Thursday, July 31, 2008

Some Stations Pull Plug on Blabber Savage

Right-wing radio talker Michael Savage, heard locally on Tulsa's KRMG, routinely puts his foot in his mouth.

But last week's Savage rant about autism as a phony medical condition was over the top, even for someone as whacked out as Savage.

Savage's outburst has put him at odds with some important radio people, such as advertisers and stations—some of whom have dropped the Savage show. Most recently, Savage lost his radio outlet in Los Angeles, one of the nation's largest media markets.

KRMG should get a clue and drop the show as well. Savage has nothing of value to say to Tulsans.

Judge Rules Against Bush Privilege Claim

The Bush Administration has earned a long list of critics, AT included.

But sometimes the good guys win, as happened today when a federal judge ruled against the executive privilege claims of the White House.

Here's a summary of the story, courtesy of the New York Times:

President Bush’s top advisers cannot ignore subpoenas issued by Congress, a federal judge ruled on Thursday in a case that involves the firings of several United States attorneys but has much wider constitutional implications for all three branches of government.

For the record, the judge is a Bush appointee. Looks like we'll see former White House lawyer Harriet Miers testifying before Congress.

And then there's this bit of good news: The ruling could have implications for our favorite GOP operator, Karl Rove.

Republican Mismanagement Leaves Public Pessimistic About Nation's Future

This can't be good news for Republicans: A new poll shows that a whopping 76 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track.

The poll, conducted by CNN/Opinion Research Corp. found that just 24 percent have a positive outlook for the country. Obviously, seven-plus years of Bush incompetence and mismanagement has taken its toll. added this summary of the poll numbers:

It is the lowest [wrong direction] number on record since 1980 and the third time in four decades that the number has dropped so low.

Recommended Reading: Robinson's Op-ed on the Bush Team's Torture Policies

It's no longer news that the Bush Administration has promoted torture in the name of fighting terrorism and national security.

In today's Tulsa World, columnist Eugene Robinson identifies some of the moral and ethical problems of the administration's torture policies.

It's hard to believe, Robinson writes, that Bush, "to his eternal shame and our nation's great discredit, [has] made torture a matter of hair-splitting, legalistic debate at the highest levels of the United States government."


Using legalistic language, the Bush boys redefined torture and then wrote a series of self-exculpatory memos to justify their "enhanced techniques." Example: One memo cited by Robinson said that a "torturer needed only the 'honest belief' that he was not actually committing torture in order to avoid legal jeopardy."

Call this the "get out of jail free card"It can't be torture because I never believed I was committing torture.

Both Barack Obama and John McCain have denounced U.S. torture policies, although McCain, a former POW, recently voted against legislation that would have restrained the CIA's interrogation techniques. But even McCain has said consistently said that waterboarding is torture, no matter what the administration claims.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma politicians have been noticeably silent on this issue. As far as we can tell, Senators Infohe and Coburn have nothing to say on the issue. Ditto Rep. John Sullivan, Tulsa's answer to a potted plant.

Robinson, however, gets it right: George Bush will likely be remembered "as the president who embraced torture."

More Trouble for 'Bush's Brain'

Headline of the Day, courtesy of 
House panel votes to cite Karl Rove for contempt
Whatta ya know, Congressional Democrats finally grow a spine!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

GOP Justice: The Bushies Break the Law

Remember Alberto Gonzales, close friend of George W. Bush and former attorney general of the U.S and one of the most forgetful persons to testify before Congress?

Remember when charges were flying that Gonzales and his cronies were packing the Justice Department with political conservatives and disqualifying anyone with a hint of liberalism, even when the liberals were more qualified?

If not, here's the mid-summer update: Top aides to Gonzales broke the law. One of these aides was Gonzales' White House liaison Monica Goodling, a graduate of Pat Robertson's "Christian" law school in Virginia.

Who says? None other than the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General, hardly a partisan outfit.

Although Gonzales himself was not implicated in the report, the whole business stinks. One of those named in the report was Gonzales' chief of staff, Kyle Sampson.

Despite the facts, Oklahoma's junior senator, Tom Coburn, argued today that the problems at Justice were limited to low-level staffers.

