Thursday, July 31, 2008
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.
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.
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.
CNN.com 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.
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."
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
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.
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.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
A leading Republican senator was indicted in Washington today, new evidence of the "culture of corruption" in GOP circles.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Well, no. Not at all. Today's evidence, this dire prediction about short-term economic prospects, courtesy of MSNBC.com:
Treasury Chief Warns of Hard Months Ahead
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
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.
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
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.
For fourth time, McCain references country that doesn't exist
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
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.
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
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.
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
Investors, the economists says, remain nervous. With Bush in charge (s0 to speak), of course they are.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Until recently, former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm was well hidden from public view, safely conducting his business out of the public eye.
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.
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, 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
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.
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.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
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.
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.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
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.
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.