Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tulsa's Channel 8 Lays Off More Employees

Tulsa's ABC station in Tulsa, KTUL NewsChannel 8, is trimming its staff again.

The Tulsa World reports today that seven station employees were laid off this week and that other staffers are taking pay cuts. The station cut 13 employees in October 2008.
Allbritton Communications, the Virginia-based company that owns Channel 8, has also cut staffs at its other television stations, including its flagship station, WJLA, in Washington, D.C. The Allbritton station is Little Rock is also shedding staff, as many as 20, according to the World.

The downsizing comes as ad revenues continue to fall due to the economic meltdown. Another explanation for the cutbacks comes from Tulsa media watcher Michael Bates.

Earlier this month, Bates attributed the Tulsa World's recent cutbacks to out-of-touch leadership and news coverage that "appears to be slanted to the benefit of the owning family's social and financial connections."

Writing in Urban Tulsa Weekly, Bates continued: "Through its long-standing policy of comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted, the World has deepened the alienation between the city's establishment and ordinary citizens."

Following the overwrought Batesian media logic (such as it is), Channel 8's cutbacks could well be a result of its own out-of-touch management and news policies that appeared slanted to the benefit of Tulsa's business and ruling class. Same with KOTV Channel 6, which also announced layoffs last year.

Too bad neither of these stations have rich local owners, which would be a great scapegoat for Bates. Oh no, these rich owners live elsewhere, which apparently spares them from Bates and his fellow media-bashers.

On the other hand, there could be a simpler explanation for all these media cutbacks. As the Clinton campaign staff used to say, "It's the economy, stupid."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Today's Least Surprising Oklahoma Headline

You don't have to do much guessing about Oklahoma's Republican senators. As surely as the sun sets in the west, the Sooner State senators oppose the stimulus bill now before Congress. 

Here's the news we already knew, courtesy of the Tulsa World
Inhofe, Coburn speak against current stimulus proposal

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Headline of the Day: Blogo Ousted

Today's best political headline:
Senate Votes To Remove Blagojevich From Office, 59-0

Colbert Lets Bill-O Hang Himself

From the "Bill O'Reilly Does NOT Report Rumors" Department, except when he does. The skewering is courtesy of Stephen Colbert. As usual with Bill-O, it's priceless.

To view the clip, click here.

Wyoming Update: Man Arrested for Riding His Horse Drunk in a Snowstorm

We don't approve of drunkenness, of course, but we couldn't resist a chuckle at this horse story from the Great State of Wyoming
CODY, Wyo.--A man has been cited for public intoxication while riding a horse during a snowstorm in the northern Wyoming town of Cody. Police said they cited 28-year-old Benjamin Daniels, of Cody, after the received a call at 4 p.m. Sunday from a motorist who was concerned that a man was creating a road hazard by riding his horse on a street in conditions with poor visibility.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Bush Legacy: A 'Spectacular Disaster' in the Islamic World

George Bush is gone, of course, but the damage that he and his administration inflicted on the United States remains with us.

There's the economy, of course, but there's also the international political situation. Here's a succinct summary of the problem from historian William Dalrymple, writing in The New York Review of Books:
Eight years of neocon foreign policies have been a spectacular disaster for American interests in the Islamic world, leading to the rise of Iran as a major regional power, the advance of Hamas and Hezbollah, the wreckage Iraq, with over two million external refugees and the ethnic cleansing of its Christian population, and now the implosion of Afghanistan and Pakistan, probably the most dangerous development of all.
To George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo, David Addington and so many others: Thanks for nothing.

Krauthammer's Obama Criticism Applies to (Oops!) Krauthammer

Those wacky conservatives are at it again, all worked up about President Obama's interview with Al-Arabiya, an Arab television network.

As Think Progress has noted, the conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer "complained that President Obama’s interview…was too 'apologetic and defensive.'”

Speaking on Fox News (naturally), Krauthammer continued: "We heard him say that we shouldn't paint Islam with a broad brush. Who does? That's a straw man."

Well, no. As it happens, a great many conservative politicians, pundits and talk radio blabbers have routinely done just that.

One of them, in fact, was Charles Krauthammer. Here's his quote from December 2002:

From Nigeria to Sudan to Pakistan to Indonesia to the Philippines, some of the worst, most hate-driven violence in the world today is perpetrated by Muslims and in the name of Islam.

Whoa, Charlie! You mean there's no a single Muslim in any of these places who is remotely peaceful? Now that's a broad brush.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The GOP's Frozen Future: Sarah Palin Has a Political Action Committee

It was bound to happen. Having discovered the political pleasures of the Lower 48, Gov. Sarah Palin isn't going to stay in the Great Frozen North that much longer.

Oh, no. She now has SarahPAC, her very own political action committee, guaranteeing that we will all get to see lots more of the Alaska governor.

Check out the site for yourself here.

UPDATE: One Palin critic has noted that her blog talks about her "fresh ideas," but (significantly) doesn't any. What to do about the economic crisis? Palin offers exactly nothing. Instead, it asks for donations.

Obama Gets Results on Citigroup Jet

The Obama Administration is taking action on the excesses of the U.S. bank bailout. Contrary to the talk-radio blabbers and in stark contrast to his predecessor, this administration is, well, competent.

Here's the story from ABC News:
The high-flying execs at Citigroup caved under pressure from President Obama and decided today to abandon plans for a luxurious new $50 million corporate jet from France.

The decision came 24 hours after the banking giant, which was rescued by a $45 billion taxpayer lifeline, defended buying the state-of-the-art Dassault Falcon 7X -- one of nine to be flying in U.S. skies -- as a smart business deal.

The jet, the epitome of corporate prestige and privilege, can carry 12 passengers in elegant comfort.

ABC News has learned that Monday officials of the Obama administration called Citigroup about the company's new $50 million corporate jet and told execs to "fix it."

