Monday, June 30, 2008

Gun Headline of the Day: It's Often About Suicide, not Protection

Now that we have an individual right to own a handgun, we note this unfortunate U.S. gun statistic, courtesy of
Surprising fact: Half of gun death are suicides

Gun owners often use weapons on themselves, not intruders

Wishful Thinking in Bush Land: President Convinced Public Will Love Him After All

It's take more than seven years, but the American public has finally realized that George W. Bush has been a disaster as president.

The list of Bush errors and deceptions is long and serious, from an elective and trumped up war against a nation that did not attack us and a bungled Iraqi reconstruction effort to prisoner abuse and torture and illegal spying on U.S. citizens.

And then there's the domestic arena, where the White House bungled the Katrina response ("Heckva job, Brownie!"), worked to politicize the Justice Department, and ignored scientific evidence on global warming and a host of other topics.

And let's not even get started on gas prices, which some in the Administration predicted would go down as a result of a stable, democratic Iraq. What a joke.

It's no surprise, then, that Bush's approval ratings are in the toilet, among the lowest in the history of presidential polling. Despite such reports, the president and his aides remain optimistic that Bush will rise the eyes of the public.

Here's the latest fiction from an administration in denial, courtesy of U.S. News:

When he travels around the country, Bush feels less “antipathy” than he used to in the crowds, along the motorcade routes, and expressed by the individuals who talk to him at his events. “He feels there has been a shift in attitudes out there that’s not reflected in polling data,” the aide says. […]

Reinforcing his point, the latest AP-Ipsos poll, released in mid-June, found that only 29 percent of Americans approved of Bush’s job performance, one of the lowest presidential ratings ever. White House officials, by the way, say they aren’t sure such polls should be believed because the questions are biased and the population samples are flawed.

Recommended Katrina Reading: Ellis Anderson's Saga of Mississippi's Bay Town Inn

AltTulsa made a note last week about the Katrina issue of Southern Cultures, an interesting journal published at the University of North Carolina. Since then, we had a chance to read another article in the issue and we want to recommend it in the highest terms.

The article, "Storm Journal: The Story of the Bay Town Inn," tells the completely harrowing tale of seven Katrina survivors who rode out the storm at the Bay Town Inn, a sturdy old building in Bay St. Louis that survived Hurricane Camille, a "storm of the century" that battered the area more than 30 years ago.

Writer Ellis Anderson explains in her introduction that she didn't "need a writer's imagination to fill in the details. I'm simply recording their story, interweaving five individual accounts."

And what accounts they are! The situation goes from bad to worse to absolutely terrifying in a matter of hours, with several of the survivors clinging to an oak tree after the inn blew apart. A sample:
Exhausted, the three friends tried to get their bearings. The disorientation was overwhelming. They could barely recognize each other under the sticky, black silt covering them head to toe. Even the landscape around them was no longer familiar. They might have been standing on the surface of another planet. There was no sign of the Bay Town Inn, nothing even to mark where it had stood.

As it happens, you can find more of Anderson's writing on her blog, The Language of Loss, which can be found at

As we said, it's a gripping story about the power of nature, the fragility of life, and the role of friendship and hope against incredible odds.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Poll: Bush Polices Judged a Failure

It's a bad time to be a George W. Bush supporter. A poll released today shows the public increasingly fed up with what we like to call Bush-O-Nomics. 

The LA Times/Bloomberg poll showed 75 percent of Americans "blame President Bush's economic policies for making the country worse off during the last eight years." 

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Report Card on Tulsa's Dr. Z Full of Zeroes

The pressure is building on Tulsa School Superintendent Michael Zolkoski after more bad news about the embattled Tulsa Academic Center, a TPS alternative school for troubled students.

A page-one story in yesterday's Tulsa World gave details of a community team's review of the TAC, and the results were not pretty. According to the paper, TPS board president Gary Percefull called the first year of TAC a "colossal failure."

Among the most telling evidence against Dr. Zolkoski was his failure to take advice. The World quoted District Judge Doris Fransein, who slammed Zolkoski for spurning the assistance of community leaders and organizations. Judge Fransein said:

You have a superintendent who, in the past, refused to listen. Every time we tried to sit down, he knew it all…. None of us could do anything to break through and say, 'Can we help you? 'Would you listen to someone's suggestion? This is a community you are not familiar with, Dr. Z, that we can give you tips about.'

This is a damning criticism of a major Tulsa education official, a leader who, as Fransein says, seemed to know it all and refused to listen to others. Other team members had similar criticisms, none of which reflected well on Dr. Z's judgment or leadership.

