty military personnel, and several other categories of people to carry concealed weapons on campus. Supporters of the bill, including the NRA, claim the legislation will make Oklahoma campuses safer.

Based on last week's vote, the OU faculty feels otherwise.

After More than 70 Years, Swinneys Hardware Says Goodbye, A 'Big Box' Victim

We all know that family-owned businesses have a tough time hanging on in the era of Big Box stores. 

Still, it gives AT no pleasure to report that Swinney's Hardware in Tulsa's Kendall-Whittier neighborhood is closing. The Tulsa World reported the closing in Saturday's edition.

According to the World, John Swinney Sr. began the business as a used furniture store in 1934. Later, the family converted it to a hardware store that became known for carrying many rare and hard-to-find items.

Although the business thrived in the 1970s and 80s, the national home improvement chains hurt Swinneys and other small hardware retailers.

Family members told the World that they have tried to save the store, but unless a buyer steps forward soon, Swinneys will close.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Photoblogging from Downtown Chicago

This post departs from politics, Tulsa, or any of our usual AT topics. Instead, we present a few photos of our recent (and very quick) trip to Chicago. The weather was wet and chilly, but downtown was abuzz as always.

An early evening view of the glass towers along Chicago's Wacker Drive.

Yes, it looks like a giant, chrome-plated kidney bean. But up close, this Chicago sculpture is more impressive than you might expect. The day we were there, it was beaded with raindrops and condensation, which gave the metal a softer feel. It's neat to walk under it too, which we did.

Chicago's Millennium Park includes several public sculptures, including this boxed-in glass screen where huge faces and other images are projected on a rotating basis. Oh yes, the images move too. Very cool.

The front steps of the Art Institute of Chicago, home to an amazing collection of ancient and modern art.

Surprise! Cheney's Iraq War Pediction Was (We Could Have Guessed It) Wrong

Now that Bush's Iraq war has entered its sixth glorious year, it is worth recalling the war wisdom of Vice President Dick ("Five Deferments") Cheney.

As the Bush Administration pushed the Iraq invasion, NBC's Tim Russert posed this question: "[D]o you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?"

Cheney's reply: "Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Recent Reading: Peter Hoeg's Danish Thriller

The AltTulsa team takes its reading seriously, which is why we seek out a wide range of books and magazines, including the odd novel in translation.

Our most recent fictional encounter was the gripping and entertaining thriller, translated from the Danish as Smilla's Sense of Snow. We found an old copy of Peter Hoeg's novel at the recent Holland Hall book sale in Tulsa for a measly $4, a steal in hardback.

For some reason, we've always been fascinated by the title of this book and its promise of mystery. Who's Smilla? What is her "sense of snow"? What's this story about?

The answers to these questions are worth the time and effort, even in a 450-page novel. Smilla, it turns out, is a half-Inuit native of Greenland who makes it her business to find out why her 6-year-old Inuit neighbor in Copenhagen—a lad named Isaiah—fell from a rooftop and died.

The story is stuffed with odd characters and exotic locations, as well as a compellingly unorthodox quest. But Hoeg's primary achievement is the creation of Smilla Qaavigaaq Jaspersen, a tough and complex heroine worthy of his tale.

We happily recommend Smilla's Sense of Snow, the only novel you're ever likely to read about the sublime qualities of ice.

McCain Campaign Coming to OKC; Will Charge Sooners $2,300 for Photos (Yes, Really)

Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate for president, is coming to Oklahoma City in April to raise campaign cash.

Assuming you have deep pockets, you can meet Sen. McCain and even get your photo taken with the good senator. But face time with the man will cost you. According to Oklahoma Republican Party sources, host committee members have agreed to raise $10,000 each. (Ouch!)

The announcement also said that those wanting photos with McCain will be required to donate $2,300. (Seems a little steep to us.) Thank goodness, the general reception will only cost you a mere $1,000 per person.

True, Democrats do the same thing.

But this kind of money-grubbing gives all politicians a bad name, doesn't it? And isn't McCain running as a GOP maverick, a no-nonsense reformer who intends to clean up the political mess in Washington?

If so, he's got some explaining to do. This sounds like the same old political nonsense that McCain says he's against.

