Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bush's War: The Verdict Is In and It's Not Good

AltTulsa's been preoccupied in recent days, and that has affected the quantity of our postings. But we have tried to keep up with the ups and downs of U.S. foreign affairs, which is the subject of this entry.

"The Iraq war is over," Salon writer Gary Kamiya declared earlier this month. "The failure of Bush's surge to produce political reconciliation in Iraq, combined with the unsustainable stress on our military and Congress' unwillingness to keep writing checking for $12 billion a month, all point in one direction: withdrawal."

This bleak but unblinking assessment is Kamiya's preface to "ten commandments" the nation should draw from Bush's disastrous misadventure in Iraq.

Some highlights of the foreign policy gospel according to Kamiya:

Commandment I: Thou shalt not launch preventive wars. Kamiya's rationale: "It is immoral and illegal to attack a state that has not attacked you."

Commandment II: Do not exaggerate the threat posed by terrorism. Kamiya's comment: Terrorism is a deplorable tactic used by the less powerful to achieve certain goals…. It can inflict harm, but it does not pose an existential threat to the United States. Declaring war on it is idiotic and self-defeating. Military responses to terrorism kill civilians and breed more terrorists."

Skipping ahead, let's look at Commandment IV: Recognize that all terrorists are not the same. For example: "Al-Qaida, an absolutist movement with a totalitarian religious ideology, in not the same as Hamas or Hezbollah, which are, respectively, a religious national liberation movement and a complex political party/militia/public-works provider."

Commandment IX: Get the media to grow a spine. Kamiya's dead-on commentary: "The America's media's performance in the run-up to the Iraq war was one of the lowest points in its history. Swept up in war fever, the gutless press acted as a quasi-official cheerleader and failed to subject administration claims to elementary due diligence."

Finally, Commandment X: Grow up and join the world. "More than anything else, it was arrogance that led us into this mess," Kamiya concludes. "A little more humility and diplomacy, and a lot less stupid self-righteousness, would go a long way to restoring America's sadly tarnished standing in the world community."

The full article was published on Salon on April 15. A link to the site is on our blogroll. Kamiya's analysis is worth some serious consideration.

Gov. Henry Praises Obama's Consensus-Building Ability

In a mild surprise, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry this week endorsed Sen. Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee for president. Henry, one of Oklahoma's superdelegates to the Democratic convention this summer, cited Obama's ability to reach "across party lines on issues vitally important to all citizens."

Henry's endorsement runs counter to the results of February's Oklahoma Democratic primary, which Sen. Hillary Clinton won handily.

In his endorsement, Henry praised Obama as "a strong, committed and inspirational leader, ideally suited to bring together Democrats, independents, and Republicans."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ken Neal Hits a 'Bitter' Homer

Ken Neal, a long-time Tulsa World editorial writer, scored some points in our book Sunday with a column on the significance of Sen. Barack Obama's "bitter" comment. As you may recall, Obama spoke about working class bitterness in a recent speech, comments that have been attacked far and wide.

Neal points out, however, that a good deal of recent politics has centered on bitterness. He writes, "The success of the Republican Party…has been built on citizen unhappiness, even bitterness, with government."

Later, Neal correctly notes that the private school movement has been driven by unhappiness over government-mandated integration issues, another source of bitterness exploited by the Republicans.

What about taxes? From the "bitter" point of view, they are always bad, Neal points out, because they fund "unnecessary" government programs, even when those programs serve the public interest. Again, the right-wing politicos push the bitterness theme to their political advantage.

The Democrats, Neal adds, don't always help. Their ineptness and stupidity sometimes makes things worse.

Despite it all, Neal concludes, the American system works pretty well, even when the politicians play games.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bruce 'The Boss' Backs Barack

Singer Bruce Springsteen is supporting Sen. Barack Obama for president.

Springsteen, sometimes called the Bard of New Jersey for his lyrics about the struggles of working class, made the announcement a few days ago on his website.

"[Obama] has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next president," Springsteen's announcement said. "He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years," Springsteen added, "a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit."

We doubt that Springsteen's endorsement will sway many voters in Tulsa or elsewhere in Oklahoma, but it's revealing that Springsteen, a man of considerable integrity, has put his celebrity power behind Obama.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Irrational Right-Wing Radio Rant of the Week: Teachers Worse than Drug Dealers

AltTulsa has been really busy of late, so we missed some of this week's "lowlights" in right-wing radio.

Our nomination for overheated rhetorical excess this week is Atlanta-based talker Neal Boortz, who went off on the evils of public school teachers, especially those bold enough to organize themselves into a professional group or union.

But we'll let Boortz speak for himself. You make the call:

[T]he single most dangerous entity, group of people in this country right now are teachers unions…. [T]hey do more damage to this country than all the drug pushers together…. If I had a button right now, two buttons—push this button and it gets rid of all the drug dealers; push this button, it get rid of the teachers unions—I'm getting rid of the teachers unions.

Teachers unions? We thought it was the gays. That Sally Kern lied to us!

OU's Boren Endorses Obama

OU President and former U.S. Sen. David Boren has endorsed Democratic candidate Barack Obama.