Conservatives Crack: Bennett Slams El Rushbo

Now that George Bush has failed and their right-wing ideas have been rejected by a majority of Americans, conservatives are turning on each other.

Here's a recent example, courtesy of The Huffington Post.
Bill Bennett disagreed with fellow conservative talking head Rush Limbaugh, who said that he wants President Obama "to fail." On CNN's "State of the Union," Bennett said, "The locution 'I want him to fail' is not what you say the first week the man's been inaugurated ... the rhetoric could be improved."

Inhofe vs. The Terminator on Auto Emissions

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe likes to think of himself as an independent thinker. But Inhofe's supposed independence often flies in the face of facts, especially when it comes to the environment.

Indeed, Inhofe's antipathy to environmental science earned him a special place in Chris Mooney's book The Republican War of Science (Basic Books, 2005). Mooney points out that Inhofe has received generous contributions from oil, gas and electric companies (no surprise here), companies "who surely appreciate his repeated challenges to the scientific basis of virtually every environmental problem."

Mooney also notes the hyperbolic language of Tulsa's former mayor. Mooney reports, for example, that Inhofe once called the EPA a "gestapo bureaucracy."

Never one to change his mind in the clear light of evidence, Inhofe is back on the environmental warpath. This time, Inhofe is worked up about President Obama's decision that may allow California and other states to regulate vehicle tailpipe emissions.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, hailed the decision. "It's so refreshing to see that the president understands that science must lead the way," Schwarznegger said.

Inhofe called Obama's decision "environmental thuggery." (No, we are NOT making this up. It's on the front page of today's Tulsa World.)

This being Inhofe, there's no clear logic at work here. In the first place, Obama's decision thus far involves only a review of the Bush Administration's original ban.

Second, the states involved see this as a positive development. Said the Governator: "[This] is the best first step the president can take to combat global warming and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

How's this "thuggery"? We have no idea. Neither does Sen. Inhofe.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sooner State No. 5 in Smoking Deaths

Oklahoma ranks high in yet another bad statistic: According to the Centers for Disease Control, we're fifth highest in deaths from smoking.

The Tulsa World reports today that Oklahoma is the only state where smoking-death rates have actually risen, according to CDC numbers.

The four states with higher smoking-death rates are predictable: Kentucky, West Virginia, Nevada and Mississippi.

The lowest smoking death rates are fairly predictable too: Utah, Hawaii, Minnesota, North Dakota, and New Mexico.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tulsa's First Baptist Sends Message of Pride

Let's give credit where credit is due

First Baptist Church of Tulsa did a very good thing Tuesday when it ran a full-page ad in the Tulsa World recognizing the inauguration of Barack Obama. 

"Today is historic," the downtown church noted. 

The text continued: 
A little over 200 years ago, the White House was built largely from slave labor.

Only 150 years ago, the state of the Union were at war over the issue of state rights. The volatile issue? Slavery.

40 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr. led the nation to acknowledge the civil rights of all citizens. 

And today, the first black President will be sworn into office. 

Put aside personal politics and be proud. 
Well said, First Baptist. We're not of the Baptist persuasion ourselves, but we salute the church for its generosity of spirit and good will. Tulsans of all stripes should salute the church as well. 

As the ad noted, quoting Scripture, "Treat everyone with dignity. Revere God. Respect the government. 1 Peter 2." 

Nashville Voters Reject Official English

Tennessee, like Oklahoma, has a vocal anti-immigrant crowd. Anyone who looks different or speaks a "funny" language is liable to be segregated or ostracized as a "scary" outsider.

Fortunately, the voters are sometimes wiser than the noisy mob. Here's an recent example:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville voters rejected a proposal on Thursday that would have made it the largest U.S. city to require that all government business be done in English.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial results showed the "English First" proposal losing with about 57 percent of voters against it and 43 percent in favor.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tulsa Beacon: Reporting Old News After Its Not News Anymore

News is a dynamic commodity. Details change as time passes. It's not difficult; it's the way the world works.

You'd think the folks over at Tulsa Beacon would have figured this out. But no.

Turns out that the Beacon reported today (Thursday, January 22) that the Tulsa World "has filed a defamation lawsuit" against Urban Tulsa Weekly and its columnist Michael Bates.

This isn't exactly breaking news. In fact, the libel suit against UTW has been dropped, a fact that was reported in the World on Tuesday, two days before the Beacon posted its story.

Indeed, UTW publisher Keith Skrzypczak published a retraction of the Bates column on Wednesday, one day before the Beacon story. (AT posted the UTW letter in a previous post.)

The UTW retraction includes this language: "We now understand that information in Michael D. Bates’ column about the Tulsa World’s circulation numbers and audits was incorrect."

And this sentence:
"Further, Urban Tulsa Weekly has no reason to suspect or suggest that the Tulsa World’s circulation figures were inflated. We regret and retract that suggestion."

Some people at the Beacon, apparently, aren't paying attention. Maybe they ought to read the World. If they had, they might not have published the following (outdated) news:

The Tulsa World (World Publishing) has filed a defamation lawsuit against Renegade Publishing, Inc. (Urban Tulsa), its publisher Keith Skrzypczak and columnist Michael D. Bates because of an article by Bates claiming the newspaper hid a drop in its circulation from its advertisers.

According to the suit, the newspaper claims Bates’ story “falsely asserts a steep drop of paid circulation for the Tulsa World from 2005 when compared to the paid circulation for the Tulsa World for 2006, suggesting that the World was inflating its paid circulation by as much as 20 percent.”

The suit claims the newspaper stopped using the Independent Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) “mostly because it had lost faith in it as an auditing group.” A different audit in 2005 showed a daily (Monday through Friday) average paid circulation of 134,945 compared to a 2006 ABC average paid circulation audit of 126,736 - a decline of more than 6 percent. The suit alleges that Bates’ article constitutes “commercial disparagement of the Tulsa World” due to false statements made by Urban Tulsa.