Paranoid, Right-wing Radio Rant of the Week

And the winner is…right-wing radio's Michael Savage, for this completely unhinged (and fact-free) comment on current political events.

Here, in his own words, is the Savage "analysis" of Sen. Barack Obama's presidential aspirations from his March 13 radio program:

And I'm warning you here -- I am sitting here and warning you that Barack Obama himself -- I don't know whether he's good, bad or indifferent -- I think he's just an ordinary apparatchik of the Democrat machine in Chicago, personally. I don't think he's particularly smart; I don't think he's particularly stupid. I think he was hand-picked by some very powerful forces both within and outside the United States of America to drag this country into a hell that it has not seen since the Civil War of the middle of the 19th century.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fear-mongering and Hyperbole on the Right: Conservative Law Center Overstates Its Case

Rep. Sally Kern's big mouth and bad ideas got her into hot water.

Now the gay-bashing Republican legislator is ducking for cover, calling on a conservative legal organization, the Thomas More Law Center, to protect her from militant gays and their allies. The Thomas More Center is not exactly a local group either; it's based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a liberal college town.

Despite the group's apparent failures in Ann Arbor, it is offering moral and legal support to Kern, even though no legal action has been taken against her.

The More Center, however, might be considerably more credible if it reconsidered its overheated rhetoric. In a statement this week, one of the center's spokesmen claimed that "radical homosexual groups" want to curtail Rep. Kern's free speech.

These groups, he continued, are pushing for "anti-Christian 'hate crime' laws." But that's not all. On, no! Their goal, he said, "is to criminalize Christians and Christian beliefs." (As we like to say, we are NOT making this up.)

Our question: Has this guy even been to Oklahoma? Has he ever even looked at the religious statistics of the Sooner state? If so, he'd know that this is utter nonsense, about as likely as Rep. Kern's instant conversion to Buddhism.

In other words, the attorneys at the More Center seem a lot more conerned about fear-mongering and gay-baiting than they do about protecting Sally Kern's speech rights.

War? What War? Oh, THAT War!

From the "We Coulda Told Ya" Department, we find this Headline of the Day concerning new research on our friends over at Fox News:
Fox…spent less time on the war in Iraq than the others [MSNBC and CNN]. And it was more oriented to crime, celebrity and the media than its rivals.

Who wants to cover icky stuff like war and death when there's more gossip to report about Paris Hilton?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pope Benedict Denounces Iraq War

We've been traveling this week and missed some recent headlines, including Pope Benedict's Palm Sunday Mass from the Vatican.

According to the AP, Pope Benedict issued a strong appeal for peace in Iraq and "denounced the 5-year-old Iraq war, saying it had provoked the complete breakup of Iraqi civilian life."

The AP reported included this quotation from the Pope:
Enough with the slaughters. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq.

OSU B-Ball: A Tale of Two Headlines

OSU's basketball fortunes this March can be summed up in contrasting headlines from the Tulsa World.

Tuesday: OSU aims to build on NIT

Wednesday: A third thud: Cowboys drop their third straight first-round NIT game

Gay-Bashing Sally Kern Hides Behind Lawyer

Rep. Sally Kern, poster child (in more ways than one) for Oklahoma ignorance and intolerance, was nowhere to be found Tuesday when some 300 protesters showed up at the state capitol Tuesday to meet with the anti-gay legislator.

The protesters went to Kern's office after an audiotape of her anti-gay remarks was posted earlier this month on YouTube. Kern's remarks have been widely criticized in Oklahoma and elsewhere (see AT's earlier postings).

But not to worry. The Tulsa World reports today that Kern is willing to meet with a few of the demonstrators. The money quote: "I'd have no problem meeting with them next week when I have my lawyer," Kern said.

Really? A lawyer?

Our question: How does that square with The Absolute Truth that Kern presumes to speak? Or maybe that's the problem: it doesn't.

As Iraq War Enters Its 6th Glorious Year, the George Bush Slide Continues

On the fifth anniversary of the ill-advised and unnecessary invasion of Iraq, here's the bad news for President George W. Bush:
Bush Approval Has Dropped 40 Points Since Iraq Invasion

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bush and the Art of Understatement

Interviewed last week about OPEC price policies, President Bush said it himself:
I'm just a simple president.