Then there's the matter of Dr. Z's proposed $50,000 bonus and recent performance, which the World blasted in an editorial Tuesday. The newspaper doesn't mince words: "No bonus; how quickly can you clean out your desk?"

The editorial points out that Dr. Z presided over the TAC debacle, a school that was "crowded. violent and out of control." The conditions there, the paper continues, were unforgivable.

We're not the betting type, but we'd say the odds aren't good for Dr. Z's longevity at TPS. As the World puts it, "We can do better."

No Surprise Department: White House and Justice Officials Play Politics In Recruiting

George W. Bush entered the White House with a righteous agenda. He and his conservative followers would clean up the mess left by the Clintons and the ethically challenged liberals. 

Fast forward seven-and-a-half years later: It hasn't worked out that way. Despite their ideals and conservative values, the Bush team was corrupted by their own ideology and the desire for greater power. 

That explains the findings of a new report on the hiring scandal at the Justice Department, which was systematically politicized by Bush appointees. Counter to a long tradition of nonpartisan hiring, their goal was to screen out any hint of liberalism or independent thinking in new Justice Department hires. 

Here's the way the Seattle Times summed up the scandal in today's edition: 

WASHINGTON—Justice Department officials illegally used "political or ideological" factors in elite recruiting programs in recent years, tapping law-school graduates with conservative credentials over more qualified candidates with liberal-sounding resumes, an internal report found Tuesday. 

Note the language here: You don't have to actually be a liberal; you just have to "sound" like one. 

So much for ethical conservative leadership. In the Bush years, Rovian thinking rules. It's all about the grab for power

Monday, June 23, 2008

Recent Reading: The Lessons of Katrina

The new issue of Southern Cultures offers several reconsiderations on the meaning of Katrina on New Orleans and its environs.

The journal, published by Center for the Study of American South at UNC at Chapel Hill, makes for insightful reading, especially if you compare it to the mean-spirited and misremembered characterizations of Katrina and its aftermath on conservative talk radio.

One article considers the place of Marti Gras in the American imagination, a topic that warrants deeper consideration. New Orleans, after all, has long had the reputation as Sin City, a decadent playground for all those straight-laced Southerners wanting to cut loose for a few besotted days.

Author Maura Fitzgerald created a more creative report called "What Was Found," which includes this poignant line: "There are mornings in New Orleans when you wake up too sad to move."

And this: "There are some nights in New Orleans when you feel all in a fever and all you can do is walk."

There's much more worth reading in the journal's Katrina issue, enough to make a reader think long and hard about New Orleans life, growth and development, the weather, and hubris in the face of it all.

For more on Southern Cultures, check out the journal's website here.

Tulsa's Global Gardens Plants 'Seeds of Change'

AltTulsa recently became aware of an interesting local non-profit called Global Gardens Tulsa, an organization that gets low-income students involved in science and environmental learning through hands-on gardening. 

According to the Global Gardens website, some goals of the group are to: 

Develop science-based community garden spaces, where the community has ownership of the implementation, progress, and maintenance of the garden. 

Encourage the use of the garden as a central gathering and meeting place for the community.

Teach an all-encompassing curriculum that connects the garden with other disciplines and allows student to connect the learning in the garden to both school learning and real-life experiences.

In practice, this means that the Global Gardens folks have established a garden at Tulsa's Eugene Field Elementary School, where a student named Brenda had this to say about the project:
I like Global Gardens because it is a fun after-school program and not only do we grow gardens but we learn about nature. And I also love Global Gardens because we all get along together. It is like a little community and in the community everyone gets along and everyone is nice to each other and everyone is peaceful. 
We like Brenda's grammar school idealism. And we recommend the good work of Global Gardens Tulsa. For more on the group, see their website here

Evangelicals Not A Republican Lock

Is it a temporary blip in evangelical opinion or a trend that will help the Democrats? Either way, this kind of polling data looks troublesome for Republicans come November.
DALLAS (Reuters) - American evangelicals remain more Republican than Democratic but are not locked tightly in the embrace of either party, according to a new survey released on Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Rove Update: GOP's 'Architect of Demise'

Our favorite quote from today's Washington Post involves Karl Rove, the reputed architect of GOP domination, sometimes called "Bush's Brain."

But things haven't been going well for old Karl in recent months. The money quote:
"Republicans say Rove is the architect," said one GOP insider on the Hill. "He's the architect of our demise."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Top CEOs Get Richer as Their Companies Tank

The rich are getting richer in the waning days of the Bush Administration.

A report published today in the Tulsa World finds that CEO pay in major U.S. companies continues to fatten wallets in the executive suites.

This was the case even in major companies that had a bad year. John Thain of Merrill Lynch, for example, racked up a 2007 pay package worth $83 million, even as the company had one of its worst years ever.