Hello, anybody awake at the Beacon? To be fair, the newspaper got one thing right: The libel suit against Bates has not been dropped.

But hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Sooner State Fun Facts: Some Trivia About Oklahoma and Oklahomans

AltTulsa recently ran across an OSU faculty recruiting document, one that listed ten reasons to relocate to our lovely state.

Some of these we already knew (low cost of living, friendly people, lots of outdoor recreational activities), but a few of these caught us by surprise.

For instance, did you know that 24 percent of Oklahoma is covered by forest? Or that Oklahoma ranks fourth in the nation in wheat production, as well as fourth in cattle and calf production?

Or how about this agricultural nugget? Sooners are eighth in peach production.

But the reason we liked the best was the claim that Oklahoma's central location, which makes it "relatively easy to visit family and friends in other states." (Or maybe not, especially if your family and friends live in, say, New England or the Northwest.)

OSU's example of centrality is also a bit misleading. The school highlights Cimarron County in the Panhandle, a county "bordered by more states than any other U.S. county: Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas."

The problem: Cimarron County (population just over 3,000) is at the far western edge of the state, exactly 331 miles from Stillwater.

China Censors Obama's Inauguration Speech

Barack Obama's powerful inauguration speech inspired many Americans, but it didn't pass muster in China, which was apparently scared of the "communist" label.

Here's a report on the Chinese response, courtesy of AFP:

State-run China Central Television broadcast the speech live, but when the translator mentioned communism, the channel suddenly cut to an awkwardly smiling news anchor.

Censors cut Obama's declaration that "earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions."

The People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, published a translated text on its website, omitting the word communism. The line about dissent was cut entirely.

China's two biggest Internet portals, Sina and Sohu, did the same. But there was widespread comment on the speech on Chinese Internet forums.

New Rule: Intel Nominee Pledges to End Unlawful Surveillance

What a difference a couple of days make. The new administration actually wants to follow the law. 

The evidence: Press reports today quote retired admiral Dennis Blair, nominated to be the director of national intelligence, as saying he won't support unlawful surveillance activities if confirmed. 

Here's a Blair quote from Agence France-Presse: "I do not and will not support any surveillance that circumvent established processes without lawful authorization."

Refreshing, isn't it? After eight years of secrecy and deception, the new administration wants to follow the rule of law.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Will Order Gitmo to Close

It's high time, but—finally—an executive decision on Guantanamo. The Associated Press is reporting tonight that President Barack Obama will sign an order tomorrow to close the controversial detention center at Gitmo.

Here's the lead of the AP story:
Obama to sign order shutting Gitmo in a year

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order Thursday to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center within a year and halt military trials of terror suspects held there, a senior administration official said. The executive order was one of three expected imminently on how to interrogate and prosecute al-Qaida, Taliban or other foreign fighters believed to threaten the United States.

Urban Tulsa Throws in the Towel; Admits 'Incorrect' Numbers in Bates Column

When Urban Tulsa Weekly pulled the Michael Bates column from its website the other day, it was a crack in the paper's defense against the Tulsa World's libel suit.

If UTW actually believed in the column, they could have kept it on the site and issued a statement standing behind the column. They didn't.

Instead, it disappeared. The next step in many such cases is a retraction and an apology, which is just what UTW published today. (The entire UTW letter to readers is below.)

No word on Michael Bates' response, though the World today reports that he is still a defendant in the libel suit.

Here's the UTW retraction from publisher Keith Skrzypczak
January 19, 2009

Dear Readers:

We would like to provide some additional information regarding the column “Tulsa Whirried” written by Michael D. Bates that appeared in the January 15-2 1, 2009 edition of the Urban Tulsa Weekly. 
Prior to publication we reviewed the column, but did not contact the Tulsa World to confirm the information about the Tulsa World’s circulation in Michael D. Bates’ column. After being sued by the Tulsa World for defamation, we sat down with the Tulsa World and discussed their concerns about the statements in Mr. Bates’ column. We now understand that information in Michael D. Bates’ column about the Tulsa World’s circulation numbers and audits was incorrect. The Tulsa World has provided its audit information, which shows that its circulation numbers were not inflated as suggested by the column and its percentages have been consistent with those of other major daily newspapers in the United States. Further, Urban Tulsa Weekly has no reason to suspect or suggest that the Tulsa World’s circulation figures were inflated. We regret and retract that suggestion.
 Lastly, Michael D. Bates’ column incorrectly stated that the Tulsa World was not audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) for almost a decade when in fact that statement was not true. The Tulsa World circulation was audited by ABC until 2001. We also regret any questions that the column raised regarding the authenticity of the Tulsa World’s circulation audits or their reasons for selecting an auditing company other than the ABC. Grant Thornton, LLP, the private auditing firm selected and used by the Tulsa World for a period of years, is a well known and highly respected auditing firm. Urban Tulsa Weekly has no reason to question its auditing practices.
In this case, we now understand the legitimate concerns of the Tulsa World and appreciate the chance to sit down with its representatives, review their information and correct the record.

Keith Skrzypczak 
Editor and Publisher 
Urban Tulsa Weekly

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's Big Speech: Some American Values from the New President

Whether or not you voted for Barack Obama (and, sadly, most Tulsans did not), the new president made a stirring speech today. Here got some things right.

Here's a particularly cogent section of the Obama speech that seemed to strike a chord with many Americans (and, we suspect, many Oklahomans). It's hard to argue with these American values:

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

Wingnut Watch: The Rightwing Ravings of Iowa Rep. Steve King

The Far Right of the Republican Party has never been much good at thoughtfulness and self-reflection. That explains their consistent but misguided (and factually challenged) effort to paint Barack Obama as a Godless heathen, a secret socialist, and—wait for it!—a Muslim terrorist.