Rep. Kern's Comments Echo Sen. Coburn's

Rep. Sally Kern of Oklahoma City made a fool of herself recently when her anti-gay comments were released on YouTube. Thanks to the web, Kern (and Oklahoma) have achieved a certain kind of infamy in cyberspace.

For the record, Rep. Kern, homosexuality is not a greater threat to America "than terrorism or Islam."

Thanks to Julie DelCour in today's Tulsa World, we were reminded that Kern's anti-gay paranoia has a history in Oklahoma. Only four years ago, Sen. Tom Coburn made the startling (and idiotic) claim that "rampant lesbianism" was breaking out in southeastern Oklahoma. (Sadly, we are NOT making this up.)

We keep waiting for that particular problem to sweep across the rest of Oklahoma, but it hasn't happened.

As far as we can tell, most Oklahoma women seem quite content as heterosexuals, no matter what Tom Coburn and Sally Kern might imagine.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Boren Critical of Campus Gun Bill

Guns-toting students won't make Oklahoma campuses safer. So says OU President David Boren in a statement released yesterday.

Boren was responding to a bill by Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, that would allow veterans and other military personnel to carry concealed weapons on campus.

"Current law protects the constitutional rights of our people, but it wisely bans guns from schools and colleges. We should stick to the laws that have worked so well and allow our colleges to continue to improve safety on their campuses," Boren said.

Boren noted that the bill would hurt OU's ability to recruit students and faculty who would consider the campus unsafe.

Boren appealed to the legislators to reconsider the bill:
If it would help for me to get down on my knees to plead with the Legislature for the safety of our students, I would do so.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tulsans Respond to Kern's Gay-Bashing

Courtesy of today's Tulsa World, we have a nomination for Tulsa's Quote of the Day, a response to Rep. Sally Kern's anti-gay comments:
Her statement perpetuates the wrongful stereotype that Oklahoma is a backward state. Every proud Oklahoman deserves to be disgusted at her ridiculous rant.

--Jim Langdon, Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hard Times for the Republican 'Brand'

A hat tip to Crooks & Liars for this quote today from retiring Congressman Rep. Thomas Davis III of Virginia.
The House Republican brand is so bad right now that if it were a dog food, they’d take it off the shelf.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gov. Henry's Advice to Rep. Sally Kern: Cool Out and Think Before You Speak

Rep. Sally Kern, the Oklahoma lawmaker who claimed that homosexuality "is just destroying this nation" has been advised by Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry to "cool the rhetoric."

Henry made his comments today, saying that his religious beliefs teach him to be tolerant of diverse lifestyles and viewpoints.

Meanwhile, the OSBI is investigating death threats against Kern, who has been roundly criticized for her tape recorded remarks that claimed homosexuality is a greater threat to the nation than terrorism.

"Think before you speak," Henry said. "Oklahomans have love and tolerance for all people.

"I don't think [her rhetoric] represents Oklahoma," the governor said.

For Oklahoma's sake, let's hope he's right.

Gay-Basher Kern Gets GOP Standing Ovation

Rep. Sally Kern, an Oklahoma City Republican recently outed as a gay-basher, got a standing ovation from fellow Republicans in a closed meeting Monday.

The Tulsa World reports today that Kern met with fellow Republicans Monday, where she "said the group gave her a standing ovation." (We're so-o-o-o proud! Not!)

Despite such support, the paper reports that the reaction to Kern's anti-gay comments has been overwhelmingly negative.

Kern's YouTube rant had received nearly 400,000 hits by late Monday, the World reported. Our own Google blog search has turned up dozens and dozens references to Kern, most of them highly critical.

As we reported yesterday (see below), Kern's comments have also been blasted in the Oklahoma State University student newspaper, the O'Collegian.

Rep. Kern, a former teacher, has a lot to learn. So do her fellow Republican gay-bashers.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Oklahoma State University Columnist Responds to Rep. Sally Kern's Anti-Gay Rant

Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, is rapidly becoming a national joke.

Kern's idiotic and rabidly anti-gay comments, released a couple of days ago in a YouTube audio file, have been widely and soundly ridiculed, making her (and the entire state of Oklahoma) look foolish and mean-spirited.

Searching the web tonight, we found dozens of commentaries of Kern's remarks, almost all of them highly critical.