Sorry, Doc, that's not true. The chief of staff was no newbie, even if Goodling was. And then there's Gonzales, whose remarkable ability to forget meetings he attended and key conservations he heard has thus far shielded him from legal liability.

Like the Nation, Okies Get Fatter

In case you missed it (as we did), Oklahoma has achieved another dubious distinction. The Sooner state ranks eighth in the percentage of citizens who are obese.

The findings, released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed that 28.8 percent of the state's population are obese. Our western neighbor, Colorado, has the nation's lowest obesity rate at 19.3 percent.

Oklahoma isn't alone. The CDC figures show that the entire nation has become fatter over the past two decades. Most of them are in the South, where we (yes, AT too) eat lots of fried food and sweet stuff. More fried chicken and sweet tea, anyone?

The Tulsa World noted last week that Oklahoma's obesity rate was less that 10 percent in 1988.

This is not a simple matter of the food police at work, either, since obesity has public health consequences. As the World reported, public health officials link obesity with the increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and other serious conditions.

Gay-Basher Reinhart Loses in Oklahoma County

The AltTulsa team doesn't live in Oklahoma County, but we were happy to see that the incredibly homophobic Brent Reinhart lost his reelection bid as District 2 commissioner there. 

In the Republican primary yesterday, District 2 voters gave Reinhart only 21 percent of the vote, well behind Brian Maughan at 47 percent and J.D. Johnston at 31 percent. That means Reinhart, the incumbent, is out of the race, thank goodness. 

Reinhart, you may remember, recently published a comic book focusing on gays and their evil ways in Oklahoma, a move widely seen as ploy to divert attention from his own legal problems. 

Interviewed about the comic book by CNN, Reinhart claimed that the "gay agenda" was an important issue in Oklahoma County. 

Apparently, the District 2 voters didn't agree. Bye, Brent. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Top Senate Republican Indicted for Lying

A leading Republican senator was indicted in Washington today, new evidence of the "culture of corruption" in GOP circles.

Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska has been charged "with lying about receiving gifts worth more than $250,000 from Veco, an Alaska-based energy company on whose behalf he intervened in Washington," according to CNN.

Here's the CNN summary of the charges against Stevens, one of the longest-serving men in the Senate:

The indictment, returned Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Washington, says the veteran lawmaker "schemed to conceal" the fact that Veco paid for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work on his home.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sen. Coburn: A Problem for Both Parties

Sen. Tom Coburn thinks he's a principled conservative. Too bad that's the same attitude that causes him to be, in the words of today's New York Times, "a thorn in the side of both parties."

The issue is Coburn's abuse of the Senate's "hold" policy, a procedure by which Oklahoma's junior senator stops action on bills he doesn't like. The problem is that Coburn finds "principled" reasons to object to dozens and dozens of bills, even ones that almost all the other 99 senators agree upon.

That makes Coburn the odd man out, which, as the Tulsa World recently noted, makes the senator "the least effective man in the Senate."

Good work, Doc. While you're preening and grandstanding, Oklahomans are getting inferior representation.

Oklahoma's Bridge Problem: We're No. 2 (Great!) in Deficient Bridges

Oklahoma's bridge problem isn't new, but the problem is now making national news. USA Today reported Friday that the Sooner state is number 2 (out of 50) in deficient bridges.

The state has 5,435 such bridges, 24 percent of its total. Only Pennsylvania has a higher percentage with 26 percent of its bridges rated deficient.

According to the the paper, a deficient bridge is one that needs closer inspection or repair.

The good news: The state legislature has appropriated more money for bridge repair, so the state is trying to fix the problem before its gets worse.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Week in Politics: Obama Wins Going Away

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Barack Obama's Middle Eastern trip has been a huge success. The man is smart and savvy, unlike the current occupant of the White House.

Meanwhile, John McCain has been making misstatements and foreign policy gaffes, continuing a string of campaign flubs that undermine his supposed strength as a candidate. The guy gets easily confused, not a quality anyone wants in a president.

Some wags have started calling the McCain campaign "The Double Talk Express."

The election is still months away, but if this trend continues McCain's chances of beating Obama will go from slim to none.