But anybody who's been reading the papers or watching TV in the last two months has noticed that Obama and his transition team have proven to be remarkably reasonable and sensible. His atheist, Marxist, terrorist tendencies seem to be, well, missing.

But thanks to U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, we can still find unreconstructed wingnuts, impervious to facts and unwilling to acknowledge the possibility that any of their cherished beliefs could be wrong.

Which results in this report from Iowa:
U.S. Rep. Steve King, a Kiron Republican known for his warning that the election of Barack Obama would lead to terrorists "dancing in the streets," declined to participate [in the Obama inauguration], according to congressional aides.

King said in an interview that he would have had to use money from his campaign fund to pay for the cookies and coffee to be offered up at the reception and he didn’t think it was an appropriate use for the money. “It’s not anti-anybody,” he said. “My disagreements with Barack Obama have never been anything but philosophical.”
Rep. King is the same man who made these oh-so-accurate observations (ha!) about Obama last year (hat tip to ThinkProgress):

King, known for provocative, partisan remarks, suggested Obama actually could be classified as even more extreme than a socialist. King also said his party is the only one with a legitimate claim on representing freedom as Americans know it.

“When you take a lurch to the left you end up in a totalitarian dictatorship,” King said. “There is no freedom to the left. It’s always to our side of the aisle.”

Or how about these King pearls of political wisdom:

Obama was not raised with an intentional attitude toward Americanism. … The way to look at the reasons Obama doesn’t place his hand over his heart when the National Anthem is playing, or wear an American flag pin is primarily because he is not willful or spiteful, but because it just doesn’t occur to him because it’s not the way he’s been raised. American patriotism is not imprinted on his mind or in his heart, because he wasn’t raised as an American.

SNL Spoof: Gitmo's Going Out of Business Sale

Anticipating the closure of Gitmo in a new administration, Saturday Night Live offered this fake ad. It's a hoot.

The Two Faces of Rush Limbaugh

Ah, comedian Rush Limbaugh—always good for a laugh. The latest head-spinning Rush political hypocrisy:

Speaking last week about upcoming hopes for the presidency of Barack Obama, Limbaugh said: "I hope he fails."

Compare this to Limbaugh's line a couple of years ago, courtesy of ThinkProgress:

In July 2006, with conservatives in power, Limbaugh offered one of his common screeds against the left. “I’m getting so sick and tired of people rooting for the defeat of the good guys,” he complained.

More from the New President: Time to Move the Nation Ahead

A line from President Barack Obama's inaugural speech today: 
Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions—that has surely past. 

New Today at

Things have changed in Washington, no, in America. Here's a page from the official website of the new president of the United States:
President Barack Obama


Barack H. Obama is the 44th President of the United States.

His story is the American story — values from the heartland, a middle-class upbringing in a strong family, hard work and education as the means of getting ahead, and the conviction that a life so blessed should be lived in service to others.

With a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, President Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. He was raised with help from his grandfather, who served in Patton's army, and his grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management at a bank.

After working his way through college with the help of scholarships and student loans, President Obama moved to Chicago, where he worked with a group of churches to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants.

He went on to attend law school, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Upon graduation, he returned to Chicago to help lead a voter registration drive, teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and remain active in his community.

President Obama's years of public service are based around his unwavering belief in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose. In the Illinois State Senate, he passed the first major ethics reform in 25 years, cut taxes for working families, and expanded health care for children and their parents. As a United States Senator, he reached across the aisle to pass groundbreaking lobbying reform, lock up the world's most dangerous weapons, and bring transparency to government by putting federal spending online.

He was elected the 44th President of the United States on November 4, 2008, and sworn in on January 20, 2009. He and his wife, Michelle, are the proud parents of two daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.

A New America: Obama Takes Office

A few lines from President Barack Obama's (yes!) speech today:

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dick Cheney Ends Term Highly Unpopular

Vice President Dick Cheney will go down in history as an arrogant, dishonest and wrongheaded politician, a man who never doubted his own ability to fool most of the people most of the time.

As National Public Radio reported last week (see our earlier post), Cheney worked behind the scenes to manipulate everyone he could, including the president. (Lest we forget, this is the man who Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe brought to Tulsa for a fundraiser.)

Here's a note on the Cheney legacy from Note that Cheney was involved in almost all of the Bush Administration's mistakes, which no doubt accounts for the VP's huge unfavorable poll numbers.

It will be months and probably years before the full scope of Cheney's power — where it started and stopped — will be fully understood. Many Bush critics have traced the biggest failures of the Bush presidency — like the obsession with weapons of mass destruction as a reason to invade Iraq — to the office of the Vice President. But Cheney leaves Washington as the most powerful Vice President in decades, perhaps ever.

Yet Cheney is also one of the least popular Vice Presidents ever. A New York Times/CBS News poll gave Bush a final 22% favorability rating, which was nearly twice that of his Vice President, whose approval rating stood at an anemic 13%.

NY Times in Tulsa: Even in Oklahoma, Some Voters Are Softening on Obama

It's old news now that Oklahoma was the reddest of the Red States in November, with John McCain carrying every county in the Sooner state.

But even in "McCain Country," attitudes are changing. We certainly get that sense in Tulsa, where (despite the efforts of T-Town Democrats and our own online work) McCain won handily.

Today, the New York Times has validated Tulsa's softening of attitudes toward Barack Obama. (Read the Times Tulsa story here.)

Here's a snippet from the NYT article:

Some people have, in fact, changed their minds. Leonard Nelson, 63, a 23-year military veteran of both the Army and the Navy, said he had voted for Mr. McCain mainly through military fealty — believing that Mr. McCain’s own military record would make him a better commander in chief.