We want to highlight one of the best Oklahoma responses we found. It's by an Oklahoma State student writer named Breanne Schmidt. Here's part of her letter to Rep. Kern:

I must congratulate you on your recent speech. In it you achieved levels of hatred, ignorance and intolerance I once thought unreachable, even by Oklahoma’s incredibly conservative standards. Kudos to you, ma’am.

All joking aside, I just thought I’d let you know that you have effectively made quite the fool of yourself.

This letter has taken me quite a while to write. I’m so mad I’ve been at a complete loss for words since the tape of your speech was released. But I have moved past anger and entered a state of confusion.

I want to know how you can compare homosexuality to cancer.

I want to know how you can ignore science and claim people choose homosexuality when there is clear evidence to the contrary.

* * *

I want to know how you can claim to be such a good Christian while defying the Bible that tells you not to judge, to treat others as you want to be treated and to love the sinner and hate only the sin.

I want to know how you can hate other human beings for something that has absolutely no effect on you whatsoever.

* * *

I am also wondering if you’re aware that the United States is not a theocracy. If you weren’t, I highly suggest you look into doing some research on the separation of church and state.

As a journalist I am a firm believer in free speech and the First Amendment.

I know you have every right to say what you want and what you will, but as a representative of others, you have to be smart about running your mouth.

I know your comments certainly do not represent my views, and I wish you to stop speaking on my behalf.

I hope others are as inspired by your speech as I am and show their outrage at the polls in the next election. I will be sending money to your opponent’s campaign.

Thanks to you, Oklahoma is yet again the butt of jokes. I hope you’re as ashamed of yourself as we are of you.

The Cost of the Bush War in Iraq

Headlines we hoped we'd never read, this one courtesy of The Huffington Post:
Iraq War Costs U.S. $12 Billion Per Month

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Gay-Bashing Oklahoma Style: Rep. Kern Claims Gays Are Worse Than Terrorists

Rep. Sally Kern, an Oklahoma City Republican, must be a master of hyperbole. Or a paragon of paranoia. Or both.

That's one conclusion one might reach after her extraordinarily nutty and, dare we say it, un-Christian comments about some of our fellow Oklahomans, citizens who have the audacity (How could they?) to be gay.

Here's some Kern paranoia: "The homosexual agenda is destroying this nation; it's just a fact," Kern said in an audiotape posted Friday on YouTube. (We feel so destroyed, don't you?)

Here's some Kern hyperbole: Homosexuals and homosexuality are more of a threat to the United States than terrorism. (We told you she was nutty.)

Here's both, straight from Kern's fevered imagination: Homosexuals are trying to convert our kids, even 2-year-olds. (We are not making this up.)

Kern claims she's not gay-bashing, but her statements belie that claim. In any case, last time we checked gay folks remained actual citizens, even in Oklahoma. Moreover, state legislators, even the nutty ones, have some obligation to represent (and tolerate) all the citizens of their district, even those they don't necessarily like.

If we recall correctly, that was the philosophy of Arizona's Barry Goldwater, a Republican stalwart who, unlike Rep. Kern, believed in personal freedom.

Individual freedom—what a concept! Somebody ought to mention it to Rep. Kern.

Common Sense Prevails: Oklahoma College Officials Oppose Concealed Guns on Campus

Promoting guns on college campuses never struck us as a good idea. But no one ever accused the Oklahoma legislature of having too many good ideas.

To wit: Guthrie's Republican Rep. Jason Murphey, the "father" of the recent proposal to allow state college students to obtain concealed carry permits into the classroom, just in case he or she should need to dispatch a campus lunatic.

Fortunately, wiser heads have prevailed. The state's Chancellor of Higher Education, Glen Johnson, told the Tulsa World this week that Oklahoma college presidents and law enforcement officials "have serious concerns about the proposal of having guns on our campuses."

We can't imagine why. Could be the fact that Oklahoma college campuses could turn into every-man-or-woman-for-himself-or-herself armed camps?

House Republicans are apparently divided over the campus gun bill. House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, is sitting on the proposal for now.

Let's hope that Benge and the bill's supporters listen to Chancellor Johnson and the leaders of Oklahoma's colleges. More guns on campus won't make Oklahoma students safer.