On the Oil Front, Some Good News (Finally)

What goes up must come down—right? In the case of crude oil and gas prices, the last several months seemed to contradict this old saw.

But the last few days have indeed seen a decline in oil and gas prices. Prices were down on the oil markets Tuesday and Wednesday, continuing a minor trend that began last week.

We have no way of knowing what will happen in the oil business next week, next month, or next year. But we'd like to see a strengthening of the dollar and more stabilization in international oil markets.

In any case, Okies have it better than the citizens of the other 49 states. According to today's Tulsa World, the average gas price in Oklahoma was $3.83 a gallon, the lowest in the nation. The national average was $4.05.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Oklahoma County's Very Scary Gays Threaten, Ah, Somebody (Again)

Here we go again. First Rep. Sally Kern, now an Oklahoma County commissioner.

The latest Republican goofball to find dangerous gay people threatening the Oklahoma way of life is Brent Rinehart, an incumbent Oklahoma County commissioner.

Reinhart, who is facing a tough reelection battle, is so desperate for votes that he played the "gay card," a favorite tactic of the state's right-wing knuckleheads.

Rinehart's election-year gimmick is a crudely produced (and poorly spelled) comic book he's mailing to GOP voters in his district. In it, angels are on Brent's side (of course!) and Satan (who else?) is supporting those evil gay people.

Speaking on CNN, Rinehart claimed that the gay agenda is an issue in Oklahoma County, right up there with roads and bridges. Notably, he provided no evidence of this claim and offered no examples of the gay threat to his district, Oklahoma County or the state. (Apparently, their secret powers will cause us all to turn gay. It happens all the time!)

Asked if he was homophobic, Rinehart said he wasn't sure what sure what that word meant, as if that was a sufficient explanation for his gay-bashing comic.

Let's hear it for Brent Rinehart, yet another example of Oklahoma's conservative leadership, condemning (in God's name, of course) people it doesn't like since 1907.

Talk Radio's Savage Goes Off on Autism

The always overzealous right-wing talker Michael Savage, heard locally on Tulsa's KRMG AM 740, is at it again. This time, Savage's big mouth is making medical pronouncements without benefit of, well, actual facts.

Hey, it's a lot more fun being a conservative gadfly when you don't have to deal with pesky things like facts, fairness, or truth.

The incident in question concerns autism, which Savage last week claimed was pretty much a phony medical condition. Nearly every child diagnosed with autism, Savage declared, is "a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out."

Today, Savage told the New York Times he stands behind his remarks and refused to apologize to autism advocates and parents, who are none too happy with Savage's latest goof. They want the guy canned and are pushing broadcasters and sponsors to dump the Savage show.

Savage is the third-ranked AM radio talker after Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, both of whom have their own continuing problems with facts. But they are occasionally entertaining, even when they're wrong.

Savage, on the other hand, is a daily train wreck. KRMG ought to get off before the tracks before they get run over.

News to Cheer: A Bad Guy Gets Caught

In a world filled with too much turmoil and chaos, it's nice when something good happens. So we're pleased that a truly evil political leader was arrested today and will likely have to face his accusers. 

Here's the lead of the story from Reuters: 
BELGRADE, July 21-Bosnian Serb wartime president Radovan Karadzic, one of the world's most wanted men for his part in civilian massacres, has been arrested in Serbia, President Boris Tadic's office said on Monday. 

On the Surge, McCain Plays Fast & Loose

Another unfortunate McCain Moment, courtesy of Mickey Kaus of the political blog kausfiles
So when Obama opposes the surge it's potential "chaos" and "disaster," according to John McCain. But when [Vietnam vet and Republican] Chuck Hagel opposes the surge, it's an "informed decision? 

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bush Economy Continues to Slide

In the final months (thank goodness!) of his failed presidency, George W. Bush remains as clueless as ever. Deregulate the banks and financial institutions, the GOP leadership argued, and prosperity will break out all over.

Well, no. Not at all. Today's evidence, this dire prediction about short-term economic prospects, courtesy of
Treasury Chief Warns of Hard Months Ahead

Recent Reading: Raymond Carver's Stories

In the heat of Tulsa in late July, the readers over at AltTulsa like to hide out in an air-conditioned space with a good book.