“But I’ve come to think the better man won,” said Mr. Nelson, owner of the Humidor Cigar Shop, an aromatic haven of pipes, blended tobaccos and customers on a first-name basis. Mr. Nelson said that Mr. Obama, through his cabinet nominations, sent a signal of centrist government intention that feels O.K. to him.

Jan. 19, 2009: Three Reasons to Celebrate

Three reasons today is a very good day
Happy Martin Luther King Day. 

Happy Last Full Day of the Bush Presidency. 

Happy Eve of the Obama Inauguration 
(Hat tip to our friends at 

UPDATE: Okay, here's a fourth reason: It's Edgar Allen Poe's birthday, his 200th birthday. Gotta love Poe, an American original. 

Will Bush Issue Last-Minute Pardon to Convicted Alaska Sen. Stevens?

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is a convicted felon, a corrupt politician. He's also a Republican, leading to speculation today that President Bush will pardon Stevens as one of his final presidential acts.

More details are at Think Progress here.

UPDATE: Press reports late today indicate that the President will not pardon Ted Stevens or another big Republican player, Scooter Libby. But the President has issued pardons for two Border Patrol agents whose conviction became a rallying point for various anti-immigration activists.

Ann Coulter (Not) on the Bush Legacy

Saturday Night Live skewers Ann Coulter. Priceless.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Urban Tulsa's Bates Column Pulled from the Weekly Paper's Website

Tulsa media watchers have been buzzing ever since the news broke last week that the city's daily paper, the Tulsa World, was suing Urban Tulsa Weekly for libel over statements made concerning the World's circulation figures in a column earlier this month by Tulsa blogger Michael Bates.

Indeed, Bates has used his blog, Batesline, to play David to the World's Goliath, highlighting some of the supportive commentary about his side of the case, including T-Town supporters who are praying for Bates and a piece by Jack Shafer of, a popular online magazine.

The World's story on its lawsuit has been popular on the newspaper's website. But when we looked for the offending UTW column Sunday night using the links that Bates himself posted, the column was no longer available. We tried Urban Tulsa's own site with the same result.

We have no clue what this might mean. You can draw your own conclusions.

Poll: Obama's Popularity Grows

As Barack Obama prepares to become the nation's 44th president, a new opinion poll finds strong support for the new administration. Obama's competence, apparently, is winning over the public, in contrast to the incompetence of the outgoing Bush Administration.

Here are some of the details from the new poll:

[A] CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Sunday also indicates that most Americans see Obama's inauguration as a chance for the nation to come together.

Eighty-four percent of those surveyed say they approve of how Obama is handling the presidential transition. That's up 2 points from the middle of December and up 5 points from the beginning of December.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (and, alas, Tulsa's former mayor) is the nation's most infamous global warming denier. This position has put him on the wrong side of science and made him the laughing stock of the scientific establishment.

Even worse for Inhofe, new facts keep undermining the senator's assertions. Here's the latest data (yes, actual data, which Inhofe eschews) that puts another dent in the claims of Tulsa's most notorious anti-scientist:
Last year was the eighth warmest year on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

The world's temperature in 2008 tied that of 2001, according to the center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Preliminary calculations show the world's average temperature for 2008 was 0.88 degree Fahrenheit above the 20th Century average of 57.0 degrees.

The ranking means that the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1997. Record keeping began in 1880.

Poll: Most See Bush Presidency a Failure

It's hardly a surprise (except in Oklahoma), but most Americans rate George W. Bush as a failed president.

Here's the bad news for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, David Addington, John Yoo and other GOP hacks and cronies:

Sixty-eight percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Sunday said that Bush's eight years in the White House were a failure, with 44 percent saying this was because of his personal shortcomings and 22 percent blaming the failure on circumstances beyond his control.

Thirty-one percent said they consider Bush's presidency a success.

Half of those polled say the United States could be better off today if Al Gore had been elected president in 2000 rather than Bush, with 27 percent saying the country would be worse off if Gore had won. Twenty-two percent say things would be about the same.

The Verdict on Cheney: Power and Deception in the Bush White House

Vice President Dick Cheney leaves office this week—none too soon one of the nation's most unpopular politicians.

In his final public appearances, the Veep has been defending the Bush Administration as well as his own actions of the past eight years. History, Cheney suggests, will be much kinder to the Bush Administration than the legions of critics and naysayers now taking shots at the Bush team.

Now, thanks to Nina Totenberg
, the ace legal reporter at National Public Radio, we have some cogent commentary on Cheney's legacy.

Here are some key parts of that report, facts that suggest Cheney's future may be much dimmer than he and his supporters believe.

"Vice President Cheney has been the most powerful vice president that we've ever had," said Joel Goldstein, author of The Modern American Vice Presidency.

In the first term, Cheney reshaped national security law, expanded the prerogatives of the executive branch and orchestrated secret, warrantless domestic surveillance, circumventing a court set up by Congress specifically to oversee such surveillance. He presented the president with options that led to a shutdown of negotiations with North Korea, and played a major role in persuading President Bush to go to war against Iraq.

It gets worse, much worse:
"Cheney created a new doctrine in which the president was accountable to no one in his decisions as commander in chief," [author Bart] Gellman said. "What was new and innovative here, and quite radical, was the notion that the president's interpretation could not be challenged, that because the executive is a separate branch, courts and Congress could not tell the president, in any way, how to exercise his powers as commander in chief."

Indeed, so pervasive was Cheney's control that when lawyers from the National Security Agency, which was conducting the domestic surveillance, went to the Justice Department to look at the legal opinion authorizing the warrantless surveillance, Cheney's lawyer, Addington, showed up and angrily told them they had no right to see it.