In an announcement Friday, Boren said he will serve as an advisor on national security for Obama's campaign.

Boren explained his decision to the Tulsa World's Jim Myers. "Our strength is declining. Eighty-one percent of Americans believe we are headed in the wrong direction," Boren said.

Boren's son, Rep. Dan Boren, says he remains uncommitted, despite his father's endorsement. Dan Boren is one of the Democratic Party's superdelegates, activists who have been wooed aggressively by both Obama and his Democratic rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Oklahoma Statistics: Some Good News in the Numbers (For a Change)

We at AT sometimes take a look at the state's statistical profile, an exercise that often leaves us a tad depressed. The Sooner State often ranks near the bottom of state rankings in such areas as education and public health.

And we're number one is such areas as percentage of women in prison, a statistic that's hard to crow about.

That's why we're pleased to report that Oklahoma has a low ranking in DUI fatalities, a figure that's actually very good. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, Oklahoma's percentage of traffic fatalities involving drunken drivers is 26 percent, one of the lowest figures in the nation.

Some comparisons: Missouri, 35 percent; Kansas, 29, percent; Texas, 39 percent, Arkansas, 30 percent.

On the other hand, Oklahoma compares poorly with the nation's leader in this deadly statistic: Our Mormon friends in Utah come in at 19 percent.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bush-O-Nomics Year 7: Inflation Rears Its Ugly Head

Two economic headlines today we wish we hadn't seen, courtesy of
U.S. wholesale inflation soars in March

U.S. seeing worst food inflation in 17 years

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Incredibly Shrinking Bush Poll Numbers

In case you missed it, polling numbers out last week show that the Bush presidency continues to decline in the eyes of the public. Here's a summary, courtesy of our friends at ThinkProgress:
The latest Gallup poll finds that President Bush's approval rating has fallen to 28 percent—"a record low" for his administration. Bush's approval is"lower than that of any president since World War II, with the exceptions of Jimmy Carter (who has a low point of 28 percent in 1979), and Richard Nixon and Harry Truman, who suffered ratings in the low- to mid-20 percent range in the last years of their administrations." 

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Oklahoma Playwright Letts Wins Pulitzer Prize

It's not every day that an Oklahoman walks off with a Pulitzer Prize. But Tracy Letts has done just that for his dysfunctional family drama, August: Osage County.

The drama award was announced earlier this week, though we've seen nothing in the local media about it. That's a shame, since Letts appears to be a genuine talent, a rare dramatist who can both entertain and provoke.

New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood calls Letts' work "the most exciting new American play Broadway has seen in years."

Not bad for a country boy, not bad at all.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Republicans Bring Dick Cheney to T-town

One of the nation's most unpopular public officials, Vice President Dick Cheney, will be in Tulsa in early May as a guest of the Oklahoma Republican Party.

Cheney's last appearance in Tulsa was a fundraiser for former Tulsa mayor and current U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe. That Cheney visit brought out a small but vocal group of protesters, people who had the nerve to point out that Cheney has been consistently wrong about, well, almost everything related to Iraq.

Cheney and his always-secretive staff have also been forceful advocates for a pro-torture policies and a host of other apparent violations of civil liberties and international law, not to mention novel but self-serving legal arguments in favor of greater power for the Executive Branch.

Right-Wing Nutcase Quote of the Week

This week's winner is the always inflammatory Ann Coulter, a winger so shrill and unhinged that she routinely resorts to evidence-free exaggerations to score political points.

Commenting on Democratic candidate Barack Obama's book, Dreams from My Father, Coulter couldn't resist an amazingly nonsensical comparison:
Has anybody read this book? Inasmuch as the book reveals Obama to be a flabbergasting lunatic, I gather the answer is no. Obama is about to be our next president: You might want to take a peek. If only people had read 'Mein Kampf' ....

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Tulsa-Area Farmers Markets Coming Soon

We look forward every spring to the opening of northeast Oklahoma's many farmers markets, a place where Tulsa-area shoppers can buy local produce, garden plants, flowers, baked goods and other products.

That's why we're pleased to announce the opening of midtown Tulsa's popular Cherry Street Famers Market, which opens for the season on Saturday, April 12, at the corner of Peoria and 15th Street. (Click here for their website.)

Saturday is also the date for the annual Herb Day in Brookside. The event, held at 41st Street and Peoria, will feature vegetable plants, pottery, Oklahoma wines, and (of course) herbs.

If the weather is good, we expect both markets will have a big crowd of gardeners and whole-wheat eaters.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

How the Bush Team Warped the Law

It's no longer news that the Bush Administration is cavalier about the law and civil liberties. Thanks to Dick Cheney, David Addington and John Yoo, Bush and his minions have bent the rules whenever and wherever it suited their purpose.

Nevertheless, it is more than a little alarming to see the extent of the Bush secret surveillance program. Reporter Eric Lichtblau does just that in a his book Bush's Law: The Remaking of American Justice, just out from Pantheon Books.

In a New York Times book review published this week, attorney Jeffrey Rosen writes that Lichtblau's book "documents, with scrupulous detail, the broader costs of the Bush administration's excesses for innocent victims and for the rule of law."