Our most recent volume was a old paperback collection of Raymond Carver stories with a great title, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Carver, an Oregon native who died some years ago, was also a poet and his stories are as spare and tightly constructed as haiku, suggesting much more than they say.

We should say, too, that Carver's stories are often bleak examinations of American life in the last decades of the twentieth century. A lot of his characters are unhappy or desperate, clinging to some idea or thing in hope of redemption from the emptiness of modern life.

Yet the characters and their lives offer their own kind of redemption, which makes Carver's stories worth re-reading. For instance, we were taken by the story of Holly and Duane, the couple who operates a motel in "Gazebo." Theirs is a relationship teetering on the brink, fueled by too much booze and Duane's sexual interest in Juanita, one of the maids at the motel.

One of Carver's successes in such stories is his ability to develop vivid characters and intense scenes in a short space, and to make us care about these people. More often than not, Carver leaves the reader on the edge, wondering where these lives are headed.

As you can tell, there aren't many happy endings in Carver stories. But the lessons here are worthwhile and sometimes haunting.

Another Carver collection with an intriguing title: Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Texas Turkey, former Sen. Phil Gramm, Resigns from McCain Campaign

Ex.-Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas has a way with words. Just the other day, for instance, he told the sick, the disabled, the unemployed, the underemployed, victims of predatory home loans and every other American that they are simply "whiners."

These losers,
Gramm's logic went, were suffering from a "mental recession," not a real one at all.

Apparently, this broad brush name-calling didn't go down well with Sen. McCain and his Republican supporters, not to mention the Democratic opposition, which roasted Gramm at every opportunity.

Tonight we learn that Gramm, an economist and our favorite Texas Turkey, has stepped down as McCain's campaign co-chair and (wrongheaded) economic adviser.

This is bad news for the blogosphere, since Gramm was always an easy target.

Bush the Appeaser: Our Man George Flip-Flops on (Yikes!) Talks with Iran

When it comes to foreign policy, George Bush has no problem saying one thing, but doing another.

Only a few weeks ago, Bush made an overheated speech to the Israeli government comparing talks with Iran to 1930s appeasement of Nazi Germany. GOP operatives made sure to link Bush's comment to Sen. Barack Obama's earlier statement that his administration would be willing to sit down with Iran.

This week the Bushies flip-flopped on Iran talks, sending a senior diplomat to meet with an Iranian representatives in Geneva. Who's the appeaser now, George?

Here's an account of the flip-flop (that Condi Rice swears is NOT a flip-flop) from the Christian Science Monitor:
In a surprising development in the tense American-Iranian relationship, the US announced this week that it would send a high-level State Department official to attend talks with Iranian nuclear negotiators in Switzerland over the weekend. This unexpected policy turn comes after a tense, saber rattling summer during which the US, Israel, and Iran have traded threats, staged war games, and tested weapons.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More on McCain's Judgment: Promoting an Unnecessary War

George Bush's Iraq war, an ill-advised and unnecessary invasion of a country that did not attack us, has been a foreign policy disaster of the first order.

In contrast to the administration's repeated claims, there were no weapons of mass destruction, no ties between the Sept. 11 terrorists and Iraq, and no imminent threat to U.S. national security. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, and a host of Neocons led the nation into war on false pretenses.

And where was Sen. John McCain when this public relations campaign was going on? Cheerleading the war effort, of course.

Here's a telling McCain quote we found, published Jan. 10, 2002, in the New York Daily News:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) visited the Roosevelt yesterday and shouted, "Next up: Baghdad!" from the carrier's bridge.

McCain has been pushing the administration to make Iraq and its dictator, Saddam Hussein, the next targets in the war on terrorism.

Pentagon officials and Powell have cautioned against focusing on Baghdad, but McCain said yesterday that Iraq poses "a clear and present danger" to the U.S.

"I think Iraq is going to have to be considered," he said.