The entire (and very scary) report can be found here. Let's hope the new president and his team can undo the Cheney legacy.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Huffington on the Bush Farewell Speech

Arianna Huffington isn't shy when it comes to giving her opinion. Once a conservative, Huffington saw the light (it happens) and is now a liberal blogger and pundit whose name tops a popular political blog.

So it's no surprise that Huffington had some juicy bones to pick after President Bush's farewell speech Thursday night. Like many observers, Huffington was underwhelmed.

Here's a portion of Huffington's pointed commentary:

In a particularly jaw-dropping moment, Bush asserted that when people "live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror" -- a remarkable claim given the fact that Hamas, which has kinda been in the news lately, has leaders who "pursue campaigns of terror" and were willingly chosen by people given the freedom to elect who they wanted.

Another striking moment was watching the great pride the president took in saying that even though we might not have liked all of his decisions, we have to admit that he "was willing to make the tough decisions." The Crawford Cowboy to the end.

Yes, he made tough decisions... but what is the value in that if the decisions you make are consistently wrong? And Bush has made the wrong decisions again and again and again.

Given the strong disapproval numbers in the opinion polls, most Americans seem to agree with Arianna.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

OK, We're Fat. But Not As Fat As Our Neighbors Down the Turner Turnpike

Tulsa has a lot of fat people. But according to a new survey by the magazine Men's Fitness, we're not nearly as fat as our friends down in Oklahoma City

The magazine's report listed Tulsa as the fifteenth fattest city in America

That's not good. Our Colorado cousins up in Denver ranked No. 4 on the fittest list, while the folks in Albuquerque ranked No. 5 on the fit list. 

Thank goodness Oklahoma City's citizens like to eat: OKC ranked as the second fattest city in America, topped only by those gluttons down in Miami (who knew?).  

What's the fittest city in America? According to Men's Fitness, it's Salt Lake City. (Must be all those clean-living Mormons.) 

If it's any consolation, Tulsa came out better than most Texas cities. The Fat City List included these Texas towns:  No. 3 San Antonio, No. 6 Houston, No. 7 El Paso, and no. 14, Dallas-Fort Worth. (Must be all those chicken-fried steaks and Shiner beer.

If you're into fitness in Texas, you gotta get to Austin. It was by far the fittest city in the Lone Star State, coming in at the seventeenth fittest city. 

Letterman on the Presidential Legacy

The best late-night joke on President Bush's recent "exit interviews" may be this comment from David Letterman
He admitted—it takes a big man to do this—that a couple of things didn't go according to plan. A couple of things went haywire. 

Yeah, his first term and his second term. 

Last Days of BushSpeak: Some Classics

As the glorious Bush presidency fades into the proverbial sunset, our friend Jacob Weisberg over at the online magazine Slate has compiled a list of his 25 favorite Bushisms

Weisberg says he's collected over 500 Bushisms over the past eight years, a disturbing figure for those of us who care about competent leadership and clear thinking. Nevertheless, it's funny stuff

Some highlights: 
"Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream."—LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 2000 

"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family."—Greater Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, Jan 27, 2000. 
For the complete list, click here

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Assessing the Bush Legacy: James Fallows on the President's Isolation

President George W. Bush gave his last news conference yesterday. AltTulsa missed it (gotta make a living, after all) but we did see some of the clips as well as the political response.

It wasn't pretty. Writing at The, James Fallows had this pointed comment:
On matters of policy, he revealed himself to be as isolated and out of touch as his critics (including me) would have assumed all along. Two illustrations: he hotly challenged the premise of one question that his policies had made America less prestigious and respected around the world, saying that was just the view of some "elites" and other pantywaists in part of Europe. Go to China! he said. They still respect us there. Yes, sort of. As I've written many times in the Atlantic, China does not seem in any deep way "anti-American," and they generally think US-China relations are good. But no thinking person has the slightest doubt that the Iraq, Guantanamo, and Abu Ghraib policies, in particular, have hurt America's image badly here as they have in most other places. To say what the President did indicates how carefully he has been protected from any unfiltered feedback from the real world.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Joe the Plumber: Champion of the Free Press and an Informed Public

Those wise and intrepid bloggers over at the conservative Pajamas Media site had the brilliant idea to send Joe the Plumber to Israel to cover the war with Hamas.

Not that Joe knew anything about journalism or war or the Middle East or much of anything else. Which accounts for this bit of nonsense from Journalist (to use the title loosely) Joe:
I'll be honest with you. I don't think journalists should be anywhere allowed war. I mean, you guys report where our troops are at. You report what's happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I-I think it's asinine. You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II when you'd go to the theater and you'd see your troops on, you know, the screen and everyone would be real excited and happy for 'em. Now everyone's got an opinion and wants to downer--and down soldiers. You know, American soldiers or Israeli soldiers. I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you're gonna sit there and say, 'Well look at this atrocity,' well you don't know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it.
According to our correspondent, the public is better off not knowing about war and conflict. And that business of reporting troop locations? Joe cites no evidence, because (except for Geraldo in Iraq) this hasn't happened.

War is hell, Joe says, repeating the cliche, but it's not the media's job to tell anyone about it. "I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting," Joe says.

Note to Joe: Your press prescription sounds a lot like authoritarianism and not at all like, well, democracy.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Barry Friedman Picks Tulsa's Top People

The current issue of Tulsa People includes a list of the "top 108 people of 2008." Writer and comedian Barry Friedman complied the list, which he explains as "the good, the bad and everyone in between…who made news or should have during the previous year."

Some of the newsmakers on the list are obvious ones: Mayor Kathy Taylor, banker and philanthropist George Kaiser, Police Chief Ron Palmer, and new County Commissioner Karen Keith.

Friedman also includes some less obvious choices, such as Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, Elliot Nelson, of McNellie's Public House fame, Teresa Miller, writer and director of the Center for Poets and Writers, and Clark Wiens, co-founder of the Circle Cinema, Tulsa's non-profit art house theater.