Some 2,700 men were locked up after 9/11, Rosen notes, most of whom were never shown to have links to terrorism.

Some examples from Lichtblau's research: Taj Bhatti, an elderly Pakistani doctor in Virginia, "whose house and computer discs were surreptitiously ransacked and who was secretly imprisoned…."

There's also Brandon Mayfield, a former Army officer whose who was secretly (there's that word again) searched and who was arrested in connection with the Madrid train bombing. Only one problem: the whole business was based on a mistaken fingerprint match. (Mayfield eventually won an apology from the government, along with a $2 million settlement.)

The extent of the administration's zealousness doesn't stop there. Lichtblau also reveals how the Bush team retaliated against its critics, including Lichtblau himself.

Thanks to Lichtblau and fellow reporter James Risen, the public now knows that, in Rosen's words, "the president and his aides approved a secret eavesdropping program that many of his own lawyers thought was illegal, lied about it to the press and public and then attacked the journalists who disclosed it."

Oklahoma Politicos Pushing Their Books

Former Oklahoma Rep. Mickey Edwards was in Tulsa yesterday promoting his new book, Reclaiming Conservatism: How a Great Political Movement Got Lost and How It Can Find Its Way Back (Oxford University Press, $21.95).

Edwards, who represented Oklahoma in Washington for some 40 years, is a former national chairman of the American Conservative Union and a founding trustee of the conservative Heritage Foundation. More recently Edwards has been teaching at Harvard and Georgetown.

Despite his years as a conservative leader, Edwards has been dismayed by recent developments in the conservative movement, especially the Bush Administration's "threat to the Constitution and its myriad protections."

Former Oklahoma Sen. David Boren is also out with a new book, A Letter to America, and was in Tulsa recently promoting his work. Boren's book was published by the OU, where Boren serves at president.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Homophobes Rally Behind Rep. Sally Kern

Oklahoma City's leading public homophobe, Rep. Sally Kern, drew a crowd of more than 1,000 supporters to the Oklahoma State Capitol today in what was termed a "Rally for Sally."

Kern, as most Oklahomans know by now, is the legislator who made a series of over-the-top remarks about the gay threat to America. In Kern's view, homosexuals are targeting America's kids—as young as 2 years old. (Somebody's been spending way too much time with the Eagle Forum crowd!)

More ominously, Kern argued that gays represent a threat greater than terrorism and destroying the social fabric of America. Heavens!

As we have tried to make clear in previous Kern commentaries, we have no problem with Kern's right to speak her mind or her right to oppose what she and her allies call "the homosexual agenda."

But we take strong exception to the notion that she speaks for all Oklahomans on gay issues or that she has the only acceptable view of homosexuality. She doesn't.

Unlike Rep. Kern, we believe in a free and open society, a society where people can be wrong or even sin (gasp!) if they so desire.

Moreover, and despite Rep. Kern's notions to the contrary, neither the United States nor Oklahoma has an official state religion, which means that her views on homosexuality are not official state doctrine.

In contrast to Rep. Kern, we submit that homosexuals are (and deserve to be) treated as ordinary citizens, just like every other American.

In contrast to Rep. Kern, we believe that gay folks have a right to live their lives without harassment or condemnation.

Unlike Rep. Kern, we believe in civil liberties for all citizens, not simply those we approve of.

Two Incumbents Fall In Tulsa Council Elections

Incumbents Roscoe Turner and Maria Barnes lost their seats Tuesday in Tulsa city council elections.

Turner, from District 3, and Barnes, from District 4, will be replaced by former councilor David Patrick and newcomer Eric Gomez, respectively.

In District 9, newcomer G.T. Bynum was an easy winner over Phillip Kates. Incumbent Bill Christiansen was easily re-elected in District 8. In District 6, Dennis Troyer beat Kevin Boggs.

The biggest news here is the District 4 race, where Gomez was endorsed by of the Tulsa World and Barnes had supporters such as Tulsa blogger Michael Bates of Batesline.

As usual in Tulsa city elections, voter turnout was pitiful, with only 16,414 votes cast in all the city council elections.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

David Addington: The Bush Administration's Secret Torture Advocate

Speaking of torture (see last Sunday's post), Georgetown law professor David Cole published a damning profile of the Bush Administration in a recent issue of The New York Review of Books.

Cole, reviewing The Terror Presidency by former Bush Administration official Jack Goldsmith, focused on the little-known but enormously powerful administration lawyer named David Addington.

According to Cole, Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, is the author of many of the administration's most aggressive and secretive policies. Addington has been so influential in advocating for the expansion of executive power that some observers call him "Cheney's Cheney."

Addintgon has also been the behind-the-scenes architect of some of the administration's most controversial (and illegal) anti-terror policies. Here's one choice sentence from Cole's review of Addington's work:
Among the measures we know about [implying there are many we don't] are the disappearances of detainees into secret CIA prisons, the use of torture to gather evidence, rendition of suspects to countries known for torture, and warrantless wiretapping of Americans.

Cole's review, published Dec. 6, 2007, can be found here.