So Much for McCain's Foreign Policy Expertise

Sen. John McCain and his supporters like to tout his foreign policy expertise. Sadly, McCain keeps making mistakes like the one we found in this deadline:
For fourth time, McCain references country that doesn't exist

Bush-O-Nomic Update: Prices Way, Way Up

Nobody ever accused George W. Bush of mastering economics. More proof of that sad fact can be found in the retail sector, which is where we found this AP economic news summary:
Washington—Consumer prices shot up in June at the second fastest pace in 26 years with two-thirds of the surge blamed on soaring energy prices.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dr. Z Out as Tulsa School Leader

Breaking news tonight: Dr. Michael Zolkoski, the embattled superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, will leave his position in October.

The decision was announced tonight after a meeting of the Tulsa School Board. TPS will pay Zolkoski a cool $400,000 as part of his contract termination.

As readers of the Tulsa World know, Dr. Z's tenure at TPS has been marked by a number of failures, including the out-of-control alternative school that Zolkoski set up but failed to oversee.

Dr. Z's fate had been predicted in some TPS circles. Among other things, he had been criticized for his know-it-all attitude and a failure to take advice from, well, anyone.

Sen. Coburn Paints Himself Into a Corner

Oklahama's junior U.S. senator, Dr. Tom Coburn, prides himself on his principles. Like his Oklahoma senate colleague, former Tulsa mayor Jim Inhofe, Coburn is nothing if not stubborn in support of his ideas, even when he's wrong.

That's the latest dilemma for Dr. Coburn, who finds himself now tagged as "the senate's least powerful man." Unfortunately, the label fits.

The problem is Coburn's flagrant overuse of the Senate "hold," a procedure that allows a single senator to stop action on a bill. As a Tulsa World points out today, Coburn is the czar of the hold, blocking bill after bill, including bills nearly everyone else agrees on.

For instance, Coburn has blocked a bill that would address the high suicide rate among veterans. He's blocked a bill to fund breast-cancer research. He's blocked a bill to assist paralyzed people find better treatments.

We're sure Dr. Coburn can rationalize every one of these positions in the name of saving the taxpayer money. But the truth is that Coburn doesn't play with others, a major flaw for a member of "the world's greatest deliberative body."

The World got it right when they described Coburn as "not just arrogant," but "aggressively arrogant."

Coburn's tactics have backfired
, and—surprise!—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is now planning to run over the Oklahoma senator, rendering Coburn more isolated and ineffective than ever.

Coburn is supposed to represent an entire state—not just his personal agenda— and do so in a reasonable manner. Oklahomans deserve better.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dr. Z's Prospects Look Dim in Tulsa

We have no inside information, but the Tulsa School Board may be ready for a change at the top.

We're talking about embattled TPS Superintendent Michael Zolkoski's future as Tulsa's public school leader, which may be winding down. That's because the Tulsa School Board will be meeting Monday night behind closed doors to discuss Dr. Z's future.

According to a story in today's Tulsa World, the Monday agenda includes a "possible action item" on the superintendent's employment.

Here's some of the language of the Dr. Z agenda item: "discussion, consideration and vote to approve, and authorize its due execution, or not approve a written agreement between the District and the superintendent regarding the superintendent's continuing employment with the District."

This is bureaucratic language, to be sure, but it's also language that's broad enough to terminate the superintendent. Given the mess he created at the Tulsa Academic Center and numerous reports of his failure to listen or take even helpful advice, we won't be surprised if it's the end of Dr. Z in Tulsa.

GOP Woes: Even in the Red State of Kansas, Republicans Not Entirely Safe

It's no longer earth-shattering news, but the Republican brand continues to suffer, a victim of the incompetent and arrogant Bush Administration.

As evidence, we present this piece from the Kansas City Star, which found dissatisfaction even in the very Red State of Kansas, where Bush loyalist Sen. Pat Roberts is facing a challenge:

Kansas hasn't elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since the Great Depression.

Through 13 presidents and five wars, Republicans have held its two seats for 76 unbroken years -- the longest streak in the nation.

But today's political climate could weaken their grip.

"The Republican brand is really bad in many parts of the country, with Kansas being better than many, but still not good," said Scott Bensing, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "It's not a top-tier race, but it's one of those where, should Democrats come into a bunch of money, it'd be a race."