Sooner Pride: Our Love for Snuff (Really)

We've long been proud, if that's the word, of Oklahoma's status as the number one state for locking up women.

That's right, Sooner fans, Oklahoma has more women in prison per capita than any other state.

We're number 1! Woo-hoo!

Now we learn that Oklahoma has one of the nation's highest rates of smokeless tobacco use by high school males. The Tulsa World reports this week that the national average is 9 percent. In Oklahoma, it's 23 percent.

Chewing tobacco and snuff use strikes us as a nasty—not to mention dangerous—habit. It's also one that Oklahoma's macho high school boys might want to consider kicking sooner, not later.

Democrats Capture Hastert's House Seat

Sign of the Times: Former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert's Illinois Congressional seat has gone from red to blue.

Here's how one outlet summarized the news:
Democrat Bill Foster has snatched former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's congressional seat in a closely watched special election that gave the longtime Republican district to the Democrats.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

OU Student Paper Blasts Concealed Weapon Bill

The bone-headed idea to promote guns on Oklahoma state college campuses is running into more resistance, thank goodness. Some of that push-back is coming from the students themselves.

As we note below, the editorial board of the Oklahoma Daily, the OU student newspaper in Norman, published an editorial opposing the bill that would allow students to carry concealed weapons on campus.

Here is the Oklahoma Daily editorial, which we publish in full:

A college campus is, arguably, the last place you’d want concealed weapons to be allowed. Just ask students, faculty and staff at any of the schools that have faced a school shooting.

A new bill, however, begs to differ, and could take a dangerous first step in putting students’ lives at risk.

Proposed House Bill 2513 would remove public colleges’ and universities’ authority to prohibit students or faculty members from carrying concealed guns, provided they have a valid concealed carry license.

Proponents of gun rights claim allowing concealed weapons on campus would allow a quicker response in case a shooting happens.

We question that logic, though. Won’t increasing the number of guns on campus increase the likelihood of a shooting in the first place?

It bothers us that the state Legislature would consider to exclusively increase the chance of concealed weapons on college campuses, especially in light of increased violence on campus in recent years.

If state politicians want to pay tribute to civil liberties, why wouldn’t they consider a similar law for the whole state?

If we truly wish to better campus security, there are adequate alternatives, though we didn’t think we would ever need to say so.

Gov. Brad Henry’s Campus Life and Safety and Security Task Force, for instance, would beef up security on campus, and would most likely make response times better during emergency situations. While this initiative would cause an increase in students’ tuition, we believe it is a better solution to preventing school shootings than allowing Wild West scenarios.

While in order to acquire an Oklahoma concealed carry license a person must be at least 21 years old, go through several hours of training and background checks, we think the presence of guns only mounts tension in the classroom and increases the likelihood of an accident.

Although the bill only revokes a college’s right to restrict concealed weapons, it certainly seems to be aimed toward ultimately loosening weapons standards.

If the bill should pass, however, we believe it’s only a matter of time until it is revoked.

The unfortunate part is that it may come at the cost of lives.

The Bush Torture Flip-Flop, Part 24

"The United States does not torture," President Bush has said.

We'd like to believe him. As the world's only superpower and a leader in promoting freedom, liberty and democracy, the United States has some obligation to live up to its ideals.

That's why we were dismayed to see the President making news today in regard to this headline:
Bush to veto bill banning waterboarding

How 'Bout That GOP Economy?

Scanning the Tulsa World business page this morning, we spied this telling headline:
Stocks plunge; oil hits new high

Friday, March 7, 2008

Campus Gun Bills Shot Down

Let's hope the "guns for everyone" proposals now before the Oklahoma house stay safely locked up in a secure locker where they belong.

The Tulsa World reports today that two gun bills are unlikely to be voted in for the foreseeable future.

One bill, proposed by Rep. Jason Murphey of Guthrie, would have allowed concealed-carry permits for 21-one-year students on state college campuses. In the wake of recent campus shootings, Murphey said the law would allow students to protect themselves on campus.

Right, and we've got some really nice Florida beachfront we can sell you in for $500 an acre.

Remember when college was about civic virtues and high ideals? We do—which is why we resist the idea of turning OU and OSU into armed camps, where every bruised ego or off-the-wall comment could turn into the gun fight at the OK quadrangle.