But we're still scratching our heads over a few names on the list, such as former County Commissioner Randi Miller. Yes, she made news in 2008, but not in a good way. Same with the woman who beat her in the Republican primary, communist-hunter and proud John Bircher, Sally Bell. (The Fifties live!)

We also arched an eyebrow over Kristen Glover, "spokesdaughter" for Dad Jim's Chevy dealership. Yes, she's lovely and all, but she may be suffering from overexposure. At least we are.

And then there's the Tulsa World's crabby columnist Jay Cronley, who apparently hasn't enjoyed a movie or television show or much of anything else in the last, oh, 15 or 20 years. Oh wait, he likes his dogs. But that's about it.

Tulsa People can be found here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Blogo Impeached by Illinois House

Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blogojevich was impeached today by the Illinois House of Representatives. The vote was 114-1 in favor of impeaching Blogojevich, a Democrat. 

For details, read the NY Times story here

Thursday, January 8, 2009

How 'bout Those Sooners?

Oh, never mind. 

The page one Tulsa World headline summed up the Florida-OU game: OU Swamped. The World's sports page expressed local sentiment: BCS Bummer. 

Tulsa Blog Update: Some Up, Others Down

The Tulsa blogging community got a cover story in Urban Tulsa Weekly in October. The article, by reporter Kathryn Benson, featured brief profiles of several Tulsa bloggers, including Michael Bates of Batesline and Jeff Shaw of Bounded Rationality. Even AT got a few kind words.

Unfortunately for T-town readers, the local blogging community isn't exactly thriving. Dan Paden, one of the bloggers featured in the UTW article, has stopped blogging, at least for now. His blog, No Blog of Significance, has been taken down. Although we almost always disagreed with Paden's politics, he was an energetic and passionate writer.

Over at the Tulsa Bloggers site, failed politico and local radio blabber Chris Medlock's Medblogged seems to have died as well. Tulsa Chiggers is still going, apparently, but it's not very active; its last post was some weeks back.

Other blogs featured in the UTW piece aren't burning through the electrons either. Indie Tulsa, Emily Priddy's blog that features interesting local businesses, published its last post in October, an eternity in blog years. Even Natasha Bell's culture blog, tashadoestulsa, is irregular in its postings. She's been active recently, but was (justifiably) distracted by baby duties in the last few months. (At least, that's our guess.)

Meanwhile, Tulsa Today keeps publishing nonsense, so there's not much to recommend this blog except its regularity.

The good news: The blogosphere remains wide open and Tulsa writers are always popping up with new blogs on a variety of topics. We try to keep up, but there are many Tulsa-area sites out there worthy of a look.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bates Knows Best: Tulsa World Critic Gets It Wrong (Again)

Tulsa blogger Michael Bates always has a lot to say. Too bad that he frequently gets it wrong. 

The latest example is his Batesline blast at the Tulsa World. When the paper announced 28 layoffs yesterday, Bates couldn't resist another editorial jab. The World (he spells it "Whirled," apparently unable to actually say the name) is in a "stall," Bates argued, because it's biased and out of touch. 

According to Bates, the paper's tone-deaf management and editorial philosophy is the problem. The paper, Bates writes, needs "to acknowledge that their one-sided editorial section and the bias they've encouraged on the news pages have driven away readers." (There's more, but you get the point.) 

Trouble is, Bates is wrong. It's not politics or bias that hurting the World, it's the economy. 

Regardless of politics, newspapers everywhere are losing readers and advertising dollars, a fact that has a lot more to do with technology and the current economic downturn than politics or (perceived) bias.

As evidence, let's look at the Daily Oklahoman, a newspaper presumably more in tune with Bates and his fellow conservatives. If Bates were correct, the Oklahoman would be booming, adding readers and revenues.

Too bad, then, that the Oklahoman announced 150 layoffs just a few months back, a fact that contradicts the Bates argument. Too bad that KOTV Channel 6 and KTUL Channel 8 also recently downsized, more facts that undermine Bates.  

Indeed, news organizations and media outlets locally and nationally have been hurt by the decline in ad dollarsand it has nothing to do with politics or bias. From Boston to Bozeman, the economy matters, which is exactly what the World said when it announced its layoffs. 

Speaking of Bozeman, here's a statement from the Chronicle's publisher on their publishing environment: 
I'm sure most folks are aware what a lousy year newspapers had in 2008. Declining ad revenues were fueled by a plummeting economy—reduced spending necessarily affects businesses ability to advertise. Weekly news of industry layoffs at metro papers and small ones alike clouded the pages. And the Chronicle was no exception….
Could that scenario apply to Tulsa? Sure. But Bates isn't really interested in hearing such arguments. Instead of facts and actual analysis, Bates trots out the same tiring rant against the World, mining the blogs for rumors and anti-conservative conspiracies.

In search of skulduggery (he's sure it's there somewhere), he ignores the most significant fact of all—the economy—and ends up on the wrong side of the facts.

Now for Some Actual Good News, Even About Teen Sex ( Really!)

Despite Oklahoma's high teen birth rate (see previous post), the libertarians at Reason magazine have looked at 2008 and found some good news.

Here are some of their numbers:
Violent crime is down again—1.4 percent nationally and 9.8 percent in big cities. That's on top of a steady decline since the early 90s.
Rape hit it all-time low since the government started keeping statistics. It's down more than 85 percent since the 1970s.

The juvenile murder rate has gone down 73 percent since 1993.Life expectancy hit a record high. Americans now live 78.1 years.

Since 1991, fewer teens are having sex, fewer are having sex with multiple partners, and more are using condoms when they do engage in intercourse.