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Dismal State of the GOP

Today's bad news for the Republican Party, spoken on Bill Moyers Journal by former Republican Oklahoma Rep. Mickey Edwards:
The Republican Party is not healthy.

Bush-O-Nomics Update: Gas Goes Up, Market Goes Down

Today's economic double-whammy: As the price of a barrel of oil goes higher and higher, the stock market dives.

Investors, the economists says, remain nervous. With Bush in charge (s0 to speak), of course they are.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Texas Turkey of the Week: Ex-Sen. Phil Gramm

Until recently, former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm was well hidden from public view, safely conducting his business out of the public eye.

But his role as a McCain economic adviser has recently put Gramm squarely in the spotlight, and the picture is increasingly ugly.

First, we learn that Gramm was instrumental in deregulating the banking industry, actions that fostered the current credit crunch and mortgage meltdown. Then we learn he has close ties to UBS, the giant Swiss bank that has reported major losses in—yes!—the mortgage market.

Good work, Phil!

Now, Gramm's shot off his mouth to the detriment of his pal John McCain, who's quickly moved to separate himself from Gramm's most recent economic pronouncements, which we quote below:

"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," Gramm said. "We may have a recession; we haven't had one yet."

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," Gramm said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline."

McMurtry's New Book on a Life in Books

One of AT's favorite writers, Larry McMurtry, has published a new book. It's called Books: A Memoir, and it chronicles the Texas author's life as an author, bookseller and antiquarian book dealer.

McMurtry, best known for his epic Western novel, Lonesome Dove, lived for years in Washington, D.C., where he ran his bookstore. More recently, he moved the business to his hometown, Archer City, Texas, where he now has more than 300,000 used books.

In an interview published today in USA Today, McMurtry says his bookstore, called Booked Up, is holding its own as a business, but not making a lot of money.

McMurtry, 72, also confesses to being computer illiterate. He writes on a Hermes portable typewriter, which makes it hard to get through airports, he says.

McMurtry's new book, published by Simon and Schuster, goes for $24. We don't have a copy get, but we'll get one. We love the guy.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Recommended Reading: David Quammen's Short Book on 'The Reluctant Mr. Darwin'

We ran across a copy of David Quammen's short biography of Charles Darwin the other day and found it a real joy.

One of the blurbs on the back of The Reluctant Mr. Darwin calls the book "a rich, dramatic story brought to life by a gifted and entertaining storyteller." It's an accurate assessment.

We didn't know Quammen before we read the book, but we can testify to the man's literary skill. In his hands, Darwin's life and scientific achievements are spelled out in plain and compelling language.

Along the way, Quammen explains Darwin's principal ideas, clears up a few misconceptions, and lays out the long and painstaking process that led to his theory of evolution. It's fascinating stuff, even when we see Darwin as a hypochondriac and an obsessive field biologist.

There are more thorough biographies of Darwin out there (as Quammen acknowledges), but this is one terrific introduction to Darwin and his ideas, from the famous voyage of the Beagle through his years of self-doubt and eventual success (and acceptance) by the scientific community.

As we say in the headline, recommended reading.

The book, again, is David Quammen, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin (New York: Atlas Books, 2006). The book is part of the publisher's Great Discovery Series, which also includes short biographies of Einstein, Marie Curie, Copernicus, and several others.

Oklahoma Republicans Vote Against Vets

Oklahoma Republicans love to talk about supporting the troops. Too bad their talk is, to put it plainly, pure bullcrap.

We're talking about the recent bill that dramatically improved benefits for our vets, all those men and women the GOP claims to support. The bill passed the House the other day by a vote of 256-166. The President—who vocally opposed the bill—suddenly reversed course and signed it, pretending that he supported it all along.

How did Oklahoma's Republican representatives vote on this important legislation? You guessed it: They followed the party line, voting against increased veterans benefits.

A check of the voting record shows that Tulsa Rep. John Sullivan voted "nay." Ditto GOP leader Rep. Tom Cole. Same with OKC Rep. Mary Fallin. To be fair, Rep. Dan Boren, the state's only Democrat in the House, also cast his bone-headed vote against the bill. So much for supporting the troops!

Oklahoma's gutless legislators—supporting the vets only when it's cheap.