The other bill would have extended concealed-carry permits to 18-year-olds, another scheme to promote the shoot-first-ask-questions-later philosophy of the Wild West.

But why stop there? If more guns make us safer, we propose arming more Oklahoma teenagers, another way to ensure that no breathing Oklahoman will every feel venerable to a crazy shooter.

In any case, House Speaker Chris Benge, a Tulsa Republican, told the World that these proposals are not likely to be voted on" at this time."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Another Newspaper Slams College Gun Plan

The idea of arming Oklahoma college students to fight off campus shootings is a terrifically bad idea.

We're not the only ones who think so. As we noted in an earlier post, a Tulsa World editorial criticized a current legislative proposal that would allow qualified students to bring concealed weapons onto campus.

Here's another editorial voice on the college gun proposal, this time from our friends at the Muskogee Phoenix. We don't know this paper or its politics, but we suspect that these folks aren't exactly rabid, atheist, anti-gun communists. (That kind of talk is reserved for Hillary Clinton and her supporters.)

Here's a portion of the Phoenix editorial:

Americans are shocked and alarmed at each college shooting, but allowing armed students to attend classes is not an appropriate response.

* * *

Being able to carry a gun, no doubt, gives a citizen some peace of mind.

However, any law enforcement officer or most anyone in the military will say target practice differs considerably from shooting at someone shooting back at the same time.

The most recent college shooting at Northern Illinois University sickens every responsible citizen. No one wants to hear about that being repeated, whether it’s on a college campus or at a high school, mall, restaurant, post office or place of business.

But arming the citizenry will not resolve the problem of violence.

We shouldn’t wait for armed citizens to kill the violent after they choose to pick up a gun.We should be attempting to stop violent people before they reach their breaking point.

We won’t be effective 100 percent of the time, but our record of late is deplorable and unacceptable.

Teenagers with Guns: Now We're Really Safe

Teenagers with guns: It's a headline bound to make us all feel safer.

That's right, Sooner fans, Rep. Jerry Ellis, flaking for the Oklahoma Rifle Association, is pushing a new bill to lower the legal age for the concealed-carry law from 21 to 18.

After all, the reasoning goes, if they are old enough to vote and serve in the military, they ought to be able to handle a concealed weapon, right?

Makes sense to us. But while we are doling out rights to teenagers, let's go ahead and legalize alcohol sales to 18-year-olds. Hey—they're old enough to vote and serve in the military.

Come to think of it, 16-year-olds can legally drive, so let's keep the gun (and alcohol) rights flowing. After all, don't 16-year-olds have a right to shoot back if they are attacked by crazed gunmen? Of course they do!

But, dang it, there's the problem of unarmed 13-, 14-, and 15-year-olds. Don't they deserve a chance to shoot back too?

Looks like Rep. Ellis and the Oklahoma Rifle Association have a lot more more work to do if they intend to put guns in the hands (and pockets) of every living and breathing Oklahoman.

We're Okies, after all, and we want our guns!

Henderson re-elected in District 1

"Jack's Back!"

So writes Michael Bates over at Batesline, the local political blog. As Bates reports, Henderson, a Democrat, was an easy winner over Emanuel Lewis and Mike McConnell in District 1.

Congratulations, Jack.

Now that you've secured another 2-year term, it might be time to turn your attention to acting like an adult. We're referring to your recent—and fully juvenile—fight with the mayor over the size and decoration of your office in the new city hall.

We also recall the time last year that you walked out of a meeting with the new Tulsa police chief, Ron Palmer, another act of pettiness.

We have no problem with Councilor Henderson speaking his mind or disagreeing with Mayor Taylor or anyone else. But we do have a problem with Henderson's thin-skinned petulance.

A friendly reminder, Jack: It's about District 1. It's not about you.

Monday, March 3, 2008

White House Advisor Resigns over Plagiarism

Did ya' hear the one about the White House aide who was caught plagiarizing his newspaper columns?


Here, then, is a brief update. Note that the aide, Tim Goeglein, worked for President Bush as "a liaison to social and religious conservatives."