CBS isn't having an especially good year either, and yet CEO Les Moonves was awarded more than $67 million in compensation.

Or consider GM's Rich Wagoner, whose company has closed four plants recently due to falling sales. GM lost $39 billion in 2007, and the company's stock price dropped 19 percent.

Wagoner's pay, however, was up 64 percent, to nearly $16 million.

As we noted at the start, the rich get richer. Meanwhile, the men and women who work every day struggle with higher food and fuel prices, living paycheck to paycheck.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that something is wrong with this picture.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Whatever Happened to Rudy Giuliani?

Thanks to the good folks at The Onion ("America's Finest News Source"), we now know what happened to Rudy Giuliani, self-proclaimed hero of September 11:
According to witnesses, former new York City mayor and one-time favorite for the Republican presidential nomination Rudolph Giuliani was seen slumped over and asleep on the Coney Island-bound F train late Tuesday night….
For more from The Onion, check out their website here.

The Bush Legacy: 'Poor Leadership'

A new AP-Ipsos poll out this week found that Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the nation's future, with 76 percent saying the country is one the wrong track.

Only 17 percent of those polled say the country is headed in the right direction. Not surprisingly, economic woes such as high gas prices were cited by many respondents.

"Poor leadership" was cited by some 23 percent of those polled, another result that's hardly surprising for those of us in the reality-based community.

The general and specific incompetence of the Bush Administration over the last seven-plus years speaks for itself, something AltTulsa believes American voters will remember this November.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Remembering Russert's Encounter with Cheney

The sudden and tragic death of NBC's Tim Russert has generated a lot of sympathy from politicians and media players in the last few days, which is as it should be. Russert was nothing if not an enthusiastic political journalist, a man in his element on Meet the Press.

One way to honor Russert's memory is to note his efforts to make the Bush Administration own up to its incessant drumbeat for war. Unlike too many of his media colleagues and the entire conservative establishment, Russert was a skeptic about many of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld talking points.

Here, thanks to the folks at Mother Jones, is a small sample of Russert's good work, and Dick Cheney's erroneous judgment.
MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we're not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators….

The Latest Dick Cheney Lie

The nation's least popular national politician, Vice President Dick Cheney, can't keep his stories straight. Not for the first time, Cheney has made highly exaggerated public statements (i.e., lies) that serve his political goals.

A few days ago, Cheney claimed that the Chinese, on behalf of Cuba, were drilling for oil 60 miles off the U.S. coast. It's a great right-wing story, guaranteed to whip up a furor among conservatives. Other GOP operatives quickly repeated the story, some even moving the Chinese operation closer to Florida.

Too bad it's not true, as even Cheney has been forced to admit. Think Progress has the gory details here.

Remember, Sooner fans, this is the same glorious vice president that Sen. Inhofe brought to Tulsa last year. Talk about the blind leading the blind.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Those Curious Inhofe Television Ads

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Sooner state's senior U.S. senator, is running some very curious—and clearly contradictory—television ads in the Tulsa market.

The first one praised the senator's "stubbornness," an obvious appeal to the senator's (supposed) independence and grit. The guy's a fighter for Oklahoma "pork," the ad made clear.

Okay—Jim's our tough guy in D.C. Or is he?

The second ad, out this week, shows Inhofe's (supposed) softer side. In it, a whispering female voice describes the senator's many quiet trips to Africa, where he's portrayed as a behind-the-scenes humanitarian.

Obviously, Inhofe wants it both ways. But the effect of these conflicting messages is likely to produce more confusion than support. Indeed, Inhofe would be better off to stick with his tough guy image, one that's a lot more credible than his new (and highly calculated) embrace of humanitarianism.

Finally, a note to the ad agency handling the Inhofe account: Drop the female whisperer. It's a gimmick, and not one that's going to win friends among Oklahoma voters.

Tulsa Activists Promote City Restoration

Kudos to our friends at Sustainable Green Country, a Tulsa-area group that aims to make northeastern Oklahoma a more livable and interesting place.

AltTulsa was pleased to attend the group's screening of Third Ward TX earlier this week at the Circle Cinema. The film is a documentary about the restoration of an inner city neighborhood in Houston, a project developed and run by artists—yes, artists.

The film showed how a group of visionary Houston artists worked with Third Ward residents to restore and revitalize a neglected and poverty-stricken neighborhood. In a word, it was inspiring.

Notably, the screening attracted a group of about 50, activists who stuck around after the screening to talk about how the ideas in the film might be applied to Tulsa.