Global Gardens Makes Good News

Congratulations to our friends at Global Gardens for the great weekend story in the Tulsa World

As we have previously noted (see AT's June 23 posting), Global Gardens is a program that introduces low-income students to the pleasures of planting and growing. The photo above was taken at this year's Brookside Herb Festival

Read Saturday's Tulsa World story here. For more on Global Gardens, their philosophy and their programs, click here

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

War Supporter Hitchens Gets 'Waterboarded' and Concludes: 'It's Torture'

Writer and polemicist Christopher Hitchens is no blushing wallflower. In contrast to his many anti-war friends, Hitchens vigorously supported the invasion of Iraq, as well as the elimination of Saddam and his regime.

On the matter of U.S.-inflicted torture, however, Hitchens now has a different view, one based on his decision to have himself "waterboarded," a technique that Bush Administration officials have defended in the name of national security.

In an article for Vanity Fair (the link is at Think Progress), Hitchens left no doubt that the procedure was torture. He writes: 

I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong." Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.

Trouble in McCainville: GOP Candidate Shuffles His Top Staff

Things aren't exactly peachy in the McCain campaign. The GOP standard-bearer and his party are getting worried about his prospects in November. 

Here's the lead paragraph from the story posted today: 

Sen. John McCain's campaign announced a shakeup at the top Wednesday, in the wake of growing Republican concern about its ability to compete against Sen. Barack Obama.

Fox Attack: Right-Wing Blabbers Alter Images of Times Reporters

Speaking of Fox News (see last post), the network today lived up to its reputation for putting partisanship ahead of the facts when it broadcast digitally altered photos of two New York Times reporters. 

The Huffington Post has the whole sorry story, complete with original and altered photos of the reporters, who were—Fox claims—involved in a "hit piece" on the network and its declining influence.  In FoxSpeak, "hit piece" appears to be any story that is critical of Fox News.  

We don't mind Fox News defending itself. But Fox can't seem to do this honestly. Instead, they play games with facts and images, distorting reality to make a dishonest point. Come to think of it, that's the whole purpose of Fox News. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

As Times Change, Fox News Finds Fewer Viewers While CNN, MSNBC Have Gains

After years of cable news dominance, Fox News losing its ratings edge.

Increasingly, viewers have had enough of the network's "fair and balanced" treatment of current events—code for a reactionary opinion that is too often fact-free.

The ratings numbers show that CNN and MSNBC are adding viewers at a healthy rate, while Fox viewers are switching channels or tuning out. One of the stars of MSNBC is Keith Olbermann, whose "Countdown" program has been responsible for much of the growth at MSNBC.

Writing in the New York Times, Jacques Steinberg noted that CNN and MSNBC have copied the Fox style, emphasizing "sharp opinions, glitzy graphics and big personalities…."

Meanwhile Fox has fallen victim to its own rhetorical excesses. Steinberg documented three recent "inappropriate references" to Barack Obama, including the idiotic comment by Fox's E.D. Hill that the "fist bump" between Michelle and Barack Obama was "a terrorist fist jab." (We are not making this up.)

Fox News: Giving viewers the party line, whether it's true or not.

Recent Reading: Annie Proulx's Latest Story

For fans of contemporary short stories, Annie Proulx is a respected writer. The reading public knows her, if it knows her at all, as the author of "Brokeback Mountain," the so-called "gay cowboy" story that became a prize-winning movie.

We never got a chance to read "Brokeback Mountain," but we can recommend Proulx's latest story, "Tits-Up in a Ditch," which was published last month in the Summer Fiction Issue of The New Yorker, dated June 9 & 16, 2008.

Yes, the title is salacious, but the story is more troubling than titillating. More importantly, Proulx packs a novel's worth of plot and character into a few thousand words about life on the lower rungs of the social and economic ladder in present-day Wyoming.

Proulx's main character is Dakotah, a hard-luck young woman raised by her grandparents. Dakotah drifts through her life, dropping out of high school months before graduation, marrying poorly, eventually following her husband into the army.

Short story readers should check out "Tits-Up" and other Proulx offerings in her collections, including a new one due out this fall, Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3.