Tim Goeglein, special assistant to President Bush, resigned this evening after being caught — and then admitting to — plagiarizing articles that he wrote for a local paper. After blogger Nancy Nall revealed that Goeglein had plagiarized a recent Fort Wayne News-Sentinel column, an investigation by the paper found 20 of his 38 columns had parts that were copied. Goeglein had worked for Bush since 2001 as a liaison to social and religious conservatives and is a familiar figure to many evangelical Christian leaders.

Our question: How's that religious conservatism working out for you, Tim Goeglein?

UPDATE: The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel has discovered seven more instances of Tim Goeglein's plagiarism in its pages.

Asked about the plagiarism on Sunday, Goeglein was remorseful. He explained it this way: "Pride. Vanity. It's all my fault. It's inexcusable. What I did is wrong. I categorically apologize."

Guns won't make campuses safer

Kudos to the Tulsa World, whose editorial writers weighed in today against the harebrained idea, now floating around the Oklahoma legislature, to allow college students to take concealed weapons into the classroom.

Let's see: young men, high stress, too much alcohol—what could possibly go wrong with this idea?

Here's the
World's editorial, which we endorse:

Earlier this year, in response to horrifying events like last year's mass shooting at Virginia Tech, a group of college and vo-tech officials outlined a rational plan to keep Oklahoma campuses as secure as possible.

It called for a standard response plan for campus emergencies, more training on mental-health issues, and standards for emergency notification systems.

Task force members also pointed out what was already well known, that the state needs more room for patients at mental-health and drug- and alcohol-abuse treatment facilities.

The group -- made up of people who work on campuses -- studied the issue carefully and determined that no major changes in state laws were needed.

That wasn't good enough for some people in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, says the way to address the problem of campus security is to allow college students to pack heat in the classroom.

Murphey has proposed legislation that would allow licensed students to carry concealed weapons on campus.

Here's the way he figures it: If any frat boy might have a .357-Magnum

in his backpack, the crazed killer would think twice before he starts on a rampage.

Actually, crazed people don't think things out. If they behaved rationally, they wouldn't go on a rampage in the first place. That's the way rampages work.

All Murphey's bill would do is make campuses less secure and hamstring police responding to emergencies.

Officers responding to an emergency like the Virginia Tech massacre would face a nightmare within a nightmare if marginally trained amateurs were pulling out their guns.

Rep. Paul Roan, a retired state trooper and no softy on crime, put it right: Currently, guns are illegal on campus, so any cop who sees one knows the armed student is a bad guy.

Heaven forbid that Oklahoma see a Virginia Tech-type incident, but it if happens police need to be able to respond without worrying about whether the gun-toting student they see is a good guy or a bad guy.

The Virginia Tech killings horrified the nation. The urge to do something is natural. The task force addressed the issue appropriately. Murphey needs to go back to school on this one.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Mozart's 'Magic Flute' Coming to Tulsa

Speaking of opera (see previous post), we ought to put in a good word for the Tulsa's Opera's next production, Mozart's The Magic Flute.

Unlike Lakme, the current production that we did not know, The Magic Flute is an opera we know. In fact, The Magic Flute was our first opera, which we saw some years ago in Texas. It was a charming production, with sets designed by Maurice Sendak, the children's book author most famous for Where the Wild Things Are.

The Tulsa Opera's production of The Magic Flute will be presented April 26, May 2, and May 4. You can find out more at the company's website, which can be found here.

Coburn Sparkles in Tulsa Performance

No, this time we're not talking about the senator.

We are talking about Muskogee native and senatorial daughter Sarah Coburn, the star of the Tulsa Opera's production of Lakme, which has its final performance Sunday night at the Tulsa PAC. It's a great role and, based on the sustained applause at Friday night's performance, Ms. Coburn is a rising star.

She and Priti Gandhi were, to our (admittedly untrained) ears, absolutely gorgeous in their rendition of the "Flower Duet" in Act One, a stunningly seductive melody that we cannot (and could not) resist.

We confess that we knew little about Lakme or its composer Delibes. (Okay, we never even heard of Delibes, the French composer.) But we had heard the Flower Duet and we knew it was sublimely beautiful, worth the price of admission.

As it turns out, there's more to this opera than the Flower Duet. The story has its dramatic moments and score is lovely, with many other opportunities for Ms. Coburn and other singers to show off their voices.

But the wonder of the evening was Sarah Coburn, who is a stunningly beautiful presence with a voice to match.