Sustainable Green Country
—AT's June selection for Tulsa's best progressive organization.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Oklahoman Pushes Website on Tulsa TV

The AT gang has been underwhelmed recently by local television ads for, the Daily Oklahoman's new and improved "convergence" website.

We don't mind the Oklahoman going digital, since it's clear that newspapers need to do something to keep up with emerging technology and attract younger readers. But neither the Oklahoman's Tulsa ads nor the website itself offers much that is new—or particularly interesting, for that matter.

Let's start with the TV ads. The ads feature a good-looking young couple (she's blond—it's television, after all) talking about all the great features of the new website. Unfortunately, the advertisements promise a lot more than the site itself delivers.

Our recent look at the site found poor production values, awkward sound, irritating ads, and a lot of warmed-over content. For example, today was promoting the fact that American Idol star Carrie Underwood would be coming to Tulsa in the fall for a concert.

When you combine the site's dullness with the paper's long history of editorial wrongheadedness, the television ads appear to be a waste of good airtime. Instead of ads, the Oklahoman might want to invest is some actual news gathering in the greater Tulsa area.

If is the best that Oklahoman can come up with, we're afraid their convergence experiment will be a bust. For now, we're sticking to the printed version of the Tulsa World, which at least has some actual professional news on its old-fashioned printed pages.

Update: We spent a bit more time on the Oklahoman's site this week, and found it a little more useful than our original assessment. Still, the site's ads are a major annoyance. True, the ads pay the bills, but we don't think readers will keep returning to a site when the ads get in the way of the news content. 

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sneering at the Appalachian Rednecks

As an Oklahoma-based blog, AT likes to pride itself on its egalitarian outlook. We believe that citizenship and human rights apply to all sorts of people, even folks whose background and lives are different from our own. 

That's why we were distressed to hear NBC's Andrea Mitchell stumble over the notion that Barack Obama might actually be interested in wooing working class voters in Virginia. When Obama spoke in Bristol, Virginia, this week, Mitchell said: "This is real redneck, sort of, bordering on Appalachia country." 

Okay, Ms. Mitchell, how many stereotypes can you imply in a single sentence?

Let's count a few: 

First, she implies that Obama is an elitist, which means (apparently) that he would not care about "rednecks" in the mountain South. 

Second, she implies that uneducated "rednecks" (read "hillbillies") would (apparently) never vote for a Democrat or a black man—never mind that the Bristol area is represented in Congress by a Democrat and has been for many years. 

Third, she appears completely unaware that some people in the mountain South find the term "redneck" offensive at worst and inaccurate at best

As it happens, Bristol is part of rapidly growing area called the Tri-Cities that includes Kingsport and Johnson City, Tennessee, home to dozens of major industries, colleges and universities, and much more. It's not New York City, we admit, but it's not a cultural and intellectual wasteland any more than, say, good ole Tulsa or Oklahoma City. 

A word of advice to Ms. Mitchell: Next time, skip the stereotypes. 

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Rep. Randy Terrill: The Knee-Jerk Republican

AltTulsa spent a few minutes this week with KRMG-AM, Tulsa's poor excuse for a news radio station.

In a story on a judge's order to halt some sections of HB 1804, Oklahoma's immigration law, the KRMG ran a sound bite from the bill's author, Rep. Randy Terrill, a Moore Republican.

Not surprisingly, Terrill blasted the judge's decision, pointing out to KRMG listeners that Judge Robin Cauthron was a Clinton appointee to the federal bench.

Terrill's point: Clinton's liberal judge put her liberal philosophy ahead of Terrill's totally legal bill and the will of Oklahoma's voters.

Damn activist, liberal judges! Look how they thumb their noses at the law.

Only one problem with Rep. Terrill's analysis: He was wrong. Judge Cauthron was appointed by George Bush Sr.

Lying Our Way to War: Bush Administration News We Already Knew

Here's a headline we found today on Yahoo with a report from the "Duh!" file:
Bush Misstated Saddam's Links to Terrorism, Senate Report Finds.

Sen. Inhofe Advertises His 'Porkability'

Former Tulsa mayor and current U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe likes to think of himself as a tough fighter for Oklahoma's conservative voters. In fact, Inhofe's new television ad plays up the senator's stubbornness in Washington, where he says he stands up proudly for the Sooner state. 

But there's another, more accurate, way to look at the senator's achievements in Washington: it's all about the pork. Contrary to his tight-fisted image, Inhofe is more than willing to open up the federal pocketbook when it benefits his home state.

In other words, Inhofe is hardly a true fiscal conservative. Indeed, he's a old-fashioned, pork-barrel legislator—the kind of person he likes to pretend he's not. But his ad is a terrific demonstration that he's not what he claims to be.