Some of Reason's conclusions: America's moral decline is exaggerated. So, they say, is the decline of capitalism, which they argue has increased personal freedom:

The last 20 or so years in particular have seen incredible advances in technology that have given us a wealth of new choices, exponentially enhancing our personal and economic freedom. The worrywarts fret that our society can't handle that sort of freedom that prosperity and unlimited choices coupled with the absence of need will spell our ruin. This year's headlines aside, we seem to be handling it all pretty well.

Oklahoma No. 6 in Teen Pregnancy Rate

New figures out today from the Centers for Disease Control show that teen pregnancy rates have increased in 26 states, including Oklahoma.

While Mississippi leads the nation with 68.4 teen births per 1,000, Oklahoma comes in sixth with a rate of 59.6 per 1,000 births. The CDC numbers are from 2006.

Here is a national summary from the AP:
ATLANTA -- Mississippi now has the nation's highest teen pregnancy rate, displacing Texas and New Mexico for that lamentable title, according to a new federal report released Wednesday.

Mississippi's rate was more than 60 percent higher than the national average in 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The teen pregnancy rate in Texas and New Mexico was more than 50 percent higher.

The three states have large proportions of black and Hispanic teenagers - groups that traditionally have higher birth rates, experts noted.

The lowest teen birth rates continue to be in New England, where three states have teen birth rates at just half the national average.


More than a year ago, a preliminary report on the 2006 data revealed that the U.S. teen birth rate had risen for the first time in about 15 years. But the new numbers provide the first state-by-state information on the increase.

The new report is based on a review of all the birth certificates in 2006. Significant increases in teen birth rates were noted in 26 states.


Numerically, the largest increases were in the states with the largest populations. California, Texas and Florida together generated almost 30 percent of the nation's extra teen births in 2006.

Some experts have blamed the national increase on increased federal funding for abstinence-only health education that does not teach teens how to use condoms and other contraception. They said that would explain why teen birth rate increases have been detected across much of the country and not just in a few spots.

There is debate about that, however. Some conservative organizations have argued that contraceptive-focused sex education is still common, and that the new teen birth numbers reflect it is failing.

UPDATE: A reporter for ABC News’s Jackson, Mississippi, affiliate explained the rise in the teen birth rate in the state: “The Mississippi Department of Human Services says abstinence is the only birth control that is 100 percent effective. And that’s the only message teens need to hear.” Unfortunately, numerous studies show that abstinence-only education is not effective.

UPDATE 2: Some bloggers have noted this obvious but interesting point: The states with the highest teen pregnancy rates are mostly Red States, a list that includes Texas and Oklahoma

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Best Bush Headline of the Day, No, DECADE

After four years of Dad and eight years of junior, here (finally) is a Bush headline we can smile about:
Jeb Bush isn't running for Senate in Florida

Say What? Ohio Boy, 4, Shoots His Babysitter

We wish we were making this up. But, sadly, it's true.

News accounts today report that a 4-year-old boy in Jackson, Ohio, shot his 18-year-old babysitter with a shotgun Sunday "because the sitter accidentally stepped on his foot."

A report we saw cited witnesses who told police that the child "retrieved the shotgun from a closet and shot [the babysitter, Nathan] Beavers."

Fortunately, Beavers was not seriously injured. But it's surely a sad day in America when a 4-year-old pulls out a shotgun and starts firing.

Tulsa World Lays Off 28 as Ad Revenues Slump

It's no surprise to news junkies that newspapers are struggling these days, but significant layoffs at the Tulsa World are awfully close to home. 

The World announced today that it will terminate 28 employees, including 26 in the newsroom, in order to cut expenses. 

We have no inside knowledge on the paper's finances, but such cuts are bound to reduce the paper's ability to cover local and regional news, a bad development for readers and the Tulsa community. 

Oklahoma's other major newspaper, The Daily Oklahoman, announced about 150 layoffs in 2008. Some of Tulsa's television stations have also cut back their staffing.

 The World story can be found here

Banish the Words: A List of Overused Terms

Our journalistic friends at The Guardian published this piece on words that grated in 2008. Here's a portion of the article with which we wholeheartedly agree.

Lake Superior State University in Michigan has unveiled its 34th annual list of words that should be banished from our vocabularies this year, a selection of which we set out below.

First Dude: "Skateboard" English is not the appropriate way to refer to the spouse of a high ranking public official," says one commentator on the university's website.

Maverick: The word has been left so battered and bruised by the assaults perpetrated on it by John McCain and Sarah Palin that it might be a kindness to leave it in peace to recover for a while.

Bailout: Because it only ever seems to apply to impossibly rich people and institutions who have screwed up, and never to the much poorer people they have screwed over.

Staycation: Banishment of this seems harsh. Staycation is a succinct, witty way of labelling the new trend for staying in your home country at holiday time, but it is suffering for enshrining both green and economic concerns, which as we have seen above, is a sure way to tick people off.

The Guardian features desk collectively wishes to call for "going forward" to be stricken for ever from the record.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Urban Tulsa's Self-Congratulation, Part 3

T-Town's not-very-alternative "alternative" weekly, Urban Tulsa, is out with its latest version of "The Hot 100." The list, UT says, includes "innovative Tulsans who have made it their duty to revamp our fine city."

So far, so good. And, truth be told, there are some good people and institutions on the list, including newly elected County Commissioner Karen Keith, Elote owner Libby Auld, Mana Tahaie, director of Racial Justice for the YWCA, Eric Marshall, owner of a new Tulsa brewery, and many others.

We have no beef with such selections. These and other such movers and shakers deserve all the acclaim they warrant. And they are doing good things for the city.

But we part company with UT's practice of naming its own founder and one of its columnists (Michael Bates) to this list. This smacks of journalistic nepotism—and it's not the first time UT has done this, as AltTulsa has noted in previous years.

If the Tulsa World pulled a stunt like this, UT would be howling. Time to look in the mirror, guys.